We recently caught up with Cliff Wiener who co-operates 1981 Clothing with Alex Kenny as they prepare to launch some hot new items and are set to host a two day festival to celebrate hardcore music and a hardcore lifestyle May 13 and 14th. The festival titled “Bringing It Back For The Kids” will feature performances from some of the most intensely followed bands in hardcore today, including Terror, Stick To Your Guns and Casey Jones.
Wiener and Kenny founded 1981 Clothing in 2005 with the intention of making shirts as fun and unique as the individuals who comprise the world-wide hardcore community. What started out as a straight edge clothing brand, has now expanded to include vegan and vegetarian designs. Wiener and Kenny are strong supporters of music with multiple companies to their name. As 567 Records they released albums by Jeremy Enigk (Sunny Day Real Estate) and Further Seems Forever. As Royal Family Clothing, they have released exclusive limited edition t-shirts for bands like Coheed & Cambria and Whitechapel. Big Hit Management is the latest imprint for this Florida duo who provide a wide spectrum of services for their growing list of clientele.
Today, Cliff discusses the history of 1981 Clothing, Bringing It Back For The Kids Fest, Royal Family Clothing, Big Hit Management, the straight edge community, vegan cheese steaks, and a whole lot more in this exclusive, in-depth interview with Blow The Scene Editor, Joshua T. Cohen.
Joshua BTS: Greetings and thank you for taking a few minutes with us today! Please introduce yourself to Blow The Scene readers around the world and tell us what is your role with 1981 STRAIGHT EDGE CLOTHING and 567 Records?
Cliff Wiener: Hey, I am Cliff. I run both companies with my partner Alex Kenny.
Joshua BTS: The term ‘straight edge’ is now commonplace among those who support the hardcore music community. But for those not familiar; What does the term ‘straight edge’ mean to you? And what role do you see 1981 playing in the movement?
Cliff Wiener: Straight edge is about choices. You have the choice to live your life drug free or not. It’s not my forum to judge anyone or force my ideals on them, It’s the way I choose to live.
1981 is an extension of that belief system. We want to make being edge fun. The hardcore scene we grew up in was all about community and having fun. We make shirts that we think reflect that attitude. We make shirts that say things like “straight edge means I party sober” not “kill your local drug dealer.”
Joshua BTS: Do you feel the core values of the straight edge community have been misinterpreted with the more aggressive stances and gang-like attitudes in certain social circles?
Cliff Wiener: I think some of that stuff we’ve sort of brought on out selves. I think there are people out there with violent attitudes and a gang mentality and some of that is certainly in part protecting our scene from perceived unwanted elements. Violence and fights have been a part of shows since forever. It’s when things have gotten out of hand that straight edge has gotten a bad rap.
Joshua BTS: 1981 Straight Edge Clothing has announced a two day festival to celebrate hardcore music and the hardcore lifestyle this May. The festival is titled “Bringing It Back For The Kids.” Give us the 411 on this fest. How did you come up with name? And apart from the amazing line-up of bands, we understand you have some pretty rad activities planned that concert goers may not be accustomed to?
Cliff Wiener:The name just sort of speaks to what the fest is about. We wanted to create a positive atmosphere that evokes memories of the way fests used to be run back in the 90s. The activities are really our way of offering something different at our event. When the first Gainesville fest happened there was a variety of things to do beyond watch bands. There was kickball, tetherball, camping all sorts of other unique things. We thought it would be cool to have dodgeball, twister, hula hoops and other similar stuff at our event. Hardcore has always been about community but the community isn’t the same as it was. We wanted to create a fest where you can play games together, mosh, and generally just have a good time.
Joshua BTS: What or how is the current straight edge scene lacking in sense of community? And what and/or whom do you feel is responsible for the shift from the old-school-community vibe of the hxc community to what it has become? – Corporate infiltration, media misinformation, or something more?
Cliff Wiener: Napster is probably the first element to the death of our scene. Suddenly you didn’t need to tape trade to discover unknown bands. More hardcore and punk type bands became main stream so what was once ours, is now everyone’s band. I doubt that many of the kids going to shows today knows what a “sell out” is and what it implies. The death of the zine as we knew it was another major element. We used to have to search out zines to get info from our favorite bands. Now all that information is readily available to us via google. I think social networking that sort of started with sites like makeout club has now just evolved into friend collecting rather than relationship building.
Joshua BTS: What extra-curricular activities should we expect to see you taking part in at the fest?
Cliff Wiener: I am not sure what I will have time for since I need to make sure everything runs smoothly but I am hoping to play some dodge ball.
Joshua BTS: 1981 Clothing has expanded into vegan and vegetarian clothing. Awesome! What brought about this decision? And are you also vegan?
Cliff Wiener: We kept getting requests for xvx shirts. . So we thought it would be cool to really just go all in and be really committed to making a vegan and vegetarian clothing line. I am not vegan. I have so many friends that are it’s sort of like the line in pulp fiction. My girlfriend is a vegetarian so that just about makes me a vegetarian.
Joshua BTS:For those who may just be coming interested in the straight edge and vegan lifestyles; Where would you suggest he or she find good information? Any websites or other references you would recommend?
Cliff Wiener: When I got into it I didn’t really have a point of reference per say. I think you can read the lyrics to Minor Threat’s “Straight Edge” and be well on your way to figuring it all out. It helps to have some real life guidance. Someone has to hand you the keys. It seems like every older hardcore or punk dude had some older hardcore or punk dude hand them a tape and be like “you need to listen to Gorilla Biscuits. “ We didn’t have message boards telling us what the flavor of the month was. Vegan is different in that sense. There are numerous sites and magazines that cater to that life style that I think can help you make dietary choices that make sense.
Joshua BTS: As someone who plays an active role within the straightedge and vegan communities are there any grassroots organizations or budding movements there within, that you think more people should be paying attention to right now?
Cliff Wiener: I haven’t come across anything that interesting of late. I think it’s a great time for people to stand up and get active.
Joshua BTS: What were some of the causes that you’ve backed in the past?
Cliff Wiener: I’ve always tried to steer clear of causes and fighting for this or that. Often times there is a political agenda involved with these causes, that don’t always at their cores make much sense to me. I’d rather put food out for a homeless animal than trust an organization I donate money to, to do it.
Joshua BTS: And you say ”it’s a great time for people to get up and get active” – What would you like to see more people becoming active in?
Cliff Wiener: I’d like to see more people trying to actually achieve something with their lives instead of just following the cookie cutter path of go to school, get a job, spend your life working for someone else, doing whatever they tell you. Too many people are just content with doing nothing on just so many levels.
Joshua BTS: Favorite veggie snack right now?
Cliff Wiener: There’s a place called Darbster in West Palm Beach, Fl that has vegan philly cheese steaks and chicken parm. If you come into town for the fest you should def check it out.
Joshua BTS: We’ve got some pretty mean vegan cheese steaks here in Philly, we may have to take you up on that!
Cliff Wiener: I read an article about the best cheese steak in Philly not that long ago and the winner was a place I’d never heard of. I have to look it up. Maybe you can do it and drop the info in!
Joshua BTS: Got ya! Blackbird Pizza is an all Vegan spot in Philly with the best of everything. These guys will be catering This Is Hardcore this year (Philly’s Own Annual Hardcore Fest)
You are about to be dropped off on a desert island for a year. Apart from life-sustaining materials, you get a solar and wind-powered generator, an original 8-bit Nintendo, TV, and Boom Box (80s style. No CD player). What Nintendo games and cassette tapes are you bringing with?
Cliff Wiener: Zelda, Mario, Excite Bike, All Star Baseball, Kung Fu, Ninja Gaiden, Golgo 13, I could go on…
The Pixies discography, Pavement Slanted and Enchanted, Polvo Today’s Active Life Styles, Earth Crisis Destroy the Machines.
Joshua BTS: Anything new cooking with 567 Records?
Cliff Wiener: We stopped doing 567 after we released the lullaby the storm album. Working with Scott, who’s been a really good friend since the early from autumn to ashes days was really a culmination of everything we set out to achieve in the music industry. When we released Jeremy Enigk’s “The Missing Link” we just realized that we probably couldn’t work with a better artist or musician.
Joshua BTS: What else do you have on your plate these days apart from the clothing line?
Cliff Wiener: I have an artist management company called big hit management. We manage a few bands, Lions Lions, Grenade face, hope for the dying and In reference to a sinking ship. We also have another clothing line called Royal Family Clothing. We have a pretty full plate at this point.
Joshua BTS: What will one find at Royal Family Clothing that separates it from 1981? Any hot items you are stoked on at the RF store?
Cliff Wiener: First royal family isn’t socially conscience driven. Anyone can wear the brand and we’ve tried to really do something that’s completely different than anything we’ve done with 1981. We’re getting ready to launch our spring line. We’re actually making our first foray into under wear and under garments. We may also have the first limited edition band under wear later this year.
Joshua BTS:What are some of the services you provide artists through Big Hit Management?
Cliff Wiener: Every musician needs something different. We really treat each band differently because what can work for one artist may not work for another. We do everything from managing finances to helping them get through rough patches in life. Every situation is different in that regard. We really just wear a ton of different hats.
Joshua BTS: What can we expect from 1981 Clothing throughout the year? If the fest goes well would you consider some 1981 Clothing tours?
Cliff Wiener: We are going to release probably somewhere in the realm of 40 to 50 new straight edge shirt designs and probably 20 new vegan designs as well. We’ve been thinking about doing a new website for sometime now so perhaps this will be the year we finally get it done. We’re really not interested in getting involved on a touring level with 1981. We have other outlets for touring. Royal Family Clothing has a branded tour we do every year. Last year we had from first to last and black veil brides on it. We’re really focused on having a successful festival and doing well enough to come back bigger and better next year.
Joshua BTS: Any closing thoughts or shout-outs?
Cliff Wiener: Thanks Josh for doing the interview. I’d like to send a special shout out to everyone that helps make 1981 possible. Alex, Kevin, Jared and everyone at Districtlines, Ian, Matt, Krystal and the rest of the Merchnow crew, Ryan at merch connection, the people who have guided and advised us when we’ve needed it like Carl and Paul at Goodfight, Brian and Mike at Metal Blade, Vaughhn and Kenny at Strong, Tim, Dave, and JJ at the agency group., and Kelly from Live Nation for making me wear my seat belt.
If you’re thinking about becoming straight edge or vegan make sure you do it for the right reasons. You have to choose to do it because it makes you happy.
1981 STRAIGHT EDGE CLOTHING PRESENTS
BRINGING IT BACK FOR THE KIDS FEST 2011
IN FT LAUDERDALE, FL
FEATURING OVER 30 BANDS INCLUDING:
Close Your Eyes
Hope For the Dying
Knock Em dead
Know the Score (Reunion)
Stick To Your Guns
Trapped under Ice
xBishopx (final show)
MAY 13th & 14th 2011
Bringing It Back For The Kids Fest
Royal Family Clothing
Big Hit Management