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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.