Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Posted by xCHIPxSEM |
Jake/Andrew Jacobs here yet again with the intro to my interview with legendary hardcore singer and frontman Dan O'Mahony. I first saw Dan in action 19 years ago in early 1990 when he was fronting Carry Nation. While introducing the song "Through You", Dan mentioned having been in and out of a series of obsessive and co-dependent relationships with girls and being as how I'd gotten out of one myself just a few months prior and unfortunately knew only too well exactly what he was talking about, I became a lifelong fan then and there. As I previously mentioned, Dan's band 411 remains my current favorite Orange County, California band of all time and seeing my second favorite, No For An Answer, for the very first time this past March is definitely one of the highlights of my life. As hardcore heroes go, Dan O'Mahony tops my list. Enjoy the interview.

Your bands No For An Answer and Carry Nation recently reunited to play the very successful first Hardcore Reunion benefit show at Chain Reaction in Anaheim, CA on 3/22/09 along with A Chorus Of Disapproval, Headfirst, Blackspot, and Ice. What was it like playing in those bands again after such a long time away fro
m them?

Not exactly what I expected, but definately a positive experience. It was probably the only way the 4 You Laugh era NFAA guys were ever gonna spend any time together again, so that was great. I don't know if any of us remembered how physically demanding this stuff could be. There was some negative nostalgia in some of the member politics of getting everything off the ground, but that was easily remedied, and in the end we got to put in a few weeks work in support of a good cause (Genaro Hernandez' fight against cancer). No lining our pockets, no merch, no plans to do it again. Christ some of those songs are fast!

A few days after that show, I did a telephone interview with a col
lege student who was doing her master's thesis on the Straight Edge movement. During the interview, I felt compelled to defend your decision to perform NFAA's straight edge songs at that show even though you're no longer straight edge and haven't been for many years. What are your thoughts on that?

Firstly, that's very kind of you. Secondly, if you check the set list, the closest thing to a straight edge song that we played was Without A Reason, a song who's message I support even more strongly now given my history in recent decades. We didn't play Don't Look Away or Rusty Pipes, and Just Say No is an anti-group identity song, Grave Mistake is specifically about heroin, which has ravaged my family and I still consider a real scourge. That said I am not in denial about the nature of NFAA's history and appeal, which brings me to my third point on the matter... preaching was kept to a minimum at this show because it was intended more as nostalgic entertainment and support of an ill man than anything else I've ever done. My changes in lifestyle were mentioned comfortably and playfully by me from the stage very early on so as to avoid any sense of denial or hidden motives. Were the evening intended as a more serious vehicle for my personal politics, later bands would have been more appropriate, but true self-expression and attempts to inspire my peers would be best accomplished through something current.

Discuss the dichotomy of going from being a very outspoken Straight Ed
ge frontman in the '80s to owning and then managing a bar in the 2000's.

It does sound like two different lives, doesn't it? NFAA was described more than once in the press as "the thinking man's straight edge band" and I always treasured that as I felt we made clear in our message with multiple songs on our LP that that division from others based on one facet of a person's lifestyle was not at the forefront of our thinking even in the '80s. Over time I found myself more and more often inspired more strongly from people involved in the counterculture who bore no connection to SE whatsoever. I also found more and more of the faux militancy, psuedo gangsterism, and intense observation of fashion associated with SE repulsive. A true case of something good going bad before my eyes. Did this annoyance make it easier to give in to temptations regarding the bottle later? probably, but there's a bigger picture, generations deep in my family on one count, immediate to myself and my misguided attempts to escape a massive sense of loss with the passage of my single parent mother. I intend this not to excuse, ("not running for office" ) but to explain.

Running bars is the O'Mahony family business, something I've been exposed to since my infancy, with a 6 or 7 year affiliation to a subdividion of a much larger counterculture no longer in the forefront of my mind, and me now well into my foutrh decade of life, I rarely even reflect on the contradiction. Truthfully, I do battle with the notion that my creativity and my own moral code might be better served in another line of work or that I am perhaps wasting whatever artistic gifts I may possess by not doing something musical or literary at the moment, but my suspicion is that situation will change soon.

Throughout your hardcore career, you've made it a point to speak out
against, among many other things, homophobia and sexism. Unfortunately the hardcore scene was and continues to be rife with both of those. How difficult has it been for you being so outspoken about both of those things?

Back in the day it was interesting because on the heels of NFAA and Carry Nation's popularity people were slow to confront or debate me on a lot of those shall we say 411 type statements, religion was something people would defend to me rather than owning up to their own lack of sexual progressiveness.

Following the second 411 tour, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area of the early 90's where my thinking was the norm and activism designed to forward true human equality was everywhere in the underground music scene. The real difficulty came when I returned to OC in the late '90s no longer someone people would mind thier vocabulary or behavior around. The culture shock and revulsion were pretty overwhelming. Even now 10+ years later it is a test to remain somewhat patient with people and try and place things in their unfortunate cultural context.

Even though you were much more active in the '90s hardcore scene, with 411 being arguably your most popular band, most people still consider you an '80s hardcore dude. Besides NFAA's popularity back then, why do you think that is?

I think the reasons are many. I did do a fanzine, start a label, put on some shows, write for MRR, and start NFAA and Carry Nation all in the 1980s, but there's also the fact that that whole 85-87 nucleus involves a small but notorious list of names and personalities who are identified with the ground floor of that massive post Minor Threat / SSD/ DYS era straight edge. There's also the fact that many of my '90s efforts were determined to test the limits of the genre musically and politically with varying degrees of success. Writing books put me in an at the time underappreciated minority as well. I look at it this way, many more deserving activists and artists pass silently without the recognition they deserve, who the fuck would I be to try to dictate legacy?

In the late '90s, there was an '80s style hardcore revival of sorts (no doubt sparked in the mid '90s by, among others, Ignite - no pun intended) which included your band Speak and Ray Cappo's band Better Than A Thousand, among others. Though the success of said revival is very much up for debate, why do you think it happened?

It certainly depends on how you define success, I consider the Knee Deep In Guilt LP by far my best vocal performance. It's the only record of mine I listen to with any frequency. In terms of response, yes, it was mixed in the states but very warm abroad. Give anything a few years out of the limelight, I think cynicism sets in w/the general public, give it a few more years and the same folks become... legendary. You can't get in this for others, I guess.

Are there currently any plans to reissue your Workshed Records' catalog on CD and or iTunes? Why or why not?

No plans to do either. Not all of the master tapes are in my possession, nor the artwork. Also I have no idea how to contact at least half of the musicians. Also I'd like them to know that re-releasing that material is something every Workshed artist should feel free to do with or without my blessing.

Two books of your writing were published in the '90s. Discuss those.
They are both compilations of entries from my private notebooks strung together after the fact by a running chronological narrative that drops in and out throughout the pages and helps provide flow. I feel they represent some of my most honest, most naked so to speak, work. They explore alot of experiences and mindsets not easily presented in song. Autobiographical, personal, but hopefully relatable.

Are you planning on having any more books published and if so, wh

No plans right now, though a nearly finished manuscript entitled Bender exists somewhere and covers '97 through maybe 2000. Never say never.

Compare writing for printed zines in the '80s and '90s with writing for the Double Cross webzine now.

The Double Cross material is an interview essentially the same as this one. They send the questions, I answer them. Thus far they've been running the answers without the questions and I guess that gives the pieces a bit of an essay feel, but it's a segmented interview. Enjoyable, nostalgic, and a very quick proccess compared to print. In decades past I was in fact a columnist, and as such operated with very little guidance or constraint in terms of subject matter. It was a very rewarding opportunity, but bore little similarity to things like this.

As a writer, who or what have been some of your primary influences and why?

In terms of the craft as opposed to the subject matter, my favorite writer hands down is Hunter S. Thompson. Here was a man with an incomparable sense of timing, rhythm and pace, not to mention a sledge hammer sense of humour.

In terms of inspiring one to write with a certain degree of emotional vulnerability and frankness, John Fante has had a big impact despite the fact that he always used a pseudonym on the page.

There's a sports and history writer named David Halberstam who passed away not too long ago who had a remarkable gift for keeping things simple and thus immediate. He wrote a book a few years back about Ted Williams dying days and a final visit from his old team mates that really put you in the room. I read a ton of history these days and don't suspect it influences my own prose much, so I'm a little light on current reccommendations.

What are some of your favorite songs by all of your bands and why?

- Without A Reason is a fun piece of music, it sounds like recklessness, Domino Principle represents my first real venture into something even remotely groundbreaking lyrically.

Carry Nation - Grave Mistake is a bold, and in my opinion triumphant piece of musicianship on Gavin's part.

411 - I can't isolate one song lyrically, I have real pride in that entire body of work lyrically (if not always vocally) This Isn't Me and The Naked Face stand out for me musically.

Speak has it's moments but is later and lesser known, I actually think the Speak LP is my best record in terms of vocals meshing with instrumentation. It's definately my most energetic performance, I still listen to it pretty regularly. Virus, In From The Cold, and Knee Deep In Guilt are favorites for me. Strong statements, good tunes. I'm gonna leave out the studio projects as I already feel like this is an excercise in tooting one's own horn!

Feel free to shamelessly plug any of your current musical and/or non-musical endeavors you feel like plugging here.

Nothing to plug really, a few ideas swimming around, none of which involve trying to rewind my own clock. I would like to take this time to thank you for the voice and the support. I still love to ramble!


Anonymous said...

Any chance of a follow-up asking Dan to explain the reasons behind some of his tattoos? They've always intrigued me...

Anonymous said...

As someone who has gotten a not so hot tattoo, an even worse cover-up, said cover-up removed and then many years later, a cover-up over the scarring left from getting the first cover-up removed (trust me, this will ALL make sense if/when the documentary about me and my life is released), the answer is an emphatic NO. Tattoos are and always will be off the table in any interview that I do for the reasons stated above.

Anonymous said...

Worst answer ever. No one cares about your life, Jake.

And calling that HC reunion show "very successful" is a stretch a best... more like revisionist history trying to push your friends / agenda. Give it up.

xjustinx said...

I like how this dude loves to give the same comment on every single interview that you do.

Anonymous said...

Just more incentive for me to continue referring to that show as "very successful". In fact, I'm going all caps in the next interview.

Anonymous said...

That show was one of the worst shows I have been to in the last ten years... And I go to many...
Only an overaged dude that doesnt go to shows would think that was good...
It was not

Anonymous said...

^^^ suicide silence should've probably played right? get the fuck out of here.

Anonymous said...

"overaged"? Wow, you really got me with that one!

xbojanx said...

Why bother discussing with anonymous?

Anyway, Speak (714)'s "Knee Deep In Guilt" is one of my favorite CD's ever

Snoopz said...

I went to that show and thought it was real good, the bands sounded flawless and the place was full. I'm not some oc insider, I'm a paying customer and I thought the show had a real good vibe

Anonymous said...

Flawless? If you think a drummer barely being able to keep up with the rest of the band is flawless, and a band having to replay songs after the fuck them up is flawless then I completely agree...
It was not packed (not empty either)... Chorus sounded pretty good though.

Turd Ferguson said...

So Anonymous, did Dan O bang your wife, girlfriend or sister (or all 3) back in the day?

Get off the nuts, motherfucker.

Oise said...

great interview

411 is my favorite band since ages and this is a perfect addition to the Dan O interviews over there at Double Cross

more follow up questions about 411 please!

Anonymous said...

Now THAT could happen.

Damaged said...

This reminds me of an interview a friend and I did of Dan O when he was in 411. It was the summer of 1991 after a show in Connecticut just up the street from the then newly closed Antrax - I forget the name of the club now - but it was right on Route 7 and took place sitting on curb in the parking of the shooping center next door. I think - or perhaps hope - we asked some pretty good, outside of the box questions. Although we taped it, it never saw the light of day due to the interuption of me going off to college that fall...