An interview with Javier Van Huss of Extricate

Many, many years ago when the world was young, and I was even younger, all full of piss and vinegar and straight edge spunk there was a record label called Life Sentence. Life Sentence put out heavy straight edge records that were often moshy, occasionally meat headed, but always hard as fuck. This was a time where straight edge militance was a “thing” and I, being something of a zealot about dumb shit like that, proceeded to devour the Life Sentence back catalogue with a vengeance. xClearx and Torn Apart were my favs until I discovered a CD called Lifeless by the band Eighteen Visions. The front cover had a group of pilgrims being nailed up on crucifixes. The music sounded like the fella from Bloodlet fronting a Poundworld Disembodied, screaming about Satan and saying no to drugs or some shit. Needless to say in 1997, I was ABOUT that.

As I scoured every detail of the CD I happened to note that the bassist’s name was Javier Van Huss. For some reason the idea of a Mexican with a Dutch name in a satanic straight edge band seemed very cool to me. When one of my old bands played some shows with Eighteen Visions I immediately wanted to see what a dutch Mexican looked like only to be informed by his former bandmates that they had kicked his ass out the band. Years later I’m singing in Rot In Hell, and this guy Jav is enthusing about our records online all over the place. Turns out it’s the same guy. Small world huh? Now we are friends and I slept on his driveway last year when I was in California. Hardcore is cool sometimes. Anyhow aside from texting me about The Mandalorian at some unholy hour of the morning, now Jav’s in a band called Extricate who are fucking great…

Nathan Bean: Jav, you are a bit of a hardcore journeyman. How did you discover hardcore, what was the first show you attended?

Jav: I can’t say if i discovered punk from a local cable TV channel that had a show that played weird videos, or from Thrasher, or from both simultaneously. I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico from about age 6 until age 11, and i spent a lot of time by myself. My brother has one of the most severe forms of cerebral palsy, so I spent a lot of time cooped up in the house with him. There was a cable access show that had these videos from Skinny Puppy and Dead Milkmen and Rollins and it blew my fucking mind. Then I would see the shirts in the back of Thrasher, and I knew there was something going on out there.

We moved to Orange County when i was about 11 or 12, right when people start forming their own identity. Luckily, there were two kids across the street also into skateboarding, and i just became more and more exposed to punk. A kid named Quey gave me a tape with Gorilla Biscuits and Judge on one side and Operation Ivy on another, and that was the start. Went to a show in a warehouse a few months later and Blackspot was the first hardcore band I ever saw, I reckon in 1992. By the summer of 93 I didn’t care about much else.

Nathan Bean: What was your first project? Zine or a band or what? What was the trigger that inspired you to go from observer to participant?

Jav: My mom always had a guitar around the house, so I would pretend to play songs at an early age. I got together with some other young idiots around the age of 16 and we thought we could craft some songs. By 18 I had a band that was playing in living rooms and high school competitions. Around this time I also put together my first zine, called Nine Dot. I made 2 or 3 issues, all cut and paste with photos that I had taken on my AE-1. The local record store was stocked with zines and it became clear to me that this was something that was encouraged – to make shit yourself.

Nathan Bean: You’ve definitely had some ups and downs with hardcore but despite all the bullshit you somehow remain keen and enthusiastic, whats the secret?

Jav: I think the secret to longevity in anything is to have fun. Hardcore isn’t a chore to me. Being in a band isn’t a chore to me. I surround myself with people who are fun and want to do fun stuff, and if they don’t serve that purpose anymore then it’s time to move on.

Nathan Bean: For the Apathy and Exhaustion readers give us a bit of background on your previous musical endeavours, I want full transparency.

Jav: I began playing in garage bands by 17. The first “real” band that I was in was Enewetak. The bass player had gone on an extended vacation and they asked me to play bass. I played my first show on a stage and went into the recording studio to do 3 songs that ended up on the split with Unruh in 1996. After that, I was approached by Ken and James of 18 Visions to play bass for them. I did that until 2000, when I knew it was “jump ship before you get pushed off”. I played guitar in a band called Wrench and recorded a few tracks with them which went uncredited or erased because I left to do a tour playing bass in Poison The Well. This was early 2001. I chose not to move to Florida to do it full time, so I started The Mistake. We did that on and off from 2001 until 2016 or so. Extricate came together in 2018. I also played guitar in Throwdown, in Hurricanrana (which went on to become Donnybrook) and in a band called Break Neck which did one show and then the members regrouped to form Bleeding Through. Might be missing something in there, but who cares at this point right?

Nathan Bean: Anyone who has been around the core for a long time accumulates stories. Tell me about some gnarly shit you’ve seen whilst on the road?

Jav: There is an infamous story/urban legend called “The Hoods In The Woods” which I witnessed first hand, but I’m not entirely sure I should talk about it here. Other than that, I mostly just saw a lot of fuckery that toes the line between “boys will be boys” and “what a bunch of idiots”.

Nathan Bean: The one question I always ask everyone is to give me some local lore from your ends, like do you got a serial killer or some crazy fucking kid from school, were there satanists in your hometown or a lake monster or some shit.

Jav: I did most of my growing up in the Orange County, CA towns of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach. If you’ve seen the TV show The O.C., that’s exactly where I went to high school, and it was pretty well portrayed.

Before a certain area of the town was paved over and colonized, it was known as The Castaways, which I still think is one of the fucking coolest names of an area ever. It was a bluff overlooking a bay, with a view of a large bridge that’a part of Pacific Coast Highway. It was just a large field that ended in a cliff, and there was an area with large felled trees and stumps that kind of formed a circle. You could tell that fires had happened there, and rumors of satanic activity were well circulated. That could have just been left over from the “satanic panic” of the 1980s, or it could be real, who knows. Eventually, a police officer was shot and killed there and they renamed it Bob Henry park and now its a real nice place to raise kids.

Also, Jim “The Anvil” Niedhart went to our highschool, as well as Ted McGinly (Jefferson Darcy, who was rumored to have slept with my English teacher Miss Coffee), and the skater Omar Hassan.

Nathan Bean: Extricate is a very focussed musical animal, I know we talked a bit right around the time you were putting it together about how hard was to get the right people… talk me through the line up and how you pitched the band to the members.

Jav: The idea was formed between myself and Chris who had sung in the band Seven Generations. We have been friends since the 90s, and somehow he always tolerated me. We had the idea to do a 90s hardcore sounding band. Finding members was difficult, what to speak of all vegan members, but we somehow pulled it together. I feel as if we are still trying to find our sound, but we have some clear ideas about who we want to rip off. Matt plays in a band called XReignX, and a sick fastcore band called Bayonet. Ben was in a band called Distressed and I think Aspen was in an early incarnation of Of Feather And Bone?

Nathan Bean: You know I’m a big OC hardcore enthusiast but you’ve mentioned before about a definite disconnect between those old bands and their members and the active bands that have sprung up in recent years

Jav: Man, Orange County Hardcore is in a real weird place right now. It’s nearly impossible to book a show that you could guarantee 200 people would show up to. Most local shows are in a skate shop that holds 80 people or less. You have some real youthful up and coming bands, and then you have old dudes who love hardcore and want to keep playing, but the young people don’t give a fuck about (and possibly vice versa). Hardcore is definitely more of an ageist place than most people will admit, because they want to focus on helping actual marginalized people (which is good, don’t get me wrong).

Talking to a friend the other day actually, when we were young it was like, “oh shit, Timmy Chunks is in a new band” or “oh this band has members of Unity and blah blah”, and we paid attention. Now, it’s like “what the fuck is this dusty fool gonna do for me?”. I don’t think it’s good or fair, but it’s the way it is.

Nathan Bean: You are forever my hero for calling out that goof from Chain Of Strength over his right wing bullshit, but how prevalent are those hardline republican sympathies in hardcore over there?

Jav: Was Minor Threat just a bunch of nice White boys singing about following the rules? Did Raid just uphold their White Christian values? I think there has always been conservative views in hardcore, but now that Trump is in power, all the assholes feel emboldened to speak up. People like Dave Smalley, Curt Canales, Steve Murad, and Duane Peters have come out with outspoken conservative values. To me, punk is about being disenfranchised with the system and wanting to speak out against it, and aligning your views with our current regime is the antithesis of that. But, I don’t mind that it’s there because it gives me something to talk shit about.

Nathan Bean: I wanna talk a little bit about The Mistake, that band seemed like a very confrontational reaction to a lot of stuff that was going on in the scene at the time… did you catch much heat for some of the stuff you were saying or was it a case of people ignoring you and hoping you went away?

Jav: When I was in high school, I loved Born Against, Struggle, Econochrist, and I obsessively watched The Decline Of Western Civilization. I poured over HeartattaCk fanzine and was kind of what they call PC. I joined 18 Visions and totally strayed off that path.

I bought the Left For Dead demo in 1997 from Chris Colohan at a show in Buffalo, and it totally blew my mind. We wanted to have a band that sounded like that, and felt like that. We really wanted to Fuck Everything Up. I had read this David Bowie quote about how to have a new art scene you really had to cause bad, ill will and fuck with people, and took that to heart. It was also the antithesis of what was happening in OC at the time. 18 Visions was going more glam, bands like A7X and Atreyu were rising. We wanted to be punx in a sea of rockers.

One of my goals for the band was to have someone try to fight me on stage, and I’m a little sad that that never happened, not for lack of trying. We really tried to push buttons and cross lines. We did shit that was totally unthinkable by today’s standards, like covering Skrewdriver (more than once), and throwing out boxes willed with fake poop at a Christmas themed show. Yelling at Christians on stage, insulting other bands by name on record.

In the end, we just took too many breaks and watched generations of hardcore kids come and go. It got boring to play to 50 kids with their arms crossed, and I didn’t have some of the same values anymore, so we called it a day.

Nathan Bean: Extricate strikes me as a band that has come together out of necessity rather than as a “yo lets write sick mosh parts and tour”. Given that the membership are all a bit older whats the plan going forward ?

Jav: As I write this, it’s early February 2019. We will be going into the studio to record a 2 song promo which will proceed our full length. It might seem a bit odd, considering that we have only played 2 live shows at this point and been a band for less than a year, but why wait? All bands should have an expiration date. We want to make our time here memorable and meaningful. We don’t have a real plan. We all have real ass jobs and families, but also have a real ass desire to get out there.

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