Ten years ago, Warthog weren’t really friends.
Sure, they went to the same shows. Punk was thriving. But at that time in New York City, the scene was splintered. On one hand, you had the incredible Toxic State Records scene coming into its own, with bands like Crazy Spirit, Dawn of Humans, Perdition, and Hank Wood and the Hammerheads putting on exciting, unforgettable live shows in the raw punk tradition, with their own twist. On the other, you had bands like the Men and their friends Drunkdriver playing their own dark and twisted brand of hardcore. Somewhere inbetween were subscenes: from the power pop of Nude Beach to the straightforward hardcore of Nomos and CREEM. (We didn’t pay them; this is not a joke.) And that says nothing about the smaller, tighter scenes in nearby Long Island, Westchester, N.Y. and New Brunswick, N.J.
The members of Warthog were all up in the mix. But even after the band started, it took a while for everyone to get on the same page, to realize their different tastes in guitar tones, tempos, and breakdowns were extremely subtle and a little silly. And while I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that the band brought the New York punk scene together, New York did come together while they were around, and certainly did when Warthog became the hot band to check out.)
In the following interview, drafted from separate conversations with each band member and one conversation with all of them in the same room, Warthog (frontman Chris Hansell, drummer Ryan Naideau, bassist Mateo Cartagena, and guitarists Sully Sullivan and Mike Goo) muse on how the New York punk scene has changed, how their music writing changed, and by God, how they changed.
CREEM: Ten years ago in New York, there were different groups of people playing in different subgenres of punk bands. Like, thre were hardcore bands and dbeat bands, and there wasn’t necessarily a ton of overlap. Did Warthog single-handedly unify the New York punk scene when you guys started?
MATEO CARTAGENA: The scene [has been] extraordinarily united since. There hasn’t been any division since that happened, so you can thank us.
CHRIS HANSELL: We all went to the same gigs, but we all had slightly different backgrounds as far as bands we played in before. It’s because of the different backgrounds, and the different vibes we all have as people, coming together, that maybe makes [us] a bit chaotic, personality-wise. And we 100% get on each others’ last nerve all the fucking time. But because we all were cherry-picked from different, not super different, but different enough backgrounds to come together and make this unique thing is the best part of the band.
RYAN NAIDEAU: [Ten years ago] a lot of Sully’s crew was still Boston people. Dustheads [Goo and Naideau’s former band] at that point weren’t a band anymore. But Mike and I still hung out, and I would go see CREEM [Goo’s hardcore band], and whatever else was going on, or that he was playing in, around that time. Our decision to play music together was because we wanted to be in a band together again. But to have the other guys in there was just exactly that: to switch things up, to cross over into this other thing [the raw punk/Toxic State Records punk scene] that was happening, ‘cause we wanted in, you know what I mean? I was like, ‘Holy shit, I want to play shows like this.’ So it was an accidental “unite the scene” moment. And we didn’t unite anything. Everybody was like, ‘Who the fuck are these guys?’ about me and Mike. It took a couple years, honestly, before I became better friends with a lot of people from those bands [like Crazy Spirit, Hank Wood, Dawn of Humans, etc.], but that’s okay. I totally understand that, too. Your scene, and the people in your scene, is the most important thing ever. You can’t let it be tainted by people trying to get in on something. Especially when that thing is cool and popular, and everyone wants to be in that kind of band, and wants to be involved. You gotta be a little protective, so I got it.