Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Malcolm Tent interview: Owner/Operator of Trash American Style {record store}. Danbury Connecticut. May, 2010.



Vista:  Hey Malcolm. I suppose I'll start this off by asking, what was your first introduction to punk/hardcore? How old were you & what bands grabbed your attention?
 
Malcolm:  My introduction to punk rock came via a late night news report about this weird new music coming out of England. The people involved in it looked strange and the way the music was described, I thought it was something I needed to hear. Hialeah, Florida in the 1970’s was neither the right time nor place to try to find this kind of stuff, but after much looking, I found a cassette of “Never Mind The Bollocks” at the local mall record store. Though I was initially disappointed by it (because it was just good, loud rock and roll and not the abnormal noise I was led to believe it was), I eventually learned to love it. “Never Mind The Bollocks” is still one of my favorite albums.Hardcore came a few years later. There was an awesome radio show called “Radio Free Living Room” that aired Mondays at midnight on WLRN out of Miami. The host, Eric Moss, played hardcore fairly regularly and it spoke directly to me. By then (early 1980’s), I’d discovered the greatest independent music store that there ever was- Open Books and Records in Fort Lauderdale. That’s where I got my first issue of Maximimrocknroll, plus the Maximimrocknroll compilation LP “Welcome To 1984”. “Welcome To 1984” is a seminal hardcore document, one I listen to even today.


 Vista: What was your first punk show that you ever attended? Where venue?
 

Malcolm: Black Flag, Saccharine Trust, The Abusers, and Roach Motel at a dump in Hallandale, Florida called Finder’s Lounge. May 11, 1982. I was not ready for what I experienced that night.


Vista: Tell us about the Anthrax in Connecticut. I know the book pertaining to the club just came out & I saw that you did some type of interview about it. What was that from & what are your thoughts on the book?
 
Malcolm: The Anthrax simply was the best club anywhere, ever. It was the only club I’ve ever been to that truly was for the people, of the people, and by the people. I think the book (entitled “Everybody’s Scene) does justice to the memory of the club and should be read by anybody who cares about punk, hardcore, and/ or art. Especially in the Northeast.


Vista: I think I remember reading in the book that you had some type of run-in with Social Distortion at the Anthrax. You audio taped live shows for years, I think that had something to do with it? One that note, were there ever any other bands that were jerks about you recording them?
 

Malcolm: Essentially, I got hardcore hassled by their road manager because he thought I was taping them. In reality, I was walking out on them. A bunch of half- baked, effete, spoiled, no- talent blobs masquerading as rock stars. The only other time I ever got bothered like that was by the similarly prickish road manager for the similarly worthless and unoriginal band Polysics. To this day I wonder why I thought they were worth the effort.



Vista: Tell us about your childhood. I mean, what was your first exposure to music in general? Also, I know you are a major fan of the one & only Devo! When did that connection begin & where has it taken you?
 

Malcolm: My father had a great record collection when I was a kid. He had Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, James Brown, The Beatles, Creedence…. all kinds of good stuff. He was always playing these great records on the family console stereo. My mom would listen to WQAM when she was at home with us kids during the day. WQAM was a classic 1960’s Top 40 AM station- high energy, manic DJ’s and tons of personality in addition to all the hits. This was before kindergarten, so I was exposed to the right music early on. My father also had a bass guitar, which really warped my mind. Devo came to me courtesy of Creem Magazine. Creem was totally subversive. They’d sell magazines by putting Kiss or Ted Nugent or Aerosmith on the cover, but inside they’d have well- written and fun articles about Zappa, Beefheart, crazy 1950’s rockers…. all kinds of stuff a suburban snot in Hialeah would never have known about otherwise. One day I bought the latest Creem and there was a full page ad for the first Devo album. It was the most bizarre looking thing I’d ever seen! Imagine my surprise when the mall record store had it in stock next time I went there. I bought it unheard. That was 32 years ago and I am still proudly Devolved to the max!



Vista: For those who don't know, you had a store in Danbury Connecticut
for a very long time. How did that come about &  give us a history of
this time era for you? I know this is a detailed question, but I want
to know. What were your initial thoughts going into doing a business &
all that is involved in that? When did the store officially open &
when did it close?


Malcolm: The store was my business partner Kathy’s idea. She was living in Florida and I met her at Open Books + Records when I worked there. She hated Florida as much as I did and suggested we bolt to CT and open a store. How could I refuse? At that point in my life, I had run out of prospects. I was working a couple of part time jobs that were going nowhere, not making enough to move out of my parents’ house, and most importantly, my band had broken up. I had no incentive whatsoever to stay. For me it was simply pragmatic to get out of Florida and try something new. We opened on November 29, 1986. The landlord screwed us out of the storefront on May 1, 2007, but the business lives on. I still make my living by peddling music to the masses. No landlord’s going to make me work a job!


Vista: Why the name, "Trash American Style"? What were some thoughts
behind that name, besides it sounding "Cool"!? Ha!


Malcolm: No real thought behind it, just the end result of a big brainstorming
session. If you knew some of the names we rejected...... !


Vista: You had many in-store appearances at Trash. I vividly remember
walking into the store and Ray Cappo {Shelter/Youth Of Today} was
doing a spoken word  session. Who else had performed and/or did spoken
word sessions?


Malcolm: One of the legacies of Open Books and Records was the idea of doing
n- stores. We had so, so many people play at the store over the
years, there's no way I could remember them all. Just a few who come
to mind immediately: Antiseen, Magnapop, The Pac Men, Prisonshake,
Robots Don’t Die, Ted Milton, Hed, Monsterland, Evil Army, Freak Baby, Daybed, Die Smiling, THOR (!), Damien Storm..... I could just go on and on.


Vista: I know so many rare & out-of-print records came into Trash over the years, but I'm wondering. What were the top five rarest Hardcore vinyl records to pass through the store? Also, how much did they eventually sell for?
 

Malcolm: As they come to mind:
JUDGE “Chung King Can Suck It”. I had 4 of them at one time. I got as much as $200 each for a couple of them, which, in the pre- internet age, was just insane. 
MISFITS “Cough Cool”. Yes, an original. I traded $100 worth of prog LP’s to acquire it and later sold it for $450. I shudder to think of what it sells for now.
WARZONE “Lower East Side Crew” the real REAL first pressing- orange lettering and white labels. I traded it away in the worst god damned trade I ever made. Also the last trade I ever will make. Let’s not talk about it. 
After those 3, it’s an endless series of memories of test pressings, colored vinyl, acetates, hand made sleeves, etc. from Revelation and many other labels. Too many to keep track of!


Vista: Through the years owning & running the store, how did eBay play a part in vinyl record sales as far as pricing? Do you think it fell in favor of the seller or was there a balance? Do you think eBay completely jack up prices through the roof, since there always seems to be that one kid in Japan that will send $500 on a record!?  

IMalcolm: n the real world, I don’t think ebay  affects record prices, except maybe on a very short term basis. Just because a couple of obsessive- compulsive Europeans are willing to duke it out over a Sportswear 7” doesn’t mean that anyone will buy a Sportswear 7” from you in person for any price. The same Sportswear 7” that sold for $1000 on ebay one week could very well get $2 the next.
The only way ebay is a reliable price barometer is for rare records that consistently sell for a lot. Otherwise, it is very fickle and unpredictable, because it’s largely not driven by logic or real supply and demand.

 Vista: Through the mid to late 90's, what was the most ridiculous trend? I ask this only because this particular time era was filled with either: 1) Emo nerds. 2) tough guys from the suburbs. 3) vegan death squads. Or, somehow a person who was a mixture of all three! Thoughts?
 

Malcolm: Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.


Vista: Your store was located in Connecticut for many years. Did you ever think that, looking back on this...Jamey from Hatebreed not only his band being nominated for a Grammy award, but also still doing the band after all these years!? After all, you must remember him from when he was 15 years old!?
 

Malcolm: I remember when Jamey and Rick Ta Life were running neck and neck to see who’d open the first hardcore convenience store.

Vista: When you started Trash, was Revelation Records still in Connecticut or were they in California by this time? Either way, I'm wondering that were your thoughts of them from the beginning to their climax? I say "climax" because I have no clue what they do now & whatever it is I'm sure it stinks!?



Malcolm: Revelation hardly existed when we first opened. Jordan Cooper was hawking homemade Violent Children cassettes and had just put out the Warzone 7” when we set up shop. I used to love going to the Rev warehouse in New Haven and having my pick of the vinyl.
Revelation was the epitome of record collecting excitement in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  Look at the first 22 records they put out (well, except maybe the Slipknot 7”). That’s a catalog that few labels will ever be able to match. After that it got real patchy real fast. Like you, I don’t even know what they’re doing now. (Hi, Jordan.)



Vista: You have a band as well. Tell us some details about that? You do a couple of different projects? Details man...Details!? 

Malcolm: Since you insist..... ! My main band is Ultrabunny. We’re an all- improv ROCK band that ROCKS. We do it with heaping helpings of NOISE and CHAOS. Our foundation is ROCK SOLID RIFFS (provided by ME on the bass) and drumming that is TIGHT but WILD (courtesy of Dr. C.J. Prorock (actually, he’s soon to be a doctor, no foolin’)). Our guitarist Bob Bunny (who does not know how to play a guitar (in the proper sense)) sprays the whole thing with noxious sonic gases. We never know what’s going to happen on stage when we play, except that the smoke machine will billow and the strobes will bewilder you. When not in Ultrabunny, I play punk rock in a solo acoustic stylee. I have a bright blue guitar and I play songs by Black Flag, Minor Threat, Gorilla Biscuits, Dead Kennedys, Charles Manson, Devo, and many more. My original compositions address many varied and interesting topics such as how stupid the human race is, straight edge, getting old, Wesley Willis, human mating rituals, pinup girls, etc. And if that weren’t enough, I have a project band called BB Gun which is darker and more introspective in nature. Don’t worry, though. It still rocks. AND there’s my studio only noise project called Fried Man. That’s all raw sound and rhythm textures. By the time this article is published. www.malcolmtent.net should be up and running and packed with data about me and my “music”.


Vista: After Trash closed its doors, what year was that? Did you think that
another store would fill the void left by Trash closing? For those who don't
know or understand, your store was a cultural experience. It literally had
anything you were looking for...Kinda like Walmart?! Ha! I say that cause I
know how you feel about that shit store! But, was there any other store that
stepped in & took up the slack, so to speak? Also, you're still vending &
marching on till this day. Tell us what you are up to nowadays?
 

Malcolm: The final screw was delivered to us on May 1, 2007. Redscroll Records in Wallingford, CT opened just a few weeks prior to that. I’m friends with both owners (Rick and Josh) and they’re both good kids. If anybody picked up the torch and ran with it, they did. I really think they have the right idea, though they need to reinstall the pinball machine. As for Trash American Style? We simply gathered up our act and took it on the road. Anywhere we can set up a table full of merch to hawk to the willing masses, we will go. In some ways it’s not quite as satisfying as having a full time store, but I like it better in others. The hours are a lot better.

 

Vista: You also do a radio show as well. Or you did do one? Is that still kicking? You have your little sweaty palms into many projects! Tell us about your radio show & what type of jams are you blasting & how can we listen in?
 
Malcom: Mah show is called MR. TENT’S WILD RIDE and it airs on WNHU in West Haven, CT. I’m on every Tuesday from 2- 4 PM (EST) and the format is that I play whatever I want to play! No genre restrictions other than it’s got to be a good tune and you most likely won’t hear it on the right hand side of your FM dial. That’s 88.7 FM or www.wnhu.net for live streaming audio.


Vista: I know you were a big wrestling fan at one time. Are you still into it? Also, who's your top three wrestlers of ALL-TIME!?
 


Malcolm: Since the demise of the original ECW, there hasn’t been any wrestling that interests me. A lot of that is due to my very brief involvement in the business, during which I saw enough to sour me on the whole industry. But I’ll sit and watch Florida NWA from the 1960’s + 1970’s for hours if I’m allowed to! My ALL TIME Top 3: 
1.  King Curtis
2.  Killer Karl Krupp
3.  Bubba Douglas 


Vista: What are your to 10 favorite punk/hardcore bands of all time? Not essential to the "scene" {if there still IS one?}...Just your personal top 10?

 


Malcolm: In no particular order (and loosely defined)
1.  Black Flag
2.  Husker Du
3.  Pure Hell
4.  Wards
5.  Anti- Seen
6.  76% Uncertain
7.  Pist
8.  Ramones
9.  Clash
10.  Bad Brains.

Vista: Will there ever be another store...store store....in the future? Are you done with that shit? Also, what advice would you give to someone out there who may be thinking about actually opening a store that is geared toward punk/hardcore, underground style store? Would you advice them to not do it & just shop at the mall? 


Malcolm: I have no intentions of reopening a store. I didn’t ask to be forced out of my storefront, but I’m enjoying a level of freedom I never had when Trash American Style was brick ‘n’ mortar. For 21 years it was the best thing in my life, but I have decided to move on.
If anybody out there wants to open a store, I say GO FOR IT.  But if you want to do it RIGHT, be prepared to devote your entire life to it. I mean ENTIRE. You will work at it 27 hours a day, 9 days a week. The rewards are endless, but you must be ready to bleed for it. And don’t EVER shop at the mall. 


 

Vista: Malcolm. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview.  We've known each other for many years now. I can honestly say that I spent the best years of my life at your store & it was worth every second. It was such a great place to shop, but also just to hang out & talk for hours...So thank you!  Is there anything else you'd like to say & what's the best way to get in touch with you. I know you're still out in the tri-state area doing shows?

Malcolm: Vista, when people tell me things like that, it’s the only time I regret not staying open. We always tried to be more than just a place to shop. We believe in the community we serve and we’re happy that we were able to provide a focal point for a vibrant, living, IMPORTANT culture for such a long time. I’m still out there, traveling around, hawking the sounds. To find out my schedule, go to www.trashamericanstyle.us For info on my bands and various personal pursuits, check out www.malcolmtent.net. Thanks for giving me the chance to blab.
In closing, I, as always, quote Al Flipside: “BE MORE THAN A WITNESS”.

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