Whoever it was that said that you should never meet you heroes obviously never met Blaine Cook, former vocalist with The Fartz and The Accused and the current frontman of The Accused AD and Toe Tag. The Accused were one of the first Hardcore / Crossover bands that I ever heard after Tommy Vance played Take My Time, on the Friday Rock Show in 1986 and I immediately fell in love with their raw, visceral, brutal crossover that, thanks to the anger soaked vocals of Blaine Cook, carved its way into my cerebellum. Their music has been part of my life for the last three decades and some spare change, and the vocalist whose venom and fury forever change my life, has been my friend for the last fifteen years or so. He is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most open, honest and genuinely nice people I know .
As The Accused AD have just recorded an album, I figured it was time to catch up with Blaine to talk about the band, their new record, musical legacies, Hardcore and more and this is what he had to say. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Mr. Blaine Cook…
Interview by Tim Cundle
MM: For the benefit of the folks who came in late… Would you like to introduce, and tell us a little about, yourself?
Blaine: My names Blaine I’m from Seattle. I’m a sensitive Cancer. I’m closer to 60 than 25. I enjoy a cold beer, a stiff cocktail and an occasional marijuana cigarette. I’m getting ready to celebrate my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and I have a daughter who’s about ready to turn 23. I have a pretty calm family like existence. I live with two dogs a cat and a tortoise that we found crossing the street some 14 years ago. My wife being a fan of the Seattle band the Mentors appropriately named the tortoise El Deuce. I’ve had the pleasure of being involved in the local music scene since 1980. I get a charge out of the comradery and the collectiveness of being in a band and I love playing out live, whether that’s to 10 people or 1,000.
MM: So, The Accused AD… When, and why, did you put the band together as seeing as there’s at least fifty percent of the definitive Accused line-up in your ranks, why didn’t (and don’t) you just call yourselves the Accused ?
Blaine: From our perspective The Accused as people know the band is a done deal. The Accused was a collective. The band was never one of those bands were there was one person who was responsible for coming up with all the music, lyrics and all that goes with being in a band. When we split off from the Accused some 14-15 years ago it was three of the members that were unable to continue playing with one member. At this point we’re so far removed and past the pull date on all of that it’s not really worth talking about in a public forum.
MM: Am I right in thinking that one of the reasons that you originally started playing out as the Accused AD was because people kept asking you to play Accused songs at Toe Tag shows and you guys kinda figured ‘What the heck, we wrote the songs, let’s play the songs and have some fun’? And there’s a second part to the question… How the heck did you go about choosing a list of songs that you wanted to play? I mean, come on, you guys wrote a buttload of classics, so how did you narrow it down?
Blaine: You nailed it. Our real band Toe Tag has been playing, recording and releasing material for well over a decade. Over the years one of things we heard over and over again is that we are the Accused. We embodied all of those things that people came to love the Accused for. Basically The Accused AD is Toe Tag. We don’t purposefully come up with material that tries to emulate the sound of the Accused. We come up with and play the kind of music that we like playing. That was the whole idea behind the Accused calling their music Splatter Rock. The Toe Tag/The Accused AD songs reflect that diversity. We’ve played the Accused songs live over the years under the banner of Martha’s Revenge and had the opportunity to play with the likes of Gwar, Municipal Waste and Napalm Death. Three years or so ago we thought it would be fun to play the More Fun than an Open Casket Funeral LP from front to back to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of its release. And that’s exactly what we did. We took probably close to a year learning those songs. We did a bunch of local gigs and then did a short run of shows on the East Coast. Since then we still play some of the songs off of that record and a splattering of others. It is a difficult task to decide which ones to play. Especially when we really prefer playing our own material. We’ve been working with a new drummer for the past nine months and practice religiously twice a week. We can only get so much done. Practice is as much for the music as it is social club for us and some of our pals that like to come in hang out with us.
MM: What have The Accused AD shows been like so far? You guys seem to be keeping pretty busy…
Blaine: We’re having a great time. We’ve been accused (ha) of confusing the fans, promoters and clubs and of playing half rate hack versions of the songs. Any promoter, club or band that approaches to play is totally aware of who we are and what we do. Over the past nine months we’ve been given a number of really great opportunities and we’ve gotten to play with Poison Idea, GBH, Lamb of God, Municipal Waste, Angkor Wat, Nasty Savage and others. We’ve done a string of shows in Texas and played some East Coast dates. We asked and were given a slot at the Maryland Death Fest (mind you we’re not getting paid and we’re flying ourselves out on our own dime) and did a killer one off show in Denver. Oh, and we’ve recorded material for a new release that’s coming out under The Accused AD banner. Why not, right?
MM: And have you been surprised by the fan reaction to your return? I know that nearly everyone I’ve spoken to about The Accused AD has nearly erupted with excitement and said something along the lines “Oh God, I’ve got to see them!”…
Blaine: It is very grounding to know that the music that we’ve made over the years has left such a lasting impression on people. We give it our all. I “sing” but I’m not a singer and the guys I have the pleasure to play with Alex, Steve and Mickey are all true musicians down to the core.
MM: You’ve just recorded an album haven’t you? Do you want to tell us all about it? Are the songs still soaked in gore and delivered in tried, tested and true Splatterrock fashion? When is it due out and how can people pre-order it…
Blaine: As I previously mentioned, the new record is the music we like to play. Nothing will ever compare to those early releases. Our hearts are in what we do. You’ll have to give it a listen and be the judge. We’re doing an initial limited cassette only release on Dread Records. On this release the music has a slightly different mix and the songs haven’t been mastered and the cover art is different as well. This release is limited to 100. The official release is coming out on a small independent label called Black House records and I’d imagine it being available early this spring as right now, we’re getting all of the pieces together. The cover art was done by our longtime friend KC Angel, it was recorded by Jack Endino and mastered by Scott Hull of Pig Destroyer fame. It’ll come out on all formats. Keep an eye on our website www.splatterrock.com or www.toetagseattle.com or The Accused AD and Toe Tag Facebook pages . Funniest thing is we had one of the Accused singers after we left the band come in and do some backing vocals…
MM: And then there’s the new video that you guys just made… Do you want to tell us all about that as well? What was the filming process like and who came up with the idea and storyboard for it?
Blaine: I ran into the Jason Frost aka Frosty at the guitar center last summer when I was picking up some speaker stands which was a real chance encounter. He was an old school Accused fan and was pretty stoked to run into me, so we got to talking and he was telling me that he was into making videos through his Black State productions. He was really doing rap videos but was really excited about the possibility of doing something with us. You run into people all the time that say this or that and ultimately don’t really deliver. Well, Frosty came up with this idea. The next thing we know he’s filmed the “theatrical” portion of the video. Amazingly it looked really great, it was just cheeky enough. Then we just set up in the woods next to my house and filmed our poseur footage. We did that on a Saturday and by the following Tuesday he had put the thing together and after a few changes he had it up on YouTube. Frosty is a pretty excitable and motivated guy. We’re hoping to put some sort of video out for all of the new tunes. We’ve also had the opportunity to work with Dave Jimenez, who’s come out and done some really great live work with us.
MM: How has the emergence of The Accused AD affected Toe tag? Is the latter on the back burner while you concentrate on the former or are you gonna do both bands at the same time?
Blaine: They’re just one in the same. We’re all prostitutes, right? If we get more stroke out of calling ourselves The Accused AD. Then that’s what we’re going to do. We’ll continue to play a live set that is a blend of old and new. We have done shows where we are booked as both bands and play a full set of both, although playing close to two hours can be kind of drain for us older fellows.
MM: What’s your over-riding favourite memory of the band so far?
Blaine: Playing a sold out show with Lamb of God and getting to sing the Accused song Inherit the Earth with them was pretty fun. Having beers with Ross from GBH was great, they’re a really great bunch of guys. Toe Tag opening for DRI and the Accused a few years back was a kick in the pants and we refrained from playing any Accused songs.
MM: Likewise, I know there’s a lot of acrimony there, but what’s your favourite memory and story from the Accused days?
Blaine: Those days were so much different. Things were so much more down to earth and the concept of the network of friends was in full effect. One of my favorites was when we were in New Orleans and we had played a show with the band ALL in a high school gymnasium. We were staying in New Orleans for a few days. The people we were staying with had just moved into this house and they had no running water. There was a bar down the street and we were down there drinking Dirty Mothers (tequilla, cream and kahlua, happy hour came around and I started doing Oyster Shooters. The house had a shared front porch. We got back to the house and I puked up all of this chocolate milk oyster mess all over the front porch and in front of the neighbor’s door and I went and hid/passed out in a closet. The neighbors weren’t too pleased. On the last go around we did with the Accused, we played a string of shows with Municipal Waste. This was just when they were starting out. We did one show at the Balazo Gallery in the Mission District of San Francisco and while we were playing the crowd was couch surfing. Actually passing this couch around like a body..
MM: How does it make you feel when people refer to the The Accused as being Godfathers of the crossover movement?
Blaine: It’s pretty cool, knowing that what we did influenced so many bands and so many different genres.
MM: You’ve been a part of the Hardcore scene for nearly four decades and have been in bands for most of that time – The Fartz, The Accused, Toe Tag, The Accused AD etc., so how, in your opinion, have things changed in the scene? And do you think those changes have been positive or negative and have been good for, or detrimental to, the scene as a whole?
Blaine: I’m kind of on the outside looking in. When I was first in band in 1980, punk was only a few years old and rock and roll as we know it was barely even twenty years old. In the 80’s I think there was a greater appreciation for all kinds of music and I see things these days as being much more genre specific. The fact that all kinds of music were being embraced back then really set the foundation for so much of the music that is being made today.
MM: Have we already witnessed the ‘Golden Age’ of Hardcore or is the best yet to come? Why?
Blaine: That’s just beyond my scope. The young people have their own thing going on, but I see that the crossover/thrash movement coming full circle and really gaining momentum. Hardcore was always more than just the music, it was a whole culture, a network of friends that believed the DIY aesthetic and so much has already been done the template has been made.
MM: What do you guys all do outside of the band? What are you non-scene / not-hardcore lives like?
Blaine: I’m a low key family kind of a guy. My wife has what I call a real professional job and I opened a restaurant 11 years ago. I’ve gotten to the point where I just get to play the owner role and no longer actually work in the restaurant. Alex kind of operates as a property manager for some people that own a bunch of commercial property, Steve works as a flagger directing traffic at larger construction projects and Mickey does set up and breakdown for big touring acts. He’s recently worked for Metallica, Fleetwood Mack and he’s working Kiss next week. We all lead good lives. If we were religious I might go so far as to say we lead blessed lives.
MM: And is there any chance that The Accused AD will hit European shores sometime soon?
Blaine: I’ve been trying to get these guys to renew their passports for years and we can’t make a move on that until they get that done. I personally love to travel and there’s nothing I’d like more than to hit up Europe, Brazil or Japan.
MM: If there’s anything that you’d like to add, speak now or forever hold your peace…
Blaine: Sorry for not following through on the audio book version of Compression. I was in a really bad state back then. Depression is a real fucker. I also apologize to the band that asked me to contribute vocals to their recording and I basically blew em’ off. I’m lucky to get to play with such a great bunch of guys. I really appreciate them going along with me on this journey… Peace