Grudge City Activities | Buzz Blog

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Grudge City Activities

Posted By on May 5, 2009, 3:48 AM

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Its hard to comprehend sometimes due to location alone, but some of the harder corners of our music scene stretch back to the late 70's. While the initial generation was watching Donny & Marie, their kids were bringing what we currently have to life. But documentation (let alone albums) are difficult to come by these days if you want to take a look at the past.

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--- But that's recently started to take change as Grudge City Activities has taken up the task of both reviewing the past and updating on the present. Offering info on longtime bands from The Boards to Massacre Guys to Iceburn, concert reviews and interviews, plugging current shows and groups, and overall promoting the music scene both past and present. I got a chance to chat with website creators Dan Fletcher and Trevor Hale about the website, their careers in both media and music, thoughts on the current scene and a number of other topics.

Daniel Fletcher & Trevor Hale
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Gavin: Hey guys, first off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Dan: 24 years old. Born in Ithaca, New York. Raised in Happy Valley. Salt Lake has been home for the last six years. Still out of step, screaming for change and young 'til I die. And I've still got that PMA.

Trevor: I’m 28 years old, I’ve lived in Salt Lake City all my life and Dan took all the good HC quotes. How can I compete with those references?

Gavin: What first drew you into music, and who were some of your favorite acts growing up?

Dan: My genes I guess. I've been drawn to music since my earliest memories. In kindergarten, I knew all the words to my mom's Clash, Costello and Talking Heads tapes. Third grade brought me an acoustic guitar and Nirvana's Nevermind. Fifth grade, a skateboard, Minor Threat, Black Flag and the Bad Brains. All downhill from there.

Trevor: I’ve been around music my entire life. I grew up listening to The Doors and the Rolling Stones and I learned how to play Social Distortion songs with my dad’s band when I was in Junior High. Someone turned me on to the Misfits and Black Flag and those tapes became the only ones I listened to. Well, that and Soundgarden.

Gavin: Along the same lines, how did you get into writing?

Dan: Math hurt my brain so I stuck with what came easy. That just happened to be music and writing.

Trevor: Telling stories and writing are things that I’ve always been good at, so I just stuck with what came naturally. The older I got, the more I liked it and I see no reason to stop now.

Gavin: You're currently up at the U in your last semester. How's the program been for you up there?

Dan: I majored in Anthropology... who we are, where we came from, how we got here. I'm addicted to understanding the foundations of things.

Trevor: I’m working on a degree in film and creative writing and have been since 1999. It’s been great, and I’m as close as possible without actually being finished, but soon enough I’ll have a degree in unemployment. I’ve got the world at my fingertips after that.

Gavin: How did you get involved with writing for the Daily Utah Chronicle and what was your time like there?

Dan: I got a job there as a receptionist during my freshman year. I'd been writing for a short-lived, local publication called Melting Music. The Arts & Entertainment guys had read my stuff and liked it. I got fired from the receptionist job and hired by A&E the same day. I spent a year writing music features, then took a year off to tour with the band First Blood. When I got back, I accepted a position as an editor for the A&E section.

Trevor: I’d been doing freelance work for City Weekly for a few years when Dan got the A&E editor job. He called me and said they needed someone to write about music, and I jumped at the chance and wrote for them all of last year. When Dan decided that one year as the editor was enough, I took the job. We started from scratch and I’ve spent the last year as the editor of Red Pulse Magazine. Unfortunately, the newspaper business isn’t quite what it used to be and they had to cancel it at the end of spring semester. It’s kind of a blessing in disguise though, because one year as the editor of a college newspaper is plenty.
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Gavin: Was it just a natural progression to write for City Weekly too, or was that something you just wound up doing?

Dan: I interned with the Weekly last summer. It was a great experience. They were in the midst of a major re-design and all the talk of multimedia content, blogging and web presence became a major inspiration for GCA.

Trevor: I’d actually been contributing as a freelance writer for a few years before I started working at the Chronicle, so it was kind of a reverse progression for me. I loved the work at both publications and hope I can continue in some capacity in the future.

Gavin: You've been in a number of bands over the years. What's your experience been like as a part of our music scene, and what band was the most fun for you to play in?

Dan: Salt Lake City's the best. Salt Lake's hardcore scene has been at the forefront of every major evolution in the sound since its birth in the late 70's. Playing hardcore has taken me from the backstreets of Tijuana to communes in Eastern Europe to downtown Tokyo and I've still not found a hardcore scene as innovative, loyal and conviction-fueled as ours. Cherem allowed me to play music that was aligned with my convictions and that's such an important aspect of hardcore for me. First Blood gave me the opportunity to see the world. City To City's great because I feel like I'm able to pass the positive attributes that hardcore has instilled in me on to a new generation. But to be completely honest, in ten years of playing music, I've had the most fun with Gloves Off... a old-school hardcore cover band. It's a celebration of the music and the history, the friendships, the stage dives and the sing-alongs.

Trevor: They say you never know what you have until it’s gone, and that’s true. I loved being on tour but I always loved coming back to SLC and playing in front of the hometown crowd the most. And aside from the first time I ever played in front of an audience—with Renaldo and the Smoothies when I was 15—the seven years I spent with Cherem is probably the most fun I’ve had. There were times when I couldn’t imagine anything being more stressful, but now I’ve got stories to tell for the rest of my life.

Gavin: Where did the idea come from to start Grudge City Activities?

Dan: When I started going to hardcore and punk shows in the mid-90s, one of my favorite things to do was collect zines. It didn't matter if they were about hardcore, hardline, animal rights, politics or art. I loved the idea that a person could spill their heart with a few pieces of paper, a pen and the street knowledge to get free copies at Kinko's. Last summer, I got to thinking about how much I missed seeing zines and how much the rise of the internet had impacted the scene. My position at City Weekly was getting me psyched on web design, video production and blogging and I realized that blogging was a great way to revive the spirit of the zine. Trevor and I had spent many late nights talking about music while driving lonely stretches of desert asphalt on tour with the band Cherem, so I knew we were on the same page. On the 4th of July, we were walking from a barbecue at a friend's house to the Sugarhouse park to watch the fireworks. As we passed Barnes & Noble, heading east on 21st South, we got to talking about hardcore and the internet. Three days later, GCA went online.

Trevor: Dan pretty much said it all, but I’d been toying with the idea of trying to do a local hardcore/punk-related podcast for a little bit, but I just didn’t quite have all the details in place. Dan mentioned the idea of starting a blog and the ball just started rolling.

Gavin: Did you believe it had an appeal or was it more of a chance shot in the dark?

Dan: We knew there was a demand in Salt Lake but we didn't expect it to be so far-reaching. We never thought we'd have regular readers across every continent. My best guess is that we weren't the only ones missing zine-style coverage of the hardcore scene. We've even had two visits from China. Take that oppressive internet censorship!

Trevor: I honestly thought that it would be read by—at the most—10-12 people that we were friends with. When people actually started getting into it and we started getting compliments and visits from people all over the world, we were shocked and flattered, so we just kept going. A few weeks ago, our domain host had some kind of problem and the site was down for almost an entire day and we got e-mails, phone calls and text messages asking when it would be back up. It’s just a great feeling to know that you’re doing something that so many people can enjoy.

Gavin: How do you go about getting band histories for all these defunct bands?

Dan: The simple answer: MySpace. Everyone's accessible these days. But honestly, those early bands may not be putting X's on their hands and screaming hardcore anthems anymore but, for the most part, their members still love the music and treasure the memories the scene provided them. Everyone we've spoken with has been more than happy to reminisce.

Gavin: Was reporting news stories pre-planned or something you just fell into doing?

Trevor: We never had an official discussion about it, but sometimes Dan or I would read a story that we thought more people should be aware of, so we’d post it. We want people to enjoy coming to the site to see videos or read about what band is coming through, but if they can maybe learn a thing or two while they’re at it, awesome. I don’t ever see GCA becoming the place to be for “breaking news bulletins” but there will be the occasional news story.

Gavin: How was that first month for the website being online?

Dan: The first month knocked me off my feet. We debuted July 8th with 74 views. We sat back and said to ourselves, "Nice, some people are into it. Now we can work out the kinks before we start promoting and building readership." The next day we had 142 views which kept rising until we were hitting 200 a day by the end of the month. This put some pressure on but it was a great trial by fire. We churned out so many ideas during that first month: opening a video and photo archive to collect old material and catalog new, telling the history of Salt Lake hardcore in the 101 section and the Morning After concert review section. Without that fire beneath our feet, it may have taken longer for the site to evolve.

Trevor: I was shocked at how much people liked it. Dan and I would be at a show and people we’d never seen or met before would come up and tell us how much they liked the site and thank us for what we were doing. I was surprised at the reaction, but at the same time I was thrilled that people were taking an interest in it.
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Gavin: What's the reaction been from bands both former and current?

Dan: It's been great from both ends. Our goal from the start was to give the bands of Salt Lake's past their due credit while promoting the amazing scene that has been born of their work. So far, our positivity has only been met with reciprocal positivity.

Gavin: You're now promoting shows via the website. Will you continue to do more and plan, or is it mainly for stuff that interests you?

Dan: We've always promoted shows. It's a major part of what we do. We don't book shows, we're not a business, but we do send touring and local bands in the right direction and do our best to make hardcore shows in Salt Lake as awesome as they possibly can be. I guess you could say we've become a de facto, making-shows-as-awesome-as-possible agency.

Trevor: We’re definitely not in the business of trying to become full-fledged concert promoters, but we do get a kick out of putting on smaller shows that might skip over Salt Lake otherwise. Plus, Dan and I have met a lot of people from our time spent on tour and we’re always willing to help out a friend in need of a show.

Gavin: A little state-wide, what are your thoughts on the local music scene, both good and bad?

Dan: Utah rules. Utah bands write music that obliterates traditional genres. You see it in every scene: Tamerlane, Collapse, Gaza, Eagle Twin, All Systems Fails, Loom, XReflectX, Form Of Rocket, Glacial, Accidente, Dismantled, Danger Hailstorm, Agape, Night Terror, Reviver, Pilot This Plane Down, Nine Worlds... I could go on for days. Once we kill this "scene" concept, we'll be golden.

Trevor: Salt Lake (and Utah in general) has always had a really strong local music scene. There are so many bands that have so much potential, but they just get stuck in a rut and end up playing the same place for the same crowd.

Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it better?

Dan: Bands need to branch out and play shows with bands they may not be comfortable playing with. All of the bands listed above should be able to play all-ages shows together. It's beginning to happen and it's great to see.

Trevor: I agree with Dan 100% on this and that’s one thing that we’ve tried so hard to do with the website. There’s no reason that someone that likes watching XReflectX shouldn’t enjoy going to a Form Of Rocket show, but somewhere along the way all these different bands regressed to their own little corner of the city and carved out their own little niche and that was that. That’s not the way things should be, and slowly but surely, they are getting better.

Gavin: Who are your favorite acts in the scene right now?

Dan: Without a doubt, Eagle Twin is my favorite local act. I've loved everything that Gentry Densley has created from Better Way to Iceburn to Eagle Twin and Ascend. The man has stuck to his guns, consistently creating music like no one has heard it before. You can't help but give that spirit the utmost respect. Tamerlane blows me away every single time they perform. They mix the brutal hardcore of mid-90s Salt Lake acts like Lifeless and Triphammer with the experimental approach that Densley has brought to his projects. The sound they've created and the legacy they're building is already being seen in younger bands.

Trevor: I’ve loved Form Of Rocket since the first time I saw them and I’m still in awe each and every time I watch them play. Their chemistry is so strong and so brilliant that they sound nearly flawless at every show. The fact that they’ve been around as long as they have says something, too. The average local band is lucky to make it two or three years, but to be pushing the envelope as long as they have is really impressive. And City To City is a band that not nearly enough people talk about, but they never cease to put a smile on my face.

Gavin: Some radio stations have been playing local music, but only for certain periods of time. Do you believe it helps the scene or makes it feel more exclusive?

Dan: I can't say I've tuned into these local shows but I'd say any exposure is good exposure. If a youngster's sitting in their parents' basement rocking out to some mainstream garage/stoner rock revival garbage and turns on X96 to hear the crushing blues riffs of Eagle Twin, that rules!

Trevor: I think radio is in the same boat as newspapers. Why they can’t mix local bands with the big name bands is beyond me. Whether you’ve got an album that Warner Brothers paid five-million dollars for or you went and spent a week with Andy Patterson and put it out yourself—good music is good music. That’s why the internet and satellite radio are winning.

Gavin: What's your take on local labels, and do you believe they help or hinder local artists?

Trevor: In this day and age, labels are just about obsolete. There’s not much more they can do for you that you can’t do yourself just as good. I think it’s awesome that local labels are keeping that DIY spirit and giving bands a little boost, but with so many other resources available there’s no reason your band can’t put out a record and go on tour with or without a label.
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Gavin: What can we expect from you and the website the rest of the year?

Dan: Great, great things... a complete history of Salt Lake hardcore, epic new video features and continued coverage of everything you need to know about the past, present and future of hardcore in Salt Lake City. Our One-Year-Anniversary BBQ Bash will take place July 9th featuring locals Collapse and XReflectX alongside touring bands Parasitic Skies, Unrestrained and Signs Of Hope. Details are on the site. We're also working with the Salt Lake City Film Festival (which will make its debut this August) to showcase a new documentary on legendary Boston hardcore band, Slapshot. We recently debuted our podcast, the GCAcast, which features music, news, interviews and the breaking of world records (seriously) on every episode. Stay tuned as new episodes will hit the web every two weeks. Not to mention that GCA is updated every single day.

Trevor: We’re figuring out new tricks and coming up with (hopefully) new and entertaining ideas all the time. And we’re still having fun while we’re at it, so as long as you guys keep digging it, we’ll keep doing it. So thanks for the support and keep checking the site.

Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Dan: How about Gavin's Underground for helping us give Salt Lake's overlooked but extraordinary creative minds the credit they deserve! Thanks!

On Topic...

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