Books, Bands and Budgies: Interview with Melissa from Denied and All Shall Suffer

What’s up Melissa, hope you are doing OK during the pandemic! How are you entertaining yourself til it’s safe to go to shows and play in bands again?

Hi Becky! First, thank you for your interest and taking the time to ask me great questions. I am doing good! It’s been a long ass year and I’ve devoted my time toward my home. I’ve acquired a number of pets during the past year. Plus I’m a mom and a full time high school teacher. So I’ve had a lot to focus on. But being home all the time has been rough. So I’ve also gotten a lot more plants haha!

Tell us about your new band, All Shall Suffer – was this a project that came together during the pandemic, or something you had gotten going beforehand?

All Shall Suffer has been something that’s been worked on the last couple of years. There was no real urgency to put anything out so it was just a side project that Nick (guitarist) and Kevin (guitarist) had been going back and forth on. Mostly for fun. Then when Gregory (singer) came back into the picture about two years ago, things started to get more formal and it became a new goal to get some music recorded. The pandemic wasn’t much of a motivator outside of the fact that we had more time on our hands and we took full advantage of it. It’s been a blessing really to focus solely on music and not be sidetracked with other issues or events in a normal routine. I guess that was an upside to this terrible time with the pandemic.

There has been a resurgence of interest in Denied lately, including a UK zine about Bulldoze that described Together as None as “Time-Served’s best release” and gave it five stars. Does Denied have plans to do anything in 2021 or beyond?

Denied was a really amazing, special part of our lives. We just did an interview with this UK Podcast “Everyone But Us Podcast” this week and it really took us down memory lane. The “Together as None” release was so well received worldwide and it astounds me that people still refer to it and listen to it and ask about us. That release was in 1998! But our last release as Denied was in 2009 and I think enough time has passed to allow us to create under a new name and experience. We’ve had a lot of rotating musicians in Denied but All Shall Suffer features the original founders of Denied (Nick, Greg, myself). We like our new sound and direction of All Shall Suffer a great deal. It’s also important to us to have the freedom to grow and expand and present ourselves differently from Denied. The scene is different, technology is different and we really want this new chapter to explore ourselves musically. So that’s the long answer. The short answer is no, we aren’t going forward with Denied anymore. But the heart and soul of Denied is still in everything we do. And since we are the original writers of Denied, you’re going to hear a lot of our style be there still.

Moving from hardcore to books here … how many library cards do you own, and in what systems? And what is your favorite library?

Books! Yay! So I only have one library card officially which is through the NYPL. But I have to be honest I haven’t used it in years. As a high school English teacher, I’m always so overwhelmed with reading and grading that I don’t have much time or energy for personal reading. I know, such a shame. So I stick to nonfiction for now and leave the classics and fiction for work. My current library is in the Queens neighborhood of Flushing which is a madhouse all the time. My closest library is in Fresh Meadows but they are always out of my books of interest. I mean I hate to say this but city libraries in Queens are often so disorganized and sloppy. I don’t blame them though because I know libraries are not a priority on city budgets.

What is your favorite book, and who is your favorite author?

My favorite book of all time is “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin. She is one of my top authors for sure. “The Awakening” is such a sensually written masterpiece. It’s just deep as fuck when it comes to the protagonist’s internal chaos and odds she has against her society. She’s a 19th century rebel with a 21st century mind and despite the fact this story is over a century old, her female struggle is still an ever present theme for today. The most controversial part of this book is the ending and that’s my favorite part to discuss. It angers a lot of readers. But I have nothing but respect for it.

Other authors I love include Toni Morrison, Sandra Cisneros and William Shakespeare. I’m super drawn to strong visual writing and writers that are adept at really powerful imagery. It’s usually any writing that reads like poetry. I am also drawn to a lot of feminist writings and am always so curious about the female voice and archetype that has long been overlooked historically.

What’s your favorite literary reference in a hardcore song or band name?

That I’m not too sure of. I always loved Fahrenheit 451 for their literary reference. I also enjoyed Atlas Shrugged, Of Mice and Men, District 9, etc.

I have heard you are a Harry Potter person too – what is your favorite magical pet and what house would you be sorted into?

I absolutely love Harry Potter. I have always dreamed of having a teaching position at Hogwarts. It’s very disappointing to know that it can’t be a reality. I cannot think of a cooler school to work at. My favorite magical pet is actually very weird one. I absolutely adore the mandrake. I am a huge fan of plants and I have many plants at home. And the idea that plants have these personalities as the mandrake just cracks me up. I think it’s so funny when the mandrakes cry. When I went to Universal Studios one of the shops had crying mandrakes in the window and I just thought they were absolutely amazing. I feel like I would probably be best suited for Slytherin.

I feel like people of Slytherin are rather complex individuals that don’t necessarily fit easily into society. I also like that Slytherins are smart and cunning and quite driven. I really like Severus Snape and thought he was ultimately a rather noble character. I know Slytherin gets such a bad rap but I am attracted to the darker side of personalities and find that they are more real and realistic to me.

What kinds of pets do you have, and are you still caring for the bird you brought home from the classroom? And how many cats are currently owned by your band members in total?

In my household we have 13 pets. But my household is split into two floors so my family divides my pets. I currently take care of 7 budgies (parakeets), 2 dogs and a cat. Downstairs we have another cat, dog and a Blue and Gold Macaw. The pandemic was what really brought so many animals to our house. My job/school houses a real life farm in Queens and they have many many animals. When the city closed all schools last year, it was unknown for how long. When it became obvious that this was going to be a long-term closure, the agricultural department at my school requested teacher volunteers for various animals. The request was because birds are very social animals and a lack of human interaction would negatively impact them. So they actually had quite a list of animals to be homed temporarily. I took it upon myself to foster the blue and gold macaw. At the last minute I wound up taking the budgies as well because they were some of the last without a home. The experience turned out to be beyond my expectations. We all fell in love with the birds and it was just natural to want to give them a permanent home. So I formally adopted the macaw (his name is Billy). Billy just turned out to be an absolute love and he requires so much specific attention. The thought of him returning to a bird room was not something we could not accept. He made us happy and we wanted to give him a permanent home. All of them have just made our lives better, if not more crowded. But we absolutely enjoy them and love them and we’ve all become a big happy family. It gets a bit crazy sometimes because there can be a lot going on. But they’re all worth it.

I know the singer from Nuclear Assault is a teacher, along with a member of Crazy Eddie/Darkside NYC. How has your experience in NYHC made you a good teacher? Do you ever mention music to the kids?

I think the greatest characteristic in hardcore music is about living in authenticity. And those are the principles that I think have helped me most as a teacher, which is to keep it as real as possible. There’s a lot of diversity in students and finding and connecting with the misfits are such an important part of teaching because those are often the kids that are most at struggle. I also think the characteristics of hard work and loyalty are also important factors that make for a good teacher. Kids are the first to see through facades and they don’t let you get away with shit. They keep it more real than anyone else and any other age group and that is definitely intimidating at times. But at the same time I also appreciate them so much for it. I recently began working as a Dean as well which brings my job to a more disciplinary role. And as a Dean you have to be really fast in dissembling problems and keeping situations from blowing up. I think you have to have a pair of balls to really participate in a hardcore show and I think you have to have a pair of balls to confront teenage kids when it comes to fights and disciplinary issues and so on.

As for my telling students, no I don’t. I don’t even really relate much of that part of my life to my colleagues. I don’t mean to keep it private on purpose but most students listen to rap or other genres. Plus I am committed to being really as professional as possible and I just generally don’t discuss much of my personal life unless it connects to their experiences. But once in a while they do find out and get all excited. So it’s cute. But no I don’t advertise it.

Any last thoughts you would like to share?

I really appreciate being asked these wonderful questions. This was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it. Thank you so so much! Of course I’d love to plug our release as we have worked incredibly hard on it and it means so much to us.

All Shall Suffer’s music is now available on all platforms including Amazon, Apple Music, Instagram/Facebook, YouTube Music, iTunes, Spotify, etc

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We will also be featured on an upcoming UK podcast Everyone But Us Podcast. You can find them on Facebook or