To those who know their Under Pressure from their Pressure Release, The New Breed cassette compilation is one of the most bitching and interesting artifacts to come out of the late-80s NYHC scene. Upon its release in the spring of 1989, it created a major buzz by containing the first somewhat readily available tracks by Absolution, Collapse, Our Gang, Bad Trip, and many lesser known though potent acts from the area. As years went on, it became something of a curio to both the old fogey and new school train spotter alike.
Sometime in the early 00s, a newer generation of file-sharing hardcore nerds started raising questions about bands on the New Breed comp that were long forgotten. When pressed by some of these youngsters about bands like Fit of Anger or Stand Proud, I didn’t really remember much. To be quite honest, I kinda wanted to forget them. But I found it strangely intriguing that these kids had found all these one-off bands from Queens to be these arcane entities. I now understood why old British hippies found me suspect when I’d drill them on bands with names like Steel Mill and Sweet Slag.
A few years ago in front of a 1.6 Band reunion show, I ran into Freddy Alva, one half of the duo who released the New Breed compilation. I hadn’t seen him in probably 15 years, and our conversation immediately jumped to the interest shown to the bands on the New Breed comp and how weird it was. He said something about trying to re-issue it on vinyl and all I had to say was, “Now is the time.”
And looky looky here, the New Breed comp is now out there for anyone to get in the double LP format complete with the original booklet and some bonus cuts from Lifes’ Blood and All for One, and goddamn if it hasn’t turned my living room into a mosh pit of one for the past month or so. I got back in touch with Freddy to skank down memory lane and here’s what landed on the tape.
VICE: So how did you eventually get into Hardcore?
Freddy Alva: I got into NYHC during my sophomore year of high school in 1985. There was a group of skinheads at my school, mostly from East New York and Queens, that had a band called Occupied Territory. It was through hanging out with them that I got introduced to CBGB’s as well as essential musical documents like the Bad Brains ROIR cassette, the Cro-Mags demo, and others of that ilk. The raw and explosive energy barely contained in those tapes, combined with the dangerous/no-man’s-land vibe of the Lower East Side, where CB’s was located, irrevocably seduced me into the loud and fast ethos that hardcore exemplified for me.
When did you start New Breed?
I started New Breed in 1987 as a way of getting more actively involved in the scene. I enjoyed designing layouts and took visual cues from some great local zines like Guillotine and Bullshit Monthly, and national ones like Suburban Voice and Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll. My friend Chaka Malik, who I met hanging out at the Some Records store in the Lower East Side, contributed artwork to the first issue of the zine. Some Records was a crucial meeting place for the bands, zines, and people that would help launch that second wave of NYHC in ’86. I picked up tons of local demos and tape compilations there. This sparked my interest in doing a tape sampler that would accompany the second issue of my zine. We basically asked all our friends: people we’d gone to school with, worked with, or had grown up with to contribute tracks from all the new bands they were forming in late ‘87/early ’88. The end result, for me, is a hardcore high school yearbook of sorts, capturing the sound of those years by young up-and-coming bands; hence the name New Breed.
When did you actually start collecting recordings for the comp?
We started compiling the tracks in the summer of ’88 and it took a good six months for everything to be ready. Most of the bands recorded specifically for the comp. There were a couple of bands that were supposed to be on it, like Impact from Jackson Heights, Queens. They never got around to recording anything for whatever reason, and also All For One failed to get on it due to a stupid misunderstanding on our part. Lastly, I tried playing guitar in a band and I enlisted some friends, we were called Last Cause. We even went down to Don Fury’s studios to record a song for inclusion on the comp. The results were, shall we say, less than stellar. That was due mainly to my ineptitude on the old six-string. Needless to say, I won’t be sharing that track with anyone anytime soon, the other guys went on to bands like Taste of Fear and Powersurge, so it wasn’t a complete musical washout, just me!
So why didn’t All For One make it onto the comp?
Due to a silly case of teenage pride on our part. They approached us to be on the comp and we thought, “We do the asking, not the other way around!” This oversight has been belatedly righted by including them on the current LP reissue of the comp. Better late than never!
Other than that, did you have any other sort of “rules” about who could be on the comp?
The only criteria we had were that the bands had to be brand new with no records out. Life’s Blood and Breakdown being the exceptions, as the former had gotten rid of their original singer and the latter was the Mach II version of Breakdown with Jeff Perlin being the only original member left. The one band we did ask and got turned down by was The Icemen. I approached them and their bassist Noah was pretty cool with the idea but he deferred the final decision to Marco, their guitarist. I guess that at that time they were angling to get signed and the idea of some guy approaching them with being on a tape comp didn’t fit into their master plan. In any case, Marco peppered me questions about drawing up a contract, with our distribution and duplication capabilities. I told him, “Hey, our distributions plan consists of going up to kids outside CBGB’s and peddling the tape. As far as dubbing them, Chaka’s double-cassette deck in his bedroom will do.” Never heard back from them after that, which is a shame as they were a really incredible group, especially with Carl the Mosher on vocals.
I didn’t know you guys copied the cassettes one by one. Since they had those pro-looking labels on them, I always figured you went to some tape duplication place.
No, the tapes were dubbed in Chaka’s bedroom one at a time in good old Woodside, Queens. We tried taping them in the “fast” mode, but the sound quality dropped, so we dubbed them in real time. The booklets were done by the same local printer I used for my zine. Each band submitted original artwork for their band page. The cover of the tape, a picture of Chaka sitting sideways on a stairwell, coincidentally a few doors from the old Venus Records on Eighth Street, is our li’l urban homage to Minor Threat. Their classic 12-inch cover of Alec McKaye, sitting with his bald head bending over, provided the inspiration.
When you look back on that period between ’88 and ’89, you had your comp, The Way It Is, andWhere The Wild Things Are all coming out documenting the NYHC scene. It’s sort of this amazing act of kismet that in a year’s span, every NYHC band from Youth of Today to Direct Approach got themselves documented. What were your feelings about the other two comps, and where did you think the New Breed one fit in there?
The Way It Is was hugely influential to us. We saw the tape as a continuation of documenting newer bands that had formed in its wake. Bill Wilson from Blackout Records was a friend and we were aware of his plans for the Where The Wild Things Are comp. Our attitude was one of the more, the merrier. The fact that some of the bands overlapped on both our comps--like Outburst or Life’s Blood--meant that they would get a chance to be on vinyl, which was great news all around. I think Bill Wilson called these three comps the “Holy Trinity of NYHC Comps” and I feel deeply grateful for something that Chaka and I worked our butts off on, to be included in such esteemed company.
So doing the New Breed comp wasn’t some reaction to you guys thinking The Way It Is didn’t represent the NYHC scene well enough?
Not at all. To have a right-wing group like YDL alongside the peace punks in Nausea and the suburban straight edge guys in Youth of Today all on the same comp was a pretty balanced blend in my opinion. As far as people thinking the New Breed comp being a more “real” representation of NYHC at that time, that’s just a credit to the bands on it. One can be from a different continent or a younger age group, but once the comp starts playing, the direct gut-level impact of the music strikes a chord because there’s nothing forced or artificial about it. I must have listened to these recordings innumerable times in the past 23 years and each time I do, the same visceral thrill of tension, release, conflict, and resolution hits me like a ton of bricks, like all good timeless music.
What are some of your fondest memories from putting the comp together?
I’ll never get tired of repeating this story. Me and Chaka were lucky to be present at Don Fury studios when Absolution recorded their song for the comp; we were just completely floored. I’m not a religious person, but being there was the closest thing to musical nirvana I’ve ever experienced. The energy was indescribable and other songs like Collapse’s contribution or the opening riff to Beyond’s “Seasons” affected us in the same indelible fashion.
Listening back to the comp reminded of what a weird band A-Bomb-A-Nation was. I sorta took them for granted at the time.
They remain a well-kept secret to a lot of people. Don’t really know why, maybe their name is off-putting? In any case, they were an amazing band, with a fast melodic sound, great vocalist, and meaningful lyrics. Hopefully their long-lost LP will see the light of day.
So when the comp finally came out in ’88, what was that like?
I had people I didn’t know calling me asking if they could drop by my house to pick a copy up. We couldn’t dub them fast enough. We probably did about 700 copies in total. Most of them were sold at CBGB’s or The Anthrax Club in Connecticut. I wish we had kept up the momentum and gone on to release records by bands from the comp on our Urban Style records, but alas, it was not to be. As 1989 wound down, a lot of the bands broke up and the scene splintered for a variety of reasons into segregated and antagonistic camps.
So when did you finally find out kids were really digging into this comp twenty-something years after the fact?
It wasn’t until ’08. Some kid e-mailed me about doing an interview about the New Breed comp, and that got me to revisit those days. That same kid, who was actually born in the mid-80’s, knew more details about those times than I did. I wondered how the hell someone his age knew shit that I’d totally forgotten about. I then started digging around online and found a huge following for the tape. Not just from old-timers, but a whole new generation of hardcore kids. I had to put aside my jaded perceptions and realize that when, for example, a bunch of 18-year-olds in Australia start jamming on an Outburst song from the comp, it is not cheesy nostalgia but an honest tribute by people that feel a direct connection to the music, just like we did back then.
You’ve also decided to start up your label from the 90’s again, Wardance Records.
Well, you gotta have a hobby in your forties! Having said that, I found that though reconnecting with old hardcore-related friends, a lot them still have the desire and drive to create new music…. I guess I’m picking up right where I left off, putting out music by friends, regardless if anyone else likes it or not. I do, that’s what ultimately matters to me.
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