Visual Violence: Trailblazing Director Drew Stone on his Crucial, Scene-Defining Music Videos

When talking about that beautiful, improbable early 90s moment in which hardcore clawed its way out of the underground, it is impossible to overstate the importance of the visionary, instantly-iconic music videos of Drew Stone.

The New York-based, award winning director possessed the uncanny ability to marry art and street, elegance and attack, grandeur and brutality — and all of this came to serve as high-grade accelerant on already fiery work smoldering in the scene. The man completely and irrevocably changed the game, bringing a new dimension to the breakdown and, by doing so, helped convert hordes of new devotees to the cause.

Decibel hit Stone up late last year for our Hall of Fame piece on Madball’s Set it Off and, during those interviews, he graciously agreed to provide us the following amazing backstories to some of his most (in)famous short-players — with exclusive production images from his own library.

“I revisited these videos and watched them again, some for the very first time in many years,” Stone — whose palette and focus later expanded to include fantastic full-length documentaries such as All Ages: The Boston Hardcore Film and Who the F**k Is That Guy? The Fabulous Journey of Michael Alago — tells Decibel. “It certainly brought back a flood of memories mostly good, a few bad. It was a great thrill to revisit some of my work again after many years and I must say I’m proud of them all. I directed and produced all of these thru my company Stone Films NYC except where noted.”

Get ready for thirteen tales from the hardside…

1. Agnostic Front: “Gotta Go”

This song turned out to be a real anthem for the band. It was an exciting time since the band had recently reunited and this was the first record and video they had done in many years. My friendship with Roger Miret and Vinnie Stigma goes all the way back to 1982 when I met them in New York City’s Lower East Side when we used to hang out at A7. I was singing for The High and The Mighty — and later Antidote — and they were just getting Agnostic Front off the ground. I fondly recall their first ever show. The song and video has even been parodied by a comedy group in Russia which is quite a compliment. After picking up the camera equipment the day before the shoot and loading it into my apartment in Manhattan I was beset with extreme stomach pains. My girlfriend at the time convinced me to go to the emergency room and upon giving me the once over the doctor told me they wanted to operate and take out my appendix. I told them “Thats out of the question, I have a music video to shoot tomorrow” and it’ll have to wait, so against doctors orders I ended up walking out of the hospital. The next day we shot on the street and on a roof in Hoboken NJ on a blazing July 4th weekend and it was over 100 degrees out! It was absolutely brutal but then again the best art I’ve done I have certainly suffered for. As a side note I never went back to the hospital and to this day I still have my appendix. I think I was really just dehydrated. In the great words of my Uncle Richie, “They are butchers in those places, they just like to cut meat.”

2. Merauder: “Master Killer”

Great record produced by the Cro-Mags guitarist Parris Mayhew. It was recorded at Normandy sound which is the same place Cro-Mags “Best Wishes” was done and he used many of the same production techniques on it. The “Master Killer” video features the “Tiger Twins” who went on to open a very successful chain of martial arts schools. I was managing the band at the time and got them the record deal with Century Media. It was a high water mark for the band who after doing Four European tours in support of the “Master Killer” album sadly ended up turning on each other and falling apart. I learned a lot from the experience about band chemistry and what it takes to make it to the next level.

3. Sub-Zero: “Higher Power”

Gritty, Grimy, down and dirty. Shot in the basement of a house in upstate NY. It reeks of NYHC circa 1997. Shooting the video was total chaos and a lot of fun. I absolutely thrived on chaos back then which is why I managed this band for a while at that time. Great cameos in this one by Bob Riley (Murderers Row/Stigmata) and Rich O’Brian (Darkside NYC). After this video was done I called up old friend Jerry Only and got them the opening slot on the Misfits 1997 European tour. It was the first time the Misfits toured Europe, Michael Graves was singing for them and they had just put a record out on Geffen records. When I went out on the road in Europe with Sub-Zero for the tour I met A & R man Michael Alago who had signed The Misfits to Geffen. We all struck up a great friendship and many years later I directed Who The Fuck Is That Guy? The Fabulous Journey Of Micheal Alago which tells his incredible story. If you love music I highly recommend it, watch it on Netflix, Amazon Prime, etcetera.

4. Sick Of It All: “Road Less Travelled”

Epic. I love this band and believe the are arguably the best “true” hardcore band on the planet earth. Inspired by the Guns N’ Roses video “Garden Of Eden,” I came out of “Music Video retirement” for this one and returned their soon after. The video was done in one take. That day we did it a total of 11 times and in the end went with take 8. You would think that one of the last takes would be the winner but it was noticeable that as the day wore on everyone was getting a bit winded.

5. Madball: “Pride” and “Down By Law”

Love this band. Stand up guys that I always enjoyed working with. The first video, “Down By Law,” I paid for out of my pocket while I was riding high on the success of the other videos I had recently produced like Onyx “Slam” and Biohazard “Punishment.” Roadrunner liked it so much that they actually paid me a few bucks for it. When it came time to do “Down By Law” for their next record and they had a few bucks the band insisted that I do it. That was very rare in the music business at the time, some basic fucking loyalty. Like I said, stand up guys who I consider friends to this day.

6. Fury Of Five: “Do Or Die”

Wow. I just watched this one again all the way thru after about twenty years. Hard as fuck. Shot in the dilapidated casino in Asbury Park N.J. which has since been refurbished. Another bunch of lunatics. I was managing this very volatile band at the time. After they beat the shit of their notorious scumbag booking agent I figured that this was a band I absolutely had to work with. That showed me a lot of character and like I mentioned previously at the time — and some say still to this day — I thrived on chaos. Lots of great cameos on this one as well from the New Jersey hardcore scene circa 1997.

7. Biohazard: “Punishment,” “Shades of Grey,” “Tales From the Hardside,” “After Forever” and “Slam (Bionic Mix)”

These videos I produced through Stone Films NYC and were directed by Cro-Mags guitarist Parris Mayhew who I met back in 1984 when we did shows together when I was singing for The High and The Mighty and he was in Cro-Mags. His attention to detail and focus was incredible and for a while we worked very well together. It was a volatile combination that only lasted a few years and also included videos by Kings X “Dogman,” Insane Clown Posse “Chickin Hunting,” Onyx “Slam,” and RUN-DMC “Ohh Watch Gonna Do.” I could almost write a chapter of a book on the trails and tribulations of the Biohazard videos that we did. It was a very vibrant and exciting time. Somewhat lost in the swirling haze of time is the fact that Biohazard is a band that opened the door for many other bands. They put a lot of up and coming NYHC bands on bills when they played and put everyone in their videos for the whole world to see. After it’s debut “Punishment” played on MTV’s Headbangers Ball an unprecedented fourteen weeks in a row. It was incredible. The shot in that video of everyone walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is now iconic. Other highlights include the flamethrower on the subway in “Shades Of Grey” and working with Bill Ward of Black Sabbath on “After Forever” which was on the Nativity In Black tribute to Black Sabbath. I ended up tour managing for Biohazard at one point when the music video run ended. Biohazard put me on back in the day and I will forever be in their debt. I cherish the years that we worked together making videos and traveling the world. Re-spect.

8. Rykers: “Cold, Lost, Sick”

Warner Brothers records in Germany got in touch with me regarding this “Hardcore” band and after sorting out the details they flew the band into New York for the video. A bunch of NYHC characters make appearances in it including Lou Dibella of Sub-Zero and the infamous Rick Healy from 25 Ta Life who later became a pariah in the scene after sadly suffering a mental breakdown. Love the shot of me playing craps with Freddy Madball, Vinnie Stigma, Narc DMS and Lou DiBella.

9. Shelter: “In the Van Again”

Shot in and around my brothers house in Venice CA. The “van” was rented from guitar tech. Dan Druff. It was the first time I worked with Ray Cappo and John Porcelly from Youth of Today. They didn’t have a drummer at the time so Ed McKirdy who now sings for Locked Inside stepped in and did his best to act like he could actually play the drums! The “Gig” they go to “In the van” in the video was actually at a house by the L.A. Airport that a guy named Miguel Hell had where he used to have shows in. He outfitted his garage to have underground punk shows! Where are you now Miguel Hell?!?

10. Danzig: “Mother”

This gets an honorable mention. I was the stage manager at Riverview Studios in Astoria in 1989 when I booked this production into the place. Being a Misfits fan for years and having opened up for them in 1983 when I was in The High and the Mighty it was a thrill to have Glenn Danzig, Erie Von and especially the mighty Chuck Biscuits on the stage. They cleared the stage of all non essential personnel when they did a “alternate” version where the actress took her top off. Chuck Biscuits was just an incredible drummer who also played with D.O.A., Black Flag, and Social Distortion. It was pretty exciting to have them on our little soundstage on Vernon Blvd. in Astoria Queens.

11. Antidote: “Return 2 Burn”

A classic, I had to include it. I’m impartial to this one and not just because I’m the singer in the band. It’s a real moment in time. In 1990 many so called “Hardcore” bands grew their hair out and “went metal.” Antidote was certainly no exception. Although we lost a lot of the original “Hardcore’ fan base when this came out, we gained a a whole new crowd. As 20 year olds at the time we just got tired of playing hardcore and wanted to do something different. Years later things have come full circle and we are back to our basic love of hardcore when we play a rare live show. That said people love this song and it is included in our set.

12. Type O Negative: “Black #1”

First off R.I.P. Pete Steele, He was an incredible talent. That said I have mixed feelings about this one. The band was a bit difficult to deal with and really hated the video when it was done. As it turned out it was the video that broke the band in the mainstream and was instrumental in the record “Bloody Kisses” going gold. Go figure, life is like that sometimes. Parris Mayhew directed it and I produced it through Stone Films NYC. What looks like them performing in a “Gothic” castle is actually under the Bethesda Terrace in Central Park where a couple of years before I was an Assistant Director on the Samantha Fox video “I Wanna Have Some Fun.” Also another fun fact about that video is the demons up in the branches of the tree during the shot of Pete Steele playing bass is actually the members of Life Of Agony.

13. The Take “Elitist” and “Revolution Now”

Last year once again I came out of “Music Video retirement” for a pair of videos by a band that really grabbed me. (Decibel did an in-depth piece on The Take a couple months back — ed.) The Take features my old friends Will Shepler (Agnostic Front / Madball) and Scott Roberts (Biohazard). Great band, great songs. Scott is a great songwriter and I’ll stand by that. These guys have a great work ethic that was instrumental in the success they had in such a short time. “Elitist” was primarily shot at the old A7 which is a place that is rich in NYHC history. Since I shot the video there I have revived doing shows there under the “Back To The NYHC Roots Series.” The shows are free and have spawned a whole new generation of kids that love NYHC. All are welcome to play. Feel free to reach out.