FROM THE GOLDEN AGE OF POWERVIOLENCE - ANDREW ORLANDO OF BLACK ARMY JACKET, MONKEYBITE AND RESERVOIR RECORDS

“There are people in the scene who are workers and there are people that are takers. We need the takers because they buy the things that the workers make.” 

Andrew Orlando, founder of Reservoir Records, Monkeybite fanzine and seminal grind / power violence band, Black Army Jacket, can definitely be defined as a worker. Starting a label during the 1990’s was a daunting task, but people gladly accepted the challenge. Reservoir Records stands alongside Chainsaw Safety Records, Gern Blandsten and Wardance as one of those labels that released adventurous music and helped develop alternatives to generally accepted music that was considered hardcore and punk.

Andrew Orlando: I grew up in Queens, NY; I was a hardcore kid going to shows in the late 80’s, early 90’s. I got involved with people that were on the fringe of the New York Hardcore Scene that were doing something different. Rorschach had just broken up and Reconstruction Records was still around. Reconstruction was a volunteer-run record store in New York City, the main people were Freddy Alva from Wardance Records, Charles Maggio from Gern Blandsten Records / Rorschach, and Sam McPheeters from Born Against. Sam was one of the initial people who put it together. I worked there on the tail end of it and got heavily influenced by Charles Maggio, his label and work ethic. Will Tarrant had been putting records out on Chainsaw Safety and Freddie Alva had Wardance Records. I was fascinated by what they did; they put their hard-earned money into putting out vinyl and it really turned me on.

In 1993, I went headlong into it. Will Tarrant hooked me up with Doc Hopper from Boston and I put out the vinyl of their first album. I put my cash into it; I didn’t know what I was doing, but that’s how you learn, by doing. With Charles, Will and Freddie, I had a great team at my disposal. Back then there was no internet, not really; it wasn’t a resource like it is today, where you could look up how to put out a record. It was all just pages of text; no E-commerce. You learned by your friend, by being there. I was fortunate enough to be in that scene and around those people and I really learned the right way how to do it.

I was a metalhead, at heart, listening to Slayer, Anthrax and Metallica, Iron Maiden, Sabbath hanging out in the cemetery with my friends, in Queens. I’m from Middle Village, Queens surrounded by cemeteries. I got deeper into Celtic Frost. After a while, I found that metal wasn’t really doing it for me anymore and I got into hardcore and crossover, bands like DRI and C.O.C, it really blew me away. I got into Minor Threat and I thought about how I could do this kind of music. I found some kids in my neighborhood who knew about the CBGB’s hardcore matinees, so we jumped on the train and went to the worst neighborhood in the world. We had to see the bands. That was late ’87; I saw it all, it was amazing, unbelievable.

Towards 89-90, it went south: I saw a guy get hit in the face with a wrench; I saw punks get beat up, I saw a guy with long hair get beat up. I saw people that I knew get intimidated, just crazy stuff. People that were around that scene were getting single-out, people that were part of it. I was getting into Discharge and Napalm Death anyway, more extreme stuff and getting away from NYHC.

I didn’t really go to many ABC NO RIO Shows because I was in school at the time and I worked on Saturdays when all of their shows happened. I missed a lot of shows but I went to the shows I could. The only time I saw Rorschach back then was the last 5 minutes of their set at ABC NO RIO. I didn’t see a full set by them until they reunited. I wasn’t a big part of the ABC NO RIO scene like everybody else was.

Intimidation was coming from inside the scene. A lot was directed towards punks and people that didn’t fit into the New York Hardcore mold. My idea of fun wasn’t fighting; my idea of fun was music: playing music, watching bands, that kind of thing. It was all I lived for. I needed more like-minded people and got into the Amphetamine Reptile bands, Death Metal, bands like Today is the Day, Brutal Truth and Kiss It Goodbye. I wanted to parlay that idea into the label. I put out stuff that I liked by people I really liked. I was selfish about it; I tried not to think about the mass audience, I tried to think about myself.

I asked myself: “Would I buy this record?” If I liked the label, I would buy every record on the label; if I liked the band I would by every record by the band or every subsequent band. I was a record nerd. That was the idea that I wanted to incorporate into the label.

Knowing Charles Maggio and Freddie Alva was a huge help; they already had the channels set up for distribution so knowing them was a huge help. The only reason to buy MRR was for the ads, most people will say that. MRR didn’t really cover the music that spoke to me, but the resources were good. I put an ad in every month because all of the main distros advertised in MRR. I got lucky; some of the bands I put out caught on in a lot of ways. Doc Hopper got really good reviews, so a lot of people wanted the vinyl version of their album.

The main distributors were Ebullition, Very, Choke, Subterranean, Mordam, and Lumberjack. Mordam was the biggest, they were by committee; they had to vote on who they distributed. At one point I was an exclusive with Lumberjack. I had a deal where I could still work with other distributors. I didn’t have a Production and Distribution Deal where they would pay for the manufacture and promote the records. I always paid for my own manufacturing and did my thing and tried to not be into the “business” end too much.

I loved comps: the Peace Comp, Where the Wild Things Are, NYHC. The Peace comp was on the other end of what I thought hardcore was. We were bombarded with SXE and NYHC, there weren’t many people into stuff like Die Kreuzen, or Septic Death. That influenced the formation of Black Army Jacket. There were no bands like Infest, Assuck, or Drop Dead but we had Brutal Truth and Disassociate, that was it. I thought that if I did a band like this, we would stand out. We were one of the only bands in New York that brought it to that level. Our demo had a strong Septic Death, Crossed Out, Infest, early-Napalm Death, Discharge influence. It was unique for the time it came out.

Some of my favorite releases are the Nothing’s Quiet Compiltaions, CR LP, Noothgrush / Corrupted split, Pig Destroyer, Hellbender and Hell No who were a groundbreaking record; some of the best musicians, had great artwork, and had an amazing live show.

Though I did the label by myself, I would have record stuffing parties, where guys like Will Tarrant, members of CR and Black Army Jacket would come by to help. I had thousands of records in my living room. The proudest moments were getting the finished product and feeling like it turned out better than I had hoped. I wanted to pay attention to quality so spent money on mastering; I went with Frankford Wayne mastering, who I thought were one of the best. I had a good relationship with them. I would also sometimes go into the studio with the band and be part of the process. Bands would ask for my input but I never wanted to interfere with their ideas. There was a lot of trust. I felt flattered that they would ask. I had some credibility with the younger bands. My favorite studio in the city was LoHo. Hell No, CR, Milhouse, the Black Army Jacket demo; all of those recordings were done at LoHo. It was a comfortable place, there was a good vibe. It felt like THOSE type of records were made there.

Most people were doing everything. It was common for the same guy to do a label, a ‘zine and play in a band. I put out 23 records and I like them all so when it was time to pack it in, I felt like I was accomplished all of my goals.

I started the fanzine Monkeybite in 1997or 1998 with Gary Niederhoff from Noothgrush; three issues, short-lived. We felt like nobody was writing about this type of music; they weren’t being covered in MRR, it was a big void in the scene. Gary and me got together and just did it. We also loved sci fi so there was some of that in there as well. We also didn’t want to come off too seriously, so we injected a dose of humor. We featured Man is the Bastard, Assuck, Devoid of Faith, Agents of Satan, Capitalist Casualties, Grief, Disassociate, Kiss It Goodbye, Hemlock…the list goes on. We also did some record label profiles; Slap a Ham was in there.

We ‘d focus around which bands we wanted to interview. We look at the records that came in for review. We’d usually both review the same record. Gary was the design master, so he handled the layout then we’d add in all the monkey and star wars stuff and relate it to hardcore, animal rights, that kind of stuff. Somehow Planet of the Apes and Star Wars all made sense. The layout was sparse; we were influenced by the ‘zine Hardware, it was all cut-and-paste. It had a gritty look.

We were working on a 4th issue but got burnt out on it. We were going to have a comp come out with that issue but getting these bands on a comp was impossible. It was going to be all the doom bands on one cd, but knowing the amount of weed those guys smoked it was impossible. We were able to sell every issue; that’s where the connections with distributors that I had came in handy. Even today, a lot of people come up to me and say that Monkeyite was their favorite ‘zine. That means a lot to me

In my opinion the 90’s were the golden age. There are the guys that did American Hardcore that say that hardcore died in 1986 but they don’t know anything. Everyone says that about their scene. People slag the 90’s for being too PC, but I had a lot of fun. I was able to produce some concrete things be it music, records or a ‘zine that reflected me having a good time and I hope everyone that was along for the ride had a good time as well.

Reservoir Records Catalog of Releases:
RSVR001: Doc Hopper “Aloha” LP
RSVR002: Holeshot “Pacemaker” 7”
RSVR003: Sticks & Stones/ Weston split 7”
RSVR004: Garden Variety/ Hell No split 7”
RSVR005: Silent Majority “This Island Earth” 7”
RSVR006: Holeshot “s/t” CD (split release with Glue Records)
RSVR007: Hell No “Adios Armageddon!” LP/CD (split release with X-Mist Records)
RSVR008: The Wives “Ask Me How” LP
RSVR009: Farkcus Affair “s/t” 7”
RSVR010: Silent Majority “Distant Second” 7”
RSVR011: Milhouse/ The Fifty Two X split 7”
RSVR012: C.R. “s/t” 7”
RSVR013: C.R. “The Floppy” 7” flexi
RSVR014: Hellbender “Footprint of the American Chicken” LP/CD
RSVR015: Spazz/Monster X split 7”
RSVR016: Various Artists- “Nothing’s Quiet On The Eastern Front” LP/CD
RSVR017: C.R. “The John Lisa” LP
RSVR018: Jesuit “s/t” 7”
RSVR019: Black Army Jacket/ Noothgrush spilt 7”
RSVR020: Noothgrush/ Corrupted split LP/CD
RSVR021: Jesuit “s/t” CD EP
RSVR022: Hellbender “Con Limon” LP/CD
RSVR022.2: Black Army Jacket “222” LP/CD (split release with Chainsaw Safety Records)
RSVR023: Pig Destroyer “Explosions in Ward 6” CD

TRANSMISSIONmichael hill