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Interview with Rich Perusi of The Dedication, 2002

March 18, 2011

Rich Perusi is probably the best and most helpful guy I have ever interviewed – I was blown away by The Dedication back in 2002 (?) and I will never ever stop listening to Youth Murder Anthems. We did this interview through email (again, I think in 2002 – after The Dedication split) for another zine that didn’t get off the ground: Turn and Run. (That was basically a total fucking disaster from start to finish, much like the interaction with my dear co-publisher, who’ll remain nameless. Let’s just call him the Hardcore Emperor.) I think it did actually get printed one time but the print quality was awful, so I’ve no idea what ultimately happened to it.

I was lucky enought to meet Rich at Posi Numbers in 2003 but I was incredibly shy (and my love of hardcore was quite rapidly being destroyed), so we didn’t talk much. We kept in touch for maybe a year or so after that but that eventually lapsed. I’m just really bad at keeping in touch with people, there’s no excuse for it, really. But Rich, dude, I still look for that Sole Campbell James Brown Arsenal shirt you were after…!

All the reference to ‘Lights Out’ can be interchanged with ‘Sex Positions’ – which is what LO changed their name to – they were fricking legendary too.  Rich later sent me the tour edition of the Sex Positions 12″ and then screened me a SP t-shirt especially. He also gave me the Stop and Think demo and the Jaguarz demo – both brilliant, of course. What a guy!

[Explanatory note – Deathwish in 2002 wasn’t the behemoth it is today. In the midlands, it was still the new kid on the block.]

– As an introduction, Deathwish bands aren’t too well known here in the UK, so how would you describe the music of The Dedication to someone who’d not heard that kind of style before?

Rich: Hmmm – this is a really hard question. Basically I don’t think of a specific sound when I think of what The Dedication was. It was more like a progression on what we love, which is hardcore. There was no specific sound we are/were trying to achieve, we did what we thought sounded good. Melodic, driving, chaotic at times would be words I would use, looking back.

– How did you get together as a band, and who plays what? Were you in other bands prior to The Dedication?

Rich: We got together because Eric (guitar) and the two brothers (Shaun and Mike) had known each other growing up in the Boston area and going to shows. They decided they wanted to do a band so they made it happen. Larry joined us after our initial drummer left due to an interest in high school girls and football games (American football). I joined out of just being friends with Eric and knowing that we wanted to do a band together. We have all done bands in the past, Eric was in Bound by Nothing, Shaun and Mike did a straight edge youthcrew band called Make It Last, and I previously played drums in an oi! band called The Reformed. None of those bands really amounted to much other than local shows, and demo tapes.

– An oi! band? Your screaming couldn’t be further away from that kind of style. Does it feel strange having been in two such different styles of bands?

Rich: It doesn’t feel weird. I have a soft spot in my heart for oi! and always will, I started out going to punk shows for probably a year before I started even going to hardcore shows when I was younger. As far as the way I sing – I don’t think it would reflect to the kind of music I listen to most, because I don’t listen to a lot of older screamo or anything like that.

– In regard to that, can you describe the musical influence that evolved into the sound of your band? There’s not many bands sound like yours…

Rich: Basically musical influences come from everywhere from David Bowie to the old Dangerhouse bands, to Embrace and the old DC stuff, to NYHC. We wanted to prove that hardcore can progress and be something other then fast parts, buildups and mosh parts. We were a hardcore band; we didn’t try to claim to be anything more.

– How did you get into hardcore, in the beginning? What sparked it all off, for you?

Rich: I got into hardcore through punk rock. There was a kid in my homeroom class in the 9th grade who decided that I should play in a band with him. So that’s how it basically happened. We were called Tried And True. We only released a demo and were heavily influenced by Underdog, and the such like. But I loved punk rock because of how it seemed dangerous and like something totally new compared to the world I was living in previously.

– I suppose I have a preconceived idea of a typical Deathwish band’s sound. The Dedication surprised me. Do you think you stood out from other bands on the Deathwish roster?

Rich: I think we did. Perhaps not so much now with bands like Knives Out and Horror Show on the roster. I think we stand out with most hardcore crowds, we don’t really fit a specific genre and I like that. Transcending is kind of cool, I think.

– How did the deal with Deathwish come about? Who put out your demo, prior to the “Youth Murder Anthems” EP? Was that self-released?

Rich: Tre (co-owner of Deathwish) had seen us open up a few shows around Boston and Philadelphia for bands he was roadieing for. He then approached us about doing a record. Apparently he had been a fan of ours for a long time. We had been playing on our demo for over a year and were ready for something new. The demo was self released: about 1,000 copies made on our tape decks – mailed out and brought to all of our shows previous to our EP coming out.

– At times you remind me of early Ink and Dagger. What did you think of them? I’ve only seen photos of you guys, not being rich enough to ever get over to the US to watch your shows, but it looks like you all wore zombie make up? Where did that idea come from? Was that at all Ink and Dagger-inspired? Can you give me some make-up tips?

Rich: I love Ink and Dagger – they are one of my favorite bands. Definitely innovative, I love innovation and progression. We didn’t all wear zombie makeup – sometimes we did, sometimes we didn’t. I personally did it once for Halloween.

The make-up wasn’t really Ink and Dagger inspired it was more zombie/ death-inspired: basically you would have to talk to Larry and Mike about it. They loved make up.

– How hard did you find it as a relatively underground band in Boston? Your last show was headlining over The Hope Conspiracy, how did that feel? Do you know those guys well?

Rich: In the beginning I felt that no one would even give us the time of day. I guess we weren’t really playing to our crowd. The hardcore crowd was receptive after we played to them and showed them we could rock just as hard as anyone. We played shows with every kind of bands from The Locust to Piebald, (for more well known bands), we played in basements and played in huge halls. I prefer basements – Boston does not have a permanent all ages venue and didn’t while we were a band, so we took what we could get when it came up. As for headlining over The Hope Conspiracy – they are friends of ours who we have played with and just know from living in the city. Basically I booked the show with my friend Matt Galle, and I felt that since it was our last show I wanted to headline – The Hope Conspiracy were fine with us headlining and the show was incredible.

– Why did The Dedication break up? And how are your plans going to record and put out your final LP? Has it been recorded yet? Can you tell me a bit about how it’s going to sound? Is that going to be with Deathwish?

Rich: The Dedication broke up for personal reasons – some people felt that creative differences and friendships were more important then being a band. We didn’t want to do the band and not have fun and be so excited for every show that we couldn’t sleep the night before. That was always important to me – I don’t want to be part of a band that I dread going to shows and practicing. Some members couldn’t deal with being in the band and touring and going maybe to the next level (taking on a booking agent) etc., so we broke up leaving a good thing how we wanted to remember it: as the most fun we have had in our lives up to that point.

The LP will probably never be released or recorded. The songs aren’t all completed. We still talk about it sometimes when we see each other. Eric, Larry and I have a new band called Lights Out. Shaun is doing his own things and trying to get settled back in Boston. Mike will probably continue to blow people’s minds with his music – maybe one day it will come back together if that’s the course it takes but I am not going to worry about it or push it. I accomplished everything I could imagine and ten times more with The Dedication.

– Your lyrics were pretty pissed off. Would you have described yourself as a negative hardcore band, in retrospect?

Rich: No – I don’t think we were a negative hardcore band. Maybe we didn’t have a positive message all the way around. But I think we were trying to affect hardcore in a positive way. Maybe all bands are trying to do that, I don’t know. We were just trying to make kids open up their minds a little more, search within themselves for answers instead of relying so much on other people.

– Everyone has splatter artwork now. What’s your opinion of the growing trend towards horror-core?

Rich: We didn’t initially intend to have splatter artwork – Jake Bannon (who did the layout – and an INCREDIBLE job) decided it would fit our sound. Personally, I wouldn’t have used it. But I am not a graphic designer. I don’t really know what you mean by horror-core. If you mean bands like AFI, and Pitch Black and stuff – those bands I guess have a specific image or message maybe it is dark, but they aren’t The Misfits so it doesn’t faze me.

– I also heard something about you being in the now defunct Stop And Think. Is that true?

Rich: Yes. I was the drummer.

– I saw Stop And Think’s demo was on Standhard’s (of Right Brigade fame) label. How did that come about? What’s he like as a person, and why did you release it with him?

Rich: Standhard was good friends with everyone in the band. We live in the same city – hang out with the same kids, go to the same shows. We were doing the demo – and Jesse asked if we wanted him to handle all the mail order and put the SHR stamp on that shit. And it happened. If you want to know what he is like as a person you should probably hang out with him – but I find him to be a pretty laid back guy. We released it with him because he is our friend, and the huge signing bonus of course.

– Weren’t Stop and Think going to release a 7″ on Bridge Nine? What happened there and why did it end? What are the rest of the band doing in the future?

Rich: We were going to release a 12″ EP of 8 songs. What happened is that we pretty much lost interest in the band – school, jobs, life got in the way. It ended because it was time, and Clevo (the bassist) was moving to Cleveland to move on with life. CC and Joey play in Invasion; CC also has a million other music side projects – he and I will do a band again. AJ is boxing and working. Joey is being fit, going to school, and wearing his Warzone hat.

– What’s the story with Lights Out, then? Where’s that heading? I thought you guys originally had a band called The Red and The Black, after The Dedication first ended?

Rich: Lights Out (now Sex Positions) is the band that Larry, Eric, and I started after The Dedication. Basically we are trying to capture many of the same interests but do our own spin on it. We have 100% creative input instead of the situation before where we didn’t really write a lot of the music. The band was originally called The Red And The Black – mostly just so I could flyer for our first show. Later we found out that there was another band with the same name from New York City, so we changed it to the next coolest thing. Plus our friend Mike D suggested it – and we thought that was cool.

– Didn’t you write the music for The Dedication? What’s the story there, what do you mean?

Rich: I personally had nothing to do with the song writing other then the lyrics. All the music was written by the brothers Kilfoyle. In Lights Out (Sex Positions) – it’s much more of a group effort. That’s the story, morning glory.

– What does the future hold for you, as Rich Perusi, personally? Are you happy?

Rich: The future hopefully holds me getting a degree from Boston University, getting a job. Touring with Lights Out. Reading a lot of books, playing some play station, hanging out with the new crew and the old crew, hanging out with my girlfriend. Going to shows. Am I happy? Well, probably not 100%, otherwise I wouldn’t be involved with such an angst-filled musical scene. I have a lot of problems with the way people act, I guess that makes me upset.

– People in the hardcore scene, or generally? Can you explain?

I guess generally – but I find hardcore to be a microcosm of the world at large. I basically think that too many people don’t think for themselves, read enough books, or attempt to expand their minds (and I don’t mean with LSD). People are much too content, that’s all.

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