The reason Tay-Sachs holds a spot in my heart, speaking purely in sentimental terms, is because it was the only musical situation I was ever in where it wasn’t affected by aspirations. That’s not to say we didn’t want to make good music, or what we thought to be good music. It just was really a love-of-the-game situation. It was the most fun I’ve ever had with music. I’ve been in various bands since my junior high years and I’ve done my most refined work on the biggest scale (note: very small scale) through my indie rap stuff, but in both those cases, including the present time, there are goals and “levels” and intentions beyond just the immediate fun and spontaneity. Tay-Sachs was primal. That’s why we were great live. Everyone connected with the primacy.
-Nick Baker (singer)
Tay-Sachs were crude punk rock with juvenile lyrics. To me, those are signs of a great band. I started attending punk shows in the greater Youngstown area around 1999. Most of the local bands sucked. Some were good but nobody ever released a vinyl single. I forgot about punk rock in Youngstown until I moved back for two years and started hanging out at the 456. I already knew Baker and Stein but soon met Zach Lovitz and Chris Nichols. I didn’t think much of them playing in a band until I witnessed a performance. It was raw and fast, primitive music that almost reminded me of Poison Idea in certain ways. The lyrics bordered on clever idiocy and all of the songs were about my friends. I was won over. They even had a song making fun of my love for pop group Tegan and Sara. Like most Youngstown bands, they have no official release but the legend of Tay Sachs keeps spreading. Here is a brief interview with Zach, bassist of Tay Sachs.
-Matt Greenfield (Rust Belt Hammer editor)
MG: How did Tay-Sachs start? Almost seems like a joke band gone brutal. The lyrics are ridiculous but the music is certainly pummeling.
Z:Sounds like you’re asking me to answer the origin of a disease [laughs]. It started with Chris Nichols and I playing together in Red Cloud’s War with my good friend Dan And the late Karl. Chris and I wanted to play music that involved less planning so we had a short stint as a two piece called Sex Toilet. At the same time this was going on I was playing live music for a hip hop outfit with Baker and Stein and I ended up merging the two into Tay-Sachs.
MG:What kind of idiotic and self mutilating incidents went on at Tay-Sachs shows? Clearly many audience members were not of sound mind.
Z:Tay-Sachs shows were a shit fest of fireworks and pro wrestling antics. At one of the shows we had at the old Kent house on Lincoln, Chris was in his skimpies singing our butchered cover of Pissed Jean’s “Boring Girls” and while hanging upside down from the rafters he managed to get kicked in the head by our buddy Jon who was dressed like an old man, knocking Chris out for a little while. If my memory serves correct, we unanimously decided Chris had a concussion before he drove home from Kent.
MG:Keith Stephens is the official Tay-Sachs mascot. Tell our readers about this legendary and unnaturally tall individual
Z:Kweef Stephens was Tay-Sach’s Tony the Tiger. He was at practices more than most of us were. He’s a lanky goon who drinks like a fish and can palm a medicine ball. He once chugged a bottle of vinegar and threw up blood which I feel is a magic trick in itself. [laughs]
MG:Why does it seem as if Tay-Sachs was the last punk band to come out of Youngstown? What the fuck is going on there? Are people too cold to make furious punk rock these days?
Z:Because Tay-Sachs currently is the last punk band to come out of Youngstown [laughs]! Now all we got are bands dressing super crusty while playing folk punk. Maybe they’re the real punk bands, they certainly complain about enough, where as Tay Sachs just wrote songs about our friends and never had to go into wardrobe before playing a show. But yeah, there’s definitely a lack of high energy fast bands as well as a lack of venues to cater to those bands. Basically punk went out of style; it’s now cool to be a chic sassy beatnik that’s too weird and unique for anyone else to relate to. There are a lot of “super unique” kids who listen to music you never heard of and liked Nirvana before they were cool.
MG:Would you say Tay-Sachs is a distinctly Youngstown band and if so, what makes you guys that way?
Z:I’d say we were a Youngstown band. When I think of Youngstown bands (the people who played the 456) I think of bands that did what they wanted to do, oppose of doing what was popular. Everyone was always had a naturally lax way of making the music they wanted and it was never an ego battle or a fashion show. We were just in it for some good times with our friends like everyone else. I can’t think of a single person in Youngstown that had an elite status. Nobody was a figure head to the scene, it was leveled playing ground. That’s the most Youngstown thing I can think of.
MG:How does a band mesh so well that consist of a Jewish hippie music living drummer and a punk rock rapper as singer? Obviously this is a unique thing for a hardcore band, especially considering how many close minded boneheads get into fast, thrashy music.
Z:It meshed well because we were friends. Stein and I went to high school together and were friends. Baker and Stein grew up down the street from each other and had bands together growing up. I met Baker at the 456, and Chris is a notoriously nice guy who is impossible to not like (unless you don’t like him). Stein may be a jam band loving hippie but he’s one of the best drummers I’ve ever played with. I’ve never seen him play drums once outside of Tay-Sachs practice the entire time I was in the band with him. He was always on point. I specifically recall listening to Baker explaining to college student Stein that the Onion was a satirical new website and then him getting behind the drums and killing it. There is a certain Stein-ism which most people know him for and the fact that he can change gears and be a incredibly disciplined drummer blows my mind.
MG:Stein sure is one of a kind. Thanks for answering my questions. Any last words?
Z:I’d like to give credit to the really good bands who played with just like Indian Catastrophe and Horses Have People Teeth. Awesome and talented dudes.
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