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Top Hardcore Drummers, as seen by THE CATATONICS’ veteran Belvy Klein

6 mins read

Coming as one of the many standouts on the Flipside Vinyl Fanzine Volume Two compilation released back in 1985 (!), the Hunted Down EP  by early 80s Upstate NY hardcore band THE CATATONICS, widely considered one of the first hardcore thrash metal crossover records, finally gets a proper reissue this year. Coming as a crucial collection of all known recordings, including the holy grail “Hunted Down” 7-inch, compilation tracks, early demos, live recordings remastered from original tapes, comprehensive 12-page booklet with liner notes, photos, and more, the new release comes out for the Record Store Day on April 23rd, 2022 (via Southern Lord Recordings) and today, we celebrate it with a special feature alongside the band’s kick ass drummer Belvy Klein, who sat down with us to give us his picks for best punk and hardcore drummers ever! Check it out below.

Hunted Down” EP remains a sought after (and pricey) collector’s item 30+ years after its release. Often compared to Jerry’s Kids, SSD, Negative Approach and even Slayer, The Catatonics weren’t followers or imitators, more like period contemporaries. 

Hunted Down is the sort of record that usually eludes you for one reason or another, but first inhabits crucial minutes of mixtapes, the sweet crackle at the tail end of some die-hard’s radio set, or maybe the pleasant surprise at a DJ night when someone decides to speed things up and you hear and recognise the first few guitar notes of ‘Never Again’ and you get happy ’cause you’re in on the secret of The Catatonics.” – commented Jonah Falco of Fucked Up.

“I managed to score mine in an unlikely place in Toronto, and coveted its arrival into my record collection immediately. For those poor others who haven’t had my luck, the glowing green toothless grin of this record finally has a happy home on wax again!”

After The Catatonics disbanded, their drummer Belvy Klein went on to become one of the most highly regarded drummers in the punk/hardcore scene, playing with the likes of 7 Seconds, UK Subs and co-forming D Generation. Later on, he went on to front glam punk Libertine – Warped tour regulars and also toured with Green Day, Rancid and even Motley Crue. Today, we’re honored to give you his Top Punk Drummers list, with his special commentary below.

“My top drummers are punk drummers.” – admits Belvy and starts off with a couple of honourable mentions:

Topper Headon (The Clash)

Best rock drummer of all time IMHO. Could play anything and always with a swing. Easily my biggest drummer influence. By miles.”

Clem Burke (Blondie)

Like a punk rock Keith Moon. Master of creative fills.

Jim Reilly (Stiff Little Fingers)

Like an Irish Topper. His playing on Nobody’s Heroes and Go For It albums are especially aces.

For hardcore drummers, Belvy continues:

1) Earl Hudson (Bad Brains)

Really the godfather of all thrash and hardcore drummers. Pay to Cum and the ROIR cassette were complete game changers. And he could hold down the reggae stuff too!

2) Brian Betzger (Gang Green/Jerry’s Kids).

Fastest feet and fills in the west. Is This My World is a masterclass on thrash drumming (and great songs!)

3) Chuck Biscuits (DOA)

Monster drummer and super heavy hitter.

4) Derek O’Brien (Social Distortion)

Bit of a stretch to call Derek a hardcore drummer as he has more in common with the punk drummers I listed above. Watch the Another State of Mind movie – that era Social D is hands down the greatest punk band America ever produced. All the early SD singles and Mommy’s Little Monster album are absolutely essential.

5) Todd Barnes (TSOL)

Really underrated player. I still love all the early TSOL stuff. Always thought of them as like a west coast version of The Damned.

6) Lucky Lehrer (Circle Jerks)

I remember seeing the first Decline of Western Civilization movie as a kid and was just blown away by Lucky’s playing. So fast, so tight.

7) Steve Roberts (UK Subs/Exploited)

Killer drummer. His playing on Endangered Species and Troops of Tomorrow really set the tone for UK hardcore. And both happen to be the Subs and Exploited’s best albums – not a coincidence!

8) D.H. Peligro (Dead Kennedys)

Super tight, super versatile. One of the few hardcore drummers who knows how to swing.

9) Johnny Feedback (Kraut)

Kraut is by far and away my favorite NYHC band. Johnny’s a super versatile player – going from hardcore to mid tempo punk with ease. Adjustment to Society is a stone cold classic

10 a) Jeff Nelson (Minor Threat)

His stuff on Out of Step is pretty seminal for American hardcore. Always great with tempo changes.

10 b) Bill Stevenson (Black Flag/Descendents)

Really solid with the rudiments. Probably an even better songwriter though!

The Catatonics were Syracuse and Central New York’s first hardcore punk band.

They pioneered the original 1981/1982 Syracuse hardcore scene, and their classic Hunted Down EP is considered one of the first hardcore thrash/metal crossover releases, right up there with records from COC or DRI.

It remains a sought after (and pricey) collector’s item 30+ years after its release. Often compared to Jerry’s Kids, SSD, Negative Approach and even Slayer, The Catatonics weren’t followers or imitators, more like period contemporaries. Although the wait has been decades in the making, Southern Lord Records will be reissuing Hunted Down as a 12” vinyl release with bonus tracks for Record Store Day 2022 tomorrow!

The Catatonics by Raw Leakage and Sub-Culture Archives
The Catatonics by Raw Leakage / Sub-Culture Archives

Syracuse NY, 1981:

Small town USA, smack dab in the middle of New York State. Although only 5 hours away from NYC, Syracuse and the surrounding area might as well have been 10 years away. Conservative, reactionary, redneck. Reagan’s America. It was a pretty barren place for a young, pissed off NYC transplant and hardcore punk rock kid named Belvy to be stuck in. Teaming up with another similar minded transplant from Florida named Joe Miller, the two hit it off, started writing songs and formed what would become The Catatonics.

Frustrated at not being in (and envious of) Boston, DC, LA, or NYC – the 4 teenagers that made up The Catatonics did something about it. They took DIY to heart and willed a scene: putting on shows, putting out ‘zines, putting out releases and most importantly, aggressively encouraging any and all other Upstate and Central New York kids to create scenes and start bands of their own.

To put the Syracuse of 1981/82 in perspective: The Catatonics initial shows would often include street musicians to round out the bills – there just weren’t any other punk or hardcore kindred spirits running around (save Cortland’s Suburban Rebels/SFB who Belvy also drummed in). And street musicians were at least better than Grateful Dead cover bands.

The original Catatonics lineup of Belvy, Joe, and Louie Arrowhead played all over the Syracuse area during late 1981 and 1982. Usually on school nights. (Belvy and Joe’s high school class mate Farmer Brown replaced Louie shortly after, with Jeff joining soon after that). Belvy, Joe and Farmer would also routinely get sent home or suspended for wearing Dead Kennedys and Circle Jerks t-shirts to school, sincerely baffled as to how anyone could find this offensive. Nights there wasn’t a show (or to celebrate a particularly awesome one), there would be spray painting, breaking and entering, hooliganism, fights, and good natured vandalism. Schools. Bars. Churches. Office Buildings. Bored Teenagers, like the song says. But also curious, ambitious, hungry-for-something-else teenagers.

The Catatonics by hoto by Bob Cat
The Catatonics by hoto by Bob Cat

Fast forward to 1984:

Syracuse/Central New York now boasted a good dozen+ local bands, an indie record store, multiple all ages spaces for shows, and had really begun to make a mark on the national scene. The Catatonics (and crew) busted serious ass and would wind up bringing some of the best punk and hardcore bands of the era to town. Youth Brigade, Black Flag, 7 Seconds, Gang Green, Suicidal Tendencies, Scream, M.I.A, Die Kreuzen, Husker Du, Necros, GBH, Battalion Of Saints and many more all now regularly hit the previous dead zone known as Syracuse/Central New York. The Catatonics (with Syracuse dragged along) had arrived.

They became a much more serious and intense band and after putting out 2 or 3 cassette only releases, recorded and self released the 5 song EP Hunted Down which would feature the classic lineup of Belvy, Joe (now ‘Jack Shit’), Farmer (switching to 2nd guitar), and new bassist Jeff Jacques. Hunted Down made dozens of ‘best of’ lists.

Maximum Rock & Roll did a feature on the Syracuse scene, and then one on The Catatonics. They appeared alongside big names like The Germs and Misfits on the super influential Flipside Magazine’s 2nd compilation LP with arguably their finest moment, Descending In E. Things were looking good. The Catatonics kept gigging hard, blowing away bigger established national acts, getting zine covers and more great press. New material was written, early demos for a full length were underway, talks of a U.S. tour were amidst, and then…

It was gone.

The Catatonics

Both musical & personal differences led to The Catatonics breaking up. A lot of it can probably be chalked up to Belvy wanting to go out and see the world and do something bigger (going on to join 7 Seconds, UK Subs, D Generation, Libertine and many more), so who knows what would’ve happened had they stayed the course.

But that was then, this is now.

Southern Lord Records are reissuing Hunted Down as a 12” vinyl release with bonus tracks on April 23, 2022.

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