After getting robbed on my block by a pack of 13 year olds I decided to say "So long" to my leaky Bed-Stuy terror basement and move into a grown-up apartment in swinging Greenpoint. The guy I moved in with makes his living playing gypsy jazz guitar at upscale nightspots and so far my precious comic book collection hasn't been destroyed in a flood, so it's a pretty great situation for me.
Over the past few months I've been learning more and more about this guy who could easily slip into my room and kill me in my sleep if he ever wanted to. First I learned that he was Jewish and 31, then that his diet primarily consists of lettuce, yogurt with frozen blueberries, and these little eggwhite/flax/soy sauce dishes that he makes in the microwave and which I refer to as "misery cakes."
He would occasionally mention being in a number of goofy bands in his high school days, including Bafroom Dragons, Zeehas 17, and the Rykies. Somehow our conversation turned to CBGBs or Laibach or something and thus I learned that the Rykies were a multi-racial mock Nazi band who'd been banned from CBGBs back in 1998. There was a black guy named Dylan Sparrow singing, an Asian girl on bass, and on guitars and samples was my roommate (Jew).
I asked him if they ever recorded anything. He ran off to his room--which I've never seen the inside of--and came back with a CD. They recorded a complete album back in 1998 and just played it for their friends. We put on the album and I was pretty surprised at how good it actually was. It's not great by any stretch but if you like Lard, it sounds a little like Lard, but if Jello Biafra was a black teenager and there were like a million samples. The record starts with Indiana Jones in Crusade saying, "We're going back to Germany," before a song about fucking Rainbow Brite on a Friday night. Toward the end there's a song called "We Know Y'Gay" (like "Enola Gay") sung over the Neverending Story theme song. The Rykies album is just a few teenagers trying to be really offensive and saying dirty things on a record but they actually did it better than most and it's a pretty fun little record of joke hate anthems.
Here's the Rykies 15-song record with the mindblowing title,
N.A.Z.I. (North American Zionist Investigation). The song "UCP" was removed for presentation on Vice since they felt like making fun of people with cerebral palsy wasn't cool but somehow more objectionable than the rest of the record. Check the bottom of the page for the track listing.
[audio:http://vicerecords.com/download/01RainbowBrite.mp3, http://vicerecords.com/download/02_Purify_America.mp3, http://vicerecords.com/download/04_Theme_Song.mp3, http://vicerecords.com/download/05_AntiSlantize.mp3, http://vicerecords.com/download/06_Lesbionic_Plague.mp3, http://vicerecords.com/download/07_I_Have_A_Dream.mp3, http://vicerecords.com/download/08_U_Want_To_Die.mp3, httpdocs/download/09_Round_U_Up.mp3, http://vicerecords.com/download/10_Bizmark.mp3, http://vicerecords.com/download/11_Cops.mp3, http://vicerecords.com/download/12_Farley.mp3, http://vicerecords.com/download/13_U_Should_Be_Dead.mp3, http://vicerecords.com/download/14_We_Know_Y'Gay.mp3, http://vicerecords.com/download/15_Giuliana_(Bring_Me_The_Head_Of).mp3]
Vice: Tell me about getting banned from CBGBs.
Dylan: We played CBGB's a few times and they initially seemed ambivalent about the actual music, since, like most venues, they only really paid attention to you if you either made them a lot of money or destroyed their property.
The first conflict was between us and their in-house live sound man one night. Live sound guys in rock venues have this fun thing they occasionally like to do where, if you are not a well-known or respectable act, they will talk to you over the PA in the middle of your song, notifying you (and everyone else) when they think your set is over. Our response to this interruption was to sieg heil the sound guy, then continue playing. This tactic caused Mr. Sound Man to begin cursing and threatening us over the music, which actually fit perfectly, so we thanked him with another seig heil. I don't think he appreciated that. Since almost all our music came out of the PA (even Alex's guitar was running through a SansAmp) we were pretty easy to unplug, which was what happened.
Following that, I believe it was the visual imagery of one of our flyers, for a show we were playing with Deuce & a Quarter, that got us in trouble. Our flyer had these distorted swastikas and an "Entartete Kunst" stamp on it which I thought was contradictory enough, but apparently not. The club was made aware of this, and we were called in for a stern talking to from Hilly Crystal. He explained to us that while he understood the idea of using that kind of imagery as parody, he thought it ran the risk of bringing actual skinheads and Nazi types back to the club, so we were to cease and desist. His concerns struck me as totally reasonable, though the angry middle-aged woman standing at the door with him, who was the primary booker, wasn't so reserved. I made the mistake of trying to explain that there was an accepted precedent for what we were doing, but my namedropping of Laibach only got this response: "I DON'T CARE ABOUT LAY-BACK!" I don't blame them though. We were just smartass teenagers who should have known better that people would have a different reactions to our convoluted, masturbatory concept. Still, the Rykies rocked.
What did your families think of the Rykies?
Dylan: My parents didn't really know much about the Rykies. They mostly just rolled their eyes, probably thinking it was only a matter of time before I just got it out of my system.
Alex: My cousin, who heard the demo at random, initially thought it was some crazy british punk band. I think he liked it, but he also said that we weren't being straight-up about having a fetish for fascism. Like, "Just admit it, you think fascism is sexy." I believe he now thinks it's one of the stronger projects I've worked on.
How many shows did you play?
Dylan: Well me and Alex have played together off and on since 1993. The first show we ever played was a talent show in Buck's Rock summer camp when we were 14 or 15. We went on to do a lot stuff together--probably the most well known band would be Zeehas; 12 Wait, which was in some ways a natural extension of the Rykies, though less structurally dubious. So, we've played hundreds of shows together, though as the Rykies I think we only played a dozen or so times before we got tired of it.
Why did you record this whole album and then not release it? How many people have heard this thing?
Dylan: It was just something we did to amuse ourselves. We just grew out of it. I think we had trouble justifying some of it as pure parody, and even if we disregarded criticism (there was a lot, even from peers) I think, as Alex pointed out, without the visual aspect of seeing an "interracial" Nazi band, the concept fell flat and all you were left with was cartoon Nazi-rock. We also noticed some of the more lunkheaded around us who actually seemed to be getting off on the "hate" aspects of the music, including even some of the other band members, which wasn't our intent. We were and still are quite egalitarian at heart and I have never believed in the concept of race, though I think back then, this band was my adolescent of way of coming to grips with the very real social weight of "isms". By embodying and caricaturing some of the things we (as upper west side non-Aryans) hated the most, we in some sense sought to understand a bit more. I think we did gain understanding, however circuitously.
As for the album we're talking about dubbed cassette copies for 9 or 10 people. This was 1997, so while the internet and MP3s did exist, they were not the primary means of getting your music out there - and no label we knew of was interested in touching something like that, as far as I know. Although I hear John Zorn appreciated it, am I right, Alex?
Alex: I think we made the CD in 1999. So, we probably gave out a copy that made its way to him somehow. I remember Zorn was like "Ahhhhhhh, the Nazi band."
What were you guys listening to that made you make this record?
Alex: I was listening to a lot Laibach, Mr. Bungle, Bjork, Aqua, Noise stuff.. Enya, Sex Pistols, Oingo Boingo, Kurt Weill, and Marc Ribot.
Dylan: I don't know what "made" us make this record, but yeah, I would point to Laibach first. And we also listened to this Christian children's record from the 80s called Kids' Praise! Psalty's Camping Adventure a lot. Also, I think the song "Someone's Gonna Die" by Blitz inspired us at the time. And Kubrick. And the Mad Gear gang from Final Fight. And Enya.
Can you name where all the samples came from?
Alex: For Rainbow Brite, I sampled the 5/4 beat from NIN's "March of The Pigs" and made it 4/4. For the intro, we sampled Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade.
Dylan used to collect cassette tapes he'd find on the street, and that's where we got the sample for the opening of "UCP."
For our theme song we sampled Tchaicovsky's Violin Concerto as the intro and as the basis for the chord progression during the verse.
The start of "Anti-Slant-Eyes" comes "Starship Troopers."
The outro of "Anti-Slant-Eyes" is also the lead-in to "Lesbionic Plague" and comes from "A Clockwork Orange." Also, background vox of my little sister and my prom-date from highschool.
We used one of Dylan's found cassettes as the intro for "Round-U-Up."
"Bismarck" takes the chord progression from Bryan Adam's "Summer of '69." Also, sampled a shout from Laibach's "Alle Gegen Alle." The chant in the bridge comes from "Legend of the Overfiend."
"Fuck the Police" uses a Laibach sample for a bass drum.
"Farley" is from a Christian propaganda record.
The drum sound from "What the Fuck You Should be Dead" comes from the begining of Alice in Chain's "Man in a Box."
The majority of "We Know Y'Gay" is based on Lamahl's "Neverending Story." The bridge, of course, is based on OMD's "Enola Gay."
For everything else, we made from scratch. There are probably other sampled drum hits.
You've got this one part on the record where it goes "Niggers fucking nigger ladies/ making little nigger babies/ Monkey see and monkey die/ Niggers flying in the sky!" I've listened to the record a couple times and this line both makes me laugh my ass off and feel a little physically ill from the overuse of the nigger-word.
Alex: Me too.
Dylan: Try singing it in front of a large group of people with a straight face. I did a "remix" CD of the entire Rykies album under the name Printheth a few years later (released on the now-defunct x.died.enroute.y label in Michigan) and added a treated sample from the Beach Boys song "A Thing or Two" where Brian says "When I see my baby/ when I see my little girl." Due to the way he's enunciating the last phrase, "little girl" sounded like the N-bomb to me the first time I heard it. I actually had to go back and listen multiple times to confirm he wasn't saying "when I see my nigger girl." I laughed at myself for being possibly the only person who would instinctively mentally twist such an innocent lyric into something appropriate for a Rykies remix. We had a lot of songs making fun of being paranoid. For example the song "We Know Y'Gay" tries to bash gays, but the song itself is so loaded with homoerotic aesthetics that it kind of ends up fisting itself.
Here's that track listing, bt double u: RainbowBrite, Purify America, Theme Song, AntiSlantize, Lesbionic Plague, I Have A Dream, U Want To Die, Round U Up, Bizmark, Cops, Farley, U Should Be Dead, We Know Y'Gay, Giuliana (Bring Me The Head Of)