"At that time in '98, I was three years into my drug treatment and was trying to find a semblance of sanity," Eddie Sutton told me during a recent phone chat with the Leeway NYC singer. The period he's referring to was his brief tenure fronting Merauder. If you're a fan of either band, you're probably already familiar with the 4-song demo the Sutton-lead version of Merauder recorded together in 1998.
While I love the combination of Eddie's soul music-kissed vocals and Merauder's metallic hardcore riffing, some folks have been critical of the union over the years, a fact not lost on the veteran frontman. "I love that there’s all this controversy to the demo," the singer said. "But that demo was never meant to be released to the public and duplicated over and over for the last 20 years or whatever.
"The purpose of that demo was to give [Merauder's record label] Century Media an idea of what the new stuff was sounding like with my vocals. Nothing was set yet. Some of the lyrics on that demo weren’t even meant to be keepers at that point.”
But for all the Leeway-related trivia I've amassed in my brain ever since I first heard the band back in 1988, I never got the story behind the short-lived Eddie and Merauder musical marriage. "[Merauder guitarist] SOB [aka Javier Carpio] and I were connected through a lot of the same friends we shared. It was one of those things in the NYHC scene where there were some people still hanging out back then. But during that period in the late ‘90s, there wasn’t so much of a strong hardcore scene like it had been some years before. Anyway, but yeah, I was still in the mix, hanging out. It was also during a time when Leeway wasn’t doing anything. Leeway came back in ’99, but that was obviously after I had worked with Merauder."
By that point, Merauder had already released their debut album, Master Killer, a few years prior. That record featured singer Jorge Rosado, a frontman with a very different approach than Eddie's. "Jorge had left Merauder during that time to go join Ill Niño. We all know how much success they went on to have, but that was after Jorge had returned to Merauder. The funny thing is that [Leeway guitarist] A.J. [Novello] ended up producing the Merauder album after I had left [1999’s Five Deadly Venoms]."
Once Eddie and SOB decided to demo up the new material they were working on, some membership changes went down in the Merauder camp. "Their original drummer, Vinnie [Vitale], wasn’t really up to snuff, in my opinion. That’s why I asked [Leeway drummer] Pokey [Mo] to come in. On bass, we got this talented kid named Mike [Macivor] into the band. You might know him from Candiria. Mike was 17-years-old at the time, but he was already a well-rounded musician by that point. He was also very mature and didn’t act like a child like most of us were doing back then [laughs]. [Guitarist] Anthony [Muccini] was also in the lineup on that demo."
How about the liner notes stuff? "We did the demo at Fastlane Studios in Brooklyn, which the Merauder guys had been working out of for a long time. It was an easy enough experience because I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do vocally, and the direction was still open." For you fellow factoid heads, while it closed down a few years back, Fastlane was once a busy studio that bands like Biohazard, Inhuman, and Life of Agony all worked out of back in the day.
One thing I've always thought was Merauder probably should have changed their name once Eddie was brought in to give the new project a fresh coat of paint. "[Laughs] I remember teasing the shit out of the guys for the spelling of Merauder [should be Marauder]. I was like, 'yeah, I'll join your band if you learn how to spell your name!' [Laughs] But it was just my way of fucking with SOB and I didn't really mean anything by it.
"But I do remember we talked about possibly changing the name to BQE [Brooklyn-Queens Expressway] as a connection between Brooklyn [the Merauder guys' hometown] and Queens [Eddie's hometown]. It was going to stand for 'Brooklyn Queens Expression,' or something like that. But because the band was on Century Media, we stayed with Merauder."
As previously mentioned in this piece, the Merauder '98 demo was never meant to be heard outside of the Century Media Records offices, which begs the question, how did the recording end up getting out there? "SOB showed it to friends and made dubs of it for them. That original group of people made copies and it just went on from there. There’s not even really a decent-sounding version of that demo out there. Either way, the demo was never even mixed or mastered, so the fact that it got out there for public consumption annoyed me back then."
Despite the demo's rocky history, I told Eddie during our recent conversation how much I enjoyed the material and asked if there were any plans on doing a proper standalone release for it. "I actually wanted to reissue the demo with Anthony a few years ago, but he's not the easiest person to work with, and you know, I'm sure I'm not either. The problem is the demo is gone, so there's no way to really give the songs a proper mix and/or mastering job at this point."
The Eddie/Merauder lineup lasted long enough to birth two live appearances. "We did Coney Island High and Sid Da Kid videotaped it, so there's some shitty version of that show out there. But man, it's horrible! [Laughs] The second show was at that place that was called the Bank. It was a matinee and the turnout wasn't good for that show. That was it for us when it came to live shows."
Eddie explains how his Merauder partnership came to an end: "I remember they tried to say that they had kicked me out, but the truth is that I quit. I had paid about a grand out of my own pocket to have a lawyer look through the Century Media paperwork, which the label refused to pay me for. I just wanted my basic respect, but Century Media actually wanted to take half of my songwriting publishing. I wasn’t going to have that bullshit. After what Century Media had done by not reimbursing me for my legal fees and trying to take my songwriting money, that was enough for me. I wasn’t going to be some prostitute for some fucking record label. I walked out and Jorge came back. I hate how that all ended. I miss SOB and I'm glad we got to work together."
When I interviewed him for the site in 2017, Jorge said the following when I asked him about the Eddie/Merauder demo: "Eddie would have to explain his situation, but the demo was awesome! I fucking loved it and even went to a show at Coney Island High and slammed everyone to the ground for them [laughs]."
All record label drama aside, how does Eddie look back at his short run with Merauder, over two decades after the fact? "Look, I took a shot with Merauder as a way to prove to this genre and scene that I can play with anybody and make something happen. I was always trying to incorporate an R&B vibe to this hardcore kind of music. For this interview, I want to make sure that people know I was keeping it real and didn't mean anything disparaging about the musicians involved. The Merauder time period was a chance for me to show people that my specific skills and talent can carry over to another band. I think in some ways I did that."
Stay tuned for some Leeway NYC news coming to the site very soon. In the meantime, give Eddie a follow on Instagram.
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Tagged: leeway, leeway nyc, merauder