Arts Desk

Void Discusses Emptying the Vaults, Being Punk-Rock in Columbia

A week before Halloween, Dischord is scheduled to release Sessions 1981-83, a new archival release from Columbia, Md.’s Void. One of the first bands to add metallic elements to hardcore punk, Void appeared on two records during its early-'80s existence: the scene-defining D.C. hardcore compilation Flex Your Head, and a split LP with the D.C. hardcore act Faith.

A few years ago, Dischord’s Ian MacKaye began searching his archives for material to expand the Void discography. He came up with an albums’ worth of mostly unreleased recordings, the core of which is a 20-song session from November 1981 that predates Void’s Flex Your Head recordings by a month. Also included is the entirety of Void’s Flex Your Head session, as well as outtakes from Faith/Void, and a couple live tracks from late in the band’s career.

Sessions 1981-83 is reviewed in this week’s City Paper alongside Dischord’s expanded reissue of Faith’s swan song, Subject to Change. As background for the review, I corresponded, via email, with Void guitarist Bubba Dupree and Void bassist Chris Stover about the band’s history and Sessions 1981-83. (I also interviewed members of Faith.)

Were the members of Void in high school during the years covered by Sessions 1981-83?

Dupree: Yes, I graduated in '83.

Did all the members attend the same school?

Dupree: No, I went to public school and those guys went to some fancy prep school.

Stover: [Void drummer] Sean [Finnegan], [Void vocalist] John [Weiffenbach] and I went to Loyola High School in Baltimore. Bubba went to Oakland Mills in Columbia. Bubba did not have the luxury of an all-male catholic boys school education that tends to leave some a little scarred.

What was Columbia, Md., like in those days?

Dupree: It was mostly populated by rednecks and idealistic ex-hippies. Outside of sports or hanging out at the Wawa or running around in the woods, there was absolutely nothing to do.

Stover: Columbia is/was one those Rouse Planned Community deals. Your lawn had to look a certain way. Everything is organized. I lived in one of the neighborhoods that was there before Columbia. You would get this contrast driving out of my neighborhood—with older-looking houses—to brand-newly developed houses and schools, all pristine and perfect. It was an interesting mix of people and architecture.

Also, [given that Columbia] is situated between D.C. and Baltimore, I did not spend a lot of time there, per se. I'd look for any excuse to get out of town to go skate or go to a show, because that stuff just wasn't happening in Columbia.

Void appeared on Flex Your Head back in 1981. How did you first meet Dischord’s Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson?

Dupree: I don't really remember. I think Chris and Sean had been hanging out in D.C. a lot, but I wasn't allowed yet to go on long car rides—just to hang out.

Stover: I first met Jeff and Ian when Teen Idles played Oddfellows Hall in Towson, Md., opening for a friend’s band, The Bollocks. Two to three carloads of people from D.C. showed up for the show. From the first note Teen Idles hit, the five to 10 non-D.C.-ites in the room were like, "Holy shit, what the hell is going on?" We became friends soon after.

Who came up with the idea for the Faith/Void split? Were you approached with this idea? Or did it come from Void?

Stover: I believe it was Ian who approached us with the idea. We were excited to be part of the Dischord family, so we were up for anything Jeff and Ian wanted to do.

Dischord spokesperson Alec Bourgeois told me that another label was interested in doing a Void discography. What label was that? Why did you opt for the Sessions 1981-83 project instead?

Stover: Greg [Anderson] from Southern Lord approached me and Bubba about doing something. Dischord has access to most of our materials, so I told Greg we would have to run it by Ian. Ian had said he has been wanting to do this for a while, but was not sure how to approach it. We talked it over and Sessions 1981-83 is the result.

How long had it been since you heard the various recordings included on Sessions 1981-83? Were they a surprise?

Dupree: Since 1981-83, pretty much. I don't even remember recording most of it.

Stover: I could not tell you how long. Seems like forever. I think the real surprise was how much shit Ian had in his archives. Band-practice recordings. Live recordings. All kinds of stuff.

Void has been especially influential in the metal/crossover underground. Was metal an influence when the band was together?

Stover: Definitely. Motorhead. Maiden. Ozzy and Sabbath. The Nuge, pre-NRA/Hunter/whatever-his-gig-is-today.

Before Void broke up, in 1983, the band recorded a full-length for Touch & Go. Why was it shelved?

Stover: Some things are better left unreleased. It’s out there on the Interwebs for free if you want it.

Photo by Jim Saah.

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