Joe Cardamone (Icarus Line) – The Collapse Board Interview
You grew up in East Los Angeles. What kind of culture and music were you surrounded by there?
Where I came from it was kind of a mixed bag. It was before the internet so everyone wasn’t an expert on everything. You just grabbed on to loose pieces of information as you could get them, especially if you didn’t have an older brother of something to hand records down to you. You had to pick a needle out of a haystack at the record store. You’d go to the record store and maybe a friend had told you about something or the record cover looked cool or whatever. It was a pride of discovery era still which is pretty much gone these days. You would discover something and that would make it really important to you.
Where I lived it was weird because I lived in East L.A. but the town I lived in, Highland Park, bordered on South Pasadena which is mostly a white, rich community. It looked like 1957 there. They had a soda fountain and all kinds of Americana — it looked like Back To The Future. I went to high school in South Pasadena with the rich kids. We lied about my address so I could go to a better high school. Where I lived was more like, pretty much, Hispanic kids. The Hispanic kids were either into gangsta rap or thrash metal or really fast heavy punk. I went to a lot of backyard shows because back then it was all backyard shows. You’d find someone’s house with a big backyard, set up bands and just go off! Since the neighbourhood was already shady the cops would let it go for a while and you’d see how many bands you could get to play before the cops showed up. Usually five or six bands could play because they were all punk, they were all fast and I think maybe the presence of the impending cops might have had something to do with why everyone played music so fast and why the songs were so short. It’s like you have to get up there, go nuts and then get off so someone else can play too.
I know you were inspired to create your art by Guns N’ Roses, Born Against and Captain Beefheart. What it was about those particular artists that inspired you?
Guns N’ Roses for me came at an age where everything I had heard previous to that — because I was so young when I got into that group — was like DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince ‘kid rap’ and Michael Jackson, really mainstream shit because I was a kid and I didn’t know. I didn’t have an older brother who told me what was out there. Guns N’ Roses got played on the local rock n roll radio station and I was starting to get into rock n roll trying to figure it out. I maybe had a Def Leppard tape and I was probably 12 when all that stuff started happening. Guns N’ Roses got big in L.A. before anywhere else. I heard ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ on the radio and I wasn’t really sure it was them because I don’t think the DJ even said but I was like that has to be Guns N’ Roses because they look as cool as that sounds. I got a gift certificate for Christmas to go get a tape and I went down and brought a Guns N’ Roses tape and that pretty much ended my academic career right then and there. I listened to the tape a million times and my mom actually threw it away four or five times. I’d go back to the record store and buy another tape and bring it home.
Born Against, I got into them in high school. I’d been listening to punk rock for years at that point but their message and sound really … they really capped it for me as far as hardcore punk went. After I heard that band and got into that band I didn’t really listen to that kind of music anymore after that. They were the last band that I liked like that. They were so good it was kind of just like well that’s that.
Beefheart came a little bit later than that. That put all of my previous loves into one thing and let me know that rock’n’roll could be art but it didn’t have to be done by highbrow art students — it could be done by losers from the desert. You could make something that was rock’n’roll and art and you could push the boundaries.
How’d you come to performance? Tell me about the first gig you played.
I started performing really young, before I could even play an instrument. I didn’t even care if I could play. I convinced my friends who didn’t play to get instruments and play these really ridiculous songs like ‘Wild Thing’. It was whatever we could make come off of our instrument, we would play it together. I remember one of the first performances we did was in our then bass player’s parent’s garage. We invited all the kids from our school, set up all these lights and learnt 10 songs. The drummer got nervous right before we played and didn’t show up. We were sitting there and had set up all this stuff, we were really excited to play for all our friends and they were going to be there any minute. I remembered that there was this high school kid that lived across the street that played drums because I had heard him. I didn’t even know him. I went and knocked on his door. I told said, “Look all of our friends are turning up and our drummers not coming, will you play the show with us?” He said, “Yeah man, what songs are you playing?” We didn’t even practice, we just went through all the songs and it was awesome!
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I believe in thoughtful in-depth interviews! My blog Conversations with Bianca is my love letter to the universe. I am the 2011 Australian Zine Maker of the Year. My Conversations With Punx Project won an award for Best Zine Produced in Australia (as a series). Marky Ramone once told me “Your heart is in the right place.”