It should have occurred to me to reach out last year, as 2012 marked the twenty year anniversary of the release of Missing Foundation's swan song (or that incarnation's swan song), Go Into Exile, but y'know... things don't always work out so conveniently.
FLAMING PABLUM: Chris, you're listed on the credits of those first few Missing Foundation albums. Can you tell me what role(s) you played in the band? How'd you get involve initially?
CHRIS EGAN: I met Pete through his wife Jen in 80/81. She was studying art at SVA. I was in the photography program. They lived in Hoboken, where Pete and Jeff started a band called Drunk Driving with Bob Bert [later of Sonic Youth, Pussy Galore and Bewitched] on drums. Not sure what drama took place but Bob left. So Pete asked me if I wanted to play drums and my friend Tama to play bass. 10 days later we played our first gig at Tramps. It was a lot of fun. We went on to put out a cassette. Soon after, the band imploded and Pete moved to Hamburg to make art and music with Florian Langmaack. That's when he started MF. On his return to NYC, we started getting serious about playing and recording.
FP: What was the hierarchy in Missing Foundation? Did Peter call the shots? Was it that organized?
CE: It was pretty democratic. Pete was non-stop when it came to working on the project. But everyone had a voice in the process. The project really came to together when Mark Ashwill joined. He hooked us up with his friend Jim Waters, who became our recording engineer and live sound tech.
FP: Musically-speaking, there were some other NYC bands around the same era – SWANS, Cop Shoot Cop, Pussy Galore – mining arguably similar ground (to say nothing of the whole hardcore scene with bands like Agnostic Font, Bad Brains, Cro-Mags, et al.), but MF always seemed apart from all that, and a good deal less conventional and significantly more confrontational on an entirely different level. Did you feel any affinity for any other bands or scene?
CE: I was into Swans, Cop Shoot Cop ( we were pals with [former Undead/Virus/BlackSnakes and Cop Shoot Cop bassist] Natz ) etc. We didn't want to have to suck up to club owners and bookers for gigs, where you got riped off no matter how many people you brought in. (Thats why we tore up CBGB) We where very D.I.Y. We identified more with the squatters. We knew how the L.E.S. would end up and what it would mean for artists and families that lived in the `hood.
FP: In all the furor over Missing Foundation’s reputation as a “dangerous” live act and the graffiti element, it seems Missing Foundation’s actual music takes a backseat in the discussion. Does that bother you? Which was more important to the band? The message, the art, the execution?
CE: I've met many people who really loved the music. We never made it easy to listen to. The message, art and execution were equally important to us.
FP: What was your initial reaction to CBS News’ expose on your guys, “Cult of Rage”? Shock? Anger? Laughter? [See the clip in question above]
CE: 'Oh shit! What's my mom gonna think!' I loved how we fed them tons of disinformation, which they just put out.
FP: As the story goes, Missing Foundation imploded after Peter started getting targeted by the FBI. Is that true or merely the stuff of legend? Did you have any problems like that?
CE: That's more legend then fact. The feds were on Pete for sure, but that didn't stop the band. We made Go Into Exile after that. The end of that incarnation of MF had why more to do with group members' personal issues. My phone was tapped for a few years, but they had nothing.
FP: Was MF’s notoriety a help or hindrance? Did you sell any albums via the deal with Restless Records?
CE: It helped. We never did it for the money. The Restless deal paid for the recording of Go Into Exile. We made more money selling our t-shirts on tour than we ever did from record companies.
FP: Do you ever listen to those records now?
CE: Still listen to MF music. Some of the best times ever working with those guys.
FP: How does the New York City of 2013 compare to the New York City of Missing Foundation’s era?
CE: The city was way more interesting before it became a mall. I feel for the young artists who will never have a $325.00 rent I had back on 12th street.
CE: No, I enjoy all the rumors.
FP: Any regrets about Missing Foundation?
CE: No regrets! I miss the guys that have died. I always wonder what it would have been like if we had the info tech we have today.
FP: Do you stay in touch with Peter Missing today?
CE: Pete never has a phone, so it's hard to get to talk. But we e-mail.
FP: To bring your story up to speed, what are you doing now? How did you get into photojournalism?
CE: Always loved shooting pictures from an early age. Still shoot but more for myself. 7 years ago I got into the New England Studio Mechanics, so I work building sets for major motion pictures, shooting here in Massachusetts.
You can see some of Chris' work at his website here.
Back when I posted that entry about John Lurie and the Lounge Lizards a few weeks back, I alluded to a strange set of coincidences wherein I kept coming across Lurie's name in seemingly random sets of circumstances. Similarly, I had relatively no reason to post about Missing Foundation just a few weeks ago, but once I did, I started seeing their name mentioned again in various places, somewhat randomly. This past Saturday afternoon, meanwhile, it was a nice day, so I grabbed my camera and found myself walking around the East Village. By the time I got to Avenue B, I was surprised to spot a couple of fresh, recently-scrawled replications of the fabled MF insignia, which seemed strange in 2013 (especially after I'd initiated the above exchange with Chris Egan).
On my way home, as I was walked West on 8th Street between Broadway and University Place, I spotted a strangely familiar figure approaching, walking East. I looked again, met his stare, and whipped around as he passed me. "Peter?" I asked. Warily, he turned, his arms filled with a bundle of posters and canvases. "Peter Missing?" I repeated. The guy smiled and turned to shake my hand. Sure enough, it was Peter Missing himself.
I'd never met the man before, but recognized his face. We chatted briefly about his current doings. He was only in town for a fleeting couple of days (he's still based in Europe), and had just been back in NYC showing his artwork. He mentioned that he's recorded some new music with his new band, Missing Zero Hazard, and alluded that he had some new projects in the works.
I didn't really have the chance to give him the whole back story of this blog and my chat with Chris, unfortunately (and he savvily-but-graciously side-stepped my request to take his picture). To his credit, Peter Missing doesn't seem especially interested in exhuming the past, and is more focussed on moving forward with his art and his music. He did, however, manage to sell me a piece of his art for $20, which I was all too happy to buy from him. I wished him well, and off he went.
For a man renowned for striking terror into the heart of the city, he was a completely affable gent.