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Hardcore Punk

Get a time machine, go back in time, and change everything… THE VSS

It’s such a trip for me how people are really into the 90’s more so now than when they were actually happening. Well, unless they were too old to partake in a certain capacity, then it makes a bit more sense. But I’m specifically talking about music, punk and hardcore music, that fits into that “90s sound.” It was pretty bad then and even worse now when revisited. Of course, this is my opinion, and just like assholes, we all have them.

But for me, in order to survive that decade, I had to focus on the top tier bands, who in my brain were Antioch Arrow, Mohinder, Angel Hair, and a few others. Bear with me for a second…. I wanted to be in a ripping band, like any one of those I just listed. However, I wasn’t up to par with players in certain bands. I spent a chunk of time, leading up to me discovering that type of music, trying to nail overtly political metallic hardcore in a band called Struggle. For a fifteen year old, in retrospect, it might be suitable, but I started growing up, as some might put it. I was also “just the bassist,” in its truest form with a statement like that.

So when more weird, and more interesting stuff came to life, I was captivated. I gave singing a try and honestly feel I shit the bed on that one. My attempt at joining the ranks of ripping 90’s bands was sub par on my end. The band Swing Kids were fine, but I was the weak link in that one for sure. Nonetheless, we embarked on our first tour in 95’, and the tour took us to Boulder, CO. This was in glorious times, the pre-internet and social media portion of life on Earth. So the detailed news of the tour organically came back to us through a pay phone with a dialer (for those who are old enough, and pseudo criminals, to know what the fuck I’m talking about, you are probably not confused) that we would be playing Sonny Kay’s house, who was in Angel Hair, which just broke up around that time. He had a new band that would be playing their first show. This band was called The VSS. 

In my mind, I want to tell it one way, and I know I’ll be incorrect, especially with how others, such as Sonny, saw things. But please, let me have my cake and eat it too (that is such a dumb phrase, but you hopefully get what I’m saying). Now, I’ll admit, on occasion back then I started to feel the pressure to step it up. This was becoming a more common feeling in my mind when it came to music performances. I played enough crummy garages with Neo-Nazis farting around, or with bands who felt the need to jam in their living room to show off new gear their parents purchased for them. So playing with a band that had members of Angel Hair in it (Josh Hughes was also in the new band) was one of those instances. Fuckin a, I was twenty, so insecure, and had no idea what the hell I was doing, with anything. But it was something I would be able to walk away from having gained so much knowledge at. There were people there who seemed to care about art, and who all seemed cool in every way. And most importantly, it was the start of a long and important friendship between Sonny and I. 

The show itself was stacked, as it also had T Tauri, another out-there band from the time, as well as Still Life, who we were on tour with. The anticipation to see The VSS was substantial for me. I had missed Angel Hair in San Diego when they played Taang Records in Pacific Beach due to a lot of the punks, myself included, boycotting that store for selling Skrewdriver records among other ethical reasons. I had not yet fully grasped the sort of two year lifespan of bands from people in their early twenties, and I was unaware that was my chance to see Angel Hair. So the new band was not to be missed.

Coming out of the 90’s crust punk realm, and starting to see there was cool aesthetics, style, and relevant fashion in among subcultures, the way The VSS looked as they were setting up was captivating. All of their amps were red, as in the grills had a red covering on them, so everything matched. This idea was later stolen by The Locust doing the same thing, but with camo material in the early five-piece days of the band. The VSS was a typical four piece band, drums, guitar, bass, vocals. Not only did they look like a band though, with cool looking gear, they performed on a level that was captivating. Sonny had started singing with vocal effects, which was pretty uncharted territory for vocalists in 90s type bands. There was delay and possibly reverb (from effect pedals or the PA). But to me, there was this sort of Cramps vibe to the music, specifically with the vocals. The songs overall were catchier and less frantic than the stuff a lot of us were going for.

It was almost like they took a breath and did something practical for the 90s that we were all part of. But that breath was fucking cool, and in your face. Angel Hair leading into The VSS were life changing bands for me and a lot of my comrades. I feel bad that the rest of the world missed them.

Written By

Deaf Club, Planet B, Three One G, The Locust, Dead Cross, and Swing Kids.

Sentient 51423

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