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Into Another’s Richie Birkenhead: ‘People Either Love Us or Hate Us’

Nicole C. Kibert

Into Another were one of the most hard-to-classify bands that rose to prominence in the 1990s. Featuring Richie Birkenhead of Underdog and Youth of Today on vocals and Drew Thomas on drums, the band didn’t pander to a hardcore sound, despite the members’ pedigrees. Instead, they trafficked in forward-thinking, progressive hard rock, anchored by Birkenhead’s young Ozzy-style vocals, and developed a die-hard legion of followers.

After a couple of albums on Revelation Records and one on Hollywood Records, the band dissolved in 1997 after playing their final shows in 1996.

That is, until now.

After reuniting for the Rev 25th Anniversary shows earlier this year, the band decided to keep going, adding a guitarist and a new bassist, as original bassist Tony Bono has since passed away. Noisecreep spoke to Birkenhead about this week’s spate of weekend warrior shows on East Coast and the future of the band, which is active again for one reason and one reason only: the passion to play.

What is the status of the band at this point?

We are fully active again. We’re writing new stuff. We are at the beginning stages of writing new stuff that we intend to record. We can play out as much as our busy lives permit us to. We consider it coming back from an extremely long hiatus, not reunion shows.

What was the impetus to come back from hiatus?

I personally never lost the desire. I’ve sort of been wanting to and with increasing enthusiasm for the last decade or more. I was living on the West Coast for a bit. Drew was in other bands. [Guitarist] Peter [Moses] for all intents and purposes disappeared and we could not find him. He moved to a remote place. We literally lost touch with him.

Years dragged on, and we focused on other things, like family and other careers. I’d always wanted to. I would check in with Drew constantly. He wanted to do it more and more. Finally, in the past year or so, we said, ‘We have to make this happen.’ What caused it to happen was the fact that Brian [Balchack] and Reid [Black], two newest members of the band, they reached out to us, saying, ‘We can play this music.’ We hadn’t found Peter, at the time, though. They sent us videos of them playing our songs. Drew and I were blown away.

This sounds sort of weirdly arrogant, but we never found people who could play our songs or replicate them, especially on the guitar. We were blown away. So we said, ‘Let’s book some shows.’ Not long after we confirmed the West Coast Rev shows, Peter surfaced. He got in touch with me and Drew, and we were thrilled. The chemistry was so great, with Brian and Peter. We didn’t want to touch it. It’s a new incarnation.

The shows feel for us, like we never left, even though it’s a new band. Obviously, Tony is there only in spirit now.

Watch Into Another Tour Announcement

Things worked out as they should have. When is the next round of gigs?

We will play more East Coast shows in spring and summer. Don’t quote me, but I can’t imagine why we wouldn’t at that time.

Will you just play the classics like “Underlord,” “Running Into Walls,” etc?

I know, from being a music fan, I am never thrilled to see a band and see them play more than one song they’ve not yet recorded. There are loyal fans who have waited years and years for us. We want to make it special for them. So no new songs. Even if we had songs completely together, we’d wait a little while, for when we come around again.

Clearly the band is doing what feels right, without any concern for the state of the music business in 2012, which is markedly different than 1997!

I don’t think we’re taking into consideration the current state of the business. This is purely out of the passion for just playing and making music and being able to perform those songs again. It was an incredibly special time for us. We were always on the fringes of the business and any given scene.

People grew to love us, even though we were not a hardcore band. We appreciate that so much. We are an acquired taste. People either love us or hate us, and we love that about us. It’s proof that we never tried to conform.

When I first started going to concerts, there were bands like Black Sabbath and The Clash still playing. It wasn’t most sanitized, Auto-Tuned, sequenced music. That type of music still exists, but you have to sift through a lot of shit to find it.

It’s great to hear a wall of electric guitar and to become entranced in rock music. We like giving that to people. It’s euphoric. We needed it, but didn’t think now is the time, things just fell into place.

Watch ‘T.A.I.L.’ Video

Into Another tour dates:

Dec 13 The Sinclair Cambridge, MA
Dec 14 The El ‘N Gee New London, CT
Dec 15 Union Transfer Philadelphia, PA
Dec 16 The Bowery Ballroom New York, NY
Jan 06 House of Blues Chicago Chicago, IL
Apr 27 Groezrock Meerhout, Belgium

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