Photo: Sam Lahoz
If you read any book about the late seventies NYC punk scene, in amongst the likes of Ramones, CBGBs, Max’s Kansas City, Johnny Thunders, Richard Hell & Debbie Harry, you’ll find the name Howie Pyro. As a teenager, Howie hung out with Sid Vicious during the final months of Sid’s life in NYC while at the same time he played in bands with many of the notable musicians from that scene. These experiences & the lack of anything else inspirational in the late eighties led to the parties and the formation of a small scene on New York City’s lower east side in the early nineties out of which burst D Generation.
In the following interview, Howie Pyro talks about his journey from those early NYC punk roots to becoming a founding member of D Generation, his time as the bass guitarist with Danzig, and what he’s doing these days.
© scotty ramone
- Interview with Howie Pyro 29th March 2006 -
I was in The Blessed & one off things with people like Annie Anxiety [Crass], Alan Vega [Suicide] etc...
Freaks was like an early blue cheer / mc5 / stooges sorta thing. Again, we were a bit ahead of our time. We grew out of the first sixties garage revival scene of the mid 80's so it was like the next step. Of course, we all loved that music since we were kids. There were a few other odd releases, a weird single that was put out by someone in Texas which has a big Alice Cooper eye on the cover, and a cassette only release of our mock rock opera, Pippi Skelter. We were drawing insane lines connecting Pippi Longstocking & Charles Manson (and taking too much acid, obviously).
Are you related to Andrea (Freaks Rhythm Guitarist & Vocalist)? I noticed you have the same surname.
We were married for a while...
Wow, that's a long story… We were so bored in the late eighties. It was lame then, & one New Year’s Eve (I think it was 1990), we just decided to take things into our own hands & invent the thing we wanted to happen - tons of people turned up & it was a smash hit! We did it originally at a building which is the home of Giorgio Gomelsky who discovered the Rolling Stones, & had the Crawdaddy Club in the early sixties. He discovered the Yardbirds, produced their records & much more... Anyway, he had a building that lots of artists & musicians hung out at / rehearsed at (later, D Generation rehearsed there for our entire existence). He had all kinds of clubs there on the main floor since the early eighties that we were a part of. The Blessed played there as well as Heart Attack, I believe. So we had the party there for quite a while - no rules, lots of drugs & alcohol, dancing to rock & roll music, which wasn't happening at all back then. We stayed open till everyone left & wound up listening to Giorgio expound on reality (or his version thereof) or he might be ranting & raving about something or other... It just grew & grew, & moved around, & wound up on Saint Mark’s Place & turned into the club Coney Island High. Me & Rick (D Generation) & our friend Holly Ramos (Fur) were the original DJs. Then it was more me & Jesse when he got drunk, & his cousin Corn & guests like Joey Ramone, etc. D Generation grew out of this club & played our first show at one of the Green Door Parties at Giorgio's house in the early days.
I believe that before D Generation formed you had all been friends for a long time, but had you been in bands with any of the other members previously?
Well.... There was a band with no name with Jesse [Malin], Danny [Sage], Michael [Wildwood], me & our friend John Carco that never got off the ground. Me & Jesse left & formed D Generation with Rick [Bacchus], who me & Jesse were backing up in a different band that didn't get off the ground, either. Michael & Danny wound up in D Generation later on.
You were in a band called the Action Swingers for a short time. Was this a side project while you were in D Generation? Did you record any records with this band?
I was asked by some friends of mine (Action Swingers) to do a short tour of England and Scotland, so I did it. This was in the very early stages of D Generation. We made a record in England called More Fast Numbers on Wiija records. This band had zillions of members passing through from Sonic Youth, Pussy Galore, A-Bones, all different kinds of people. It was a cool band. There's an anti-Courtney Love song on that record, before she was even famous! Haha...
Were early D Generation songs such as 'Sister Soda Jerk' & ' Coney Island Baby' demoed / recorded in the studio? If so, do these tapes still exist?
Yeah, I have a huge box of tapes of all kinds of weird crap - interviews, a beer commercial we did, demos, etc... I always wanna put something out but we never seem to get it together.
Were other unreleased songs like 'Never Gonna Marry', 'Heaven', 'Dropping Out', 'Every Mistake Imaginable' & 'Never Beens' demoed / Recorded in the studio? & do these tapes still exist?
I think most of them are on tape. ‘Never Beens’ is actually called ‘Never Mend’, I think, it was just called ‘Never Beens’ on some bootleg.
I'm sure there are, but I can't remember!
Do you have any favourite D Generation songs?
‘Frankie’ was my favourite.
Why did the band dislike the first album so much? And did you really throw the master tapes into the East River?
We were overly controlled by the record company - they made us do things we didn't wanna do, like slow some songs down, and at the time we felt compromised, we just wanted to do our thing the way it was. People really love that record, so maybe we were just rebelling against "them". We didn't really throw them in the East River... we threw it in a sewer hole in front of CBGBs.
I would have liked to, but it was the record company that really destroyed us. We didn't sell enough records to warrant their total interest. If they had this thing called Artist Development that let the Rolling Stones & the Beatles & every other band keep making records that didn't sell very well till it caught on it would have been fine, but that doesn't exist any more.
Would you have liked to see the proposed D Generation album of unreleased tracks and the live album and live video of the last D Generation show at Coney Island High released?
Yeah, I always wanted that but some people just can't agree on things.
Would you ever consider performing some one-off live shows with D Generation, maybe in support of a future D Generation release? I heard you all got together last year to discuss the possibility of a one-off New Years Eve show in NYC.
I guess, I mean if everyone agreed to do it, of course I would, but I live in Los Angeles now, so it would be a bit rough on me as they all live in New York. Well, Rick is just moving to North Carolina, actually.
When you first left D Generation you formed a band with Jesse Malin called PCP Highway, and recorded an album called 'Dreamless'. Why wasn't this album released? Do you think it will it ever be released?
I doubt it will ever be released. It was more of a collaboration on Jesse’s songs & my weird ideas, but he really wanted it to be what he's doing now & we both knew it, so when I got the call to be in Danzig, I took it. Jesse likes to record things over & over again so it's some similar stuff to what you have heard, plus some really weird noisy things that he wouldn't do now.
Did the PCP Highway album ever get as far as the album artwork stage & deciding on a track listing & running order? I remember that the album was going to be released on Omplatten Records.
I had done some really cool artwork that was used for postcards, advertisements for shows, etc. I’m not sure if there was an actual CD cover or not.
Did you enjoy your time in Danzig? Is I Luciferi the only album you recorded with Danzig?
Yeah, being in Danzig was a blast! We have known each other since 1978 & hadn't spoken in quite a while, so it was fun. I also play on the Danzig double live CD Live On The Black Hand Side. No matter what ya hear, Glen Danzig is a really fair & very generous person to work with. It was amazing to be in a headlining band after being in D Generation, which was more of a support band to the stars. I loved it.
Why did you & Todd Youth decide to leave Danzig?
We made a side project & got signed to Capitol Records. I left, & they screwed it all up & nothing came of it.
After Danzig, I believe you were in a band called The Disciples with Todd Youth. Did you write & record anything with that band?
This was the above band: we did demos, & we recorded an album with amazing producer Michael Bienhorn which they scrapped after I left & kept re-recording it till they were so in debt they just got dropped, I guess...
Have you played in any bands since The Disciples? Are you in a band right now?
No, I have been taking time off, collecting old records, and working on some books. One is called Punk is Dead, Punk is Everything, the follow up to the book Fucked up & Photocopied. I have my own chapter in that one. I'm constantly being interviewed for documentaries & books on music. I’m in the Sid Vicious book that came out a little while ago by Mark Paytress, I did some recording with Mark Lanegan (Queens of the Stone Age, Screaming Trees, solo), & Kid Congo Powers (Cramps, Nick Cave, etc.), separately. I’m working on another book right now about LSD-inspired advertising (that's the quickest way to describe it) in the sixties & seventies. It will be really funny - all kinds of retarded crap I have collected over the years - books, record covers, candy, movie posters. It’s for Feral House Books.
What are your plans for the future?
More records! I have about 30,000 now...
Are you still in regular contact with any of your old band-mates from D Generation?
Most of them. Most of the original members talk or email all the time, and I played on Jesse’s last record, The Heat.
Is there anything else you'd like to say about your music, D Generation, or life in general?
Life is great! Do it now! Don’t wait!
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