This Interveiw was taken form FLEX YOUR HEAD
I hope to get my own interview sometime soon! But untill then enjoy this one.
Interview by Eric Flexyourhead, originally published in Discorder Magazine, April 1993.
It's been a long time. Youth Brigade stopped playing way back in 1985, eight years ago. Sure, Mark and Shawn continued afterwards without Adam as the Brigade, but it just wasn't the same. Things changed for certain, but for most people the Brigade was never really a suitable replacement.Well, our prayers have been answered! Youth Brigade are back together with a furious new release entitled Come Again, on their own label. It's been close to ten years since they release Sound and Fury, but you'd never know - sounding like the Youth Brigade of yesterday, but fresh and new. It's a wild, tuneful, catchy sound they have happening - let's hope it stays that way. Discorder interviewed Youth Brigade's guitarist/vocalist, Shawn Stern, over the telephone via the BYO offices in L.A.. Here's what we talked about. Read on!
DISCORDER: Youth Brigade are back together. This is something that I definitely find exciting, but I'm sure there are people wondering just why you've gotten yourselves back together.
Shawn: I have another band called That's It! and my brothers also have also got a band together for about the last three years called Royal Crown Revue. We both went on tour for the first time a little over a year ago, in the fall of 1991, and we were over in Europe at the same time. My brothers were travelling around and a lot of the people they were meeting, old friends that they were bumping into, were asking about Youth Brigade. They went into a couple of places like discos and heard Youth Brigade being played. They were impressed about it. People had been asking me about it too. The fact is that the band never really broke up. Adam just decided to go to college when we returned from the tour of Europe in '84. When we all met on this tour in '91, when we were playing in Hamburg - they were playing one club and I was playing in another, and we met afterwards in a bar. They were kind of drunk and we started talking about doing a reunion. I said I'd be interested in getting back together but I wasn't interested in doing a reunion tour or concert, or whatever. I said "if you want to get back together, rehearse, see if we can write some new songs, see how it comes out, if we like it and we're happy with it, then we'll see what happens." So we did. We got back from that tour in January of '92, started rehearsing and played a few shows in April and May. Actually, it was during the week of the L.A. riots. We had a bunch of shows scheduled, strangely enough, as "The Coming Back of Youth Brigade" and the police were doing what they normally do here. So, we did some shows, then went into the studio in July, did some more shows on the west coast in September, and did a ten county tour of Europe for six weeks. 39 shows in 45 days. It went really well and people seemed to really like the new EP. People liked the idea of it and seem to be responding well so we'll keep doing it as long as we can have a good time at it.
DISCORDER: That answered my next question. I was going to ask you how long you see yourselves doing this and what is going to happen to That's It! and Royal Crown Revue?
Shawn:We all think that there is no reason why we can't do two bands. You only go out and tour with one band for so long in a year, and the time that we have off we can go and work on our other bands. It's kind of interesting now that punk rock, with Nirvana going number one and all these bands getting signed by majors, is finally getting the attention that I think it deserved ten years ago. People still seem to be into the music we were making then and they seem to like what we're making right now, so we figured "why not?". We were one of the first bands to ever do it, why shouldn't we take advantage of the popularity of it now?
DISCORDER: I believe that it's all worth it if you can have an influence on at least one more person. Do you think that the impact of a lot of the important messages are being lost with the incredible mass popularity of the music?
Shawn: That's an old argument...
DISCORDER: Do you still see that things are being lost, or possibly distorted through this?
Shawn: People are going to react the way they are going to react. The fact of the matter is that I don't believe music is entertainment, it goes way beyond that. Art, in general, is something that tries to inspire people. I've got things to say and people seem to be interested in hearing about it - that's great. I'm able to make a living off of it and that's a wonderful thing; I don't have to go off and do some job, working for someone else and doing something that I don't believe in. As far as the popularity thing goes there's been arguments going for years about this, and I think if someone's got something to say they want as many people to hear about it as possible. If you can do that and maintain the ideals that you are trying to do this by...more power to you. My philosophy is, like you said, if I can inspire one person to do something with their life then I think I've accomplished something. It blows me away when people say "I liked this band until they got popular, and now they are no good". Even though their music is still the same, even though what they're saying is still the same, what this person is really saying to me is that "It's not the music or the band that I like, it's the fact that I'm the only one liking this band. And it's because I'm one of a small group of people that's into them." Once the band became popular with other people and it's not hip to like this band anymore, people abandon the band. We had the same sort of thing happen in the early 80's, especially here in L.A. when bands started getting popular and the crowds started getting better. I would notice the articles that would get written up in the papers that were always exploiting the violent part of the scene. A lot of kids would get into punk rock for the wrong reasons. There would be a lot of jocks who would shave their heads and get into it because they loved to get in fights or be aggressive. The fact is that for whatever reason someone gets into the music or the ideas. A lot of people have said that "I got into it for the wrong reasons but then I listened to the music and the ideas and it really had an effect on me. It made me think, it made me research, it made me go out and think for myself." That's the whole idea of it, so we're accomplishing something. If we are able to do that then I think it's worthwhile. I think you have to look at what people's motivations are, it's really a personal thing when it comes down to it.
DISCORDER:Do you notice any major differences now when you're playing and ten years ago when Youth Brigade were playing? What are some of the differences you are seeing?
Shawn: Well...it's really like comparing apples and oranges. The scene in those days was young and new and had never really been done before in this sense. I was also young and just part of something that was happening. We weren't sitting there thinking "Wow! This is really big!" We were just doing it. It's easier to look back at it with hindsight now. The difference I notice now is that there isn't as much of a community as there was then. There are younger bands coming up but the money factor didn't really enter into it as much as it does now. That's no band's fault as much as it is the major record company's by signing on these bands and making them popular. There was a certain newness to the scene ten or twelve years ago. One thing I really enjoyed about it was the that you really felt comradeship and the community among the people involved because you had to search this music out. It wasn't like you could turn on MTV and see these bands, or flick on college radio and hear this music; college radio hadn't been going on that long and public radio was something that you just sort of found out about. It was very underground. To get these records you had to search record stores because most stores didn't carry them. It was all independent stuff, little labels that no one had ever heard of and little fanzines. No major magazines were really covering the stuff.
DISCORDER: How do you respond to the people who are against the old bands reforming: Youth Brigade, SNFU, Articles of Faith...?
Shawn: No one has said anything to me, most people have been really positive about it. Fear got back together and I, personally, don't think they were ever really part of the scene here in L.A.. They were definitely a band that got together for all the wrong reasons. There was the attitude early on in punk rock, when I was in high school in the late 70's, that "anyone can do this." That was the whole do-it-yourself attitude that developed out of the original attitude of anyone being able to get on stage and "knock down all the stars". Fear got into it for those reasons but were never part of the community as far as I'm concerned. They didn't hang out; they had a real elitist attitude. A year ago they did a big show with the Toy Dolls that was packed. That was definitely a reunion situation where people were getting together to try and make some money. That seemed to be the only motivation. They didn't really have much to say from the beginning and they didn't get back together to be a band and make a record. I think that these other bands you refer to are band that worked really hard for many years, had things to say, paid their dues, toured and got frustrated by the lack of attention and getting nowhere. They fell apart for different reasons but, generally, because of the lack of being able to make a living off of it. Now, when the music seems to be popular again, and they are some of the bands that originated this sound or were some of the best bands doing it, and there seems to be people interested in hearing it, they get back together. I think it's a personal thing for each band. My perspective is if people want to hear it, and they are interested in the music, then why not? No one has ever come up to me and said "You shouldn't have gotten back together, you should let dead dogs lie" or anything. One or two people said they were pretty unsure of it, but after they saw us they said it was great.We're not trying to elicit a bunch of nostalgia because that's just not going to work. We have to appeal to new kids and new fans. There are old fans still out there too, but a lot of them have grown up, got families, got jobs, and don't go to shows anymore. We've got to prove ourselves everyday, we can't just go out there and live off of our past reputation. It won't last long if we try to do that.