Interview with Tony “Chubby Fresh” Pines (@chubbzbs) from ONE LIFE CREW; Played @ECTSUNAMI Fest
Hardcore music and hardcore scenes across the world use aggressive music to discuss difficult, often polarizing topics. As many followers and enthusiasts will tell you, hardcore is a way of life, not merely a genre of music or an aesthetic styling to be consumed. This notion is in large part thanks to Hot Topic and media outlets looking to cash in, but don’t go blaming the suits. Blame the sheep. The floor is open for debate.
In the 1990’s, Cleveland Hardcore had one of the most notorious hardcore scenes in the U.S. Everyone knew, or at least believed, that if you went to a show in Cleveland and fucked around, you were going to have a bad day. The city spawned some of the most aggressive and controversial bands of the era, none more so than One Life Crew. After releasing their introductory album, Crime Ridden Society, on Victory Records, many left-leaning fans took offense to the group’s overtly right wing stance on illegal immigration issues, and the drama escalated with the now infamous Cleveland Fest riot of 1996.
After having their first album pulled from the shelves, One Life Crew continued to produce their brand of heavy-handed hardcore music, with the specific intention of drawing ire from PC kids all over the place, though in relative obscurity compared to some of their contemporaries. Along with a few controversial side projects, that I believe were geared to add fuel to an already blazing fire, O.L.C. and Cleveland Hardcore are names that will always come to mind when discussing 90’s scene politics and aggressive behavior.
A few sporadic reunion shows aside, O.L.C. has remained mostly dormant over the years, but that’s about to change. After performing at the East Coast Tsunami Festival in Reading, Pa., sharing the stage with a veritable shit load of hardcore legends like Sick Of It All, Cro-Mags, H2O, Agnostic Front, and a newly reunited Vision of Disorder, O.L.C. fans can expect new music in the future.
Chaos will (did) ensue!!! I managed to speak with drummer Tony “Chubby Fresh” Pines about O.L.C.’s infamous legacy, their current outlook and feelings on the hardcore scene, their plans for the future, and, of course, Cleveland, Ohio.
G- What’s going on and thank you for taking the time to speak with Live High Five. I never got the chance to check you guys out back in the day and am looking forward to East Coast Tsunami today… How is everything going and what’s new with the O.L.C. camp?
C- We’re old now, you know what I’m saying? But we still have the love for hardcore that we, me and “Mean” Steve (Murad- vocals), have been doing since ’86, so, you know. Adding to the band Ziggy from Animalhaus, Chris from Mushmouth/Out to Win, we’ve got 2 guys from PA and some of the younger cats, and it’s an honor to be playing again. We’re older now, and we don’t tour except for some sporadic shows, but when we do ‘em, they’re absolutely fucking nuts! People come from all over the world to see us, and it’s definitely something that’s like… No other music in the world will people fly, not eat, sleep in their cars outside of the club, so they can go see these hardcore bands…
I pull my blanket out because I, too, will be sleeping in my car tonight.
G- (laughing) Here’s my blanket.
C- (Laughs) Being a little older, it’s definitely harder to do, but there’s nothing like hardcore! We’re excited to be at Tsunami Fest, and hopefully next year when we release a new record, we’ll head over to Europe, and do some sporadic festivals.
G- Now, do you have a title for the new record or anyone who is going to be releasing it at this time?
C- Actually for Christmas, we’re going to release a DVD and 4 brand new songs, and we’’ll probably put it on my label. I own a company called Bike Styles, BS Entertainment. I release all our merchandise, and I’m the only one in the world that does official One Life Crew stuff. You come see me.
We’re going to re-release “Crime Ridden Society” on vinyl, probably some construction gloves autographed and done up personally from Mean Steve, and Fast Break OLC socks. The new record will be next summer, and we gotta work on that, and it’s hard because everyone in the band has full time jobs, kids, families… We’re not a full time band.
But we’re older now where we can switch up our scheuldes and come support and play One Life!
G- Beautiful! So, to get it out of the way early on, One Life Crew has been the bane of PC hardcore kids’ existence since 1996. By now, anyone with any interest has seen the Cleveland Fest clip on Youtube, and O.L.C. took a lot of heat for what went down…
C- Here’s what happened. Bottom line, this is what happened, right or wrong. Me and “Mean” Steve got hired to do security at this Clevo Hardcore Fest. It was right when “Crime Ridden…” came out, probably the week of. It was one of the biggest selling hardcore records back in the day for pre-orders because it was so hyped… People were like “One Life Crew this band, blah blah blah,” so there’s probably 1000 kids there, and every kid was like “Guys just do one song! Just do one song! Integrity is playing, just do one song! Use our equipment, please please!’ And we were like “No, no. It’s not our show. We don’t want to step on anyone’s feet.’
G- You guys weren’t even on the bill that night?
C- We weren’t even on the bill. We were security. But Blaze (Tishko) happened to be there because he roadied for Integrity, and Aaron who plays guitar for Integrity is our boy so he played bass. We were only gonna do one song, and we went into the song and this kid… No lies, no jokes, no fabrications… The kid’s 115 lbs. White kid, skinny. When we do the intro, if you watch the video, it’s a kid in a green shirt. Steve’s, you know, stomping on the stage, the kid comes up and goes “Fuck you, you fat Jew.”
G- That’s what I heard.
C- And the things is, like this. If you’re in different scenes… NY, Boston, Philly, Reading… If they did that to a band NOW, that kid would’ve been underground. But we had a big crew, and it was a brawl. They were starting shit, and we were just handling business.
I’m not saying it was right or it’s fucking cool, but a nobody kid is gonna go up to Mean Steve and call him a “Fat Jew?” Over a record? Keep your beliefs to yourself. And everybody in the world, from you, me… Everyone in the world has their beliefs.
C- It’s their beliefs. Whether it’s this or that, whatever. Black white, fat, skinny, it’s who you are, it’s what you believe. Right or wrong, it’s what you believe. Until someone enlightens you on something more positive, then believe what you want, whether it’s right or wrong. It’s who you are, from who you vote for, to what you drive, to what you wear… It’s who you are. Don’t judge anyone.
Me personally, I don’t make the lyrics. Mean Steve, talk to him, because his lyrics are harsh. But everything he sings about is true. You can’t… People say we’re racist. We have a Pakistani playing in the band, Jew, Turkish, Russian, Sicilian…
G- A needless to say, Steve was in Confront. Look a little further, folks.
C- People are gonna believe what they want to believe. True, but if you’re gonna say something to somebody, just expect repercussions.
And by the way, that kid in the green shirt… He started the whole thing.
G- So, do you think hardcore now is more watered down and politically correct than when OLC came on the scene in the 90’s, and how do you feel about the music currently hitting the hardcore market? Are there any bands that you think we should know about at this time?
C- Well, the best band in hardcore is Wisdom In Chains.
C- We toured with those guys when they were Crutch, Mushmouth… That’s my family, my friends… They are absolutely the most amazing band. There is no band better than them. They mix metal, hardcore, SXE, Oi, Ska, Punk, into a band with the most honest, loving, caring individuals who just are the most amazing people.
I mean, my favorite bands are Youth Of Today, Judge, Project X, you know what I’m saying? That’s what I grew up on.
G- Are you going to Revelation 25?
C- No, I don’t have a ghetto pass for those shows yet. I gotta have the crew around me, you know what I’m saying? I’m still wanted… I don’t know. But I’d love to go see them. Chain Of Strength is getting 25k…
C- It’s pretty ridiculous to be SXE. They’re not even SXE anymore.
G- (laughing) Were they SXE back then?
C- Well, you never know with these people. Me and Mean Steve have been straight edge our whole life, but it is what it is. Wisdom In Chains is the best band in the world, PC Now, I think… We did a show a couple of years ago in Philly and I didn’t think any young kids would know our stuff, but 250 kids, sold out show, 150 were all kids under… Obviously we’re fuckin’ 42, they’re all young kids. They knew every lyric.
It’s funny because all the old guys are “We haven’t moshed in 20 years and we’re gonna break a hip…
C- So they were excited when we played. PC… I think it’s worse back then. I don’t go to a lot of shows. I only go to shows when my friends come to town. Hatebreed are all my boys. Terror are my boys. Wisdom In Chains are my boys. When they come to town, I go to the shows. Other than that, you know, my love for the scene, the people are just closed minded, they’re negative, they ruin the scene, and these younger kids have to clean it up, when the shit should’ve been clean in the first place.
It’s hardcore. No matter who you are, you go to the show to get away from the stupid shit. When you go to these shows in the last few years, I heard you get picked on. You bump into someone, you get beat up. That’s ignorance.
But Wisdom In Chains is the best band EVER!
G- And they’re playing tonight.
C- Absolutely. They’re playing right after us. They got added last minute, God bless them. I’m excited!
G- I’m ready!
C- Ready and ready!
G- So I read that O.L.C. is currently printing up some new merchandise, and some of your records/demos have been pressed and repressed over the years. You mentioned it a little bit earlier, but I want to go a little more into it… Do you currently have, or are you working on, any releases, and when will you be heading back to the studio or are you looking to get out on the road in the future?
C- There’s not going to be a road for shows. We’re going to do festival, obviously. We want to do Europe. We’ve never gotten to do that and there is a big demand for it, but we have to make sure everything’s right. Obviously we’re older people with kids, and you can’t get away like younger kids that live in a van.
Merchandise is through my company, Bike Stylez (bikestylezinc.com). I do all the merchandise. New material, we’re going to do 5 new songs by Christmas. We’re going to put one song on the “Crime Ridden…” re-release vinyl, 4 new songs with the live DVD, and I hope that comes out good. If not then we’ll do a (4) song 7” inch or something for Christmas. But everything is going to be through my company Bike Stylez.
Fast Break is gonna put out Crime Ridden Society, but everything else is done through the band because I’d rather keep the money in our pockets than other labels.
G- For sure.
C- But we definitely support Fast Break. They’re the only label we mess with right now. Double Or Nothing are really good friends of ours, and they put out our last discography, both our records and the demo. Shout out to them… Check out Double Or Nothing Records… Amazing! We have the cd, it’s $5 for the old One Life Crew stuff. They did a lot for us.
And Know The Score is one of the best bands in the world! They’re doing a reunion show. They’re really great… Check out Know The Score!
G- Right on. Now, since you didn’t seem to really play too many shows back in the 90’s, but you’ve been in Integrity, OLC, and everybody else…
C- Ringworm, Confront, Die Hard, Meanstreak…
You’ve been doing this forever, basically.
C- ’85 I started playing shows.
G- ’85? What were you 13?
G- Shit! Well, what I want to know is, what was the craziest or most memorable show that you have played to date? Where was it and what was it like?
C- I’ll tell you this. I put a show on in 1988. It was my birthday bash in Cleveland. I had Bold, Gorilla Biscuits, Chain Of Strength, Insight, Confront. Project X did a special set, and back then, they only did 1 other show. Judge… All those bands were on it. And that was one of the coolest things, because back then, people danced, the didn’t fight. They had a great time, it wasn’t violent… More like the sing-along, stage dives.
But Tsunami 2012… Ask me this question after we play, because this is probably going to be the biggest show that One Life Crew has ever played. I mean, I toured with Integrity doing big, huge festivals in Europe, but the thing with Integrity is people love it, it’s old school. But the thing with One Life Crew is they love it because it’s more for the people. One Life Crew is… Anyone who support One Life Crew is in the band. The One Life Crew is anybody. You don’t have to have a hat, or a coat, or SXE or drunk… You like the band? That’s your band.
G- And it is one of the truest testaments of real hardcore music that I’ve heard. There’s no screamy-whiny, there’s no 808 bass drops, it’s straight up and as hard as it comes.
C- It’s fast, straight up, buildups, breakdowns, sing-alongs… That’s what hardcore is. Fast!
G- Exactly! Now, I have one last questions for you, because you’re one of the veterans…
C- Uhh ohh!
G- (laughing) That show you had in your backyard or whatever…
C- That was at the Fantasy Nightclub.
G- That’s disgusting… Why wasn’t I around back then for that?
C- Where were you in ’88?
G- Where was I in ’88? 10. (laughing)
C- If you lived in Cleveland, I’d have brought you there.
G- Thanks I appreciate that! But, as a scene veteran who has done plenty on your own in bands, you’ve been drumming your whole life, I want to know… There are a lot of kids that want to make in in music and play in hardcore bands… What can you say to some of the kids out here who want to start hardcore bands, release records, and go on tour?
C- First thing I tell anybody… I own a successful clothing company and have been in music and stuff, but in anything you do in life, whether it’s music or whatever, is you have to believe in what you do. Don’t do it to be a millionaire. Do it to pay some bills and have fun in whatever you do.
For hardcore, do something that’s different. Don’t sound like anybody else. Like when we wrote “Crime Ridden Society,” that record… We listening to nothing but “Set It Off” by Madball.
G- Right on! I just interviewed Freddy the other day!
C- That was the shit at the time.
G- Still is!
C- But, you know, that was what we listened to on that record. But do it for what you want. Don’t do it to be cool… Do it because you like it, do it because you want to do something cool, and definitely do something original. Don’t stop! Whether you want to be president, or be the owner of a Honda.
I’m laughing because I drive an Element.
C- Do it, and make sure your heart is into it. Don’t do it to be cool and don’t follow anybody. Do what you want, dress how you want, live your life. But always know that when you do a band, you’re preaching what you say. “Mean” Steve is a political guy, and it’s election time.
Do what you want, and have fun at what you do.
G- OLC goes on at 7:15, and I have to save energy for their set.
C- ONE LIFE!!!
G- (laughing) Chubby, thank you very much for speaking with Live High Five today!
C- High Five in this bitch!
Note: I posted the riot footage above. Judge for yourself.