Touring with Minor Threat and experiencing the emergence of the early 80s hardcore scene seems to be a fantasy of many of the members of the current hardcore community. In light of this, it's quite the enlightening experience to sit down and talk with a veteran of the scene: Gary from Florida hardcore band Hated Youth. It's a lengthy one and Gary goes into plenty of detail, covering the status of the scene back then and the band's experiences and beginnings.
Scene Point Blank: How was the scene back then?
Gary: As I'm sure you've heard before, things were different then. Tallahassee, FL was a complete conservative, racist, republican town. There were no such things as punks. Normal kids didn't have anything pierced. Just one earing was considered outrageous. Radio had no hint of "alternative." Just crap music, period. One time just walking down the street, an executive looking lady spit on me. Almost in the way america was so paranoid about communists, they were scared of us. In reality, we were just bored kids having some fun, but the people of that time were terrified of us. We had an intense power over people. It's strange to think of now, but people were just idiots back then.
Before we ever had a gig, the paper featured us and some other bands. Full page, mohawks, Circle Jerks tee-shirts. The town knew something bad, possibly the work of Satan, had arrived. Our first gig in Tallahassee (apart from parties) was to happen at a place called the Seminole Reservation, but after even more press and public outcry, it was cancelled and moved to another location. That location was the Union Green at FSU, a usual outdoor venue for concerts. The build-up was so big that I was even scared. The scene was surreal, cop cars everywhere. I'm not too sure what they thought was going to happen. From there we just branched out into other towns finding punk scenes to play for.
Scene Point Blank: What bands inspired HY to start up with that style of music? Any live shows in particular that really sparked the hardcore-punk attitude in you guys?
Gary: In 1978, I was 12 years old. Some crazy shit came on the news about some band from England invading the USA. They showed a clip of a guy with red hair leaping around. I didn't know what was going on, but it grabbed my attention and imagination. Later I would learn that it was the Sex Pistols first US tour, and they were going to play in Atlanta. Back then, people made a big deal out of shit like that.
As a kid, I would scan the radio for anything. People speaking Spanish, different music or discussions, and one day I hit upon what sounded like the music I had heard on tv a year before. It was a two hour show called Freefall on the college station. I started taping it. At that point, I was the only kid I knew that was aware of it. I was the only fan of the Buzzcocks, Germs, and Ramones that I knew of.
I used to walk all over town when I was about 14. Possibly because puberty had me thinking all kinds of crazy thoughts. I just knew that one day a bunch of drunk college chicks would try and freak me out by tying me down or something. One day I came across an outdoor concert. It was some band called the Swimming Pool Q's from Atlanta. They were not very punk, but despite that, there were people with dyed hair pogoing around. This was the first time I had confirmation that some kind of underground existed. These people were a bit older than me, probably early to mid-twenties.
One day from the school bus window, I see a guy I knew from middle school running with a guitar. Holy shit, he had a mohawk! It was John, who would later be in Hated Youth. He went to the alternative school in town, and a few weeks later, so did I! He had a band called The Stink Cracks, but they broke up, and he and the bass player, Eric, were forming a new band. They met David the drummer at a fast food window. I begged John to introduce me to Eric and give me a shot at vocals. Anyway, it all worked out. We practiced every day for hours. I don't even remember what we sounded like at first. Eric had moved to Tallahassee from San Francisco and had all kinds of punk records. I think we tried learning Cockney Rejects type stuff.
We just naturally started playing faster and started sounding hardcore. 81-83, loads of what are now American classics were released, and some sort of national scene started taking shape. The first issue of MRR was in the form of a double album called "Not So Quiet on the Western Front." We just soaked it all up. I subscribed to the magazine and found out about all these other bands and scenes.
In 1982, we heard about some sort of punk gig called Slamfest that was going to happen in Gainsville, FL. We loaded up the van and headed down. We weren't on the bill, and something like 10 other bands were. When we arrived, we somehow managed to get a slot to play. That night, we met Roach Motel who had what seemed like an impossibility, thier own record out! It turned out they also had their own label called Destroy. We started playing down there, and they were coming up to Tallahassee.
In 1983, the most popular format was the 7" EP or 12" compilation. Only the biggies (DK, Black Flag, Circle Jerks) had full length LPs. Destroy came up with the idea of releasing a comp on 7" at 33 1/3. I think it was one of the first, if not first. It sold like mad, and we started geting letters from around the world. All these places I read about in MRR. Then by issue no. 8, we too were in there.
We started playing out of town more often and then on the bill with touring acts such as Minor Threat, CH3, Necros. Pretty crazy times!
Scene Point Blank: The burrito website has a picture of you guys playing in Gainesville opening for Minor Threat in 1982. How was that show?
Gary: That show was great and had a huge impact on me. Minor Threat seemed to be very professional. Ian had a little notebook he carried with numbers. He took down our info, too. Instead of allowing the show promoters to work the door, all the members of Minor Threat took turns. I guess they wanted to keep track of whatever money came through. Having said that, they didn't want the cover too high either. As you know, we didn't have cell phones then. I remember Ian on a pay phone talking to someone back in DC, someone that was keeping track of all the gigs. When they arrived in a town, they would call home and check in to see if things for the next gig were still in place.
I already didn't drink or do drugs just by choice but, at the end of that night, I was calling myself straight edge. Minor Threat were amazing, super tight and engaging. Interactive with the crowd. I saw something I wanted to aspire to. I admired how they handled everything themselves with purpose. They didn't just show up for a party or to be cartoon punk stars. They were like a team with a cause.
After that, Hated Youth didn't seem to be the perfect fit for me, but in a town like Tallahassee, there weren't too many punks that could play at the time.
The other band in town was called Sector 4. They were our brother band. They played on the bill that night as well. They were kinda poppy and not very hardcore. That was their distinction from HY, but once HY was gone, they expanded to four members and toughend up. They got a guy, Roy, who once played with Ultraviolence in NYC. With him, they developed a more hardcore sound. They actually recorded an album that went unreleased. In 1985, when they broke up, Roy and I formed a band called Solution Now. Unfortunately, we never recorded anything. I had big plans, but it just never happened.
Scene Point Blank: That sounds awesome about the Minor Threat show. Speaking of touring bands, did HY ever do a large tour, or did you guys stick to just playing regional shows?
Gary: HY never did a full scale tour. However, we did play shows from Atlanta, GA to Miami, FL. The first gigs were with other local bands, then we started playing out of town, then with touring bands. After the 7" on Destroy came out, we started headlining shows out of town.
At the time, I must have been stupid. I didn't understand, or care, what having a release meant. The recording was just something we did on a Saturday afternoon. I started getting a clue when kids in other towns started showing up in homemade HY tee-shirts. Then in miami, we headlined a show. Loads of people were there. I remember thinking, how do they know us? Some radio station had been playing the hell out of "Hardcore Rules." These were some scary looking hardcore dudes. We were no longer playing to a bunch of our friends. We didn't know these people. I was pretty nervous. They had the lights dimmed down, and I could see hundreds of heads out there. This guy came over the P.A. and said something. The last part was like a boxing ring announcer, "HAAAATTED YOOOUUTH!!!." We launched into a song. The stage lights came on and boom. We, and the place, were going crazy. Then when we played, "Hardcore Rules," the response was even greater. I realized that night the power of releasing a record.
When things grow outside your little group of friends, it gets a bit weird. People you don't even know, want to fuck with you or to hang out with you. Once in Jacksonville, FL, these guys came out just to fuck with us. They were talking all kinds of shit. They ended up completely destroying the club and scaring everyone. Then at the end of the night, they loved us. I guess in their heads, we were part of whatever they were doing. We didn't have the Internet in those days to network, so the next time you show up in a town, some huge story has evolved. Then when some kid shakes your hand and tells you how cool you are for knocking out a cops teeth, it turns your stomach.
In Tallahassee, we had a place way out in the woods called Smitty's. I don't even understand it to this day, what a bar was doing way down a dirt road, 20 minutes outside of town. Regardless, many punk bands have played there. Bands from out of town always commented on how violent our scene was. The reality of it is that we all knew each other pretty well, and it was nothing for us to throw each other around, or fly off a speaker onto someones head.
John is laying on his back playing guitar in one of the photos on the "Hardcore Rules" 7". If you look close, he has a cast on his arm. He broke his arm at Smitty's doing a flip off the bar. You'd think it was from when he hit the floor, but it actually happened when he hit the ceiling!
Scene Point Blank: haha, that's amazing. You mentioned that you didn't know the importance of having a release at the time, so were there other releases aside from the Hardcore Rules 7" and the split with Roach Motel?
Gary: Well, until the 90's, the only HY output was the "We Can't Help It If We're From Florida" 7" compilation of Florida bands and two cassette releases. The first cassette release (minus one song) became the "Hardcore Rules" 7" on Burrito in 2000. The other cassette release became the 12" split with Roach Motel. There was also a great bootleg comp. called "Dedicated to Tim Yomama," that starts off with "Hardcore Rules." Then there was a Killed by Death of Florida bands that had "Fuck Russia" on it.
Destroy Records was a label owned by Roach Motel. When they asked us to be on the comp., we didn't have anything recorded. We, along with another band called Sector 4, drove down to Gainesville to record. Roach Motel set us up with a studio called "Mirror Image," and we were to share recording time. I think we had about 4 hours booked, and we recorded 13 songs and took up most the time. Sector 4 set up and was only able to record about 6 songs.
Originally the comp. was to have four bands on it. Everyone kicked in a little cash and would get 7 minutes each. We split our 7 minutes and cost with Sector 4, so we had 3.5 minutes each. After the recording, they had to get back to Tallahassee, so they left the mixing in our hands. That was a big mistake because one of their songs, "Plaid Spaceship," starts off "Plaid Spaceship take one." and does a quick little music bit and stops. Then the song starts, but in order to fit more HY stuff on, we cut them short. They were pissed. They didn't know until the comp came out. Poor bastards put the needle on the record and only heard the intro to their song!! It must have been a nightmare playing live when everyone claped after the intro.
So, in a nutshell, we recorded the 13 songs that day. 3 went on the comp and all 13 went on a cassette. 12 ended up on the "Hardcore Rules" 7". One song called, "Five Sides," was too damaged to salvage for that release.
After HY ended, Eric (bass) decided to form another band where he would just sing. He was kinda limited on bass anyway. He was definitely the most notorious member of HY, so it made sense for him to want to front a band. He got together with two other HY members, John (guitar); Dave (drummer), and a really hot bassist named Tommy. They called themselves Social Obliteration Squad but, for some reason, changed their name to Hated Youth. That band only lasted about 5 months. They recorded what is now the split with Roach Motel. I think the plan was for it to come out as an album and tour, etc... Too bad it didn't happen. I think they would have made a pretty big dent in hardcore.
I remember the first time I heard those songs. John brought the tape down to the skateboard ramp and blasted them through the stereo. I was blown away. It was how I imagined HY sounding. At the end of my run with HY, I had developed a different vocal style than as on the "Hardcore Rules" 7". I took cues from Minor Threat and MDC, but none of it ever made it to tape.
Scene Point Blank: Alright, and what happened with the other members of Hated Youth?
Gary: After HY, John, the guitar player, went to school for photography. He became a well respected documentary photographer. He pretty much stayed the same. He is a smart guy, very creative and artistic but has trouble dealing with "normal" people. I don't think the guy has ever owned a car. He went back to school for years and lived off grants, and to save money, he grew his own food. He eventually graduated with a masters in creative writing (i think) and moved to NYC to be a professor at a university. I don't think that life was for him. He lasted a few months and moved to Alaska.
Eric, the bass player, stayed in Tallahassee and started a home painting company. The last time I saw him, he still sported a mohawk. Trouble seems to follow him. He was refered to around town as "Hated Eric". He was the most outspoken and notorious member of Hated Youth.
David, the drummer, became a born again christian and played in several christian heavy metal bands. I haven't heard anything from him since the mid 80's.
After Hated Youth, I became a scuba instructor, then joined the military (kill till I'm dead) where I was a medic. After that, I lived in California for 10 years where I played, toured and recorded with several bands. I got bored and moved to Germany which didn't work. I then moved to England but had a hard time with money. I got so poor, I had to decide between roughing it out another month or buying a plane ticket. I bought the plane ticket and ended up back in Florida. Now I live in Tampa.
Scene Point Blank: With what you've experienced through your life up until now, is there anything you'd like to say to those reading this article?
Gary: It's hard knowing what to say. I only give anything that resembles advice to people I know when I have something solid to offer them. I don't have any kind of wisdom for all occasions.
I've experienced half a life, I hope. Somehow I've ended up here, a guy that was part of a music scene around the time it started. That's all I did, the kids have kept it alive and because of them I have things like this interview to do.
So much was going on in my life around the time of Hated Youth. The fact that people are still listening and relating to my teen anger is amazing. That is what validates it for me.