Bad Brains: An influence on Jarrett (Photo by Edward Colver) Bad Brains: An influence on Jarrett (Photo by Edward Colver)

Collision Chaser: Searching for Handhold and Finding a Platform

By Jarrett Pritchard

Sometimes we can narrow changes down to an instant on our lives that caused

a rippling effect for everything that would come after it. These events always interest me especially in my life because, well...what if I hadn’t done this or that or what if I had gone this way- how different everything could be.  All at once my entire existence could change paths. This is the story of what I consider to be one of the most important moments in my existence and I bet a few of you have a similar story to tell...

In a sense it all changed for me in a 5 minute conversation when I was about 12 – disenchanted, angry that heavy metal had given way to pink lace and rouge (not that I disapprove of such things, but not when my leather clad demons had gone from straight out of hell to straight out of Victoria’s Secret!!!!) and I found a substitute. I went from a victim to a monster in about the 25 minutes it took me to get through side one of Millions of Dead Cops and a good chunk of Everything Went Black and nothing would ever be the same again. No moment in my life has ever been so eye opening and so empowering in my now nearly 40 years. I never went back. Forward. Charge. Do it Now. Do it Yourself. Never, and I mean never, ask for permission or look for approval. It’s my moment and I’m going to take it.

Punk.  I had heard the word so many times and since I was a little kid I had so badly wanted to know what this was. Even at 5 years old I knew that it was in no way, shape or form, the portrayal I saw on CHIPS. I knew that people called the Ramones punk and I knew all that I could grab of that –luckily my mother's best friend was into “New Wave” so I got to hear Elvis Costello and Patti Smith  and Rocket to Russia at a really young age.  I had heard that the Clash was punk and I was totally onto that- at least when K94 would grace us with Rock the Casbah. Oh yeah, did I mention these were the thoughts of a seven year old kid? Trying to know what this thing was that people seemed so up in arms about...

I was always into music, obsessed is more like it. It began when I was tiny, like 2, according to my mom. I was constantly fixated on the radio and by the time I was about 5 I had heard and needed Queen's News of the World. I got a job through my mom in a commercial for - get this - Farm Fresh with Hardcore Norfolk member Natasha Fedysyn.(I’m not even sure if she would remember).  I took 4 whole dollars of that and had mom drive me to Peaches at Military Circle and bought my first record. That was soon to be followed by All N All from Earth, Wind and Fire and very shortly after that, Kiss. Destroyer to be exact. I walked into my teenage aunt’s room and saw the posters from the Japanese tour and I was blown away. I asked her immediately, what is that??!!!! I want to be that. She being the loving influence she has always been gave me Destroyer with no cover so that my mother wouldn’t know what it was and the world changed.

 Funny enough in my household a few things didn't make any sense. Rocky Horror sound track played incessantly was perfectly acceptable but not Kiss. So rebellion and opposition came very early for me. I went to war with my mother over letting me go to concerts as far back as 5, 6, 7 years old. I can remember a huge battle with her over going to see, get this, REO Speedwagon. Looking back on it now I’m not even sure it was any particular artist. I knew there was magic going on at these concerts and I needed to be a part of it. Oh, by the way, when I hear Hardcore Norfolk members talk about the Ramones at Rogues, I have to laugh because at 7 or 8 years old I had an all out screaming, raging fight with my mom about that one, too.

I had very diverse tastes as a kid. Supertramp, all of the radio friendly new wave on K94 before the curse that was “rhythm of the city” stole my favorite radio station. Such a bad day for was all over the place and slowly but surely I became interested in Heavy Metal. Iron Maiden, Dio, Van Halen, Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Krokus, and in about 1983 a new band called Motley Crue, who had just finished an album called Shout at the Devil. That went over really well at the Catholic school I was attending. But not nearly as well as my friend David Allison and I dressing up like Motely Crue and lip syncing to Shout at the Devil and 10 Seconds to Love for the Catholic school girls and nuns.

Now at this point I can hear some of my readers groaning, saying “oh this poor little child. Look, he was on the right path but he went so astray.” Well, sure, but this music was not glam yet. This was heavy and some of it downright evil. This was not the plague of filler over reverberant drums and hairspray of the late 80's and I was at the time having none of this Duraniac nonsense. And this chic Madonna that was coming out? Well, she was cute but I could have given a shit what material she was made of. I wanted to rock. It was at this point that I heard the names.  My curiosity about what was punk. What is it?????  The question never really subsided but as I explained above, how does a kid barely 10 years old find it? It isn’t like it was an appreciated, well advertised genre of music.  And nobody was even telling me what the names of these bands were. Until.

A friend of mine as a kid who lived in Baltimore would come down in the summer to our neighborhood in Shea Terrace, which is located on the Portsmouth side of the midtown tunnel, to visit his grandmother and in the summer of 1983 he mentioned some names that would later change my life.  He said that up in Baltimore they were getting into these bands like Black Flag and White Flag and Minor Threat and the Misfits. I thought, wow, so that’s punk, huh? Interesting but I  moved on, listening to my Ratt and Motley Crue and Judas Priest, kicking through the world and infuriating the old people as I walked down the street about to turn 11.  I was listening to Too Fast for Love on my radio and I continued to do so, oblivious to all that was happening in the world around me no more than 3 hours away.

1985 rolled around and I hit the grand old age of 12 years old. That year my oldest friend, the daughter of the New Wave mom I mentioned above, started using a word called “hardcore.”  I never even began to associate it with punk. She started telling me that there were bands right here in our town that were playing fast and aggressive.  Bands like Dead Aim, Fatal Vision, FOE, and she had gotten a cassette that would open the flood gates for a conscious change. It was the most punk tape on earth.  It was recorded with one boombox set close to another one. One had a tape in it and it was played while the other sat next to it and was recording with the onboard microphone.  I still cannot hear Permanent Solution from the early Bad Religion 7' without hearing a phone ring in my head at the reprise of the first verse. That tape had the first Bad Religion recordings, which are very, very different from the pop punk beast they are today. The  first TSOL ep and the Let Them Eat Jelly Beans compilation.  That comp had a song that left me wanting more...a little ditty called Pay to Cum by the Bad Brains. I wouldn’t learn the magnitude of the gentlemen who wrote it for a little while yet but I had never heard anything like that in my life and was floored at the speed and precision of that band. It was starting. My mind was changing and I could feel it; something was waking up inside...

Listen to "Pay to Cum" by Bad Brains below:

As all this was happening, skateboarding was experiencing another rise in youth culture and I had been interested in this as an alternative to team sports which I played and absolutely hated. When I was 10, I asked for a skateboard and received a blue plastic Variflex. No one else rode them that I knew out in Portsmouth but I liked it so I kicked up and down the street and fell and bled and thought it was a neat novelty, and pretty much thought nothing more. Well right around the time of the punkest tape on earth, strangely referred to as hardcore, older guys in the neighborhood were skateboarding. I was so surprised that I couldn’t even speak nor contain my excitement at the same time. Not only were they riding them but they were building ramps and launching off of them. Holy... I’m in let’s go!!!! So, I would go down the street to watch and jump on any board anyone would share and I started to make friends with some of these older guys.

‘85 was chugging along and as I entered the 7th grade, still 12 and totally alien to everyone there, I had pretty much figured I was anything but cool. These guys that skated liked me ok or perhaps it was the fact that the daughter of New Wave mom had moved into my house with my mother and I, but they let me hang around. As clear as I’m sitting here right now I remember a guy named Andy walked over to me and said “you know you would be alright if you got rid of all that Motley Crue crap.”  I was totally offended.  How dare someone rip the Crue a new ass?!!!!!!!! But in reality the Crue were not quite the hellions they had been and I was feeling a bit disenchanted. But give up my Metal, are you insane!!!!??!?!?!??!! NEVER!!!! I’ll never forget, he reached into his pocket and handed me a tape. On one side it said Millions of Dead Cops and on the other it said Everything Went Black. He said, “listen to this.” I headed home curious and a little apprehensive.

Listen to Millions of Dead Cops (1982) original vinyl side 1 rip below:

When I got home I crept off to my room with very little hello to the Mom unit. We were not exactly each other’s favorite people even at this point and this was before the shit hit the fan. I sat  down in my room closed the door and put in this tape. An explosion reared back and spat itself out of those tiny speakers in the form of Business on Parade and just pounded every core of my previous being to a bloody pulp.  Every note, drummer hanging on for dear life, playing at what to me at the time was inhuman speed, and this man screaming that America was a rip off and without a moment’s rest questioning why everyone was so straight and a war chant with the fury of the nuclear explosions we were all fearing in this day and age, “dead cops dead cops...”  You know the rest and I was just floored.  I mean beaten.  I hadn’t moved, pinned to my chair, but I was exhausted, freaked out. As I moved through the tracks and the tribal chant of "No war, no KKK, No fascist USA No war, no KKK no fascist USA" in "Born to Die" giving way to "Corporate Deathburger" indicting Reagan and the major American corporations for bathing in blood soaked profit. Screaming about "Violent Rednecks" and leading to the haunting spoken word intro of "I Remember" about police  corruption and murder. It was everything. I was aware, I was terrified, I was angry and I knew all at once that we were being fucked off. There was no way this could be a lie or a story. The emotion was way too vehement, way too intense and speaking truths that were way too dangerous to be saying in Reagan ruled America unless you were willing to risk it all. At this point, I flipped the tape over and the real hammer fell. In the next 15 minutes everything I had been forced to believe, every nicety that was holding me back, every bit of anger and hurt and betrayal, and the forced silence of the damage of broken homes and psycho step parents was all about to unravel. In the next 15 minutes from Gimmie Gimmie Gimme, to I Don’t Care to No Values to Revenge to the all important and all speaking My Rules, I changed right there in that room.  I emerged in no time armed with the security that I did not have to give a fuck. I didn’t have to be like you and if you didn’t like it you could go die. I didn’t have to be part of this insane game any more and I didn’t have to keep my mouth shut about it either. I could be exactly what I wanted because I had to do it now.  Because it was on me. I had to make it for me because everything I had been brought up to trust was a lie and this anger and rage that had been building was the fuel to take my life into my hands and make it mine.  I was no longer my mother’s son. I was no longer uneasy about who I was and the quiet and timid, outcast misfit heavy metal kid was dead. I was ready to erupt and explode onto anything that got in my way. I promptly climbed on a chair and literally took every poster down. Collected them up walked out to the fire place and threw them in. I gathered my records up and put them in a bag for donation to the grit girl who was 16 and somehow in the 7th grade with the hottest ass my 12 year old self had ever witnessed and I went through an instant transformation and metamorphosis that in 1985 was known as going HARDCORE.

In the years to come, I would push the word hardcore to the limits.  No, not some stupid set of rules that define a musical genre, but the choices and experiences that came with refusing to walk the path of the average American teenager. From battling cops to living on the street to escaping from the brain washing institution straight incorporated to fights, drugs, to all of it and to living on the edge of what most would call sanity for many years. I was exposed to Nazi skinheads, violence and hunger. Even surviving being in a snowstorm barely clothed for about 6 hours while running from some institution that someone thought could erase this person who emerged from that bedroom that day. I played music and had a band that started in 1989 that evolved into Death Metal/Grind/ Tampa's Eulogy and when that gave way I continued to work in music as an engineer. I mixed television for many years while freelancing making records for bands I found to be interesting and I spent almost 5 years teaching large format recording and sound for film at a very large media arts university. I spend the majority of my time these days touring as a front of house engineer and tour manager for Heavy Music in general. Most of the time I deal with Black and Death Metal, but I do all kinds of things including Doom and British pop, as well as consulting on an engineering level. This job has taken me to heights of mixing to 15-20,000 person audiences on the European Festival circuit, and around the world in general mixing some of my favorite bands. And more than once, because I spend a good amount of time being aware that I am lucky I was able to do this as a full career,  I have what I like to call “ how did I get here?” moments.

In The Spring of 2011 I was mixing Helmet in Dallas, Texas with my hands on the faders I laughed out loud as they played Unsung, finding it was so funny that I was there doing that. This kid who was such a fan of music that it ran through my blood. All those years the emotion and the attachment and the profound effects that it had had on me.  As that tour moved forward, we were ending in LA. I was also mixing a band who had been on SST called Saint Vitus.  For you much more aware and earlier generation readers, their vocalist was Scott “Wino” Wienrich, of the  DC/ Baltimore area band The Obsessed, who had been a bit of an influence on what would become the DC hardcore scene, and I will assume you all know the impact that had. As I was pulling into the House of Blues LA I got a call from Chuck Dukowski of Black Flag who over the years had become a friend. I mastered several records for his label and we had recorded some music playing together in ’06, so it was pretty normal that I would hear from him when I was in town. He asked me if I would add 3 guest list spots for him to catch Vitus with his wife and friend Ian who was in town. Well, I thought nothing about it and said sure no problem at all. The night progressed and as I came off stage hurriedly to get the line check for Vitus done I saw them. As I ran into the booth, I saw Chuck and his friend Ian, who was of course the mighty Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat and Fugazi among others. I had no time to gush like I wanted to. I stuck my hand out quickly said hi I’m Jarrett and opened the door to the booth allowing them inside. Without much thought of these guys behind me I got it going and started the set for Saint Vitus. Powering through their set in the House of Blues LA, I hit my stride, as I call it.  I only then became aware that I had the major contributors of the 2 most prolific indy, Punk, Hardcore labels ever,  not to mention members of Black Flag and Minor Threat, standing behind me. I took a breath and looked up at the lighting grid and was transported back to that day when everything changed for me in my room in 1985. I went on a journey through everything I had seen and done since and I realized that it was exactly as it should be. That those ideas and those attitudes that I got out of this music are what led me here. The courage to do whatever I wanted. The scope of existence as wide as my belief in myself  and the determination to put it to the test. I was glad and I knew that it was the right way to go as I finished the set with these guys standing with me. And I knew how I got there...

Watch the full Black Flag movie, Reality 86'd Movie below on youtube: