THE FIRST NINE YEARS
BRIDGE NINE: THE FIRST NINE YEARS Written, edited and designed by Chris Wrenn ©2017 Bridge Nine Records • All rights reserved FIRST EDITION • ISBN: 978-0-9765966-7-7 B9R050 / B9PRESS:07 Printed in the U.S.A. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval means, without written permission from Bridge Nine. www.Bridge9.com • www.B9Store.com
THANK YOU: To everyone who helped us make the first 49 Bridge Nine releases happen. All of the friends, family, bands, labels, distros, record stores, fanzines, photographers, mail order customers, mail carriers, printers, pressing plants, employees and interns from over the years. None of this would have been possible without your support. We’ve made every effort possible to properly credit all of the contributions here and apologize in advance if anything or anyone was missed. Most of the content in this book has been sitting in boxes, envelopes and file cabinets for upwards of 22 years! Front cover photo of Champion by Michael Leask. Initech office photos (this page, opposite & back cover by Casey Davis, 2003). Back cover stage dive photo by Todd Pollock (2000), American Nightmare by Bryan Sheffield, Terror by Michael Witherspoon, Tenfold by Erin Murphy. “Yankees Suck” vendors photo by Kate Bowen (2000).
INTRODUCTION.......................05 1995: GETTING STARTED..........06
Tenfold..............................................10 Sum of All Fears.....................11 Proclamation............................18 The Trust.........................................19 B9 SKATEBOARDS........................20 MOVING TO BOSTON..................22 TOWER RECORDS........................26 B.H.C. & PUNK FACTSHEET......28 GUERRILLA MARKETING.......30
Right Brigade.............................32 Ten Yard Fight...........................35 American Nightmare........40 THE YANKEES SUCK..................42 AN: ‘00 WEST COAST................44
Shark Attack............................52 LINAS GARSYS...............................54
Breaker Breaker...................56 Carry On.........................................60 The Hope Conspiracy...........62 Cops and Robbers....................64 Panic......................................................66 Breathe In.........................................68 AN: ‘01 EUROPEAN TOUR......70
Reaching Forward................72 Sworn In............................................73 THE INITECH OFFICE.....................74 SHELLIN’ AT FENWAY..................80
Death Threat...............................82 Over My Dead Body.............82 Champion........................................84 Striking Distance.....................92 Slapshot..........................................94 No Warning....................................96 Holding On......................................98 Ramallah.....................................100 Terror.............................................102 “BELIEVE IN BOSTON”..............104 LUMBERJACK BREAKUP.......106 MOVING TO SALEM...................108
F-Minus..............................................110 Sick Of It All...............................110 Mental...............................................112 Stand & Fight.............................114 Some Kind of Hate..................116 Anger Regiment......................118 The Distance...............................120 Outbreak......................................121 Project X / SCHISM...............122 2004: LOOKING AHEAD...........124 BRIDGE NINE, 1-50..........................126
A while ago, someone asked me how a band gets “signed”. I told them that with an independent label like Bridge Nine, it was a result of relationships. We only have so many resources to go around, so we want to know that the bands we release records with are going to work as hard for us as we are for them. The only way to know this for sure is through the word of our mutual friends, people we trust who can vouch for them. Want your band to get signed to a label that you like? Interview their bands for your fanzine. Offer to book a show for them so their bands can play your town. Take one of their bands on tour. Help and get to know them, so they will want to help and get to know you. Friendship is the common thread that weaves through the story of Bridge Nine’s early years. This is a chronicle of the first 49 releases, and illustrates how I came to work with each band. Inspired by the efforts of labels like Revelation, Dischord and Equal Vision, Bridge Nine started with literally nothing and the initial records were with friends from my high school, and later my roommates and neighbors when I moved to Boston. Through those early singles, I joined them on the road and my world expanded. I went from just knowing people where I lived, to making new friends throughout the country and across the world. Almost every release that I wrote about here was the result of my friendship with a band, and subsequently the bands that they played shows and toured with, and even later, the bands that they formed when the original ones that I worked with had broken up. This part of Bridge Nine’s history represents the first 9 years, starting with its inception in 1995. It took thirteen years to finally go back and document this period, but time has given me a better perspective for just how each release factored into the labels development. I’m just thankful that I almost never throw anything away, so I still had all this stuff to compile! In the first four years, I only managed to release four records, the next five years brought 45 more into the catalog. During this time, Bridge
Nine went from a local label with its inventory stored under my bed, to an international brand with bands touring worldwide. From being the one person willing to put out my friends EP’s, to releasing records for some of the influential bands that I’d been a fan of while growing up. This book also documents some of the financial strain that it takes to start and grow a business like an independent record label. Years before the concept of “crowdfunding”, if you wanted to get something started, someone either loaned you the money, or you had to earn it and invest in yourself. I didn’t have a trust fund to cash in, a bank willing to take a chance with a loan, or friends, relatives or fans willing to underwrite my releases. I had to figure out how to come up with the money on my own, and that lack of an easy path to financing made me work harder, and become more resourceful. It made me realize that I could do it by myself, I just had to be smart about it - and be willing to take a lot of risks. From 1995 to 2004, there was only one release that came to be as a result of an unsolicited demo, and that was given to me by the vocalist at a show we were both at. I came to know and respect members of each band through our mutual friends, and that friendship led to the opportunities to release their music. Only one degree separates everyone represented here, with pretty much each band having shared members or toured together at some point. Working together, these bands helped create a new scene when there was a changing of the guard, and by welcoming their new friends in bands from across the country (and oceans), they helped each other along and everyone accomplished more in a shorter time than they ever could have on their own. I am just glad that I was there to help document all of our journeys together, and become one of the many connections that these bands shared.
Selling the first Bridge Nine t-shirts at a hardcore show in Albany, NY with friends from Vermont (left, 1996). Photo of Chris Wrenn, Ned Hawkins, Mark Prochazka & friends (L to R) outside of a hardcore show in New Haven, CT (opposite, 1995). Quick pencil sketches while developing ideas for the original Bridge Nine logo design (far left, 1995).
During my first few years of going to hardcore and punk shows, I watched from the crowd. As my friends started bands, I traveled with them to clubs all over New England and New York on the weekends. A few friends started fanzines, another sold records through his small distro, and yet another began booking shows at local venues. As they got more involved I realized that I wanted to do something too, I just wasn’t sure what. That changed when I decided to take some advice and try to put out a record by myself. Bridge Nine became a reality in 1995. I was 19 years old. Until that point I had helped a few friends bands by designing demo covers, buttons and show promo flyers. After high school I moved from Connecticut where I had grown up going to hardcore shows, and ended up in Vermont in the fall of 1994, going to college to study art and graphic design. The Vermont scene was small and I was an outsider, so to keep myself connected to my hometown I decided I would try to release a 7” record with a band from my high school. Two close friends from my college, Mark Prochazka and Ned Hawkins, were the ones that had suggested it and helped encourage me. Mark gave me a phone number for Scott Beibin, a friend who ran a label called Bloodlink Records. I called Scott from the payphone in the hallway of my dorm using a modified Radio Shack dialer known as a “red box”. It simulated the phones internal sounds generated when coins were inserted. Mark had received the dialer by Scott years before and it was now making the rounds at my college to facilitate free long distance calls, which at the time were very expensive. Scott gave me the contact info for a vinyl pressing plant and some tips on what to do once the records were pressed. It helped point me in the right direction. I looked up to Mark and Ned when I began attending school in Vermont. They were both a couple of years older and had grown up outside of NYC, and had record collections that I could flip through for hours. I borrowed Ned’s copy of the book Diet For a New America and over the next few months went vegan, an at-
tempt made easier with his and Mark’s support and advice (not an easy feat in Vermont in 1996). Over the next two years we made countless trips to Burlington, Vermont; Albany, New York; New Haven, Connecticut and Boston, Massachusetts and a few places in between for hardcore shows. I had decided that I wanted to release a 7 inch record, but I had no money to actually fund releasing anything yet and even if I could, I didn’t know what to release it under. I wanted a name that had no obvious meaning, so the labels output could define it. I initially considered using the name “Bridge Records” because I saw the role of a label as one that united and brought a scene together, but learned that a contemporary jazz label in New Rochelle, New York (my city of birth, coincidentally) had taken the name 15 years earlier.
While still trying to come up with a name, in my regular trips from Vermont to Boston to go to hardcore shows, I happened to notice that every bridge on the interstate had a numbered sign. Bridge 12, Bridge 11, Bridge 10. When I saw the sign that said Bridge 9, it stood out to me. Nine had been a recurring number in my life and I liked the sound of the two words together. Bridge Nine it would be.
I was in school full time, but picked up a part time retail position on top of my college work study job to help earn money to cover the manufacturing costs of my first release. To assist the fundraising effort I started designing and selling merchandise that promoted the Bridge Nine name. No one outside of my circle of friends was going to buy a t-shirt for a label that hadn’t released anything yet, so I took what I was passionate about: the straight edge; and started making designs that focused on that. I was a skateboarder and in the mid ‘90s, skateboard graphics heavily parodied popular culture. Influenced by that I started incorporating imagery that I liked, and more importantly stuff that I knew other people would want to buy if it was on a t-shirt. Japanese animation was popular at the time so I borrowed old anime magazines from a Japanese student at my college, and found an illustration of a girl holding her fist in the air. I X’ed it up, had him type out the closest kanji lettering translation of “Drug Free” (settling on “Against bad drugs”), and placed X BRIDGE NINE RECORDS X below it. This first design was ganged up eight times and burned onto a silk screen. I bought some tan canvas and screen printed my first patches by hand, after sticking duct tape on back (to limit the fraying of the fabric). After patches came stickers, then t-shirts. I would sell them at
Hand screened canvas patches & the original silk screen for the first Bridge Nine item made, the anime canvas patch (opposite, 1995). Friends “modeling” the first couple of Bridge Nine t-shirts (left, 1996).
Bridge Nine’s first mail order letter (left, top and bottom), postmarked June 3rd, 1996. Bridge Nine mail order letters circa 1996-1998 from early supporters & friends, as well as people who later formed bands that signed to the label (opposite).
every local show that I could and kept saving the money so that I could afford to release my first record. Bridge Nine’s debut was a split 7” with two Connecticut hardcore bands, Tenfold and Sum Of All Fears. I was a couple of years older than the guys in Tenfold, but they were from my hometown and we had mutual friends. Tenfold had recently released their first 7”, the Vengeance Will Be Ours EP on bass player (and my co-worker at Highland Park Market, a small grocery store in Glastonbury, Connecticut) Jesse Gustafson’s Stand Hard Records, a label he had started with guitarist Neal St. Clair. Shortly after it was released, the band parted ways with original singer Jay Mattesini. Jay was trying to move the band towards a more “militant vegan” and metal influenced direction, but the rest of the band was more inspired by the early Revelation Records catalog. With Neal taking over on vocals, the band wanted to get something out as soon as possible, because that first EP was no longer a good representation of the band. They went up to Boston to record three new songs with Brian McTernan at his Salad Days studio. I needed a second band for the split and considered One King Down from Albany, New York. They were the opening band for most hardcore shows in the Albany area. Like Tenfold they had recently replaced their singer, so I reached out to their new
vocalist, Rob Fusco, in early 1996. We spoke on the phone a few times about it, but ultimately the band told me they’d have to pass because they had made a commitment to Equal Vision Records for their next record (what would become Bloodlust Revenge) and couldn’t spare the songs. Sum Of All Fears agreed to contribute two songs to the split in the spring of 1996. They had self-released a demo the previous year, and had started building a good following in the Connecticut scene. That demo had helped them secure a deal for a full length through another new label, East Coast Empire, but that wasn’t going to be released for a while, and they wanted to get something new out.
The vinyl was pressed at United Record Pressing in Nashville, Tennessee, per Scott Beiben’s suggestion. The cover was designed by my friend Andy Reid and printed locally at a printer recommended by Pat Rorick, who sang for Fastbreak. When everything arrived, the guys from Tenfold and Fastbreak came over to my parents home in Glastonbury, we ordered pizza and assembled the records as I hand number stamped the dust sleeve of each one. The split was officially released at a show that both Tenfold and Sum Of All Fears played at the Bike Exchange skate park & venue in Bristol, Connecticut on August 3rd, 1996.
Tenfold, live in New Haven, CT (above, photos by Chris Wrenn, 1996). Cover photo of Tenfold (bottom left) and Sum of All Fears split 7” label (bottom right).
Tenfold (photo by Erin Murphy, 1996).
Shift performing at Green Mountain College & flyer promoting the show (photo by Chris Wrenn, 1996). Early 1997 photocopied Bridge Nine flyer / catalog featuring the first release & early merch (opposite).
In the fall of 1996, I became the concert director at Green Mountain College, in the small town of Poultney, Vermont. Private colleges have money for entertaining students, and there are bands that almost exclusively tour campuses, getting paid way more money then they’re worth. A band that might be lucky to get $300 playing a small club could get $3,000 from a small college - so I thought if I could get even one band from the hardcore scene that I had come out of to play the school and get paid well, it would be worth the effort (and the hassle booking some of the garbage that paid their bills playing that circuit). I had to clear any bands that I wanted to play through the school, and that proved to be more challenging than I thought. Green Mountain’s campus was populated by a more “crunchy” kind of student so I had no luck getting anything heavy pushed through. The closest band that I could find that was even a degree of separation away from the hardcore scene that I was a part of was Shift, who was on Equal Vision Records. Shift was more “rock” than “punk”, but I really liked their EVR releases. On November 2nd, 1996,
Shift performed on the Green Mountain College campus to maybe a hundred people. Half of which were college students looking for something to do on a Saturday night, while the other half were out of town hardcore kids checking out a free show. In lieu of a door charge, we collected cans of food for the local food pantry. Another EVR artist, Project Kate, performed as well. Kate is EVR founder Steve Reddy’s wife and he accompanied her to the show. Since I was a fan of his label, I gave Steve some of the Bridge Nine “Drug Free” t-shirts that I had made. He liked them and offered to print and distribute them through his catalog. EVR had released records for hardcore bands like H2O, Shelter, 108 and Sick of it All and had gained an international following, so collaborating with them helped bring Bridge Nine a lot of exposure. Those first Bridge Nine t-shirts ended up all over the country (and overseas) thanks to that distribution deal, brought in a monthly royalty check to help offset label costs and ensured that more kids would hear of Bridge Nine, even if I had only managed to get one 7” record out.
Photo from the Tenfold Now Is Our Time 7 inch cover (photo by Erin Murphy, far left, 1997). Early photocopied Bridge Nine flyer featuring the first two releases & early merchandise (left, 1997). Neal St. Clair’s handwritten liner notes for the Tenfold Now Is Our Time 7 inch (opposite, 1997).
By the beginning of 1997, Tenfold had run its course. Neal and Luke, who had also been playing in Fastbreak, had recently moved to Boston to attend college. There, they became founding members of the band In My Eyes alongside Sweet Pete, Damian Genuardi and Anthony Pappalardo (originally a member of Ten Yard Fight who had recently been asked to leave the band). Tenfold was getting closer to the style of music that they loved, but In My Eyes WAS exactly what they wanted to play, so they abruptly announced that it was going to be their final show while on stage at the Tune Inn in New Haven, Connecticut. I didn’t see it coming, and neither did anyone else at the show. It was a bittersweet acknowledgement, because Tenfold had been local favorites, but the writing was on the wall. In My Eyes had national potential, and even secured a record deal with Revelation Records on
the merits of their demo alone. Before the band pulled the plug though, they had gone back into the studio with Brian McTernan and had recorded four more songs; three originals and a cover of Judge’s “Holding On”. I thought it would be a shame for the new Tenfold songs to go unreleased, so I offered to press a really limited edition on vinyl, just 300 copies with the three original songs. The band gave me the DAT cassette, and I sent it to United Record Pressing to be pressed. Since I had been living in Vermont and had only been given a DAT without a reference copy, the first time that I actually heard the songs was when I listened to the test pressing of the 7 inch. Thankfully it was their strongest material to date. I underestimated the interest in a posthumously released EP and sold out of the initial pressing immediately.
Letter correspondence with Proclamation vocalist Mark Fields (1996-97).
Proclamation was the one band from this era to be signed as a result of having been sent their demo. Vocalist Mark Fields introduced himself to me as I sold t-shirts and my sole Bridge Nine release off of a merch table in the back of the Middle East nightclub. It was during an Earth Crisis show in the fall of 1996 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Proclamation had recorded their demo that day and mailed me a copy shortly after. I gave it a lot of listens and thought it was cool. We corresponded through letters (!!!) over the course of the next year, as I tried to recoup from my first two 7 inch releases. Bridge Nine’s 3rd release, the Proclamation Straight Edge Hard-
core 7 inch, came out in early 1998, and became our first with a Boston area band. It was an 8 song EP, had three big X’s in their logo, and was printed with a bold black, white and red design and a live show photo on the cover. The songs were fast, and despite following up with a 16 song full-length disc a year later (Bridge Nine’s 5th release, first album and CD release), the band never really got the momentum that they deserved. Even with Mark being a respected member of the Boston scene, the rest of the band was a revolving cast of younger members that weren’t as well connected. Much like the Massachusetts band The Freeze a generation or two before, Proclamation failed to connect with the more established people in the scene, a frustration that was illustrated in their 1999 song, “Scenester Pride”.
The Trust (photo by Todd Pollock, 1997).
Proclamation (photo by Todd Pollock, 1997).
Through Proclamation, I met members of The Trust, whose sole self-titled EP would become Bridge Nine’s fourth 7 inch, and 2nd from a Boston area band in mid-1998 when it was released. Unlike Proclamation, The Trust was really tight with the guys in the band In My Eyes, who recorded their Revelation Records debut within a month of The Trust recording their EP. In My Eyes’ vocalist, Sweet Pete, had taken them under his wing, as well as Ten Yard Fight (both bands members contributed to the graphic design of the single). In My Eyes as a band even did the backup vocals on the single together and The Trust’s thank you list on the back of the record read as a who’s who of the mid-to-late 1990’s Boston hardcore scene. Releasing records in the ‘90s was a slower process than it is today. For starters, the label was constantly trying to scrape together enough money to cover the costs. I didn’t pay for this recording up front, back then it was customary to give the
band extra copies of their record once it was pressed to help offset the money they had spent out of pocket on the recording. I had to cover the expense of printing the covers, and getting the 1,000 records pressed down in Nashville, Tennessee. Working on the art with the band remotely took weeks, if not months, as printed mockups were sent via U.S. mail for feedback and approval. Even proofs from the printer arrived via FedEx, as a “match print” was typically sent, to be reviewed, signed off, and shipped back as confirmation that it was good to go to print. This step was apparently skipped on The Trust’s debut, as the finished covers arrived with a pixelated front image, indicating that the graphic wasn’t properly linked. It took almost a year from the time that it was recorded to the day that the 7 inch was available, and while the band played shows well into 1999, their focus had changed and The Trust was unceremoniously laid to rest as all of the members moved forward in their new band, Down But Not Out.
Friend & skater Matty Johnson riding Bridge Nine decks. Photos by Oliver Barton (this page & opposite, 1997). Ad in Strength Magazine, photo by Nate Nederostek (below, 1998).
In early 1997 I wanted to start making skateboards as well under the name Bridge Nine. The two things that I found solace in growing up had been hardcore punk music and skateboarding. As I was becoming more comfortable getting things made, I decided to try a skateboard deck. Friends who owned the local skate shop near my college had a hookup with a plant that made decks, so I placed my first order through them, for 50 with the anime “Drug Free” design. It was a small run and I was able to sell enough of them locally to earn the money back, as well as hook up some of my friends who skated. The response was good, so I started planning more designs. I wanted to make a series of skateboards featuring art from influential hardcore punk albums, the first of which was a bright yellow deck featuring the Bad Brains ROIR album art, with “Bridge Nine” stylized after the bands recognizable logo. My plan was to roll out a new deck after each one had sold out, following with one that paid tribute to the Dead Kennedys. I had been corresponding through the mail with Winston Smith, who created the iconic dollar bill crucifix from the In God We Trust, Inc. EP cover. Winston gave me permission to use his art, but I never had the chance because I soon realized that I couldn’t afford to make skateboards and release albums at the same time. Skateboards proved difficult to sell through mail order, and most kids didn’t bring enough money to shows to buy them. While I was able to get a few local skateboard shops where friends worked to carry them, I found that some stores were suspicious of small start up skateboard brands and didn’t want to divert money from name brand companies with sponsored skaters. I had organized a small team of friends who were great skateboarders and placed some high profile ads to get the word out, but ultimately I decided to just focus on releasing records because making skateboards tied up money for too long. While I only added two skateboards to the catalog, just having made them had its own long lasting impact on the label. The original Bridge Nine logo used on the first four releases included the word “Records”. Because I ultimately envisioned a label that didn’t focus on just music, I removed it and have used the streamlined version of the logo ever since.
Most of Bridge Nine’s output in the ‘90s, including our tribute to the at the time, discontinued “It’s Ok Not To Drink” tee, originally coined by Positive Peer Pressure (right, 1999).
Bridge Nine’s office / apartment at 9 Sewall St. in Boston’s Mission Hill neighborhood (opposite, 1999).
Bridge Nine’s certificate to do business in Boston, with the address for my first apartment in the city (below, 1998).
I graduated from college in May of 1998, and the day after the ceremony, ended up breaking my ankle while out skateboarding with friends, requiring surgery to fix. I had already decided to move to Boston, not only because I knew a lot of people there from my hometown (over a dozen kids from Glastonbury lived in Mission Hill when I arrived), but also because the two active bands on the label were from Massachusetts. Two months later, I moved into my first apartment in the city on crutches.
Like the first few years at college, the label wasn’t much more than a post office mail box and a bedroom. At first, everything was under my bed in boxes, as that started to expand out it went to a book shelf, then to one of the steel and fiberboard shelves procured from Home Depot, then two. I packed the records, t-shirts, stickers and patches that I sold, as well as the occasional skateboard, into envelopes and boxes and every few days dragged them down the street to the post office. There was no website yet, and no “social media” for the label. If kids wanted the current list of what was available, they mailed a dollar and I sent them a
sticker along with the latest edition of my cut and paste, photocopied “catalog”. The whole process took a couple of weeks. I had spent much of my formative years snowboarding, so my first job in the area was at a snowboard / windsurfing shop in Cambridge. I was fired within months for “having a poor work ethic” by the former windsurfing pro who managed the place, Which wasn’t true, I have a crazy work ethic, he was just not a good manager. Thankfully, I didn’t need to rush to find a job because I was making enough money on the side selling novelty stickers to Hot Topic. To help fund the 1998 releases, I started soliciting bumper stickers to their buyer at the corporate HQ. I had walked into the Hot Topic that my friend Matt Firestone managed one night and happened to notice a display case of stickers. I thought, “I could make those”, and over the next year proceeded to design and sell thousands of stickers to the chain store. It helped cover the pressing costs of those two 7 inches that year, and gave me a little breathing room as I looked for a new job.
This photo was taken after a show in Columbus, Ohio during the summer of 1998, while Ten Yard Fight, Fastbreak and In My Eyes were on tour with Virginia’s Time Flies. If there is a single snapshot from that era that illustrates the relationship of band members from Bridge Nine’s mid-‘90s output (most notably, Tenfold) and what would soon become American Nightmare, this is it.
Photo courtesy of Kurtis Powers (1998).
This photo features two former members of Tenfold (Neal St. Clair in the Revelation Records t-shirt, and Luke Garro directly to his left) who helped form In My Eyes (with Damian Genuardi - top right, who later joined Panic), Sweet Pete (far left, in the Red Sox hat) and Anthony Pappalardo (next to Damian), who had left Ten Yard Fight to start In My Eyes (later a member of Sinners & Saints). Also featured is Ten Yard Fight bass player Brian “Clevo” Ristau (center, in the Dropkick Murphys shirt) who later joined Right Brigade with Pat Rorick (originally of Fastbreak) and vocalist Anthony “Wrench” Moreschi (bottom left, in the Time Flies tee), who later formed Stand & Fight after moving to Southern California, as well as guitarist Tim Cossar (far left) and his friend from Maine, TYF roadie Wes Eisold (front, in the Bane t-shirt) who got American Nightmare going in the basement of our Mission Hill apartment later the next year.
During the fall of 1998, I finally landed a job at the Tower Records store on Newbury Street. It was a coveted position in their art department alongside four other artists, and we were responsible for creating the window displays, end racks and wall art used to promote new albums. We also transformed areas of the store to host instore performances and signings for bands, including hardcore punk alumni Rage Against the Machine and Danzig. The pay was pretty low, but we were completely autonomous - working out of the furthest corner of the basement by ourselves, being given a list of signage each week to create. We had a virtually unlimited budget for supplies with accounts at two different art stores, and each display was made by hand. We’d listen to our own music, make our own hours and as long as we got our assigned displays done, could work on our own pet projects. That was exactly what I needed - the extra time, resources and flexibility to focus on promoting the label, while having the opportunity to create high profile signs for hardcore bands that I liked as well as bands I worked with. During my time at Tower, I created large, hand-made promotional displays for American Nightmare, Ten Yard Fight and Proclamation, as well as H2O, Blood For Blood, Reach The Sky, Sick of It All and others. They’d be posted for months at a time in highly trafficked areas of the store, helping push records that really had no business being promoted there. The managers at Tower were also very supportive of my own entrepreneurial efforts, and allowed me to sell novelty t-shirts and posters that I had designed, on consignment, including a large 27”x36” Crimson Ghost photomosaic poster that I had created in college, by hand, using close up photographs I had taken of grave stones.
Sick Of It All & Blood For Blood (opposite) and Reach The Sky (above) displays at Tower Records, Boston (1999). Chris Wrenn painting a sculpted display for Tower’s “Heavy Metal” section, in the basement art department (right, 1999).
Boston Hardcore & Punk Factsheet dispenser at Tower Records in Boston (left, 1999). Boston Hardcore & Punk Factsheet covers (opposite, 1999-2000).
The Boston Hardcore & Punk Factsheet was a monthly newsletter that I printed for a year, with the first issue being released in April of 1999. I had only been living in Boston for 7 or 8 months and had released just four records, and I wanted to get more involved. Boston had a large, diverse scene and I was a new guy on the outside looking in. I picked a format that I knew I could manage on a monthly basis, which was actually based on an anonymous “underground” newspaper that I distributed in my high school. It started out as a single piece of paper folded in half, with an interview with a local band on the cover, a Boston “scene report” and a “20 Questions” with a band member on the inside, and a list of every upcoming Boston show for the following month on the back. My interviews were not focused on one niche scene, but rather included people from the whole spectrum of Boston punk / metal / indie & hardcore bands. As a recent addition to the city, I needed a reason to introduce myself to people who were already actively involved. Each month I interviewed people from two different bands, but by compiling a monthly scene report and show listing, I became a regular outlet for everyone in the city to send updates to. Throughout the month, I’d get emails from people about new bands that had formed, updates on who was recording, new releases that were planned, venues that had opened and closed. I’d print a thousand or more copies of the newsletter after hours on the copy machines in the Tower Records office each month, and would fold them all in half by hand. At first I’d bring a stack to every show that I could, and would stand outside the door as the crowd left, handing them out to everyone personally. Later I’d still hand them out, but also made displays for the Factsheet and placed them in local record stores so there would be a consistent place to grab one each month. I released an issue every month for a year, and in that time managed to meet many of the people in the city who were the most active in the hardcore and punk scenes. This facilitated forming relationships with a lot of people that I’d end up working with in the years that followed as I became more of a fixture in the Boston scene.
After living in Boston for a year I started trying to build awareness for Bridge Nine, but on a budget. The Hot Topic sticker sales were drying up and I didn’t have any extra money from my job at Tower Records after rent was paid and groceries were bought, so I continued to promote the label through guerrilla marketing efforts. Late nights were spent pulling stunts like wheat pasting lettering over billboards to make them read “Bridge Nine”. One summer night in 1999, I had a friend drop me off near the Charles River railroad bridge at 2AM with a five gallon bucket of white paint and two gallons of black paint. I stood on an 8” wide pipe that ran along the side of the bridge, a foot or so off the bridge itself, about twelve feet above the pitch black river, hoping that I didn’t lose my balance and take a late night swim. Over the next two hours, I completely white washed the existing graffiti with a 12” roller and then spelled out “BRIDGE NINE X BHC 1999” in large four foot tall black letters with a 6” roller. That risk paid off with a hundred foot wide message that was seen for months by everyone who drove down Storrow Drive (an estimated 130,000 cars daily!). Another time, using a special label printer at work, I made stickers that said BRIDGE NINE in the same size and style font as found on the T stops on Boston’s green line, and added them to the T station maps all over the city, positioned close to my own Mission Hill stop. I even measured the placard advertising on the subway trains and created my own signs at work and would replace the existing ads with mine, for my early 7” records. Sometimes they’d stay up for weeks making the rounds throughout the city. I couldn’t afford traditional advertising back then, but my time and risk was cheap. These efforts ultimately caught the attention of Rama Mayo, who ran one of Boston’s most promising independent record labels of the late ‘90s, Big Wheel Recreation. We had met through mutual friends and in the spring of 2000, Rama offered me a job doing marketing for his label.
â&#x20AC;&#x153;Got Bridge Nine?â&#x20AC;? altered billboard (right, 1999) and painted Charles River railroad bridge (opposite, photo by Sarah Herritage, 1999). Early 1/6 page Bridge Nine ad in Maximum Rock N Roll (opposite, below, 2000).
In 1998 Right Brigade dropped a demo that helped change the course of hardcore in Boston and beyond. The band was fronted by the charismatic Tenfold bass player Jesse Standhard and unlike a lot of the “posi” hardcore that had become popular in the mid ‘90s, Right Brigade was angry and negative. Influenced by bands like the Cro-Mags, Warzone and Killing Time, Right Brigade was the band that spread that influence to a whole new generation of bands like No Warning, Outbreak and even American Nightmare, whose debut EP Jesse would later lend his vocals to and join on bass for the recording of The Sun Isn’t Getting Any Brighter EP. Having been friends with Jesse for years and having released a couple of records for his previous band, I asked him if he’d do a Right Brigade release on Bridge Nine. Aside from their
demo, they had released a six song EP on CD, but it hadn’t been pressed on vinyl yet. I think I had originally proposed putting their demo on 7”, but Jesse suggested taking a couple of songs from the demo, adding their unreleased cover of Slapshot’s “Hang Up Your Boots”, and pairing it up with A Poor Excuse, a new Boston punk band featuring Mike McCarthy, a ferocious vocalist (and local hardcore punk personality). The split 7” became Bridge Nine’s first release to get any sort of national attention. The earlier releases were strong local bands, but Right Brigade in particular was garnering attention from kids across the country and overseas. While neither band toured extensively, the well deserved hype that formed around Right Brigade made this 7” a must-have record in the spring of 2000.
Mike McCarthy’s incredible balcony dive, captured while The Unseen played a show at the 1st and 2nd Church in Boston’s Back Bay, and immortalized on the back cover of the Right Brigade / A Poor Excuse split 7” EP (photo by Matt Carrol, 1999).
Ignore the corporate logos, showing support and diving over Stu from Reach The Skyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bass on the local stage of the 1999 Vans Warped Tour in Northampton, MA (photo by Kevin Ward). TYF final show negative test sheet of photos by Jessica Humphrey and original flyer (opposite, 1999). Right Brigade was later dropped from the show by the venue.
Every year that I lived in Boston, I’d end up living in a different apartment with a rotating cast of characters. Many of whom for the most part were active in the hardcore scene. Needs changed, new rooms opened up and once a year I’d find myself stacking everything that I owned on top of my skateboard and pushing it to a new place in the Mission Hill neighborhood. By the summer of 1999 I had found myself living with Tim Cossar, who played guitar in the band Ten Yard Fight. They were on the verge of breaking up, but were planning on doing a big “send off ” show in Boston that fall. John Lacroix, the bands bass player, was involved in video production and wanted to record the final show. He and the band took me up on my offer to release an edited VHS cassette on Bridge Nine and in the weeks leading up to the show, I got started promoting it in the way that I knew best - by again bringing my marketing efforts to the street. Friends and I stenciled the final show details on sidewalks and wheat pasted large posters for it on walls throughout Boston. We even pulled up to a wall on Newbury Street at the same time as Shephard Fairy’s “Obey” posters were about to be pasted up. We looked at each others buckets of wheat paste, laughed, and put up our respective posters. Tim and I’s future roommate, Ten Yard Fight roadie Wes Eisold, X’d up and I took a photo of his outstretched middle finger for the “All Access” show laminates. The final show was at the Karma nightclub on October 17th, 1999. The venue was across the street from Fenway Park and the doors opened in the middle of game 4 of the Red Sox / Yankees ALCS series. Over a thousand hardcore kids mixed in the streets with tens of thousands of Red Sox fans. Lansdowne Street (located between the club & the stadium) was ready to explode.
10.17.99 crew (left) & live photos (above, right) by Jessica Humphrey. Sidewalk stencil (to promote TYF’s final show) photo (opposite) by Matt Galle. TYF line surfing photo (above, left) by Meg Price.
Line to get into Ten Yard Fightâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s final show (photo by Meg Price), Alternate Ten Yard Fight 10.17.99 final show flyer with photos of the band & friends (right).
American Nightmare (photos by Anthony Torres, 2001).
In the fall of 1999, Tim Cossar started jamming in the basement of our apartment with TYF’s drummer Ben Chused. Tim recruited Wes Eisold to sing shortly before Ben’s departure. Under the name American Nightmare, Tim wrote the music and Wes penned the lyrics. They brought in fellow Maine bass player Zack Wilson and recent Northern California transplants Azy Relph and Jesse Van Diest to record their debut. After scrapping their first recording, American Nightmare’s demo was recorded in a second session in Studio A at the Massachusetts Communications College for free, because Tim was a student there and he did it as a final project for school. By all accounts it was a rough recording, but it got the ball moving. I became their unofficial sixth member and accompanied the band to their first twenty shows, driving the van, selling merch, and even duplicating the demos with a dual cassette boombox and assembling and selling them one at a time. American Nightmare’s live debut was through a weekend of shows opening for Right Brigade and In My Eyes in February of 2000. The first was in Portland, Maine where Tim and Wes had lived, with the second in Washington D.C., where Wes had moved briefly with his family. Regardless of the quality of their demo, people couldn’t argue with their frequent and intense live shows. They played often
and held nothing back. American Nightmare was a 180 degree turnaround from what had been coming out of Boston. Bands like Ten Yard Fight and In My Eyes defined “positive” hardcore with an athletic, clean cut aesthetic. American Nightmare stood apart from them as well as the “negative” hardcore bands at the time, because Wes’ emotive lyrics while dark were influenced by bands like Joy Division and The Smiths and were introspective in a way that kids hadn’t experienced in hardcore (outside of say, Unbroken). Friends of the band assumed their records would have a collegiate font and a live photo cover ala Ten Yard Fight’s Back On Track album, but the band wanted to flip the script on those expectations. They approached Converge vocalist and graphic artist Jacob Bannon to help design their debut EP, and went into the studio with Kurt Ballou at his GodCity studio to record for Bridge Nine in the spring of 2000. Their self-titled debut was released that summer to incredible fanfare. Finally, the band had a recording that lived up to the intensity of their live performance. As their label, I now had a band that was willing to drop everything and tour, which I hadn’t had before, and the band had an ally that was willing to do whatever it took (and more importantly spend whatever it cost) to help support them. It was a perfect partnership that allowed both of us to grow quickly during their first year.
Chris “Mullet” Bailey (left) and Mike Beach (right) selling shirts and stickers after a game at Fenway Park in the summer of 2000 (photo by Kate Bowen).
During the 1999 baseball season at Fenway Park, a group of guys started selling t-shirts in front of a sock store in Kenmore Square during Red Sox games. Unlike the shirt slinging street vendors that had come before them, they weren’t selling bootleg Red Sox shirts, but instead sold navy blue tees that said “Boston” across the chest and “Yankees Suck” across the shoulders. It had the number 21 on the back, referencing Roger Clemens who had been a long time pitcher for Boston, but was now starting for the rivals in New York. A few friends who lived in Mission Hill worked in Fenway Park selling concessions that summer, and saw how much money the “21’ers” (as we later called them) were making, selling their t-shirts for $20 with no competition. Boston’s last World Series win was 81 years earlier and the Yankees had won 24 times since. Fans were angry and “Yankees Suck” was a common chant, and not just when Boston was playing New York. It became the rallying cry that united Red Sox fans nationwide. One of those Fenway Park vendors, an In My Eyes roadie named Ray Lemoine, had a simpler take for a Yankees Suck tee printed up for the final Ten Yard Fight show, with the slogan design inspired by the logo of the late 1980’s hardcore fanzine Boiling Point. It was a basic white tee with a navy blue print; with TEN YARD FIGHT, the date 10/17/99 and BOSTON printed small
on the back. A few of TYF’s friends created their own merch commemorating the final show, I made a limited edition photo collage poster with the date spray paint stenciled across it in orange. Ray made his tee to give to friends, and made extras to sell on the street to Boston fans going to the Yankees ALCS game that same day. He sold out of the tees on the street immediately and realized the 21’ers supply was not meeting the demand. That winter after the Yankees had won yet another ring, Ray asked for my help to build something out of his single Yankees Suck shirt. I had already been printing “Smoking Sucks” tees and making merch for years for Bridge Nine, and there was a perfect opportunity to step up against the 21’ers. Their $20 tee was printed with two colors on both sides, and had the money phrase on the back, so their vendors had to hold the tees backwards to sell them to fans. And they likely cost about $6 each to print. Ray’s offering was a single color, one sided white shirt, and cost $2 each. He wanted to sell them for $10, undercutting the 21’ers by half. Ray saw me as someone who got stuff done and we brainstormed a bit, but ultimately he opted to move forward not with me, but with one of my roommates, Todd Wilson. Todd was new to the crew - I’d brought him into the fold the previous summer, he was working at a Newbury Street skateboard shop that sold my skateboards on consignment. While he was a fan of heavy music, he wasn’t a part of Boston’s hardcore scene. He was, however, very smart and motivated, with a passion for gambling that matched Ray’s. They had hit it off and I was on my own. I could see the potential to make the much needed money for the label to fund the new American Nightmare EP, and wasn’t going to let that slip away. Ray was only interested in selling shirts, so I made the smaller stuff with big margins - bumper stickers, patches, pins, the kind of merch that I was already making for the label. On Fenway Park’s opening day in April of 2000, we both hit the streets with our respective wares. To get Boston’s code enforcement police off of our backs, on June 6th, 2000 I was the first of this new crop of vendors to obtain a Massachusetts state “hawker or pedler” license. At my urging, a week later Ray and Todd got licensed as well. As we built our respective crews of hawkers, we worked alongside each other; staving off the 21’ers and new competitors, belligerent fans who were bitter after decades of losing and the code enforcement details that had tried to run interference on us.
The Mission Hill “Yankees Suck” selling crew (left, photo courtesy of Todd Wilson, 2000). This was taken on the bridge between Kenmore Square and Fenway Park, where t-shirts were sold to Red Sox fans after ballgames. Bands represented in this photo by members who peddled tees included American Nightmare, In My Eyes, Right Brigade, Fastbreak and Stop And Think. Chris Wrenn holding up a “Yankees Suck” t-shirt in Boston’s Weekly Dig “A Tale of Two Cities” in the April 3-10 issue (below, 2002), & selling on the bridge after a night game with Wes Eisold in the spring of 2000 (bottom, photo by Kate Bowen).
As we gained momentum at the park, Ray insisted that we make sure our fonts stayed the same to keep things uniform between his shirts and my offerings. While our operations were separate, in an effort to help discourage competition from others it would give the appearance that we were all the same group. Which in a way we were, since people who sold for both of us were culled from the same pool of friends from the Boston hardcore scene, with many apartments having roommates who sold for both Ray and I under the same roof. During those early years hawking outside of Fenway Park, I would help promote what had become the “Yankees Suck” brand however I could. To further build awareness for our collective crew, when opportunities to publicize both of our efforts came up through friends in the local media, I made sure that Ray’s t-shirt was the one featured. Later, when I realized that a knock-off tee (with a generic, Times Roman font, not the SS Decontrol-inspired City Bold font used on the tees in the streets sold outside of Fenway Park) had popped up for sale throughout the 25+ store Newbury Comics chain, I negotiated with my buyer there to get them to drop the bootleg version and to put the real deal on their shelves.
The most iconic American Nightmare photo taken during the bands first year (photo by Bryan Sheffield, 2000). Handwritten lyrics from the self-released American Nightmare demo cassette (opposite, 2000).
Mission Hill crew “celebrating” the 2nd annual Edge Day (L to R: AJ McGuire, Azy Relph, Jason Correia, Joey Contrada, Wes Eisold, Mike Beach & Chris Wrenn. Photo by Rich Perusi, 2000).
The late 90’s and early 2000’s were a formative time for myself and the label. I was in the middle of everything, spending every night and weekend out with friends either skateboarding, hanging out on Newbury Street, going to hardcore shows or the occasional party. I was trying to build something from literally nothing and navigate a new city and scene politics, while earning enough money to pay my rent and still release a new record or two a year. I knew a lot of people, but I was still the new guy in the beginning. I remember being introduced by a mutual friend to another transplant, and years later I was told by said transplant that he’d been told that I was “nobody” when he inquired about who I was. Which I had a good laugh about, because I didn’t have a particularly high opinion of that person at the time either, but it was symptomatic of the same hierarchy in the Boston hardcore scene that had plagued generations before. There were the scene leaders, who booked the shows, hooked up their friends bands, and dictated what was cool. Then, there were was everyone else, who looked from the outside in and jockeyed for position in the scene. Initially I was one of those outsiders, as was American Nightmare. A.N. was a band full of people who were relatively
new to Boston. Tim had moved down from Maine a couple of years earlier to attend school and finish his run with Ten Yard Fight, and everyone else was from out of state. Their early success was met with some resistance at the time by those seeking to preserve the status quo, but the band was so good and their response from fans so rabid, that nothing could keep them from helping redefine the sound and the image of Boston hardcore. Scene politics aside it was a truly incredible time to live in the city of Boston. In My Eyes and Ten Yard Fight had broken up, and a whole new wave of bands were starting to take their place. I formed some of my closest friendships during those years, pulled some really stupid pranks, took enormous risks, and ultimately worked hard to document as much of the music that my friends were making at the time that I could. It was also a
time where I had to take a hard look at my own values, as many of my friends from the hardcore scene distanced themselves from being straight edge. Most of my Mission Hill friends were spending entire weekends playing poker at Foxwoods. I had begun a serious relationship with my girlfriend Elisabeth, who was supportive of my efforts and lifestyle (and who helped me with everything from assembling records to driving merch to shows and even walking around Boston keeping an eye out as I stuck up promo stickers), but who wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t interested in the absurdity that followed my crew of roommates. The summer of 2000 was a particularly crazy time, one that saw an escalation in risk taking behavior. In October of that year, after Todd was critically injured in a shooting during an attempted robbery in the apartment that he, Wes, Tim, our other roommate Seth and I shared, we moved out and relocated elsewhere in the neighborhood.
American Nightmare & Carry On during AN’s first trip West (2000).
During the fall of 2000, American Nightmare started planning their first trip to the West Coast. They had already committed to doing their debut LP with Equal Vision Records the following summer, but in the meantime over bowls of pasta at our Mission Hill apartment, Tim agreed to go back to GodCity to record three new songs and two covers for a 2nd EP on Bridge Nine. He just asked if I’d front the band the money to buy the plane tickets for the tour. This would become the The Sun Isn’t Getting Any Brighter EP session, which aside from in my opinion becoming THE definitive American Nightmare recording, ultimately allowed us to compile those first two EP’s into one 12” record, later becoming their Year One LP. I also bought a plane ticket for myself. I’d gone with them to every show yet and I wasn’t going to break the streak. The guy who managed Bridge Nine’s website (and had helped register our domain in 1998), Chris “Mullet” Bailey, had told me about a band named Carry On from Los Angeles. They had already released two EP’s with notable East Coast labels (Teamwork & Youngblood Records) and were working on writing their debut LP. Carry On were going to play a few of the shows with American Nightmare, my chance to check them out. The first show was in the basement of Jerry’s Pizza in Bakersfield, California and Carry On completely blew me away. They became one of my favorite new bands immediately, I only needed to see them once to know that I wanted to do an album with them. We ended up going out to dinner when the tour reached Santa Cruz, discussed what I’d be willing to do, and agreed to work together. Carry On was going to be the first big full length album for the label, and I flew them out the following April to record with Kurt Ballou.
Wes Eisold moshing to Carry On at the Ojai Womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Club (Photo by Marlon Moreno, 2000).
Shark Attack and American Nightmare (opposite) performing at the Bridge Nine triple release show in Providence, RI (photos by Dave Walling, 2001). Flyer for the triple release show, illustrated by Linas Garsys (opposite, 2001).
By 2001, Bridge Nine had proven itself a viable label by helping build American Nightmare from the ground up. The band had released their first proper LP on Equal Vision Records, after having originally been passed over by the label. Tim Cossar’s former band, Ten Yard Fight, had been under contract with EVR, so as a courtesy Tim contacted Steve Reddy to tell him about A.N. and to see if the label would have any interest in working with them. Not surprisingly, Steve originally declined. By this time, most of the labels that had been responsible for working with the bigger hardcore bands in the ‘80s and ‘90s like Revelation, Equal Vision and Victory had all but stopped signing and developing hardcore punk bands in pursuit of indie, rock & metal artists.
This left a large void and Bridge Nine had come into its own at just the right time. With few exceptions, I could have signed any band that I wanted to. The list of bands that I passed on during the early 2000’s because my resources were still limited is staggering and I have my regrets about more than a few of them, but hindsight is always 20/20 and I worked with what resources I had. American Nightmare’s success helped shine a light on Bridge Nine, because I was working as hard for them as they were for themselves. Other bands saw how much the label had put into them, and looked for similar treatment. Philadelphia friends of A.N., Shark Attack, sat down with me at the Middle
East nightclub in Cambridge when they played the upstairs room with Cops & Robbers. Their singer, Matt Summers, had self-released a limited-to-500 record edition of the bands first 7”on his label, My War, and I offered to repress it for them to make it more widely available. Over the following year Bridge Nine pressed and distributed 3,000 more copies of the EP, helping expand the bands reach. The Bridge Nine repress of the Blood In The Water EP was officially released on March 18th, 2001 alongside Death Threat’s LP pressing of Peace & Security and American Nightmare’s The Sun Isn’t Getting Any Brighter EP, when all three bands hit the stage together (with The Hope Conspiracy opening) at the Met Cafe in Providence, Rhode Island at the Bridge Nine triple record release show.
If there was one visual artist that helped singularly define the aesthetic of many of the bands from the early Bridge Nine catalog, it was Linas Garsys. My introduction to Linas was in 1998 when he began promoting shows with his friend Tru Pray in the Virginia area for The Trust. Aside from booking local hardcore shows, Linas was known as a prolific illustrator for bands in the DC area. He took show promotion to a new level and made each flyer its own piece of art. Drawing collectible flyers for his own shows lead to doing the same for Philadelphia area shows booked by promoter Robby Redcheeks, which ultimately lead to his illustrating heavily for Robby’s Dead By 23 label. Having known Wes Eisold from Wes’ TYF roadie days & summers spent living with family in the D.C. area, Linas offered to illustrate t-shirts for American Nightmare. He became the bands go-to artist early on, with his iconic angel that later became synonymous with AN being the first contribution to the band. Linas’s first appearance in the Bridge Nine catalog was when that angel illustration was used in lieu of the bands name on the American Nightmare The Sun Isn’t Getting Any Brighter EP. The stripped down cover fore-
shadowed what happened 6 months later, when the band was sued by a band in Philadelphia with the same name, and they ultimately lost the rights to use it (for the foreseeable future). Over the next two years, Linas helped contribute logos, merch designs and album covers to many of our bands. Shark Attack, No Warning, The Hope Conspiracy and Striking Distance all had logos courtesy of Linas, while his artwork was also used on our split EP with Death Threat and Over My Dead Body, the Cops and Robbers Execution Style EP and the Striking Distance The Fuse Is Lit EP. His “Viva Hate” bomb with wings that was originally drawn to fit as the etching on the B-side of our File.03 7 inch for The Hope Conspiracy, also became a large part of their visual identity through merchandise. Pretty much every band that we worked with in 2002 had at least one t-shirt design courtesy of Linas (many of which were characterized by his trademark use of blood spatter). And a lot of their live shows were commemorated in the countless flyers and limited edition screen printed posters that he had illustrated.
Detail image of American Nightmareâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s The Sun Isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Getting Any Brighter EP cover. Illustration by Linas Garsys, design by Jacob Bannon (2001). Screen printed posters (opposite, above) and show flyers (below) illustrated by Linas Garsys (2000-2002).
Hanging out in San Francisco with Rusty from Breaker Breaker (photo by Elisabeth Wrenn, 2001).
Before moving to Boston in 1999 to help record the American Nightmare demo (and later help form Panic), Azy Relph and Jesse Van Diest went to high school in Redding, California and played in bands with their good friend Rusty Munro. Rusty moved to San Francisco that same year, and Azy put him in touch with Mark Kelley, a friend of Wes Eisold who had relocated from Maine to attend art school. Rusty and Mark bonded over being from crappy small towns and decided to start a straight forward straight edge band that stood in contrast from the strictly metalcore and Bay area punk that dominated the scene at the time. They recruited Jonah Nishihira from northern California, Chris Denoncourt (another East Coast transplant who recorded on Proclamation’s 1996 demo) and Seth Hyman on drums (yet another East Coaster and head of the Negative Progression record label) to form Breaker Breaker in early 2001. Before all of that though, I had met Rusty on the West Coast leg of American Nightmare’s “Winter 2000” tour, when he had let the band crash in the reputed “haunted room” at his S.F. flat. Rusty sent me a copy of their self-released Y2X1 demo tape and I thought it was good. I had already started planning Carry On’s debut LP and was eager to work with another band from California, especially from the Bay Area. To keep the bands momentum moving and get the songs out on a larger scale, I
offered to release their 5 song demo on vinyl, so the Y2X1 7 inch came out in July of 2001, with a single pressing of 2,000 copies. Seth had left the band, but Breaker Breaker continued to play a lot of shows that summer on the West Coast (Todd Jones from Carry On filled in on drums), and they finally found a permanent replacement with Ben Kinzie. Ben was a drummer from Kansas and had auditioned for American Nightmare. A.N. ended up recruiting Nate Helm at the time, but Tim told Rusty about Ben, who was anxious to get out of Kansas and be in a band. He flew out to S.F. shortly after and helped write and later record the Out of Service EP in October. By the time they toured from San Diego up to Seattle with Panic in December of 2001, things were getting strained amongst the members of the band. Personal issues were making it difficult to move forward. There was talk of replacing Mark, but Rusty told the rest of the guys that if they got a new singer, he didn’t want to continue as Breaker Breaker. The band didn’t want to start from scratch and they ultimately broke up, never having made it out to the East Coast. The new recording was ready, but it didn’t make sense for Bridge Nine to release a posthumous EP for the band. I ended up selling the masters to Martyr Records, who released the 7 song Out of Service CD in December of 2002, almost a year after the band had broken up.
Sitting in the Initech office (left, photo by Casey Davis, 2003). Initech co-op ad in Modern Fix Magazine, May 2001 (far left). Fall 2001 release ad for Bridge Nine in issue #64 of Under The Volcano Fanzine, featuring the first draft of the Carry On A Life Less Plagued album cover, which was revised before going to press (below).
In the spring of 2001, Rama decided that it was time to move the Big Wheel Recreation label office out of his Roxbury Crossing 4th floor loft apartment. He recruited Hydra Head Records, the label owned by Isis frontman Aaron Turner and managed by Tortuga Records head Mark Thompson and convinced them to leave Aaron’s Mission Hill apartment and join him in a new collective to be known as “Initech” (a name borrowed from the movie Office Space). Everyone involved decided they needed separation from their living and work environments. Rama found a location across the street from Fenway Park - a recently abandoned basement office with no windows, which hadn’t been updated in 30 years. We gutted the space, put in new carpet and lights, painted the wood paneled walls a light shade of green and made it our own. It was a tight fit, maybe 1,000 square feet, and inside we crammed upwards of a dozen work space desks. We furnished it for next to nothing when a Big Wheel intern who also worked at a pizza shop south of Boston tipped us off to his used office furniture vendor neighbor, who had gone out of business and was dumping their inventory. I initially made the move over as a Big Wheel / Lumberjack Distribution employee, but by summertime the weight of my own release schedule had become too great, so I stepped down from my marketing position and started renting my own corner at Initech for Bridge Nine. Soon after we were joined by The Kenmore Agency, a booking agency run by Matt Pike; a publicity company, Black and White PR; as well as Doghouse Records, the Ohio-based emo
label that wanted an East Coast presence. We worked together for a year or so, and eventually Big Wheel, Hydra Head and Doghouse moved west to Los Angeles. As each label moved out, I slowly took over their space, until Bridge Nine was renting the entire office. The time together was short, but it was an incredible learning opportunity - not only was there a wealth of indie music industry knowledge and contacts under that roof for me to tap into, but everyone was so excited about what they were doing, it was infectious. You couldn’t help but be motivated in that building because everyone was working on such cool projects. I only had eight or so releases under my belt when I moved in, but Big Wheel and Hydra Head collectively had over 100. If I was tackling something for the first time, chances are they had already dealt with it a half dozen times themselves. I credit my time amongst that group of people as being the education that I needed to competently run an independent record label.
Promoting the upcoming Carry On album with a sticker at the bottom of Lombard Street while Rusty Munro from Breaker Breaker keeps watch (photo by Elisabeth Wrenn, 2001).
June of 2001 brought Bridge Nine’s first intern into the fold. Max Powers was a 17 year-old kid from the Boston suburb of Brookline who skateboarded, was into hardcore and did a skate-zine called Crete. Max was young, but I had met few people as motivated as he was - we were introduced two years earlier when he’d picked up a copy of Strength Magazine and saw the Bridge Nine skateboard ad in it. Intrigued by a hardcore inspired Boston-area company making skate decks, and having collected the first couple of issues of the Boston Hardcore & Punk Factsheet, Max mailed me copies of his zine. I ended up trading him a skate deck for ad space, promoting the Right Brigade / A Poor Excuse split 7” in 2000. After starting his 2nd zine, Not In Order, Max approached me about helping at the label and asked about being an intern - my first at Bridge Nine. Up until that point I had been handling most of the record assembly, mail order, and pretty much everything else (with assistance from my roommates and girlfriend), and the prospect of regularly scheduled help was a welcomed one. Max’s first responsibility was assembling Breaker Breaker records, B9’s 12th release. Max jumped in with both feet and handled double duty, as he had also just started selling merch for me after Red Sox games. Max became Bridge Nine’s 2nd paid employee a year later, as he balanced working at the label during his senior year of high school (following Desmond Connolly who had taken over as B9’s webmaster remotely in 2001, joining the office in 2002).
Carry On playing live at Headline Records (photo by Marlon Moreno, 2000).
Carry On flew out to the East Coast in April of 2001, to record their debut LP for Bridge Nine. They rented a van, played a few shows (including an April 20th show affectionately known as 4/20 Fest that had them playing alongside American Nightmare, Bane, a scab version of Right Brigade, and Panic, their first show), and tracked the album at GodCity. A Life Less Plagued became Bridge Nine’s first proper LP release, where we handled every expense and detail. It was a massive undertaking, flying a band from Los Angeles out to record a full length album (albeit one that only clocks in at about 19 minutes), and it could not have been a better record to lead off with. Following in American Nightmare’s footsteps, we once again worked with Kurt Ballou to record the album, and Jacob Bannon handled the design. Sweet Pete
and Wes Eisold contributed guest vocals, and Carry On made it back to the East Coast later that year to play the 5th annual Back To School Jam in Worcester, Massachusetts when the album came out in October of 2001. Carry On didn’t last long after the album was released, and were essentially broken up inside of six months. They played one last weekend of shows, three years later in 2005. A Life Less Plagued was not only a perfect album, but it was also the final document of a band whose members went on to spawn an entire new generation of hardcore on the West Coast. Terror, Betrayed, Go It Alone and Internal Affairs arose from the ashes, and guitar player Todd Jones is still crushing it in his latest bands Nails and Fireburn, while vocalist Ryan George is continuing on as half of the EBM/industrial duo Youth Code.
Kevin Baker singing (photo by Todd Pollock, 2000). The Hope Conspiracy logo (left) and skull sleeve print (right) by Linas Garsys. Bridge Nine’s 2001 catalog (below).
Jonas, Dan & Adam, formerly of the band Harvest, all moved from Minneapolis to Boston in 1999. A fairly recent resident myself, I was hanging out in Boston’s Allston neighborhood a lot at the time and got to know them after they recruited former Piecemeal vocalist Kevin Baker, and formed The Hope Conspiracy. The band had a lot of momentum from the beginning, with their demo initially being released on cassette by Hydra Head, and their first LP coming out on Equal Vision Records. Shortly after the LP was released, the band was frustrated by the lack of availability of their demo songs, which had been pressed on vinyl by Life Records. They wanted to record new music to keep their momentum going in the year between albums, so with EVR’s blessing, they went back into the studio with Kurt Ballou, and recorded four songs. Two of which (including a cover of Naked Raygun’s “Treason”) were released as the File.03 7 inch in the fall of 2001. The CD version of File.03 also included the original four song demo.
The Hope Conspiracy (photo by Chrissie Good, 2002).
Photo by Juliana Steele (2001).
Cops and Robbers was a Boston band that had recently released a 10 song EP on Mark Unseen’s A.D.D. Records, and were label mates with mutual friends in A Poor Excuse, who had also released a record with the label and was on the verge of breaking up. Cops and Robbers recruited guitarist Josh Barnes from A Poor Excuse, who I had known from when I released their split with Right Brigade. Bass player Jaye Toothaker was also a friend from Maine of Wes Eisold and Tim Cossar, and he and I had helped sing backups on Reach The Sky’s first full length album for Victory Records, So Far From Home, during the summer of 1999. I was a fan of the early-’80s inspired hardcore that Cops and Robbers played (having caught their first show with A Poor Excuse in a Boston North End VFW in 2000), and I asked them if they’d be interested in recording a new EP for Bridge Nine. Six songs were tracked in May of 2001, and the cover art was illustrated by Linas Garsys. Bridge Nine’s 13th release, the Execution Style EP, arrived at the Bridge Nine Initech office on September 11th, 2001, three weeks prior to its October 2nd release date, and overshadowed by the unfolding national crisis.
Cops and Robbers Execution Style 7â&#x20AC;? cover illustration by Linas Garsys (2001). Live photos courtesy of Al Quint (opposite, bottom, 2001).
Panic in their Charlestown practice space (left) and group photo contact sheet by Bryan Sheffield (opposite, 2001). Early, unused Panic logo concepts by Linas Garsys (below, 2001).
From the moment that I heard Panic had formed, I knew that I wanted to work with them. They self-released a three song demo and it featured Azy and Jesse (both founding members of American Nightmare), Bridge Nine’s first (& at the time, current) employee Desmond Connolly, Jason Correia (who left the band after the demo and went on to play in The Suicide File) and Gibby Miller from The Trouble on vocals. Azy came over to my apartment one night and asked if I’d be interested in working with them on their debut EP. I was already close with all of the guys and The Trouble was one of my favorite bands in Boston, so I would have been down to release something based on that alone. They went to GodCity to record with Kurt Ballou, and Aaron Turner from Hydra Head agreed to design the layout. The first EP came out amongst seven other releases on Bridge Nine in October of
2001, and 9 months later they followed it up with a second EP, rounded out with Scott Peacock from Embrace Today on guitar and Damian Genuardi from In My Eyes / The Explosion on bass, shortly before calling it quits unexpectedly (for the time being) at the then annual, Matt Pike and Ian Larrabee organized “Back To School Jam” hardcore show on October 26th, 2002, after playing alongside Slapshot, No Warning, Blood For Blood, Some Kind of Hate & Converge. It would be another four years before they’d reform (and record a new 6 song EP initially released on Reflections Records) with Brian Masek from American Nightmare / Give Up The Ghost on guitar and Q (who later played in Clouds and Doomriders) on drums, but in the brief two year span of their first EP’s, Panic helped play a part in helping define the early 2000’s Boston hardcore sound.
Breathe In was a band that I become familiar with through its guitarist, Brett Mathews. Brett has been a longtime fixture of the Bay Area punk and hardcore scene, and at the time, he was the editor of Hit List Fanzine (later, of AMP and Hails and Horns). I was advertising Bridge Nine releases in his zine and sending him review copies of albums, and we were talking regularly on the phone about what was going on at Bridge Nine and in music in general. Brett was a HUGE American Nightmare fan (so much so, that he put them on their first magazine cover via his August/September 2002 issue of Hit List). Aside from running a pretty high circulation fanzine, Brett also ran a label and was in a couple of bands. One of them, Breathe In, was a fast, hardcore punk band that found inspiration in bands like Black Flag and Kid Dynamite, the former so much that the band went into the studio and recorded a full four song tribute to the Nervous Breakdown EP.
Breathe In recorded a full length album, and Brett asked if Bridge Nine would be interested in releasing it. They were a relatively unknown band, even on the West Coast where they were from, but the music was so good that I agreed, and From This Day On became their Bridge Nine debut (and our 20th release). The band also wanted to release their Black Flag tribute on vinyl, so we had a limited to 500 run 7 inch pressed. To help people take a chance on the LP, (and a band that few people who followed the label were aware of) we released it at the same time as Panic’s Dying For It EP, and included a free 12” wide screen printed poster illustrated and signed by Linas Garsys to mail order customers who picked up both.
Breathe In, live (above). Promotional sticker for the From This Day On LP album (below, left). Linas Garsys Illustrated screen printed 12” x 12” poster for the Panic Dying For It & Breathe In From This Day On record pre-order package deal from Bridge Nine (opposite, 2001).
In the fall of 2001, American Nightmare had their first opportunity to tour Europe. We had licensed both of their EP’s to Reflections Records in Holland, who’d pressed them as a compilation 12” titled Year One, and label owners Johan and Suzanne helped organize a three week tour covering most of Europe and the U.K., with the Dutch band Reaching Forward as main support. No one in the A.N. camp had ever toured Europe before, and I came along as their merch guy / roadie / label ambassador. The tour started in November of 2001, less than two months after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, so air travel during that time was somewhat uneasy, at best. Traveling under the name “American Nightmare” only raised more eyebrows. About a week or so into the tour, while we were in the U.K. on November 12th, American Airlines flight 587 out of John F. Kennedy International Airport crashed in Queens, New York City, killing all 260 people on board. Though the crash was later proven to be caused by pilot error, terrorism was immediately suspected because of the proximity to 9/11 and that reality loomed over us for the rest of the time that we were traveling.
American Nightmare ‘Summer 2001’ tour drummer boy illustration by Linas Garsys (left).
American Nightmare & crew in Europe (above) & live in Scandanavia (opposite, 2001).
American Nightmare’s arrival in Europe was highly anticipated, and as the merch guy, I was quickly overwhelmed at the first show of tour in Holland. We had brought an exclusive pressing of their 2nd 7 inch, pressed on purple vinyl (the first color vinyl pressing that was generally available, outside of the initial orange vinyl “friends pressing” that was limited to 100 copies and not distributed widely), and that went very quickly. Most kids bought two - one for themselves, and one to trade back to someone in the States. This helped the European record collectors gain a little bit of leverage, since at the time, the limited pressings of almost all American bands were only made available stateside. Bringing along an instantly coveted, exclusive variant for the kids in Europe gave them something that they could buy relatively cheaply, and then use as a negotiating tool for comparably limited records back in the U.S. One of the guys in Reaching Forward was kind enough to give me a crash course in exchange rates before each show. This was during the final couple of months before most of the countries on the tour switched over to the Euro, so I had to learn about the value of each currency (and what to charge for stuff) almost every night. Reaching Forward was a fun band to tour with. The pranks between the bands were
endless, they had a great sense of humor, and were gracious hosts. After spending three weeks together on the road getting to know them, I offered to license their latest album for a U.S. release, Burning The Lies, which had just come out on Reflections. This was a band would likely have never really been on my radar, but circumstances put us together in little Sprinter vans traveling all over Europe, and the bond that we developed during that short time made me want to work to help them tour America. Our CD pressing of Burning the Lies came out in June of 2002, the band made the trek over for their first (and only) U.S. tour during that fall, before calling it quits on November 22nd, 2002 during a final show in Arnham, Netherlands. Bridge Nine found our second international band to release as the tour made it over to the U.K., when I got a chance to check out a brand new band called Sworn In. Brand new as in they played their first show while opening for American Nightmare, and I was in the audience to see it. I could already tell as they were setting up that I was probably going to dig them, as I noted a Shark Attack shirt, a Right Brigade tee and a Count Me Out shirt amongst the band members on stage.
Sworn In (photo by Geert Hollanders, 2001).
Sworn In’s set was chaotic and great, and we ended up crashing at one of their apartments that night. I think they played three of the U.K. shows, and they didn’t even have a demo out yet. That came in the mail after I had returned home from the American Nightmare European tour, and I knew it was something that I’d want to release the first time that I heard it.
friends. It was an amazing experience visiting all of those incredible cities and scenes, and it helped the label get a stronger foothold in Europe. American Nightmare may have been our first band to make the trek overseas, but their trip helped open the floodgates as many as our bands traveled and toured extensively across Europe and the U.K. thereafter.
Since Sworn In was on Reflection’s home turf, we talked about co-releasing their demo recording as a 7 inch EP. That 7 song session came out as a 6 song self-titled 7” and CD (with a bonus track) via Bridge Nine in North America and Reflections in Europe in the spring of 2002, less than 6 months after their first show, and just in time for them to join Champion on an East Coast tour of the United States.
Equally as important was the fact that this was my first time away from the label and the Bridge Nine office for any real amount of time. We had just accomplished the impossible and released seven new records the previous month, and now I was stepping out for a little over three weeks. Thankfully, intern Max Powers, was able to step up in my absence (after he finished for the day at high school) and with help from Elisabeth, keep things moving at the label while I was out of the country.
Being a part of this first European tour led to some lifelong
Panic / Breaker Breaker West Coast tour flyer. Breathe In also played select dates (illustration by Mike Bukowski).
Clockwise from left: Gibby Miller of Panic, Matt Pike of Some Kind of Hate / The Kenmore Agency, Jesse Standhard of Right Brigade and Kevin Baker of The Hope Conspiracy stopped by the B9 office to be photographed for a feature in Hardcore Ink magazine (photos by Bryan Sheffield, 2002).
Before tattooing was legal in Massachusetts, our friend (and tattoo artist) Mike Lussier from Art Freek Tattoo in Providence, RI would drive up to spend the day tattooing us. That tradition continued at the Initech office (photo by Casey Davis, 2003).
This page: Initech writeup in the December 2002 issue of Alternative Press. Opposite: coverage in The Boston Phoenix.
The spring of 2002 saw the hardcore kids of Boston’s Mission Hill heading back down to Kenmore Square to keep the supply of in-your-face sports merchandise flowing. Anti-New York and anti-Yankees sentiment had slightly tempered post 9/11, but Boston fans were entering the 84th year of their team losing and our goods stood out from what was available in the official team store. If you wanted a t-shirt that said you were Boston fan, you could grab a team logo tee pretty much anywhere. But, if you wanted something that had a little more emotion and helped speak to your local pride (and frustration), the only place to grab that was in the streets as you headed out after a game. The slogans were often pretty ignorant, but that is what it took to get people to laugh, stop, and buy. Vending with a hawker or pedler permit was a game of cat and mouse with Boston’s code enforcement officers. In an effort to keep peddlers from competing with brick and mortar stores, the $62 state permit allowed for vending in Boston only between the hours of 8PM and 8AM, which was fine for evening games, but the real money was being made from the crowds that stuck around a little longer after day games on the weekend. We weren’t running into code enforcement details consistently yet, so on weekends we had to become
resourceful as we attempted to make our sales. Risking the $200 fine was well worth it, and the “after 8PM” vending ordinance was only being selectively enforced. Gaps were found in chain link fences, aerial image maps of Fenway and Kenmore Square with escape routes circled were distributed, and friends with walkie talkies were hired to follow the code enforcement officers around the park, while giving updates to the rest of the vendors about who could sell and who should pack up and hide (though we later learned that they’d caught onto us pretty quickly and would laugh while listening to us track them on their own radios). Selling t-shirts in the Fenway neighborhood streets became a right of passage for Boston hardcore kids, as well as an opportunity for people in bands to make some extra money when they weren’t on the road. Members of In My Eyes, The Hope Conspiracy, Panic, American Nightmare, and really pretty much any hardcore band from Boston in the 2000’s put their time in on the streets “shellin’ tees”. There was even talk of releasing a Yankees Suck 7 inch compilation on the label at the time that never materialized, featuring bands that had members within our ranks selling outside of the stadium. It was going to be on red and blue split
“Yankees Suck” wheat pasted poster campaign (right, 2002) and Max Powers keeping an eye on the Boston code enforcement officers after a game (opposite, 2002).
color vinyl, with the red “No” circular “Yankees Suck” symbol that we had been wheat-pasting as posters around the stadium and distributing on embroidered patches, stickers, flags & enamel pins as the center label, but never came to be. As our occupation around the park grew, the response from the city increased as well. Code enforcement’s presence went from one or two games per home stand, to a permanent game day detail. Vendors who for a couple of years had gotten away with hanging t-shirts from fences and laying tees across hoods of cars on streets bordering the park, had to retreat to the bridge over the Mass Pike. Now known as “Big Papi Bridge”, for years it was THE place to go get your Boston fan t-shirt fix. Ordinances pertaining to moving after every sale were enforced so we had to go mobile, selling out of shopping carts and a years long metamorphosis of wooden carts built off of dollies procured at Home Depot. After a while, it was acknowledged by code enforcement that making all of our homemade carts move after every sale, was more of a safety hazard than letting us just stay put. Compromises were made and we moved further down to Kenmore Square, where we could not be seen over the bridge by anyone at the stadium, but without the constant pressure to shuffle around with carts that really only had wheels so they’d technically be mobile. Roommates from my apartment and friends from the neighborhood would walk together to and from the stadium before and after games, mostly out of solidarity, but also to protect ourselves as we all headed home each night. It was from this walk through the Fens park that we’d cross a little bridge over a creek that had barely enough dirty water to cover the rocks below, a structure referenced in the song “There’s a Black Hole in the Shadow of the Pru” off of American Nightmare’s The Sun Isn’t Getting Any Brighter EP, through the line “If love was a bridge, you’d be the one in the Fens”, but known amongst friends more for being the place where we successfully wagered Azy Relph (American Nightmare, Panic) to jump to the water below after a late night game. I distinctly remember him holding his nose despite seeing the water barely covering the rocks below, reflecting in the light of the closest street lamp. It wasn’t a good idea, but $20 was $20! During this time, both the Bridge Nine record label and my Fenway t-shirt operation were run out of the same small rehearsal space and storage building on Boylston Street that was formerly known as Initech, one block from Fenway Park, directly across from Yawkey Way. Even years later, when the label moved out and headed north, the space was kept to house our t-shirts and carts, until the building we were in was sold and razed to make way for luxury condos, restaurants and medical offices as the Fenway neighborhood gentrified.
Having initially come up in the Connecticut hardcore scene, I was a big Death Threat fan. Releasing their debut full length on vinyl in 2001 was an honor and an LP release that was overdue, as the album had been out for a year already on CD by Triple Crown Records. I wanted to work on something new with the band, so I approached them about doing a split EP, pairing them up with a West Coast band. Death Threat was a definitive East Coast hardcore band, and I thought a cross country collaboration could help push each band far from home. I had gotten to know the band Over My Dead Body from San Diego through my trips to Southern California with American Nightmare and Carry On, and I thought they were great. They played fast, straight edge hardcore, and had released an EP and an LP on Indecision Records, and I had really gotten to like their British expat vocalist, Daniel Sant. Both bands liked the idea, so they recorded two original songs each, as well as a cover song from a band from the opposite coast. Death Threat covered the song “Best of Times” by Southern California’s Chain Of Strength while OMDB covered “No Class” by NYC’s Reagan Youth. Linas Garsys contributed one of my favorite illustrations of his for the cover, and the split was released in early 2002.
Death Threat / Over My Dead Body crew photo (top left, 2002), Daniel from OMDB tagging the CBGB awning (top right, 2002). Both photos by Mike Arney. Live Death Threat photo by Kevin Ward (opposite, 2001).
Champion live (photo by Michael Leask).
American Nightmare, Death Threat, Striking Distance & Champion tour photo (2002).
Seattle’s Champion was first put on my radar by Tim Cossar. I remember hanging out in our apartment together in 2001 and Tim telling me that I needed to check them out. That every time American Nightmare played a show in the Northwest, this band called Champion would also play, and that they were consistently great, kids always went off for them. I took the demo that he had been given and gave it a bunch of listens. Tim was right, it was a really good demo. Champion had also recorded an EP, titled Come Out Swinging, for Phyte Records (helmed by Mike Phyte of the band Good Clean Fun). That CD came out in mid-2001 on Phyte and on 7” vinyl through Germany’s Platinum Recordings. Clearly inspired by a lot of the same straight edge “youth crew” style bands that I loved, Champion was exactly the kind of band that I was looking to
work with. The fact that they were from the Northwest was cool, I hadn’t worked with a band in that part of the country yet (and as a label trying to expand my reach, it helped to find bands in new cities, getting them to push us and the other bands that we worked with). Champion had been tight with Carry On and had toured together, and those guys spoke highly about them as well. Sometime in the fall of 2001, after talking with the guys in Champion quite a bit, they agreed to record a new EP for Bridge Nine. That six song recording became the Count Our Numbers EP, and it was released in the spring of 2002. Champion toured the East Coast for the first time in May of 2002, joining up with American Nightmare, Death Threat and Striking Distance, and came back five weeks later to continue
supporting the release of Count Our Numbers with a pretty massive, six week long North American tour that brought them back to the East Coast, this time with Stay Gold and our new U.K. import, Sworn In. That tour met up in the Boston area on July 20th, 2002, the first of the two day Bridge Nine / Deathwish Inc. fest weekend. B9’s American Nightmare, Death Threat, Panic, Champion, Sworn In, Some Kind of Hate, The Hope Conspiracy and Striking Distance joined Horror Show, Jesuseater, Ringworm, Converge, and Knives Out from the Deathwish roster at The Hideaway, a boiling hot venue in the middle of the summer for a weekend showcase of our respective bands. Local friends The Suicide File rounded out the weekend, and even Breaker Breaker made a scab appearance when Champion played one of their songs and BxB vocalist (and Champion roadie) Mark Kelley joined on stage. Deathwish’s Tre McCarthy was a good friend who I had known for several years in the Boston scene, back when he was a Bane roadie and before he started the label with his
longtime friend and roommate (and Converge vocalist) Jacob Bannon. We hung out with a lot of the same people and I even had Rhode Island tattoo artist Mike Lussier tattoo a “Bridge Nine” stomach rocker on me in 1999 in the kitchen of Tre and Jake’s Allston apartment, on one of Mike’s trips up to Boston to tattoo, back when it was still illegal in the Commonwealth due to an archaic blue law (one that wouldn’t be deemed unconstitutional and overturned until the following year). Deathwish had been a label for a year or two at the time that Bridge Nine was in the Initech office in Boston, so Tre would stop by regularly to hang out because he lived about five minutes away. He’d comment afterwards that he just intended to swing through, but we’d always end up talking for two hours or more. I was excited that Tre and Jake had a new label and wanted to support their efforts. In the spirit of the Initech collective, we started finding ways to share resources so each of our own efforts would be doubled. The growing Deathwish roster had more in common soundwise with Bridge Nine’s than the rest of the Initech labels, so
Sworn In playing the Bridge Nine / Deathwish fest as Sweet Pete (xâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d up, center) looks on (photo by Todd Pollock, 2002). Opposite: Photo from the Champion, Sworn In & Stay Gold East Coast tour (2002).
First “Bridge Nine / Deathwish Inc. collaboration”, Chris Wrenn stage diving onto Tre McCarthy (in the striped shirt) while the band Shelter performed at the Tune Inn in New Haven, CT; five years before they’d meet in Boston (photo by Robin Smedick Baughman, 1993). Opposite: detail of the Bridge Nine / Deathwish Inc. fest flyer, held nine years later.
it made sense to collaborate. Jake approached me in 2001 regarding a compilation that he wanted to curate. CD samplers were a viable way of getting people to listen to new music in a pre-streaming audio world, so he wanted to take songs from three labels and make a LOT of them instead of each of us fending for ourselves with our own small rosters of bands. He branded the compilation Fighting Music, and the first edition was with Deathwish Inc., Bridge Nine and Thorp Records. It featured 21 songs, 6 of which came from us. The cover was
illustrated by Mike Lussier, we pressed 10,000 copies and distributed them for free at festivals, through mail order and on our respective bands tours across the United States and Europe. The following summer, we added Southern California label Indecision Records to the fold and released a low-cost 35 band CD sampler as the 2nd (and final) edition to the Fighting Music series. Bridge Nine contributed 9 songs to the effort
and once again, it allowed all involved to get four times the bang for our buck. We were all growing independent labels and needed to share resources whenever possible. For a few years, Bridge Nine and Deathwish were inseparable on the fest circuit. At Posi-Numbers, Hellfest and even our own shared billing two day Bridge Nine / Deathwish Inc. fest, weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d either split table rentals or have them positioned side by side. During the summer of 2003, we had 10,000 plastic shop-
ping bags printed, with a promo for Bridge Nine on one side, and Deathwish on the other. Everyone always asks for bags to carry the stuff they bought at fests and we both wanted to offer them so we went in on it together. It was cheaper to print twice as many to share than it was for each of us to make our own run. By collaborating, we lowered our costs, increased the reach and exposure of both labels, and ultimately pushed both our rosters of bands harder than we could have on our own.
Photo spread courtesy of Todd Pollock, taken at the Bridge Nine / Deathwish Fest (2002). Top left, Panic; top right, Champion. Bottom left: The Hope Conspiracy, American Nightmare; Bottom right: Sworn In, Mark Kelley singing a Breaker Breaker song with Champion playing.
In 2001, Washington D.C.’s Striking Distance had the distinct honor of having what I found to be one of the angriest frontmen in hardcore and punk with vocalist Dave Byrd. More often than not, Dave would smash his head with a microphone during their set, until blood was running down his face. They had just released a new LP on Youngblood Records titled March To Your Grave, and it featured artwork by mutual friend Linas Garsys. I remember hearing it and thinking, “Fuck, I’d love to release something with this band.” Knowing they were also tight with American Nightmare, No Warning, Carry On and Shark Attack, I started talking to them about recording a new EP, which was tracked in March of 2002 with Ken Olden, and The Fuse Is Lit 7” was released that spring. The cover was once again illustrated by Linas, and the CD version included a bonus live set recorded from the soundboard when Striking Distance had shared the stage at CBGB with No Warning the previous August.
Striking Distance live photo (above) by Walter Yetman. Striking Distance group photo (left) and bloody Dave Byrd photo (opposite) by Lillian Eidsness.
One of the best emails that I had received for the label by early 2002 was from Chris Lauria, bass player for Slapshot. He had been in touch with my longtime friend Chris Rucker, who was working at WFNX at the time and had been telling him about Bridge Nine. Chris Lauria asked if I’d be interested in releasing Slapshot’s Greatest Hits, Slashes and Crosschecks album in North America. The 22 song collection pulled together re-recordings of Slapshot’s best songs and had been previously released on KINGfisher (a German subsidiary of Century Media Records). A year after it was released, the band wasn’t happy with the availability of the album in the States, so they reached out to me. As a longtime Slapshot fan, I was honored and jumped at the chance. We re-worked the album layout and re-issued the greatest hits disc in late November of 2002, alongside albums by No Warning, Holding On and Ramallah. Just before it came out in the U.S., I had the chance to return to Europe with the band for a four show extended weekend, which included three club shows with Slapshot and a festival appearance as Stars And Stripes at the 8th annual European Hardcore Party. Working with Slapshot was the first time that I had a chance to release an album for a band that I had been a fan of prior to starting the label, and it was a big deal to me. They are a definitive Boston hardcore band who at the time had been exclusively playing shows in Europe, and hadn’t performed in the U.S. in almost six years. Despite our version of the greatest hits record being only available in the States, releasing it helped give the label international credibility, and allowed us to re-introduce one of my favorite bands to hardcore fans here at home. Ironically, I had to travel to Holland with Slapshot to be introduced to a band from much closer to home, New York City’s On The Rise. They played the festival and had just released their debut album, Burning Inside, in Europe through the Dutch label I Scream Records. It was produced by Roger Miret (who also contributed guest vocals), and also featured future Agnostic Front guitarist Mike Gallo. I had the chance to catch their set as well as sit down with label owner Laurens Kusters, and festival organizer Onno Cro-Mag (RIP). This meeting set the stage to release the On The Rise album in the States in early 2003, and started an alliance with Laurens (and I Scream) that lasts to this day.
In early 2001, Ben Cook from the Toronto based band No Warning sent me a copy of his bands new six song recording, and three song demo. Todd Jones had told him to get in touch with me, and Chris “Mullet” Bailey, was an early fan who also told me that I should check them out. I loved their blend of New York inspired hardcore, it was clear they took influence from some of my favorite bands and I was interested in working with them right away. Their self-titled EP was released on 7 inch vinyl with limited distribution during the summer of ‘01 on Martyr Records, so we agreed to re-release that recording, with the three song demo as a bonus on an expanded 9 song CD EP that October.
This was just a taste of what would be coming from the band, because after touring a bit over the next year, No Warning entered Atomic Recording Company in Brooklyn, New York with Dean Baltulonis, and recorded their early 2000’s masterpiece, the Ill Blood LP. Mark Porter of Floorpunch contributed guest vocals to the song “Short Fuse” and Matt Henderson (of Madball and Agnostic Front fame) contributed a guitar solo to the song “All New Low”. Released in November of 2002, the album is a definitive top 10 release on the Bridge Nine label and a blueprint for dozens of bands that would follow in their footsteps. Unfortunately, the band only did a week long East Coast tour with the Cro-Mags and The Hope Conspiracy prior to the release of Ill Blood, and didn’t ultimately support the album on the road beyond random shows. It didn’t matter though, because the album was THAT good and it cemented their legacy as one of the definitive “early 2000’s” hardcore bands.
No Warning photoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s (top left by Lauren Ceike, 2002; bottom left by Caleb Cooper, 2002). No Warning Interview excerpt from Sit Home and Rot Fanzine (right, 2001).
Holding On photos (this page and opposite) by Todd Pollock.
During a summer 2001 trip to San Francisco to hang out with the guys from Breaker Breaker, I caught up with The Hope Conspiracy, who was on tour and had a show in the Bay area. Drummer Adam Patterson gave me a copy of Just Another Day, the full length debut from his hometown friends in Minnesota’s Holding On, and as the only disc in the rental car that I was driving during my stay, I listened to it A LOT. I really liked what I heard so I reached out to them and the following spring, it was decided that they’d come out East to record their 2nd album at Atomic in Brooklyn, in August of 2002. Question What You Live For, Holding On’s 15 song Bridge Nine debut, was released a few months later, in November. The band supported the release until June of 2003, when they broke up. Drummer Karl Hensel and vocalist Andy Hart went on to replace members and perform with Martyr A.D. and although Holding On’s time with Bridge Nine was short lived, Karl would later reconnect and move out to Massachusetts to become Bridge Nine’s first label manager, from 2006 until 2009.
Rob Lind’s handwritten lyrics for Ramallah (opposite, 2002). Ramallah live in the I.C.C. Church basement (photo by Todd Pollock, 2003).
In early 2002, Rob Lind told me about a new band that he was starting. We had already been working together on a CD release that collected both recording sessions from his rock band, Sinners & Saints, which was released as The Sky Is Falling in May of that year. Rob told me that this new project, Ramallah, was heavier than anything he had ever done with his original band, Blood For Blood. I was a huge BFB fan, I even used the bands logo font for the rocker tattoo across my stomach years earlier, and I agreed to release it for him
before he had even demoed any of the songs. He entered the GodCity studio with Kurt Ballou in mid-2002 and recorded 8 tracks, which became the original But a Whimper EP, released that November. Rob wrote all of the music, and outside of recruiting friend Neil Dyke to record the drums, he performed every other element of the recording: guitars, bass, keyboards and vocals. Rob also asked Jacob Bannon of Converge to have a guest appearance on the EP, and he ended up contributing vocals to the songs “Ramallah”, “Al-Shifa”, and “Beauty”.
Terror was a band that came together somewhat by chance. Carry On had broken up by the spring of 2002, but guitarist Todd Jones continued writing new, angrier songs. He got together with Ten Yard Fight guitarist John Lacroix, who had earlier moved out to the West Coast, to start Terror. John called Scott Vogel, who had also moved West after his last band, Buried Alive, had broken up, and asked him if he wanted to sing for them. Scott knew John, but had never met Todd or Nick Jett. He was familiar with and really liked the Carry On LP though, because his friend (and fellow Buffalo transplant) Larry Ransom had given him a dubbed cassette of it on side A (along with No Warning’s debut EP on side B). John apparently never followed though with the band because of other obligations, but he did get Todd, Nick and Scott linked up together and the ball rolling. I had already been working with Todd for the past year with Carry On so I was aware of Terror from its inception. They self-released a four song demo, and then had a one time pressing of a two song 7” single released on their friend Scott Magrath’s fledgling label, Takeover Records. I met up with the band in Syracuse when they played Hellfest during
the summer of 2002, and told the guys that I really wanted to work with them. We went back and forth quite a bit on the points of the deal; the band knew they had something good and they wanted to make sure they got taken care of by whatever label they ended up working with. They were torn between working with Bridge Nine and Indecision Records, so they gave us both a laundry list of needs, which included buying them a van. I ended up getting the deal done, and they went to Mars Recording Studio in Cleveland, Ohio that September to record their 9 song Lowest of the Low EP. No record had generated as much interest for the label before its release as Terror’s Bridge Nine debut had since perhaps American Nightmare’s self-titled EP. Carry On had broken up shortly after releasing a perfect hardcore album, and Buried Alive had a big following. Even Matt Smith from Shark Attack and Rich Thurston from Culture had made brief contributions to Terror early on. By the time Lowest of the Low was officially in stores in January of 2003, it was clear that Terror was already well on its way to being one of the biggest hardcore bands in the country.
Terror live at Headline Records (opposite, 2002). Live (this page, 2003). All photos by Chrissie Good.
Raising funds for the label continued to be one of my biggest priorities. No bank was offering loans to help release hardcore records, so I kept working on every opportunity that I could to earn money. Over the years I had done odd jobs, solicited and sold novelty stickers, custom built signs for night clubs on Lansdowne Street through contacts I had made at Tower Records, sold my records and other collectibles, even participated in (and won) a $500 cash winner-takes-all fist fight organized by the Yankees Suck collective in a Mission Hill parking lot at 2AM one spring 2000 night, whatever it took to make the extra money that I needed to keep things moving. Each album took a lot to get started. Even if you are working with a small recording budget, you still needed to come up with the funds for the artwork, to press it on CD and vinyl, print promotional posters, take out ads in fanzines and magazines. Albums had to be sent to the pressing plant three months before street date, and the distributor doesn’t pay until at least three months after the record was out, so I’d have to wait between 6 to 9 months before I saw any money from sales (this is why pre-orders are so popular with independent labels). I needed to build up a cushion that would allow for me to continually release records without depending on waiting for the last album to recoup (or at least to begin selling). That’s what made the opportunity outside
of Fenway Park so important. For three years I sold the small stuff: bumper stickers, enamel pins, patches (with the exception of some anti-Bin Laden tees in September of 2001 when you understandably couldn’t give away anything that bashed New York), and was making decent money doing it. At the same time, Ray’s low cost Yankees Suck tee had grown into a collection of cheap, but popular shirts and had taken a commanding stake in the t-shirt market outside of Fenway. The competition proved too great for the 21’ers and by the 2003 baseball season, they had given up and exited Kenmore Square. After working side by side with Ray for three full seasons, I saw an opportunity to step into the void that the 21’ers left, and started putting my own slogans on tees. This put me at odds with Ray, but by then, half of the sellers between us were in bands that I was releasing records for (and their roommates and friends). I wasn’t satisfied with just selling t-shirts after games. You had to worry about if it was going to rain, if you were going to get into a fight with a drunken fan who was trying to steal your stuff, or the changing whims of the police and code enforcement officers. I made an effort to start getting my developing brand up on the web and into stores. There was 38,000 potential customers at every game, but there were millions of fans
Presenting a check to Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler on the field at Fenway Park with the crew from WFNX (2004).
in Massachusetts and across the nation. Bridge Nine had been selling directly to Newbury Comics for a few years, so I contacted their buyer and started soliciting them the sports themed bumper stickers and tees that I made. I also started moving away from some of the negativity, trademarking and incorporating the phrase “Believe In Boston” into my t-shirts, focusing more on Boston’s strengths and less on rival’s perceived weaknesses. This shift led to opportunities to collaborate with my friend Chris Rucker from the WFNX radio station again, most notably in 2004 when we designed a special fundraising t-shirt to help raise money for the Gabe Kapler Foundation, to symbolically pay the fines incurred after his involvement in a bench clearing brawl with the New York Yankees months earlier, which earned him a $1,000 fine and a three game suspension. That effort brought me from the streets outside onto the field of Fenway Park for the first time (at least, in an official capacity), for a pre-game check presentation to Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler in September of 2004. Ray left the Fenway shirt game to travel and stumble into humanitarian work in the Middle East, as detailed in his and (early Boston roommate of mine) Jeff Neumann’s book, Babylon By Bus, so he passed control of his operation down to long time
friend Jesse Standhard and AJ Maguire, who had sung for Stop and Think. I was tight with both of those guys and it ushered in an era of greater cooperation between the two competing shirt crews, until I ultimately bought them out and consolidated the effort a few years later. The money that I made selling to sports fans was used to pay debts with the pressing plants, recording studios, screen printers and places that I advertised. It was a reliable source of revenue for the label during a time when no one would have lent me a dollar. While my roommates and friends spent the money they earned from selling t-shirts on expensive watches and clothes, dining, gambling and international travel, I spent every dollar that I earned on getting bands into studios and releasing their albums (as well as a few trips to Europe, Japan and later Australia to tour with and sign some new bands). In 2003, I incorporated my t-shirt business under the name “Sully’s Brand”, and it became its own growing enterprise, giving me the opportunity to make a living without depending on the label for a paycheck. Not taking money from Bridge Nine kept it all going back into releasing records, allowing the number and variety of bands that I worked with to grow.
Notice from Bridge Nine to store buyers in the November 2003 Lumberjack Catalog (left). “Fuck You” fax from Lumberjack Distribution (opposite page, 2003).
When I accepted the job working for Big Wheel Recreation back in 2000, the position ended up being for more than just the one label, it also included marketing for Doghouse, Hydra Head, and a few other labels on the Lumberjack Distribution roster. In lieu of a paycheck, I was instead given a $1,000 credit each month with pressing plants that Lumberjack had terms with. Bridge Nine had only six records out when I took the job, and as part of the offer I also received a distribution deal with Lumberjack. It was an opportunity of which Bridge Nine was unworthy, but it came at just the right time, months before I was going to release the self-titled American Nightmare EP. During my year working for the Lumberjack affiliated labels, I was their contact person for Caroline, the independent label-turned-distributor to the bigger chains that was owned by EMI. Lumberjack worked directly with all of the indie stores, and through their relationship with Caroline, got music into the “big box” type stores. During that time, I more than anyone in the LJ camp had gained a personal working relationship with the staff at Caroline. So in 2003 when I was informed that Lumberjack was going to leave Caroline to go through Navarre Distribution (a company known more for distributing computer software at the time), I objected. For every other label, nothing was going to change, they’d just have a different company putting their music in the same stores. For me, I risked losing years of relationships with the staff at Caroline, and I didn’t want to start over with a new company. It may have also been naive of me, but Caroline’s roots were in hardcore punk; the Caroline label had released albums by Youth of Today, Warzone, Bad Brains and The Misfits, so I felt that they understood my influences and focus for the label. We told Lumberjack that we weren’t happy with the move, so we were going to opt out of our deal with them for chains and stick with Caroline. We’d be happy to stay for indie distribution,
but that was it. To our dismay we were informed that our contract, which I had signed only once when I took the job at Lumberjack back in 2000, automatically re-upped every year unless I had told them otherwise. And that formal notice had to have been given during a specific window, before the current year was up. The kicker was that the Navarre deal came up with only a month to go in my deal, so I was already locked in for another year. And I was told in no uncertain terms that Lumberjack was going to legally go after me (or any labels they perceived as poached by Caroline) if I “broke” our contract. If I’d like to continue working with them and get any sort of financial assistance, I’d have to now sign a multi-year deal. I was stuck, so I told them to consider this our formal notice to leave at the end of the deal, and in the meantime settled in for an uncomfortable year. Leaving Lumberjack was made more difficult because the company withheld 100% of my sales for over 9 months, which was an incredible financial burden at the time. Additionally, one of their employees operated his own LJ distributed label and all of a sudden had unlimited funds to offer bands, my bands. I lost out on multiple new releases, all of which I had deals with in place and ready to be signed, but at the 11th hour this other label came in with double the advance money that I had been offering. We even included one of the bands on our 2003 sampler CD and had printed up promotional tour posters for them, because all of the deal points had been agreed upon, only to have the latter collect dust in our warehouse. The withholding of our distribution checks also exasperated some of our bands as we began to have difficulty making royalty payments, so it not only affected artists that we hoped to work with, but also damaged some of the relationships that we had worked so hard to build. People didn’t necessarily understand that we needed to get paid from our distributor before we could pay them. On top of getting the “sit back and take it” fax from Lumberjack, we were planning to move our warehouse 30 miles north from Boston to Salem, Massachusetts during the summer of 2003 and my debt and stress levels were hitting record highs. It was years after my transition out from Lumberjack to Caroline that I realized that I had actually gotten out while the getting was good, because Lumberjack went out of business in 2009, taking scores of indie labels down with them, and leaving the ones still standing payout offers of 10 cents on the dollar for what they were owed.
Bringing them into the fold made perfect sense. Bridge Nine and Deathwish had been long time allies, Matt Pike was Converge’s booking agent, and Tre and Jake were ready to move.
By early 2003, it was clear that we had outgrown our office space in Boston. We were literally tripping over ourselves and boxes were stacked to the ceiling. The cramped environment was stifling our creativity and we needed to spread out a bit and have some room to grow. Bridge Nine and The Kenmore Agency were the last left standing in the office from the Initech collective, so we started looking for a new space together. Matt Pike lived in Salem, and had been commuting from the North Shore into Boston. He and his wife had given birth to a baby girl months before and he needed to stay closer to home. Before Matt started the Kenmore Agency, he had worked at the Ryko Disc label which had been founded in Salem. Ryko left the city in 1999, but Matt was familiar with the office complex that it had resided in and suggested that we look for available space there. Just looking at the price per square foot difference between renting in Boston and a North Shore suburb reinforced the decision - we’d get twice as much space for the money by moving to Salem. Hoping to create a North Shore version of what we had fostered in Boston through Initech, we knew that we’d need another company to help split the rent, allowing us to lower our costs and get a better space. Deathwish Inc. was located one town over in a basement apartment in Beverly, Massachusetts.
The office building that used to be home to Ryko Disc was part of a huge early 20th century industrial complex known as Shetland Park that sprawled along the Salem waterfront. With over a half million square feet of commercial space empty at any given time, they had the room and flexibility to meet our needs. After looking at a few spaces, we found one that worked for us. It was a beautiful, old, open plan industrial building, with twenty foot tall ceilings, oil stained wooden floors and an entire wall full of windows. Sunlight was a luxury that I’m pretty sure none of us had previously had in our offices. And central air! No more positioning box fans strategically around my desk to keep cool during the summer. Not to mention it had plenty of space to allow us to get and stay organized. If our old office was the city planning equivalent of Boston, this new space was Manhattan. Straight lines, even rows with everything easy to find, it ushered in a more efficient era of doing business. Moving north did present its hardships though, as we had a changing of the guard amongst the Bridge Nine staff. Desmond wasn’t interested in the commute, and moved to pursue an opportunity in Texas. Another employee, who we learned had been brokering manufacturing jobs on the side and not delivering as promised, was immediately fired. Max committed to making it work and made the drive up regularly, and we hired Mike Mellilo as our new webmaster. Mike was a friend of Desmond’s and I knew him through his own efforts with his label Stab And Kill (later known as Perfect Victim). I also hired New York native Thorns Capricorn, who had been living and working in California for a few years at Revelation Records, and who had been looking for a new job at a label back East. Additionally, Bridge Nine and Deathwish cohired Atlanta transplant Jeff Jawk to help handle our respective graphic design needs, attempting to split up his schedule between the two companies. It was a whole lot of change at once, especially during a time that I was facing significant financial hardships from my own distributor, but if the label was going to continue to grow, things needed to be shaken up.
2003 had the label releasing less records than the previous couple of years, as we tried to deal with our distributor related cash flow issues. The year started out strong with the release of Terror’s Lowest of the Low 12”, followed by the delayed vinyl release of No Warning’s Ill Blood LP. To make up for the 5+ month delay in delivering the vinyl, we took live audio that we had recorded in January during a Terror performance at the Showcase Theatre in Corona, California, and pressed six of the songs on a 7”, limited to 500 copies. Terror’s Live and Death 7” became Bridge Nine’s first “Bonus” EP, as they were tossed in for free with the delayed No Warning LP’s, as a “thanks for waiting” peace offering to our mail order customers. Our mail order sales were keeping us afloat during this time, and we wanted to keep people happy. The full recording of Terror’s performance
wouldn’t be released for another 9 years, when the No Regrets, No Shame live LP and (Ian McFarland of Blood For Blood produced) live show DVD was finally pressed in 2012. Summer of 2003 saw the release of our highly anticipated “Summer Singles” collection of 7 inch / CDEP’s. Unfortunately slightly delayed because of our financial strains, it was an opportunity for Bridge Nine to release new music for some bigger bands that were hitting a much larger audience. I reached out to Fat Wreck Chords and inquired about releasing a single for Sick Of It All, and got a pretty enthusiastic response back. My friends in American Nightmare (at the time, Give Up The Ghost) were down to have me release a 7 inch single before their 2nd LP on Equal Vision, and F-Minus had a new album
on Hellcat Records coming, and I thought that they would be a fun band to work with, as they were a little more punk than the bands on Bridge Nine at the time, and a little more hardcore than the stuff coming out on Hellcat. They had recorded a cover of Antidote’s song “Real Deal”, so we paired it up with a track from the LP and it made for a very cool, exclusive 7 inch. I had been a fan of SOIA since high school so it was a huge honor to add even a few songs to their discography. And for GUTG, the opportunity to include an exclusive cover song and press it as a very limited picture disc 7 inch (our first!) was too cool to pass up. To give people an incentive to check out all three EP’s, we took a few songs from GUTG’s live recording session at the legendary BBC studio in the U.K., and released two of the songs on a very limited 7”(our 2nd “bonus” record) titled Live In London,
and only pressed 750 copies. Customers that grabbed all three of the “summer singles” at the time also got this record for free. Additionally, 2003 saw us exploring more overseas licensing opportunities for some of our bands. Terror’s Lowest of the Low recording came out in Europe on Reflections, in South America on Liberation, and in Japan on Alliance Trax. Supporting the release saw Terror touring all over the world that year, and I accompanied them on their first trip to Japan in September. Terror was our first band to make the trek to Asia, and Daiki from Alliance Trax booked a short five city tour with Loyal to the Grave supporting. I got to spread the word about the Bridge Nine label in Japan, and bring along a suitcase full of our CD’s to distribute and help underwrite the trip.
Mental was a band that was a perfect fit on the label from the start. It featured Justin DeTore (aka DFJ, formerly of The Trust) on drums, and Dan Ducas (aka Dookie) who at the time was a Bridge Nine intern. The band had self-released their debut eight-song And You Know This! 7 inch in January of 2003 as the first title on Mental vocalist Greg Wilmott’s Lockin Out record label. Influenced and inspired by classic N.Y.H.C. bands, the band tracked down Jamie Locke to engineer their Bridge Nine debut (Jamie had recorded albums for Madball, Agnostic Front, and had assisted on classics by Leeway, Judge, Sick Of It All & Killing Time) and they commissioned Sean Taggart (who was known for his work with Agnostic Front and the Crumbsuckers) to illustrate the cover of the EP. In August of 2003, the Get An Oxygen Tank EP was released as a 6 song 7 inch and a 16 song CD. The latter included the bands eight song debut as well as an unreleased song and a cover of Supertouch’s “Searching For The Light” as a bonus.
Sketch by Sean Taggart for Mental’s Get An Oxygen Tank cover concept.
Mental live (this page and opposite, photos by Todd Pollock)
Originally named Impact, Stand & Fight was Anthony “Wrench” Moreschi’s post-Ten Yard Fight band that he started singing for after moving to Southern California. Wrench had a pretty distinctive voice in TYF and Stand & Fight was basically just a faster version of that band. As a fan of TYF, what was not to like? As soon as I heard that he was fronting a new band (especially a straight edge band that also included Greg Bacon who’d spent time in Carry On), I reached out and asked about releasing music for them. Bridge Nine took the six-song Impact Demo that they had recorded with Nick Jett (of Carry On / Terror) at his Blood Tracks Studio in 2002 and pressed it as on 7 inch vinyl under their new name, alongside a new six-song self-titled EP in 2003.
Stand & Fight photos (both pages) by Todd Pollock (2004). Opposite: a young Pat Flynn (vocalist of Have Heart) sings along to Wrench / S&F (2004).
Some Kind of Hate live (photo by Marlon Moreno, 2004).
By the time Matt Pike started the band Some Kind of Hate with friends, we had already been working out of the same office in the Initech space in Boston for at least a year or two. As a friend, as well as the booking agent for a few of our bands, when Matt said that he was going to start a band, I was more than happy to release his debut 7 inch. Matt has always been a larger than life alpha-male type, and I knew he’d be a great front man before I’d ever seen him take the stage. Some Kind of Hate’s first 7 inch was recorded by Kurt Ballou at GodCity during February of 2002, with a cover designed by Jacob Bannon. The five song EP was inspired by and incorporated elements of Boston and New York style-inspired hardcore, and was released in May. I knew they weren’t going to be a very active band, but the limited shows and tours they did, they made count. With Matt booking bands of ours including Slapshot, Champion and Outbreak, opportunities for Some Kind of Hate to support their shows and hit the road for weekends and shorter tours with friends were often.
Some Kind of Hate’s full length album, Undisputed, was recorded by Jim Siegel (Blood For Blood, American Nightmare) and was released at the end of 2003. Undisputed was paired up and promoted with the first new album by Slapshot in 7 years, the Digital Warfare LP (which saw a first week of January, 2004 release). Licensed for North America from I Scream Records (who were distributing the album in Europe), these two records were the last full length albums from Bridge Nine to be distributed by Lumberjack before we switched over to RevHQ and Caroline directly in the summer of 2004. To help cross promote the new Some Kind of Hate and Slapshot records, we took a recording of Slapshot performing live on the air for the WFNX radio station (on the New England Product radio show hosted by Chris Rucker), and pressed 500 copies on 7 inch vinyl. Mail order customers who picked up both LP’s got our third bonus record for free, as a “thank you” for directly supporting our efforts.
Matt Pike standing on the couch, talking to someone on the Kenmore Agency side of the Initech office, while Mike Lussier tattoos (photo by Casey Davis, 2003)
In February of 2003 I received an email from Mark Porter, who sang for the mid-‘90s straight edge revival band Floorpunch. It was a couple of years after their “Final Mosh” at CBGB and Mark had started a new band and wanted to see if Bridge Nine would release their EP. I really liked Floorpunch, and this band was supposed to be three of those guys playing a more “Burn” inspired style of hardcore. That’s all that I needed to hear since I was a fan of both, so I agreed to do it. Unfortunately the band only played one show, in New Jersey, 8 months before the EP was released. I knew going into the deal that they weren’t going to play out as often as Floorpunch, but I wouldn’t have agreed to release it had I known they were only going to play one show. Anger Regiment could have been a cool band, but in a time when so many are jockeying for kids attention, if you don’t push yourself, no one is going to care. If you’re one of the thousand or so people over the years since that received a free copy of the Aces & Eights EP in your Bridge Nine mail order, I hope that you took a moment to give it a listen!
Email from Mark Porter about Anger Regiment (above, 2003). Flyer for the sole Anger Regiment show, opening for Mental and Outbreak (left, 2003). Outbreak & The Distance tour photo (opposite, 2004).
The Distance live (photos by Todd Pollock, 2004).
I’ve always gravitated towards groups of bands that worked together. Some labels sign random bands, with little or no connections between them. They might be the best at what they do, but each band on the roster ends up being its own island. With Bridge Nine being a part of a tight knit community, the degrees of separation between each band have been minimal. One signing often leads to others that are close, and it brings friends together to help push the collective. The Distance, Outbreak, and Some Kind of Hate were one such group of friends. They worked hard to push themselves and each other. Like the aphorism, “a rising tide lifts all boats”, one bands success often lead to success for the others. Bands would wear each others t-shirts in press photos and on stage, they’d take each other on tour and book local shows together,
and would talk each other up in interviews. When one band had a new release out, they’d all help promote it, as Jay Reason, vocalist from The Distance would say, they’d “support the scan” (a reference to buying an album the first week it was out, to bump up the Nielsen SoundScan numbers that track sales). The Distance had been on my radar because of Jay, I’d known him from my years in the Connecticut scene. He was always hustling - booking local shows and working as the label manger of Jamey Jasta from Hatebreed’s Stillborn Records. The original lineup of the band was heavily influenced by Carry On and their Bridge Nine debut, the Your Closest Enemies 7”, was released in January of 2004. They were also featured on the three way split 7” with Outbreak and Some Kind of Hate
Outbreak live (photo by Marlon Moreno, 2004).
later that year, before beginning to change their sound to try and cross over to more commercial success. Like the vocalists of Some Kind of Hate and The Distance, Outbreak’s Ryan O’Connor was actively booking bands and was even releasing records on his own label, Think Fast! (which debuted Have Heart’s What Counts EP in October of 2004, just months after Bridge Nine released Outbreak’s eleven song You Make Us Sick EP). Outbreak was from Maine, a state not known for exporting good hardcore bands, but Ryan was so active in networking with touring bands and really pushed to get his band on the road that they caught my attention early on, once their debut EP, Eaten Alive, was released by Western Front Records. They were signed to the label in No-
vember of 2003 and a few months later Outbreak was in the studio tracking their Bridge Nine debut with Don Fury, who had recorded many of Revelation Records’ late 1980’s classics. Outbreak was a perfect example of a band that just got out there and made their own mark. Not willing to be hindered by existing in a tertiary market scene, the band worked hard to break out of their hometown, and earned every opportunity that they had. Maine had a close knit, small scene (that was very supportive of American Nightmare, when they started playing out up there regularly just a few years earlier), but Outbreak’s drive got them out on the road, at first touring the entire country and then most of the world in the years that followed.
Photo of Project X by Chris Burr (NYC, 1987).
I’ve been straight edge and have been a fan of the early era of Revelation Records New York City bands like Judge, Youth of Today, Warzone and Side By Side, since before I started Bridge Nine. The latter of which was blasphemy no doubt to the older Boston bands who had fostered a rivalry with NYC in the 1980’s, but having spent my formative years in central Connecticut, I was midway between both cities and a fan of the music coming from each. By the 1990’s, the identities of the people behind the 7 inch known as Project X, comprised of members of the aforementioned bands were no longer a secret, but the EP had never been officially re-pressed after the initial 500 copies sold out. Generations of bootlegs had been distributed without the band members ever seeing a dime, so I approached Porcell and Alex Brown about not only officially repressing the EP with their blessing, but also combining the three long out-of-print issues of Schism Fanzine in book form. Schism was their short
lived ‘zine, originally started by Alex under the name Loveseat; it changed to Schism by issue #6 when Porcell joined. Those final 3 issues became an important document of the late 1980’s New York Hardcore scene, and needed to be made available again. Started in 2002, it took several years to pull everything together (I no doubt underestimated how much work would ultimately go into Bridge Nine’s first book project), but the Schism Fanzine collection with accompanying Project X EP was finally released in September of 2005 to great fanfare. It inspired a few other people to document their favorite fanzines as books too, which helps to preserve the really important (and insightful) interviews, writings and photos for the next generation of fans. While this book covers events at the label for the most part through the summer of 2004, I included this because I spent what felt like hundreds of hours during 2002 through 2004 scanning and compiling the Schism component of this release.
Looking ahead: Summer 2004 half page print ad (left). Opposite: Ezra (left) and Ken (right) printing some of the first shirts to come out of the Liberated Images screen printing office in Salem, MA (2004). Below: Spring 2004 full page ad for Reflections (Holland).
2004 saw Bridge Nine on some pretty shaky ground, and it proved to be our toughest year yet. Financially, we were hurting, because we hadn’t received any money from Lumberjack Distribution for sales over the previous year, and it would be months before we’d receive an advance from our new distributor, Caroline (and even then, we hadn’t negotiated for much up front). We had been actively negotiating with Terror to release their debut full length, One With The Underdogs, but lost out to Trustkill, in part because we didn’t have the money that the band needed for the new album, but mostly because Lowest of the Low had gone out of press briefly, and the employee who was in charge of getting it re-pressed lied to the band and I about it being in production, delaying it being available for a few crucial months. Losing Terror was a huge blow, because we had invested so much into the band, to essentially just have an EP to show for it. 2004’s releases were mostly re-issues (the Ramallah But A Whimper expanded release, American Nightmare’s - Year One CD was introduced in North America as Give Up The Ghost)
and EP’s: For The Worse, The Distance, Outbreak (including the split with The Distance & Some Kind of Hate). Stand & Fight returned with an LP, and Champion had been in the studio that March, recording their full length debut with Kurt Ballou in Salem, but Promises Kept wouldn’t be released until later that summer. This was the year that we also saw many of the bands that we had been courting, sign with Thorp Records. Blood For Blood, Ramallah, Slapshot and Madball all signed deals with Thorp, who was being financially backed by Lumberjack Distribution. That was Lumberjack’s way of punishing us for leaving their fold, by helping LJ employee-run Thorp negotiate more lucrative deals. We couldn’t compete, and couldn’t fault the bands for pursuing the bigger advances, so we lost out on some cool releases, but it worked out for us in the end. Thorp’s release schedule dropped off considerably in the following couple of years and the label is no longer actively releasing new music, and of course Lumberjack went out of business five years later, taking several of its distributed labels with it.
2004 also saw the Bridge Nine / Deathwish Inc. / Kenmore Agency office gaining a 4th tenant, when I took over the empty space next door and started Liberated Images, a custom screen printing business named after my final project art exhibit at Green Mountain College six years earlier. I had sat down in December of 2003 with the screen printer that I’d been using for the past few years (they were located a few blocks away from our old Fenway neighborhood office), and was told that I had become their biggest customer, because of the volume of shirts that Bridge Nine and Sully’s had been ordering. It got me thinking that maybe I should consider starting my own screen printing operation - to vertically integrate our shirt production (which would save time and money). I financed two manual screen presses, a 15’ electric dryer, recruited a couple of Jeff Jawk’s friends with screen printing experience from Atlanta (who had been looking to move to the Boston area), and later brought in Kevin Baker to help run the shop. We had an internal doorway installed between the adjacent spaces, and pieced the office together over the next few months. There was a lot of trouble shooting as everyone figured out how to make
things work, but by the spring of 2004, t-shirts were being printed by our crew in Salem, Massachusetts. This book has attempted to cover a lot of the ground that Bridge Nine traveled in its first 9 years. Many labels are known for documenting a very specific scene or time, and while the label has continued to grow and release even more music for bands in the many years since, Bridge Nine has become synonymous with the early 2000’s Boston scene that I’ve partially documented here, in the same way that Revelation Records is associated with the late 80’s N.Y.H.C. scene, and Dischord with the evolving musical landscape of Washington D.C. during the 1980’s through today. What it all boiled down to though was timing, talent, and access to the resources to help document it. I was a part of a community that was doing some very cool things, and I was able to find a way to capture it, and make it available to people worldwide. It was an exciting time, but thankfully, Bridge Nine was just getting started...
TENFOLD / SUM OF ALL FEARS Split 7” EP B9R001 (1996)
TENFOLD Now Is Our Time 7” EP B9R002 (1997)
PROCLAMATION Straight Edge Hardcore 7” EP B9R003 (1998)
THE TRUST The Trust 7” EP B9R004 (1998)
PROCLAMATION Taken By Force CD B9R005 (1999)
RIGHT BRIGADE / A POOR EXCUSE Split 7” EP B9R006 (2000)
AMERICAN NIGHTMARE American Nightmare 7” EP B9R007 (2000)
TEN YARD FIGHT The Only Way VHS Video B9R008 (2000)
AMERICAN NIGHTMARE The Sun Isn’t Getting... 7” EP B9R009 (2001)
DEATH THREAT Peace & Security LP B9R010 (2001)
SHARK ATTACK Blood In The Water 7” EP B9R011 (2001)
BREAKER BREAKER Demo Y2X1 7” EP B9R012 (2001)
COPS AND ROBBERS Execution Style 7” EP B9R013 (2001)
THE HOPE CONSPIRACY File.03 2 song 7” EP B9R014 (2001)
THE HOPE CONSPIRACY File.03 6 song CD B9R015 (2001)
NO WARNING No Warning CD B9R016 (2001)
PANIC Dying For It 7” EP B9R017 (2001)
DEATH THREAT / OVER MY DEAD BODY Split 7” EP B9R018 (2002)
CARRY ON A Life Less Plagued LP B9R019 (2001)
BREATHE IN From This Day On LP B9R020 (2001)
BREATHE IN Nervous Breakdown (Tribute) 7” B9R021 (2001)
SINNERS & SAINTS The Sky Is Falling LP B9R022 (2002)
REACHING FORWARD Burning The Lies CD B9R023 (2002)
SWORN IN Sworn In 7” EP B9R024 (2002)
GOOD RIDDANCE / KILL YOUR IDOLS Split 7” EP B9R025 (2002)
CHAMPION Count Our Numbers 7” EP B9R026 (2002)
SOME KIND OF HATE Some Kind Of Hate 7” EP B9R027 (2002)
PANIC Panic 7” EP B9R028 (2002)
STRIKING DISTANCE The Fuse Is Lit EP B9R029 (2002)
NO WARNING Ill Blood LP B9R030 (2002)
HOLDING ON Question What You Live For LP B9R031 (2002)
SLAPSHOT Greatest Hits... CD B9R032 (2002)
RAMALLAH But A Whimper EP B9R033 (2002)
TERROR Lowest of the Low 12” EP B9R034 (2003)
GIVE UP THE GHOST Year One 2x7” / CD B9R035 (2004)
CHAMPION Come Out Swinging 7” EP B9R036 (2003)
ON THE RISE Burning Inside CD B9R037 (2003)
GIVE UP THE GHOST Love American 7” Picture Disc B9R038 (2003)
STAND & FIGHT Impact Demo 7” EP B9R039 (2003)
MENTAL Get An Oxygen Tank EP B9R040 (2003)
F-MINUS Sweating Blood 7” EP B9R041 (2003)
STAND & FIGHT Stand & Fight 7” EP B9R042 (2003)
SICK OF IT ALL Relentless 7” EP B9R043 (2003)
SLAPSHOT Digital Warfare LP B9R044 (2004)
SOME KIND OF HATE Undisputed LP B9R045 (2003)
ANGER REGIMENT Aces & Eights 7” EP B9R046 (2004)
THE DISTANCE Your Closest Enemies 7” EP B9R047 (2004)
OUTBREAK You Make Us Sick 7” EP B9R048 (2004)
PROJECT X Project X 7” EP B9R049 (2005)
BRIDGE NINE The First Nine Years Book/Comp. B9R050 (2017)
Fall 2002 Sampler 4 Band Compilation CD (10,000 distributed free, 2002)
Summer 2003 Sampler 13 Band Compilation CD (20,000 distributed free, 2003)
TERROR Live and Death 7” EP B9Bonus01 (2003)
AMERICAN NIGHTMARE Live In London 7” EP B9Bonus02 (2003)
SLAPSHOT Live on WFNX 7” EP B9Bonus03 (2003)
This is a listing of Bridge Nine’s first 50 titles, as well as the few promo’s & bonus singles that came out prior to the spring of 2004. Bridge Nine has released A LOT of music since! Check out our growing catalog online at www.Bridge9.com/discography
IN MEMORY OF...
ROB BLAUNER (SUM OF ALL FEARS) 1976-2000 JOSH BARNES (A POOR EXCUSE, COPS AND ROBBERS) 1974-2004 DUSTIN HENGST (SINNERS & SAINTS) 1973-2011
The First Nine Years chronicles the grass roots beginning of the Bridge Nine record label. Launched in 1995 in a college dormitory as a way for its 19 year old founder, Chris Wrenn, to stay connected to his hometown hardcore music scene, the Bridge Nine label is now in its third decade of releasing 7 inch singles and albums for his favorite bands. These 128 pages tell the story of how the label got its start, how relationships forged in high school lead to its earliest releases, and how each band was connected to the next by a single degree of separation as Bridge Nine’s reach expanded from a few local bands to having one of the most actively touring rosters in the underground, building awareness for the label worldwide. Growth came fast as the label found itself not only in the middle of a burgeoning music scene, but with little competition as the larger indie labels that Chris had followed as a fan, no longer actively pursued the fast and
heavy bands that would come to call Bridge Nine home and define its sound. To support that development without the benefit of loans and years before online crowdfunding became a go-to for creatives, Chris headed over to Fenway Park and peddled stickers and later t-shirts to sports fans as they left the stadium after Red Sox games. Over the next few years, a swelling collective of hawkers and pedlers (comprised of roommates, interns and members of bands on the label) helped fuel one of the largest sports rivalries while earning the money needed to invest into the brand, as its discography continued to grow. The First Nine Years details the many opportunities and obstacles that the label faced during its earliest era, while building a foundation to support the over one hundred artists who have called Bridge Nine home, and the over two hundred and fifty releases that they’ve recorded for the label in the years since.
©2017 BRIDGE NINE RECORDS www.BRIDGE9.com B9R050