Porcell needs no introduction. In the eighties this guy was knee-deep in everything that hardcore kids worship these days and he is still going strong. Here is a brief interview I did with Porcell via email...
How did you get involved in punk and hardcore?
I seriously got into punk heavily around 6th grade. I went straight from Kiss to the Sex Pistols and Ramones, then about a year later I got into hardcore, like Black Flag and the Misfits. I don't know, I was just so drawn in by punk; to me the bands were singing about all the frustrations and problems that I was dealing with every day. I love punk and hardcore, still do.
What would a typical weekend be like for a hardcore kid in CT in the early 80's?
I never actually lived in Conn., I grew up in Westchester, NY and played in the CT band Violent Children with Cappo, who lived in Danbury. By the early 80's I had learned about the Anthrax, the club in Stamford which later moved to Norwalk. That place was incredible, it was a one room basement in an art gallery that held about 50 people, yet I saw the best bands of that era there, like the Circle Jerks, Negative Approach, the Abused, DRI, Youth Brigade, 7 Seconds, etc. It blew my mind that all these incredible bands would bother coming to a place to play in front of 50 people, but I'm glad they did because they changed my life. I went to the Anthrax every single weekend, I didn't even care who was playing, I just wanted to go and hang out.
How did you meet Ray Cappo and join Violent Children? How long did that band last and how did that lead into the formation of Youth of Today?
I met Ray the first day I went to the Anthrax, he had a black mohawk and was wearing a boy scout's uniform. We hit it off immediately because he skated and was straight edge. I was in a band called the Young Republicans that played pretty frequently at the Anthrax, so when Violent Children's guitarist left for college they asked me to join, so I played in that band for about a year. Me and Ray wanted to make the band more of a posicore edge band, but the other guys weren't into it, they were more into joke bands like the Meatmen and wanted to go that route, so we broke up. The next day me and Ray started Youth of Today with the other guys from Young Republicans, which was the lineup for Can't Close My Eyes.
What did you and Ray want to accomplish withYouth of Today? Was having a strong, positive straght-edge message important from the beginning for you guys or did that develop over time?
The whole idea for the band was to be a straight edge band, it was our favorite music but at the time Minor Threat, SSD and DYS had all broken up, so we didn't want to see it die out.
I have seen a number of Youth of Today videos and it seems that in a majority of the earlier performances there was always a deal of heckling from the crowd. I remember a particular video from a GBH show in 1986 or so in Albany where you guys were being harassed by some drunk punks from the back of the room. Were the ever any instances that fights almost broke out or anything?
Let me tell you, when YOT first started there was no such thing as a straight edge "scene," and what little edge bands there were had all broken up so the edge was non-existent. We got heckled all the time, it was tough. I remember the first time we played CBGB's, and I was thinking, "man, do I put an X on my hand or am I gonna get the crap kicked outta me!" (I put the X on anyway). There were a lot of fights in the beginning, especially with skinheads.
What inspired Youth of Today's move to New York City? What was your first impression of the scene there?
Me and Ray wanted to make YOT a full time, non stop touring band. NYC had the strongest scene at the time, with bands like Agnostic Front, the Cro Mags and Warzone. We had been going to shows frequently in NY so we just packed up and moved there and got Tommy and Craig from Straight Ahead to play.
How did Project X get started? What is it your idea to sing instead of playing guitar?
Project X was never really supposed to be a real band, me and Alex Brown did a zine called Schism and we wanted to give away a 7" in our big issue so we just put together the band on the spot and recorded. We had no idea that the record was gonna have the impact that it did.
There were some PX songs that you played live that weren't on the 7" - were those ever commited to tape?
No, there's was only one song, called You Can't Bring Me Down, we played it once at the Anthrax but it was never recorded. We used to do a cover of Minor Threat's "Bottled Violence" too.
How many shows did PX play before you called it quits?
I'm not sure, probably around 5.
How did Judge get together? How did the song-writing process work in Judge?
By the late 80's, the straight edge explosion had started to die down. YOT had broken up and me and Mike were pretty pissed about how the whole thing went down. Mike had written a bunch of lyrics so me and him just went to this really cheap practice place on 14th St. and wrote all the songs from the first EP in about a week, with him on drums and me on guitar. When we went to record, I had never heard Mike sing before, so when he first belted out "Fed Up," I was completely blown away.
Everyone knows the story of the the Judge Chung King recording sessions - what was so bad about the recording that made you guys want to throw down the cash to completely redo it over? How come "Holding On" and "No >Apologies" didn't make it onto "Bringin' it Down"?
The Chung King record was really really rushed under terrible circumstances, and we just felt that the recording didn't reflect the real sound of the band. No Apologies we rewrote into Where it Went, and Holding On we had stopped playing live so it was never rerecorded.
What was the reason for the demise of Judge?
Fights mostly, within the band and without. Judge shows got pretty crazy because we attracted such a wide range of people, from edge kids to metal kids to bikers. The violence got pretty out of hand, to the point where it just wasn't worth it to continue.
You played in Europe a number of times with Youth of Today, Shelter, Gorilla Biscuits. What are the differences you observed between the hardcore culture in the US and of that in Europe?
Europe was about 5 years behind America, so when YOT first went there it was like starting over but worse. In America we'd get heckled a lot for being straight edge in the beginning, but when we went to Europe we were playing mostly squats and there was absolutely no edge scene at all. I got expert at dodging the bottles and spit after the first 3 shows or so, if you know what I mean. Actually in the end it turned out to be a really successful tour, but it was sort of "pioneering." When I went back again with Gorilla Biscuits a few years later, I couldn't believe my eyes, there was a huge sXe scene! Kinda weird.
For those people who don't understand what Krishna is, could you give a brief synopsis of what it means to you and how you came to identify with it?
There's volumes of books written on the philoshophy of Gaudiya Vaisnavism, which is known in America as "Hare Krishna," but here's a very brief synopsis...We are not our bodies, but the spirit soul which gives life and animates the body. Illusion is caused by identifying with the body, thinking "I am black, I am white, Russian, American, etc" and mistaking pleasure of the body for actual pleasure (sex, drinking, etc. and even more subtle forms like fame, distinction etc.). Real pleasure and purpose comes from reawakening your spiritual nature and redeveloping a loving relationship with God, not materialism or consumerism.
When did you realize you were slipping away from hardcore and more towards the culture of Krishna?
Around 1991 or so, I went through some really big changes. Most of my friends weren't straight edge anymore and hung out at bars, so I pretty much just went my own way and went on a real spiritual search. I understood that all these things like fame, money and sex weren't ultimately satisfying because I had them and knew there had to be something more to life. That's when I started getting really into Krishna Consciousness. I've always been the type of person that liked to do things 100%, so I just sold everything I owned and moved into the temple, and lived there for 6 years. It was an incredible experience actually.
What inspired you to come back to hardcore and start playing in Shelter?
Vic had left Shelter to start 108, so Shelter was looking for a guitar player. They didn't even know that I was a devotee, until some hardcore kid told them "Hey Ray, why don't you get Porcell in the band, he's a Krishna now and is living at a cow protection farm in Pennsylvania." So once they found me they really wanted me to join but I wasn't into it. I felt like I had left that part of my life behind. But as I was getting more into the Bhagavad Gita, I realized the message was not to falsely renounce the things that you are good at, but to use your talents and propensities in the service of Krishna. So I ended up joining Shelter and I'm glad I did.
Since there are a million rumors in hardcore, did you ever break edge? Do you consider yourself straight edge now? Are you still vegetarian and Krishna?
Around 1991 or so, I was living with Walter, Tom Capone and Drew, who at that point were smoking pot and drinking in the apt. every night. I was still edge, but they were constantly after me to smoke out with them or whatever. I had been getting really into spiritual literature and started questioning if the whole straight edge thing was just a part of my false ego, a way of making myself "above" other people. Anyway, as an experiment I smoked pot with Walter one night, and the next morning I realized it just wasn't for me, and I haven't touched anything since. People can say what they want but I think the whole experience made me stronger in my beliefs so I see it was a good thing. I'm still edge, vegetarian and a devotee.
Are you still in contact with dudes from the hardcore scene in the 80's, like Civ, Ray, Sammy, Mike Judge? What is Mike Judge up to these days?
I visited Sammy at his apt. a few months ago or so and keep in contact with him, he's a great kid. I haven't seen the others in years, and really don't know what's going on with them. Civ's a successful tattoo artist on Long Island now, and just had a kid with his wife I heard. Don't know anything about Mike Judge, that guy's the biggest mystery in the hardcore scene.
What did it feel like having some mainstream success with the band and playing on the warped tour and having videos and everything as opposed to the success you experience within the hardcore scene with Youth of Today >and Judge etc? How does it feel being a quasi-celebrity in the hardcore scene?
It was weird, I mean when Shelter went to Brazil the "Here We Go Again" video was #1 on Brazilian MTV for about a month, so we were playing arenas! Touring with No Doubt in arenas was another weird one. We also played several festival shows in Europe to over 100,000 people each. Actually, I think Krishna just gave us a taste of real success so we would realize that it's all the same, and no amount of fame or money is ever really going to satisfy anyone.
Why did you decide to quit playing with Shelter?
That's sort of a personal thing for me, if you want you can check out the song "Broken" on the upcoming Never Surrender EP.
How did the Youth of Today reunion in CT in 1999 end up taking place? Wasn't Judge originally going to play some songs as well? Will there ever be a possibility of another one?
Basically Jamey Hatebreed came up with the idea and masterminded the whole thing. The show itself was really disorganized but fun, I tried to get Mike to come sing a few songs but he told me "Porcell, I'm not pissed, I'm not Fed Up, I'm just tired." Considering the edge status of members nowadays, I highly doubt there'll be another one.
How did Sweet Pete convince you to come to the last In My Eyes show and >sing "SXE Revenge"? What was it like up there singing such an old song with all of those kids still going fucking crazy?
I'm old friends with Sweet Pete so when he asked me I couldn't say no. It was crazy, there was kids moshing before the song even started! It was cool.
What are you involved with currently hardcore and other-wise? Do you still go to shows?
Yeah, I do, I live near Albany now, right across the street from Steve Equal Vision, another old friend. I'm in a band called Never Surrender, we have an EP coming out on my new label Fight Fire with Fire.
I hear that you are going to be re-printing a lot of the old Schism design shirts, when should we expect to see those? Are you going to put out anymore records?
The Judge and Project X longsleeves will be reprinted shortly, check www.truetilldeath.com for more information, the site should be up in a week or so.
What are some current bands that you are really into, hardcore and otherwise?
Embrace Today, Coalition, Bones Brigade, Cast Aside, Face the Enemy, The First Step... there's a lot of good bands around these days actually.
Do the absurd prices paid by kids nowadays for records on ebay - many of them records that you were apart of - seem insane to you?
When I heard that Chung King test pressing went for $4500 on ebay, my jaw hit the floor. I had 2 of those things before I sold all my records and moved into the temple!
Is there anythings that you see going on in the hardcore scene nowadays that just makes you sick?
There's always things like fighting, drinking, etc. that will always be there, but I don't have to like them. One thing that hits me strange these days is that it seems like a lot of edge kids aren't vegetarian anymore, what's up with that?
Of all of the classic albums you have recorded, which one would you say is your favorite? Why?
I really like Judge New York Crew, I don't know why, it's just so damn hard!
Looking back on all of the years you have been involved in hardcore and all of the things you have done, what would you say you are most proud of and what would you wish you could have done differently?
I get this question alot, I'd say the thing I'm most proud of is the fact that Youth of Today and other bands turned a lot of people on to vegetarianism, which goes beyond personal motivations and really makes an impact on the world. If I could've done one thing differently I would've taken the ska song off of Beyond Planet Earth!
What advice would you give to kids who are just getting into hardcore now?
Go straight edge, drugs and drinking are a loser's game.
Any last comments, shout-outs, fuck yous?
Check out fightfirehq.com, neversurrenderhq.com, truetilldeath.com, and waronillusion.com, all these sites will be up and running in a couple of weeks or so. Haribol... Porcell