Thursday, February 18, 2016

Damien Moyal is a verified Florida legend who has been involved with such projects as Culture, Morning Again, Bird of Ill Omen, Shai Hulud, As Friends Rust, etc. I was fortunate enough to catch this interview with him about several of those bands, his early days in South Florida's hardcore scene, and what some of these projects are up to now. This interview originally appeared in Plead Your Case Fanzine issue #13 and is being reprinted in the upcoming Giant Sized Plead Your Case Annual.



Hey Damien. First of all, what was your first hardcore or punk show? How did you get involved with the hardcore scene.

            The first show I remember was a local Miami band called The Goods at Washington Square (which was essentially Miami’s CBGBs) in 1990. I was taken there by some older friends, and immediately fell in love with being inside of a filthy, punk club. I was into a lot of thrash/metal stuff at the time, and dabbling in the usual starter kit lot of punk (Dead Kennedys, Sex Pistols, Exploited, GBH, etc.), but my only frame of reference at that point for venues were huge arenas (I had seen some bigger concerts, like Kiss in 1988) so a small, dangerous dive bar made quite an impact on me. Other early shows that stand out were Exploited and Biohazard at the Junkyard, also on South Beach in Miami in like 1991, and Sepultura with Sick Of It All, Sacred Reich and Napalm Death.
            Around 1990 I had started slowly getting wise to bands like Agnostic Front and Sick Of It All, either from friends or through reading thank-you-lists on other bands’ releases. I liked it, and appreciated that this was a nice balance between the punk I was listening to and the metal I loved. But I think when I really fell in love with hardcore was when I heard Minor Threat. The sheer relate-ability of the lyrics, the energy and urgency, and – very importantly – the photos that showed a kid (like me!) down in the crowd screaming in the faces of other kids (like me!)… I was sold, and I think that was the moment I understood what really made hardcore different from the pomp and fashion of metal and punk.
            Not long after that, I joined up with members of a (very) local band called Midget Stew, who mostly played parties and actually did a lot of Minor Threat covers. They needed a singer and wanted to do something new, so I took the microphone and we called the band US Decline. That was my first band. It was all downhill from there.

What was the hardcore scene like in Florida when you started playing in bands? Are there any particular FL bands from that era that stand out as your favorites?

            Miami had some great bands going at the time. Quit, a very skate-y punk band in the vein of Descendents, was incredible, and to this day their LP ‘Earlier Thoughts’ is one of the best things to have come out of Florida. LOAD was another heavy-hitter that you could catch on almost any weekend. The first proper local hardcore I was familiar with were the bands on the ‘Notes From the South’ compilation 7” that Youth Bus released, like Beyond Reason and Ego Trip, and soon after that the scene was brimming with amazing bands like Mindframe, Timescape Zero and Machine. The next wave brought bands like Tension, Brethren and Culture. I’m really focusing on South Florida bands here, as that was where I was from.
            The scene was really diverse, and it wasn’t uncommon to have ska bands on hardcore shows, hardcore bands on indie pop shows, indie bands on punk shows, etc. For being a pretty tough, somewhat dangerous scene (I never realized how much so until I started touring to other cities), the Miami scene was incredibly open-minded when it came to new bands and styles, and there was an overarching sense of unity across the entire underground scene. We didn’t have a lot of divisive politics.




Obviously Culture was a very political band in a lot of different ways. 20 years later, do you still feel passionate about the same political ideals that you did at that time?

            I still adhere to Culture’s most basic tenet, which was about thinking critically about the status quo, and defying it in areas where you feel it hurts, weakens or threatens free thought and expression. I’m still unapologetically liberal, and still vehemently opposed to oppression by political or theocratic powers. Culture was simplified, perhaps oversimplified, as a vegan and straight edge band, and as far as those topics go, I no longer identify with either. We still have folks in the band that do. But, as you mention, Culture decried a pretty vast array of social and political injustices/issues.

Going from being involved with more "metallic" or heavier bands like Culture, Bird of Ill Omen, Morning Again, etc., did you feel like it was a big change moving on to doing As Friends Rust, which is obviously a different direction musically? Was it strange for you to do a band that was so radically different than other bands you had done prior or was it a natural progression for you?

            I think it was a pretty natural progression. While I always loved playing heavy, dark, screamy, metallic hardcore, I listened to far more melodic hardcore off-stage. I had always wanted to do something more along the lines of Dag Nasty, and (in my mind, anyway) As Friends Rust fulfilled that.





One of my favorite personal Culture songs is "Pimping the Revolution". There has always been a sort of air of mystery around that song since the only recording that seems to be readily available is a live version of it. "Why would the machine mass produce what rages against it?" is a lyric that I have always thought was very cool. Would you care to elaborate a bit on that song and what its meaning was?

          That song was really trying to explore the issue of bands with subversive messages signing to major labels. There seemed to be a prevailing theory, and we’ll use Rage Against The Machine as an example since the line you cited addresses them, that subversive bands were “using” the clueless mainstream music industry as a platform to spread insurgent ideas. I started thinking that this was a bullshit justification, and when looking at a band like RATM’s audience – fraught with khaki-shorted Frat guys – I began to question how much of those messages were getting through. On the other hand, I didn’t want to dismiss the potential entirely, because I saw plenty of flaws with hardcore punk’s tendency to keep subversive messages so insular and protected that they couldn’t really being doing very much good in that capacity either. So the song didn’t really end with any conclusion being drawn… It was really about the question itself: Do these messages do more good underground, or above ground? Do they do any good at all? Is anyone listening?

If you were asked to pick 5 hardcore records that you'd consider "essential" or favorites, what would they be?

            Off the top of my head, I’ll go with (1) Judge’s “Bringing It Down” which is the perfect balance of introspection and anger, hardcore and metal, sad and pissed, (2) the Downcast 7” because ‘Hate Comes Easy’ is easily one of the best hardcore songs ever written, (3) the Inside Out 7”, (4) the Minor Threat discography and (5) Corrosion of Conformity’s “Six Songs with Mike Singing”

Are there any current or more recent hardcore bands that you're interested in? If not, what kind of music do you find yourself listening to as of late.

           As far as newer hardcore goes, I’ve been digging Turnstile, Wisdom in Chains, Expire and Alpha & Omega a lot. Maybe my favorite newer band at the moment is Noy, from Tokyo, whom I’ve had the honor of touring with twice now. They’re amazingly intense live, and give 100% of themselves when they play. Pretty special to watch.

In recent years you've been involved with On Bodies? What's going on with that band currently? What other projects, if any, are you currently involved in?

            On Bodies just got back from Japan (last night, actually) where we played a handful of really awesome shows. Cosmic Note Records from Japan released a CD that combines “The Long Con” EP and our (brand new) “Unremarkably Mortal” EP. A similar release will be coming in Europe soon-ish, but on vinyl, and in the US, Irish Voodoo Records will release the “Unremarkably Mortal” EP on 7”. We’re in the process of booking some US dates as well.
            Aside from that, I’m doing the occasional As Friends Rust show (two dates this late spring/early summer) and the occasional Culture show. This year is the 20th anniversary of Culture’s “Born of You” LP, so we’re reissuing it with new artwork on Germany’s Demons Run Amok label, and playing the Florida Rules Fest in June.

Your favorite show you ever played with Culture?

               My first real show with Culture was with Strife and Sick Of It All. Kind of hard to top that one, considering I was 17 and had been in the band like three weeks. The first reunion show in Miami in 2012 was amazing, and This Is Hardcore 2014 was as well.

Culture has a new 7" coming out this year. Tell me a bit about that 7".

             The reunion shows have been so much fun, and a very cool reminder of how much we (the Born Of You lineup) like playing together. So, on the heels of these reunion shows, we were curious to hear what we might sound like today, after twenty years of change and growth. The two new songs are no indication of any future shit, and while they bear some of the essence of old Culture material, they’re definitely more modern and different. We weren’t all interested in 90s hardcore replication, but I’m sure the traces will be there.





For those who don't know, what's the story behind the "Mike Warden Can Suck It" record, which seems to include a lot of alternate recordings of songs from Born Of You?

              Well, it never came out, but was basically just a re-recording of five of the “Born Of You” songs. The idea being that we felt Mike/Conquer The World had been less than honest about his sales and pressings of “Born Of You” so we wanted to re-do some of the songs on a different label, as a limited jab at him, inspired by Judge’s “Chung King Can Suck It” release.

Thank you so much for doing this interview. Any last words or shout outs you'd love to give?

               Thanks for being interested! Culture still has a few plans up its sleeve, and we try to post regularly on our Facebook page: facebook.com/bornofyou – Aside from that, keep your eyes peeled for On Bodies, because we’re hoping to turn it up a notch this year: facebook.com/onbodies

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I still think that As Friends Rust put out some of the most well-thought-out songs within that narrow genre of punk rock/hardcore of the last 20 years. And yes, Damian's vox and the lyrics are awesome.

vadermask massretaliation said...

Great interview! I think Damian is still living here in my town, Ann Arbor, MI.

vadermask massretaliation said...

I concur.