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Interview With Into Another/Underdog Singer Richie Birkenhead, Part Two

Last week, we caught up with Into Another and Underdog singer Richie Birkenhead, who we had been trying to track down for an interview for about four months. When we settled into a chat, Birkenhead felt like as much of a fan as we are. In this second part of our conversation, Birkenhead mused about the state of hardcore, the scene of which he was an integral part of 20 years ago, his favorite memories of the era and holding onto hope that Into Another will take the stage again soon.

One of the things I love most about ‘Into Another’ is the dirty, almost ramshackle production value.

That first album was recorded in Don Fury’s studio, which is basically a basement, so it was minimally produced, with a bunch of cheap microphones pointed at our instruments.

What do you think about this resurgence of hardcore bands from the ’80s playing shows and getting back together? What’s your take on the revival? And do you think real hardcore still exists?

It’s weird. I feel almost like a hypocrite. I used to decry bands who got back together long after break up when I was a sophomoric kid. I can’t judge anyone for reasons they do it, since we’re doing it. Do I think hardcore still exists? I wouldn’t know. In my realm, not really. We’ve all grown up, and what it was then is impossible to be that now. The dynamics are so different, since then it was such an underground and dangerous thing. In the days of CBGB matinees — I am old enough to remember 1982 — it was a completely real and organic thing. There was no parents dropping kids off at shows. It was a tiny scene. Everyone knew each other. What it was then sort of vanished as early as the late ’80s, and then it became something else altogether. I guess I am too old and out of the loop to know. It does not exist as it did then, but are there still hardcore bands forming and indie labels putting out music? Of course.

Was Underdog hardcore?

Underdog always existed on the fringes. We were not comfortable being called a hardcore band. We loved that scene, because it was organic and so non-conformist and progressive and forward-thinking. We didn’t care too much for the label, though. We were just Underdog.

Since you experienced the New York hardcore scene, what’s your favorite memory from that era? Can you share some lore?

Some of them are violent, but there are so many. I remember once — do you know Dito?

Dito Montiel? He wrote the book ‘A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints,’ which was made into a movie that I love starring Shia Labeouf as Dito. The movie didn’t really tackle much about Ditto’s musical and hardcore scene days!

He was the biggest bad ass ever. I remember one night outside of Danceteria, four guys started a fight with him and he laid them all out! It’s not particular incidents I remember from those times or certain tours or shows, which were really special. With Youth of Today, it’s kind of terrible that most of memories have to do with altercations, since I am not in favor of that stuff. Youth of Today had changed the lyrics of ‘We Just Might’ to ‘Time to Forgive.’ First it was a song that was violent and once we on tour, we played a show in Arizona, and these skinheads kept roughing up the crowd. And we were calling them out from stage and we played the song, changed the lyrics back to ‘We Just Might.’

Famous last words?

Anyone out there who has patiently waited years and years for Into Another to play shows: Don’t give us hope, because we haven’t.

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