Interview With Into Another/Underdog Singer Richie Birkenhead, Part One
Birkenhead, who still lives in New York City and is one of the key figures in the storied New York hardcore scene, took time out of taking care of his daughter to chat with us and reveal that Into Another fans should not rule out the possibility of seeing the band play again in the future, the status of Underdog and what he's been up to in recent years.
First things first, why can't we find songs from 'Seemless,' Into Another's Hollywood Records release, on iTunes? Is that a band or label thing?
It's a label thing, especially with our last label, Hollywood, which we parted with on very bad terms with them. There were lawsuits and all kinds of stuff. They deliberately shelved and deleted stuff from catalogs. It is a shame about that album, since Hollywood was spiteful about that and now people can't get it.
Will you ever play shows as Into Another again, even though bassist Tony Bono passed away in 2002?
[Drummer] Drew [Thomas] and I talk all the time about how badly we want to play shows again. We can't seem to find [guitarist] Peter Moses anywhere. He has vanished off the face of the earth. At some point, it will happen. At some point it will.
You just made my day with that information. When I discovered Into Another in college with my boyfriend at the time, I was surprised that I liked it, because it didn't sound like what we liked to listen to, which was mostly metal and hardcore. But we fell in love with the self-titled album and 'Ignarus.'
It had to grow on you. That happened to me with bands, too. I happen to be a huge Smiths fan, and the first time I heard the 'How Soon is Now?' 12-inch. I was like, 'Turn off this whining a-hole.' And then I said, 'Play it again.' And the next day, I had to go out and buy it.
Did you think that the end of Into Another was really the end of Into Another?
It did for quite some time when Tony passed away. We could not possibly play without Tony, but after time, we realized wherever Tony is, he would get a kick out of Into Another playing. We are dying to play those songs again.
What's the current status of Underdog?
We play a handful of shows each year. We had a brief reunion in 1998, then went our separate ways again. A lot happened around the imminent closing of CBGBs. We had played last couple shows there, and played some of the last CBs shows ever, with Bad Brains, and ever since then, we have played handfuls, with some European shows, a tour of Japan, a tour of the East Coast and we haven't stopped. 1998 was a flare up and now we keep going because we love it.
Will there be new Underdog material?
I am sure we will. We have written stuff, some covers we want to record. So sure, at the very least, there will be something.
That's a secret. We haven't decided. We will record them and then people can say, 'I can't believe they did that.'
So it's not going to be the obvious hardcore or metal covers?
It'll be O-Town and 'NSync.
What else are you up to, besides music?
Primarily, I'm being a dad and having a great family and great wife, a great daughter and a great dog, with a great design company that I run out of the house. I do all sorts of design, from advertising to websites. And I'm making music still. I have written a lot of stuff on my own and recorded some stuff on my own, sitting in the can. I play my guitar and sing and make up songs all the time.
Are you still a supporter of animal rights?
Yes, absolutely. I was never much of an activist but I am still a vegan and I still love animals and I try to minimize any negative effect I have on them in any way.