Photo by BJ Papas
The good, the bad, and the leftover crack. At face value, the average onlooker may read the band name paired with some of their controversial slogans and look the other way. This is not a band to be ignored. With lyrics and visuals addressing inequalities and hardships—they strive for balance and understanding amidst the chaos.
Like a well-done pizza, their crusty edges intensify the band’s full sensory experience that has spanned over two decades. Guitarist Brad Logan and co-author John Gentile interviewed a broad collection of musicians, label owners, and onlookers to create Architects of Self-Destruction: The Oral History of Leftover Crack. We chatted over zoom recently to learn more about this collaboration.
How did this come together?
Brad Logan: Geez, John—do you remember?
John Gentile: Yeah, I know exactly how it started. I was over at my parent’s for dinner, and I got a call from Brad. [He] said, “I wanna start a book about Leftover Crack.” I said OK, and then we put together an outline. We started interviewing a whole lot of people and put it together block by block. Although recently, I learned I was Brad’s third or fourth date to the prom, not the first. Brad asked, like, three or four people before me. But that’s alright, so Brad gave me a call, and we kicked it off from there.
Well, third or fourth time’s the charm, really.
Logan: I didn’t know what I was looking for. Like … [get] another fuckin’ band dude, y’know? They’re the wrong person to ask, right? They’re like, “Yeah, sounds like a great idea.” Then they disappear, MIA, and it’s like, “Oh, band people are sketchy. Let me try somebody who actually does this. Someone who’s a writer.” Then John came to mind because I knew his history, and it sounds like this guy knows what he’s doing. This was the easiest thing to do, and on the other hand—a lot of hurdles. A lot of work went into it.
When did this all begin?
Gentile: It began four years ago. Brad says this was easy to put together, though I’d say it was a joy to put together for the most part. We had to interview a lot of people, and not to make people happy—but make sure they didn’t hate us for the rest of their lives. It’s been four years, but really two years nose to the grindstone. Brad and I have been on the phone about two to three times a week until the book was done, which was really only about four or five months ago. We were working pretty much every night cutting things up, editing, transcribing—it was a lot of work, but it was fun.
Logan: In that sense, not that it was easy to do. It was a lot easier than digging a trench or stacking shelves in a warehouse, but I’ll tell you this: We knew where we were going, and we knew the direction. We just had to fill in the blanks. To me, the hard part is getting that direction. It’s like a song, if I know where it’s going—it’s just filling it in. But sometimes, the challenging part can be finding the inspiration.
There are loads of interviews, and not everyone always has a permanent address. How was the process?
Logan: We had to chase some people down. I’m thinking of a couple people in particular. I didn’t know if we’d be able to interview them. We had to do detective work. We not only had to dig the person up, but then they’re missing in action. Definitely parts of it came together purely by chance.
Gentile: Some people were banging on the book like, “I wanna be in the book! I wanna be in the book!” Then they’re like, “I hate this guy, and I hate that guy. And this guy did this, and that guy did that!” We really wanted to represent that in the book. The balance we have is the good side of the band, and the bad side of the band.
I would make an argument that the band is one of the greatest, most interesting punk bands ever, with some extremely clever concepts. And there’s a lot of people with grudges against them. So we didn’t want it to just be, “Leftover Crack is the best band ever, and everyone loves them, and they’re nice.” We also wanted the, “Leftover Crack are assholes, and they should go to jail!” We really wanted to get all perspectives in the book.
When bandmates are assholes on stage, and you’re not into it, you calmly pack up your guitar and leave.
Logan: Well, there’s a lot that I can tolerate if I find it entertaining, or I find it poignant, or meaningful. But there are things that cross that line where I’m like, ”No, this is no longer fun, or this is unacceptable.” Packing up your stuff and huffing off stage is a bad look, so that’s not my normal jam. But there were definitely times that was the only thing to do, where I can’t fucking participate in this bullshit.
Like the pee bags referenced in the book?
Logan: Yeah the pee bags, nudity, or continuous ranting. I’m sort of intolerant of certain things. I’m not telling you what to do, but I’m fuckin’ out of here.
You’re not blowing up or anything, you’re just calmly packing up.
Logan: Right. Why ruin anyone else’s good time?
That’s part of how a band can stay together. And having a sense of humor.
Logan: A lot of what kept the band going is that we had nowhere else to go, and we believed in what we were doing as a band. And also, we all came from chaotic backgrounds. Home lives, situations, punk scenes, or whatever. A lot of the chaos going on in and around the band didn’t appear to be something out of the ordinary. It’s just a continuation of the chaos that we grew up with or were exposed to in other ways.
If someone gets in a fist fight, they punch the shit out of each other on stage … it’s like, “Alright cool, are you guys done? Let’s get packed up; we’re going to the next show. Did you get that out? Alright, no problem.” It wasn’t like some show-stopping shocker, not where we came from … some of us came from some fucked-up backgrounds. People ask that, like, how could you stand that? But even from the earliest punk shows I would go to, it was total chaos and unpredictability. And I liked that; it kept things interesting within reason.
I’ve always appreciated the band talking about equality, and being very open about everything. Did you ever feel like the big brother, or mentor of the band with your experiences?
Logan: There were times I’d felt I’d seen some things, and would suggest maybe we not do that … but I don’t think the guys ever looked to me as a big brother sort of figure. At least not that they ever acknowledged to me. I would weigh in, and generally be told to shove my opinion up my ass. So I didn’t feel like the big brother, but I would be like, “Hey guys, let’s turn right instead of right.” Maybe I just had more experience doing stupid things.
It gave you the ability to provide some insight.
Logan: Right, I was used to being around that environment. Of course, you can’t tell anybody, “Don’t do drugs, kids.” If you wanna make sure people will do drugs, you tell them not to do drugs. I wore out my personal welcome with it a long time ago. I could be tolerant of it, and I wasn’t threatened by it. I was tolerant of it for years, and then things started to get too bad. And it was like, “wow, this is getting ugly; people are dying.”
Things like that started to happen. I started to question my position in the situation. If I can’t help out, what am I doing here, you know? For a lot of years, I tried to help people, and what can you do? You can’t help people that don’t want to be helped, but I like to think of myself as an avenue of, “here’s the other side of the coin. You wanna talk to somebody who made it out of there, here’s the guy who can help you out with that. All is not lost.” I don’t advertise that, but my presence is there. I’ve talked to kids at shows many times about those sort of things. Hey it doesn’t have to be this way—it could be this way. Life can be pretty awesome and you can still have a lot of fun.
That comes through in the lyrics—mentions of hard situations. For fans to hear that shows that they aren’t alone, and that someone else has been there—is useful.
Logan: I totally agree, and that’s one of the hardest things about coming to terms with those feelings, is that thinking you’re all alone. Thinking you’re a freak and there’s no hope. The hopelessness of that—I’ve been there. So being able to identify with someone passing through that kind of shit is the difference of life and death. Sturgeon has done a great job writing about these things, and really tapping into those feelings. And in a way that was not only on point, but also serious with a sense of humor in a lot of ways.
I found that to be another medication; we have to laugh at ourselves. And that’s the way out of a lot of pain sometimes, not taking yourself so seriously. And that’s a fine line. I don’t write like that; personally, I don’t write funny things; I take myself way too seriously. And then there are people that can only write funny things. And that line of being able to present serious topics in a humorous manner is pretty hard to do.
I love “Gay Rude Boys Unite” for that reason. There are the stories of Buju Banton and other bands on Hellcat Records in the early aughts that were very homophobic, and LoC called it out. Amongst other things, that resulted in a tough time for the band with their own label (Hellcat)—and you had a lot of early connection with the label owner Tim Armstrong (of Rancid). Did either of you try to reach out to any of them?
Logan: Yeah, I left it alone.
Gentile: I did. It was important to us for the book, that everyone had the chance to speak if they want to speak. They (Rancid) said thanks but no thanks. We reached out to everyone that may have a vested interest in the story. Everybody that wanted to respond is in the book.
Logan: I knew what Tim and Lars’ (Frederiksen) response would be, or I assumed they wouldn’t be interested in weighing in, and that’s okay. That’s totally fine. We did discuss the opportunity of them being included if they wanted to, with their honest opinions or how they saw things. We weren’t pushing an agenda of any sort. I wish those guys would’ve been open to it. I understand the reasons for that too. I bear no ill will. He (Armstrong) helped me out in so many ways as a friend. We were like brothers in certain ways.
I also appreciate how you included the chapter about mental health. We all have different experiences that make up who we are. Like the lyrics, it offers insight and support. I’m sorry about Alec’s passing—I didn’t know him, but really enjoyed the guy. How are you all working as a band today?
Logan: Thank you, Scott. We can talk about Alec. I don’t have any problem with it. Punk Rock Bowling will be the first show we play as a full band, and the first one we play without Alec. Sturgeon and Alec were the constants in the band the whole time. There was one tour where Alec didn’t play bass, but he was pretty much from the first show on.
We’re spread over the coasts [now]. I’ve been rehearsing with the drummer to keep our chops up. Donny and I live right by each other. We have a keyboardist rehearsing with us. And the person who’s playing bass is Sandra Malak of The World/Inferno Friendship Society. She currently lives in Colorado. Sturgeon and Al are in New York City. We’ve been doing it piecemeal until we can all be together.
It was weird at first, and it’s getting slowly easier and more comfortable. I went to a couple of shows before the variant started blasting its way through town. Those were equal parts totally awkward and totally comfortable. By the third show it was like riding a bike, going to a show. Everyone was awkward, and out of practice making small talk. So it was great to see everyone being awkward. It was like, “Am I being awkward?” Yes, and so is everyone else. We’re all being totally awkward.
We’re all going to be on training wheels for a while.
Logan: It’s getting serious out here. Personally, I don’t feel like coming down with COVID. It sounds like a bad time, right? Especially after pitching a year and some change down into the dumpster, right? And now I’m going to come down with COVID anyway? No, fuck that.
Does that create any hesitancy to play live?
Logan: Well, I think the safest spot to be will be on stage.
I hope they set it up like a salad bar sneeze guard for you.
Logan: We’re all going to be behind plexiglass, it’s going to be hermetically sealed. Or a goldfish bowl on our heads.
Have you talked about creating a new album?
Logan: We’re sitting on a bunch of songs. We have the last recordings with Alec playing bass on it—there’s five or six songs there. Sturgeon likes to take his time putting records together. I like to work fast—not that one is better than the other. They’re just different methods. We have a label interested in putting it out. We’ll see where it goes.