Toxic Narcotic – We’re All Doomed – Interview

Toxic Narcotic

We’re All Doomed (Go-Kart)
An Interview with vocalist/bassist Bill Damon
by Scott Hefflon

We’re all Doomed is a pretty appropriate title right about now…
People are feeling that there’s a limited future. Armageddon book sales are way up. And in our little world of punk rock, the Irish thing is over, and now nihilism is cool. There’s always been a real sense of self-destruction in punk rock. The first bands had no political interests; Germs, Sex Pistols, it was all cut-yourself-up nihilism. Politics came later. It’s the end of the world, so fuck shit up while you can.

Our “future” material will be less negative, now that that point’s gotten across. All the material on We’re all Doomed was written before 9/11, and it was recorded in January when we got the go-ahead from Go-Kart. People’s eyes are open, the ’90s are over. The ’90s was a nice time for Americans: They made a lot of money, they had a pretty easy ride. But reality is settling in that there are a lot of problems in the world. So our songs now have more humor. We just wrote a song called “Shoot People, Not Dope.”

Musically, are the songs getting even faster?
They’re getting more brutal. We’re getting old, and we were thinking about slowing down, but the new record has more blastbeat brutal stuff than on previous records. It keeps us in shape. (laughs)

Is it tough to keep playing the fast stuff, night after night after all these years?
As long as we get our drummer some sleep, it’s all good. He’s a 12-hour sleeper. He’ll play a 45-minute set, completely off the hook, and it still amazes me. I’ll look back while we’re playing like “What the fuck?!?” I know it’s coming, but he still works in these brutal fills everywhere. Every show we play, he probably makes at least one kid quit playing drums.

We all quit smoking, actually. We’re all in a lot better shape than before. Six years ago, I was much more of a mess than I am now. We’re focusing more on the music now, rather than being such complete drunks and drug addicts. Anyone who’s seen us knows that our shows are quite the aerobic workout. In everyday life, I’m a pretty mellow person because I get such a violent workout onstage.

How long has Toxic Narcotic been together?
Put it this way, we’re that crappy high school band everyone’s been in, we just kept the band together, with the same name, and got better. Back then, we sucked. People hated us, but we had lots of friends. Back in ’91 and ’92, we’d pack a room, and promoters would ask us, “Hey, you know you guys suck, how come so many people paid to come see you?”

We used to hang out in Harvard Square and we knew all the punks, people’d say “Some day you guys’ll be a good band, but you throw a good keg party afterwards, so I go to your shows.”

You recently released a compilation of your early stuff (’89-’99, on their own Rodent Popsicle Records).
Those are all the best songs from those days re-recorded. In ’90, I think, we opened The Channel for The Exploited and Biohazard. We played for 1,000 people, and we sucked. People still tell me they were at that show and how terrible we were.

What were some of the early shows you went to?
I didn’t really like punk. I was a metalhead who hung out in Harvard Square. But my friends took me to see Bad Brains when I was 13, and then I saw the light. I personally think the heyday of Boston punk and hardcore has been drastically exaggerated. People always talk about “back in the day”… Lemme tell you something, back in the day sucked. The Misfits used to play a church and 10 people would be there. Some of the best Boston punk shows have been in the late ’90s and early 2000.

People called us crust cuz we were fast and brutal, but were basically punks who played shitty metal with no guitar solos.

Are the band members the same three guys you started with?
Two outta three. But our current drummer was our drum roadie on our first two U.S. tours, so he’s been with us since day one.

Tell me about your tours over the years.
One thing is that we’ve done lots of tours with no help. I hear bands all the time saying that their first tour was backing up the Bosstones. I’ve played many a night just for free drinks. We went to a bar in Seattle the night before our show because that night had been cancelled. The waitress said “Aren’t you a little early for load-in?” We asked if we could play that night as well, just for the free beer. And she said sure. It was called the Lake Union Pub, it was kinda like The Rat. It closed down too.

Our first tour was hit or miss cuz we didn’t know anyone. About halfway through we teamed up with Chaos UK and toured the final three weeks back to Boston with them. That was really good. We did four U.S. tours after that all on our own. Most bands only tour when they sign to a label and they get to open for someone big. When you do tours yourself, sometimes there’s only 20-30 people there, but that’s the D.I.Y. ethic, those are the kinda shows I grew up seeing.

Oh, and I don’t consider a week of East Coast shows a tour. I mean 60 shows in 62 days, driving to towns you’ve never heard of, that’s a tour.

I’ve interviewed Joe Queer and Ben Weasel and lots of guys who “built it up” by touring, year after year. Crowds got bigger as word of mouth spread in each town, and each year, the bands knew more people and got bigger and better shows.
I think of a lot of bands these days like mushrooms: Their base is weak, but they blow up big. But if you sweep that base, they die. We’re like a pile of dirt. Year after year, we add more dirt to the pile by touring relentlessly. We’re not a one-hit-wonder – we don’t even have any hits – but we pull in 200-300 kids a night.

How many records have you released?
You’re gonna like this… Total number of records is 13. We’ve been together 13 years. We’ve done 13 tours. There are 13 songs on the record. The running time of the record is exactly 31 minutes. And it’s called We’re all Doomed. That’s fucked up.

How’d you hook up with Go-Kart?
Most punk rock labels suck big dick. Most of them – if they even replied to us – say that we’re too hardcore to be punk, or that we’re too punk to be hardcore. Some labels said they’d put us out, but that we wouldn’t be a priority. And we didn’t want to be the token heavy band on a label. Most of our fanbase would scream sell-out anyway. And I didn’t want to move across [I’d mentioned Punk Core and a couple other small, D.I.Y. labels], cuz we can and have done it that way. Go-Kart has worldwide distribution. When we toured Europe, I saw Go-Kart’s records in the stores. We’re not a fashion punk band, and you know the bands I’m talking about. They’re all about fashion, their music sucks and their lyrics blow. What are they gonna do when they start to go bald? We’re just a bunch of ugly guys who don’t give a fuck and put on a great show.

Go-Kart doesn’t really have an “image” or a “sound”…
I’ve bought a lot of records on Go-Kart over the years. I read an interview with Greg [the label owner] in Under the Volcano, and he said he put out what he liked whether it was crust or poppunk or street punk or hardcore. I thought, “here’s a label I might be able to work with.” They’ve also recently put out a lot of Anarchy punk like The Varukers, Sick on the Bus, G.B.H., Icons of Filth… Every crust punk fan in the world has an Icons of Filth patch, and probably half of them don’t have any of their records, but their patch looks cool. We’re doing a split with Misery, some friends of ours from Minneapolis, for Go-Kart, and Dean at Go-Kart loves those guys. They’ve been going for almost 20 years, always D.I.Y., cuz their first experience with a label was bad so they’ve steered clear ever since.

When I got in touch with Go-Kart, they said they’d been watching us for years. I joke that they wanted to work with The Casualties (now signed to Side One) and The Unseen (now signed to BYO) but they got stuck with Toxic Narcotic. Our tongue-in-cheek humor just doesn’t go over well with West Coast labels. We were originally going to call this record 5 Billion People Must Die, and they all balked. We need to be on an East Coast label. When we got back from a West Coast tour, I was all relaxed cuz we’d had a lot of fun, and then we got home and bam!, stress, anger, bills to pay, and fist-fights. There are cool people everywhere you go, but the East Coast is a lot more intense and angry.
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