Friday, February 27, 2015

Altercation: Brooklyn's Metal/HC Skinheads

 The following is my contribution to an article about '87 NYHC band Altercation, written by Tony Rettman. Check out the full piece here:

      It was 1987 & I was heading down 6th St after school, doing my weekly visit to Some Records in the LES. As I approached the store's basement entrance; I noticed a couple of skinheads using spray paint to stencil ALTERCATION along the stairwell. I asked the shorter of the 2, who I later learnt was a Brooklyn Skin named Johnny Rie, what was up. He responded "Yo, these are my boys & they're playing the Pyramid on Saturday, you best be there!" 
      The show he mentioned also featured Breakdown & Side By Side, so there was no way I'd miss that anyway. Those Pyramid matinees are some of the best HC shows I've ever attended: All-ages, Raybeez/Ray Cappo working the door, hanging out on Ave A or Tompkins Park in between bands. The two words that come to mind upon hearing/seeing Altercation for the first time that day are Tough & Real. Here you had these streetwise borough kids, roughly my age, getting up on stage with flying V's & shaved heads. Mixing Metal/HC plus a Brooklyn attitude into a ferocious sound that slayed everything in it's path.            
      Their demo came out shortly after & that was amazing as well. I made sure I went to see them whenever they played next, another scorcher being the Warzone/Youth Of Today record release show @CBGB's. Unfortunately they only played 4 shows before breaking up that year. It seems that Raybeez was also paying close attention when they played, as 3/5ths of Altercation were in Warzone's revised line-up by 1988.
       I don't know if that or other reasons were responsible for the band's untimely demise. Like a lot of other bands from that era, I wish they'd stuck around to record a full length but it's cool to see that Andy Guida, one of my favorite NYHC drummers, went on to play on some classic recordings & continues to make vital music. I'm looking forward to seeing the lords of Brooklyn Skinhead Metal/HC play in their ancestral borough next month.

Postscript: I bumped into Jonny Rie on the boardwalk of Coney Island in the early 90's. He was blasting Public Enemy on his boombox. I approached him & said "Yo, Altercation!", he just gave me a weird sidelong glance, picked up his boombox & walked away. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Kill A Tiger In The Spring


             According to National weather forecasts, this coming winter in the Northeast & the rest of the country promises to be the coldest in a decade. Along with the frigid temperatures comes a host of immune deficiency-related issues, such as the common cold/flu/allergies plus that untraceable malaise that comes with physical aches & pains that affect one's energy leading to an overall feeling of depletion.
              There is an old saying that comes from China's rural past, reflecting the life or death struggle of a people tied to the cyclical nature of the seasons, it is as follows: "take a good tonic in the winter, kill a tiger in the spring". One of the main axioms of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is prevention or preparing the body to withstand & ward off disease. It is with this mantra in mind that Acupuncturists & practitioners of TCM prescribe Herbs/Acupuncture/Exercises to help boost the body's immune system and help prevent seasonal afflictions.
               A time proven remedy for the effects of the cold weather are Herbal Tonics, also known as Medicinal Wines/Elixirs which help fortify one's innate defenses, thereby curbing ailments during the long winter. I am going to discuss 2 tonics, one in liquid form the other as pills, that I normally prescribe to my patients around this time of the year (October/November) to get a head start on boosting the immune system. It should be noted that these tonics do not help at the onset of a cold, the whole point being to prevent illness in the first place. There are plenty of other remedies in the TCM canon that will help one at the early/acute phase of said affliction.

Chinese Herbs used in the Health Tonic.
Health Tonics & Medicinal Wines
              These tonics or formulas are called Gaofang in chinese. Gao means paste & fang is short for chufang or prescription. For lack of a better name, the first formula I will talk about is called a "Health Tonic". It is a tradition for Chinese Herbal pharmacies to have their own custom made version of it. The one I prescribe contains about 60-plus herbs that have been soaking in rice wine for up to 3 months & then strained into a 750 ml bottle. A daily shot of this is taken, usually in the mornings, for about a month & a half. This health tonic helps improve circulation, boost the immune system and increase overall energy. I don't prescribe it to women that are pregnant or in the midst of their monthly cycle. Infants, people with high blood pressure & patients with chronic ailments or chronic ailments in flare up should not drink this as well. A good herbalist can tailor the formula to specific concerns, such as making it free of any animal products or balancing these warming, blood moving herbs with more cooling ones, for a person's unique constitutional type.
              The tonic I use is made at a good friend's family herbal clinic in NYC's chinatown. it contains herbs such as Astragalus, Chinese & American Ginseng, Echinacea, Goji Berries, Cinammon Twigs, Red Dates plus 52 other herbs that act as Adaptogens or metabolic regulators that increase the ability of an organism to adapt to environmental factors and to avoid damage from such factors. I normally don't use commercially made tonics as something gets lost during the process of mass production. If you're interested in obtaining this, I would suggest you seek out a reputable chinese herbal pharmacy near you, either through online research or referrals & ask about their particular formula: how long has it been soaking in wine, exactly what herbs are in it & if a custom blend can be made if so desired.
              You can also order directly the health tonic I use from this pharmacy in NYC, they ship anywhere in the USA/World, contact them for details at:  or their website at:

  Jade Windscreen Pills

                If the prospect of taking a daily shot of medicinal wine doesn't sound too appealing or if you don't drink alcohol all together; an ideal alternative is the herbal formula known as Yu Ping Feng Sang or literally, Jade Windscreen Powder. The formula comes in pill, tincture or powder form. It's composed of 3 herbs, the main one being Astragalus (Huang Qi), widely used for strenghtening the immune system. It is a also one of the main Adaptogens in the herbal cornucopia, a natural substance that helps the body maintain its normal balance of health. The other two herbs, Atractylodes (Bai Zhu) and Ledebourellia Root (Fang Feng), help support the autoimmune system by building up its defenses. I prescribe the pill form, dosage being 3-5 pills 3 times a day, taken with warm water 30 minutes before a meal or one hour after a meal. I advise my patients to start taking this before the full onset of winter & one bottle of 100 to 120 pills should be done per month. The formula is safe for all ages & body types, it won't contradict any chronic ailments. The one exception being, as stated earlier, it is not suitable if you're in grips of a cold or flu. It works best as a preventive armor for those that tend to get sick often at this time of the year.
                The companies that make Jade Screen & that I use are: Kan Herbs, Plum Blossom, Golden Flower & Treasures Of The East. You can find them at the Vitamin Shoppe, GNC, your local health store/vitamin supplement outlet or readily available online from various distributors. A modern variation on this traditional formula is available through Health Concerns, which makes 2 wonderful products, one called Astra C, which is basically Jade Windscreen along with Vitamin C & Zinc Citrate added to it for its ability to prevent viral infections.The other is Astra 8: Jade Windscreen's 3 core herbs plus 5 more immunity building chinese herbs.
                 An alternative that I also recommend to my patients, is to focus on the preventive properties of  Astragalus by pairing it up with Echinacea. The first week of each of the winter months, one takes 8-10 pills of Astragalus by itself, 3 times a day. Along with Echinacea in tincture form, 8-12 drops, 3 times a day. You do this 1 week out of the month, and all throughout the winter season, mainstream vitamins/supplements purveyor sell Astragalus & Echinacea by itself.

                If you are more of the industrious, hands-on kind of person & wish to explore as well as make your own decoction. I highly recommend the following book, Chinese Medicinal Wines & Elixirs, written by long-time TCM practitioner Bob Flaws. As the book jacket states:
      "This book contains the ingredients, method of preparation and administration, indications, and contraindication of over 200 authentic Chinese medicinal wines. Translated from both premodern and contemporary Chinese sources, this book is the largest and most complete on this subject in English.
        These wines are easy to make, often requiring only one or two ingredients. Thus they do not require a huge, on-site pharmacy. Many of these ingredients are available at health food and Oriental food stores. Ninety-five percent of the rest of the ingredients listed in the formulas in this book can be obtained by mail from any of a number of suppliers whose addresses are given inside. That makes these formulas perfect for use as adjunctive remedies for acupuncturists. In addition, patient compliance in taking these wines is high."

As I write this, I am about to take my daily shot, so to your health!
Any issues or questions, drop me a line at:

Good instructional video on making Medicinal Wines:


These formulas should NOT be used at the early or acute stages of colds or the flu, they are for preventative purposes only. Please be sure to consult with a Licensed Acupuncturist or Chinese Herbalist to make sure there are no contraindications for pre-existing medical conditions.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

1970's Peruvian Psychedelic Rock Primer

El Polen 1971

My Primer for Psychedelic Rock bands from Peru just got updated & reposted on the NoEcho website, check it here:

Tarkus 1970

Thursday, September 4, 2014

1st Day Of High School In 1984


         My niece is starting High School in Queens today & that led me to reminisce about my 1st day of school back in September of '84. I went to Aviation HS in Long Island City, Queens. I vividly remember seeing a swarm of kids massed outside the school as the #7 train pulled into the 33rd St station. As I got down from the elevated track to the street, chaos & bedlam was in full swing. It seems that some wannabe Zulu nation fakers were being exposed by the Gestapo division of the real Zulu Nation, hunted down by their leader named Gorilla, inquisition style. Zulu beads of impostors were being snatched with fights breaking out left & right. Aviation was a magnet school for kids from all over the city so rival graffiti crews were finally meeting face to face, long simmering beefs were being played out under the subway tracks next to Queens Boulevard. I only knew a couple of people from my neighborhood, that were starting the same day, but we got separated during the ensuing melee. Cop cars started arriving & things settled down after a fashion.
         We finally got into the school & were shepherded into the cafeteria that had be converted into a makeshift processing center. As I stood around waiting for directions, I'll never forget the 1st 2 kids I met that day. One was a guy named Dwayne, who would drop out of school by the following year to be a backup dancer for Lisa Lisa & The Cult Jam, really nice guy. I hope he got a chance to fulfill his passion & is in a good place now. The other was a kid named Luis who seemed way older than he looked, no wonder being that he was already a father with another kid on the way, all at the ripe age of 15. Boggles the mind how he's probably a grandfather now or soon to be great-grandfather!
         After a long delay, my schedule was printed out & I made my way to my first classes. I think I only made it to the 2nd classroom before I decided to ditch everything & go play handball & do some graffiti, a harbinger of things to come for my subsequent high school career.
         I know times have drastically changed for the better, my niece will not encounter the same scenario I faced. I wish her the very best, she's a smart cookie. I can't help but think of ghosts of the past whenever I pass on the train & see the old Aviation sign in the distance.

Me on the left in 1985


Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Allen St Boys

Mural done by LEE Quinones on Allent St. 1982
                   In the summer of 1984, me & a friend took a ride from our neighborhood in Queens to the shopping mecca known as Delancey St on the lower east side of Manhattan. We were both starting high school that fall & wanted to pick  up the flyest back to school gear. Delancey or D Street as it was called, was a B-Boy's dream retail emporium. One could pick up sheepskin coats in just about every color, custom made belt buckle name tags, creased lee jeans, le tigre shirts, leather bomber jackets, black or white gloves used for popping/breakdancing & of course; every shade of shell top Adidas sneakers under the sun with the fat laces already intertwined in checker board patterns if so desired. We could have probably found the same stuff around our way, if we looked hard enough, but it was somehow more legitimate to get your essential B-boy accessories from D Street.
                   We had both saved up our allowance & birthday gifts money for this day, wishing we could take 2 of everything we saw, but the reality being that we could only afford a couple of items each at best. He picked up a fresh burgundy sheepskin coat & a pair of gold rimmed Gazelle sunglasses. I settled for a matching grey BVD mesh shirt & shorts combo plus a sweatshirt with my crew's name stenciled on it.
                    As we were about to depart the last store we visited, someone that just walked in said: "Yo, you better watch your backs, the Allen St boys are out to tax today". We nonchalantly ignored his warning, in that invincible 14 year old way & proceeded to head back to the subway. Sure enough, as we made it halfway up the block, we saw a group of tough looking hard rocks running, not walking, straight toward us from Orchard St. They certainly didn't look like they were up for some friendly banter. Not in the mood to get housed today, we were like "Oh dip!" & jetted like Jesse Owens running a mile in under a minute, wolf pack at our heels. No small feat, as back in those days, in order to give the Adidas shell toe sneaker w/the fat laces a cooler, bulkier look; we would double up a rolled up sock on the front part of the inside of the sneaker. This would look cool when doing a B-boy stance at the local skating rink, but not too practical when running from a pack of marauding thugs.
                  It must have made quite a scene, us half running & half hopping down the block but we miraculously made it to the subway station, jumped the turnstile & got on the F train just as the doors were about to close. The Allen St boys were left to hurl obscenities at us as we safely pulled away from the station.
                 We told our getting chased story with some measure of pride the next day. All part & parcel of growing up in NYC during the early 80's: getting chased by rival crews, stick up kids or the police. An urban rite of passage. I sincerely hope the kids today do not go through the same trials & tribulations while shopping for their preferred outfits at places like Hot Topic or Abercrombie & Fitch!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Heavy Metal Roots Of New York Hardcore

Riche from Sick Of It All & Rob from Straight Ahead/Rest In Pieces headbanging in 1983.
I just wrote this article about Metalheads who went Hardcore during the mid-1980's scene. Check it out here:

Nick Lord from YDL outside Studio 54 in 1985.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Latinos in NYHC & Punk 1985-1990

Javier Villegas w/Born Against @Abc No Rio. Photo by Tim Singer

                 The good folks at No Echo website asked me to do a part 2 of my Hispanics in NYHC article. Here's the link:

 These are bunch of photos of people featured in the article that were not used for the final piece:

John John Jesse from Nausea drumming for Trauma in 1986 @Tin Pan Alley. Photo by Sam Moon Rafferty

Gavin Van Vlack playing w/Absolution @CBGB's 1988.

Sergio Vega from Quicksand/The Deftones in Washington Sq Park 1986.

Roy Mayorga from Nausea drumming for Youthquake in 1986.

Hoya Roc from Madball/Dmize in Corona, Queens 1983.

Jimmy Williams from Maximum Penalty outside CBGB's 1988.

"Lusty" Lou Morales & The Twins: Hector & Edwin Nieves in Sunset Park, Brooklyn

Rich Derespina & Ed Sayago from All For One @Giant Studios 1987.

Chiqui from Dmize in the middle 1990.

Maurice Vega from Under Pressure @Sundance 1988.

Gus SXE Pena w/Discipline 1989.

Minus & SOB

Ike Proud drumming & Andrew Monserrate on guitar w/Stand Proud 1988.

Marcos Siega from Bad Trip in 1990.