Like many 26-year-old Cleveland boys, Mike Phillips spent his high school years attending shows to see '90s hardcore band Integrity. "I saw them about 10 times," he recalls. "They were one of those legendary acts that you always looked up to." Now he's releasing Harder They Fall: A Tribute to Integrity. The compilation features bands from as far away as Japan and New Zealand, including Florida's Know The Score, Ohio's Crowd Deterrent and Pennsylvania's Nothing Sacred.
Part of Integrity's status came from the groundbreaking role the band played in the hardcore scene: One of the first to inject a heavier, more sinister edge, Integrity jumpstarted the tough-guy metalcore that culminated in bands such as Hatebreed and All Out War. And thanks to frontman Dwid Hellion, Integrity had a lyrical outlook that was "darker and more cryptic," says Phillips.
These days Integrity, with a new lineup, only plays a handful of shows a year, but Phillips made sure to get Hellion's blessing for the tribute. "He was very supportive of the idea," he says, "suggesting some bands he felt would be good additions, and listening to some of the songs. I didn't want to do it if he wouldn't endorse it."
Phillips met many of the bands on the compilation through his immersion in Cleveland's music scene. While a DJ at John Carroll University's radio station, he started to put on concerts, and co-edited an online music zine called Scene Point Blank. "It became the egg that started the label."
That label, Escapist Records, is now based in Pittsburgh since Phillips moved here when his wife found a new job. Escapist's nascent roster includes California hardcore band Changing Face and Oregon emo-punks Robot Eyes. But Phillips says his wide tastes won't allow him to be pigeonholed into one style, certainly not metalcore. So welcome Pittsburgh's newest indie label with open arms. Or a circle pit.
A Tribute to Integrity, featuring Know The Score, Crowd Deterrent, Unreal City, Under One Flag, The Come Up, and Without Restraint. 7 p.m. Fri., Jan. 23. The Mr. Roboto Project, 722 Wood St., Wilkinsburg. $8. All ages. 412-247-9639 or www.therobotoproject.org
- Know the Score