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LOTS OF TWEAKERS IN YOUNGSTOWN; AN INTERVIEW WITH TODD SWALLA OF NECROS/LAUGHING HYENAS

What are your earliest musical memories?

My mother was a music teacher in public school. We started mandatory piano lessons in third grade. Music was always very important in our household. My earliest musical memories would be playing the Neal Hefty “Batman” record on 45 and completely freaking out, bouncing up and down on a bed. My brother bought the “Kick Out The Jams” 45 when it came out and that was even crazier! The first four albums I owned were Grand Funk, Grand Funk Live, Sabbath Vol. 4 and Machine Head, around ’72.

What a great set of albums. Do you find yourself still listening to those ones?

Yes, [I] still listen to Sabbath and Deep Purple. Grand Funk, not so much!

Describe what it was like growing up in Maumee, Ohio?

I grew up in south Toledo actually, about eight blocks from Maumee. Maumee was a typical Ohio suburb – too many cops with nothing to do. We started skating very early on and that was an instant cop magnet. I met all the Necros at church in Maumee.

That’s pretty cool. Were you guys troublemakers at church?

Yes, in a way. Although, our church was very liberal so we got away with a lot. Barry didn’t even go there, but he hung out a lot with Andy at church events, and Barry and Corey ended up going to private high school together. Andy and I ended up at an all boys Catholic high school, which we both got kicked out of after freshman year.

When you first started going to shows, were they in Toledo or Detroit?

Actually, we gyrated towards Cleveland at first, hitting the Drome for records. We soon discovered Detroit and Ann Arbor were a bit closer. [Our] first big show was Devo Duty Now Tour ’79. We started hitting clubs and sneaking in, then we started getting shows around 1980. Toledo never really had a punk scene until the mid-to-late ’80s.

Let’s talk about the music of Toledo. Who do you think some of the most important artists are?

Art Tatum is by far the most important musician to ever come out of Toledo. Johnny and the Hurricanes were from Maumee. The Beatles actually opened for them in Hamburg. Tom Scholz was from Toledo, but nobody cares. The Soledad Brothers should have been bigger than the White Stripes, but it wasn’t in the cards. Toledo should have been Dayton, but record labels ignored us.

I know you must get asked a lot of Necros questions, so I will make this brief: what are the chances of a reunion show?

Andy retired from guitar after the Sorcen shows in 2010, so a reunion is probably not gonna happen, sorry.

How was your time with Laughing Hyenas? How did it compare to playing with Necros?

I survived, which is an accomplishment unto itself.

Out of curiosity, did you play the Youngstown show at Penguin Pub? And if so, do you have any memories of it?

Yes! Totally crazy! [I] played there a few times with various projects.

Which projects? What do you remember about the Youngstown crowds?

Carnival of Souls played the Penguin Pub in ’89, but I don’t remember anyone being there.

Hyenas played later in ’91, which was crazy. Hyenas played Youngstown later at other venues, as well. Lots of tweakers in Youngtown.

I know you teamed up with John Stabb of Government Issue in the early ’90s to cover “I’ve Heard It Before” by Black Flag. How did that come about?

John Stainbrook was doing a compilation and he wanted a recording of that Black Flag tune. It was me playing the basic tracks with the Dough Boys and Stabb overdubbed his vocals later. It’s a pretty solid version.

Are you currently making music?

[I] never stopped. I’m in Fast Piece of Furniture, based in Oakland at the moment. I’m Jeff Nelson from Minor Threat’s replacement! Long running Toledo punk blues band Boogaloosa Prayer just broke up last October after a ten year run. I also have my Toledo based Spacerock/Shoegaze project Streamlined, which is sporadic but ongoing and ever evolving.

Thanks for your time, Todd. That should conclude the interview.

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INTERVIEW BY MATT GREENFIELD

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*edited by Eddie Fleisher*
*photo credit to Eerie Von*