"I have no problem with anyone as long as they're peaceful, cool, want to have a good time and believe in doing what's right for the citizens of this county." That's not George W. on acid or a wannabe presidential replacement speaking. That political philosophy is courtesy of Moss, frontman for Charlotte hardcore punkers the Dirty South Revolutionaries.
Even though DSR's music sounds rough, the message the six member crew -- Moss and co-vocalist Pete Ager, bassist Jim Taddeo, brother Josh on drums, Adam Lane and Steven Stoner on guitars -- is trying to deliver is one of unity. Noticing that hardcore kids influenced by bands including Hatebreed, Throwdown and First Blood were fighting with fans of Rancid and the Clash, the band came up with the idea of incorporating several styles of punk into their own sound. "That was really the whole reason for starting the band," Moss says, "to try to bring peace to the music scene in Charlotte."
That goal was set back somewhat when an 18-member cadre of police waded into a crowd at a human rights festival where the band was appearing locally on Sept. 23. Six people, including Moss, were arrested. Moss says he can't talk specifics since his case is still pending. But an Associated Press wire report quotes Charlotte's Action Center for Justice coordinator and event organizer David Dixon as saying that the police were out of control, charging into the crowd of 200 gathered at Trade and Tryon streets, jumping on people. Starting out as a noise complaint from the Marriott across the street, the incident escalated when a newspaper was allegedly set afire close to the responding officer's legs, causing him to call for back up. The police allege that the crowd was being stirred up by members of several bands including a couple from DSR, although the band's set was over at the time officers arrived.
"They had me for resisting arrest, I think, and a lesser charge. I can't really remember," Moss says. "We're early in our career now and things are really hectic and my memory isn't what it used to be."
Instead of capitalizing on the incident, Moss wants to put it behind him, wanting to talk about the music, and not about "whatever the hell goes on around it."
The band has not had problems like that before and Moss insists that they don't do anything that draws that kind of attention to themselves. "We are an outrageous band, but no more than Alice Cooper in the '70s."
You won't find the same kind of onstage antics with DSR that Cooper engaged in -- no baby doll dismembering or simulated hangings -- but there's still plenty to look at and listen to. The band's energetic delivery coupled with a mix of hardcore metal, Oi! and a few other genres outside punk give fans a window into rooms some have never bothered to look in. "We just wrote a ska song. We wrote a rockabilly song with a hardcore breakdown in it." Moss says he and the band are past caring what anybody thinks about music. "You should be able to get up there and play whatever the hell you want."
That attitude is great in theory, but it doesn't always work in practice. Moss and his bandmates have been tossed out of nationalist right wing bars, but he says they disagreed with his band's viewpoint, and that he had no problem with them. "A lot of times the biggest problem is just ignorance to what's going on. We're just trying to educate people, we're not in any way violent."
But some have seen their affiliation with the Dirty South Crew as running with a gang, an allegation that Moss dismisses, calling it a union of musicians, fans and bands. "We play dangerous clubs. We play biker clubs, skinhead clubs -- we play the underbelly of society pretty much. And if you have a union of people who protect each other, then it's pretty much just a way to keep you from getting killed at a show," he says, laughing wryly.
Punk has always attracted the alienated, the disenfranchised, those without strong family ties. "We have something missing and we fulfill that with each other. We made our own family because we didn't have family until now." Though Moss doesn't mention the Charlotte incident specifically, he concedes that when someone attacks one of the crew, other members tend to react violently, seeing it as being the same as attacking a mother or a brother. "All of us are like blood, cause that's all we have." He says he wishes people wouldn't make it out to be like some group of thugs. "It's just friends, family sticking together."
Moss spreads that philosophy of unity through the music. Although he admits his fans tend to lean to the left wing a bit, he says the band tries to stay in the middle. "We honestly preach against both because everybody lives in a shade of gray. There's no black or white -- they're just trying to do what's right."
But just because DSR preaches unity and peace doesn't mean that they are model citizens. "We're not cub scouts, not the kinds of guys you really want to bring home to your mother," Moss warns. "Most of us grew up in a bad scene, with a lot of us having problems in early childhood with parents with drug addictions and others running in and out of foster homes and other kids were homeless and squatters."
Moss says the band's message is directed at kids going through similar situations and not necessarily for general consumption, but anybody who wants to listen to the music for what it is, is more than welcome to do so.
Still, he wants it to have a wide appeal. "I watched an episode of American Chopper where they had Billy Joel talking about making an old style chopper," Moss says. "But he wanted new things on it. That's kind of what we are, like an old-style, traditional punk rock, hardcore band, but with elements of newer things. We want to make something old, but make it accessible to newer people."
Dirty South Revolutionaries play the Milestone Club, with Against All Authority, Time Again, the Flatliners, Sapco; Nov. 24; 8:30 p.m.; $10; www.themilestoneclub.com.