Los Angeles, California 5-piece hardcore band Strife is currently on the road. First here in Syracuse, NY (for the first time in a long time) to play the final show at Westcott Community, and they’ll be heading to Albany, NY tomorrow and Reading, PA to tear up the stage at this year’s installment of East Coast Tsunami Fest at Club Reverb. They also just released a video for their track “Carry The Torch” today, but the band it not without its share of detractors.
Simply put, message-boards will forever be a place where trash-talking, confused socio-political types will go to vent their frustrations and cast their judgments, all while contributing nothing to the scene besides feeding into the very reason they’ll be gone in a few years. Fuck those types of people: Hardcore is a place to learn new ideals and vent frustrations. People change, and if you were SXE 10 years ago and want to have a beer or a smoke now, it shouldn’t matter. The music matters most.
I caught up with guitarist Andrew Kline to talk about the group’s long history in hardcore music, the changing politics of the scene, and their latest crusher of an album, Witness A Rebirth.
G- Hi Andrew and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today.
AK- All good, man. Everything is good, and thank you for interviewing us.
G- Glad to do so, man. As a long-time fan, I was stoked to see you guys perform at True ‘Til Def at CMJ a few years back… How does it feel to be back to lighting up stages again?
AK- It’s been good. It’s been good, man. We put out a new record, Witness A Rebirth, last November, and we’ve been trying to stay as active as we can… just trying to play as many shows as we can while still having our regular lives and responsibilities. But it’s been great.
You know, over the past few years, we’ve gotten the chance to tour Europe a few times, go to Japan, go to South America…
AK- And some US dates, so it’s been great! I can’t complain.
So, as a staple of the West Coast hardcore scene, Strife’s lasting impact and influence is undoubtedly still as high as ever. Comparing the Then’s to the Now’s, are you still following the hardcore scene out there in L.A. and how would you say the scene compares to back then?
AK- Yeah, I definitely still follow the hardcore scene now, and it’s definitely different. I feel like, right now, California as a whole has a great hardcore scene. I think some of the best bands in the country come from California. You know, we’ve got bands like Rotting Out, Alpha Omega, Terror, Xibalba, Piece By Piece, Take Offense… I’d say most of my current favorite bands come from California. There’s a great scene! Bands like Soul Search… There’s a great scene and great bands, and it’s cool.
I think the difference is… I started going to shows in 1989, and back then there was a place that we’d go to called the Country Club, and every show there would have about 1,000 people… Just packed shows with hardcore kids and punk kids and skinheads. Every show was packed.
Now, it’s like a good hardcore show is about 300 people. So there’s definitely a difference in the amount of people attending shows, and I think a lot of that has to do with there are so many more bands and so many more bands on tour. Every week, there’s 3-4 different shows you can go to, and growing up, there was 2 shows a month, and everybody went. And if you wanted to find out about the next show, you had to go to the show to get the flyer, or you were going to miss out.
So, it’s a different thing now. With the internet, people can find out about shows easier, and there are a lot more shows going on, but there’s not as many people going to shows. But I’d say right now, the current California scene is amazing.
G- Ok. You are currently touring in support of your 6131 Records release, 2012’s Witness A Rebirth… Tell us about the reception to the new songs, and have you noticed any fan favorites off of the record thus far?
AK- Yeah. I think, overall, the record was met with positive reviews…
G- It’s awesome!
AK- I think if you’re a Strife fan, that’s the record you want to hear. It picks up right where In This Defiance left off. It’s a straight forward, in-your-face hardcore record. It was great. I’m really happy with the record and, to me, it’s probably my favorite Strife record of all-time.
And it was a great experience recording the record. We went down to Brazil to record drums with Igor (Cavalera – Sepultura), and you can’t much better than that!
AK- And we worked with Nick Jett from Terror, and he produced the record. He did a great job and really captured the energy and the spirit that we wanted. “Torn Apart,” the first song on the record, has been a fan favorite. “Carry The Torch” is another one, but I think that there are other ones that vary between people. We all like “Life Or Death.” That closes the album and it’s one of my personal favorites. There are a bunch of different songs on the record, and I think it’s a straight-forward hardcore record, but not 12 songs that all sound the same.
G- Right on. And actually, just this past Tuesday, your video for “Carry The Torch” was premiered on Punknews and various outlets, and it has tons of hardcore heavyweights in there giving you guys props. Can you tell us a bit about the video, where it was recorded, and what the process was like? How do you feel about it?
AK- We shot the video on our last European tour in Liepzig at a place called Coney Island. It’s kinda like a legendary hardcore venue there, hardcore and hip hop. It’s a venue/community center/skate-park. We shot the video there and we basically wanted to get a video that visually represents the meaning behind the song.
“Carry The Torch” is really about the new wave of hardcore kids and pretty much taking everything that we’ve learned from the bands before us, and everything we love about hardcore, and passing that down to the new generation because, in the end, this is their scene. It’s not our scene anymore… It belongs to the young kids, and they’re the ones that can take it and make it great, or destroy it.
We really wanted to express the positivity about hardcore and the true spirit of hardcore. So the concept was basically… We included a bunch of different bands and we wanted bands to have something that inspired them about hardcore, whether it was a lyric from another band. It could’ve been anything.
And it was cool! Sick Of It All was in it, and they have a song that said “The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears.” It’s a direct reference to S.O.I.A., because in our career, not only were they one of our favorite bands, but they helped us out a lot. They took us on our first European tour, we toured the US with them 2-3 times, and they were a big help. They’re one of the hardest working bands in hardcore, and one of my personal favorites. So, that line was a direct reference to them. And we had Stick To Your Guns in the video, Terror, Alpha Omega, and some of the bands that represent the newer generation of hardcore as well.
And the video came out great! We had this kid Carlo who has a company called Ambitious Films, and he did a few of the Terror videos and a few other videos. I think he did a great job capturing the message that we wanted to put across.
G- I agree. I thought it was very good and I enjoyed the video, and I want to give a little shout out to Toby (Morse – H2O.) You talked about inspiration, and he put Maximus Morse up there, who’s destined to be a superstar in hardcore, and especially S.O.I.A. This is a band who were legends when you guys were coming up, and now you guys are the legends. So, now we’ve got the kids that are aspiring to do what Strife has done.
AK- Exactly. I think the cool thing about Toby’s sign… He held up a sign that says “Maximus Morse,” his son probably changed his life and inspired him to be a better person, and it’s also that he is the next generation of hardcore. He is the REAL next generation, so I think that was pretty cool to have that included.
Now, I want to get a little deeper. We’re in Syracuse, NY, and I’ve never been SXE, but I grew up around the time of Earth Crisis and all the militant politics, and it was a tough scene.
Obviously, some members of Strife are not SXE anymore, but are any of the members still, or is that something for the past?
And honestly, like I said earlier, message boards are a bitch, and a lot of people don’t put forth anything positive towards the scene… A lot of it is negative stuff, and they’ve never been in a band, and never been in a van, and they never will. Chances are, they’ll be gone and looking for cheap beers at the bar soon, anyway. Any choice words to say to anyone who wants to flip their lip about your career?
AK- Well, tackling some of the early questions, I’m still SXE. I’ve been SXE basically my whole life, and Strife is no longer a SXE band. Yes, we started as a SXE band, and it was something we always thought was important, and still feel is important. It’s something that we wanted to represent in a positive light.
In the mid-90’s, there was a lot of negativity associated with SXE, and a lot of violence associated with SXE.
G- For sure.
AK- And to me, punching somebody in the face because somebody is drinking a beer is not going to stop them from drinking beer. It’s not going to change their opinion. And for us, we took a totally different route. My best friends were never SXE. My best friends now are not SXE, and I grew up respecting their opinions, and they respected my opinions and beliefs. I feel like you can lead by example.
There’s a lyric in “Torn Apart” which basically says “A closed fist or an open mind. Let’s break the chains that bind.” An open mind will create change. A closed fist will not. It will cause people to push back, and go against you.
And that was it. When we originally broke up back in 1998, and when we got back together in 2002 to record Anger Means, we made it clear we were no longer a SXE. We didn’t sell merch with X’s on it. We didn’t try to capitalize off the past and the past fact that we were SXE, and it’s something we still do to this day. We make it clear we are not a SXE band… We’re a hardcore band. SXE is something that meant something to everyone in the band, and I still think it’s a great message, but it’s not for everyone.
And it’s weird because people expect you to never change as a person and never change your beliefs, and I think a person that never changes is stuck. I constantly change, and I constantly educate myself, and I’m glad I’m not the same person I was when I was 14. You need to evolve. Not saying evolving has to involve drinking or doing drugs, but people change. I think the important part is being true to who you are as a person and what is inside. I don’t judge people for what they do… I judge them for who they are. People say “True Til Death,” but being “True Til Death,” to me, means being true to yourself, not true to a commitment you made at 16 saying not to drink. If your friends aren’t going to like you because you choose to drink or choose to smoke, then they aren’t your friends and in the end, you’re better off without them.
That’s more or less it. Of course, kids are going to talk shit on the internet, because that’s what the internet is for…
(I bust out laughing)
You can be anonymous and you can write your comments and no one is ever going to know who you are, and that’s fine. It’s not just about us… It’s about everybody. Everybody wants to be negative, and it’s much easier to say something negative than it is to say something positive and stand up for a friend or a band you like. And that’s fine. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing, and I feel like we have a positive message, and we’re going to keep playing.
G- Please do! Keep on going!
So let’s lighten it up a bit… You’ve been playing in a legendary hardcore band for years, and you were going to hardcore shows years before that. In your opinion, I want to know 4 hardcore albums every fan of Strife should know about and why. Go!
AK- Like 4 of my personal favorites, or 4 underrated records that hardcore kids might not know?
G- Well, I’ll tell you what… I’m interviewing you, so how about your personal favorites?
AK- Well, I would be surprised if the average hardcore kid didn’t have these, but the records that influenced us from the get go, I would say Judge Bringing It Down is one of my favorite hardcore records of all time. Super influential, that was a band that pretty much shaped what Strife became. Sick Of It All Blood, Sweat, No Tears is another one. Cro-Mags Age Of Quarrel and, although it wasn’t a record, Chain Of Strength. The only Chain Of Strength 7”s, True Til Death and What Holds us Apart, I’d say those 4 records made Strife what we are, You can hear elements of all those bands in our songs, and all those bands are what pushed me to start a hardcore band. And definitely an honorable mention to Gorilla Biscuits Start Today. I think that is the 5th record.
G- Start Today is a good one!
AK- I think all those records are classics, and I can go on and on. Those are some of my all-time favorites, and if you don’t own any of these, you’re missing out on not only great records, but a piece of hardcore history. Do your research. The internet is there. Instead of talking shit, go listen to some old bands and get educated.
G- For sure!
Now, Strife has a very large catalogue and you’ve been doing this for a long time… In your personal opinion, do you have a favorite song you have ever written? If you could only give 1 song to someone who’d never heard of you before, to try and make a new fan, what song would you give to them and why?
AK- Man, that’s hard. I don’ think I have a favorite song that we’ve ever written. I’d say “Blistered” is definitely up there. “Through and Through” to me is a great song, especially for the message. It’s a love song, and it’s about expressing yourself and finding the one thing that makes you happen.
And I really like the songs off of the new record. “Carry The Torch” is one of my favorites, and “Life or Death” is another one. “The Distance” is a favorite. I wouldn’t say I have one favorite.
If you haven’t heard Strife, maybe check out “Blistered” or maybe “Will To Die,” another favorite off of In This Defiance. And yeah, hopefully that makes you a fan!
G- Cool. So, you’ve headlined over tons of awesome bands, and played tons of shows with awesome bands… Are there any bands or artists that you hope to share a bill with in the future? Do you have a feasible 3-band dream lineup that you’d like to see Strife a part of in the future?
AK- Hmm. Yeah luckily we’ve gotten to share the stage with some of our favorite bands. We toured Europe with Sepultura, the last shows they ever did with Max. We recently got to play with Judge, and we’re playing again with Judge next Saturday out in L.A.. We played with Chain Of Strength back in 1990. We’ve been fortunate enough to play with a lot of our favorite bands.
A band we’ve never gotten to play with that would be awesome is Slayer. That could be awesome! I don’t know. A hardcore bill?
G- You can put Slayer on that. It counts!
AK- Slayer is one. Fun Fun Fun has it right there. Slayer, Judge, and Cro-Mags… Throw us on that, and I’d be happy!
Terror is one of my all-time favorite hardcore bands, as well. The best out of the newer breed, and they’re not even that new. It’s great to play with them. There’s so many good bands right now, it’s hard to say. But yeah… We’ve been lucky enough to play with most of them.
G- Very cool, and talking about these dream lineups… I’ve seen some crazy shows of yours that I’ll never forget, but as a player in the band, do you have a craziest or most memorable show that you have played? Where was it and what was it like?
AK- We did a full European with Sepultura back in 1996, and that whole tour was crazy! Soccer stadiums. A lot of the venues we’d play, we’d be pulling out and Kiss would be pulling in. It was insane!
We played Prague with them, and they got a gold record that day. We went to the ceremony that day, and we played the giant indoor arena with them, and it was crazy! 20,000… It was a whole new level. That is one show that will always stand out to me… Having 20,000 people in front of you and winning over a crowd that had never heard of you before, especially one that big. It was amazing!
G- Sick! That’s awesome!
So, I have one last question for you today. Your career speaks for itself… Strife is one of the legendary bands of the hardcore scene, and there are a lot of kids that listen to the music and want to pick up a guitar, drum sticks, the mic, whatever it is, and they want to try and do what you’ve done.
From your experience, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to try and make the mark that Strife has made in music?
AK- Just do it. I mean, when we started this band, I couldn’t even play guitar. Just do it! I feel like it’s a lot easier now to get a band and record songs. I’d say don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t. Find some people that can play, or find some friends that you won’t mind being stuck in a band with, and book some shows. Do a zine. Get involved.
And that’s what I feel is so great about the hardcore scene… Anybody can do it! If you’re inspired, start a band. There needs to be a whole new generation of bands in the scene.
G- Right on. Well, I just want to say thank you very much again for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today. We appreciate it!
Be safe traveling on the rest of your journey, play well tonight, and we look forward to having you back… Hopefully not 15 years later!
AK- (laughs) Absolutely. Thank you very much!