Sometimes, just sometimes, bands and the music they play gut punch you, knock you for six and makes your heart beat a little faster. Tony Gorilla are one of those sometimes. Playing late eighties influenced, melodic SoCal Hardcore with a touch of NYHC and inspired by Ignite and Uniform Choice, Tony Gorilla are the real deal. Mass Movement caught up with singer Chris to find out everything we could about Tony Gorilla and their heartfelt, incredible music. This is what he had to say…
Interview by Tim Cundle
MM: Right, everything starts somewhere. So, when, where, why and how did you guys get together? And what made you want to play music?
Chris: Well, to get an answer to that question, you probably need to ask one of the other guys, since I am not one of the founding members. They were playing together for several years already, before I joined. It was also a different kind of music, more in the vein of modern Rock’N’Roll. Roald and Husch know one another since they were teenagers. When I came into the band, it was already called “Tony Gorilla” and they were looking for a singer, which I got to know from a friend, who was also playing drums with them at the time. He knew that I wanted to do some music again, which I hadn’t been doing for a couple of years and he told me about it. I “auditioned” and got the gig. But again, at that time it was a bit of a different kind of music, but I didn’t care. What made me want to play music? I wanted to do music all my life, I guess. I breathe and sweat music. The rhythm of life. Full-on. It’s what makes me whole. There’s always melodies and music in my head. I whistle, I hum, i sing…it’s me. That’s what I do. Couldn’t picture my life without music. Ok, I could, but that would be a different me, I’d reckon.
MM: And where did the name Tony Gorilla come from? Is there any significance or special meaning behind it?
Chris: Nah, there’s no particular “meaning” behind it. The band started out as this modern Rock’N’Roll outfit. They apparently played shows in ties and stuff. Picture a mafia kind of look with suits and all. That name “Tony Gorilla” is mentioned in Martin Scorsese’s movie “Casino” and it’s referred to an off-screen character, who is supposed to be a tough guy, rather not being messed with. When I joined the band, we were talking about changing the name, but we just kept it. In retrospective we should have changed it with the release of of “It Takes a Spark”, because I think of it as a new band with a different sound than before.
MM: Let’s talk about the new record, No Turning Back . Tell us about it… That is, tell us about the tunes on it and the recording?
Chris: No Turning Back is our latest release and, I know every band says this, but in this case it’s true, it’s also my favourite. My musical background stems from the US-Hardcore music of the 80s and 90s and over time my influence on the music got bigger. With our previous 12″ record It Takes a Spark we changed our course a lot. That’s at least my opinion. You could say, it’s more Hardcore, though we have other influences as well. We got in more energy and passion. And that’s what it’s always about for me. Music’s got to have energy and passion. Loads of it. Drive and a certain feeling that gets me on. It’s really hard to describe, as it’s something one has to feel. I get it, people are different and all. And not everything that works for me works for somebody else. But this is what’s important to me. No Turning Back sums up everything that I liked about It Takes a Spark and condenses it down into three songs. It’s hard-hitting. It’s got melodies. It’s full of energy and passion. There, I said it again. If I was asked to name our best release, it would be No Turning Back. I’m also a big fan of the format and I am happy, we finally put out a 7″. So far, it’s only available on vinyl. Place to Share is a song about sharing and caring. The lyrics a pretty straight forward. Unity is asking the question: What happens to friendship? We are stronger united, but what will it take to break people apart? And what then? It’s rarely a clean cut. This is the most melodic song on the record. The title track talks about irreversibility and about taking responsibility.
The recording was done by our friend Dennis Koehne, who runs his own recording company and often works with Waldemar Sorychta, who recorded ITaS with us previously. The great thing is that they both can work and record anywhere. The process starts often the same way. They will look for a space to record, set up their equipment and start recording. We didn’t need to rent a recording studio, as their stuff is as mobile as needs be. Most of what you hear on the 7″ was recorded in one day and in one place, Dennis had chosen for us. We recorded the back-ups on our own with additional people in our rehearsal room on a separate day and sent the files to Dennis, who then put everything together.
MM: So what set each of you on the Hardcore path? How did you discover Hardcore?
Chris: You are actually talking to the Hardcore-bit of the band. What set me on the path? You make it sound poetic. Probably very similar to any kid at that time, I got into music and discovered bands with and from friends of mine from school or outside school. The town I’m originally from is not that big. So word gets around pretty quickly among kids of the same age group. Circles are small and we had a couple of good record stores. Every now and then I would go with friends by train to the bigger cities nearby to find new records. There was no internet obviously. We had mix-tapes and went to local shows, where you would get to know more people and so it started, I guess. What fascinated me was the energy and a certain kind of spirit of change in the air. It just felt good and right to be at a Hardcore show. It was a very positive experience for me at that time – an outlet and a way of expressing yourself, but none of that crowd killing bullshit. You could meet friends, find new and old music, flyers for upcoming shows, etc. Sometimes there was food, too.
MM: I’m guessing, from listening to No Turning Back that you guys are big Ignite, No For An Answer, Uniform Choice and Revelation Records fans. So who and what influences, and influenced, Tony Gorilla and how do you think those influences manifest themselves in your music and everything that you do?
Chris: Funny, you say that. I’m a sucker for early Revelation bands. Though I wouldn’t make it depend on a label, but they were definitely on a roll and they managed to put out quite some (instant) classics, that I keep on coming back to. It’s a bit different with the rest of the members in Tony Gorilla. We all come from different places and musical backgrounds. You’ll find Hardcore, Metal, Rock-influences in our music. I don’t know how it came about, but I didn’t want to do the Rock-thing anymore and I wanted to go back to a (for me) more natural way of singing. I was looking to put more energy into the music and I wanted to go back to my own roots. So, I came up with ideas and we worked them in. If it wasn’t for Hardcore, I don’t know in what way I might do things differently. I only know about that certain outcome. There’s character-defining moments in everybody’s life, I’d reckon. Sometimes it’s like a crossroad, where you choose either A or B and sometimes those things are irreversible. The positive, non-destructive side of Hardcore influences me in my everyday life – the way I see people, the way I act, the way I value life, yes. But is that really a Hardcore-influence or rather the influence of people that influenced Hardcore with their music-ideas and lyrics? The access to that pool of thought was definitely through Hardcore, though.
MM: And lyrically what sort of themes, subjects and topics do you tend to espouse in your songs?
Chris: I told you about the topics on “No Turning Back” earlier, but generally speaking my lyrics deal with different thoughts, emotions and situations that keep me busy. Sometimes it’s about asking a question or shedding a different light on a topic I’d like to approach. They often can be socio-critical or simply letting off steam.
MM: How has the Hardcore scene changed since you first became a part of it? Do you think that those changes have been positive or detrimental to, and for, Hardcore? Why?
Chris: I’d say it has changed. When I came into Hardcore it was a friendly place. It was also more political. It was about having a good time and not about hurting people. May I say it was smarter? It’s not that those things don’t exsist anymore, but those have become less. My heart skips a beat, everytime I see a genuine friendly and positive band that has something to say.
MM: Is Hardcore more than “just music”? If so, what else has it given you, or enabled you to do? And what, if anything, has being a part of the scene taught you about yourselves as individuals?
Chris: I’d say, it’s more than music. It’s a feeling. A place, where you feel, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. It can probably be a lot of things. Everybody’s welcome as long as you don’t act like an idiot. Hardcore has always given me a lot of good feelings like excitement and enthusiasm – too many to count. It has enabled me to play shows and do music. But again, it’s the people that make Hardcore. The individuals in a band, those writing a zine, booking shows, helping out aso. And of course it all comes down to yourself, too. What you make out of it. Being part of a scene can be quite nice, as you end up meeting and eventually “knowing” a lot of people that you share similar interests with. But I don’t think, that’s exclusive to Hardcore.
MM: And do you think Hardcore is a gateway to other things? By that I mean, it opens a door to all sorts of political and social movements and organisations and different schools of thought and ideologies, and did it open any of those doors to, and for, you?
Chris: Yeah, for sure. It got me into this whole animal rights thing. Like I said, there used to be more information and active people at shows. That’s another thing in Hardcore, it makes you move and start acting. To me it just comes down to a “positive mental attitude” or a “positive outlook” to quote another one of my favorite bands. Man, if it wasn’t for Hardcore, I would have never heard of Straight Edge. But in all those cases it’s not only that you change, that change in you reflects and changes those around you, too.
MM: If you had to choose five HC records or bands that you think define and epitomise the genre and scene, what would they be and why?
Chris: So, this is a real tough one, as it should be a list of 50 but from the top of my head some of my all-time-favourites:
Minor Threat – Filler (raw energy – one of my very first encounters with Hardcore-music)
Cro-Mags – Age of Quarrel (essential NYHC with the best opener of any record)
Gorilla Biscuits – Start Today (an absolute blast – it just has it all)
Youth Of Today – We’re Not in This Alone (inspirational and the band that got me into Straight Edge)
Strife – One Truth (the pinnacle of mid-90s sXe Hardcore)7
MM: What’s the strangest, most out there, weird thing that’s happened to you chaps on tour?
Chris: Getting all our food deep fried. That’s strange and not very good for your stomach. Ha,ha. Playing in front of two guests in the middle of nowhere on a Tuesday evening feels funny at first, too. I remember a show in Köln, where we started playing and all of a sudden, there was this guy in the crowd, dancing in front of us – completely naked, wearing only pink bunny ears. That was pretty funny. Same goes for Turbojugendparties, where people would show up in the most-over-the-top-oufits and go totally berserk. One time bowncing a big, inflatable Gorilla across the room and laying waste to the whole place. Loved it.
MM: And what’s your favourite Tony Gorilla story or memory so far?
Chris: I’m afraid, I don’t have A favourite story to share. There’s always some good laughs, but my best Tony Gorilla memories are made on stage. When we play in front of an enthusiastic, hungry crowd – nothing beats that. So, I hope we’re going to make a lot of new memories on the upcoming tour.
MM: What’s next for Tony Gorilla?
Chris: We started writing some new music and we’re going on tour in Europe in the beginning of April. First we will play some shows with “Svetlanas” and in the end of May we are coming to England for the very first. And I can tell you, we’re quite excited!
MM: If there’s anything that you’d like to add, speak now or forever (well, until the next time anyways) hold your peace…
Chris: Thank you for doing this interview and putting us on the map. We’ll see you on tour. Stay gold.