Insight formed in the late ‘80s in Salt Lake City, UT, just as the second wave of east-coast, NYC orbiting hardcore was cresting into the stream of mainline alternative rock. Insight’s sound slotted perfectly into the Cro-Mag’s afterburn of that era, with brutalist guitar grooves, aggressive vocal performances, and lyrics that espoused hardline straight-edge, vegan, and anti-war politics. They weren’t youth crew clowns or 7 Seconds clones, looking to inject buddy-buddy goof-ball energy into the more serious-minded hardcore of the day. Instead, Insight opted to cut their own path of hardnosed, direct-to-point hardcore punk. A warpath that ended too soon for many fans.
Insight released the ferocious EP What Will It Take? on Victory Records in 1990 after which they unceremoniously disbanded, with members to disbursing to participate in projects as varied as Jets to Brazil and Iceburn. The legacy of Insight lived on though, preserved through lore passed on in internet forums and blogs, and their EP What Will It Take?, now long out of print, continued in circulation through bootleg uploads on Youtube and elsewhere.
Thirty years following the release of their one and only EP, Mission Two has surprisingly and thankfully agreed to lend a hand with Insight’s long overdue revival with the LP compilation, Reflection. The new album will contain the entirety of What Will It Take? as well as four new songs and a 1989 live set recorded at City Gardens in Trenton, New Jersey from with Social Distortion.
New Noise was able to catch up with the guys from Insight via email to ask them about the new album and get their thoughts on the new reality we’re all living in. Their answers are reproduced below with slight edits for clarity.
MS: Mark Starr (vocals)
JC: Jeremy Chatelain (guitar)
What brings Insight out of hibernation?
MS: Well it was time. One big reason was this administration! Plus about 5 years ago we did a reunion show. Since then we have done 3 more shows. We’ve continued staying friends and more than anything it just felt right. We discussed the idea to revisit songs. We worked out a few songs and they sounded amazing!!
JC: We just wanted to say hello! Most of us had kept in touch for the last 25 years or so and about 4-5 years ago we had an opportunity to play some live dates in Salt Lake, so we figured that was a great opportunity to hang out and play some shows together. It was pretty simple really. I know that a LOT of ’80s hardcore bands are reuniting as the old guys and gals love to reminisce about their hardcore heydays, but we figured it would be cool to update the sound a little bit while we reminisced. All of us have continued to play in bands up until now, which is pretty remarkable, and we were curious about what the combination of the 5 of us would sound like again.
Your new LP Reflection is a compilation of sorts that includes your 7″ What Will It Take (which has been long out of print). What made you decide to go this route instead of simply doing a reissue?
MS: Well What Will It Take 7″ wasn’t enough. I think people needed and wanted more. We probably could’ve added even more.
JC: We were talking about recording a few old songs that never saw the light of day. Once they were recorded, we started talking about labels and shopping the songs around a bit. Mark contacted Tony Brummel about getting the masters of the original 7″ to repress and he expressed interest in releasing the record. I think he came up with the retrospective idea and we were on board!
Do you have plans on doing a separate vinyl reissue of What Will It Take? at some point?
MS: I don’t think it needs to be reissued. Originally it was released on Soul Force as Standing Strong. I’d rather see us record more new songs!
JC: No. I would say this is the vinyl reissue, with 13 bonus tracks. Ha!
You have a long history with Tony Brummel of Victory, how easy of a decision was it to release your Reflection on his new label Mission Two?
MS: It was pretty easy because Tony is the one who said let’s do a compilation album. We were going to release a new 7″ on Redemption Records but unfortunately Ryan (Kuper) passed away. So I talked to the guys about shopping these songs around. Someone who I won’t mention wanted to do a “best of” which I felt was a great idea. In order for this to work we needed the masters to a lot of these songs. So after searching for any tapes of any of our songs we couldn’t find any. I knew I was going to have to reach out to Tony at Victory. At this point, I haven’t talked to Tony in years! Remember Victory is a pretty big label. I thought there is no way Tony will contact me. I thought I would get a letter saying something generic. Nope, Tony wrote to me and said give him a call!! So after talking to the guys I said I’m reaching out to Tony. Honestly, I was nervous to call Tony because I thought for sure he was just going to say no way you can use the songs. He was excited to hear from me (us) and said let’s put it out on Victory!!! I was like what are you serious? So we worked out a deal and it sounded amazing. Then we find out Victory is being sold!! I thought fuck no way!! Then Mission Two starts up and they want us on the label!! We were super stoked!! I mean everyone at Mission Two is awesome!!
JC: When Mark asked him about the original masters, he asked us why we weren’t considering Victory to do the new EP, and then explained what they were planning to do with Mission Two as a label. It was a fairly easy decision. We have the Cro-Mags and Dave Smalley as labelmates. I think it helps that we’re not young guys with tons of ambition. Decisions are easier to make.
Reflections has some new material on it. Was it hard getting back into the songwriting groove after all these years? Was it intimidating trying to live up to the standard set by your own earlier material?
MS: I don’t think it was intimidating at all. We are all the same people who still have a lot of the same ethics and likes in music. We are all still in touch with music and hardcore. It wasn’t hard because we just revisited songs that never got recorded. We knew it had to be hard, heavy, and hardcore!! We knew the lyrics had to mean something and mean something to us and to what is going on in this country!!
JC: The “new” material is actually a collection of a few old songs that were written when we were originally a band. We combed through old rehearsal tapes and found the best gems and updated the lyrics to make sense in a modern world. But, a lot of us are songwriters, so the process of writing new material wouldn’t be hard. We recorded the new/old songs with an old friend, Andy Patterson. He produces a lot of heavy, hardcore, and metal music, so we were pretty confident that we would sound like Insight.
Tell us a little about your new tracks, starting with “Take it Back.”
MS: “Take It Back,” “Strength,” and “Reflection” are clearly political!! “Reflection” is about how men treat women. It is also about this current administration and all other grab-assing assholes!!! I personally can’t stand here singing hardcore and not voice my opinion on how fucked this administration is!!! Trump is the most racist fascist sexist piece of shit!! He’s completely self-involved, he’s so full of himself. He’s a bully!! How can anyone agree with him!! Look most politicians are evil!! Politicians will say anything to get your vote. I went through Regan and Bush but I never thought things would be as bad as that era!! We can not let this man stay in office!! Please Vote!!
JC: “Take It Back” was initially a song called “Control.” We kept the music the same note for note, but we updated the lyrics to comment on the current political climate and world situation. The interesting thing is that things have become even more polarized since we recorded the songs and even the fucking USPS is being demonized by the administration. The song is about people wanting to wrestle control away from greedy, incompetent, arrogant world leaders. We’re being duped and gaslighted and this is an anthem against that. The chorus is very ’80s hardcore. “Reflection” is a comment on men feeling like they own women and have the right to do whatever fucked up thing they want in this world. “Strength”is another song about the state of the world today and staying strong enough to know that individuals can make a great change in the world. And “Lost In My Pride” is more of an old-school song about anger and friendship.
I like that you’re sticking with the Tiger theme for this release. Who did the artwork and layout for your new LP?
MS: We thought it would be important to keep the theme with the Tiger. A Tiger stands for a lot. It’s ferocious, it’s recognizable, it’s a predator, it’s endangered, it’s charismatic, and it’s used for lots of mythology and symbols. It looks amazing!! The guys at Mission Two put the layout together. Michael Baena to be exact.
Animal rights seem to be an important issue for you, what kind of issues do you see at the forefront of this area of concern at the moment and what can people do to advance this cause?
MS: The biggest part is the consumption of food!! We eat so much fast food and that is one of the biggest killings there are to the animal world. Not only the slaughterhouses but also lands they destroy to keep up with the industry. I mean it’s great that we have alternatives at these fast food places but don’t be fooled by it!! It’s just a marketing scam. We as humans don’t need to eat meat to survive!! It’s a thing of habit or desire. Our bodies are not designed to ingest meat products. Plus the way we keep these creatures in captivity for our eating pleasures is just ridiculous in this time and day. Even eating organic meat isn’t the answer. There are so many alternatives today that there really isn’t any reason to eat meat. Educating yourself how they treat animals is a start. Try not eating meat for at least a week. I think you will see a difference in how you feel. I don’t judge people who eat meat much anymore. I may not understand why people eat meat or hunt. I guess as long as you respect my beliefs I can respect yours.
JC: I’ve always thought that factory farming, big meat business, and the waste that they cause are an issue. It’s a waste of resources and forces subsidies of weird crops that don’t make sense for farmers and the population. Being a vegan makes me feel physically better and more emotionally at ease. I don’t think that being vegan is for everyone, but I do think that educating yourself about the food you eat and the products you buy and voting with your dollar is for everyone! Plus, I’m just not into cruelty. I’m definitely a pacifist at this stage in my life.
Have you seen Tiger King? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on the ownership and trade of exotic animals that were shown in that series.
MS: Is there any real answer to this nonsense!! Why would you need to own any wild animal? It’s just pure selfishness and ego-driven!! All those people on that show couldn’t give a rat’s ass about any of those animals they have captive. Shame on anyone who supports them!! Now we are giving them more money to make a movie on it.
JC: That series was overrated. I’m not a supporter of that wild animal trade. Those people are obviously lacking something in their lives that they think they can get by owning those animals. It’s really obvious that you shouldn’t own a wild animal. Weird men on power trips.
The style of hardcore that you play has come back in a big way in the past few years. What do you think it is about hardcore that makes it such a perennial style of music?
MS: It should come back!! There was a lot of shit out there for way too long!! Probably because if it’s done well it makes you feel energized and want to fuck shit up!! Haha, I don’t really know other than it really does stand the test of time!!
JC: For the older hardcore fans it’s great to get back in touch with your youth and a really fun DIY ethic. It’s not complicated to play hardcore in that style. I’ve played in other bands that were complicated. Not that it was a bad thing, but this is easier. Plus, there will always be angry teenagers who need that release and that in-your-face message. The world is really fucked up right now and this makes a good soundtrack to the chaos.
Before COVID hit most venues were reliant on beer and alcohol sales in order to turn a profit and all-ages spaces were hitting a nadir, do you think there is still a place for straightedge message in that environment (if we ever have live shows again that is)?
MS: I don’t know, straightedge should be on a personal level at this point. I mean many of us are older now so we do what we do. I’ve played all-ages shows and most of them I see kids drinking or smoking outside. I can’t say I know much about the current state of straightedge in one scene. I just hope in this day and age we can all enjoy music together as one.
JC: It seems to me that straight edge bands could still play in a bar OR all-ages club or both. The all-ages clubs here in Salt Lake have been around for 20+ years. I think that there’s all kinds of great music that will help keep them afloat. And, just like I think it’s wrong to exclude kids from shows, I also think it’s wrong to exclude someone who wants to drink a beer from shows. We’ve tried to play both all-ages and 21+ venues the last few times we played so everyone could have a chance to come and hang out. And, if you’re totally into straight edge, why preach to the choir all the time? Just my opinion, of course.
What do you hope people reflect on while listening to your new LP?
MS: Hopefully if they were around back then they can remember the good times we all had. Also those same people can get the message we had and still have. I hope the people may not know us will get a new excitement and some inspiration out of it like I did when listening to something new.
JC: The state of the country, the state of the world, the good, the bad, and City Gardens in 1989! Ha!
Are there any out of print hardcore 7″s and EPs that you’d like to see reissued?
Necros!!! The first ep and 12″
Diatribe from San Diego
Maimed For Life
I’d like to see someone release Better Way, Headstrong and Brainstorm
Bad Yoddlers with Karl from All, Decendents singing Pusmort releases!!
JC: I mean, the only ones for me would be actual Plan 9 reissues of Misfits records. That would be sick.
MS: Jeremy they have!! Let me know if you want some and I’ll get you some when I see them. Haha
Are there any young or up-and-coming bands you’d like to play with if/when you can hit the road again?
Ms: Power Trip, Give (if they were still a band), Locked Inside, Don’t Sleep
Where is the best place to get vegan food in SLC these days?
MS: I live in LA so probably Sage, Gracias Madre, Pura Vita, Monty’s. There are a ton of Vegan Thai places as well. Others have closed due to the pandemic which is unfortunate.
JC: There are a few options: Vertical Diner is like diner, kind of junk-food healthy stuff, Pulp has vegan/gluten-free/sugar-free options, All Chay is a vegan Vietnamese restaurant that is delicious, Omar’s Rawtopia is an amazing raw food restaurant, House of Tibet has great vegan and veg Tibetan food options, Boltcutter is a Mexican/American vegan spot, Seasons is like vegan fine-dining, Zest is like a night-club and vegan restaurant all rolled into one, and Passion Flour & City Cakes both have delicious vegan desserts. I am grateful that the options have expanded. There are more, but I can’t name them all.
Any final messages you’d like to pass on to our readers?
MS: Reflection is for the people!! We hope to get through these crazy times and be able to play places we haven’t been for quite a long time. Please VOTE and END THE CRUELTY!! Thanks for asking us to do this interview. JC: Stay safe, stay sane, stay healthy. Drink lots of water. Get outside and walk around. And, pursue your artistic passions as they will serve you well in life.
Words by Mick R.