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Paul Martin - Guitarist: The Vipers

The Vipers at The Dive 1984

     You have to understand that for us as a band, we were into the sounds of early heavy rock music and focused on song-craft, great instrument tone and an unabashed hatred of corporate music such as hair groups and disco and style over fashion. That focus drove our best material. After we accepted being in a scene, we started to disintegrate because the focus was outward not inward any longer. 

     It was really only Jon Weiss (vocalist) who identified with and liked the idea of being part of the Garage Band scene, since we older members were doing that stuff since before there was a scene - even before Marlene Dietrich coined the term "Punk Rock." This can be seen as understandable when considering I was a little older than Jon, David (guitar) & Graham (bass) and that Pat (drummer) and I were both original mini-hippies by 1967 and had grown tired of everything neo-60s except the rock and roll by that point in time.

     The Garage Rock scene of the 1980s was too much like a Hollywood version or the impressions your little brother or sister had of what it was like in the 60s - rather than from an understanding of why stuff actually occurred. In other words, it was made up of people who were too young to have experienced the first go-round. Not to denigrate the scene which was perfectly valid and was a great happening, Pat and I just preferred if the Vipers would stand alone on the merit of our musicianship, creative song-writing, performances and recordings without the baggage of the scene and its neo-mod trappings.

     OK, that said The Vipers did start the Cave Stomps at the Dive and, not to be crass but that was primarily done to bring in money and band recognition for us (The Vipers appeared in every Village Voice ad that I pasted up and submitted personally week after week). It wasn't an exclusively "Garagy" thing though. Bands in NYC that had gigs at the Peppermint Lounge could not play The Ritz and vice versa. Even then, you could only get a premier booking like that every 4-6 weeks. That was hard for us NY bands that were actually getting those big gigs. It may have been a $10k night, but that barely took care of stoking the home fires. That was the purpose of The Dive gigs. We could stay in the collective consciousness and make a few bones, and lend a hand to other groups in our echelon of bubbling to the surface and on the way up.

     We were entrepreneurial about this from Jon Weiss having been the Peppermint Lounge's door man, and myself having promoted parties that launched the Mudd Club (downtown) and Cartoon Alley (uptown), being a NYC rock community scene maker since The Dolls played Max's KC and the Talking Heads and Ramones played CBs on weeknights to a hand full of locals like ourselves.

     We did enjoy ourselves - don't think for a second we didn't! I just hope that you can understand my slightly different perspective of things. It was kind of a curse, let me explain. We were becoming a big draw at the Peppermint Lounge with a 60s flavor. The Rockats were doing a 50s sound and becoming a big draw at The Ritz. We were great friends - still are. We had more in common than whatever other similarly sounding groups you'd care to name. The problem for the Rockats came when The Stray Cats hit the charts. There was no room for a second Rockabilly band! The Rockats were far more exciting on stage (to me). You can't deny the brilliance of Brian Setzer however, which kept them from being a novelty. It didn't bode well for The Rockats getting a big deal, though.

     This is analogous to what I feared could be a trap for The Vipers, and it wound up kinda being that way. Jon Weiss would say in rehearsals around 1984-5 how one song - as good as it might have been, did not sound 1966-y, or this particular guitar was too new looking. The focus went outward, and I stopped caring, 'cause it had nothing to do with our strengths, it was pandering and I got tired of resisting, and lost my will to fight after a while. 

     We were a great band that lost our way from selling out to the lowest bidder! 

     If our manager, Bob Cicciarelli had not died, things would have been very different, but that was the beginning of our long, slow slide.

     Thank goodness for our first album, "Outta The Nest!" which was pretty much our vision of psychedelia. We had a very different second album planned. "Poison Put To Sound" was never released. Then Bob passed away and we lost our way and our album "How Bout S'More?" was slow torture and after a while Jon Weiss, bless his heart, was really the only one who cared any more.

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The Vipers

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