Interview: Kings Never Die
Honestly, I’m only looking ahead. I love what we are doing with Kings Never Die. It's a new start.
Kings Never Die are a new New Jersey / New York based hardcore unit that features members who have served in the likes of Mucky Pup, Subzero, Murphy’s Law, Leeway and Dog Eat Dog amongst their ranks. The band brought out their first release, the Raise A Glass EP at the start of the year and it’s a raucous collection of energetic and heartfelt hardcore anthems ready made to get your spirits up. Gavin Brown caught up with the band’s guitarist Dan Nastasi to hear all about how Kings Never Die got together, their debut EP Raise Your Glass and working with Agnostic Front legends Vinnie Stigma and Mike Gallo on the EP and some memories from his time with Mucky Pup, Dog Eat Dog and the hardcore scene in NJ and NY from the past and present.
E&D: How did Kings Never Die start in the first place?
Dan: Really through a phone call. Larry “The Hunter” called me in late 2018 and that led to us getting together. I had just written the songs with Eddie Sutton and had been playing some live shows with Leeway, etc. When me and Larry talked I was telling him about how I was writing a ton of new songs, but much different then Leeway, or really anything else I had done in the past. Basically, straight up punk rock-hardcore tunes. We met as his place one night, went over some things I had, Larry had some ideas for songs as well. It just clicked, we work together well and Kings Never Die was born.
E&D: Your first EP Raise A Glass is out now. How did the creations and recording process for the EP go?
Dan: Well, It all happened fast. As I said, Me and Larry first spoke before Christmas 2018, I think we rehearsed a couple times as a band (w/Jay Kalfin on bass and John Milnes played drums at first). An old dear friend of our Dave Riser had offered us an opportunity to go to his Studio in PA. (Rock Hard) so in early April 2019 we went us and rough tracked 14 songs. 4 of them are the Raise A Glass EP. It was important that we put 4 songs on the EP that showed a complete picture musically of what we can do. Also a good time for the band to shape ourselves. When we recorded the tracks, Dylan hadn’t even started working with us yet. He recorded his vocal parts in June and July and the first single ‘Before My Time’ came out in August. So things were really happening fast.
E&D: ‘Before My Time’ was the first song to be released from the EP. Can you tell us a bit about the song and it’s video?
Dan: Well, the song was always meant to be a bit of an Intro in to the band or a first song on an album. The top of the song is a minute long before the vocals and actual song kick in. But, the music is important and the song has a bit of everything. Starts as an introduction into Kings Never Die and who we are and then kicks into a chanty hardcore song. I think it was a good first song for people to hear and has a good groove, I love the bass line and feel of how the verses and chorus blend together. It stands out a bit, especially since most of our other songs are much harder or punk rock diddy’s, etc. The full length album has another song I think is of a similar style called ‘Forever Our Truth’.
E&D: The title track from Raise A Glass featured Vinnie Stigma and Mike Gallo from Agnostic Front, how was it working with those guys on the track?
Dan: It was so easy honestly. Also, I wanted them to make the song their own a bit as well. Mike Gallo really started re-working the verses as soon as we got into the studio that night. The chorus was kinda set in stone obviously. But we were all open to letting everyone do what they wanted and make the song theirs. Vinnie is just the best… I am a huge Stigma fan to start with. If you haven’t heard Vinnie’s (Stigma) albums, you’re missing out. (New York Blood and For Love & Glory). I love Stigma’s voice and as I was writing ‘Raise A Glass’ I immediately heard his voice singing the chorus of the song. It was truly an honor to work with both Vinnie and Mike Gallo on the track.
E&D: How fun was it to shoot the video for the song with those guys?
Dan: Well the video footage was really from all over the place. The basic concept is that the band is in the studio with Stigma and Gallo recording the song, and Dylan is waiting for us to get to a gig. We leave the studio and head to club and he starts walking through the city and walks in A7 as we are just starting to play. The rest of the video was live footage from when we played A7 before the EP even came out. We took the footage of Vinnie from when we actually recorded the song and I went over to Gallo’s to film most of his screen. As I’m sure you are aware, those guys have been really busy right up to this Covid-19 disaster. Just had a new album come out (which is fucking incredible). Top 3 Agnostic Front albums in my opinion.
E&D: How big an influence are Agnostic Front on the band and yourself in general?
Dan: Everyone you truly love is an influence. My favorite 3 bands in the scene are Sick Of It All, Wisdom in Chains and Agnostic Front. As a much younger man, I was massively influenced by the Dead Kennedys and the Doors. Then Leeway of course. Murphy’s Law for sure etc. I’ve been doing this for a long time, hard to say how much another band influences what I write actually. I’ve also evolved as I’ve matured. Mucky Pup was the 16 year old in me, Trying to be funny or just poking fun at everything. Dog Eat Dog was definitely influenced by more of the Leeway and had some hip hop influence to it. Chanty chorus etc. Most songs I start writing come from a vocal idea, believe it or not. Been that way forever.
E&D: Who would you like to raise a glass to at the moment?
Dan: Well, first, our hearts go out to anyone who has lost someone too soon to this virus. It’s hard to deal with the unknown. That’s the scary thing here. Definitely to all healthcare professionals who have put themselves at risk for the good of others. That’s a selfless act we all need to appreciate. I do see some positives that will come of all this. People have to and will be far more concerned with overall being clean and washing up for others and themselves. I see that they have learned how to treat people with Covid-19 much better than 2 months ago as well. It may be quite awhile before there is an actual flu shot etc. So what we can do for each other and how the medical professional can treat patients are really the most important things right now. Life must go on.
E&D: Have you thought of any new music during this lockdown period?
Dan: Ha ha, aaaaaa. What else is there to do!! To be serious, yeah, of course. We have had the material for the full length done for a while, but during this time, I’ve probably written another 4 songs that I think are actually good enough to be on a Kings Never Die Album. We’ve been sending each other ideas back and forth. Jay has been writing riffs and sends them every couple days. I actually taught myself how to use Garage Band on my Mac (I’m still not very good), but it has been helpful to send the guys new ideas etc. Like virtual pre-production work.
E&D: How else are you keeping busy during this time?
Dan: Well, I work when I can, It’s been a hard time with that. I cook like crazy, Write music and spend time with my wife and daughter. That’s about it right now! It’s been a shame and nice all at the same time.
E&D: Have the band discussed any plans for a full length album once this lockdown situation is over?
Dan: As I touched on, yeah of course. We actually have 2 full length albums ready to go. We also know who we want to produce the album, only issue is money to be honest and finding a worldwide label that wants to put the record out and maybe help out with some of the recording costs. I say “some ” because we get it. You can’t expect anyone to be signing bands right now, never mind shelling out money to record etc. We are willing to do most of that by our own means for the most part. My biggest concern is that the record is what we want it to be. Sound the way we want and that it has a chance to be heard. So basically, we’re looking for a European based label that believes in the band and wants to be a part of what we’re doing. This album is probably the best top to bottom album I’ve ever been a part of making. Song after song etc. It is banging and we want it to have the best chance possible to be heard and supported live etc.
E&D: Are there tentative plans for any Kings Never Die to tour once this lockdown is all over? Hopefully some UK and European dates!
Dan: Of Course, We just need the opportunity to be able to present itself. We will be there as soon as it’s possible.
E&D: How did you get into hardcore in the first place?
Dan: Basically Mucky Pup and the bands we were into at the time. Murphy’s Law was the fun side of it for us. We all loved Leeway when we heard it and we were playing shows with all those bands. When I heard Just Look Around from Sick Of It All, that was it for me. Just a incredible piece of work.
E&D: What was the New Jersey hardcore scene like when you were coming up?
Dan: Weird, I feel like we were a part of it and were helping to shape it. Mucky Pup and Dog Eat Dog, to me helped the NJ scene.
E&D: How exciting were the NJ and NY hardcore scenes back then?
Dan: It was a special time for sure. Shows were filled with different types of bands on the same bill. There was variety and people accepted all types of bands on the same night. Nobody was afraid to just do their thing.
E&D: What was the best hardcore show that you saw back then?
Dan: Best show was the ’93 Biohazard / Onyx / Dog Eat Dog show at the Academy Theater in NYC. Was off the chain. Incredible atmosphere and the wildest crowd I’ve seen at a show.
E&D: Do you have fond memories of your time with Mucky Pup and what were some of your favourite times with the band?
Dan: We were kids at first. It was all exciting. After we recorded Can’t You Take A Joke, we went to Europe for the first time with no idea of what to expect. In 1988, the Berlin Wall was literally just coming down. It opened all of our eyes to the rest of the world. After we recorded A Boy In A Man’s World, I was in a weird place, that’s when I spent a year in Murphy’s Law, toured all over US and then Europe again with them. Eventually I felt like Mucky Pup was really who I was at the time and we recorded the Now album literally as soon as I got back from Europe with Murphy’s Law. The tour for that album was when we brought Biohazard to open for us, That was another special time and another great tour. All good memories for sure.
E&D: After Mucky Pup, you joined Dog Eat Dog. What are some of the highlights in your time with the band?
Dan: Dog Eat Dog was a fresh writing start. After I got back from Euro ’90 tour with Mucky Pup, those guys had already started and called themselves “F Troop” at the time. I went down to Dave’s basement and listened to them play the original version of ‘Funnel King’ and a song called ‘Psychodrama’ they had started putting together. I basically just jumped in with them and we started writing like crazy. You have to remember, we were all friends for years before that. The sweating it out in Dave’s basement, creating the sound that ultimately became Dog Eat Dog, the crazy first shows we played. They are all fun times. That all happened really fast. We put out the Warrant EP then immediately went into studio to record All Boro Kings all within a year. I honestly just love what we created together. It’s always about the people! It’s just a shame that my life and commitments with starting a family interfered with me being able to continue.
E&D: Was it a big thrill having Darryl Jennifer from Bad Brains guesting in the album and what was it like working with him?
Dan: Just another thing you have to feel blessed to have been able to do. The Bad Brains are simply the Kings of Hardcore.
E&D: What were some of the best shows that you played with Dog Eat Dog?
Dan: Like I said earlier, My favorite show I ever played in my life was the Academy Theater in NYC. We played with the Bad Brains at Brixton Academy in the UK in ’93 as well. That was dope. Those old Pipeline shows in NJ were classic. I played a few shows in Europe with them in about 2012 I think, those were fun to do. I’ve actually played all the US shows with them over past 10 years. Sometimes we play once a year, sometime more. We just played shows with E-Town and Life of Agony in NJ over past year or so as well.
E&D: How was the experience of playing the Dog Eat Dog 25th anniversary show a couple of years ago and was it surreal to be back playing with the band after all these years?
Dan: I’ve played with them from time to time. That was a fun time because it was with Sean as well.
E&D: You joined forces with members of Dog Eat Dog again in All Boro Kings. How did that band start and how was your time in the band?
Dan: The All Boro Kings Just For The Fun Of It album was exactly what we titled it. It was a great opportunity for us to get together and write again. I loved doing it and I’m grateful to Century Media for allowing us the opportunity.
E&D: All Boro Kings played the Eastpak Resistance Tour across Europe with Biohazard, Agnostic Front, Hatebreed and Discipline. How did the tour go? I caught it in Sheffield, UK and it was immense!
Dan: Great tour with great bands. It was an honor to be a part of that. Again, Grateful. To Marc and everyone at MAD for having us and to Century Media, great memories for sure.
E&D: You also played recently with Leeway, how did that go?
Dan: Yeah, I love Eddie. Loved writing songs for and with him and was so happy to do it. I played a bunch of gigs when schedule permitted. I’m a huge Leeway fan forever. Those songs are ingrained in my soul. Happy I could be a part of writing I’m Your Pusher EP, I hope people enjoyed it and it did the Leeway name some justice.
E&D: What have been some of the biggest moments of your career so far?
Dan: Honestly, I’m only looking ahead. I love what we are doing with Kings Never Die. It’s a new start. Ive been able to be a part of some great bands and great albums. I’ve written some songs that people will always remember. That’s a great feeling to know that people enjoy something that came from us. But, we have a lot more to give here, come take a listen!!
E&D: That’s brilliant thanks Dan and looking forward to the new album!
Dan: Gavin, thank you so much. I truly appreciate it bro. All the best.