Life's Blood live at WNYU, circa 1987
I moved to Albany NY when I was in 9th grade...Met & made some friends involved in the punk scene later on in my youth. One of those friends was Adam O'toole who played in a punk band with me..through Adam I met and befriended his big brother Jason who sang for the legendary NY hardcore band Life's Blood. I thought people who might be wondering whatever happened to these guys, and Jason in particular might get a kick out of hearing from him. Love him or hate him, he sang for fucking Life's Blood. I put this together fast, and hope people that read my blog find this to be interesting. Thanks to Jason for the interview...2/06/09
Nate-Jason, the Last Time I think I saw you, and we got to talk was in 1996 at my comic book shop in Albany NY. You were buying some Eightball comic books... What have you been up to since then? Is it True that you are a Sheriff now? Lots of punks are gonna hate your ass now dude... tell us about your life since the late 80's.
Jason-I moved around a lot since leaving New York in 1994. I lived in Texas, where I began my career in law enforcement. I met my gorgeous wife Andi in Austin a few years later and we moved to the Atlanta area when her father had a relapse with cancer. (He made a full recovery) Then I did some secret squirrel stuff before and after 9/11 and spent time in New Orleans and The Space Coast. I’ve been back in the Atlanta area for a few years now, where I am a deputy sheriff. We have two young kids and I wanted a job that would keep me home more.
Lots of punks can kiss my Irish American ass if they hate me for being a cop. They can take a number and get in line with all the dope dealers, burglars, car jackers, rapists, child molesters, ID thieves, bank robbers and other assorted vermin I nab every month by the dozens. I’m third generation law enforcement and my family tradition and dedication to serve my community takes precedence over the baseless opinions of a few people who wouldn’t have the courage to say it to my face anyway.
-Does anything from your punk rock past, or your being involved in the hardcore scene have any influence on the way you deal with these "vermin"?
The hardcore scene gave me early exposure to, as my song said "people from all walks of life." It broke down the barriers between race, ethnicity and economic class - and we formed friendships based on who we really were inside. Learning never to discriminate based on these artificial walls human beings construct gives you a truer picture of reality. And whether I am in the poorest neighborhood or a subdivision of multi-million dollar homes, I treat everyone the same - and this leads to success in getting the information I need to get my job done. It should surprise no one that some of the worst fugitives I track down live in mansions that my own house would fit in five time.
-Okay... I know, and some people out there know that you knew Sam McPheeters from growing up together in Albany, doing a fanzine together, going to early shows together, etc. Could you describe to kids the way things were back then, and why/how did you guys bond as best friends?
-Sam and I met in summer camp in Albany, NY as tweens, and we became close friends when he transferred to the prep school I attended. We put out a strange, photo-copied fanzine full of comics, collage, and assorted reviews of records and TV shows, called “That Wretch’d Magazine,” which later became “The Plain Truth – A Fanzine of Understanding.”
We discovered hardcore through some slightly older students and shortly thereafter, were helping Dave Stein and Steve Reddy organize the all-ages shows. Futile Effort became Combined Effort and the glorious Sam & Jay era of Albany Style Hardcore began.
-I know you hated your time spent in Albany, most of us do...What positive things do you think came out of being raised there?
-The Albany Hardcore scene of the 80’s through early 90’s was truly great before and after I left my mark on it. I put a lot of my heart and soul into it, making all those calls to bands to put those shows together, putting the flyers up all over town, and taking the heat, and forking over the money when the halls got trashed. But the scene gave me back more than I ever gave it. Even though I rarely go back to visit, and don’t see Albany people that often, whenever I meet them again, be it years later, the kinship and connection is always there.
Jason & Sam with NYPD(note the burning twin towers graffiti)
-Who Moved To NYC first, you or Sam? How did you meet Neil and Adam & What made you guys play music together?
-Sam and I moved to Manhattan in 1987 to attend college at The New School for Social Research, a university so stacked with leftwing extremist nutjobs that Sam and I were by far the most normal people there. John Kriksciun, the drummer of Life’s Blood knew of me from our fanzine and when we first ran into each other at Some Records, he asked me to rehearse with them. I liked their sound, especially John’s metal tinged drumming, so I was excited to join.
-How many shows total did you guys play & How many of these shows were in Albany? Jason-We played Albany twice I believe – Once with Warzone and another time with Soul Side and King Face. I think I played something like thirty shows with Life’s Blood, including live sets on WNYU and Pat Duncan’s show on WFMU. The last thing I did with them was a mini-tour with Beyond, Project X and Judge which went as far as Cleveland Heights, OH. Steve Reddy chauffered us around in his van, and we had a great time. However, I learned that I really hated riding hundreds of miles seated on a Marshall amp.
-What is the most memorable gig you guys played, and why?
-When Agnostic Front OPENED for us (because one of them had to get to the airport) and the crowd was already pumped up. It was a big Long Island heavy metal club. There were long haired speed metal freaks, suburban skinheads, and punks with blue mohawks, all going nuts. AF had left beers onstage and I was pitching half-full beers right at people’s heads and swinging the mic around like a mace, connecting with more than a few noses. I also went on a rant against Youth of Today doing a video for MTV, which got back to Ray Cappo and of course, led to a huge bloody fistfight in front of CB’s that Sunday.
…Not really. I don’t think Ray lost any sleep over it.
After the Long Island show a metalhead I had hit with a full beer and was bleeding badly from the mouth ran up to me, yelling “DUDE that was fuckin’ awesome! You were going off! This was the best show of my life” and he hugged me and ran off.
-Were Life's Blood straightedge?
-What were your favorite hardcore bands of the time back then? What were your Top 10 favorite punk hardcore records when you were in that band?
-In no particular order, these punk and hardcore recordings were major influences: The Faith/Void Split; Dag Nasty “Can I say”; Negative Approach “Tied Down”; SS Decontrol “Get it Away,” X “Under the Big Black Sun”; Gang of Four “Entertainment”; Joy Division “Substance”; DYS “Brotherhood”; and Black Flag “Damaged.”
I was also listening to Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dio, Black Sabbath, Motorhead, The Fall, King Crimson, The Who, Blitz, Cockney Rejects, Buzzcocks; The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, The Jam, The Specials, Madness, The Smiths, The English Beat, The Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, Richard Hell, Talking Heads, The Clash, Devo; Big Black; Throbbing Gristle, SPK; and many others…I got into good music very early thanks to WCDB, the student radio station at SUNY Albany where my grandmother was a professor.
-So What do you enjoy listening to today? Ever break out the old classic hardcore records? I remember you gave me your copy of the Life's Blood demo when you moved away...I've uploaded it on this site.
I still listen to my favorite bands from the 70's and 80's - and through blogs like yours, have discovered amazing bands that I somehow missed. Like how did I not hear Battalion of Saints or The Mad back in the day?
A couple of years back a band from Finland called Down My Throat covered "Youth Enrage." Every track on that record is blazing - and you owe it to yourself to listen to the whole thing.
I'm packing my music for the roadtrip we're taking next week, and I'm bringing along the old school hardcore, along with some Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, The Cramps, Gun Club, Morrissey, Elvis Costello, Depeche Mode, Revolting Cocks...gotta have something for the whole family. My 6 year old daughter loves singing along with The Smiths "Ask" or Costello's "Pump it Up" and my son who is 4 makes up his own lyrics to black metal and industrial - his songs are usually about Thomas the Tank Engine.
-Vocally who were you influenced by? The recordings always made you sound so fucking angry and hard, but anyone that knew you, knew that you were a softy. What was really pissing you off at the time?
-My dad. That’s how he sounded when I didn’t refill the ice tray after using the last cube. Ask my brother if I’m joking. I use the same voice when drawing down on a perp…it almost always works, although sometimes too well and the bad guys wind up wetting themselves or worse. I wish I were exaggerating here and so do the trustys at the jail who have to wash my backseat.
But I really wasn’t that angry about much when I was in Life’s Blood. None of us were even remotely political as teens. We were upset about racists in the scene though and I got into a few heated arguments with boneheads – and the Song “Human Power” reflects our feelings about racism – then and now, I’m sure.
A lot of our songs were far from “hatecore” as it’s been described. Many contained very empowering and positive messages: “What’s in their heads doesn’t matter, you believe in yourself.” Stuff that could be on motivational posters in some insurance company headquarters.
Your dad??? get the fuck out!!! He was a big 'ol softy man... I never heard him barking..
When I graduated top of my class from police academy, I asked my dad why he always went psycho on us for forgetting to do chores or other minor things. After all, we really never got into real trouble growing up.
"How many cars did you steal? How many times did you go to juvie?" he asked. He knew that if Adam and I thought he'd pulverize us if we didn't take out the trash, then we wouldn't be doing anything worse. And by God, he was right.
-Did you guys have more songs written that never were recorded? Did you have plans or dreams of doing an LP? -If you have both versions of the demo, the Defiance ep, and the CD, you’ve heard just about everything worth hearing. We did a bunch of covers, “You’re X’d,” by Th’ Faith, a song by Crucifix (I forget which one) and a few others, and I did write completely different lyrics to a few of the songs – so for a short while until the band strongly persuaded me to change them there were songs called “Ant Farm” which was about the NYU dorms across the street (they didn’t have window treatments and the girls ran around naked all day and night – it was just awful). “Stick to It” was originally written as “My Girl is Def.” “Def” being 80’s slang for…hell, who knows…
I never thought about an LP record. In 1988, just putting out a demo tape made you feel like a rock star and the seven inch record was king.
-Why did you leave the band? What happened there? I know they played at least 2 other shows after you left with a different singer..
-Life’s Blood was a major time sink and I posted a 2.0 GPA in my freshman year. I was also sick of the fake tough guy posturing that everyone, including me was getting caught up in – so once I put out the 7” and logged a couple thousand miles in the van, I had done as much as I cared to do.
-Do you regret Being involved in the Band? No regrets about it I hope?
-I sang on some tracks that anyone would be proud of. But I was just a kid and I wasn't ready for the attention, both positive and negative, that Life's Blood received. Growing up in public is no fun - just ask any of the child stars - the ones who lived to see 30 that is.
-Have you been in touch with Sam, Adam Neil or any of those guys since the bands break up?
-Not as often as I'd like - I lost John's number when my kids hid my old cellphone and it never resurfaced. I still talk with Sam - he's got one of the best blogs ever: www.loomofruin.com you can link to Adam's blog from there too, and it's also very interesting.
-I recall your brother Adam quit my old band Intent to play bass in Mark Telfian's rendition of Life's Blood with you singing. Why didn't that pan out? What were you guys planing? I know the band later turned into Factory.
-We were going to call the band Life’s Blood and then play Iron Butterfly songs. Poorly. Luckily our first show was canceled because there was a raid on the club a week before. We eventually chose the name Factory in honor of my favorite band, Joy Division, and wrote and recorded our own songs, even played a bunch of shows with MDC around NY and Boston, but my brother and I grew less and less interested in being in a band at that point, and it shows in the lackluster recordings.
-I was always a fan of your art, and comics that you drew... Shit... I even published some of your 90's stuff in a underground comic anthology that I put out called Scrambled Eggs. Do you still draw, Did you help with the Life's Blood graphics?
-I still collaborate with Wes Harvey, who did the cover for “Defiance” – based on a crappy sketch I did of God Almighty damning skinheads to a pit of fire and serpents.
Wes is a professional artist and historian who works for the Baltimore Sun newspaper. I have edited his comicbooks “Invisible Soldiers” (Garrison Publishing) which are based on his research and interviews with black, Jewish and other disenfranchised soldiers and sailors who fought in WWII. We have also completed the work on a comic called “Forced Labor” which is so dirty that we are going to use pen names. We haven’t done anything with it yet, so pester Wes if you want to see it in print, because he has been busy with other projects and is worried that this book will tarnish his reputation as a serious artist.
-Did you write all the lyrics? Do you recall who wrote most the songs? What was your all time fav Life's Blood song?
-Adam and I wrote all of the lyrics – some like “Youth Enrage” and “Human Power” were mostly his, and others like “Never Make a Change” and “Resist Control” were more mine. It’s easy to tell who wrote what – my stuff screams “college boy” and is full of obvious literary references: “All that is solid melts into air” and “trust the unity of money and machinegun” are among many lines borrowed from the pantheon of world literature, i.e., plagiarized.
-I recall When you moved back to Albany, and I'd talk to you at your parents house, you seemed pretty bitter about your past experiences with "the scene", and hardcore in general. Do you still have those feelings? could you describe the issues you had, or have? It sort of had a impact on me, and made me wonder why? Today I understand, as I think I've gone through the same shit.. scene politics, etc.
-The hardcore scene in the mid to late 80’s was a weird mix of people who might never have been in the same room with one another if it were not for the love of the music. There were kids from upper-income, politically connected families mingling with kids who ran away from group homes. Rich kids who did heroin and poor kids who were straightedge. Those of us who took it upon ourselves to organize the shows, produce the fanzines and play in the bands naturally had strong personalities and conflict was inevitable. In the end, I needed room to figure out life on my own, so I took off to Texas and spent weekends lurking around Mexico, where nobody knew me. There’s no bitterness now – just occasional regret that I wasn’t as good a friend to some people as I could have been.
I should have thanked Raybeez (of Warzone, of course) for always looking out for me when I was running my mouth and looking for a fight – but I was a hothead kid, and resented his help at the time. After all, he was no saint, and I was all grown up and could take care of myself in the big city…or so I thought.
When I heard that he died, I realized that I never once thanked him for anything – not even for getting me and my friends into the Pyramid for free anytime he worked the door. Guys like Ray you just expect will always be there and you take them for granted. I like to think Raybeez is still looking out for us.
-You've mentioned to me that you were possibly going to be doing music again? What's that all about?
-There’s a couple of promoters, “old school” musicians and even some well known producers who have been asking me for years if I had any interest in returning with a band. I had none, none at all. But now that my kids are out of diapers (they’re playing violins and doing math), I have seniority and a great schedule at work, my knees are too bad for competitive soccer, and I’m nearing completion of my Masters – I just might have time to do a band for fun.
I’ve been offered a number of club dates in the Northeast this summer, but I don’t even have all of the personnel figured out yet…and everyone I know is just as busy as I am…but since I turn 40 in a week, I guess it’s now or never. So yes, it’s a possibility, but not much more than that at the moment.
-Is this Life's Blood related stuff? What would it be?
-If I can pull this off by the summer, of course we'll do a few of the Life's Blood songs. But I'm not going to be like Springa - getting some hired guns and pretending he's back in SSD.
-Any last words?
I’m already entirely disgusted with this new President who is amazingly looking worse than the last one. I don’t care if you’re a lefty, a rightwinger, or moderate. None of these charasmatic “leaders” have any interest in, or capability to, help you. Our national problems are so complex that they will never be solved, merely coped with. So don’t believe anyone who tells you different, no matter how charming and eloquent you find them.
When we were barely in our teens, kids in the 80’s harcore scene were showing better organizational management skills than many of today’s government and corporate entities. If there’s any way we can tap into the energy and vitality we once had, and take back control of our lives, we’ve got to do it. Now.
-Come on man, no one could look more like a horses ass then George Bush dude! He and his administration have fucked up this country more in 8 years then any president ever! I'm not one to vote on party lines... I hate that shit. I didn't vote for either of the major candidates...because they are both fucked up. I'm hoping you don't consider yourself a Republican?
I'm a believer in Systems Thinking, which scholars like Peter Senge write about. I have also studied W. Edwards Deming and read every page of Juran's Quality Handbook. I can't possibly summarize these works here - but if our leaders would have bothered to read the stunningly accurate predictions these guys made - decades ago - specifically on how to avoid massive job loss - we wouldn't be living in what are probably the last days of the United States of America.
Short-term thinking and bullshit campaign promises have led to a short-term country. We can still get it back, if we do it ourselves - but if you think government is going to fix all of these problems, do yourself a favor and eat a big spoonful of Georgia peanutbutter with extra salmonella.
The Obama brand (a subsidiary of General Electric) got a lot of people excited with lofty promises of hope and change. True to the textbook definition of a charismatic leader, Obama is already carooming from crisis to crisis. "If you don't pass my insane spending bill, we're DOOMED!!!"
But he's offering the same failed, tax-and-spend strategies to deal with these complex problems. The deep cynicism is already setting in, way ahead of schedule. Americans who allow themselves to see reality, have observed that his idea of change is to appoint the same gang of opportunists and political hacks to his cabinet, and then to spend a psychotic amount of our tax dollars on utter bullshit that won't stimulate a goddamn thing besides their friend's bank accounts. There will never be another Obama, because even Americans aren't stupid enough to be tricked as spectacularly as they were last November.
Look at him in the first couple of weeks - he's confronting the defensiveness of his opposition with more defensiveness. That's a rookie mistake that a leader of even the smallest organization would quickly learn is counterproductive. We really could not afford to give someone this ill prepared this much control over our lives. So I'm going to have to put him on ignore and worry about running my own household and helping my own community.