If you like hardcore, specifically NYHC, you should be familiar with both SubZero and Breakdown. 2 bands that probably should've been way bigger and SubZero - "Happiness Without Peace" is up there with genre classics like Cro-Mags "Age Of Quarrel" or Judge - "Bringin' It Down". Founding member and bassplayer Lawrence Susi let me fanboy by asking him a few questions. Legend.
Straight off the bat, if you were to introduce extraterrestrials to music using only 5 records, what do you choose?
Lists are difficult especially when you only get five,I selected 5 different types of music classical, rock ,pop,metal and electronic.A well rounded selection of Human music:),there could be many more but these are what I consider the best in these categories. If they don’t like any of these they probably already don’t like us .
Mozart - Requiem
The Beatles - Abbey Road
Michael Jackson - Thriller
Slayer - Reign In Blood
Coil - Musick to play in the dark
You were/(are?) a member of two pretty seminal NYHC bands, Breakdown and SubZero. What's your take on the hardcore scene at the moment? Have you noticed a change in ethos, or do you just do your own thing and not worry about what anyone else is doing?
At the moment I think it’s great that bands are still flying the flag for the movement, keeping it alive putting out records and playing shows.
On the creative side I feel that a lot of the new Hardcore bands are whitewashed and have a tribute band feeling to them,there are so many bands being influenced by the same group of classic Hardcore bands,records,videos and artwork from the 80’s/90’s.The internet has blown up many bands/records that were obscure. And the younger generations exposed in retrospect can relate to the music and vibe but the context of the era and places it was created in are gone.Newer generations are attracted to the scene and they emulate the energy and spirit that was part of that original era, but are obviously too young to have experienced what it was like then.You can watch the History channel all you want and never know what it was like to fight in the Vietnam war kind of thing.
SubZero's classic "Happiness Without Peace" has just been reissued. Other than getting that together, what have you been up to, musically or otherwise?
SubZero_”Happiness Without Peace”_The 1997 Century Media version turns 25 this year and is getting a nice reissue on Second Choice/Cruzade records. I’d like to think its being reissued for the fact that it’s turning 25 but that’s giving it too much sentiment. Sony owns Century Media and licenses off blocks of the back catalog to labels for vinyl reissues.We have nothing to do with it anymore and never made any royalties off that record since we are still in debt to them under contract. Demons Run Amok also did a very nice reissue of it about 5 years ago. But props to these labels who are doing so out of love of the music and not for money.
As far as what I am up to…SubZero released a single in October 2020 called House of Grief b/w Necropolis ’20 on Upstate Records and DemonsRunAmok Records in Europe on 7” black/blue/purple vinyl. It’s a pretty intense track, heavy, melodic and dissonant at the same time.It was recorded and produced by our guitar player Rich Kennon at his Barking Dog studios in Brewster NY. He gets a great sound and the studio has a huge live room for crushing drums.On the SubZero record “Beauty in Sorrow” Riggs sounds like a monster in there and Richie and Matts guitars are fucking sick, We had some momentum building up with the recording but the pandemic fucked us up a little but it will be completed and released sometime in the future.The other project that I have been working on the last two years is called >L€$$€R< which leans more toward electronic/postpunk it is darker than what I have previously done in the hardcore scene but it’s not as heavy or fast in that aspect.I will be finished with that soon and plan to release a 6 song album in the summer or fall.
Who or what was the catalyst that got you into hardcore?
It sounds strange but Metal got me into Hardcore, In 1984 I was heavily into W.A.S.P. and was walking down the street and saw that Bleecker Bobs had a W.A.S.P. “I Wanna be somebody” 12 inch single in the window that I had never seen before, most records store would only carry the main releases of bands and not import singles or any independent releases. I immediately went inside and saw all kinds of imports,singles and bootlegs of bands that I loved that I wasn’t aware of and on the flip side an introduction to an entire new world of underground music.It was like picking up a huge rock and discovering all the different bug species that I never knew existed…. Thrash,Punk, Goth, New Wave, Industrial .The next time I went into the store the guy behind the counter put an album on and It started off with this insane scream and vicious blasting drums and guitars It was the heaviest thing I had heard up to that moment and I immediately asked the guy “Who is this?” And He said it was a band called Over Kill and they just released this and you should buy it because there are only a few copies, so I bought it and then in rapid succession came Slayer, Venom, Exodus, Metallica, Megadeth, Celtic Frost, Bathory…Which soon lead to Suicidal Tendencies,The Misfits/Samhain, The Dead Kennedys, Black Flag,The Circle Jerks,Minor Threat….Then NYHC popped up on my radar in 1986 Combat Records a metal label introduced Combat Core a Hardcore subsidiary that was polishing Hardcore bands up to sell to the metal heads and they released Agnostic Front_Cause for Alarm, Profile dropped The Cro-mags _The age of Quarrel that was a big crossover moment exposing me to so many great bands like Murphys Law,Leeway,Nuclear Assault, Ludichrist the Crumbsuckers and so on, by ’87 there was a prominent new generation of NYHC bands like Straight Ahead,War Zone,Rest In pieces,Sheer Terror,Sick of it all,Token Entry, Krakdown,Youth of Today,Underdog,Gorilla Biscuits,Breakdown,Bold,Judge,It was fucking amazing.’88 soon followed with Killing Time, Absolution, Lifesblood, Madball. By the end of ’88 the scene had changed it became massive and kind of imploded from overexposure and soon violence at shows lead to venues closing and record label interests were affecting bands creative decisions/directions for the worst.Rap and Metal started to become more apparent and the punk element faded altering the sound.I considered that to be the end of the classic era of Hardcore.
If there was one song you didn't write, but wish you did, what is it?
That’s a tough one ,There are hundreds but if I had to , I’d say Metallica “Disposable heroes” looking at how young and virtuosic they were at the time that they could write that .
How was it coming up and maintaining almost cult status in the early 90's NYHC scene, when so many bands like Madball, Leeway, Killing Time, SOIA, Agnostic Front, Gorilla Biscuits, Judge (i could go on) were there as well. Was there a sense of competition or camaraderie?
There was only admiration for those bands you mentioned, I own records from every one of them and have seen all of them live or played shows or toured with them,Those bands set the bar and it was our goal to try and reach what they had done in our own way.
You are, at least, partly responsible for basically cultivating a scene that defined (and still does) a generation. Looking back, was there anything you would do differently?
Of course I could bitch and nitpick about shit but I had a pretty good fucking time I got to go to a lot of places and hang with a lot of cool people, and got to do a lot of things that most people don’t get an opportunity to do. I’m glad I was part of it and was able to witness a golden age of underground Metal and Hardcore. And my involvement in SubZero and Breakdown and the ups and downs and madness that we went through (Richie, Lou, Dijan &J eff) spawned some great records that people are discovering today and played shows and tours that people still talk about.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I look forward to playing/touring in the future once they settle this sissy Pandemic, SubZero are sharp as shit and we need to get back out there and smash skulls.
Keep an eye out for my project >L€$$€R< and SubZero’s “Beauty in Sorrow” in the near future.
Thanks Dan and Heavy Weight Music.