Can anyone share RITES interview experience
Thirty years later
SOULSIDE was founded in 1986 in Washington, DC. Bobby Sullivan (vocals), Scott McCloud (guitar), Chris Thomson (bass) and Alexis Fleisig (drums) had previously played in the same line-up as LÜNCH MEAT. The debut album was released in 1987, Thomson switched to IGNITION, Johnny Temple came on for him. SOULSIDE recorded two more albums and a single before splitting up in 1989 after a European tour. Temple, McCloud and Fleisig founded GIRLS AGAINST BOYS - with Eli Janney, who had produced all SOULSIDE records. In the fall, SOULSIDE, who have performed sporadically in recent years, will be playing a European tour again, while the live album “Live from Rome 1989” will be released on Antena Krzyku. Scott McCloud answered my questions.
First question: why? We had an article in the last issue of Ox that discussed the "sweet poison of nostalgia" of band reunions.
For SOULSIDE the main reason is friendship. Not only within the band, but also with people we have known since 1989 and with whom we are still in contact. The tour that we made in Europe in 1989 really made a lasting impression on us. SOULSIDE has never been so popular that a reunion would be a big win. Accordingly, these shows are inexpensive. But on the nostalgia issue, I think I could take both positions. I remember WIRE making an interesting statement when they reunited in 1987. At that time they only played new material and brought a support band with them that covered their old songs. I liked this idea because it was so bold. But I also liked the EP “Snakedrill” and the album “The Ideal Copy” back then, so their performances weren't a disappointment for me, but I can understand how some visitors were wondering what this was all about. And who says that music that was made years ago doesn't still define you? In addition, we are not on the road with SOULSIDE to promote a new album. I also find it interesting that punk in particular seems to have a slightly different relationship to the idea of nostalgia than, say, classic rock, which probably became a completely nostalgic form of music as early as the mid-80s. Nobody wants to hear the new ROLLING STONES material. You don't go to the Stones to hear "Anybody seen my Baby?" Their albums after “Tattoo You” or even earlier were clearly just marketing tools. The entire stadium wants to experience a nostalgic Disneyland-type experience. It's all normal in rock. But with punk we have higher expectations. Punk has always been kind of nostalgic, romanticizing that moment of "rebellion", if you can call it that. But then again it is probably only capitalism that leads us to consume the past again and again. But back to SOULSIDE: We don't think about any of that much. We are friends who share a common experience. We're getting older, so now was the time to play again - if not now, when? We only do it because we have fun and because we have the chance to tell the story of our band.
Who is playing in SOULSIDE 2019?
All founding members, we've been friends since 1984.
What is the scope of this reunion beyond the short tour of Europe this fall?
I don't know But it will probably be the last time that SOULSIDE will play. We have already played a few shows in the USA in the recent past, around the film "Salad Days". We talk about making new music, maybe something will come of it.
In the 1989 Ox interview, Alexis announced the breakup of SOULSIDE, and Johnny said you had grown apart and that he was fed up with hardcore. Well, 30 years later ...
Yeah, it's kind of funny in retrospect, but to put that into context, remember that we were very young in 1989, 21, 22. We had been on a two month tour of the states before we did the three month tour of Europe began, and right at the beginning we had a kind of band meeting in Amsterdam, where we had agreed to do the European tour, then record one last album and end SOULSIDE. And to contextualize this further, most of the shows we played in the US were all-ages shows and that was mostly 14-17 year olds. Sometimes we had to sleep in sleeping bags in the home of the organizers' parents. Which is all right, but in the long run it gets exhausting and a little strange when you're in your early 20s. Plus it was the 80s, a lot of punk bands only played a few dozen shows before they broke up. But SOULSIDE had existed for four or five years and played hundreds of shows, what felt like an eternity at our young age.
How did it all start with SOULSIDE?
We all attended Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, DC and started LUNCH MEAT in our senior year 1984. I had listened to Classic Rock, AC / DC, Ozzy, etc. by then, but had enough of them. I knew how to play the guitar, had lessons, and I remember meeting Bobby Sullivan and Chris Thomson at the 1984 school year opening meeting. They were the only punk kids I knew at school, and I asked them if they wanted to start a band. I also said, “Hey, Alexis can play the drums.” Alexis was also kind of a “cool kid” in school, which back then meant wearing used army jackets and being good at video games. And he was a great drummer. It was also Bobby and Chris who introduced me to the DC punk scene in 1984. The first show Bobby took me to was from SCREAM in the old 9:30 club. I was amazed that bands with their own music found an audience, because most of the kids played songs from LED ZEPPELIN and so on with their bands. So I was immediately excited. Bobby's older brother Mark had been in punk bands and knew Ian MacKaye so when we started rehearsing and doing a few shows we went to Dischord House and talked to Ian. He was always very nice to us. Gradually the band got better, we played support shows in DC Space and elsewhere, including with RITES OF SPRING. Then we finished school and we all went to college. During the holidays we changed the band name to SOULSIDE. We did a 7 ”and an LP on Sammich Records, Amanda MacKaye's label, before we ended up with Dischord in 1987. We recorded “Trigger” in December 1987, which was SOULSIDE's first album on Dischord.
How was the DC scene back then? Some documentaries give the impression that the '80s were something of a hardcore wonderland in Washington.
It wasn't a hardcore wonderland. I remember the scene was really small. There were only two "normal" venues, the little DC Space and the old 9:30 Club on F Street, which could fit around 350 people, but sometimes 500. But there were other places too, the basements of community centers and benefit shows organized by Positive Force DC. If you played in DC Space, there would be a maximum of 200 people. But everyone who was there, the whole audience, consisted of people from bands, or artists, photographers who filmed and documented. It was really an artist scene. I think that's partly why there's so much nostalgia involved. And it was also the declared idea of Ian and Jeff Nelson from Dischord to document bands instead of being a "normal" record label. Jeff Nelson's artwork was central. Every Dischord publication was art, really. Those shows back then were only important to a small community of people back then. At the time, we had the feeling that it was a comprehensive alternative not only in terms of music, but also in terms of the way the albums were produced. And that's what “indie” means to me to this day: it's not a sound, it's a question of an alternative approach. So we often “assembled” the releases ourselves, put the text sheets into the vinyl covers, and so on.
That was long before the internet. And it seems that by the time people in Germany finally found out about all these great bands and releases, mainly on Dischord, many of these bands had already disbanded. Or their music had changed from what had made it to Europe on vinyl. A lot of bands back then developed quickly, changing their style a lot within a year or two. How did you experience that back then?
Yes, the bands in DC had a tendency to split up after a year. Or they broke up and formed in an incestuous way with members of other bands to form new bands. Back then there were a few band flat shares in DC with huge collections of records. And that was a mostly male scene until FIRE PARTY came along, another great band - made up of women. RITES OF SPRING, for example, only played a few dozen shows in total, only one outside of DC, in Detroit, as support for SONIC YOUTH. I can imagine what it must have been like in Europe to discover a new cool band, only to find out that it had already broken up when you finally held the LP in your hands. But the people in DC didn't really care about the world outside of their little scene. Or maybe they did, some at least? It was like that until the beginning of the 90s, until NIRVANA. Then the bands really started touring. But SOULSIDE went on tour a lot in the 80s. Like MINOR THREAT long before and FUGAZI a little later, but also SCREAM, DAG NASTY and a few others. And of course it was these bands, our friends, through whom we found access to the “punk circle” back then.
I have to ask the "emo question" again, just like in the 1989 Ox interview. So what was that "emocore" back then, who invented it and why did it stick to so many bands from that time?
I think that hardcore was kind of macho until the mid-80s, as it was a predominantly young, youthful male scene with fast and loud music. The music made teenagers experience a testosterone surge that sometimes ultimately led to violence. The first time I heard the term “emo” in the context of RITES OF SPRING, the important thing about them was that they were still mostly young male audiences, but it wasn't about being macho, it was about feelings that young people have. Just plain, honest stuff. The first love. First sexual experiences. Even some romance. So this found favor with a mostly young male audience, but also with women, I believe. It's kind of amazing how much music came out of DC. There was MINOR THREAT, which basically defined what hardcore is and thus inspired legions of other bands. Then there was RITES OF SPRING, which just a few years later, after very few shows, defined emo and had dozens of imitators. Perhaps, as Ian MacKaye puts it in Salad Days, DC was the perfect place to start something new, because nobody was watching what we were doing.
In the Ox-Interview from 1989 Alexis also said that by now you would play a more “funky” sound, less punk, because you have become better musicians by now. Was that the beginning of GIRLS AGAINST BOYS?
This is funny. Sounds like he was just trying to describe that SOULSIDE weren't exactly a traditional hardcore band. And we really weren't. When we were on tour with YOUTH OF TODAY or something like that, people were always kind of confused about us. They were nice to us, but they didn't understand what we were doing. But I wouldn't describe it as "funky". SOULSIDE just weren't really a hardcore band. Just listen to “Hot-Bodi Gram” again.
Finally: what about GIRLS AGAINST BOYS?
That's a long story too. Let's leave GVSB out of the game for now, okay? We can talk about it another time.
© by Ox-Fanzine - Issue # 145 August / September 2019 and Joachim Hiller
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