Fear, Emptiness, Decibel: Latest Hall of Fame Inductee is Such a Spazz
Before there were blogs there were these things called magazines, and the only metal magazine we still get excited about reading every month is Decibel. Here’s managing editor Andrew Bonazelli…
’Tis the season… for powerviolence? As far as Decibel’s concerned, hell yes! In December, we gave you an in-depth feature on three exciting young bands paving the way for “The Rise of Southwest Powerviolence,” and this month, we’re delivering our first-ever powerviolence HOF, Spazz’s spastic, fearless, piss-taking La Revancha.
Need some context? As our own Kevin Stewart-Panko puts it, “the Redwood City-based trio of Max Ward (drums/vocals), Dan “Lactose” Boleri (guitar/vocals) and Chris Dodge (bass/vocals) first kicked into high gear in 1992 with an abrasive and brutal brand of rapid-fire hardcore that assaulted all borders of death, thrash grindcore and punk.” While the scene may have shrugged at Spazz’s eclectic irreverence—in terms of both songwriting and song-titling—we know now that 1997’s La Revancha is an expertly sequenced, unforgivingly volcanic crossover delight with creativity (and hilarity) to burn.
Instead of me babbling more about its merits, let’s conclude with some exclusive cutting room floor content from the oral history, as Boleri riffs about not only the album’s legacy, but that bizarre Kool Keith cameo on “Camp Chestnut.”
I recently read an interview with Chris where he mentioned not only being surprised that he’s still involved in hardcore in his 40s, but that he’s more involved in it than ever. I also know Max is still involved somewhat with 625 Thrashcore and that, while not hardcore, Dan is still involved in music. Having brought up all that, are you surprised that an album you created 20 years ago is still having an impact today? In that sense, where do you see the influence of Spazz/La Revancha in extreme music today?
Boleri: [Laughs] People always think I totally dropped out of hardcore. I took a couple years off after Spazz broke up. I got turntables in ’95, was DJing, and then started making beats the next year and I was in the Shed Dwellaz, then the Shadow People. I formed Funeral Shock with Lord Balsakk of Agents of Satan, and Deadbodieseverywhere in 2002—Jeff from Capitalist Casualties was on bass. We recorded an LP and a handful of 7-inches, played a shit-ton of shows, at least one a week, and lasted ’til around 2009. Luke Sick and I started doing Grand Invincible in 2007. I got hit by a car in 2009 and broke my elbow. I couldn’t play guitar for over a year. The first band I was in after I was ready to finally play was Torture Unit with Stinkweed (R.I.P) and my wife, Jasmin. While I was doing that, my old friend Carlos from Black Army Jacket contacted me about doing a band with him and Dave Witte, and Deny the Cross was born. DTC is just straightforward, fast hardcore/powerviolence shit.
Oh, I’d also like to add that if you were paying really close attention, the last Spazz show was the first Iron Lung show. Those guys have really done no wrong in my eyes, and are still putting out very interesting and amazing releases. I feel in a small way that the torch was passed at that show, and those guys just continued to hone and fine-tune that ’90s powerviolence sound, and really create their own unique sound in doing so.
How did Kool Keith end up on the album? There must be a killer story about meeting him and getting him to record his part on “Camp Chestnut.”
Boleri: I wrote a little thing about this that I published on my old blog. Our friend Neil was a childhood friend of Dan “the Automator” Nakamura, and had met Keith when he took a trip with Dan out to New York. Neil told us of Keith’s infamous peep show and video arcade route, and how Keith’s pockets were bulging with change ready to begin the trek. He even brought him back a signed promo poster of the Four Horsemen LP [by Ultramagnetic MCs, Keith’s original group]. I was jealous.
One night, Max calls me up and says Neil just called him to see if we wanted to meet Kool Keith up in San Francisco. Max had school or something, so he called me and said I should call Neil back ASAP. I called Neil, got directions, and in my haste, grabbed my recently purchased Basement Tapes LP that happened to be sitting out. Keith was in town recording the Dr. Octagon LP at Dan’s parents’ house. I drove up to S.F., met Neil, and we ended up chillin’ in Dan’s room while they were working on “Girl Let Me Touch You.” They finished their take and Keith emerged from the makeshift vocal booth. We chopped it up a bit and I showed him the Basement Tapes LP, and he got pretty bummed. He asked where I got it and said [Ultramagnetic MCs member] Ced Gee was doing all sorts of shit with their material. and he had no say in any of it. I told him where I picked it up and he asked Dan if they could go there tomorrow so he could buy one.
Then, he reached down beside Dan’s bed and pulled out this huge blue duffel bag. “Do you like Max Hardcore?” he asked, as he unzipped the bag, which was stuffed full of VHS porno tapes. He started pulling out different tapes and talking about him. We talked porn for a minute. Somehow we started talking about metal bands—I think Neil told Keith he should check out Spazz or something. “Do you like Gorefest?” he asked. I told him they were alright. “Do you like Autopsy?” “Of course,” I told him, and mentioned that I knew one of those dudes. Keith was pumped. I told him I had a tape of the record we were working on, and Dan threw it in so we could check it out. Keith was bugging out on it. He asked if I could do that same guitar sound on the record they were working on. I said no problem and told him I would get in touch tomorrow. I asked Keith if he could do a shout-out for us and we would put it on the record. Automator flipped the tape over and recorded Keith’s drop that you hear on La Revancha.
The next day I called the number Automator had given me to figure out if and when I could go back up and do some guitar. I never got through and they never called me back. “Andy Boy” is credited as playing guitar on Dr. Octagonecologyst, and while I cannot confirm or deny it, Neil told me it was Andy [Andersen] from Attitude Adjustment. I was happy enough to chill with Keith and get that drop. To this day, it has to be one of the most bonkers hardcore/hip-hop crossovers in the history of music. The Judgment Night soundtrack has nothin’ on this!
A few days later, Neil called and told us that Keith had mentioned Spazz in one of his new rhymes. What the fuck?! We never thought it would see the light of day until we heard “I’m Destructive.” Holy shit! The line is taken almost word for word from the conversation Keith and I had that night. And then Dr. Octagonecologyst drops and completely blows up. I’m not sure how many people who were listening to Spazz were also listening to Ultramagnetic at the time, but it seemed that everyone was listening to the Dr. Octagon LP. A lot of people were catching the Spazz reference and asking us about it. I’m not sure if Keith ever got a copy of La Revancha—I’m still holding one for you, man—but I hope someone has played it for him at some point; I’m stoked to have a hip-hop legend on it.
The January 2015 issue of Decibel also features Mastodon, Pallbearer, and Bloodbath, and can be purchased here. But don’t be a total spazz — just get a full subscription so you never miss an issue!