Up Front is without a doubt one of the most legendary “old school” Hardcore bands around. Is there anybody in the scene who doesn’t love or at least know their classic “Spirit” album? I don’t think so. So why not reading this interview? Jeff (who also runs Smorgasbord Records) answered the questions himself and also got Jon and Steve from Up front answer it as well. Thanks Jeff! But now go ahead and read what the guys in Up front had to say…
Hi guys, would you please introduce yourself?
Jon: I'm Jon & I play guitar.....
Steve: My name is Steven and my job in Up Front is to yell into a microphone and remind Tim to change his cotton panties every other day. I would like to start this interview off with some soft music and candlelight.
Jeff: I play bass and Tim is on drums and Rich is on guitar.
What are the latest news concerning Up Front? Any new songs/shows in sight?
Jon: I have some music written, but we have no plans right now to record/practice/play shows. Especially with Steve in California!
Steve: Oh there's not very much news at all. It doesn't concern Up Front but I bought a desk last week. No new songs, no new shows. Just good old-fashioned tater's & gravy. We here at Up Front inc. loves us some taters. Yessirreesally.
Jeff: Not much new in the way of Up Front except Vacation House Records in Italy will be releasing a live 10" picture disc sometime in the near future.
Who is in the band at the moment, who plays which instrument and do the single members play in other bands as well?
Jon: Steve sings, Jeff plays bass, Rich plays guitar, Tim plays drums. Jeff is in a band called Windfall, & Tim is in a band called Slower Than Seasons.
Steve: At the moment the band consists of thirty three people and a shaved monkey (What’s his name? – Stefan). One of us is a schizophrenic but I can't tell you who it is because that's gonna be our new "schtick" (this business is really hard!) also we're changing our name to EEKFACE AND MR. MELVIN). We all play the guitar (but only two of us turn our sound on) except for two guys that play synthesizers and light bulbs. (Hey Steven, what kind of drugs are you into? Just kidding… – Stefan)
Up Front is around for a very long time, but you have not too many releases out compared to the years of your existence. What is the reason for this?
Jon: Well, since 1991 we have been a part-time band - sometimes VERY part-time! We released something every year from 1987 to 1992, and now just record & play when we get the time because of the distance between us (Tim is 10 hours >from me & Jeff & Rich are 7).
Steve: Because we all live very far away from each other. Like you and some guy in Africa. (This zine isn't made in Africa is it? ‘Cause then that would make no sense) Life got in the way of our destiny to become rockstars.
Jeff: Jon pretty much summed it up when he says that we were VERY part time. Everyone in the band loves to play but unfortunately we all cannot do the band on a full time basis.
Was Up front around all these years or was there a time when the band broke up?
Jon: We existed full-time from 1987 to 1992 when I moved to Virginia. Technically I guess we were broken up from '92-'94. Then we recorded “What Fire Does”. Since then we've decided to leave it open-ended. We just get together to play & record whenever it's possible.
Steve: We broke up seven times but five of those times was just when someone went to the bathroom during practice. No we never really broke up. (Was that in the tabloids?)
What did you do during the years when no records were released? Did you play shows then? Did people show up without you having a new record out?
Jon: We've played shows when we didn't have a new release, and people did show up! Even if people know nothing else, they at least know “Spirit” (For sure – Stefan). In the last ten years or so that we've been part-time we've all worked / went to school / got married / played in other bands. Tim was in V Card for 3 or 4 years, and I played in Dayspring for 2 1/2 years also...
Steve: We did lots of cool things like play mini-golf and have sex (no, not with each other!) We played three shows I think maybe four in the US before we went to Japan. Did you know that vending machines are really rare in Japan? (No – Stefan) We played four in the US I mean we always play a few around New York before we go to Europe no one really shows up.
Jeff: We played shows, wrote new songs and since 1996 I have been running Smorgasbord Records and playing in a band called Windfall with Jon from Supertouch. Check out our web page at http://www.windfall-go.com and our two CDs out on Smorgasbord Records.
How did you make a living during these years and nowadays? Do you have jobs besides the band?
Jon: Definitely! If you add it all up over the years we've probably lost well into the thousands of dollars in this band. But we're all good friends & love playing so we stick it out. Steve writes Screenplays, I do Advertising/Graphic Design, Rich works in collections, Tim does some kind of computer programming, and Jeff does Windfall & Smorgasbord.
Steve: We all work but work sucks right? I wanna rock out and party. Oh Jeff runs Smorgasbord. He's cool like that.
Let's talk a little bit about the last European tour (I guess that was in 1999). How did you like that, how were the reactions of the fans?
Jon: I'll skip this one--Jeff??
Steve: Our last European tour kicked so much ass it was cooler than anal sex with Nixon's dentist. The fans kicked so much ass it was cooler than oral sex with Nixon's caddy. Every show was great except for two. You know it's always better to have lots of people and at these two shows there weren't a lot of people. But the fans that showed were cool. Except for that one dude Lars.
Jeff: The Euro tour in 1999 was the best tour that Up Front ever had. I will always remember the show in Bleiskassel as one of the greatest shows and the most fun that I ever had playing with Up Front.
I was at a show in Stuttgart, Germany, during that tour where Fast Times were the opening band. Some members of Fast Times played in Up Front as well this evening. What was the reason for this?
Jon: Some of us couldn't make the tour--We set the tour up knowing that Tim couldn't make it, then Rich & I had to drop out. We all agreed at that point the tour should go on, so Jeff & Steve found some amazing replacements in Fast Times. That was the first time in our almost 8 year existence at that point that we had to do that. But the reality is that we all have a lot of other responsibilities in our lives (plus the distance factor), and this may happen sometimes.
Steve: Oh Jeff and I were the only Up Fronters that could make the trip. It's a long story and you probably have better things to do (knitting is always fun!) but we had to replace them with the gay guys in Fast Times. And they're all gay. So Fast Times fucking played with us and rocked it baby.
How many people from the original Up Front line up were in the band during this European tour?
Jon: Just Steve and Jeff...
Steve: Ha ha I just answered that! Two!
Wide Awake were supposed to play this tour as well, but why didn't they show up?
Jon: I'll let Jeff answer this one!
Steve: They just had problems with a couple of guys, they initially said they could do it but then they just kinda never got back to us even as the tour was being set up so we thought and assumed they were coming but it turns out they weren't. Pretty fucking nice, right?
Jeff: I did not know it at the time but their original singer could not make it. They thought about going with a different singer but decided that it would not be right to do the tour with out the original line up. Being that they had never toured Europe before and had not really heard anything from the booking agent, they just assumed that everyone knew that they were not going. Due to lack of communication between the band and the booking agent, the booking agent booked the tour as if they were going and did not find out that the band was not going until like a few days prior to the starting day of the tour.
I saw on your website that the line-up changed a lot over the years, do you think this line-up will last for some time?
Jon: Well, the big changes in our line-up happened over the first few years. With the exception of Steve rejoining in 1994, this line-up has been the same since 1991! And Steve was at almost every show even when he wasn't singing.....Yeah, I think this one will last awhile. Like I said earlier, we're all good friends, and have remained that way over the years even though some of us live far apart & don't see each other face to face as often as we'd like. I think that bond will keep this line-up together....
Steve: Well I think it's safe to say that the guys in it now are the guys that are in it until the end. That may be sooner than later, but who knows.
Your musical style was always unique in my eyes. "Spirit" was faster than all the other "old school sXe" bands of that time. What was the reason for this, what do you think made you so unique?
Jon: Well, part of the credit for the speed of “Spirit” goes to our drummer at the time-Jim. But we didn't want to sound just like YOT, Bold, Judge, etc. We strived for our own sound. Plus Jeff, Steve & I were influenced by a lot of really fast bands then (DRI, Straight Ahead, etc) so we just wrote/played what we liked.
Steve: Honestly I think because we were really into the old punk bands before getting into Bold and Youth of Today and Uniform Choice and all that so when Jon and Jeff were writing the music a lot of that came out of it. Like Stark Raving Mad, Mayhem and shit like that. And thank you for the nice words. (You’re welcome – Stefan)
Everyone seems to love "Spirit" (and it truly is a classic), but also many people don't like "Movement" that much. Do you think that is because of the difference of that album compared to the "Spirit" sound or what's the reason for that in your eyes?
Jon: People don't like “Movement”??!! :-) Well, “Movement” was written 10 years after “Spirit”..... but I don't think it's that different. For me it's probably more like what I wanted the songs on “Spirit” to sound like, I just couldn't play guitar very well then! I guess “Movement” is slightly more melodic, and it's more of a thinking man's HC album as far as the lyrics are concerned--meaning the lyrics have to be read into a little compared to some of the more obvious songs on “Spirit”. But this is what happens as we grow as songwriters. I have a distinct vision for our next recording, I want to take the energy & speed of “Spirit” & mix it with the melody & lyrical style of “Movement”....
Steve: Well we kinda thought that “Movement” was a lot like “Spirit” but I guess we're alone. I mean the truth is when you age and your band ages your music ages. So after the aging we decided to go back more toward the “Spirit” sound and so the young met the old I guess you could say and “Movement” was born. How's that for a metaphor?
Up Front was very outspoken about sXe in the past, so what's your opinion about sXe nowadays? Are you still sXe?
Jon: I'll just speak for myself on this one....I am still SE. I wasn't very outspoken on that topic in our early days--none of the obvious SE songs on “Spirit” were mine. Now I feel like this is just the way I am. If there wasn't a such thing as SE, I would still live the lifestyle I live today regardless. 99% of my friends these days aren't SE, and that's fine. I don't really care whether someone I know drinks or not, it doesn't really have any effect on me. I just know that I choose to live this way and that's all that matters. I never preached in our early days (see the lyrics to “Something To Strive For”), and I still don't now. I think a lot - actually most - SE kids dive headfirst into it & burn out within a few years. Besides, people change, and I think true friends know that and don't go and write a "stabbed me in the back" type song when their friends lose their edge!! :-) But I do still have my handful of 1/4 century (over 25) SE friends!!
Steve: All I can tell you is that there are so many more important things than straight edge. I was really only straight edge for two years – just before we formed, through “Spirit” and then probably a few months after. I guess everyone assumes I still am but I'm not. And if you're thinking I never meant the words that I wrote you're fooling yourself. I was wrong on some of them, but I'll be dipped in poo if I didn't truly want to say them. But I think we all have our opinions on the subject. You should ask some of the other guys.
Jeff: I was str8 edge for 12 years of my life but I am no longer. They were some of the best years of my life but now at almost 32 years old, I no longer need or want to wave any more flags. I support sXe and I think that it can be a really cool thing. I am vegetarian and I am still the same caring guy that I have always been. I just don't wear the label of sXe anymore.
What did sXe mean to you in the past and what does it mean to you now? Did your views change in any way?
Jon: I guess you can see the last question for this one... Damn, I hate when I answer a question too soon!
Steve: Oh I guess I already answered that.
Jeff: Well, I guess that we all pretty much answered this one in the question before.
I often have the impression that American sXe bands are very enthusiastic about being sXe, but I also have the feeling that lots of people within this scene are sXe until they turn 21 and then they leave the scene. Would you agree? Whilst in Europe the scene seems to be very political, there are many rules etc. For example, in Europe many people think that being vegetarian is a crucial part of being straight edge, but I wouldn’t say so. Did you notice these differences between the scenes, too?
Jon: Yeah, I do notice differences in the two scenes. I was surprised both times I was there with Up Front that there were so many older HC kids. But that's a good thing. For the music, message, and scene to grow we need people who care enough to stick around! And don't be fooled about SE enthusiasm over here, that's b/c SE bands tend to be pretty damn young (Except for Sweet Pete!). I would have to say the main difference I noticed is that European kids are very loyal and don't take things for granted. In some of the larger scenes over here big bands play every weekend. European kids (and kids in smaller towns over here) have a passion for the music like nothing I've ever seen. It's amazing!
Steve: Well I don't know. I was into punk and hardcore before I became straight edge and I'm still into it today. To me it just doesn't matter who drinks and who doesn't and who smokes and who doesn't - I'm still a part of the scene because I still like the music. I think there's a big difference between that and just leaving the scene altogether just because you decide to no longer be straight edge. I've been a vegetarian for twelve years now for one simple reason, that I don't think I have the right to eat an animal just because I like how they taste. It's a part of who I am, it has nothing to do with what "scene" I belong to. At the end of the day I'd prefer to see a kid at an Up Front show because he or she digs our music than just because they're straight edge and consider us a straight edge band. Some of the coolest kids at our Europe shows were smoking like chimneys, and they were having as much fun as the kids with Xs on their hands.
Jeff: I definitely notice the differences but what really matters is that the kids support the bands and the scene. It really shouldn't matter if you are sXe and not vegetarian or vice versa. Everyone has their own view and standpoint on what sXe is and what sXe shouldn't be. It means different things to different people, just like everything else in life and we all need to learn to accept and respect that.
What are best memories you have with Up Front? What are your future plans?
Jon: Rich's 5 foot long flaming fart on one of our US tours, every Leipzig show we've played, Fender's ballroom show in 1989 with YOT, GB, etc, Japan tour 1998, Tim kissing the mustache girl in Vienna, Wetlands show (NYC)1997, Outdoor festival in Austria-1994 in a torential downpour, Finnigan-the gnome we stole & took on tour with us in 1991 (see the webpage), man - too many to list!!! Hopefully we can record something new and play, but for right now we're dormant while Steve parties down in LA and becomes a famous screenwriter.
Steve: Christ, there are so many great memories. Just to be able to step out of my boring life for a short while and go on tour is so amazing to me, and being around my friends and just goofing off, you know. We're a bunch of fucking kids at heart so we have fun. But then the tour ends and you have to get back to the job and all that. We seriously don't know what our plans for the future are. I wish I could say more but we really just don't know.
Jeff: There are way too many good memories to list here right now. Go to our web site and you can pretty much see and read about the history of the band in great detail. Jon and the band work pretty hard to keep the site updated and chock full of information.
Ok, I think we're at the end of the interview. Hopefully you liked it and thanks for taking the time answering it. If I forgot anything important, feel free to tell it now!
Jon: Our website! www.up-front.org. Check it out!!! And thanks so much for the interview....
Steve: Thanks again, Stefan.
Jeff: Feel free to visit the web page and send us emails. You are also more than welcome to write us through Smorgasbord Records / P.O. Box 5392 / Milford CT 06460 / USA. http://www.smorgasbordrecords.com.
Stefan, thanks so much for the interview and for the opportunity to keep the spirit of Up Front alive and well!