knows New York City. But there is a part of the city
thatnot all outsiders are familiar with. WAY downtown,
bordering on the well-known East Village, is the neighborhood
known as the Lower East Side.This section of NYC is
not filled with skyscrapers, but rather with five-story
tenement buildings, at times struggling to remain
standing, since they were built in the late 1800's.
While the East Village (specifically St. Mark's Place)
is known as virtually "ground-zero" for
the birth of punk-rock, the Lower East Side is known
as it's dirtier, rougher, noisier, and scarier (to
most people) cousin. Here, in the Lower East Side,
the true artists come searching for the messed-up
place where they belong. This is where Howie Statland
would wind up. This is where Howie would set up shop.
A virtuoso musician since childhood on both guitars
and piano, Howie ran screaming from his kind parents
and idyllic hometown outside of Chicago, as soon as
he could figure out how to get away. He could not
exist in this lovely world where he had been brought
up. Growing up to the sounds of Lou Reed, and The
Who, and soaking in their twisted messages and tales
of hardcore urban experiences, Howie knew that the
dirty boulevard was where he belonged, so he went
there. And it damn near killed him. But a few years
after sinking to the depths of depravity in his new
hometown of New York, Howie made a miraculous discovery.
He had spent many sleepless nights with his demons.
But he awoke from the nightmare that he had needed
to dream. He had figured this place out. He belonged
here, and really, this place, the Lower East Side,
Howie was no longer a street urchin. No longer a strung-out
rich kid running wild through nights that rarely included
going to sleep. He knew that he had to get clean or
he would be dead. And he managed to do it. But that
same edge was still a huge part of him, and he knew
he somehow still belonged in this rough part of town
that chews up so many people yet doesn't even bother
to spit them out. He scraped, and he saved, and Howie
managed to eventually open his own vintage guitar
shop, (the literally world-famous Rivington Guitars.)
Howie's love of guitars from forgotten decades, and
old, time-worn effects pedals, along with amps from
as far back as the 1940's, and warped reel-to-reel
multitrack recorders would be his salvation. Funny
that this shop on the gritty Rivington Street in the
Lower East Side would not only finally provide a modest
living for Howie, but it would also help him put together
the musical project he had always dreamed of.
Not everybody in America knows Howie yet, but he could
truly be called a RockStar at this time in his life.
Because Lou Reed knows Howie. Philip Glass knows Howie.
The New York Dolls know Howie. And EVERYONE in the
L.E.S. knows Howie. Howie has always been immensely
likeable, if stand-offish. His shy introspection might
be mistaken for coldness, but this incredible artist
cannot be blamed for having millions of thoughts cluttering
his mind, all simultaneously crying to be let out,
to be expressed through his only outlet; music. Even
with these ideas flooding his mind, Statland would
strike up a conversation with just about anybody.
One day in the guitar shop he struck up a conversation
with Kevin Fox Haley, who was looking for a new bass,
and a new band, and New York City Smoke was born.
Even if neither of them knew it yet.
Kevin Fox also lived in the Lower East Side, and like
Howie, he too obsessed over the horrible state of
much of current popular music. Kevin Fox was raised
on a steady diet of live shows by the Ramones, Clash,
and Sex Pistols, and this young musician too would
come to know his idols personally. Kevin Fox even
once rehearsed on bass with Steve Jones and Paul Cook
from the Pistols. This would figuratively put him
in Sid Vicious' "spot!" Not bad for a kid
who was 8 years old when "Never Mind The Bollocks"
was released. And much like the Sex Pistols met by
hanging around Malcolm McLaren's shop in London, New
York City Smoke was born out of Rivington Guitars
in the Lower East Side. Kevin who was frequently unemployed
would spend hours at Howie's shop where they would
discuss their love of true, honest rock and roll.
Listening to vinyl LPs, drinking too much coffee and
Diet Coke, these two could talk for hours about anything
related to music. From what year classic albums were
released, to who produced those records, to what mixing
console was used for the recording, these two could
appreciate in each other the love of music. Real music.
Real rock and roll.
Howie was already an accomplished songwriter, and
a sick guitarist, who was releasing his own CDs, touring
essentially as a solo artist and building a devoted
following around the U.S. and parts of Europe. Kevin
bought a beat-up '78 Fender Precision Bass from Howie
and asked if he could try out for Howie's band. If
Kevin Fox's playing wasn't exemplary in technique,
it certainly exuded tons of heart, and truly unrestrained
raw power. Kevin is known for often breaking the heaviest
string on the bass, which is not easy to do. Together,
they would see NYCSmoke through several incarnations,
touring the states and playing increasingly high profile
New York gigs, building a name for the band. The two
would always remain the core nucleus of the band,
but were never truly happy until all the other pieces
fell into place.
The way the band became what it is today is rather
strange in how naturally it all evolved. Again through
the shop, an unbelievably talented (and gorgeous)
girl named Kim Henry would enter the band. She played
a vintage gold-top Les Paul, and played here is a
real understatement. Kim had been in Major Label acts,
but had grown disillusioned with the music business
as well. When she asked if she could play guitar for
New York City Smoke, the decision was made before
she finished uttering the question. Imagine Joan Jett
asking you if she can join your band. Gee, what would
YOU say? Kim was a true friend already, part of the
crew at Rivington Guitars and could more than hold
her own when it came to knowledge of Rock History.
Kim was a HUGE fan of The Who, just like Howie and
Kevin. Plus she could talk Studer 2-Tracks and TS
808 Tube-Screamers with the best of them. Hell, Kim
even subscribed to the underground TapeOp magazine
before Howie was ever featured in it! Are girls allowed
to be this cool?
this point NYCSmoke had "Spinal Tapped"
their way through yet another drummer. There had to
be an end to the revolving door, a door spun non-stop
by these hired-gun hacks, these mercenary skin pounders.
Enter former ”Billionaire," Matt Lewis.
Truly down to Earth, and one of the nicest guys in
town, "Matteus" had recently finished playing
in a band with his best friends for years. The band,
Billionaire Boys Club, had nearly gone over the top,
even playing on Carson Daly's NBC show as the house
band! But the dear friends had done their time as
a band and were moving on. Matt had spent his entire
life devoted to one thing: smashing the hell out of
drums. (In perfect time, mind you!) This no-nonsense
battering ram was exactly the driving force needed
to tie in with Kevin Fox's raging basslines. Matt
joining the band nearly perfected it. Nearly...
The figurative and literal "cherry on top"
would be the man known as "Double Sour;"
Jesse Soursourian himself. This charismatic and handsome
young actor was making his way up through the world
of drama that every New York actor must endure. Even
though he was climbing the ladder of success in the
acting world, Jesse's true calling, being a genius
on keyboards and piano, would not let go of him. Jesse
was a known fixture at Rivington Guitars, and everybody
in the gang loved him. You never had to rent "Annie
Hall" again if you knew Jesse, because he would
recite most of it line for line almost daily. Everybody
at the guitar store knew that Jesse played keys, but
still just thought of him as "The Kid."
When Jesse asked if he could join, nobody even answered
him. But on a daily basis Jesse would be seen around
the guitar store, and he would keep asking Howie to
let him play keys for NYCSmoke. When Howie relented,
and Jesse auditioned, the entire band was blown away
by Jesse's deft skill, inventive and complicated riffs,
and both his originality and sheer dominance over
the Moog synth he was playing. Jesse was most definitely
in, and New York City Smoke was now most definitely
a band. In fact, it was now the band that Howie Statland
had sought to put together for so many years.
The individual accomplishments of Howie and the other
members are impressive. In past projects they've been
on Major Record Labels, and they've been around the
world. Together, however, they are reaching new heights
in modern rock music. Often referred to as "New
York's best-kept secret," they manage to fuse
together all that is real and great in rock and roll.
Raw guitars, expertly played. A driving rhythm section
that never lets up. Melodies from keys and guitars
that intertwine like something celestial and divine,
all come together with vocals delivered straight from
the heart, and the mind, and most definitely the throat,
of Howie Statland. In NYCSmoke, you can feel the spirit
of true rock and roll. You can feel The Who. You can
feel Lou Reed, The Replacements, Bob Dylan, Pearl
Jam, and even Pete Yorn. You feel all of these great
artists, and more, when you listen to NYCSmoke. But
you don't hear these great artists. What you hear
is a band like no other, a band that is making real
music again, with real instruments, and with real
talent. Guess what. Music is good again.
Statland: Vox, Gtr
Kevin Fox Haley: Bass, Vox
Kim Henry: Gtr, Vox
Matt Lewis: Drums
Jesse Soursourian: Keys