Wednesday, May 19, 2010

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No doubt many of you are curious to know about the upcoming Outspoken reunion shows and what else is in store for this '90s hardcore staple, so hopefully this interview that I did recently with Mike Hartsfield will answer some of those questions for you. On a personal note, I've known Hartsfield since '92 and not only is he one of the coolest and nicest guys in the hardcore scene but his devotion to both hardcore and to Straight Edge simply can not be denied. Enjoy the interview. - Jake

I guess the first thing that you and I should discuss is the Outspoken reunion. How did it come about? What is the lineup?

Basically, Dan Adair (our original bass player) called me with the idea of a show this year just for fun, not to make it a huge deal and just one for kicks since it's the 20 year anniversary of the band forming. I told him to count me in. So, Dan made all the calls, some were on board and some weren't. Since not everyone was into doing it, we got the guys that were down and started practicing all the songs under the band name "Save Yourself". Well, the more we talked to people about it, they started asking "why aren't you calling it Outspoken?", since we are playing Outspoken songs, that 3 out of 5 of us actually wrote. We started asking ourselves should we really start all over again just to doing the same thing? Dan went back to the guys that weren't interested in playing a show, asked them again if they wanted to be involved, and told them we might be doing Outspoken again as a band. Again, they wanted nothing to do with it. With three of us having been members of Outspoken, we filled in the gaps with the best elements and individuals humanly possible and Outspoken will play again in 2010. Dan and I are doing the same old thing, Jae moved from bass/backing vocals to lead vocals and we added Brian from Mean Season on guitar and Jae's friend Danny on drums. Jae knew Danny for years and thought he would fit perfectly, and he has.

So why are some of the original members not involved in the upcoming endeavors?

Without getting too much into it, everyone is older now with families, careers, etc. Things get more and more difficult to pull off and we totally understand them not wanting to do it. It's some of the same reasons why we originally broke up in 1994.

I understand that the initial reaction to the official announcement of the Outspoken reunion seems both positive and negative.

Yes, we heard both. It was very positive before we announced the lineup. Once we announced the change, we got a lot of negative but still some positive. It's been amazing though and I am excited about it.

Even the negative?

Especially the negative. I never knew other people were so passionate about this band. It's incredible. Some people are totally excited and want to see what we can do with it. Others seem pissed off and feel it should have a different name or that we shouldn't be doing it at all. Either way it's exciting to me. It's the challenge we need. It creates a bar we not only need to meet but the test is to go above and beyond without compromise. I think it's totally possible for us to be better than we ever were before. We can't wait.

Is Outspoken back together for good or just to play some shows? Will there be brand new songs/records?

We had originally talked about "a few shows" but now that we have a dedicated line up, we aren't setting any boundaries on what we might do.

So tours? New records? What else is coming? You must be thinking about the future.

We're just now starting to confirm shows so we are looking at a few offers and planning on what to do this year and next. Touring isn't out of the question, we just need to be smart in planning. Most of us cannot to be away from work too long and we all have financial obligations to keep in check. The band has never paid us even a fraction of as much as our full time jobs do so we need to be smart with taking on obligations with the band. As far as new records go, I started writing Outspoken style songs again in the late 90's so I have some material waiting in the wings. I just don't know which labels we should approach.

Not New Age?

I'd rather not. I just don't have the time to dedicate to giving it the attention I feel it would need. I've only got a few releases left to put out and I'd rather dedicate my time and resources elsewhere. It's been fun though. But, if a label doesn't come around, I'm always here to do it if need be.

Are you still Straight Edge?

Absolutely, unapologetically, and without compromise. It was easily the best decision I have ever made to better myself and my situation almost 25 years ago. Bleed for it...

What's your take on hardcore reunions in general, particularly reunions of Straight Edge bands with one or more key members who are no longer Straight Edge?

I've been here too long to keep score. With my time served, it's obvious that most people break Edge eventually. We have seen so many fall. So I take reunions as I see them. If I liked the band before, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that they will be good. I'm more excited about hearing the songs than keeping an Edge count or figuring out who is an original member, It's about the music and the message more than the individuals involved. That feeling we had when we first heard those songs is what we want to feel again.

Outspoken was one of the most popular hardcore bands of the early '90s and headlined several shows during that time as a result. Did you ever feel overwhelmed because of this and if so, how did you deal with it?

Never overwhelmed, always just wanting to do more and thinking we had never done enough. Now, we have the time and new people to see what we can really do with it. Better late than never.

What are some of your favorite Outspoken songs and why?

"Shadow", "Innocent", "Burning", "Current". Haha, the newer the stuff, the better it is to me as with most musicians, I would think. We got better with time, I think. That's probably the reason why I'm really excited to see what new material we come up with.

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

I think A18 was the only other that I had favorites with: "Dig", "Gravelines", "Dear Furious", "Heartbreak Affiliated", etc.

As a musician and a songwriter, who/what are some of your influences and why?

Pretty much all the hardcore I got started on: Stalag 13, Aggression, Uniform Choice, Dag Nasty, Crumbsuckers, Insted, Verbal Assault, etc. Plus, before I got into hardcore, I was into a lot of metal. That influence creeps in from time to time.

You, along with David "Igby" Sattani and Colin Duckmanton, make up Hardcore Reunion, a group whose purpose is putting on shows featuring '80s and '90s hardcore bands with all of the net proceeds going to charity. How exactly did Hardcore Reunion come together?

Colin and Igby both are two legit guys that I know do things for hardcore for the right reasons. It (HCR) was just one of those ideas that sounded like a great idea when we first thought of it. We didn't want to deal with bands wanting big money and playing again just for their egos, etc. We knew Dan O'Mahony had been talking about a possible reunion of No For An Answer and that was our first chance to get things started. I was trying to get Outspoken on that first show but that didn't work out. We'll do the next one, I hope.

The very successful first Hardcore Reunion show took place at Chain Reaction in Anaheim, California on 3/22/09 and featured No For An Answer, a surprise performance by Carry Nation, A Chorus of Disapproval, Headfirst, Blackspot and ICE. How did you, Igby and Colin decide on that lineup for the first show?

Well, No For An Answer came first and we ran everything by them before booking anyone. As ideas and options were presented, we just made the choices available to NFAA. It fit pretty well together without too much effort.

A number of people (including you and Chorus frontman Isaac Golub) brought their young children to the show. Were you at all worried or concerned for their safety as well as them being exposed to the rampant profanity that accompanies most hardcore shows?

No, not at all. We knew the show would be an older and less rowdy crowd. Plus, since I was there and didn't have any duties that would distract me from hanging out with my daughter, I knew she would be safe. She wore ear protection. Her best friend came too. There wasn't any inappropriate language, but if there was, I'm sure she hears worse things from friends at school. Both girls had a great time and so did I.

How are you able to successfully juggle your numerous hardcore endeavors with your responsibilities as a father and a husband?

"Successfully" (laughter). It definitely has it's ups and downs. I work so much that I have had less time to go to shows and I have been home more. Plus, I haven't played in a band in over a year. Now, thanks to Dan (laughter) opening his big mouth, it looks like I will have less free time than ever before.

You turn 41 this year and you are just as heavily involved in the hardcore scene now as you were when you were a kid, if not more so. What is it about hardcore that has kept you so heavily involved in it for over 20 years?

I have taken a huge step back actually. The label alone has taken a huge step back, I just don't have the funds I had at one time to contribute to it. Not to mention how my time has become more limited. But it's not hard to still feel connected to the hardcore scene. It's where I'm from and where I'm at. I love it.

How exactly did you get into hardcore?

I got into hardcore half way through high school (1985/1986), when I was becoming more and more disinterested in the heavy metal scene. I was really hungry to find something more personal, something I could become involved with and find a personal connection with. I joined a hardcore punk band at the time I still had long hair. Those guys exposed me to all I needed to be sold on hardcore, thanks to Paul, Matt & Justin!

You founded New Age Records in 1988. You were still a teenager and pretty fresh out of high school at that point. How did you go about starting New Age with what little resources (money and otherwise) that you had at the time?

I worked two jobs to get things started and just found a place in a local music magazine with an ad for a place that offered a special deal on pressing records. I called them and asked a handful of stupid questions, and figured out I could order 1000 records and it would be up to me and the band to sell them. When it started, I never even thought about releasing a second record.

It's my understanding that many record labels are ceasing production of CDs and only releasing records in digital and vinyl formats. Are you planning on doing this with New Age? Why or why not?

Yeah, I won't do CDs any more unless it's a CD that would be included with a record. They are way too hard to sell and no one is really interested.

You co-founded the Network Sound record label with your Outspoken and Drift Again bandmate Dennis Remsing in the early '90s. Why did you find it necessary to create a whole other label?

Because we were both fans of the style of music Network Sound ended up putting out (emo and pop punk) and figured it would confuse the New Age and Conversion fans if we just released them as we wanted.

Do you have any funny or interesting Outspoken tour stories that you'd like to share?

One good one is while we were driving back east once, I was driving and Jae was in the passenger seat. It was my bright idea that we should drive naked. Once we were driving for a few minutes I started passing big rig trucks in the fast lane then slowing down right in time for them to look down and see Jae totally naked. Then I would pace them until Jae begged me to pull by them.

After Outspoken broke up in the mid '90s, you formed The Suppression Swing with the equally prolific Jason Hampton on vocals. Did you have any idea back then that he would become the Hell's Angel on steroids that he is now?

No, I had no idea. Jason is easily in one of the greatest guys of all time. The Third Degree is one of my favorite bands ever. Classically underrated.

Amendment Eighteen (A18) is your most well known band and I gotta confess that aside from going to one A18 show and listening to a few A18 songs here and there, I don't know enough to ask you any real substantive questions about it, so what are your thoughts on that band?

A18 is by far the most dedicated and fulfilling musical experience in my life. I thought it was my least known band (laughter), at least that's how it seemed at our shows. A18 was a wild ride.

Thanks so much to Jake and Stuck In The Past for all of the support! Our first confirmed show is the A Time We'll Remember Fest on November 6th at Stephens Church in Washington, DC. We are playing with some incredible bands and look forward to seeing all our old friends again and making new ones.

Check Outspoken's pages at the following links:


jbanks said...

I love it. The more Hartsfield the better. I want to hear about Amendment 18. And I want the specifics of the ESP endorsement and what looks to me like a Jackson endorsement.

In all honesty however, for him to say with a straight face that metal creeps in there sometimes as an influence on him as a guitarist is a true disservice to the likes of Chris Holmes, Jay Jay French, Oz Fox, Randy Piper, Lynch, Akira Takasaki, Mars (1st album only), Warren DiMartini, Matthias Jabs, Kurt James, David Pritchard, Campbell, Pearcy, Manneketti and Vito Bratta.

ERIC SXE said...

Great interview! Mike answered some questions I had regarding this reunion. Kudos to him for remaining straight edge for 20+ years. There are so few of us that have stayed the path and especially for someone who was a "major player" in the SXE scene. That bloody Mike picture with the black X's is way cool! someone should put that on a shirt!!

Anonymous said...

good read. cheers from kroizberg!

George Curran said...

Thanks for another great article Jake! I for one am really happy to see Outspoken back together again. I'm also glad to hear that I'm not the only 41 year old who is still EDGE!

Check out my Vimeo page with a long lost video of OUTSPOKEN's show at the Peach Hill Club house in April 1991:

Also check out the OUTSPOKEN live radio show from 1990 on my Blog:

Please feel free to add to the OUTSPOKEN discussion on Moshspace - the Irish Hardcore discussion board:

Respect !

George XXX

AJ said...

Can you do another interview with him where you ask him why he feels so strongly about upholding 90s hardcore traditions such as not sending someone their CDs whenever they order garbage from his mail order?