Monday, April 2, 2012
Charlie Don't Mosh: An interview with John Wayne Swayze of :Satch:
The CharlieCard is a plastic card that gets you into the subway, busses, and other forms of transportation that service the Greater Boston area. If you're unfamilair with this fact, the title of this post may not make sense (and it doesn't help that the accompanying artwork of the character on the card flailing his arms ala the Circle Jerks logo has yet to be finished). But I wanted to get this posted while the original story was still fresh; recently the Boston Herald posted an article about the Boston Police cracking down on moshing at shows, while citing the case of a college student who got concussed during a Flogging Molly set. Imagine my surprise when I found out that student was actually an acquaintance of mine who sings in a hardcore punk band called :Satch:, under the alias of John Wayne Swayze. After reading the Herald article, which cited a few quotes of his, I wanted to give him the oppurtunity to tell his entire side of the story, as well as giving a platform to talk about his band.
D: What happened exactly?
J: The whole night is a pretty big blur. I was pretty drunk when everything happened and then getting my fucking dome knocked screwy sure as shit didn't make the night more clear.
From what I remember, I was in the pit during Flogging Molly, and at some point my head went forward at the same time someone else's head went backward. He hits my forehead with the back of his head and I'm knocked silly. I just stumble, sort of fall backwards into the people standing at the edge of the pit, and they keep me from falling on my ass. The guy who hit me immediately realized how hard the collision was and turns to see if I'm alright, and the other people around me make sure there's nothing bad. I told them everything was fine. The guy apologizes and we have a wicked sexy man hug. I couldn't really see straight out of my right eye for at least a few songs afterwards, but I stayed in the pit, and was having a blast. Flogging Molly covered “The Times They Are A Changing”, which was fantastic and wicked cool to see live, but I really don't remember a ton else that happened during the show. I have no clue what was the booze and what was the concussion.
It's over a month later, and I'm still not recovered, it took a whole month before I could make it back to school. There were a couple weeks where I just couldn't really walk properly. One of the doctors I saw thinks that something was just fucked with the brain circuitry that controlled my legs. I still have to deal with near constant headaches and even this interview is making me a bit disoriented, like my head just ain't all there. But shit happens and hopefully everything will get better.
D: Is this the worst you've gotten injured at a show?
J: By far. I got a concussion at a Dropkick Murphys show a couple years back but that happened during spring break and I was back in class the week after. I'm riddled with stupid injuries from various shit, like tendonitis in my shoulder and a nerve problem in my back that flares up at shows, but nothing nearly as serious or as shitty as this concussion.
D: There are other stories about people getting hurt at shows and then suing the venue, which I assume you have no intention of doing. What would you say to someone like that kid in California who got damage at a Pour Habit show and is suing the venue?
J: I don't know the details, so I don't want to feel like a dick talking out of my ass, but if it was a situation like mine then it's just a bullshit lawsuit. Boston has laws against slam dancing, House of Blues let it happen, and I got hurt. That's an easy lawsuit right there, but it's also a fucking stupid lawsuit to pursue.
I want to slam dance and collide with people, it's fun. People choose to go in there and we do it because we like it. We all know that slamming into other people has risks. But if you're going to sue, get the fuck out. Just keep away from people who are slamming, I've never been to a show where it's impossible to get away from that.
D: How did the Boston Herald get in touch with you?
J: My brother showed me the initial article about Boston cracking down on slam dancing and I contacted David Wedge, the author of that article, with my story. I asked him to give people my perspective and he immediately emailed me back so we could do a phone interview. My injury wasn't reported to House of Blues or the Boston Police, so I guess they didn't even know someone got hurt there until that article came out. The crackdown really had absolutely nothing to do with me, it's just funny timing that it started at the same show.
D: I'm sure the Boston Herald just took a portion of what you said and printed that, so is there any full unabridged message you'd like to say to the city of Boston regarding this new enforcement?
J: There were a couple of things I wanted to stress that David Wedge left out. First off, the House of Blues staff never lets shit get out of hand. Seriously, it's the House of Blues and they got security right there in the crowd. What the fuck do the police expect to happen there? I've never seen a show get anywhere close to rowdy no matter how full, how tightly packed, or how obnoxious the people are. It's an all ages venues and it's legitimately safe for all ages. If they're gonna start cracking down then they definitely chose the dumbest place to start.
Second off, they have to be stupid if they think this is going to do anything positive for Boston. They're not going to stop people from slam dancing, moshing, or whatever the hell they're scared of. We want to be there. We choose to spend our money on a ticket and then walk right into that pit of people slamming their bodies into each other. So if we can't do it in Boston then we're just gonna do it somewhere else. No one is being saved by this, Boston is just asking people to stop pumping money into their clubs.
D: So what kind of dancing was going on exactly, because I feel like there's a big difference, and the Boston Herald article didn't clarify this, between the type of slamdancing you'd expect to see at a House of Blues show, and the fists flailing type of moshing that you'd see at a tough-guy hardcore show for a band like Blood for Blood, never mind shit like spin-kicking.
J: It was the usual type of slamdancing that always happens at the House of Blues. No fists or feet or elbows flying or anything that was actually violent. Probably a bit tamer than some shows can get there because security did try to keep the slamdancing down a little bit.
D: So do you see this resulting in bands (specifically ones with a relative level of popularity) just booking more shows in places like Cambridge, Worcester, Providence, etc?
J: They were trying to enforce it at the Flogging Molly show but they didn't try all that hard. So I have no idea how much effort they're going to put into it. The Herald said they were fining venues, and hitting clubs in the wallet will definitely get their attention. I have no idea how hard they'll enforce it or what will happen if clubs don't.
I definitely hope that bands and fans alike avoid playing in the city if it's fully enforced, at least any venue that cops will be watching. Hopefully basements stay safe even if clubs get fucked. I hate to see people avoid Boston but Boston could deserve it.
D: I can tell you it's not being enforced at the small clubs that I've been to recently. I went to a show on St. Patrick's Day, and there was lots of slam dancing, yet no one from the club telling everyone to stop, and also no one getting hurt. The one person who got way too aggressive, seemed to be a local college drunk in all green celebrating the holiday, rather than someone who goes to punk shows, and he was thrown out by the staff after being warned to cool it down and refusing. The actions they took resulted in people being able to dance, yet making sure no one got knocked out by a violent drunk, I think that's a good model to go by for the smaller clubs.
J: That's exactly how I think it should be handled. Let the venues decide how much they're willing to tolerate. I feel like most venues that are willing to host aggressive shows understand what they're getting.
D: At the same time, shouldn't the club be held responsible from a legal perspective, if that venue hadn't kicked that person out and people got their skulls smashed from him?
J: Probably. I assume that's how everywhere else does it, venues can allow moshing if they want, but the legal shit is on them if it leads to problems.
D: Have you been back to the House of Blues or any other larger clubs since the initial incident? Did they enforce the policy?
J: Nah, I haven't been back into any big Boston clubs since then. I had to lay low for a while and I'm still not really sure I feel like going back into a pit until my head is back to normal.
D: When did you join :Satch:?
J: Depends on how you look at it. I think I became the singer for :Satch: in spring of 2011, but even before that, they were all my friends and I was writing some stupidly awful lyrics for them. I never considered myself part of the band at that point but Tipp (the guitarist) said he pretty much always counted me as a member.
D: Had you sung in any bands before this?
J: Not at all. I'm not a singer, I'm the drunk guy with the microphone.
D: So who is doing what in the band now? The last time I saw :Satch: was as a three piece, right before you joined.
J: Hitman is our drummer, Tipp is the guitarist, and Solomon is the bassist. Same guys as always but with me added.
D: Why is the name spelt between colons?
J: I think it started out as like a joke about colons, like the part of an ass. I'm sure I've been told the story but my fucking memory has gone to shit between head injuries and narcotics.
D: How would you describe your music and stage performance to someone unfamiliar with the band?
J: It's like getting drunk, doing speed, and then fucking a stranger in the ass while his girlfriend tries to break down his door. I don't know a better way to describe it. It's fast, raw hardcore punk written by 4 assholes who are bored in general and bored with everyone else. We're not a political band with messages about anything, and we're not a group of artists getting together to play, just fun loving punks showing our balls and hoping someone has as much fun as we do.
D: I've always thought of the band as the Ramones on speed, because it's that same 1-2-3-4, break into song, 1-2-3-4, break right into next song routine. But it's also played so much faster, and the guitarist is running all over the place, and you're right, there's no message or politics to it at all. It reminds me a lot of what early 80s hardcore bands were doing in LA like Fear or The Germs, before hardcore had become so machismo and metal based.
J: Yeah, that's the sort of shit that we draw from.
D: Are there any plans for a new release?
J: Planning isn't really part of our process so no one really knows for sure. There's a chance we're going into the studio for something shortly. It'd be nice to get our new stuff recorded and get all our shit together on a single disc.
D: Did that ten songs in seven minutes recording you did ever get a physical release? I remember seeing a picture of artwork for it, I think it was something like a shower drained by lice-infected pubic hair.
J: It got as much of a release as anything we ever do, which is to say we burned copies then handed them out for free. That picture never got included but I don't think it was even made at the same time. If people want it, it's called the Crabs by Association EP, and it's available for free download at www.mediafire.com/?1lol3hsrvb648. Our follow-up demo is also free online, but I have no idea where that is. We just opened up a Bandcamp page (rubmysatch.bandcamp.com) so everything should be up there soon.
D: In addition to hurting yourself in the audience, don't you hurt yourself on stage, by doing things like slamming your head into the microphone? I've seen pictures from :Satch: shows where you look pretty bruised.
J: Oh yeah, although I gotta stop that for a while, it's something I just do when I'm really fucking into it. I'll do it when the crowd is too small or isn't really that into it and there is nothing to play off of but myself. I've also slammed my head into a door just getting pumped up, and I've made my chest bleed from a mic stand. I can't explain it. Same reason why I go around slamming my body into people, I guess. Maybe I just do it because I'm too dumb, drunk, and indifferent to do anything better.
D: Have you played any shows outside of New England, and do you have any plans to tour?
J: No, and I wouldn't count on it any time soon. We're so fucking poor to begin with and everyone else has other commitments that get in the way. Who knows for sure though? I'd love to go on tour, that'd be a great fucking time. We'll play anywhere for any reason, if we can, so maybe some time.
D: At this point, where's the farthest out you've played a show?
J: We've mostly just been playing greater Boston shows, like we just played at the Starlab in Somerville. Besides the immediate Boston area, I've only played with the band in Worcester and Lowell.
D: How is Lowell these days? I've heard it described as the college and then a slew of bad areas?
J: It's hard to describe it differently than you did but that's such an understatement. There's such a range of shit that doesn't seem to happen in most places. Just the mixing of college kids, the honest working class, and gang members from a million different cultural and ethnic backgrounds makes the city weird and oddly amusing. Definitely
a lot of bad areas and I sure as fuck wouldn't feel too safe getting lost here, but :Satch: was born in Lowell and I call the city home right now so I can't be too harsh.
D: That's funny you'd say that about Lowell, an old roommate of mine described Fitchburg (another Massachusetts city with a State University) as a bad mix between drunk College kids and local poverty. I think it's the same thing though, there are decent people and decent things that get overlooked for the crime.
J: Yeah, I've heard a lot of people describe Fitchburg the same way. Maybe that's why :Satch: was so well received and played their first couple shows there.
D: Why weren't the first shows in Lowell?
J: No idea, really. I wasn't involved with any booking at that point. I think it was a case of just playing the first places people offered. But those Fitchburg shows were good and well received, so fuck it, we're not too worried about where we're playing as long as we get to play.
D: Where can someone get in touch with you if they want to book you for a show?
J: Go to our Facebook page, facebook.com/pee.eye.ass.