The Crumbsuckers Are Back Whether You Like It or Not
Crumbsuckers bassist and founder Gary Meskil was kind enough to take time from his current project, Darkhaus, to talk to Noisey about the reunion.
The only good thing about the 1980s was that hardcore was pretty strange without having to announce itself as so. Suburban wastoids were figuring out a new language made of Minor Threat, Kiss records they bought when they were ten, and every adolescent ideology they could fit into two and a half minutes. There were no rules because every rule maker dismissed hardcore as something solely the province of mouth-breathers and malformed young offenders. By December 31st 1989, hardcore would be entirely codified and/or, worse, cool. But up till that dark day, dorks, of both the tough guy/gal variety and not, could do what they wanted.
The Crumbsuckers were from Baldwin, Strong Island, USA and had long hair and short hair and their suburban bedrooms had both Van Halen and Bad Brains posters hanging over the beds. Taking the urban beatdown sounds of CBGBS hardcore matinee and combining it with their own teenage thrash attack, they made one revered crossover hardcore metal album (Life of Dreams) and one underappreciated more metallic sequel (Beast On My Back) before fucking off into that good bridge and tunnel night. They reunited once in 2006 for a sold out show at BB Kings and now, nine years later, they’re playing one (more?) show for the Black and Blue Bowl.
Crumbsuckers bassist and founder Gary Meskil was kind enough to take time from his current project, Darkhaus, to talk to Noisey about the reunion.
Noisey: I didn’t realize most of the Crumbsuckers were in Florida.
Gary Meskil: Well, we’re originally from Long Island. Most of us grew up in Baldwin. Chris, the singer who everyone’s most familiar with, the guy who did both of our records, he’s from Huntington, LI. But as the years went by we’ve sort of settled down in other places. Most of us are down here in Florida now. The only exception is Chris. And I don’t think he lives in Huntington anymore, but I’m pretty sure he still lives out on the Island.
Oh okay. How are you guys gonna rehearse for the reunion?
Well, we’re going to rehearse the music first; so the guys that are located in Florida, we’re split between two coasts. So I think we’re going to schedule a full rehearsal on this coast, which is the west coast of Florida. Then a full weekend of rehearsing on the east coast of Florida, and I guess we’ll just be flying Chris back and forth. So the good thing is it’s mostly just gas money, it’s not going to be extensive. Just flying one way back and forth. And then of course we’ll have to fly up there for the show, but we’ll worry about that later on [Laughs].
We have four of the five members from Life of Dreams that are going to be on stage at the reunion. Unfortunately, Dave Wynn will not be joining us for the entire show but he said that he’d love to make a guest appearance. So we have Pro-Pain guitar player Adam Phillips to fill in on second guitar.
Dave Wynn couldn’t make it because he couldn’t commit to the practices, or?
We were chatting quite a bit about this and he was really pondering doing it. And in the end, he said that he doesn’t feel like his chops are up to snuff these days. That was basically how he left it, he said, ‘I don’t want to do this reunion a disservice at all, and I would certainly entertain jamming a song or two with you guys, but I’m gonna have to bow out for the whole thing. I just don’t think that my rehearsal regiment is enough as a guitar player right now.’
Well it’s good to know that beforehand, you know?
Yeah, but Dave is a great guy. It would be really awesome if we could present the Life of Dreams lineup and Black and Blue Bowl. That was my dream about the whole thing, actually. It would be even more special than the last reunion. But unfortunately we couldn’t make that happen. But it’s close. Four out of five. I think it’s gonna be great, and Adam’s a fantastic guitar player. The band is really looking forward to getting together and working out our chops again, and getting onstage again come May.
I know the reason for the last one in 2006 was just the anniversary of your first album. Was there any particular impetus for this reunion?
Well, I’ve been asked about a reunion a lot since 2006. The reunion in 2006 was pretty successful, we did a sellout show at BB Kings in New York City. And it outlived out expectations, we didn’t really know what to expect. The band had been defunct for so many years, and we didn’t know whether or not we were taking on some bigger room. But our agent at the time convinced us that the room was perfect for the show, which it turned out to be. A lot of people have been asking me since then about another reunion, and Freddy Cricien (singer of Madball) is the main guy in charge of booking Black and Blue Bowl in NYC, has inquired multiple times about the possibility of me getting the band back together for the show. Last year was impossible because I was on tour with a couple of my other bands at the time. This year, we saw an open window for opportunity. So I told Freddy, let me throw it against the wall and I’ll send some emails around to the rest of the guys, and if I can get some interest I’ll let you know. Fortunately enough, the rest of the guys were interested in doing it so here we are.
I have to give credit where credit’s due. Freddy was really inquiring quite a bit about, and then sort of forcing our hand into at least entertaining the idea of getting the band back together. It’s safe to say if it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t be reuniting anytime soon. When the opportunity came around, I threw it out there and much to my surprise the guys were very positive and the reactions were all very positive. I said to myself and to the other guys, ‘if we get an opportunity to reunite, I’m not gonna be the guy who says no to it.’ So, if everyone’s into doing it, then why not? We’re all here, we’re all healthy, we’re all able to do it, and the fans have been asking for it for a long time, so why not?
You guys reunited in 2006, before every motherfucker on the planet was reuniting. Are you pro-reunions, anti-reunions?
Well, I think that if reunions are done for the right reasons, mostly for the fans, and not for financial reasons, then I’m all for it. And provided that the band can pull it off musically, because the last thing you want is have the last representation of the band be a poor representation of the band. So, I thought we did a really nice job in 2006, and the reviews were all really good. I think that we can pull it off this year at the Black and Blue Bowl, and I think that we can really represent the music the way that it’s supposed to be played and that we can live up to the fans’ expectations one more time.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m extreme on this position. I think that bands that do it for financial reasons are perfectly valid. I think if an artist does some labor at some point in their life, they can do anything with that labor for the entirety of their life and it’s no one’s business but their own.
Yeah that is true, you know?
But I realize that I’m the minority on that one.
I’m not so sure about that! I think the fans like nothing more than for their old favorites to come back, come back around again. People love nostalgia, and they love recapturing all of the memories from years past. And I think that aspect of it is really cool, you know. I’ve seen my share of reunions and you’re right, it comes down to the band’s personal choices. It’s really no one else’s business what they choose to do as far as reuniting one more time, or many more times.
Are you feeling like this is just a one-off thing? Is this the final one, or you don’t want to say?
Well, we don’t have any plans of sort of rehashing the band’s career at this point, or making new music together, or even looking beyond the Black and Blue Bowl. If I had to guess right now, I would say that it would be the last time the band will get together. Everybody’s really busy doing other stuff. With Chris I know that it’s really trying on him, to try and get it back into the full swing as a hardcore singer. He has been out of the game for so many years; it has to be pretty tough for him.
What does he do now?
I think that he’s still in the landscaping game, and he’s also in the textile business from what I understand. So the landscaping thing, I think that he inherited that from his father. They do a lot of corporate stuff – highways and stuff like that. And again, I think he’s in the textile business. To what degree, I’m not exactly sure. It takes up a lot of his time, I do know that, and he has a family. A lot of us are still doing music, Chuck Lenehan and myself, so we have various bands that keep us busy. Dan Richardson is in the transportation business, so he has a fleet of town cars and limos and that keeps him really busy. He’s always on call with that. Again it’s pretty hard to put this together, so we’re not really looking beyond May at this point. If the guys want to do more shows after that, we’ll certainly entertain it but it’s not on the venue at this point in time.
Right, right. I think I’ve had the same conversation with dudes from Rorschach. They were getting offered a bunch of shows, but splitting a grand between five dudes who have families – they can’t do shit like that.
Yeah it’s hard. For the one show, if you look at the guarantee you’d say, ‘wow, that’s a decent chunk of money.’ But when you go ahead and you take all the expenses out of it, and you end up splitting it five ways, it’s more for the love of it and wanting to do it rather than what’s being offered financially. And that’s all well and good, and at the end of the day there’s something to be gained from it financially, but that’s certainly last on the list when it comes to our inspiration for doing it. [Laughs].
Are you going to focus on both the albums? Do you mainly stick to Life of Dreams or do you just split them evenly between the two?
Well I think we’re going to do the entire Life of Dreams record, and probably sixty to seventy percent of Beast on My Back, as much as time allows. I don’t know exactly how much time we’re going to get yet. But I think the majority of the hardcore scene is a bit partial to Life of Dreams. We certainly don’t want to piss them off. So we’ll play that entire album, and certainly some metal favorites from Beast on My Back for sure.
That’s accommodating of you. Yeah I was thinking about it, listening to it again, most of it works for any time and place. There’s that occasional reference to Ronald Reagan. Do you guys keep that stuff? Is there ever any inclination to update shit? Or are you like, ‘people are here because they want to hear the original.’
I think that the out of date political references doesn’t even matter. We’ll just do it as true to form as possible. [Laughs]. And those who know the lyrics will certainly get as much of a chuckle out of it as we do these days.
Sure, fair enough. And you know what? Ronald Reagan is still bad. So, you know.
Exactly [Laughs]. Hey man, we’re keeping his legacy alive. Look at it that way. [Laughs].
You guys were right at the beginning of “crossover”. When you guys were doing that, was there a conscious thing of like, ‘we want to combine metal and hardcore.’ Or was it organic?
No, we really had no idea what we were doing stylistically speaking. I think a lot of it came from our surroundings. I was just starting to get into hardcore punk rock music, and listening to Noise the Show on NWYU, which was a great show -- sort of the soundtrack to my early teen years. Listening to that music inspired me to start a band, and I started going to shows in New York City. I saw The Misfits, Bad Brains; stuff like that, all the really early great punk and hardcore bands.
How old were you?
I started going to shows at fourteen. Shows in that genre at fourteen. I started the Crumbsuckers when I was fifteen. Being from Long Island, I didn’t really know a lot of musicians that were into the same kind of music as I was just getting into. But I knew guys that wanted to start a band. Rounding up the musicians that I eventually rounded up, I found myself jamming with guys that were more into Van Halen than Minor Threat. Bringing their own influences to the table when it came to writing original music for the Crumbsuckers. So we started off playing some cover songs of like, some Misfits stuff, some very early Black Flag, and we quickly developed into writing our own music. We added all of these different styles drilled into a lot of strange parts that had to do with hardcore metal classic rock, all rolled into one arrangement. We sort of made it all work by the singer sort of expressing himself over the music, and it became our own sound, but using what some other bands were doing at the same time. So you had other crossover artists such as DRI, bands like that, that when we looked at as a collective, became known as crossover music. And I guess the most famous band in that genre became S.O.D.
Sure, I think coming from different sides I think that’s a very New York-centric way of looking at things. I would think that D.R.I., or Corrosion of Conformity would be a little bit more famous. But if we want to go with S.O.D., we can.
D.R.I. was around, I think, before we started. Their earliest stuff was really, really thrashy. Incredibly fast. And I think that’s when Kirk’s brother was playing for the band. The Dirty Rotten Imbeciles self-titled record was one of my favorites growing up. It was unbelievable. And they sort of developed into a more crossover style when it came to records like Four of a Kind and stuff like that. They brought in more of a metal influence. C.O.C. was a little more thrashy, but they would do it in their own style which was awesome. I think all of the bands really appreciated Black Sabbath back then, too, and were very inspired by their riffing and stuff. And I think that was sort of a common thread between crossover bands, is their appreciation for riffs of bands like Black Sabbath.
Of course. Do you remember what your first metal album was?
The first full-length album that I purchased was Kiss’ Rock and Roll Over.
That’ll do it.
Great album to this day, I’ll tell ya. Some of those early Kiss records, they’re tough to compete with for any band. Some of the catchiest rock music ever. Then of course I progressed into some things that were of the heavier variety, I ended up owning the entire Sabbath catalogue and listening to a lot of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden of course. Aside from being an aficionado in east coast thrash music, east coast to Midwest in particular.
So outside of New York, would you write people in other bands? Or would you just meet them on tour?
I was a regular (CBGBs hardcore) matinee attendee every Sunday for a few years. I would pretty much go to any matinee that was going on. But as a fan growing up, I definitely favored the style that was coming out of the east coast and the Midwest. It was a little edgier and it was a little harder. For a younger person it had some appeal.
I imagine living in Long Island in the eighties it was probably more reflective...
Yeah, absolutely. For me and my inner circle of friends that were going to those matinees, it was really an exciting thing to do. It was a complete contrast to life on Long Island as we knew it. We were growing up in suburbia, and enjoying the things that suburbia had to offer. On the weekends, we’d go in and live a little bit more dangerously on Bowery. That’s what we thought made us cool.
So you guys weren’t DMS skinhead kids?
No, we found ourselves at the very beginning as the outsiders from Long Island. It took a while to sort of assimilate, and find our place in the hardcore scene. It was Roger from Agnostic Punk that gave us our first show in Manhattan. It was CBGB, opening up for HR and Company. That had to be 1981, I’m not really sure. But that was our debut in Manhattan. And then we went over really great, and then shit became easier for us to get more shows in NYC. We found ourselves playing many more matinees at CBGB’s, pretty much any gig that we could get our hands on back then we were there. And we returned the favor by booking a lot of our favorite New York bands out of Long Island and putting together some pretty cool shows out there.
Do you think you started making more friends once you guys had your own band, and you guys were less, like, tourists?
I think so, because we had some common ground there then. We would turn people onto some recordings that we did, and it was very much a scene of complete camaraderie back then, and sort of one hand washes the other vibe, you know, ‘if you guys can get us a show in New York City, we’ll book a matinee at the Right Track Inn in Long Island, and any other venue that we might have access to out there.’ I think we were instrumental in spreading the scene to suburbia, in getting the shows out there. The hardcore and punk scene was just getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and more bands started to blossom as a result of that.
Because of blogging, hardcore has become half fandom and half just a collectors scene. The people have really picked the body clean for obscure bands. Is there a band from that era that you feel like hasn’t been rediscovered yet?
Being from Long Island I would say The Nihilistics. I really like The Nihilistics, and they were always sort of the black sheep of the scene, hence the song right? [Laughs] I thought they were great, and they were always just doing their own thing, and I don’t think they ever really got enough credit for it. I think that’s one of the bands that really deserves to be rediscovered in a bigger way.
I have to ask, did someone in the band write the Wikipedia page?
If somebody did, it was Dave Brady I suppose. There was a guy that was very instrumental in putting it together, all of the reunions that we’ve had so far, he was an English guy by the name of Alex. I always wondered whether it was him, or Dave. But I can ask Dave! I’m not sure. But if I had to guess, it’s one of those two guys.
Hopefully Wikipedia’s overlords won’t read this interview and go, ‘check on things.’ But it’s a really personalized thing, and it’s really chatty. It just has one line, talking about Billy Milano, and it says, ‘problems that Milano brought with him into rehearsal,’ and then it says, ‘citation needed.’
[Laughs] One thing I can assure you is I don’t have anything to do with the page because it doesn’t speak of Pro-Pain in that favorable of a light, so it’s definitely not me. I would say it’s one of those two guys, if I had to put money on it I would say that it’s Alex Meismer, because he knew more about the band than we did. He seemed to be a collector not only of our old recordings, but also of any information he could get about the band. So it’s interesting that you say that, I’m gonna try to find out who’s writing it.
I love it. I was just curious.
I know it’s a lengthy Wikipedia page on Crumbsuckers. If you look at the Pro-Pain Wikipedia, it’s like two paragraphs. But the Crumbsuckers one goes on for like, ten paragraphs. There are a few things in there, which aren’t true, by the way. I can’t think of what they are, but I know that I’ve read a few things where it’s just, ‘that didn’t happen that way.’ Like, the first demo that we did, it wasn’t called The Crumbsuckers Cave. That was actually the rehearsal place that we had.
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