AMP Magazine recently conducted an interview with GOVERNMENT ISSUE guitarist Tom Lyle.
I was asked to review this and then I realized the massive scope of this, and I’m like, “Really?” Then [publicist Sean] is like, “Do you want to do an interview?”
I have 150 tapes, from ’81, before I was even in the band, I joined about two months later on bass, October ’81 and I have them all up until the breakup in ’89.
This was the first series I heard, so are you still working on the rest of it?
I’m doing it as we’re releasing them. We released live material before on albums as bonus cuts and stuff like that. I’ll go into the studio and spend four or five hours on one song, and these are entire shows. So it’s just massive amount of work. So I did these first 30 or so shows, I think there’s 29 online right now. And I did those in about two or three months, mastered them, which means cleaning them up, editing them, getting the sound─ because I have a mastering studio, that’s kind of what I do. So I fixed it all up there.
Well, what got you to start doing this?
I’ve always had these tapes and I’ve had tapes of other bands too, D.C. hardcore bands. Because until GOVERNMENT ISSUE started touring six months out of the year I was in D.C. and able to tape these other shows and I’d always give [them] to other bands or Ian MacKaye and never really thought of releasing them or anything. And then I kinda wanted to do this. I always wanted to do this but the technology caught up to it. Now you can go online and download them so easily. That technology wasn’t there before. The technology caught on to my idea.
So even just having the first [show you have included here that you didn’t play on] did the band have that?
I might have given John a copy a long time ago. I have them all stored in the basement. And every time I move I take the tapes with me. I was the tape-meister.
And the taper. I showed up to the show and I made the tapes. Now when I was in the band I would either set up the recorder before the show and I’d tell the sound guy, “Here, take it, make sure you hit record.” It was a professional cassette recorder that had the option of running on batteries. And then when we were on tour, when things started to get bigger, I would either use the recorder the venue had or I’d bring my own and I’d set it up. It was such a zoo. It’s not like it is now back in the ’80s. Alternative music and organization wasn’t the same. It was very ad hoc. It was very primitive.
When I was at CB’s years after you guys played unfortunately, it was the ‘90s and 2000s but they always had a guy there recording and my friends’ bands would get the recording afterward and put it out by themselves. So even back then did they record it for you or did you bring your own?
They said, “Tape your show, $5.” It was an 8 ½ /11 sheet duct-taped to the soundboard. But you had to give them the tape. You’d give them the tape and five bucks and you’d walk away with a tape. Sometimes they came out good, sometimes they didn’t. But CB’s was pretty reliable. Those tapes were pretty good. We played there 14 or 15 times. There’s already how many released on there?! Because we played there regularly. The first time we played there was Feb. ’82 supporting BAD BRAINS, and then we played there in March again on our own headlining with DOUBLE O, we were on a small East Coast tour. So we were there within a month again.
When that place closed down, remember they had those “Save CB’s benefit” shows?
We were asked to do that. We just couldn’t do it. To get back together again is really tough. We got together in ’07 kind of last minute thing for John, he got beat up and that was a pick-up band, we hadn’t even met the drummer before the day of the show, we practiced the afternoon of the show. Decemeber ’10 we did a serious reunion with J. Robbins on bass and Peter Moffet on drums.
I was there! We went down there for that.
We rehearsed for that for a week. I came down for a week and we rehearsed in J. Robbins studio. We took that one pretty seriously.
Three of us went down for that and last year I talked to John and he was saying how it was hard because how “we’re old now, we can only play six songs in a row and we need a towel.” You’re playing this other one in December.
It’s at the end of December ’12.
With DAG NASTY.
Yeah, but this is the Make An Effort line-up, Brian Baker on guitar, me on bass, that was the late –‘81, early-’82 line-up.
What decided that?
Because of the movie, the documentary, it’s kind of like a celebration, Salad Days, getting all the bands together. At first it was gonna be a benefit for it. You’re not gonna raise that much money, you’re gonna raise a little bit for a movie it’s a spit in the ocean. But now it’s just a celebration because he raised all that money by Kickstarter. He started the Kickstarter campaign and he got all the money from that. We’re gonna practice somewhat for that but it’s not gonna be as difficult because those songs are from the old days and they’re a lot easier. [Laughs] We can pull them off. We’ll be all right for that. That’ll be a good show. It’s gonna be like a high school reunion.
We tried to get tickets but it sold out so quickly. I’m just happy we went to the show in 2010.
Yeah, that was incredible. Everything came together really well for that.
One thing John said was that you hadn’t played in a while, you don’t really play that much?
No, I don’t play guitar that much anymore.
So was it hard for you?
It was very hard. I thought I did a terrible job. I thought my guitar playing was marginal at best. Everybody said, “It sounded great” and everything but I just didn’t feel that comfortable up there because I just don’t play that much anymore.
At least now you’ll have more time…
No!! Not really, I had to rent a bass because I don’t own one myself. But I’ll learn the tunes,
It’s like riding a bicycle, I’ll pick it up. And this’ll be easier because the songs are a lot easier because it’s basic punk rock. The stuff we did December 2010 with Pete and J., in comparison that stuff is like progressive rock. Some of those songs are very difficult. The stuff we’re gonna play for this reunion is a lot easier. I guess it’s also too we’re going to try to promote this live bootleg series. I’m really proud of that. I had to go out of my way to make those tapes, put it that way. It was very difficult getting those tapes made. These were battlefield conditions a lot of the time this was early hardcore and it was just like flying bodies everywhere. We were playing in warehouses, VFW Halls, just places not meant for shows. As we progressed we played nicer places and things but it was still the ‘80s and it was still pretty primitive as far as places we played, so I’m pretty proud of taping these shows and saving them all. And now that I’m playing them all, the tapes are all in really good condition. I saved them in a cool, dry place, and I’m re-mastering them now. I was going to do more today. I’m working on Volume 2 now, starting in mid-‘85 when we went to California for the second time. On Volume 1 there are some San Francisco shows from ’82 on that.
So that was the first time out there. How was that?
It was really difficult. We drove in a van with SCREAM two-and-a-half days. No crew, just their four members and us, our four members. And when we got there it wasn’t like, “Yay! GOVERNMENT ISSUE’s here!” No. It wasn’t like that at all.
I know that was still ’82 but word gets around. Some people knew who you were?!
No. They did not know us. There were a few people but what are you going to do? Play for the four people who know us?! The shows that we played at, very few people were there. Those were not─one of the shows Victoria Theatre, that was with BLACK FLAG so there were a lot of people there for that one and that was nice hanging out with Henry because we hadn’t seen [him] in a while. We played The On Broadway twice, the two shows were a week apart. The first time, when we showed up they were like, “Maybe we’ll let you play.” They eventually did, butthey didn’t pay us. It was like we had to beg to play. And then they wouldn’t let SCREAM play the second night a week later. The tape of the first night didn’t come out good so I didn’t release that one. But the second night is on the Live Series. And then we played some other shows in San Francisco, all really small except for that BLACK FLAG show and then we came back for the show the next week and they wouldn’t let SCREAM play and they again wouldn’t pay us. And there were not many people there.
Did you get disenchanted going out to the West Coast after that?
Of course we didn’t! We’re suckers. You’re doing it for the love of music and the love of punk rock. We didn’t even think about that. It didn’t even enter our minds. That thought that you’re having right now didn’t even enter our minds. This is just what you do, as a band starting out, wanting to play. And then the ’83 tour is on there. We toured in a Buick Electra 225 pulling a U-HAUL trailer, again, just the four of us, all around the country; our route wasa circle around the United States. Our last few shows were in Texas or something. We went out to California, played some more shows out there in ’83, that’s when we played Sportsmans Hall, a lot of people talk about that show. I didn’t release any tapes of California in ’83 but there are some Midwest shows and did I put the Texas show? I might’ve put that in Volume 2. I’m not gonna do it totally chronologically. I’m trying to release the good ones first and then I’ll go back and fill in some of the blanks. Oh in ’82 we also played Mabuhay Gardens!
The old DEAD KENNEDYS stomping ground!
August ’83 and I have an L.A. August and I have Sun Valley Sportsmans Hall here it is August 9, ’83, I’m looking at the tapes right now. That’ll be on Volume 2. ‘Cause if you think the quality is bad on Volume 1… But I did what I could. I spit-shined a lot of them to make them listenable, they don’t sound as good as STING’s newest record or anything.
Well, I think the people who are looking for all these shows, they’re not looking for super quality. I know you want them to sound good!
But they’re definitely listenable and they’re historic.
I was going to say, a moment in time… What did the other guys in the band think?!
I don’t even think I told them until we released them. John knew about it, but it’s me. It’s my baby. I’m doing it. I’m looking at the list now. The Wilson Center shows I put on there from ’82 and ’83 those were insane! Early D.C. shows and you hear the audience on there and god you gotta listen to some of those. And then the Colony Ballroom University of Maryland ’82 that was with MINOR THREAT. I gave Sean details in a text fileof each show, what went on, who we played with, but he didn’t seem to [include] that. I haven’t tried to buy any so I don’t know what happens when you click on them.
That would be awesome, to have the background…
I gave that to him. But it’s tough. His job’s tough to, getting them posted. I gave him 29 shows.
The rest of the interview can be read here!