Real Enemy – Life With The Enemy

Real Enemy – Life With The Enemy (Mind Cure) 1983. Real Enemy were a hardcore band from Pittsburgh, PA in the early 1980s. They single-handedly started the Pittsburgh HC scene. Having never released anything other than this demo tape, I had never heard them until Otto hooked me up with a copy of the cassette.

Now, I’m telling ya’ I have listened to a shitload of hardcore in my life and this stuff ranks up there with any other band I have heard. Musically its brutally tight and cohesive. Lyrically, its intelligent. Shit, listen to “On The Literary Volunteers Of America”. It really represents what hardcore was all about to me at the time.

Consider this further proof of one of the defining concepts behind Last Days… That access to resources in and of itself determines history. I definitely don’t try to downplay big scenes like DC and LA from that period. I love that music. But when you listen to something like this, you realize that just because Pittsburgh didn’t have a Posh Boy or Dischord, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t have. Real Enemy was better than a lot of bands that were releasing stuff back then. But being in Pittsburgh, they just weren’t able to reach a wider audience.

A lot of people complained about American Hardcore (the book). A lot of it was sour grapes, I think. But it wasn’t a perfect book. The fact that cities like Pittsburgh, St Louis and Tulsa got a few paragraphs seemed unfair to those of us who lived in those places. It would have been nice to have gotten a little more in depth with certain places and a little less detailed about others. I believe Blush spends most of his time talking about a blowjob he received in Pittsburgh instead of talking about the music scene there.

I went looking for info on Real Enemy and didnt find too much. However MRR issue #10 had a great little writeup in it’s Scene Reports section:

PITTSBURGH-From the backwoods of Western Pennsylvania, we sit and observe the activities of the ever-struggling underground music scene in Pittsburgh. As it has always been in the past few years, our scene moves two steps back for every two steps forward . Our premier HC band, REAL ENEMY, is a prime example of this . Just when gaining some momentum towards national attention, they announced plans to beak up. SINCE forming last winter, REAL ENEMY single-handedly created a Pittsburgh HC scene. Until their appearance, HC fans had to be content with the infrequent visits of touring bands . But with the emergence, fans came out of the woodworkto see them and the national bands they helped bring here . Since they contained some actual musicians, they established a unique sound, and in our humble opinion, were as good as many national bands.They’ve already released an excellen17-song cassette, “Life With The Enemy”. For now though, the future for REAL ENEMY is uncertain, since the members are now involved in an industrial band,PLASTIC BTLS, and the yet unheard LEARN TO DRIVE .

The singer in REAL ENEMY went on to form Half Life. His name was Mike LaVella. He left Half Life early on and moved out west where he founded Gearhead Records. Mike LaVella was the guy who helped introduce American audiences to bands like The Hives and The Hellacopters. But early on this is what he was doing.

I would love to get more info on REAL ENEMY and the early Pittsburgh scene in general. Like who did these flyers? They’re great!

This stuff really amazed me when I heard it.

REAL ENEMY – Life With The Enemy

No Patience
Stay Aware
You Thought Wrong (intro)
You Thought Wrong
On The Literary Volunteers Of America
Hope They Die
Coming To
Check Again
Mike L fantasizes…
Telepathic Sex Wound (live)
Optimism (live)
Stop the Lies
Scene Death
Power Virus (intro)
Power Virus
Power Virus (outro)
Self-Inflicted Whimp
Ignorant Hate
Like Suck
Spoken Interlude
1234 Ward Street Hardcore
Try to Live

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37 Responses to Real Enemy – Life With The Enemy

  1. buy levitra says:


    You’re probably not going to believe this, but I did that Necros flyer And I THINK that I wrote that MRR scene report, but I won’t swear to it. I did have at least one Pittsburgh scene report published around that time.
    LaVella did the Five/Real Enemy flyer, a cross between RE’s look and The Five’s iconic (at least in Pgh) sawed foot.

    Thanks a lot for posting this.

  2. buy levitra says:

    I moved to Pittsburgh, summer of 1983. I met Mike on the 6th Street Bridge. We became friends and he made me their “roadie”. I loved it, we went to NYC and CT, played a hardcore matinee at CBGB’s. It was a blast. You are right, they were an excellent band! I believe their are a bunch of Real Enemy flyers posted at If not, I’ll get on it, I have a ton of them. There were plans by Vince from Real Enemy / Half Life to re-release the cassette on CD. I don’t know what’s going on with that. Thank you for giving Pittsburgh some credit due, we ruled!

  3. buy levitra says:

    Joe… nice job on the post

    Jeff… Otto from J.P. & Otto on WRCT, here. I passed this on to Joe because it is a genuinely great recording from that era and I thought he would dig it. Deserving of more attention, even at this late date. I remember my first meeting with Mike Lavella outside Jim’s records… he yelled ‘Hey punk rocker’ and I turned around expecting a fight (usually followed when someone said that to me in my hometown of Philly). Instead, he handed me a flyer to the first Half Life gig with the Five…

  4. buy levitra says:

    I dropped my jaw when hearing No Patience or now on to the next song. Hmm not that interesting but here comes Hope They Die, Coming To and Check Agaon ouch dropped my jaw again. Ok now I’m downloading the whole thing. Thanks Joe!

  5. buy levitra says:

    I thought the American Hardcore movie was great and the book was almost unreadable. Like many folks I know I certainly would prefer a Ken Burns-esque, 20 instalment take on hardcore, but I thought the movie did a pretty good job while keeping it to length that pretty much anyone could sit through.
    As far as the interviews on the Real Enemy tape go, most of those bits were so ingrained in folks minds that it is hard to separate it out, but I guess it is nice to finally be able to. When the Half Life “What’s Left” cassette was reissued as part of the “All Our Yesterdays” CD (Essential) I lobbied pretty hard to have the interview segments preserved on there in some way, but it wasn’t to be I guess.

    Good times

    Dave Martin

  6. buy levitra says:

    The George Hurchalla book is much better. It isn’t any more objective than the Feral House book but then, it doesnt pretend to be. Its more of a dude’s account growing up in philly and florida. Plus one of the central ideas of it was that the punk scene lost something when it became too hung up on “authenticity”…something I lifted a bit from on my DEVO post:

    The American Hardcore movie and book were both fine by me. Neither was perfect. I own them both.

    I agree with Peter that Real Enemy is jaw-droppingly good stuff. I understand that the interviews may be ingrained in most folks who were there’s minds but I didnt want to detract from people getting to hear the songs which are amazingly good. If you want to hear the whole thing, download the zip. The interviews are in there.

    I’m gonna go check out that Half Life retrospective….

  7. buy levitra says:

    For a much better read than “American Hardcore”, you must check out “Going Underground” by George Hurchalla- he’s selling it directly for $15 at:

    George gets into a lot of the nooks and crannies of the early 80′s HC scene and is a great writer. Lots of great stories- including ones from Philly where George went to college.

    After I saw the American HC movie I realized that I liked the book more, which isn’t saying much. The movie skipped over or sped through a lot of scenes and barely made a mention of TX and the Big Boys and the whole DIY scene they helped build in Austin. But I could go on all day.

    Thanks for posting this Real Enemy cassette, this is what makes mp3 blogs so great when really obscure demos or unreleased stuff are put up. Now I’m going to go listen to it…

  8. buy levitra says:

    Thanks for digging this up and posting it. Real Enemy was one of those bands that kinda sprung up outta nowhere, ruled for like 5 minutes, then was gone… but I remember every sore throat it caused me (I was the “singer”) and pretty much every show. We played with everyone from Husker Du, to Flipper to Toxic Reasons, to DRI, to Cause For Alarm to (the Moby era) Vatican Commandos to C.I.A./Ultra Violence/Youth Brigade (at CBGB’s) to Starvation Army, etc. The First show was on 4/20/83 and the last one was about 2 weeks after that Necros show you posted a flyer for with No Trend, both at the Electric Banana of course. We had GREAT flyers in Pittsburgh because everyone every other person in the scene was in art school! I never read the American Hardcore book (or whatever it’s called) because I know we (meaning Pittsburgh) is not in it. I can see how someone could overlook Real Enemy, but Half Life were together for 5 solid years and played with everybody, toured a lot, etc. It’s sad to think I’ll be remembered for something like signing The Hives (which was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time really) and not all the years we sweat blood trying to put Pittsburgh on the map, but reading something like this is really heartwarming – thanks.
    Mike LaVella – still going a “little ‘zine” called Gearhead
    Oakland, CA

  9. Bvvalkqj says:

    Mike — Sorry I forgot about plugging Gearhead Mag! A fergin’ institution in and of itself! One of the mags that got me thru my collegiate years thats for sure. I remember the Pete Bagge ish well! So let me remedy the situation by mentioning to readers that Gearhead’s new website is located here:

    Thier myspace is located here:

    Which, by the way, competes with my myspace page for the most extensive musical influence list.

    and although the heathens may know you as the dude that signed the Hives, the sophisticated readers here at the Last Days of Man on Earth World HQ know you as the guy who fronted REAL muthafuckin’ ENEMY!

    Thanks for writing in!

  10. Byzgkioj says:

    Somebody hooked me up with this a long time ago and I was going to try to post it on the H Bomb but never got around to it. I remember someone from the band had a website promoting whatever it is they do now (graphic design?? or something) and mentioned the cassette on there but that’s all the info I could dig up. Cool to see the cover and the hand labeled cassette scans. I thought that WAS Teezar on the cover of the new book??? If not I guess I’ll have the same complaint about this one- woefully incomplete!!!!

  11. in my world this one one of the top 5 punk rock recordings of all time.
    i’m mentioned in one of the interview segments regarding the time steve, jamie & i went to jail. which is something i totally forgot about until i downloaded a transfer of the cassette off the roboto board last summer.
    24 years later, the music still holds up. props to mike, vinnie, stevie & russell for recording this.

  12. Cash Advance says:

    Wow! WOW!!!!!! Great stuff! Had I known this back in the day, Real Enemy would have been among my faves – guess I’ll have to play this up and down and make them sneak into the lists of immortals this way. And I was just going to post Half Life on my blog.

  13. Cash Advance says:

    Once again, a great rarity, Joe! I wouldn’t have heard this without you posting it.

  14. chad says:

    PS: I just realized that some of these songs were featured on the classic EMPTY SKULLS cassette compilation (later followed by a comp. LP). Maybe somebody has already mentioned it, I don’t know. Got a terrible flu and can barely see anything. Let me know however if you care for a rip of the tape, I shall then post it on my blog. It’s a great cassette!

  15. chad says:

    Erich — hellzz yeah we want a rip of EMPTY SKULLS! The comp LP is different than the cassette, no?

    Tom – Gotta thank Otto for this one. He sent me a copy of Literary Volunteers and like Peter said, my jaw just dropped.

  16. Charilaos says:

    Okay, Joe – just what I wanted to hear :-D . Yes, it’s VERY diffferent and although I like the LP a great deal, it’s MUCH better. U.S. bands only, killer stuff, especially the NOTA live tracks, NO MERCY, RIGHTS OF THE ACCUSED etc. etc.

  17. Chris says:

    Yeah Joe. This rips!!!

  18. Curious Guy says:

    good damn!! somebody finally got some detailed info on real enemy. you may now continue to rule planet earth.

  19. Doxiadis says:

    OH MAN! This stuff is intense! It sounds a lot more like Midwestern bands than it does East Coast, which is definately a good thing. The songs tear all the way through before you even get a grip on it, it’s ferocious. Fucking great tape, I hate that I’ve never even heard of this before.

    As for American Hardcore, I summed up my feelings on it on a post a while back. I’d recount, but I’ve decided that’s all I’m going to say on the subject of that book/movie. I’ll check the Going Underground book mentioned above, though.

  20. Eddie says:

    crucial HC indeed! I’ve gotta disagree with one point you made though. perhaps NOW a great band like this may seem to not get enough attention, but back THEN the scene was so small that bands from places like pittsburgh were well known through word of mouth, zines, and touring. don’t overlook the fact that bands could set up shows and get reviews based on nothing more than one 7 inch or demos like this.

  21. Big AL says:



  22. fusered says:

    Great share – reminds me of earlier hardcore era Hüsker Dü (which is a good good thing) – thanks for all the excellent stuff!

  23. eyenoise says:

    What happened to comments here? There was great stuff!

  24. witt says:

    great demo it has everthing a person would ask for in hardcore!!

  25. Ned says:

    Real Enemy was quite a great time in my life. I was there for there first show in the Ward Street basement and actually was responsible for the recording of the live tracks on Life with the Enemy. I’ve got a bunch of pics I’ve been trying to scan and MP3′s of the entire Live set from Cleveland. I actually have photos of all the shows in the first NY/CT tour as well. I’ve been in email contact with Steve(bass) over the past year or so and trying to get it all together for him. Hello to Mike and anyone else from back in the day.

  26. david says:

    yo put those pics up NEd, real enemy was way too real.

  27. Vince-enemy says:

    Hey ya’ll-

    Thanks for the really nice comments. You will indeed see the whole of Life with the Enemy re issued and louder than ever. It’s definitely on my to-do list.

    Real Enemy 1983/White Wreckage 1984/Half Life 1985-1987

  28. bakunin says:

    hey man thanks alot for this. this truelly is some good hardcore. this is all i’ve been listening to ever since i uploaded the demo. is there anywhere i can find lyrics?

  29. Jeff says:

    wow, great to see Real Enemy get some recognition. I used to help haul in gear at their gigs to get into the 21 and over shows. Mike was an excellent frontman, that’s one of the few things he’s modest about! He was excellent. Mike went on to form Half Life with me as the singer. Vinnie, put that tape out!!!

  30. MARCOS says:

    hi thanks for this !! cheers from argentina

  31. ruben rivera says:

    hey joe great post man, any chance you might have lyrics to this or know where i can get them?

  32. Ned says:

    I don’t know how to post to this site, but I have torrents of the Cleveland show and the pics from the CT/NY tour on in case anyone is interested. Some of the tracks from that show are on the demo. Hope someone finds them since it took me this long to get them out there.

  33. Joe says:

    hey @Ned, drop me a line at and we can get this posted on here for you. Would love to share more Real Enemy with the world….

  34. Luther Blissett says:

    i’m glad to see the whole pgh family is on here-i never saw real enemy-i was at the first half life gig at the new group theatre tho-i found this site cos someone posted real enemy on you tube and i was only on you tube cos someone said another pgh punk band from 84-85 was on you tube and i had to check it’s veracity (true)…it’s amazing that people still have the music and still care, like i said, the part about vinny eating the hamburger and wearing the ‘scene death’ shirt is the best part-remember that society’s victim song, ‘nailed to a cross’? white wreckage had grafiti that said: ‘jobs not cheese’

  35. Johnny Chicago says:

    I bought this cassette in 1989 at the old SubPop record store in Seattle after I got out of the Army. I also bought all kinds of punk, early STP, etc. and I’ve even got some cassettes of Nirvana performances they’d sell RIGHT AFTER their performances at the old Crocodile Cafe with Mother Love Bone, etc.

    However, Real Enemy was the hardest punk album, because it was straight and 100% pure, no bullshit.

    Still have it in one of my many several vinyl/cassette/CD boxes stored away, along with the “Silver” Nirvana tapes (as they used to be a four piece).

    Ah, memories.

    “Turned hamburger as an underlying theme.” God damn this is classic stuff the second you listened.

    ” ‘Hardcore – hey you can’t do that!’ – the hell with ‘em.”

  36. arno says:

    Submachine also from Pittsburgh recorded at least one of those Real Enemy song (power virus) for their album “Fresh out of give-a-fuck” . I think they might even have recorded more covers of Real Enemy . I always loved that Submachine version . Jeff from Submachine played that tape for me when i was visiting in Pittsburgh a few years ago . I’m glad i can download the whole demo tape today . Thanx for the post ! And now go check out Plastered Bastards . IT’s Jeff new band .

  37. Babu says:

    it took me a snceod but that photo IS real enemy-i remember the tape coming out, i usta have that-the best part was Vinny talking about some rotting hamburger-anyway, thanks for posting this, i’m gonna listen it’s been like what thirty years or something, 1234 ward street hardcore jesus

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