Interview with Ned Russin (Title Fight, Disengage, Stick Together, Big Contest etc.), in this dialogue we are discussing about the legendary Youth of Today. (Interview originally released in Chiller Than Most fanzine, issue 3.) Pics by Chris Schneider, Kathleen KT Tobin, Chris Dailey, Tim McMahon, Ned Russin, Know Your Enemy fanzine.
Chiller Than Most: I couldn’t stop myself smiling ear to ear when I first discovered Youth Of Today. Youth Of Today is a perfect band, the HARDCORE band that changed my life, the band that left a huge impact on my world view. How was your first time meeting Youth Of Today? Was it a love at first sight?
Ned: When I was about 13 or so, my older brother, Alex, knew some people who worked at Rev HQ. Now at this time iTunes and iPods were really taking off and illegally downloading music was starting to get harder. Alex got a bunch of CDs for $1 a piece or something and it was just the hits. Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits, Supertouch, and a lot more I can’t think of. I was already into hardcore but not immersed in the bands or culture yet. I listened to the ’97 version of “Break Down The Walls” and enjoyed it, but it wasn’t love at first sight. It took a lot of time revisiting the record and really evaluating the lyrics until I realized just how great Youth of Today really was. By the time I was 17 or 18 they had become my favorite band, and honestly my appreciation has only grown since then.
Chiller Than Most: I think Cappo could be described as a guy having some sort of messiah complex and if we flip open the hardcore history books, we can state that nobody else had single handedly such a huge impact on the scene. He had an unusual talent to make changes in the scene, his messages did not get lost, because due to the impact of YOT straight edge started a world wide campaign and later thanks to the song “No More” thousands became vegetarian, and once he became a krsna follower hundreds followed. How do you evaluate the work of YOT?
Ned: I think you’re pretty spot on with that. There were important and influential bands up until that point, but I don’t think any band had the impact that they did. I love it the story were oldheads told them they could never get straight edge to catch on in NYC and after coming home from a tour everyone was X’d up. I think that really shows their power. At the time I think Ray was a really interesting character. Hardcore was very much an aggressive style, and I think Ray brought a lot of intelligence to the genre. He wrote extremely philosophical lyrics and his banter was just as thought provoking yet relatable. I think as he grew older he definitely honed these skills more which in turn gave him the ability to get more people into his interests such as vegetarianism and Krishna consciousness.
Chiller Than Most: I am not mistaken everyone has their favorite era/line up of Youth Of Today. What was the best Youth Of Today line up?
Ned: This is a hard question. I guess I have a couple I could narrow it down to but I could never pick just one. I think the Tommy Carrol, Craig Ahead lineup is amazing. I don’t know of Youth of Today is supposed to be that fast, but it sounds so fucking crazy. I guess my other pick would be the ’87 tour lineup — Ray, Porcell, Richie B, Walter, and Mike. The rhythm guitar really adds a lot, even if it’s only aesthetically. And just hearing various live sets you can tell the lineup was really dialed in from playing so much.
Chiller Than Most: Youtube spoils us with awesome footages of Youth Of Today live sets from the late 80s are just a click away. I have seen lots of awesome Youth Of today sets on video and I have lots of faves. So much energy, rawness, insane crowd actions but what would be the best over all YOT video you’ve ever seen?
Ned: Again, I don’t think I could nail it down to one. My favorites are probably the video featuring Tommy and Craig at CB’s and the recent vid of a California show in February ’87. The former is the only proof I’ve seen of that lineup and is just incredible. Aggro Ray, Funky Craig, Crazy Tommy, and Crucial Porcell. Their stage presence is enough to do damage. The latter is great because I think it’s the beginning of the transformation of the band becoming a true power house. They are tight, they have a lot to say, and there are hundreds of kids being responsive. I think it has a lot to do with just the quality being good as well.
Chiller Than Most: The No More video. One of the most interesting things for me about it is that everybody except Walter are wearing hardcore shirts. As far as I know, hours before the shoot the members of the band were passing time throwing ice cream and splashing chocolate syrup on each other. When it was time for the shoot, everybody changed chlotes, some had a change of clothes, some had to ask for spare clothing from others but Walter was left with what he is wearing in the video. What is the most interesting thing about the video?
Ned: Just the fact the video was made is interesting enough to me. Caroline was a substantial Indie label and it was at a time when music had the capability to break into mainstream. While this video and song in particular was certainly never going to get any MTV play because of content, it’s wild that they tried it. I talked to Walter about it and he said Dan Nichols, producer of “Break Down The Walls”, filmed the video for them.
Chiller Than Most: The Cappo-Porcell-Walter-Mike lineup only released two songs (Understand and Together). What do you think about these songs? I heard that Cappo is not a huge fan of the song Together, as the pace was mid tempo and it was copying bands like Cro-Mags and Bad Brains. Thus he felt that he could not sing it so well.
Ned: I love these songs. I can sympathize with any band member not feeling a song because when you revisit music even a year or two after writing, it sometimes loses its initial appeal. “Together” in particular though is one of my favorite songs, and I don’t see why he would feel that way.
Chiller Than Most: We can hear essential and basic differences between the versions of Can’t Close My Eyes. I mean that the overall guitar sound is totally different on the 7 inch version, it is really thin sounding but I really like this raw version too. What is your opinion about this? What do you think about the “rap intro” part of “I have faith” on the 12 inch version?
Ned: I’d like to start off by saying I totally back the rap intro. As far as my favorite version, it’s easy to say the original version is the best, but I feel that this recording really benefitted from being remixed down the line. The initial mix is raw, but not along the lines of Don Fury-esque raw. It’s more like cheap recording raw. But with some studio magic down the line it really helped make the recording more audible while maintaining the aggressiveness that was its original intent.
Ned: I am actually in the process of writing an article about this. I’ve been solely listening to the Wishingwell press for close to 5 years now and was really used to it, but now that I revisited the other mixes, I realized they’re really not as bad I thought they were. Well the first Rev mix is pretty sloppy, but the ’97 mix is sonically the best by far. You can tell through the different mixes they were trying to clean it up rather than having a raw sound, and that mix realizes that vision. However if I had to pick one, I’d probably still go with Wishingwell just because it’s what I’m most comfortable with.
Chiller Than Most: What is your favourite version of We’re Not In This Alone? Which one is the perfect sound for you? Why?
Ned: This is a record that I don’t understand all of the remixes. I asked Walter about it and he explained that they did a second mix just because Raybeez’s backups were too loud. I don’t think the second mix or later Rev mix is all that much better. The recording probably suffered the same fate as all other Chung King projects of the time were they had a shitty engineer who didn’t care about the project, so you can’t really clean up something that doesn’t have the capability to be cleaned. On appearance alone I’ll go with the Caroline press just because I like the layout the best.
Chiller Than Most: When Double Cross webzine asked this question “What was the worst part of being in Youth Of Today?” to Craig Setari he responded this: “…the worst part was the jock hazing they gave me because I was the kid from Queens without the right sneakers.” Drug Free Youth tees, X rated Swatch, Varsity jackets, Jordans. Does it surprise you that the fashion youth crew bands made popular in the late 80’s are still popular in 2014?
Ned: It doesn’t surprise me but I think that Youth of Today isn’t as responsible as people would have you think. Porcell wore a varsity jacket and an X watch and Ray wore 1’s in some pictures, but they weren’t the fashionistas of the scene. Look at pictures and Al Brown or any of the Bold guys circa 1988 were way more suave looking. Ray was wearing no shirt and wind pants and shaved his side burns off. I will credit Youth of a Today with suburbanizing hardcore which probably led to this, but the fashion sense was definitely furthered by others.
Chiller Than Most: How important is the bass on a hardcore record? A lot of people think Craig Setari plays amazing on Break Down The Walls. Without his fills and stuff in there that record wouldn’t be what it is.
Ned: Let’s be honest, bass is the least important instrument in general. That’s why on the Side by Side demo the bass is completely out of tune and it doesn’t matter. For bass to stand out, especially on a hardcore record, it needs to be spectacular. Craig is a really great player because he understands when to hold it down and when to go off. Some people will have you think that having a bass solo over a record is good, but really that’s just annoying. You need to find the right balance while playing the right fills, and that’s why Craig is regarded as one of the greats.
Chiller Than Most: Self titled 7 inch. In my opinion this is a way underrated record. Here is when the band truly shines and the songwriting is awe-inspiring, the lyrics are definitely one of their best they ever wrote. I would have loved to hear another full length come out from Youth Of Today, in the vein of this last 7 inch. Or had they done another LP it would have just been as Shelter basically? What do you think about this posthumous final three song EP?
Ned: This is my least favorite Youth of Today record. Not taking away from its song writing or lyrics because they are both good, probably even great, but it’s just not what I loved about Youth of Today. I will never get down on a band for progressing in any direction because I think that’s more important than repeating a perfected process and making it stale, but in comparison to their other output it just doesn’t compare for me.
Ned: I picked Disengage because I love Youth of Today and my goals for the band were the same — start a straight edge band that was made as an homage to early NYHC. I really do like the lyrics to Disengage and I think it makes sense for the band. What the band stands for and what the song talks about is not taking part in society’s bullshit. I think that’s an easy message to get behind. I know I just said it’s my least favorite Youth of Today record, but I couldn’t name the band Break Down The a Walls or something. Disengage is a little more subtle.
Chiller Than Most: You are the editor of the awesome hardcore fanzine called Constant Constraint. The backcover of the second issue is one of the best backcovers I have ever seen. Do you have various YOT memorabilia?
Ned: Thank you. I do collect Youth of Today stuff. I’d like to think I have a pretty strong shirt and record collection. Beside that though the band didn’t make too much stuff. I have two posters and have been trying to track down the official fanzine, but that’s really all you can get from them.