New York City is one of the Mecca’s for hardcore punk. The fast pace and volatility of such a dense environment continues to provide a rich stomping ground for innumerable punk and hardcore acts. I mean, what better place to rebel than the greatest city in the world? That being said, it is of no surprise that The Casualties would eventually come together to create one of the hardest working punk acts still around today.
Formed in 1990, the punk rock quartet has stayed true to form from their very beginnings, sporting classic era garb, spiked and colored hair, and an attitude that suggests “Fuck All” to everything. Their appeal has brought them across the world, bringing the sounds of classic punk to the masses for more than 20 years and, though the world may have changed a bit, The Casualties are still doing what they’ve always done… Making a lot of noise, drinking a lot of beer, and turning venues into bedlam.
With a slew of albums, EPs, and live releases already in their catalogue, The Casualties have a new record titled “Resistance” out NOW on Season Of Mist, so be sure to check that out if you need a strong dose of punk in your life. The group is also a featured act on this year’s East Coast Tsunami Fest, which is going to be total insanity (wear a helmet if you plan on attending.) I got a chance to speak with guitar player Jake to discuss the group’s music and influences, the state of punk rock, their extensive touring, and staying true to their punk rock roots.
G- What’s going on and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five. How is everything going with the group these days?
J- Nothing, man. We’re just happy to be here. It was cool… We came into this thinking ‘Oh boy it’s gonna be all tough guy hardcore bands, and then us,’ but the crowd… We had some of our loyal fans here, a lot of curious onlookers, and I think the crowd meshed really well. It’s a good vibe in there… No fights, even the bouncers are cool here.
G- Everyone has been great here tonight, and I don’t know what you’re talking about because when I got here at noon, everybody had Casualties patches on the backs of their fucking jackets!
So, The Casualties first got together in 1990, and you lived through some crazy times in NYC underground history. What was it like for you trying to navigate the scene in those early years, and was the group faced with any opposition from the other underground scenes at the time?
J- It’s like, in NYC, there’s like so many things. There’s something for every subgenre, so hardcore kind of stuck to hardcore, the people involved, of course, were very open minded, but we had our own little scene though. It was certain styles like street punk. We had our own little thing going, and it wasn’t until later on that we mixed a little more. But it was cool, man. It was a tight knit community. Bands like Public Assistance and stuff like that.
God… So many band and so many people, and so many people have died and stuff. It’s so weird, because you don’t feel that old, but so many friends pass on and stuff, and we survived a lot of people, a lot of clubs, and shit like that. So I think that it’s just… For a band that stays constant and doesn’t break up and get back together to do one of these huge reunion shows, you know? It’s like ‘What about the guys that stay in it and are there for the long haul?’
G- 20 fucking years, man?! That’s just… Most bands are together for like 2, and then they’re like “We’re gonna have a reunion show in 10 years.” And you guys are still going, so…
J- And we just kinda felt like it was the thing like… We didn’t plan any of that. It just kind of developed. We were just a couple of dudes that wanted to play music, and I’m not even the original… I joined in ’93.
G- Oh shucks, only 19 years!
J- Yea (laughing) So, uhh, the total thing was it was just fun, man. It was a good vibe, it was very fucking extreme scene back then. If you were a punk rocker, you were angry, you know.
And then times have changed so much. In that time, in that 20 year time, the internet happened. Hot Topic happened.
J- And you’ve gotta adapt. You can’t just fuckin’ be old and bitter about everything, you know? And so, it’s like, we sort of liked being in a band and being rockers, and we’re gonna keep doing this. So we just stayed in it.
And it’s funny because some people complain like “Oh… Your records are here and there, and in Best Buy’ and stuff, and it’s like ‘Dude… If you went through what we went through…’
G- They’re jealous.
J- If you give some city kids an opportunity, they’re gonna take it. We had nothing, you know? The band had nothing.
G- There’s no selling out in the music business anymore. Right now, the touring acts… The ones that are still out there and doing it, they need every dime they can fucking get, because we’ve got gas prices at $4.25 and that’s helping nobody on the road, so.
J- Yea. And nobody buys records anymore, anyway.
G- That’s right. Buy merchandise from the bands directly. Don’t go to Best Buy to buy the shit… Go to see a show, buy a record from the band because they get that money.
And speaking of new records, you guys just released your new album “Resistance.” Can you tell us about what it’s like going into the recording studio with The Casualties? Where did you record the latest record, who was behind the board, and how long did everything take this time around?
J- We went for about 3-4 weeks. We went up to Massachusetts at Planet Z Studios, and we were hanging out with… Zeus did the record. He did all Hatebreed’s stuff, Shadows Fall, all the heavier stuff, and we wanted to do a heavier record, you know. We felt like we were going more in that direction, while still maintaining The Casualties, but we just wanted to do something more gritty. So he helped us along with that.
G- What’s the name of that first track on the record, because you played it tonight, and it blazes… It’s awesome!
J- “My Blood, My Life. Always Forward.”
G- Dude… It’s fucking awesome! It got me through work all week long!
J- Thank you!
G- So let’s talk about punk rock and lyrical content for the new record. What should some of the old and new fans expect? What are you guys talking about on stage now?
J- You know, it’s like the same daily life struggles for the blue collar guy, you know? The kind of shit we have to deal with, you know? George has a kid now, and it’s not easy out there. And there’s that kind of shit that you deal with. You go to work all day, then fucking have a drink, and you’re getting yelled at by everybody, and that kind of shit.
Then we wrote some sort of fringe politic stuff, like when those kids in Iraq were wearing tight clothes and got stoned to death. Biblical times slaughter, and it’s like ‘DUDE… WHAT THE FUCK?! Life’s too short to not live and let live, and the people that are killing people in the name of God, that not what he wanted. If you’re religious, that’s not what it was supposed to be about. Everybody wants to be better than everybody, and everybody wants to be this elite thing, and they’ll kill you because of it. For those kids, just being kids, just wearing tight clothes, to be slaughtered, is to me as a punk rocker, is like, just struck me to write a song about this. Because it’s like, you know, we were like looking different, and I feel like it’s very important to be an individual.
G- Just imagine what they’d do to The Casualties if you showed up?
J- That’s what I’m saying, man. It was insane, so we write a song about that. It was one of those things where I don’t think anyone should be killed for looking different. Just cuz they’re wearing tight clothes, they probably just want to hang out, listen to The Ramones, and make out with chicks, and those poor guys were slaughtered.
G- That sounds like the best kind of night I can imagine… The Ramones, making out with hot girls, with a beer in hand! It’s good stuff.
Now to talk about some crazier, not that what you were talking about wasn’t crazy in society or anything, but touring… You guys spent 3 years on the road when touring “Under Attack.” How the hell did you manage to keep up such a pace during that tour, and will your touring cycle be as extensive for “Resistance?”
J- Yea, well I feel that now that we did Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and stuff, now it’s like a world tour for us could be a 2 year thing. Granted, we come home in between tours, but now we can go to Central America, South America, Asia, fuckin’… We’re playing 2 shows in China coming up.
J- I’d love to go back to Brazil. It’s just fun because the scene is everywhere! You just have to get out there to the masses and like… And if I wasn’t in the band, I would never be able to see as much shit as I have in my life. I have traveled the world, all cockiness aside..
G- No worries, man… It’s punk rock!
J- If I wasn’t in the band, I’d have never gotten this chance. So, when I graduated high school and did a year of college, it was like ‘The band wants to hit the road and do it full time,’ and I was like “FUCK YES! See you later, bro,” you know what I mean? Of course I’m gonna go!
G- That’ll be the envy of everyone reading this, including myself. That’s awesome and you guys deserve it, and you’re still working hard… I don’t see any big tour buses outside…
J- No man we have an RV (laughs).
G- I don’t see any huge tour riders saying you need filet mignon… It’s punk rock to the max right here!
Another thing I wanted to discuss because it’s been in the news lately is crowd and security issues. The Casualties are known to have some of the most berserk fans out there… I mean, you’re a hardcore punk band. What do you guys do when there is an issue with the crowd/security, and how do you handle it when the band’s safety was in jeopardy?
J- We usually talk to security before show happen, because that’s what happens. They’ll beat up kids and shit, so we like to say ‘Hey… It’s not a weird thing if these guys want to stage dive or get on stage. They’re not gonna come attack us, they want to sing with us. I mean, in Mexico it might be a little different, but we usually let them know that it’s an aggressive thing, but they’re not out to get us, you know? They want to just have fun, and the nature of the dance is aggressive, so they usually chill out. It’s rare that we have security issues anymore.
G- Good. Very good. So to lighten it up a bit, you guys still hard partiers? What kind of beers and booze do you want people bringing up to you onstage this time around, and what’s the drunkest you’ve been onstage?
J- Umm, I played a show in Fresno once, out in California, and I was eating at a restaurant drinking wine with food, and going and going and going. And by the time it was time to play, I was… Oh BOY. All I did was play all the verses, and I missed all the choruses. It was terrible and the band was PISSED at me. So now I try to only have 1 or 2 drinks before we play. I usually don’t get too blitzed, unless I’m onstage.
G- Yea you know, it you’re sober when you get on stage, a drunk when you get off, it was a good set probably.
J- It wasn’t fair to the fans who paid the money to see someone just not give a fuck, so now I try to maintain. And afterwards, we’ll party down and party hard! I like hanging out having Long Island Iced T, I’ll have some wine… I pretty much drink a smorgasbord, and whatever anyone else wants to have!
G- And if it’s free, and cheap, we’re a FXE (Free Edge) society right now.
J- And it helps sleep in the RV when it’s bouncing.
G- I hear ya. I’m going to be sleeping in the back of my Honda Element tonight, so, it’s gonna suck, but I’ll have one tied on!
Here’s one I’ve always wanted to ask you… What is the craziest or most memorable show that The Casualties have played to date? Where was it and what was it like?
J- For me, the craziest one would be Mexico City. There was like 3000 people there, and we were headlining, and it was like ‘Whoa.’ They had flags and out of the 3000 people, about 100 there really wanted to kill us, so it was like scary and awesome at the same time.
And then other than that, shows in El Salvador were crazy! We all got tattooed after that. You go to other countries and get taken care of so much more.
G- And actually, before I ask you the last question, what is it like playing internationally compared to playing shows in the states? Do you notice any real severe differences?
J- Well, I think that in Europe, people stay into music. They don’t see it as just a phase or ‘college days’ kind of thing. I think people stay into it as a way of life. That’s what we believe in. 2 things I wanted to do with The Casualties are make punk bands be able to get paid and taken seriously, and then also prove that you can stay a rocker into the later years, and not that it’s something you grow out of.
G- That’s awesome! The punk rock spirit is a young spirit, and it doesn’t matter how old you are, if you don’t have it, you won’t last!
I have one last question for you. Dude, you’re in The fucking Casualties, and for all the aspiring punk rockers out there that look up to The Casualties like royalty, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in punk music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
J- You know what it is I took 10 years for anyone to give a shit about our band, so it’s dedication and perseverance. It’s also being persistent… Just not giving up and keep going on tour. You’re gonna lose money, you’re gonna break down, but all those shows…
And give away shit! Play music and give away a shirt here and there. All that shit really means a lot to people, and we have fans that will be with us til the end just cuz we struck that chord early on. And you’d be surprised… When you’re cool and you’re not cocky and elitist and talk to the fans, hang out with them, have a drink with them, and spend time with them, they’ll help you fix your van, they’ll help you get something to eat, they’ll give you their house… That’s all really important shit in the early days, you know?
And we have friends down in Corpus Christi, they fixed our transmission once, they did shows for us, we’ll be friends til the end. It’s like you make that bond where other scenes don’t have it.
G- For sure.
J- We have like this super duper rock start bullshit, you know. They’re in and they’re out. It’s a flash in the pan, but if you create a fucking family from it, it’ll last forever!