Greenlander has produced a ton of music and is a hot name in the noise/underground electronic scene of Los Angeles. In his hometown of Youngstown, he is widely ignored when it comes to the raw sounds he makes. I even saw him get kicked off the stage at the Lemon Grove once. A place that was supposed to be a hub for the artsy and weird was kicking a man off the stage that was perhaps TOO artsy and weird for a baffled audience of hipsters and dinner goers. Greenlander doesn’t care though. He doesn’t need acceptance and largely creates music for himself, locked away in a dungeon of solitude. This video was created using his music set to visuals by artist Cristopher Sea, a man whose art has been featured in such magazines as Juxtapose.
What do you know about Youngstown, Ohio? Perhaps you read that it was the murder capital of the United States at one point? Maybe you heard Bruce Springsteen’s song about the area’s plight. It has been referred to as “Murder City” and referenced on HBO’s The Sopranos. The mob ran this city for a long time. Congressmen Traficant is both arrogant, troubled, and humorous. He spent time in prison for corruption charges yet some still applaud him. Forbes Magazine called Youngstown one of the “most miserable cities” in the country. I have seen it on lists of terrible cities to live in, next to isolated and uninhabitable places in the Ukraine. I am not going to deny the decline. The steel industry is gone and most of the cities population followed. It turned into a mass exodus. Some though are tough as the steel that was once produced here. The brave and prideful have stayed and I wish them the best. Most of my close family and friends still live in Youngstown today. Neither one of my parents have ever left. It’s a place that builds character. That much is absolutely certain.
I heard about a documentary on my home city and was aching to watch it from that minute on. The work put in to the production is valiant. I commend Ray Mancini and everyone else who put a much appreciated effort into this film. The history on our mob activity is almost unfathomable. It’s both fascinating and horrifying simultaneously. Our mascots are Ed O’Neill, Boom Boom, and Kelly Pavlik. Arby’s was founded in Youngstown. The first malls were designed here. Phantom Fireworks is headquartered in the heart of the city. The Warner Brothers were born in Y-Town. Remember before Walmart was a huge retail monolith? The nation had Phar-Mor, which was based in Youngstown. It was rocked by scandal and slowly went the way of the buffalo.
While I find the documentary entertaining and insightful, I don’t find it to be a definitive statement on Youngstown and it’s historical significance. So much was omitted or sugarcoated. It’s a bit ridiculous that Staughton Lynd was completely left out. He is a radical peace activist who fought to keep the steel mills open in the 1970s. Also, the discussion of race in the film is pretty light fare. There is no talk of the economic and racial inequalities that Youngstown faces. The inner city schools of Youngstown are behind the times and in desperate need of revitalization. Many places in the area need to be restructured with passion and intelligence for modern times; until then a dark cloud will cover the city and penetrate it’s inhabitants.
The dark side is something that can’t be avoided for Youngstowners. Many people in the area struggle with depression. I guess it’s hard not to feel down when the weather is bone chilling for seven months of the year. Even our heroes aren’t invincible. After an epic battle with Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, South Korean pugilist Duk Koo Kim tragically and unexpectedly died. Ray is a strong man but that fight will forever haunt his entire being. Kelly Pavlik was WBC and WBO Middleweight before succumbing to the demons of alcoholism. Some people in Youngstown treated him like a piece of dirt after that. It really saddened me to hear people badmouth someone that was a world champion and always represented his city with grace. You don’t have to love the man but respect his work.
I don’t want to delve too far into negative thought because Youngstown has much to brag about. I’ll keep our Brier Hill pizza a secret and instead talk briefly about the arts. If you are over the age of twenty six but under the age of fifty, you most likely went to the Nyabinghi for concerts. Gil Mantera’s Party Dream and Grand Buffet played some of the most epic and absurdly funny shows I have ever seen in my life. Nyabinghi also hosted “Emissions of the Monolith” which at one time was the world’s biggest stoner/doom/sludge metal festival. Youngstown’s own Rebreather played the Nyabinghi and “Emissions” with regularity. It feels weird to even be typing this sentence but Youngstown was a hotbed for metal music.
Like many, I moved away from Youngstown. It’s something I personally had to do for many reasons. I see both the positives and the negatives of a place whose landscape quite shockingly resembles Gotham City (but with more abandoned buildings). I could write so much more and hope to in the near future. The city and it’s history are quite rich and unique. In the end, I will always call myself a Youngstowner.
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“There was promising life in Youngstown hidden under a rock that every DIY scene would envy. People were making things happen, everyone had positive creative outlooks. It was outrageously diverse and collective, and the best part was it seemed like it was all done for our friends. I can’t get over how respectful everyone was with all the music being completely different. Always a good crowd of people who actually listened to the music. Now it’s a ghost town when it comes to tunes and venues. Too many people gave up or quit making things happen. Stofko’s house was a well kept secret.
I can’t believe how all the music disappeared. Like not just Stofkos, but in the area in general.”
Before there was Hard Skin, there was an absurd band containing members of Sockeye. This group is called Tough Skins and I find them rather amusing. There is a terrible “real oi band” by the same name so please don’t get them confused.
Chat Logs hail from the cultural hub of Brooklyn, New York, and has at least one member originally from dreary Ohio. They combine elements of noise rock and no wave which blend together nicely. Do you like sonically heavy music? I do and I like what Chat Logs are constructing. They would fit rather nicely on a bill with Swans or Big Black. Call me a masochist, but I enjoy my ears being punished and Chat Logs fulfills all of my demented needs. They even recently appeared on the television show “Girls”.
Toby Radloff is an enormous part of Cleveland underground culture. He was just a misguided nerd ’til his life was changed upon viewing “Revenge of the Nerds” and building confidence along with nerd solidarity. Things accelerated when he met burgeoning comic book artist, Harvey Pekar. He was shuffled into a world reserved for cult celebrities. Toby was now regularly making media and television appearances. I remember seeing “Killer Nerd” silently rest on the shelves of my local video store. The cover was vile and bloody so naturally I was fascinated, even obsessed. Somebody rented a copy one day and decided to keep it so I didn’t get to view the actual film until I was eighteen years old. Things haven’t been the same since. The movie is brilliantly bizarre and unparalleled in it’s psychotic nerdiness. I recently caught up with Toby and we had the following conversation. Make sure you read Toby’s answers in his very unique voice.
Matt Greenfield @rustbelthammer
Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Toby. I must ask, being from Cleveland, do you think that your environment has given you a unique perspective on the world?
Being from Cleveland has helped my uniqueness and has given me the good perspective of a lifelong resident of a city that others tend to ridicule or make fun of. I’m proud to be a part of Cleveland.
When it comes to Ohio, who are your favorite artists? I am interested to know who you favor when it comes to music, film, or visual art.
I do like Drew Carey, Halle Berry (she went to my high school, Bedford High, but several years after I graduated), and pretty much any musical act out of Ohio…too many to list. My musical tastes tend to lean toward music from the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s, music I grew up with. I like comedies and independent dramas, especially when the story lines are about nerd/geek types or simply everyday people.
What was it like the first time you saw yourself in comic book form? Did anyone expect that “American Splendor” would get such a cult following?
When I first saw myself in the “American Splendor” comic book, I was impressed. It got things rolling as far as my acting career went. Harvey’s success led to my success. The book took off around the time Harvey appeared on David Letterman, and my success rode on Harvey’s coattails, starting with my MTV appearances in 1987 through 1989. I am surprised about the cult following the “American Splendor” comics got over the years.
How did things change once MTV started doing features centered on you?
Once I started being on MTV (I credit myself as being one of the first, if not the first, non-music segments to air on MTV. Now, if you turn on MTV, where’s the music?) I started getting a lot of positive feedback regarding the MTV segments, and it led to better things, such as “Killer Nerd”, “Townies”, and later, the “American Splendor” movie.
Did you have fun filming “Killer Nerd”? It’s one of my all-time favorite movies. Seeing the scenes shot in Kent and Akron makes me happier with every viewing.
As for “Killer Nerd”, working from a script took some getting used to, and filming included late nights on which I had to go to my day job the next day. The finished product came out well and became a cult favorite.
Troma picked Killer Nerd up and it’s still kind of a “sleeper classic.” It’s usually not mentioned in “best of” lists when it comes to Troma’s cinematic history. I would personally put it in my top five and know many others who hold the movie dear as well. Why do you think the movie has remained so hidden?
Troma, as far as I’m concerned, did get the two “Killer Nerd” films out to a wider audience than the previous distribution company was able to do, although they sat on the films for years after buying the rights to them from Wayne Harold and Mark Bosko in 1994. Troma, however, didn’t promote it very well, but word of mouth sold the DVD sets.
Are you a fan of any other Troma films? What are the chances of a ‘Killer Nerd part 3″ or even a remake of the original? You would have to star in them of course!
As for other Troma movies, some are good while others are stupid or ridiculous. Lloyd Kaufman is quite the showman when it comes to “bad” movies. I have seen some “bad” films that were good, and some “good” films that sucked. I doubt it very much if I’ll ever do a third “Killer Nerd”. I pretty much outgrew the role. If a filmmaker wants to do a remake and cast a younger actor to play Harold Kunkle, I’m open to that. I would most likely play a cameo role unrelated to my original character.
Being that you are the “Genuine Nerd”, what sets you apart from mainstream society?
As for being the “Genuine Nerd”, I have always been considered a “different” type of person. People who know me like me, while others are either indifferent or don’t know what to think. At least I could still go places and not be recognized for my past acting roles.
What was it like trying out for the Howard Stern show? Was it a good experience?
As for being on Howard Stern’s show, it was a great experience. The crew and Mr. Stern, were very nice. I had a good time being on the show.
With the popularity of YouTube, many old segments of yours have come to the surface. What are some of your favorite clips and how has the digital age affected your artistic work?
I’m glad to see the old MTV and Eddie Marshall segments online. They were seen by very few people back then and have found a new audience. Sure, some people have been indifferent or even hateful toward these old segments but the vast majority enjoyed them.
What does the future hold for Toby Radloff?
As for my future, since Harvey Pekar died in 2010, I have been semi-retired from the video/movie business but still occasionally make new segments with Wayne Alan Harold. If some Hollywood or indie director wants to use me in a film, my phone number is listed.
Any closing thoughts to share with the world?
I still see myself as different even though the digital world has made my old stuff more accessible and my new stuff look good. Age has caught up with me, but I’m still the Genuine Nerd. Thanks.
I feel as if some sort of innocence was lost when cable switched over to a digital format. Television is just too damn sterile and predictable these days. Gone are the days of local television personalities and odd shows at even odder hours. I feel bad for anyone who missed out on those wonderful years. Technology is developing at a rapid pace but not so long ago we saw some rather shoddy things on late night television. Mark Norton is almost like a relic of the past. His commercials started airing around 2003 and at first I thought maybe someone laced my pot with PCP because this stuff is almost unbelievable. All of my widest fantasies were coming to fruition during the span of his thirty second commercials. Mark Norton comes from a long line of unintentional weirdos from Ohio. I don’t know if his commercials still air but in case you were never privileged enough to catch the madness, here is a collection of some of his finer moments.
After posting about Kill The Hippies, the Kent inspiration has been flowing. I have a love/hate relationship with that place but will always treasure my fond memories of yesteryear. Getting carried out of the Zephyr while on crutches for calling the door guy a “fat piece of shit, cocksucker, failure at life” after he called my ID fake, knowing that it wasn’t. Putting on a show hosted by Toby Radloff of American Splendor and Killer Nerd fame. Living in the “Yellow House” and hosting house shows where anything could and did happen. Hell, I even went to class sometimes. Like many little hidden pockets of America, Kent has always been home to some great and interesting musicians. Everyone knows Devo, but here are some people you may not have heard before that have origins in Kent. Continue reading KENT, OHIO HAD SOME MUSICIANS YOU HAVE PROBABLY NEVER HEARD BUT SHOULD→
May 4th, 1970 is a day that will forever dwell in the depths of our collective American psyche. Tragedy struck the nation as innocent blood was shed on the grounds of Kent State University. During a Vietnam War protest, four students ended up callously murdered, while nine other young adults were injured by the trigger of Ohio National Guardsmen. Kids killing kids for no apparent reason as lives were forever altered. It was not a pretty day for the sleepy college town of Kent, Ohio. Public opinion was swaying as the tides turned in an already unpopular war. A dark shadow was cast over the Presidency of Richard Milhous Nixon. Continue reading KILL THE HIPPIES IN KENT,OHIO.→
During my sophomore year at Kent State University, I decided it would be a good time to start a terrible grindcore band. Well, we didn’t exactly set out to be terrible, it just sort of happened naturally. I was on dual vocals with Edward Stockenhauser who went on to front Brain Handle. Ryan Loewenstein was on guitar and a homeless dude simply known as Pig Man banged on the drums like a cannibalistic neanderthal.
I managed to book a pretty solid house show with Eat Shit and Die (my band), Don Austin, Kill The Hippies and Upstab which featured Chris Erba of H100s infamy. A guy named “Crazy Don” placed a bag on his head and then set it on fire during our opening set. Meanwhile, outside some drunk teenage punks were being being loud and obnoxious. One thing lead to another and I come upstairs to see Chris Erba of Upstab punching one of these cartoony teen punks out with some mean hooks, splattering blood everywhere. I think Chris had just got a job at a bank so the band fled without playing. I don’t blame them. An arrest was avoided. With Upstab long gone, the mohawked kid came stumbling back around, armed with a led pipe. We were informed that he had Hepatitis C as he dripped a trail blood. I managed to avoid the confrontation but was bummed out that we didn’t get to play with Upstab.
A few weeks later Eat Shit and Die was booked to play a hardcore fest in Youngstown. The bill was stacked. We were to play alongside Upstab, Career Suicide, Caustic Christ, My Revenge and some really good bands. I got a call that morning from Pig Man. He informed us that he was quitting the band. Me and Ed were pretty much embroiled in a nonsensical yet bitter feud at that point anyways. Loewenstein was probably the only person of sound mind in a band that was no more.
The moral of the story is that we never got to play with the short-lived Cleveland maniacs known as Upstab. They came, they saw, and they bloodied some buffoons. Here’s to the memory of Upstab.