By John John Jesse

The 1980’s were a tense time in America, Ronald Reagan was president, nuclear war was on everyone’s mind and racism was running rampant in the suburbs and the big city streets. The music was overshadowed with the then “new” MTV, cheese metal and complete apathy. The youth in America were consumed with total bullshit and were consuming all the appropriate products of bullshit. The Lower East Side of New York City was still a ghetto of some sorts, providing a home for struggling artists, musicians, activists, squatters, junkies and the generally poor Latino, African-American and Ukrainian community that had already existed there. Here, the backdrop of our story begins.

Angst-ridden and young, the Punk/Hardcore music scene at that time was the perfect home for my attitudes and beliefs. Decked out with spiked hair, a studded jacket and combat boots and listening to equal parts of Discharge, Black Sabbath, Crass and the Amebix, music was the only real release I knew. There was so much to say and so much music to play! Living in squats and on people’s couches, dozens of ideas raced through my head about getting some kind of music (or lack of) project together. I sort of played bass at the time and had been jamming out in basements and 8 dollars an hour studios with a drummer from Virginia named Brian Patton. Brian was not as obsessed with punk rock as I was and sort of just filled the void for the time being. Did I mention that Brian was the great-grandson of General Patton? No bullshit!

Months later while sitting on a stoop on St. Marks Place (when you still could!) drinking beer and killing endless time, we met a sarcastic English punk rocker named Neil. After talking over drinks about music, politics and whatever, he expressed a lot of interest in checking out our music. We didn’t have a singer/shouter, guitarist or a band name at that point so we asked him if he’d be at all interested. Saying yes, we were blown away. It didn’t matter if he could sing or not, because we could care less at the time. We just wanted something to begin with. We needed an outlet, desperately! I must be honest, the first few rehearsals were at best….horrendous and we also had no guitar player. You must understand that in 1985, in NYC, there were a lot of punks, but not really any punk bands! Strange. We needed someone who could play guitar well and whip us into shape. Enter Victor…

Known at the time as Vic Venom (he got that name from the “Venom” pentagram painted on the back of his leather jacket), we already knew him and knew he was an amazing guitarist. Vic was actually playing bass in Reagan Youth (Dave Insurgent-R.I.P.) when we were hanging out with him and before that, was also the guitarist for New York’s Sacrilege (whom I loved) and Hellbent. The later two bands both fused punk and metal, which at the time was a no-no! Vic loved a lot of the same music we did and shared many of the same political views. Vic was our perfect candidate. With Vic, we made our sound happen, but soon after that Brian left. As I said before, Brian wasn’t really that into the “punk scene” so when we got serious, he got packing.

Crass (UK), a super-influential, passionately political punk band from the very late 70’s and early 80’s, had a major impact on us. Though their music was not as heavy as ours, their message was very similar (anti-war, animal rights, pro-feminism, anti-racism and class war anarchy). They had two vocalists of the “opposite” sex, so I thought it would add an extra dimension to our fast and heavy sound if we did the same.

Amy was already a friend and was totally into the same stuff we were, but she was tougher than all of us! I really didn’t know what the hell she would say when Vic and myself approached her about the band, but she was into it. Adding a new side to our sound and an amazing presence, Amy just rocked !

Now armed with two “singers” and a new drummer Pablo Jacobson, we gigged all over the East Village and the Tri-state area with bands like Agnostic Front, the Bad Brains, Prong, Ludichrist, Leeway, Reagan Youth, APPLE and Absolution. There was a Hardcore scene that was huge, but there really wasn’t a punk rock scene with a lot of bands of our genre. Our good friend and roadie at the time, Ralphy Boy solved that problem! Starting “Squat or Rot”, his very own DIY record label and punk concert promotions. Squat or Rot was a small organization that put out a few very cool punk compilation 7” records and put on (sometimes huge!) punk concerts, festivals and punk picnics. These events took place at various squats, clubs, vacant lots and parks. Very shortly after that, the punk community blossomed like you wouldn’t believe! Bands and kids just suddenly sprouted out of nowhere (Long Island and New Jersey, I believe!). This time was 1988 and the turmoil on the streets were “gentrification” and the very ill and very publicized,” Tompkins Square Riots.” The riots were on the news worldwide and showed riot cops, withtheir badge numbers covered with tape, beating the crap out of punks and innocent bystanders alike. For that short period of time, the neighborhood had UNITY! Something that was usually only dreamed of here.

After a few years and many beers, we parted ways with Neil. Neil went on to form his other groups, “Jesus Crust” (with Ralphy) and “Final Warning”. He also started his own punk/crust record label, “Tribal War Records”. A band called “Misery” from Minneapolis had played the Squat or Rot shows during the summer of the riot. We quickly became friends with them and their vocalist Al and hung out with them constantly that summer. We kept in good contact with them, so when Neil was gone, Al quickly relocated to NYC and joined us. Pablo had been long gone and Jimmy Williams (another drummer and also vocalist for NY’s Maximum Penalty) had just left, so now we had a brand new singer and no drummer

During our trips to Philadelphia and Allentown we met this very friendly drummer with a tall Mohawk named Roy Mayorga. We called him “Roy Boy”. He was a friend and fan so when word was out that we were drummerless, a friend gave Roy a call. Immediately Roy filled the gap and brought our sound to dynamic new levels of intensity and heaviness. Finally we found someone who could share in the song writing duties, along with me and Victor. With this final lineup, we rehearsed hard and developed a sound that was now equal parts: Discharge, Crass, Black Sabbath, Slayer and Pink Floyd (does that make sense? Yes it did!).

Friend and “Profane Existence”, label and fanzine founder, Dan Siskind put out the Nausea record in 1990 on vinyl, titled “Extinction” (which included a gatefold sleeve, lyric poster, “crane-reaper” poster and patch!!!). The record was also released in Europe, through “Meantime Records (UK)”. Profane Existence was a DIY political punk label who also put out an outwardly political ‘zine with a lot of commentary and “punk/grind/crust” band interviews. To coincide with the record release, we embarked on a month long European tour. The tour was a success and we got to headline with many amazing European bands and also open for the legendary, “D.O.A.” The album was doing very well too and to this day, remains the number one selling album from Profane.

In Europe, the atmosphere was extremely political (especially in Berlin during May Day!), so we felt unity and friendship right away from all the local punk/hardcore community. The interviews we did were filled with intense questions on our political stance, that at times, I was even left speechless. The shows we played over seas were packed and were sometimes held in these grand marble buildings they called “squats’!!! Boy, did NYC have a lot to learn! We had the opportunity to play concerts in all the usual countries like Holland, Germany, Austria, Norway, Denmark and also the Eastern parts of Europe like Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary.

During 1990 and 1991, we recorded the ultra-heavy, super-dirgey, “Cybergod” single on Allied Records, did numerous compilation tracks for Maximum Rock and Roll, Allied, and Vermiform and did a great tour of the west coast with a, great band from O.C. , California called Glycine Max. The both of us had the chance to play with so many bands we loved at the time like Neurosis, Final Conflict, Mindrot, and Asbestos Death. We then went on our second European tour for over two months and played incredibly packed gigs. We even did a couple of shows in Poland and Germany with our friends from New York, the Radicts! On that trip, we brought Dan Siskind, our tour promoter, and Jim Martin (roadie extraordinaire, former singer for Connecticut’s Malachi Crunch and now current vocalist for Broken). With them and the five of us in a single extended van, packed with equipment, you can imagine the vibe to be both fun and very tense! Sacrificing the final leg of the tour, we missed out on playing Barcelona, England, Ireland and Scotland (the UK part of the tour was with bands that we were obsessed with like Antisect, Oi Polloi, Extreme Noise Terror and Zygote!).

Upon our return, we recorded the “Lie Cycle” 7”single on Al’s “Graven Image Records” label and soon disbanded after that. Things usually end up that way, no matter how well you’ve gotten along in the past. Four of us even lived together for a short time!

But left behind is a small legacy of bands covering our songs on their records, countless t-shirt bootlegs and live CD bootlegs we have encountered. It still feels incredible knowing the impact and influence we’ve had on bands, fans and thinking in general. Even though we knew we were definitely entertainers (well we obviously knew no one would hear our message if we sucked!), our mission as punk activists were passionate and sincere.
The Struggle will always Continue!


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