Founding Hub City Stompers front man Travis Nelson chats about headlining ROCK New Brunswick on Sept. 10 in Boyd Park, being misunderstood as an interracial skinhead, the impact of gentrification, and the glory days of the Brunsfus and City Gardens scenes.
Hub City Stompers are a faSKAnating New Brunswick band who stay true to original ska music and its influence on the skinheads of late-1960s England, while also incorporating later elements of the island-originated genre, such as late ’70s 2 Tone, ska punk and ska-core.
Many initial skinheads were British youth, including blacks, who continued the working-class themes of Jamaican ska and rude boy acts, such as Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, Duke Reid and Desmond Dekker. Years later, the skinhead movement’s social alienation and working-class unity attracted white supremacists, many of whom increasingly have grabbed recent headlines with their support of Donald Trump and alt-right, racially motivated politics. Hub City Stompers founding front man Travis Nelson said he finds that situation absurd, given that blacks were among the initial skinheads whose culture greatly was influenced by Jamaican immigrants.
Like the membership of ska second wave 2 Tone bands, such as The Specials, English Beat, and The Selecter, and 1980s third-wave pioneers The Toasters, Nelson is interracial. Raised in Trenton by a black dad and white mom, the veteran vocalist and songwriter cut his musical teeth from the late ’80s to the mid ‘90s at the fabled City Gardens, a haven for the ska, punk, hardcore and oi music that appealed to skinheads. On several occasions, Nelson was among the City Garden skinheads who drove Nazi and white supremacist counterparts out of the club.
In the early ’90s, Nelson gravitated to New Brunswick to hear such punk bands as Bouncing Souls and Lifetime and the skinhead ska act Inspecter 7. Initially an ardent fan of Inspecter 7’s blend of ska’s three stylistic waves with punk, Nelson was asked to join in 1993, and so began a 24-year music career, including two albums on Radical Records and national tours withsuch contemporaries as The Pietasters and Mephiskapheles. All the while, Nelson, aka Rev. Sinister, has stayed true to his skinhead, hardcore and ska roots, while incorporating elements of hip-hop and jazz.
In 2002, while Inspecter 7 was on hiatus, Nelson and several of his bandmates formed Hub City Stompers, named after one of his i7songs. Picking up where the predecessor had left off, Hub City Stompers continued to tour nationally and released an EP, an anthology, several singles and compilation tracks and four full-length studio albums:
2004’s “Blood, Sweat and Beers” and 2006’s “Dirty Jersey” on Megalith Records, an offshoot of the influential Moon Ska label
2009’s “Ska Ska Black Sheep” and 2014’s “Life after Death” on Stubbon Records, the label of New Brunswick ska legend King Django (Skinnerbox, Version City).
A who’s who of regional ska, Hub City Stompers now include saxophonist-vocalist Jenny “Whiskey” DeSantis (Professor Plum), bassist “Reggae” Bob Vorhees (Predator Dub Assassins), guitarist Rod “Gorgeous” George (Bigger Thomas), drummer Joey “Pip” Piperato (The Heavy Beat), trombonist “G&T” James Kelly (Screwface, The Executives), and keyboardist-guitarist Greg “Pukey B” Behan. They recently recorded the band’s fifth full-length studio album, “Haters Dozen,” which will be mixed and mastered for a spring release on a label to be determined, said Nelson, Hub City Stompers only original member.
On Sept. 10 in Boyd Park, the band will headline the main event of the fourth annual Hub City Sounds: ROCK New Brunswick, one of the expanded festival’s five events taking place throughout the weekend, which will include performances by a total of 18 New Brunswick and Central Jersey acts. ROCK New Brunswick marks the last gig for Pip, who will be replaced on skins by Behan. Hub City Stompers are seeking a keyboardist to play with them starting with a two-night stand with Mephiskapheles on Oct. 27 at the Wonder Bar, Asbury Park, also with the Jersey oi band Broken Heroes, and Oct. 28 at Bowery Electric, New York City, also with the Brooklyn punk band 45 Adapters.
I recently chatted with Nelson about Hub City Stompers, as well as the mid-’80s to mid-’90s heyday of the New Brunswick and City Gardens scenes, gentrification’s impact on local music, and the misconception about skinheads often perpetuated by the media.
Question: What is Dirty Jersey Hooligan Ska and how does it compare to other kinds of ska music?
Answer: The Dirty Jersey is just a reference to our Jersey pride and where we’re from and embracing the positive or negative views that people have of New Jersey. Hooligan Ska is more of a reference to us not being pigeonholed into that poppy, posi style of checkers and plaid, the more modern third-wave stuff. When people hear the word ska, they have this image of this happy, skippy, vapid and aloof fun music, which it is. Ska is always supposed to be fun one way or another. Hooligan ska is more of a return to the real 2 Tone and traditional themes that weren’t always so happy-go-lucky. Some of them dealt with more street stuff and sometimes political stuff and other themes. While our music spans all the waves – first, second, third, ska-punk, ska-core – our themes aren’t singing about skankin’ and your high school girlfriend. We expand beyond that, touch on other themes and have an edgier sound, image and theme, like original ska did, hence the whole connection to skinheads. Ska was skinheads’ original music. We kept that connection as well.
Q: Why the lineup change, especially in the midst of recording an album?
A: Our drummer is the only one who doesn’t live in New Jersey. He lives out in Lehigh Valley, Pa., so as you can imagine, it’s a bit of travel for him to get here. I guess he feels he’s at a transitional part of his life … but he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do. He’s put in five years of time.
Fortunately for us, our keyboard player’s first instrument is drums, so he’s just hopping behind the drums.
But Joey already is on the record. We’re good to go. Everything’s laid down, so he’s on it.
We’re looking for … a full-time keyboard player … Multiple instruments would be encouraged, but we’ll take keys. We’ve existed as many as a nine-piece and small as a five-piece, so we can adapt.
Q: How does ‘Haters Dozen’ compare to your previous releases? Have the band gone into a different direction in any way since last time out?
A: I already feel like we do a lot, so I never feel like we have to venture too far from what we do as far as ‘progressing.’ We have all kinds of influences … all forms of ska, reggae, hardcore, punk, oi, hip-hop, some jazz, particularly in the earlier stuff, so it’s not like we’re going to expand even more. Yet, at the same time, each album ends up being distinct from the other.
Q: What is the title ‘Haters Dozen’ a reference to?
A: It’s a reference to baker’s dozen because it’s going to be 13 tracks. We’ve also been seen as the black sheep of the ska scene. We’re not always in line with the whole poppy ska that some of the newer generation in the ska scene think that ska is supposed to be. We’ve never been in line with that. Some people have this image of us as this darker horse in the scene. That and our connection to the skinhead scene, which, to this day, is somehow still misunderstood.
People have a narrow-minded view of the ska scene and think it’s supposed to be a bunch of people running in a circle and singing about nothing. Then I guess, you’re going to think, ‘What they hell are they doing?’ So ‘Haters Dozen’ is a reference to that as well … people who don’t get it.
Q: So you go back to the old City Gardens days. Tell me a little about your experience with that and how it led to your involvement in the New Brunswick music scene.
A: I started going to shows in 1987 at City Gardens. I remember seeing Bigger Thomas there. The first tattoo I ever got (unrolls sleeve to show Bigger Thomas logo on forearm) ... They were called Panic back then in 1988. That was the first tattoo I ever got on a rooftop on George Street in 1990. A fella named Josh Becker did it. I believe I paid him in Pop Tarts. As you can see, I’ve expanded since then.
I’ve been listening to the music since 1984. My brother got me into hardcore. Hardcore is really what I came up with. I’m a hardcore guy who formed a ska band. I ended up getting connected to New Brunswick through City Gardens. Everyone would converge on City Gardens. The Shore scene, Philly, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Brunswick. All the Hate Squad guys would come down. The 8 Ball Crew. I befriended them at City Gardens. I wound up coming up to see shows at The Roxy and some of the basement shows that would go on, the Court Tavern and stuff like that. Between ’92 and 2001, I was bouncing back and forth between Trenton and New Brunswick and going into New York City too. My brother and sister always have had an apartment in New York City, so I was at CB’s a lot too during that time.
I came up with hardcore, but I like all underground music. I like underground hip-hop. I like ska, reggae, punk, oi. Anything that was underground I was into, but hardcore was my main thing. I just ended up in a ska band for some reason. Part of it was circumstantial.
Inspecter 7 was where that all started. I had been friends with Joe Mancini since before Inspecter 7 existed from City Gardens in the ’80s and the Shore shows. He was down with the Shore scene. He and a bunch of New Brunswick locals were my roommates at the Gingerbread House, 106 Welton St. They formed this band called Agent 86 in 1992, and I was … one of their main supporters. I was their drunken skinhead friend who would go to all their shows. I would get drunk and dance to them and thought, ‘This is great,’ because ska was going through the doldrums at that time … in Jersey at least. There was Bigger Thomas, but they weren’t playing a lot of underground shows. I was missing them and ska. I had to go to New York to catch a good ska show … so a ska band in New Jersey, this is fantastic.
Then in 1993, they changed their name to The Crash Bars. They would practice in the basement. Then toward the end of ’93, they said, ‘You should join the band. You’re always at our shows. You’re a fun presence at the shows. You should join. You should be our hype man.’ I wasn’t too hip to being the Flava Flav of ska. Around that time, they changed their name to Inspecter 7. They said, ‘You can write your own songs and do your own thing.’ I sat in on a couple of practices. It felt good. They were all my friends. It was my old friend Jay Balsamello and Eric Schroeder, who I also knew from the old City Gardens. It just felt right, and it was comfortable. I did my first show with them in February ’94 at the Melody Bar.
We signed to Radical Records in ’97, did two records … and that’s when we started doing national touring, between ’97 and 2000.
But then it petered out in 2001. That’s why I started Hub City Stompers … in 2002. Inspecter 7 didn’t officially break up, but we stopped playing, we stopped touring … Everyone was just done. It’s a shame because if we had gotten over that hump and kept going, we’d be doing things like our peers, The Pietasters and Mephiskapheles and The Slackers are doing by this point. I guess we got tired of it, but I wasn’t tired. I was ready to rock.
The last big tour we did was with Youth Brigade, Bouncing Souls and Mustard Club … at the tail end of 2000. It’s not the most glamorous life in the world, so if you want to make more money or start a family, you can’t be touring for three months at a time. Maybe some people weren’t happy with it creatively. Others were just done. All I know was that I wasn’t, so I had a little rest, and in 2002, I started looking for new band members. I brought some of the members of Inspecter 7 with me at the time.
I was settling down at the time too and getting married. I couldn’t tour for three months at a time, but I could do long weekenders, where I knew that we would do well. But I had to build it up from scratch again. I had the Inspecter 7 connections, and the songs that I wrote, I took with me to Hub City. I still do them. I was thinking about putting all of them on a record, but that’s a big maybe right now.
I had written so much new Hub City material, I didn’t want it to be Inspecter 7 part two. Even though the name itself is a direct reference to an Inspecter 7 song I wrote. It’s on our first album, ‘The Infamous.’ I wrote it about our crew in New Brunswick between ’92 and ’94, all the skinheads, punks and mods that used to hang out … It had a good ring to it.
Then in 2003, Inspecter 7 started having reunion shows once or twice a year in New York and New Jersey. I was in three bands at that time because in 1997, I formed a hardcore-oi band called Steel Toe Solution.
In 2012 … we merged the bands under the flag of Inspecter 7 since that’s where it all came from anyway … That’s how Inspecter 7 came back. For 2013, we were Inspecter 7 for the entire year. Unfortunately, not too far into that year, I realized it wasn’t going to work. It didn’t feel right … A lot of the original members weren’t involved … And it didn’t catch on … Essentially, the entire i7 lineup came over to HCS, so Giuseppe started a new lineup.
Q: Are you still friends with Giuseppe and Inspecter 7, and do Hub City Stompers ever play with them?
A: We had some degree of tension after we all left, but we remain friends … I’ll have a beer with him. But after 2014, Hub City Stompers was back for good.
Q: After so many years of playing ska music, what is it about that style that still interests you, and how do Hub City Stompers keep it fresh and exciting?
A: You have to have the passion in the first place. I enjoy listening to the music and performing it. It’s an adventure to play music you created to other scenes of people. It’s something you have to have a certain chemistry for. I can think of practical reasons or allegiances where you’d have to stop, but short of that, I have a hard time racking my brain around why you wouldn’t want to do this even if you’re not making a ton of money. If you’re playing underground music, you’re not making a ton of money. It’s music that I enjoy very much. If I wasn’t in the band, I would like this music.
A lot of people say, ‘You could do the poppy ska thing, then you’d make more money,’ but then it would be a chore for me. Then it would be a job. I wouldn’t be able to look at myself in the mirror playing that crap that I don’t appreciate. That’s the whole point: I do appreciate the music, I appreciate the scene, and I appreciate the people who like it. That’s what keeps it interesting to me.
Oh no, I have to go to free shows, and then I get to go onstage and play my music in front of people and hang out with other awesome bands and listen to other awesome bands play music. Oh no! It’s torture. You know what I mean?
And while we’re not making a lot of money, we are making enough to self-sustain the band so that people aren’t going into the poorhouse ... The band pays for everything.
Q: What era of ska do you most like to listen to?
A: My favorite era of ska is 2 Tone: Bad Manners, Specials, Madness, Selector. Early third-wave stuff, like The Toasters, and European stuff like The Busters. First-wave stuff, like Paragons. But also enjoy the third-waves bands: The Pietasters, Mephiskapheles, Voodoo Glow Skulls. Those are some of our favorite bands to play with. Bigger Thomas was always a band I liked to play with, but they’re not as active. Roger and Mark’s current project, Rude Boy George, is fun. It’s ’80s songs done ska and reggae style.
And we’ve always liked to play with King Django … Also, The Best of the Worst, a great ska-core band from New Brunswick. And bigger bands, like The Interrupters and The Skints.
But we probably play more non-ska shows than ska shows. There are a bunch of non-ska bands that we like to play with too, like 45 Adapters out of New York; Broken Heroes, who are a longtime New Jersey band; Razorblade Hand Grenade, a New Jersey hardcore band; Dusters, a local New Brunswick band. We’ve been playing with them more recently. Legion ’76 out of Philly, Thunder and Glory. Disposable from North Jersey. They’re great! I like diverse bills. I always have.
Q: You have several tasty gigs coming up, including ROCK New Brunswick. How does it feel to be headlining that festival in the year of its expansion? What does that mean to you?
A: It’s very cool given my memories of the New Brunswick music scene. It’s not the same as it was. Everything’s relegated to the basements now, so to have a larger event like this where there’s all kinds of different music is awesome because that’s the New Brunswick I remember, that’s the New Brunswick that I knew growing up seeing shows with the Souls and Bigger Thomas, Lifetime, and Lucy Brown. That was Brunfus, man. That was what I loved about it.
It got eaten up by corporate stuff. I’ve explained that in interviews: ‘You don’t understand what New Brunswick used to be. I wish you could have seen it before the money ate it up.’
I was running around all over New Jersey going to shows, but New Brunswick was the epicenter. I was banned from City Gardens in 1994, so I was in New Brunswick all the time.
It’s a good idea to get old bands and new bands together, and all different genres. It’s a cool thing. That’s the kind of shows I like, when it’s all different stuff. I have my preferences, punk and hardcore, but there’s something about a mixed bill show that makes it so just not boring.
Q: New Brunswick bands, such as Lifetime and Bouncing Souls, have moved to Asbury Park and several other New Brunswick bands play in Asbury more than they play in New Brunswick because there is such a lack of venues in Hub City. What do you think can be done to remedy the lack of venues and by whom?
A: Nothing, just being realistic, unless some person who came up in the ’80s or’90s New Brunswick scene wins the lottery and is able to buy a building off the Barroods or rent it, I don’t know what can be done. It’s hard to fight monsters like the hospital, Johnson & Johnson, Rutgers and the builders downtown. That’s why everything is in the basements now. What can you honestly do about?
We have a song about that on our fifth (record) called ‘The Take Back.’ And it’s not just here. It’s the gentrification of New York City, the destruction of the punk scene there in Lower Manhattan. What are you going to do against all that money? Money is a beast.
Who’s going to buy a space and turn it into an awesome music venue? Plus, you have to understand that it’s not the same universe anymore. That was underground music. Underground music has gone through so many cycles and sellouts and rapes, it’s not even the same vibe and feel anymore.
That’s like people saying, ‘Someone should buy the old City Gardens building and bring the old City Gardens back.’ They’re going to lose a lot of money, but go ahead, because it’s not the same. There was a whole universe of underground kids finding this one place that had it. Things are a little different now … You can almost see some form of punk anywhere. It’s very commercialized. Same with ska. That’s what happens with underground music. It gets commercialized. It changes the entire reality of it.
So New Brunswick is never going to be New Brunswick again. That’s like saying that City Gardens is going to come back … the Lower East Side of New York is going to come back. These things are not happening.
All the shows now in New York, they’re in Brooklyn, and all the New Jersey shows, they’re in Asbury Park. God bless the Stanhope House. There’s the Stanhope House up in Northwest Jersey, and there’s Champs down in Trenton. People say, ‘There’s no scene in Trenton. City Gardens is gone.’ No! Millhill (Basement) and Champs have kept the scene alive down there.
Q: And the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market is awesome. And Art All Night is fantastic!
A: Exactly. And there’s always the Brighton Bar. That hasn’t gone anywhere. We still play there. It sucks that (Asbury) Lanes is gone.
Q: That’s it in a nutshell. When the Lanes comes back, it’s going to be a very commercialized place.
A: It’s the people who make a place great, not people who think they know. I hate to say it but look at the Court Tavern. When was the last time we played the Court Tavern? It’s not the Court Tavern anymore. Sorry.
Q: There have been more national acts who have come out of New Brunswick than any other city in the state. Does the City of New Brunswick, the authorities, have a responsibility to recognize its rock music history more or is Hub City Sounds and Hub City Music Festival enough?
A: No, it’s not enough. I can’t say that they should have a responsibility, but ideally, it’s probably more in their interest if they would realize considering what’s come out of this city, but they’re never going to see it that way because there are other things that they see that are more economically viable in their eyes. Their bottom line is very different from ours. It’s a shame because can you imagine how big a fest you could have with all the bands from New Brunswick? It would be ridiculous.
Q: I’ve always wondered why Starland Ballroom opened in Sayreville instead of New Brunswick. There was property on Jersey Avenue where it could have opened.
A: Politics. The boogeyman, the non-collegiate part of New Brunswick that scares people, just like City Gardens on Calhoun Street. There was many a night when I didn’t have cab fare and ran with a trail of pepper spray. Some people look at New Brunswick the same way. It’s not like Asbury Park with the revival going on down there. I don’t think there will be a New Brunswick revival in that kind of sense.
And now it’s like, ‘Oh, I gotta drive 20 minutes to get to a show.’ It’s weird to me because I used to travel to get to shows. When the Roxy fell and the Melody fell, I said, ‘Well, at least there’s the Court Tavern’ (laughs). The Court Tavern doesn’t count anymore.
I’ve fantasized for years about some venue that would bring New Brunswick back, but just look around you. New Brunswick is not that New Brunswick anymore. And a lot of it is not just having a venue here. It’s the culture and feel of the place too. And that ain’t gonna be the same, just like in the Lower East Side and the East Village turned into freakin’ Princeton. Putting a venue there is pointless now anyway I guess.
I would love to have a home base again. Court Tavern was our home base. The last time we played there was a few years ago. I thought they did Chris Pierce dirty. I have a loyalty to him.
Q: How did City Gardens help to put Jersey on the musical map?
A: Look at everyone that played there, look at that happened there, look at what it is compared to now. Retrospect really slaps you in the face. It was very important to me to find this place where all these other liked-minded freaks and angry people would converge and listen to this music that we all loved and just go nuts for it. And the relationships made from that creating a bigger universe. And I met the New Brunswick people at City Gardens. And you found all the other scenes in New Jersey: the Shore scene, the 8 Ball Crew guys, the Tristate Crew guys who were my friends back then. Philly and Delaware would come into Trenton. Just everything that spawned from was a universe unto its own. It’s pretty amazing to look back it at.
But it’s hard. I knew it was something special to me back then. It was so huge. There were so many people there, yet it was still underground. It was the minority of kids back then who were into punk. Pop concerts seemed to be advertised everywhere and there was no Internet, yet we still seemed to find each other. And that was a place where we knew we could find each other. And everyone that you wanted to see played there. Look at the damn flyers.
Q: I was at the East Coast Rocker full time from 1989 to 1994 and then it changed back to The Aquarian in 1995, at the end of which is when I left full time. When I look back at the ads, it’s just amazing. I remember the Sunday hardcore shows had so many young kids, like 14 years old. How old were you in ’87?
Q: Ah, that’s perfect. You weren’t even driving yet. The world’s your oyster. As a 16-year-old going to those shows, how did that make your world better?
A: You’re pissed off at what you think the world is, what you think everybody else thinks the world is, and how you’re supposedly supposed to be. It became a world of its own. It’s not that you necessarily need to validate your thinking. You’re pretty sure shit’s fucked up, it’s nonsense: This is how society is supposed to be, this what you’re told to do, and this is how you’re told to live and believe. You know in your core, it’s a bunch of BS, but in your local little town, depending on where you are, you don’t see anyone else like that. Even meeting one other like-minded individual was cool and then going to a place where there’s a world of individuals, granted with different beliefs, but having the mentality, like, ‘We don’t play by the rules because the rules are BS.’ It was a great feeling.
But it was the music too. I would go to shows alone. I didn’t have to go with a bunch of friends because I knew that I most likely would have friends there. I would usually go to shows alone just to hear the music, whether my friends where there or not. There weren’t any other spots like that, so that’s where I was going to go to find that. You hear people playing this soundtrack of my mind and emotions, screaming it out and dancing violently to just to let it all out, it was wonderful. What the hell else was I going to do?
When I lived at my Dad’s on Bellevue Avenue, I would walk to City Gardens. Given the neighborhood, it wasn’t something I usually would try to do, but I certainly would if I had to. If I was at my Mom’s (in Pennington), if I didn’t have a car or I was too young to drive or my license was suspended, which was often the case back then, I would take the 602 down and walk the rest of the way down Calhoun. When I was at my Dad’s, I’d walk up to Calhoun, make a left, do that dangerous march up Calhoun and hope for the best. It was usually after the shows later at night if I didn’t have cab fare or a ride home, that was when it was interesting walking home, especially being a skinhead, color of skin notwithstanding. This was back in the early ’90s when a couple of media stories cast skinheads in an unfavorable light. They saw right past my color of skin, saw a shaved head and my outfit, and it was trouble.
I didn’t look like the rest of the people on Calhoun Street. I looked like that Nazi they’d seen on the news the other day. Sometimes people would listen to reason and see the obvious and sometimes they wouldn’t. I was fightin’ Nazis in the club and fightin’ the homeboys outside the club.
Q: At City Gardens, it seemed like one bad apple would spoil the whole bunch.
A: When I started going there, there were a lot of bad apples. It wasn’t until 1989 that people started fighting back against all that shit. It was a three-year war on a weekly basis, bashing Nazis and gettin’ them the hell out. They stopped coming in 1992 finally. It was a sustained campaign to get them out of there. They weren’t welcomed.
Q: Skinheads have been around long time, since the late ’60s. How did the whole Nazi thing come to be a part of it, given that some of the first skinheads were young, working-class blacks in England?
A: It started as an offshoot of the Mods. The Mods went the paisley, acid-rock way, and others wanted to separate themselves from society more, and adopted the white working-class look with work boots and jeans. They wanted to separate themselves from society even more, so no better way to do that than to adopt the black culture that was in London at the time, the Jamaican immigrants, the sons and daughters of the rude boys and the rude girls, listening to reggae and ska. That was their musical identity, and they adopted some of their style. You had white skins. You had black skins too at the time.
Just like any other subculture or trend, they evolved. The style evolved. The music evolved with reggae becoming more afro-centric and Rastafarianism becoming more prevalent in it than a white skinhead would be interested in. It was until the skinhead revival (in the late ’70s) that white power came in. Punk rock came in and the new version of the skinhead came out, which was more of a shocking version. They adopted the look and some of the sound, the new ska and reggae, which is essentially the old skinhead ska with punk. They adopted the look too but made it more extreme … to shock.
The National Front, a far-right political party, began recruiting some of these young white punks. They were young, they were angry, they were working-class dudes. ‘You know why things are fucked up? It’s these Asians and these niggers.’ And some of them bought the party line. They were all angry and looking for something to belong too. It was perfect. You recruit dummies like that. Look what’s going on now. Others rejected it and didn’t buy into it. That’s when the whole 2 Tone skinhead came in.
Q: But the irony is that the black community influenced the original skinheads.
A: Exactly. It’s a complete contradiction. You’re calling yourself a skinhead, which the very roots of your supposed subculture are actually from black culture. They didn’t care. They were stupid enough to be Nazis in the first place. You think they’re going to care about that?
We fought them 20 years ago on the streets and in the clubs. This isn’t new to us. It’s old hat to me.
It’s getting a welcomed platform. During the last administration, boy, were they pissed. A darkie in office, boy, did that piss them off, so they’ve been simmering for eight years with that administration. Now you’ve got this dude who’s turning a blind eye to everything. And they’re like, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s party.’
Fortunately, it’s still a minority mindset, just like when they were driven out of City Gardens back then. I’ve never been a political activist … but when I see a Nazi causing trouble where I am, we’re gonna bash ’em. I’m not going to go hunting them down, but if they come into our scene, smash ’em. Let them know that they’re not welcome.
It’s a shame. I just wish skinheads would be skinheads behind what actually is involved in the skinhead culture: the working-class ideals, the music, the fashion, the sense of pride ... When you bring white supremacy into it, you’re automatically making a contradiction to the scene you supposedly belong to … The word skinhead associates so much with racism and Nazis now, it’s so hard to even separate.
It’s just common sense to be against racism. You’re not special if you’re against racism. You don’t get a cookie. You don’t have to take this far-left weird thing to stand up to racism.
In my songs, I’m not preaching against racism. I’m making fun of it. I don’t cry about it because that’s what the Nazis want. That gives them power. Don’t give them power. Laugh at them and crush them when they need to be crushed.
We’ve lost many rockers in recent years, but Pat was one of us. When I first heard about his passing, I instantly recalled one special night at The Strand in Lakewood. DiNizio was part of a Backstage Pass show (one that turns the theater into a listening room with the audience sitting on the stage with the artist) in which Pat played a few songs and shared stories about his life. He was very introspective that night and might have given us a special New Jersey version of his old Las Vegas show “Confessions of a Rock Star.” These were stories about growing up in New Jersey, raising a daughter after a divorce, first successes with the band, and the moment he realized he wanted to play rock and roll for the rest of his life. The show was broadcast live on our internet radio station and after searching through old hard drives, the recording was found. What follows is one night with Pat DiNizio in his own words…
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