Friday, October 4, 2013

Last word on 30 years with Antiseen: Russ Ward

If Antiseen had a biographer - besides Jeff Clayton - it might be Russ Ward (pictured with a bloody Jeff Clayton, above). Our fifth and final installment for Antiseen's 30th Antivesary week comes from Ward - a local musician who tours and works with Antiseen behind-the-scenes and has contributed liner notes to their releases. He remembers his first Antiseen concert (September 1, 1989 at The Milestone) and his experience meeting other fans and on the road. 

Antiseen celebrates its 30th Antiversary Friday and Saturday at Tremont. Tickets for tonight's pre-party are $10. Admission for Antiseen's show with the Meatmen and the Hookers Saturday is $15. 

“It’s almost kind of embarrassing because people tend to roll their eyes, but when I saw them the first time I was 17. It was maybe my second punk rock show. The first one impressed me, but Antiseen kind of threw me sideways. As goofy as it sounds, that was the proverbial moment. I wasn’t prepared to see a band that was intimidating or confrontational. What I remember most about it was it was like a cross between being really excited and really scared.

Jeff obviously was younger and his performance was more physical than it is now. He threw himself and it wasn’t like a stage dive. He landed on the floor in this hump at my feet. I remember thinking, ‘Do I help this guy up or will he punch me if I touch him?’

When I saw that (Antiseen) was something that resonated with me in a deep way, I tried to turn my friends on to it and they didn’t get it at all. I remember riding in a car with this guy, he turned around with his face wrinkled up and said ‘Is the guitar supposed to sound like that?’

I look back at life before that and it seems so monochromatic and sterile and paint by numbers. MTV was at its height. I couldn’t relate to that at all. I didn’t like any of that heavy metal stuff that was coming up. I was a weirdo kid. I didn’t like anything - kind of like I am now. When I saw Antiseen it wasn’t like the other punk rock stuff. These guys didn’t have mohawks and colored hair and spikey leather jackets. These guys looked like truck drivers and warehouse types, which is essentially what they are. They weren’t playing to put on a pose. The way Clayton performs there was a genuine expression and release. They weren’t doing it for money or ego and fame. It was a lot more direct and real.

People tend to focus on the bloodshed. I started traveling with them about 20 years ago. I’ve seen it more than anybody. I don’t pay attention to it so much. Every once in a while he’ll do something and I’ll go, ‘Wow.’ I’ve seen him cut his arms and that always makes me go, ‘hhmmmeewe.’ As a friend I don’t like to see that. I remember more about when I see him police the audience. One show in Myrtle Beach the stage was a six inch riser. This little girl was in her twenties, but she was the size of a 13-year-old. She was dancing by the PA. This 350 pound hubba bubba guy that’s like king of the pit, he tilts up on the stage and plows this girl and Jeff saw it. He went after the guy and clobbered him with a mic stand. That’s the stuff when I go, ‘Ooooh.’ That’s rare. I’ve seen them hit people with guitars. (Bassist) Tom (O’Keefe) hit someone with his guitar and opened him up and the guy came up after the show and said, ‘Oh, man, I love you guys.’

Anywhere they go they’re going to draw people. People in Charlotte tend to not understand this. They get taken for granted as the perennial local band. I go to Fargo, North Dakota with them and see 12 people from Canada. We were in Lansing, Michigan and there were people from some province up in French Canada 10 hours away. We were in Pittsburg once and this guy came down from Toronto. There’s this couple that come over from Germany every Spring and follow them on tour. We were in Oklahoma City this spring and a guy road his motorcycle from somewhere in Kansas. You see that all the time.

To be able to sustain 30 years - it shows integrity that a lot of bands don’t possess. A lot of bands disappear if they don’t have that label support and people blowing up their ego. I don’t see a lot of bands being able to pull this off - all the hard work that goes into it. You travel in a cramped van. You’re sharing a Motel 6. You do that stuff because you love it.

I always saw myself helping Antiseen more so than doing my own thing (Ward played for years as Mad Brother Ward). They were my band. I always loved what they do. I think what they do is important.

(Photos - Ward and Clayton, courtesy of Russ Ward; "Jump," from an earlier show exhibiting Clayton's agility, courtesy of Jeff Clayton).