FURY live at The Academy of Music, NYC 1972
FURY live at The Academy of Music, NYC 1972
posted Thursday Oct 18th, 2012

Sonny Vincent is a true punk pioneer, we all know that already. But did you know how deep this man's well of punk madness really goes? Pull up a chair and get comfortable, as Sonny takes us for a ride through his world as a runaway kid in New York in the mid 1960s, up through the forging of punk in the early 1970s as his proto-punk bands, Distance, FURY, and Liquid Diamonds will soon attest. Sonny's voice has been sadly absent from all of the New York Punk biographies and oral histories, and now it's time to rectify this situation. Breathe in deep and read on....

What was the first band you were actively playing in? It's mind-blowing that you had these FURY recordings from 4-5 years before the Testors material.

Sonny Vincent- My very first actual band that had a rehearsal room, and did ‘live’ shows was called ‘Distance’. We had around 15 or more original songs and rehearsed a few times a week, we were teenagers.. Like I said we had all original songs. No ‘covers’. Back in those days it was super difficult to get shows if you played your own stuff, unless you had an album out etc. Unless you were established with a big album out it was nearly impossible to get any shows at all. The openness and experimentation that flourished within the ‘arts’ in the 60’s was long gone by the early 70’s. It was like a wasteland and there was really nowhere to play unless you were a cover band.

And being in a cover band? …that was not my path. So I would approach anyone, anywhere to get shows for us. Sometimes we would get lucky and play at a venue that was some discarded husk of a place left behind by the beatniks or the hippies. But that was rare and weird. One time I saw some lounge band playing an Italian restaurant directly down the street from my apartment,. This restaurant was the kind of place with red velvet flocked wall paper, small chandeliers all over the place and nice tables with white table cloths. I was gonna give it a try anyway and see if we could play there!. We went in there tenuously and nervous trying to convince the restaurant owner to let us play his small stage in front of the tables. He was a short powerful looking ‘Mafioso’ guy and he goes “You play covers?” I said “Oh yeah!” and he says “Like Beatles, Beach Boys, The Young Rascals and Four Seasons?” and I said “ Yes” absolutely and really well!” . So he hired us for a Thursday night. We go up there and tore into our originals, the whole time saying “Oh yeah… this is a song from a Beatles bootleg” or “ Here is a cool song by ‘The Yardbirds”. Well, after a whole show of us tearing it up he know we were jerking him around and he chased us out. That’s how it was generally before Max’s and CBGB. A total wasteland.

This was a year or so before FURY. The band Distance was quite prolific. We had many songs, we were two guitars, bass and drums. Funny you ask because just the other day I opened a box that I have been carrying around with me for ages and found some of the tapes.

Band Name
Sonny's Car

We had a giant Wollensack reel to reel’ tape recorder and we taped a few rehearsals. I have been listening to the songs and some of them are better than I thought. So I might bring them into my set list, with a little make over. The songs on the tape are longer than my typical songs and the feel is more 60’s garage in a way, even psychedelic at times. But I still can clearly hear the rudiments that later became Testors. So maybe I’ll revamp these songs! They certainly do sound like from a different era when I listen to the old tapes.

Who were your band mates, and were they involved in any other bands?

Sonny Vincent- The line up of Distance was Joey Boutevier on rhythm guitar (now married, working a steady job and a good a family man), Anthony Vitino (convicted murderer and doing ‘life’ in prison-really! He shot the lead guitarist in his very next band, I swear it’s true!) and Bob Brown was the drummer. After the band broke up (incredibly with a huge argument between me and Anthony… man… he must have taken it out on the next guitar cat) me and Bob Brown stayed together and he played in some of the other ‘Pre-Testors’ bands I had over time. He was really good and natural. Me and Bob Bron went through a lot together.

We got kicked out of so many buildings in New York for breaking noise ordinances. Police showing up, etc. so eventually we rented a farmhouse that was way upstate New York off the Taconic Parkway in a place called Craryville. Basically the house was between farms, hills and cornfields. We enjoyed the freedom to play loud, but it was pretty isolated and we were living like the friggin’ Manson Family. We even grew beards for a few weeks which I know is kind of sinful, but we were isolated and also couldn’t bother to buy razors, we had a big enough challenge to get food! Anyway it was a very great time and we did a lot of soul searching. Bob is a preacher now in a church in Tarrytown, New York. I’m not sure which religion, maybe the one that messes around with snakes and whatnot. I hope so!!

Later I put together FURY and that was a trio, Me (Vocals and Guitar), Chris Gedney (Bass) and Victor Gonzalez (Drums).

Band Name

What were you listening to in 1972, and who were some of the best bands you got to see in that era?

I sometimes would wander around Greenwich Village in NYC and go to shows in the clubs and venues. Some of the stuff in those days I saw that I liked were The Fugs, The Last Poets, David Peel, John Cage, Pearls Before Swine, John Lee Hooker. Later when I was in FURY, we rehearsed above a theater that was used for rock concerts. Bands played shows downstairs and often we wandered in during a concert. Sometimes it was cool, and some of it was dreadful. We saw a band called Traffic that was incredible to listen to while very stoned, very inspirational. We saw Santana and the early version of Fleetwood Mac. But also there was a lot of hokey crap goin down.

What was your favorite memory of seeing The Fugs, and what was the earliest that you saw them?

Before I ran away and later lived basically on the streets of NYC, I was hooked up with a few college girls. I stayed in their dorm a lot and they fed me food, literature and drugs. I was very young (13), but tall for my age and I told them I was older. It was some good times for me hangin with these girls. Opened my mind and vision. Like I said I was young and these girls were wild but sophisticated, well read and they brought me to see Allen Ginsburg recite ‘Howl’ on our first adventure. Since they had cars they would often take me down to the Village to clubs and events. I also was 13 when I first saw The Fugs. It was around 1965 and quite a shock for me, but in a good way. For a kid that was listening to the Yardbirds, Hendrix, and the Beatles to go to a store front and see a band with condoms hung all over the microphone stands and screaming ‘Fuck’ and insane stuff was really something riveting. Another Proto Punk organization. The Fugs!!!!

Once we met Blue Oyster Cult and they came upstairs to the FURY rehearsal room and we had a jam session. We were totally flabbergasted to meet them, they were so incredibly friendly, like someone’s uncle who runs a nice shoe store or something. The thing that really shocked us was that we only knew them from the artwork on their album covers and they really had some heavy attempts at symbolism on those album covers. Images like a crazy scary byzantine pyramid surrounded by hypnotic spirals in the sky and a giant Nazi derived symbol on top of the pyramid structure, or another album cover that had a plane landed on a snow bank on the side of a mountain with dangerous guys (obviously doing some serious dark espionage or worse) wearing full length leather military style coats, holding Doberman’s on leashes and lines. It all looked so ominous and dark and then to meet them and discover that in person they were some easy going, slap happy, friendly guys, almost nerds, all smoking weed and laughing it up. Certainly that was more pleasant for us than meeting Rasputin or Aleister Crowley, but it was a shock considering what we expected from their image and the whole ‘totalitarian’ symbolism they put forth.

Band Name

I remember in the 80’s out in L.A. I met David Lee Roth of Van Halen in a late night club called ‘The Zero Club’, one of those places that could only exist in L.A. in the 80’s. I think it opened the doors at 3 am and people had all checker board hair cuts and punk space stuff . I was looking at a video screen and a guy standing next to me was commenting, I didn’t look at him at first but when I did I saw who it was and he goes ”Hey you want a drink?” We go the the bar and did some drinkin and he turns out to be a super down to earth guy, warm, not assuming and nice and I’m thinking “Isn’t this the guy prancing all over MTV like he rehearses in front of a mirror all day?” There are a lot of opposites running around, don’t let me get started on Jonathan Richman, let’s suffice to say ‘Rolex Watch’, ‘New Guitar’ ‘300 dollar Yves St Laurent shirt’ and non stop talking about it!! Yeah contrasts can be interesting! Anyway, I’ve seen a lot of bands and most of it is hype, even when the hype says “Oh I’m so small.” But the truth is in the music, some will last forever and some is the latest financed ‘project’. Again back to your question- I also often would go to the 50’s revival shows- The Supremes, Shirelles, Ronettes, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Roy Orbison. That stuff lasts.

What was your impression of David Peel? Did you ever play shows with him, and how did he manage to become the missing link between John Lennon and GG Allin?

First time I saw David Peel, he was playing on the street in the West Village, I was a runaway kid and the year was 1967 or 1968. Second time he was playing in Washington Square Park and the third time in a small nightclub with his ‘Lower East Side Band’. In the early ‘70s it seemed he was everywhere in the city, playing, standing on St. Marks Place, he was like a Hippie Mayor or something. Later after I had my band Testors, I would meet him at occasional parties and once when I was hangin’ out with Wayne Kramer, me and David spent some time together talkin’. I never actually was on a bill with him but I did see him perform quite a few times. David’s approach was very direct and he was a friendly sympathetic character, with a lot to say. The lyrics and song content were something very attractive to a young rebellious kid.

What bands were you playing gigs with in New York at the time? Did you know Von Lmo?

SV- In those early days I did some shows with Suicide at the Electric Circus, formerly The Dom and The Dogs from Detroit. Other than that we played Club 82 a tranny club downtown. Never did a show with Von Lmo.

Band Name
Circus Show at St. Marks Place October 1971

Sonny Vincent 1972
Sonny Vincent 1972

Where was the FURY material recorded, and was there ever any interest in getting it released at the time?

I don’t recall the name of the studio we recorded in, but I do remember it was good and they understood what we wanted to capture. Our bass player, Chris, submitted a tape to a large record company and we were nearly signed but our advocate in the A&R department got pregnant and quit the job. We were going to record again but eventually broke up. We weren’t together very long. I have reels and reels of tapes of us jamming and remember people coming off the street and climbing the stairs to take a peek at us in our rehearsal room. It was summer and we had the windows open and I played with two Marshall full stacks ‘Y’ corded together! I remember we did a big show at a High School in Greenwich Connecticut, it was more like a college. I can send you an audio ad for that show that was broadcast on the radio at the time. It’s pretty funny.

Any early encounters with the New York Dolls or The Brats, what did you think of them or the Mercer Arts Center?

I met them all back in the day and I was closest to Arthur and Johnny. The scene at Mercer Arts was very colorful but for me it was often a bit too make believe ‘gay’. It’s hard to explain or correctly express/elaborate. The whole New York ‘glitter’ scene actually had a strong tendency toward roots rock'n roll and a lot of us younger kids were very impressed by that jungle vibe. It was raw and stripped down rock'n roll, something that was missing in most commercial music at the time. Yet on the other hand the imagery was at the height of the progressive ‘Rock Star’ look. You know? I think a good example of the final evolution of the image without the basic roots rock'n roll ‘feel’ and groove would be Queen, And the best example of a killer band with a real rock'n roll feel along with the progressive ‘Rock’ look was the New York Dolls. So although the Dolls were really great it also was cool to see Johnny and Jerry simplify their image and still play killer rock'n roll in the Heartbreakers. It’s as if the Dolls image (in terms of the ‘look’ and clothes) were the height of where rock had arrived and the music was where it was going. I guess Richard Hell deconstructed it all and started the raw look to match the raw sound.

I didn’t have much contact with The Brats, I know after Testors broke up Gene the guitar player of Testors and Jeff the drummer, put a short lived thing together with one of the guys from The Brats. Later Jeff played with Johnny Thunders and then in The Waldos.

Did you ever encounter any of the lesser-known early 70s NYC bands such as Jack Ruby, Luger, Mong, Manster, Why...You Murder Me, or Teenage Lust? What were your impressions?

I saw some of those on the list, but they were playing on the scene during my heavy phase with alcohol and Quaaludes. So although they were good, my cognition was pretty low. Went to a lot of shows then but often somewhere during the festivities I was passed out! I’m sure you know what I mean. Later I cleaned up quite a bit. In fact most of the time in Testors it was all work and we were relatively straight… well, sometimes, ha ha!

It all went in phases I guess, long periods of concentrated work and then also some wild times. Actually I crashed the stage at a Teenage Lust show. The Planets were opening and I went onstage with a joint in my mouth and had some delusion of jamming together with The Planets. I remember the bass player took a hit and also the drummer, but the singer was not happy with me standing there as if we were in a rehearsal room together. I’m going “you guys wanna jam?” Eventually a stage hand gently led me off stage before I really made a complete fool of myself! Really despicable of me if I think of it now, but those were the days of getting blitzed and I suddenly was inspired by them and wanted to jam!

Fun times but eventually after crashing my car into the façade of a night club and being taken in for ‘evaluation,’ I had to cut down on the pills mixed with gin. Sometimes I meet people who saw some of these antics and I guess since they also were under the influence, it was somewhat entertaining to them. I saw Manster once, I think Charlie Martin (the sound man/booker of CBGB) at the time was managing them.

How influential was the Coventry scene out in Queens, where KISS emerged from dressed in their cowboy attire?

SV- I know Joey Ramone went out there to Coventry a lot. I went once. With FURY we played mostly in Manhattan and Westchester. Later with Testors, I usually stayed in Manhattan. As far as the influence of the scene that was happening at Coventry on the general NYC scene, I think it was mostly evident at Max’s not at CBGB.

Funny thing... There was a time when you had to make a choice to be a band that played CBGB or a band that played Max’s. There was a clear division at one point. But with Testors we played both places and didn’t have a particular loyalty to either in terms of exclusivity. We liked both places and desperately played any shows we could get.

Did you ever get to see Jeff Hyman's (Joey Ramone) pre-Ramones band called Sniper?

No, I never saw Sniper but I did often see Joey walking around town looking very cool and strange in the pre-Ramones times. Joey was very open and warm, also quite smart, in fact, very smart. Well read and all with that strong Queens accent. I’m thinking of Joey now and I really remember the accent. Can I tell you about it ?

To a lot of us, the Queens accent sounded a bit thick but that’s the way it is. There is a certain amount of unfair prejudiced that gets laid on in the perception of accents. Some of the boroughs in NYC have a strong classic form, a very thick accent that comes from the early immigrant days. Do you hear it sometimes? Also it shows up in the grammar, I’m sure I have some of that myself too. Did you ever hear the Kiss song where they go “Get Da Firehouse?” That’s typical. It literally means that someone should make a telephone call to the fire station to summon the firemen to come. But in the Queens vernacular, it comes out as “get Da Firehouse”. I find it charming, the Queens accent, all the Ramones had it. But the prejudices remain and exist on different levels, unfair but existing in some form or another in all of us. Who would you rather have operate on your brain, a guy talking out of the side of his mouth like Sylvester Stallone “Yeah dare is a ding in yo brain I gotta yank the fuck outta dare,” or Robert Redford/Cary Grant? Anyway I just wanted to mention that with those Ramones it was super charming and Joey was very erudite and sharp! Here is a clip of Joey and Dee Dee talking on my answering machine.

At one point Joey and Daniel Rey were going to produce an album of mine but then the financing fell through because a greedy lawyer got involved and was squeezing the label for a fortune and he ruined the deal. Joey and Daniel were cool, I was cool, the band was cool but this lawyer really got his head full of ego and in the end, jinxed the whole deal. Now I hear he is on the staff at the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, probably one of the guys who votes “no” each time Grand Funk comes up for nomination. Screw him! I told him to be careful, I said “Listen man, I would record this album for free and float over to Detroit from Amsterdam in a Styrofoam coffee cup to do it.” But he didn’t listen, eventually I got other financing and the album was recorded in Nashville with me, Scott, Captain, and Cheetah, without a producer. It sounds like a friggin demo, but the songs are pretty good.

I really would have loved it if Joey and Daniel could have produced it, I miss Joey a lot, what a sweet person he was. Definitely from the heart and nice to be around. Long answer to “did I ever see the band Sniper?' but the truth is that when someone mentions Joey I must say more. He deserves it. Someday I will write a chapter on the guy. Lots of funny stuff too, going to see a movie with Joey was a real adventure, on the way out he had to touch all the seats in our row, he had some form of OCD, so that led to many strange occurrences.

And not to blow my own horn too loud, but you know that leather jacket he always wore? He told me once that he carried a cassette of some of my songs in one of the zipper pockets of that jacket so that when he was producing a band or trying to demonstrate to someone how it is done right, he would whip that cassette out and use my stuff as an example. I know that might read strange since it sounds like I’m claiming I’m so damn great, but it ain’t where I’m coming from. I just had a cool connection with Joey and want to share some of it. We were on the phone one time and he was crying about the girlfriend he lost and he said he had been listening to my song ‘Crazy Game’ and broke down. The guy was soulful and that’s the best quality a person can have.

Were there any other bands you were involved with after FURY and before Testors?

SV- There also was one band between Distance and Fury that was called Liquid Diamonds. We recorded four or five songs and did a few shows. One was in New Jersey and one in NYC at the Bottom Line. Those were memorable. I have tapes from that band as well. (Check out a clip below of Liquid Diamonds, recorded in 1973, from an upcoming HoZac Archival 7" release, out NOW in the link at the bottom of this interview):

I have been lugging trunks full of tapes everywhere I’ve gone, for years man! After Testors broke up I moved from Bleeker Street in NYC to Minnesota, then from Minnesota to Holland, then from Holland to Los Angeles and then again back to Europe, and moving around in Europe as well. Always carting these huge heavy trunks everywhere I go and flipping out at airports if they even try to x-ray them or even attempt to put them through any sort of metal detector device. I think it’s cool Hozac is putting something of it out there! Now the trunks are a little bit lighter to carry.

What's the story behind the '100% Proof' song?

SV- The song is about 100% commitment.

And with that, the fine folks at HoZac Records give you the FURY debut 7" in it's intended original format, stream the A-side "Flying" below and grab your copy today.

Order the FURY 1972 archival 7" right here, from HoZac Records:

Order the LIQUID DIAMONDS 1973 archival 7" right here, from HoZac Records:


Fast forward to 1976: if you're not familiar with Sonny's best known band, TESTORS, you need to take care of that problem right away. Sorely overlooked in almost all of the historical pieces on the 1970s NYC punk scene, TESTORS were possibly too raw and too incorrigible and too care-free to even try to get it together with a record label. They shared many a legendary show at all the usual spots, but their sole release during their existence didn't arrive until 1980's 'Time Is Mine' debut 7" which showed a drastically different side to the band, a streamlined powerpop single that was great on it's own, but only hinted at what ugly stains stayed hidden in the shadows. It wouldn't be until the great punk excavation of the mid 1990s that Incognito Records in Germany took the initiative and issued the two now-classic 10" EPs that would indelibly scar the surface of the "known" NYC punk history for years to come. Check out the 2LP/2CD set issued on Swami Records in 2003 for further proof of this sorely overlooked yet iconic New York punk band.

And luckily, you can still catch Sonny Vincent live in an intimate setting, as he's currently recording and touring with his new band the Bad Reactions, featuring members of the Carbonas. Great stuff, still as raw as ever, and don't forget to keep up with Sonny on Facebook HERE, as well.