Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Interview with Jordan Lee Byrd from Minority Threat

I met Jordan Lee Byrd last Spring when my band did a little weekend run to coincide with the release of our new 7". He and his roommates hosted a show for us at their house in Columbus, Ohio that wound up being probably the best night of the jaunt. 

Maybe six months later he posted a link to a new band called Minority Threat. I didn't click the link to listen but having seen a flurry of bands lately with names that struck me as really generic or just downright cliche, I think I commented something sort of snarky like "Really, in 2015 someone is actually ripping off the name of the greatest hardcore punk band ever?" He replied with something along the lines of "Yeah man, it's a band of all black dudes, it's my new band actually". 

Oh. Right. I'm a fucking idiot. Anyway, I proceeded to actually clink the link this time and was floored by some of the most powerful hardcore punk I'd heard in quite a while. Musically, the pace shifts from thrashing attacks to heavy, mid-paced rhythms, while lyrically Jordan assaults police brutality, false beauty standards, economic injustice, and macho boneheads. 

The songs were released a couple months ago on cassette by Head2Wall Records and I would highly recommend you track down a copy. Naturally, I wanted to get to know Jordan a little bit better and learn more about the band. Read on. 

So one of my favorite things about doing interviews is learning more about people's backgrounds, stuff I might not probably know otherwise, so talk a little but about your family, childhood, etc., specifically as it relates to art, music, etc. What kind of stuff was on the radio, on the tv, etc. when you were coming up?

Let's see... So I grew up on the west side of Columbus. I've actually been there for 23 years of my 25 year life. We were very poor, usually living with relatives or in low-income housing. I was always surrounded by family, and luckily they (almost) all loved music. I grew up on a lot of black music. Soul, R & B, jazz, blues, hip hop, etc. My grandfather used to sing Al Green to me up until the time he passed in 2001.

Soul and Hip Hop were always the most inspiring to me. They both had so much raw passion and beauty. That's what made it easy for me to fall in love with punk/hardcore as soon as I heard it. I was in the 6th grade, living in Stewartstown, PA with my grandparents at the time. It was an embarrassingly small town about 30 minutes from Baltimore, MD. 

This kid Steve that was two grades above me used to take me to his house and show me punk records. That's when I started to branch out into all genres of music and find my real passion for music.

Columbus is obviously a huge college town with OSU being there....what would you say are the pros and cons of living in a college town?

I'm born and raised on the Westside of Columbus. I still live on this side of Columbus, even though most shows and events happen in central Columbus/campus area. It's great living here because there’s always something to do, if you want to do it. Either a show, a dance party, poetry reading, whatever, you know? It just sucks having to deal with the jockey, trust fund frat-children that come in waves every year.

Alright, so were there particular artists that spoke to as a young person, be it from the sounds in your home coming up as a kid, or bands you were introduced to in the punk scene?

A couple artists really spoke to me growing up. Nas was always a big inspiration for me. His raw lyrics, attitude, and flow always intrigued me. He was one of the first artists I really looked up to. Bad Brains was my first real love, when it comes to punk music. I think they really inspired me for the same reasons that Nas did.

The older I got, the more I branched out and got inspired my different genres outside of Hip Hop and Punk. Bjork is one of my favorite artists of all time, and she still inspires me now with her seemingly endless creativity.

At what point did you start fronting bands? You've been fairly open on social media about your struggles with anxiety and depression; was coming out front as a lyricist and vocalist particularly difficult given those things or has your art been more of a way to channel some of those struggles and face those demons so to speak?

I started fronting my first band almost ten years ago now. A couple of friends and I wanted to start a hardcore band, so we did.  My first band was called All My Strength, we were just your standard mid-2000's heavy hardcore band. I had never done vocals before that. It felt very unnatural at first, but I adapted pretty quickly, especially when I figured out that I could use this as a sort of therapy, so to speak. As anxious and depressed as I may be at most times, playing music is one of the only times my head feels clear and calm. It's a very beautiful thing. 

In terms of Minority Threat specifically, you mentioned in a recent piece that the death of Michael Brown was sort of the impetus that got the 4 of you together. What was it about that case that was the straw that broke the camel's back?

The death of Michael Brown really put things into perspective for me and a couple other band-mates. I knew that racism and police brutality were a very real thing, but for some reason this case struck the chord that opened the dialogue to really start Minority Threat. We talked about the band before those events, but that case, and the couple after that one really made it feel like we have to speak about these situations and issues.

You guys obviously released "Culture Control" a couple months back via Head2Wall Records. How did you hook up with him, and are there any plans  for a vinyl release at point?

Head2Wall was started by a couple friends of mine that are in some awesome Columbus bands (go listen to Headacher). They really enjoy helping solid local bands with getting their music to a broader audience. They reached out to us after we released that horrible rough demo and wanted to release the tape. It just felt natural to go with a homegrown label that wanted to help us push out a record that we believe in wholeheartedly.

The tape release was a couple weeks was the show and how are people reacting to the new material?

The tape release show was a blast! We actually had to switch the show from Cafe Bourbon St, the smaller side of the venue, to The Summit because of possible capacity issues. It was kind of surreal seeing so many people come out for a local show like that. People seemed to react really well to the record, if the release show is any indication. Kids were getting kind of wild during our set, haha.

Damn, that's so sick! Alright so in closing, what do you guys have coming up next?  Any plans to hit the road? New material?

We are really excited about the future of our music right now.

We have a lot planned, we're just trying to find the time to really get it done. We're shooting to at least release something by the beginning of Spring. We have a couple plans to hit the road, it's just finding the time to do so. Everyone works and has other obligations that come before this band. We're going to try to go out as much as we can, doing short weekends and whatnot.

Hopefully we can play with you sometime! Thanks for asking about this stuff, man. I really appreciate any interest in what we do because it's extremely important to us. We don't have many platforms to express our opinions outside of our friends group, but we're hoping that we can use this one to make some sort of difference.



  1. awesome interview and band, thanx scobie

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