Quote ~ Unquote – Kurt Ballou of Converge

The whole hardcore genre really seems to have changed I’m sure since you guys first started. I know you keep producing a lot of great bands within that scene. How do you feel about today’s current status of hardcore?

Ballou: I think it’s better now than it was in the 90s. I think in the 90s that’s when hardcore went suburban and the metal influence came in a lot. Obviously there was a metallic influence in the late 80s with Cro-Mags, and Slapshot and Judge and Leeway and all these crossover bands such as Suicidal Tendencies. I think the suburban kids such as ourselves, we had that kind of hardcore influence from going to shows, but we were also the first generation that had MTV and Headbangers Ball. So we’d go to see Slapshot on the weekend or Bad Brains or whoever and come home and watch Headbangers Ball and see Slayer and Metallica. I think the 90s there was a lot of early attempts at fusing those things and a lot of it was really cheesy. A lot of that moshcore stuff that came out of the 90s was really bad. There’s always going to be bad music, there’s a lot of god awful terrible music now, there’s a lot of god awful terrible music from the 80s, but I think with time a lot of the bad stuff gets forgotten about and the good stuff gets remembered so I think certain time periods get revered more than others.

Then in the 90s you also had these hardcore kids from suburbia…. like in the Black Flag era there were a lot kids who had no other choice but to be hardcore kids. They’re urban kids, they’re runaways, they’re from broken homes, they’re people that are suffering and desperately needed an outlet. It had nothing to do with fashion or anything like that. There’s definitely some posturing going on, but it wasn’t a fashionable thing, it was dangerous and it’s just what these people were coming to do. That’s not to say affluence precludes any kind of suffering, but it’s a different kind of suffering that happens among suburban and upper middle class kids which is where hardcore starts to move in the 90s. So you have this new thing that starts to happen in the 90s called emocore, which is driven by people that don’t have such a dangerous life. It’s the classic suburban depression, kids who otherwise would have been into The Smiths or The Cure or even The Red House Painters and then started to form this more tempered music. When that term was coined, they were referring more to the D.C. scene, which is more like the intellectual side. There are a lot of politics in D.C. so you have a lot of politicians, lobbyists and other businesses in the area so you have a lot of intelligent people in the area who are having intelligent kids. So these kids are thinking more outwardly and more politically. So you have the Revolution Summer and the birth of Rites of Spring and later Fugazi and Moss Icon and these other kind of bands. All that stuff gets filtered of this kid who knows about hardcore and the metal they’re playing on MTV and the result is the 90s screamo, sweater vest, horn rimmed glasses sort of scene and so little of that stuff was any good. And between that stuff sucking really bad and that early metallic stuff sucking really bad I think it took a really long time to flush itself out and become it’s own thing than being a poorly played derivation of a lot of other things. Now that I think that evolution has happened it’s refined and it’s a higher caliber than it was in the 90s.

Another big difference in how the music has changed since when we started is the business. There’s this constant access to music that we didn’t have back then. It’s not really better or worse, it’s just different. We used to buy 7 inches and we used to take it and send it to your friend or your pen pal and you’d have to recycle your postage because there’s no email yet or downloading so local scenes would develop a lot stronger. Bands from Boston tended to sound like each other because bands wouldn’t go on tour very frequently so you’d end up playing with the same bands a lot and influencing each other more than bands across the country. So there’s this Boston sound, this L.A. sound, this New York sound. But then downloading and MySpace starts coming up and it dilutes the local scene identity and it makes music a lot more competitive in all genres of music. There’s so much out there and there’s so much access to it so only the music that requires the shortest attention span that people will pay attention to. So if something doesn’t have a great recording or a hook right away it’s really easy to dismiss it and move on to something else. It used to be like I would go to the record store and buy a few CDs or records or tapes and even if I don’t like it that much, I don’t have that much music in my collection so I spend a lot of time with each record and getting to know it and it might rub off on me and I get to understand it. That kind of thing doesn’t really happen anymore so it’s a really different environment. Touring has become the same way as the scene has grown and people are able to make money touring. Everything has become a lot more lowest common denominator with regards to the tours that you do and the music that you write because people are thinking about their careers more than about expressing themselves. The fans support that mentality through their buying practices.

full interview at punknews.org


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