[Originally published: Issue #1, circa 1987]
LOOKING BACK: I loved this band, as evidenced by the fawning mentions of them across the issues. I mailed them a list of questions, and they recorded the answers on their drive down to Washington, DC to record their debut EP at Inner Ears studio. I thought that was kinda cool, and it never occurred to me that this was actually a more meaningful way of handling remote interviews (versus asking bands to write answers back to mailed questions). In any case, the band members were all really nice to us as well. If anyone has their demo and can make me a copy, please contact me! Members of Legitimate Reason went on to form Stepping Razor, who play out periodically with Legitimate Reason songs in their set. -- Mickey
LEGITIMATE REASON is a fairly new Philly band that have taken our scene by storm. They're very popular, and for a good reason: they've got lots of talent, and they're getting better. They're also incredibly nice guys. This interview was done while they were on their way to Washington. The interview is very long, but I (Mickey) felt that it shouldn't be edited, as they are very well-spoken and their ideas and views are worth listening to. At the end, you will see a comment about their not being straight-edge, and hoping that I wouldn't hold it against them. I knew two of their members were S.E, so I assumed that it was a S.E. band.
What is your line up?
JOE: I'm Joe, I'm the singer and I'm 21 years old.
GRANT: I'm Grant, I am 18 years old. 1 am the drummer.
JOHN: Hi! I'm John, I'm 18, I'm R. guitar.
VINCE: Why do you say "R. guitar"?
JOHN: Rhythm guitar!
VINCE: Why didn't you say that?
DAN: I'm Dan and I play bass.
VINCE: Vince, uh, age 20, uh, lead guitar.
How did you get together?
GRANT: Me, Joe, Dan, and John were all on South Street. We ran into some girls. And Vince, the guitarist, was with the girls. So, uh, we were hitting on these babes and, uh, we found out that Vince played the guitar, and we all wanted to play the same music, and we were all pretty inexperienced. Me and Vince decided to get together at his house. So we assembled at his house with a drumset I borrowed, and Vince already had a guitar. And that was about it. John came in during November. We wanted to get dual guitar sounds, a thicker sound.
JOE: We taught John how to play guitar, so now he plays guitar with us.
VINCE: Alot of our old songs were written for one guitar and in alot of our new stuff, you can tell it has two guitars. It's a lot better - stronger. It's kind of like that IRON MAIDEN feel.
Why the name LEGITIMATE REASON?
JOE: Well, originally, as we were trying to figure out names of bands, Vince came up with the name KILLING TIME. We used that for a while, but nobody seemed to like it. So I case up with the name LEGITIMATE REASON, and nobody liked that either. The reason I case up with the name LEGITIMATE REASON was ...
VINCE: It sounded good!
JOE: No, not because it sounded good. Because everything punks do, it seems so strange or weird to people on the outside. If you look into it, there's a legitimate reason to it. "Why do you have to dress like that?" There's a legitimate reason to why we dress like this. "Why does the music have to be so fast?" "Why is there so much cursing?" There's a legitimate reason to it. I think everything in the punk scene, at least for me, is done for a legitimate reason.
GRANT: Oooooh, angry! (clapping)
JOE: Don't be a jerk, Grant.
VINCE: You're getting too uptight.
JOE: No, I'm not.
Who writes the lyrics?
JOE: I do.
Who writes the music?
JON: Vince writes most of it, then it gets broken down.
What inspires what you say?
JOE: Nothing really inspires me. It's just whatever seems to come to my mind. Whatever I'm thinking about at the time. Mostly, what I'm inspired about are just things that happen in my normal, daily life. Nothing political or anything; just in my personal life.
How about the music part?
JOE: The question is just about what we SAY in our songs.
VINCE: (ignoring Joe) Well, I come home from school, pick up my guitar and if something happens...and that happens very rarely. It's birthed from college stress. And a hypnotic hallucinogenic drug overdose. And a couple of beers.
How compatible are you guys musically? Do you argue a lot?
DAN: I think we still haven't found the song we're looking for yet. No one is really happy with the sound we're playing with.
VINCE: Yes we are.
DAN: No we aren't.
JOE: (calmly) Every once in a while things will get uptight. But that's it. But just because things aren't coming out the way some person thinks they should come out, they're conflicts. But eventually, things come out alright, and we find ourselves in the studio, recording the song the way that everyone wants it and, uh ... everything is supercool!
What are your opinions on straight-edge?
JOE: I guess it's good in a way. But some of them get carried away with it. I think it's mostly insecurity that they won't even take a sip of beer because "Ooooooh, I can't do that! I'm a straight-edge!" They put this big label on themselves.
VINCE: It should be a personal thing, whether you're S.E., whether you just drink beer, whether you smoke pot, or whatever you do and it shouldn't be something that everybody has to know about. It's your choice.
GRANT: My key to life is: Follow your conscience and everything in moderation.
DAN: I guess l'm straight-edge. OK. When I first got into S.E., of course, every person who starts S.E., they get obsessed with MINOR THREAT, you know, and all that, and I was definitely into it - I can admit it - and within a year (l've been into hardcore for about 2 years now), I realized that I was wrong and I've opened my mind more, if it wasn't when I started. I'll stand up for someone who's S.E. - just don't be an ass about it. I mean, have fun man, that's all.
JON: Straight-edge is really cool, but I don't think it's for everybody. I've considered myself S.E. for a long time. If I'm just getting done doing something and I decide to have a wine cooler, which I enjoy thoroughly, and someone has something to say about it ... I mean, I don't see taking a sip of wine cooler as destroying my brain. And lately, I've been seeing lots of people becoming S.E. overnight. That's alright if you want to be straight, but if you're going to be S.E., let it be your own decision. If you're in a group of friends that are S.E., I have to question your motives.
DAN: Also, I think S.E. is alot more than an "X" on your hand. I think it's something that means something if someone wants it to. It's something I'm proud of. Not something that's fashionable and cool. That's all.
What do you think of kids that aren't straight-edge?
JOE: You have these 13 year old kids getting down on somebody. They never take into consideration that maybe a person has a drug problem, or maybe they're an alcoholic. Everything seems so simple to these kids. "Oh, just don't do drugs. If you do drugs, you're an idiot!" No answer is that simple as to just say "you're an idiot". And like John just said, somebody might want to drink and do drugs. They might be able to handle them socially.
DAN: I think people are people no matter what they do, and no matter how hard you try, you're not going to change somebody's mind who does drugs, because its an impossible thing. A person is going to do them no matter what. If you get mad at them, cry at them, it's not going to do any good. They're going to do it if they want to - that's it.
I like your demo a whole lot. Where was it recorded?
VINCE: It was recorded in Grant's basement and mixed on a 4-track in my living room.
Are you satisfied with the way the demo came out?
JOE: No. At the time we were satisfied because that was the best we could do. But we've come a long way since then and we can do alot better than that.
What are your favorite tracks on the demo?
VINCE: "Can't Go Back", which we're going to re-do in a plush studio. "Killing Time" - we like too.
JON: "Let It Be" came out pretty hot.
VINCE: All the songs except "Stubborn Man" and "Something Inside" are hot.
Where do you practice? Do the neighbors complain?
GRANT: We practice in my basement. Next door we have a fat lady cop who gives me crap once in a while. On the other side, we have a drunken, fat, ex-football player, and he's not there most of the time, so we're kind of lucky. My dad is very liberal about this stuff. We're blessed.
You're a fairly new band, and along with another new Philly band, PAGAN BABIES (now signed to Kevin Seconds' Positive Force Records), you are becoming very popular in the Philly scene. Why do you think you've become so popular so fast?
JON: Because there's never been a band in Philly that sounded like us.
VINCE: When we did our first show, there wasn't a "wave" like there is now. There's almost a flood of new bands hitting the scene. And we were one of the first of these bands. We waited a long time to do our first show because we wanted to do it right. And when we played our first show, we didn't make too many mistakes, and I think people were impressed with that.
DAN: I think one of the reasons we became so popular so quickly was that we were one of the first new bands in Philly to have a singer as a front-person, to speak his mind, and tell everybody what we're all about. I don't think there's any other band in Philly that has that except maybe RUIN. Now, there's some bands cowing in with a center figure. There's more energy, I feel, with a singer as himself, speaking with what he thinks.
Is Philly hurting for good new bands?
JON: They were, but not now.
JOE: I guess you could say that. Alot of old bands play real well.
GRANT: You can only see E.L.M. so many times. They're great, but I've seen them about 50 times. I mean, they're the only new band that's been around for the last year.
JOE: There are other bands like DEADSPOT ...
VINCE: Now that there's PAGAN BABIES, LOVE BATTERY and ANTHROPHOBIA in alot of people from outside the scene to play - people who really know their instruments, not like the punk-rock thing where you learn how to play when you join a band. There are alot of bands like that now who are creating better music, more listenable music. That's what's needed - more quality tunes.
GRANT: I think that hardcore music is expanding musically so even, that every band has their own sound, and if it's the same sound, then its the same old thrash - it gets pretty boring.
Why don't you play out more often?
JON: Since January, about 4 or 5 shows have cancelled on us.
JOE: Another reason why we don't play real often is because Vince lives in Washington, so it's not like we can practice everyday and play at the drop of a hat. We have to plan our shows out weeks in advance to get them together.
VINCE: Also, we don't want to burn out. It happens to alot of bands - they play too much. They don't realize it's always great to play, but if you play too often and people start seeing you maybe two or three times a month, they'll start hating you after a while.
JOE: Hey Mickey. Lemmee tell you something, babe: There's a world out there, and we just want to reach out and grab it and make it ours.
JON: And kiss it, caress it, make it move, make its nipples hard.
What do you think sucks the most in the Philly scene? How can it be changed?
JOE: When I first came onto the scene, it was a lot older. And whether you say it's a problem now that kids are younger - that's not a problem in itself - it's just the attitudes that the kids have, that instead of being concerned about why they're there and what it's all about, they're more concerned with being more punk than the next person. How could that be changed? To get the older crowd (that would be us) to talk to them as much as they can. They have a lot of misconceptions about things. It's almost as if they think they're supposed to do certain things because they're punk. I think just by communication that could be changed.
VINCE: I think there's a lack of direction… I mean people come into the scene and you don't expect them to have a "game plan". It seems like they're just there. I mean, they go to a show once a week ... they might like the music, but they don't know what they're going to do in a couple of years. They have an attitude where they're not making any progress in their lives - you're not in a band ... you're not doing anything to perpetuate the scene. It's just a loss. They're just throwing some time away, during which you could be doing something good.
JOE: Just killing time.
VINCE: Yeah, just killing time and ... what are you going to do? Three of four years later, you're going to drop out of the scene, get a job, get off your ass...
GRANT: I think there's lack of direction and lack of enthusiasm.
JOE: You could tell the enthusiasm in that tone of voice.
DAN: Not just in the Philly scene, but hardcore itself has become a totally musical scene. There aren't any organizations that are doing anything to change anything. It's all music, like "Oh, they suck!" or "Oh, they rule!" There's no caring about anything.
GRANT: You have to have a message.
JOE: But that's what hardcore is!
VINCE: Hardcore is supposed to be a message. There's no declaration like "You must define a positive message in your lyrics". Like, I don't know if it's a joke, but the Satan stuff has got to go. I mean, how long can you sing about Satan?
JON: Speedmetal is boring. Death, destruction, kill!
Your music and the way Joe sings sound a lot like early 7 SECONDS. Who do you consider your influences?
DAN: We all have our own musical influences.
JOE: When I sing, I don't try to sound like anybody but when I first got into hardcore, I guess I always admired Ian MacKaye and Kevin Seconds.
GRANT: I started listening to JFA and now I listen to everything. I guess Stewart Copeland, a little Andy Warhol, Slim Whitman, a little Boxcar Willie [that hardcore god! - Ed.] and the drummer from Big Country are my influences.
VINCE: I guess after my disco/metal phase (it came to an abrupt halt in ninth grade), I started listening to alot of 70s punk, and I thought it was the only thing that mattered. I thought the CLASH, SEX PISTOLS, CHELSEA, and SHAM 69 were the only things that were gonna matter for the rest of my life. And now I listen to U2...
ALL: Ha! Ha! Ha!
VINCE: Now I'm completely diversified. I got into hardcore and I discovered a lot of bands that I like.
DAN: My favorite band on Earth is RITES OF SPRING. I guess you'd say they influence me. I listen to BOB MARLEY a lot, PINK FLOYD - I really like PINK FLOYD a lot. Every time I'm mellow, they always seem to mellow me more. It just seems to cheer at up somehow. My favorite bass player is myself. Ha!
JON: I like early AGNOSTIC FRONT, METALLICA, MINOR THREAT, U2, and PINK FLOYD. Especially, the STONES, my favorite band.
Why did you decide to cover "Let It Be"? I mean, it's not the most "hardcore-ish" song I could imagine.
VINCE: Basically, when we bought the rights from Paul McCartney, we wanted to do "Octopus Garden", but he wouldn't sell it to us. So we ended up getting fifteen dollars and doing "Let It Be". It sounded good. It fit our style at the time and we just started playing it. It sounds good now. The lyrics convey a broad message... the chicks dig it and we get laid after the show.
Is the band the main thing going for you guys? Or is it school? Work?
JOE: No, it's not the main thing for me. School's the main thing going for me. I go to Temple, and I'm a Sophomore.
GRANT: I'm still a senior at Father Judge High School. Even though I go to school, the band's the main thing for me.
VINCE: I go to George Washington University in the downtown District of Columbia. That's where we're going now. Definitely school, but the future plans come first, because bands are always short-term hobby type things.
JOE: Lemmee tell you something, Mickey: bands are always going to be there, my friend.
DAN: When I play in the band, it makes me feel really good to make music. I work now (I'm saving for school). The band'll always be there for something to lean back on and make me feel good.
JON: I like to play in the band, but I always work at Spike's Gold Trophies at 13th and Race Sts (since when do we offer free advertising? - Ed.). I also go to Temple. I'm a freshman.
JOE: The band's important to me. But I always wanted to be an astronaut. So if I devote all my time to the band, I'll never be the spaceman that I always wanted to be. I'm serious about that, Mickey. I love you guy.
What is the main message you wish to convey?
JON: Be useful. Get off your ass. Do something. Be yourself, and have fun. Keep a smile on your face no matter what you do.
JOE: The main message I try to convey a lot, that I see myself doing, is put all this punk stuff aside. Be yourself. Have your own ideas. Don't say "I think this way because I'm punk." Say "I think this way because I'm me." Don't be a punk, be a person with some brains.
VINCE: You've got to agree with your friends. You've got to see what they're thinking and if you think maybe their ideas are screwed up, maybe you should tell them. Speak up, and don't be afraid of what they're going to do. You know, if you feel you're in the right, and you're doing the right thing, there'll always be somebody who'll back you up.
JOE: Like us, the boys in LEGITIMATE REASON.
GRANT: I don't write lyrics, but if I did, I'd say surround yourself with the right kinds of people. Open your mouth when you feel something wrong is going on, and then try to promote justice in all different aspects - socially, at home ...
What bands would you like to play with the most?
VINCE: We were told we could possibly play with the BAD BRAINS coming in April. Right now we want to play with the BAD BRAINS real bad.
JON: The BAD BRAINS are god!
JOE: The bands we want to play with are the bands that would draw the biggest crowds. That way, we can get alot of exposure.
VINCE: We really want to open for Peter Gabriel or Phil Collins
when they come to town. We're really going to be working hard for that.
JON: We opened for the CRO-MAGS April 12th at City Gardens. I like them alot.
VINCE: May 1 at Club Pizazz (Philly's hardcore club), we'll be opening for UNIFORM CHOICE for all you straight-edge fans.
What do you think of metal finding its way into hardcore (both musically and lyrically)?
JOE: Once again, when I first came onto the scene, you wouldn't find metal influences in hardcore at all. It's kind of different now. I don't mind it a whole lot, because some metal I like. The lyrics - about getting high and drunk, especially that Satan stuff ... I just don't go for that. It really has no meaning in my life.
DAN: I think metal is metal, and hardcore is hardcore. If you want to see metal, go to a metal show. If you want to see hardcore, go to a hardcore show. But I think when the both get mixed, it just ruins the music, it ruins the beliefs, and it ruins the scene. New York is the biggest example. If we were from New York, I don't think we'd even have been able to play a show yet 'cause we're not metal enough for them and we don't mosh. I mean, that's B.S., ,man. That's not cool at all.
JOE: I don't know ... we have big penises. I don't see what's going on.
VINCE: I disagree. I feel that if metal and punk can come together, if ideas can be shared, as long as we don't start compromising somewhere. If anything, metal has got alot to gain.
JON: We played with CORROSION OF CONFORMITY on April 10. C.O.C. it a perfect example of a band that's a crossover between punk and metal. Now, I don't see how metal can be wrong, because if you talk to the guys in CO.C, they're probably more level¬headed than anyone who's in hardcore.
VINCE: We're not ripping against the bands. Alot of hardcore bands went metal and still remain cool. C.O.C. is the biggest example -they're like the coolest guys on Earth. But alot of the crowd ... We went to see NUCLEAR ASSAULT, this total metal band, because we were going to play there the next week. The crowd was totally getting into it. It was great. It was the best feeling on Earth. Everybody was friends, everybody had a smile on their face, no one was fighting. All friends. That's great, but it's their beliefs… I mean they're even worse off than hardcore about changing anything.
What are your opinions on unity? Is it possible?
JOE: If you're talking about unity in the scene, then I think that's pretty much limiting yourself, because that's another attitude I don't like in the scene. If any kind of social change is going to be brought about, you have to go beyond unity in the scene - you have to have unity with society. And that's pretty much bordering on the absurd. It could happen if everybody had the same attitude I have, like "It can happen! It can happen." But people don't have that attitude, so it seems pretty unlikely that it's gonna happen.
GRANT: Unity, like peace, will never happen, but it should always be strived for.
VINCE: I think another thing about unity is that it's a possibility within the scene, to a certain extent. You could have relations to a good level in the scene. I think it's also important to embrace unity. With other scenes, too. With other political groups- the Big Mountain Movement, Rastafarians - other groups which share punk-type views.
DAN: I think unity is B.S. It will never work. There's no way. If you want to change something, do it yourself. I mean, 15 year old kids with X's on their hands screaming "Unity! Unity!"... it isn't going to work. Do something yourself.
JON: Time out. What I think Dan was trying to say, and I don't think he put it the way he should of, is unity's great. It's a great thing, and it can work sometimes. But it's kind of hard to be united with someone whose ideas are so against yours. Like, for us, we're generally non-racist, but how can you expect us to be united with someone who believes in that Nazi crap?
JOE: For sow reason, years ago, there was alot more unity in the scene. Now today, it seems as though the scene has drastically changed within about seven months. I'm starting to see no difference between Philly shows and City Gardens (Trenton, NJ) shows. And once again, I think the reason for that is the age of the kids. They're too immature and insecure to worry about unity. They're just proud of themselves because they have mohawks and leather jackets. They don't put enough thought into what it's supposed to be.
VINCE: I think if someone wants to unite with someone, it's a great idea, but unite with someone that you know is doing something for the world. It doesn't have to be punk rock. Unite with somebody you feel you could make a movement with. Don't unite with punk rock.
What do you think of the PMRC? Do they have a justifiable cause (a LEGITIMATE REASON)?
VINCE: I actually wrote a paper on this, and you can stand by my words: it's a bunch of crap!
DAN: Jello's god!
VINCE: It's ridiculous ! People who don't like what they're listening to, and it's not their type of music anyway, tell us what WE should be listening to. It's just ridiculous. They should stand in their own circle of likes and dislikes.
GRANT: From what I've seen, I think those people are the most insecure people in the world. It's kind of communist, in that just to "maintain your safety", things are banned and you can't even look at them Don't even be exposed to them. It's kind of like you're brought up in a Catholic family, and never experience, you know, a Jewish mass or anything. It's just limiting your experience and society should have enough trust in us so that we can make the right choices. And if we are doing something wrong, then we'll correct it ourselves. But obviously, those people don't put enough credit into themselves or humanity.
VINCE: If you can't raise your kids to accept your ideas, then that's your problem. If you can't control your children ... that's your priority. It's not controlling MY children or people I know. That's MY business.
JOE: [whilst munching on a bologna sandwich] I'd like to comment on something that they proposed about rating records. In a way, I didn't have a problem with that because, just like movies, you have to rate movies so these twelve year old kids who are going, their parents will know what they are seeing. Like nudity and stuff like that. But the more I thought about it, it would be good if records could be rated like movies, but then it falls back on who's rating the records. If you gave the Pope one of our tapes, he'd probably rate it X 'cause it has curses in it.
What do you see in the future of LEGITIMATE REASON?
JOE: I think the band tries to take one day at a time, because we never know what's going to happen with our lives. We take one day at a time. And I guess our ultimate goal is to get a record, some kind of record.
GRANT: Hopefully, in a year and a half, if someone will be helpful enough to put us out, we'll have an LP. And if no one puts us out, and if the climate is good, we'll put it out ourselves.
Where can one get your demo? Are you going to record again soon?
JOE: You can get it at a show after we play, or you can send away to me. We're on our way to record now, Mick.
VINCE: We're in Baltimore. In a half hour, we'll be in Washington, and tomorrow at noon, we're recording over at Don Zientara's Inner Ear Studios, which is really cool. Really comfortable. And the reason why we're recording there is that we were gonna record a demo on an 8 track, a kind of cheap thing, just for ourselves and to put out like our other tape. But Dave Rave wrote us a letter and said he's putting us on a Philly compilation. Since it was going to be on vinyl, we figured we might as well do it right, spending a little extra money, and go to a place where they know how to do it right. I think Inner Ear is the best example of that. A friend of mine who plays in a band called RAIN - his name's Eli [Janney], his brother's in RITES OF SPRING - he's really familiar with Inner Ear. He's good friends with Don and Ian (MacKaye), and he's going to be helping us out.
GRANT: We really want to have the best sound, we're really into a good drum sound. Most of the drums we've heard come out of that studio are pretty exceptional.
VINCE: And when "the master" sits down at that set ...
JOE: And Don's like "King of the Board" - he's really cool and we'll have no problem getting good sounds there.
VINCE: Ian's a very, very, very good producer, too. [Subsequently, Ian MacKaye told me that he didn't get a chance to work with LEGITIMATE REASON in the studio, but he heard their tape and liked it alot - Mick.]
Any final words?
JON: We're at the last tollbooth, so ... goodbye!
VINCE: Have fun. Wake up and smell the coffee.
JOE: Thanks alot for taking the time, Mick. We really appreciate people taking notice of us. And hope because we're not straight¬edge you won't hold anything against us, cause we don't hold anything against you.
VINCE: As SCRAM would say, "Stand Up and Fight!"
GRANT: As the Freak Brothers once said, "There's nothing finer than a stick of thai and thy." “Dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope."
JOE: See you later, Mick.
Definitely send for their tape - I guarantee you won't regret it.