Guts of The Ice - An Exploration of "Puck" Rock/Hockey-core #2: Two Man Advantage's Jeff "Captain" Kaplan (The Witzard Interview)
Not entirely unlike Wrestle/Wrassle Rap or Basketball Rap, there's, apparently, a whole sub-genre of hockey-themed Punk/Hardcore—oftentimes, referred to as "Puck" Rock or Hockey-core. Yes, I've been a die-hard fan of Punk/Hardcore for 15+ years and I, too, only first heard about Puck Rock within the last few weeks. Although, once I started diggin' around, I discovered about 10-15 bands at the forefront; this was, then, gradually narrowed down to 10 "front-line" bands, which will be chronicled here over the course of coming weeks. The "top-scoring" bands we selected include: Crippled Youth, SLAPSHOT, The Hanson Brothers/Nomeansno, Two Man Advantage, The Boils, D.O.A. THE ZAMBONIS, Pansy Division, The Hextalls, and The Ramoms' "Gritty Is A Punk" flexi-disc. We sent out a short 6-question interview form to all of the aforementioned bands, received some back, heard a few choice words, and still have yet to hear from a few more. We'll be running those interviews, as well as features, profiles, etc. in the coming weeks. EDITOR'S NOTE: be warned, while I'm a casual hockey fan, I DO NOT claim to be an "expert" on the sport, nor will I EVER claim to know "everything" about hockey-themed Punk/Hardcore. Now, let's just try to have some fun and learn more about the sub-genre together!
This week's band "on the ice" is Two Man Advantage. Oftentimes, referred to as simply Two/2 Man, The Two Man, or 2MA, the band was formed in 1997 on Long Island, New York. Their current line-up consists of vocalist Spag AKA Drunk Bastard, guitar/vocalist Rob Locascio AKA Skate, guitarist Jeff Kaplan AKA Captain, bassist Jeff Marsala AKA Snapshot, drummer Aaron Pagdon AKA Coach, "Metal vocalist" Myk Rudnick AKA MYK, and "crowd instigator" John Heron AKA Rookie. Drunk Bastard wears a homemade wrestling mask and Captain wears a retro composite goalie mask, while the entire band often wear custom-made Two man Advantage hockey jerseys on stage. 2 Man's songs are generally loud, fast, and Punk/Hardcore-indebted and are almost always either about hockey or beer. Now, in their 23rd year as a band, Two Man Advantage have released four full-length albums, numerous demo/live cassettes, a 12-inch mini-album, and an assortment of singles and split EP's on Royalty Records, Go-Kart Records, Rodent Popsicle Records, Drug Front Records, Crapfit, Basement Records, and Sexy Baby Records. We, here at The Witzard, were fortunate enough to get in touch with The Two Man's long-time guitarist and one of its founding members, Jeff "Captain" Kaplan, via Facebook Messenger. Captain was kind enough to entertain and answer our questions for this very Guts of The Ice feature. Spag/Drunk Bastard additionally sent us some archival photos, old show flyers, various 2 Man memorabilia, etc. you'll see scattered throughout, as well. 💀🏒⛸️
Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Puck Rock/Hardcore Purveyor
01. How did you first get into both hockey and Punk/Hardcore music?
Jeff Kaplan: Most us in the band got into hockey at a pretty early age and each of us played on some level, whether it be league play or just pick-up games. For me, personally, growing up on Long Island in the early 80's, I had the best hockey team on the planet at that time (New York Islanders) playing 10 minutes from where I grew up. Having your hometown team win four Stanley Cups in a row with, essentially, the same core guys—well, I just couldn't help but become a huge fan. Even though the team hasn't won a Cup since that time and has, generally, seen more dark days than bright ones, that fandom is with me for life. There's nothing like hockey, in my opinion, as far as sports go—it's fast, aggressive, and graceful all at once.
Punk/Hardcore was a bit of an evolution. I'm an only child and spent a lot of time in front of MTV growing up... a time when MTV played music videos 24 hours a day. I found myself gravitating towards the heavier stuff. I had a local record store that I would bike to every weekend and I'd spend all my paper route money buying Metal records. At that point, as far as Punk went, I had only been exposed to what I saw on MTV—which, basically, meant The Ramones & The Clash. But the corner turned around 1986 when I was 13; I went into my local store and saw a Black Flag My War T-shirt hanging up. That image of the puppet holding the knife was so captivating to me that I just HAD to hear this band.
I bought the only two cassettes he had behind the counter, which were the Family Man and Slip It In records, in retrospect, two very odd records to be your gateway, but that's what they were and I loved them. From then on, I skipped over the Metal section and went to the Punk/Hardcore section and that was it. I bought anything that was on SST Records (Black Flag, Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Saccharine Trust, Hüsker Dü, etc.) every Dead Kennedys record, and started to get into more local stuff through a bunch of old New York Hardcore comps. I went through high school pretty much alone in my love for Punk Rock and didn't find any sort of community until I went to college in '91. That's when I hooked up with like-minded people, started going to shows, and forming bands.
02. What made you decide to combine hockey and Punk/Hardcore stylings through music?
Kaplan: Well, that was our singer, Drunk Bastard [Spag]. When the band originally formed, all of us were playing in different bands—bands that had nothing to do with hockey or any of that. The band was put together back in 1997 for the sole purpose of playing a Halloween party. Drunk Bastard wasn't just a huge hockey fan, but had, actually, played goalie on the all-state team when he was in high school. So, the idea was to write 10 quick and simple Punk Rock songs all about either hockey or drinking. The songs were literally called "Hockey #1," "Hockey #2," "Beer #1," "Beer #2," etc.
And the band concept was that we would be a hockey team... everyone would wear jerseys and hockey gear while we were playing. But this was just for the Halloween party—there was never any intention of doing anything beyond that. But, as it turned out, the party was cancelled last-minute and since there had been some work put into it, a local show was booked. The band went over so well that a second show was booked, then, a third show, then, a demo was recorded, then, more shows, then, some split 7-inches with other Long Island bands, [then,] a label came with an offer to put an album... and next thing you know, 22 years have gone by, you're still a band and still wearing those hockey jerseys!
03. For fans new to the "Puck" Rock/Hardcore sub-genre, which release(s) from throughout your discography would you recommend starting out with?
Kaplan: Tough to say, since I'm really proud of all of our records. Most of the old school fans, who have been with us since the beginning would probably pick the first record from way back in 1998, Drafted, which was originally released on the now-defunct Royalty Records, but was re-released in digital form a few years back by Drug Front Records. It has a ton of songs on it that we still play live and have become a lot of fan favorites. I guess, for me, being in the band with a different perspective, I think, our most recent release, Bar Down, which we put out ourselves, which is more like a mini-LP, has some of the best stuff we've ever written. But overall, I think, I come back to our third record, South of Canada, which came out on Rodent Popsicle Records. I love the songs on that and the production is killer... very in-your-face!
04. Aside from your own band's music, what other hockey-themed groups, releases, singles, etc. would you recommend, as well?
Kaplan: The Hanson Brothers from Canada are, of course, legendary and have almost certainly been doing it longer than anyone else. THE ZAMBONIS from Connecticut are great and to their credit, EVERY song they write is about hockey, which isn't entirely true for us. We're all big SLAPSHOT fans, as well, although, I'm not sure how many of their songs, actually, deal with hockey—I'm sure there's one or two—but, I think, they more use the imagery and symbols of hockey, than, actually, writing songs about it. Of course, there are a lot of great hockey songs that are not necessarily by bands who are hockey-themed: D.O.A.—legends that they are—are mostly a political band, but have found time for a few hockey homages. Anvil, a Metal band, also, from Canada, has a great song called "Blood On The Ice" about the world's [greatest] sport.
05. If still active, what are the future plans for your band? If currently inactive, do you have any immediate plans for any special re-issues or a proper reunion/comeback?
Kaplan: We are still together and active after all these years, although, as our bassist now lives in DC, we're not quite as active as we used to be. We pick our spots and play shows when we can and when we're all available. For this year, we plan on playing a few select shows and, possibly, also, writing and recording a few tunes. We had this idea that we wanted to put out a 7-inch with a big hole in it ha... so, maybe, we'll try to make that happen.
06. I recently noticed you've released a number of split 7-inches over the years... but who else would you like to do a split with, if you had a chance? If so, is there any chance we'll ever see them come to fruition?
Kaplan: There have been some bands, over the years, we've discussed doing splits with that just never game to fruition for whatever reasons. The most recent record, Bar Down, the reason it's a mini-LP is because it was supposed to have been a "split" LP with our friends, The Daycare Swindlers from Virginia. We met those guys in the early 2000's when we were both on Go Kart Records and did a three-week tour together, along with Toxic Narcotic. The tour wasn't that great, but we became great friends with both of those bands. Over the years, our relationship with The Daycare Swindlers went from, like, "band friends" to "real friends." Those guys are our brothers in the truest sense and in 2017, we both celebrated our 20th anniversaries as bands. We were going to do a bunch of shows together (which we did do) and a split LP (which, unfortunately, we didn't.) So, we ended up releasing the songs we had recorded for that split as the Bar Down release. If there ever came a chance to do a split with those guys for real, we would jump at it.
We had, also, briefly discussed [the idea] a few years back of doing a split 7-inch with THE ZAMBONIS. I think, that would be cool for a few reasons... not just the hockey thing... not just that we're geographically close (we're on Long Island and they're in Connecticut)... but, also, that the two bands will reach each other's audiences, which, probably, don't overlap all that much. Hey, maybe, your article will inspire something!
Thanks for the interview, Matt. I really appreciate it. Anyone who wants to can contact us at TwoManAdvantage@yahoo.com or through our Facebook page. All of our stuff can, also, be found on our Bandcamp page or on Spotify. Let me know, if you need anything else!