“Anyone who has a problem with GWAR realizes pretty quickly it’s like getting angry about The Simpsons.”
Bad Brains/Leeway – August 6th, 1989
Rob Vitale (Black Train Jack): Leeway had played CBGB and the next show was at City Gardens. [Leeway’s] Eddie came out with this sign that said, “Trenton or Bust.” And then the Bad Brains come on and out comes [Bad Brains frontman] HR with the same sign: Trenton or Bust.
Steven DiLodovico (author): Hottest show ever. EVER. To this day people still talk about how goddamn hot that show was.
Jamie Davis (City Gardens regular): Bad Brains only played about five songs because the power kept going out. It was so hot in there that the power would blow out. Leeway was amazing. The best part about Leeway was that the bouncers were all outside and everyone realized it, and everyone was stagediving like crazy through the whole Leeway set. There were so many people outside trying to get in, so that’s where all the bouncers were. Everyone was going nuts. Leeway blew them away, anyway. The Bad Brains came on late, played, like, two songs, said it was too hot, and stopped.
24-7 Spyz/Vision/Killing Time/Shades Apart – July 30, 1989
Dave Franklin (Vision, vocalist): In ’89 we had booked our In the Blink of an Eye tour. Johnny Stiff from New York City, who used to do all the punk and hardcore tours, was booking everybody. Our tour, Insted, Underdog… everybody’s tours were falling apart. Back then there was no internet and there were no cell phones. He booked everything in all these different venues and got in way over his head, and tours just collapsed all over the place. He booked the In the Blink of an Eye tour, so we made all of our “Tour ‘89” shirts and stuff. We printed twelve dozen of them for the entire tour.
A week before the tour was supposed to start, we played City Gardens. We set up the merchandise. The line came in the door, and went right to the Vision t shirts. We sold every shirt we had. We could have sold more. 144 shirts, gone. Then the show went off and it was absolute, total chaos. The 24-7 Spyz guys, who we had never met before, were up on the side of the stage when we played. They were like “HOLY SHIT, THESE GUYS ARE AWESOME!!!” Even the Killing Time guys were like, “That’s it, man, you guys got it. You’ve got 900 kids here going nuts.” Today, if you are a band that is touring and bringing 900 kids to a venue…you’re a huge band. You’re doing it, you’re making a living off it. Back then it was impossible because City Gardens was the only place that big that did those kinds of shows. The old Ritz was too big. You had to be the Bad Brains or the Cro-Mags to sell out those shows.
Pete Tabbot (Vision, guitarist): We had just committed to our first full-length tour, supporting our first album, which was to last most of the summer. We had a terrific buzz going and were psyched to tour the entire country, and we had made plans accordingly. We also invested all the money we could scramble into a summer’s worth of merchandise for the tour. Johnny Stiff, who was booking the tour, resigned, so we were left with just two shows. We played City Gardens around the time we had planned on leaving for our tour, and we completely sold out of merchandise.
It was kind of mind-boggling, actually, and it took a bit of the sting out of not only losing our first national tour, but also spending any money we had to promote the tour. We had a great show, but what I probably remember most was how absolutely sick 24-7 Spyz were live. The Spyz guys were completely off the hook, hanging from the rafters and slaying the club. What great performers and musicians. Our set was similarly chaotic, and Killing Time was amazing, too. All in all, this one amazing City Gardens show was somehow enough to console four 19- and 20-year-old kids who had put their entire summer, school, and jobs on hold to tour, only to have it fall apart. But good shows at City Gardens had that effect and potential. If you played or attended an epic show there, and I was lucky enough to do both numerous times, you tended to forget that the outside world existed, at least for a while.
Beastie Boys – July 26, 1985
Mike Diamond (Beastie Boys): We recorded “She’s On It” before opening for Madonna on her Virgin tour. It was one of two songs we would perform to the boos and shocked expressions of her audience every night. Thanks are due to her for keeping us on the tour. Because it was our first single on Def Jam as part of their new Columbia Records deal, we got to make a video. Shot on Long Beach, Long Island, it was directed by Rick Rubin’s NYU roommate at the time, who was going through the film school. Basically, it was a low-budget, amateurish attempt at a David Lee Roth video, the only difference being that instead of getting hooked up, we got dissed. Aside from getting to spend the night at Rick’s parent’s house, and meeting his parents, the only high point came when this channel in the New York area called U68 started showing the video. U68 was somewhere between public access and MTV. They would show all kinds of crazy stuff from that time. That gave us a little bit of juice, enabling us to get booked at one of NJ’s most infamous clubs, City Gardens. We drove through pouring rain in a rented milk truck, only to arrive at our gig to an audience of, like, five people, not including the members of Washington D.C.’s Junk Yard Band, who opened the show.
Henry Hose (City Gardens regular): We went to the show, and it was getting later and later and later, and the Beastie Boys didn’t show up. Most of the people had left and Frank [a.k.a. Tut] was pissed that he had to give people their money back. He had to refund money and was furious. The band finally showed up well after midnight. It was just the three Beastie Boys and Rick Rubin, and I saw Randy having words with them. They grabbed a table from the back of the club and put it up on stage, set up two turntables, and they started doing the show.
Deirdre Humenik (City Gardens employee): They didn’t show up until a half hour before closing time, then they jumped on stage and started busting and smashing record albums and throwing them into the crowd.
Gal Gaiser (City Gardens DJ): I was hanging out with [Regressive Aid guitar player] Billy Tucker that night and stood next to him for the whole thing. Rick Rubin was breaking records in half and throwing them into the audience like Frisbees, and he hit Billy Tucker square in the head. And Billy loved it! He thought that it was the best thing that ever happened to him.
Henry Hose: I saw someone—I won’t say who—go over to the bar, grab something from behind the bar, and then bolt out the door.
Deirdre Humenik: The crowd chased them off the stage and they jumped into their Mustang convertible and took off. People were booing them and were pissed, and there was a fair amount of people there. People came out and slashed their tires, and they drove away on flat tires.
Henry Hose: They did their show, which I thought was great, and everybody started leaving. This was probably around two in the morning. As I was pulling out the driveway and saw that the Beastie Boys had flat tires on their box truck. “Someone” took an ice pick and picked their tires because they were pissed off about having to give everyone their money back. So, they had flat tires, it’s two in the morning, and they were stuck in Trenton.
Gal Gaiser: On my radio show the next Monday, Billy Tucker came down and talked about the show. The Beastie Boys only played for about 15 minutes, but I clearly remember Billy saying, “That was the best 15 minutes of music ever.”
It is with great excitement that we announce Freddy Alva's first book; Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore has COMPLETELY SOLD OUT of its inaugural print run. The book, which presents a unique history of the intersection of two New York subcultures: graffiti art and NYHC. Along the way, Urban Styles has garnered critical acclaim for its in-depth research and attention to detail. It stands as an important document that legitimizes and oft-overlook aspect of New York's hardcore scene of the '80s and '90s: graffiti art and the subculture that grew around it. This is DiWulf's second book, and it is the second to completely sell out. I think we're on to something here...
We here at DiWulf want to congratulate Freddy and art director Orlando Arce for their amazing, tireless work in bringing this story to light. They have created a book that now sits among the hallowed annals of hardcore history. Our thanks go out to everyone who took the time to be interviewed in the book; to all those who donated photos and artwork, and, most importantly, to all the people who supported Urban Styles from the very beginning. This was truly an independent, DIY effort that could not have been possible without the contributions and support from the all the people who believed in the project.
Plans for a second printing are in the works. As of yet we do not have a definite timetable for when that will happen, but there will eventually be a second printing of Urban Styles so keep your eyes open!
From Amy and Steve at DiWulf: Thank you to all those who have stood by us and believed in the work we are doing. To all those who bought a copy of Urban Styles; who told a friend about it or posted about it on social media: THANK YOU. As a small publisher dedicated to publishing niche books, word-of-mouth support is the most important thing to our survival, so we owe you a HUGE debt of gratitude.
Congratulations to Freddy on such a rousing success and we can't wait to work with you again!
Author Freddy Alva will be appearing at Randy Now's Mancave in Bordentown, NJ on Sunday January 14th to sign copies of his new book Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore. Freddy will also be part of a panel discussion about New York Hardcore history, graffiti, subculture, and will participate in a Q & A with legendary NY writers SMOG RIS, FCEE, and JERE DMS. Panel will be moderated by DiWulf co-founder and author Steve DiLodovico.
Randy Now's Mancave, a Bordentown staple, is owned and run by New Jersey's most well-known music promoter, Randy "Now" Ellis. Randy's history with music is a long and storied one that has been chronicled in a book: No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes: An Oral History of the Legendary City Gardens as well as a documentary film: Riot on the Dance Floor. His shop is an emporium of collectibles, records, books, films, and a whole lot of general wackiness. It has become a favorite among the collectors' community since it opened.
Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore is a gritty and vibrant history of art and music colliding in the underground NYHC scene of the '80s. Told through strikingly visual photos and interviews from the artists and writers who lived it, Urban Styles tells of a mostly-unknown cross-section of subculture that could only have happened in New York. Elements of graffiti, hip-hop culture, skateboard culture, and, of course, NYHC are all seen intersecting in a wild randomness that flourished in a pre-internet world. Featuring art and interviews from such NYHC giants as Mackie Jayson (Cro Mags, Bad Brains, Leeway), Chaka Malik (Burn, Orange 9mm), LORD EZEC aka Danny Diablo, HOYA ROC (Madball, Dmize), Sacha Jenkins (Mass Appeal editor and member of NYHC outfit The Wilding Incident), Gavin Van Vlack (Absolution, Burn, DIE 116), legendary Absolution frontman Djinji DRUMS Brown, Sergio DEEM Vega (Quicksand, Deftones), and many more
Freddy will also have a limited number of specially-made CBGB prints from artist Andrew Monserrate (whose work is featured in Urban Styles) for sale with copies of Urban Styles.
Andrew is featured in the "artists'" section of Urban Styles, and he has graciously created these one-of-a-kind prints to commemorate the release of Urban Styles and to celebrate the vibrant art scene that came out of the New York Hardcore scene in the '80s. Andrew's prints are limited to a first-come first-served basis and will last as long as supplies hold out.
This event is free and open to the public and starts at 1pm on Sunday January 14th. Randy Now's Mancave 134 Farnsworth Ave Bordentown NJ 08505. For more information check out the official facebook event page.
It is with great excitement that we announce Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore by Freddy Alva has reached our warehouse and will be going out in the mail very soon. This includes ALL orders through DiWulf.com as well as Amazon orders. Shipping should begin by 11/17/17, and all scheduled book signings will go forth as planned. Cancelled book signings will be rescheduled, and we will bring you that information as soon as we have it. Again, we cannot thank you enough for your patience and your continued support and we promise: you will not be disappointed once you have this book in your hands!
You can also get a signed copy of Urban Styles directly from the author at any one of the upcoming book signing events we have coming up:
Also, stay tuned for more information on book signings in Miami, LA, Queens NY, and Yonkers NY.
By: Steven DiLodovico
Freddy Alva is deeply entrenched in New York subculture, and has been since his teenage years. This Peruvian-born writer and acupuncturist has the underground in his blood. He was a fixture in the New York Hardcore scene of the ‘80s as more than just a spectator. Freddy and longtime friend Chaka Malik were responsible for the seminal ‘zine The New Breed and the subsequent compilation cassette that has now become a NYHC legend in its own right.
Freddy has now embarked upon a journey of documenting a largely underappreciated melding of subcultures: graffiti and its symbiotic influence over (and inspiration by) hardcore music. In the ‘80s, the hardcore that came out of New York City was so closely intertwined with hip-hop culture that it seemed like every band expressed some kind of intrinsic inspiration from a culture that was rapidly being taken up by the mainstream as a social phenomenon. New York Hardcore sought to keep it grimy, though. Almost every hardcore band out of New York had an “intro bust” in their live set or as the kickoff to their demo, every 7” cover had some form of a tag as the band’s logo. The two genres were, in many ways, inseparable. Many musicians also doubled as writers, and their tags were seen all over the city. Many Emcee’s took hardcore and punk’s DIY values and put their own music out themselves. The era was rich with a blending of subcultures that transcended race, economics, and geography.
In his new book, Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore, Freddy is seeking to celebrate a lost art form and to tell its outlaw story from the mouths and hands of those who lived and created it. I recently talked to Freddy about what the world can expect from his book and why it needs to be out there.
How did you find hardcore? Or did it find you?
I found hardcore by flipping through radio channels in 1984. There was a new wave station called WLRI out of Long Island that had a show called "Fun" in which they played harder-edged stuff like Throbbing Gristle, Killing Joke, and Clock DVA. I heard Killing Joke’s "Wardance" & was completely blown away. I went to a record store in the East Village to buy their record and, while flipping through the “K” section, I saw Kraut’s "An Adjustment to Society" LP. That struck a chord as I remembered seeing their "All Twisted" video on MTV, and by reading on the back cover that they were from my neighborhood of Queens, that sealed the deal. Kraut was the first hardcore record I bought, and that led me to seek out any other bands that played this kind of music.
What was your introduction into the graff world?
When I was 11 in 1980 and going to grade school everyone in my neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens, had a tag and wrote to a certain degree. When I got old enough to ride the trains I noticed and took note of the incredible kaleidoscopic images graffiti writers were writing inside and outside of the subways, blanketing the city as their own personal canvas. Older local writers showed me and my friends how to write, rack up paint, and get into the tunnels. It’s all a rite of passage for people my age that grew up in New York City’s five boroughs.
What was your motivation for putting this book together?
My interest came about a couple of years ago when I did an article for the No Echo website entitled "Graffiti and The Hardcore Connection". In it I profiled several writers whose work I’ve admired, the only provision being that they had to have played in bands. I included writers from California and Pennsylvania, but the majority of the writers were from New York City. This led to me to think about the unique and widespread synthesis of graffiti and hardcore in New York, as opposed to other cities in the US, where there were instances of that fusion but not to the overwhelming effect as there was in NYC. That synthesis had been going from the beginning of hardcore in the city all the way up to the present era. My goal with the book is to spotlight a largely unknown connection between two important subcultures and show the common reference points that they both synergistically fed off.
What eras/years are you covering?
I’ve broken down the eras into 3 phases: the early days of 1980-85, the Golden Era of 1985-1995, and the current era from 1995 to today. I realize current graffiti historians put NYC graffiti into 5 distinct phases, my deviation from that is a bit different because of the hardcore angle. The music and subculture had not been properly developed and codified, arguably, until 1980-1981.
In your opinion, how important was the melding of the two cultures, hardcore and graffiti?
I think it was extremely important as hardcore was seen, in its infancy, as a primarily suburban, middle-class phenomenon. The inclusion of graffiti, a uniquely urban art form, allowed a wider range of experiences to draw from. Issues of class, race, and social status figured prominently in the hardcore scene, as reflecting a microcosm of what New York City is. Graffiti allowed kids to make their own personal urban stamp on what was, for the most part, a homogeneous hardcore scene nation-wide.
What is it about the two cultures that make them so similar?
I think there were parallels in both subcultures, such as the outlaw angle. The same mentality that took to go into unauthorized locales such as train yards was present in setting up shows in abandoned and/or illegal spaces. The drive to get your graffiti tag or name up as much as possible was also present in bands trying to get their name out by any means necessary via flyers/wheat pasting. In New York especially, the same kid that wrote and was down with a crew could easily make the transition to hardcore as the stark, utilitarian underground sound was an appealing alternative to the commercial fodder flooding the airwaves at that time.
How significant a role does the actual city of New York play in influencing and informing both art forms?
The geography of NYC greatly impacted graffiti as it took a person out of their comfort zone, namely the neighborhood they grew up in, and took them to areas they might never have gone and interacted with people they would never have otherwise. Graffiti was the great common denominator, crossing over ethnic/social classes and unifying kids from wildly different backgrounds into a common goal. The same can be said of hardcore: a small percentage of kids lived in the epicenters of NYHC, namely Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Kids traveled from the outer boroughs, upstate NY, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and it was NYC’s mass transit system that provided a direct and lengthy commute. The economic blight of the city in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s also played a huge role in shaping both art forms, as it allowed kids to use the bare minimum of resources to express themselves in a society that appeared to be falling apart at the seams. The dire circumstances provided a fertile ground for art to flourish.
You’ve interviewed a number of musicians and writers for this project, who can we expect to hear from? Do you have a favorite interview thus far?
I’ve done about a dozen interviews so far. Writer/musicians like Sergio "DEEM" Vega from The Deftones/Quicksand, Gavin "NATZ" Van Vlack from Burn/Absolution, Louie "KR" Gasparro from Murphys Law, as well as leaders of what is a unique New York phenomenon: graffiti crews made up of mainly hardcore fans, people like DMS president Danny "EZEC" Diablo and Ed HUSH from SPORTS (Skins & Punks Out Rocking The Subway) fit this category. My favorite interviews were the ones in which all I had to do is ask one question and the responder was off and running, speaking non-stop for the next ten minutes, covering many different important topics. It’s a pain in the ass to transcribe, but totally worth it. I would say all the interviews are my favorites, everyone explaining in their own fashion this thing we call NYHC graffiti and why it matters.
Along with interviews, will there be photos? What can we expect to see?
I want to showcase unseen photos of pieces and tags done by writers that played in bands as well as writers that did tributes to NYHC, either by name checking bands and/or doing flyers/shirts/logos/record covers that referenced this vibrant scene. There is a huge body of work from the past 36 years that most people have not seen put together in one place, all the better to highlight its full visceral effect.
Have you ever put up any pieces?
I was never good at doing pieces. I was more of a tagger and doing throw-ups kind of writer. The couple of times where a full piece did go up with my name, it was through the efforts of a couple of old friends of mine that were good at piecing. All I did is help with coloring the finished work and sign my name next to it. Belated thanks to ROTE and DEEN, both X-Men crew, for hooking me up way back when!
Who should be interested in reading this book?
There is an obvious built-in audience in the graffiti and hardcore worlds that are interested in these subjects, but I think that there’s a wider range of readers that would be into it. Anyone that enjoys reading about NYC in the ‘80s or urban metropolises in general, will find something to take away from the book. Plus, the pure visual impact that will appeal to anyone based just on the overall intrinsic aesthetic value.
What do you hope to accomplish with this book?
My goal is to document a largely unknown connection between two seemingly disparate subcultures that continues to resonate in this modern era, long after their respective heydays. I also want to give an alternate history of what’s long been held as the gospel truth in Hip-Hop history, namely the assertion that Rap was the exclusive soundtrack to Graffiti writing. This was clearly not the case from my experience and from talking to other people that were around back then. Guitar-based music such as heavy metal, hard rock, and, of course, hardcore, was the preferred soundtrack for many writers. The history of a particular subculture’s origins can sometimes be shown in a way to fit a particular agenda. My aim is to give a voice to an untold story, largely from the people that were there, and to ultimately give a multi-dimensional view to what’s become, to a large extent, a nearly extinct phenomenon: urban subcultures.