Syracuse, NJ’s CRUCIAL MACABRE have recently unveiled their new EP called “Crucial Macaque”. This powerviolence unit injected me a great dose of blasting angry hardcore and inspired me to do this interview straight away. They turned out to be amazing guys with passion and were so kind to share their thoughts on the band, NJ punk scene, and Badlands, a collectively run show and art space in Syracuse, NY. Lots of other random subjects came up, as well. See for yourself – start reading!
Hey, guys. You’re the first Syracuse band I’ve interviewed, I believe. Cool to have you here. Please shoot me a little introduction to CRUCIAL MACABRE?
That’s awesome! Thanks so much for talking with us! The 3 of us got together a few years back after being in mostly street punk or powerviolence/grind bands, and tried to find a middle ground which ended up just being kind of noisy hardcore. The 3 of us had also just lost some friends suddenly and were looking for an outlet for our frustration with a world that is so ungrateful for the gift of life. After 2 demos and almost 3 years together its more apparent that our main ideal is taking the good from the bad things that happen to us and maintaining a level of respect for all life that enables us to form lasting friendships and build stronger communities within DIY hardcore.
So what’s your general approach to this band. Do you take it as a channel of your interests, passions and emotions, or is there a bigger plot to it? Do you have an ultimate goal with this project?
Definitely our music and live show is a direct line for raw emotion but with a slight sense of humour, or maybe more humility, about being in a genre that is mostly tough guy hardcore. When we first started our initial goal was to try and bridge the gap between the punk and hardcore scene here in Syracuse, with straight edge hardcore on one end and drunk punks on the other. We didn’t really have anywhere in the middle for people that want to change things but also realize that we can’t expect too much from this world or the folks running it. I guess our “goal” would be to promote acceptance of people the way that they are with accountability for the things we can and cannot change. Common Sense & Common Ground to put it in book title format.
Is this one of the reasons all your future records will get a “Crucial” before the actual title? [laughs]
Yea, as with everything we do it’s half joke/half serious. Our first demo was all about holding people in our scene accountable for the things they do, and this second dwells more on not taking things too seriously especially when it comes to our beliefs.
How did you release your first 2 pieces of music? Bandcamp only?
Actually our first demo was recorded after we had been together almost 2 years and were calling it quits. After putting it up on bandcamp it popped up here on IDIOTEQ and a few other blogs which resulted in an offer to do a short run of tapes by Kill Your Heroes, a small DIY tape label ran out of southern California by our friend Anthony Valdivia. So, with the support of people like you we ended up playing a string of shows throughout the New York and Massachusetts area, and are hoping to have the same luck again with this second release. Really have to say how thankful we are to find a network of like minded people that actively seek out new music and ideas!
I can’t believe it, man. Awesome! [smiles]
How would you say this new release differ from your debut demo?
We really took the same approach as the first. Everything was done in one day and we stuck to a live sound rather than over producing anything. The songs are bouncier than the first definitely but still fast and short. This recording was done in studio (More Sound Syracuse) by our friend Shaun Sutkus, who recorded the first one also, so there is a little more clarity to it but still raw.
How do you remember your recording process? Tell me more about the place where you recorded it and people you worked with.
The whole process is always pretty quick and easy. Our friend Shaun is great at what he does and More Sound is an amazing studio that feels like home so we just blasted out the drums, guitar, and vocals and mixed/mastered on the spot. We are always well prepared and practiced so the hardest part really is finding a day that works for everyone since the 3 of us work at the same restaurant. The only advantage I see to recording in studio rather than at home is to isolate the instruments, and since not all people are a fan of noise we wanted to offer something slightly different than the first recording, but it still has its noisy moments.
Was it a new experience for you guys? Have you recorded professionally before, with your previous projects perhaps? By the way, what other bands, except BLUNT GUTS, have you been in?
Not at all. I have recorded almost everything with Shaun in the last 3 years. Syracuse is pretty small so if u find something that works you stick with it, plus he always brings fresh ideas to the table and is just a good friend so it’s easy to collaborate. The only one of us that has never done a pro recording is our drummer so it was cool to see his eyes light up when he saw the whole studio for the first time. More Sound is an entire building with 2 levels of full amenities and now hosting 3 different studio spaces so it is a lot to take in, but most important, as this place gets bigger and better the owner, Jocko, keeps his prices competitive and affordable for all levels of musicians. When I was playing guitar in BLUNT GUTS we recorded our first demo there and just hit it off and since have always worked with Shaun but in all different settings.
Nothing worth mentioning before this band but a new project from the ashes of BLUNT GUTS called SORExCUSE coming out with a demo in the next month after letting my shoulder heal from a biff I took during our first set. Luckily someone got it on film though.
Nice one! And I love the name [smiles]. Who in the pack is straight edge?
Nobody in that band is straight edge but the name is from a nickname for Syracuse which is commonly referred to as sorexcuse. We were definitely an epicenter for the mid 90’s movement but the city has since lost its militant edge and become more accepting as long as you are still a socially responsible person.
Oh, I see [smiles].
Were you so lucky to attend one of the legendary Hellfest editions back in the 90s or early 00s?
I didn’t move here until 2003 so I missed out. Our guitarist was at the 2002 edition but was like 13 so doesn’t remember much [laughs]. It’s cool to have such an awesome hardcore heritage in a town of dying industry.
Definitely. The European Hellfest doesn’t equal the NJ party [smiles].
What does the word powerviolence mean to you? Do you like the term? Do you think it’s appropriate?
Powerviolence to me as a lifestyle is power in chaos, living in a country with a crumbling financial system and selfish social policies has taught us to depend on each other in a smaller community setting. Here in Syracuse there is a strong comradery among people in the DIY scene and a lot of them are responsible likeminded people that look for alternatives to everything. Some own and operate small business and everyone is accountable for themselves as far as social acceptance and enforcement. I don’t think the term is totally appropriate for this band because when I think PV, I imagine a blast-grind-blast-breakdown song structure. Bands like FUCK ON THE BEACH and NY state heroes, SPOONFUL OF VICODIN, but there are some noisy parts that are reminiscent of a PV nature so we’re happy to be associated. [smiles]
And the infamous “screamo” genre?
I think that one’s pretty far off from us. Screamo makes me think of bands like SAETIA, which I love, but its more highs and lows with group screaming and vocal breakdowns. We are way more straight forward and less artsy.
Alright, let’s discuss Badlands, a community space you’re obviously involved in. How did you start it? Where did the idea come from?
Badlands is a collectively run DIY art/show space that was formed a little over 2 years ago. There was a good handful of us booking shows here in Syracuse and were running out of cheap options after a house venue I helped run had to stop hosting out of respect for the neighborhood. So we all pitched in on the first months rent and started independently booking shows for a low rate. After having a very successful summer we started to receive alot of negative attention, because of a neighboring art space that was being used as a raver free for all, and decided to close our doors and look for a new spot. Now after 4 months we have a new location and will be opening again April 1st in a bigger space with more potential for art spaces and full record distro. We offer really affordable booking rates that work with the varying attendance of each show so if any DIY bands or promoters out there are looking for a space in Syracuse contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and Facebook.
What were some of the best shows you remember going on there?
For me personally BLACK SS and the final OAK & BONE and WHITE GUILT shows were the 2 that stand out. There was also the super packed LEMURIA and RIVAL MOB shows that both had over 100 people in the door plus bands and volunteers it was about 130 people in a 20 by 30 foot room. Lots of great videos surfing the web from the 2 years at our original location if anyone is so inclined.
Tell me more about your distro. How often do you update it? What labels are you working with?
For now it’s just a decent sized collection of punk/hard/grind core records that I bought from a friend, along with my own collection and stuff that other members have donated. I really am new to the whole thing but I would love to work with anyone that would like help each other out. Once our doors are actually open we will have a full list online with PayPal options [smiles].
Do you have some cool zines you’d like to recommend?
You know I think people here forgot how to read. When I first moved here there were always tables full of indie reading material but it has been a few years since I have seen any zines at shows. Syracuse is pretty jaded and is coming back from a slump where people kind of stopped caring about zines and records, so trying to get it going again.
What do you think is the reason for that?
I would say a combination between social media and an over saturated scene. People are more likely to write a post or tweet rather than making a zine nowadays, and when there were tables for reading materials in the past years it seemed like there was no filter, so u could go through quite a few before u ever find one u can actually get into. I’m not sure what it’s like in other cities but I expect to pick something like that up and be able to read about bands, random stories and look at neat pictures, but a lot of the stuff coming thru was just being used to push personal agendas and beliefs. There should always be that presence and acceptance of change but I don’t need to read 100 articles about animal rights or vegan straight edge, I have the internet and my own decisions in life to make [laughs]. I would love to get turned onto some more art and band based zines if u have any recommendations for us.
Sure thing, have a look at these.
Do you read books? What are some of your favorites lately?
I am a huge movie nerd so I pretty much always wait for the adaptation but my girlfriend reads constantly and always wants to tell me all about it. I realized I lacked the visual stimulation I needed to keep my attention so we came up with the idea of making one page comic strip breaking down the synopsis of the book she just read and we will hopefully compile them into a zine soon. I did also really enjoy the graphic novel version of Carl Jungs work, and if yr into graphic novels I did just read OLD MAN LOGAN about a post apocalyptic marvel universe where the super villains kill most of the good guys and Wolverine is one of the last few remaining but refuses to fight. Very good twists and amazing concept!
I’ll check it out, for sure.
If there any more books you’d like to recommend to me, please feel free…
I honestly barely have time to read books anymore unless I can finish it in under a few hours. My girlfriend has a nice collection on one shelf and I have what is usually the butt of a joke when friends come over [laughs]. My 2 personal favorites in my collection are the Shell Silverstein adult oriented Different Dances and the big one that looks like a book but really just hides my weed [laughs].
[laughs] 1000 Pin-up Girls won.
I can see some Marvel items over there. Tell me more about you and
I was really into comics as a kid but found those at a friends record shop and he let me take em for free. I am more a fan of the artwork than the story lines aside from the Old Man Logan book. Almost every book i own ends up in pieces from tearing out pictures and keeping a stockpile of images in my desk drawers, which was just something I had always done since i was a kid ripping pages out of magazines or comics i couldn’t afford. (looking back I have to say sorry to all the comic shop owners i pissed off by doing that.) Nowadays though I have been introduced to scanners so i try to keep the books and file the images on my computer. There is always something that brings me back to hand stencils, scrapping, and collages though, and the singer from soreXcuse is starting to get me into stamping which is another handmade gem.
Great! Do you have your own precious, a masterpiece you created and are now extremely proud of?
Almost everything I do gets used for band artwork or mostly flyers, but I did this one a few years back out of old Juxtapoz magazines and have had nowhere to use it since I rarely use anything full color. I hardly ever create for fun anymore since there is usually some band or show coming up that requires artwork so it always has a home.
Looks grindcore, dude! [smiles]
Now… give me some reasons why people are fucking boring? [smiles]
I just feel like for every good thing that happens there is something terrible around the corner and there is a constant balance of good and bad going on all the time. Whether its political, social, economic, or even personal there will always be this struggle for one over the other. I think about this and it makes peoples actions and outcomes seem so easy to predict no matter how spontaneous because of the probability that it has already happened before and will continue to happen again and again. We as a species have taken such huge strides but managed to not only stay in the same place but also bury our heads in the sand. I was born so many years after civil and equal rights yet still have to live in an era of ignorance where things like gay rights/marriage and abortion/birth control are being fought over when they are basic human rights. Although I know in the end there will be equal rights for same sex couples, I feel like there will just be another seemingly common sense issue up for debate to follow. We are only as good as our weakest link and we are stuck never ending cycle of adversity and finding ways to overcome those hardships with no end in sight. Fucking boring race headed nowhere.
How can we try to change that? Is that even possible?
Change is like ketchup in a glass bottle, slow as fuck, and if u force it out it’s not as good. The way I deal with all the monotony is to surround myself with like-minded people and DIY projects to fill my time. All 3 of us in CM work together at an independently owned restaurant with no red meat and vegan vegetarian friendly food so we can keep up fantasy world walls but for every progressive step we take there is someone taking a step back.
Do you believe in God?
I believe in good. I also believe in separation of religion and spirituality. One is deeply personal and the other is a book of ancient ghost stories taken as literal fact and has intertwined with all the decision making aspects of our lives.
Alright, I guess it’s time to let you go before you get really bored, huh? [smiles] Do you feel that we have covered everything? Is there anything you would like to add before we end?
Not at all buddy, this was really fun and easy to fit into my crazy schedule with the advancement of smart phones. I used to hate the things but it makes life a little easier when you are juggling multiple projects and never home to use a computer.
Thank you so much for talking with us and for doing what you do! It’s so awesome to interact with likeminded people that live so far away, gives me hope for the human race [laughs].
I’m flattered, man! Thank you! Have a good one! Cheers!