xXx Fanzine issue #17 has been fully digitized! Read the full “New York’s Hardest” issue in it’s original form HERE. Below are some words from author Mike Gitter:
”With its eye-grabbing Bruce Rhodes shots of Agnostic Front and the Cro-Mags adorning the cover, xXx# 16 was nothing short of a turning point in the then-snowballing saga of the Boston area zine. Not only was it one of the most successful issues sales-wise in the zine’s 20 issue run; moving nearly 2500 copies through mail-order; legendary and long-gone distribution houses like San Francisco’s Rough Trade and stores like California’s Zed Records and New York’s See-Hear, it remains a fan-favorite 33 years later!
Most in-the-know types are quick to admit that the still-enduring sound that is synonymous with 90% of hardcore itself was the product of a scene that didn’t fully explode until the mid and late 80’s: New York Hardcore. New York was a late-bloomer. A scene that didn’t fully stage its takeover until Boston’s first wave had petered out, DC was having its Revolution Summer and the Midwest was getting into “artier” territory with the rise of bands like the Laughing Hyenas and The Necros’ move into dirty Detroit Boogie. In 1986, things were changing: Black Flag was on the verge of packing it in only to see Rollins coming storming back with The Rollins Band a year later and Greg Ginn exploring decidedly eclectic turf with his SST Records empire. Danzig was deep into Samhain, Kevin Seconds was developing a Bono thing. You know most of the rest…
In the Big Apple the stage was set. By 1986, NYHC was exploding with a new vigor. While the seeds of “Youth Crew” were sprouting up in nearby Connecticut with Ray Cappo & Co. repurposing Urban Waste and SSD riffs in Youth of Today, vets like Agnostic Front, Murphy’s Law and relative newcomers like the Crumbsuckers were taking major steps forward. Be it crossover thrash, no-wave noise, pig-fuckery, old time hardcore; the concrete pot was about to boil over. New York had the bands, the labels and five boroughs (plus Long Island) of kids knowing that (to paraphrase Antidote) something was about to change.
Onto our cover stars. While their sophomore slab certainly sounds like a band in transition – and in many ways was largely the product of a studio band that never fully congealed live – Agnostic Front’s Cause For Alarm upped the ante for NYHC’s flagship band. They had already made a helluva statement in 1984 with Victim in Pain. Aside from Kraut’s Product of Society, VIP was the first great New York Hardcore album. By the time I was thinking of putting them on the cover, Cause For Alarm had already garnered its share of controversy with its hallmark song, “Public Assistance”. Penned by none other than Carnivore’s Peter Steele, “Public Assistance” was a decidedly blue collar screed decrying the welfare state. Despite ruffling feathers at Maximum Rock N Roll (who gave AF the sort of notoriety and free publicity you can’t buy) and polarizing a few fans, Cause For Alarm was the record that cemented Roger and Vinnie’s spot as scene fixtures for decades to come.
With Age of Quarrel (which it can be argued lacked the intensity of the band’s demo recordings), the Cro-Mags not merely put an exclamation point on hardcore’s first generation, but stepped up an already Trump Tower high standard in terms of fusing the musicality and intensity of the Bad Brains, the songwriting and swagger of Motorhead and the sheer over-the-top-ness of early Venom. AOQ was a quantum leap that still sounds as essential today as it did when rap standard-bearers, Profile issued it on their newly formed Rock Hotel label. Yes, the same Rock Hotel label spearheaded by Cro-Mags manager and local promoter, Chris Williamson.
So, in the dead heat of the New York Summer, Bruce Rhodes and I drove down to the city in Bruce’s car to witness the legendary five-piece Cro-Mags lineup simply devastate the Ritz and upstage headliners, GBH. The photos that came out of a photo session that afternoon and the live shots from that evening capture the energy, intensity and sheer vibe of five explosive personalities pushing themselves into the red-zone. Call it the storm before the real storm or the squall before the quarrel. It’s no surprise that this many “Alphas” couldn’t remain in the same band together. It was just that intense.
The other interviews and pictures that made up #16 are both diverse and show the sea-change that was going on in the underground at that time. Tesco Vee and his Meat-Crew (boasting one ex-Minor Threat-er, Lyle Preslar and Negative Approach bassist Graham McCulloch) came swinging through town pimping their Rock N Roll Juggernaut elpee at TT The Bears. JJ Gonson’s pics of that afternoon totally convey the low-budget spectacle of The Meatmen as they continued their quest to basically become a cartoon version of Judas Priest (or was it the other way around?). xXx regulars, Corrosion of Conformity checked in for that issue during their underrated Simon Bob Sinister-fronted Technocracy era after a sweaty afternoon at The Rat -- made even more blistering by the Beantown debut of Santa Cruz Black Flag/SSD worshippers, Bl’ast! on the same bill. Even now, these binary volume dealers: COC and Bl’ast!, are still active and embraced as a huge influence. Just ask Dave Grohl, Josh Homme or the Fu Manchu dudes
Also in the issue, Greg Turner of The Angry Samoans articulated what was becoming many veteran bands’ frustration with hardcore’s homogeneity and how it jibed with The Samoans’ unstoppable irreverence. While not in the xXx book, rounding out #16 was an interview with a very far from superstardom Soul Asylum who were more notable at the time for being cross-town friends and rivals with Minneapolis legends like Husker Du or The Replacements than hit songs and dalliances with Hollywood starlets. Bruce Rhodes pics of Dave Pirner & Co. from TT the Bears are as furious as any post-hardcore-pre-grunge ensemble out there. Oh, if we only had 50 more pages!
Still working from my Boston University dorm room, xXx #16 was also a standout in terms of the high quality of photos and a very clean layout. Both of which were complemented by a very good print job at Larkin Printing, a South Shore printing house who mostly cranked out fashion magazines: our guy there – who also printed Al Quint’s Suburban Voice zine - literally running the presses for beer money!
Flipping through the reviews: between 86 era classics like Dag Nasty’s Can I Say, Crippled Youth’s Join the Fight and even Discharge’s ill-advised Led Zep romp, Grave New World as well as a metal reviews section that included the likes of Cryptic Slaughter, Onslaught and Voivod, it’s clear just how explosive a year 1986 really was. The ads in the issue also tell the story: labels like Homestead, Taang!, Touch & Go or Toxic Shock advertising new releases from Slapshot, Raw Power, The Butthole Surfers and a recently gone-solo Nick Cave.
The next generation was in full swing. Hardcore’s second generation had come of age.”