The Crossover of Hardcore & Metal - An Exclusive Excerpt from NYHC: NEW YORK HARDCORE 1980–1990
Metal Injection is excited to bring to you the following read, an excerpt from the excellent new release NYHC: NEW YORK HARDCORE 1980–1990 available now on Bazillion Points publishing. This chapter focuses on the crossover of hardcore and metal with comments from members of Anthrax, Nuclear Assault, Sick of It All, Agnostic Front and more. You can order the entire book here.
Chapter 32. HEAVY METAL: UNITED FORCES
Paul Bearer: Me and my buddy Wayne were in front of CBGB, and there were some metal guys out there. We were like, “What are you long-haired cocksuckers doing here?” There was some argument, and we were going to fight them—we were going to beat them down. Billy Milano broke it up, and then he said to us, “You think old.” What did that mean? Just because he liked it didn’t mean we had to like it!
Alex Kinon: I remember being on Avenue A, and Billy Milano was sitting in a Camaro blasting Mötley Crüe. He was like, “One day, metal and hardcore are going to mix. Mark my words.” He called it.
Michael Gibbons (Guitarist, Leeway): The crossing of metal and hardcore in New York was the perfect storm. If you went out to Hermosa Beach in 1983 and had a metal band opening for the Circle Jerks, forget it. That wouldn’t have worked at all. It would have been a bloodbath. But what happened in New York worked, and it spread throughout the country.
Eddie Sutton: Southern Californian bands at the time were either one style or the other. They had the old-style punk rock songwriting going on. But they didn’t have the Reese’s-peanut-butter-cup thing like the New York bands did. Out there either you grabbed a peanut butter sandwich and were metal, or you got a piece of chocolate and were punk rock. We were mixing the two, and they weren’t.
Mike Bullshit: There were a certain number of metal people coming into the scene around 1985 or so. If you were into metal, well, shit, you might as well be into hardcore, too.
Rob Kabula: When we got back from the first Agnostic Front tour we did by ourselves, that’s when the metal stuff was beginning to happen in New York. Metalheads started coming to the shows. Record label people started checking it out. Industry people were starting to take note.
Todd Youth: Doug Holland was actually the first guy to play me metal. He played me Metallica’s Kill ’Em All at that apartment he shared with Jack Rabid. I just wondered who these long-haired dudes were, trying to rip off Discharge.
Eddie Sutton: Sometime around 1984, Kill ’Em All came out. We didn’t know this band was living on the roof of a rehearsal studio in Jamaica, Queens. All we knew was that when that record came out, anybody who was in a band or starting a band, whether it was hardcore or metal, said, “These are the fucking riffs I’d want in my band.” Everybody wished they came up with that. We knew that was the direction Leeway wanted to go in.
Steve Poss: When the metal guys came in, that’s when it stopped from everybody knowing each other. It stopped being just one hundred people. It went to four hundred people, to even more. It just changed. I’m not saying it happened overnight; it took a couple of years, but one day it just felt different.
Gary Tse Tse Fly: The very first time I ever heard any metal influence come in was when Death Before Dishonor played at CBGB either in November or December of ’84. Their singer, Mark Ryan, said from the stage, “Have you guys heard Metallica? They’re pretty cool!” Half of CB’s went “Booo!” and the other half went “Fuckin’ A!” and then they did an Iron Maiden cover. I was pissed off.
Mike Judge: I’d say 1984 was when the metal thing first came in. I wish I knew how it started. I’d love to go back and just change it. Our band Death Before Dishonor was listening to more metal, and we started bringing that into our band. That just seemed like the way things were going. We were listening to the first few Iron Maiden records, and we were turning into the jocks that we hated. We were listening to the music they played while they got naked in the locker room. It was a fucking weird thing. The last show we played at CB’s with Agnostic Front, we actually did “Run to the Hills” as a cover. Right after that set, I left the band and left the hardcore scene for a couple years. I felt awful, like, “Goddamn, I helped this happen.” Around that time, the guys from Anthrax started coming to CB’s. We really tried to discourage them from coming to our shows. They already had their metal scene going on at L’Amour, so I was of the mind that those guys already had their club and scene, and they should just stay there.
Lyle Hysen: I remember seeing Anthrax on TV. They used the word mosh and it totally broke my brain. How did that happen?
Craig Setari: My brother originally got me into rock and metal. Then he ended up going to school with a guy named Danny Lilker, who brought over a bunch of hardcore records. Once Danny Lilker came around, things at my house went from Aerosmith records to Mob 7-inches.
Danny Lilker: The thing that really struck us about hardcore, coming from the metal scene, was that there wasn’t much ego involved. It wasn’t like Overkill, with their big stage setups. There was nothing like a backstage pass. The hardcore attitude was really inspiring to us. At the same time, there was stuff that was amusing to us. Like how the dude who was the singer—usually the least musically talented dude—was always two beats behind. After a while, things like that made this stuff very endearing in a way. There wasn’t a wall between the musicians and the crowd. It was all about coming up and stage diving. With metal, a lot of the kids who got into it wanted to be rock stars and fuck chicks. For us, we had to start playing music or we would have gone crazy; another thing similar to the hardcore bands. So we latched on to hardcore pretty naturally.
Charlie Benante (Drummer, Anthrax, S.O.D.): At first, it was a little intimidating because we weren’t so welcome down there. If it wasn’t for people like Big Charlie or Billy Milano or Raybeez, we may have never made it out of there alive! They took us under their wing and said, “These guys are okay.”
Danny Lilker: The person who turned me onto NYHC was actually Scott Rosenfeld—better known as Scott Ian from Anthrax. He went down to a couple of CBGB matinees before I did. We were thrash metal dudes, trying to find all the fastest music we could. It was so exciting to find this whole, big new source of intense music. The realistic lyrics were really cool to us too. Metal bands wrote lyrics about anything that would just fit into the music; it was just cool to find music that had some focus.
Gary Tse Tse Fly: There were larger-than-life personalities in the hardcore scene who became involved in that crossover, which made it hard for others to just come out and say, “Metal sucks.” These were good people who you respected, so them embracing metal made it hard for anyone to put up a resistance.
Roger Miret: There’s so much similarity between the metal and the hardcore scenes that it had to happen. Whether you had long hair or a Mohawk, you were walking out of step with society. Both styles of music were loud and aggressive, the only difference was lyrically; I could never deal with the satanic thing.
Eddie Sutton: Around the time we started in ’84 and ’85, there were not that many metal-sounding bands. We were bringing something new to the table that everybody would start doing. Vinnie and Roger from A.F. were paying attention to us, and giving us the thumbs-up. Within a short period of time, they started working with Pete Steele and they collaborated on Cause for Alarm. I can definitely say that we were influencing the noted bands on the scene at the time. But I think it all came from being in the right place at the right time. I don’t think we had any musical edge over anybody else.
Gary Tse Tse Fly: When Agnostic Front came out with the second album, Cause for Alarm, people thought it sounded too metal. They were called sellouts. If anything, they were getting more underground with that record. Those were the signs of the times—every older band either broke up or went metal.
Howie Abrams: I interviewed Agnostic Front for my fanzine, and they talked about their new album. Originally, the album was supposed to be called A Growing Concern. I was amped up, and the release date was announced, but it kept getting pushed back. I was just a kid, so I would be calling record stores asking about it. Finally I got it, and I took it home and I listened to it. I was really thrown off by the first listen. I listened to it a second time, and—no bullshit—I broke it. I felt betrayed almost. I just felt like we had bands like Exodus already, and I could just listen to them if I wanted. I can’t say Cause for Alarm is one of my favorite albums, but now I accept it without the baggage.
Tim Chunks: When Cause for Alarm came out, it really felt like the metal thing was coming on strong. Agnostic Front went from Victim in Pain to this, and people didn’t know what was going on.
Alexa Poli-Scheigert: I was living at Vinnie’s house at the time they were writing Cause for Alarm. I walked in one day, and Vinnie was there with Peter Steele. This was a tiny fucking apartment, and Peter Steele was like seven and a half feet tall. They were sitting there writing songs, and I’m thinking, “Oh God, this sucks.” I told Vinnie, “Please don’t do this, these songs suck.” But they did it. Some of it came out okay, but for the most part, I’m not that fond of that album.
Vinnie Stigma: We did Cause for Alarm and got on Combat Records. That’s when we became friends with Carnivore and bands like that. They became our brothers. Pete Steele helped me write some lyrics, and helped me with chord structure. I helped him write some songs, too. There was a mutual respect with the metal guys. NYHC accepted anyone. It didn’t matter who, what, where, or when. There was straight edge, no edge, and people who just didn’t care about it. If you were a metal guy—so what? You could play guitar better than me, that’s all that meant.
Alex Kinon: I gave Agnostic Front a try and joined the band, and we made the second record. Since Kabula and I were in the band now, they were like, “Why don’t we call the album Cause for Alarm?” after our old band. We weren’t trying for a Cause for Alarm sound, though. We were hanging out with Pete Steele, so there was a metal influence happening there, and it shows.
Roger Miret: Cause for Alarm was a big record, even though to me it’s a strange record. I know a lot of people who hated it from the get-go but love it now.
Danny Lilker: When thrash metal kicked in, it wasn’t hair metal like Winger. Thrash was something that was unpalatable to most people. It was fast, noisy music, and that’s where the lines started to blur between metal and hardcore. Whether it had crazy lyrical content like Slayer or the socially relevant message of Agnostic Front, we were all underdogs and it was us against the world. Both hardcore and thrash metal were something that when most normal people heard it, they just went “Ick!” So that united us.
Charlie Benante: Metallica was playing L’Amour in Brooklyn, and me and Scott Ian took James Hetfield to the Sunday matinee at CBGB to see Broken Bones. Some people didn’t like the fact there were these long-haired people at their show. But by the end of the day, James was in the pit on someone’s shoulders, and that was it. Then the crossover thing really hit. A lot of the hardcore guys even started coming to L’Amour to see the bands there.
Ernie Parada: I remember playing CB’s once, and there were a couple dudes with long hair in the pit, going nuts. Any hair at all in the pit was strange at that time. Long, long hair was really rare. I later found out it was the Metallica guys. Before you knew it, most hardcore bands had a taste of metal in them. It was fun when it was new. The first Token Entry album has some of that style. I played with the double bass drums and all. By the second album, Jaybird, I was over it, and it wasn’t even really hitting its stride yet.
Tommy Carroll (Vocalist/drummer, NYC Mayhem; drummer, Youth of Today; vocalist, Straight Ahead, Irate): Back in the day, Craig Setari and I had a thrash band called Mayhem. I used to make our demos by taking my sister’s cassettes and erasing them and putting our shit on there. Then I’d send them out to all the underground metal zines. I was really into the tape-trading shit. That whole thing was fucking awesome. You had the Metallica demo with Dave Mustaine playing, and then that band Death from Florida. It was a great, great scene. You’d be on the phone with these guys, and the long-distance bill was building up. I guess the Internet is a good thing, since it saves these new bands a lot of money on phone bills!
Bill Wilson (Owner, Blackout Records): I was a part of the crossover generation, that early group of kids who said, “Fuck this suburban shit,” and decided to go down to CBGB. I went down there in my homemade Suicidal Tendencies shirt, and Big Charlie gave me the side eye. I remember seeing this guy walking around wielding the thighbone of a beast. His jacket was all safety-pinned, and he was walking down the street yelling at people.
Tommy Carroll: We were aware of Circle Jerks, GBH, and Discharge—the bands the metal bands liked. I went to CBGB and saw Adrenalin O.D. I liked the hardcore scene. There were so many restraints in heavy metal. These hardcore guys were jumping offstage and dancing around. I wanted to be a part of it. I was a young kid, and I was still searching for things. I wanted something more real, more pure.
Danny Lilker: Lou and Pete Koller from Sick of It All came down as metalheads and got into all that shit. There was just a bunch of people getting into it simultaneously.
Armand Majidi (Vocalist/drummer, Rest in Pieces; drummer, Straight Ahead, Sick of It All): We were the first generation of metalheads converted into the hardcore scene. As a high school freshman, I had a few classes with a kid who was hanging out with Murphy’s Law. I was always interested in whatever music was more extreme than Priest and Maiden and all the New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands. I wanted a more aggressive form of that music, which ended up being hardcore.
Pete Koller: My brother Lou and I always hung out together. We were into heavier music with Deep Purple and stuff like that, but always looking for something more extreme, heavy, and basic. Lou would bring home Motörhead records, and then GBH records, and then Exploited and Discharge. The first year of high school, we ran into Armand Majidi. He told us about a club in the city that always had hardcore punk shows—CBGB—and we all went down at the same time.
Danny Lilker: John Connelly of Nuclear Assault and I worked up the nerve to go down to CBGB to a hardcore matinee. We thought all these skinheads were going to beat the shit out of us, which of course they didn’t. If anything, it was the total opposite. The first people we met were Billy Milano and Billy Psycho. All those dudes were so welcoming. A mutual-respect thing ended up going on, which was cool. Firstly, we were glad we weren’t going to get the shit pounded out of us by the skinheads. And it was cool to have this camaraderie with a new group of people.
Gary Meskil: When I first got turned on to this underground music back in 1981, I immediately wanted to be involved in it. I think Scott Ian and Dan Lilker and those metal guys felt the same way. And since they were musicians, they were also consciously looking for broader influences to incorporate into their own style.
Charlie Benante: At least for me, it was about the love of music and not about the aesthetic. I definitely wasn’t into the straight-edge culture or the skinhead culture. I just loved the music.
Danny Lilker: Some people were dubious that us metal guys were just trying to be cool and hardcore, and truthfully there were some people who were. Some metal people only got into the circus elements of hardcore and embarrassed themselves in the mosh pit by doing some weird gyrations.
Alexa Poli-Scheigert: I wasn’t too fond of the metal thing. I went to a couple of shows at L’Amour and got kicked out for fighting. These metal guys got in the pit and knocked me down on purpose because I was a girl. So I pulled their hair off. Around that time, I started getting groped a lot in the pit—a lot of people went down for that. Grab my tit and I’ll fuck you up! These guys thought, “Oh, a free feel!” I don’t think so. I will fuck you up! The metal people danced liked chickens. They weren’t a part of what I wanted to be part of.
Tim Chunks (Vocalist, Token Entry): I remember seeing a show with Megadeth, the Bad Brains, and Voivod at the New Music Seminar show. It was an incredible night. Bad Brains opened with “Pay to Cum” and me and my friends went fuckin’ ballistic. When Megadeth came on, I was like, “Fuck these guys!” I didn’t want any part of it. They were unacceptable. But then Voivod came on and they were fucking amazing. Megadeth was something I couldn’t understand, but Voivod I could get behind. Megadeth still had some kind of rock ’n’ roll vibe to them. Voivod had the raw vibe of hardcore.
Gary Meskil: In hardcore music, there are a lot of purists. When the scene was all of a sudden infiltrated by outsiders, things got uncomfortable for some people. When metal guys started coming to the hardcore shows, a lot of fights popped up. It was all due to a lack of open-mindedness, if nothing else.
Luke Abbey (Drummer, Loud & Boisterous, Gorilla Biscuits, Warzone, Judge): I was an angry, nonconformist kid. When I discovered the hardcore scene, it just suited me perfectly. I heard something in the music that I connected with intuitively. Once I began going to shows, I also found out how much fun, excitement, and friendship was there. I relished the fact that most people didn’t appreciate it. I think that the reason the scene survived as it did for several years was because of how insular it was. Nobody seemed to either want nor expect any attention from anybody other than the people who were already going to shows.
Charlie Benante: I guess these guys wanted to keep what they had pure. They didn’t want it exposed. I can understand that one hundred percent. People don’t understand that music is supposed to break down boundaries and bring people together.
Some people came down on us and talked a lot of shit about us. There was this girl from Japan who did a drawing for an Anthrax shirt. It was a drawing of our “Not” man and she put the NYHC logo on him. The NYHC logo was a part of what he was wearing, and the drawing was copyrighted. People were saying we were trying to copyright the NYHC logo. They thought we were stealing the NYHC logo. It was so ridiculous. It’s not like we were making profit off of it. How can you make a profit off of that? I didn’t think it was fair, because people didn’t know the truth about things.
Steve Poss: Anthrax had nothing to do with NYHC. They can say they put the logo on their shirt to make it popular. They can go play Yankee Stadium with Metallica and tell that to everyone they play to there—but people who were a part of the hardcore scene were confused by what they did.
Michael Gibbons: When Leeway supported Overkill at the old Ritz in the late ’80s, I remember Scott Ian approached Jimmy G and asked him was his gripe was with Anthrax. Jimmy was like, “My gripe is the logo I knew all my life is on a twenty-five-dollar T-shirt!” I talked to Scott afterwards and said, “Scott, listen, I’m a metal kid from Queens who loves hardcore, too, but I would drop this whole NYHC thing. It’s not worth it.” They were looking for street cred, but this was a band that could sell out the Beacon Theatre four nights in a row. Why did they care about people in hardcore?
Eddie Sutton: When Leeway blew up, people called me a rock star. I said they could call me a rock star when I got a five-figure check. “When I get that five-figure check, I will come directly to you and show it to you. Then you can call me a rock star.” How can you be a rock star when you still have to work to make a living? I was accessible to anyone who wanted to talk to me.
Danny Lilker: Imagine if there were Internet message boards back then? It would have been insane! Most of the people who were the biggest loudmouths were the ones who got into hardcore from metal six months earlier and were insecure about it. They didn’t want anyone to know their pasts, so all of a sudden they became self-appointed scene judges. All they were doing was projecting. You’d see these people talking shit, and I’d say, “I remember you from L’Amour. You might be a skinhead now, but I know just who the fuck you are.” I would watch people walk into Bleecker Bob’s and trade in their Slayer records and buy Minor Threat records. I always thought—why can’t you have both?
Bill Wilson: Like any other hardcore kid, when I decided to shave my head, I disavowed metal. I went through a denial period. Everybody wanted identity and everybody wanted to belong. As an adult, I laugh at the stupid shit we’d do to be “true to ourselves.” We should have just done what we wanted. It’s more punk to do what you want than to conform to somebody’s standards.
Gary Meskil: When Metallica went on their first arena tour with Metal Church, we heard they were spinning the Crumbsuckers every night in between bands. I was so happy to hear that. I think Kirk Hammett was turned onto the Crumbsuckers by Johnny Z at Megaforce. We had some pretty damn good guitar players in the band, so I think that’s why Kirk appreciated the Crumbsuckers so much. He joined us onstage at a CBGB matinee and people still talk about it to this day.
Dave Wynn (Guitarist, Crumbsuckers): We were told Kirk from Metallica was going to come down and join us on stage at CBGB, so we really thought long and hard trying to figure out on which song he should come in on.
Gary Meskil: Back in those days, anyone who had any mainstream notoriety was deemed a rock star. When Kirk was onstage with us and we were having our moment, Tommy from Straight Ahead started causing a ruckus.
Tommy Carroll: When I saw Kirk Hammett come in with his big bouncers, it bothered me. I was there to see a hardcore show. I grabbed the mic and said, “Get this fuckin’ rock star out of here!” Maybe I was wrong about that, but I was a fifteen-year-old kid. I honestly didn’t think he heard it!
Dave Wynne: We figured the best place for Kirk to come in was at the end of “Hub Run.” I would go into this solo and then just hand him the guitar. I was using our other guitarist Chuck Lenihan’s guitar, which had a whammy bar on it. When I handed it to Kirk, he starting going crazy. All you could hear was “Whee whoo whoo.” He was doing all these dive bombs, and I guess that’s what set Tommy off. Shortly after that, I heard, “BRAANNGG!” I guess Tommy was giving Kirk a lot of shit and he had enough. I have to say Kirk held his own. I thought he was going to fight with the guitar on!
Tommy Carroll: Kirk made a face at me, and he took his guitar and jammed me in the chest with it, and then he made a motion like he was going to spit on me. I don’t know if he actually spit, but then I spit on him. And then he definitely spit back! Then his two big bouncers grabbed me, and then Billy Milano said something on the mic. Then one of the guys from the Crumbsuckers said something like, “Looks like you bit off more than you could chew.” I was a fifteen-year-old kid, I wasn’t going to take on two six-foot-eight bouncers. I don’t care how tough I thought I was.
Gary Meskil: Billy Milano stepped in and put the kibosh on it immediately. He wasn’t having it because Billy had brought Kirk down as his friend.
Tommy Carroll: Everybody was pissed off at me, but fuck this guy! If he wasn’t a rock star, then why was he affected by what I said in the first place? But I don’t want to rehash things. Like everything else in hardcore, it’s made out to be more than it was.
Gary Tse Tse Fly: To this day, I felt like the scene changed for the worse with the emergence of the heavy metal influence and their fans getting into the scene. It was watering down; it was bringing big business into the scene. It was everything I was against.
Danny Lilker: That whole thing followed Nuclear Assault, even when we went on our first tour of the UK. There were bands like Heresy and Concrete Sox over there that were very, very cynical about metal bands. They thought we were just trying to be cool, and wanting to make money off the hardcore scene. We came all the way there, played in some crusty squat, and sold our shirts for the equivalent of six dollars or something. I was just like, “Oh yeah, you got us! We’re really trying to cash in!”
Howie Abrams: The crossover of the ’80s was more influential musically than people realize. So many people at the time were so worried about whether metalheads and skinheads could get along on the dance floor, they didn’t notice that the newcomers opened up a real stagnant hardcore scene. It infused some energy into the thing, and changed up the sound of New York.
Charlie Benante: The crossover of metal and hardcore in New York took totally different forms of music and brought them together, so that the next generation could actually learn from them. Maybe some people didn’t get paid for it, and maybe some others did, but it all worked out in the end. Look how many great bands came out of that.
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