Sunday, July 15, 2012


 Social Napalm's Erik in front of the arsenal May 20 2012 (photo - courtesy Erik SN)

It's not often when trolling the net looking to buy that rare record, that you'll unwittingly uncover someone who totally "gets it", a DIY outfit that not only hits the nail square on the head in terms of price and service, but whose mission statement can't be taken apart even by a torque wrench. Erik from Social Napalm is one of the rare finds out there, do yourself a huge favor and if you haven't, then check out what he's got going on with his distro/tape label/record label and 'zine. The quintessential all rounder and gentleman, Glorious Times brings you a chat with this spirit of the 80's if there ever was one.

GT - What was it that first attracted you to extreme music, hardcore punk and what were some of the original bands that got the ball rolling for you in this area?

Erik - As a teenager in a suburban wasteland in the mid '90s, I was the only one getting into punk. I'm sure countless people who grew up in similar rural or suburban areas can relate to this: You're 14 years old and for some reason you just can't relate to what's going on around you, regardless of if you have friends or if you're a total loner. You may as well be living in mental isolation. I just started with standard stuff at the time, Offspring and the like, but a few issues of Thrasher and a couple lucky breaks is all it took to get into the harder and faster stuff within a year. Suddenly I felt like a king in my own private paradise listening to the Germs, Crass, Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies, etc. What an exciting time in life, and it's something that you can truly only ever experience once. Just blind enthusiasm and ignorant ambition. Youth naivite at it's best!

GT - Some of the younger folks who've really taken this music to heart were in some ways guided by older folks, pointed to various directions towards some very intense and out of the box music. Was this the case with you or was it simply self discovery that led you to find the bands out there?

Erik - After a couple of years, I had a couple of people point me in various directions, but that came once I'd already started to make connections in the scene. My main exposure to new bands came from buying compilations with bands I knew I liked to discover new ones, reading thanks lists (the best!!), and of course looking to see what t-shirts my favorite bands were wearing. Everything was a shot in the dark, and there were a few inevitable missteps along the way. Looking back, I guess I'm kind of happy I didn't have the influence of someone else, only because I feel like my progression was completely unadulterated and natural. No disrespect to those that were, of course. There's nothing like discovering a band like DRI from a thanks list though. What a thrill.

GT - We've talked in the past a lot about the DIY ethic and things pertaining to music outside the parameters of what's popular today, compared to the glorious times era when this music was far from accepted. Did this contribute to the birth of Social Napalm and what did you set out to achieve originally with this action?

Erik - That's a great point. The music has become more accepted. Thinking of it now, the cultural boundaries of what's considered acceptable have been pushed back quite a bit even in the last 15 years or so -- and I'm talking about outside of hardcore punk. But yes, DIY ethic definitely had a huge impact on Social Napalm. I was obsessed with it. Everything stemmed from letter writing and tape trading. I was all about immersing myself deeper into DIY culture and wanting to be a part of it. So a distro, which quickly blossomed into a tape label and into a record label, was a logical step.

GT - The coherence of the DIY mentality of hardcore punk leaked into the proto-death-metal scene in the formative years, serving both as a springboard to reach new ears but not dabbling so much in commercialism. Not like we find ourselves dealing with has this formidable hurdle been for SN as both a label and also a distribution outlet?

Erik - It's funny in a sense because I think when punk and metal first started, there were no commercial opportunities. A band like the Misfits were inherently anti-commercial whether they wanted to be rock stars or not. The same goes for early death metal and grindcore bands obviously. Now you can buy Misfits action figures and Napalm Death was on the Mortal Kombat soundtrack years ago, so everything has changed. It seems like in the '80s, everything was black and white, but now there's a lot of gray areas. Scion (Toyota) is promoting grindcore shows, bands have Myspace profiles (owned by the right wing Fox News Corp.), and labels have Facebook pages (now trading publicly on the stock market). I think all of that is bullshit and feeds into the commercialism that punk and early death metal were staunchly opposed to. It all just reeks of lacking in values. On a personal level, I try to run my distro and label to the best of my ability while making as few compromises as possible. Does that cost me some sales? Certainly. Is my distro as well known as it could be if I promoted it throughout Facebook? Of course not, but I'd rather be DIY til' I die than rely on some corporate entity to help with distribution.
GT - What's the scoop on the interestingly named Obsolete Formats Tapes side label of Social Napalm?

Erik - Obsolete Formats is an offshoot of Social Napalm that is dedicated to only releasing tapes. The name of the label is simply because, let's face it, cassette tapes are essentially an obsolete musical format at this point. The tapes released contain material that is live, demo/rehearsal, out of print, rare, alternate takes, etc. People who are passionate and fanatical about music -- whether it's metal, goth, punk, HC, etc. -- are always searching for that further fix, from the original mix of The Stooges' "Raw Power" to Beatles B-sides. The standard albums and studio songs are never enough! So Obsolete Formats pays homage to that obsession while attempting to make some obscure material available once again.

Issue #1 of Negative Insight 'zine - (photo - Alan Moses)

GT - To top off the incredible level of activity, which so reminds us of ourselves in fact, you've taken on releasing an indy zine called Negative Insight that's got some very cool content and again isn't the same rehashed crap you can find everywhere else, not to mention the zine came with some extremely tasty old style tape-trade items? The vibe from that alone smacked of what we did in the old days and sat very well. Why did you do it and did you take on more than you bargained for?

Erik - Thanks for the kind words! Haha, well, I definitely took on far more than I bargained for as it took 5 years to complete! But it's a labor of love. It all started simply because I'm such a huge fan of the bands we interviewed (Varukers, Sacrilege, and Disaster). I'd be sitting there listening to the Sacrilege demos going "I wonder why this song wasn't recorded for the LP," or for the Varukers "How come Tom Lowe left to join Antisect?" It was just an obsessive fascination with the era. Before the internet age where now every band that has been in existence for 10 minutes already has a Myspace/Facebook/Bandcamp/Pure Volume/Twitter/etc. site, everything then that wasn't local or contemporary just seemed exotic and on another planet in a sense. It all had an allure and mystique that I don't think exists in the same way today in the age of instant gratification information.

As for the aesthetic and idea behind it, we just wanted to capture mid to late '80s British HC in a setting that was inspired by all the bands we were covering. So we broke it down to a really basic level and made it look like the records we were obsessed with in that cut 'n paste, black and white, typewriter style inspired by Crass, Discharge, and Antisect. The Sacrilege and Disaster live split tape was an added bonus that was exactly what you said, a nod to the old tape trade scene and network of friends. We hope people enjoyed it.

GT - Sporadically released, as most zines used to be in general (with a few exceptions to that rule of course), where are you and Aaron at as far as the zine's current stage of development goes?

Erik - The new issue is pretty into the process. The majority of content is done, but we haven't begun doing the layouts yet, which take the most time. This issue will be in the same cut 'n paste/typewriter format but will cover a different era and style, so I hope people will still be interested in it even though it will go in a slightly different direction. I'd say people can look for it early 2013.


 Some of the top quality items available from Social Napalm Distro - (photo - Alan Moses)

GT - Dealing on a closer level with indie labels and bands than the regular joe listener, have you had any particularly interesting experiences with any of the folks you've dealt with under the SN name?

Erik - Sadly, most of my dealings have been very straight forward. I have not had any crazy stories of being ripped off, meeting famous people, or anything like that. Perhaps the most perplexing/funny thing was when I interviewed Tony May, the bassist of Sacrilege, for my zine, he was wicked obsessed with Rammstein and how badly he hoped to meet them some day and get their autographs. Haha, I thought that was kind of hilarious because I can't fucking stand Rammstein at all. But I didn't have the heart to tell Tony that!

GT - We've seen sort of shifts between what's been more embraced style-wise in the various genres of extreme music, has the hardcore punk scene in general suffered from the same whims of modern fashion that the death metal scene has?

Erik - That's a great question, and one that is sad that it even needs to be addressed. I've always felt a deeper kinship with people like yourself, Alan, who have an appreciation for the various types of underground music -- people who love everything from Carcass to SS Decontrol to Moss Icon and everything in between. But today, everything is so regimented and compartmentalized. I think the one way in which this has a greatly detrimental impact on underground music as a scene is that creates a glass ceiling effect. For instance, you've got people who only follow crust and Dis beat music, and so they will never check out a contemporary band that exists outside that realm. There is little cross appeal and few bands transcend genres, though Disclose, Inepsy, and Annihilation Time are three recent punk examples. But the point still stands. Whether you are the next Napalm Death or Gauze, you've got a mountain of single sub-sub-genre loyalists stacked against ever checking you out. It's a shame that it's been factioned to this degree. Of course the amount of shitty bands releasing records today doesn't help matters much either, but that's an entirely different topic!

GT - Based in Massachusetts, which is an undeniable major influence on so many folks given the old Boston HC scene, what do you see today as far as the scene make-up, quality of bands and overall feel of things?

Erik - Things are the best here since I first got involved in the local DIY scene in the late '90s. Boston has always pumped out well respected hardcore bands, but I think sometimes because it's a major East Coast city a lot of bands will get more hype than they deserve simply because they are from Boston. But I can 100% honestly say right now that Boston is the best it's been right now since it was in the early 1980s. There are a lot of very good bands that I recommend people check out including Boston Strangler, Anxiety, Peacebreakers, Bloodkrow Butcher, Scapegoat, Death Evocation, Mind Eraser, Waste Management, Koward, Green Beret, and Dry Hump. All are good bands and much better than a lot of stuff that has come out in recent years to far more fanfare than it deserved.

Erik caught in attendance at an AGE (Armed Government's Error - Japan) gig 2010 (photo - courtesy Erik SN)

GT - We had truly excellent bands back in the day like DYS, Slapshot, SSD for example and today we have bands like Boston Strangler, Green Beret and Social Circkle who've picked up that vibe and seem interchangeable with time zones. What are you keeping your eyes on in the area? What cuts to your core in that area?

Erik - I guess the bands I listed in the last question are the best, but there are ALWAYS new ones coming out. Every person in the bands listed at the top it seems is in several other bands that always rotating members and recording demos. It's a very incestuous and prolific scene, there's always new things developing. It's an exciting time to be living in Boston.

GT - Do you have a favourite release, for whatever reason, of any of the records or tapes you've financed the release of?

Erik - I'm going to give a generic answer and say that each release is special, but the Anxiety "Pathetic" 12" does have a special place in my heart. Very tough sounding and hard hitting thrash in the vein of the late '80s UK HC scene like Heresy, Ripcord, Electro Hippies, and similar bands. And it sounds very authentic, not like a new band just pretending to sound old. So that is my favorite release.

GT - Since you're connected to that location well, can you give us some insider interpretation of what's on the horizon with some of these newer bands as far as releases and plans go? (Pick any band you like a lot or bands you have info about, fine with us).

Erik - Sure! Green Beret (members of Social Circkle, Blank Stare, No Tolerance) will have a 12" out this year. Boston Strangler (members of Mind Eraser, Scapegoat, Anxiety) has written new material for a to be determined release. Anxiety (members of Boston Strangler, Scapegoat, Bloodkrow Butcher) has a new 12" coming out this year that is all recorded. Peacebreakers (members of Anxiety, Boston Strangler, and Waste Management) have their debut 7" coming out this fall or winter. Koward (members of Scapegoat, Anxiety) just released a new 7" in June. Bloodkrow Butcher (members of Anxiety, Dry Hump) has written material for a new release. And there's always more coming out too! It's difficult to keep up, but I hope people will be excited and interested in checking it out.

Green Beret's ultimate demo - still available (?) from Side Two Records - (photo - Alan Moses)

GT - Our book, Glorious Times, shares anecdotes and stories as the glue that binds many rare or infact never previously seen photos together from those early years. Can you share any particular personal shenanigans, memory or story from your experience, in your time?

Erik - This is going to sound like a cop out, but most of my favorite memories are from either writing letters, developing friendships (such as with yourself), and just meeting like minded people who are into this entire underground culture for the same reasons I am. It's these little precious moments that happen outside the show or in the confines of your bedroom that I cherish the most. These things tend to not lead to great stories, but they are the things that I value the most since being involved in hardcore. That and of course seeing a guy stage dive from a second story balcony 15 feet above an unsuspecting crowd below was pretty crazy. Glorious Times indeed!! 

 Erik with Ryan from Brain Killer December 21 2006 (photo - courtesy Erik SN)

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