Yesterday, Philadelphia’s annual This Is Hardcore fest began. The four-day festival brings together the best in punk and hardcore from up and coming bands to legacy acts. This year, Sunday night’s headliner is Turning Point, the seminal Philly-area hardcore band that broke up in 1991 The band gained in popularity, with their catalog being re-released on Jade Tree, but it’s singer, Frank “Slip” Candelori, died of a drug overdose in 2002. Their show on Sunday will find three vocalists, Thursday’s Geoff Rickley, Mouthpiece’s Tim McMahon and 108’s Rob Fish, filling in on vocals for the late singer. We caught up with guitarist Jay Laughlin to discuss reforming the band, their increased popularity and playing This Is Hardcore Fest.
How did reforming Turning Point for This Is Hardcore come about?
Skippy passed away in 2002, so maybe like six or seven years later, I was asked to do something like this, with guest singers. I always said no. I never thought I would do it. The discography that came out on Jade Tree got licensed to a record label called Think Fast Records and it came out on vinyl last Thanksgiving. The response was really big. People seemed to be super into it. I got offered to do this from Joe Hardcore and his people. They were throwing around ideas for guest singers. It just seemed like the time was right because of the reaction and the record coming back out. Me and the other two guys were like, “let’s do it and have a good time.”
Was the first time you were approached to do it for This Is Hardcore as well?
Yeah. When I met with the promoter to talk about doing this, he said when we agreed to do it, he said “I never thought you would, because I asked you this year, that year. I barely remember that even happening, because I was dead set against doing it.
Had you ever considered getting back before when Skip was still around?
It never came up. When the band broke up, we didn’t break up because we weren’t getting along or anything. Skippy was my best friend since kindergarten until the day he passed. He was like a brother to me. We broke up because we peaked and it seemed like it was dying off. The shows got smaller and smaller and we decided to call it quits. I kept on playing. At one point Skippy did reach out to me to maybe put something together, but I was in a band called Lenola at the time and we were putting out records and playing constantly. I just didn’t have time. At that point I didn’t think it was a good idea anyway. The band got bigger and bigger after he passed away. So, no I didn’t consider getting back together.
How did the guest vocalists come about?
The promoter, he suggested a couple of people he thought he might be able to get. The first person I thought of when this whole thing came up was Tim McMahon from Mouthpiece, which is an old hardcore band that opened up for Turning Point a couple of times. We weren’t friendly back then, but we weren’t enemies. But, I never really talked to the guy that much. He’s still singe in hardcore bands, and is kind of the New Jersey hardcore guy. I met him a couple years back. He’s a really good guy, and right away I thought he’d be great and he also lives in New Jersey so he could rehearse. The promoter suggested Geoff from Thursday, who had done the same thing with Ink & Dagger years back when Sean McCabe had passed and that’s how he came about. Rob Fish who played in 108 and Resurrection and Release, a band that Turning Point used to play with, I was excited to have an old friend come back and sing some songs.
How much have you rehearsed? Was it weird doing this for the first time in years?
Yeah. Me, Nick and Ken, the bass player and drummer, we started rehearsing like 5 months ago, just instrumentally. Those two guys haven’t played much since Turning Point broke up in ‘91. I’ve never stopped, so it wasn’t hard for me. But for those guys getting back in the saddle took them a little bit of practice. Then we started bringing Tim in maybe a month and a half after we started, because you don’t want to bring a singer in before you can play the songs. Geoff has rehearsed with us three times. He sounded good. Rob Fish is flying in Saturday and we’re going to rehearse Saturday with him and do the show on Sunday. It’s kinda crazy.
Did you have any idea how popular the band had gotten before the reissues?
Not really, no. I knew that there was small circles of hardcore kids. They’d reach out to me on Facebook or interview me for a fanzine. It really just kind of surprised me. When we got offered the show, I figured we’d play like five or six songs before Gorilla Biscuits or pop up and do a special thing, but they wanted us to headline. I was like ‘are you crazy? no way.’ I guess we got talked into it.
What’s your current relationship like with hardcore? I’ve known you for a while, but you were always in more indie rock-ish bands. Do you go to This Is Hardcore Fest every year?
No, this will be my first This Is Hardcore Fest, to be honest. I didn’t really follow the hardcore scene after Turning Point broke up because so much weird stuff started to happen with these straight edge guys. It got too much. I was in it just for the music and energy. Then, all the political stuff came in it, and I was like, ‘this is not my scene.’ I’ve come back from my roots and started playing punk rock and hardcore. Now I play a bunch of different stuff and come back and play heavy music again. It just feels right.
Talk to me a little about your current band, JJL.
It’s just something that happened organically. I was doing the whole indie rock thing, and that band split and I had a couple other incarnations playing the same kind of music. The same drummer that that played in my other band Like a Fox, I’ve been working together with him for 12 years now. We both always dug heavy music, and would go see Mastodon together, bands like that. We’d always joked about getting back into it and it just naturally kind of happened. One band fizzled out and we started fucking around with some heavy stuff and it just felt good and right. I haven’t been happier playing music in a long time. I like playing stuff that’s a little more challenging. Anybody that picks up a guitar wants to play a loud guitar, it’s fun, at least in my eyes, anyway.