Saturday, January 4, 2014

Looking Back; Talking Trash with Richard Oliver

(Originally posted to Unite Webzine in February of 2011. Just months before the birth of United By Rocket Science.)

For those of you in need an introduction. 
Rich is an ABC No Rio O.G.  He was there to witness the birth of many of the bands you never saw back then but worship today. He sang for 
The Manacled and Antiem and his fanzines 
Right Trash and Marching for Trash were must reads as is his blog 
The Trashman’s Disposable Reader.

When I contacted Rich about meeting up to do this interview, it wasn’t to promote a book, a new band or any specific creative endeavor of his. (Though there seem to be many) It was out of pure necessity on my part. Though I had met him more than twenty years ago, seen him at countless shows and even had brief conversations with the man. I really didn't know him at all. And to be brutally honest,
I always felt a bit uneasy around him. 

Years later, as I began to see him more at random reuinion shows and get togethers. 
I knew I wanted to change that. So early one night we met up on McDougal street to share some Spring Rolls and Báhn Mi to wipe the slate clean and start anew. For the first time in more than twenty years I got to experience his warmth, openness and sense of humor.
He was soft spoken and honest. Before I had finished half of that tasty Vietnamese sandwich. I felt myself welcoming a new friend into my life. t I had made a new friend. 
(A BFF for all you texters). James Damion

James: As we sat down to eat you asked me “Why didn’t we ever become friends back in the day?”  It’s funny you brought that up immediately. I actually wanted to address that topic in my first question. My first memories of you go back to 1989. I was selling copies of Unite outside CBGB’s  when I saw this goliath walk by with a yellow covered fanzine called
Right Trash. I almost immediately got this red light vibe from you. Not that of a bully.
It was more in the sense there was this dark aura about you, Like this menacing ogre.
I didn’t feel as if you were welcoming me into your circle.

Rich: That’s the exact image I was trying to give off back then. I was a very sad and lonely young man. A reason why I might have wound up on the lower east side during the late 80’s. You’re dead on with your description. I definitely did give off a menacing vibe. I think that I was a prototypical misfit. I’m sorry that I gave you that impression though.

James: No sorry needed. Back then there were people who welcomed you and there were people who did not. I’m just describing the vibe I got from you. We were also selling our zines on the same block of concrete. Maybe you were just marking your territory.
You used the words “Sad and Lonely”. Why did you feel that way?

Rich: (Laughing) Well, i don’t know if you noticed but I was morbidly obese at the time. I was about a hundred pounds overweight. I’ll put it this way. Having to walk down the hallways of any High School USA was not something I looked forward to. One of the reasons I sought out the sub culture we both found ourselves in. I’d agree I wasn’t giving off a peaceful vibe but it wasn’t my intention. Just the way things turned out. The way things happened to me.
The experiences I had made me that stand offish type of person who wasn’t able to trust. That’s what I was like back then. (Laughs) Now, as you can see. I’m quite well adjusted.

James: It’s funny but that first impression of you is one of the key reasons why I wanted to talk to you. Even recently when I’ve seen you at shows. I felt a sense of coldness about you. We run in the same circles and in a way this was my chance to get to know you better. To feel more comfortable with you. Both inside and outside that circle.

Rich: Awww. If I was to text you right now I’d text you a '< and a 3'. Because a '< and a 3' is a <3. Because I really appreciate that. It’s hard. I accepted, a long time ago that both you and I did not have the conventional high school experience. What we were involved with, (NYHC) for all intents and purposes was high school. You were my high school friend. Freddy Alva was my high school friend. Joe Martin from Citizens Arrest was my high school friend. I actually did go to high school with Joe but we didn’t spend a lot of time in the school itself. The people I went to actual high school with are not significant. They don’t know the things we know. They don’t know the things we did.

James: There’s that common thread that we all shared where we didn’t fit in with the kids in our schools or we weren’t getting what we needed from our families. Hardcore was a place where we fit. Even later, when people were looking forward to their High School and
College reunions. Personally, I didn’t feel any connection with those people.
But when hearing about a GO or Bad Trip reunion I’m all giddy with anticipation.
Okay, so back to you. Considering all these insecurities and issues you managed to front two short lived but very memorable bands in The Manacled and Antiem.
How did you overcome those feelings to do what you did? “Where would we be today if not for Freddy Alva? He’s like the spiritual warrior of this whole thing. He’s just such a great guy.”

Rich: It’s weird but I’ve always had this tremendous ego but incredibly low self esteem. When those two forces are going against each other it can be turned into really interesting art. Some of the greatest stuff I ever did was back then. It was just amazingly creative stuff. Imagine trying to do that again and having all these different forces coming into play now. Jobs, wives, girlfriends, rent, mortgages and more. Back in the day we were able to create this amazing stuff in a small increment of time. I just think I always had this enormous desire to be noticed. Matching that massive ago with the low self esteem and coupling it with ........ I’ve always felt I’ve been possessed with that artistic temperament where I have something to say and I’ll do anything to say it. Sometimes I wish i didn’t have it because it’s been the bane of my existence. I think my life would be so much easier if I didn’t have this desire to create. If you could just have a job, go home to watch American Idol and be happy.

James: Were you able to purge a lot of that anger and insecurity through the music?

Rich: It’s funny you ask that. I was just thinking about it as you were asking. The Manacled break up was the most foolish decision I had ever made in my life. Honestly and wholeheartedly I wish the Manacled had a slightly more substantial discography.
If we could have played maybe ten more shows because I’d be cashing in right now like nobody’s business. I just have to be honest. I think this renaissance of reunions is very crass to a lot of people but I think it’s wonderful. I really do. It’s been one of the best experiences for me over the last couple of years to see those people again.
For me personally, it all started with the Absolution  reunion in April of 2008. That night I was so absolutely happy to see all those people again. Then with the various networking websites, I was able to reconnect with so many people. It’s just incredible to see pictures of
Jason O’Toole’s (Life’s Blood) daughter and to see what you’re doing everyday. It’s just an amazing world we live in. Made better through Facebook.

James: I always had mixed feelings about the reunion circuit. There were shows that blew my mind while others resembled a Viagra infomercial.  But what it comes down to is the friendship and reconnecting with people we had lost touch with and otherwise would have no occasion to reconnect. I got to reconnect with Freddy Alva through this. Someone I met when I was seven years old, That alone makes it all worth while.

Rich: To speak about one person in particular that you just mentioned. Where would we be today if not for Freddy Alva? He’s like the spiritual warrior of this whole thing. He’s just such a great guy. I liked him a lot back in the day but since I’ve become reacquainted with him I’m just constantly reminded of what a great guy he is. There’s no pretense to Freddy.
He’s just a truly genuine guy.

James: Why would you consider The Manacled more important than Antiem?

Rich: The Manacled was really just one very fat guy and one very tall guy just picking it up and starting a band. Chalie Adamec picked up a bass guitar the same time Joe Martin did. Joe learned to play very well. Charlie not so much. It was just a beautiful thing where two kids from North Eastern Queens could start a band and be playing shows within a few weeks. We borrowed a guitarist. Borrowed a drummer and just did it. Good, bad, indifferent. It was absolutely insane to see this incredibly large man  screaming for fifteen minutes.
I’m blessed and have You Tube videos to relive those moments. Were we any better or worse than a lot of those bands from that era?  Not really. We just had much more shock value. I just wish I wasn’t such an arrogant asshole back then. If we would have just kept the band going for just a little while longer I think it really could have been a wonderful thing.

James; How did you wind up destroying the band?

Rich: I was either in Joe Martin's basement or his kitchen at his parents home in Bayside, Queens.
I was just this arrogant, pompous fool who had all these petty jealousies that some sixteen, seventeen, eighteen year old would harbor. I had the incredibly delusional idea came into my mind that I should just break off with Charlie and just start another band with  Melissa York. I wanted to break away from Hardcore. I was very much into the whole Chicago “Amphetamine Reptile” sound. I was drifting away from Hardcore and was just thinking in terms of an insane man. For lack of a better term I “broke up” with Charlie. Charlie being the laid back hippie that he was just shrugged, picked up his guitar and started
Animal Crackers with
Janis  Chakars. They went on to be quite successful while Melissa and I sort of languished in Nowheresville. Never to be heard from again. (Laughs) Actually Melissa went on to a very successful music career which included Born Against, Sugar Shack, Vitapup, The Butchies and others.

James: What do you think set your experiences apart from your days at CBGB’s to those at ABC No Rio? Up until a few minutes ago I thought we had gotten into Hardcore at the same time. I had no idea you came around so late.

Rich: Because ABC No Rio was mine. There was this stamp of ownership on it. We came, we saw, we conquered, we started it. I was there at the first show. I saw GO! practice in Mike Brombergs Father’s basement amidst his Dad’s dentistry moles. Aaron Kaufman was sitting there as was Charlie Ademac. All of us listening to De La Soul’s first album
“Three Feet High and Rising.” It was an amazing time. On a side note. To be able to admit to another person that I came in so late is something that was very hard for me to admit. Back then it was so important that you had been around for a long time. Back when I got into it in 88’/89’ I would never, ever admit I had just gotten into the scene. “Ah, no! I’ve been around since 86’/87’.”

James: Oh my God. I thought I was the only one who felt that way. I remember how guarded I was. How proud I was when I got that four year patch of honor.
Why do you think that was such a major insecurity for so many people?

Rich: Because your validity was based upon how “True” you were. Your validity was based on how long you’d been there. If you were there since 81’ you were a Buddha. Lying about when you got into Hardcore was like lying about having a girlfriend.

James: The thing that sticks in my mind most was the records. "Cause for Alarm",
"United Blood", "Thou Shalt Not Kill." Even though those records predated us by a few years.
They were the unattainable “Holy Grail”. Those records felt like ancient history.

Rich: Antidote - “Thou shalt not kill”

James: Like I said before,
My first memories of Rich Trash are from your fanzine Right Trash.
There was a certain dry wit and irony about it. How did writing help you escape from those insecurities and pain you were feeling?

Rich: That sense of humor just developed. It was how I coped until better things came along.
It was just the thing that helped me to survive and deal with the world. I became the funny man.
Sarcasm is my most eloquent language.

James: What was behind the name? It sounds so self deprecating.

Rich: The name was suggested by someone else. I originally had a co-editor who didn’t do anything at all really. He was the one that suggested the name. He said that “This music we listen to is pretty trashy. We’ll just listen to the Right Trash.” Right Trash lasted two issues.
Then came “Marching for Trash” which is a Crucifucks song. The name was perfect.
 It picked up just where I left off. It seemed like the perfect name fro a new scene and attitude.

James: You’re also a comic book nerd. What did you collect? D.C. or marvel?

Rich: Marvel, exclusively.

James: I’ve had this conversation before. I always thought the D.C. superheroes were weak.
Even as a kid they seemed to wilt when compared to those of Marvel comics.
What character in particular did you most identify with?

Rich: I loved the Hulk. He was a monster and I felt I was a monster. he just wanted to be left alone. I feel that character is deep down inside of me. He’s the guy.

James: Looking back I think that may have been the reason I never reached out to try and be your friend. There was that wall. What do you think made you become that person?

Rich: I have untold amounts of mental illness and substance abuse in my family. It’s something that’s deep in my DNA.

James: You went through some very dark times with Alcoholism yourself. What was it that sent you over the edge?

Rich: Once again, it’s that overwhelming propensity for arrogance. You have to remember. I was straightedge during my Hardcore days. When I made that decision to reject all the people I was hanging out with. I just wanted to have a new experience. Part of that was I wanted to experience all those things I was denying myself of. So it wasn’t like it got me. I went out and found it. I sought it. I wanted to experience the things I hadn’t done. “What’s this all about?”

James: What brought you out of it?

Rich: Thirty Years old and not able to make my way in this thing called life.
Desperately wanting to figure it out.

James: How did spirituality help you out of it?

Rich: I know it’s very prickly and controversial with a lot of people. Coming from a person who was so opposed to this stuff. There was no bigger proponent to the Anti-Krishna thing when that was in vogue. Sam McPhetters put it perfectly in his “Dear Jesus” Anthology.
The cover of the second issue Marching For Trash depicting the Savior of two billion people doing horrible, self gratifying things to himself. So I’m obviously coming from the opposite side of the spectrum. But when your desperate enough to do anything to get better, you will be willing to take a look at those belief systems that have not served you very well.
I desperately needed to acquire some belief systems that would work. So far, for eight years,  this has worked and I’m very happy in what I believe. It’s allowed me to have an amazing life.

James: It’s so hard for me to grasp or understand. Considering I’ve never felt God in my life. Can you tell me how this manifested itself?

Rich: I was in the hospital because I needed to be separated from the chemicals that I was addicted to. On the third day in what was for all intents and purposes was a mental hospital. I went outside in an enclosed, fenced in treatment area. It was my third day at about
6:00 AM. I’m in this area when I heard Bob Marley’s “three little birds.” I had heard that song countless times before. But when I heard that song that morning. I just knew that everything was going to be okay. I walk around this planet now. The same one I used to hate.
The place where I hated everyone. I know, since having him in my life. Everything is going to be okay. When I wanted him to come into my life. He did. Let’s just say for the sake of argument. Let’s just say that the day I die through some unseen way or reason that it didn’t really have anything to do with him or it or any power. Be it sun, moon, light....whatever. What if I find out that it really was just the power of positive thinking? You know what? That’s good enough for me.

James: With all that you’ve been through and what you’ve overcome.
Do you find it easier to love others now that you’ve started to love yourself?

Rich: My life is unbelievable. I’m a high school drop out who became a high school teacher? How is that possible? All I had to do was stop fighting the world. Was it really that easy?
I remember one of my early experiences in sobriety. I had been in the hospital for a couple of days, following the rules. After thirty years I was following the rules. After two days they came to me and said “You’re following the rules.: “You can have an extra privilege."
“You get a cigarette break.” It was like a fucking acid moment. I was like,
“You mean to tell me, all I had to do these thirty years was follow the rules and I could get free stuff?” I swear to God. It was revolutionary to me. That’s how I lived my life for thirty years. Just going against the grain. Where did it get me?

James: It’s good to see you’re on a positive path. I, myself, could learn a lot from your experience.
So forward to the present. You’re heading into the studio with Todd Lung
(former Fit of Anger drummer) to record new music. What are you doing?
Your almost forty years old? Is this sponsored by Viagra or what?

Rich: You know I had to do it. Like I told you before. That drive I have. After that Absolution show in 2008 I had just graduated college. I had gone back in 2005 for my degree in English. After that show I wanted to do something so bad. I put an ad on Craig's List. A“Old School Hardcore guy looking for...”I went through the proverbial cattle call. One guy happened to be  from Ultraviolence. But eventually, they got back together. The project became like the barstool with two legs. It just couldn’t stand up.Then I was working with another guy a year and a half ago. It was just the two of us  and we were able to make a few demos.
I just wanted to get something done. (joking)It’s just so hard because of these damn jobs getting in the way. So I sent Todd an email just before New Years. I started this whole Facebook rumor mill to create a buzz... We had our first practice a few weeks ago and we hope to see it through. We’ll see what happens. No expectations.

James:  (Joking/Gossip) Basically what you’re saying is there will be a 7 inch on Wardance records this Spring?

Rich: The good thing about this is it’s not Fit of Anger 2011. It’s not The Manacled 2011.
It’s something new and different.

The Trashman's Disposable Reader

No comments:

Post a Comment