This week I interviewed by email John Evicci, drummer, Ted Bundy lookalike and all round band spokesperson for Massachusetts's OUT COLD, who have been one of my favourite modern hardcore bands for some time. Every record is a winner, and their last LP 'Goodbye Cruel World' is no exception. They employ a no-bullshit approach to playing straight forward hardcore punk, with no frills and little in the way of popular appeal... Even though they've been active since 1989, they haven't followed any of the trends that occured throughout 19 years within hardcore and also haven't broken up, rotating members fairly often but never losing their distinctive sound (comparable perhaps to Tied Down-era NEGATIVE APPROACH meets early FU'S, or something. It's great regardless of comparisons). Currently, two members of excellent but sadly defunct LAST IN LINE are in them, as far as I know... John also runs the excellent Acme Records. Enjoy!
Q 1. Out Cold has always seemed like 'outsider hardcore', are you in any way connected to any local scene around Boston? Were you ever?
J: Yes, we've always been outsiders and never part of any scene.
Q 2. Why do you think Out Cold hasn't broken up after all these years?
J: A few different reasons. First and foremost, we still love playing and creating this type of music. Secondly, we've been lucky enough to find people to play with to replace the many lost members over the years. Thirdly, we do everything at our own pace and on our own terms, so there's no external pressures grinding us down. Lastly, we're still fucked up and angry.
Q 3. What is next for Out Cold? Have you recorded anything recently? Any plans for a new release?
J: We recorded a shitload of new tracks 3 years ago which are supposed to fill out our next two full-lengths. However, we've been too fucked up and disorganized to finish them off as of yet. In the meantime we've had some EPs and splits come out.
Q 4. When and how did you first get into hardcore punk? Was it a stagant scene in Boston at the time, mid 80s? What were the first shows you'd go to?
J: I first got into punk and hardcore in the mid-'80s. I don't know if the scene in Boston was stagnant at the time. I never went to shows. I was ensconced in my disconnected little suburban town and didn't start going to shows until I was older. My guess is the scene was active, but it was full of shit I wasn't interested in. Bad jock-core or progressive post-punk crap. The mid-to-late '80s was a bad, bad, bad time for punk/hardcore and just music in general.
Q 5. Speaking of when you first get in to punk, and hardcore, what were some of the first records that you really loved and had the biggest impact? Also, what did your parents/family think at the time?
J: Some of the first bands I got into, and who have remained some of my absolute favorites to this day, were bands like Black Flag, The Freeze, Bad Brains, Dead Boys. These bands were also big influences on where we took Out Cold. My parents were typically uninvolved/uninterested in what I was listening to, but to the extent they paid attention to it, they didn't like it. My mom has since warmed up to it a bit.
Q 6. Regarding when you got into hardcore, do you think it was the influx of heavy metal's influence, and metalheads, in hardcore in the mid to late 80s that ruined the music for you?
J: That was definitely a big factor, yes. It was also the influence of the more progressive elements that I wasn't into. People were straying from the simple, powerful, emotional, catchy foundations that made the music so great. I just thought 90% of what was going on at the time was either macho crap or pretentious pap.
Q 7. How important do you see audience participation to hardcore? Does Out Cold play as if no one else is in the room, just feeding off each others energy (ala Flag)?
J: It's really nice to get a good response from the audience. We want people to get into what we're doing, obviously, but it's not necessary. We're so used to being ignored or misunderstood that we don't need the audience's approval. We ultimately play for our own gratification and, as you say, feed off our own energy.
Q 8. I didn't manage to see Out Cold when you were in the UK last: do you plan to come over again? How did you find our dismal little country?
J: I loved touring there and seeing and hanging out with all the people, but the shows were mostly depressing as fuck. Dismal is a good word. With a few exceptions, the shows were poorly-attended and just felt like a waste of time. Based on this, it's unlikely that we'll come back, although I'm open to anything.
Q 9. How important do you think it is to be original playing hardcore, and do you think there's any room left for creativity? Do you think with the amount of 'retro' bands currently doing the rounds, it is overly contrived or afraid to experiment?
J: I don't think originality is supremely important. I love a lot of very derivative music and think it's worthwhile as long as it's not a blatant rip-off. Out Cold is very derivative in a lot of ways. That being said, I am starting to grow a bit weary of the current crop of hardcore bands that stick to a such a strict early-'80s style. It's so strange to now be in a position to say that considering that when we started out it was the exact opposite and we often railed about it. Now the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction that it's gotten a bit tired. It definitely does feel contrived now and that's a shame. However, I'm not really complaining because this is the type of music that I prefer, so I guess what we have is an embarrassment of riches, but there definitely is a lot of room left for creativity and individuality.
Q 10. Regarding the surge of retro style hardcore bands, is there any particular that DO really impress you? You've played NO WAY FEST (a few times?), was that good fun?
J: I must admit, I have not kept up at all with the flood of these new old school bands. Seems everytime I turn around there's another band. We only played No Way Fest once (this year's) and that was like the mecca of that whole scene and it was really mindblowing to see all that concentrated into such a focused event. I've never seen anything like it before. It was great. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Even given the high caliber of acts at that show I wouldn't've thought I could tolerate sitting back-to-back through whatever it was, like 12 hardcore bands, but despite being a bit tired and ear-fatigued, I really did enjoy it all. Like I said, I'm not really up on a lot of these new bands, but some I really like are bands like Direct Control, Career Suicide, not to mention foreign bands like The Heartburns, Auktion, Cola Freaks, etc.
Q 11. What is one of your favourite underrated bands, from the past, you want to spread the love for?
J: I don't know of any underrated bands from way back when. Seems every little obscure thing from the past has been plucked from the shadows and held aloft by the punk/HC intelligentsia. Christ On A Crutch aren't from too far in the past, but that's a band I really like that I don't hear a lot of love for. Also, I think that first Joykiller album blows away anything by TSOL, but doesn't have that early-'80s cult of personality status so it's easily dismissed by people.
Q 12. What was the worst show Out Cold has ever played and why?
J: Pretty much any show before 1998. There was no interest in or really understanding of what we were doing. We'd play depressing local shitholes to a sprinkling of people who didn't have any appreciation for us whatsoever. Generally speaking, that is.
Q 13. How did ACME start, and what is the favourite release you've put out?
J: It started because I love records and always wanted to do a label. It took me a good ten years and thousands upons thousands of lost dollars to come to the conclusion that I have no business running one, but I gave it the old college try, and that counts for something. Favorite release? That's like asking which one is your favorite child. I'm not saying it's my favorite, but the most criminally-underrated release I've put out is Hero Dishonest's "When The Shit Hits The Man".
Q 14. You recently played some shows in the US with the Horror from the UK, and you obviously did a split with Voorhees. What older UK hardcore bands are you into too?
J: Peruvian Vacation-era Stupids, Icons Of Filth, GBH (if you consider them hardcore), Varukers. I don't know, most of the old UK stuff I like I would consider punk and not hardcore.
Q 15. Did you like the American Hardcore movie?
J: I thought it was OK, but could've been handled much better. It didn't live up to its potential in my opinion.
Q 16. What do you think were the main problems with it? I personally didn't like the music-video way it was put together too much, with constant flashing of images and 5-second long interview snippets all the way through...never seemed to get to the bare bones of the matter.
J: I only watched it once so my criticism of it should be taken as more of kneejerk reaction rather than a thoughtful analysis, but I thought it came off kinda lazy and amateurish. My lasting impression of it was that they tried to leave it unpolished and raw or whatever, but to me it just came off looking like they didn't put a lot of time and/or care into it, like they just threw it together and put it out there. I just think it could've been delivered in a way to give it a lot more impact. For a documentary about such a incendiary type of music, it was a bit boring to me.
Q 17. What do you think of reunion shows of old bands? I'm guessing since you're from Boston you've perhaps gotten to see Gang Green or The Freeze in recent years? Have you heard about Springa's SSD "reunion" coming up?
J: I think it's cool, in general. It's sometimes cool to see some of your old favorites even if it's not the same as it was in the old days. I was very glad Jerry's Kids reformed because I never got to see them during their original run. The Freeze are always a welcome act to have around, although I haven't seen them since Bill Close left the band. I saw Gang Green a time or two in the not-too-distant past. They were OK. I have heard about Springa's SSD reunion and the contention over it with Al. I really don't care about that band, though. Much to many peoples' surprise I think SSD is quite possibly the most overrated band in the history of hardcore.
Q 18. Who else do you think is close to being as overrated as SSD? (Edit: I don't agree with this opinion by the way, haha - Rob.)
J: No one really spring(a)s to mind. They're in a league of their own as far as I'm concerned. (That wasn't a dig on Springa...I just couldn't resist the pun)
Q 19. What do you all do outside of the band to pay the rent?
J: I'm a mechanical draftsman, Mark works at a university, Deuce is a registered nurse in an emergency room, and Mikey works with disabled people.
Q 20. There are definite similarities between Out Cold and Career Suicide, in vibe and song writing (as in the songs are well written catchy tunes as well as being grounded in good classic hardcore). Are you into them at all?
J: Yeah, they're good. I need to get more of their records, though. Only have one at the moment. I meant to pick more up when we played with them in Virginia last month, but forgot to.
Q 21. Has the regular change of members, especially guitarists, affected the way the riffs have been written? Have you ever had anyone join who wrote riffs that sounded completely wrong for the band? Saying that, I understand Mark writes all of the music, so have any members felt artistically restricted perhaps? Is he the Mussolini of the band, and the rest the ethnically oppressed gypsies?
J: The change of members has not affected the way music is written since, as you mentioned, Mark has pretty much written all the songs since Fred left in 1997. On our recent recordings for the upcoming albums, both Deuce and Mikey contributed songs, though, which is pretty much the first time we'll release anything written by non-original members. We've never necessarily stifled the other members, it's just that everyone knows how particular we are when it comes to our material and most people are just content to play and are not really pushing to contribute. We've always been open to it, though, with the caveat that it has to be filtered through Mark & I first. These songs that Deuce and Mikey wrote, though, are awesome. I'm looking forward to hearing them finished off.
Q 22. Do you like classic Japanese hardcore? What are your favourite bands?
J: How can one not like Japanese hardcore? Some favorites include No Side, Real Shit, Stupid Babies Go Mad, Assfort, Death Side, Systematic Deth, Gauze, and a little band that I released (that naturally no one's heard) called Spend4.
Q 23. Regarding GAUZE, have you heard the new album yet? It's definitely a solid record...
J: No I haven't, but I've heard tell. That's a band I'd really like to get to see live someday.
Q 24. You've toured Europe a fair few times, how have you found it different to the US, generally and in terms of punk? You must be one of the only US hardcore bands to have toured Russia!...
J: I think you get treated a little better in Europe than you do in the US. The US has gotten a LOT better in the past ten years or so, but there's still room for improvement. We've never done a proper tour of the US, though, so maybe I don't know exactly what I'm talking about. Apart from MDC, I'm not sure I know of another US hardcore band to play Russia.
Q 25. Where do you think there's room for improvement in the US in terms of touring? Also what European cities did you really enjoy to play AND to visit over the years?
J: Again, not an expert by any means on touring in the US, but I get the impression that you get better turnouts in Europe, people buy more of your merch. Plus you play better quality venues, get paid a bit more, get treated a bit better in terms of getting fed regularly and well, things like that. Some of my favorite places to play were Amsterdam, Newport (Wales), Copenhagen, Belgrade, and to visit, Reykjavík (I'm a raging Icelandophile in case you didn't know).
Q 27. What's one band that Out Cold are really glad to have played with?
J: Only one? OK, No Side.
Q 28. Slightly offtopic, but are you a GG Allin fan? I really like some, mainly the earlier singles/EPs (up to the mid 80s anyway)... In a more general sense, what do you think of the argument when people say you shouldn't listen to a band/artist because of their politics, attitudes or actions on (or off) stage? (like what's often said about GG)...
J: Hmmm...did you know I released a CD of his on my label? I hope you don't think I'd release something I wasn't a fan of. I definitely like some of his stuff more than other stuff. Some of the later records I'm not that into. I really don't care about politics when it comes to music. I listen to music because I like the sounds and the emotional affect it has on me. If it has good lyrics or a cool message, all the better, but that's not necessary at all. GG's an extreme case, of course. I view him more as an artist as opposed to an agent of spreading nihilism. To me he was an expression of some of the darkest sides of the human condition, which is to some extent the essense of punk rock in my opinion. I find this segment of positive, ultra-politically correct punk rock a bit perplexing. Imposing politcally-correct guidelines on punk is really misguided in my opinion.
Q 29. What irks you most when you go to a hardcore show? (be honest now!)
J: 99% of the time I'm at a hardcore show I have my distro with me. By far the most irksome thing is lugging all that shit around, setting it up, and manning it all night.
Q 30. It may be an odd question, but as a drummer what other drummers in hardcore have you always really digged or admired? I personally think Brian Betzger from Jerry's Kids was one of the most raging drummers...
J: A couple that jump immediately to mind are Earl Hudson & Slayer Hippy.
Q 31. In a similar vein to the above question, what are your 3 favourite frontmen/women ever (in terms of punk or hardcore)?
J: Given my above answers, the first two are going to sound unimaginative, but it's the truth... HR, Jerry A., and Iggy Pop.
Q 32. Ok then, what is your favourite Poison Idea LP, and why? Did you ever get to share a bill with them, when Pig Champion was still alive and raging?
J: Hard to choose but probably Kings Of Punk. Just great fucking songwriting and vibe throughout. Never shared the bill with them, unfortunately. I was lucky enough to get to see them once, though. Definitely a case where a reformed band was a godsend.