Against All Authority's Joe Koontz Reinvented as One-Man Band MC1
Reinvention usually makes you think of the chameleonic, the sham, the put-on, the need to reassess to remain relevant -- negative connotations. Reinvention is, though, closer to rebirth in many instances, a chance for someone to evolve, not completely change but, in a way, improve.
It is those who reinvent while retaining authorship and identity who fare better than others. For many growing up in South Florida during the mid- to late '90s, ska-punk powerhouse Against All Authority was a way of life. Like the UK/DK documentary did for a generation of second-wave British punkers, AAA, or Triple A as the locals know them, were the diving bell by which to fully comprehend the nuances of punk, ska, and hardcore and how they were, for a brilliant moment, one and the same.
From their humble beginnings out of a Goulds warehouse affectionately referred to as the "Butt Hut" and on to global success, guitarist Joe Koontz knows a thing or two about the limelight in the underground. Now in 2014, he has been reborn as a one-man band known now as MC1, which performed last weekend at the Poorhouse. We had the chance to speak with him about a ton of stuff, including the challenges of being a one-man band, building his own equipment, AAA, and playing guitar while Cuban.
The ska-punk Bible of South Florida
Let's start with Against All Authority and how that band lives in your memory. For many people growing up in the scene in the years you guys were first active, AAA defined the ska-punk sound, and for some, it spoke strictly at a hardcore level.
Joe Koontz: I must say that Against All Authority will forever be the eternal punk rock flame that burns in my heart. I am proud that we went from a broke-down shed in Goulds to overseas, speaking to fans globally, showing that South Florida isn't just dance clubs and DJs. We definitely have some of the best punk and HC bands down here. I am grateful to have that as part of my life.
And since, you've been active with a couple of bands, right?
Yes; my most recent band was Nobody's Hero, a straight-up hardcore punk band with my friends Dave, Doug, and Rod. We recorded a full-length album. Before that, I was in a band called On the Account, and I've filled in with many bands over the years, like Cavity, the Street Drinkers, the Crumbs, Sound for Sound, LVG, and Guajiro, to name a few.
I've always wondered how you felt by fans and zine-makers back in the day referring to your playing as "Cuban-tinged guitar." How much tropicality and/or Cuban-ness influenced your guitar playing?
Well, the name Joe Koontz is misleading because it sounds German, but with my mother being Cuban, there's no doubt I was raised 100 percent Cubano style. With that said, I think my playing has a lot to do with figuring out on my own how to incorporate the Caribbean music I was surrounded with into traditional punk rock.
Music is borderless, just like the mix of friends I had growing up in Miami. I think my playing also has to do with being a lefty and playing righty and not knowing what I'm doing half the time.
What does MC1 stand for, and what prompted you to go at it alone? Are you a kindred spirit to Charlie Pickett & the MC3 and/or the MC5?
MC1 has a few meanings to me. Besides being the first chemical warfare missile developed by the USA, it stands for the Magic City One. My friend Bruno, AKA "Lone Wolf OMB," put the idea in my head. I was playing drums for about a year, and it just seemed natural to grab the guitar and go for it. I also am a fan and have mad respect for those who paved the road of rock 'n' roll, such as our own Charlie Pickett and the MC5 has done.
I missed your engagement at the Poorhouse last week, but tell me how off the mark am I envisioning a Hispanic Hasil Adkins onstage?
It's difficult to describe myself; I think most musicians would say that. I am sitting on a stool while playing a kick, snare, hi-hat, and China cymbal with my feet and at the same playing guitar and singing. Very similar to Hasil Adkins. There's a YouTube clip of R.L. Burnside in a field on a bucket playing guitar that just drew me in. Now imagine that and on the other end of the spectrum a full-on punk band with a raw '70s sound like the Stooges. I'm somewhere in between. That's my goal!
Is the one-man band approach easier than working with others?
This by far is the most engaging music project I've worked on. Although it's difficult working with others, sometimes you're your own worst enemy. My drum feet and my guitar hands constantly argue! Also you have to get creative and build some of your own equipment because you can't buy some of this stuff at the store. I've had a custom-built guitar by "D" guitars for this project. Also not having band members with opinions is liberating and at the same time constricting cause you don't have a good friend to tell you, "Are you actually gonna play that? That really sucks."
And last but not least, you must be extremely focused, 'cause once the song starts, you are fully committed, especially if something goes wrong. The drummer can't keep the beat while you walk over and turn a knob or switch guitars. After answering this question, I'm starting to think what the fuck am I doing?
What are your immediate plans for this project, and seeing that only your personal schedule would be conflictive to gigging, how frequently can we expect you to perform?
I'm starting to play out more often now. I'm constantly working out my bugs. I have about 14 songs, which is tough to drum, strum, and sing. I have to work on my cardio! I have two festivals I'm booked on for next year, the Muddy Roots and another one in Chicago. Hit me up on my Facebook page for any future gigs or if you just wanna say wussup!
Any plans on recording?
I've recorded my first demo with our very own Rick Carmona from No Peace at All at Mix Masters Studios. You can hear two of those songs on my Facebook. I am working with Nick from Cracker Swamp Productions on a seven-inch for the beginning of 2015. Also look out for my killer full-length album being produced and recorded by Jon Nuñez from Torche over at Pinecrust Studios for the upcoming year. In the meantime, I'll be harnessing my energy so I can tear it up like a hurricane at the next show. Peace!
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