Bricks Avalon is the vocalist of Louisville, KY hardcore band Miracle Drug. He recently reached out to me about doing a new interview series on the site. I'll let him explain below! —Carlos Ramirez
I have always been interested in all energies of individuals, especially those that I have met in and amongst the DIY punk and hardcore scene.
Outside these four walls is the everyday grind, and I want to know what occupies the time that is needed to feed the habit, the hobbies, the home. Having lunch with Carlos in Los Angeles earlier this month, he and I talked about how we both want to know more about the jobs and lifestyles of hardcore heads.
I have always hated the question, "So, What do you do?" But I figure if I start asking people this question with essence instead of only intending small talk and filler, we might learn something, be inspired, be motivated, and up our game. —Bricks Avalon
What's your name?
Hi Logan, what do you do
I’m a paramedic for a fire department as well as a medic in the US Army.
Thank you for your service. Would you mind telling me your age, and at what point in your life did you decide that you wanted to become involved in these lines of work? Also, do the positions go hand in hand, or are they unique from each other?
I’m 29, I’ve been in EMS for about 7 years and the Army for 2. The positions are very similar, lots of my certifications and trainings crossover between the military and civilian world. The biggest difference between the two are the types of patients I usually encounter in a day. I got into EMS within a year of going straight edge.
I had been a crusty drunk punk growing up but got my shit together after losing lots of friends to drugs, alcohol, and suicide. I was tired of not being able to do anything to help them so I got the training. After a few years in the field I saw the Army as an opportunity to expand my skills and career opportunities.
And still, you find the time to be at a large amount of shows, and be an active participant on the dancefloor as well. How does DIY punk and hardcore crossover into your work ethic and culture, and do your work experiences help you give back to your music community in return?
Boots, camo, blood, guts, shiny shit and patches on the jacket, you and your crew telling war stories and holding petty grudges against other squads, it’s all the same. Barracks and firehouses aren’t too far removed from punk squats really.
I am who I am because of punk. Like many of us, I was an outsider as a kid and I found community in this subculture. This has always been here for me. The songs about us against the world, sticking with your friends, not accepting the status quo, and taking charge to make a change meant something to me then and they still do now.
I developed a sense of something greater than myself going to shows and over the years and that grew into a sense of civic duty. Like I said earlier, I lost a lot of friends to drugs and instead of sitting around being sad and hopeless I took inspiration and motivation from the music and DIY ethos to make a change in my life and my world.
Punk is violent, hardcore is violent, I can’t tell you how many knees and shit I’ve put back in place (Bryan Prosser) over the years at shows. I’m happy to be able to patch up kids in the pit when they go wild, it feels good to be there for our people.
I know a lot of people have a problem with the military, I get that. No one has ever said anything negative to my face about it but I know it makes some people uneasy. A few people have stopped talking to me completely and while that’s a bummer, I respect their conviction and integrity. I will say that there’s been a strong connection between rebel rock and the army since rock n roll has been around. Also, the army has always been an antifascist organization, the unit I belong to was instrumental in smashing the nazis at d-day and beyond which is something that still gives us a huge amount of pride today.
Beyond essentially being the unspoken and often spoken onsite medic at all shows Louisville, have you been involved in other capacities such as in bands or booking shows, etc.?
I’ve been in a few bands over the years, nothing of any real merit. The one that lasted longest was a D-beat band called Die Yuppie Scum, our crowing achievement was a poorly attended 3-day tour from Louisville to Dayton to Indy where we played a fest with The Casualties. Real rockstar stuff, let me tell you [laughs]. I’d say my biggest contribution to the scene here though was Nelligan Hall. After the fall of Chestnut House (RIP), Louisville didn’t really have any venues. At the time some friends and I had moved in to this giant old building that had been a theatre and a democratic club among other things, with the intent of fixing it up and having shows.
Well, Chestnut had a bunch of shows booked for several months out but was unable to have them when the space was lost so we offered up our space even though there were holes in the roof and all sorts of shit wrong. The shows went on and for a while Nelligan Hall was one really the only all ages space that could accommodate the scene. We even ended up having the first two years of Midwest Blood Fest there which turned into Life and Death Brigade and the LDB Fest we all know and love today. I stopped booking shows and running the place when I got into EMS because I just didn’t have time for both. As you said, I am still able to contribute by volunteering much needed medical support to the scene.
Can you talk about where you might find inspiration and/or mentorship at work? How do you cope with the difficulties of your daily occupation, and is there anyone that you work with that can relate or understand where you spend a lot of your other time? Also, do you get down with others in the scene who have a similar lifestyle/work?
When I first started I was surprised to see how many older punks and skins were in the field, that definitely helped me get a foothold and set a professional direction. We deal with some pretty heavy stuff sometimes and it’s important to have a network. Community is everything. Punk and hardcore have always been a safe haven and a place to deal with things, it was true as a kid and it’s still true now.
It can be hard to relate to people outside the field, not everybody knows what it’s like to hold a severed arm or something, I do find myself gravitating to others in the scene that have similar jobs. We speak a common language. At the same time everyone that comes to shows is there for essentially the same reasons and we all have each other. I imagine religious folks feel the same way about church.
Can you tell me some of your immediate and long term professional goals? And as you take on more responsibilities, how do you see yourself continuing to keep your finger on the pulse of hardcore?
So my immediate goals involve a lot of "cool guy" Army schools like Air Assault, that’s where you rappel out of helicopters and shit, and some professional development and leadership schools. My more long term goals include becoming a flight medic and maybe going on to emergency management operations from there. Disaster response and relief, that kind of thing. The army isn’t all about war, there’s a huge infrastructure for public health and safety which is very appealing from a career standpoint.
The work I do requires a pretty significant amount of physical activity so health and fitness are a top priority. First and foremost, being straight edge rules. Healthy body healthy mind. I think it’s important for me to live by example. You wouldn’t trust a doctor that smokes, you wouldn’t trust a dentist that’s sucking on a Jawbreaker, so why trust a paramedic that does? I need to be on top of my game at all times. The Army is no different. I’m currently serving in an infantry unit so my job involves lots of dragging dudes and their gear through rough terrain when they forget that energy drinks aren’t water and they pass out. Really gotta live by example for those knuckleheads.
I’m lucky to have access to lots of fitness equipment at work, all our firehouses have great gyms on site. Usually at work we train in functional fitness, so lots of rescue and scenario based endurance events. On my off days I try to run a few miles in the park. Running is one of those things you hate until you love it, no in between. I started by pretending I was circle pitting and then just kept going, getting around that mental block was super helpful. The takeaway here is that MOSHING IS CARDIO!
How will you be able to sustain yourself physically and financially through years of longevity within this career?
I’m glad you asked about financial longevity, the older I get the more important that becomes. I used to think I’d be dead before 30 but clearly that isn’t how things turned out so having some kind of plan for the future is crucial. I’ve got a pretty sweet retirement through the state with hazardous duty and a consistent investment portfolio. Super punk, I know. I work hard for my money so I think my money should work hard for me too. I also have a separate retirement account independent from work that has a high risk investment so if that one goes bad then I haven’t fucked myself. Gotta diversify. A lot of this stuff seems out of reach for a lot of us but not even ten years ago I was flying a sign on the side of the road hoping for enough cash to get some shitty malt liquor. Progress is possible.
Hardcore is home for me, I’ve been in long enough to know I’m not going anywhere else. I take a lot of inspiration from Matt Henson of Noi!se. He’s spent an entire career in the Army and keeps moving up while also playing in one of the coolest bands out right now.
Can you tell me what matches your mood musically in your tasks? What do you pump or wish you could pump in the ambulance at full volume? What song is going through your mind as you are en route to a rescue? Or has there ever been a scenario you were involved in that could have been synchronized with a song for the perfect music video?
My daily selection usually revolves around UK82, Oi!, and D-beat. Thrash and country come up a lot, too.
GBH has a song called "Punk Rock Ambulance" which is a fun one. Usually when it’s time to work out we play the Rival Mob, on the way to calls I like the Virus, when it’s time to wash the truck and do station chores we do Sturgill Simpson or Tyler Childers. Music is an integral part of daily operations, I really couldn’t imagine a day without it. We usually try to limit music during patient contact, people are already stressed enough to see us so we like to respect that and keep things as calm as possible. The caveat to that is if we’re on a cardiac arrest, then music is encouraged because it helps everyone work at a steady pace and rhythm. Something around 110 BPM is backed up by science as an appropriate rate for CPR.
A service I used to work for had PA systems in all the trucks which we found a way to hook up to the stereo so some nights we’d respond to calls blasting Slayer instead of the sirens. It was effective, people moved out of the way and we never heard anything about it from command.
I’ll tell you about a song we can never play though, "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey. I’m not a superstitious person but that song is cursed. I should warn you, this story has a pretty central focus on death and suicide, and while I view it with humor I appreciate that not everyone will.
If anyone is interested in EMT, or military, do you have any advice on how to get started or what to consider first?
First off, you can do it. There’s a misconception that there’s a pretty high entry barrier, that’s not necessarily the case. While it’s not difficult to get into it can be difficult to stick it out. Both fields have a huge attrition rate due to mental and physical stress. There’s a lot of resiliency in hardcore though so I’d say that’s an advantage. If you’re interested in EMS or the fire service consider doing a ride-along shift with a local department or volunteering at the station to get some exposure and experience. There’s some education and certification required, a quick google search should lay out local options, lots of departments will cover training costs too. If you’re interested in the military talk to friends and family that have served, they’ll tell you what the recruiter won’t. It’s not always fun and exciting, life or death, just like TV experiences but it beats the hell out of an office job.
Before we finish, can you share a crazy story from your EMT work?
So no shit there I was, minding my own business, trying to get some lunch. We get a call for a hanging across town. I had my partner drive so I could stuff my face with shitty Chinese food on the way. We show up on scene and the cops tell us outside this guy is dead-dead, beyond help. Protocol at that service was to transport bodies to the morgue because one of our colonels was also a county coroner. Anyway, we go inside and the cops direct us to a closet under the stairs, we find this dude on his knees with a phone cord around his neck. He had taken a whole bottle of Xanax and leaned forward slightly. Small closet, big dude. I lost a game of rock, paper, scissors and had to be the one to go in the closet and cut him down. He’d been down long enough for rigor mortis to set in so that made things difficult.
I wedged myself inside the closet and was able to cut the cord, at this point my partner has positioned the body bag on the floor and is trying to pull. Since rigor had set in, this dude’s feet would not clear the door frame. We’re pushing, we’re pulling, it’s not working. My partner tries a big heave and slips, he falls into the stereo and it kicks on. The place is set up with surround sound and on full blast comes "Don't Stop Believin'" and we all lose our shit, everyone is cracking up. Mind you, I’m still stuck in the closet behind this guy. After a minute everyone composes themselves and the stereo gets turned off. We try some more maneuvering and eventually get this dude out, but not before my parter slips and hits the stereo again.
Apparently dude had made a single song CD and played it on repeat for this. Afterwards I told my partner that I could never hear that song again without thinking about this day. The thing is though, for years after that day, if the song came in the radio or anything then immediately after we’d get a call for a shooting, a stabbing, an overdose, whatever. Death followed. It finally stopped happening last December after I delivered a baby in a trailer. Like I said, I’m not superstitious but that seems pretty cursed to me.
Wow! Thanks for sharing that and giving me your time today. I appreciate it. Can you be found if someone is interested in contacting you?
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Tagged: work hard play hardcore