The past year or so has been quite an exciting time for classic Pittsburgh bands… for example, Derkéta finally got around to releasing their debut album; Dream Death had such a big response to their reunion show that they decided to do it a few more times; and hardcore/thrash legends Castle Blood followed suit last fall with a couple reunion shows of their own.
Well, here’s another one to add to the pile: after 25 years of broken-uppedness, Travesty — the hardcore/thrash band which included some of the members of Castle Blood during a couple years in which that band had gone dormant — is reassembling all of its original members for some local gigs, in addition to finally putting some of their classic material on tape!
Their first show together since 1988 is happening this Saturday — tomorrow night!! — so I had a little chat with a few of the band’s members this week, to find out more about Travesty, what they’re doing now, and what the future might bring…
VOS: Hey guys, thanks a lot for taking the time to answer a few questions for me. How are you doing? Looking forward to the show this weekend??
Travesty: After 25 years, it feels great to be back together. Its been a fun week and we are definitely psyched for the show.
VOS: The first thing I’d like to discuss is the band’s name. I think it’s really good: it feels like you’ve managed to capture the whole negative, cynical worldview that was developing for a lot of people in the 1980’s, all in a single word. Can you tell me where the name came from?
Travesty: At the time we got together, things were bad. The cold war was still going — Reagan was in office, Margaret Thatcher had just been elected, there was a recession… Pittsburgh was depressing: there were no jobs, the music scene was dying. Despite all that, everyone was in denial. It was the Bruce Springsteen / Michael Jackson era and nobody wanted to hear anything negative. Remember that crap song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”?… it’s from 1988. “Travesty” reflects what a mockery things were at the time.
VOS:For those who may not be familiar, can you discuss a little bit about your band’s history? For example, who the original members were, some of the highlights of your career together, and then what you’ve been up to in the years since then?
Travesty: Chris [drums] and Charlie [guitar] had been in Castle Blood (the band broke up around 1987 and got back together after Travesty in late 1989). They hooked up with Bill [bass] who left Eviction about the same time. We had a couple of second guitar players for the first few months (Fred from Castle Blood and Mike) before deciding on no second guitar. We found Jerry [vocals] at a local show when he was still in high school.
It’s funny and we laugh about it now but to Jerry, the rest of the band were a big deal (as they had been a lot of bands prior). So he got dressed up for an ‘audition’ only to discover the rest of the band were just a bunch of slobs in shorts….
Nonetheless, he blew the rest of us away with his voice. We went on to play with a ton of metal and hardcore bands for the next two years. We got to play with great local bands as the local underground metal scene started to pick up where the hardcore scene left off. Bands like Doomwatch, Dream Death, Necropolis and Eviction were all around during those same years and we played a number of shows together.
Over the last two decades, we all went our separate ways. None of saw each other until around 2010 — in fact, we thought Bill was dead until a few months ago. During those years, everyone drifted away from Pittsburgh except Chris. Charlie wrote video games for the first ten years and worked at a bunch of computer gigs until ending up at Amazon in Seattle. Jerry played in a bunch of bands, went out to California before coming back to Pittsburgh. Bill played in bands, traveled Europe and Japan before getting married to the singer of Acid Mothers Temple then settling down in Virginia. Chris ran his own detailing shop before he started finding out what brown could do for you, ten years ago.
VOS: Travesty is best known as one of the first bands in this area to fuse together hardcore punk with thrash metal into what’s called ‘hardcore thrash’ or sometimes just ‘crossover’. Bands of this style really took off for a while, all over the country, but most notably on the west coast with bands like Suicidal Tendencies and (one of my personal favorites) Cryptic Slaughter. But, some of the younger people reading this might be surprised to learn, this was before there was Facebook or Reverbnation or Bandcamp; it wasn’t so easy to have immediate access to hear what other bands were doing in other cities. But there were still music magazines and a vast network of tape trading, so some trends did manage to spread from place to place. So I’m curious: would you say you were heavily influenced by some of those other bands, as you started developing your sound? Or was bringing together those styles something that you just kind of came up with independently, and it just happened that bands were starting to experiment with a similar combination in other parts of the country? Perhaps a combination of both?
Travesty: Yeah — we were before social media so we could lie and get away with it… 🙂
However, you are right… a lot of the fusion between metal and hardcore was just happening around the time we were together. We played with many of the contemporary bands and watched many others which were fusion the two… such as Suicidal, Nuclear Assault, DRI, Dr. Know, Ludichrist (later Scatterbrain), Cryptic Slaughter and straight ahead hardcore like Life Sentence. At the time, we didn’t really see [separate] groupings (HC and Metal)… we all just liked bands with similar influences as us. Unlike today with the Internet, most of communication was through word of mouth (demos and zines) or seeing bands live. Traditional media like Circus and even Kerrang! were just lame… you could see crap like W.A.S.P. but you wouldn’t see Agnostic Front, Cromags, Slayer, or Metallica in there. In fact, the acceptance of hardcore and punk by metal heads was really localized. There wasn’t the kind of cross-acceptance you see now. Similarly, punks gave you a lot of crap for being ‘too metal’.
Probably our bigger influences were local. Those days were special in Pittsburgh. You had bands like Dream Death and Doomwatch just starting out like us. People like Jeff Cherep helped mix demos for us and supported us. All of us were playing together and the hardcore / metal scene started to evolve as well as the music people were playing.
VOS: It seems like ‘crossover thrash’ is sometimes viewed as a unique genre, a product of a specific place in history where the ‘punk’ and ‘metal’ worlds briefly intersected, but that in general the punks and the metalheads are almost totally distinct groups, which have little or nothing to do with each other. However, here in the Pittsburgh area, it’s always felt like there’s a bit more intermingling between those scenes. I mean, while certain bands or fans might be likely to identify more with one side or the other, it isn’t uncommon to see an even mix of ‘metal’ and ‘punk’ kids at shows, or to have a more metal-oriented band at a ‘punk’ show (or vice versa). Do you find that to be the case here — would you say that’s characteristic of the local music scene? Or do you think it’s more common in other places than people realize — (in other words, is the separation between ‘punk’ and ‘metal’ a real thing in other areas, or is that legendary schism just exaggerated?)
Travesty: Well… initially, I don’t think there was much overlap even in Pittsburgh. However, as time went on there was a blend between what used to be multiple scenes. In the late eighties there were very clear boundaries — nationally and locally — between metal heads and punks. I remember having long hair and going to CBGS to see Cause for Alarm at a Sunday matinee show. Everyone warned me that I was likely to get my ass handed to me (it didn’t happen).
The same thing was true in Pittsburgh. There was a lot of animosity over stupidity like hair, music / lyrics and style… I give places like the Electric Banana a lot of credit for mixing people up. They provided access to both styles and people started crossing over because of bands. Without clubs like that, it wouldn’t have happened. There was zero radio play outside of a few hours on WRCT each week.
Today it seems like the lines are blurry worldwide… you can see the same dichotomy in just about any hardcore / underground metal show. At least the ones I’ve seen over the last couple of decades.
VOS: What made you decide to get the band back together now? Can you describe how that came about? Also: I understand that there’s been a bit of shuffling of the line-up (i.e. swapping bassists for guitarists; bringing in replacement players; etc.), so who exactly is in the band at this time?
Travesty: We all got back in touch after the Castle Blood reunion in September. We decided it would be fun to do our own reunion. Nothing more. A lot of credit goes to Justin [Gizzi] for making this happen. He lived down the street from Bill and helped connect us back together. When Bill was nervous (understatement) about playing bass again after twenty years, Justin was drafted. Bill is now playing guitar. The new sound is awesome — its more like what we sounded like in the studio, fuller…
The new line-up is everyone from the original band plus Justin.
Jerry – vocals
Bill – guitar
Charlie – guitar
Chris – drums
Justin – bass
VOS: I heard a rumor that you’re doing a bit of recording right now. What can you tell me about that: new songs? New versions of old songs? Some of each? And do you have any idea of how and when these recordings might be released to the public?
Travesty: We are. We are going to see how much pressure we can put on ourselves — a demo and a show in one week, after 25 years 😀
We recorded about 14 songs at Treelady this week. It won’t be mixed until July and haven’t decided what to do with the recording yet… I guess it depends on whether it ends up a success or a travesty 😀
More than likely we will have it ready for Skull Fest.
VOS: The world’s a very different place than it was a quarter of a century ago, and I know that people tend to change a lot over time as well. If you ARE writing any new material to work on now, how do you think it compares with your older stuff — particularly from a lyrical standpoint, do you find that your views on certain things may have changed over the years?
Travesty: We have one new song we are recording and playing at the show. The song combines a lot of music from the last 30 years: Sabbath, grunge, neo-hardcore… but it still sounds like us. Hopefully it does a good job of capturing everyone’s ability and pushing the boundaries of what we’ve done musically. The song is called “Reversal”, and is about one member of Travesty‘s disastrous exit from Pittsburgh and his return with the band. You will have to figure out which one 🙂
VOS: What are you guys listening to nowadays? Heard anything good lately you’d like to recommend?
Travesty: We have a lot of different tastes but still like hardcore and metal. Favorites are Down to Nothing, Trapped Under Ice, Strife, Cruel Hand, Under One Flag, Agnostic Front, Mad Ball, etc. We also listen to kids screaming and wives nagging…
VOS: You have a show scheduled in Pittsburgh on Saturday. Are there any other shows (here or elsewhere) on the horizon? Would you be open to the idea of scheduling more, or is this just intended as a one-time reunion gig?
Travesty: We will playing Skull Fest on August 23 with Get to the Chopper, Oh Shit They’re Going to Kill Us, Castle Blood, Wehrmacht and Nunslaughter. We are really looking forward to that one but haven’t thought much past that. Not all of us live in Pittsburgh now (Charlie lives in Seattle and Bill lives in Virgina) so we will be playing it by ear.
VOS: If there’s anything else you’d like to add, or anything you’d like to share with the readers, please feel free! Otherwise, thanks again for taking the time to do this; I look forward to checking out the material you guys are working on now, and good luck with the shows (and with whatever the future might hold after that)!!
Travesty: First of all, we want to thank you for this. We have read your online zine and feel proud to be in it. As far as additional questions, hopefully people come ask us directly. We would love to see the people we have missed over the years at the show. It’s been a long time and we [may] be dead before the next reunion happens 🙂