I'm a bit unnerved when I meet up with North Side Kings singer/guitarist Danny Marianino to drink beer and discuss the band's new record, Suburban Royalty. Danny's sporting a cast on his right arm, a broken hand being the latest injury he's sustained. He says that just a couple of months ago, he was cracked with a bottle across the eyes outside a bar, fracturing a bone in his face. And this is the guy who's infamous worldwide for knocking down Glenn Danzig with one punch at a Tuba City show (an incident captured on video and disseminated by AzPunk.com). The North Side Kings front man seems to be a trouble magnet, which seems kind of fitting when you hear the brutal new album his local hardcore band's recorded.
It had to be satisfying for Danzig fans to hear about Danny getting smashed in the face with a bottle karma coming back to kick his ass. And the broken hand? That's from punching his desk in a furious rage. But that side of him the same side that shows itself in North Side Kings songs, singing "I'll stab you in the fucking neck" doesn't show itself this evening.
Not long after Danny's oysters arrive, most of the rest of his band shows up: guitarist and vocalist Luke Bugs, bass player Tommy Quiet, and new drummer Jason Kowalski (lead guitarist Ryan Butler can't make it).
North Side Kings
"Have you ever thought about taking Prozac?" I ask Danny, only half-joking.
"I'm a really chilled-out guy," he tells me. "The Danzig thing, that wasn't just me. He talked shit to Luke's wife that day."
Still, clocking Glenn Danzig is about the best thing that could have happened for North Side Kings' notoriety. The video posting crashed AzPunk.com, and made NSK new fans worldwide. But that was a long time ago; lately, Danny's been in local news because of the benefit shows that were thrown to help offset the medical expenses of getting his face smashed with a bottle.
According to Danny, it went down like this: "We were all drinking, singing Journey songs, belting it out along with Steve Perry. These guys were starting trouble, and I walked out the door and got cracked with a bottle. I put my hands up; I couldn't really see anything. I blocked a couple, and I tried to hit [the bottle thrower], but I couldn't connect. I was pretty much blinded with a broken bottle on my eye. The guy kept coming after me. I was like, 'I can't even defend myself, stop.' He was like, 'Motherfucker, I ain't finished.' That's when I pulled out a box cutter and said, 'Get close to me [and] I'm gonna cut the fuckin' life out of you.'"
At first, Danny thought he just had a black eye, so he didn't call the cops. It ended up being much worse, requiring some expensive medical care, some of which was put on hold when Danny broke his hand punching his desk.
All the violence seems par for the course for the hardest hardcore band in the 'Nix. The new album, Suburban Royalty, raises the brutality bar even higher than the band's last full-length, Organizing Our Neighborhood. Recorded by Byron Filson at Villain Recording and sporting artwork by local tattoo artist Aaron Coleman, the record opens with "Giving Emo Kids Something to Really Cry About," a chugga-chugga anthem where Luke and Danny chant "North Side Kings" repeatedly.
The record is anything but typical hardcore, though. The problem with hardcore is that some records feel like one song that lasts 30 or 40 minutes; on Suburban Royalty, North Side Kings delve into thrash territory and punk rock, as well as hardcore shredding riffs on "Thugcore" and "My Sins," getting street punk on "Street Trash," and even catching a groove on "Hustle Don't Stop."
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The lyrics are typically vicious, seriously espousing violence on tracks like "When Push Comes to Shove" and "Organizing Our Neighborhood," but North Side Kings have a sense of humor as well. On "Nice Girls Finish Last," they sing, "Nice girls are overrated, I want a bitch who's gang-related." And on "Hustle Don't Stop," guest vocalist Puerto Rican Myke hollers about selling eightballs of coke for a hundred and forty bucks, and raps "Bitches offer me head for the good stuff, and you say crack is whack?"
The new record was supposed to drop this month, but the Kings are shopping it to new record labels, looking for more support than their former label, Thorp, is capable of providing. "There's not much a record label's got to do," Danny tells me. "We want to get a little bit of a push. People know the name all around the world; it's not like we're a new band where a label has a lot of work to do."
That much is true. An aura of violence surrounds the band, and, via the Danzig video, it's known worldwide. But after a couple of hours hanging out with the band, I'm not intimidated in the least. The new record is actually the most threatening thing about North Side Kings.
"This album's more aggressive, in your face, than the last one," Danny says. "The last one hits you in the face. This one kicks you in the face after you got punched."