Friday, March 29, 2013

Bad Pilgrim - Self Titled 7 Song EP

Ska music has had a way of weaving in and out of my life unexpectedly decade after decade since I was a wee boy who fell in love with the Specials, English Beat and Madness. Since then, various revivals and sprinklings of the genre have popped up, keeping the beat and making happy feat while paying homage to both it's originators and the ones who put their own stamp on it along the way. Though the genre rarely strays from the original game plan. It still manages to maintain my loyalty and serves as a "go to" style of music that never fails to bring out the goof in me.
Though this north New Jersey trio refers to  their style as punk. Bad Pilgrim come off sounding more like 90's Ska revivalists like Operation Ivy and Reel Big Fish than anything. The trio (sorry, no horns) offer upbeat, quick pace songs with skank inspiring riffs.
All of which are delivered in short form with each of the seven tracks being delivered in around two minutes or less. The band has a handful of local New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania gigs scheduled to support the EP's April 3rd release.
Check them out here. Bad Pilgrim Official  James Damion

Bad Pilgrim  Bandcamp

Kevin Egan - Kevin Egan is a Jerk

"Kevin Egan is a Jerk"
the latest musical endeavor by singer/author Kevin Egan. Though you may know Kevin best from his late 80's / early 90's work with NYHC's Beyond and 1.6 Band. His newest release is reflects more on his later recordings as
Rules of the Fort and most recently, his work with the Country act
Twenty Four Thousand Dollars.

"Kevin Egan is a Jerk" features nine tracks of folky acoustic storytelling that is both laid back and heart warming.
The stripped down approach highlights the fact that life and at times music, is about the simple things. "High over Queens" and the somewhat airy
"A Shitload of Songs" were standouts for me. In listening to "Kevin Egan is a Jerk". I felt that each song built on the previous one. It just felt as if this EP got better with each song. Though I think Mr. Egan's voice will never get him to the lightning round of American Idol or The Voice. It's good to see the evolution his music and sound have gone through over the years. James Damion

Kevin Egan is a Jerk  Bandcamp

On the Wheels of Steel with DJ Laytonic

I've always been interested in the art of spinning records. Turntable science, mixing, the flow of hands from record to record and of course, the unique sampling I always found joy in. The ability to, not only move the crowd, but to control it's movement. My early childhood included an education from some of the very best. Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, Jam Master Jay, Erik B. and Terminator X too name just a few. As I got older my interest in DJing grew and though I did my share of DJing in the CD format. It never came close to the joy and authenticity of putting the needle to the record and exploring the grooves on the vinyl. I hope that talking to some of my favorite current DJ's will bring me closer to that. Thanks Layton, James Damion

James: How did you get into DJing?

Layton: I've always wanted to DJ since I was a kid.
I grew up listening to a lot of cassette tapes my older cousin would give me when he wasn't using them anymore. Most of the tapes were from LL Cool J, Run DMC, and
the Beastie Boys. This would be my intro to hiphop music. From there I got more in tune to other artists like A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, De La Soul, and Mos Def. I always had a love for hiphop and hiphop culture since I was a kid, but was only a fan and avid listener.

Recently I moved to Coney Island, away from most of the people I know that live in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. It's a lot less expensive and allows me to focus on my music more intimately. This time away from the circus of non-stop nightlife and music events gave me time to get back to things I always wanted to do. So I went out and bought a cheap set of turntables and a mixer and borrowed a lot of vinyl from my Dad's collection. Within a few weeks I piled up on all my favorite hip-hip singles from growing up and stuff I'd heard over the years. Exploring parts of New York City for record shops and building up a higher score on eBay, I soon became a vinyl junkie.

James: What was the learning process like?

Layton: You'd be surprised how much information is out there online. Even though I grew up watching a lot of DJing from music videos and DJ battles, I just tried to figure it out on my own. I've found a ton of videos on YouTube that have helped me setup my turntables correctly and learned to do a few mixes. I'm a big fan of Electronic and Techno DJ's. I watch and listen to a lot of guys like Jamie XX, Actress, Caribou, and Lone. These guys do a lot of blending and smooth transitions between songs so there's never a gap in the music. Like a stream of consciousness or a continual thought. This technique is something I try to incorporate into spinning hiphop instrumentals.

James: Tell me a little about Laytonic and what you do/offer. What makes you stand out / stand apart? Is there a specific genre or music style you focus on?

Layton: Laytonic is a nickname that stuck with me from college and now it's a way for me to explore the elements that make up hip-hop music. I focus a lot on the production that was coming out in the 90's. Producers like DJ Premier, Pete Rock, J Dilla, and Q-Tip are some of my heroes. Part of me feels like not enough people really embrace their music. So I started collecting all my favorite cuts on vinyl and made sure the singles I bought had instrumentals. There's a lot of jazzy and rhythmic beats made by these amazing producers and I wanted to really create that vibe as a DJ. Even though a lot of the stuff I play is from the 90's, to me it has such a classic feel that it can't feel dated. Aside from the hiphop instrumentals I play, I also spin a good amount of R&B/Soul records from the 80's like Sade, Anita Baker, and Michael Jackson.

James: Where do you spin?

Layton: You can see me spinning in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Right now I'm working on a special event at Pianos Sunday April 7th during brunch. It's gonna be real chill and a perfect way to relax after a weekend of partying.

James: You grew up in the age of compact discs and are currently in an age of digital downloads. How did you originally get into vinyl.

Layton: One day a good friend of mine was explaining to me the process of digital media vs. analog. He told me about binary code and how digital media is comprised of a series of 1's and 0's to make up the code. Even though this code is minute and too small for the average person to hear a difference, the binary code is something our brains as listeners has to compute and interpret, whereas when we listen to an analog sound like vinyl, there is no binary code. The sound waves move out of the speakers as air and our eardrums are being stimulated by the air. So its a more natural way of listening. Have you ever tried to turn up your favorite song on an MP3? It can be pretty painful especially if you're wearing headphones. This could be my imagination, but there are times when I feel like I can turn the volume up pretty high when listening to vinyl and only want more. Like Dilla said
"Turn It Up!" A Little Louder!".

James: You recently travelled to Philly for Dilla Day. What was your introduction to his music?
Did you come back with anything particularly special or unique from that trip?

Layton: This past February was Dilla month. My all time favorite and hands down best producer of all time is J Dilla aka Jay Dee. He's been credited for creating Neo-Soul and gained a lot of attention for the Detroit music scene. The production he's done for groups like
A Tribe Called Quest, Common, Erykah Badu, Slum Village, The Pharcyde, De La Soul, Madlib, and many more would not be who they are today if it wasn't for J Dilla. I first got exposed to his beats back in 1996 when I first heard
"Stakes Is High" by
De La Soul. I wasn't even a big De La fan at the time, but that beat was so compelling I had to have a copy. From there I started hearing his name on other amazing beats from Tribe, Busta Rhymes, and Janet Jackson. He soon became a household name for me and I wanted everything he put his mark on.

During my first year in college is when I first heard J Dilla's own group called Slum Village. He did all the beats for their first 2 albums and did his own emceeing for the first time. It was some of the greatest music I've ever heard. To this day I still listen to those beats and play some at my shows. Just a few years later from hearing that first Slum stuff I found out that he passed away from Lupus and rare blood complications that he'd been struggling with for years. He was born on February 7, 1974 and died on February 10, 2006. Since his death, fans from all over the world have embraced his legacy and have celebrated his life and music during the month of February. Now almost ever major city has an event in his name. This year I ventured down to where I grew up in Philly and attended Dilladelphia.
The place was packed with Dilla heads and there were performances and artwork shared that night in honor of him. The J Dilla Foundation was there as well and they have some of the best J Dilla merch where proceeds go to J Dilla's estate (his hospital bills are still being paid off). So I bought a couple t-shirts and a 7" single for my collection.

James: What's your vinyl collection made up of? What are the prized possessions?

Layton: All styles. I enjoy collecting a good amount of R&B/soul records from the Motown era. Artists like The Spinners, The Stylistics, Marvin Gaye, and Diana Ross can be found in my collection as well as rare and hard to find Hiphop singles like the underground hit
"Inner City Blues" by Rezidue (a New York artist featured on DJ Premier's NY Reality Check 101 Mixtape). A big supporter of Stones Throw, I own several of their releases including Jaylib, Madvillian,
Karriem Riggins,
Georgia Anne Muldrow, and Homeboy Sandman, all on vinyl. Through hiphop I got introduced to a lot of electronic music. I believe there's a time and place for all music. Listening to artists like Lukid or Lone really set a certain mood that can be atmospheric and up-beat. I also enjoy staying up to date with current trends in indie/alternative rock like Toro Y Moi and Atoms For Peace.
And I can't forget my college roots in jazz with my favorite Blue Note releases like
Miles Davis "Kind Of Blue", Grant Green "Street Of Dreams", and Lee Morgan
"The Sidewinder".

One of my prized possessions is a vinyl record by jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery.
This was a record owned by Dilla. I found out that his mother Maureen Yancey was starting to sell a portion of his record collection to fans through eBay. Each record mailed out included a certificate of authenticity and a letter signed by Ma Dukes herself. Even though Dilla might not of used this record for one of his beats, it's still feels amazing to own something that belonged to him.

Laytonic  Check out Laytonic Here

Talking to Drummer Tony "Detroit" Scandiffio

When I first approached Tony about doing an interview he seemed more than a bit surprised by my interest. "Who would be interested in my story?" seemed to be the vibe I got. The idea was one that had built slowly during the last couple of years. Though we had become casual friends through his playing drums in I Hope You Die, The Extras and Strange Things Done in the Midnight Sun with fellow friend and early UBRS contributor Shannon Perez. It was his involvement with the seminal Hardcore act Hogan's Heroes and 90's purveyors of positive Hardcore OS101 that really peaked my curiosity. The following is part I and II of my interview with Tony. Here's what he had to share. James Damion

James: Being that I got into Hardcore at the same time Hogan's Heroes first demos were making the rounds.
Hogan's Heroes, along with many others were an early and very important influence on me.
I know you weren't one of the original cast of characters so I wanted to know how you came into being the bands drummer.

Tony: You're right,  I was not an original member.  I had been in bands during high school. Both  part of  the  school and in my own bands with friends. Nothing noteworthy, mostly covers with high school friends. I was really into skateboarding at the time. I started  skating seriously in eighth grade. I had  clowned  around  on  a skateboard as  early as i can  remember. Maybe since the fifth grade, I don't know. When I entered the eighth grade, my family  moved  to Bricktown New Jersey on Mantoloking rd. which is the  road  that leads  to the beach. Me and my friends would ride our bikes with surfboards  in tow all summer long and loved it. That whole area was hit very hard by Hurricane Sandy. We would steal wood in order to build skate ramps. During that time I was introduced to Punk and Hardcore.
We skated to the Dead Kennedy's, Agent Orange, The Faction, Youth Brigade and so many more.

It was around this time when one of my skater buddies who was also a drummer told me he had another skater friend who was looking for a drummer. He had immediately thought of me because they had a really fast style and didn't know anyone that fit that. I gave George, the band's guitarist, and we met up with the bands bassist John Cuccunello. They explained they needed a new drumming due to the fact that their original drummer and singer from the first two demos had left the band. I told them I would check out the demos and get back to them. They had some shows already booked and needed an answer quick. I thought about how I had really wanted to play original music. Especially punk and skate rock. So I learned the demos and tried out for the band. When the day of the try out came I finally got to meet Skip, who was trying out to be the bands singer. Skip was from Bayville or somewhere a little further south. We were in the same boat, trying out for the band. Not knowing if we were going to make the cut or even if we really wanted to be in the band. Somehow it all clicked and we started practicing, skating and playing shows. Before we knew it, we were ready to record. "What, record?" "But we already have two demos." We needed to record something with our new singer Skip. We made another demo and started playing as many shows as we could. We were working hard and trying to find our way. This one show we played at CBGB's was a particularly good Sunday matinee. As we finished our set we were approached by this guy Nicky Garret. He was really stoked on us and explained played in the U.K. Subs, had his own record label and wanted to do a record with us. We signed the contract in the cantina next door that night. I was maybe sixteen. I couldn't believe it.

James: Growing up in Queens, NY. The Jersey shore felt like the other side of the planet to me. What was the Jersey HXC Punk scene like at the time?

Tony: The question of New Jersey Punk/Hardcore VS New York Punk/Hardcore is an interesting one. We were trying to play New York City for a while. We were from Jersey and at the time there was a lot of schism and stigma clouding the scene. You had Punks, Skins, Straight Edge, Drugs and New York VS New Jersey. It was a real challenge for us to get a show in New York. Once you get a show... how do you keep the New York kids in the room when they here you're from Jersey. A lot of hard work, determination, blood, sweat, more blood and sweat. That's how! Our singer Skip was very likable and had some serious charisma. It helped us a lot. We were working hard and playing harder. We had just been signed and were not about to lose to New York. "We're from Jersey." "We play loud and we play proud."

We had become friends with bands like Token Entry, Murphy's Law, American Standard, Vision and many others along the way. We did this awesome little tour with them down to DC and Richmond.
We were getting good shows and were about to put out our second record when all of John's hard work really started paying off. We landed a weekend of shows with California's Uniform Choice,
7 Seconds and the
Circle Jerks. There was a lot of momentum and we were totally stoked. All of our hard work and networking was paying off.

James: I always felt the bands sound had more a California feel than that of the New York scene. Would you agree? Would that have any thing to do with being so close to the shore or were that just the sound you found an influence in?

Tony: The mix of Jersey/Cali beach influenced sound, we had that vibe. We all surfed, we all skated and we all loved the beach and loved  Punk Rock . The blonde dreadlocks and the fact that we were not looking to be one of those "Tough Guy" Hardcore bands.

James: Some of the bands I worshiped early on were skate bands like the Faction, JFA and closer to home, Token Entry. How old were you when you started skating? Were the specific bands of that ilk that really set the tone? What about surfing?

Tony: Our overall sound had a lot of different influences. The Faction, Agent Orange,
7 Seconds, the Descendents and even the Bad Brains. The band definitely had a Cali,
Posi-Core vibe. There was definitely a positive message to our songs.

James: So, how does a kid from the beaches of New Jersey get the nickname
"Tony Detroit"?

Tony: Well  back  in  the  day (start wind chimes and  dream  sequence  music) I worked on the back of a garbage truck and was a Red Wings fan. The company I worked for had a productivity incentive   which would allow us to work from 6:00 am till noon (6 hours ) and get  paid for eight hours if we used      a designated  meet up truck had all the work  done. When we would first meet up in the AM and made arraignments to get it and go. We'd be hanging off the trucks, running through streets, yards, woods, parking lots and highways in order to get work done as early as possible. This way, we had so much more time to enjoy the day fishing, surfing, skating, music or sleeping. Whatever it took to make that time. That was what was important. We were maybe twenty and at that time and getting that free time to party was what life was all about. A lot of the guys I worked with would see me in my
Red Wings hat and knew that I played some form of Rock and Roll. That and anyone that worked on my truck knew my "Get it and Go" attitude. That all led to the name
"Tony Detroit". Somehow, the name just stuck. The term "Tony Detroit Diesel" was inspired, humbly so, by Mackie. (Cro-mags, Leeway) OS101 was playing a show at CBGB's and Mackie was talking to Skip. (OS101 singer) Mackie said "Your drummer RIPS."
"He's fucking diesel." A pretty awesome compliment coming from one of the greatest drummers of our generation. So I hear this and thought "That's a compliment that should not be taken lightly." It stuck with me. Through the years I've been called "Tony Detroit", "Detroit Tony Diesel", "The Beat" "T-Bone" etc, etc.

James: I was always curious as to how Hogan's Heroes became OS101. Was there a significant breathing period between the two bands? What was the cause or reasoning in regards to the change?

"You wouldn't like me when I'm angry" Tony keeps the beat with OS101 at CBGB's
Tony: There was quite a bit of time between the two. I was collaborating with a lot of different people at the time and was always open to jamming with others.
After I left Hogan's Heroes they went on to release more music and tour with replacements.
One of which was Ian, who would later play bass in OS 101. John, the bass player for Hogan's Heroes switched over to guitar for them. After Hogan's Heroes had run their pace, John and Skip asked me if I wanted to come on board to form OS 101 with them. At the time, I was playing in another band. I was playing with them and OS for about two weeks. Finally, I decided to ask the other one to find a new drummer. OS101 my main focus.

James: You went from a tough guy Hardcore scene in the 80's with Hogan's Heroes to dealing with some straight up thugs in the 90's with OS101. Yet the band always remained positive and had an uplifting message. I can only imagine how hard it might have been to not let that effect you.

Tony: As far as the whole thugs VS tough guys in the scene goes. Skip always had a charisma and smile about him. We were all good hearted guys and though drama might be happening all around you. You don't have to escalate or participate in any of it. We knew a lot of fold that were tied to it. Their music was Hardcore, which to most, is a very different and aggressive sound. We were just trying to unite kids that were into the music and a part of the scene. Anyone who had seen us would never refer to us as tough guys or thugs.
We just wanted to have fun and give everything our best. It wasn't rare when we got respect from some of the so called "Tough Guys". Some of them grew up watching us play shows as Hogan's Heroes as kids. We had longevity on our sides, especially in South Jersey.

James: OS101 was also the first Hardcore band I remember since Murphy's Law to incorporate horns into your music. How did the opportunity to bring in Catch 22's horn section on "Pure Vida" come about. Did you ever get to play out live with them?

Tony: I was going to a lot of shows at the time. I was a lot younger and had a lot less responsibilities than I do now. At the time, both OS 101 and Catch 22 were on
Victory Records and were featured on one of the labels samplers.
(Victory Style III and IV) I really liked their songs and noticed they were from Jersey. I went to see them play live.
They were a lot of fun. Something that OS 101 always tried to bring to their shows.
It was a no brainer. We became friends and played some shows together. At the same time, we were getting ready to record "Pure Vida" over at Trax East. It just so happened that they lived in the immediate area and were more than familiar with the place, having recorded there. Trax East is an amazing studio is South River New Jersey, owned and operated by Eric Rachel. The song,
"Spam in a Can" had a an intro with lots of wasted space that needed to be filled. When we asked if they would be wiling to record some horns for the record. They loved the idea. We met up and they really juiced it up. Etched in history by Eric from Trax. The man is so easy to work with and knows his gear. There is no comparing the work he does. I'd recommend him and the studio to anyone.

Hogan's Heroes  Download

OS101 Victory Records

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Altered Boys - S/T EP

I picked up the Altered Boys when I was down at Baltimore's Celebrated Summer Records a couple of weeks ago.
The records cover photo reminded me of many of the mysteriously faceless bands and records I find on Grave Mistake and
Sorry State Records.
Tasty vinyl I always seem to fall in love with. As I returned home to Hoboken I was happily surprised to see that the band was located so close to home.

Straight up, nasty Hardcore with gruff vocals. Simple, yet thoroughly satisfying record that won't let you down.
Smart, thought provoking lyrics that touch on real subjects such as anxiety and spirituality.
The record nicely follows up their 2011 demo, showing progress while not straying from the original dye. I've seen the bands name on a few upcoming shows and hope to catch them live. This little EP will do just fine for now. James Damion

Get it Here

Monday, March 18, 2013

An Eclectic Mix Gathers at Montclair's Meatlocker

As I entered Montclair's dark, cavernous dungeon The Meatloacker. I thought to myself the same thing I think each and every time I enter the towns long standing ass in the wall. "What the fuck an I doing here?" It was almost 10:00 pm and much of nothing was taking place. After standing around for a couple of minutes I headed back to my car and started the engine. Lucky for me, I changed my mind once again and decided to go back. The following is what transpired.

I was not the least bit familiar with Old Bridge, New Jersey's The Luna Laval and twenty minutes after they had taken the stage, I still wasn't absolutely sure if what I was witnessing was a prolonged sound check or the bands actual set. To be perfectly honest, if it turned out that sound check happened to be their set, I would have been just as impressed. The band played a a complex musical style that somehow escapes a lot of the trappings of genre addicted listeners. A trait that can both open and close doors for a lot of bands, depending on the listener. As I stood there I found myself somewhat mesmerized by Tom Risi's tasty Bass play and overall movement.
Though the bass has become my most appreciated instrument in recent years.
I find most of my favorite players are too often, stationary musicians who blend into the background, rather than the forefront. Risi's movement and presence reminded me fondly of Nate Mendel (Foo Fighters,
Sunny Day Real Estate. Brotherhood.) Considering they were the shows opening band and it was my first time seeing them. They left a lasting impression on me. Definitely a band I'd like to see and hear more from. The Luna Laval

The time in between bands can often be long and socially awkward for me. But just as the stage remained empty. There was music and a sense of community happening on the floor thanks to the warm sounds of John Bentonamo's ukalele playing. Talk about a spirited individual. At the moment I didn't want to upset the intimacy of the small gathering by stepping in. Instead, I decided to loom close enough to take in all the mirth and celebration while not disturbing any tribal rituals that might be occurring.

The Harrison Four quickly assembled and though this DC area band was a late addition to the show. They made their presence notable immediately. Even as the band tuned up I could swear I heard little Minor Threat and Fugazi riffs being tested. Their set had a warm upbeat nature that was musically impressive, while remaining fun and light hearted. The addition of a horn player for the show didn't hurt things one bit. I felt a strong Lookout Records meets DC vibe. The band even busted out a Cleveland Bound Death Sentence. Impressive, to say the very least. I looked the band up before writing this and found out their also vegans. Kinda cool if you want to break bread with them after a show.
The Harrison Four

Raleigh's Empire were up next and I had the feeling I was up for something dark and heavy when I got a look at the material they were selling at the merch table. The band did not disappoint one bit. Turning the floor into their extended stage and bringing it to the small crowd of on watchers. I kept a safe distance from lead singer Ben Daughtry. Steering clear of his spitting fits. I like my bread just as crusty as the next guy. Just don't want to get caught in a shower without an umbrella. The band sounded great and brought an entirely different energy to the show. I picked up their CD "Shedding Skin" and should have some kind of review posted in the near future. In the meantime, check out the bands page and see for yourself. Empire

After three really good and diverse acts had played, I was feeling a lot better. Three bands down and two to go. Polyphony were next and just happened to be one of the two bands I was there to see. If you follow the blog you may recall they were one of the first bands interviewed for UBRS and if I remember correctly, the first guest interview from Shannon Perez of I Hope You Die. I was really shocked that the bands singer Marshall Davidson even recognized me after only meeting me once. It's been two years and though my interest in the band hasn't wained, I think I've missed a ton of shows. The band launched into their set and I could instantly see and hear the musical growth these young but very talented people have gone through. When I originally caught them at the Court Tavern they sounded raw but very good. They also seemed very stationary. Perhaps confined by the small space the  room, just to the side of the entrance, permitted. On this particular night, the band had all the room they needed to release their unbridled energy along with any other odors Marshall "Marsh-mellow" Davidson was omitting at the time. Polyphony would best be described as a screamo outfit. (Judging from the fact their lead singer seemed to be vomiting into a bag in between songs.) However, they are quite musical. They've changed drummers since the last time I saw them and as far as these ears could tell, it's brought they're blitzkrieg assault to a new level. Shortly into their set it seems the nights arctic temperatures were more than their brave frontman could handle and with some help from the aforementioned John Bentonoma's help, the shirt and eventually the pants came off. Upon witnessing this one can only hope Marsh-mellow can find some time in his busy schedule to hit the weights and get some much needed sun. Polyphony

By the time Ola Madrid hit the stage, it was well past 1:00am and to be honest, I was quickly fading. About a month back the bands guitarist Dylan Young sent me the bands September 2012 debut release
"Distance to Decay".
The five song EP has been getting a lot of play here at the UBRS headquarters.
The chance to catch them live seemed like a no brainer.
I came to this show with high expectations for this band. To say they raised the bar would be the understatement of the early year. The bands energy level and musical proficiency immediately ignited the crowd and gave me the little extra boost I needed to get through the late hour and the drive home that followed. The band has a new record due out this spring. It would be wise to keep your eyes and ears on the look out. Ola Madrid
For someone who was about to leave before the show had even started, this turned out to be the best and most eclectic show in recent memory. See you all next time.
James Damion