Jim Hogan has been bassist in two legendary Jersey Shore bands: hardcore punk outfit Dirge, featuring front man Jacko Monahan, who was booking Brighton Bar at the time and long after, and Daisycutter, a stoner rock ensemble that included his wife, Reg, on drums in their first of many collaborations. The original 1991 Daisycutter lineup also featured second drummer Tim Cronin (Monster Magnet, Ribeye Brothers), guitarist Ed Mundell (Monster Magnet, The Atomic Bitchwax), vocalist Seth Fineberg, and future guitarists were Shane Green (Nudeswirl), Chris Koznick (The Atomic Bitchwax), Mike Schweigert, and Kim Rausch.
Hogan also was the founder of Heat Blast, a well-respected indie label that released 16 records by Dirge, Daisycutter, Big Nurse, Glueneck, and several other acts. For Daisycutter, that led to a deal with Rockville Records for the 1992 EP, Shithammer Deluxe, and 1994 LP, Truck Fist.
Still playing together in the trio Defiance Engine, which has released two digital singles since 2004, the Hogans spoke with me about that project, their impact on the scene, Reg’s new band, 19DRT, and their participation in Makin Waves Fest, a celebration of the column’s 31st anniversary May 17 through May 19 at the Brighton Bar, and May 20 at the Wonder Bar. Defiance Engine and 19DRT will play the Makin Waves Fest on May 18 in a reunion of some of the best musicians to play the Brighton in the past 31 years. The lineup also will include Solace, Full on Empty, Ribeye Brothers, The X-men, Jon Caspi & the First Gun, and Tom Kanach, who’ll be joined by young singer-songwriter Ezra Caspi, Jon’s son.
How did the two of you meet? I know it was at a Dirge show, but when and where was that, and how did it lead to you becoming a couple, particularly a musical one?
Reg: A mutual friend introduced us after I was impressed by Jim’s insane stage presence. How does one describe what he does? It’s the equivalent of Jackie Chan’s Kung Fu from the film Drunken Master but with a bass.
Jim: There was a punk rock eatery a block away from the Brighton Bar, and I stopped in and some friends introduced us to each other. We found that we had a lot in common. We’ve been a couple ever since, although it would be a few years before we were free from other projects to work together musically.
The first band I saw the two of you in together was Daisycutter, which I thought was one of the best bands in New Jersey at the time. You were one of what I called back then the Makin Waves Dirty Dozen, my 12 favorite bands in the scene. What did you enjoy and do you miss most about Daisycutter, and how have you incorporated part of that into Defiance Engine?
Reg: The energy and approach are the same. What I miss is the ensemble cast of characters. Ed, Kim, Mike, Tim, and Seth are some of the most amazing musicians I’ve ever performed with. Daisycutter was a lot of fun.
Jim: I think that the thing that made Daisycutter great was that the audience never knew what to expect. We actively messed with people’s heads while performing in that band. I suppose that a lot of what transpired has fallen into the urban legend category.
Reg: People have told me about things that happened that I have no knowledge of from behind my drum kit. With the strobe lights going, I often had no idea what was happening on stage at the time. Sometimes I couldn’t believe what they were telling me. Seth definitely is a unique front man.
Jim: When we started Defiance Engine, one of my goals was to take the noise rock elements from Daisycutter and the hardcore elements from Dirge and put them together. I think we’ve managed to do that.
What impact did Jacko Monahan have on the New Jersey music scene, and how and why did you enjoy being a part of that?
Jim: Aside from being in a band with Jack, he taught me a lot about surviving in the music business. He was booking bands out of several different clubs. That enabled the Jersey Shore to be part of a circuit of clubs in the tri-state area that local bands could regularly work out of. It also provided places for national acts to play. He kept the underground music scene here alive when it was struggling and made sure it thrived when it was growing. He put in a lot of work for all of us.
Heat Blast was a great indie label that you ran. I believe the label started in 1988, releasing such bands as Dirge, Daisycutter, Big Nurse, and others. What was Heat Blast’s greatest accomplishment and why?
Jim: Ha! The label’s greatest accomplishment was keeping its overall operating loss to a minimum. Seriously though, we did OK, and we released a bunch of great stuff during that time. Heat Blast was lucky enough to have landed a production and distribution deal with one of the independent distributors, which gave us enough capital to put out more records. I think we did well for such a small label. We were fortunate to have existed during a boom period, and we were lucky to have had such a good run, considering that we had more attitude than money. In the end, we helped a lot of bands. That was the main goal.
How long did the label continue to operate?
Jim: We started it in 1988, releasing the first record—Dirge’s Matrix EP—in 1989. The label ended in 1994 when the distributor stopped paying. The music business was changing and the digital era of downloading content was about to begin. In that time, we released 16 records, which is respectable enough to call a slight victory. Seven years was a decent run, and I think we chose a good time to cease doing business, judging by what happened to the industry after that.
What was the difference between running an indie label then versus now?
Jim: When CDs first appeared, the major labels made a conscious decision to price-gouge everyone by doubling the retail price from what they had charged on vinyl, even though compact discs were cheaper to produce. They thought they were slick, but when they created digital content, they made something that they couldn’t control. People started distributing it themselves through the Internet. Downloading changed everything. People took, and they didn’t pay. The industry played itself for a bunch of fools. The situation with downloading hurt the brick and mortar stores, who ordered less product, which killed off many of the distributors, which then put many of the labels out of business. It was a pure domino effect.
So now the industry has shrunk. There are far less stores. CDs are currently frowned upon, while vinyl has once again become desirable at the micro level, resulting in short label runs of 200 to 300 units, usually with a marketing gimmick for collectors, such as colored wax or 180-gram vinyl. Basically, there are two kinds of music fans now: those who stream or download digital content and the ones who are record collectors. It’s not a good time to run a label. I have a ton of respect for anyone who’s still in that game on the independent level.
What bands were you in together in between Daisycutter and Defiance Engine and when?
Jim: We were in the band Solarized from 1997 to 2003. We licensed a few albums to Man’s Ruin Records, Metro City, and some overseas labels, and we released a slew of compilation tracks to help get the name out there. That was, in some respects, the most successful band we had been in. The Internet was young, and we managed to use it to push our first album, Neanderthal Speedway, into Amazon’s top 10 percent for record sales for two weeks, and the top 30 percent for several more. We’d have never gotten away with that nowadays. I don’t think Amazon even allows independent releases to appear in their top sales charts, since it’s used as an industry metric, like Billboard. We pulled it off back then, though. We were really fortunate. We had our former colleagues Tim Cronin and Ed Mundell from Monster Magnet as guests on the record, and singer Dave Wyndorf said something very flattering about us that compared us to the planet devouring, interstellar comic book character Galactus, which we happily used in our marketing. We built web sites, raided guest books, launched targeted e-mail campaigns, employed strategies and tactics. We took guerrilla marketing to its limit. It was crazy. We had no money, but we had all of these tools and opportunities available to us. The Internet was like the Wild West, and we were like an army of modern-day tanks rolling into town. I absolutely loved it. I was in my element.
Who is the guitarist in Defiance Engine, and what other bands was he in?
Jim: We had Jack ‘Hinge’ Pitzer originally. He’s famous for his work with The X-men, Mucky Pup, and The Beast. He eventually moved on, and Rich Walter joined. Rich was in a band called Somethin’ Else. Both of them are great people.
Have Defiance Engine released any records?
Jim: Not yet. We will though.
Reg: There’s some Bandcamp and YouTube stuff, but no records yet. Defiance Engine is in writing mode to record an album.
What do you enjoy most about playing in Defiance Engine together and what plans do you have coming up for the band?
Jim: I love writing. That’s my thing. We’ve only just begun working with Rich Walter, so we’re working on new material and figuring out what we want to record next.
Reg: I like every part of the process from creating the music, to performance, to recording, and I find that working with Jim pushes my musical abilities and challenges my sanity. For good or for bad, I’m the drummer I am today due to working with him.
Reg, you’re also in a band called 19DRT, which has a new recording coming out soon. Tell me about that and the plans for it.
Reg: 19DRT is a heavy, noise rock band. It’s sludgy and doomy at times, but also has a lot of complex time signatures. It also puts me out of my comfort zone at times, and I love that. We’re currently shopping some recordings and playing out in the area a lot. I’m very much enjoying it.
19DRT is playing Mother’s Day at White Chapel Projects in Long Branch and at the Brighton again on June 1. Also, 19DRT pays Millhill Basement in Trenton often.
How and why did 19DRT get that name?
Reg: Our former bass player came up with it. It’s an inside joke in reference to something being so old that it happened in the year 19…. dirt.
How and why did the Brighton Bar help to put New Jersey on the music map?
Reg: The Brighton Bar is my home. I grew up on that stage, and now I’m growing old on that stage!
Jim: I’m not a good judge of time, but I’ve been playing there since the early ’80s, so The Brighton Bar has been around a long time, and it’s been one of the few places that has constantly helped underground bands to move forward.
How has Gregory Macolino of The X-men made the Brighton better since he took over the ownership?
Jim: He’s kept it alive. It’s still here in an age where so many clubs have perished. It’s outlasted CBGB, which is a bit of a surprise!
Defiance Engine and 19DRT will be performing on May 18 at the inaugural Makin Waves Fest, which Reg has been helping me produce and is co-presenting. Why was it important to have a hand in that?
Reg: I’m trying to build and cultivate a scene that’s based on heavy underground music. Bands need places to play and other bands to play with, and I’m trying to bring them together. I was inspired when Jim created a social media group called Noise Rock Now to help promote Defiance Engine.
Jim: I created Noise Rock Now because I realized that people don’t really go to band pages online, but we needed to promote a show and create a groundswell fast. It just kind of snowballed from there. We’re closing in on having 11,000 members worldwide in that community, which is pretty cool for a forum based on a specific genre of music. I like the idea of promoting the genre and then having that, in turn, promote the bands and the shows that they play. Everything moves everything else forward.
Your son is a drummer. Does he play yet in a band?
Jim: He’s just hit the teenage years, and he’s growing his hair long, and he’s finding his identity. He plays in an after-school rock group with a mix of teachers and students. Right now they’re working on a Nirvana song.
How does it feel that he’s continuing the Hogan musical tradition?
Reg: I’m hugely proud that music is as important to him as it is to Jim and I.
For more about Defiance Engine, visit defianceengine.bandcamp.com. For more about 19DRT, visit 19drt.bandcamp.com. For more about Makin Waves Fest, visit www.facebook.com/makinwavescolumn
Bob Makin is the reporter for MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and like Makin Waves at www.facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.