Interview: Anguish

In 1994, Anguish released a four-song 7" through Integrity frontman Dwid's now legendary Dark Empire imprint. 26 years later, it remains by far the most overlooked release from said label's discography. I pulled the record out for a spin earlier this year and mentioned on Instagram that it still totally holds up as an unsung gem of that label/era, which led to contact with Anguish vocalist Jeff Jingle, who mentioned that the band had been working on remastering the 7", amongst more exciting prospects. Recognizing that I still knew pretty much nothing about Anguish that could not be gleaned from the 7", I took the opportunity to reach out to Jeff and guitarist Colin Flynn to finally shed some light on the history—and future!?—of one of Ohio's most underrated dark metallic hardcore acts of the '90s...

Very little information about Anguish has seeped out online over the years, so I'll open with an overly rudimentary question and just ask you to talk about when and how the band first came together...

Jeff: We were in our prime before there was an "online." Colin, Eric [Eickmann, bass], and I all went to high school together, and we started going to hardcore shows, but I don't remember how we heard about them. Colin has a better memory of it than I do, so I'll let him interject...

Colin: Everything pre-internet was randomly organic. Eric and I rode the bus home from school together when he was in 8th grade and I was in 9th. I noticed he often wore a Megadeth shirt, so we started talking and became friends. We took guitar lessons together and decided to start a band. We auditioned a few friends, and Jeff was the clear winner [laughs]. I remember our first few hardcore shows: Windpipe (members of Ringworm and Confront) and Splinter in Akron; Ringworm, Face Value, and State of Mind [featuring Steve Meketa of Apartment 213, Lockweld, etc.] at Flash's in Cleveland; and then Endpoint at the first Canton Y show we ever went to. We ended up playing our first show opening for Turmoil just a few months later.

Jeff: The most challenging part was finding a drummer. We tried playing with some guys from school that we weren't even friends with, and it was a disaster. They just didn't fit our style. So, we decided to cast a wider net and put an ad in a local magazine called Scene and we found our drummer, Adam [Juresko], who lived in Parma, which was about 25 miles away from where we lived. It's crazy to think about it now, because the only place we could practice was at Eric's house, and Adam didn't have a car. None of us did. We were only 16 years old. Colin could usually borrow his mom's minivan, so we'd drive 25 miles to Parma, pick up Adam, practice, and have to take him all the way home and drive back. It was literally 100 miles of driving just to practice. God, I can't believe we did that. Even then, it seemed crazy.

The band's lone 7" was recorded at Electro-Sound in Kent, OH while the members were still in high school. How did you land at Electro-Sound, and do you have any particular memories about the recording sessions?

Jeff: We wanted to record at Mars—which is where Integrity, Ringworm, and a lot of local bands cut some great-sounding records—but we didn't have any money or too many options. We ended up at Electro-Sound mostly because we were friends with Splinter, and that's where they recorded their LP. We scraped together about $320 that we made playing shows, and I remember it being a decent experience, but very fast. Also, we wanted to have more of a hand in the mix and the sound. We actually recorded a five-song demo nine months before the 7" that is truly bizarre. You wouldn't believe it's the same band! We had a different drummer, and Adam actually played second guitar. It sounds nothing like us, and I remember while we were recording how bad it sounded.

Jeff's copy of the early-1994 Anguish demo, alongside an old t-shirt design.

Colin: Although he—I think his name was Greg [Feezel]—had recorded a bunch of bands and even Splinter before us, he had zero idea of what sound we were going for. Fortunately, since we were so fast in recording, I was able to put two and sometimes three tracks down to get closer to the heavy sound we were going for. We were kids, had no money, trash gear, and no idea what we were doing, but it was really fun.

Jeff: We actually recorded five songs in two days. Unfortunately, none of us has a copy of the fifth song. I've gone through all my tapes and just can't find it. I'd kill to find a copy of it.

How did you get hooked up with Dwid and Dark Empire?

Jeff: When we recorded the 7", I don't recall having a plan at first. Larry Gargus, [the vocalist] from Splinter—it always circles back to Larry—was going to hook us up with Josh Marenna, whose label Tenacity put out Splinter's [Ten Love Songs] LP, and he was going to release it. Another friend, Steve Meketa from the band Apartment 213, introduced us to Dwid, and he liked it and released it. So, we went in that direction. We were huge fans, and he and Integrity were the kings of hardcore at the time, so it was super gratifying, and also—thinking back to how young we were—it was amazing to have that stamp of legitimacy.

Colin: Steve Meketa was always incredibly supportive of us and had been friends with Dwid for a while, and he made that connection for us. Cleveland has had an awesome and long-running hardcore and heavy music scene, but I think for all of us, Integrity (and Ringworm) were sonically and chronologically right in our wheelhouse, so again, it was fun to have him release it.

Did you find that the Dark Empire "stamp of legitimacy" raised Anguish's profile at all? For instance, did people write you letters, etc. after the 7" started filtering out?

Jeff: It definitely did. We started playing further out than our regular venues, moved to the top of the lineups, and played with the well-known bands that came through town. I wish we'd taken advantage of it a little better in retrospect, but we were kids. And, yes, we got a little fan mail from around the country and a little from Europe, which still blows my mind. I have no idea how the record was distributed or how many were made. It was all so quaint by today's standards, but it was cool because it was organic and happened over time.

Colin: It was cool to reach a bigger audience, and I think the association with the label definitely helped. I'm genuinely surprised, I've met people even recently who knew of the band and had heard the record or had seen us back in the day. Even now, the response we've gotten from the Bandcamp page is really fun. We didn't expect anything.

At least in terms of output, 1994 was Dark Empire's busiest year, but I've always found it strange that Anguish has sort of remained the most underrated release from the label's catalog. How did you feel like Anguish fit in with the area scene at that time, or perhaps what's your personal interpretation of what the scene was like in the heart of the '90s? I know Anguish was fairly close with Splinter, as you've mentioned, another somewhat underrated Ohio gem.

Jeff: Yeah, it was an interesting time, for sure. There were two different scenes: the Cleveland scene, and the Akron/Canton scene. I'd say the two most significant factors were our age and geography. The town we lived in, Medina, was between Cleveland and Canton, and we gravitated more to the Canton scene. It was more accessible, and we were really into the music and the community, whereas we played with Splinter a lot. The Cleveland scene had a reputation for craziness, skinheads, and violence, which wasn't our thing. And because we were so much younger, I'm not sure we ever fit in as easily. I remember Colin and I going to Dwid's place when we were getting the record done and being amazed because he was an adult with his own place, a wife, and kids. It's funny to think about it now. We played the Cleveland scene a bit, and it was cool to play the Cleveland clubs, but we played the Akron/Canton scene more. So, after the record got released, I don't think we ever really talked to Dwid much, and our relationship seemed just quietly to dissolve.

An assortment of Anguish flyers, circa 1993 - 1994.

In terms of Anguish shows, do you have any standout stories/memories or favorites from that classic era?

Jeff: The scene was really fun, and as we built a bigger audience, we played a venue in Cleveland called Peabody's Down Under where bands like Jane's Addiction and Carcass played, so it felt like we "made it." But, the one thing that sticks out was how passionate the people were. When I see videos from that era, everyone is so into it and it's so gratifying. We videotaped quite a few shows, and I only have one or two videos, so if anyone out there reading this has any, I'd love to get copies. But, looking back, it was the friendships and the sense of community. I think part of what was so attractive is that it was like we had our little secret world that no one knew about, and there were chapters all over the country. I think that's what made that era special.  

Colin: My favorites were opening for Unbroken and opening for Bloodlet, basically because I love those bands. We had a really vibrant scene in Canton, OH. That snapshot in time was really special. Our friends that booked the shows there really hustled and were able to get a really diverse array of bands from all over the country.

Jeff: I agree with Colin: the energy of playing shows with those guys was extraordinary. Playing live is by far what I miss the most, and we're really looking forward to doing it again soon.

Anguish continued on for a year or two after the 7". What did that timeframe look like aside from playing shows and writing new material? Were there any other prospects in terms of possibly releasing more recordings, etc.?

Jeff: We released the 7" right after we graduated from high school, and honestly, I don't think we really knew what to do. Our world was so small back then. We wrote a lot of material and played a lot of shows locally, but we never toured. We definitely wanted to record and do an LP. That was the dream, and we had the material, but we started to have a lot of personal responsibilities with work and school, which made everything more difficult.

What ended up bringing the band to an end in 1996?

Jeff: As we all started to have more responsibility in our personal lives, we all started drifting. I think the biggest hurdle to keeping a band together is motivation. Everyone has to be in the same place mentally. It's a huge commitment, and as we kept going, different members started to lose interest. We replaced our bass player at one point, and in 1995 Colin decided to leave the band, and that's when everything really started to slow down. I tried to keep it together for as long as I could. We became a three-piece where I played guitar and was doing vocals. We had a different bass player and drummer, and it just wasn't the same. That original chemistry was what made the band work. It's funny, because I don't even have a memory of the moment Anguish was finally done. I remember Splinter broke up for a while and then decided to get back together, and when they did, I think I just called it a day on Anguish and went on and played second guitar for Splinter until that ended.

Anguish live in 1994.

Nearly 25 years later, you actually had some reunion shows booked, though they had to be shelved due to the pandemic. At what point did you and Colin start discussing the possibility of working on Anguish again, and how did that all take shape?

Jeff: Like I said earlier, it always circles back to Larry from Splinter. I moved to Los Angeles in 1998 and started down a different path and didn't keep up with hardcore or what was going on, but I've always stayed close with Larry and Colin. Larry has always been in the Akron/Canton area and has always remained active in the scene, playing music and booking shows. Last February, Shawn Fosnight—who used to book shows back in the day—had the idea to do a Canton 25th anniversary show, so he asked Larry if he thought we'd be interested. Larry reached out to Colin and me, and we both immediately said yes. So, we enlisted our lifelong friends Chris Brady for bass and Dave Johnson on drums, who both quickly said yes. We were working out the logistics, the dates were booked for the summer, and then the pandemic hit. And we all know how that turned out. But, in the meantime, I dug out the 7", which I hadn't listened to in close to 20 years, and was surprised that I actually liked it, and felt like it held up. I also decided it could use a refresh, too, so I started to remaster it. And—in a twist of fate—you posted about our record on your Instagram feed, and that lit a fire under me to get it done. So, that's available now on our Bandcamp page. It's been wonderful to hear from people and get a positive response. Once every few years, someone will track me down and ask if I have any old Anguish stuff to sell, which always surprises me. It was so long ago, I'm blown away that people remember that record. It's great.

Even more exciting is that you've been recording some old tracks that were never documented, as well as new material. What's the progress looking like in that area, and when might listeners get a chance to hear something new from Anguish?

Jeff: Yeah, so when we decided to do the reunion show, I started digging through old tapes to find our old material, and I was surprised by what I found. I discovered one of our last rehearsals, and it was fantastic. We completely forgot about these songs, and it was like listening to them for the first time. What's great about it from our perspective is that this unearthed material reminded us that we really matured into a band that found its own sound. So, now we had this idea to release an LP finally. We're going to have five songs from the old days and five brand new ones. Modern technology has completely changed everything. I can record at my home in Los Angeles and send files to Colin in Cleveland. We have nine songs recorded and are working on the tenth. We were hoping to try and have it out this year, but we still have to mix and master everything. Finding the time to work on everything is the biggest challenge, but I think our goal is to release a single by the end of the year. Colin and I have remained close friends all these years, and it's been great to work together again and just have fun.

Colin: I don't think music has ever left us in any way, and we've kept playing over the years, so the impetus to write and have a little more structure in playing has been really cool. Also, collaboration has an exponential effect on my—and probably most people's—output and creativity. So, to work on ideas, riffs, etc. with Jeff again has been a nice oasis this year. Even though we haven't written together in a long time, we've maintained our friendship and have a rapport and "shorthand" that works well. 

Jeff: I couldn't have said it better myself, and I'm kind of surprised we didn't do this sooner...


Score remastered audio—or an original vinyl copy!—of Anguish's 1994 Dark Empire 7" over at Bandcamp. Follow the band on Instagram for assorted visual ephemera and eventual information regarding long overdue new material.