Gary Bennett of Kill Your Idols on the band's new reissue
by Interviews

What is there really to say about Kill Your Idols that wouldn’t be derivative or obvious. They are, simply, one of the most important bands in hardcore and punk. Lucky for us, Chronic Death Record is reissuing the band’s first full-length. The aptly named 12-inch LP was first released way back in 1997 via the long-defunct None of the Above Records. Now, Chronic Death’s reissue treatment includes previously unreleased rehearsal tracks with Deathcycle’s Ron Grimaldi in drums, and three color variants. Punknews' Mike Musilli chatted with founding member Gary Bennett about the reissue, the tragic loss of Vinny Value, and being in a band in the age of COVID.

How did the reissue for the first record come together? Gary: After Vinnie passed, Anthony joined as our drummer. He’s put out records before on his label, Chronic Death Records. He had just finished putting out an Eyehategod/ Sheer Terror split 7”, and asked me who owned the rights to the long out of print 12” Ep. I told him technically Blackout! Records. Even though None of the Above records originally released it, we owned the recording. We gave it to Blackout! to wipe away a tour support debt. But Bill Wilson hasn’t done anything with it since, So we asked for permission to do a limited run, and he was very accommodating. Thank you, Bill. Blackout! plans on doing a proper box set release of our entire catalogue down the line.

Are you still in touch with anyone from NOTA? What do you remember of that time, especially since the label put out a bunch of great LI bands in such a brief time? Gary: I haven’t been in touch with Brett other than some Facebook interaction since he moved away. But None of the Above, as a record store and as a label, was highly influential on the scene and its growth in the 90s. We wouldn’t have done what we did without his help, and subsequently without Blackout’s help.

What has your experience been with KYI since you all decided to get back together? Gary: Every show is an event. It’s a great time, every time. No one leaves unhappy. It’s always special and always emotional. I’d say we should have never broken up, but sometimes you need to get off the boat for a while. But our band is special and so is our following. Every show is like the ending of “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

Obviously the loss of Vinnie is a tragedy for the band. How has that changed the band, and what was the decision-making process like in keeping the band going? Gary: Not a day goes by still that we don’t mourn Vinnie, and I’m sure we always will. Somehow, it’s driven us to write more music though. I feel like we need to push further for him and for ourselves. He was very vocal about writing new music and not just playing old songs at shows. We knew he was right, but we hadn’t written anything since around 2005. Plus, it seemed we only ever had time to rehearse for shows. If the pandemic served any good purposes, one of them was making it so we could concentrate on new songs. But at the expense of live shows and venues. Between the pandemic and losing Vinnie…terrible year. As people, we are having our own individual rough go of this. Vinnie was our brother. I’m sure our feelings will pour out onto the next recordings. Vinnie was a special guy, loved by all. And he’s left behind quite a legacy of recordings. A legend of NYHC.

Besides the reissue KYI has a busy year ahead with a bunch of splits and releases. How did all of that come together? Gary: We owe most of this to Anthony. Anthony is young and very connected to the scene, and a little bit more on the ball these days than the rest of us. He is a guy that hustles. His mind is always on his next move. He got us involved with Triple B for the next full length. He got us involved with Flatspot to do the split with Rule them all. That was a no brainer, because we are all friends anyway. I talk to Dave from State of mind all the time, and the guys in The Path are longtime friends of ours, so that kinda just came together. Dave will also release a live LP of KYI at Tompkins Square Park, and the proceeds will benefit Vinnie’s wife and children.

KYI has consistently helped younger bands via shows and releases. Talk about why you prioritize that in terms of the band and releases. Gary: It’s what we’ve always been about. It’s a scene, a community…or at least it’s supposed to be. It’s about helping each other. It’s about raising each other up. When there’s a lot of good bands and promoters, and record labels, and zines, working together, everyone wants to get involved and everyone takes pride in being a part of it. When bands just compete with each other, you get a scene of snobs and cheesy cover bands, and nobody cares. What goes around, comes around.

How has the band coped with the pandemic in terms of rehearsals and recording? Gary: We are working mostly over the internet, which is going well. We’ve been very productive. It’s harder for Andy because he lives in Florida now, and it’s hard for him to get inspired when he’s not around the process. None of us are really fans of working this way. We are old school. But again, Anthony being a Protools engineer has amounted to us writing and recording a lot of demos. It’s been a great flow.

Good movies, tv shows, and/or books you picked up during the pandemic? Gary: I’ve become an even fatter slob during this pandemic than ever. I’ve spent it watching Columbo re-runs, The Mandalorian, Picard, Wandavision. I watched all of Agent Carter finally. My wife and I re-watched Game of Thrones at one point. I’m actually an “essential (barf) employee,” as I work for the power company. I’ve had to quarantine about four times, but I haven’t lost a paycheck. I imagine bands will be doing lots of benefits when shows come back, because the venue situation is fucked. Let’s hope we all see each other sooner than later. Please take care of yourselves, and be safe, everyone!