Negative Element was my first "real" band. We were born out of the working class suburbs of southwest Chicago in 1980. I did have a few grade school bands before this, when I was a kid, but the first one to actually play songs was NRK (get it? an-ar-ky? clever, huh?). It was just me and my best pal, Sparky. My first public performance was playing with Sparky on the last day of school to our 6th grade class. It was just me playing guitar, and Sparky singing, but we did tunes like "Clash City Rockers" and even "Wimp" by The Zeros. Mrs. Grace, our teacher, was very sweet about the whole thing, albeit a bit bewildered. We later got Sparky's brother Mike (who we called Little Guy) to play bass. We started off just playing Pistols and Clash covers, but quickly started writing.
A lot of the songs we wrote before we graduated the 8th grade later ended up on the 7", and comprised half of -X's future setlist. Eventually, we got my brother Barry on guitar, and all we needed was a drummer. We found a guy, Dave Kaska, who played Negative Element's first show at a health club, where my mother worked, on Halloween night, 1980. I was 12 years old. Dave didn't really get the whole punk thing, so we needed a new drummer. We found him, in a punk-as-hell kid named Keith Lyons, at an arcade (hey, we were kids). We had also let Little Guy go at this point, and I took over on bass. After that, it was full speed ahead. Our first release was a track on the now infamous "Meathouse" compilation. We recorded it on a boom box (but we used a metal cassette, to insure superior sound quality). The label was Version Sound, out of Ohio, who later released the "Yes, We Have No Bananas" ep (which was later reissued in 2009 by Japanese label Akashic Records).
After the Meathouse release, we lost Sparky. He was replaced by good friend, Tom Faulkner. The final line up was Tom on vocals, my brother, Barry, on guitar, me on bass, and Keith on drums. We existed from 1980-1983. The band split up when my Pops got transferred to Peoria, Il, for his job. We would get back to Chicago frequently after the move, and even did one last hurrah at the Centro American Social Club, opening for Minor Threat.
We were messy and snotty, and we were still just little kids. We played sloppy, and we didn't give a shit. I had played with Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, JFA, The Crucifucks, MDC, etc, before I was even 15 years old. That's a powerful time to be exposed to such radical thinking. The punk rock bug had firmly taken root. Formative years and punk rock are a volatile mix. But, in a weird way, I was home.
Negative Element also appear in the film
"You Weren't There - A History Of Chicago Punk 1977-1984".
(Regressive Films/Factory 25)
This is some rare footage of Negative Element live-1983-Centro American Social Club-Chicago
These are some little known recordings.. The sound quality ain't that good, but it catches the feeling… These were recorded in the same way we recorded our first track for the "Meathouse" comp. We put a boom box in front of the band, and the singer just sang right into the internal mics on the boom box. We thought it made it sound like a real studio recording, although the "Meathouse" track was recorded in my parent's basement, and these were recorded in the now infamous Keith Garage, Named so because it was drummer Keith's garage. Our practice spot. Later to be host to some infamous shows.
These are some tracks from the "Yes! We Have No Bananas!!" ep.