Introduction: Dan "G" Hamill

It’s rare when someone can say that “they were there at the beginning” and not be exaggerating…or outright lying. It’s even rarer when someone can say they were there at the end as well. But I was able to take this journey, from the basement of a Long Island bowling alley where DeSanto and Kruger had the balls to face an audience who were there primarily to see a hip hop show, with only a bass, a sequencer and the knowledge that they were probably the two smartest guys in the room. To a burnt out and deserted hotel on the outskirts of Moscow that for an evening pulled itself together enough to host the Aggression, now made up of childhood friends of DeSanto. It was yet another gig that proved challenging, as the young Muscovites seemed more interested in the booze they could drink, the drugs they could score, the temptations of cheap whores, and the fags who tried to molest our Kidd. It started badly, and from the reaction of Ash as the last note played, seemed to have ended worse. But in hindsight, it was a great way to go out. If only Robin could have provided the beats.

So what did it all mean, from Long Island to Russia and everywhere in between? Maybe I’m the wrong guy to ask. Yes I was lucky enough to be there for the majority of it, but frankly, I don’t even like industrial music. And all these guys are my friends, how can I be partial? Putting all that aside, here’s the deal. The Aggression, in whatever form it took over the years, were uncompromising. They refused to cater their sound for a certain audience. They played every gig like it was their last. They made huge noisy records with tiny budgets. They met and earned the respect of the influential leaders of the industrial genre, establishing both social and working relationships. No, they didn’t make much money, and they didn’t sell many records, but what they did have was so much more important, conviction and confidence. These two qualities were what got The Aggression out of a Long Island bowling alley, and over to Mother Russia.

(Editor’s Note: The aggression actually performed AFTER Russia, and G was there, but don’t tell him that)


In 1990, an 18 year old Frank Jeffrey DeSanto stood literally a foot away from Peter Hook as he played the long forgotten Marquee here in NY and everything changed. Immediately after, I bought a bass and went around proclaiming to anyone I met that I was, in fact, a bassist, which is sort of a misnomer even to this day, but this is my story so fuck yourself.

A year later, a young film student named Ehren Kruger told me he loved Thrill Kill Kult. I told him I loved Ministry. And after one fateful night at the Ritz in 1991 or so, we both realized we loved the Sisters. Anyhow, neither of us had any musical talent, but goddamit we had ambition, and a Yamaha QY10 sequencer, and this led to many a night in the “music room” (read an empty room with a piano) in the basement of Hayden Hall improvising what would become the core songs of MOG and later Pirates of the aggression and then simply (thanks to Thompson’s dad) the aggression. Sometimes Link (who’s contribution to all this cannot be underplayed mostly because he was the only with any sort of musical background) was there, sometimes drinks were there, and of course the motherfucking QY10 was there, but no matter what, wherever I woke up the next day, there was a full audio cassette of the lowest fi insane shit I ever heard. In my mind, it was THE BEST SHIT EVER. Now, I had a band, and made sure everyone knew. I now had an excuse to justify my behaviour. And then Kruger and I decided to play. In the basement of a bowling alley. Not by choice. The sight of Dan Hamill laughing his ass off in the crowd at us will haunt me forever. I knew Lurch for 15 minutes when I handed him a video camera to tape said gig. Not only does he still socialize with me to this day, he even started writing an aggression biography when the band was like a year old. Full Impact.

I immersed myself in the world of “industrial”. Now, put it in perspective. Back then, this was truly underground. Not some Hot Topic bullshit. This meant something, not like today. Yes, there were several cowboy hats. I lived the gimmick before the gimmick was cool. And while Kruger was writing and Link was winning, your hero had to do something to bring home the bacon. And at a party inside the house in front of the backyard where I wrestled, Mark Mohtashemi was found, half melodrama, mostly indifferent, and with a talent and interest that matched my own. And everything changed. Suddenly, we could rock and suddenly I had a true partner in crime. Kruger named him Fingers, which later became Phingers (I still don’t recall how but I think it was something scientific). Riffs abounded, guitar riffs that is. This is all just around the time I started writing fan letters to Jared from Chemlab who revealed there were others out there. And while it saddened Mark to learn he wasn’t the one who invented the idea of marrying guitars to electronics, we were both excited to find there was a world of musicians who got this.

After the now legendary gig at the Underworld, Kruger and Link went on their way to adult lives and for a while, Mark and I continued making music in dorm rooms and living rooms and basements. I’m still convinced the aggression got Mark transferred to Fordham from NYU. We fucking lived it and lived it hard. But you can do that in your early 20’s while living in a dorm room in the greatest city on the planet without an iota of responsibility. We didn’t have a campus or a frat, we had Limelight and the Batcave. That was our education.


Around here, Thompson’s mother told me about some kid her brother went to school with who had heard the aggression demos and was dabbling in electronic music and wanted to work with us. Obviously just by his interest in us, you knew he was fucked in the head from the start, but he was tall (this comes in handy much later in the story), had a sampler, knew how to play notes, and didn’t argue (yet). He looked like Ashley Hamilton (who had just married the real life counterpart of Marks’ fictional love Brenda Walsh, no relation to sue, but brother of Brandon), and thus we had no choice but to call him Ash. He came to Toad’s basement and played some sweet synths and suddenly we were a trio. For about 10 minutes…

I honestly cannot recall how Tom became part of the aggression. I simply recall him being there at a certain point with a guitar, and that was it. Which is odd, because I have a decent memory for this shit. I think Ash had something to do with it cause they were in a band together, though I think Ash had been fired. But suddenly, Tom was there, bringing the enthusiasm Mark didn’t display (externally), and bringing skills none of us had. And for the first time, it was a proper band…with a drum machine. As planned.

With this unit, the aggression really took off. We played shows, we wrote songs, and were often focused. But what was more interesting was that we transcended the band. Our close friends like G and Matt became essential parts of the crew. This was a traveling gang. It wasn’t unusual for Kruger and Link to come back and make cameos onstage or on tape (some day, I’ll do a retrospective piece on MOG supergroup The Albrecht Go’s ) I loved each and every one of these guys and if it was something as complicated as traveling to play a gig or just going to the Wendy’s there was no better group of people to spend time with. These were the early days of the MOGpac.


We gained momentum. Back then, we (Mark and I in particular), networked the shit out of the “scene”. People might not have known the band, but they sure as hell knew us. From that, we realized we had to take it to the next step. So someone (maybe Mark) found a “real” studio way out in Suffolk that we could afford and in we went to do what would be referred to hereafter “The Dare Sessions”. In retrospect, the stuff sounds great and reflects a simplicity and focus that we didn’t get back to (in my opinion) until FLOOD. We were going to do an album, called INEVITABLE and we actually recorded a lot of it on tape. Said tapes have been sitting under my mom’s desk for 14 years. These sessions were not without drama of course, Ash and I in particular clashed, which in a weird twist, paved the way for our future collaborations and friendship (hey I’m in his wedding party, bitch).

But the cracks were there. As I was making inroads to take us to the heart of the scene in Chicago, our relationship with Ash, his interest in techno reaching a fever pitch, began to crumble. We played one final disaster of the show on Long Island (including an 8 minute “encore” of CROSS) before not seeing Ash for a few years.

Down to a trio, Tom, Mark and your hero flew out to Chicago to work at the Warzone with Chris Randall, Van Christie and Jason McNinch. Chicago was the eye opener. These were the guys who were doing it and living it and we soaked up the entire experience. Big studio. Big guns. And there we were, tracking a demo that was going to go to Wax Trax…supposedly…Anyhow, we went to the clubs, we saw some gigs, we recorded all night and everything clicked and we left with a demo that was miles ahead of anything we had done previously. I can remember the three of us crashing in the hotel, up 20 plus hours straight, unable to sleep, cause we were so excited. I remember turning 23 (or so) in the studio and thinking there was no place I wanted to be.


The demo did its job: it got us noticed. We had label offers, but nothing was greater than when Jared cornered Mark and I at one of the side bars in Limelight and told us we were destined to be an FCR band. We knew it too, but the reality was the contract offered was so bad that even Jared eventually told us to turn it down. Every band from FCR that we wrote to told us not to sign. Luckily, we listened. Had we signed, the first aggression album never would have seen the light of day thanks to FCR’s legal woes. During all this, a guy called The Emperor (real name Jeff Johnson) had been talking to us about his label, a New Jersey upstart called Tinman that was gaining some momentum. We liked Jeff and he booked one of our more infamous shows at a place called Lovesexy in Hoboken which was a riot of an evening in itself.

The FCR thing took a year before we realized it was a bust. But we didn’t waste that year. Based on the premise that our song ARENA 85 had to be re-mixed in order to bring it to Wax Trax…supposedly…Tom, Mark and I financed another jaunt to Chicago to re-do the song and do a few more songs while there before meeting with Dannie…supposedly. We had written some new songs and were raring to go. The three of us even recorded an acoustic song, THE CHICAGO DRINKING SONG, which was probably the best thing we ever wrote at that point (and it was the fucking hidden track).

What’s strange about the aggression is that we’ve never had to go find band members. They all just show up or someone knows someone and I think in 14 years we spent about 4 minutes recruiting people. Why? I don’t know. Perfect example was the addition of the Kidd. Believe this or not, of all the people in the story, I have known the youngest almost the longest. Long story short, I went to nursery school (seriously) with his older brother, reconnected in high school with the brother, thus leading to many nights having to watch the little kidd and then subsequently making him part of the band crew when he was about 13. Because of my relationship with the family, his parents thought “oh he’s with F.J., he’s fine”. Silly Silly people. He was crewing for us by the time Ash was on his way out. Can you imagine this little fucker seeing gigs at Limelight at 14 or him walking up to Pete Steele and handing him an aggression demo the day before the SAT’s? One day, The Kidd went up to me and said “I’ve been taking piano lessons, I love Gavin Friday, I’m going to be in the band”. That was it. Seriously. And he was a blast to have, a real positive force. Plus he looked good and the keyboardist has to be tall. If you ever saw the keyboard player in Suede, note that the Kidd pre-dated that gimmick. Anyhow, we were a band again and it felt fucking great.


One of our “producers” thought we should wait and get a record deal before recording more. But we couldn’t sit around, we had spent so much time and our own money on these songs, so instead of waiting for a label to pony up the cash for us to record, we (for better or for worse) decided to produce and finish the album ourselves and sell it to a label so we could have more ownership. We couldn’t afford to keep going back to Chicago, but our trips there gave us the confidence (perhaps misguided) to produce the rest of the record ourselves in New York. We all lived in close proximity to one another, were either in college (them) or just out and unemployed (me), and we could spend tons of time on the band.

Now all we needed was a place to record it. Tom or Mark or both found Tiki studios out on Long Island, and it was a pretty sweet place. No home recording then, kids. You spent your hard earned or scammed money on the studio and bitch you are on the clock (Brandt would be in the poor house by now) and you worked. And worked we did. One of the reasons we decided to work there was the guys had me an engineer there named Kieran, who was into the kind of music we were doing and understood what we were going for. This was important as we wanted to be in control and not have to spend hours explaining to an engineer what we wanted to do. Nor did we want a “producer” telling us what labels wanted to hear or what was going to “sell”. We were making music for us and us alone.

The newer songs, like GEMINI SKY, COCKDIESEL and AIRLY, were solid and diverse tunes that we were excited to record. The studio was occasionally tedious as we were laying every sound to ADAT. But it was fun and exciting, and having Kieran there made things a lot easier than it might have been anywhere else. The Acumen boys came down and did some parts. People who were hearing it liked the newer stuff more than the material we had done in Chicago. We were cocky. We were meeting bands, playing gigs and making compilation appearances around the world. The album at that time was going to be called ICON 00. I’m not sure how I came up with that title, but it didn’t last and the album would eventually be called WHITELINEOVERRIDE. Of course you would think it was a drug reference, but let me tell you the true story. Ministry had done a mix of JESUS BUILT MY HOTROD,called the “Redline/Whiteline” mix. I loved the idea of sound overloading into white noise. And thus, Whitelineoverride meant we were taking (in my mind) one step further. Sorry Mark. No drugs.


I don’t remember how much time we spent on the album, but it seemed to take a long time. And when it was done, it seemed even longer to come out. We had to go through every possible option label wise. As mentioned, the first offer was from FCR, which Mark and I desperately wanted to be on. We tried every which way to make that deal happen, but they offered nothing and wanted the world (hence Acumen’s “Territory = Universe” album title). We always had Tinman waiting in the wings, and a label called Decibel also came calling. We had a decent profile. At some point, Mark and I, while dealing with Zalman from FCR (who got us wasted beyond belief with free drinks) in DC, ended up going onstage with Jared, Bryan Black, and co for a Hellbent set. I think Tom walked on and was like “what the fuck is this” and left. We felt like we arrived, like we were a part of something. We traveled, we left a trail of destruction in our wake, and we didn’t even have a fucking record out. But man what a crew we had!

We were incredibly impatient. We had seen Virus 23 re-record songs over and over again, never really doing anything new or releasing a proper album. I think that motivated me quite a bit, and probably made me sloppy at times. We’d record for weeks and then play shows for a bit and then come back. We’d travel around the East Coast, checking out Chemlab (our all time fave band of the genre), Acumen, 16 Volt, and especially Skrew, who Mark and I loved obsessively, mostly because they seemed to be playing here every week. Grossman is still a friend to this day. He would give us tremendous advice, as would the other bands. It was a pretty cool group of people (outside of NYC).

Things like getting promoted all over the country, mastering, artwork, etc, were much more difficult to get done then. The internet was new. A lot of networking happened in AOL chatrooms (called "industrial, baby"), believe it or not. True Fact: my first contact with Irene was in said chatrooms and we later met for the first time when the aggression played in Philly (she of course missed the gig) and the internets is also how I met Brandt! Some of my earliest E-mail exchanges were with guys from FCR bands, all of whom told me not to sign!

A lot of the professional networking was made a lot easier thanks to a friendship I struck up with Vikki Karan, who had been managing Virus 23 during the height of their success (it’s no mystery to me that their success started to wane as soon as she left). I would see this girl at every gig. Everyone knew Vikki and she knew all the right people. She was very tight with Jared (and is to this day). I stalked her for months, seeing how she was making things happen and learning that this chick was a true player in the scene. This stalking culminated at a 4th of July Chemlab/V23 gig at CBGB’s where I finally approached her and begged her to manage us. She eventually declined, despite my best efforts (I even bought her Sizzling Rice Soup), but set so many wheels in motion that the aggression would have been a very different band and I would be a much different person as Vikki has in the last 13 years become a vital part of not only the MOGpac, but of the DeSanto family as well, and remains so to this day (I’m actually writing this just before meeting her for dinner in Los Angeles). Through Vikki, I was introduced to the various fanzines and booking agents the aggression needed to get ahead. She also introduced me to her friend, Robin Glowski, a graphic artist who worked at TVT Records and was responsible for a lot of the latter day Wax Trax releases. She agreed to come onboard and do the artwork for the first album. Photoshop wasn’t something you could just put on your computer then, and computers couldn’t hold nearly as much as they do now. You had to print film for your artwork etc, but Robin did an amazing job establishing the aggression visual identity. Her work on PURE LIQUID EGO remains a favourite.

We played a lot of gigs, including an absolute classic, the Kidd’s first gig at the Capital Ballroom, in DC, which was the first time we felt we were getting some respect as a band and a live act (we certainly weren’t going to get it at home). We would do a lot of gigs with Clay People and other local acts. There were a lot of them then and muti band bills were the norm at places like The Bank, Pyramid, and The Batcave, and we found ourselves popping up on various bills. The Bank gigs were always particularly memorable. We could bring in a small but enthusiastic crowd. Every time we played, we tried to make it an event, and we usually succeeded. We then reached a point where we were playing memorable gigs at CB's, which was a big milestone for all of us. We ended up playing there a few times, always to a great crowd.

A lot of what comes next is blurry, but I think that was because it was just a lot of fun. As most of our history was, it was a carefree time where the band was all that mattered. I think we were all together nonstop until I moved into the now legendary MOGbiosphere (As deemed by Ehren Kruger) on Gold Street in Lower Manhattan (aka Ground Zero). We had just moved in there when we signed our deal with Tinman. It was a great moment. We had a record deal. I made it so we all had to sign the deal. This was a band and every fucker, even the Kidd was going to enjoy the moment of putting their name on the paper. Now things were proper. I remember jumping on NJ Transit late at night with Robin to pick up the discs just as they’d been pressed. Tinman had distro then, through Caroline, so you could actually buy the CD in the store. Some people did, I think. Tinman was supportive of the band and gave us the go ahead to start working on a remix album, which we began working even before WHITELINE hit the streets. The four of us started writing some new songs.

Momentum was at our side. The aggression machine was really starting to move. We were known around town, and a bit beyond, we knew the right people, played with the right bands, and now were ready to go to the next step. And then Mark decides to move…to Los Angeles.


Los Angeles? What the fuck, right? Somehow, Mark gets it in his head that it’s time to go to Law School. Don’t ask me. As far as I was concerned, this was the end of everything. Literally. I didn’t know what we were going to do now, but I knew we had to do something. Suddenly, the next year I had planned in my head suddenly had to happen in like 4 months or so. At the end of the summer of1997, he was done. Gigs were booked and these new songs we were working on had to be recorded. ASAP.

The band suddenly went from invincible to having a fucking death sentence. I remember canceling a gig with Dystopia cause I was all kinds of panicky about what our priorities were. In my mind, there was no band without Mark and I would have to worry about what that meant when he left. The “we’ll work when I come back on break” bullshit wasn’t flying with me. Like most things with the aggression, I felt things had to happen NOW cause we never had enough time. We rehearsed, we wrote, we planned. I felt like I was writing the last will and testament of the band.

We played a gig at Under Acme (which we later learned was at the time owned by Chris Link’s future brother in law), and everything came to a head. I remember drinking by myself at Continental for hours just strictly out of insecurity. They put us on way too early; 7:30pm. What a fucking disaster. I tanked the gig. Intentionally. It was probably my fuck you to Mark. We were all drunk and fucked up. I remember the Kidd looking at me onstage like I was from another planet. Maturity was not on my agenda. This is without a doubt my lowest point in the entire history of the band. I was running around in traffic like a moron, crying and screaming like it was the end of the world. Tom slapped me around trying to get me to get my shit together. Then he gave me total beatdown that I deserved. Back then, he was the voice of reason. Seriously. I remember tears and vomit. The band was supposed to be above all. This was my first lesson that it wasn’t that way for others. I have a very very very few regrets in my lie, that entire evening was one of them. I was a total fucker, but in my mind it was better to be the fucker who stayed in the band then the judas who was going to law school. Mind you, he’s a lawyer now, supposedly, so maybe he made the right move for him.

We laid low for a bit, but that didn’t last long. It was time to go back into the studio. We still didn’t have the chops to produce ourselves, especially without Ash, so we started to think about how to approach the 4 songs we had written for the EP. We decided to work with George Hagegeorge, who had a band called Under The Noise and later Urania (the first band Ash and I ever remixed). I had really liked his production and remix work with Clay People, and I am pretty sure Tinman had some kind of relationship with him. Either Jeff Tinman or Dan from Clay People put me in touch with George. Anyway, George was cool as fuck to talk to, was eager to work with us, and after weeks of writing and programming, Tom, Mark and I (The Kidd might have been in Summer School or some shit), found ourselves on the way to Baltimore to work record. Luckily, our dear friend Harbour, who was one of the first people to take notice and interview the aggression, and at the time was interning for FCR, was able to put us up at his pops house.

Mark, Tom and I were slightly hesitant about working with another producer, despite knowing we needed one. However, once we got set up with George, we found his easygoing personality and creative ideas a total joy to work with. He was encouraging and knew how to handle us. When it came to working, we weren’t the drunk and loud buffoons we appeared to be in interviews. We were all business and had a good work ethic. He was massively ahead of his time. We’re talking 1997 and he was already digitally recording music into his computer at home. We constantly had our balls busted for doing this by Kieran, the Acumen guys and anyone else who had anything resembling a recording budget. George had a sweet wife, Cheryl, and a lotta cats (that I was massively allergic to) and they went out of their way to make this as pleasant an experience as possible. We had some strong songs, including MISSIONARY MAN (which was a Mark/Tom song that they had been working on during soundchecks), BEAUTIFUL LOSERS (probably my least favourite ever recorded aggression song), HEY! (which started during an Albrecht Go’s jam), and CROSS, which was written years before in the dorm room, was a live staple that never left the set and was basically a variation of the Sisters TRAIN. It was Jeff at Tinman who specifically asked us to record that after he had to continually tell people at our gigs that this awesome rocker wasn’t on the album he was selling. I think we lost a few sales on that. I remember wrapping the songs up and driving back to NYC with Tom and Mark thinking this was the last thing the aggression was ever going to record…