Interview with Howie Pyro of D Generation

July 24, 2011

Interview by: Louie B.

Big Wheel recently sat down with Howie Pyro, Bassist of D Generation for an in depth interview retracing the bands history and how the bands reunion shows this summer are concerts you don’t want to miss!

First off, thanks Howie for taking the time to sit down and talk to us, We are big fans of D Generation and are excited about the reunion show taking place at the Troubadour. First off, your tale is an interesting one, you were living in NYC and became a part of the earliest American punk scene as it was dawning in 1976, you saw and became friends with just about every band that matters from that era, and thankfully you’ve survived the long hard decades where many unfortunately haven’t. How did D Generation form out of that very scene?
 Well Jesse (vocals) was from my neighborhood where I grew up, I didn’t know him, but everyone kinda knew me cos I was that one crazy person. We had met in the 80’s at some point, he was kind of that hardcore guy, he didn’t like me and I didn’t like him (laughs), I was like a creepy punky gothy guy into drugs and he was straight edge and had a shaved head, he was in that band Heart Attack. Danny was also in Heart Attack, and I was already friends with Rick, so as time went by basically we had all changed and were neighbors living in Brooklyn. Jesse had a van service where he moved bands equipment around, he had moved equipment for one of my bands, so we had worked together and became friends, then we started to live together. Things became boring in the late 80’s, we were looking for something to do and it seemed like there was nothing, we wanted to play music, things had become kind of crappy like 80’s hair metal bands, uggh! So we threw this new years party in 1990, and a couple of us DJ’d and invited a ton of friends and evidently we weren’t the only ones feeling that way because our parties became massive. I had just decided to play all the records that I liked, and people were dancing to it, now it’s so normal to dance to that music, but then it was absolutely unheard of to be in a club spinning The Stooges and seeing punk rockers dancing. That was a club called Green Door, so it just became very popular and we threw it once a month, it became massive! Early on you could find disillusioned people like us hanging out there, but then eventually others started showing up and hanging around like Joe Strummer, Ray Davies or Johnny Ramone, you had to be there. Me, Jesse and Rick were all a part of that, we started a band that was pretty much the line up of D Gen (without Rick) but that didn’t work out, so me & Jesse started a new band and that was D Generation. Jesse had been thinking Degenerate something. We got the name from an adult movie poster I had, “Love Thy Neighbor and his Wife, the story of the D Generation!” So we were still forming, then I went over to England to tour with another band, The Action Swingers, and when I returned to NYC we started doing things with the 5 members that people know as D Generation.

How did the Green Door scene help propel the band forward?
Yeah that party, we played our first gig there. It was at this legendary building on 24th street owned by Giorgio Gomelsky, the dude who discovered The Rolling Stones, produced The Yardbirds and all sorts of crazy shit. So at his building he had a rehearsal space where bands would practice, an S&M club called Paddles, Murphys Law even played their first show there too! It was this insane place, and its still going on today! He let us open the Green Door there, it was a home base for us as a band.

So you’d been playing at the Green Door and gigging around town, how long was it before you guys would get to record and put out your first album?
 Well we had already written our first album before we had recorded it, we had a lot of songs and we started to get really popular really fast, so as things heated up we got a deal. We eventually signed with Chrysalis records (home of Blondie, Jethro Tull, Pat Benatar) was a major label, part of EMI. Before this we recorded an album produced by Andy Shernoff (The Dictators) & Daniel Rey (Ramones) but it never came out, except for 2 indie 45's, one on Gasatanka Records & one on Sympathy For The Record Industry.

Was there a negative reaction when you guys signed to a major label, did that matter to fans in the NYC scene?
 No! No one was in Crass, no one was playing that stupid game, people just wanted us to succeed and represent the NYC scene.

It’s odd that most punk rockers hate bands that sign to major labels and automatically deem them sell outs; though the core Punk bands were on majors ie The Ramones, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Dead Boys, and even The Damned! I suppose punks and most 2nd generation punk bands just have a different way of thinking.
Those bands and those fans, they feel that way because they were never invited, just throw a contract their way and you’d see how they’d react and run straight to their bank accounts, haha. The only way to infiltrate and change things is from within, you can’t just preach to the converted.

So what’s the name of your first album and how was that experience?

It’s our self titled album, “D Generation”, though it was a really weird thing, we were really popular and did it really quick and drew tons of coverage, their was this huge buzz. Though at the time of our albums release the guy who had signed us got fired, and our support from label basically became nonexistent. So with no interest from the label, we asked them to drop us from our contract. Our career was going well and we didn’t need anything holding us back, so they dropped us, which isn’t something that bands ask for, it usually happens to bands the other way around, hahaha.

So where did the band go from there?
Well the band moved to LA for the summer of 94’, we came out here and lived in this crappy motel, the same place where Divine died. So we lived there and played around town a lot and threw parties and played up and down the west coast and got a great fan base going. Before we went back to NYC we decided to throw this huge party, it was at this bar where I once hung out with Rozz Williams of Christian Death on Halloween. Joe Sib (now owner of Side One Dummy Records) and the band got together one afternoon and built this stage there, and basically kind of started a venue. We had a huge going away party there, it kind of created more buzz for us once again as a happening band.

How did you guys go about getting picked up by another label?
We were being written about a lot in the New York Post & Daily News & we made a big deal about EMI & being dropped & told the news we dumped the master tapes in the East River & for some reason we always made trouble & parties & music & they loved to write about us, so this bidding war started and it was crazy, we’d get flown to LA a couple times a week and meet up with labels at dinners and take advantage of that fully on their dime, though because we couldn’t visit other labels on the same trip, we'd have to go back home and fly back to LA like the next day, it was insane!
We ended up only talking to Columbia Records though, as they were based in New York so it seemed to make most sense. Their president Donny Einer was really cool, he actually blew off Bruce Springsteen to come see us, we were impressed by them, they were pretty first...

So now enter what would become your 2nd album "No Lunch", how does the band deal with a new label and pressure to make an even bigger and better album than the previous.
Well we wanted to test our new label interests loyalty, so we come up with this idea that we’d only sign and go forward with them if they agree to open up Coney Island early, get all their staff and lawyers to get on the Cyclone Roller Coaster, and ride with us and sign us directly on the spot.. They went through with it!
So we decided to get Ric Ocasek of The Cars to produce our album, he was an artist, a musician and he understood where we were at, where we were coming from and let us know he was on our side and not a pawn of a label, we believed in him & he fought for us as an artist with power which we loved.

At this point punk rock is about to make a huge comeback with bands like The Offspring, and Green Day and what not, where did D Generation fit in the modern scene of the time?
We ended up becoming main support for a ton of bands that took us allover the world because they were fans & we were a great party band. We went out with Green Day which we thought would be weird, but it ended up being really cool, we went over to Europe with them and toured with them multiple times. There were also tours with Social Distortion, The Ramones, and even Kiss, their first reunion tour in 96’ when they put the makeup back on, there is a picture of Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Tim Armstrong and myself floating around the net from that time. We did do our own tours though in large clubs around the country too. We also shot some music videos, it was insane and a very busy time for us as a band. We gained a lot of fans, they varied too because of all the bands we played with, we played to Green Day crowds but also had that hardcore punk crowd as well, there were so many factions of our world there, it was really special, skinheads, drag queens, young punks and older punks like members of the Ramones and the Clash and they were all at our shows.

What came next for the band?

We are back in NYC and the Jesse & some of our friends invested in this big club/building on St. Marks Place so we could have a club 7 nights a week instead of the Green Door just being a once a week night, it became known as Coney Island High. It was insane, there were bands playing upstairs, bands playing downstairs, everyone played there! One night you’d go there and Iggy Pop, The Ramones or Beastie Boys would be playing, it was our home, pretty ridiculous, its unheard of really, turned out to be really successful (but not financially so much as drinks were basically given away endlessly). Though because of that Nazi Rudy Guiliani and his new laws, the city decided to cut down on clubs and fuck up the nightlife for some bizarre reason. In part the neighborhoods were changing, they wanted the undesirable people out, and that killed the club.

You guys would go on to put out another album after No Lunch entitled Into The Darkness…
Well towards the end of the No Lunch tour cycle which ended up being very very extensive, we ended up having some issues with our label, they weren’t listening to us, thing started getting crappy. It frustrated us as a band, Rick ends up leaving the band, were now trying to figure out what to do. Todd Youth ends up being in the band, the label wants us to put out a record, so we decide to go forward with that. We met with legendary producer Tony Visconti (Bowie, T Rex, Sparks, Thin Lizzy, Iggy, Morrissey, etc.), I got along with him great, he was super cool, he had let me use the bass he used on The Man Who Sold The World album. During the recording of the album he actually got a phone call from David Bowie, and it was the first time they had talked in like forever, they had this reconciliation and we had witnessed it, it was pretty cool, he’d later go on and work with Bowie again after that. But things got weird, and we decided to break up as the album came out, mostly due to struggles & frustrations with Columbia Records. Me and Jesse formed a band PCP Highway. Michael & Todd formed a band, Chrome Locust. So we get this huge tour offer from the Offspring, and at the time they were the biggest band around, and they just so happened to be on the same label as us. We didn’t want to, the label didn’t want us to, but The Offspring really insisted we do it, so we scrambled to get a lineup in time to do the tour with a new guitar player & drummer. We would go on and do one last show at Coney Island High, it was not announced as a last show, but we knew it was...there's a recording of it in a box somewhere. I did the band with Jesse for a while before I wound up in Danzig, which was a really great time in my life.

So more than a decade has passed since D-Generation has played together with its original lineup, how did the reunion come about and where are the shows gonna be taking place?
Well for the last 5 years probably we’d been getting huge offers to play and tour, though at the time they hadn’t seemed right for us. I'm always really busy with my radio show (Intoxica Radio), DJ’ing clubs and parties all over the world doing DJ tours, I play once in a while with Kid Congo Powers, I live for it and always have. Right now I get so much email/messages on Facebook & stuff about D Generation it just seems right to do some shows. I have spent most of my life obsessing on what came before me & going to see bands many years after the fact when they get back together & that is a real thrill for me & I wouldn't wanna deny that to anyone else. We are definitely playing in Spain at the Turbo Rock festival in August, we're pretty popular there. We come back to North America and play Irving Plaza in NYC, a venue we played in the past, which is really cool because I have seen some of the best shows of my entire life there. Then one week later we come to LA and play at the Troubadour which is gonna be really cool. There is also San Diego and Oakland and this huge festival in Chicago. The first gig will now be in Seattle at Seattle Sound Fest on August 18th. Check here for tour dates:

That’s really cool that you guys are doing this for the fans, how do you plan to make a set list that pleases old and newer fans.
We are gonna definitely play what everyone wants to hear, we’ve already gotten emails from fans who are requesting songs they want to see live, it’s gonna be a good full set!

A huge thank you to Howie Pyro for taking the time to sit down with Bigwheel and do this interview.


Make sure to get your tickets now for the upcoming D Generation show at The Troubadour in West Hollywood Saturday September 24th.

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