Louie Rivera (Antidote)

Antidote, CBGB's, 1983

Antidote's Thou Shalt Not Kill 7" from 1983 was one of those NYHC holy grails when I first started collecting records. Between Ray Cappo mentioning the EP as one of his primary vocal influences in a zine interview, and Absolution covering "Something Must be Done" live; it promptly became a must-have for me that badly dubbed cassette copies of only added to its allure. Antidote's blend of vicious, fast tunes with dynamic breakdowns filtered through heavy metal influences set the bar for the ensuing NYHC bands to come.

Now, decades after breaking up, Antidote has resurfaced, playing frequently and putting out new material, which I dig, but I've always wondered whatever happened to their first singer, Louie Rivera. Apart from a short interview a dozen years ago, there was scant info on his whereabouts. Finally tracking him down, I decided to pick Rivera's brain and kick off what will hopefully be a series of interviews with OG NYHC pioneers.

Let's take if from the beginning: where did you grow up and how did a Boricua like you get involved with the hardcore scene?

Well, to begin with, I was born and raised in a good old waterfront city across the Hudson river called Jersey City, N.J., which is right next to Hoboken, N.J., and allow me to say this that way before I was exposed to what would become the NYHC scene and the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

I used to work the door at famous nightclubs that were located downtown between Canal and Chambers streets. One was called Tier 3, which was on the corner of West Broadway and White St., and the other was the Mudd Club (located at 77 White St.). That is where I witnessed a slew of great acts like The Specials, The Psychedelic Furs, and The Cramps, just to name a few, without tooting my horn too loudly [laughs]. But I think it's really important to state that and make this fact very clear, 'cause I just turned 55 years young just last month, so go back, brother, to a period way before the term "hardcore" was even mentioned.

SEE ALSO: Interview with Mike Gibbons (Leeway)

The club Tier 3 was where [Cro-Mags bassist/singer] Harley Flanagan's mother worked at as bartender, so it's where I first met him, who at the time was only 12 and hanging out inside of a freaking nightclub at that age! That's how cool that little mofo was, and, of course, his mom working there also helped. That club is where I also met my good brother, and still true friend, Mr. Nick Marden. It was during his pre-Even Worse and pre-Stimulators days. It was those two that I ran into one afternoon on the corner of 1st Ave. and 11th St. I asked them where they were heading and they told me that they were on their way up to Central Park during the RAR/Rock Against Racism days to go see this band that The Stimulators had played with in DC, called the Bad Brains. That was the day that my life as I had known it up 'til then completely transformed forever as I stood there and witnessed them play "Pay to Cum" for the first time!

Louie (in the Bad Brains shirt) at a Minor Threat show, Irving Plaza, 1982

What were some of the other shows you saw early on?

I think one of the first shows I ever went to, even before I started working at the doors of the clubs I just mentioned, was the New York Dolls with The Mad and The Stimulators at Max's Kansas City.

Were you involved with the hip-hop scene that was going on during that era?

I used to love sliding over to 18th St. and 11th Ave., where The Roxy was located, so I could check out the N.Y.C. Breakers do some battling with the Rock Steady Crew. One of my boys used to work the door, so getting into that spot was a piece of cake [laughs].

A7 show flyer, 1983

I believe you worked the door at A7 and CBGB's in the early stages of the NYHC scene. How did that come about?

I never worked at CBGB's, but since I was by then a Bad Brains stage tech, I had access to all of that and [Bad Brains bassist] Darryl Jenifer used to always tell me to keep those "MAD-ITES" away from his Ampeg SVT head and cabinet, so it was my job to do that [laughs]. I never worked the door at A7, but I did work the door at all of the shows that were done at 171A, and by the time Dave from A7 decided to expand over to the 2+2/A7 annex, I was asked to work the door there as well.

How and when did you meet Robb Nunzio and the other folks who would go on to form Antidote?

They (Nunzio and drummer Arthur/Googy) were playing as a trio with Nunzio on vocals one night at the 2+2 club. I had already known Nunzio just from being around the NYHC scene, so at their next show, which took place at CBGB's, we were all sitting backstage smoking mad weed and Googy was writing a song which turned out be his only song on the EP, "Real Deal." He asked me if I would go up and sing his song, so I did and that's it, history took place right there and then and from that moment on I was in the band. We started to carve and pave our way into what would become the NYHC history books [laughs].

Louie (in the sunglasses) at an MDC show, Reggae Lounge, 1983

Did you sing or play in any other band before joining Antidote?

Yeah, I did. When Harley was putting together the Cro-Mags, with the original lineup of him on bass, ex-Mad drummer Dave Hann, and a pre-Even Worse Dave Stein on guitar, I was singing with them until Mr. Eric Casanova came in the picture. We're talking about a year before Mr. Bloodclot himself, John Joseph, ever set foot on NYHC soil [laughs]. So, yeah, while they were still in their rehearsal stage at 171A, I was singing with them.

Antidote/Misfits show flyer, 1983

Your vocal style is quite distinct. Did any other hardcore/punk singers influence you?

Yeah, I was always into Mr. Darby Crash of the Germs.

Original Antidote logo sketch by FAME

The cover of Antidote's 7" features a striking Hare Krishna-related image. Were you or any other members of the band into Krishna consciousness back then?

Yes, I lived in the Brooklyn temple for a few months and I chanted on the beads, and Googy got into it for a little while. We were all being influenced by John Joseph, who was on the scene by then.

Over the years, the one negative criticism I've heard about the 7" is the supposed anti-immigrant stance in the lyrics to "Foreign Job Lot." What's your take on that and who wrote the lyrics?

By the time Nunzio wrote that song, we were pretty much charging our way to trying to get to the first 20 to 25 songs up under our belts so we could have a solid 30 to 45 minute set. We were kind of a little blind to fact that, yeah, maybe some people would eventually find what he wrote a little bit offensive, but, hey, Freddy, man, don't forget back then we were just flying from the seat of our pants, sir [laughs].

By 1984, Antidote had a new singer, what happened? Are there any other songs you remember singing that didn't make it onto the 7"?

I think the reason for everyone choosing to eventually go their separate ways came down to two reasons. The first was that even though we were a great unit when we were all up on stage together, the second we left that stage, the conflict of egos began between me, Bliss, and Nunzio. You could not cram another person into that room even if you tried [laughs].

The second reason why we went our separate ways? I don't know if anyone else in the band noticed, but I know I sure the hell did; Nunzio started showing to gigs somewhat under the "influence." I'll just leave it at that 'cause if you're smart enough to understand where I'm coming from, the picture should come clearly into focus, Freddy. Just so that we're on the same page here, I gave up those two bridge-burning douchebags a very, very long time ago.

Long Island show flyer,1984.

What did you do after leaving Antidote in 1984?

I ended up leaving the tri-state area and headed south to Atlanta, Ga. where I've been ever since, and, yes, I started working on a music project here, but things didn't pan out. I've been here working with some local bands for about a year now, selling merch, and working as a consultant.

I read some online interview years ago that you were working in a restaurant somewhere out on the Midwest. Did you keep in touch with what was going on in the NYHC scene during those years?

Yeah, I did that interview about 10 years ago, and at that time, yes, I was working in a restaurant as a dishwasher. I would always go see all of the NYHC bands like the Bad Brains and such. They would keep me in the loop about what was going on back home and tell me all about the up and coming bands that were now making waves on the NYHC scene.

What else are you up to these days and what bands have you gone on tour with lately?

As I stated earlier, I've been working with a couple of local Atlanta bands: Antagonizers ATL and Magoo's Heroes. The Antagonizers' bassist is Billy Fields, who was also the original keyboard player of a well-known Atlanta band from back in the day called Follow for Now. When HR came to Atlanta, and formed his solo project (the HR band), he recruited Mr. Fields as his keyboard player and Mr. Mark Magee a.k.a. Mr. Magoo, who used to be in the bands Condemned 84 and the Anti-Heroes. So I'm a consultant and a merch man for both bands. The last tour I was out on was with the mighty Gang Green and the Antagonizers ATL down in Florida back in spring of this year. For the last four months, I've been in recovery since suffering an injury.

I've seen progress on Facebook of the full tattoo back piece of the Antidote cover you're getting done.

I've always had the thought of doing this for many years, but I was never in a financial position to be able to afford a couple of thousand dollars to do so until I came to Atlanta. Over the years, I've been pinching my pennies and going through the process of finding an artist who was gonna be good enough to recreate that image onto my back. Then, one day, about a year ago, I ran into a truly good friend that I've known for about 15 to 20 years now: Mr. Tad Coleman. We sat down and had some lunch and started doing some catching up when he told me he had become a tattoo artist. So after that, a mutual friend of ours passed away very suddenly (RIP Ria Pell) who we all loved and now is truly missed, 'cause she was such an iconic figure in this town. After we laid her to rest, the shop that Tad was working at had drawn up a very cool tribute design tattoo for her, so I went up and we made a cool tattoo that's now permanently on the top of my right hand. After re-establishing our connection, we are now at this juncture with my back as his canvas... the "Law of Karma" piece.

Rivera's unfinished Antidote tattoo

Did you do any graffiti back in the day? If so, what was your tag and were you down with any crews?

Yeah, man, I got into the graffiti thing back then. My tag was SALT 1. I was down with crews like RTW (Rolling Thunder Writers), TVS (The Vamp Squad), and OTB (Out to Bomb).

SEE ALSO: The Graffiti and Hardcore Connection

How did MOI (Mode of Ignorance) fit in with the Antidote timeline, did Nunzio start that band with Bloodclot around the same time as Antidote?

MOI was a side project that Nunzio decided to help do with John Joseph because it was JJ's first band during the golden era of NYHC. It was all about the unity and we would help each other out like that. The fact that we were pretty much all hanging out together, on a day in, day out basis, it was bound to happen eventually whether it was Nunz or any other talented guitar player on the NYHC music scene at that time.

Antidote has continued throughout the years, putting out a couple of LPs and recently playing in Europe. Do you still follow what they've been up to?

The only two people that I stay in touch with these days are the man himself, Mr. Robb Nunzio, and the kid that replaced Arthur/Googy on drums, Chris Praz. Let's face it, even though it might be a tough pill for some people to swallow, when kids/people think about the band Antidote these days, the one and only thing that is pulled up into their heads is the Thou Shall Not Kill 7" EP, not that No Peace in Our Time 12". It was the Thou 7" that set the bar for the NYHC scene, and whatever "legacy" that came after that was due to the EP and clearly not the 12". I wish them well as they are moving forward, but they will never in all of their efforts be able to put out anything that can compare to that EP, Freddy.

One last question, and this is from a mutual friend of ours: what was up with you standing on the edge of the stage at CBGB's, while bouncing, and having a Papa Smurf plush while wearing big ass Gazelle glasses back in the day?

The so called "Papa Smurf," well, that had more to do with all the hair that was on my head at that point. Back then, everybody was going "wet-look" crazy, so I would rock mine to sorta look kinda like, what I thought, was Lux Interior from The Cramps, but, I guess, it resembled a Papa Smurf! But let me tell a story about how the Papa Smurf was shaved off.

One Sunday afternoon, we were backstage rolling many spliffs before we went on. All of a sudden, Kevin Crowley from The Abused came into the doorway holding those clippers that he went around shaving heads with and looked me right in the eyes and said, "Okay, Louie, it's time for that Smurf to go," and I think the last thing he thought I was gonna do was just calmly turn my head and say, "Okay, buddy, let's get on with it then!" The Gazelle glasses were something I always had at ready on the weekend, so when I got to The Roxy on 10th Ave. and 18th St., I would be fresh [laughs].

Rivera in 2014

If there is anything you want to add, feel free. Thanks for the interview, Louie!

My first need is to pay my respects to our fallen brothers and sisters: RIP Mr. Patrick Mack (original singer for The Stimulators), RIP Mr. David Martin Scilken (original singer for The Young and the Useless), RIP Mr. Dave Insurgent (original singer for Reagan Youth), RIP Mr. David Hann (original drummer for The Mad), RIP Mr. Dave Parsons (did the artwork for the Bad Brains' ROIR cassette, and original owner of the Rat Cage and Rat Cage Records), RIP Mr. Jerry Williams a.k.a. Jay Dublee (owner of 171A, original engineer of the Bad Brains' ROIR cassette, and sound man at CBGB's), RIP Mr. Raybeez (original drummer of Agnostic Front and singer of Warzone), RIP Mr. Howard Saunders a.k.a. the great "cosmic commander" and also one of Philly's greatest promoters, RIP Mr. Adam Yauch a.k.a. MCA (original bassist and founding member of the Beastie Boys), RIP Mr. Frenchy (original roadie for Agnostic Front and just a good old stand up person on the NYHC scene back then), RIP to two of the original Dogtown Z-Boys (Mr. Shogo Kubo and Mr. Jay Adams a.k.a. J-Boy), RIP Mr. Andy Apathy (Reagan Youth bassist), and RIP Miss Ria Pell a.k.a. Miss Big Chicken who we lost way too soon here in the ATL.

I would also like to give thanks to Mr. Freddy Alva for allowing me to say these few words to set a few things straight, and thanks again for all the love and positive vibrations and support sent my way during these last four months of my recovery since what I refer to as the "incident." Much love and respect to you all... and always do your best to keep the PMA flowing all day and every day!