I recently had the opportunity to share some words with The Reverend T. Sinister of New Jersey’s premiere Ska-Punk band Hub City Stompers and below is what he had to say about his life and coming up in the New Jersey and New York Hardcore/Ska/Skinhead Scene.
DS: What led you to and when did you get into Ska & The Skinhead Scene?
Rev. Sinister: My initial introduction to punk/underground music in general, including punk rock, hardcore, ska, oi!, alternative, industrial, and hip hop. Was in the early 80’s via my older brother who listened to a wide array of underground music that I would hear blaring from his room. As his room was quite naturally off limits to his little brother, I would wait until he would leave the house and then go snooping through his cassettes to see what was what with those wonderful sounds on the other side of that door. So that’s when I initially discovered bands such as The Clash, The Replacements, The English Beat, The Specials, and Husker Du. But once my brother laid Black Flag “Damaged” on me, I was hooked on hardcore and the punk and underground music scene in general. Hardcore was always my main preference, and Ska was secondary to that for me. But that’s not to say I didn’t still love Ska, listen to it, and hit every Ska show I could. In fact my first show was Fishbone. Once I started going to shows I was immersed in the skinhead scene as they were a constant presence at all the shows I went to and I became friends with many skins early on. As I was never a fan of labels I actually resisted being a skinhead at first, despite hanging out with all of them. But over time as I rather naturally became more and more involved in the scene, the music, the style, the lifestyle, well, let’s just say nature took it’s course.
DS: What do you think attracted you to it the most…Was it the music, the fashion or the camaraderie?
Rev. Sinister: All of those things really, as they all seemed to address my anger and angst, my feeling of being an outcast and freak among the majority of my peers at school, and my inability to comprehend, accept, and go with the flow of how things were supposed to be in society. Finding a world of angry freaks like me who were into the same music and style and behavior was a indescribably refreshing and life changing experience at the time. But the music was really the core of it all, the one thing that brought it all together.
DS: Tell us a little about your first bands before HCS was Inspecter 7 your only other band in the before starting Hub City Stompers?
Rev. Sinister: As far as a real band and not some experiment or hobby, yes, Inspecter 7 was my first band actually. Give or take some line up changes, the band had existed under a couple different monikers (Agent 68, Crashbars) in 1992 and 1993. At the end of ’93 and as the name changed to Inspecter 7, is when I was approached about joining the band. Transferring my buffoonery from the dance floor to the stage wound up being a rather natural progression and set off a whole new era of life for me, with all these decades in i7 and culminating in HCS. I also started another band in 1997 called Steel Toe Solution, which has essentially been my eternal oi!/hardcore side project.
DS: I hate even to bring up such negativity but how tired are you of the never ending shadow of racism that hangs over the word Skinhead? I always like to say skinheads cant be racists and racists can’t be skinheads…and in essence that’s true but there is no doubt the name has been totally coopted by bonehead idiots.
Rev. Sinister: I guess back when I was newer and younger in the skinhead scene, which also happened to be a time when the American media’s misguided and negative portrayal and attention to what they thought “skinhead” meant was at an all time high, I was more motivated to try and educate people on the truth of the matter. But as time went on I just became accustomed and numbed to everyone’s misperception and tired of explaining it all. I just eventually got to a point where I was like “You think I’m a Nazi? Ok, I’m a Nazi…. a Nazi who’s not even white… you fucking halfwit… now do something about it or shut up”. Hell, as a skinhead you’re already fighting everybody…including, ya know, actual Nazis anyway. So what’s a few more ignoramuses in your face?
So much misinformation has been spread for such a long time that that shadow and implication of racism associated with the word “skinhead” is always going to be there. You can blame the Nazi dummies that have called themselves “skinheads” all you want, but you’d better be pointing an equally big finger…or the middle finger at the media for helping to spread the lies for the sake or ratings and sales. Hell, the skinhead subculture is far from the first thing the media has ever skewed and mutilated and misinformed on, and surely won’t be the last nor the most significant.
It’s a no win. You have the Nazi label hanging on one side and the treatment of the subculture as some kind of politically correct pop trend on another. And the truth of what the subculture is and represents is neither. Most of mainstream society hasn’t seen it and most never will. And, truth be told, what real skins are left don’t really give a fuck.
DS: You mentioned the PC trend in punk what are your thoughts on how political correctness can also be an enemy of the ska/punk/skinhead/hardcore scenes, and how freedom of speech is paramount in our world.
Rev. Sinister: I know the lines are seeming more and more blurred these days, but right and wrong are still pretty easily defined in my eyes…And we should be able to address the wrong in any way that weakens it and brings it down, whether that way is one’s particular style or taste or not. Look at the big picture. Know the real enemy. Fight it the way you see fit and let other people do it the way they see fit as well. As for HCS, we’ll sure as hell keep doing it all in that special way we do what we do.
DS: Thank you so much for sharing.
Rev. Sinister: Thank you so much for caring and asking.