A interview with Lew and Hobi of Our Gang in March of 2010.
How did Our Gang Originally form? Were you guys Friends from high school? Meet one another at HC shows? How did it happen? What year was this?
Lew-Hobi and I formed the band together. We had been friends since junior high school and grew up listening to punk and metal together. Our first band was called Blood Sausage, a mock metal band. This was before we actually knew how to tune our guitars. We probably started writing the songs that we would later use in Our Gang in 1986 or so.
How old were you guys when you formed?
Lew-15 or 16.
What was your goal as a band when you first got together?
Lew-To be in tune, put out a demo we could sell at Some Records. Play CBGBs. Become part of the NYHC scene.
Who was in the band and what did they play? Were there many line up changes?
Lew-We recorded 4 demos at Don Fury’s. Nothing from the first demo (late 87) appears on the record, as that demo was mostly out of tune. Hobi and I switched back and forth between bass and guitar on that recording. Bryant sang and Pat played drums.
Our second tape (June 88) was the re-recorded “Uprising” demo. Javier joined on bass for that demo so that both Hobi and I could play guitar.
We went to Don Fury’s a third time (October 88) to record a new song, “No Motive.” That song and “Penguin Romp,” a NYC Mayhem cover, appear on the LP from that tape.
Hobi-It should be noted that we went to Don's that time solely to record for Freddy's New Breed Comp. Oddly, we chose not to submit it cause we thought it wasn't good enough. In retrospect it's one of the best things we ever did.
Lew-The last 3 songs on the record, our more melodic songs, are from the fourth Don Fury tape. I took over on bass for this tape, as it was not really Javier’s style. We ended as a 4-piece band.
Hobi- That session at Don's was intended to be a demo for us to scrutinize before recording our record. We had gotten much more serious as a band-diligently rehearsing and thinking about the songs. It was really exciting to see what Bryant was doing lyrically and vocally while we were growing simultaneously as songwriters.
I always loved the name Our Gang...because of growing up on the Rascals, and because it just sounded kinda mean & tough. Who came up with the name, and what did it mean to you guys?
Lew-Hobi came up with the name. That guy is a genius at names. He can say more about the name, but to me it represents our earliest days hanging out in the scene. It was just about our group of friends hanging out together and having fun. That’s what hardcore was for us, great music and great friends. The name was not meant to suggest violence in any way. The hardcore scene had not yet been corrupted by violence.
Hobi- I loved the rascals as well and that of course was the inspiration. I loved it as a hardcore band name however because it did suggest that this scene was our exclusive club. Anyone can join but ya better not bring all that bullshit in with you. Back then Hardcore music was pure noise to normal people and people still thought we were weirdos and I LOVED that.
What were your main musical influences back then?
Lew-Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Underdog, Token Entry, Warzone, NYC Mayhem, Straight Ahead. There’s a lot more obviously.
Hobi- Cro Mags, YOT, Ramones, Sabbath and Metallica deserve honorable mention.
What do you think it was that drew you into punk/hardcore back in the 80's?
Lew-In the early 80s Hobi and I discovered a lot of different records in his apartment. His father was a record collector. And a hardcore one! Not meaning that he collected hardcore music, but he just collected records, specifically colored vinyl and picture discs. We found tons of interesting things to listen to on what sounded to me like the best sound system in the world. We discovered the Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, Crucifix. The RAT MUSIC FOR RAT PEOPLE comp was big.
In 1985 I ordered the NYC Mayhem demo from Mutilator fanzine, done by Tom Capone. We lived on that tape. When we met Duane we traded it to him, along with a copy of the interview from Mutilator, for the Straight Ahead demo and a soundboard of SA’s first CBs show. We started going to CBs early in 1986. Straight Ahead’s first show was our first show. Hobi went to an art high school in the city, and lots of people that went to that school became our hardcore gang. Some of those guys discovered Some Records and that is how we discovered Underdog, Token Entry, Youth Of Today, Crippled Youth. Coming across all those EPs for the first time was pretty mindblowing. Hardcore was a perfect fit for us. We were never normal kids, who wanted normal things, like going to keggers on the weekend. We had an attitude and viewpoint toward life that was similar to the attitude we found in hardcore music. We were attracted to the idea of people doing their own thing, away from the mainstream. We also loved really fast music, with distorted guitars. Hobi and I were pretty strict when we were young. If you weren’t playing fast, you weren’t hardcore.
Hobi- I'd like to talk about the HS of Art and Design for a second. Both Pat (drums) and Bryant(vox) went there with me. Bryant practically introduced me to my wife Caroll there whose sister had once dated Stigma for chris'sake! Chuck TruColors, the spiritual leader of OurGang and greatest hype man in H/C went there as well as my great friend Rich AllForOne. It was such a unique experience going to school in Manhattan everyday back then. It really defined my hardcore experience.
I only saw Our Gang once... It was at the Anthrax in CT. , a bunch of us from Albany went up there to support a local band called No Outlet, do you recall the show? How many shows did you guys actually play? Did you ever tour?
Lew-We played CBs with Slapshot, The Pyramid with Token Entry, Lismar Lounge with Project X and Life’sBlood. We played on NYU radio, Crucial Chaos. I’ll never forget my mother telling me I had a call, going into the kitchen to answer and having Johnny Stiff ask me if Our Gang wanted to play Crucial Chaos. We played The Right Track Inn in Long Island. That was our first show. That and several other shows at the Anthrax were with our brothers in Pressure Release and Up Front. I don’t know exactly, but we might not have played more than ten shows. I do remember playing with No Outlet, but nothing else about that particular show.
Hobi-We got to play a CB's Matinee. A lifelong goal achieved at 17.
Was there a favorite show that you guys played?
Lew-Maybe, for me, NYU. It was my first day of college. I had a night class. As soon as I got out of class my friend John Lisa picked me up and drove me into the city from Staten Island. When I walked into the studio where the bands played it was ridiculously packed. It seemed like everyone we knew was there. Our sound was terrible, as it usually was, since we were poor and had bad equipment. But everyone there was singing like crazy and it really sticks out in my mind. Our first shows also stand out, just because it was wild to see people going crazy on the floor and stagediving while we played. Seeing that was kind of like completion of a goal.
Our Gang def fell into that 1980's NYHC straightedge hardcore scene. Was the band actually S.E.?
Lew-We were all straight edge as people, but we didn’t want to be identified as a straight edge band. We didn’t have lyrics about straight edge. We wanted to be a hardcore band in the spirit of Agnostic Front, Victim In Pain.
Hobi- SE was really important to me. I enjoyed defining myself that way as a kid cause it was so radical and certainly positive. When it seemed cultish later and violently enforced I was turned off to that label. I remained sober until a few years ago in fact.
Why is it that you guys never released anything on vinyl back in the day? There must have been some interest from some labels? Had you guys talked about it? was it a goal of the band to put a record out?
Lew-We were scheduled to record a 7” for Smorgabord. Chris Daily was a close friend. I remember him telling me, “Lew, just go into the studio and record!” But Hobi and I were, maybe to our own detriment, perfectionists, and we never felt the band was tight enough to record, and then we broke up. I don’t know if we were enjoying being a band so much at that point, which would make sense, as the CBGBs scene was all but dead. The world we had belonged to no longer existed. Things were changing fast.
Hobi- This record coming out is really exciting for me.
Two words "Some Records". Please continue....
Lew-Some Records was a great place to hang out. We would go there every day after school and Duane would let us sit around and listen to music and he didn’t care if we didn’t have money to buy anything. But everything we bought, we bought there. I remember Hobi and I traveling into the city one day when both the Sick Of It All 7” and Warzone LP came out. We saw Billy from Side By Side show Duane his original art for the Gorilla Biscuits 7”. We heard every record before it came out. I remember talking to Raybeez in there, Porcell would be sitting across the way, Tommy Carroll was behind the counter. Everyone was in and out of there. Too many things to remember really. Our demo was only for sale at Some Records. We wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Hobi- I feel so bad for kids now. They have nothing of their own. Can you imagine being shaped and influenced by the sterile pop pablum that passes for hardcore? I love that I was a fly on the wall in Some while all these incredibly unique things were happening. That'll never happen quite like that again.