Outbreak - Ryan O'Connor

Interview Date: May 09, 2009

Associated band: Outbreak


You guys have played plenty of hardcore fests in the past, but you recently played Bamboozle, which is an entirely different crowd. Were you nervous at all about the shift of audience? How were you guys even approached about playing? rn

RYAN O’CONNOR: Absolutely, but then again, I get nervous before we play basement shows to fifty people *laugh*. It's something I've never grown out of no matter how many shows we play. The big festivals are a bit more nerve-racking leading up to our stage time though, especially playing early on in the day. But as soon as we start playing, it all goes away. Bamboozle wasn't super awkward for us, believe it or not. We generally do well in the NYC/NJ area, so there were a lot of hardcore/punk/metal kids who were there to support us. Maybe they're closet Taking Back Sunday fans? I don't know *laugh*, but I wasn't complaining. The crowd was supportive, and we seemed to sell a lot of merch to kids who wouldn't have otherwise seen us had we been on tour with another hardcore band. So at the end of the day, I don't regret it, and it's always pretty cool/funny to be completely out of our element for a day, you know? I think it's easy for people to talk shit on us for it, and maybe as a sixteen-year old kid I can understand that, but it's not like anyone's “taking us away.” I would be willing to bet that the next time we play the NYC/NJ area, it will probably be in a dingy club with graffiti on the walls and no fire escape. Until we sign to a major, sell millions of records, and forget about our roots, don't count us out, regardless of what crazy festivals we occasionally get to play.

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Were you stoked to see any bands on the festival this year? rn

RYAN: Yeah, I love Rise Against, so I was stoked to be able to see those guys. Some of our friends played too, like This Is Hell. It’s always a pleasure sharing the stage with those guys. I would have liked to see GWAR, New Found Glory, and The Get Up Kids, but they played the first day.

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At the Dominic Mallary benefit show in Worcester, you played a couple new songs. Is the new album all recorded and finished? rn

RYAN: We just finished recording a 7\"/Digital single which comes out June 9th. And next week we're actually hitting the studio again to record a proper full length. That probably won't be out till the fall, but the wheels are in motion.... finally!

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You went through a very drastic line-up change. Is there any bad blood between you and the guys in Cruel Hand?rnrn

RYAN: To put it simply, most of those guys were no longer excited about Outbreak and are clearly “over it.” Cruel Hand was relatively new and unlike Outbreak, it was something that those guys (Nate and Chris) had started from scratch. Outbreak was old news to them. It wasn't too much of a surprise to me when they chose to pursue Cruel Hand full time. For over a year they juggled both bands, but schedules were starting to conflict, and it was becoming a big headache for me, not to mention becoming a financial burden. It was obvious to me where everyone's priorities were when a recording session for Cruel Hand was chosen over an all-expenses paid Japanese tour for Outbreak (the latter of which was confirmed first). That was the final straw for me.

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Shortly after, Chris quit the band via e-mail. In my opinion, this had “broken the ice” and made it a safe move for others to speak out and put themselves in the open - and I respect Chris for that, even if it was through an e-mail. Given Chris leaving, and the scheduling conflicts, I called Nate and told him that I didn't think it was possible for both Outbreak and Cruel Hand to continue sharing members. He agreed, and as expected, chose to pursue Cruel Hand. Outbreak had tours confirmed and lined up in the months ahead, and I knew one way or another I wasn't bailing on what was already booked. I just wasn't sure if the band should continue after those tours. It was a pretty depressing time for me, but quickly became revitalizing after rehearsing with fill-ins, friends, potential bandmates, etc. I knew it was a fresh start and a huge weight off my back since Nate, Chris and I were having less and less in common as the years passed. I'm not saying we hated each other, because I don't think that was the case. I still looked out for those guys, whether they believe me or not. I made sure that Outbreak took them on tour; I mentioned them in every single Outbreak interview, and even individually I looked out for them - I was the one and only person to throw a punch when Chris was getting pummeled by a monster of a bouncer on one of our last tours together. I think it's just a matter of all of us growing up, getting into different things, having different outlooks and personalities. It's easy for me to say “those guys changed - I'm still the same dude!” which I do feel strongly about, but I'm sure they're thinking the same thing about themselves, so who really knows what happened. It's just interesting how you get involved with a band because you're good friends, and then by the end you can't stand each other... It's like becoming roommates in college with your best friend from High School *laugh*, not always a happy ending. Or how about getting married as an example? That seems appropriate since most marriages end up in divorce. I can't remember who said it, but being in a band is like having 3-4 girlfriends all at once...not like Huge Hefner style either, but in a very bad way *laugh*. Okay, enough examples, you get my point.


After they left, there was a time when Nate and I pretty much told each other to fuck off, and that was that. It cooled down after some time went by, and the last time we saw each other we shook hands with a smile. My brother Tim (Outbreak's bassist) actually lives with those guys so I thought everything was fine, but I will admit that it's pretty disheartening to recently be in Europe and read shit talk in some random zine.... That makes me less apt to be \"the better man\" in press/interviews and more willing to say what's on my mind, even though I've brushed it off in the past because I felt like it was the honorable thing to do.

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Outbreak's always been my baby, which is probably why I was too stubborn to throw in the towel when Nate and Chris bailed. I've been the only original member for several years now though, so it didn't make sense for me to give up - I'm not the type of guy who starts something and then gives up, and I wasn't/still am not finished with Outbreak. I am not taking away anything that Chris and Nate brought to the band throughout our Bridge 9 run, but shortly after they left, I knew that I had to continue on with the band, and I knew that I had the motivation to do so. Outbreak started without any of the members of Cruel Hand and Outbreak is moving on without any of the members of Cruel Hand. In the last six months we've been involved with some of the biggest tours/festivals that we've ever been a part of. I'm still not “over it.” I'm still excited about touring. I'm still excited about writing songs. I know every band says this, but our new material is our best yet, and most importantly it's allowing me to get a lot off my chest (and not necessarily based on the falling outs listed above, but stretching well beyond that - it's been a wild year) which is the same reason I started Outbreak in the first place. It would have been a big mistake for me to throw in the towel, and I regret nothing.

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To end this gigantic rant, I will say that I'm really excited about my band right now, and it's truly great to feel a sense of passion from my bandmates. It's no secret that Outbreak has always been a band that is plagued with member changes...I can't even count the number of bassists and drummers we've gone through since the beginning! But right now I feel we're in a good place. Having everyone excited about writing songs, going on tour, and the general future of the band is something that I had almost forgotten about. Everyone has so much energy and pours so much into the band that it was a blessing in disguise to have the Cruel Hand guys put their focus and attention into Cruel Hand. There are no more scheduling conflicts, double-booking or inner-band drama. And it's cool because I've got my brother Tim in the band with me. Tim use to fill in for Outbreak before we had a permanent bass player, so it makes it much more than a “scab lineup,” which I don't support. I don't want to be known as the band with a revolving door for a lineup; I want bandmates who I can count on. I feel good about my group of guys right now, and trust me, over the last year we've tried out several guys to find who is now permanent. You might recognize Erik (drums) and Billy (guitar) from No Trigger/Smartbomb, and Brian (guitar) formerly of Grave Maker. We've got a great group of guys and are really excited about the new songs and of course, touring worldwide.

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How did you meet the new guys in the band, and have any of them been in other bands in the past? rn

RYAN: My brother Tim use to fill in for Outbreak in our really early days, so having him with us makes complete sense. Myself/Outbreak has a history with every single one of the “new guys” too, so it works well. Erik and Billy both play in No Trigger and Smartbomb. Smartbomb is a band who I put out records on Think Fast!, and I'm also a big No Trigger fan, so it's great to have those guys on board. Brian use to play in Grave Maker, another band on my label. When they crashed their van on our Canadian tour with Comeback Kid, Brian ended up riding in our van for the duration of the tour, and we really hit it off with him, so it made perfect sense to have him along too. Like I said, smooth sailing.

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Why did you decide to release your new album on your own label rather than Bridge 9?rnrn

RYAN: We fulfilled our contract with Bridge 9 after “Failure,” so it only made sense to do an EP on my own label. I think Chris Wrenn (Bridge 9 owner) is a good guy with good intentions and smart business sense, unfortunately I can't say the same for everyone else I've encountered at Bridge 9. I'll leave it at that. I don't know, I could talk a whole bunch of shit, but I guess that wouldn't be the “honorable” thing to do. I'm almost over it at this point though.... being the nice guy usually means you're the first to get stepped on, period. And trust me, I'm not some idiot who expects the world out of a label for my small hardcore/punk band - I know what's realistic and what's not. We left Bridge 9 on bad terms and after having a lot of time to think over the whole situation, I regret nothing other than biting my tongue and being decent at a time when I wish I would've handled things differently. Live and learn.

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A common theme in hardcore and punk is obviously the emphasis on politics, whether it's macro-politics of the world or micro-politics of how we treat each other in our scene. Does the new Outbreak album have any songs of a more political tone? rn

RYAN: Maybe in the micro-politics you mentioned, but not so much focused around “the scene.” More focused on my personal relationships in everyday life...some of which I guess can stem from friends/foes involved in hardcore/punk, but not typically for the lyrics I write. I've had more falling outs in the last year than I've had in my entire life, and I think that's going to be clearly evident in the new songs. I'm not necessarily referring to the Cruel Hand or Bridge 9 thing either, it goes well beyond that. It's been a crazy year for me to say the least. I've grown up a lot, and handle things a lot differently than I use to. I would never say that I was a pushover, far from it actually, but there have been things I use to let go that I would never ever let go now. People need to be called out when they say/do something fucked up.... I know that everyone fucks up, and I'm no saint; that's not what I'm trying to say at all. Hopefully I'm making some sort of sense here.

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Right before your album comes out, you are hitting the west coast with Cro-Mags. How'd that short tour come about? rn

RYAN: Cro-Mags agent was looking for current hardcore bands to support them, and stumbled upon Outbreak. It was a good feeling to get this tour, because it's been so long since we had a proper release. They confirmed us before they knew about our new EP which blows my mind. It's been three years since our last album, so we have little expectations ‘til we have a new release out, you know? But yeah, getting a Cro-Mags tour is a big check on my “list of things to do before I die.” Now we just need that Sick Of It All tour - make it happen guys!

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Can you touch on your involvement with Last Lights leading up to and after Dominic's passing? I was very struck by the fact that you (through Think Fast!) were putting out that scholarship in his name. That whole idea touched a lot of people who knew him well. rn

RYAN: Erik Perkins (Outbreak drummer) had called me one night and was like “Dude, you NEED to check out this band Last Lights.” He had just seen them in a basement and said it was one of the craziest sets he had ever seen. Perkins knows how many horrible demos I get on a daily basis, so I knew he wouldn't be referring a band to me if it wasn't something I would be stoked on. So I listened to a few songs and I thought they were good. Think Fast! briefly started talks with the band, and I added them to an Outbreak show so I could see them live. After their set, I had called the other guy who does the label with me and told him that it was a no-brainer for us to sign Last Lights. The next day Dominic (Last Lights singer) passed away. It was a bizarre, heart-breaking turn of events. The day I received the bad news, I had gone to visit my parents, and I had picked up a lot of mail that had been piling up for me at my Mom's house. In the pile was a Last Lights 7\" that Dom had sent, along with a hand written note about how I should check out his band and that he would love to play a show with Outbreak sometime. It was sent all the way back in August, but I rarely check mail from my parents’ house, so I didn't receive it ‘til after Dom's passing. The whole thing was just crazy. I attended the wake out of respect for Dom and his family/friends. It was a really moving experience for me. The whole thing was just so abrupt that it was hard to take in. Apparently Dominic was really psyched on the idea of doing a record with Think Fast! so even after his passing, we knew we had to do something. We decided to do a discography in his honor, as well as an annual scholarship/award in his name. The response to both projects has been overwhelmingly supportive, and we're truly honored to have a hand in it. Dom left a lasting impression on his community and the punk/hardcore community as a whole, and we're glad that we can play a small part in making sure his impact is recognized on an even bigger level.

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Lastly, can you name off some of Outbreak's best friends in this music scene? Are there particularly any new bands that people should go online and check out ASAP?rn

RYAN: Some of our best friends are Comeback Kid, Smartbomb, Agnostic Front, and Shai Hulud. I hope we tour with all of these bands again soon. New bands that I think people should check out? Landmines, Nations Afire, Blackened, and Grave Maker are all relatively new bands that I think people should listen to.


Many thanks to Ryan at Outbreak and Think Fast! Records for taking time out for this interview. Check out Outbreak at www.myspace.com/outbreak and Think Fast! Records at www.thinkfastrecords.comrn