By John B. Moore
As part of the legendary “Boston Crew,” the highly
influential 1980’s hardcore scene that also included bands like Jerry’s Kids,
Gang Green and Negative FX, D.Y.S. provided an East Coast alternative to the
slew of Cali
bands that were dominating punk zines at the time.
Though their initial sound was pretty simpatico with their
peers, the band ultimately broke through the hardcore clutter and committed an
unwritten taboo at the time with their self-titled second record, by changing
their tuning and mixing in metal influences creating a new sound. While that thrash
influenced punk rock has become fairly standard with today’s metal core bands,
in 1984 it was unheard of and caused chaos in the Boston scene, pissing off a lot of punk rockers
that, ironically, had become very rules-focused in their scene.
That record was the swan song for the band for the next
couple of decades, with co-founders Dave Smalley and Jonathan Anastas moving on
to play in a number of other punk bands including Dag Nasty, Slapshot, ALL and
Down By Law.
A reunion in 2010 seemed to rekindle something in the band.
Smalley and Anastas, who had remained close throughout the years, put together a
new line that included Franz Stahl, from the legendary D.C. band Scream,
Powerman 5000’s Al Pahanish, Jr. and Adam Porris, formerly with Far From
The band, now signed to Boston-based Bridge 9 Records (appropriately
enough), are in the middle of a musical experiment, releasing a single a month
for 12 months and playing live when they can. Smalley and Anastas spoke
recently about the break up, the reunion and why metal pissed off some many
skinheads in the 80’s.
was it that finally got the band to reunite?
motivating factors for a D.Y.S. reunion were actually the best reasons of all:
friendship and loyalty. Those are two of the most important qualities in life,
you know. We had been asked many times to do something and it hadn’t been
right, for whatever reason. But when two of our friends from back in the
day in Boston – Duane Lucia from Gallery East, where D.Y.S. played some wicked
shows and Drew Stone from the Mighty COs and Antidote – were making a film
about the Boston hardcore scene, and asked us to headline a show to help them
to promote their documentary, we all instantly said we would be glad
to help. That was one of the best things about the Boston crew, the loyalty and mutual help we
would give each other, whether it was in the pit or in a fight or
whatever. And it was really, really good to see each other again. And
while I think honestly it sounded rusty as hell at the beginning, it gelled
surprisingly quickly, which is a tribute to those players.
One of the
things that struck me during rehearsals was how D.Y.S. had become a complicated
band in terms of song structures, the second album stuff. Not freeform jazz oD.Y.S.sey
weird, but on some songs, unique arrangements and lines per verse, that
kind of thing. So it was interesting to rehearse these songs and see them in a
new light, and actually tweak a few of them here and there. And then when we
played the big show with all our friends there, and it honestly sounded really
powerful, it seemed really a bummer to not play together again. So we kept the torch lit instead of dousing it without reason.
So it has been very musically honest.
all stayed in contact since splitting up?
Smalley: Jonathan (Anastas) and I have been friends since 1981. So that’s a great bond
and we always keep each other posted on life and love and rock. And he is
really good at staying knowledgeable about where people are. I’d had occasional
contact with the other guys too, but he really made it all happen. There has to
be friendship or a band won’t have a certain kind of spark and chemistry. D.Y.S.
always had that.
Al (Pahanish, Jr., Powerman 5000) and Adam (Porris, Far From Finished) are now
part of the lineup. How did they get involved?
our initial reunion, Ross Luongo (our original lead guitar player) had already
been playing in a band with Bobbie and Jack called Automatic. The three
of them had great musical interplay. Leveraging that into what we thought
would be a one-off D.Y.S. reunion show and movie shoot made a lot of sense and
you can hear the power of that line-up on our Bridge Nine live album More than Fashion: Live from the Gallery East Reunion. Almost immediately after the
show, Ross got transferred to the UK as part of his work so that
specific chemistry changed. As the future
plans for D.Y.S. became more ambitious, it was clear that we needed players
with a closer geography and the time to write, record, tour, etc. I had known
drummer Al Pahanish Jr. since DreamWorks relocated his old band – Powerman 5000
– to L.A. from Boston and I had a ton of respect for his
playing. Dave and I had also recorded with Al on a sort of (still
unreleased) “punk rock supergroup” project (Dave on vocals, Jamie
Sciarappa from SSD on bass, Al on drums, I played rhythm guitar and Johnny Rock
from the Boston Band Half Cocked played lead guitar) and we were impressed even
more. D.Y.S. and Franz’s band Scream go all the way back to early
hardcore together. After many years of being out of touch, it turned out
that Franz and his family lived in the same neighborhood in the Hollywood Hills
that I did and we became close socially. I had been looking for a way to
play music with Franz for a long time. Adam – like Al – went to Berklee School
of music in Boston
and has amazing chops. Right after we met, I searched on YouTube for his
work with Far From Finished and was impressed by this young kid who had a real
confidence on stage. His leads were like a young Billy Duffy where he’d
just naturally take two steps to the spotlight and dig into that Les Paul. I’m clearly the weak link musically, and those
three guys have upped the game on the new songs – and the old ones – more than
I ever imagined.
you played those reunion shows in 2010, did you know at the time you were going
to write new music or did that evolve over time?
as I said, it was only a one-off thing, but the show was so powerful, and the
reactions so strong, and the emotional feeling onstage was so real, that when
it was done, it seemed crazy to let that not take root and grow. I
don’t think we had specific plans, like “let’s rehearse next Tuesday”
or whatever, but it was more like “that was amazing, let’s see if anything
else happens.”Then our friends in the Bosstones (Dickey Barret was and
forever will be a cherished member of the original Wolfpack and of the
Boston Crew; he drew the first D.Y.S. album cover) asked us to play with them
at the House of Blues in Boston,
we said sure and really enjoyed that. Then we got asked to play in New York, and it just
started taking off from there and musically we got tighter
and tighter, plus Jonathan gave me some lyrics – to songs like
“Wild Card”, “Sound of Our Town” and
“Unloaded” among others – that are just great. I wrote some
music for them and they came out with their own sound. I didn’t try to
make it hardcore, or make it metal, or punk or whatever, I just wrote what I
thought the lyrics were demanding. It was a very honest and organic and
powerful process. D.Y.S. was never afraid to break musical walls.
We’re a punk rock band that will always be hardcore and metal influenced,
and will always have it be heavy and powerful.
do a single a month vs. just putting out a traditional full length?
Anastas: The music business has
clearly changed in the last 10 years and that’s changed how fans want and
consume their content. Fan’s desire for physical albums has been largely
replaced by a singles mentality. It’s been a long time since D.Y.S.
was last an active band, and it was important to re-introduce ourselves in the
language of today. Monthly singles also give us a chance to stay in the
musical conversation over a longer period of time, versus the old-school
“album cycle.” It’s also been fun to create so many images, one
for each song, rather than just one album cover. That said we do plan to
release all the new music into a collection – in both digital and physical
formats – at some point in 2012.
singles project do you already have the songs written and recorded or are
you doing it as you go along, month by month?
sort of mixing those two ideas. We recorded basic tracks for the first
five songs over the course of a couple weekends in late 2011. Since then,
we’ve been adding one or two songs each time the whole band is together in Los Angeles. The way we
write these days is I start with lyrics and send them to Dave. He writes the basic
song structures, vocal melodies, etc. Then he brings them to LA and the
band polishes those frameworks up collaboratively in rehearsal spaces and the
studio. Our producer, Mudrock, has a strong voice in the final versions
we record. He’s really a legend with all kinds of heavy music and also
shares that Boston
music history with us.
is obviously known for being one of the first hardcore bands to add a strong
metal influence to your sound- which is actually the norm now. Were you
surprised at all how some people reacted negatively to that?
the time, we were simply striving to play the music in our heads, our version
of the music that was influencing our own lives, our friends, the other bands
we knew. All our peers were evolving in the same direction. And,
living in that bubble, we didn’t see the backlash coming. In hindsight, that negative reaction makes sense.
Hardcore felt special to the community, something unique and pure that
they owned. I’m sure it was surprising and troubling to see the bands
they love head into a different musical direction, something they thought was
more commercial. And we gave them a lot to react against. In one fell
swoop, we de-tuned to drop D, a metal tuning; Dave sang a full octave higher.
Songs went from (a minute and a half) to six minutes, they had multiple solos.
The record had digital drum samples on it. We even recorded a power ballad.
It was a huge shift to take place in one release.
However, their perception
that this move to Metal was a “sell-out” or a move to get cash wasn’t
true. We were simply as inspired by this new sound as we were the first
time we heard punk or hardcore. Hardcore had ironically become as rigid,
as much of a formula as the music it initially rebelled against. And we
were straining against the limitations of the genre.
When we first met Metallica, they were living as DIY, as hand to mouth
as any punk band we knew. And when we first saw them live, damn, it was
powerful, powerful stuff, as angry and as aggressive as hardcore, but with way
more chops and one would argue more power. And
that backlash and sense of rigid scenes cut both ways. A record executive
told us flat out “you can’t look like this and play metal, you need to
wear spandex and studs or you need to go back to playing hardcore.”
We didn’t fit in either world. Of
course, as you point out, that changed. From the Cro Mags to the later Victory
bands like Earth Crisis, the sound we tried on first really did become the
kicker that helped hardcore “break” in the 90s. By that time, D.Y.S.
was long gone.
next for the band?
Smalley: I think just to keep producing new stuff, playing
in front of as many people as possible, keep the creativity and the power
strong. And always do it honestly. I love playing with Al, Franz and Adam, and
really respect them as people and musicians. And I’m so appreciative of the
reactions from our old and new fans. So it’s going to be something that
continues to grow. The future is unwritten for everyone in life, but it should
always include an electric guitar, raging drums, thundering bass and a