Gang Green

intro by Karyn Gray; interview by Karyn Gray and Jenn Elliot

Originally published in Under Pressure #15

A year ago I remember sitting down with a friend of mine who was considering going into music journalism. She talked about how intimidating it was to think of infiltrating a world where greats like Lester Bangs  and Cameron Crowe had tread previously. After all, what do we know about music legends? Ah, but we know far more than we sometimes realize. Being a legend is all relative. We’ve gone to a million shows and have a million stories. We’ve smoked cigarettes, had a few beers, shared our couches, and talked politics, porn, and life’s potential with a slew of musicians who may very well make a name for themselves in a few years. Some of them already have.  And we may write about it. In twenty years, a couple of kids may find us intimidating because,  in our time, we were the ones who had the stories. Because we were there. And legends don’t become legends until after the fact. No one ever really realizes that what they were doing was something until they look back on it all and recognize the glory involved.

Gang Green is hardcore punk band from the south shore of Boston. Chris Doherty, frontman and sole original band member, started out screaming his face off when he was 15 years old. To me, he is a legend.  But then, I’m relatively young and he’s oldschool. For Mama J, he’s a musician who was tearing shit up for her generation. We actually did the interview together so that we could have both of those perspectives. Either way, we quickly discovered that Chris Doherty is still living the life of a punk rocker, and will be as long as he has anything to say about it.

Jenn: So what do you think of Montreal? Have you played here before?

GG: Love it! Played here before. Played in this same place [Foufounes Electrique]. Not a big fan of the pizza though. I love this country. That might not be what I said last time I was here… Better than a real fuckin job. We play like one or two weekends a month and go to Europe a few times a year. This tour was supposed to be 14 shows, but we can’t be away from home for that long. So we um. So we um….

Jenn: So who’s got families?

GG: We all do. We like to come though and remind people that we’re still alive and still kicking ass. Make sure your seat belts are securely fastened and your seat is in its upright and locked position cause when we hit the fuckin stage… it's been over 25 years of blood sweat and tears. We’re still here. I don’t look that bad do I? 

Karyn: I have a question, just because I also grew up on the south shore of Boston…

GG: What? You grew up in fuckin Cohasset. I’m from east Braintree. I absolutely fuckin guarantee you, without any doubt, that your mother drove around in a big Jeep Wrangler.

Karyn: A Jeep Grande Cherokee actually. I hate you right now. [Laughing] As I’m sure it was different when I was growing up, what was the community like when you were started out?

GG: It was fun! We didn’t know what was going on. We were just kids. We played at VFWs and stuff. Anywhere we could. Somewhere that was somewhat legal with a shitty PA. We didn’t know what was going on.  At 15 years old, we’d fly to DC and play in the basement of a fuckin church in front of 2000 fuckin kids. We’d go out with bands like Teen Idles [ed.  with Ian Mackaye, later of Minor Threat, on bass and a young Henry Rollins as roadie], and Scream [ed. With the Stahl brothers and Nirvana’s Dave Grohl], and we headlined. We had no idea that it was ever gonna be anything other than getting out of our practice space. It’s been a long journey I can say that.

Jenn: How different was the climate back in the 80s? That was my time, my era. For you, how different is the climate now?

GG: It’s kind of strange. In Boston it’s almost completely different. It’s not the same as it used to be. But When we go to Europe, it’s fuckin nuts. But Boston used to be a really cool scene where it didn’t matter what kind of band you played in. Like Richie Parson [Karyn’s old boss at a Newbury Comics record store and frontman for Unnatural Axe] and I, we’re friends. They weren’t really a hardcore band, but he had the respect. Or a band like The Neats, who weren’t punk rock whatsoever, but we all hung out and all had a good time. I don’t really think there’s much of a “scene” anymore in Boston. If there is I’m not part of it. I don’t even live there. But if there is, good fucking luck with it.

Jenn: Who do you think has replaced you? Who comes the closest to you? Obviously, you’re unparalleled, but if you had to choose…

GG: All right, all right, all right, I’m glad you said that cause I was about to interrupt there. Who do I think will take our place? Nobody [laughing] nobody. Nobody can touch us.

Karyn: What about the whole Boston punk phenomenon, like the Street Dogs, Dropkicks, Darkbuster?

GG: Darkbuster’s one of my favorite bands. Lenny and I are good friends. And the Dropkick Murphys, of course, who sort of, uh, rode our wave.  That’s totally separate from our time. Wait, what was the question? 

Jenn: What’s the Gang Green legend road story? What goes down in history?

GG: Did you see American Hardcore?  That was the story.

Jenn: Touché. What was the deal with American Hardcore?

GG: The director used to travel with us. He’s a great friend. Paul Rachman, he myself and my band scaled the fence outside of Great American Amusemnt park. He was on tour with us the whole time. It was a good time. For us to be in the movie, it was a given. I’m surprised there wasn’t more footage. The interview that I did for that movie, I felt that there were more important things that I said that made more sense to be in that movie than what was actually put in. The scenes of myself  were limited, but one of the things I was talking about was how punk bands nowadays, like the prerequisite is that you actually have to know how to sing. Back then, it was like, fuck, the guy with the biggest mouth who made the most noise was it for the band. Like Springa from SS Decontrol. He and I are great friends. He grew up in Quincy. I mean, Springa can’t fucking sing.  But he had a big mouth.

Jenn. When the movie came out, do you think it was a true account of the way it was?

GG: Yeah I do.  There have been other documentaries… I saw it in the theatre. I haven’t rented it. I don’t even own a copy of it, which I should. But, I mean, with outtakes, it should probably go on for about 8 hours. All the different footage of the different bands. The footage that they must have for that has to be amazing.  I would say they did a good job condensing it and trying to get all of what they had into and hour and a half or whatever it was. The real beauty of that whole thing was that when we played the premiere party in Boston it was like this high school reunion. You know, SSD and Jerry’s Kids. This scene started and none of us really knew it was a scene. To all get together again that night was amazing. It was a beautiful moment.

Jenn: Growing up in the 80s and coming of age at that time, I find it interesting that you can’t really explain that concept to people. You know it’s hard to explain to Karyn, because she’s younger, about the TMR scene, Tipper Gore, and what was happening as a Canadian and the politics then. For you guys, as Americans, it must have been intensified.

GG: You know… You’re right.

Jenn: Hot dog! We’re done.

GG: I think the greatest moment in sports history was when the US Olympic hockey team beat the Russians in 1980.

Karyn: I know that I’m the baby here, but it was pretty huge for me when I was standing in this bar, downstairs, when the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the finals. I cried.

GG: Yeah! I’ve actually compared the two. When the US beat the Russians it wasn’t for the gold medal. And when the Red Sox beat the Yankees, it wasn’t for the Series. It was just a fucking huge thing. It wasn’t just a sporting event. It was political. It was pride. With the Russians it was Cold War bullshit. I remember  there were fucking missiles pointed at the Quincy Ship yard. Growing up then, it was like it could all be over in a second so you might as well fucking live it up.

Karyn: When are you headed home?

GG: Where’s home? I haven’t slept for three nights in the same bed this entire year.



Barred For Life

The influence of Black Flag- in more ways than one.

by Karyn Gray

Pretty much everyone knows Black Flag. Or if they don’t, they’ve heard the name and know that they probably should. Just in case you’d like a refresher, Black Flag was a band that formed in the mid-70s and is credited as being one of the first hardcore punk bands ever: very DIY, non-conformist, anti-authoritarian mentality originally coupled with what became that classic hardcore punk sound. Even if you’ve never heard of band founder, Greg Ginn, you’ve probably heard of, listened to, seen, been afraid of, or admired Henry Rollins, who became the vocalist of the band in 1981. At the time, Black Flag was the band. They were the epitome of underground anti-bourgeois youth culture. The uncanny thing is, while many bands have their moment of influence and relevance only to be gradually replaced, as goes the cycle, Black Flag has remained a massively influential assemblage that is still affecting the youth of today- thirty years later. In fact, people have been so affected that you can see it on their skin.

Barred For Life
 is a book documenting a cult phenomenon: thousands of people over the span of decades have contributed to the iconic nature of Black Flag’s ‘The Bars’ logo by having it tattooed on their person. What does it represent? The DIY mentality? The punk mindset? Yes, and then some. That’s the thing with logos and semiotics. Each person that has this tattoo brings a new meaning to it and has a different take on it. The creators of the book are traveling the world to take photos and do interviews with a plethora of people to hear (and document) the stories behind them all. That’s the amazing thing about underground culture. You never know just how and to what degree it might effect you- mentally, culturally, or literally tattooed on your being. You can find out more at www.myspace.com/barredforlife         

Incidentally, “it’s” in this poster should actually be “its.”