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Rise Above’s Founding Member On B Is For Boston

The record we’ll be discussing here is also the final Rise Above record. It is called ‘B Is For Boston’ and is the original pressing of this record on a French label called Stand As One Records. It is an extremely rare (350 made) and coloured vinyl record. It has a nice picture of the band members on the back and slick artwork on the front of the cover. I was totally unaware of the rich content behind this record. It was almost too much for me to take but I had the chance to communicate with the founding member of Rise Above. So I asked him some questions. These questions were answered in a good way, so you’ll be reading some interesting and even funny stuff about this record.

Rise Above “B Is For Boston” 7 inch front cover

First of all, is there a particular reason why so few of this record are made?
It is what the owner of the French label who released it, wanted. We were not for nor against it. He was a crazy collector so I think he wanted to create his own rare releases.

Is the small amount made the reason why a friend of the band made an official repress under the name ‘B Is For Bootleg’?

Yeah, he had a small label and I guess he was looking for more releases. Again, we didn’t really care, he asked, we said okay and that’s it.

About the cover, it is inspired by the KISS II cover? Can you explain what attracted you in KISS?

Well, Hans was really into KISS, he totally turned me on to them, they made some great records back in the day ! Then because this was our second release, I had this vision of changing KISS ALIVE II into RISE ABOVE II, it made perfect sense to me and I still like the idea, I think the cover came out nicely.

The first song was to explain what you guys were militantly all about, namely sxe and vegetarianism. Is that why you adapted the Slapshot slogan “Boston, where the meat is red”. To make it recognizable and clear?

We just took a stand by saying we did not agree with them and used their slogan against those ideas. I think the lyrics for the Rise Above songs were already okay but we refined them later in the updated Nations On Fire version of the song.

This song was definitely something you were proud of? Because you remade for the band NATIONS ON FIRE. Is that correct?

Yes. It totally fits the set of values of Nations On Fire so that’s why I thought it would be a good song to play and further spread the connection between the straight edge scene and the political punk scene ; it’s the same reason why in our live shows we sometimes covered both a Crass song and a Chain of Strength song, you know… introduce Crass to the edge kids and introduce Chain to the crusties… good times !

This record is definitely praising collecting and more in detail collecting records. You even made a song about it. You wanted to ventilate or something? Or just share your passion with the listeners, like I do also?

We were all into collecting records, even pretty heavily ! The fact that we sang about it is rather an expression of our humour I would think. We were all good friends that always had a ton of fun, that’s why we did it all. Not for money or fame, but to have fun and spread a good message at the same time ! Sharing our passion is definitely always been the reason why I did bands, wrote songs, even doing Good Life Recordings.

Rise Above “B Is For Boston” back cover with band picture

The B-side opens with an all-American classic, called ‘Jolly Old Saint Nicholas’. Why did you make your version of this song?

Well, there’s a funny story behind this one… we didn’t know this song until we heard SS Decontrol cover it on the ‘Boston Christmas’ 12″ EP, it’s probably the rarest SSD song, but it’s just a children’s Christmas carol, so that’s funny of course. I brought this 12″ back from one of my many trips to Boston, a city I have become to love. Great music scene, real people, Boston has IT !

Additionally, the lyrics were not included with the record and in those pre-internet days it was just impossible to find the lyrics to songs anywhere if they were not included. So we made up about half of the lyrics and even threw in some words/lines in our dialect (South-West-Flemish), but I don’t think anybody has noticed that, haha !

So you boys and girl were listening to SSD together on Christmas evening?

Yes. That was when we had that barbecue, remember ?

I like the last song where Hazel starts singing. What is this song all about?

It’s a cover song from another OG Boston Crew band called DYS (Department of Youth Services). It’s called ‘no pain and no gain’ and is a true hardcore classic. The vocalist in DYS was Dave Smalley, later also in bands like Dag Nasty, ALL, etc. This song is a song about self-empowerment and I found it appropriate for Hazel to sing it.

A female voice supported by male gang vocals. Amazing formula, are you aware of this?

Yes I am. I knew immediately that It would work out well and the result is still good after 20 years.

About the influences, what were the Boston Hardcore bands you liked?

In general, we were all crazy about the bands that released music on Al Barile’s (SSD) label XCLAIM Records. The bands were SSD, the F.U.’s, D.Y.S and Jerry’s Kids. Other Boston bands we knew and liked included Deathwish, Slapshot, Lemonheads, Bullet Lavolta, Big Dipper, Deep Wound, Wrecking Crew, Last Rites, Negative FX, Siege and tons more I forget now.

Rise Above “B Is For Boston” vinyl b-side label

While in the first record the vocalist sings about Youth Of Today and Uniform choice. Now I see and hear Boston hardcore everywhere. Did you turn your back towards the bands mentioned in the first record throughout the years? Did you think they weren’t a good enough reference anymore or did you just wanted something else?

Oh no, all of us still like Youth of Today, Uniform Choice, etc, it’s just that this record kind of by accident became Boston-themed, we had so much fun recording it but I’m sure my affection for the city of Boston and it’s people has something to do with it, along with everyone’s love for Boston HC.

Is that also the reason why you made a band more of your own, called Nations On Fire. With a more political approach. And that the sole Straight-Edge thing faded away along with some members.
No, Nations On Fire was just a step away from the generic sXe youth crew scene, because, well in my opinion Rise Above had done what it had set out to do, create a straight edge scene, mission accomplished, and time to move my focus in a more political direction. However, Nations On Fire have always been a 100% veggie/straight edge band. That’s why were able to pull people from different scenes’ attention and multiply our audience tenfold. Drug-free Resistance !

If you want to hear the music Rise Above was totally into, you can listen to some songs on the website of Al Barile of XClaim Records.

Probably there are readers who are unaware of Rise Above, therefore I’d like to stress that this is what preceded Nations On Fire and other early 8000 bands. This is the deepest you can dig into the rich history of Straight-Edge H8000 hardcore and European Straight-Edge. Together with Lärm, also one of the first Straight-Edge bands in Europe. If I said that this is to be the final Rise Above post, you can guess that there is more to find about this band on this blog. You are correct, there is more to find about this band. There is content about the first 7″ including the limited edition of this one. Also content about the repress of ‘B Is For Boston’, a shirt that one of my colleague collectors has. Two interviews with members of this band and more!

Last but not least a word of thanks to the members of Rise Above, I surely hope this post does justice to you all!!

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