This piece centers around At All Cost, a band formed in 1987 by a group of High School friends in the NYC suburbs of Rockland County, New York.
Releasing a pair of demos in 1988 and 1990, At All Cost was a part of the era's influential hardcore scene in the Northeast playing shows with the likes of Cro-Mags, Token Entry, and Nausea during those years.
Though they never released a proper studio album on their run, the band's demos still managed to find an audience with tape traders throughout the years. After their breakup, At All Cost members went off to play in Dahlia Seed and Atlas Shrugged.
Nothing Comes Easy is a new LP collection compiled by Trip Machine Laboratories featuring remastered versions of At All Cost's demos, plus a live cover of Attitude Adjustment's "Fuck Chuck" for added measure. The digital download includes the group's live session from the seminal Crucial Chaos WNYU Radio show.
No Echo chatted with At All Cost drummer Darin Galgano and guitarist Malik Calimbas about the band and the new compilation.
How did you guys meet and what were some of the influences that drew you together?
Darin Galgano (drums): We were all friends from school who'd hang out all the time and being into the underground metal/hardcore scene def pulled us all together. That's what drew us to one another honestly, our love of music. In the mid to late '80s it made us kind of outcasts but we didn't care.
Musical influences, oh man there's a lot I'll just roll off a few: Agnostic Front, Token Entry, Black Sabbath, Slayer, Excel, 7 Seconds, Minor Threat, Suicidal Tendencies, Metallica, all '80s-era stuff, of course.
Once the 1988 demo came out, the band hit the Tri-state area hard, playing with some high-profile bands from the NYHC and NJHC community. You even played with bigger thrash metal bands. Were you networking like crazy or did the demo just get out there on its own? How did you land those shows?
Darin: Letters and phone calls, the good old DIY way [laughs].Yeah, believe it or not, I was responsible for booking a lot of our shows. I'd cold call clubs and speak directly to Shaun and Brian from The Anthrax, I remember speaking with Connie at CBGBs.
Vinnie Segara—who was booking the Sundance out on Long Island at the time—got us on that big show with Destruction and Cro-Mags. I'd tell them I'm in a hardcore band, that we'd love to play a show there and they'd give me an address to mail our demo so I'd mail it off to them and wait. If I didn't hear back in a week or two I'd call again. You had to be persistent.
In 1989, Brian Getkin replaced original bassist Charlie O., and sometime in 1990, Malik Calimbas replaced original rhythm guitarist Chris Scott, after filling in for him opening for Killing Time at The Anthrax. What brought on these changes in the lineup?
Darin: To put it quite simply, we were young and I think, understandably, priorities would change. The idea of being in High School and practicing on a Friday or Saturday night while there was some big house party going on somewhere in town, just didn't seem too appealing anymore.
After a while, certain members just stopped showing up for practice and we needed to move on. It's funny, there was never any formal sit down discussion about replacing anyone, it was just a mutual understanding, I guess, you can say.
You recorded the 1990 demo with Brian and Malik in the fold. How did their contributions help shape the material?
Darin: Oh, it absolutely did. Brian's an amazing bass player who I'd go on to be in Dahlia Seed with. We've been best friends since we were both around 11-years-old and we've always just clicked playing together, bringing that drum and bass. Malik, on the other hand, brought a whole new level of guitar playing to the band that was just unprecedented at the time. It helped to elevate us and kinda take us to the next level.
You can hear the obvious difference between our '88 demo vs. our '90 demo and I credit a lot of that change in sound to Malik's guitar playing; still an amazing guitarist to this day.
Malik Calimbas (guitar): The sound is gonna change naturally as we (me and Brian) are bringing new influences into the picture. I can say that for myself I was never really a metalhead so that influence was not from me. I always leaned more towards the punk side of hardcore. I still do.
The 1990 lineup went into record what was supposed to be a 12-inch called Nothin' Comes Easy on a label called Equator Records. Why didn't that ever come out?
Darin: You know, I don't actually remember all the details on this one but I think it was just one of those things at the time where a discussion was had with someone from the label. I don't remember if it was our singer Jeff, or our manager at the time, Gwen Anderson, who spoke to them but they were interested in putting out a 12-inch of ours and then it just kinda never happened [laughs].
Eventually, we just ended up recording the demo ourselves and being the creative juggernauts that we were, conveniently called it Demo '90 [laughs].
At All Cost continued to play throughout 1991 until singer Jeff Guzman unexpectedly moved, killing the momentum of the band. Were there ever plans to replace Jeff with a new singer and continue on?
Darin: Yeah, we tried a few vocalists but I think the writing was pretty much on the wall for the band. We'd been together since 1987 at this point and we had a pretty good run. Our musical interests were also changing at that time. We started getting into alternative music, the industrial/electronic scene, bands like Jane's Addiction, NIN, Meat Beat Manifesto, Orbital, Ministry, Godflesh, etc. It was kind of a natural progression in musical tastes at the time.
Malik: We did try out this one guy and he didn't pan out so well. We also tried out Chris [Weinblad] from Trip Machine Laboratories/Atlas Shrugged, but I don't remember what happened with that. I was game, though.
You mentioned Chris from Trip Machine. How did you guys come together to put Nothing Comes Easy together?
Darin: Chris from TML is a long time friend. He was a part of the local hardcore scene and was obviously a fan of the band. He was always at our shows, showing support for us, so it all just seems kinda natural that we'd end up finally putting out our demos on his label. Thanks, Chris!
Malik: Chris has been my long time buddy since 9th grade. We just grew up in hardcore together so it's only natural that both of our paths intertwined. We were in Atlas Shrugged together and he has released a few of my other things on TML, so it just organically happened. Just friends hanging out.
Are any of the former members of At All Cost working on any musical projects at the moment?
Darin: Speaking for myself, no, I'm not involved in anything musically at the moment. I play drums in a metal band called the Nolan Gate but we haven't played in five years [laughs]. We haven't broken up, I guess you can say we're on a long-term hiatus. Being fortunate enough to be in bands since I was 11-years-old, I'm actually okay with a little break. It's nice to focus on some other things for a change.
Malik: I am always working on things. Right now I have We Are Leaders, a space rock + post-hardcore studio project with a few friends. And I have Heavy Duty Medicine, which is mostly my solo stuff of electronic + post rock. And there are rumors of Atlas Shrugged getting together again to write and record. Fingers crossed.
Do you look back to the late '80s NYHC scene and your time in At All Cost with fond memories?
Darin: Oh definitely, it was an amazing time and an amazing thing to be experiencing at a young age. I made a lot of great friends who I’m still friends with to this day. Playing shows in places you would most likely never go, meeting people from all different walks of life, it all definitely helped open my mind to a lot of different things as a teenager which was really important. Looking back I feel fortunate and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Malik: For me it was the launching point into my hardcore musical career, I guess you can say.
I still remember my first show at the Anthrax and I rang out the first chord of "Frantic" to a packed club and kids went ballistic. And I thought to myself, this must be this thing called "life" that people are talking about. I felt instantly super cool.
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