New York City hardcore could never have been born anywhere else. The music was built in the city, for the city. It came stripped-down, muscled-up, and overloaded with all of the frantic energy and violence of the streets. It was designed to intimidate. The musicians were homeless, AWOL, and just plain crazy street kids who felt fed up with the chaos of early ’80s New York. President Reagan’s economics had knocked the poor to their knees. Unemployment and a raging drug epidemic tried to finish the job. New York hardcore gave that madness a voice. It took form slowly, in shitty clubs and even shittier rehearsal rooms. Agnostic Front built the sound and the snarl. The Cro-Mags gave it spirituality. Murphy’s Law made it fun. Every word meant something. When Cro-Mags vocalist John “Bloodclot” Joseph sang, “Strugglin’ in the streets just trying to survive/Searchin’ for the truth is keepin’ us alive,” you felt it. The handful of bands took over clubs such as Rock Hotel, Max’s Kansas City, A7 (where the motto over the door read “Stay in peace or leave in pieces”), and later moved to the Mudd Club, Pyramid Club, and CBGB’s. Other kids picked up the sound and built on it, giving birth to Sick of It All, Gorilla Biscuits, Madball, and others. INKED caught up with a few of the faces that built New York City hardcore at the tattoo shops, temples, and beaches they now call home.
VINNIE STIGMA » Agnostic Front
PHOTOGRAPHED: New York Hardcore Tattoos, New York City
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THEN: “I always used to talk shit with Johnny Thunders about making meatballs,” Agnostic Front guitarist Vinnie Stigma (real name Vincent Cappucchio) jokes about the deceased musician. “I still make better meatballs than him.” Nearly ten years older than most of the musicians in hardcore, Stigma is the godfather, a true New York City character and one of the few from the scene old enough to catch the city’s ’70s punk scene. “I saw everybody,” Stigma says. “The Dead Boys. Johnny Thunders. Everybody.” Raised in Little Italy, Stigma played with his first band, The Eliminators, before forming Agnostic Front with musicians he hand-picked, including iconic frontman Roger Miret. “We played our first show in 1981,” he says, remembering the when but not the where. “It was probably in some basement on the Lower East Side. Maybe the 2+2 Club or A7.” Agnostic Front appearances were notorious for chaos. “We had a big riot at the Palladium once,” Stigma says. “The bouncers were being assholes to the kids, so we flipped on them. They had to call in the police. It was one of many riots.” In 1983, Agnostic Front released United Blood, considered the first New York hardcore record, which led to a string of tours, albums, break-ups, and reunions. “I had other bands but once I started Agnostic Front, after all these years, it’s my life.”
FIRST TATTOO: “I was about 16. I got a dragon on my arm. Over the years, I’ve seen tattoos come and go, change styles, and even change the way they’re made. Forget about it.”
NOW: Co-owner, with Murphy’s Law singer Jimmy Gestapo, of New York Hardcore Tattoos on the Lower East Side. They are currently fi lming a TV pilot about the shop. Stigma’s acting debut in the gangster movie New York Blood premiered at the 2008 New York International Independent Film and Video Festival and is now on DVD. He performs with his new band, Stigma.