20 years ago, Bury Your Dead showed the kids just how they do this with their mosh-centric, slowed-down metalcore. The sound influenced a plethora of bands from the early '00s and into the '10s.
Along with On Broken Wings, The Acacia Strain, Black My Heart, and The Red Chord, Bury Your Dead exploded out of Massachusetts, making venue owners quiver in fear whenever their names popped up on a show lineup. Back then, it was no holds barred, and nobody cared if a show didn’t get played at that venue ever again. All that mattered was the show being played that night, and everyone embodied that “live for today because tomorrow is not promised” lifestyle.
Original Bury Your Dead vocalist Joe Krewko joined the band alongside guitarist Brendan MacDonald and drummer Mark Castillo and they quickly established their infamous reputation. After playing insane shows all along the East Coast for two years, the group finally released their debut album, You Had Me At Hello, in February of 2003. Soon after, Joe left the band amidst some inner-band drama. After a few months, the other members brought in vocalist Mat Bruso and marched on.
Joe played in a couple other projects after leaving Bury Your Dead, most notably the group She Rides from Providence which featured future Dropdead bassist George Radford within their ranks. Despite all these great opportunities to keep his creativity going, the vocalist got a bit too caught up in being young and reckless.
Staying out of the music scene for quite some time, Joe fell into some dark places with drugs and alcohol before finally getting sober and turning his life around. He focused his energy into a career in emergency services and currently works as a firefighter and paramedic.
2021 saw Joe return to the music scene fronting Edict, which also features his former She Rides bandmate George Radford and members of Ruin It. Once again dishing out a heavier hardcore sound, Edict released the EP Rat Lines in 2022 and played shows with such groups as Deadguy, All Out War, Ringworm, and Obituary. They even opened Bury Your Dead’s recent anniversary shows.
Alongside opening the Bury Your Dead shows with Edict, Joe will performed a special set with the guys in Bury Your Dead, his first time onstage with them in two decades.
Bury Your Dead’s “Camo Is My Favorite Color” and other classics from You Had Me At Hello provided the soundtrack to my life for nearly the last decade of going to shows, so I reached out to talk with Joe on a Zoom call leading up to the anniversary shows. By the time I had spoken with Joe, the tour had already sold out three of the four dates on the schedule.
A week before playing the gigs and still recovering from cancer removal surgery, Joe admitted he was nervous about his upcoming performances but the excitement from fans such as myself couldn’t be understated, everyone was going to love seeing him play. Read all about it below and be sure to catch Bury Your Dead on the road with Edict and Great American Ghost this spring. Put on your dancing shoes, it’s time to rock!
What has your musical journey been like? How’d it all lead you into hardcore?
I got pretty lucky cuz my dad was always a rock ‘n’ roll biker kind of guy so we always had AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, and Black Sabbath playing. My dad also used to go to The Rat sometimes in Boston back in its early days, before the punk scene came around. When I was about 11-years-old, my aunt, who's more like a big sister because she’s only five years older than me, started dating my now uncle and he was a hardcore kid.
One day he was like, “Dude, no more Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, here’s some real music” and he showed me Sick of It All’s Blood, Sweat and No Tears, Minor Threat and Cro-Mags. Life of Agony’s River Run’s Red had come out the year before too and he showed me that and that shit spoke to me so much, that’s why I have the Life of Agony tattoo on my arm.
Anyway, my uncle basically let me tag along to all these shows at The Rat, Club Babyhead in Providence, The Middle East. I think I went to my first show in 1994 when I was 13. My uncle basically set my life into a whole different direction.
Do you remember your first hardcore show?
I believe it was Tree from Boston over at Club Babyhead in Providence. I don’t really remember the other bands that played that night with them. The first really big hardcore show I remember going to in Boston was Bastard Squad, Showcase Showdown, and The Pissed, I believe? But that was like spiky-haired punk stuff, it just wasn’t aggressive enough for me.
Then I saw Blood For Blood and I was like, “Oh my god, this is what I’m looking for.” Seeing that as a little nerdy kid was absolutely life changing. Terrifying beyond all belief but life changing.
There were other shows that were great like seeing Breakdown, Stigmata, Sheer Terror, I was incredibly lucky around that time. I eventually got into the metalcore stuff that was popping up like when Converge came on the scene, that band changed the trajectory of everything I was into at the time.
What were some of your early musical projects before Bury Your Dead?
So, when I was in high school I was in this band called As the Sun Sets, they later became Daughters. Really chaotic in the vein of Converge and Deadguy and all that, and that band led to us playing a bunch of shows around New England. We actually ended up going on tour at one point while we were still in high school and we ended up meeting Undying, Prayer for Cleansing, and all those bands we got to play with.
After a year or so of that, I quit and joined up with the band Blood Has Been Shed because I heard they were looking for a bassist and I really really liked how heavy they were and that they were touring because when you’re young that’s what you wanna do in a band at that time.
When and how did you join up with Bury Your Dead?
After all that, I moved out Connecticut and I just didn’t feel like playing music anymore, I was living in the sticks and all that and wasn’t really doing much for maybe a couple years. I had known Brendan [MacDonald] and Mark [Castillo] from Bury Your Dead because Mark played in Piecemeal and Hamartia, so we were always playing around each other during that time.
When we got together we all thought, “Yo, let’s start a hardcore band that’s really slowed down and heavy.” I’d say “slammy” but that wasn’t even a thing yet. We just wanted to play these slow-ass breakdowns that would get everyone going and it honestly all got started just as a joke band. We made a demo and started playing. We had two singers at the time, Mark Hundley also did vocals on the demo.
I don’t think we took it all that seriously back then, you know? We were just a few friends being knuckleheads and playing this dumb, heavy music and then eventually it became a thing. Eventually, we had to start taking it seriously because we got a lot of attention once we really started playing, we went out on tour with Dead to Fall as well around that time.
I think the farthest I went out with them was like the midwest and all around the south, Canada a couple of times. We did a tour back then with Avenged Sevenfold and Bleeding Through as well, which was crazy.
How did you approach writing lyrics for the songs on You Had Me At Hello?
To be honest, I never put any effort into any of that shit. On the first record I wrote some lyrics but overall everyone contributed to that record. The lyrics to that record were really just about hardcore kids, you know? Singing about the scene and living in the now with no regrets and shit, real carpe diem stuff. I guess these lyrics just stuck because they’re so relatable to a lot of us during that time and even today.
I will say that back then and somewhat in today’s scene the shows you’d go to were predominantly men, probably angsty young adults from broken homes and everything and so they related to it because that’s who we were and that's what we wrote about. If you were a 19-year-old kid at the time or ever and wanted to hang out with your friends and do some knucklehead shit, then it speaks to you.
Like I said, I didn’t give it much thought, it wasn’t like I sat down and said, “I’m gonna write something inspiring.” I was just a drunken 21-year-old. I wish I could say that they touch my soul or some VH1 shit like that but it’s just not true at all.
What were some of the craziest shows you guys played back then?
Oh god, man, there were so many crazy shows! I forget if it was 2001 or 2002 but we played Hellfest in Syracuse, absolute insanity. It was insanely hot in there and looking out and seeing all of those people in front of that small ass stage was like going to war.
We also played this festival in Texas called Texas Terror Fest, I believe, another one that was crazy hot ‘cause it was out in the summer and just ignorant moshing. There’s also that legendary one in 2002 that the Returntothepit.com guy posts every year at that poor VFW hall in Lawrence.
The one where you guys, The Acacia Strain, On Broken Wings and a bunch of others ripped the roof down?
Dude, 41-year-old me, my heart breaks when I look back on that [laughs]. We probably ruined those guys' livelihoods and there certainly was never a show there ever again but we didn’t think that way at 21 years old. I remember when those kids ripped that shit down and I was like, “Oh my god” but also loving it too which sounds terrible.
Like I said, I’ve suffered a lot of brain damage in my lifetime. I think the microphone hit one of the tiles and then next thing I knew every single tile on the ceiling was gone. To whomever owned or owns that VFW, I should probably make a donation right now. I’m really sorry.
Do you think the scene had a different mindset to it back in those days?
Definitely, man, it was a lot more knucklehead-ish, lots of heavy moshing, lots of guys doing spinkicks in the back by the bar and everything…just really scary, reckless, and people didn’t give a fuck about the consequences of ripping up a venue. Nowadays, I don’t think it’s really like that but there’s an element to it. There’s pros and cons to that stuff, obviously. I don’t want anyone getting hurt at our shows or walking out with a bloody nose or nothing. I want everyone to laugh and have fun but as a teenager coming up in that time was different than it is now.
Fortunately for Edict, it hasn’t really been like that since we started playing in the last year, we’re not wrecking venues and shit it’s been really fun playing and nobody really gets hurt and there’s no drama. It’s a nice change of pace. I feel like post-pandemic everyone realized there’s not too many places to play shows anymore and they’re sensible to the fact that if you wreck this place not too many other places are gonna think too kindly of us.
How do you feel about the impact of You Had Me At Hello 20 years on?
It’s funny because I never realized it had that much of an impact until we started coming up with these shows and everyone was texting, “Dude, 500 tickets sold.” It really made me realize how excited people were for this and I’m beyond grateful for that.
At 21-years-old I wasn’t thinking about what anyone was gonna think about this when I’m 40. I’m just really excited to get out there and do it again after so many years. I’m nervous for sure but I’m excited and I’m glad people are excited about these shows and just want everyone to have a great time.
My health currently isn’t all that great, my necks pretty numb and the energy hasn’t fully recovered but… we’ll make it work. Most people my age think this stuff’s unattainable, people I work with always think it’s crazy when they see a video of me stage diving or hear that I'm going out touring. It might be hard to do if you’re playing pop music or some shit but if you’re playing punk and hardcore it’s easy.
Why did you leave Bury Your Dead?
Looking back on what I can remember, it was most likely alcohol and ego. Just something absolutely stupid and I know it but I can’t exactly pinpoint what. I know when I drink I am not a pleasant person to be around, I can be pretty selfish so I think it was definitely about that. I may have been bitter at the time but in the long run the most important thing to me is that there was no ill will.
I’m so glad that those guys went on to the success that they did. Being able to travel all over the world, maybe make a little bit of money and write amazing music I can’t be anything but happy for them. In the grand scheme of life being bitter about everything that happened when you were 21 isn’t important.
I loved the stuff they went on and did, Cover Your Tracks is a great record and they had some hard-ass songs on that shit. I remember the first time I heard them play “The Color of Money” and I was like, “Damn, that shits good. That sucks for me.” They’re incredible musicians.
Mat really took that band to a whole new level as a frontman for sure and he should have, he was always our biggest fan back in the day. He came to know the band because his sister was in the scene for years and through her he met us and would mosh super hard at all our shows… always in that white shirt. So when he came up to me after Edict played a show in Worcester and we talked about maybe doing this and sure enough it all came together faster than I could’ve expected.
After Bury Your Dead you played in She Rides. How’d that all come together?
Honest to god, I forget that I even did that because it was a really crazy time in my life. I was talking with George about how crazy it was because we put out a record on Jamey Jasta’s Stillborn Records, which blows my mind to this day. I never talked to the guy, obviously, but it’s still crazy.
We played some great shows too, we did a run with Gallows and Cancer Bats back in the day. We did a few dates with The Bronx which were cool but we played this one show in a legit theater… only time in my life I’ve ever played in front of people sitting down, it was weird.
That band took us to Mexico and Canada and we played a lot but it never really took off. Looking back on it, I mostly remember that there was a lot of drugs and alcohol, a lot of insanity. Just a lot of unhealthy living during that time. I finally got clean in 2015 after about 13 years of tearing it up. I was in and out of detox a few times and kept falling in and out of sobriety because I was unhappy and that’s really what drags you back in. I just kept trying to fix whatever was going on inside by doing the worst shit to myself.
There was a lot of drunken drama in She Rides and it was volatile but the band was a great band. My cousin was in She Rides, George is a great player and everything he’s in is amazing and they played great music and I just fucked it all up. I think it caught up to us because I was a liability and it negatively reflected onto the band. I remember we were supposed to be playing three shows with Ceremony and after the first night they were like, “Yeah, you guys can’t play anymore.”
If I can say anything about who I am now I will say that if I’m not sober there’s no Edict for me. My recovery is important to me and to my friends and bandmates and I can’t be bringing that shit back.
Was it difficult coming off of getting sober to go back to playing music?
Between the last She Rides show and the first Edict show was 14 years. If you asked me back then that I’d ever do music again I’d have probably said no. I had pretty much settled into life at that point, became a fireman, worked and everything but George and I kept hanging out because we ride motorcycles so we’d see each other a lot.
We’d talked about how we wanted to make a heavy band and it was during COVID so you couldn’t do anything and finally George was like, “Let’s just go down to the practice space and see what happens.” We played it safe of course because the restrictions were still in place so we stayed separated and everything and we just kept doing it a couple times a week.
I’m a paramedic so I was seeing the societal effects of COVID right in front of me, seeing elderly people dying and everything so I took that stuff very serious.
Edict, at the beginning, was really just us fooling around in the space but eventually we got together with a few different guys and finally ran into our guitarist Rich who had also played in Bury Your Dead after me and he was a guitar tech for Slipknot. I told him we were practicing and eventually we locked in a lineup and started writing songs and now we’re here.
What were some of the musical influences when you guys started Edict?
We really focused on just heavy and fast hardcore like Nails, Harms Way, and I’d even say Kublai Khan TX, stuff that hits really hard and is moshy but also with a powe rviolence vibe.
If I had to pick my favorite style of hardcore it would definitely be power violence because I just love fast aggressive music. That was supposed to be the idea with Edict but we kinda went in the heavier direction.
Looking back on all the years you’ve spent making music, is there anything you would’ve done differently? Any regrets?
Yeah man, I wouldn’t have started drinking. From that regard yes I would change some things but as a 41-year-old man now, I look back and realize that for better or for worse that’s who I was and this is who I’ve become from it all. Not justifying it, I’m not proud of it but I can’t change it. I wish I’d put a little bit more effort into some aspects because I was surrounded by awesome players.
Look at all the bands and people I worked with and what they went on to do, Mark is one of the best drummers in heavy music. Same thing with Brendan, unbelievable player and just immensely talented. My friend George and Rich are all professionals in this shit and awesome dudes and I kinda fucked that up. I wish I didn’t do the things that affected their bands back then.
I am however super-grateful to have come full circle and finally work with these guys in an environment that’s stable and safer and happier now. I really put all of myself into this recent Edict record and I’m really proud of it and really proud of this band and everything we’ve done so far.
New things are on the horizon, life came full circle and everything’s good for once. My main goal with Edict was to release an EP that I’m truly proud of and I’ve already done that with Edict so everything afterwards is just a bonus.
Anyone you would like to shout out at the end?
Street Power, Shortest Life, Wisdom and War, Hard Target, Unbeaten Records, Protagonist Music, Mat Bruso, Mark Castillo, Brendan MacDonald, all my bandmates past and present.
Also, I’d like to shout out anyone and everyone who’s either come or played a show with Edict. Seeing all these young kids coming out to shows these days really reminds me of myself when I was their age. I love hardcore and I love to see what’s going on right now.
Thanks for doing this Joe, it was great talking to you!
You too, man, thank you!
Edict will be taking their unfriendly sound across the East Coast this summer, hitting a number of dates in June with Second Death from Georgia and they will also be joined with Bury Your Dead for the last four dates. They will be playing in Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia, and Florida. Don’t think about your wasted past, just go see them and mosh as hard as you can. Show those kids how we do this.