It’s been 15 years since Ramallah have released a proper, full-length album. The last communication sent out to planet Earth, Ramallah’s 2005 Kill A Celebrity, was an album of scathing review towards society, celebrity worship culture, and the turmoil of global politics. With subjects ranging from unforgiving cynicism, to apocalyptic visions, it was not meant for those living their best life.
Just under two decades later, Ramallah has finally released a physical version of The Last Gasp of Street Rock and Roll. The album is a collection of street-punk anthems about rage and reflection. At a time when honesty is front and center, during the death rattle of old-times mindset, it’s a perfect moment for Ramallah to re-enter the battlefield.
Ramallah was founded in 2002 as a solo project by Rob Lind. The band suddenly released the But a Whimper EP on Bridge 9 Records on which Rob recorded, sang, and played all instruments except drums. Not long after, the band released the full length Kill a Celebrity, on I Scream Records, Reality Records, and Thorp Records in 2005.
In 2004, between the two releases, Blood For Blood quietly promoted their seemingly farewell album Serenity, all but confirming that Ramallah would be the new megaphone for all things Rob Lind.
Fans of Blood For Blood were, and in some cases remain, the most dedicated and ravenous fans in the world. In the mid-late ’90s, the band exploded in popularity and dominated the Boston hardcore scene. Their unforgiving attitude of give no fucks simultaneously created their own niche of a scene, a style, and a culture within sub-genres of music which quickly spread worldwide.
At the height of their notoriety, various controversies and ugly truths slammed down from every direction, and just like Icarus, the band’s name began to fall from grace. From the splintering cracks came new music ventures like Sinners and Saints, a much more pop-driven band formed with brother Mark Lind of The Ducky Boys that retained the dark lyrical imagery. Soon thereafter, though, came the metal/hardcore monster known as Ramallah.
Ramallah’s early sound was a hodgepodge of fringe musical elements of previous works. The hardest ends of Blood For Blood added to the hardcore fury, while the softer confidence found in Sinner and Saints gave breaths of pop within the onslaught. The song “Days of Revenge” appeared on the soundtrack to the Punisher 2 film and was even featured in the trailer that debuted at Comic Con for the film’s release.
The band toured relentlessly but unfortunately came to an end in 2007 after the band was forced to hire a fill in vocalist to complete tour dates, later revealed due to Lind’s ongoing and renowned drug issues.
Ramallah resurfaced in 2015 with the Back From The Land Of Nod EP on State Line Records. The EP was inspired by Rob’s ‘Nodcast’ podcast full of storytelling and brutal honesty regarding personal tribulations. They popped up for a moment in 2016 with, “The Truth…It’s Colder Than A Morgue Slab And Harder Than A Coffin Nail,” a stand-alone single. Both songs were lyrical soundtracks of traumatic storytelling by Lind about the worst and ugliest parts of addiction.
Ramallah wasn’t intended to be a political project but was meant to be more about “Perspective and empathy with other peoples’ struggles.” Rob Lind has always been someone who uses music and writing as a way of dealing with his past and to rail against his views on an unjust society.
Ramallah, as described by Lind, are a band that seeks to expose unspoken underbellies. “We live in terrible times. People should be terrified and horrified and disgusted at what’s going on in this world and in their name every single day. The whole world is burning as we speak. Right now, the only crime is silence. Ramallah is here to shove it all right down their throats.”
According to Rob Lind, his politics are socialist by default, and he’s against all non-democratic ideologies. “Some people say I’m a libertarian. I’m a liberal; I’m a conservative, I fluctuate across the board on all different issues. There’s no one political perspective I subscribe to.”
Though no one in Ramallah is of Arab descent, the band name was chosen as a way to set the band in their own category among other hardcore bands. The name is inspired by its Islamic connotation as a metaphor for the conflict in the Middle East where the embattled West Bank city, where Yasser Arafat spent his last years in his compound surrounded by Israeli tanks.
During the last decade of radio silence, discussions in online music forums would have posts to new material with a familiar sound and incomparable voice, but links would go dead or photos would disappear, creating a Mandela effect of suspicion, anticipation, and intrigue.
It’s now 2020, and with The Last Gasp of Street Rock and Roll, Ramallah have definitely made up for lost time. Not to suggest there is regret from ‘wasted’ years, but instead a foot on the gas to the floor sense of urgency to reclaim a voice, rivaling a near death quiet lull. The band’s current lineup consists of Rob, teamed with Boston-area producer and heralded guitar virtuoso Jason Eick, along with guitarist Alan Tomaszewski, bassist Rob Robles, and drummer Libor Hadrava.
Although it’s cringe level cliché to suggest The Last Gasp of Street Rock N’ Roll is an album of full-circle gravity, there’s just no better description. The record pulls together the best parts of each members musical history to create a truly representative catalog of songs, encapsulating their entire scope of talent and influence.
Rob’s voice has a more reinvigorated confidence to it rather than a tired-but-still-fighting groan or growl. There are familiar riffs from aforementioned albums gone by, and lyrical quips dropped in like callbacks for those that have been clearly been paying attention the whole time. “Whatever happened to the hardcore music we all know and love?” A question posed to the aging fan, likely feeling forgotten or left behind with ever emerging scenes and sub-genres of uncountable amounts.
It’s reminiscent of hip-hop records that sample old works, mixing nostalgia with wisdom gained new phrases. Each song feels like a playful fight between two classic bands whose styles are all mixed into this ‘something new from something old’ album of much needed musical proportions.
There are moments where melody and serenade are most prevalent, but just as instantly the old hardcore and street punk sound blast back into focus. An album of both remembrance and decree, there are lines celebrating the previous eras and the now elders of that time while also proclaiming, ‘we haven’t gone down, but if we must be laid down, we’re going down swinging, goddammit!’ While overall less in a tone of aged arrogance, and more so in a narrative of gratitude and recognized accomplishment.
For the release, State Line Records went all-out with an array of options including bundles of a promotional poster, shirt, and or hoodie along with a CD or vinyl album. In total, they will be pressing 350 records on a deep blood-red spatter pattern, specific to their website and Get-Punk.com. Four hundred copies will reprise the “Blood Flower” design used on the Back from the Land of Nod EP and can be found in stores or on independent websites that sell vinyl.
The band has stated, “The design is made to look like a syringe full of dope and by all accounts.” Back by popular demand for The Last Gasp of Street Rock N’ Roll, 150 copies will exist on gold vinyl and will be available exclusively through CoreTex Records in Germany.
Most exclusively, 100 copies will be pressed on opaque yellow vinyl and be exclusive to RevHQ; reason being, “Rev has been the distribution partner for State Line Records for some time now. They really specialize in hardcore so it made sense that The Last Gasp of Street Rock N’ Roll be SLR’s contribution to the series of Rev colors on a release.”
Below is an in-depth journey into the mind and life of Rob Lind.
What has been going on between 2007 and now as to creativity and personal life?
“First off, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. It is much appreciated. As to what I’ve been doing since 2007… man, how much time do you got haha? All kidding aside, in many ways 2007 is the year my life truly began…in the sense that it’s the year that I finally began living life on life’s terms, rather than just reacting to it or fleeing it or trying to mitigate it’s excruciating nature and render it palatable with chemicals and other carnal distractions. 2007 is the year I was forced to face myself.
“Here is the abridged version.
“My whole family is from South Boston and Charlestown. Both towns are the focus of the recent Hollywood circle-jerk of Irish Hoodlum/Gangster revival flicks like The Town, The Departed, Gone Baby Gone, City On The Hill, Black Mass, Mystic River, etc etc ad nauseam (all of those films are sensational and overblown, though Mystic River got some of the local mindset right). I grew up in the Charlestown projects on welfare and government cheese.
“Charlestown was and is an incredibly insular, xenophobic, poor, conservative Irish Catholic enclave. For a long time C-town was infamous for two things: bank robbers and it’s Code Of Silence. For years it had the highest unsolved murder rate per capita in the country. That was the Code Of Silence. Nobody talked to cops. Period. And everyone wanted to grow up to be a bank robber. Many did. Most of the guys I grew up with are either dead or in prison. Or strung out. Charlestown was also the epicenter of a heroin-quake that started back in the early 90s (years before the present opioid epidemic).
“It’s hard to describe what it was like growing up there. When you live in a place like that, it is the whole world. There’s no objectivity because everything and everyone from outside the town is distrusted. It was like a hive mind. Everyone thought the same, dressed the same, talked the same. If you weren’t from the town, you were the enemy. And if you were from the town, but you stepped out of the aforementioned lines, you were a pariah. Alcoholism, addiction, racism, crime, violence (both domestic and otherwise), poverty, and misery were endemic. I saw a lot of nasty shit.
“Growing up, I lived within these constraints but deep down I hated all of it.
“Thank GOD for punk rock and hardcore. If I hadn’t found it, I might still be standing on the same street corner now that I used to stand on when I was 13. But by now I’d have spent years in and out of prison for doing dumber and dumber shit. Worse, I’d probably still be a narrow-minded, provincial, xenophobic, urban hillbilly.
“I started going to shows at about 12 or 13 years old. Hardcore and punk showed me a whole new world. People from all walks of life who didn’t look the same or talk the same or dress the same or, most importantly, think the same… but who were all openly grappling with, defying, and rejecting the same kinds of adversity and constraints.
“In addition to the whole Charlestown/ South Boston trip, there was a lot of mental illness and alcoholism in my family (and all the fun stuff those things imply). I was suicidally depressed from the age of about 11 or 12 onwards. I am diagnosed Type II Major Bipolar with all the usual comorbidities e.g. severe depression and suicidal ideation, anxiety and panic attacks, mood swings, etc etc ad nauseam.
“Most of the people I encountered in the hardcore scene were dealing with the same kinds of things. It was the first sense family and genuine belonging I ever felt.
“But there was a LOT of violence in the hardcore scene in Boston when I was coming up. It made the stuff I’d seen in Charlestown seem almost tame and trivial. The violence in Charlestown could be murderous but it usually had different motivations (i.e. greed and racketeering).
“There’s a lot of gangs in hardcore and punk and I was part of one (still am, since they were the people who were TRULY there for me through the best and worst times of my life). These gangs were founded by and largely composed of homeless and neglected teens, driven from their homes and local neighborhoods by some of the most horrific abuse and neglect found in American society. There’s nothing more vulnerable or exploitable than a homeless or neglected teen. When you are in a vulnerable position like that, you learn to meet any perceived threat with a whole lot of force very quickly (the whole Sun Tzu thing i.e. “Mutilate one to make everyone else back the fuck up”). The rage and misanthropy of the music was the rally cry. It provided the reveille and point of contact and congregation.
“Traumatized and brutalized by their own individual experiences, galvanized and indoctrinated by the music, and further desensitized and disinhibited by the group dynamic and their own collective perspective, behavior, and elected value system… these were and are some violent people. I was party to some pretty heinous shit that haunts me even now.
“To contend with all of these things, I drank heavily throughout (I started drinking at the age of 11 or so). This later progressed to terminal opiate addiction, which ground my life up so thoroughly that it finally came down to The Shawshank Dilemma (the whole “get busy living or get busy dying” thing I guess).
“2007 was the year I stopped running from all of this shit. I ceased doing music, severed all ties with the outside world (but for a few family members and really close friends), and finally faced it. I gave myself an ultimatum. I gave myself exactly one year in which I totally abstain from all drugs and alcohol and do everything in my power to better myself with psychiatry and therapy and anything and everything else available (shit, at that point I was so desperate that I’d have joined a nude drum circle if I thought it would help). And if by Jan 1, 2008 it hadn’t gotten any better, I planned to eat a bullet. But it did get better. It wasn’t easy. In fact it was the daunting thing I’ve ever done. And it took a TOTAL effort. But as a result, 2007 to about 2017 were the best years of my life (2018 and 2019 are separate story but I won’t get into it here).
“Since then, everything I’ve done creatively has been to share these experiences in the hopes of helping others navigate similar experiences. I also do a podcast/ video-series called WHITE TRASH ROB’S NODCAST** that covers all of this and more in MUCH greater detail (and with MUCH funnier anecdotes haha).
“I’m sorry to bury you with all of this turgid shit but I needed to add a bit of context for any answer to make sense haha!
What would you say is the theme or focus of the record? What are a few of the songs about?
“One of the reasons I’m really grateful to do this interview is it will allow me to tell the story behind this record, because up until now, I haven’t been able to do so. I mean that literally. Until recently I was both unwilling and unable to speak about the record for legal reasons. Because of this, we did ZERO promotion for this record of any kind. We didn’t even allude to it on social media. Not one word. Not even on the fucking day it came out. Not for months after.
“Even now there are aspects which I am bound not to discuss or disclose. But I can talk about the music and would like to. I wish I could have done so sooner. Some folks were taken off guard by the swerve in sound and style on the new RAMALLAH compared to the previous recordings. I can understand this, since without context, the swerve is dramatic. With context however, I think it’s much more intuitive.
“The Last Gasp Of Street Rock N’ Roll is a personal response to the 20 year anniversary of Livin’ In Exile by BLOOD FOR BLOOD. But it’s also a reflection on the previous 20 years of my life, both musically and personally. And it’s all filtered through the prism of the changes I described above.
“Look, when Blood For Blood started I was about 17 years old. I made a lot of promises in the music to live a certain way. To reject the common narrative and as many social norms as possible. A lot of grandiloquent statements about “living outside of your society” and such. However heavy-handed those proclamations may have been, I was sincere. And why wouldn’t I be, since even then I’d already seen a much darker side of the American Dream than most?
“Well, for better and for worse, I walked most of my own overblown talk over the ensuing 20 years. I lived by the sword I was waving around onstage back then. I’m not trying to crow right now. This isn’t some kind of goofy “I keeps it real” trip. In hindsight I now wonder if I was even CAPABLE of living any other way.
“Regardless, there was such a cost to the way I lived (and the way so many others like me lived). There’s so much I know now that I wish I knew then. And so many died along the way. The fact that I’m even still here is a statistical anomaly. I should be dead a thousands times over. Because I’ve so lucky, I feel obligated to fill in the blanks of the story I started with music so many years. So maybe someone else can avoid the same mistakes.
“I’m not sentimental or nostalgic by nature. I keep very clear accounting of my own past, and for me the good ol’ days weren’t all that fucking good. I wouldn’t want to relive those days except maybe to make some dramatically different choices. So fuck the good ol’ days.
“Jello Biafra said “Retro is poison”. I agree with that. Living in the past is a form of cowardice and reality denial. The past is gone, whether you like it or not. Retro is a creative attempt to turn the clock back or freeze it a certain point. Retro is about style and aesthetics over substance. It’s about putting on a costume and playing dress up on stage. It’s usually a commercial endeavor aimed at cashing in on some fad (or starting one). Fuck all that shit.
“You can’t go back to the past, but you can reflect on it and try to learn from it. And creatively I believe you take ANY sound or style that you love and try to make it vital and relevant. That’s the motivation anyway.
“The catalyst for this whole fandango was an old contractual obligation rearing it’s head in 2018. This is the shit I can’t go into. But I’m always writing music whether I’m recording or not. I already happened to be writing some tunes in the vein of Blood For Blood, not because anything was going with BFB, but because I love the music. Someone mentioned in passing that 2019 was the 20 years anniversary of Exile and that we should commemorate it in some way.
“So it all just sort of came together. I went and listened to Exile for the first time in a long time. I tried to do it with fresh ears. Musically, Exile was always my favorite BFB album. I started to think about who I was when I wrote that album and everything that had transpired since. So rather than a pastiche or, God forbid, a caricature of something I did in the past, it turned into a musical reflection on the past 20 years. Musically, it was like coming home. It just felt right.
“Lyrically I tried to account for the 20 years since. During that time I’ve buried a LOT of friends who were there back in the day. During that time I’ve lived through a lot hell and was fortunate enough to come back from it. I’m not the same person I was 2 years ago, never mind 20 years ago. I not only can’t be those people again, I wouldn’t even want to try.
“BUT… I have to admit, there ended up being a bit of a sentimental vibe a couple of the songs on there! Granted, those songs are literally about lost time, dead friends, and all the other faces long gone. But it still surprised the hell out of me. Maybe I am not as ruthless and cold-hearted as I thought after all HA!
“So musically there’s a couple of tunes on “The Last Gasp Of Street Rock N’ Roll” which might have made their way onto a new BFB album… if one had been recorded in 2019 (in an alternate time line of course HA!). But it ended up being a whole lot more to me.
Where did you record?
“I recorded the entire album with Jason Eick at his studio. Jason is RAMALLAH’s guitar player and the producer I’ve been working with exclusively for the last couple of years. He’s also one my closest friends. Jason is also in the bands YOUR PAIN IS ENDEARING (which is a frighteningly tight progressive death metal band with lethal, 1-percentile musicianship) and THE QUIET CITY SCREAMS (which is a catchy-as-f%ck pop punk/ emo band). Bert, RAMALLAH’s bass player, is also in these two bands as well.
What was the process: How long did you record? When in the day?
“I’ve always been a martinet, totalitarian when it came the songwriting and production. It was my way or the highway (did I just quote Limp fucking Biscuit?!? And the 7th Seal was opened… haha). If I wanted your fucking opinion, I would beat it out of you with a blunt object. I would allow NO meddling of any kind. Other than my brother Mark, I wouldn’t even entertain an idea or suggestion from anyone other than whoever I was co-producing the record with (I’ve worked with some GREAT producers like Kurt Ballou, Benny Grotto, Bryan McTernan, and my boy Jimmy motherfucking Siegal). But even then, the collaboration took place after the songs were completely done (and usually partially recorded).
“I’ve loosened up quite a bit over the years and even though I’m still pretty draconian about composition and lyrics, I have learned to accept the input from some trusted people. Jason is definitely one of them. In fact Jason has effectively been become my musical coconspirator because he’s the first producer I’ve worked with who is there from start to finish of the songwriting process. I’ve never had an exchange of ideas like I do with him. We just speak the same language. He even wrote the music on the last song of the new RAMALLAH!!! Do you have any idea how unprecedented that is haha? But it’s a measure of my respect for his vision and creativity.
“As to the process, we record whenever we feel like it and go until we’re out of ideas. For me it’s been a dream situation. I could live in the studio anyway. Playing live is great and all but I’ve had too many teeth busted from bodies flying through the air. I love the sense of endless possibility I get in the studio.
“The new record was recorded prior to this Covid nightmare, so we’re often record from like 1am until 6am cuz Jason was running his production company during the days (Heavy Sounds Productions).”
Once the record was done, what was your initial mindset, say a couple weeks later?
“I still love this record now as much as I did while we were recording it.”
What were things like in anticipation of announcing release?
“We had no expectations at all. We knew we weren’t likely going to be promoting it or even speaking about it for the reasons I alluded to but can’t discuss. So we expected the entire record to be consigned to the fucking ether. That’s why I’m grateful to have an opportunity to discuss it now.
What has been the reaction from fans and peers/musicians and bands?
“The response from the supporters has been as zealous always. Somos pocos pero locos! Some of my favorite responses have been the one’s where they say “Dude! I know you aren’t talking about the album for some weird reason. But this is THE Blood For Blood/ Ramallah album I’ve been waiting for you to do for 15 years!”. I love those reactions simply because it means the person is really in tune with this shindig.
“As I mentioned above, there have been a few people who were non-plussed by the swerve in style. But those reactions were more along the lines of “I love it and I get that it’s like a retrospectus of the music you’ve been doing. But I miss those kill-parts like the end of If I Die Today!” To those people all I can say is: don’t despair! The skull crushers are coming (they are presently slouching their way towards The Land Of Nod to be born).
“There were a few people who were pissy about it. To the effect of “What’s with this street rock and catchy hardcore punk shit? And what’s with all talk about the old days?” My response to such would be “Well, I was in this other band called BLOOD FOR BLOOD. We kind of held down that whole “hardcore punk and street-rock-on-steroids” thing for over 15 years. And when you’ve given your life to something, you’re allowed to reflect on it from time to time.
Do people still bring up Blood For Blood? Does that bother you, instead of talking about the present and future?
“It doesn’t bother me at all when people bring it up. I’m proud of the impact it had on so many people. I never thought I’d get out of the projects. The fact that I was able to reach so many people and affect them so deeply and travel all over the world to be able to meet and interact with them, is a gift. It’s really the story of my life. I’m just trying to continue cuz there’s some gaps in the available narrative that contain some pertinent bits of information I didn’t have back in the day!
“It does always surprise me a bit when people hit me up to tell me that they just discovered that I was in RAMALLAH or that I do a podcast called WHITE TRASH ROB’S NODCAST**. This happens a few times a week and it always surprises me a little. I mean, fair enough with the podcast/ videos: I’ve only been doing them for a few years and I only post them on my social media. But RAMALLAH toured actively both before and after and even WITH Blood For Blood a few times.
What inspired you before the quarantine and what has your life been like since?
“I’ve been fortunate. I’m so isolated and dissociative that the Covid quarantine barely effected my daily life at all. The worst aspect was that we were NECK DEEP in the recording the next couple of albums and it has definitely slowed the progress (though not halted it since we continue to record whenever possible).”
What else are you up to outside the band?
“In January, I finally started writing the book I’ve been blowing air about for the last 20 years with a will. Since then I’ve been putting in between 6 and 14 hours a day of writing with no break. I have at least 140 pages finished and provided I’m allowed the time on earth, this WILL happen, one way or the other. I’m already working on the accompanying artwork as I go. Again, provided I don’t shuffle off the mortal coil beforehand, I am going to see this through.
“Other than that and new music, my main focus has been the podcast aka WHITE TRASH ROB’S NODCAST**. If anyone out there reading this has ever grappled with or been adversely affected by any of the stuff I discussed in this article (such as addiction/ alcoholism, mental illness, violence and trauma, abuse and neglect) please check it out. It is the furthest thing from some “tough guy” trip. You’ll find there is a THRIVING support community among those who follow it. TEAM: NO HEAD IN THE OVEN has got your back. You are not alone.
“And for those who haven’t grappled with or experienced any of those things, check it out anyway! Perhaps some of the batshit crazy stories and macabre anecdotes will titillate and give you a vicarious, voyeuristic thrill! Cries From The Abyss & Tales For The Kids!
“All kidding aside, though the subject matter is often darker than a woodchuck’s asshole, the tone is sardonic and wry. The most common denominator amongst the folks involved is NOT a bunch of crazy Hunter S Thomson-flavored hijinks. The tie that binds the group is the feeling that they never quite belonged anywhere.”