This interview was done with Tommy in 1998 by this dude Mike McKenna who contributed some content to the fanzines I was doing around that time.
What’s going on in Louisville?
Right now Louisville is doing just fine. We are going through a stage right now where a lot of great new hardcore, punk, and indie rock bands are coming out of the woodwork. Some great new bands you should check out are:
Five Times Fast
The Aasee Lake
Half Seas Over
…just to name a few. The only thing that kind of sucks right now is that there are barely any places that will hold all-ages shows. There is a place called Sparks where about 90% of the punk shows are. The club is really cool to us and the people who work there are very cooperative, but the room the bands play in sounds like crap. Rumor has it that some kids are trying to find a place to start a collective but I hear that like every six months and nothing ever happens. I hope it works out this time.
I noticed that By The Grace Of God changed their lineup recently. Who are the new members and have they played in other bands before?
Our two new members’ names are Robby Scott (who replaced Jay Palumbo on guitar) and Brian Roundtree aka “Tree” (who replaced Jon Mobly on bass). So far, everything is working out just great except that Tree tends to hang out with hippies in drum circles and ends up coming to practice all stoned and smelling like patchouli.
By The Grace of God started as an “all star” band of sorts. How exactly did it come about, and more specifically when did you become involved?
By The Grace of God started because Rob and Duncan missed being in a hardcore band together since the breaking up of the all-mighty Endpoint. Duncan went around Louisville and found the biggest straight edge losers he could and asked them to be in a band. So we had our first practice and wrote three songs (Goliath, Pallbearer’s Hymn, and Navigator) and played them over and over again, then a week later we played our first show on a whim with Earth Crisis. Shelter was supposed to play but their van broke down or something so we got up after the opening band and used their equipment and played our three songs and a Judge cover. The room went nuts. It was so fun and exciting but also very sloppy.
The Perspective album sounds more developed than the 7”. Is this because more time was spent in the studio, or was it because at that point By The Grace of God was a full-time band?
Well…neither. The songs on Perspective came out not as aggressive because that’s how they were written. We all didn’t sit down and say “hey, let’s write some more polished hardcore songs.” Hopefully, our next release will be much more aggressive the way I personally like it.
Some people would label By The Grace Of God as a political band. Obviously, there are some very political songs on your records but do you feel that this perception of the band in any way constrains you?
Not really. I am not really educated enough on politics to be as political as I want to be. When Rob writes his lyrics, he sometimes shares them with us so we can all put our ideas to mold it into a better song.
Are the messages reflected in such songs as November’s Lie and Red Hand Plan representative of the feelings of the band or are they mostly expressions of Rob’s ideas?
The songs November’s Lie and Red Hand Plan are expressions of Rob’s ideas.
Does By The Grace of God have any plans to head back into the studio in the near future?
By The Grace of God plans on going back in the studio in April to record songs for a new 7” on Three Little Girls Records out of Louisville, and some for some compilations.
Everyone knows By The Grace of God is on Victory. How did that come about? I mean, nothing against Victory, but why not go with Initial Records, who you not only work with, but is also a hometown label?
Just for the record, By The Grace of God is not on Victory anymore. We didn’t leave on bad terms. We still appreciate everything they did for us but in the long run Victory wasn’t the right label for us. Victory came into question about what labels we wanted to be on because Duncan’s old band Guilt was on Victory and Tony told Duncan that he wanted to put it out. We figured that Tony would probably get it out the fastest so we went with it. It worked out great because our record came out like a couple of months after we recorded it. The reason why we haven’t done anything with Initial is totally over my head. I wanted to release something with Initial from the get go, but it didn’t work out that way.
On the back of the Perspective LP there is a little box which says STRAIGHT EDGE IS A NON-VIOLENT MOVEMENT. I think that is really cool and more straight edge bands should promote non-violence. Do you think that violence in the straight edge community is as bad as everyone says it is?
I think it depends on what scene you are from. Here in Kentucky, we have a semi-violent scene but there are never any fights. The scene here is a lot different than say, New York or New Jersey because it seems that kids dance a whole lot more violent up there than they do in the south. I am strongly opposed to mindless violence and I think it has no place in any hardcore scene. If people have the brain to just talk things out instead of fighting, things wouldn’t be so bad in some scenes. I might get called a sissy for saying this but it’s just the logical thing to do…plain and simple.
What’s new with your other band, The Enkindels?
The Enkindels just finished the recording for our new LP Buzz Clip 2000. It is by far the best Enkindel release yet, much more melodic punk rock than emotional hardcore. We are going to be touring like hell this summer and hopefully go to Europe this winter. I love playing in all sorts of different genres of punk. I also play in a band called The Life Of An Ocean that’s different than anything else I’ve ever done.
What were the bands or albums which made you want to play hardcore?
There are tons and tons of records which made me want to play hardcore, but if I had to narrow it down to three records it would be Minor Threat–Out of Step, Gorilla Biscuits–Start Today, and Bad Religion–Suffer. But still today there are great records that are coming out that totally motivate me like Ten Yard Fight–Back On Track, and Good Riddance–Ballads From The Revolution.
Right now, in your opinion, what are the worst problems in the hardcore community?
Violence, sexism (yes, sexism…look around, it’s still there), and superiority.
What albums are you looking forward to in 1998?
I am looking forward to the new Ink and Dagger LP. I think Don and Sean are going to blow everyone’s ass apart with this next one. The Saves The Day LP. I am also looking forward to the next Boy Sets Fire release.
Any closing comments?
It seems like every five or six months I get a new record that totally blows me away. Recently I got the new Good Riddance LP and it is so fucking amazing. The music is incredible and the lyrics are ingenious. I can’t wait to see them live so I can run around and scream my head off. Check it out; if you don’t you are seriously missing out.