By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jul 14, 2005 at 5:01 AM

{image1}"Man, there was a point there when Die Kreuzen were the best band in the USA."

And so Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore describes Milwaukee's seminal hardcore band Die Kreuzen (sorry, Clitboys) in his liner notes for the long-awaited, "'Lean Into It.' A Tribute to Die Kreuzen," on Appleton's Erosion Records.

The 26-song disc features covers of Die Kreuzen tunes by the likes of Napalm Death, Mike Watt (of The Minutemen and Firehose), Voivod, Season to Risk, Hum Machine, Mad Trucker Gone Mad, Vic Bondi and others, and is packaged in an attractive and unusual sleeve.

The project has been a nearly decade-long labor of love for Mark Steven Hillstrom, who was a member of the band Alien Harvest, which was influenced by Die Kreuzen: bassist Keith Brammer, singer Dan Kubinski, drummer Eric Tunison and guitarist Brian Egeness.

Just before he fled on vacation, we asked Hillstrom about the tribute to a band that started out as a hardcore band and created a heavy sound that was part punk, part metal and completely new at the time.

OMC: I think some people will be surprised to see names like Thurston Moore, Mike Watt, Voivoid. Before you started working on putting the tribute together had you realized just how influential the band had been?

MH: I think it's surprising that I finally finished it, but the list of artists just speaks for how influential Die Kreuzen were. Sometimes, with such a pioneering band, you never see it within the moment. It's really cool that these bands, 13 years after DK broke up, put the effort into paying tribute to them.

OMC: How did the idea to do the disc come about?

MH: I played in a band called Alien Harvest during the mid-'90s, and the three of us were big fans of DK, and often got comparisons to them. Previous bands of ours had opened for them in the past as well. We talked a lot about Wisconsin/local rock, and how influential DK were on Wisconsin bands, the Midwest, and even on a much larger national scale. We'd talk about all the quotes we've read by these 'popular' bands, saying how influential DK were. A tribute to such an original, groundbreaking band seemed like a difficult, maybe even silly idea, but it turned out even better than expected.

OMC: You've got some impressive names on the disc. Was it hard to line up the participation of the likes of Mike Watt?

MH: The only real difficult task was finding time for this list of icons to rehearse and record their track, once they figured out a song that wasn't chosen, and one they could work with. Many of these bands, whether they are Mike Watt or any of the lesser-knowns, work a lot at the bands they are in. Most of the reason why it took almost nine years to finish was simply working at arranging 25 bands from four countries to record and get their master tapes submitted. Watt was pretty easy, as he did his track with his band between tours. It took a bit of time to organize the time frame.

OMC: How have members of D.K. reacted to the disc? Presumably they've all heard it.

MH: So far, the response from the members of DK has been quite positive. I am glad I didn't let them down!!! Dan was very helpful through the whole project with whatever I needed.

OMC: Do you have a favorite song on the disc?

MH: That's really difficult to answer. Growing up in a smaller Wisconsin town and starting my own label in 1988 and 17 years later attaching a name like Voivod to one of my projects is just a mind bomb. It's a nice pinnacle to all the work with Erosion Records over the years.

"'Lean Into It.' A Tribute to Die Kreuzen" is out now.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.