Agony Shorthand

Friday, May 28, 2004
AGONY SHORTHAND TALKS TO CLINT CONLEY ABOUT BOSTON HARDCORE!.......This small chat with MISSION OF BURMA’s Clint Conley took place a few weeks ago in cyberspace, and was slated to be part of another online magazine’s since-revamped Burma tribute next month. My proposed angle for my piece was a handful of questions on Mission of Burma’s proximity to the 1981-83 Boston hardcore scene of SS DECONTROL, DEEP WOUND etc. – thinking that they had played on some of those bills, I reckoned that there might be some rich stories of fistfights, stagedive mishaps and having to play songs like “Trem Two” a zillion MPH to keep from being murdered onstage by a pack of angry baldies. You be the judge! :

Agony Shorthand: Mission of Burma's first round of recordings and bulk of gigging happened during a time (1981-83) when Boston was well-known, at least in underground rock circles, for a particularly aggressive brand of hardcore punk. To what extent, if at all, were Burma influenced by this sound?

Clint Conley: Hardcore was certainly a force. We dug the energy and speed and audience 'participation'. I'd have to say though, the bands we really dug the most were mostly from out of town -- Flag, Minor Threat. We played with Black Flag at the Peppermint Lounge in NY on their first gig in NY. They completely killed us -- we loved it, our minds were blown. Did we start playing faster? It's possible.

Agony Shorthand: You mentioned in a previous interview that, "We did play with some of the hardcore bands, but the whole hardcore scene hadn't hardened into a rigid thing yet, it was just craziness. Crazy guitars - that was our language. These guys were just doing it twice as fast". Can you say anything more about the similarities?

Clint Conley: Burma always leaned in the direction of hi-speed confusion, and that aspect of hard core was a total rush. Later the hard core scene became more regimented and codified. It's the old story -- an initial burst of anarchic freedom turns into small-minded intolerance w/ a list of do's and don'ts.

Agony Shorthand: Were there any standouts for you in Boston's hardcore days, and was there any affinity between you guys and those bands?

Clint Conley: I loved the first Jerry's Kids album -- played it a ton. But I didn’t know any of those guys. I suppose we knew Springa from SSD best on a personal level. They had a massive guitar sound that was completely frightening, and his 'little big man' voice added a hard-core cartoon element that was entertaining.

Agony Shorthand: There must be at least one good story of Mission of Burma on stage, confronted with a boatload of angry hardcore kids who couldn't wait for you to leave the stage.

Clint Conley: The gig that stands out was in Hollywood, playing with the Kennedys and Circle Jerks in '82. Us thin-skinned art-weenies from Boston got a rather hostile response. No applause after songs, just yelling and spitting. Maybe they were trying to show affection? I don’t think so. It was somewhat intimidating, but much more interesting than the typical non-response of many of our gigs for 'new wave' audiences. Offstage, Jello offered his condolences: 'not exactly the most open minded crowd, eh?'

Agony Shorthand: Similarly, were there times when you were able to win over what might have looked to be a hostile crowd there to see, say, SS Decontrol or Negative FX?

Clint Conley: We never really played with the Boston hard core bands, that I can remember -- except on our last gig we asked Neg FX to open. They played a completely chaotic 10 min. set that ended with the stage jammed with kids and cops. Fun. But in general when we played in Boston there wasn’t enough hostility.

Agony Shorthand: What was a typical bill for you to be placed on in the band's early days, and how do you contrast that with what I assume is the band's current ability to pick and choose who you play with?

Clint Conley: We were often selected to open for the latest Brit band -- Go4, the Cure, Psych Furs, etc. The club owners musta thought we sounded Limey. It was cool -- we made some friends, and they’d sometimes ask us to play with them in NY and other places.