THE LAST STAND are a band from Brooklyn, NY. They started 7 years ago, however they still remain rather unknown outside of their hometown. It wouldn’t be so unusual, since it’s been a while since any new NYHC bands made impact on your average HC fan, nevertheless, we are dealing here with battle-weary vets of the scene, so attention should be paid. Three out of four of the band’s line up started in SHUTDOWN, one of the most important phenomena of the 1990’s scene, while their singer is also the singer of INHUMAN, one of the most interesting and underestimated bands of the said scene, and a still active one, by the way. In addition, the above mentioned singer is also the older brother of the original SHUTDOWN singer. If that doesn’t catch your attention, I don’t what will…
While not distancing themselves from their roots, THE LAST STAND like to underscore their uniqueness as a band. They have just released a new EP, which gave us a chance to talk to Michael Scondotto, who fronts two of the previously described bands. We discussed many interesting topics, from his past and present musical endeavors, to his thoughts on the weather, literature, film and politics, not to mention remarks on some deeply personal stuff. Mike is an interesting, honest, and smart guy to talk to, just as much as he’s a great singer and a hardcore lifer. He’s also a huge MISFITS fan, which made our communication that much easier. Keep reading.
Mike, let’s start our conversation the way real hardcore gentlemen should: what’s the weather like in NYC these days?
For the last 3 days, it was hot and in the 90’s! Now today, back to normal mid-June weather in the late 70s. I love the summer and the heat so you won’t hear me complain for the next 3 months.
Great, it’s been quite warm around here, too. I guess talking about the weather is as great a start as any for a hardcore interview, so now, please tell me, as a born New Yorker, what’s life like in the Big Apple now, especially regarding the many changes the city went through over the past 20-30 years.
Brooklyn and lower Manhattan have changed so much. Lower Manhattan used to have so much going on with CBGB’s, Coney Island High, The Wetlands to name a few, all of those are gone. All of the cool shops and record stores are few and far between. Right now in Manhattan there is The Bowery Electric, which is right near where CB’s used to be and they have Hardcore shows sometimes. And there is Niagara, which used to be the original A-7 Club during the very first wave of Hardcore bands, years before my time. Niagara has the occasional Hardcore show as well. But most shows happen in Brooklyn really, aside from the really big ones like the Black N Blue Bowl, which is once a year in Manhattan at a large venue called Webster Hall. Brooklyn pretty much switched places with lower Manahan as most shows happen in Brooklyn now. I miss the NYC of the late 80’s to the early 00’s of course, but time marches on and I still enjoy going to shows as often as I can, and of course playing shows in my hometown as well. I miss the danger of old NYC sometimes for sure, the excitement.
Now, the first question regarding what you’re up to musically. We are speaking on the occasion of the release of a new EP by your band THE LAST STAND. TLS has been among my favorites ever since I first heard your full length four years ago, but you remain rather unknown here in Poland and, I think, Europe in general. Your biographical info sheet gives us all the important details, however, in your own words, for someone who has never heard you guys before, what should they expect?
Honestly, our debut lp “The Time Is Now” on Eulogy Recordings had very poor European distribution and promotion. Pretty much no advertisements whatsoever. The vinyl version came out in a German label, Demons Run Amok, which was great, but it didn’t really get much promotion overall. Both INHUMAN and SHUTDOWN have fans in Europe, so you would think THE LAST STAND would have been promoted well, but it didn’t happen. The lp also had my friend Lou Koller from SICK OF IT ALL on it and our recently deceased friend Dave Franklin from VISION on it, again, none of this was promoted properly. As for what to expect, THE LAST STAND plays New York Hardcore, 100%. We do it like no one else is currently doing it in my opinion, taking influences from Hardcore of the late 80’s, the 90’s and today. There haven’t been many bands actually from NYC playing legit Hardcore in the last decade and we are one of them. Also expect songs and riffs that will stick in your head.
I’m curious about the name of your band… is it just a cool name to have, or do you really think it could be your ‘last stand’ in the hardcore scene?
Great question. The name is an interesting one, it was chosen by our bassist and primary song writer Dion. When he came up with it in 2010, I thought it was great because we were all scene veterans, and now 7 years later were veterans even more so the name has more meaning! But no, it’s not my “last stand” for Hardcore. I think the name does bring a sense of urgency. It is a good, strong statement for a good and strong band. It is taking a “stand” for real Hardcore.
Not to say “The Time Is Now” was in any way soft or mainstream, but “This Is Real” seems to be taking a more stripped down, raw power approach. Was this your intention while writing and recording or did it just happen? In general, when you write stuff with your bands, do you carefully consider the direction you’re going to go or does it just happen spontaneously?
I do think the 4 original tracks on “This Is Real” are more stripped down, more aggressive overall. It was not intentionally really though. “The Time Is Now” was made up of half brand new songs at the time, and half re-done demo songs. Looking back, and we talked about this the other week at band practice, this may not have been a good idea. We learned a lesson to never re-record songs that are already out there, unless it is for a very special reason or circumstance, even though the re-recorded demo songs are way better on the LP . I think the only things we have in mind when writing a new song is how much we as a band like it and is it something we are proud of playing.
As you’ve already mentioned, one of the guest singers on your full length was Dave from VISION. They were among the few bands playing our country regularly back when hardly any recognized US bands would. Any thoughts on his untimely passing?
It’s just absolutely horrible and very sad. We were honored to have him on our record as fans of VISION. Years ago, SHUTDOWN did a European tour with VISION, and of course over the years, INHUMAN and VISION had many great shows together. He was such a funny and great guy and it is a terrible loss to his family, friends and the scene.
Why did you choose GORILLA BISCUITS’ “Big Mouth” as one of the cover songs? Could the whole controversy surrounding Civ’s words at a certain show have something to do with your choice?
You know, it had nothing to do with the TIHC show controversy haha! We had been rehearsing it a few weeks before that happened and recorded it a week before the controversy, and that is the truth! We are all big fans of GB of course and we like to learn new Hardcore songs to play live. And for the record, that “controversy” was totally ridiculous as you couldn’t get more anti-racist band than GB.
We’ve discussed GORILLA BISCUITS, so I guess it’d be fair to discuss your other cover, YOUTH OF TODAY. What were your reasons for recording it?
The YOT cover was recorded during the sessions for „The Time Is Now”, but was never released. It was supposed to be on a split 7″ with a European band but the band broke up. It was actually supposed to come out on the label Contra Records, but it never happened. We love YOT and got to play with them once a few years ago and it was great. I think we put a nice spin on the song, a down tuned meaner sounding version.
Which may be why I didn’t recognize it at first. My favorite song on “This is Real” is “Still Bleeding”. Any thoughts on the lyrics you might like to share with us?
„Still Bleeding” is about getting stuck in a toxic, absusive relationship, then getting out risng above the damage its left behind. Change is hard for some people, even the change of leaving the bad shit behind you. But there comes a time when you habe had enough and you get out and move forward.
How did you get around to working with Irish Voodoo Recs? What’s your opinion about this label’s roster of bands? Any of your label mates you would recommend?
Another good question. We found them 2 ways really. We are old friends with the singer of one of the bands on the label, ONE CHOICE. We go back with Vic Galindo some 20 years as he was in a band called COLLISION that both SHUTDOWN and INHUMAN did shows with out in California and COLLISION also played NY too. Vic is a lifer like the rest of us and he had told us about Irish Voodoo. The other way is through my old friend Joe Foster, the original IGNITE guitarist. I had sent him the new tracks and he loved them and told me we should talk to Joe Fitzgerald, the owner of Irish Voodoo. Foster put in a great word, and when Joe Irish Voodoo and I spoke on the phone it all clicked, as he also a Hardcore lifer! He does the label for the love of Hardcore, which is great and he got it out on all formats which made us very happy. Everything Irish Voodoo said they would do, they have done and they have also listened to us on a few things, which is great. As for label mates, ONE CHOICE, LINE BRAWL and CONCRETE are all awesome.
Irish Voodoo is a Californian label. Aren’t there any good East Coast labels left? It seems like the hardcore game took a major shift to the west recently, would you agree?
Well, we did approach come labels on the East Coast, but a few wanted to do digital only, which was not an option for us. Another wanted to do the digital, but wanted us to pay for the vinyl and cds – again, out of the question for us. Irish Voodoo, which is a 2 man operation, offered us the best deal. As far as Hardcore making a major shift to the West, I am not so sure. NYC and the East Coast still seems to be quite strong.
THE LAST STAND is a band consisting of members of two major NYHC bands of the 1990s era. What stands out is the fact that you now play with your brother’s former bandmates. How does it feel?
It feels great. Dion, Jim and Steve are like my 3 brothers. They all play super tight with each other and we all get along. When they asked me to do a band with them, I was a bit hesitant at first, but I got my brother Mark’s blessing actually as I didn’t want there to be an issue. SHUTDOWN may be doing some shows later in 2017 or 2018 actually and I still have Inhuman of course.
What’s up with Mark? Since you’ve said SHUTDOWN are supposed to play some shows in the future, guess he hasn’t left hardcore permanently?
Mark moved to Florida in 2001 when SHUTDOWN kind of dissolved, where he has been ever since. He hasn’t left Hardcore permanently as SHUTDOWN did shows in 2003, 2006 and 2011. He has a family down there so the band is not a priority of course. He is doing good though and still loves Hardcore and goes to shows down there when he can.
Great, say hi from us when you get the chance. Back to you, though. You started out in the hardcore scene in the 80s. Many people think CONFUSION was your first band, but I know this is not true. Could you tell us about your earliest days as a musician?
My first bands were DIRECT APPROACH and CLOSE CALL, both in 1988. DIRECT APPROACH is on the New Breed Compilation, I was the bassist in both bands. I had just turned 15 when DIRECT APPROACH recorded at Don Fury for the comp, maybe one of the youngest, if not the youngest persons on it. DA also had Chris Bozeth, the original MERAUDER guitarist. CLOSE CALL had my old friend John LaMacchia from CANDIRIA on guitar. We sounded like TOKEN ENTRY meets BREAKDOWN, we did 2 demos and a WNYU Crucial Chaos set. I think we were awesome and if we weren’t so young and had made better connections in the scene, we could have done much more. The demos we did are out there. Seek them out!
And you definitely should. CONFUSION, your next band in which you were a bass player as well, was a metal-influenced, if not straight out metal band. You are one of the very few members of the NYHC scene who openly admit to having their roots in metal and their love of the genre. My background is actually very similar, and I never found anything unusual in being a metal, hardcore and punk fan all at once (not to mention many other genres). As a ‘kindred spirit’, I’m interested to hear your opinion on why the obvious link between the scenes is so hard to fathom for some and so rarely discussed, even today?
Yes, I was a Metalhead before I was a Hardcore kid, but I became a Hardcore kid really young, my first show I was 14. I loved SLAYER, ANTHRAX, METALLICA, MEGADETH, NUCLEAR ASSAULT all before I heard the BAD BRAINS, SOIA and MINOR THREAT. The one band that helped bridge that gap in between was THE MISFITS. I heard them because METALLICA would not stop wearing their shirts and I had to hear them haha! As for Punk, I had to go backwards a bit and find Punk on my own as the kids in my neighborhood who got me into Hardcore hated Punk and told me “Punk is dead” hahah! Hey, in 1988 in NYC it was all about Hardcore and being a “Punk” was not cool at all, don’t let anyone tell you different. Later on, I grew to love tons of Punk bands, but it took time as I was so caught up in Hardcore. Back to Metal, yes, I am a huge fan. There was a brief time when I first got into Hardcore where it was all I listened to and I actually hated Metal ha! But that only lasted a year or so. Then I heard KREATOR and SEPULTURA and fell back in love with SLAYER and started to like Hardcore and Metal side by side.
Sure, KREATOR and early SEPULTURA rule. After CONFUSION came INHUMAN, your first band as a singer. Could you tell us briefly how the band started?
Going back to my earliest bass playing days, I secretly wanted to sing. I was not a “great” bass player, I was a good one. I knew my limitations. But I knew I could be a far better vocalist and I wanted to front a band. We knew in early 1994 that by the end of the year Confusion would be breaking up. I had the “Inhuman” name by the middle of the year, but wasn’t sure what style of music it would be as I was really immersed in Death, Grind and Black Metal, but still loved Hardcore. I was going through a rough time personally, I struggle with anxiety and depression and have for a very long time. The name “Inhuman” comes from feeling just that – detached, not like everyone else, not like the rest of the human race. Around that time I was reading a lot of Henry Miller, and in his book “Tropic of Cancer” there is a whole passage about being “Inhuman” and it really spoke to me. Our first record, “Evolver” has part of that passage on the track “Dwell”.
He is also one of the most important writers for me. It’s amazing that someone, who was creative so long ago could have such an influence over people all over the world. You guys are still around, still play shows, still active. What’s the most important thing for a band like yours to be around that long?
It’s weird, time goes so fast when you are not paying attention and thinking about it. 22 years is a long time, no break ups, but some periods of inactivity. The most important thing is to do it because you want to do it. It sounds a bit selfish, but INHUMAN is an underground and unsigned band and we don’t answer to anyone but ourselves. We can do it on our own terms with no pressure. We get along pretty well too, I love Joe, Hank and Steve and they are excellent musicians. We all love to party together as well haha! Musically speaking Inhuman is one of the best and tightest bands in NY, as is THE LAST STAND.
Couldn’t agree more. This is a TLS interview, so I don’t want to dwell on it too much, but I talked to a fellow NYHC singer a while back, and I won’t mention who it was, but he agreed with me that INHUMAN is one of the most underestimated bands around. Would you agree? If yes, why do you think it is so?
Well, I’m not sure how this will sound, but I yes agree that we are underestimated and overlooked. As to why? That is the million dollar question, isn’t it? We have never been a “hype” band or a “cool” band. In the 90’s and 00’s we worked our asses off and played all of the time, made some good connections, but only did a few tours and we did one tour of Europe in 2003. The record labels we worked with either disappeared or were not sure what to do with us. INHUMAN is a Hardcore band, but a unique one. I don’t think some people understand us because we have tried different things at times. I will say this, we have fans who do appreciate us and we also have fans in our peers, other bands, and in much larger Hardcore bands who have told us they love what we do and that means a lot. I have even had members of newer Hardcore bands tell me how much they like INHUMAN and how we are an influence. That means more than any “hype” bullshit.
To finish the INHUMAN thread: any plans for any new recordings or tours?
More new material is very possible as I have the lyrics to 3 songs and music for 1 of these songs. As for touring, you never know, but before we did it we would like to have some new material out first, that is certain.
Keeping our fingers crossed. You mentioned earlier, how important THE MISFITS were for you. I’m a huge MISFITS fan myself and play in a MISFITS cover band. I know you guys did a MISFITS cover set a while back, was is just a one-off thing or do you plan on continuing?
Yes, Inhuman did a MISFITS/DANZIG set on Halloween in 2006 in Staten Island, but none of us have it recorded! And we did one MISFITS set for the grand opening of the new Lucky 13 Saloon in Brooklyn on Halloween of 2014 and it was a lot of fun. It was a one off but I myself want to do a MISFITS cover band. I did do 2 MISFITS songs last year (2016) on Halloween as part of this MISFITS tribute night at a club in Manhattan and it was great. I did “London Dungeon” and “We Are 138”.
Two of my favorite songs, too. Hope you find your way to their cover band one of these days, especially since, In my opinion, you have one of the most distinct and versatile voices in NYHC. Do you have a specific approach to singing or is it all just natural? Have you ever taken voice training or singing lessons?
Thank you so much for the compliments. No, I have never once taken a singing lesson in my life. In 1994, I started to practice screaming along to Hardcore and Death Metal songs in my room and here we are in 2017. I think my vocals are better now than they were on say the early INHUMAN stuff. On the 1996 demo, if you listen close, my voice is gone by the end of it haha! I think I am a good screamer and a decent singer. I want to do more stuff where I actually sing, but we shall see.
Would be great to be able to hear it some time soon. Back to THE LAST STAND, what are your plans now? Any European dates coming?
We need the new EP to get out there in Europe first, I really hope it does. Irish Voodoo is small, but I hope it gets into the hands of distros out there. We are dying to come to Europe.
Can’t wait. Non-musical question again: you are a major movie buff, especially in the horror genre. What is it that you look for when you watch horror movies? Is it the scare or the gore? Could you recommend any movies, horror or otherwise, you’ve enjoyed recently?
I like the Hammer stuff, Argento stuff, Fulci, Romero, Cronenberg, I could go on all day! I like mainly stuff from the mid/late 60’s to the mid/late 80’s, but there are many great horror movies of the last decade or so. I co-host a horror podcast for the last few years called Necromaniacs Podcast, we have 21 episodes out there, take a listen as we cover old and new stuff. I do it with my friend Mike Hill, singer of the band TOMBS, a great Metal band.
I am a big fan of Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” novel, as I know you are too. What do you think of the recent TV series based on it? Any other TV shows that you fancy these days?
I am loving it so far! I read the book when it came out in 2001, and I have been a Gaiman fan since the 90’s with The Sandman comic book. I met him twice and one time he signed 2 Sandman hardcovers for me and drew a sketch in one of them! I work in the tv industry so I watch quite a bit – Animal Kingdom, Better Call Saul, Fargo, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, American Gods to name a few. When they were on I loved Mad Men and Breaking Bad, amazing shows.
I mentioned the Civ controversy earlier which seemed to be very much associated with the rise of the so called Social Justice Warrior movement in the scene, also visible in other spheres of American political and cultural life. Any reflections on that?
Like I said, that whole thing was so stupid. GB is a non-racist band, and Civ is one of the most well liked people in Hardcore. The thing about certain SJW’s is that sometimes they get things rather wrong and there is no one telling them they are wrong. If you are going to attack someone, be sure the person you attack did something worth attacking. I am from a different era. When people had problems with each other, it was settled with an in person discussion or a fight, period. No one hid behind the computer. I just think it’s easy to talk shit or to criticize or boycott now because you don’t even have to do anything but hit the keyboard, and that’s weak.
And, since we’re talking politics. Your current president seems to be a very polarizing figure. Do you think he will really “make America great again”?
America is already a great country at its heart. But there is too much division right now though and that is really scary. The most divisive I have seen it in my lifetime. The Left vs Right battle is very real and there are people that are very extreme on both sides which is troubling to me. This started before Trump became President though, but it has just gotten worse. Like most people I want what is best for America, but prepare and often expect the worst.
That is sad, especially since I could say the same about my part of the world. Anyway, back to hardcore: many claim the NYHC scene, or the hardcore scene of today in general is overly focused on the old bands, the reunions and festivals like This Is Hardcore or Black’n’Blue. You don’t hear much of the new and upcoming bands and you don’t see too many new kids at shows. Would you agree?
I think it is a bit focused on older bands to a degree because the older bands are still the biggest bands – AGNOSTIC FRONT, SOIA, MADBALL, TERROR – there needs to be more bands making that kind of impact. That kind of impact takes a lot of time though and a lot of hard work. TIHC and BNB put a lot of new bands on their shows and fests though, which is great. I see it very differently because I am both in a band and a fan. I’m also a lifer and I have seen many come and go. It’s all in cycles.
What is the most important difference between the scenes back when you started and now?
I think the bands were more diverse back in the late 80s to the late 90s. Now every shitty bands wants to be the most “brutal” or “hardest” or “heaviest”. How about you write a memorable song? How about you try something new? You can be Hardcore and stick out a little – I have been doing it for 29 years.
This is going to be a very personal one, but you yourself openly mention your struggles with depression. Do you have a message for those who also suffer from similar issues?
On that I’d like to say that if you can get any kind of help, you must get it. There is no need to suffer, because you are certainly one of millions who suffer. I have been dealing with it since I was a teenager, depression and anxiety. It is awful and seems to never go away, but having had it for so long, I do my best and push forward. I have music, friends and family, but there are some bad days and nights of course. It’s important get help and not feel any shame about it. I’m one of you and I would be there for anyone who came to me.
To finish, anything you would like to add? Anything in particular you would like to say to Polish readers? Will we finally get to see THE LAST STAND or INHUMAN live, and, if so, when?
I have to say, the Polish fans are awesome and have been good to both Inhuman and The Last Stand and for that I am grateful. There are several Polish Hardcore Kids in NYC and they all support my music. I will say this, there is nothing I’d like more than to get to Europe, so we shall see. Keep The Faith and Take It Easy.