In the secret history of American punk and hardcore, the Effigies played a key role in leading Chicago's strain of the energetic and reactionary sounds that defined disaffection in the Reagan era. The group's 2007 CD, Reside its first in 21 years is a return to the lashing chops that made them such a formidable band in the early '80s. With this one-off show, they're playing at The Earl on Fri., Sept. 11 the group will show that the razor-sharp songwriting and political righteousness that gave the Effigies so much power in the early days of punk rock on American soil, still rings loud and clear.
Chad Radford: I never thought of the Effigies, or the Chicago hardcore sound of the '80s as having much in common with "Hardcore" (with a capital H), like bands from Boston or D.C.
John Kezdy: If I were to describe what the Chicago sound was, with bands like us and Naked Raygun -- we tried to write real songs but they had the punk energy. Our influences were a lot different from hardcore and I cringe whenever anyone calls us a hardcore band.
You don't like being called a hardcore band?
It's not that I don't like it, but I think it's an error. This may come as a surprise to you, but a lot of the hardcore crowd is kind of bigoted and has a very strict definition for what passes as hardcore. If you don't meet it you're not hardcore. When our last album, Reside came out in 2007 we saw all of these hardcore blogs out there that hated it, and that's as it should be because we're not a hardcore band. I don't mind if people call us a punk band because that's what we've always been. I don't mean to be presumptuous, but the lineage of the Effigies has always been more along the lines of the Sex Pistols, the Stranglers, the Ruts and that kind of stuff, as opposed to thrash metal or heavy metal which is what a lot of hardcore bands are. People forget that the term hardcore was actually a pejorative.
Back in about '82 or '83 punk rock was petering out, and most people were moving away from it. But the people who stayed with it became more extreme. That's when the music got faster and louder. After a while these people became the butt of a joke. It's like 'okay, you guys are hardcore; the guys who don't get punk. The problem was that a lot of people who got hardcore were thick and stupid. We had a joke that went something like, 'yeah, punk is dead and you killed it.'
No. The real punk that struck me like a hammer was the stuff coming out of England. I never was a big fan of the Clash, I thought they were bogus. But I loved the Vibrators, the Pistols, the Damned and Wire.
When the ball came back into the U.S. you had all of these scenes popping up spontaneously, but certainly under the influence of what was going on in England. I loved the L.A. scene. There are two compilations of Dangerhouse Records that are just great! The liner notes speak to the whole way that scene came together, and was a very angry scene that included Black Flag and bands like that... They were actually the second wave of California bands. The first wave was more like the Dangerhouse bands. Then the SST stuff came up. I love those guys. We gigged with them and became friends. But even Black Flag was always fast. They were like sloppy metal sometimes, or even the kind of stuff that the Stooges were doing. After that it just degenerated. The Circle Jerks set the tone for it -- they were an offshoot of Black Flag, but it was fast and goofy. From there it degenerated into jock punk; brat punk. That's when I realized that this is no longer what I want to do.
I tend to think of Boston as the real lunk head scene.
I know the bands you're talking about and we played with one of them. They were big into hockey.
Yes, SS Decontrol is the one we played with.
Fighting was a big part of their culture.
Yeah, and New York had bands like the Cro Mags, and things like that. At that point it definitely became lunk head music and it still exists... When you get a bad write-up on some hardcore blog and it turns out to be a guy like that, it's a backhanded compliment.
I've started to realize that the internet is a big waste of time and I can afford to not be on it. There's so much bad information, everyone is misinformed and everyone has their opinion. You'll read about something that you're involved with and the people don't even have the facts straight, and when they do have the facts straight they don't think it through.
I tend to think of blogs as a form of media that are still evolving and right now they're still in the knuckle-dragging phase of the evolutionary chart.
I agree, and I' have a hard time even reading stuff on the internet. Physically there's something different about the way you take in information on paper vs. from a computer screen. ... And to be honest I can't really even read the papers anymore because they don't give me any information. It's all human interest stories. It's fine if papers want to do that, but put it in a separate section and put the real information up front.
You work as a lawyer now?
Yeah, I am a state prosecutor but I can't talk about it on the record.
Why is that.
We have an understanding at work.
Talk about a great real-world application for your punk rock ideologies.
A lot people think of it the opposite way. People rip into me for being "the man," you know... part of the system. I can understand why you would think that if I worked for a big firm representing an evil entity. But that's not me. I put myself in a position of working for the public for relatively little money for 18 years, but it's a very satisfying job when it's done right. You have to do somersaults and go through hoops, and there is so much paper work that we have to go through to do our jobs that only dedicated people stick with it. I work with really cool people though, and I like the job.
For a lot of the meat head punk rock crowd crime was like a dopey, moronic interpretation of showing your discontent. I have never seen it that way. You know the song by the Clash, it's actually a cover, but it's called called "Police and Thieves?" It's talking about two oppressive forces, police on one hand and thieves on the other. I'm not an advocate for the police. A lot of what I do deals with problems that are a result of something that wasn't done properly. I do my job because the law is the law. If you don't agree with it you can try to change it, and there are channels to go through to do that. But I never thought that going out and becoming a thief or a felon or that getting criminally violent was a statement that had any depth to it. I suppose if you want to take the system down and start a new government, that's one thing. But after you take something down you have to build it back up, and I've never seen anyone who can do that.
A long time ago I let a band sleep at my place and they stole a bunch of my stuff. I wasn't a lawyer back then, I was just a guy in a band. So I put them up and a couple of days later I noticed that my stuff was missing. What kind of statement is that? That's not punk, you're just an asshole for taking my stuff. We're on the same level, I'm helping you out and you're just a scum bag, and I have no compunction about putting people like that away. I don't do a lot of theft cases - I deal with a lot more serious cases than that, but I don't think of crime as a matter of punk principle or ethos that is somehow acceptable.
My interpretation of punk rock was always a matter of doing the right thing. Maybe I listened to too many Fugazi records when I was a kid, but it was always rooted in how my behavior affected the world around me.
What do you think of Fugazi now?
Well... Repeater, Steady Diet of Nothing, In On the Kill Taker, Red Medicine and End Hits are untouchable records. Granted the D.C. approach to ideology and righteousness is pretty heavy handed for me, but it was an influence on me. I'm not a vegan and I drink beer, but I understand where all of their politics were coming from and that you have to be held accountable for your actions.
Exactly. If you want to be truly independent you have to be self-reliant. That means that you need to take responsibility, be in control and obey certain rules. I liked Fugazi and I agree with what they wanted to do. It was like Pete Meaden who managed the Who once said about the Mods, "It's clean living under difficult circumstances." That's it! To do that you have to have a certain amount of control.
Did you think of the Effigies as a peer to Minor Threat and Black Flag back then?
Yeah, for sure.
And the Effigies are still an active band.
Yes, and we're coming up with new stuff. Back in 2004 I hadn't talked to those guys for probably like a decade. The found me and asked if I had any interest in getting the band back together. I said I'd do it, but I had conditions. I didn't like the way the last two albums, Fly On A Wire and Ink turned out. I also didn't want to be a nostalgia act. I'm not interested in that and I have more albums left in me. Frankly some of the stuff on Reside is pretty good, but the stuff we're coming up with now is even better. I didn't want to do it if it wasn't new, it wasn't current and it wasn't the Effigies.
What didn't you like about Fly On A Wire or Ink?
At that point it was post-punk and I thought we were being pulled into a realm where we didn't belong. I like Ink better than Fly On A Wire, but we had lost the edge and had softened up in a bad way. I didn't like that, and that's actually where the rest of the band went. We split up on our last tour. We toured on Ink and it was just like Spinal Tap. We got booked in all of these college towns when the college crowd was out of town and it was a total flop. Morale was really bad and they wanted to get rid of me because I was the guy who was holding on to the punk ethos.
So they went out and formed another band. I found out about it when we were on the road and we just split up after our last few gigs. Two days later we got a call from this guy who had booked part of our tour and he says, "hey guys, Metallica wants you to open for them." So I called him back and he says 'it's for real, one of the guys in the band really digs your stuff and they want you to open on three dates for like $12,000.' Back then that was a huge amount of money, but we had broken up.
That was bout '86?
Yeah, but it wouldn't have happened anyway. Do you remember the tour that they did where the bus turned over in Sweden and Cliff Burton died? This would have been on the return trip for that tour.
Did you ever figure out who it was in Metallica that liked the Effigies?
Somebody said it was Lars, but I'm not sure. I've never spoken to those guys. To be honest I saw the movie and got about a third of the way through it - Some Kind of Monster. I couldn't watch it.
It's amazing, isn't it? They're supposed to be evil!
Right, they're supposed to be this rock mystery that's in control of everything, not a bunch of guys who need therapy.
You mentioned that the Effigies were getting soft in the '80s, but have you listened to the albums that Wire did in the '8os? What were those guys thinking?
Right, and for the record I wasn't the one getting soft. The other guys who booted me out were.
What band did they form after they gave you the boot?
It was awful. They were on Killing Joke's label and they were called Red Beat. They did one single called "Machines in Motion." You have to understand that there was a lot of variety in the old school Chicago punk scene. There's a movie about it coming out called You Weren't There. It's a good movie and it's much better than American Hardcore. That movie... The book is okay but it's disjointed. Maybe it should be rewritten.
Anyway, the difference between the Chicago scene and everywhere else is that there was just a lot of variety here in the punk scene. Red Beat was more of a dance band and they were awful. I went to their first gig because I was pissed and I wanted my revenge. They booked themselves as former Effigies, which was curious. You quit the band and then book yourself as former members of that band.
Especially if they didn't sound like the Effigies.
No they didn't, and when they were done playing I was the only guy still standing there.
Who is in the band now?
Me, Steve [Economou] on drums, Paul [Zamost] bass, and on guitar is Robert McNaughton.
Are we going to hear a pretty comprehensive mix of songs that span the group's catalog when you play at The Earl on Friday?
The stuff from Fly On A Wire and Ink is left out.
Are we going to hear "We're Da Machine?"
You don't want to give anything away?
Yeah, but you will hear some very old stuff, for sure. You'll also hear some very new stuff that isn't out on an album yet.
come on man you know you got a bromance. you probably still rock that OutKast…
Yes, 14 is the correct answer. I'll pass your info along to the group's manager,…
That was January of 2007, and they are 21 now, so I'm guessing 14?
WWW you trying to date big boi? Sounds like you got a lil bromance bruh