108 Feature for Impose Magazine
by: Stephen Kane
In recent years, a plethora of bands from hardcore’s past have gotten back together. Some appearing to “cash in” on the current popularity of hardcore, others for charity and in the case of 108, the answer is unknown, even to the band. However, after speaking with guitarist Vic Dicara, it seems the overwhelming reason for their reunion is the desire to play and connect with listeners again.
“We don’t really know what put the spark into us (to reunite). Sometimes things click for no apparent reason, maybe it’s destiny or it’s the stars or maybe it’s just chance,” said Dicara. Roughly a decade after their last show, seminal New York hardcore band 108 met up again to play Hellfest 2005 in Trenton, New Jersey. The festival was plagued with legal problems and cancelled before doors even opened, but the seed of rebirth had been planted and the demand for another 108 show was in the air. Last minute preparations were made and the band played two sold out shows in Philadelphia, one being a duel reunion with old friends and New Jersey hardcore/punk icons, Lifetime. The shows lit a fire beneath the band to forge ahead and resurrect the corpse of 108 completely. “Both shows were so cool for us as people that we were like, “this is dumb, we can’t stop doing this.” So, we decided to start writing new music because we didn’t just want to be opening up a coffin and exhuming bodies.”
The initial result of their return was a ten-song demo featuring seven new tracks, a 1995 demo of “Blood’ from the Threefold Misery sessions, a Black Flag cover of “The Bars” and a cover of Bad Brains “Coptic Times.” With these songs in tow, the foundation was laid for what would become the fourth full length in their 15-year history. Some time past, the band played some shows and toured Europe and in February 2007 they entered Kurt Ballou’s God City studio to record a new LP entitled A New Beat from a Dead Heart for their new label, Deathwish Inc. Ballou was a natural fit to spearhead the project. His background in noisy hardcore and engineering prowess was exactly what the band was looking for. “We’re not really a fan of the newer production of hardcore which is really thick and super moshy and heavy. We wanted it to sound fucked up and cracked and broken and weird with a lot of strange noises going on.” Ballou captured the spirit of the band and created the most powerful sounding 108 record to date. “He’s a great engineer and a great co-producer,” said Dicara. “We really killed the guy and made him bend over backwards and jump through hoops and he was more than gracious about doing it every time.”
A New Beat from a Dead Heart is an emotionally turbulent 13-song journey of spirituality, hope and redemption. Just as the band wanted, it sounds dark and fragile, broken and unstable, always feeling like the next song might be the last before the emotional weight is too much to bear. Songs like “Our Kind,” “American Dream” are a bold commentary on the United States as it relates to consumerism and the pursuit of happiness through unfulfilling means. Other tracks such as “Martyr Complex,” “The Sad Truth” and “Guilt” are a direct reflection of the bands personal experiences and what time has done to them. Of course the concept of faith and spirituality are always present, but Dicara says none of the songs are specifically about religion or Hare Krishna. “108 was never a band about religion. We never tried to get people to be a particular religion. Even 10 years ago people didn’t believe us when we said that.” At this point in time Dicara and vocalist Rob Fish no longer subscribe to the organized Krishna doctrine they used to, but the songs and the individuals creating them are as in tune with their own spirituality as ever. “I think every song on the record is spiritual, to me every step that I take is spiritual and I don’t see the point in doing anything in my life that’s not spiritual.”
Things have changed for the members of 108 since their first time around. Now in their mid 30’s, families and responsibilities have taken precedence over a life on the road, but touring is still a priority said Dicara. “The record comes out June 27h and the very next day we have three shows in America to celebrate. The day after those we leave for Europe and we’re doing three weeks there, then we get back and play the Sound & Fury Fest in California. After that we’re doing some dates with Converge.” As far as US touring is concerned the band will organize some 4-day weekend trips periodically, but nothing that will keep them away from home for too long.
“Some people think teenagers are more appropriate for punk rock, but it seems that my level of frustration and confusion about life has only gotten more serious as time goes on,” Dicara said. It’s that toggle of emotion that fuels 108 to create and reinvent their craft, channeling past regrets, triumphs and tragedies into the band they’ve become. And while the sewing circles of hardcore are on the sidelines debating whether or not the bands return is genuine and the members are still Krishna or straight edge, Vic and 108 will be doing what they love: sharing music and experiences with anyone willing to listen.