Semicids Don’t Do That

4 Mar

It’s easy to disrespect later 80’s hardcore; hell I’ve done it more than once here at PS RECON. This stems from an adolescence watching the halcyon days of ’81 – ’83 SoCal hardcore punk unfold from afar, over the handlebars of a Schwinn Scrambler, ensconced deep in the suburbs. When I came of age to actually participate in it, I found that – voila! – it was fucking over. Early scene figureheads had moved on to different musical terrain, and the new crop of hardcore bands were merely trading on past glories. In comparison to what that first RED CROSS EP had sounded like to my 11 yr old ears at the dawn of the 80s, the HC of my teens seemed blandly formulaic and self-righteously rigid, a pale ghost of what had come before.

But regional differences still counted for lot back then, and what defined mid/late 80’s hardcore in SoCal didn’t necessarily way out in the MidWest. The college towns of Bloomington/Normal, Illinois once had a thriving HC scene with their own identity and trajectory, blossoming later and utterly distinct from anything I grew up near. Outta this time & place once sprung a great little band called THE SEMICIDS.

THE SEMICIDS came to my attention when I roomed next to their gtrist Max Deutsch in the UCSB dorms in ’89. While I had always thought of myself as “punk”, it was probably in my own mind only. Max, however, was the real thing – the living/breathing, walking/talking kind. He was in a hardcore band who played dozens of gigs in poolhalls and rec rooms thoughout central Illinois. He risked ridicule & physical harm by proudly wearing his JOY DIVISION t-shirt out to MANNEQUIN BEACH gigs, and tried to sell the NAKED HIPPY LP to anyone who’d stand still. He walked with a swagger, had a half shaven, mop-like hairdo, and quickly sussed that most of the beachtypes surrounding us were totally full of shit. True to punk, he was also really smart.

I was knee deep in NICK CAVE/SWANS/LYDIA LUNCH worship at this point, but Max’s music pulled me back to fast and furious things I’d grown up with reading Flipside a few years earlier. We sulked together, fried together, even FUGAZIed together – before going our separate ways a year later. But we’ve kept in touch ever since, and I eventually got to meet SEMICIDS Brad & Ed (both great guys) when passing through the midwest in ’91. As I’ve always fondly remembered those times and the wildass HC recklessness exhibited on THE SEMICIDS lone recording (the Recess demo cassette from ’89), I decided to throw Max some questions about them now faraway days.

1. Just what is a SEMICID, who comprised this band, and how did it all come together?

‘SEMICID’ is ambiguous, referring to either a brand of vaginal suppository contraceptive, now discontinued, or else a member of the mid to late eighties punk rock band, SEMICIDS, now discontinued. The band was composed of Ed Young-v, Max Deutsch-g, Brad Christensen-b, and Rob Reed-d. Post-‘89, Phil Karnatz played g for a year or so. Brad and I (Max), friends since junior high, decided to buy guitars and start rockin’. At that point we called ourselves CONSTANT PAIN, after an early PUSSY GALORE tune.

We looked around for a drummer and singer. A guy from my high school’s marching band gave drums a go, but wasn’t nearly fierce enough. We ended up posting a ‘seeking drummer’ flyer and Rob called. He was older (26) and had studied percussion in college a bit. He was a fantastic drummer, and easily adapted to the demands of playing fast, loud, and mean. As a bonus, he was living in a dilapidated building in downtown Bloomington where we could practice and store our gear. We met Ed through our close friend, Dave ‘Hongfoid’ Hungerford. Ed was a badass punk, the type the jocks and preppy fucks were scared of. Since no one was scared of Brad or me, and since he could yowl and scream like his head was going to pop right off, he seemed like the perfect front man. And he was.

2. Who were you guys modeling yourselves after? Certainly not your fathers.

Not our fathers, no. Brad and I listened to hardcore punk rock and liked many of the DC bands of that era, MINOR THREAT, GOVT. ISSUE, etc. We also listened to BLACK FLAG, and some of the other early SST punk stuff. The REAGAN YOUTH lp got played to death. And I had the PUSSY GALORE ‘Feel Good About Your Body’ 7”, which I thought was just dandy. We covered tunes by WIRE, BLACK FLAG, CIRCLE JERKS, and JOY DIVISION, as well as some ridiculous song by AGNOSTIC FRONT. Brad and I were also in to rap: NWA, PUBLIC ENEMY, RUN DMC. Ed had more expansive tastes. He was a punk and listened to plenty of punk rock proper (GERMS, STOOGES, etc.) but went through a LA glam phase (via the NEW YORK DOLLS) and also liked 60s/70s garage rock. Rob had interests in jazz and rock bands such as CAPT. BEEFHEART. Another local band, NAKED HIPPY, was a major influence. We opened for them a lot, and we loved them. Several NAKED HIPPY gigs from the 80s still rank as the best live gigs I’ve ever seen.

3. For the benefit of us costal types, please give us a brief snapshot of the Bloomington/Normal Illinois HC scene circa ’88.

B/N was just far enough away from Chicago to grow its own music scene. There were great punk bands, namely SEMICIDS and NAKED HIPPY. IMPETIGO, ARMAGEDDON, and METAL KILL were kicking up heavy metal dust. There was a college rock, new wavy outfit called THAT HOPE. There were plenty of venues, really. A bar on the college bar strip (B/N is home to Illinois State University), The Gallery, booked punk/metal stuff fairly regularly. The building we practiced in, the Eddy Building, had a cooperative performance space called Electric Coffee and we played there many times. We would fairly regularly play with bigger bands that came through town. We also played out in many of the surrounding towns and cities—Peoria, Champaign/Urbana, etc.

The scene was pretty a-ok, looking back now. Lots of kids were down with the music and it was rare to play to a small crowd. There was (and still is) a great head shop/record store called Mother Murphys that doubled as a hang out for us punks. On the down side, there was something a touch redneck about the B/N scene that was distasteful to me. For example, there were kids in the scene in Peoria who were openly gay, but out our way, that could get your ass kicked. With that exception, the B/N punk scene was just the place for outcasts and losers it was supposed to be.

4. Your cassette has alot going for it: a powerful singer, a trippy jazzoid drummer, some great gtr/bass interaction and a bunch of cool post-MINOR THREAT tuneage. Hell there’s even some cool accidental U2-like harmonics thrown in there to boot. Who or what gave you the idea this would be a winning sonic combo?

The cassette recording is muddy—way too much low end. Live there was plenty of feedback and more trebly, distorted guitar noises. Still, I’m happy to have the tape and some aspects of it still put a smile on my face. I think Ed, Brad and Rob sound pretty damn good, actually. As for crafting the sonic combo, well, it wasn’t really a matter of craft. We plugged the instruments in and tried to play them as fast and loud as possible. It was punk as can be in terms of musicianship.

5. Best/worst live gig you guys played? Please, spare no detail.

The best show was at Illinois Weslyan University with NAKED HIPPY and ARMAGEDDON in probably 1988. We were finally comfortable with our sound/songs and we were confident and animated on stage. There was a large crowd of supportive fans who got whipped into a violent frenzy. What could be better? And NAKED HIPPY was on fire. There were no bad shows.

6. A few of you guys were pretty heavy acid eaters (no names mentioned). What was your take on the prevailing straight edge ethos at the time?

Brad and I identified with the straight-edge scene at first, but Ed and Rob would have none of that malarkey. Brad and I eventually came to see the error of our ways and lost all of our straight edges, becoming amorphous, drug-addled blobs. I think it appealed to us at first because the straight edge ethos emphasized the music over other elements of the scene, and we were adamant about punk as music as opposed to, say, a style of dress. But the edge kids were pricks, mostly. Congratulations, you’re square, and you want everyone else to be square or you’re gonna beat em up. Fuck you.

7. There were other, non-SEMICID people I’ve heard you reference in the past. People with names like Up Chuck Chow. Now’s the time to pay tribute to the little people without whom it wouldn’t have happened.

At a show in Champaign, Il., Chuck wore just boxers and a cape and leaped and danced around wildly during the performance of our song, ‘Man of Steel’. At one point, he stopped and popped Ed square in the mouth. This significantly enhanced our punk rock credentials. He is hereby thanked for this, and for various other SEMICIDS-centric behaviors. (This has been a carefully guarded secret for decades, but now’s the time to let the cat out of the bag: Chuck = The Dude of Steel. There, I said it. What a relief.)

Besides introducing us to Ed, Dave Hungerford influenced our collective musical taste by buying many, many records, punk and otherwise, and blasting cassette recordings of them while we cruised the dangerous streets of Normal, Il. in his powder blue Ford Fairmont. Also, he used to yell at me for tuning my guitar too carefully at band practices. That was helpful. Smilin’ Dan Malin, drummer for NAKED HIPPY, served as roadie on countless occasions and was a consummate fan.

7. Tell us a story about BLOODY MESS & THE SCABS we don’t already know.

What in the world would you know about Bloody and his SCABS, London-via-SoCal boy? He once left a message on my parents’ answering machine. Bloody (in a gravelly, Lemmy-from-MOTORHEAD sorta voice): “Yes, hello, this is Mr. Mess calling for Max, please have him call me, Mr. Mess, at 555-5555. Once again, Mr. Mess calling for Max. Thank you.” That freaked my parents’ shit. I once saw him piss on an adoring fan at a house party in Peoria. That freaked my shit.

8. What brought about your demise?

I left for college in California, as you well know. The SEMICIDS carried on for a time with a different guitar player. Most recently, Ed was playing in a great rock-n-roll band, THE RESINATORS. Brad and Dave Hungerford played together in TRAILER PARK DEATH SYNDROME, with Dave on vocals. In college, Brad played bass with 4 INCHES OF DESTRUCTION. I sat in my dorm room twanging away on an acoustic, dreaming of the good old days. I still do a little of that, but not in a dorm room. Briefly, Chuck Chow and I played together in a band called WIDTH. We were extremely talented, and very clever lyrically, but literally no one else seemed to think so, not even our very close, musically inclined friends. We played one show, in the room of the studio apt we shared in S.F., to two neighbors in our apt complex, who came over on the promise of free drinks.

9. A few of us heard some of your CCR-inspired, riff-oriented tunes you were working on, ca. ’89. Sounded cool to us at the time! What happened with that?

Glad you appreciated that stuff. I don’t know what happened with it. It just faded into the woodwork. But I can still put together a nice guitar riff. Move to HK and we’ll start a band.

10. Finally: what are you up to these days, musically speaking?

I read PSR religiously. What more do you want from me?

———-

THE SEMICIDS – “El Camino” (Recess demo, 1989)

THE SEMICIDS – “Madness” (Recess demo, 1989)

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20 Responses to “Semicids Don’t Do That”

  1. jack fang March 5, 2010 at 6:46 pm #

    hardcore? i thought semicids was a goth band.

  2. mrowster March 5, 2010 at 9:39 pm #

    Well if SNFU is your idea of goth, then I suppose they were

  3. Max D. March 7, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    Bang up job, mrowster. It’s humbling to have it all written up in the pages of your fine publication.

    Recess is not the lone recording, as it turns out. There is more studio stuff-and from a different studio. It’s now on its way from Galesburg, Il. to Hong Kong, China. And from there to London, if you’d like.

  4. mrowster March 7, 2010 at 5:08 pm #

    Thanks Max. And yes yes would love to hear THE SEMICIDS Lost Studio Sessions at some point. Are these with you or Phil K. on gtr?

  5. Ed Young March 9, 2010 at 6:38 am #

    Mike,
    Thanks a ton for doing this. I’ve gotten alot of great feedback from people who really enjoyed reading it. Both from people who were and weren’t “There”.
    Also, Max turned me onto PSR several months ago and i’ve been digging it ever since.

  6. mrowster March 9, 2010 at 6:53 pm #

    Greetings Ed! Glad to hear you approve. Though I wouldn’t have admitted it at the time, Max’s stories back then got me envying you guys out there in B/N, having a full-blown late 80’s punker scene to run amok in. Are THE RESINATORS still together?

  7. Ed Young March 9, 2010 at 7:08 pm #

    We did have a good time! Too bad you couldn’t have hung out longer.
    Unfortunatly after 12 years The Resinators are no longer. We did, however, get to open for Radio Birdman before our demise. Not too shabby.

  8. mrowster March 9, 2010 at 7:40 pm #

    Ed: Not too shabby at all! Rob Younger is one of the greatest singers ever to come out of Australia.

  9. Ed Young March 9, 2010 at 10:37 pm #

    Agreed! Along with Chris Bailey!

    • Anonymous February 21, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

      Hey Ed, james stevens here just found this site thought I would say hi! Jason mast and I lived with you at the punk rock house in the height of semicids and naked hippy, lots of great times, especially when max came back from California with those purple micros that I haven’t been the same ever, great times in life later

      • Ed Young February 22, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

        James!! Send me an email(ed1369@hawkstattoo.com) when you get a chance. We were all wondering where you ended up, would like to hear from you.

  10. Brad March 11, 2010 at 6:25 pm #

    Mike, Thanks for the awesome write up! I miss those days.

  11. mrowster March 11, 2010 at 8:31 pm #

    Hi Brad, and thanks. Are you still in the Czech Republic? Last I heard you were teaching English out that way.

  12. Max D. March 15, 2010 at 3:17 am #

    It’s me on the Lost Studio Sessions, as it turns out, though I have no memory of making the recordings. It’s a total blank. I think they were made summer after our freshman year, so I blame our various mind-altering experiments during that year for the memory loss, especially the time we barely made it out of Vegas alive. It’s lo-fi, but I think it more accurately reflects the SEMIs live sound. You have the right ears for it–will send it pronto.

  13. Billy Shears June 29, 2011 at 2:22 am #

    Damn. A VERY cool article. I grew up around Bloomington/Normal and caught The Semicids more than a few times, as well as Naked Hippy et al. Electric Coffee, Mother Murphy’s, Appletree, The Gallery and all the other (most long gone) spots in Normal. I’m still fairly active going to punk/hardcore/etc shows and such in various places across the States, but BNHC was what forged my tastes and I still listen to the bands I discovered back then, still have my Naked Hippy LP and Semicids demo, still shop at the store where Jeff Wilson works, etc, etc. Anyway, thanks for posting. Really great. (I linked it in my blog, hope that’s OK)

    http://leytonbuzzards.wordpress.com/

    • mrowster June 29, 2011 at 5:56 am #

      Billy: Thanks for the praise and the link. Here, I’d started to think the only folks that read this interview were SEMICIDS themselves! But it’s nice to hear someone else remembered them fondly too. SEMICIDS gtrist Max e-mailed me only last week in fact; I must remind him to send me their unreleased 2nd album at some point. Cheers!

  14. Hal Roman July 11, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    I remember ordering the Naked Hippy album directly from the band when the album was advertised in MRR. What a great record. I remember thinking this band was giving DOA, Minor Threat, Necros, etc. a run for the money. With a limited release of 1000 copies, I always wondered why this album never made it into the high priced record collector archives. As a serious Hardcore collector since 86, I highly recommend the Naked Hippy record. It can be found often on ebay for $10.

    • mrowster July 11, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

      Hal: I agree about the righteousness of the NAKED HIPPY LP. But: it emanated from the less mythic, more-maligned end of the 80’s decade . . . hence the lack of interest by hardcore collector types.

  15. Patrick Dwyer November 19, 2015 at 5:13 am #

    I hate to be a name dropper but B-N hardcore started in the early 80’s with bands by the name of Diatribe, Nameless Dread and Dr. Butcher. All who were gifted artists playing original punk rock. Semicids carried the music to the next generation. I’ve seen them play at The Gallery in Normal, IL and they had the wildest dance pits! Good times!p

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Bloomington-Normal Hardcore: The Semicids, Naked Hippy and beyond…. « Saturday Night Beneath the Plastic Palm Trees… - June 29, 2011

    […] of the Naked Hippy LP that I still own but wanted a rip of) I came across this blog entry at Pig State Recon. Son of a bitch. Not only does he remember fondly The Semicids, but he actually interviewed them. […]

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