Iconic New York City punks Spike Polite & Sewage have been on one hell of a journey. This ranges from throwing bottles at the police and having gigs cancelled for people shooting guns in the air to performing alongside Biggie Smalls, aka Notorious B.I.G., and Cypress Hill and opening up an infamous concert on the night that GG Allin died of a drug overdose.
The band has existed in some form since the early 1990s, including appearing in a Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame documentary, appearing in a skit on the David Letterman Show and a Spike Lee TV advert, and befriending Dee Dee Ramone. In fact, the flyer of the aforementioned GG Allin concert was emblazoned on t-shirts that were sold worldwide, which saw the band’s name spread around the globe.
Frontman Spike Polite alone has his fair share of wild tales, including being involved in the 1991 Mayday Riot in Tompkins Square Park. A SAG-AFTRA actor, Spike has appeared in movies alongside Jennifer Lopez and appeared in two seasons of the hit FOX show Gotham.
But after many years of change, Spike Polite & Sewage’s current lineup only came together in 2018. Joined by Liz Ruf-Maldnaldo (rhythm guitar), Karl Bateman (drums) and Red Ryan (bass), Spike has put together a band that epitomises the classic punk spirit with a refreshed, driving, fast sound filled with New York City attitude.
The lineup came about when Spike left a two-year post as singer of Reagan Youth, opening for Dead Kennedies on their American tour. As he explains: “I returned from touring for Reagan Youth and went on a solo excursion as Spike Polite & Sewage, with musicians put together by the label Professional Punkers.
“After the tour, I encountered a lady running a play who later met up with the drummer of the Nihilistics while I was in discussions with Born Ready Entertainment for a booking at Arlene’s Grocery. The band were working with Troma Productions on a series of concerts they were putting on around the time of my birthday.”
They’ve since honed a lively, fast-paced punk sound, of which our latest taste is new single Runaway Rebel. It opens up with a cool light riff that continues under Spike’s vocals “Mummy didn’t love me, She put me away, In the institutions, She said I was insane.” Faster chords kick in, then palm-muted guitars under lively vocals feed into a big punky chorus.
That dives into a funky little guitar solo that drops into lively drums under Spike’s angsty vocals. It drops out, and you think the track has ended, only to suddenly reappear with a slow looping riff and vocals “they said I’m not insane, I’m just a runaway” to close it out. Give it a listen below:
You can also get a taste for the band’s fun punk rock sound on 2017 album The Italian Sessions. A personal favourite is Your Girl, which opens up with fun punky chords then the lyrics “I went out with a girl, She went down for my thrill, Out last night for some drinks, Then we had sex on a bathroom sink.” Check it out below:
The band’s sound is influenced by the rhythms of Ramones, the melodic singing of The Buzzcocks and The Exploited. Red is heavily influenced by likes the bass of Bouncing Souls and The Misfits’ Jerry Only. Liz directs, plays and loves everything from classical music to punk and even folk music. While Karl takes influence from legendary drummers like Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts, Jerry Nolan of New York Dolls and Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham.
On his musical roots, Spike tells us: “The idea that drove me to start a band came to me as a child. I rationalize that when my parents have social events where they drink and blast loud rock music, that everyone was happy. So rather than be depressed from enduring the bickering that they often did from being drunk, I thought to play music to keep people happy so I can find peace.
“My coping method was to play music based on the bands I heard and evolved, such as Stooges, Black Sabbath, Ramones, AC/DC, Sex Pistols, Dead Boys, Fear, Nihilistic, Reagan Youth and more. Music has kept me coping from those times to the present. Night and day.”
On what inspires their music, Spike tells us: “We have new tracks with subjects about how we do not support Fascists who destroy Mother Earth by removing environmental protections against pollution, which is caused by the greed of corporations and corrupt politicians. Politicians who unfortunately are from our own nation.”