MAXIMUM PENALTY: This record is our testament

One of the New York hardcore scene’s living fossils, Maximum Penalty reminded us of its presence with an absolutely killer new album titled “Life & Times” that was released a month ago. Joseph Affe (guitars) has been in the band all along and during this time he has seen pretty much everything that went on in hardcore since its birth right up until today. And he obviously has nothing against telling me about it.

- Your new album "Life & Times" came out just recently. Personally I love it. But how do you feel about it?
- I’m not just speaking for myself but the entire band feels really good about finally getting a long road and process completed. Not just a finished record but also a body of songs that brings us full circle as Maximum Penalty. We are in a great spot with Reaper Records, there are songs that are on this record that took some time but for us was worth it. The most important point is that this is the first record we’ve done that wasn’t rushed, we actually took the time to focus on the Maximum Penalty sound. We’re really happy about it and if people dig on it as much as we do then were ahead of the game.

-What is the meaning behind the title?
- Since the last full length release from Maximum Penalty so much has gone down from the loss of immediate family to friends and family from our scene to personal battles with life in general. The inspiration for the songs on this record comes from not just our personal struggles but the struggles of those who aren’t with us anymore. It just seemed to embody what we were trying to convey.

- What has the reaction to the album been so far?
- Really positive, we released four songs less than a year ago just to jump-start the record a little bit before the full release and since then the songs have been well received. There have been some really great reviews along with some ridiculous ones. Some people’s views of hardcore music have been molded into this one-dimensional over the top scream, grunt, heavy style of vocals and anything that short that formula is not hardcore? There has been so much of the same style of music in hardcore that has become the blueprint, don’t get me wrong there is a lot of great music going on right now. But to be honest I think it’s a great time for an album like this to break it up a little bit without following what’s popular at the time. People need to be reminded of that.

Some idiot somewhere thinks this is not a real hardcore band?!
Photo by
: Samma Jamma

- The sound of the album is somewhat more straightforward and heavier than previous releases like “Independent” and “Superlife” and more in the vein of the classic “Eastside Story”. Was this something you intentionally went for?
- Definitely, like I said earlier we made a conscious effort to return the original identity of the band back to Maximum Penalty. Myself and Darren Morgethaler (drums) started writing for this record and we said that it would be easy to just throw whatever out there and call it Maximum Penalty, which was a mistake we made in the past just to get back out on the road. This time we took the time and really made it a point that the songs were not only in the original Maximum Penalty style but also have something new with Jimmy Williams’s vocals. I think as a band that has been together for a long time writing and creating you sometimes find yourself trying new things. Some fly and some don’t. This time it was more about going back and rediscovering the energy that propelled the band in the beginning and sticking to that. By no means are we recreating the wheel but for Maximum Penalty at this point in time and everything we’ve gone through together this record is a real testament to who we are. We can only hope that it will reach people on a personal level as well.

- “Life & Times” is produced by a guy named Dan Korneff, who has mixed and mastered stuff for all kinds of big names from Lamb of God to Paramore. Looking at his portfolio I get the idea that this was the first album he fully produced himself? Why’d you pick him and how was working with him like?
- Well, he has done so much that isn’t posted on his site, so no - this isn’t the first record he has produced. During the late 90’s we were touring with Agnostic Front аnd Billy Milano was managing Agnostic Front and Madball at the time, from those tours we developed a strong relationship with Billy and he introduced us to Dan a couple of years later. We had finished up all pre-production and started talking to Korneff. Great guy, great experience, the time it took to get everything down on tape and mixed was a little tough because of conflicting schedules but worth it. You have to keep in mind we were doing all the work at night when everyone went home and in between other projects that Korneff was doing at the time.

- We all know why Maximum Penalty’s fist hiatus happened. I was wondering though, how did this whole experience affect the band from there on?
- We were young and going through some shit - Jimmy himself was in a dark time in his life and being that we were all so close it was hard not to feel the man’s pain not to mention everyone else’s troubles at the time. The phrase whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger definitely applies to us because after that and a couple of other bumps in the road we seemed to have gained a stronger purpose to Maximum Penalty.

Affe has a lot to scream about both under Bush and Reagan.

- You were among the first wave of bands to combine hardcore with a somewhat more metal sound. Nowadays metal-meets-hardcore seems to be the hottest thing. Do you follow this type of modern bands?
- Our mindset is nothing new. If you want to say that we were one of the first bands to bridge those gaps between metal and hardcore - cool. But in reality when we first started Maximum Penalty there was a few bands in the New York Scene doing what we were doing, I think it was the style of our combinations along with Jimmy’s vocal style that set us apart.

- Leeway is another classic NYHC band that mixed metal with hardcore back in the 80’s. Sutton kind of stated that looking back they have opened a can of worms by attracting suburban metalheads to hardcore shows. Do you think similar bands are to blame about this and is it really such a bad thing?
- I know what he’s talking about, we all saw the suburban migration to the hardcore scene. I think that was inevitable though, the hardcore movement was growing at such a rapid pace that it was only a matter of time before little Johnny from suburban bought a hardcore record and told 2 friends about it. I mean bands where branching out at the time not just Leeway although if you weren’t into the hardcore scene and you saw a band like Leeway do their thing back then, you were hooked.

- Back in the 80’s when the first and second wave of American hardcore bands emerged, much of their anger was directed to the status-quo embodied by then President Ronald Reagan and his policies. Now the eight years of a Bush presidency seem to have sparked pretty much the same vibe in music. Do you see a resemblance?
- It’s the job of the underground movement to find what’s wrong with the system. Reagan’s politics was for a clean-cut fake American image, while he taxed the shit out of the working class. So right there was enough for a whole 80’s punk – hardcore scene to rip apart. As far as Bush and his time in office, there was such “say one-thing do-another” mentality that his leadership left us holding the bag on so many levels. I see a resemblance in a way of our country being left with few options after the damage done and plenty of reasons to rebel against. For the record I feel Bush’s presidency was far worse than Reagan.

- You know the American Hardcore documentary by Paul Rachman. It kind of made the statement that the real hardcore died circa 84-85. Do you think it did? Or it was reborn into something else so many bands believe in and play today?
I think the beginning of the hardcore movement were 84-85 but by no means was that the death of it. What about the whole East Coast explosion of music right up until 1990?
If you want to be cool and say “yeah man I was there, 84-87, and then it died”, whatever. I still saw a lot of bands doing their thing in and around that time. I feel that musical movements come in waves so whatever is going on right now is not the original vibe but I feel that some of the traditional hardcore esthetic is still alive. Reborn? I would say just evolved some good, some bad. There are people that get involved in hardcore music for the same reasons we did when we were younger but not all.

*The rest of the images are taken from the band's MySpace page.

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