An interview with Sean from Neutral Accents


Sean is the pride and joy of Wapella. One of the minds behind Neutral Accents fanzine, he also has a refined taste in music/film/pop culture. The only thing he is confused about is pizza. Read our conversation below where we touch on the above topics, enjoy!

1) Who are you and what do you do?

Sean: A very existential question. I’m Sean. I don’t do much other than live, laugh, love. I’ll apologize ahead of time for my wordy replies to this interview.

2) You are one of the people behind Neutral Accents zine, what is it like running a print zine in the age of digital media? Will we ever see another issue? Is the skate shirt ever happening?

Sean: Neutral Accents was a lot of work but fun. I didn’t use any of the technology available to do nice, clean, easy layouts in order to be able to crank out quality issues. It would’ve made it easier but because I am not smart, I did shit the hard way. The zine was primarily Joe Hawk, Andy Fletcher and I doing the heavy lifting. Tommy Madden was a regular columnist and Bob Belmonte chimed in pretty regularly in his usual charming way. Joe was and is an idea man, so he pushed ideas, set up a ton of the interviews and did a ton of the content (his Grim Cinema was always what I’d get the most feedback on) and Andy did a ton of the art and the aesthetics. I’d do writing, interviews, reviews and most of the layout. I’d print it at Kinko’s, which sucked dick, but there were no other real options. We managed to interview a lot of heavy bands in the scene over the years. I’d get emails fairly often where someone was crying about something we’d printed but it was always fun. I really only ever cared what our friends thought of it, but I did ship that thing all over the world. As with all things, it kind of ran its course.

At this point, all issues are sold out. I doubt I’ll ever reprint anything. By my made-up math: of the 100% of people “into hardcore,” (and let’s use that term “into” very loosely) I’d say 30% actually care about buying records (and that is probably high) and of that 30%, maybe 10% care to read about bands religiously, and of that 10%, maybe 5% care about buying an actual zine. So the numbers are pretty grim in a Glengarry, Glen Ross way. That being said, we did 9 issues (plus 2 Christmas issues and then a one-off issue that was exclusive to Chaos in Tejas.) However, since our last issue was #9, Joe and I talk about going out on nice round number with an issue 10, so one more issue might happen sometime. I think about doing that skate shirt all the time. If Issue 10 happens, so will the shirt.

I have been doing another zine called Stinkbug that I give away at False Negative shows just for shits & giggles and because I don’t know if anyone from Bloomington-Normal reads zines, so trying to get people in the habit. It’s pretty basic stuff, not as entertaining as NxA by any stretch of the imagination; it’s mild-mannered for the masses in the Midwest. Issue One has an interview I did with Monty from DFL and Issue Two has an interview with Charlie from Chubby & the Gang, plus a chat about record collecting with Ian from Fuerza Bruta. Both issues have old interviews from Thrasher and TWS and other such shit. If anyone is interested in checking out either issue, send me an email at [email protected] and I can send out if I have any leftover after the next FN show, which is on 3/20.

3) Neutral Accents also dabbled in putting out some music, will you continue to do that? How important is physical media in punk/hardcore?

Sean: NxA only ever really put out music because I have awesome friends who wanted to help promote the zine and who did 100% of the actual work. They just let me be associated with their bands by allowing me to put the NxA banner on their music. I’m forever grateful to my buds. Top-notch people. I probably won’t put out anything else on Neutral Accents unless I do something with False Negative and just slap the zine logo on it out of a misguided sense of loyalty.

Physical media has always been very important to me. Zines, records, shirts, stickers, buttons, all of it is an integral part of what made me want to even be a part of a “scene.” I don’t get people that don’t give a shit, but to each their own.

4) You currently play in a band called False Negative, how is that going? What are your future plans with that project?

Sean: False Negative is going good. We started in the long, cold winter (shout out Tom Keifer) of 2019. Eric/guitar and Jon/drums and I were in a band together years ago, but it fizzled out. So earlier this year, my old friend Reid/bass, who got me into skating, punk rock, all of it, had moved back to town. So, I thought that I’d try to revive the band with Reid involved, with the intention of hanging out and playing 80s hardcore that sounded like bands off Flex Your Head and Process of Elimination comps. In the end, it just sounds like old dudes (except Jon, who isn’t that old) from the Midwest playing an approximation of our influences. We’ve got enough songs (10 to 12) for an ep. As of today’s date (3/1) we have recorded some stuff with some local guys and we plan to record again in a few weeks. Plan is to put out a teaser tape pretty quick with Andy on his Born Pissed label, and then mix and master the whole session for a cassette and vinyl, both due sometime in 2020. We’ll probably put it out on Def Jam after Rubin puts out the next Kinghorse record.

5) On some artwork for False Negative and often times in the zine you use pop culture references from 80’s movies. Do you find that the art of trash films is lost on today’s youth?

Sean: Eh, it’s funny. If a kid is into trashy 70s and 80s movies now, it’s way easier to watch them, and in fact, 5 minutes online and today’s kid could find hundreds of lists of “must see” trashy films, and in 10 minutes, they’re experts. So, if interested, kids have shit at the touch of a button. I know tons of younger dudes who collect VHS tapes in some misguided attempt at nostalgia for something they never experienced, but it’s better than them doing other lame-ass shit, plus I guess the same could be said for me in a band at my age, that apes a bunch of bands that were broken up when I was in grade school. But to answer the question, yes, I do think that a shirt that has Proctor and Harris from Police Academy or Frank Zito from Maniac on it means zero to most kids and in fact, means zero to most people my age. I like all that stuff though, so I’ll probably keep using it as an aesthetic.

6) At one point you were constantly in Boston, what draws you to this fair city?

Sean: “…you were constantly in Boston” killed me. The first time I came to Boston was maybe 2003 to see Superyob. It was basically because Matt Duffy and I were Internet dating. Nah, some friends of mine from Chicago had a “skinhead” website that turned into a “skinhead” message board, which ended up having a lot of people from Boston were on it. Meet-ups were planned, trips were made and I ended up coming out to Boston for Superyob and then just kind of kept coming back like a bad penny, hat in hand.

The draw is that when I was a kid, some of the first hardcore I really loved was Boston Not L.A., DYS, Slapshot, SS Decontrol, FU’s, Jerry’s Kids, all that Taang! stuff but the world was a bigger place back then and Boston seemed like another planet. It wasn’t feasible to go visit nor did it ever enter my mind to even try. Years later when the internet first took off and I started buying records online, I was buying a lot of the Boston oi!/streetrock stuff and it just seemed like Boston was the spot where the stuff I liked was happening. I’d order from Newbury Comics pretty much weekly: Dropkicks, The Trouble, Showcase Showdown, Ducky Boys, 30 Seconds Over Tokyo, all of that shit. So then when I made connections in Boston, I figured I’d go see Superyob. I came out very shortly after to see

Haircut from France and then I just kept visiting pretty regularly. Some of my best friends are in MA, so I’m psyched I was “constantly in Boston.”

7) Tell me a wild story about the hardcore scene in Illinois or some happenings in Wapella.

Sean: I’m from Wapella, which is like 2 hours south of Chicago and 2 hours north of St. Louis. Right in the middle of the state. A major highway runs right through Wapella, so there are always oddball people/drifters/criminals coming and going, blowing through town. Not too much super-crazy stuff goes down, but odd shit is pretty common. There was kind of a ‘skinhead riot’ at this local bar called Irish Circle one Thanksgiving eve. I walked in and for some ungodly reason, there were a bunch of skinhead dorks from out of town in Pantera shirts and seatbelt braces drinking at a table. I knew things would end poorly, not that I had any particular issues with these guys, but between the Wapella locals and the crowd that was in there, the writing was on the wall. Fast-forward to later that night and it’s a Cannonball Run-style melee outside. It was hilarious/silly. People were just hitting random people. There were many victims of accidental crossfire, people hitting people they knew by mistake, etc, then the cops came and maced a bunch of people. At one point, I look over to see the cops macing the entire enclosed walkway into the bar and then see my friend Jason flushing his eyes out with dirty mud puddle water. It ended with a bunch of arrests and then a delightful Thanksgiving dinner the next day. The Circle is good for a group dust-up about once every 5 years. Again, the highway brings the madness. My neighbor woke up recently and had some dude passed out in his kitchen with an uneaten pizza still in the box. My neighbor said he woke the dude up and the guy just walked out of the house, cut through my yard and kept going never to be seen again. There was a dude running around jacking off in people’s windows a few years back. He hit my house with great aplomb. I had been over-served and was asleep and was awakened by my wife yelling, “there’s a guy jacking off in our window.” He was never caught. I guess he was like Robin Hood in a way. Wapella is part comedy, part Mayberry and part David Lynch.

The “scene” I grew up in as a kid was Bloomington/Normal, IL., which is a college town near me where I spent much of my wayward youth. I got lucky in that it is likely the second best spot in IL to have grown up in, as far as being “punk friendly” since it is home to Illinois State University which made for a lot of Chicago kids coming and going. Again, sitting between Chicago and St. Louis kind of naturally ensured that touring bands were in town all the time. I started going to shows in the late 80s and saw local bands like Naked Hippy (they were local Gods, kind of garage-y hardcore) and The Semicids (also great punk/HC) pretty often and Chicago bands like Naked Raygun, Pegboy, Life Sentence, Screeching Weasel, all that ilk were always playing locally. National bands like Youth of Today, 7 Seconds, Fugazi, Filth, The Vandals, all kinds of bands would roll through town before hitting Chicago or STL.

We’d go to Chicago for the bigger shows. Late 80s/early 90s Chicago was the absolute best. It seemed like whenever I’d make it up there, which wasn’t a lot back then, there were cool shows, cool record stores like Wax Trax, other notorious spots that had the best gear like The Alley, Air Wair, Belmont Surplus, X-Large – just classic underground spots which you kind of just had to know about or be told about. Matt Hensley of H-Street/Plan B fame actually lived in town at one point and worked at Sessions skate shop. He’d DJ at bars and was in this scooter club called Flying Elephants that were/are pretty legendary. Hensley was definitely an idol of mine, so seeing him in Chicago and him being into the skinhead/mod shit that I was into was hugely influential. Mid-90s oi! and hardcore shows in Chicago were a bit of a wild affair. A slight breach of etiquette or perhaps a disagreement about the Elements of Style might get one beaten down with an optional stabbing perhaps likely. One of the bigger shows I saw end in a riot was Ducky Boys/Blood for Blood/Dropkick Murphys. At one point, one of the Blood for Blood guys was pulling a Morrissey and “wielding a bicycle chain” fending off hordes of advancing skinheads. Matt Kelly can tell you about that one too. Many other incidents that I won’t go into in order to protect the innocent.

8) What is in your current rotation for music? Do you have certain records that you enjoy as much today as when you first heard them? Do you find yourself

leaning more towards older stuff as opposed to new music?

Sean: Reviewing my “Recently Played” list on my phone shows these bands: Cinderella, The Kinks, The Royal Hounds, Cheap Trick, Liam Gallagher, Charles Bronson, Gerry Cinnamon, Government Issue (I was pushing for a cover of “Fashionite” in False Negative), FYP, Krakdown, The Faith, Life’s Blood, Teenage Fanclub, Born Against, and early R.E.M. I was listening to a lot of Murmur and Lifes Rich Pageant. I had recently seen an old, old interview with Peter Buck on YouTube where the interviewer said something dumb along the lines of “R.E.M. is a weird name but it’s better than J.F.A.” and Peter Buck just kind of looks at the guy like he’s an idiot and says “I dig J.F.A.” Peter Buck is cool. Oh yeah, YDL too – which I was playing at a party recently. I guess alot of the stuff I play is older, but when people tell me about new stuff, I’m down to check it out. Affront from Chicago are great. Royal Hounds, as mentioned above. I like Restraining Order quite a bit. I’m still waiting on the fucking Peacebreakers LP. Looking forward to the Burden LP too, I’m always open to suggestions, Hook.

Since the consumption of music today is so different, it’s not that plausible that newer stuff sticks with me like the old bands did. Example: I can tell you exactly where I was when I heard my first Minor Threat song, where I bought it at, what format it was on – it was an Out of Step tape bought at Co-Op Records in Bloomington, played when we got to this birthday party we were headed to, so “Betray” was my intro to that band. I can do the same with most bands from my youth. I’m sure a lot of people in my age bracket can do the same as well. Time, place, age, all hold great sway on what sticks and what doesn’t, so its sort of a demarcation line based on getting old, I guess.

9) Both of us have had our chops busted by friends because of our willingness to listen to stuff outside of the standard definition of “hardcore”. Why are we so advanced and why are they stuck in listening to the same 5 bands?

Sean: You and I are men of taste. Our friends are savages. So when I’m being punished for being a superfan of Pist’n’Broke, I just take a deep breath and tell myself “forgive them, they know not what they do.”

10) Chicago deep dish is garbage and South Shore bar pizza reigns supreme. Why have generations of Chicagoans been brainwashed to think chucky tomato soup in a bread bowl is pizza? What needs to be done to reverse this travesty?

Sean: Here we are. The real guts of my invite to this interview, conducted solely so you can insult Illinois pizza. Haha. Before I defend how good this pizza is, let me start by saying a couple things: I have no idea what South Shore bar pizza is and two, deep dish is primarily for visitors to Chicago. I don’t know any person from Chicago, or from Illinois for that matter, who gets deep dish all that regularly. Nine of ten times, I get pizza that is more akin to…..well, I’m not sure what you in MA might call it. It is thin, cracker crust, cut into squares. Thin crust cut into squares is by far the most common pizza in these here parts, but a few times a year, I’ll get deep dish and if you get it from the right place, it’s amazing. The right place, as far as the big name spots go, would be Lou Malnati’s. But Gino’s is pretty good. Giordano’s is OK. Pizzeria Uno used to be good but be wary of these spots in chain locations. None of these spots are worth a shit outside Chicago. The chains are garbage. I had Lou Malnati’s last week (the picture I sent you) and it was fucking GODLIKE. Pearse knows what’s up with Chicago pizza, I need him to weigh in. As an aside, I’ve never really had pizza that has blown me away in any other city. I have still not had that “legendary” NYC slice that gets them entry into all these “Best City for Pizza” discussions. I’ve eaten a bunch of pizza there, but apparently not the right stuff? I’ll take recommendations. In Boston, I do like Santarpio’s and Regina’s was pretty tasty. Bob took me to another place that was pretty damn good too, but I can’t think of the name of it – it was just a small bar with delicious pizza. I wanna try CT pizza, I hear things. Good things.

11) Shout outs /Put downs

Sean: Shout outs to old episodes of SCTV, old Siskel & Ebert when they were on PBS reviewing karate movies, gore movies and porn, and special shout out to the part in The Irishman when DeNiro gives that dude a right kicking outside the deli. Brutal! I’d rather light a candle than curse someone’s darkness, so no putdowns. Thanks for the interview, Hook. You unabashedly love hardcore and that’s cool. Congrats to you and Jen on the arrival of young Master Leo Hook as well. I know no on cares about me, including me, so if you read this, thanks for wading though it.

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