The Bird of Ill Omen were a South Florida hardcore band from the late 1990s and one of my favorites to see live. The opening song Sharpshooter from their first CD/LP Self, Dare You Still Breathe? (Eulogy Recordings 1998) remains a favorite hardcore song of mine. They eventually broke up in 1999. You can read an autobiographical postmortem of the band written by guitarist Peter Bartsocas here some years afterward. This was an interview I did with the band via e-mail in April/May 1998. Despite their threat at the end of the exchange about how I’d better publish it and how they had to miss episodes of The Rockford Files because of it… I never did.
Phil > How long have you been together?
The Bird > We’ve been together since August 1996.
Phil > Was Damien Moyal originally in the band, like the rumors say?
The Bird > Yes, Damien was in the band. In the beginning, when we were just jamming out. We figured we’d give him a call at the time, see that he’d been kicked out of Morning Again, and we thought it would work out OK. I guess now that I think about it, the band didn’t really start doing anything until Damien quit. So, March of 1997 is when we started getting serious. However, there are some lyrics that are used on the CD.
Phil > How much of the original band is still around?
The Bird > Since the recording, we’ve just replaced our drummer after our summer tour in 1997, and we just found out that Shane (our singer) is getting married, so he’s moving back home to Ohio.
Phil > What do you do outside of the band?
The Bird > Well, Andrew (aka “Bones”, “Andy Slims”) usually hangs around his house doing something involving music, filming, listening to Tori Amos and reading. I’m usually at Andrew’s house eating all his food and I like to read. Tom (aka “The Bruiser”) works some of the time and does his other band Dead Men’s Theory with Andrew and The Springfields, our other nonsense. On occasion, we try to finish our short film entitled “TQ at the DQ”. Jose (aka lil’ Jorge) spends most of his time since winter, touring the country. He hangs out in Toronto and flies to Spain and Italy, and just all around is having the time of his life. He has relatives over in Europe, so he’s just kind of traveling the continent.
Phil > Without starting any trouble, do you get along well?
The Bird > No comment. Just kidding. We get along real good.
Phil > What was making the CD like? Did it turn out how you expected?
The Bird > Doing the CD was a fun experience. Being in the studio with everyone had its memorable moments. I guess for what it is, we’re happy. But it’s been a while, and we have more focus on where Bird of Ill Omen songs are headed. The layout basically came out how we wanted. We definitely wanted each song to capture a certain feeling, and I think that all six songs are really different from each other. We wanted each song to have it’s own page, so you can sort of build your own story to it, related to it in your own way. If you’re not used to lengthy songs, then it could drag, but it’s something you’ve got to be in the right mood for to listen to, I guess.
Phil > What was the craziest experience at a show?
The Bird > We’ve had our share of crazy shows. Well, on the summer tour in 1997, at the Indianapolis Fest (sloppy fucking show, but fun), I ended up breaking my ax (hahaha) and my toe. I had to use crutches for the rest of the tour. That sucked! Tom (he plays the bass guitar) at a show in Toronto, he dropped his pick in the middle of the song and when he went to pick it up, his hang nail snagged the carpet and it was a blood fest after that. It was pouring to say the least. Another cool show was on Hollow’s Eve of 1997, when we all dressed up in nun outfits. We ended our set with Die, Die My Darling (The Misfits), when the infamous Bubba C., oxblood colored suit, Fu Manchu ‘stache and all, came running out from the back of the guitar cabinets with a gallon of fake blood and drenched everyone. It was the same recipe that KISS uses, so that’s pretty cool.
Phil > What was the worst venue you played at?
The Bird > Probably our second show at Cheers. It was a Food Not Bombs benefit show, and we sounded real shitty. Maybe there are some others, but I’ve probably blocked them out of my head.
Phil > Do you think the South Florida scene gets a bad rap for being overly violent?
Tom > I think certain groups used to get slack, but everyone basically knows each other now. Most of the groups that consider South Florida violent are usually the kids from outside looking in and don’t have a clue of what’s going on!
Phil > Where do your lyrics come from? Personal experiences? They don’t seem as political as some other hardcore bands, yet still get your point across (see the song Sharpshooter).
The Bird > We can mostly thank Baby Jesus for these complex, cold-hearted beings–we’ll call them women, and relationships, because without them, we wouldn’t have much to cry about. We try not to be political, but if there is a topic on our mind, then we’ll write about it. We can write about things that everyone else writes about, but we like to have a twist to it and hit the subject from a different angle and not be so mundane.
Phil > Who is your favorite band to play with? Both times I’ve seen you play, it’s been with Shai Hulud.
The Bird > I don’t think we have a favorite band to play with. We would play with anyone. It doesn’t matter, as long as there are plenty of underage and unsuspecting boys/girls to sexually humiliate at the show.
Phil > Do any of you indulge in art?
Peter > I like to do performance art, like dressing up in leotard and dancing to Yanni, and I’m taking some ballet classes on the side, but still working on the split.
Tom > Now that you mentioned it, when I was in the slammer, I really began to indulge in the autobiographies of Gary Horowitz. I love that man!
Andrew > Well, I’m a big fan of independent, foreign, and art films. An excellent movie I just was was ‘Leather Jacket Love Story’ and ‘Happy Together’.
Jose > Art’s for fags!
Shane > I deal in foreign cars. That’s my art. I prefer European cars over girls. I mean, how many times has an Alpha Romeo broken your heart, unless some other dude is driving one and doggin’ out the clutch.
Phil > Do you see a problem with the larger hardcore bands, like Earth Crisis, Sick of it All or Snapcase? Do you think they further the goals of the scene or only commercialize it?
The Bird > I don’t have any problem with it. I think they do a little of both. I’m sure if almost any band were in their shoes, they’d do the same. It’s not like they changed their style or beliefs to be on majors. Who cares.
Phil > Do you usually do interviews?
The Bird > We’ve done like three interviews, and we enjoy them.
Phil > What is your favorite place to do shows?
The Bird > My favorite place for shows was Cheers; to play or see bands. Ask anyone in South Florida about Cheers. They did a lot for the scene down here.
Phil > Who do you see as the South Florida band with the most promise out there now?
The Bird > With the most promise, probably Shai Hulud, Bretheren, Ed Matus’ Struggle, Morning Again, A New Found Glory, and of course, Dead Men’s Theory and The Springfields. Actually, all the bands suck down here, including us. Just kidding.
Phil > Your feelings on Ska?
Tom > I think traditional Ska, like Derrick Morgan, Desmond Dekker and guys like that rule, but this goofball MTV pseudo-ska, like No Doubt, can suck it.
Peter > I like Operation Ivy and that’s about it.
Phil > Is there anything new coming out? Tours? Releases?
The Bird > As far as releases go, we’re going into the studio mid-October to record a four song 7″ and six song CD on Eulogy Recordings. Touring in August with New Day Rising and Europe in February. The vinyl version of Self, Dare You Still Breathe? should be out in July if we get the new layout done on time. That’s about it.
Phil > What do you think you do best?
Peter > I’m good at writing poetry and being an asshole. Seriously, ask anyone, but I’m on the quest for the perfect tan.
Jose > I work three jobs to support my family, preppy! I have no time for hobbies, but my maximum bench press is 270 lbs.
Shane > Repairing fuel injection on foreign sports cars and Saved By The Bell trivia. What was the name of the dance by Screech and Lisa at The Max?
Tom > Tantric sex and he’s won several belching contests.
Andrew > I’m good at Grecko-Roman wrestling and baking vegan goodies.
Phil > Closing comments?
The Bird > This interview better come out because we all wasted valuable time on this. We even missed The Rockford Files for it. Foreign cars are far superior to girls. Gliders are coming strong. Air hockey on the rise! Watch The Simpsons, weiners.