This article apppeared in issue 76 of The
Organ, published September 2002...
LEFTOVER CRACK hail from NYC. Formed out of the ashes of their old band, cult punk legends Choking Victim. The Crack line up is (or has been) solidified by members of F-Minus, legendary ska-punkers Agent 99 and LA’s Blindsided.
They've just followed a series of underground notoriety-gaining singles with their blistering debut album ‘Mediocre Generica’. Their combination of real punk, clever rocksteady ska, thrash metal and blasting old school hardcore, is something that really does stand out (see reviews in previous Organs). Leftover Crack are on of the few real genuine punk rock bands out there in these corporate Blink 182 Deconstruction marketing exercise dominated times.
The Leftover Crack message is wrapped in antagonistic imagery and baiting confrontation, their music is one of the finest mixes of oldschool ska laced hardcore out there…….
So when Leftover Crack hit London for another show at the Camden Underworld we (Shaari Sue and Sean O) couldn’t resist the opportunity to hit the soundcheck and drag singer, guitar player & songwriter Sturgeon off to shout (and spit a lot) in the direction of our tape recorder.
Are you out to offend people?
Yeah, I wanna offend people! I try to offend everybody and be as offensive as possible without being sexist, racist, or homophobic.
That’s why we have songs like ‘Shoot the Kids at School,’ ‘Fuck World Trade’.. .uhm...
Well the obvious question is: Why? Why do you need to offend everyone? I mean, I do see the need to offend some people, but...
I’m just trying to say something that no one else is saying and it’s really hard to find something like that. I do believe in the stuff I say, some of it is tongue in cheek...but it’s like, you know, free speech. That’s very important to me.
Is that the most important thing? Is that the one important thing about the band - that you are going to extremes just because you’re making a point of free speech?
That’s one of the things, but it’s not the only reason I say some things. I mean a lot of the things I say - I joke about a lot of things - but only half joking. I definitely have a different point of view than the majority of people in this world - even the punk rockers, probably.
It’s probably not the right thing to say - but you’re almost like a throw back to what real punk rock was about, as opposed to now where punk rock is about the right T-shirt and the right logo - it’s become massively about business...
That’s the thing, where can you take Punk Rock? It can only go so far, in a way.
Hasn’t it gone too far? Doesn’t it need to be reclaimed by the real people, the people who don’t want to turn their punk rock labels in to nothing different than the major labels that are already out there?
That’s the thing - I’m not talking about the popularity of it. I’m talking about ‘what is punk in this day and age where everybody is desensitized to offensive things?’ I mean Elvis Presley was considered punk back in the days cos he was shaking his hips and couldn’t be shown on TV. So gradually people accept more and more things and you have to be more extreme to be offensive.
Is that why you have Satanic imagery on your website? To be offensive?
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I’m an atheist. I like satanic art, I think it’s pretty. You know it stands for things that I believe in, you know. It stands for logical living. I’m not a Satanist - but if you read the Satanic Bible, a lot of it is just common sense, really. It’s about a good way of living - it’s not about hurting people, it’s about freedom and autonomy, which is very important to me. I wouldn’t say that free speech is the most important thing, but people should be able to say whatever the hell they want to.
It seems to me that in this sham of a thing that now passes punk rock in particular there’s not a lot of thinking going on, not a lot of discussion, it just seems to be totally about getting the video on MTV, and that’s just a really sad state of affairs.
Yea, you know, that sucks - but in a way you gotta figure: I’d rather hear a Blink182 song on the radio than a Brittany Spears song.
Is there really that much difference?
Well, I don’t actually listen to the radio - it‘s all garbage. But I’d rather overhear a supposedly punk song than overhear a bad R&B song...
In terms of the music, that may be so, but it seems to me that it’s all far too much about selling numbers and how many people you can get to buy the product.
A rough blow to me was when Chumbawamba came out with Tubthumping, you know. Chumbawamba, because all their old records are still so important to me.
But they’re at least still out there doing it!
Yea, and I respect that. It was just so hard to watch them performing all over corporate American TV shows. You know they had all their T-shirts that said "move units" or "sell out" or whatever. I just didn’t think they should be on NBC (one of the 3 big US television broadcasters), who are owned by GE who in turn are the contractors that make weapons for the army. It was all a bit much for me. But I still like them and would still rather Chumbawamba be the biggest band in the world that Brittany…
But if you go and talk to Chumbawamba now and listen to what they have to say they at least have an arguement as to why they took that route, they’re still doing things - like that free record they just put out and gave away in time for the Queen’s Jubilee......
At this point the interview is interrupted by a rather crazed, very well spoken woman with a pram, her main concern was with some beer cans hanging in bags from a fence near by:
Woman: "are those your beers there?"
Woman: "I wonder who’s they are, then."
S: "Dunno, you can have them"
Woman: "No, you should have them, they’re not mine"
S: "Thank you"
Woman: "I wish someone would have them so they wouldn’t just be sitting there..."
S: "I’m sure someone will have them"
Woman: "OK, goodbye"
S: "goodbye - well, you know, I eat out of the garbage, so..."
S: "I eat out of the garbage - so it doesn’t matter. A lot of kids do, so they’ll drink the beers."
Woman: "I don’t think they’re garbage - I think they’re sealed cans - just over there - look"
S: "Ok, I’ll go check it out if it makes you happy"
Woman: "Just chuck them over the fence into that garden"
S: "No! that’s wrong! I don’t believe in littering - this is such a pretty city"
Woman: "But someone might use them to throw them at people’s windows"
S: "No, I don’t think so, they’re empty aluminium cans, that’s not gonna break a window, I know these things"
Woman: "He’s too smart for me..."
S: "I am, I’m American - we’re geniuses over there"
Woman: "Will you put them in the bin for me then? They worry me"
S: Alright, when we go back we have to go back that way - so we will"
Woman: "Thanks, you’re an angel"
S: "Thank you...an angel of death..."
There you go, interruption over, we like to give you some of the colour just so you can imagine you were there.
But see that’s the thing, you guys remind me of Chumbawamba back in the 80s. I feel like you guys, and bands like Conflict and Crass are coming from the same place.
Yeah, yeah – that is the thing. When it comes down to it, I want to be able to say whatever I want, that‘s one thing. And most of our lyrics are political and uh, I want to address political issues in a semi-intelligent manner. There are a lot of punk bands that are popular that are political, like Anti-Flag, or I don’t know if you remember Naked Aggression, they’re good bands, good music, I like what they had to say, but they don’t drawn... A lot of people are concerned with being PC, but I’m definitely not about that at all. I’m not gonna call girls ‘bitches’ or say faggot or this or that. I’m just not down with that cos that just promotes stupidity. People just want to be offensive - a lot of punk bands do. But that’s just taking the easy way out. I mean it’s easy to just say stuff and not really have anything behind it and kids eat it up as long as you have a spiky Mohawk. But uh, I’d rather have a bit more substance. I mean you have a little bit of shock value and it draws kids in and it offends parents or whatever and that’s all good. But underneath it all I like to actually say something and try to introduce kids to a different way of thinking. Some might say that we’re just preaching to the converted - but these kids, they’re young, some of them are like 14 or 15, and they listen to punk rock but they don’t really think about it and they listen to the casualties, you know they’re there for the fashion, but if you can draw them into your band you might affect kids in a good way.
Yeah, music does affect people, some of the bands from the ‘80s such as Chumbawamba and Crass really did influence people and change lives of people. And then they went on to affect people in a second hand way by influencing bands that people that never heard of Crass listened to. Politicians were standing up in the houses of parliament and objecting to Crass for godsake…
Well the Dead Kennedys were my gateway band - my marijuana band. You know what? I’ll tell you this, we’re playing with them next week. I think that they’re fucked up and I don’t think they should be touring without Jello (Biafra, former singer and founder of the Dead Kennedys). They shouldn’t be suing each other either. It’s sad really, they’re just hypocrites. Next week, when we play with them, you know we’re touring with the Foamers, I’m gonna have Carlos and Kareem come up and sing most of the set at the Dead Kens show. We’re not really gonna say anything about it, we’re just gonna make jokes about how they sued me for the right to sing the songs. I guess I’ll sing 4-5 songs cos some kids will have come to see us. But I just really want to throw it in the Dead Kennedys face, cos I don’t think anyone has ever done that before and I think they need that done to them.
Well, they were THE American prototypical political band....
...they still sing the same lyrics that aren’t theirs and it’s just so fucked up, man. I think it’s wrong, you know what I mean? I mean Jello Biafra was fucked up too. He was ripping them off, kind of, I think it’s wrong. And he’s a cop-caller - he had something happen to him and he called the cops which goes against everything he says. But I still think that, uh, that guy means a lot to me and the Dead Kennedys aren’t really the Dead Kennedys without him so, it’s just a shame the people are buying tickets to see them - they should really wise up and like... and I would boycott it if I wasn’t playing.
Why are you playing with them, then?
The fact is that I didn’t know about it till yesterday and I would have requested not to had I known about it ahead of time, our booking agent over here just booked it, we knew we were playing the venue but we didn’t know it was with them and we know people have already bought tickets because they want to see us so I don’t want to let them down. So we’re gonna play and I’m just gonna play a good show and do something and just turn it around and just....
So you didn’t know about it until you saw the adverts?
Yea, I knew we were gonna play a show at that venue on that day - but I didn’t know that who it was with until I got here (to London). You know we were actually supposed to play with them in New York and I was like "I don’t wanna do that show." So now we’ll just do this one and we’ll have kids come up from the audience and sing and I’ll give the Foamers the lyrics. I don’t want to cancel the show cos kids already booked their tickets - so we’re gonna do this but just fuck it up as much as possible.
I want to go back to something that you said before...You said that there are many political themes in your songs - what are the reoccurring themes?
I talk about killing cops a lot. And I talk about killing cops because they kill people all the time and they just get a slap on the wrists for it. So I’m saying: "yeah, go kill cops." I don’t expect anyone to really do it.
Are you making such an extreme statement just so people will question?
Yeah, cos if you just go: "cops are bad, I don‘t like ‘em." It’s like whatever, you’re not saying anything. Yeah, so I say "Kill cops," but I explain it in songs: We have a song called "One Day Cop." It’s a newer song that’s going to be on the next record. Actually, we got our record censored by Epitaph. We’re probably not going to be on that label anymore. I traded with them - I agreed to the censored artwork in exchange for them letting us out of our contract.
How did they censor you? Just changing the artwork?
Actually, maybe I shouldn’t be talking about this - you’re gonna send a copy of this to Epitaph aren’t you?
Yeah, they’ll probably get a copy of this, the Organ tends to get around...
Well, either strike the whole thing about them censoring or strike the part about me saying you should strike it. I’m just being real - I don’t want to lie or be ’no commenting’ it. See, we’re at the point where… no, enough…
But it’s not been a bad thing for you to be on Epitaph to begin with - it’s got you out to a hell of a lot of people. You probably wouldn’t be here otherwise. There’s a load of people out there outside the venue queuing up to see you tonight already...
Yea, it’s true. And you know what? It’s messed up that they made me change the art work and the name of the record (it was going to be called "shoot the kids at school," so what we did was just take the song off this album and we‘ll put it on the next one and use that title then.) We actually have the next record almost done. The three titles I was thinking of for it are: Leftover Crack Shoot the Kids at School, or Leftover Crack Kill Cops or Leftover Crack Fuck The World Trade Centre. So yea, it’s gonna be one of those three titles. I think Fuck World Trade would be the most offensive at this point - probably have a picture of the World Trade Centre burning on the front cover. I’m not sure... I think that Uh, that I pick on World Trade because innocent people die everyday because of the U.S., mainly the U.S., I mean I know other big countries do it too, like Great Britain, fuck over other countries, but I’m from the U.S., so that’s what I can talk about. But Fuck World Trade is inclusive of everybody.
But it’s not the U.S. exactly though, is it? Isn’t it more the big corporations? And it’s the same major corporations here, we’re all just states of the corporations...
Yea. But it’s mainly the World Trade centre that I’m talking about here. It’s the symbol of it all. The fact is that I’m not gonna feel bad about the ‘innocent’ people that chose to work there and they were Americans and people in America are so stupid! They all keep saying: "this is the worst tragedy ever!" and like no it isn’t! We went to Afghanistan and killed who knows how many more people? at least ten to one hundred times more people and nobody cares - nobody gives a fuck. And those people were truly innocent.
The Americans still don’t care? I get the impression from over here in Britain that Americans do care a little bit more, that their eyes have been opened a little...
No! Americans just don’t care about the rest of the world. And you know what? They’re not going to stop raping and pillaging all the rest of the countries in this world and starving them to death and putting in messed up dictatorships and giving them money for weapons and backing them so they can kill other innocent people all around the world until more world trade centers get torn down in the States and then maybe hopefully they’ll finally realise and see that this isn’t working and we can’t win and this isn’t going to stop happening and then maybe we should look at what we’re doing to the rest of the world and actually think about it for a change.
Well, don’t you think that that has already begun happening as a result of the terrorist attacks of September, 2001?
No! Everyone is more pro-American than ever now that that happen. Just so much flag waving going on - just so overly unified now. The media just gave it the right slant for that - cos you know, the media are going to say whatever they want. I bet during the whole September 11th attack that you guys in Europe got a totally different story. In the US, everything was just whitewashed. The media is worst than ever. All the anti-privacy laws that got rushed through and passed really quickly. I would even go so far as saying the Bush and his cronies had a hand in the whole thing. And you know what? If I was Osama Bin Laden, I would totally say I did it. Cos yea--that makes him a hero to a lot of people.
(At this point , the conversation takes a rather long meandering detour down conspiracy lane, e.g., financial connections between the Bush and Bin Laden families, George W.’s alleged cocaine problems and quashed exposes and Disney‘s ownership of the whole world)
Now Sturgeon, listen, talking conspiracies, especially when the involve George W., is one of my favourite things to do - so we can sit and talk about this all night and print it all - or we can talk about your band. It’s totally your choice, it’s your space....
Oh...I’m sorry. It’s hard for me to articulate things - I’m much better when I write them down -so, uh, maybe we shouldn’t talk about it all night cos I’ll just end up not making very much sense... I’m just saying that I like internet interviews cos I think about it - I’m just not very quick on my wits. But I guess we can talk about my band, I guess I don’t really want to talk about politics all night. I just want to say that the best thing anyone can do in this day and age is try to avoid supporting the major corporations and try and help the little guys out.
No, no - that’s the good thing about you and bands like Leftover Crack: You can bring up these topics and the people that are into the band may just start thinking a bit more about things.
Yea - that’s why I always include lyrics sheets.
Speaking of lyrics...what’s off limits for you? What things won’t you write about?
I won’t write a song about something I don’t believe in.
Is everything in your personal life fair game? Does that ever come up in your songs?
Yes, pretty much. I say pretty much everything that people have a hard time talking about. I’ll bring all that up in a song. People usually think I’m joking, you know, that doesn’t bother me. I rarely name names in a song. I prefer to make it more timeless or universal. I like to make it something that will endure. Because what if like I was friends with someone and now I don’t like them no more and then I wrote a song and their names in it and them it makes me mad every time I sing that song, so I usually don’t do that. Well, I usually don’t tell stories when I write songs. I usually don’t do that - I’m just not very good at telling stories. I mean so much crazy stuff has happened over the last ten years - I’ve been squatting and train-hoping and eating out of the garbage and pan-handling and just being reckless and crazy and doing all kinds of drugs and drinking and now my memory’s not so good and I’m just not that good at sitting there and telling stories and remembering the details that make it interesting. So I just prefer not to.
Alright...So what’s the point of what you’re doing? What do you hope to gain?
Well, the point is...Actually we’ve pretty much done everything that I had hoped to do. You know. I wanted to be in a band, I wanted to play shows, I wanted people to come to our shows, I wanted to make a record, you know? I wanted people to be into us and hear what I had to say. You know? I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up and I wanted to meet people and the best way to meet people is to be in a band people like. People come up and want to talk and it’s like you meet a lot of really cool people. See, I’m really shy, and I just can’t walk up to people and talk to them - I feel like a total jerk. But if kids come up to me and talk and I can just talk back. You can make a lot of friends like that. People tend to be really giving when you’re doing something that they like.
So, if you’ve already achieved the goals you set out when you started this, what’s the point of going on with the band?
Well, right now, we’re just finishing up this tour and uh, I’m doing it cos people really want us to - they email me 1,000 times and ask us to come to their town. We’re going to finish this tour and take a r-e-a-l-l-y long break, cos I’m really kind of sick of playing music right now...
How long had this tour been going on for?
Well, the thing is that our record came out on September 11th and two days later we left for our first tour ever of the States and that was one and a half months and then we had two weeks off, we went to Canada for a week and a half and had a day off and then England and Europe for about two months and then we had a bit of time off and we did another 2 months in the States and then we came to this part of the world for 2 months again. I just need a real break. I figure that I’m go travelling for a while and hop trains for a bit and now that I have a bit of money from playing shows I want to go to Australia and different parts of the world. I guess probably by about this time next year will start playing shows again.
That’s the thing when you’re in a band - even though your travel, you don’t really get to see that much of the places you go - it’s all just roads and venues isn’t it? I mean have you seen much of London?
I’ve walked up and down this road here in Camden...That’s the thing about it. I’ve met a lot of people now from all over the world, I can go all over, maybe hitchhike, maybe hop trains and I can get to a town and call some kid up and he’d take me home and feed me and take me around. They love hanging out and I love getting to see new places and not just being all alone somewhere. That’s the thing, when I first started Choking Victim, I was squatting and I was on food stamps in New York and I wasn’t spending money on anything. I saved up all my money and put out the first Choking Victim 7" and we got off the ground and we probably wouldn’t have gotten anywhere had I not done that. But my plan was always like "we’ll tour and meet people and then I can go back and stay with them - and if I have no money, I could just pan-handle..." Yea, in New York, I’d be pan-handling and people would come up and be like "you’re in Leftover Crack!" And they’d give me money and buy me a beer and that is just the greatest thing - it’s more than I could ever ask for. It’s so cool.
Isn’t there a danger then, that you get too big and you won’t be able to just hang out with your audience anymore?
No, I don’t think so. As long as we keep saying the things we do, that other people find so offensive, it’s like we’re never going to be on the radio. We curse in every song, the subject matter of every song...I’d say that 99% of our songs will never be touched.
Hmm, I don’t know about that, ten years ago radio play was everything - but I first found out about you through an internet download - it’s not censorship so much any more.
Well, if they want to stick me on the radio - actually I have no problem with that - People need to hear what I’m saying because people just aren’t saying those things...
It can be argued that it’s good that you are bringing focus to these issues - but some of these things HAVE been said and indeed said on the radio before - like ‘911 Is Just A Joke" or ‘Cop Killer...’
But that wasn’t played on the radio.
I’m pretty sure it was...
But yea, then Ice T had to explain it away. I would never back away from what I said - I’d let myself be taken to court or be jailed - whatever it takes. I’m pushing the envelope of free speech and if that’s not legal than - Come on! I’ll be a martyr for that. I don’t give a F*** about my life that much. I’m 26, that’s longer than I ever thought I’d live anyhow...
You actually sound pretty passionate and like you care a lot, like you care more than most people do.
Yea, I am, I do. But I’m also reckless and I get really depressed at times...
What’s the greatest accomplishment of your life so far, then?
Hmm, I dunno. Probably having our first record come out. We never thought we’d do it - we were such a mess back then. We were all squatting, we were breaking up - we recorded it all over. I was completely strung out and I am just amazed that it worked. It came out really well. It’s still my favourite album. I mean the 7"ers that came before are good too - but having that come out, I rested easy. I finally did what I wanted to do it was pretty much it. That will still be standing when I’m gone.
What are the ingredients needed for a good song then?
Well, it’s got to have good music. I like melodic songs. It doesn’t have to be melodic as long as what they’re saying is important. I just don’t want to hear love songs! Except the Beatles. I actually really like them, which is my secret little thing. I grew up on that - I’ve listened to them since I was a baby. I actually got a lot of my song writing from them. Almost every song they have is good. Every song has a good melody or a good beat or something special about it - so that’s just the basis of how I write songs. And that’s why, I think, a lot of people like us. I mean I could be saying the things I’m saying but are songs could be shit and no one would want to see us. So both those aspects (melody and content) are important - and to have them together that’s my favourite. That’s what I liked so much about the Dead Kennedys. They weren’t always melodic, but they always had a great song with something to say. You want to hear the songs - the music and the lyrics.
Do you think that’s what your audience finds appealing about the Leftover Crack?
I think that the reason that fans that we do have our diehard fans is because our songs are deeper than the songs that they are being spoon-fed on the radio. It’s hard to find people that are ambivalent about us - they either really like us or they don’t like us cos we play Ska or they don’t like what I have to say and they hate my guts. As long as it’s a strong response...
And with that we went to retrieve the cans, check the trash, Sturgeon found himself some cold chips, then they played another blistering gig….. Go find out more at www.leftovercrack.com