Harley Speaks: Former Cro-Mag Says He Acted in Self-Defense at Webster Hall

photo(245)Ray Lemoine Mr. Flanagan shows off his wound outside of court today.

Speaking for the first time since his arrest at Webster Hall last Saturday, former Cro-Mags bassist Harley Flanagan insisted he was acting in self-defense during a brawl that landed two of the band’s current members in the hospital with knife wounds. A grand jury trial was scheduled for Sept. 27 during a hearing at Manhattan Criminal Court today.

“DMS jumped me, man,” Mr. Flanagan told The Local outside of the courtroom, upon recognizing this reporter as the roadie for an opening band who bunked with him on a Cro-Mags tour in 2000. Mr. Flanagan said he was attacked by members of the Doc Marten Skinheads, a gang with a history of violence that grew out of the 1980s hardcore scene and is still active today (graffiti around the Lower East Side reads “Demonstrating My Style” and “Drugs Money Sex.”)

“You know this scene – a bunch of loser bullies,” said Mr. Flanagan, who appeared in court along with three fellow Hare Krishna devotees and his attorney. “Seven or eight guys kicked me to a bloody mess.”

photo(244) Mr. Flanagan’s wound.

The musician’s claim that he was attacked in the VIP area by members of DMS contradicted initial reports that he barged into it with a knife. “They’re making it sound like I’m some PCP-addicted maniac,” he said.

According to Mr. Flanagan, his Saturday night started as an invitee to the press conference for the CBGB Festival, a multi-venue event that was supposed to capture the spirit of the legendary Bowery club. He said he went to Webster Hall, where the Cro-Mags were set to headline a show with fellow hardcore legends Sick of it All, after being given four VIP passes by the festival’s promoters. “How do you think I got in? Magic?” he asked. “I didn’t come on a whim, I was given laminates.”

Mr. Flanagan said he was hoping to bury a long-standing feud with Cro-Mags frontman John Joseph McGowan; he thought he might even be able to play some songs with his old band and get some press for what he said was his new record deal. “I went alone to try and talk to my former singer,”  he said.

But when he entered Mr. McGowan’s dressing room, he said, he didn’t see the vocalist known on the scene as J.J. and Bloodclot. “I think he was on the stairs headed to the stage,” said Mr. Flanagan. “I’m the only person who would walk into a room full of DMS. I’m a black belt. One-on-one they could never have done this to me.” Mr. Flanagan said that when a pile-on ensued, he didn’t know who exactly he was fighting, but admitted, “I caught a chunk out of one of their faces.”

After the incident, Mr. Flanagan was arrested on charges of assault and criminal weapons possession, and the show was canceled. Initial reports claimed he had broken a leg but he told The Local that the stitched-up cut on his knee was a stab wound that required 30-odd stitches.

When Mr. Flanagan was asked if he brought a knife into the VIP area, his attorney, Sean Parmenter, interjected that the investigation was ongoing. Mr. Parmenter said he had spoken to the District Attorney and it wasn’t clear whether Saturday’s slashing victims, band members William Berario and Michael Couls, were going to cooperate. A photo sent to The Local on Saturday showed Mr. Couls, known as The Gook, smiling and giving a thumbs-up from his hospital bed.

Formed in 1984, the Cro-Mags released their first album, “Age of Quarrel,” in 1986. The seminal album placed middle-class American hardcore in the slumscapes of the Lower East Side, and consisted of 15 songs of hardcore fury with a magical Rasta dusting. The band never hit harder or bigger than its debut LP and its various lineups and reunions brought on inevitable tensions.

The Harley-Bloodclot beef is reminiscent of hip-hop feuds. Mr. McGowan told The Times that Mr. Flanagan had been persona non grata with the Cro-Mags since 2000. “This dude has been a negative thorn in the side of this band forever,” he said. “I hope he gets what’s coming to him.”

Last week The Post also explored the troubled history between the onetime bandmates. “He shouldn’t have been at that show,” Mr. McGowan told the paper. “He showed up at the show with a knife. It shows intent.”

Mr. Flanagan has written an unpublished memoir that delves into his time with the Cro-Mags as well as his experiences as a father and martial arts instructor. He stressed his family life in telling The Local, “Why would I risk all that on a bunch of bullies?”

He also wanted his place in history to be remembered. “No one has done more on the Lower East Side than me,” he said. “I played in the Stimulators when I was 12. I’m not a part of the scene, the scene is a part of me.”

To date, an online fundraising campaign has raised $581 for Mr. Flanagan’s legal fees.