Dig deep within Washington, DC’s rich lineage of hardcore punk, past the Dischord-centric
straight edge imagery and iconic photos, and you’ll find No Trend, undoubtedly one of
the most innovative, antagonistic and nihilistic bands of their time. Hardcore punk was a
reaction against society, and No Trend operated as a reaction to that reaction, alienating
norms and punks alike with an unhinged musical approach. No Trend prototyped noise-rock
when Reagan was still in office (predating today’s resurgence by nearly two decades),
crafted despicable new ways to bring discomfort to their audiences, and did it all without
looking back or mugging for scene approval. “Mass Sterilization” is one of the greatest and
most maniacal punk rock anthems ever written.
I was lucky enough to ask Jack Anderson and Buck Parr a few No Trend-related questions.
Anderson played bass for No Trend in 1983 and 1984, immortalized on both the Teen Love 12″
and Too Many Humans album. Parr played guitar for a couple years shortly thereafter. Parr
is quick to point out that his account of No Trend comes not only as a member, but as a fan,
and that his interpretation of the facts may vary from someone else. Over a dozen members
have made it through No Trend’s ranks, and as the core members of Jeff Mentges and Bob
Strasser have no interest in discussing No Trend, and Frank Price is deceased, this is as close
as I can get to understanding what No Trend were all about.

Do you remember when you first heard or found out about No Trend?
Jack: I saw them at a show. They were pretty bad, musically. The original drummer couldn’t
even keep a beat. but I liked the attitude.
Buck: I met Jeff Mentges (singer) and Bob Strasser (bass) in high school. I had gone to public
schools through middle school, but was taken out due to their inadequacy and put into an
all boys catholic school. I met them both the first week I was there – the two of them were
friends from primary school. They were both into music and were interesting in other ways as well.
Jeff was only there for about a month before he was thrown out; he had written and self-published
a pretty scurrilous comic book that slandered an easy-target classmate, a guy named
Buzz Mooney. He made maybe 50 copies of this thing and circulated it through the school. It was
hilarious, but not very nice, and when they tossed him out, you couldn’t really blame them.
I stayed friends with Bob. I had been playing guitar since I was 13 and and liked English punk
rock bands. This was around 1980-81, in suburban Maryland. I thought I was pretty smart
because I knew who The Adverts were, but Bob and Jeff had already discovered and latched onto
hardcore, which I had no idea even existed. They were going to shows. The bands were
made up of kids – it was unbelievable that this was going on in my own front yard. Bob told
me that he was in a band with Jeff and I found it incredible, because he had no idea how to play
at all. Another kid I knew was in the band also – he couldn’t play either. I could actually play,
but still had the mindset that you had to be actually decent to play in public, so hardcore was a
pretty startling revelation. I started buying Dischord 45s at Yesterday and Today Records for a
buck a piece and going to shows. It was new and very exciting.
Somewhere along the line, Bob and Jeff started playing with Frank Price (guitar), who they met
through Frank’s mother – I think both she and Jeff worked at McDonald’s, but I could be
wrong. They formed a generic hardcore band, but started a parallel ‘art’ band called No Trend.
They wrote one song – “Teen Love”. It was supposed to be a one-off, but within a week or two
they had ditched hardcore altogether and became No Trend exclusively. They wrote a
ton of songs real quick and put out a hilarious book containing dance steps.
Pretty sure they played their first show at a Sherwood High School battle of the bands. All the
other bands were playing Styx / Journey / .38 Special covers. Then they played a University of
Maryland ‘beach party’ and did an hour long muzak song with tape loops. After that, they
started playing around DC. I finally saw them someplace and was bought and sold on the
spot. I had thought it was all going to be a joke, but it most certainly was not. They recorded a
demo at Inner Ear a few months after forming – I had a Radio Shack cassette dub of it (still do!),
and could not believe how different it was from everything else that was around at the time.

When did you join the band, and what were the circumstances surrounding that?
Jack: I joined in August of ’83. The original core members, vocalist Jeff Mentges and guitarist
Frank Price wanted to get rid of the drummer. Bob Strasser, the original bassist was
leaving for college. So Jeff asked around the scene for new bass and drums and ended up
calling me. I had recently left my old band and was looking for a new one. I had a good friend,
Greg Miller, who was an amazing drummer and was also looking for a band. We joined together.
Buck: They had already blown up the band a couple times over. Bob left for college; the
drummer on the 7″ / demo tape, Michael Salkind, was inadequate. Jeff and Frank found a couple
of Virginians – Jack Anderson (bass) and Greg Miller (drums) for a rhythm section, and they
made two amazing records with this line up (the Too Many Humans LP and Teen Love
12″). After that, Frank Price was somehow nudged out or quit and the Virginians left for reasons
I’ve never really understood. Jeff got a hot-shot metal-esque guitarist, a drummer worse
than Salkind, a French sax player, a gypsy keyboard player, and Lydia Lunch. Bob, by this time a
superior musician, came back from school and rejoined the band. They made the Dozen LP super quick.
That band did not hold long enough to tour, so Jeff brought back one of the Virginians, Greg Miller
(drums) and Bob brought me in. I was a fan, knew the songs, and had made a couple of surprisingly
cool jam tapes with Bob and outgoing drummer Ken Rudd – Jeff heard these and liked them… I was in.
This band was assembled – quite literally – the night before we had a show. We rehearsed in a
large appliance store (washing machines, dryers) and only had maybe 20 minutes of material when
we played the next day. Lydia was on the bill but did not show up. The club was dissatisfied,
despite our really great gas station attendant uniforms, and made us go on for a second set. We
had no material and jammed for the next forty minutes while Jeff ranted and somehow it came
off ok. Sax player Brian Nelson jumped up on stage, played with us, and was instantly in the
band – he was super talented and got bonus points for being Jeff Nelson’s brother. This line-up
held for a good year and a half: we wrote, demo’d, and toured what became Tritonian, but by
the time it was recorded, both Greg Miller and I had left for separate reasons. They got infinitely
superior musicians to replace us.

Jack, were you involved in the writing of “Mass Sterilization”? That song sounds completely
deranged even today; how did you feel about it?

Jack: No, that song existed when I joined the band. It’s always sounded deranged.

Do you feel like, either sound-wise and/or aesthetically, No Trend was ahead of its time?
Jack: Not entirely, maybe some. We borrowed from other sources at the time. We weren’t the
only ones with that sound and attitude.

How did No Trend’s connection with Lydia Lunch first come about?
Buck: I think Jeff simply wrote her, and asked her if she’d sing on the Dozen LP. That record
was a change of sound, it had all to do with he/she stuff and heartbreak, and a woman’s
voice would go well on it. Why not ask Lydia Lunch to sing? She had heard Too Many Humans and
liked it; she had said that if she were 19 years old and a boy, she would be in No Trend.
She was very gracious. She not only sung on the record, but played several shows with the band,
and then took it on herself to release a pretty good / representative No Trend compilation LP on her label.

Was the DC scene at the time as unaccepting of No Trend as most accounts have made it out to be?
Buck: yes, very much so, the band had no friends at all in town. By the time I was in the band,
we could not get gigs in DC. In the year and a half I was with them, my debut show was the only
time I played in DC. We were pretty well received in most other cities, but that meant you had
to drive to Cleveland to play.
In fairness, however, the band really did themselves no favors. When they came out, they were
unapologetic in playing music that went distinctly against the grain of what passed for punk rock
at that time in DC. Also, they would razz and bait audiences present a generally unpleasant vibe;
they’d take pokes at punks while operating within the punk rock scene. Unfortunately, this
got translated into the notion that No Trend was against Dischord in some way – Dischord really
sorta owned the town in those days, and if you were throwing verbal mud at the punk rock scene
in general, it was not difficult to make the connection and say that No Trend was anti-Dischord.
It’s completely understandable, but simply not true. No Trend has always had nothing but
respect for the Dischord label, its bands, and Ian Mackaye. We were all fans. But in any case,
yes, the band was fairly despised in its hometown.
Jack: It’s hard to generalize about an entire scene. If there was a lack of acceptance it
probably had to do with a variety of things. As I mentioned, the band just didn’t sound that great
with the first line-up. Then there was the purposeful effort to confound and confuse the
audience, which mostly succeeded. Finally we were just a bunch of angry kids – No Trend,
other bands and the scene. Jeff liked to provoke stuff, and some people didn’t like that and
thought it was too “negative”. Others thought it was great. You either loved or hated No
Trend. There wasn’t much middle ground. How many in the scene hated the band – who knows?

Was there anyone in particular, either a record label or a promoter or music critic
or whatever, that was an ardent No Trend supporter back in the day? Anyone that
sticks out as “getting it”, while so many others weren’t?

Buck: More than anyone – Steve Blush. He was a promoter in DC – he ran Dogbite Productions.
He had put on some really good shows. I think he brought the Dead Kennedys to DC for the
first time; he put on a really noteworthy show that had Minor Threat opening for PiL in 1982;
there were many others as well – some really well regarded, important shows.
He saw No Trend, liked them, and took them under his wing to the extent of becoming their
manager. He got them on hardcore bills around town, and when the negative reaction to the
band began to grow, he went the other route and created bills around No Trend, using the band
as a lynch pin, and booking other bands to fill out bills. He arranged the tours, got distribution
for the records, and bought the ambulance the band used as a tour van (a terrific thing – it
still had flood lights and remained painted red and white – it was not disguised from being an
ambulance in any way at all. It even had the words ‘No Trend’ printed backward on its hood).
Blush was hugely instrumental. He was with the band for a long time – through the early days,
through the shake-up before the Dozen lp was released, and through most of the
time I was in the band.
He was eventually fired because we thought he was being less than forthcoming with respect
to issues pertaining to money. We could never substantiate anything, but there was a real
sense that he stealing from us. We would roll into a town, and he would disappear for hours
and all the money would be gone. Our take from the doors always seemed far less than it
should’ve been.
I remember being on tour, hanging around some record shop, and stumbling on some weird
French pressing of the Too Many Humans LP that no one in the band had previously known
about or authorized. It was on the ‘Invitation to Suicide’ label, it had different artwork, and
some little booklet about existentialism tucked into it. Blush claimed ignorance to the whole
thing, and said it must be a bootleg – but we suspected he had a hand in the French release,
and was siphoning its proceeds entirely into his own pocket.
Once, when we were in Minneapolis, the guy who put out the fanzine called ‘Your Flesh’ let us
crash at his place. He woke us up the next morning hollering that he had been ripped off to the
tune of $200 bucks or something. We all had the sense that Blush had taken the money – our
suspicions were not abetted when Blush paid a portion of the amount stolen to this guy as a
peace offering.
Again – we could never substantiate anything factually, and Blush could well have been
completely innocent, but there was enough of a sense of distrust to get rid of him. Members
of the band visited him at his place in Hoboken, found his black book, and took turns in the
bathroom copying out his contacts. Then they fired him.
But – his contribution was to the band was huge. He later went on to found Seconds Magazine
and write the ‘American Hardcore’ book – I think he had a hand in the movie they made from
that book as well. He’s still associated with showbiz in some capacity, from what I can gather.
There were many boosters as well – Al Flipside was a proponent, as was Jack Rabid, and bands
like the Dead Kennedys and T.S.O.L. were helpful and kind.

Did you see ‘American Hardcore’? What’d you think of it?
Buck: I saw it. I thought it was surprisingly dull. I have not had a look at the book, but have
been meaning to.

Was there ever a time you asked yourself, “what am I doing in this band?”
Jack: Yes! Just about everyday on tour. Jeff wasn’t always the most pleasant person to be
around all the time. But, he’s grown up a lot – as we’ve all. I have no regrets. We had a blast.
Buck: More than once. There were people in the band who were fundamentally disagreeable.
Jeff was a consummate button pusher. Greg Miller (‘the vanimal’), was pretty dim, more than
a bit of a redneck, and physically confrontational. The manager was slimy, played people
against each other, and probably embezzled a good deal of what we made touring to sustain
his own vices. But, beyond individual personality flaws, there was a generally misanthropic air
surrounding the band – everybody put down everything and everyone else, so collectively it
fostered a negative synergy. As a result, they were often not the most fun group of people
to be around. I will have to admit that I adopted their perspective, and am as culpable as
the rest of them were.

That kind of seems like the perfect environment to foster the music of No Trend,
though. Do you think it would have sounded the same if everyone really got along?

Buck: It’s not really fair to say that people in the band didn’t get along, we did and still do.
We all knew what we were involved in – we understood what we were doing and shared a
common, albeit blighted, worldview. Pretty much everyone who drifted in or out of the band was
miserable or unpleasant in his own way, and the band was a catchall for these people to fall
into. You’d get into fights with people in the band because they were all incredibly annoying,
but at the bottom of it was some kind of empathy, common cause.

No Trend had somewhat of a rep for antagonizing the crowd, would you share
any fond (or purposely repressed) memories of any particularly successful disturbances?

Buck: Largely, the music and the general aesthetic did most of the work, and the stunts were
secondary. You have to remember – this was the early 80’s. When hardcore appeared, it was
a deservedly reactionary scene. The people who were into it were few in number; punk rock
was not nearly as ubiquitous and accepted as it is now; people, including myself, wore
feathered hair. The hardcore scene was truly a world apart, and as such became insular pretty
quickly. There were all sorts of stated and unstated rules regarding what was cool to listen
to and what was cool to wear… it was all very hermetic. People purged their record
collections, dressed a certain way – to be into truly into hardcore, one had to undergo
something akin to a religious conversion. Otherwise you were a weekend warrior or a poseur.
So, simply by appearing on a hardcore bill and playing what they played was almost enough.
If you listen to some of the band’s music now, you might think – yes, this sounds like punk rock,
it’s actually not a stretch to consider some of it hardcore. But, back then, the rule was HARD /
FAST RULES. There was not a huge variance in style from one band to another, and that’s the
way people liked it. So, to have No Trend appear in the middle of a hardcore set sorta set
people’s teeth on edge. They’d play long and slow, they’d play muzak songs and it bothered the
dyed-in-the-wool hardcore kids.
Also, the band did not dress punk, but wore really awful thrift store clothes – they’d wear yarn
tea cozies as hats. They sounded, looked, and acted apart from the hardcore scene – but played
hardcore shows. Because there was clearly an accepted, dogmatic notion back then of what
punk was and was not, the music came across as a calculated sabotage of the audience’s
night out. But Jeff would verbally bait and insult the audience as well, more or less routinely.
There tons of great stunts, but I’m having trouble remembering them. Some…
– We played the Danceteria in NY a few times. Lydia usually played with us when we were
there. One time, Jeff was determined to get some random member of the audience thrown out
of the club – for no particular reason. We played our opening number, and throughout it he and
Lydia would wildly point to some unfortunate in the audience and complain about his
behavior instead of singing. We started the second song, and half way through Jeff stopped
the band altogether. He announced that the band would refuse to play until until security came
along and escorted this innocent out. Of course, this person was bounced out, but he did
not miss much. We played a terrible show.
– In the early days, they almost always played backlit by a strobe light. Looking into a strobe
light for an entire set is more than a little difficult to bear.
– They’d put these huge klieg lights on the stage, facing the audience, making mass
blinding a potential outcome.
– Whenever we played “Mindless Little Insects”, Jeff would go out into the crowd and hold a mirror
up to people’s faces. It was a very simple gesture, but was shockingly effective. It really put
people on the defensive, made them cower, back away, etc. It really created a very
uncomfortable atmosphere.
– They would sometimes play only one song – usually a droning muzak number – for the entirety
of a 45 minute set.
– Once they played the Marble Bar in Baltimore. Lydia came down for that show. They played
behind an opaque plastic dropcloth, so you could barely see them. Jeff was opening cans of
paint and throwing their contents onto this drop cloth. There was A LOT OF PAINT being
thrown around. Eventually the dropcloth got pulled down and fell off the stage, getting paint
on some of the audience. Jeff and Lydia were slipping in the paint on stage and falling all over
the place. Eventually they both slid off the stage, embracing, and rolled around on the floor
together entwined and wriggling, completely covered in paint. It was thoroughly disgusting.
The club was furious; there was real damage.
– On my last show with them, we took a good portion / most of the remaining stock of what
I think are their two best records – the Too Many Humans LP and the Teen Love 12″, and
threw them, frisbee style, at the audience. They in turn, threw them back at us, and in short
order records were zipping around the hall en masse at great speeds – it’s amazing that no one
got hurt very badly. One guy jumped up on stage and began taking repeated bites out of
the vinyl, chewing it, even.
– There would always be some jerk in the audience that would holler out the ‘ironic’ request:
“PLAY FREEBIRD”, so we would, on the spot, in it’s entirety.
– In the early days, they toyed with the idea of bringing out a high powered fan on stage.
They intended to feed poison ivy through it, but reconsidered when they realized that they’d
be even more likely to get a rash than the audience would. They then decided that they would
feed raw chicken livers into the fan, but I do not believe they ever carried this out.
Jack: Once, when playing with T.S.O.L., Jeff went out of his way to invite the Dischord crowd
and the Bad Brains, among others. He had acquired these super-bright lights that I think they used
on airport runways. He put them on the edge of the stage, in between the band and the
crowd, making it nearly impossible to even look at the band – even if you could have seen us
through the lights. Another time some guy tried to attack the strobe light we had and Jeff and
I had to kick him off stage. But, really, plenty of bands have done crazy stuff before. We
weren’t the first.

How often did the band get beaten up or threatened because of these antics?
Was violence a common occurrence? I can’t imagine hardcore punk bands being able
to get away with this sort of behavior nowadays, let alone in the 80s.

Buck: There was never any violence or even the threat of it, at least when I was involved. I
think the reaction came more in the form of shunning than fists.

Did you ever make any money? Was there a ever a point where you thought,
“wow, we’re getting pretty popular?”

Buck: There was never any money, at all, ever. My crowning achievement, financially,
was getting a royalty check for seventy dollars that came from the sales generated by Lydia’s
comp. When we went on tour, we only made enough money to make it to the next show. I
cannot remember a single venue that actually paid us our guarantee. We each had an allowance
of something like four dollars day. We ate at 7-11 and slept on people’s basement floors.
As far as popularity goes, by the time I was in the band, it definitely had a name – people knew
who we were. We headlined far more often than not and the shows were, for the most part,
pretty well attended. The Flaming Lips opened for us in Oklahoma and Soundgarden opened for
us in Seattle… our songs were on the radio, we were interviewed often…

A reunion show – could this hypothetically ever happen? Would you even want it to?
Buck: There would be no interest in such a thing. I can’t even get the band’s two best records
reissued. And where would this show be – in DC? I don’t think many people would turn up to
see something they actively disliked 20+ years ago.