Queens New York’s Minor Cuts show the world Punk’s not dead, with their violently energetic, brutally fun dominance of venue stages citywide.
“Dee Dee Ramone once said in End Of The Century, “It wasn’t cool to be from Queens . . . You would lie about it if you went into Manhattan- you would tell ’em I got an apartment in the city, then you’d go back to your mom’s house.” In that same documentary, Arturo Vega says, quoting Johnny Rotten just before meeting The Ramones, “He’s asking me if he comes in and meets the band, will they beat him up. Everybody thinks that The Ramones are a gang, from The Bronx, or something like that.”
There is something to be said for those two statements above, about the image our city portrayed in the years of Punk music’s inception, and what was understood to be “the city.” People from all parts of the globe are moving to NYC, particularly Manhattan, and “hip” areas of Brooklyn, more often these days. This is largely due to their fascination with Manhattan. I’m not bothered at all by transplants rallying for our city, claiming it as their own. I do have an undying desire, however, to have it be known that it was usually natives from the outer boroughs such as Queens, who collectively integrated what would become Manhattan’s historic creative image.
For this reason, the young four-piece gang from Queens called The Minor Cuts prove to be very important to New York City today. Who exactly are The Minor Cuts, you ask? Well aside from being the most awesomely unique Punk Rock band of the moment, they’re four native New Yorkers who I’ve personally taken the time to follow over the course of several months, to give you an idea of exactly who they are, as individual members of their band, and what to expect when you go see them live – which you definitely should! We begin with the improbable, yet almost obvious rise of Alysson Venom (sometimes playfully referred to as Alysson “Vino”), at the forefront of the quartet, and we close with Ian Monte (aka “Skian!!”), as The Minor Cuts missing link. Also below, you will find an in-depth explanation given by the band themselves, of how they came to be the The Minor Cuts, involving a drunken jam session and a bottle of household peroxide, Stiff Little Fingers, a magician, and some unforgivable, abominable Justin Bieber fellatio – NOT in that order. Enjoy!
You know that character element in a horror movie, where you see the innocent, unsuspecting, doll-like little cutie-pie at the final scenes of the movie and you say, “Wow, SHE killed all those people?!?” This is the transformation that occurs when Alysson, the girl who once played the background in a group of musician friends, takes the stage and becomes “Alysson Venom.” You would never expect something so chaotically colossal to be packaged behind something so preciously petite.
Creative outlets are indeed then, a wonderful thing. I could easily picture some of my favorite artists becoming that guy from the Saw films, had it not been for creative expression through music, as salvation from a life of homicidal maniac… Such is the case with the ferocity magnitude of lead-singer, Minor Cuts chaos queen: Alysson Venom.
Alysson introduces a whole new category of intensity to live performance: it’s pure uninhibited uncontainability. She causes for new words to be admitted into the English descriptive language. Because of Alysson Venom, adolescent girls will now have to make emoticons with buttons found on the control panel of an SR-71 Blackbird to describe their reactions. Alysson is natural jet engine level supersonic volatility. The beauty of the intimidating design presence in an SR-71 aircraft, together with the roar of its engine: This is what Alysson Venom delivers.
Speaking of jets, equally noticeable, Joan Jett didn’t become an iconic figure because she had the harmonic pipes of a female Freddy Mercury . . . There was a unique texture to her voice that made her immediately recognizable, yes, but it was that trademark prowess in her vocal inflections which made her an instant sex symbol. You can tell she was immersed in the delivery of her vocals: she BECAME the music. Alysson becomes just as involved in her lyrics (as the sole lyricist) and their mood; she and the music become indivisible. Pacing back and forth restlessly, Alysson just terrorizes the stage while personifying the music to perfection. People aren’t able to do that sort of thing anymore, not genuinely, or convincingly, at least.
Alysson Venom performs the way that Glenn Danzig sounded on studio recordings. Even Glenn himself didn’t sound as consistently good live, as he did on his own studio recordings. There is a quality of commanding power Alysson has that you see on stage, which only very few artist have had in the past. I use Danzig as an example, because in his early years with the Misfits you see this irrepressible energy in him, and all through the evolution of his legacy, he maintained a certain power of character superiority; Alysson has this very same characteristic.
What’s more remarkable, is that Alysson emerged from within the shadow of her best friend, guitarist “Mohawk Dave,” to fulfill the role of the band’s bass player without prior experience. She then one-ups that accomplishment by impulsively catapulting herself into dominance, as “Alysson Venom,” when the former lead singer of their original band quit while on stage one night. During live sets, as the lead singer of The Minor Cuts, Alysson is unyielding raw energy. She engages your focus more and more through each menacing gesture.
Alysson Venom takes Mohawk Dave’s 3-chord ravaging, and translates it into words and body language on stage, unleashing a merciless fury by way of graceful young adult sex appeal, alongside a youthful, rebellious nature.
I don’t like to compare artists to each other, and in this case, luckily, I can’t. Alysson has a voice that I must categorize as more dominant than many of the male Punk vocalists I’ve heard in my day. The only thing that comes to mind when I hear Alysson Venom is Joan Jett on Black Leather, but as if she were running behind somebody at full speed, wielding a chainsaw. Their track “The Machine” has to be the most continuously hyper record I’ve heard since Devilock (Glenn Danzig with The Misfits). If you remember Devilock, you recall Danzig’s monstrous domination on it – combine that with the raw, yet still female, sexiness in Joan Jett’s voice on Black Leather, and that’s Alysson Venom on “The Machine,” or on any of their records, for that matter.
“The Machine” is the record that I keep on repeat when my driving speed must come dangerously close to a felony offense (in most states), for the sake of punctuality; it encourages that much intensity. THAT should say it all. For the record, don’t drive that way on my recommendation, I drive like a bad-ass either way, the song simply justifies it in my world of mania.
Alysson Venom, in what seemed like an overnight’s time, evolved from a harmlessly abrasive little “darling,” to a sexy, explosive, no bullshit bad-ass. Between her, and the drummer Bre, this is what I believed to be the “minor” theme in The Minor Cuts image (apparently not, as the interview below will explain). Every now and then, though, you might see the vulnerable little girl resurface, depending on the track, but she’s ultimately overshadowed by the fatal sting of a wild, un-tamed Alysson Venom.
Dave is the kid who you see on first sight, and if you have any musical inclination whatsoever, you immediately think: “If this kid isn’t already in a band we’re starting a band right this very second.” Mohawk Dave is the one you absolutely wish you had in your band. Everything about him screams DIY, and he lives up to that appearance. If he’s not making or altering some article of clothing or accessory involving his band, he’s thinking of ways to have The Minor Cuts wind up in every household. Whether it’s in the form of self recorded, self packaged, self promoted music, or cool designs on some sort of garment or accessory, Dave wants The Minor Cuts to be a part of everybody’s life. The honesty behind the DIY philosophy often guarantees results.
If you’ve ever gotten the chance to know how a record label works, “Mohawk Dave” (as he’s been amicably named by kids in NYC), is exactly like that, except with a huge, red mohawk. In 2013, you can’t expect a record label to point you in any direction, and provide income for your creativity. Those days are long behind us, but ironically, we’ve come to realize that the record company “machine” is no longer necessary. Dave is proof that so long as you have a solid, genuine idea, once the idea is initiated, it can be propelled by the energy its presence emanates, drawing attention, and securing a following. These are the fundamental steps to the inception of a movement.
The commercialization and institutinalization of Punk Rock music over the years has made it increasingly difficult to allow for the consciousness of identities such as Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), or the creative authenticity of H.R. (Bad Brains), or the honest, unintentional genius of Dee-Dee Ramone’s writing. At some point, it was almost as if success translated into fraudulence and “selling out,” creating a polarity between the street level and the more widely accepted sounds of Punk Rock music. Through that disparage, many seemed to have forgotten what it was that defined Punk Rock music through each decade of its movement.
Mohawk Dave, whether he knows it or not, through the The Minor Cuts as a gateway, is re-introducing vital elements that symbolized the independence, defiance, unity, and culture in Punk Rock music. Skateboarding, Graffiti, DIY, and just general “loitering,” for example were all characteristics synonymous with Punk . . . You will see any of this anywhere The Minor Cuts are present. Dave’s assembly of The Minor Cuts is part intuitive decision making, and part fate, as circumstances would have it. Naturally, his patriarchal role would have each member held to the degree of “family.” For this to work, all the pieces of the puzzle must not only fit, but be cohesive to the extent that with one piece missing, it’s not the same band anymore. This is how you know each band member contributes their own valuable uniqueness to complete a bigger vision collectively.
Dave’s role in The Minor Cuts began as Guitarist, but now officially spans anywhere from studio engineer (at his own in-house “Red Spade” studio), “PR/media” guy, manager/booker for the band, merchandiser, and official donut consumer. Yes, that last part is pivotal in the band’s diet, apparently. Just ask anyone who knows them. It has nothing to do with cops, but coincidentally, Dave is also at times the band body guard (I personally have had first-hand observance of this). Don’t let the occasional playful smile fool you. This dude is just as hardcore as taking a deep breath standing over the toilet in Mars Bar (R.I.P.)
As a veteran Punk Rock self-taught musician in NYC’s Punk scene, Dave’s developed a very well-rounded palate for not only Street Punk and Oi Punk bands like The Casualties, Blanks 77, and The Business, but also more widely recognized, yet still legitimate bands such as Greenday and Rancid. You will catch every now and then, through Dave’s encouragement, a very poetic, and diverse ACOUSTIC set from The Minor Cuts. Diversity in this band is something listeners will recognize over time. Despite Dave’s die-hard punk-kid appearance, it’s actually due to his open mindedness that has allowed for such a broad, devoted following in NYC. His open-mindedness, and vast musical taste is also credited for allowing him to think outside the box and employ the unconventional likes of the “supermodel-in-training” female drummer with absolutely no punk rock image, who wound up being an ace in the pack…
Bre Plaza, while not being a punk-kid in the traditional sense, has the heart and perspective of a punk rocker. She was the high school band girl, who with her unbeknownst glamorous good looks could have easily sided with the “Heathers” and Mean-Girl “Plastics” of her generation. Her genuine humility and kind nature, however, placed her at the lunch table with the other band kids, and not the annoying “I’m so popular” vapid socialites (thankfully). Free of any visible tattoos or extreme body modification, Bre embraces her classy Jazz musical training, and personifies her own interpretation of shock value through an elegantly brutal barrage of rapid-fire pulsations. Sitting there, not even breaking a sweat, she releases the most hostile, yet simultaneously stimulating resonance your senses could ever absorb.
Bre Plaza is the ultimate paradox – a flawlessly beautiful, irresistibly modest “cover girl,” who is barbarically graceful on the drums. Beauty, brains, and bad-assery: it’s no longer a paradox, it’s now a TRIFECTA. Thinking of not even “hot” drummers, but just DECENT drummers that were female, really none come to mind. We have Meg White, but she almost doesn’t even count, except for the fact that she’s a girl; she was virtually just a metronome. The only thing separating Bre from the cover of a Vogue magazine is that her attitude is, “Fuck that, I’m a drummer. I’d rather be playing in my band” – which makes it all that much more mind-blowing. She isn’t a band girl who plays drums, NO – essentially, Bre Plaza is a “BOND girl” who can play the drums. Checkmate. The whole table folds. I’ve seen videos of “hot drummers” and I know of many female drummers in the past, but what makes Bre so amazing is that she probably doesn’t even know who “Honey Ryder” or Diana Rigg is, yet she’s easily up there with any woman who has had anything to do with the numbers 007 . . . and still, she’s BARELY out of high school…
…Rock n’ Roll High School for SURE!!!!!!
When you look at the total picture of this band, and how the dots connect, the band almost came to be on its own. Bre ads such an ideal contrast to Alysson as the other female in the band. Whereas Alysson has a raw, aggressive, devilish appeal as a singer, Bre has this passive, angelic, polished appearance that is totally contradictory to how she expresses herself as a drummer. It’s a perfect harmony of naughty and nice, where it counts the most. While Allyson has the classic, obvious, NY street bluntness, Bre’s delicate serenity communicates to the generation just coming up – still in high school, growing up on memes, emoticons, and a more subdued, passive New York. I can totally identify with every word of Alysson’s lyrics in “Wasted Generation,” because that was the generation I grew up despising, as a native NY street kid with a very rough upbringing. Musically, Bre reinforces for her generation the reality that you can be more than just something to look at – you can actually show substance. Bre Plaza materializes everything the “Riot Grrrl” movement represented, while Alysson Venom orchestrates it with her lyrics, content, and demeanor.
The youngest of the almost appropriately named “Minor” Cuts, Bre’s physical maturity, adult-hood appearance adds a very refreshing, natural quality of glamour to the traditional Punk Rock image. Sure, you can argue: “There are PLENTY of hot drummers out.” Maybe, but I guarantee that if you had put Marilyn Monroe behind a set of drums, she wouldn’t be able to play for Marilyn Manson. Long before the Minor Cuts, Bre had already toured the world as a drummer, having never been in a band before. Having an all expense paid “European Vacation” to London and Italy, she was flown out like a rockstar, to play in her High School Jazz Band. Now as a full time drummer for the Minor Cuts, she has that experience to offer as well as presence on stage. The whole Punk Rock ethos was based on the defiance and rejection of rules anyhow, so cheers to you Bre Plaza for playing drums in an awesome street-punk band! Also, cheers to Dave and Alysson for seeing this as an advantage where ordinarily, some would say she doesn’t “fit in.” Then again, as punks, none of us ever “fit in,” so this story couldn’t be more perfect. Bre doesn’t care about what she looks like, or what anyone thinks of her. She loves her band and the music they create, before anything else. Oh, that and pandas. True story.
When Bre Plaza was made a member the Minor Cuts, it gave to the band something irreplaceable, in image, texture, and relationship of dynamics. She was quickly accepted as the “little sister” of Dave and Alysson, solidifying a family alliance in the band . . . But there was still a piece of the bigger picture missing. With the addition of Bre, it almost, by default, made Bre the “outsider,” or the one that didn’t quite fit in – as ironic as it seems. You will even get an idea of the initial awkwardness from the Q&A below. There were still some minor adjustments that needed to be made. Original bassist Ryan “Nixon” Gilfedder could not meet the heavy booking obligations required by The Minor Cuts due to his own obligations outside the band. Ian Monte was then “called upon,” as he puts it. He and Dave as he explains, are cut from the same tartan cloth of the Punk Rock fabric.
If Flea (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, of course) were to teach Anthony Keidis to play bass, you would have Ian Monte, or as we all call him: “SKIAN!!” There has YET to be one band in all the history of music, to give to the world what the Red Hot Chili Peppers collectively gave, as far as individuality and one-of-a-kind creativity. To have ONE character element of RHCP, in a band that you’re in, you’ve pretty much struck gold. Ian Monte, while not being an original member of The Minor Cuts, is an ideal addition to the band’s chemistry. I’ve been following this band consistently since 2012, and while their original Bass player, Ryan “Nixon,” added a very familiar, masculine, “hardcore punk” element to The Minor Cuts, Ian similar to Bre Plaza, adds a refreshing vitality to the band.
Ian balances out the character intensity of the other 2 Minor Cuts with a more subdued, chill, almost Anthony Kedis-like “hippie punk” attitude. Ian reinforces the unintentionally brilliant theme of impossibly harmonious contradictions in the Minor Cuts. Comparable to how Bre Plaza’s clean-cut, streamlined image contradicts, yet adds an interesting harmony to the group, Ian’s presence radiates a peaceful glow that highlights the aggressive intensity of Dave and Alysson, while creating a spotlight around his own contrasting vibrant passivity. Aside from being a chill dude, Ian is in fact, a music history encyclopedia. Ian’s vast knowledge of, and diverse taste in music will prove to be a valuable advantage in the acceleration of this band’s long-term potential.
“Skian!!” preserves a spirit that, just until very recently, began to disappear from the Punk Rock identity. With the total commercialization and exploitation of the Punk Rock lifestyle and all things associated with Punk Rock, such as skateboarding, graffiti, unconventional expression, and general opposition to consumer culture itself, it seems impossible to find authenticity in anything. Ian Monte’s carefree, no rules, no worries, almost very “Californian” attitude is very true to a time that gave us memorable bands and memorable movements that only spawned greater bands and movements. The original “Punk” sound of the late 70’s paved the way for bands from the 80’s with their own sounds and movements (particularly in the West Coast), such as The Vandals, Adolescents, Agent Orange and many others. It was because of Cali’s diversity, and eclectic nature that allowed bands like RHCP and Faith No More to accomplish all that they did. On the East Coast, it if wasn’t for the genius in outside the box thinking, we would never have Bad Brains. While Ian Monte’s appearance is not as street-punk as Mohawk Dave, Ian might be in all actually more punk than Dave himself (Dave’s actual words), in true spirit.
We’re living in very dark times as unique individuals, when everything is so easy to clone, and people can pretend that they “belong,” in unison, perpetuating each other’s hipster kingdoms of fallacy. Marketing douche-bags send “cool hunters” into our scenes to see how else they can capitalize from our individuality, trying to sell us crap we would never in our most traumatic nightmares think to consume. This was never a characteristic of New York. New York was naturally innovative because we didn’t care what the whole world thought, and we didn’t buy into bullshit. We never wanted to fit in. We were all a society of Skians!! We were all united by our common characteristic of being social misfits, and the music we loved gave us not only unification, but also identification. Ian Monte is a representation of this phenomenon. His blissful liveliness shows you can be yourself and be happy celebrating that, and just not GIVE a fuck! He may even happily throw a rotten fruit at you. This is why he will be immortalized as, SKIAN!!
From a neighborhood not too far from the rock that The Ramones crawled out of, begins the official story of The Minor Cuts. For what seems to be the last days of a dying city and scene – and genre of music, for that matter, The Minor Cuts might be the first new band to start the movement we’ve been overdue for. The Q&A below will summarize their story, The official Minor Cuts bio, from their perspective, and other random stuff you will enjoy . . .
LEX: FIRSTLY, I have a very important question . . . What’s the song “Team Dead” about?
ALYSSON: (shouts) ZOMBIES!
LEX: (laughing) OK-
MOHAWK DAVE: TEAM DEAD!! It’s a revolution!! Everyone says Punk is dead, so be dead with us!!
LEX: (laughing uncontrollably): YES!!! Ok, so, back to the story, how did you guys get together as The Minor Cuts officially?
MOHAWK DAVE: Me and Alysson were in another band – two other bands before . . . I played drums for one band, for a long time, and we had a falling out with our guitarist, over direction in music. Ryan, was our guitarist, you know our previous bass player, Ryan? He was our guitarist. He didn’t like the way our music was going, and neither did I, but I didn’t have anything better to do (laughs)… It wasn’t until just recently that we picked up Ian. That happened almost on its own because Ryan’s time schedule with his work and home life, wouldn’t allow him the total dedication we needed from a bass player.
LEX: What was the sound like, of the band that you originally came from, you (Dave) and Alysson?
ALYSSON: Back when the “Screamo” era came about… The singer of that band began writing all the songs gearing towards that-
DAVE: We started as a Street-Punk band, like a Casualties sort of band. I was in this band for about seven years. I was playing drums. Drums was my first instrument – I wanted to do it, I guess because of Dave Grohl, and Tre Cool. So I was playin’ drums for this band, and that’s how I met Alysson, she was friends with somebody else in the band.
When the singer decided to turn us into a Screamo band, instead of a Punk Rock band, Ryan was out. So it turns into a Screamo, Metal-Core, a little bit of Hip Hop, and honestly it was really tight, I got really good at the drums, ’cause he [the lead singer] made me do all this crazy shit, but I wasn’t really happy either, so when Ryan left, I was like, I’d leave too, but I don’t have anything else going on . . . for now. (laughs) When Ryan left, our bassist moved over to second guitar, and we got Alysson to come in and play bass.
ALYSSON: …and I’d never played an instrument before in my life.
LEX: That’s impressive Alysson, I wish more people would approach music that way. We’d have more genuine music. Dave Grohl in fact mentioned that somewhere recently. How did you just learn the bass out of nowhere having never played an instrument before? By ear?
ALYSSON: Well what happened, was, they had a “band meeting” one day, and I was there, ’cause Dave and I just knew each other and we would hang out. I’d always be around, so they were like “OK, so guess what! You’re gonna play bass now!” and I was like, “What??! No! I don’t know how to play!” But they were like, “No it’s gonna be fine.”
DAVE: It was like, “This is something you HAVE to do!”
ALYSSON: That’s how it was, they were like “You have to do it.”
LEX: So How did you then go from bassist, to singer?
DAVE: The prelude to that, was, we found out a couple months before, that Alysson could sing, so our singer decided, “Lets use her on the CD, ’cause I can’t hit these notes, so if I have a pretty female voice behind me, it’ll mask it.” and I was like, Alright. So after they taught her the bass, our previous bassist who was now our guitarist, sat with her basically every day, showed her the riffs and taught her how to move her fingers. She picked it up so quick. We had a show three weeks later, and she played the show with us, and we rocked it. The music was alright then, because that was the early transition when we were really kind of pop emo-
ALYSSON: Once I came into the band, I said well why don’t we try n change the direction a little bit, and the singer/songwriter was like “Well I agree, and because you’re creating a different dynamic, we have to.”
DAVE: Except, we went from Street-Punk, to a “Pop Emo Punk” band, then when Alysson came into the band, he [the singer/songwriter] went to hardcore Screamo…
ALYSSON: Anyway, skipping ahead…
DAVE: The singer had an emotional meltdown, on stage, while we were playing a show in Brooklyn one night. He broke a string and decided “This show’s useless. There’s only ten people here anyway.” So Alysson started singing all the words to all the songs, while playing the bass, and we just played the rest of the set. We played the rest of the fucking set, and he realized he was being a douche, so we saw him later, he came back and he was like “Alright, I’ll sing.”
ALYSSON: Later, the sound guy was like “I turned his mic off anyway.”
LEX: So was THIS moment the official start of The Minor Cuts?
DAVE: Not just yet. The idea for The Minor Cuts wasn’t there yet. It officially became The Minor Cuts when Bre Plaza joined, but after that meltdown with the lead singer of that project at the time, me and Aly decided “We’re gonna start a new band . . . We’re gonna call it the fucking Pop Tarts, and we’re gonna do the best Pop-Punk you’ve ever heard! Our guitarist, who taught Alysson to play bass, became our drummer. I then moved up to the guitar. He became our permanent drummer. His girlfriend at the time, we decided to teach her the bass, the way we taught Alysson.”
ALYSSON: Actually, I began to teach her the bass!
DAVE: She didn’t play as well as Alysson, but it was ok. We played a show or two with her, and shortly after, we ran into Ryan again at a random Borders [book store] in Middle Village. We re-connected, after not having seen him in about 2 or 3 years, and we missed him actually because we got along with him. I wished Ryan was still around, at least as a friend! We invited him over that weekend, to come hang out, and he winds up playing bass for what was then going to become The Pop Tarts.
ALYSSON: We did one show in Queens, with Ryan on the bass, and this one guy on drums. Around late December, January of that year we had a fallout with that drummer – the same guy who was previously our guitarist and our bass player.
DAVE: It was a really bad falling out. It wound up then just being Alysson, Ryan, and I, with no drummer. That marked the end of our band as The Pop Tarts, not only because of the break up, but we found out shortly after, that there was another band with a very similar name and general idea.
ALYSSON: Bre handn’t come around yet. At that point, we needed a drummer bad, and there was this kid that we remembered who used to kinda look up to Dave, and we decided to call him to be our replacement. We had our temporary drummer then, but we still had no name and no direction really now. We were brainstorming at the studio one night-
DAVE: By “brainstorming at the studio” she means drinking at the studio (laughing).
LEX: Drinking WHITE WINE, Alysson Vino?
ALYSSON: (laughs) Ok, then so this new kid is with us now, and he’s not very good . . . we play a couple of times with him-
DAVE: It was miserable. It took him 3 weeks to learn one song.
ALYSSON: We never played a show with him. Everything was practice . . . He wasn’t that good, and he didn’t care enough about the band as much as he was into his magician thing.
LEX: Magician??!! What do you mean magician? Your drummer was a part time magician? Was this part of the stage act or something?
ALYSSON: He was a magician. He wanted to be a professional magician I guess. He used to do tricks for us, totally for no reason at all, like: “I’m gonna do a card trick for you” magician.
DAVE: Hammering nails into his nose. Things like that.
ALYSSON: I don’t think he wanted to be in a band. I think he just wanted the attention, and he needed an outlet for it. This is how we get Bre as our new drummer… One day he stands us up for practice, and then we see on Facebook-
DAVE: Yeah! He totally stood us up, Me Alysson and Ryan, we’re all there, we all show up, and he doesn’t answer our texts. We find out on Facebook, he went to go see the Justin Beiber movie with his girlfriend.
ALYSSON: The way he posted it on Facebook though, it was like “I’m totally getting blown right now while I’m watching the Justin Beiber movie.”
DAVE: It wasn’t that crude, but it alluded to that.
LEX: I’M totally blown right now: MIND BLOWN. You would think, as a “magician,” the first priority would be to make all the Justin Beibers of the world disappear. I don’t know what to make of all that right now. I’m just stunned, and amazed, and confused: all at once.
ALYSSON: The three of us were all like “What the fuck . . . ” and then the guys said to me “Ok Aly you text him, and you kick him out of the band.”
DAVE: Yeah and it was like “I’m so glad you got a “B.J.” at the JB movie . . . It was nice knowin’ ya . . . Your FORMER band mates.” Now once again, we’re without a drummer. We’re talking to people . . . We’re posting . . . We’re trying to find another drummer . . . Worst case scenario, we find a guitarist, and I get behind the drums, but I didn’t wanna do that for this group, ya know? I wanted to be up front for this one, ’cause I wrote half the songs, musically. Worse case, I was gonna end up behind the drums…
LEX: Is this where Bre (pronounced Bree) comes in as your drummer?
DAVE: Yes. THANK GOD Ryan’s girlfriend’s little brother-
ALYSSON: (cuts in very excitedly) -had a crush on his high school bandmate: Bre Plaza, who played drums in the high school band! He comes to us and says “OH! I know a drummer! Her name’s Bre! She’s got a video, here’s her Youtube from the high school talent show!”
DAVE: We watched the video, and I focued on Bre, and I said to myself, “She’s rockin’ a Punk beat. She can do this.” I tell Ryan to hit her up, and see if she wants to play for The Minor Cuts. I hadn’t seen pictures of her, but from the video, it looked like she was pretty, and it looked she was rockin’ out on those drums.
LEX: I know, you almost don’t expect it. I remember when I first saw you guys, before I knew you were a band, when I was shooting the Barb Wire Dolls, and I figured you guys were a band – I even thought Alysson to be the bass player before I knew what any of you guys did, but I just couldn’t figure out what it was that Bre did. I assumed YOU (Dave) were either the singer, or the guitarist, Alysson was always kinda right by your side, but sometimes kinda in the background, so I just naturally assumed her to be the bass player I guess, but I just couldn’t figure out what Bre was doing there, and I only saw THREE of you. I began to assume it was like a punk White Stripes sort of thing, and Bre was maybe the manager, because she looked so clean cut, and not as rocker / Punk Rock bad-girl as Alysson. It was clear you guys, (Alysson and Dave) were a band. I just couldn’t figure out what it was that Bre was doing there.
DAVE: (laughing) She’s got some power! She might not look like it but she’s got some power, so I said “Yo, Ryan hit her up hit her up right away.”
BRE: Now, so from my side of this story, the kid [from my high school] calls me at like 12:00 in the morning, about his sister and Ryan. I was already sleeping, and I really didn’t want to pick up the phone, but I answered anyway. He told me Ryan was looking for a drummer, and that’s why he had called. He had me look them up on Facebook, and I liked the music. He then told Ryan, and Ryan messaged me on Facebook.
ALYSSON: The first time they had a practice, I was in Italy for my day job. I did hair stuff back then. Anyway, Dave had told me, “She’s good, she picks up on everything.”
DAVE: Our first practice, she knew everything. She played all the songs our first practice.
ALYSSON: Well, she had already known the songs, and I thought it was really cool that she had listened to the music beforehand and had already known the songs. I get back [from Italy] and we practiced together and she was really good! We were all like, “Hey you know, this could really work! We have a really cool chemistry!” She was really shy at first. She didn’t really talk much . . . One day, we were all drinkin’ and I was like “You should just talk! Why don’t you ever talk! What about you, Bre! What ABOUT you! I just thought it was weird that, after a couple of times of practicing with her, she was still being shy and quiet or whatever. I’d given it a couple of times now, she needs to start talking, I thought to myself. I said “I don’t know how long this weirdness can go on. I don’t know if I was the only one who felt weird…
DAVE: Well, Bre is slightly younger than us, and so she has less experience in the band world than we do. I’ve been playing in bands since I was fourteen, and she didn’t know how serious we were.
ALYSSON: I know, but bands have nothing to do with being social though! After a few times, I get wasted, and I’m like “I’m sick of this shit!! I’m sick of you not talking!!! I’m sick of this shit! What about you, Bre! WHAT ABOUT YOU!!?”
DAVE: (laughing) She’s like that. [Alysson]
ALYSSON: …and Bre was actually scared, and didn’t say anything “about her.” I don’t know. (laughs)
LEX: That’s too funny . . . So Bre, how long have you been a drummer? Is this your first official band?
BRE: I started drums in grammar school . . . I had to pick an instrument for concert band, but I have seasonal allergies, and we have to play outside, so I have to play the drums. So I started in like 4th grade, really. In middle school I took drum set lessons. All through High School I was playing drums. In High School I played Jazz mostly, and-
DAVE: . . . and then we picked her up, and taught her how to play punk officially!
LEX: Ok, not to trail off, but this was something I wanted to ask from the very start: Stiff Little Fingers, is one of my favorite bands from the UK, next to The Clash, as far as their consistency and longevity, and their bass player, Ali McMordie, he joined your set lending his services to your Grand Victory gig back in March (which I didn’t get to shoot from totally just rampaging while that was happening) . . . How did you get him involved?
ALYSSON: We walk into the Sandy benefit, at the R-Bar . . . We were playing that night, and we knew it was a big show-
DAVE: Erin O’Brien was part of the “Acoustipunk,” for Kipp Elbaum’s birthday, at The Delancey. She helped book that show. It was all acoustic. We played a really pretty set, and it was very well received by everybody in there. There was no distortion, and Alysson sang just beautifully in key – no anger, it was all acoustic. That was the night we met Erin. Erin has known Ali McMordie for about 4 years. We show up at the F.U. Sandy benefit show, [on the 29th of November, 2012] that Erin had a big part of-
ALYSSON: We get there early, Dave and I, so there’s not a lot of people there. Erin comes up to us, very exitedly, and says “Hey guys! There’s a show coming up that I want you to play! Ali McMordie of Stiff Little Fingers is gonna be there! It’s gonna be great and you should play songs with him!” We were like, “That sounds fantastic!”
DAVE: So that night we played our set, with Ryan on bass, and Ryan switched to his guitar when Ali McMordie came up to finish the set with us, doing two Stiff Little Fingers songs, and Sonic Reducer by The Dead Boys.
ALYSSON: Dead Boys is my favorite band of all time.
LEX: They’re one of my top as well.
DAVE: I love ’em, but it’s her [Alysson’s] FAVORITE band of all time, and Sonic Reducer is her favorite SONG of all time. We didn’t even suggest it- Erin facebook messaged us saying, “Ali wants to do Sonic Reducer.” I didn’t even have to ask, I was like “Yeah, we’re gonna do it.” It worked out perfectly, because I can’t do those solos. I’m not that kind of guitarist, but Ryan is, so if Ali’s playin’ bass, Ryan can pick up the guitar and do the Cheetah Chrome solos.
ALYSSON: That’s pretty much how it happened, but it’s because of Kipp originally.
LEX: How do you mean?
DAVE: Well, Kipp books a chunk of our shows. Kipp does everything at R Bar. Frank Wood does the Delancey, Ottos and Hanks in Brooklyn. We played at Hanks in October with the Murder Junkies and Blackout Shoppers. I used to play with Blackout Shoppers when I was in my last band. I was pretty big in the scene since I was 15, ACME Underground, CBGB’s Continental, all those places.
LEX: Ok, so now IAN… Ian comes in shortly after this, can you guys explain how that happened?
IAN: I know Dave from High School-
LEX: What High School?
IAN: Richmond Hill High School.
ALYSSON: We’re all from Richmond Hill, except Bre. Bre is from Maspeth.
LEX: Yeah I know, she went to school with kids I’m cool with, at St Francis Prep.
IAN: (shouts) RHPR!!!
LEX: What’s that??
IAN: RICHMOND HILL PUNK ROCK!
LEX: Ohhhhh YEAH! Duh.
IAN: I knew Dave because he came up to me and invited me to a show he was throwing and we became friends. I use to watch his band practice at his house, the same house we still practice at. Members of his band, and Dave too, all taught me how to play bass, and eventually me and Dave started a band together. We were in like 2 other ones too, and a cover band or two. For our entire teenage lives, all we did was play music, and LIVE music! Me and Dave have played CBGB’s a few times together and were in The New York Waste as teenagers, then we lost touch. The whole Ryan thing happened and they called upon me, cause we use to be best friends
and we use to play together, so they thought there would still be chemistry, which there still is. So, me and dave go way back. i lived in his house with his family for like 2 years. We were best friends for along time.
LEX: Yeah I’ve totally lived in other people’s houses most of my life. I think that’s just like a common thing. I guess. But wait, didn’t you mention to me, off the record, it was the funniest story – that you met Dave one day ’cause he was running towards you and you were like “Agh!!! Who is this punk kid! He’s gonna kill me!” Haaaa.
IAN: (laughing) Ha. The day we met, he came running after me, and I was super timid then, so I was a bit taken back by this punk rocker, literally running up the street at me. (laughs) It ended up being cool, he invited me to one of his church shows, and even back to his house to his band The Polemics to hang out for practice. I definitely jumped when he ran up on me though (laughing). Dave is a little older than me too. RHPR!!!
ALYSSON: So what are your other questions?
LEX: Haaaa. OH! Well, is there any kind of double-meaning behind the name “Minor Cuts?”
DAVE: We got the name Minor Cuts when we were brainstorming, from when I mentioned before, I went to the bathroom and saw a hydrogen peroxide bottle . . . I got the name from a hydrogen peroxide bottle.
LEX: What was going on with the hydrogen peroxide bottle?
DAVE: I was in the bathroom, taking a piss, and I saw the bottle, and I saw “for minor cuts and abrasions” and I thought “Oh, minor cuts is cool!” I come out of the bathroom, and I say “I got two ideas . . . We stay a punk band, and we’re The Minor Cuts . . . Or (shouts with a threatening gesture) . . . We’re a metal band – and we’re THE ABRASIONS!” (Laughs)
LEX: Haaaa. Epic. Well, there you have the story of The Minor Cuts! I wanna say thanks, you guys, for taking the time out to come out meet me, over a guinness, or a few.
THE MINOR CUTS: Awesome! Fuck Yeah! Bottoms up! RHPR!
There is an exhibit at the Met right now, that highlights the Punk scene’s influence throughout the history of fashion and fashion design. The timing could not be more perfect, because Punk music, as visible as it was in its image, was preceded by its LIFESTYLE, and the message of that lifestyle in the music, along with its extreme imagination and shock value. In the past, Punk music was the voice for those who believed they had a choice. It was through bands like Casualties, Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat and such, that our freedom to reject what was being mass marketed to us was strengthened. It was the voice that spoke out and said “we’re not gonna take this shit anymore, and we don’t need it!” It was bands like The Dead Boys, and The Stooges that made you want to just “not give a fuck,” and be a Rock n’ Roll rebel. It was the “creative branding” behind ideas of The Adicts and the Misfits that iconified their image. It was all pure attitude music, and it was ORIGINAL.
Musically, when you observe how all the individual character elements of The Minor Cuts contribute to their collective identity and sound, you’ll recognize a distinct contrast that makes it cohesive, and ultimately unique for that vital reason. The Minor Cuts have all the makings of bands who’s potential was easily visible in the early stages, and later became legendary. They’ve got their merch in order, their idea and visual presentation is in order, and their music is reflective of the things they represent. There’s really nothing missing with this band and what they are giving you. There is usually something missing with a band that just doesn’t stand out (and is not mass marketed / manufactured by a label). If we had at least four other bands in NYC with such a cohesive overall appeal, we’d have an unstoppable “next wave” of NYC Punk Rock.
The Minor Cuts are the total package in a Punk Rock band of our generation. The lead singer is an electrifyingly sexy timebomb on stage, the guitarist a raw genius mastermind, the drummer an anti-supermodel cover girl / musical calculator, and the bass player is a drug they haven’t even thought up yet: it doesn’t get more interesting than that. Think about all the greatest bands that ever were, especially Punk, nothing was missing in their concept to make the idea work. Ramones would actually be a perfect example: Nobody sounded like Joey, nobody wrote lyrics like DeeDee, Johnny INVENTED that playing style, and the drummers were always good (Marky I believe to be the best with them).
The best tracks by The Minor Cuts to date, I feel are the ones performed on stage, which have yet to be recorded (as far as I know). I would advise anyone who would like to get an accurate representation of this band, to see them live.
The lyrical content of The Minor Cuts ranges from aggressively anthemic odes to inebriation (Bottoms Up), a universally supported dissatisfaction with an over-priviledged, force-fed, crap-shoved-down-the-throat-of, brainwashed, society (Wasted Generation) and finally, raging against the machine! They in fact have a song appropriately entitled “The Machine.” As I mentioned earlier, there are those few songs where through all the vocal melee, young Alysson Venom does find time to show the world her vulnerable side, which is of equal shock value. Once again, the music of The Minor Cuts is just as much visual as it is sonic. I therefore encourage you to catch a show if you can. Having a drink handy during “Bottoms Up” helps also. It’s a fun time. Cheers!
Keep up with the band on their social sites:
All photos taken on site by Lex Pistols of Walk The Plank Magazine Inc. All rights reserved.
All video footage provided by good friend of Walk The Plank: Alan Rand.