Looking to get back into the rock ‘n’ roll game, Rob called up old friends and friends of friends to record an album of new material. While a bass player in his past, Rob now plays rhythm guitar and sings lead vocals.
Tell us about your current album. How did it come together?
Rob Moss and Skin-Tight Skin is the first music I made since I was the bass player in Artificial Peace and in Government Issue in the early 1980s. A few years ago I picked up a guitar and taught myself some covers. Then I wrote a bunch of originals and posted them on Facebook. A friend asked if I wanted to record them in his studio.
You have a different lead guitarist on every song. Why is that, and how did you get them to play on your album?
I wasn’t sure I had time to put together a working, touring band. And asking a lead guitarist to record 14 songs as a favor would’ve been a lot to ask. I thought it might be easier to ask 14 guys to play lead on just one song. So I called up old friends and friends of friends, thinking the worst they could say is ‘fuck you!’ Only two turned me down.
But kidding aside, it gave me the chance to work with guys who mean a lot to me. Back in 1979, I first saw Marshall Keith in the Slickee Boys. They were having so much fun on stage that I wanted to start my own band even though I didn’t know how to play an instrument. And around the same time, I first heard Bob ‘Derwood’ Andrews on the first Generation X album. That those two guys – and many more of my favorite musicians – would play on my new album is beyond tremendous.
I just asked him.
What’s the response been to the album?
Many people comment on the song quality. That even after hearing the album once, they find themselves humming the songs. The earworm thing. To me, that’s the best compliment.
What was the early Washington, D.C. scene like for you?
It was new and fun, and things happened fast. Brian Gay (the original bass player in the GIs) and I started writing songs before the Teen Idles or any of the Dischord stuff happened. But there were almost no all-ages shows back then. Marc Alberstadt (original drummer in the GIs) has brother a few years older than us. He’d sneak us into places. That’s how we first saw the Slickee Boys, the Bad Brains, Tina Peel, Sorrows and other bands.
Musically, Brian and I took cues from :30 Over DC – a compilation album of local bands that came out in 1978. We formed a band called The Indians around the same time that Government Issue started. Brian on guitar, me on bass, Mike Manos on drums and a female singer. After one show, Steve Polcari replaced her and we changed our name to Assault and Battery.
We were still in high school and played shows with S.O.A., Minor Threat, the GIs and others. In September of 1981, Brian went to art school in Chicago. So Pete Murray, who’d been in Red C, became our new guitar player and we changed our name again.
As Artificial Peace we played mostly in the DC area, Baltimore and New York City. We were on the bill with a lot of early hardcore bands, including the Bad Brains. We also played with Black Flag on their Damaged tour. Recording-wise, we did a few sessions. One of which had three tracks on the Flex Your Head album and that entire session was later released as an album on Dischord.
I was going to University of Maryland, while the rest of the guys in the band were going to community college or not at all. I’d come home on weekends to practice. I had limited time, I wanted to work on new songs. But, at the time, they were less driven. That led to the band breaking up. They formed Marginal Man, and I went on to join Government Issue and play on their ’83 USA tour.
After the tour I learned I got accepted to transfer to a school in Boston. Stabb and Marc understood. But Tom was not too happy, knowing he’d have to break in another bass player. And by that time, for me, the scene was not so fun. People took themselves too seriously.
Today it’s easy to know what’s going on in different cities. How did you do that pre-Internet?
I had pen pals. Vote Vasko in Finland. And a bunch of kids in LA, Northern California, Toronto, Vancouver and elsewhere. We’d send each other letters about what was happening. We’d trade flyers, fanzines, cassettes and vinyl. So, we were aware of what was going on in different scenes.
Of course, there was Yesterday & Today Records. Skip Groff, the owner, would bring back records from London. He’d stock imports. Other than trading, that’s where I got most of my punk records.
What’s your plan, post-pandemic?
Well, I was never completely set on forming a touring band. I’m more interested in songwriting. So how things will affect me once venues open up is unclear. And I’m not sure I could find one lead guitar player who could do all those songs justice. As far as recording a follow-up album, I’ve written more songs that are as good or better than the 14 on the current album. I’d like to record them. We’ll see.
The album’s available as a CD and digital download on Here on Rock On Records
Note: the full list of musicians on the album can be found on the Bandcamp page and the album’s available as a CD and digital download on Bandcamp at the link above