MIKE BULLSHIT INTERVIEW From Jersey Beat #39
by Jim Testa
At a small building near the corner of
Rivington Street and Clinton, in a part of the Lower East Side where shopping is a way of life and the first language you're likely to hear is Spanish, New York hardcore is getting a second chance.
When CBGB cancelled its long-running Sunday
hardcore matinees in November, 1989, for a lot of kids it meant the end of an era and the only chance they had to see their favorite kind of music. But within a few weeks, there were shows again. This time on Saturday afternoons. And this time, they weren't being run by a club, but by the people from the hardcore scene, for the kids in the hardcore scene. And the man behind them was Mike Bullshit.
As editor of Bullshit Monthly and lead singer
of SFA and more currently GO!, Mike Bullshit has been a presence on the NY hardcore scene for years. He is a prepossessing kind of guy, standing over six foot tall with a scowl that would freeze Frankenstein in his tracks - quite a contrast from the serious, committed, peaceful person inside. If anybody can say anything about where New York hardcore is and where it's going in the 90's, it's Mike Bullshit. So we asked him. The interview was conducted on December 29 at ABC No Rio. Present were Jim Testa, Mike Bullshit, and Gavin from the band Absolution, who works the shows as security person.
Q: Let's start with the shows at ABC No Rio.
Mike: BSM Presents. They're $3-$5, they're three to four hardcore bands. No racist or sexist or anti- gay bands. We started doing them a couple of weeks ago (in December, '89), I hope to be doing them for a while. It's a cool club, there are no bouncers besides Gavin.
Gavin: I'm not a bouncer, I just write on the walls.
Q: Did you start the shows in response to CBGB cancelling their matinees?
Mike: I'm sort of happy that CB's stopped doing them. 'Cos CB's actually gave you a scene and said, Here is your scene, and enjoy it but just don't do this, this, this, or this. And after awhile, everyone just took it for granted. And when you take it for granted, no one is going to work for the scene, nothing's going to happen, and basically it all turned into shit. So we're trying to make it not shit. Not make it, but work with people to make it better, to have a decent scene. Because there is no scene now… We're at the point now where there are New York bands who will not play New York because there's so much violence. That's silly, that's ridiculous.
Q: Plus there are so many bands from around the country who won't come to New York, because it's so hard to get a gig or because of the reputation for fights at shows.
Mike: Well, Philly's worse. At shows in Philly, KKK show up and stuff. Here's there's a little clique with chips on their shoulders who like to show up and start fights. It's just not cool.
Q: I see you have Gavin and Tim (Boiling Point Fanzine) helping you, so there is sort of a coalition working on this.
Mike: It started out as just me, I was doing everything - security, booking, working the door. It just got to be too much. Gavin's helping me, making sure there's no fights. He's not working "security," he just makes sure there are no fights. Tim's going to be setting up a record table, where we'll sell hardcore 7" ep's for $3. Buy them from bands for $1.75 or $2 and sell them cheaply, unlike some record stores..
Q: …where they're $4.29 or more.
Mike: Yeah. Most record stores in NY will buy 100 copies, save 50 copies to sell for $20 in a year, and put the rest out…maybe. And that's not really cool. We want to give hardcore back to the kids. So Tim's getting in touch with the record labels and hopefully that will take place here too. It's coming along slowly but it's coming along pretty good, I think.
Q: In the last year or so, the whole scene seemed to get so fragments. You had these big labels starting up like Hawker and In-Effect drawing bands out of the scene, you had the straightedge kids breaking away into their own clique, and now you have bands like Warzone and Token Entry who write press releases saying they don't want to be considered "hardcore" anymore.
Mike: I'm not going to rag on people for what they want to do. SFA is probably going to go on a bigger label, but if I was still in SFA, they wouldn't be doing that… I personally would never go on a major label. I hate to say never because everything I've ever said I'd never do, I've wound up doing eventually. I like staying independent, I like doing 7 inches. I don't like doing albums. GO! will probably never have an album. GO! will almost definitely have another 7" after this one comes out in January. We're on Noo Yawk Rehkids, which is our own label. We'll probably be doing a Born Again 7" and I'm talking to a couple of other bands.
I like to stay independent. Stay with
grassroots distribution. Nothing against bigger labels, but I don't like the concept of making money off of music. I don't think it's positive, I don't think it's something I'd want to be involved with. I want to have complete artistic control, I want to be there when they print the covers, and completely be in charge of distribution. I want to see the copies mailed out, I want to see everything being pressed. And I don't know if I'd trust a major label to do that. I would just want to do it myself. And so far I've done everything myself and it's come out pretty good. It could have been better. But it's definitely a learning experience. I think if the SFA and GO! records had been done by major labels, I wouldn't have learned as much. And I'm sure this next GO! 7" will be much better. And the one after that will be better than that one. So that's definitely the route I'm taking.
Q: Let's talk about GO! for a minute. Is the lineup on this new 7" the original members?
Mike: Pretty much. GO! started as a 3-piece. GO! started when I was hitchhiking actually (Mike hitchhiked across the country one summer) and I wrote a song that was a Lifesblood ripoff which was "It's Up To You." I just wrote that on the road, and I knew SFA (his then-current band) wouldn't do that song. So when I get back in March of '89, I was still undecided if I wanted to rejoin SFA or not. And in one day, actually, we just came to the realization that they wanted to do one thing and I wanted to do something different. And I was gonna do a demo tape playing all the instruments, actually, and Ronn said, You know, Mike, you really can't play drums. So Ronn said he'd play drums, and then we got Eric (guitar) pretty quickly. And then we did one show and got a bass player, John. And it's steamrolled. We've done a bunch of shows, we have a bunch of shows booked, we have a 7" coming out in under a year, which is pretty cool considering we took off two months. So it's really happening, I really enjoy it.
Q: You seem to make a habit of doing things that people say you can't do in New York. Like people say, you can't get booked in NY, you can't put out a record on your own anymore…
Mike: Well, as far as getting shows, CB's was ridiculous, because you had to go on a waiting list, you had to kiss Connie's ass… At ABC No Rio, I call up bands and say "You wanna play?" Or bands come up to me and say, "Gee, Mike, we're just starting out, can we get a show?" and I say, "Okay, how about such and such a date." It's a lot more relaxed. I'm trying to keep it to 3 bands instead of 4, just because it's a lot less headaches for me. I'll probably start doing four bands as more people get involved with it. My friends Charlie from Just Lies fanzine and Rich from Right Trash fanzine are helping me out a bit, and my roommate Sam from Evacuate Records is helping me out a bit.
As far as the label goes, Noo Yawk Rehkids is
basically a label that supports the belief that people should take pride in their intrinsic value as a human being, regardless of their race, creed, sexual orientation, religion, etc. etc. I am trying to put out bands that are not racist. That are not Brooklyn this or Jackson Heights that… Not "Fuck the immigrants" or "Fag bash this" or "Bitch, whore, slut" that. Bands that take a little more time to write their lyrics, take a little more time think about what they're saying. I think that as a label it's starting to be kind of cohesive. We might put out this record by The Manacled, which is Rich and Charlie and a couple other people. And Born Against is definitely, as far as lyrically, graphically, idea-wise, one of the best put- together bands I've ever seen. If people went out and made the mistakes - and I've made mistakes, I've made mistakes plenty of times. But you do it and learn. Like the early Bullshit Monthlys sucked. And after they came out, I said, I did that wrong, and the next time they came out better. It's all about falling down and getting up and doing it better next time.
Q: Do you think there's more tolerance in the scene now, or less, than, say, five years ago?
Mike: I think five years ago people were a little more together. I think as far as "unity," there was more unity, because you'd have skins and punks and hardcores and rastas and the little kids at shows. And there wouldn't be as many fights at shows. There was more cameraderie. I don't think people were dressing up as much and had chips on their shoulders as much. I wouldn't call it "Unity" unity, but I think people knew each other more. It didn't matter as much what borough you were from. There are a lot of cool people now. And there were a lot of cool people then. It's really just two different times, and I don't want to dwell on either one.
Q: Have the ABC No Rio shows been pretty cool so far?
Mike: Yes. So far we haven't had a fight. We haven't had too many hassles at the door. Door prices have been $2 to $4. All the bands that've played have been cool - Citizens Arrest, Yuppicide, Buyout Society, Raw Shock, SFA, Go!.
Q: You're really dealing with the bands at the bottom level of the ladder. When you start booking bands from the bigger labels who are more well known, won't that necessarily start drawing a different crowd, kids who aren't really into the scene so much as hanging out at big shows? That's where the fights seem to start.
Mike: I'm starting to deal with some of those band. Uppercut is playing soon. Outburst, Maximum Penalty. There are some bands I won't deal with. There are some bands that really fucked me up in the past. Basically we're at the point now where we have 30 steady people every week. I'd like to get to the point where we have 50-60 people steady every week. I'm trying to get the word out, trying to get the people who will come every week and not be assholes.
Q: How's Bullshit Monthly going?
Mike: Bullshit Monthly is doing fine. #22 should be out late January. It'll be a quarter, it'll be 8 pages.
Q: How can you sell a fanzine for 25 cents?
Mike: (Runs down printing costs) Basically it costs me 20 cents to print one. And I get promo albums. So if I spend $20 but I get 4 or 5 albums, I can deal with it. I'm not in this to make money.
Q: Doing the fanzine should complement having the club.
Mike: Pretty much. I can advertise the shows in the fanzine and sell the zine at shows. If people come down and read the zine, it's all right. If they don't want to come down, it's all right. I'm offering a matinee in New York where there's no fights, where there's cool people, where there's good bands for very little money. If people want to take advantage of that, cool.
Q: Have you ever had any problems with the Post Office over using the name Mike Bullshit or Bullshit Monthly?
Mike: I get so much mail addressed to Mike Bullshit or Bullshit Monthly, you have no idea. It's a lot of fun. I love the Post Office. It's great. I send out so much mail, I get so much mail. Bullshit Monthly gets letters to that name from all over the world and all over the country and I've never had any trouble.
Q: I recently sent a videotape to a pen pal in Chile, and it was intercepted by this "Committee For Political Correctness" and they watched the whole video to make sure there wasn't anything political on it before they'd release it to him.
Mike: That's scary. I think living in the United States basically makes you ignorant of stuff like that, and it gives you a big head because you can do anything you want, and it pretty much keeps you from realizing what censorship is.
Q: The last Bullshit Monthly had this thing about being "gay owned and operated."
Mike: That's been coming up a lot. People have been saying, it's a hardcore magazine, it has nothing to do with sexual orientation, why even bother putting that in? And it's because everything is heterosexual. You open a newspaper or a magazine and it's heterosexual, you just don't realize it. Sexual orientation should be the most inconsquential thing in your entire life. With everything going on in the world, like hunger, and homelessness, and wars, it's the dumbest thing to even talk about. And I wish I lived in a world where I didn't have to talk about it and it didn't matter. But as long as I live in a world where people are persecuted, where people are killed or beaten up or people are put in jail for the fact that they're gay, then yes, I'll stand here and say I'm gay and have no problem with it at all. And I'll wear the "Silence=Death" button as a memorial to the thousands killed in the concentration camps, to the thousands who are persecuted in the United States, and to the millions of people who wish they could wear that button and can't, because they would lose their jobs, lose their families, lose their homes, and lose everything…If there's injustice out there, I'm going to fight against it, and if I have to put myself on the line for it, it really doesn't bother me in the least.
Q: Do you think you could have come out 5 years ago and been in a band and everything?
Mike: I really wasn't out five years ago. I just came out about a year ago. And it's still a very difficult process and a very individual decision.
Q: Especially in the hardcore scene.
Mike: Oh, yeah. I've heard bands on the stage say "Faggot this" and "faggot that" and talk about gay bashing. And Bad Brains. Let's talk about the Bad Brains. On the new GO! 7" there's a song called "Holy Roller." It's not and anti-Rastafarian song, it could be about Jews or Catholics or Rastas or Buddhits or anyone who uses their religion as a fulcrum for persecuting a minority because of their sexual orientation, or a gender, such as women. I find the Bad Brains completely more offensive than the Cro Mags because the Cro Mags tell you that they're street tough and don't get in our way. Fine. Bad Brains come out saying "We're positive mental attitude" and "We talk for the youth," and they put down women and they put down gays. And It's just ridiculous.
People write me and tell me they're sorry the
Bad Brains have these new beliefs. But the Bad Brains have spent the better part of a decade doing everything in their power to completely insult and defame gays and lesbians, and women. And it's just ridiculous that anyone still supports them. I didn't speak up about it until I heard the song "Don't Blow Bubbles" on the "Quickness" album. And I heard a song basically saying that AIDS is a cure for homosexuality and drug abuse, and how could anyone possibly give that a good review? And when I see a fanzine giving that a good review, I write to and say you should really read lyrics. If a person supports Skrewdriver, fine, because they can go to a store and see songs like "Nigger Nigger Out Out Out" and they can decide to either support this or not support this. This is America and you can make that choice. But a band like the Bad Brains, where they disguise it with this Jah bullshit and you don't know what garbage you're buying, and by supporting them, you're supporting all this bigoted, prejudiced nonsense, and you don't know it, that I think is wrong. I truthfully have nothing against warning labels. I'd like to see a warning label on that record saying "This record is anti-gay." As long as people don't censor. I'm not really a critical person, but I do consider myself a gay activist.
Q: That's great. And it must be especially hard in the scene you're in.
Mike: Yeah, it's hard. But when gay people grow up with no real positive role models… I don't consider myself a role model for anyone, but just being out there and being open and being out of the closet is important for gay people in general. And if there are just one or two people in the scene who are positively influenced by the fact that there's another gay man out there, the fact that there might be some physical threat against me is inconsequential.
Q: Anything else you want to say?
Mike: A GO! 7" should be out by the middle of January. The last time I was asked if I had any closing comments, I didn't, I'm not very good at that. But one thing I do want to say is, the thing is, we're Go! and you're not, but you can be if you want to be.
ABC No Rio is located at 156 Rivington Street, near the corner of Clinton Street, on Manhattan's Lower East Side. For directions, schedules of shows, bookings, or information about GO! or Bullshit Monthly, send a SASE to Mike Bullshit, 175 Fifth Ave. Apt. 2589, New York NY 10010. Send 50 cents or $1 for BULLSHIT MONTHLY, or $3 for a copy of the GO record.
Jersey Beat fanzine covers underground music in the Greater New York area and is published quarterly. Available for $2 postpaid from Jim Testa, 151 First Ave. Box A, New York NY 10003
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