BURN by Jammi Sloane York

Exclusive: an interview with New York Hardcore legends BURN!

6 mins read

BURN is like a forefather, serving as the inspiration to many bands to follow both in and outside of hardcore” – this may sound like a bold statement but in fact the huge impact on the scene (and above) that this band had is undeniable. They took hardcore to another level, a new dimension – both musically and lyrically – and it’s a path not easy to follow for those who dare.

Burn EP on Revelation Records in 1990 stands out as one of the most innovative and powerful records of the genre. Their 3 song demo from ’92 had almost mysterious status for years until Revelation Released it on vinyl 10 years later. “Cleanse” EP on Equal Vision was another hard hitter that showed a unique potential of this band. All three are classic recordings as far as we’re concerned.

Fast forward to 2015 and we’re about to witness their long-awaited first European show in London on October 4th. This is an event not to be missed so make your plans and book your tickets as you’re in for one hell of a treat. BURN’s return on Black’n’Blue in New York a couple of months back has proved exceptional energy created on stage by these guys.

I am greatly honored to offer you thie following interview with the band’s guitarist Gavin, conducted exclusively for IDIOTEQ by Golem.

Band photo by Jammi York.

BURN live

Photo: BURN live at BNB Bowl, by Aga Heiresis.

To be quite honest, you and Chaka getting together once more for a bit of musical adventure is rather surprising. Not like I’m not happy about it, obviously, but I’m aware of various attempts to get Burn together in the last few years but it seemed like mission impossible. And here we are – B’N’B show is behind us already and you’re about to play in London as well as 3 shows in Cali shortly after UK. What’s the most exciting thing about this reunion of old companions? How did you feel plugging your Les Paul in for the first time with those guys this summer?

Gavin: There had been several times when we were asked to do shows but Chaka and I both didn’t feel it was the right time to do it as we both had other things going on at the time. The most exciting thing is the opportunity to be part of something much bigger than ourselves which is the energy of the shows. There is certain chemistry the takes place that if handled properly can be so explosive.

With reunions like yours there is always certain amount of pressure and expectations. Did you, or do you still, feel any of that?

Gavin: I would be lying if I was to deny the pressure. I’m not going to play it cool and say that I don’t care if people like it or not. I care very much because this music is something that so many take so to heart and is very important to so many so if I was to handle this situation lightly it would be unfair to every person who is coming to these shows with hopes of being a part of this. I want everyone to leave with something in there heart that is precious about the experience.

How did you end up working with Manny and Durijah? I understand you’ve tried to get Alan on board but how come his not part of your current incarnation?

Gavin: I have played with Manny in several other projects and he played bass on the Cleanse recordings. He and Durijah have been working together in other acts and Manny thought that Durijah would bring the right feeling, skills and energy to the music and he was totally correct. We had asked Alan but he is newly fathered up and has other things currently going on so he couldn’t dedicate the time to do this.

Its unquestionable fact that Burn 7” is an exceptional release. You can go back to these 4 songs any time and it still feels fresh, unique and extremely powerful. I’m sure you’ve heard countless times how people glorify this EP and you’re aware of impact it still has on folks out there. Looking back, what do you think made it so special? What’s so magical about this record to you on both personal level and as a musician?

The energy from our particular angle on music is hard to pin down. I believe it was a lot more from experimentation with ideas and a desire to make music that we wanted to hear. Chaka had always been someone to listen to stuff he had never been exposed to and really analyze it and try to understand were those particular artists were creatively coming from. I am the kind person that if I hear something I like I will listen to it repetitively and really try to get inside the head of the player or group. We listened to so much stuff outside of hardcore at that time and pulled those influences into what we wanted to construct musically.

Your style of writing was nothing like anyone around at that time and let’s be honest – it’s still unreachable for many. Hard as nails elements mixed with jazzy sounding influences and very intelligent, retrospective lyrics… Was it conscious decision to create something so different from any other hc bands or it was just a product of 4 very different individuals involved?

Gavin: I think the only conscious decision is the individual influences that we had because once we through those influences into the mix what we came out with was the end product. I personally am very iconoclastic and I tend to try to not let what is currently popular sway my creative process and life decisions.

BURN live by Jules Jordan

Photo: BURN live by Jules Jordan.

“Even watching Burn set up their gear would give you that fucked up, drug-like euphoria coursing through your body. Violent, beautiful, musically and emotionally—it truly captured the rhythm of what was going on in the streets of downtown NYC during those years. We would all talk about music, all of the time. Chaka had his dad’s jazz record collection at our apartment. Chaka, Gavin, Alan Cage and I all lived there. We would listen to those records one-by-one and get inspired, then walk outside and watch the sun set over the Williamsburg Bridge. It all became the type of weird hardcore we wanted to play.” – Mark Ryan (SUPERTOUCH)

BURN live

Photo by Scott Daniel Cooper.

Certainly one of the things that made Burn so unique is your live appearance. You and Chaka, two very unpredictable and highly intense characters on stage, managed to create a legend that lives on. Were you aware of impression you guys left after your shows back in then? Burn bounced between insanity of CBGB and totally different vibe of ABC NO RIO. So on one hand you had Ezac, Minus, and SOB with their violent approach, on the other Born Against dudes. It felt almost like different scene and Burn existed in a way like a bridge between. Did you feel like that too?

We just did what we did. I don’t believe there was a lot of premeditation to our performances. I related a lot more to the ABC-no RIO scene as I felt that there was more varied styles coming from that scene but our peer group was definitely Sick of it All, Killing Time, Supertouch and the bands that played more often at CBGBs.

Another thing I noticed about you guys – you definitely don’t live in the past. Let’s just say you have enough reasons to remind the world about you past accomplishments but its more about “here and now”. That’s refreshing to be honest… You’ve started writing new songs as well. It feels like Burn is 2016 is not about bringing anything back – its more about present and future. Would you agree?

Chaka and I are both advocates of personal growth and that includes in our music whether it’s for Burn or for other musical projects. I love writing music and I love writing for Burn because there’s a certain emotion and vibe that is required for the expression of that particular entity of music.

That being said, what future holds for Burn?

Currently we are focused on the upcoming shows in London and California. We are writing a few new ideas but as it stands these shows are taking a priority at this point.

London in just 3 weeks…. What are your expectations?

I am expecting that we are going to put everything we can into this moment in time for this performance. That is honestly all I have the right to expect of myself and the band. Other than that, expectations tend to only end up as disappointments and resentments, with great development deals. Needless to say, I am very much looking forward to this.


Photo by Scott Daniel Cooper.

BURN live:

October 4 (Sunday): London, UK. TICKETS.
October 9 (Friday): Constellation Room at the Observatory, Santa Ana, CA. TICKETS.
October 10 (Saturday): 924 Gilman, Berkeley, CA, US. TICKETS.
October 11 (Sunday): El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, US. TICKETS.


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