Boston Babies: Tommy and the Terrors Interview

Imagine the anticipation I felt upon this interview’s completion. The subject: Tommy and The Terrors. The spokesperson: Mr. Tom Madden. My anxiety was palpable. The subject possesses a rapist wit worthy of Paula Poundstone in her prime. A Gallagher-like sense of timing makes you feel Tom is just toying with this interview; at any given moment his over-sized couch trampoline-like imagination will serve up a watermelon-smashing one liner, and then as if on a whim,  this clown prince will get as serious as Robin Williams in Patch Adams. Truly the voice of  punk rock, this interview has a weight to it;  layer-upon-layer, like Joyce’s “Ulysses.”

I’ll leave it to Tom…..

Enjoy!
Enjoy!

Saturday Night: Generic first question, but you guys have been around awhile; tell me about the early days of the band, what the current roster is, and how each of you came to be involved in the band.

Tom: That sounds like an insult as in “you guys are old how did you avoid the tar pits”; kind of weird question to start off with.  I will overlook this initial insult for the sake of the greater good.  We’ve been around since 96 I think…or maybe 98.  I’m terrible with dates as I try to operate on a more cosmic level.  I’m very suspicious of linear conventions.  Current rooster is: me (Tommy), Ry (the oldest guy in the band), Lance (ska and sausage king of NoLa), Brian (I’m quitting the fucking band) and Anders (I enter public bathrooms barefoot).   I’m not sure what each of them plays.  We started out with Anders, me, Mike P, Brandon and little kev.  Mike is living in Vegas now; Brandon is a firefighter on Cape Cod and little Kev is playing in a new band called Blood Stained Brindle.  All of those guys contributed in major ways to what we are today; which may or may not be a compliment depending on your perspective.  With the exception of Lance we’ve all known each other since we were in short pants.  I’m not sure I even really know Lance now.

Saturday Night: For those of you around in the early 90’s, whether in Boston or elsewhere, what was the scene like for you in those days?

Tom: I’m sure Lance was down south picking it up and polishing his flight jacket; writing ska tunes about crawfish.  I don’t think Brian was out of diapers yet.  Anders was too busy looking forward to being able to grow a goatee to really know what was going on around him.  Ryan had just joined AARP so he could get a discount on his Maelstrom-Megamorphosis tattoo.   That being said I can only really share my experience and impressions of the Boston scene in the early 90s. I think this story sums it up; One Saturday afternoon I was standing in front of the Channel (rip) waiting for some show, Sick of it All maybe, wearing British Knights, and a guy came up to me and my friend Mike G wearing an Adolph Hitler t-shirt.  He asked me “are you white power?” I answered “No I’m straight edge”.  Toss in some weird fucking wooden bead necklaces and sweaty dudes and there you have it.

Saturday Night: 
What does Brian bring to the band? Much like Arnel Pineda joining his idols in Journey, I bet he was terrified.

Tom: He usually brings decent beer and problems but never working equipment.  Oh and sometimes he brings his son who actually is going to be taking his place in 2010 as Brian’s work visa expires then.  He’s had a lot of trouble with his visa since 9-11.

Saturday Night: You guys are long-timers on the Boston scene, kind of Boston’s “house band” for punk/hardcore. What is the scene like these days? Fragmented? Getting better or worse? Are there any new bands worth checking out?

Tom: Boy Lance or Bri should really be answering these questions as I try not leave my undisclosed location except to stock up on supplies or go to the library.  I personally think that there is a lot of idolatry and the worship of false idols in the scene today.  I suspect it’s like every other scene is every other city other than that without the Nazis, gangs or Nazi gangs.  There are lots of different mini-scenes I guess, name a type of music and there is a little scene around it; I try not to think about it too much. You can pretty much find a show or a DJ spinning whenever you want one; sometimes good sometimes shit but a shitty cracker sometimes is better than just peanut butter by itself.  At least that is how I try to live.

Saturday Night: Boston has, for better or worse, a rep/stigma associated with it, as a “Mecca ” for hardcore/punk/oi! What do you guys feel makes it so strong, whether real or imagined? If someone was planning to move out there, what would you tell them the pluses and minuses of “the scene” are.

Tom: I didn’t realize that Boston was a Mecca for underground music but I guess thinking about it some really good bands did come out of MA; Stars and Stripes, Not our Dog, the FUs, DYS, the Ramones, the Tampoffs, Out Cold, Mr. Cranky, the Kinks.  I think it has a lot to do with the fact that this is where the country started and most people look to us to lead them; the American Revolution, the creation of the American language, chowder; so it’s a natural progression that music, the glue of culture, would be included in that mix.

As far as pluses and minuses; hmm; on the minus side I hear that you get “buy backs” which apparently is a free drink (?) at bars in other cities that is not the case in Boston.  And not to be negative but since the downturn in the economy that fucking cunt Mayor Menino passed a law that the fire hydrants could no longer be filled with Guinness so now they are only filled with Michelob.  On the positive side since parking is kind of tight in the winter when someone shovels out their spot they let you know it’s cool to park your car there by putting a cone, chair, baby carriage or some other marker in it.  That’s really a city based thing and not really tied to the punk/hc scene but I still think it’s pretty cool.  Oh and you can buy beer any time of the day so if you are hitting a show don’t worry you can hit the package store after the show even if it ends at 3am to buy beer for hanging out.

Saturday Night: A point I was pondering the other day – what do you think of aging within the scene? I always assumed punk/oi!/hardcore was a young man’s game, until I got older. These days, there are a lot of older bands still kicking around and even reforming, some of the recent best shows have been some of these older bands, there’s a large percentage of 30 plus at shows. Overseas, it’s much more “acceptable” to still be hanging out as you age. My opinion is that age really doesn’t have much to do with it anymore. I still love going to shows, love the tunes, the framework has changed, but I still like what I like. Thoughts on aging within the scene?

Tom: I’m in the same boat as you.  I don’t think it makes that much of difference. However when I was a young buck I’d probably look at someone my age (21) and think what the fuck is that old guy doing here; is he a cop or is he a child molester or both?  If I ever stop feeling like going off I’ll quit playing; the other guys probably feel the same way.  I think of playing in a band as a much cooler hobby than building models (peace to all the model builders out there, I’m not trying to stir up that old beef) and a good excuse to hang out and drink with my friends and check out random VFWs and Elks Lodges.  I do wish there were fewer stairs in clubs though.  If I carried equipment that would be a real bitch at this age.

Ryan, Brian and Tom. Photo Ny Nicole Tammaro
Ryan, Brian and Tom. Photo by Nicole Tammaro

Saturday Night: Along the same lines, does having a family/wife/real-life issues present real challenges for the band? It seems you still get together and play out a lot, but would you/could you be doing more or is the workload about the same regardless?

Tom: Jeez I’m surprised I didn’t read “strife” and “knife” in that question.  I don’t have a wife or real life but the other guys do.  They seem to be stressed the fuck out all the time because they have to get permission to practice and can only ever do it once  a week for no more than 45 minutes.  So there is not a lot of screwing around at practice because we have limited time and have to get right to work.  We can only play one show a month and it has to be within an hour of Boston because all those guys have to do chores and wait outside Bed Bath and Beyond on most weekends.  But that’s what happens when you grow; it happens in Boston and it happens across the world in the Mekalekahi tribe—I think it’s a universal rite of passage.  I do have to dedicate a lot of time to practicing writing really small and in margins so I’m ready when IT happens.  I try not to let my research interfere with the band so I feel we’ve achieved a good balance.

Saturday Night: You guys kind of “came up” through the oi!/streetpunk scenes, and are often times singularly associated with that scene still. Does this bother you? Do you feel it limits you guys as far as who will and won’t want to play with the band?  Ever feel that pigeon-holing?

Tom: Pigeon holing sounds like a weird fetish.  I personally find great relief in being boxed in.  It prevents us from having to think too much.  I guess I just consider us a punk band at the end of the day.  I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but I don’t actually have any musical ability so I just do the best I can.  The other guys can actually play so it’s a good symbiotic relationship; I limit them and they broaden my horizons all the time making sure to still sound cliché and remain within the approved format.  I’ve never been aware of other bands not wanting to play with us because of the type of music we play though; maybe because we are kind of douche bags and keep to ourselves, but not because of the music.  Honestly, most of the bands we play with play the music I like to hear.  I don’t particularly want to hear or play with bands I don’t dig the music so I guess it works out for everyone; ying yang style.

Saturday Night: Tommy and the Terrors have an instantly recognizable sound – it’s unique to your band, from the vocals to the guitar sounds. Cay you talk about how you develop your songs, and how they go from ideas to finished product. Does Tom write all the lyrics? Are songs written individually, or collectively?

Tom: We are big believers in no song shall be played before it’s time.  I like to reflect on exactly what I want the song to be in terms of lyrical content and style, sometimes for as long as a couple of years.  You simply cannot manufacture inspiration; it just doesn’t work.    We take them as far as we can then before we record we harness the pressure of a recording deadline and do a word association exercise, dialogue a bit and, blamo, we have another masterpiece.

Saturday Night: Speaking of playing within certain scenes, you guys have played with some of the top bands out there – Cock Sparrer, Super Yob, East End Bad’os, InDex, on and on. What are some of your most memorable shows? What current out-of-town/out-of-country bands would you like to play with and who would you like to get out to Boston? Where are you own favorite places in the country to play/visit? What cities do you guys enjoy hitting up? Any plans for any mini-tours anytime soon?
Tom: One of the best things about playing in a band besides band discounts and getting into the show for free is being able to play with great band like the ones you’ve listed.  There have been a lot of fun shows along the way.  We played out in Sacto at death or glory part deux with the rebels de la whiskey and a bunch of other cool bands; that was like the sickest BBQ.  The shows where the whole club clears out while we play because two dudes want to fuck but fight instead are pretty fun too because we can just be ourselves as nobody is in the club.  Out of town shows are fun in general because you haven’t over saturated the market so people are into it and you can recycle jokes and speeches because they probably haven’t heard it before.  California was pretty awesome in general in my opinion and VA/MD/DC was cool too. I’d like to play in Germany or England or Japan I reckon; now that the world approves of our president we can leave the USA which is what we’ve been waiting for.

Saturday Night: What’s your relationship with labels, as you have released various things on various labels? How is working with TKO?

Tom: We’ve had a falling out with TKO as they leaked our album on the internet and refuse to pay us royalties.  I don’t know, it kind of bums me out because Mark and the gang over there were always pretty cool but once we disagreed on if Plymouth, MA or Jamestown, VA was really where the first American colony was established (he says it was in VA—communist talk) he stopped returning our calls and ripping us in the press.  I guess if the price is right we’d consider doing something with TKO again because money heals all wounds.  Right now though Lance is pretty pissed about the whole thing and that dude knows how to hold a fucking grudge.

The Terrors Relax After a Show
The Terrors Relax After a Show

Saturday Night: Of your recorded output, what do you feel represents the band the best? Favorite songs? Favorite songs to play live?

Tom: All our songs are like our children; some ugly, some mildly retarded, but you still love them or at least tell everyone that you do and then behind their back plot to abandon or cleanse them so that’s a pretty tough question to answer. Unleash the Fury is our most recent and we need to sell those so I think that would be the best record.  We have been writing some new tunes and of course those are the most fun to play because they are new to us.  That being said, out of those songs I’d vote for “new song # 4” as my favorite.  The song choice for a live show isn’t as important as people having fun while we are playing it, however, if a song is called out by the audience during a show we will not play it and if it’s on the list we’ll take it off; we are not a band of the people—we are not communists.

Saturday Night: What are your future plans for the band? You have been silent for awhile as far as releases are concerned. What is coming down the pipe as far as that?

Tom: You embed a lot of veiled erotic references in your questions; “coming down the pipe”, “pigeon holed”, “relationship”. We’ve demo’ed some songs for an upcoming record so we’re working on those songs right now.  I’m thinking about writing some lyrics.  I have no idea the time frame on that but someone else might.  We are probably going to have a “band clean up the practice space” soon too.  We try not to rush anything at the request of Brian.  He is really into glacier worship, something about God living inside the ice, so he insists we employee with “Glaconic Principles” of slowing moving forward.  I wish we could put out a record every year but I also don’t want to say that Glacierism is BS because I’m not willing to take the chance of eternal damnation.  Anders however worships fire.  You can imagine what our practices are like; lots of steam.  It helps that we practice nude.

Tom: Who is making the rounds on your individual play lists these days? Are there modern bands worth mentioning?

Saturday Night: I’ve been listing to a lot of lute music, the sound track to Lord of the Rings and Rhapsody as I think it’s a good background to brewing.  I like to take a lot of baths too so I also listen to traditional Japanese reiki music as it relaxes me.  Other than that I’ll take the bait and plug some of my friends bands; check out Hammer and the Nails and Blood Stained Brindle.

Saturday Night: Any other comments, anything you want to add, points you want to make?

Tom: Check out http://www.infowars.com.  I’ll leave you with a quote I’ve based my life on from Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China:  “Just remember what ol’ Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big ol’ storm right square in the eye and he says, “Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it.”

Thanks for taking an interest in the band Sean. I hope this has cleared up some of the rumors out there.

You are either with us or you are with the terrorists. Thanks.

One Response to “Boston Babies: Tommy and the Terrors Interview”

  1. I say that you are all too good and the way is out and the man in myself is all too Sharpie and of the 20 pound Pom and not a S.H.A.R.P. and the man is all too good and the way is all about the new kids and I am a 40 yr. old man of Skin of old and the man is all too good with or without you and the man is all on Facebook and at Miguel Vasquez of the Mod group and true and the man is all too good for you at that but we are all into the way of the real people of Mod! Please and if S.H.A.R.P.’s are not Mod of origin then we are all to get them to fight the F.S.U. and true and the Mods should know that S.H.A.R.P.’s are all from Mod people and the Skins will now be out of Mod ranks and that is final and as for Mod people they will come from the sports arenas in my Book! Bye!

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