Joe Nelson Podcast Part 2
Joe Nelson Podcast Part 2 up now grip it HERE
Joe Nelson Podcast Part 2 up now grip it HERE
RIP Adam Yauch
Photographs by Ryan Murphy
*this story appears in Live…Suburbia! since it has Beastie Boys and MCA content I thought it was worth sharing with you all.
I DON’T WANT YOUR SKULLS
By 1990, I was officially tired of skulls. This included drawing them and seeing them used for band logos and on the bottoms of skateboards. I took a seam-ripper to my Stussy hat and freed it of the tribal skull that was laughing at me for ever thinking he was scary. The sight of a skull conjured up muscle cars reeking of dirt weed, cliché punk bands, and aging pro skateboarders rolling back and forth in a bowl I’d never skate. Skulls had the same shock value as the flexing Bad Boy Club dude or a peace sign. I just didn’t give a shit or relate anymore.
Symbols have always been the markings of the suburban warrior. Inverted crosses, anarchy, swastikas, and the classic skull and crossbones were badges worn to show what you were affiliated with or sometimes just to piss off the regulars. Blood and gore were quickly becoming less cool as my teen years passed. The music I liked didn’t have anything to do with skulls; members of hardcore bands just looked like normal guys. The lack of vert-ramps in my town or almost anywhere in the Northeast made me a street skater by default. Natas, the Gonz, Matt Hensley, and other pioneers of street skating weren’t cut from the old vert-pro mold and they didn’t adorn their boards with skulls and dragons. H-Street, the entire World Industries family tree, and New Deal were new companies making graphics that were simple, bold, and sometimes of- fensive, but without the same visuals every company had beaten to death. Suddenly, my old Metallica shirt paired up with a pair of baggy jeans and yellow rubber Airwalk sneakers was ironic, not pathetic. I don’t even know where this sense of irony came from, but I woke up one day and thrift store shirts with iron-on transfers that said “#1 Dad” were what I wanted to show the world—not a curse word, blood splattered femur bone, or band logo. My wrists had once bordered on arthritic from trying to recreate the intense stippling of Pushead’s trademark illustrations. Now, my notebooks had simple recreations of Disney and Warner Brothers cartoon characters holding guns and smoking weed.
Skateboarding magazines were our only windows into the lifestyle of pro skaters and other kids around the world. Most importantly, magazines were our only glimpse into the mythical world of California, where people got paid to ride skateboards. After a week of study hall and detention, I could tell you how each pro laced his sneakers and what was written on their grip tape. Thrasher showed me what to listen to, how to dress, and even what to eat and drink. Ultimately, the choice was yours, but it was nice to have a road map. For instance, World Industries was
the first skateboard company to play the race card by making boards and t-shirts with graphics called the “napping negro” or simply showing white eyes and teeth on the bottom of a black board. World Industries and its sister companies had the most racially diverse roster of skateboarders and also the youngest. They were their own demographic; their ads were sub- versive, funny, and deceptively simple. You could get the joke or just laugh at how over the top they were. Either way, you reacted.
When I first got into skateboarding, Powell Peralta’s Bones Brigade were its clean-cut stars. Every kid knew who Tony Hawk was before they stepped on a skateboard, but as street skating became more popular, the younger stars broke away and joined younger companies or started their own. None of these companies used the skull-heavy imagery synonymous with Powell Peralta, and we all ate it up. To me, a Wade Speyer board with a knock-off Slayer graphic was more Slaytanic than the band itself. No one wanted to come home from the skate shop with some realistic graphic of a lion or some fucking flames anymore. The phone would ring and I’d answer to a snickering voice of a friend telling me about the graphic on his new board: sometimes it would be an anatomically incorrect naked girl drawn by a boy who had never actually seen a real naked girl, and other times it would be a special reworking of a corporate logo. There was even a Natas graphic depicting the Challenger explosion in a pop-art style that resonated with every kid who watched the shuttle failure live in school. It hit home even more in the Granite State in which I lived.
When one of the most iconic skateboarders of the 1980s, Mark Gonzales, broke away from the neon world of Vision to form Blind skate- boards under the World Industries blanket, it was apparent that something new was happening. The name was a stab at his former employer and the graphics and ads were loose, fun, and satirical. Some of Powell Peralta’s finest riders had defected to various World Industries companies and when a Blind ad making fun of Powell’s graphics was released in 1990, skateboarding changed forever, or at least in my head. How the fuck could you not want to wear a t-shirt of a skull holding a banana instead of a sword?
With that, our Rat Bones sweatpants collected mold at the bot- tom of our hampers as we searched every surplus store for ever-popular army fatigues. Shirts with giant skulls, serpents, and daggers screened in 10,000 colors rotted on the racks of the skate shops, while t-shirts with tiny graphics or even just words typed out in Helvetica were sold out before they even reached the shop. The balance had shifted and kids responded. The boys sick of skulls were slowly becoming men and looking for something new. The arrogance of youth is cruel, but telling. Noth-
ing felt better than showing up to a parking lot and seeing some kid who was weeks away from giving up skateboarding for a hacky sack, riding a waterlogged Sims deck in short shorts as he tried to one-up you with dated tricks seen on Skate TV. We were total pricks, but who the fuck isn’t at 16? Having a driver’s license and a little cash from an awful job gave me enough confidence to at least contemplate being a dick rather than taking a backseat.
At the time, there weren’t actual clothing brands for losers who rode skateboards, listened to loud music, or spray-painted words that you couldn’t read on walls. This meant you’d have to potluck your outfits together if you even gave a shit. Vision Street Wear was one of the only brands marketed directly to skateboarders, but it was also sold in bike shops, malls, and, later, closeout stores. Tacky ads showing girls you could never fuck in checkered berets instantly made them lame. And what the fuck was with everyone wearing sunglasses and shorts in the 1980s? We’d suffer humid summers in jeans to protect our shins and look human rather than project the douchey vibe of some washed-up bro. When World Industries began selling soft cotton copies of army pants under the moniker Ghetto Wear, it was a masterstroke. None of us lived in real ghettos, but the faux-tagger logo and actual look of the pants clicked. No one in real ghettos was wearing army pants either, I’m sure. It was a slow crawl, but actual clothing brands for skaters were emerging. It was no longer just t-shirts bearing company logos. You could now allocate your Doc Marten money to whole outfits that screamed America! much more than British shoes.
Skateboards were getting lighter and narrower, and World Industries detractors thought it was a conspiracy to make boards break easier and send you to the shop more frequently—a theory that gained steam when wheels suddenly shrunk to half their normal size for the same price. The reality was that no one was riding off launch ramps or worried about their board breaking anymore. These new boards were designed for the type of skateboarding that was happening on the pavement everywhere around the globe. Things were progressing so rapidly that it felt like board shapes, clothing and tricks were changing faster than could even be documented.
One by one, my friends and I ditched the tight-cuffed jeans and thin cargo pants and started showing up to skate spots wearing orange, brown, seafoam green, and red pants that were cut off at the bottom to obscure our shoes. T-shirts were double—or triple—extra large and draped on our bodies like hospital scrubs. We didn’t bend the brims of
our hats because it was funny and that was what athletes who wore Big Johnson shirts did. Our shoes were cut down, modified, colored, and duct- taped. We weren’t ravers; none of us had ever been to a rave. We weren’t taggers either; our graffiti careers were limited to bridges and the back of the grocery store. We were street skaters: a new breed of human who was simultaneously urban and suburban.
Suddenly, the average skateboarder wasn’t some kid who grew up on punk rock and metal and had given up expensive sports like BMX and snowboarding. Toyotas began to approach ledges and ditches blast- ing rap music that rattled trunks, and boys with gelled hair and braided belts would emerge. Anytown, New England didn’t have ramps, natural transitions, or even companies that would give you free skateboards, but
it had restless kids who didn’t give a shit about keg parties and the WWF. These new kids thought skulls were some “kill your parents devil shit” and dressed in Cross Colours and Starter jackets. They smoked real weed and didn’t like music with guitars. With every push, grind, and drag, Jason Jessee, Tex Gibson, and Kevin Harris seemed less cool.
Kids wanted bigger clothes, and it made sense to wear loose clothing when you were jumping around on a skateboard. This was the new way to stand out. It was easy to go to a big-and-tall store and get over- sized t-shirts, but finding pants that were big and didn’t taper was next to impossible. You could get pants that had a large waist size but you’d end up with this giant bunch of denim in front of your crotch that bulged out. One day, pants sized to fit skinny teenage boys with billowy stove-piped legs finally appeared on the racks at skate shops with shocking price tags. I had never even thought to buy jeans other than Levis at that point, but now there were these jeans made to offend for 50 dollars—which was outrageous in 1992. The choice was simple: you bought a pair of Blind jeans or Big Deals and you wore them ’til they walked away on their own. Sometimes you could save a few bucks by ordering from a catalog or ad
in the back of a skate mag. The trade-off was that you had no idea what would appear. It wasn’t easy to step out of a beat-up Buick wearing mint green pants, but that’s what arrived and they still looked better than some Bugle Boys. Some kids resisted this new trend and like bitchy old men, they’d bash us for being brainwashed and looking like clowns. We did
look fucking stupid, but they looked equally stupid in their tight, stained undershirts and old-school Vans high-tops that looked as long as canoes and hurt their feet. We didn’t care that they looked like Tom Knox in some Santa Cruz video that you never watched, so why should they care that we looked like a pack of crayons rolling around on popsicle sticks?
Before streetwear was a term and commodity, and back when men’s fashion magazines were just places to advertise suits and watches, no one on the newsstand looked like your friends unless Sassy needed some edgy guy to pose with a Punky Brewster-looking girl. Skateboard mags and videos subconsciously served as our lookbooks, and because this wasn’t a clever planned-out industry, it meant that we were probably three months behind the times. I remember my friend returning from a trip to San Francisco when we thought we were up on every skate trend, only to be told that no one even wore baggy clothing on the left coast.
It wasn’t until an innocent MTV House of Style segment featuring the Beastie Boys aired that things became “branded” as the post–2K world would say. Despite what your favorite music critic and rap blogger would tell you, no one gave a shit about the sample-heavy Paul’s Boutique when it was released. The disco-heavy “Shake Your Rump” seemed to be the nail in the Beastie Boys’ coffin. It was too ironic, too kitschy, and too close to the 1970s to resonate. The album came and went and the Beastie Boys were a footnote until Check Your Head was released in the spring of 1992. Kids didn’t respond to the actual music as much as they did to the impact it had. With its blend of punk, funk, rock, and rap, Check Your Head sounded like a mix tape more than a new Beastie Boys album. It made everyone stop wondering if MCA and Booger from Revenge of the Nerds were the same person. Most hardcore punk bands didn’t have a chance in hell of going platinum, but quickly, every frat boy whose first album was Licensed to Ill would be funneling to “So What Cha Want.” It was instant nostalgia and instant suburbia. They rapped wearing old ringer t-shirts, parkas, snowboarding boots, and vintage Adidas sneakers which would later be sold at the X-Large store. Everything was a slight nod to some subculture trivia down to the Bad Brains sample in “Pass the Mic.” They even covered one of the only Minor Threat songs with a mosh part for maximum confusion.
Everyone cringed as the squatting valley girl posed on a mini- ramp in the “Freefallin’” video, but when the Beastie Boys and Sonic Youth cut to clips of recognizable, respected skaters, it shared the same weight as Suicidal’s “Possessed To Skate.” The difference was that you didn’t need to stay up ’til the end of Headbangers Ball to see these videos, because they were in regular rotation on MTV. Heavy metal and hard rock were becoming clichés, and once the package tour Lollapalooza launched in 1991, boasting a mixed bill of alternative and rap bands, the deal was sealed. Rap and alternative music were rising and metal was sinking. The Beastie Boys benefited from sounding like virtually every band on the tour. While Nirvana garnered attention for “killing hair metal,” their music ultimately only inspired other bands. The Beastie Boys inspired entire genres by making hip hop white enough for suburbia yet having enough cred not to look like they were “acting like life is a big commercial.”
Instead of feeling pissed off that Jason Lee was 360 kickflipping on my television to Thurston Moore’s pseudo-rap cadence via Iggy Pop, I just thought there was a better chance for me to get laid. I was still public enemy number one in malls and parking lots, but now, in dorm rooms and college campuses, I was “cool,” or at least fuckable.
Up until the early 1990s, all you wanted was the most faded denim possible, but I was now getting the crispest bluest jeans possible from stores that sold Carhartt clothing for the proletariat, and scouring Salvation Army stores around the tristate area for Puma Clydes and old Air Jordan t-shirts. Like popular culture around me, I was intentionally all mixed up and it was OK. My t-shirt had a circle on it that looked like a target with the word FUCT in the middle, but it didn’t really matter. Soon enough I’d be in college, modestly mentioning that I saw Green Day in a small club before they made it big, just so I could touch a girl in Mary Janes and striped tights who really just had a crush on Trent Reznor anyway.
FINALLY IT’S HERE PART 2 soon……
I had the opportunity to sit down with Jason Farrell and discuss KISS, graphic design, and his body of work and what’s on the horizon including the Swiz boxset, Retisonic’s new album and some surprises. We’ll be putting the episode up on iTunes as well for subscribers. Thank you again for all the support.
IRATE NYHC featuring EK, Sergio, Tommy Carroll and Jerry Williams RIP. Plenty of talking points here…I don’t even know where to start but the sweats are a good beginning….
1.Discharge-Fight Back 7” EP, England 1980
2.S.S.Decontrol-Get It Away 12” EP, USA 1983
3.The Subhumans-Demolition War 7” EP, England 1981
4.Minor Threat-Filler 7” EP, USA 1981
5.Bad Brains-Roir Cassette, USA 1982
6.TSOL-Superficial Love 12” EP, USA 1981
7.Disorder-Complete Disorder 7” EP, England 1981
8.Rudimentary Peni-Rudimentay Peni 7” EP, England 1981
9.Jerry’s Kids-Is This My World LP, USA 1983
10.Anti-Sect-In Darkness There Is No Choice LP, England 1983
11.Gism-Detestation 12” EP, Japan 1983
12.Faith/Void-Split LP, USA 1983
13.DYS-Brotherhood LP, USA 1983
14.Cockney Rejects-Greatest Hits Vol. 1 LP, England 1981
15.Flex Your Head-Sampler LP, USA 1982
16.Sick of it All-Blood, Sweat, and No Tears LP, USA 1989
17.Necros-IQ32 7” EP, USA 1982
18.Adolescents-Adolescents LP, USA 1981
19.F.U.’s-Kill for Christ 12” EP, USA 1982
20.Antidote-Thou Shalt Not Kill 7” EP, USA 1983
21.GBH-Leather Bristles, Studs, & Acne 12” EP, England 1981
22.Channel 3-Manzanar 12” EP, USA 1981
23.Four Old 7” On a 12”-Compilation LP, USA 1984
24.This is Boston, Not LA-Sampler LP, USA 1981
25.Negative Approach-Negative Approach 7” EP, USA 1982
26.Poison Idea-Kings of Punk LP, USA 1986
27.Chaotic Dischord-Fuck the World 7” EP, England 1982
28.Scream-Still Screaming LP, USA 1982
29.SNFU-And No one Else Wanted to Play LP, Canada 1984
30.Fartz-Because This World Fucking Stinks 7” EP, USA 1981
31.Impact Unit-Impact Unit 7” EP, USA 1989
32.Process of Elimination-Sampler 7” EP, USA 1981
33.Anti-Cimex-Raped Ass 7” EP, Sweden 1983
34.CIA-God, Guts 7” EP, USA 1983
35.Youth Brigade-Sound and Fury LP, USA 1983
36.Chaos UK-Burning Britain 7” EP, England 1982
37.Cause for Alarm-Cause for Alarm 7” EP, USA 1983
38.Cro-Mags-Age of Quarrel LP, USA 1987
39.The Stalin-Political LP, Japan 1983
40.Circle Jerks-Group Sex LP, USA 1980
41.English Digs-To the Ends of the Earth 12” EP, England 1984
42.Crucifix-Dehumanized LP, USA 1983
43.China White-Danger Zone 12” EP, USA 1981
44.Batallion of Saints-Fighting Boys 12” EP, USA 1982
45.Negative FX-Negative FX LP, USA 1982
46.Anti-System-No Laughing Matter LP, England 1984
47.Black Flag-Jealous Again 12” EP, USA 1981
48.Social Distortion-Playpen 7” EP, USA 1981
49.instigators-No One Listens Anymore LP, England 1985
50.Neos-End All Discrimination 7” EP, Canada 1982
51.Misfits-Walk Among us LP, USA 1982
52.Shitlickers-Cracked Cop Skulls 7” EP, Sweden 1982
53.Terveet Kadet-Aareton Joulu 7” EP, Finland 1982
54.Prong-Force Fed LP, USA 1987
55.Outo-Many Question Poison Answer 7” EP, Japan 1983
56.The Fix-Jan’s Room 7” EP, USA 1981
57.The Insane-Politics 7” EP, Canada 1981
58.DOA-The Prisoner 7” EP, Canada 1980
59.Bad Religion-How Could Hell Be Any Worse LP, USA 1981
60.Agnostic Front-United Blood 7” EP, USA 1983
61.Meatmen-Blud Sausage 7” EP, USA 1982
62.Gauze-Fuckheads 12” EP, Japan 1983
63.Skeptix-So the Youth LP, England 1983
64.7 Seconds-Committed for Life 7” EP, USA 1983
65.Varukers-Varukers 7” EP, England 1981
66.Confuse-Nuclear Addicts Flexi 7” EP, Japan 1984
67.Abused-Loud and Clear 7” EP, USA 1982
68.Adrenalin O.D.-Wacky Hi Jinks of Adrenalin O.D. LP, USA 1984
69.BGK-Jonestown Aloha LP, Holland 1984
70.Straight Ahead-Breakaway 12” EP, USA 1987
71.Abrasive Wheels-Vicious Circle 7” EP, England 1981
72.Deep Wound-Deep Wound 7” EP, USA 1983
73.Sore Throat-Acid Rain 7” EP, USA 1987
74.Ignition-Sinker 7” EP, USA 1987
75.Mass Appeal-Mass Appeal 2xLP, Australia 1989
76.Sons of Ishmael-Hayseed Hardcore 7” EP, Canada 1985
77.Rattus-W.C. Rajahtaa LP, Finland 1982
78.Huvudtvatt-Extrem Punx 7” EP, Sweden 1981
79.Corrosion of Conformity-Eye For an Eye LP, USA 1984
80.Final Conflict-Ashes for Ashes LP, USA 1987
81.Underdog-Underdog 7” EP, USA 1986
82.Stupids-Violent Nun 7” EP, England 1985
83.Execute-Hardcore Temptation 7” EP, Japan 1983
84.Malinheads-Hoax 7” EP, Germany 1983
85.Die Kreuzen-Die Kreuzen-LP, USA 1984
86.76% Uncertain-Estimated Monkey Time LP, USA 1984
87.Agent Orange-Your Mother Sucks Cock in Hell 7” EP, Holland 1983
88.Partisans-Police Story 7” EP, England 1984
89.Final Warning-Final Warning 7” EP, USA 1984
90.Anthrax-Capitalism is Cannibalism 7” EP, England 1983
91.Stains-Stains LP, USA 1983
92.Stalag 13-In Control 12” EP, USA 1984
93.LSD-Just Last 7” EP, Japan 1986
94.Inferno-Tod & Wahnsinn LP, Germany 1984
95.Ultra Violence-Crime for Revenge 7” EP, England 1982
96.Mau Maus-Facts of War 7” EP, England 1984
97.Accused-Martha Splatterhead 12” EP< USA 1984
98.Subvert-The Madness Must End 7” EP, USA 1988
99.Dead Kennedys-In God We Trust 12” EP, USA 1981
100.Leeway-Born to Expire LP, USA 1988