It’s always a strange feeling when somebody passes away. It’s terrible, when it’s a person close to you. It’s kind of weird, when it’s someone you only knew through records or as a performer on stage. Yesterday evening I stumbled across a terrifying tweet by Fat Mike of No FX, which was followed by another one by Fat Wreck Chords verifying the terrible news that Tony Sly, lead vocalist and guitarist of No Use For A Name and solo artist, had died. To make this clear right away, I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr Sly in person, but somehow every time something like this happens, I can’t help but keep on thinking about what the music he composed, recorded and played still means to me. In times like these it is to a certain extent somewhat comforting to see that there actually is something that could be called “a scene”. As in that a lot of people have been touched by his work and art and that those people share the grief of the family he is leaving behind.
I have no recollection of how I first got in touch with No Use For A Name, must have been either through a review in some fanzine or maybe their name on some thanx list in some record I bought. But I do know that when I first listened to “Don’t miss the train”, the first CD I bought by No Use, that I fell in love with their music instantly. I remember thinking that this was cool, because it was so different from all the other melodic punk bands I was listening to at that time. I liked the rougher edge their music had and I somehow really liked the vocals. the music just wasn’t as clean as some other bands. Of course that would change over the years, but that particular record is still precious to me.
What made things even cooler was that one of their members was Chris Dodge, the guy behind the home of power violence, Slap-A-Ham Records. And No Use actually had records out on Slap-A-Ham. How cool was that? Such brutal music and right in the midst of it this melodic and beautiful flower called No Use For A Name, right in the middle of the tough guy pack. I think I really liked this because back then the first cracks had begun to show in the Cologne scene with one group leaning towards hardcore and the other one standing more in the punk rock corner. Yet here was a band which had a member who not only played this melodic stuff, but was also part of Spazz, one the craziest bands at the time. This kind of represented the state of a scene I always longed for. That it didn’t matter what kind of music you played as long as there’s the right spirit in it. “More than music”.
I got to watch No Use play live just once, back when the Underground in Cologne still was a small and sticky room. From whhat I remember the show was great. And not only was the place packed that night (a sold out show). The band had decided to please everybody who had not got in by playing another show the next day, lowering the entrance fee even more. It’s just a lot of great memories I get when I listen to Mr Sly’s music. Not just his bands songs but also his solo works. Here we have a voice that really is distinguishable. Love it.
I think he took part in that punk documentary about how California punk bands made it big in the 1990s and from what I recall he (just as everybody else in the documentary) made a very grounded and down-to-earth impression.
Thing is, even if I never met him, there is the feeling of a certain bond which, I believe, everybody who ever took part in the scene (playing in a band, setting up shows, making a fanzine, whatever…) will share. Yes, his band played big venues with big bands. Yes, they played festivals. But somehow I want to believe that he (and everybody else who started out in small bars playing to a crowd of five people) always stayed the same. Holding the values of the punk rock community close to his heart.
What’s most shocking is that he hadn’t been a lot older than me. Quite frankly I was a bit surprised when I found out. Maybe, because his band has been keeping me company ever since I graduated from school.
It’s a said day. If you can, play his records. If you don’t have ’em, go buy them. You won’t regret it.
RIP Tony Sly.