Jack Flanagan - Guitar, Ralph Gebbia - Vocals, Jose Gonzales - Bass, 80’s Redux:
A Conversation with Ralph Gebbia of The Mob NYHC

By Rachelle Nones wordsmith3@prodigy.net
Photos Courtesy Weathermaker Music

More than three decades have passed since The Mob performed at Manhattan dives and legendary clubs like CBGB’s. Today, the New York hard-core (NYHC) band’s original members are still performing together and rockin’ back into circulation with a new single “Back to Queens.”

About a month after their new single’s release date, I checked in with Mob vocalist Ralph Gebbia to discuss the band’s early years and current projects. The Mob originated in Jackson Heights, Queens, so I wondered how growing up in Queens influenced The Mob’s early development as a band. I asked, “Why New York hard-core?”

“The Ramones were a big influence on us— coming from our area and doing something that was so extraordinarily different at the time. We were young kids from Queens and we were all friends and would go to shows together. We would see things that were a heavy influence on us. We knew what we wanted to do based on what we weren’t hearing and what we were going to see in the local clubs and taking it back and trying our own version.”

The Mob found their niche when they latched onto a new wave of punk rock that was beginning to surface. Gebbia explained, “There was no New York hard-core when we started. There was punk rock. Punk rock was moving in a more aggressive fashion and we were part of that. It was happening in California and in Washington, D.C., and we were the third phase of that. It started happening in New York City and we were developing our version of that hard-core scene.”

When I asked Gebbia to describe the moment when the band realized they were part of a significant new music trend, Gebbia laughingly replied, ”When five people showed up the first time!”

During a December 8, 2011 interview with Diane Kamikaze on WFMU, Gebbia spoke about how the '80s New York hardcore punk bands supported one another’s efforts. I reminded Gebbia that he’d summed up the mood as “New York United” and then asked him about the motivation behind the united front.

“The unity had to come because there was no other support for us…there was no record labels, there was no radio, there was no clubs or promoters who were supporting what we were doing. That united front came from us having to do everything on our own. We put out our own records and we put out other people’s records. The unity portion came not as a revolt against a single entity but to support everything we tried to do because no one else was supporting it. This was a separate art form that was just in its infancy “

The 1980s were wild years in New York City. Many bands didn’t emerge from that decade intact so I asked Gebbia for the Mob’s survival secret.

“You’re all still alive and well and performing together. What separated The Mob from the bands that didn’t survive that scene?”

“There’s only one word I can use-- luck. We could have easily had casualties. I have no answer to that but we love it and we take
advantage of it. We talk about it all the time. Being that we were all friends from the same neighborhood might have something to do with it but I don’t know. We say, ‘We have to do a show this year because we don’t want one of us to die.’ That’s what makes us fun today.”

The Mob has certainly chosen a fun marketing approach for its latest series of four limited edition vinyl singles; premiering with the release of “Back to Queens.” With smokin’ hot cover art created by New York tattoo artist Mr. Den, all of the singles bear cover designs intended to interact with one another and form a singular design when they are pieced together.

The Mob“What inspired you to write “Back to Queens?”

“It comes from my youth and getting back to basics and the life cycle of making a complete turn. All I want to do is get back to my roots, relax and have fun again. Everything else is so complicated.”

“If you had to predict a major music trend what would say is coming?”

“I’d like to see them refine the craft of musicianship but I don’t see that coming. I’m really so disappointed in mainstream music and the trends that occur because there are artists out there but the industry itself has really faltered. What I see is it becoming a totally independent network because of the technology. What you see out there that is being pushed at us by the media is bland rethreads of old stuff but there is so much unique stuff out there that is being done individually just as we did it in 1981 and 1982.”

“What do you believe is behind the disappointing trends in music that you’ve just mentioned?”

“The kids are sitting on their couches afraid to leave the house and they’re playing their games. There’s a lack of musicianship and
creativity and people willing to stand up for what they’re really willing to do. I’m finding that it’s a dead society.”

As depressing as that sounds, Gebbia keeps the faith, often visiting small local clubs to check out new talent. He said that Manhattan real estate is too expensive to spawn another CBGB’s but believes that places like Williamsburg, Brooklyn, or Jersey City are filling the vacuum.

He’s amazed at the number of shows taking place lately and recently checked out a few bands performing in New Jersey clubs. He particularly enjoyed a recent performance by the Jersey-based punk rock band The Flops. Gebbia said, “I saw them last weekend at this local dive. They’re a band I’m really excited about.”

There had been some buzz about a self-made Mob documentary so I asked Gebbia when fans could expect to view it.

“We’re putting together everything we can possibly gather. We have pictures, flyers and music that was never released that we are putting in one place in a documentary film on CD and DVD. It’s an ongoing project but we are moving forward with it.”

Before signing off, Gebbia revealed a few wishes on The Mob’s bucket list.

“I would love to take The Mob around the world and go to all of the places we never went before. We never took it overseas but we’ve had a lot of interest, especially in the European countries. I’d love to hit Europe as a whole…Spain…England.  We’re not dead yet. The bucket list is something we’re always talking about.”

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