interview with Joe Foster (Unity / No For An Answer / Ignite / The Killing Flame /  Speak 714 / Blood Days) by Allan Reid. Pics provided by Joe.

One of the first hardcore records I picked up was a split between two bands that would shape my interest in hardcore. While one band took me on a journey from 90’s DC hardcore to the Revolution Summer and Dischord Records back catalogue, the other gave me an insight into the blend of 80’s hardcore punk and surf rock influence that I’d soon learn was the Orange Country hardcore sound. This split was (of course) the Battery and Ignite split released on Lost & Found Records in 1994. Ignite’s sound was unmistakable. Soaring melodic vocals coupled with high energy guitar work laid over a solid rhythm section.

After digging deeper into the Orange County hardcore sound and discovering more bands linked to Ignite, I discovered that there was one guitarist who’d played a pivotal role in the development of the smooth, melodic hardcore from the region; Joe Foster. At times members of the Orange County scene of the 80’s and 90’s seem to be surrounded in mystery and hearsay. Joe was no exception. When Joe’s name surfaced in relation to a new band by the name of Blood Days I decided to take a chance on a quick interview. Joe was an absolute pleasure to deal with and was as active in finishing this interview as I was. Blood Days currently have demo’s online for an upcoming EP. Keep an eye out for more info soon. 

Lately there are a lot of bands reforming from your generation of American hardcore. A lot of them have reformed for ongoing periods. When forming Blood Days, did the thought ever cross your mind to reform one of your past bands, or was there a clear intention to start something new?

I have actually been working on Blood Days for almost the last three years. I tried to do it with new people but it was difficult. I am so happy to be reunited with the guys in the current line up. As far as reforming an older band, that never crossed my mind. It might if Pat Dubar (Uniform Choice, Unity, Mindfunk) said “let’s do something” but I would still want to write new music with a new release. I love writing music and playing, period. I have always played music for the pure creation, energy and passion of it. Blood Days is going to play a few Unity songs at the end of every Blood Days set since the original bass player is in the band and it will be a lot of fun. Blood Days is not a project at all and we will be hopefully touring this year. 

It’s been almost 15 years since you were last involved in releasing a hardcore release. What has brought on your recent plans to form Blood Days and start releasing music again?

I have always wanted to keep playing. I have worked on a lot of stuff at home and with friends over the years but I guess mostly I miss seeing old friends and creating in a band environment. We have a really good group of guys and we all get along great. It's something we look forward to doing every week. Another reason is I always knew that I had one more band inside me to do and thankfully I have a chance to do it with my friends. I am also doing a project called AMP with Zoli and Brett from Ignite, as well as the rest of the guys in Blood Days. It will be a 4 song benefit EP for the Pelican Rescue Society and the Salvation Army. We have one song finished and recorded so far and will finish this up over summer. It's great to get the old Ignite lineup back together and do something fun and positive. 

How do you feel about the recent reunions of bands from previous eras of hardcore?

I think it's kinda cool. It gives people a chance to see some great bands they would have never got to see. There can be so many arguments made about this one way or another and personally I like that I got to see Minor Threat live and not many others I know have. It would be strange having a memory I hold so dear kinda watered down if every 15 year old on my block got to see them. Then, at the same time, is it really them? The youth, the energy, the emotions, the believing in something? So I guess it still wouldn't count to me no matter who reunited so many years later. I am not even sure I answered that but I guess I have mixed feelings. I could digest it a lot easier if I knew it was not only for fun, but also to do some other type of good like a benefit for a worthy cause.


In April 2014 you posted a video online of a Blood Days track with a fairly different line up to the current line up. How long has Blood Days been in the works and how has the project evolved since it’s inception?

It's been going for three years now and has had so many set backs and disappointments. Me and John Low from Unity have had about 6 different lineups and probably 40 songs written and forgotten. In that time we have played with a lot of great musicians but there was always that one thing missing; the history and knowledge of the music. The Blood Days lineup is: Gavin Ogelsby on guitar, John Low on Bass, Casey Jones on drums, Jae Hansel on vocals and me. 

With Blood Days’ recent change of vocalist, there was talk of releasing some of the tracks with guest vocalists from previous OC bands. What was the plan for this release, and will this project be going ahead?

That was not the case with Blood Days as far as having guest singers. I am working on a global project called Unity World Wide, where I am writing two songs for every city and country and having a singer from that area sing on them. For example, for the New Jersey Unity World Wide 7", Tim from Mouth Piece will do vocals, Mike Judge will do the New York 7", Zoli the Orange County 7", Kudell, Loll, Marc Mad, Andy, Uto Core Tex friends for Germany and on and on. I want to release a box set of 5 seven inch’s every year. It would be great to be on tour and have the singers from those areas come up and sing those two songs during a Blood Days set. 


I believe the project will help to raise funds for an Orange County wildlife sanctuary of sorts, which seems to tie in with the fund raising of some of your previous releases. How important do you feel it is for hardcore and punk to remain connected with environmental issues? 

For me, hardcore has always had an intensity, either lyrically, musically or both. It has usually stood for something whether you believed in a certain message or not. It is like the thinking and expressive persons music. That is a big part of what makes the hardcore scene so unique and special. Part of that is giving back if we can and are in a situation to do so. Not just to animal organisations but to others that help humanity. The project AMP with Zoli will donate 100 percent of all profits to The Pacific Wildlife Conservation Society and the Salvation Army. In the future, I am planning on doing a 15 seven inch series called Unity World Wide where I have a singer from each country sing on music that I write and to pick the organisation they would like the proceeds to got to. When Blood Days plays live in that country, we hopefully will be able to have the singer from that country come up and talk about the organisation and sing the two songs from their 7". I have already finished the Austrian seven inch and have four more to go.

From what I understand, you got into hardcore and punk in the early 80’s. A time that for obvious reasons was vastly different to the introduction that a teen today might find when getting into hardcore. How did you get into punk and hardcore and what was it like discovering the scene back then?

We all knew it was something special. We were the kids at school who looked weird but didn't party or do all the things probably expected from young kids. We were proud to be different and listen to different music. I used to tape a radio show at night because it was on past my bedtime and then listen to it in the morning. When I first heard Minor Threat that was it. I was hooked for life. We used to go to shows all the time, before gangs and all this division and separation became part of the scene. There would be punks, oi's, hardcore kids, skateboarders, rockers etc at these shows and everyone just got along. The Seven Seconds shows were the best, everyone on stage singing along.

Do you remember what your first hardcore/punk show was?

I think it was at the Galaxy Theatre in Fullerton and was Seven Seconds’ first show ever in Southern California. 


One of the more successful bands that you were involved in is Ignite. Do you ever wonder what could’ve been if you hadn’t left the band in the late 90’s to pursue other interests?

Ya, I do wonder what we would have evolved into and sounded like now. Basically the first Speak 714 album Knee Deep In Guilt would of been the next Ignite album, so I am glad to see what it sounded like with Dan's (O’Mahoney) voice and a more east coast style. It's one of my favourite releases. 

There are stories from the Orange County scene in the 80’s and 90’s regarding gangs in the hardcore scene. Do you recall what it was like when gangs started to become involved?

It's true and thats the sad part about OC hardcore history. Everything was so united ‘til say the mid to late 80's. Metal, punk, hardcore, everyone just hung out together and had a great positive experience. We would have shows kinda like festivals where Ill Repute, Battalion of Saints, etc would be on the same bill with Discharge, GBH etc. It's like there was something for everyone and everyone just got along. I slowly stopped going to shows in the late 80's because of all the violence and gangs. Fenders Ballroom in Long Beach was close to my home and I didn't feel safe going there anymore. Totally sad.


At some point you became involved in the modelling/fashion industry. The fashion industry at the time seemed to be the antithesis of the hardcore punk ideology. What was it like to transition from being a musician in the hardcore punk scene to becoming a model?

I was a pro surfer and doing Unity at the same time. Uniform Choice became full time for the Pat's and I had just finished the tour and was offered a chance to go to Paris and model. The timing was just right and I was young and ready to see the world for free. There was no transition for me, the fashion world or the act of modelling is a joke. I did it just to see the world. On my last trip to Japan I remember being so miserable and asking myself when the last time I was happy was. The answer was when I was surfing and playing music. I shaved my head, walked into the agency the next morning, told them they could keep all the money and I just wanted a one way ticket home. As soon as I got home I started Ignite with Brett.

One of your jobs while modelling was as an extra in Madonna’s film clip for Vogue. How did that job come about?

Ha, It was actually the video for Express Yourself. This was probably in 89 or 90 and I went to a casting and she was there. I had to go on three more call backs. The last one is pretty funny. It was me and about 14 other guys all in one room and she was the only other person in the room. She had a ghetto blaster/boom box and said, "when you hear the music start dancing". I have no clue how to dance and all these buff guys were in there starting to do like some jock dance so I decided to run and do a stage dive on them. I knocked over like four of them and when we were laying on the ground the music stopped. I looked over at Madonna and she was standing up and clapping. When we all were leaving the room, I was the last guy out and she said, "before you leave you have to kiss me". It was pretty weird and I can just remember the second before we kissed but not the kiss. After that I asked her if she wanted to go out and she asked where, I told here Huntington Beach and she said no because she hated Huntington Beach. That’s the whole story. No sex or anything else, just the kiss that I don't remember and being in the video. Check the 1:22 min mark in the video above.

Do you ever miss being involved in the modelling industry and the opportunities for travel that it offered?

Never. After the mystery of seeing all of the countries I wanted to see was gone and the job became just the job I didn't enjoy it at all. I tried to focus on languages and got decent in Italian. I have great memories but mostly I am fortunate to have gotten to see most of the same countries again through the eyes of a musician. 


After all of your time spent touring and playing in hardcore bands, what would you say you’re the most proud of?

For sure all of the great friends I met and everyone my music has ever made happy. Giving people shirts on tour and sneaking them into shows was alway fun and I still maintain so many friendships with people all over the world I met on tour. 

As well as playing music, you’ve made a name for yourself as a surf photographer. You also work on an online surfing magazine called Aladdin which seems to take a very pure approach to surf culture. How did Aladdin come about and what is your intention in putting the magazine together?

The reason I was not putting out records for so long was I fell in love with the ocean. It's basically where my life started and I used to be a pro surfer. I am completely deaf in one ear and it affects my balance a great deal so to be closer to the sport I love I swim out and take photos. My life is really the ocean and hardcore and that has always been consistent with me. I was doing the surfing thing while I was in Unity. Basically, I got really tired of touring 9 months a year and was ready for another challenge. I started Aladdin as a vessel to promote surfers and photographers that otherwise might not get noticed due to all the politics involved with that industry. We have been able to show the world so many great talented surfers and photographers that otherwise might have not gotten noticed. This has been my passion project for many years now and is on going. We are getting up to 140,000 views an issue now and the magazine can be checked out on line at No ads, no logins, no BS, just got there and it's on.


A question on a lot of people’s minds has been “whatever happened to Pat Dubar”? He seemed to disappear from the music scene after his Mindfunk days. Have you kept up to date with Pat? Has he been involved in any musical ventures since Mindfunk?

I saw him maybe a handful of times after the Mindfunk days. The last time I saw him he was doing a band with Spike called Corporate Avenger and collecting Beenie Babies. He had a pet wolf in his backyard too and was just as intense as ever, but add long hair and a lot of jade and turquoise. He made a ton of money doing that though and eventually started working for his brother Courtney, and from what I hear is doing really great. I would love to see him again and his brothers. As far as music, a good friend of mine that knows him real well said even if Stone Temple Pilots or Queen asked him to sing he wouldn't. Too bad, he had such a great voice. I would love to do a project with him anyway, anytime.


What would say was the best show/tour you’ve been involved in and why?

For sure Ignites first European tour. Man, we went over with Slapshot for three months and it was crazy. I remember right from the start they asked us to be quiet in the buss and some how we dog piled on the guitar player and his bed broke and we all crashed down and almost crushed the guy on the bottom. Another tour I really enjoyed was with Madball, they were really fun to be around and seeing them do Doo whop songs around an old burning trash can was so cool. Even saw Stigma sing New York New York. They were always good to us. Also, any tour Sven or "Billy from Leipzig" was on, he is really my brother and we had the greatest time I have ever had in my life just going crazy and hanging out with him. The most important show I ever played was in Austria where I met my eventual wife Iris Kern. She tracked me down after an Ignite original members reunion about 6 years ago an ended up moving here and we have been together ever since. Of course I would of never met her had it not been for Billy hitting on her. He will say he didn't but I still think he kinda did…Lol…Dammit Sven, admit it!


Out of all of your previous projects, is there one band that you wish you’d got one more release out of, and why?

I wish we could of done one more Unity full length. Just being so young back then with such a positive message was great.

Are you a person that reflects a lot? Do you have any regrets from your past experiences and involvement in music?

I really don't reflect too much. I am usually more into today and tomorrow rather than yesterday’s news. I maybe wish I would of taken music more seriously but it's always been fun for me and I guess if there's one regret, it would be waiting so long to do another band. For my whole life it's either been music or the ocean or both. That will never change.

What is the story with Man Against Man? What was the evolution of the song and how did it end up being released by both Ignite and No For An Answer?

That song was actually written in the band Winds of Promise. Many of the songs we wrote that summer went on to be in Uniform Choice, Unity, No For An Answer and Ignite way later. It was a fun summer and we practiced in Pat Longrie’s little wine cellar basement. Big Frank even played bass in the band for a brief period as well as John Mastropaulo. I think somehow Dan (O’Mahoney) heard it, either by hanging out at Pat's house when we were practicing or off a practice tape. Anyway, I somehow played in No For An Answer for a brief period and Dan asked if we could play that song. It really became known as a NFFA song but originated with Winds of Promise and I thought it would be fun to play in Ignite.

Which band do you feel did the best version of Man Against Man?

I really like them both. I like the original version with east coast style vocals a lot and also the breaks Ignite added. The song when Dubar wrote the original lyrics was first called A Better Man when him and Dan had their little "write songs about each other" thing going on.

What was the story with Pat Dubar and Dan O’Mahoney’s “writing songs about each other” thing?

LOL, not sure. Seems like it's still happening today. Pat (Dubar) even wrote a song about my girlfriend at the time called She's Locked In on one of the Uniform Choice albums. There's also a song about Dan (O’Mahoney) called Same Train, I think. Zoli (Teglas) wrote one about me because of (Joe) Nelson's lyrics in the Killing Flame song the Killing Flame. (Joe) Nelson wrote one about me called Song 27. It was really mean too. All I remember was the line “should of known me back when I was great, instead of this fucking way.” Not nice and he has apologised since. The Ignite song was something about "you quit us man, you washed your hands, burned once again.” Crazy! I guess back to the question. Dan and Pat kinda always had this strange bond / king of OC hardcore thing going on. Guess Dan wins for longevity but Dubar’s time was essential and vital to all of us.

Over the years you’ve taken a lot of responsibility for your own bands artwork and design, developing a recognisable style. What would you say are your biggest influences when it comes to your style of graphic design?

I have always first and foremost been a big fan of Gavin's (Oglesby) artwork. His iconography and style to me has been the staple of the  OCHC look. I also love art in general and have always been fascinated by the works of all the old masters such as Da Vinci and Rembrandt etc. I am so thrilled that Gavin is manning the artwork ship for Blood Days. He did a new oil painting for the cd cover influenced by the old masters and for me it's the best cover I could ever imagine.

Do you have a favourite layout that you’ve worked on? If so, why does it stand out?

I guess I kinda like the cover of the first Speak 714 album. It's pretty basic but I was trying out some new film and feel like I caught Dan at the prime of his youth. That image means a lot to me for some reason. I also like the art for the first two Killing Flame 7"s. One thing thats also cool was me and Dubar were at a friends house one day when he first shaved his head. I remember he walked out of the bathroom, looked at me and crossed both arms and I took a photo. Tim McMahon has the photo now but it became the UC logo.


There was a period between Unity and Ignite where you were travelling and away from the OC hardcore scene. Not long after reconnecting with the OCHC scene you formed Ignite with Joe Nelson. Do you recall what the scene was like when you returned? 

I was gone for a while out of country but still playing a lot of acoustic guitar and listening to all my beloved DC bands etc. It didn't really work out with Nelson as Triggerman was his priority. We actually had a tour booked with no singer so I flew back to Japan and then got a call from Brett saying they found a singer and the first tour was now on again. Gavin had found Zoli singing punk covers at some bar and recruited him. I guess the rest is history. Kinda crazy though when Brett told me. I was in some crazy park in Japan on a pay phone and he said the singers name was Zoli and to come home immediately. I will never forget that call.

After the release of the Unity 7 inch, the band changed name to Winds of Promise. What was the story with Winds of Promise? Why the name change and what changed musically?

We actually never changed names. We just wanted to do a different band with more DC influences. Songs like A Wish To Dream, Man Against Man etc were written in Winds of Promise. I wish we would of continued. It was probably the most expressive music we did back then.

How much of the Winds of Promise material ended up on the Blood Days LP and what led to  the band changing names back to Unity?

I can't exactly remember but I would say at least half the Blood Days album was from Winds of Promise.

back cover pic

What was the concept behind the photo on the back of Unity’s Blood Days LP? 

LOL, I have no idea. I still look at that and cringe. The best part of it is me and John went surfing that morning and were two hours late for the photo and the Pat's were really pissed, hence Longrie stepping on my foot in the photo with his cowboy boots. It was shot at Dubars dorm room at Pepperdine college when he went there on a baseball scholarship.

Over the years you’ve created a guitar style that is unique, and easily recognisable. What would you say are the biggest influences on your music, and how have they shaped the way that you approach song writing?

I have always loved Kenny Inouye from Marginal Mans guitar work, Rikk Agnew (Social Distortion), early Mike Ness (Social Distortion), Brian Baker (Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, Bad Religion) and luckily for me Gavin's (Oglesby - No For An Answer, Carry Nation, The Killing Flame, Blood Days) guitar work. There is a fluidity of different emotions going on in every song. Melodies, peaks, valleys, love, anger, beauty etc all combined into one song. I guess I identify with this because it's so much like the emotions of real life everyday.


If you could put a line up together for your dream band, who would it be and why?

Man thats a hard one. I have always loved Chris Bratton’s (Chain of Strength, No For An Answer) drumming but Craig Anderson is so freaking amazing. I love Casey's (Jones - Ignite, The Killing Flame) creativity. I guess for drums I would have all three. Vocally, I'll take (Pat) Dubar (Uniform Choice, Unity, Mindfunk), Ian (MacKaye - Minor Threat, Fugazi, Egg Hunt), (Dave) Smalley (Dag Nasty, All, Down By Law) and Zoli (Teglas - Ignite, Zoli Band), guitar wise I’ll take (Brian) Baker (Minor Threat, Dag Nasrty, Bad Religion), Rikk Agnew (Social Distortion), (Mike) Ness (Social Distortion), Kenny Inouye from Marginal Man, and Gavin (Oglesby - No For An Answer, Carry Nation, The Killing Flame, Blood Days). Bass, Brett (Rasmussen - Ignite, Last of The Believers) for sure and also John Lorey and Colin from Mean Season

Lastly, if you could use one word to sum up your involvement and experiences within the hardcore scene, what would it be?


I love the fact it brings a world wide family together too, no matter where you live. Always insightful and thoughtful. Hardcore will never die.


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