Carpazine: Hi Johnny. When you were a youngster... a pre-teen, what music were you exposed to and how were you exposed to the music?
Johnny: Hey Chris, thanks for asking me to do this interview. I started listening to music when I was young. My mother was into opera, and Broadway musicals, my siblings were into Rock and Roll. My stepfather was into country music, I can remember him playing Johnny Cash records when I was about 7 years-old and I really liked it, I asked who it was, so I wouldn’t forget. My sister had given me her 50’s rock and roll collection. It was five albums of all the top hits. I would listen to those all the time! Elvis became one of my favorite singers too, through what I heard on the radio and his movies playing every weekend on TV. My mother would also take me to see Broadway musicals when they were affordable. I remember going to see Candide, Pippin, A Chorus Line, and Fiddler on the Roof. I went mainly because she loved it and to me, as a kid, it was entertaining musically as well, as some great performances. My grandmother, Rose DiNuzzo, played beautiful piano; she was amazing to listen to, I wish I had recorded some of her playing.
I remember listening to the radio when I was young and hearing bands like Blondie, Billy Joel and Cheap Trick, in the mid 70’s and I loved that edgy sound. Around the same time, I convinced my mother to take me to see the midnight showing of Pink Floyd at Pompeii at the Astoria Movie. It was me, my mother, and a room full of metalheads in that smoke filled theater. Now, thinking back, I’m sure a lot of them were tripping their asses off on LSD too! That night might have changed my life forever!
Carpazine: When you were in high school what music was popular; specifically amongst your peers in high school?
Johnny: I didn’t do high school. I dropped out of school in the ninth grade. I wanted to play music and do my learning on the streets. While all of my friends were in school learning from books, I was exploring New York City. I visited so many places and often found myself learning more being out there than I would in any classroom. It was the early 80’s, so you had the boom of a lot of great bands and new styles of music coming out! My friends and I were into Punk, Heavy Metal, and Hip-hop.
Carpazine: Who is your favorite cartoon character?
Johnny: If I had to choose one, it would be the Tasmanian Devil. He’s the most indestructible, vicious, and lovable character I know! He didn’t have much to say, but he wreaked havoc on anything and anyone!
Carpazine: I can recall you one saying your favorite all-time New York punk rock band is Reagan Youth? Do you recall making that statement in a conversation we had... can you recall your thoughts and feelings the first time you heard them?
Johnny: Reagan Youth is the first “In your face” punk band I ever saw play live, along with Heart Attack. The energy from both bands had an instant impact on my love for hard, fast punk music. The first time I saw Reagan Youth, and almost anytime I saw them live, it was the tom tom drums they incorporated into the songs. I was always used to hearing the toms used in rolls, but Reagan Youth’s drummer would play them as a rhythm section, the song, “Reagan Youth” of their first release “Youth Anthems for the New Order” would be a great example of what I mean. The Bad Brains are the first Hardcore punk show I ever saw, I was so far back in the room, all I saw was bodies flying everywhere! The Ramones are my favorite punk rock band of all-time.
Carpazine: What were the last five records you listened to?
Career Suicide - Machine Response L.P.
Murphy’s Law - Back with a Bong L.P.
Antidote - Thou Shalt Not kill E.P.
The Ramones - First Album
Controlled Substance - Full of Fucking Stress E.P.
Carpazine: Can you tell us how Urban Waste came to exist?
Johnny: Urban Waste was born in the projects of Long Island City, Queens. John Dancy and I lived in the same building and we were into the same kind of music. We went to a lot of shows together, and then we found out about the punk scene on the lower east side, so we started hanging out there. We made a lot of friends, and saw some of them were in a band or thinking about starting one. Dancy asked me if I wanted to start a band with him, I said yeah! We really had no money for good equipment at the time and we were being raised by our mothers, who were working to pay the bills. We wrote our first few songs on acoustic guitar and Dancy slamming a snare drum and garbage can top he used as a cymbal. Eventually we had the rest of the band formed with Billy Phillips and Freddie Watt. We had enough songs written, and we were ready to go play our first show at our favorite place, the A7 Club on the lower east side.
Carpazine: Who is your favorite place in Queens to get a slice of pizza?
Johnny: I’m not sure where the best pizza is now, but I remember, the best pizza was at Rizzo’s on Steinway Street in Astoria. It’s a thin crisp crust pizza and what made it great is they only sell Pizza and Salad there. All the focus is on the pizza, it’s not just something off the menu. Rizzo’s is still in business and is also next to Yogi LaLa which used to be the best head shop in Astoria, but they only sell jewelry there now...blah!
Carpazine: Kenny “Waste” Ahrens has passed away but he is missed and not forgotten by many. Were you and Kenny close BEFORE Kenny joined Urban Waste? How would you describe your experience with Kenny as a friend and a collaborator in creating songs?
Johnny: I only met Kenny a few times before we asked him to come and be the singer for UW. We quickly became great friends and started hanging out a lot. Kenny was a little older and liked to party. I grew up a bit hanging with Kenny, we used to go to his place after shows, wrecked out of our faces on mescaline and we always went to Katz’s delicatessen for french fries, they were delicious after a trip! Kenny always had great ideas, and was intuitive on what was going on in the world, he knew how to write lyrics to represent his views of life and what was going on in society at that time. Kenny also knew how to slap a bass around pretty damn good, and has brought a few songs to the band musically too. RIP Kenny.
Carpazine: What's the coolest thing you've ever seen while on stage during an Urban Waste set?
Johnny: The coolest thing I saw was during our set when we played with The Mob and Minor Threat at CBGBs in Dec. 1982. I believe it was during the song “Ignorant”. I went from looking at my guitar, to looking at the circle pit. All I could see was a blur of bodies going around and around, and I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It looked like butter being churned, a smooth blurry circular motion, couldn’t tell who was who, but everyone was in sync with each other which looked really cool!
Carpazine: Any words of wisdom for the young musicians out there?
Johnny: Sure, to anyone starting a band, is in a band, or thinking about becoming a musician in any way: just have fun! Music is endless, be creative, use your influences to guide your music writing. When you have friends you play with, you’ll see how it all comes together. For smaller bands just starting out, when you’re playing a show, tell people your “band name” when you’re up there, it really helps those that walk in and see you for the first time who have no idea who you are.
Carpazine: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this.
Johnny: Thank you again for asking me to do this and thank you for everything you do Chris, to keep people informed. We go back 10 years now, I’ve seen you do a lot of good things to support the hardcore / punk scene. Keep up the great work, see you at a show soon, cheers!
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Carpazine Art Magazine Issue Number 38 Featuring Doug Firmino! More: Sherry Karver, Valerie Patterson, Randi Matushevitz, Dominick Conde, Fernando Carpaneda, Melinda R. Smith, Collin J.Rae, Milwaukee Graffiti, Somos/We Are: Latinx Artists of Long Island at The Long Island Museum, The Hive Gallery: Line 12, The Sisters and many more!