by Scott Bass
1979 was the year of Matt Dillon's film debut, a based-on-true events drama called Over the Edge. The movie was about school-aged kids in New Grenada, a fictitious planned community that could have been any one of many American model cities that sprang up in the 1960's and '70's. As the newspaper clipping that inspired the screenplay attests, these pseudo-utopian suburbias were often brimming with bored teenagers desperate for an outlet to channel their youthful aggression.
In the movie, the kids did drugs, committed acts of vandalism, carried weapons, and had sex; their days filled with boredom and disrespect for the adults who refused to consider their needs when creating the town. If only there had been another outlet for their vehemence!
I'd like to see a version of that movie that's based on the true story of Void. Picture the same kind of town and the same kind of kids. But instead of becoming criminals, they form a band.
Void started in a town called Columbia, Maryland. Unlike New Grenada, Columbia was a real '70's model city, built with aspirations for a perfectly-designed lifestyle. High school friends Bubba Dupree (guitar), John Weiffenbach (vocals), Chris Stover (bass) and the late Sean Finnegan (drums) formed Void in late 1980 as something better to do with their time than hang out The Mall in Columbia (which is still around, and is one of the nicest malls in the county).
Void, unlike the kids from Over the Edge, channeled their adolescent anger into something a bit more productive; creating their very own brand of punk/metal/hardcore /artcore madness that displayed an unusual degree of intensity and originality. Void's songs were short blasts of vitriolic lyrics against alternating blasts of massive power chords and frenzied feedback, all backed by a rhythm section that somehow managed to arrange all of the chaos into actual songs.
It's notable that despite becoming a "Dischord band" (a label notorious for only signing local scene talent), Void's home of Columbia is actually a bit closer to Baltimore than it is to Washington D.C. But since Baltimore's scene paled in comparison to what was going on in D.C. at the time (or any time), it's no shocker that the band would gravitate to the District, and that the usually-elitist Dischord kids would gladly accept them. Sure they weren't from D.C., but they were really close. And they were really good.
One ingredient in Void's secret recipe was their appreciation for metal. No other Dischord band dared admit that they liked such uncool music! On Flex Your Head, the 11-band compilation album on which Void made their debut, there are some hints at what some of the other groups were into: Teen Idles cover The Stooges, Minor Threat covers Wire, and Red C do some Jimi Hendrix riffing. As is clearly audible on their tracks, Void seemed to be drawing on slightly different influences than the rest of the bands on the record.
Photo credit Maaaaalfunction
Bubba Dupree shows off a Motley Crue t-shirt while a bystander reps for Corrosion of Conformity, another early-80's "punk" band with metal appeal
Despite their youth and inexperience, the guys had enthusiasm to burn; not to mention a bit of luck in having Jon "Bubba" Dupree as their guitarist. Dupree would end up being the only one to become a professional musician (he played in Dave Grohl's Probot and more recently appears on Soundgarden's 2012 release King Animal). When you listen to Void, it's shattered-crystal clear that the beautifully cacophonous guitar bits are not coming from a run-of-the-mill hardcore guitarist. The chaotic guitar sound on these records is unmistakable.
Most of Void's songs sound as if they're being played as fast as the band can pull them off. On first listen, their studio recordings almost appear discordant, as if perhaps not everyone in the band is playing the same song. Yet repeated listens (and various studio takes) reveal them to be precisely orchestrated down to each individual note and feedback squall.
Being suburbanite metal-lovers, the guys in Void were anomalies in the punk scene as much as they were in their hometown. Alienated teenagers in an artificially-created suburbia, it's no surprise that the band's lyrical content was consistently as vicious as their music. Void were anti-authority ("Authority"), anti-war ("War Hero"), anti-organized sports ("Organized Sports"), anti-clique ("Ignorant People"), anti-well... really, they were anti-everything. Void existed in it's own universe with it's own laws of physics.Everywhere I go I see their rulesThe band got a bit of belated press in 2011 when Dischord Records unexpectedly unearthed some demos and issued Sessions 1981-1983. Sadly, Sean Finnegan didn't get to see the band's ultimate approval on the mainstream cultural radar that they never experienced while together. The release confirmed what many kids today already knew, for a few years in the early-'80's- Void produced some of the most inspired, insane punk/metal/ whatever ever committed to vinyl. There's a reason bands don't cover Void tunes; they're just too hard to pull off.
They're on the streets and in the schools
One thing I know for sure
Life can't be without structure
I'm not the hand of their tools
I'm gonna live by my rules
Why should I listen to those fools?
I'm gonna live by MY RULES!
"My Rules," one of the first Void demos
Void burned brightly, but briefly and broke up in late 1983. A debut full-length called Potion For Bad Dreams that evidenced the band moving into sludgier metallic waters was recorded for Touch & Go, but was rejected for being too far away from the sound that Void had become known for. As the years have gone on and the cult of Void has grown, Dupree has (wisely) continued to deny it's official release as it would only detract from the band's legacy.
Void/Faith split LP/CD (Dischord, 1982)
Potion For Bad Dreams LP (recorded 1983; unreleased)
Condensed Flesh 7" EP (Eye 95, 1992)
Sessions 1981-83 LP/CD (Dischord, 2011)
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