If you’re unfamiliar with the gnarly, rough-and-tumble hardcore of ’80s New Jersey fire starters Adrenalin O.D., YouTube will grant you the guidance you desperately need. Type the band’s moniker into the search bar and the first result offers you a video for “Bugs,” a track from 1986 LP Humungousfungusamongus, uploaded by “bohabb.” The fan’s creation is spectacular: Hordes of disgusting aliens are decimated by trigger-happy military men in a montage cribbed from Starship Troopers while A.O.D’s rowdy guitars and calls of “Bugs! Bugs!” populate/pollute the speakers. It’s an absurd yet entirely appropriate tribute–the kind of video that you picture the group wishing they made themselves.
Though they disbanded in the late ’90s, things are hardly dead in the Adrenalin O.D. camp: last summer, Chunksaah reissued 1984 debut The Wacky Hi-Jinks of… (the prime document of their ferocity), they’re not averse to the occasional reunion gig, and there’s even a documentary in the works. In a three-way e-mail fracas, Dave Scott (drums), Jack Steeples (bass), and Bruce George Wingate (guitar) discuss their days of havoc.
Reyan: Adrenalin O.D. originated from the end of the East Paterson Boys Choir. How did that first project end? What was the impetus to start A.O.D.?
Jack: The EPBC was mainly a punk cover band. We started doing originals but the band was going nowhere. The singer, Bruce, decided to go to Texas to live with his brother so we bagged it. I did not start Adrenalin O.D., I was asked to play bass when they couldn’t find a good bass player. I said no and was never in the band.
Bruce: It’s all quite hazy as we were very young and drunk. We did manage to get our first gig at CBGB under our belt though. After graduating high school I moved to Texas and by the time I came back A.O.D. had formed. When Jim Foster left the band, I was back in.
Dave: I met the EPBC when I was still in junior high school. I talked my way into being their 15 year-old manager. The band consisted of Bruce, Paul [Richard, guitarist/vocalist], and Jack who all would go on to A.O.D. and Tommy Kaprowski who went on to Mourning Noise (with Steve Zing later of Samhain) and Bedlam. The band was still very much caught up in the first wave of punk. They covered Dead Boys and New York Dolls. They also had some great originals like “American Progress” and “Gutter Fun” (both songs A.O.D. would occasionally play live). The EPBC ended up losing their drummer and I tried to teach myself how to play. I did one rehearsal with the band and they broke up. Bruce moved to Waco, Texas for a while. At the time Paul and I were really getting into the emerging U.S. hardcore scene. We would go to Max’s Kansas City on the weekend and see bands like The Stimulators, Heart Attack, and the Bad Brains. We started listening to the faster DC punk on Dischord and decided to start a really fast hardcore band. The bands in New York at the time weren’t nearly as fast as we wanted to be, and eventually became. I learned one drumbeat and practiced playing it as fast as I could. Many bottles of Absorbine Jr later and I was ready to play.
Reyan: Did you guys start out with any key influences in mind?
Bruce: I don’t think we were emulating anyone in particular. The only thing we really did by design later on was trying to play as fast as possible.
Dave: We just drew on what we listened to at the time and eventually it merged the speed of the Bad Brains and the humor of The Dickies and The Dictators.
Jack: I had no influences. Paul and Dave were heavily influenced by the growing homosexual drag scene in New York City. They wanted to do show tunes and ass rape the male members of the audience. I said no and was never in the band.
Reyan: What was the reaction from the bands in your scene at the time to the tongue-in-cheek nature of your music?
Jack: All bands of our scene at the time had a severe allergic reaction. They would usually break out in hives and vomit multi-colored bile.
Dave: We would get more shit for being from suburban New Jersey than we would for being funny. The original New York hardcore scene had a good, self-deprecating sense of humor. Later on it wasn’t hip to be anything less than angry and serious.
Bruce: Most of the smart people realized we were just carrying the same wise-assed torch as bands like The Dictators or The Dickies, but there were always a few furrowed brow types who didn’t get it. Infamously, one particular NYC hardcore singer was quoted as saying he wanted to “bury us up to our necks and run us over with a lawn mower.” We were quite pleased with that one!
Reyan: What were your tours like and who did you play shows with?
Dave: When we started, we would only play weekend shows because I was still in high school. Living in Jersey made it really easy to get to many of the major cities in the East Coast and Midwest. By 1984, we started touring North America on a regular basis. Our longest tour was over three months long. The first tour we did was in Paul’s [Richard, guitarist] car. We borrowed equipment from the opening bands. Very DIY. We had a big reputation on the road as a good time party band. We got along with everybody. We also got to play with virtually every good hardcore punk band. Some of the most crazy shows were the real big ones with Dead Kennedys, the Ramones, or Circle Jerks. They always drew weirdoes out of the woodwork and it always had a circus atmosphere. Some of my personal favorite bands that we have played with back in the day were Channel 3, The Misfits, SNFU, Battalion of Saints, Fishbone, BGK, Rhythm Pigs, Adolescents, COC, D.R.I., White Flag, The Dickies, Vandals, TSOL, Poison Idea, and Social Distortion.
Jack: Our tours were like a catheter that was so long it took three months to remove.
Bruce: The first official tour we did was in ’83 in Paul’s Ford Granada which took us all the way to the West Coast, but we always taking road trips as it was almost an inherent function of the hardcore scene. It’s all a big blur from twenty-something years later. The coolest part about it was making a lot of new friends and getting to play with bands we were big fans of. Some things stand out though like playing in a field in Iowa while tripping on acid, having [Dead Kennedys lead singer Jello] Biafra take us out for dinner and stiffing us for the check, and staying at someone’s house in Wisconsin with The Dicks and DOA while grubbing smokes from Doc Dart of the Crucifucks.
Reyan: Where did the concept of covering TV themes and things like “Hava Nagila” come from? Was there anything you were thinking about covering that never panned out?
Dave: [The covers came from] more Dickies influence. “Hava Nagila” started by the band mocking my Jewish roots. Later on, we would cash in and get to play it at the birthday party of the local rabbi’s son (who was a huge A.O.D. fan). As far as covers that never panned out [go]… “Bitchin’ Camaro” by the Dead Milkmen.
Jack: We were trying to write songs while the TV was on. We agreed that writing our own songs was too hard and stupid so we just did the songs that were on the TV at the time. It’s kind of like what Hollywood is doing with movies now.The cover that never panned out was “Old McDonald.” We couldn’t agree on the farm animals to use and in what order they should be on the farm so we bagged it.
Bruce: We definitely copped that from a lot of the earlier punk bands who did the same; we just beat the first wave of hardcore by ripping it off first. I’ll tell you what other ones we thought of covering only if you can guarantee no one from Anthrax will read this.
Reyan: What led to the dissolution of A.O.D.?
Dave: The band’s jealousy of my boyish looks, Jack’s steroid addiction, Paul’s job with the French foreign legion, and Bruce’s two week marriage to Molly Ringwald.
Jack: I wasn’t in the band [at the time] but I’m sure it had something to do with smells.
Bruce: It was long overdue. The early ‘90s were a shameful period in our nation’s punk rock history.
Reyan: How did the reunion shows originate?
Dave: The reunion shows came about because since I moved to Florida fifteen years ago, it’s the only way to visit all my friends at once. It’s very convenient. I set them all up and so far every one has been great. Our last show was opening for the Dead Boys with Flipper and Peter and the Test Tube Babies at CBGB’s. There is nothing more surreal than flying back home and playing CBGB’s in a band you haven’t been in for seventeen years (with no rehearsal) and all your old friends are there except now they really are “old” friends. We were friggin’ great though. We are so much better now than when we were young; just balder and fatter.
Jack: Well, I think it was sometime in ‘96 when I met Dave outside of a Burger King. He was begging for change, and he told me that Paul got paroled and wants to do an A.O.D. reunion show. He said that Paul is attending mandatory counseling and is on medication now. I said I would have to think about it. I thought about it and decided that I didn’t care how much counseling or medication that maniac Paul is receiving. It just wasn’t safe, so I said no and never took part in any of the reunions.
Bruce: We average one or two reunion gigs every five years or so. It’s like the high school reunion we never attended. It’s fun to get back together and argue about money!
Tell me about the A.O.D. documentary. How far along is the project?
Bruce: That came about when Don Argott (who made the documentary RockSchool) contacted us on MySpace. He’s an old fart hardcore punker and a fan of the band, and approached us with the concept. Barring the discovery of any wealthy financiers who are huge A.O.D. fans, he’ll continue to work on it between paying gigs.
Jack: The documentary is coming along nicely. We are in the middle of a world tour and the documentary will complete at the end of the tour. It will probably be available to the public sometime in 2033.
Dave: The movie will be finished in 2040. I’ll be dead but they’re going to lower a DVD player into my grave. It’s a slow process but it’s a labor of love. The cool thing about the film was how much video ended up surfacing after we put out the call. There are so many shows that I just don’t remember playing. It’s like watching your clone.
Do you feel there are any punk or hardcore bands out there currently carrying on the spirit of A.O.D.? Have you found any spiritual successors or did you guys crack a niche all your own?
Jack: Punk? Hardcore? Spiritual? What the hell are you talking about?
Dave: Actually, yes, there is one—that’s NOFX. They’re old friends of ours. Their second show ever was opening up for us in L.A. [NOFX vocalist/bassist Fat] Mike and [guitarist Eric] Melvin took me out for dinner when they were in Orlando and I really love them. If A.O.D. had survived we would be very close to what they evolved into. They have the right attitude. They embody the spirit of A.O.D.: don’t take anything too serious and just have fun. If it isn’t fun for you, then why bother?
Bruce: We weren’t doing anything special. Right now there are probably some kids in a basement making the same lapses in good taste as we did. If just one drunken kid tunes his guitar at full volume, then it was all worth it.