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Long Island’s heavy metal band Toxic Shock was formed in 1986 by three kids from Long Island, Ray Bell, Wayne Rosario, and James Maloney. Like many a suburban New York teens, they were getting into trouble and wasting time. Intelligent, charismatic and gifted, they looked to music for a way out. They found it in the raw sound and power of heavy metal.
After a few weeks of casually jamming together, Wayne, Ray and James met guitarist Bruce Ryder in a mall arcade. With Wayne on drums, Ray on vocals and James on bass, they had their band. Within two weeks, they were writing and recording songs. The more they worked, the heavier their sound. Influenced by the visual impact of Iron Maiden, and Anthrax’s slick and ironic lyricism, as well as a steady stream of cheap beer and whiskey, they christened the band Toxic Shock.
To achieve a darker, more potent sounds, the band began looking for another guitarist. After tedious auditions in which the only people who showed up were guys with vodka in ketchup squeeze bottles (and) who burned their fingertips with lighters, 14-year-old Anthony showed up. Young but accomplished, with his influence, Toxic Shock’s sound grew more intricate and developed. Not long after laying down several tracks and playing gigs with the likes of Sacred Reich, Exodus and Venom, Anthony and his family moved to North Carolina, leaving the position of guitarist open. It was quickly filled by Anthony’s school mate, Mark Dagostino. Mark fit in well and began to lead the band’s effort to market itself in an early 1990s music industry that was high off the success stories of Seattle grunge and Boston boy bands. Mark grew the fan base, answered mail personally, and crusaded for a healthy mailing list. He brought in guitarist and guitar tech and sound engineer Pat Servido, further solidifying their aggressive sound.
The band’s efforts paid off. In 1992, Toxic Shock entered Sabella Studios in NY and began recording. Months later, Toxic Shock landed a management deal with Geronimo Entertainment. That summer, the five Long Island kids began to see their dreams materialize. But not for everyone. In August, bandmate and brother Mark Dagostino committed suicide, leaving the guys heartbroken and confused, and the band, so to speak, was dead in the water.
They agreed to press on. Hiring a substitute guitar player, they finished their recordings, tried to deal with the loss, and in January 1993, they hit the road, opening for former Anthrax guitarist, John Connolly Nuclear Assault on a six-week North American tour. They played to packed houses every night, but things weren’t always rosy, Says vocalist Ray Bell, “We were young and there were fans lining up outside our tour bus, waiting for autographs, women clamoring to get inside. They didn’t know that we were inside the bus arguing over the last pair of clean underwear. It was nuts.”
Indeed, that’s all 1990s heavy metal band Toxic Shock would taste. In a few short weeks, the strain of the loss of their band mate Mark Dagostino and suspicions that a band manager was stealing from them, they band came to the bitter realization that they needed a break.
Life went on, each of the band mates moving on, both in the music industry and out of it. Occasionally, they’d two or three of them would reunite, pick up some instruments, play, reminisce and make tentative plans to do more, some day, some time.
In 2000, Wayne and James met Bill Kelly, a longtime fan and musician, and invited him to start a new project with them NAME. Singer Ray had begun a new career outside of music and his schedule prevented him from joining them. Meanwhile, Pat moved into production and recording, and Bruce delved into a computer programming career.
Despite distance, wives, children, new careers, divorces and new wives, the guys remained close friends, linked by their love of music. In October 2013, Even Flow Rock Club in Bay Shore, NY, approached Bill about Toxic Shock joining a commemorative show featuring local rock acts from the 1990s. The ember was stoked again and by January 2014, Ray, Bruce, Pat, James and Wayne were all in. Sabella Studios welcomed them back, offering studio time so they could re-record their original demo. On March 22, the band will appear at Even Flow, performing together for the first time in over twenty years. They plan to release a reworked demo album on the same night.
Says singer Ray Bell, “Being together, it’s the same. The music is the same with just a hint of maturity. We are still a bunch of punks from Long Island, still using dark, heavy thrash metal to express ourselves. Now we just have 20 more years of life to express. And we will.”