An Interview with Aaron Bedard of BANE
Interview by Ray Van Horn, Jr. - June 2005
The first time I heard Bane, I knew there was something special about them in the way that classic punk bands such as Dag Nasty, Government Issue and Minor Threat made me feel when I was a teenager exploring punk outside of my metal roots. The intensity, the thought provocation, the sense that the music superseded the players. In 2005, newer generations are beginning to learn about the original hardcore scene of the eighties and what made it so great. Proponents of the old school are Boston’s Bane, and their subscription to old school values was evidenced by a recent matinee show at The Ottobar in Baltimore. Picture, if you will, breaking down on the way to a gig and making it by the skin of your teeth, only to be told you have seven minutes to play your set. This was the dilemma posed by Bane’s openers Verse, who crammed three songs into seven minutes and left the stage to a confused audience who were obviously into them. What I saw afterwards warmed my heart as a longtime fan of metal and punk and the unity displayed here reiterated my initial impressions about Bane. In the middle of their headlining set, Bane explained Verse’s misfortunes to the crowd, then forked over their instruments to Verse and let them play a couple of bonus songs. Such class and secure camaraderie is rare in any industry, much less music. If you’ve heard Bane’s heralded "Give Blood" album, you will undoubtedly dig their newest release "The Note," which relays the band’s attitudes about being a part of today’s hardcore scene. Ambassadors of positivity, Bane’s actions at the Ottobar gig proves they’re in it for the love and after a hearty sit-down with vocalist Aaron Bedard and a couple of impromptu guests, I was won over by Bane’s spirit of hospitality and genuineness. I feel safe in assuming you will be too once you’ve read this very revelatory interview.
I thought that was really classy of you guys to let Verse get back up there and play a little bit in the middle of your set. That was really cool. To me, it sends a message of unity.
Aaron Bedard: Right. Yeah, that’s real important to us. This is the first day of the tour with them and we wanted everybody involved to know that what they’re going through we’re going through too and that there’s a way that we think things are supposed to run and they were definitely supposed to play more than four songs! We didn’t need all the time the club allotted to us and it would be silly not to do it since the kids were really excited by that band. They had a really rough day today; their van broke down and they had to haul ass down here, so I think our band has a pretty good knack of sort of sensing what the right thing to do is, even if means giving up a little bit of ourselves to do that.
RoughEdge.com: Yeah, I think people are going to remember that.
Aaron Bedard: I hope so. It was just the right thing to do. I want those dudes to feel real comfortable on this tour and when things go wrong for them, we’re going to have their backs because it’s a long road out there a month on your own. It’s just good to know you’re not going through it by yourself. It went well and the kids were stoked and that’s what we’re always gunning for, you know? It’s all about everyone having the best time possible.
RoughEdge.com: True. What I appreciate about Bane is the resurrection of classic hardcore/punk like JLA, Minor Threat, Descendents and Dag Nasty in your song structure. I think that the younger generation is finally starting to learn about the old school bands, which was a beef I used to have…
Aaron Bedard: Right.
RoughEdge.com: They’re really starting to know it, which is cool, and a band like Bane kind of helps the cause. Would you agree?
Aaron Bedard: I hope! That’s definitely something that we’re striving for, is to not lose touch with the people that created the sound, you know, the originators. I think that’s real important and I think it’s always exciting when young kids fall so deeply in love with hardcore that they move backwards beyond the stuff that’s coming out now. So yeah, I always try to mention older bands, like lesser known bands that influenced us. I just hope kids will be like ‘Oh, I want to know…who are these bands?’ Bands like Rites of Spring, Embrace, just all these great little bands that kind of slipped through the cracks.
RoughEdge.com: The original emo set.
Aaron Bedard: Yeah!
RoughEdge.com: I try to tell people I wish they could experience…the first time I ever heard ('Bad Brains’) "I Against I." It just devastated me. It’s kind of hard to put that into words for people who might not have been there when it first came around, but I’ll tell them, listen to this thing, it’ll blow your mind!
Aaron Bedard: It’ll change your life!
RoughEdge.com: Totally changed my life!
Aaron Bedard: Absolutely! That was a life-changing record for me.
RoughEdge.com: That album always seems to come up amongst our generation.
Aaron Bedard: That one, (Minor Threat’s) Out of Step, Age of Quarrel by the Cro Mags…
RoughEdge.com: Amen. You know, your vocals even take on a little Ian MacKaye and Dave Smalley (of Dag Nasty, Down by Law, All) vocal structures. I think it helps complete Bane’s throwback sound. This is probably an obvious question, but someone like Ian with Minor Threat, Fugazi, Pailhead, Egg Hunt, I guess he had a lot of influence…
Aaron Bedard: HUGE! Huge influence on not just the way I think of how hardcore singers should sing, but just the way a hardcore band should carry itself and the force that it should hold lyrically and how he seems at the level passion-wise, you know? When I was a fifteen-year-old kid, it was huge for me. It left such a strong impression on me that all these years later I still carry that with me. If I could do it with half the honesty and integrity that he did… He wasn’t so worried about perfect tone or perfect pitch, but he sang with passion. He just let it hang out there for what it is, you know what I mean? He’s a little more melodic sometimes and maybe it’s a mess other times, but it’s just so honest. He would probably be number one and then number two would be Walter Schreifels from Quicksand, just his phrasing, how rhythmic he was. I think he was awesome for his time.
RoughEdge.com: Quicksand’s another underappreciated band. I adore them, man.
Aaron Bedard: They’re probably in my top five.
RoughEdge.com: For sure. Hey, you guys recorded the new album at Salad Day Studios…
Aaron Bedard: (laughs)
Is that run by Ian MacKaye?
Aaron Bedard: No, it’s run by a guy named Brian McTernan, who was part of the DC hardcore scene all through the nineties. He sang for a band called Battery.
RoughEdge.com: I know who that is, cool.
Aaron Bedard: He was definitely paying homage to the old DC sound by naming it Salad Day Studios.
RoughEdge.com: All right, cool. I’m keeping a Minor Threat motif running through these first few questions…
Aaron Bedard: Right on! (laughs)
RoughEdge.com: (laughs) Another thing I find interesting in today’s punk scene is we’ve seen the return of straight edge and its principles. Do you feel that Bane is or is not straight edge or anywhere on the line?
Aaron Bedard: As a band we don’t have any affiliation to any sort of set of rules. Individually we all have our own opinions on it and live our own lives for being straight edge or not being straight edge. As a band we made the decision about two years into the band that we weren’t going to attach ourselves to any of those sort of slogans that are separating and cause kids to feel like, ‘Well, I’m not straight edge or maybe I’m not as involved.’ We wanted everybody to be like…we don’t give a fuck what you do or what you believe, you know? If you love music and you’re going to open your mind to what we have to say, then everybody’s invited. We felt that calling a band a straight edge band causes some ideas of segregation, you know? We didn’t want that.
RoughEdge.com: Well, sure. I think it can pigeonhole you and there’s been so many bands that fell into that trap where they declared themselves straight edge and as soon as they broke out of that mold, the fans balked at them.
Aaron Bedard: Exactly.
RoughEdge.com: They’d be like, ‘Oh, you fucking suck, you’re not straight edge anymore! Liars!’
Aaron Bedard: Exactly! For me, it’s always been an ultra-personal thing. I personally believe it means a lot to me in my life, but it’s about me. It’s not about my band, it’s not about my friends, it’s not about the bands I listen to, it’s about me, you know what I’m saying? As we’ve grown older we’ve just grown into our own personal ideas of what it means to be drug-free, which may include enjoying drinking or doing whatever, you know? It’s just about being able to respect different ideas and different ways of life, stuff like that, not being up there saying “This is the truth and you will follow our lead.” Stuff like that’s pretty creepy.
RoughEdge.com: (laughs) It’s almost cultish!
Aaron Bedard: Right.
RoughEdge.com: Now, how do you feel about the state of hardcore today, given that most of the bands that follow it right now are coming out of the Biohazard mold…
Aaron Bedard: Mmm hmm.
RoughEdge.com: I mean, there’s this overabundance of breakdowns, which is starting to drive me nuts. I know it’s for the kids, but I think the whole breakdown mania is getting stale.
Aaron Bedard: Right.
RoughEdge.com: Again, Bane embodies the old school way of hardcore, back when it was often called ‘core back in the day.
Aaron Bedard: Well, there are a lot of different bands that are playing pure-spirited hardcore. I think Verse plays excellent hardcore. There’s a lot of young bands out of Boston like Mental and Righteous Jams and another band called Outbreak, who are really doing it not just for the sheer dynamics of the mosh, you know? They’re not so directly trained in like, metal or as you said, the chugga-chugga thing. I agree that it’s not my favorite sound since it can obviously get a little boring. For me a mosh part is tastefully dropped at the right time where it will have a full impact and it’s not just the same thing over-and-over. But I really do believe there’s a lot of young bands out there that are doing their own thing that don’t sound so purely like, you know, like you said, like they’re influenced by Biohazard or Pantera or whatever. I think there’s a good mix.
RoughEdge.com: Yeah. Now, "Give Blood" is obviously a hallmark for your band, while your new album "The Note" just dropped recently, what, May 17th?
Aaron Bedard: Right, last month.
RoughEdge.com: Cool. What differences, if any, do you see between the two albums? It’s been a couple of years between the two, so do you feel anything different in the songwriting?
Aaron Bedard: Definitely. There was a huge influence on our songwriting in that Zach (Jordan) really took the reins for writing most of the songs. Our other guitar player Aaron Dalbec is in another band called Omenkind that was sort of busy a lot last year. He was living in New Mexico with a girlfriend, so he wasn’t quite as involved as he was on "Give Blood." A lot of the pressure fell on Zach and on all of us to write songs that we all felt really proud of and were maybe a step forward beyond "Give Blood." We didn’t want to write another "Give Blood." We knew we were going to write another hardcore record, but we wanted to be different, maybe a little more adventurous, just a little more reflective of where we were in our lives now. We didn’t want to just play it safe. We demoed stuff and we rejected a lot of the stuff that we demoed and we worked really hard to write songs that we were proud of that were a reflection of where we were at right then. We’re in a totally different place than we were four years ago when we did "Give Blood."
Aaron Bedard: Also we have a new drummer (Bob Mahoney) who just brings a whole different style to the attack of the songs. He’s such a forceful, pure hardcore drummer, whereas the drummer on "Give Blood" (Nick Branigan) was a little more classically trained, a little more jazzy and technical. He could do a lot of tricky shit, whereas Bobby is just straightforward in a pure hardcore style. I thought it was sort of fun to write a record that was maybe a bit more immediate, you know? Just the attack, which is right there, really loud. So it’s just a natural progression in the fact we’ve grown a lot in four years. We were so proud of "Give Blood" that we were like, ‘Wow, we are capable of writing a record that we can all stand behind, that as a band we can still celebrate. Let’s do it again, let’s get our band to do it,’ and I think we did it, honestly.
RoughEdge.com: Yeah, for sure. I think one of the differences for me is “Swan Song,” which I’m glad you guys played last in your set. I think it’s an appropriate closer for the set and the album too, especially with your fadeout chorus. To me, that’s a step up from "Give Blood"…
Aaron Bedard: Yeah!
RoughEdge.com: As good as "Give Blood" is, I think “Swan Song” takes you to the next level.
Aaron Bedard: It’s crazy the way that song came together! In the end we were like, ‘That’s different than anything we’ve ever written before!’ We’re not sure where it came from!
Aaron Bedard: There were times in the writing of that song when we would practice it when we were like ‘This is so weird! Why does this feel so strange?’ But we knew we had something special there and we just wouldn’t let ourselves go of it and when we finally got it into the studio, Brian (McTernan) the producer was like, ‘Something isn’t right here,’ and we continued to work it and restructure it all through the recording session in the studio and finally we just got it. It felt right. It was so honest.
RoughEdge.com: Especially with the gang chorus format…
Aaron Bedard: The back vocals sounded real cool.
RoughEdge.com: Yeah. I think if you’re conveying a message of unity, just the fact of your band united and singing “I will come back for you” on the mike together and just carrying the album out to its finish that way, you know what I mean?
Aaron Bedard: Yeah, yeah. It definitely felt like…when the song was done, Brian was like, ‘This has to be the end. This is the end of the record.’
At this point drummer Bob Mahoney adds a couple of thoughts to support Aaron
Aaron Bedard: Because we really wanted “End With an Ellipsis” to finish it, but Brian has such a good ear.
Bob Mahoney: He was right.
Aaron Bedard: He was totally right.
RoughEdge.com: It’s the perfect closer.
Aaron Bedard: It’s definitely cool to have a song like that that we’ll be able to close with.
RoughEdge.com: Tell me a little about the storyboard art in the CD jacket for "The Note." From what I can tell, your muse experiences some sort of traumatic nightmare that changes his life.
Aaron Bedard: It’s true! That’s about as blunt as you can put it! We just wanted to come up with some sort of layout that would challenge kids a little more than a typical five minutes of leafing through live shots. We wanted it to be something that they could ponder. We thought it would be cool to have this opposite thing; like you said, he reads the note and he starts to overthrow everything he’s got going on in his life and what this note could say. It’s like, ‘God, what must be in there that could make him destroy everything that he’s created?’ So I don’t know what it says in the note, but we thought it would just be fun to have something real, real visual and just sort of open-ended like that. It allows you to come to your own conclusions.
Aaron Bedard: We just thought it would be something fun. It’s like the idea of kids taking it home and looking at it and going ‘What does this mean? I don’t understand this! This is so crazy!’ and then talking amongst their friends. We just thought it would be cool and I think we executed it. The kid who drew the pictures did such a great fucking job. Pete, our bass player did all the coloring and I just think it’s really fun. But the truth is a lot of people are like, ‘Is there some big, deep message? Is there a concept here that I’m missing out on?’ The truth is that there really isn’t, we just wanted to do something fun that challenged kids to think up their own stories as to what it must say on this piece of paper.
RoughEdge.com: “Hoods Up” has excellent lyrics like “Tell me this is still for the kids, by the kids, about the fucking kids. Tell me that we have not become just as broken as everything else.” I fucking love that, man.
Aaron Bedard: Thank you!
RoughEdge.com: That’s kind of how we talked back in the day and it’s kind of cool to see it resurface for another generation…I know I keep doing this generation crossover shit, but…
Aaron Bedard: Right, right.
RoughEdge.com: But I think it’s endearing no matter what walk of life you come from.
Aaron Bedard: That’s very, very nice of you to say, thank you! That’s really flattering. When I was writing that song, I just felt like being really, really blunt, you know? I was just going to hang it all out there and if it came off cliché or if it came off like it’s been written a thousand times before, I was just going to be unapologetic about it. I just felt like that song needed to be real stripped down and just say it like I would talk to my best friend, you know? Just pleading like ‘look, we need you to care more, we need you to do more.’ It gets frustrating at times. At times we just get so pissed about the way things are going and what seems to be important in the scene and people’s priorities, you know, all that pettiness about how you look or how long you’ve been around, how cool you dance, how big your record collection is and all that. It just starts to beat down on you.
RoughEdge.com: I’ll tell you what. I have over 2000 CDs and I still don’t feel like I have enough shit nor do I feel my collection is better than anybody else’s. It always feels like I’m missing something! It’s almost what you’d call a curse, you know what I mean? (laughs)
Aaron Bedard: (laughs) Right!
RoughEdge.com: I mean, what the fuck’s wrong with me, man?
Aaron Bedard: It’s an addiction, man. It’s a total addiction! (laughs)
Aaron Bedard: There’s nothing better than just a pure love of music, you know, where it just consumes you. I think it’s so great.
RoughEdge.com: Totally. Now, with us talking about the scene, it leads me to “My Therapy,” which is about the hardcore scene and what it means to people on a personal level, kind of like a sanity check, maybe?
Aaron Bedard: Yeah! Yeah! I mean, just the sanity declaration like…without this, I don’t know what the fuck I would have or how I made it through, you know, that I would feel so disconnected with everything else around me, just so alienated with what is considered to be the normal way to live. I’m an adult and certain things that are expected of me just seem so crazy and absurd to me. I don’t have any energy to have a 401K or get a house with a lawn that I have to mow, or any of the preset little paths that you’re supposed to travel to middle age or whatever after school. It just never seemed as fun or exciting to me as the things that I’ve done when I was eighteen, and I’ve never stopped doing that. I just needed to be like, thank God for this music! Thank God for this community that doesn’t judge you by how old you are that I can just keep coming back and not feeling alone, not feeling so crazy, because when I’m not around these types of kids and this type of atmosphere, I really have a hard time connecting with anything.
RoughEdge.com: I was going to say you might feel disconnected.
Aaron Bedard: T.V. makes you want to blow your fucking brains out…
RoughEdge.com: (laughs) I know what you’re saying!
Aaron Bedard: Or you walk into the mall and just go like ‘What the fuck is going on with all of these people, all of this craziness?’ You know, good movies are just harder to come by, so you just lose yourself in good music and good books but then sometime you have to leave the house!
Aaron Bedard: To be able to come out and do something like this, to be around kids that are pissed, that are opinionated, that are rebellious and they’re not afraid to fucking freak out every once in awhile, I just needed to write a song like, ‘Yeah, this is home for me, thank you.’
Aaron Bedard: I’ve been really lucky to be able to need that, so that I could stay so active in the scene and travel around and meet so many different people. I’ve been really blessed.
RoughEdge.com: It sounds like you are. I also really dig “What Keeps Us Here” in the way that it talks about the endearments of being in this hardcore scene. I mean, you probably already have, but would you summarize that song as far as what keeps Bane here in the scene?
Aaron Bedard: I mean, that song was really written for the people that we’re going to go out with this month, the ones we only get to see when we’re on tour. There’s a lot of cities that we travel to when we’re on most every tour and there will be people there that feel so close to friends in California, Seattle, Atlanta or Detroit, people that are like our brothers that we’ve known since 1998 but that we really only see when we go out on tour and we see them best. It really struck me that it’s my favorite thing about being in a band, keeping these relationships alive, going and seeing these people that I truly love like brothers, you know, but they’re ones we only get to see two or three times a year and you only get to see them for a few hours together if you’re lucky, maybe hang out after the show or maybe stay the night at their house or whatever. To me, it’s going to be the thing that’s hardest to walk away from. It going to be the thing that I’m going to miss the most, these relationships that are just so strong, so fun, and that are fueled by common love for this music, these shows and just this lifestyle, you know?
Aaron Bedard: I think there’s a lot of people out there that haven’t left, that haven’t stopped loving hardcore, haven’t stopped loving Bane, haven’t stopped loving all the shit that we do when we roll out then. It just means the world to me, these friendships.
RoughEdge.com: Now, you guys take a stance on non-violence at shows…
Aaron Bedard: We try, anyway!
RoughEdge.com: Give me a little more about this belief.
Aaron Bedard: It’s a pretty basic belief that I think this is bullshit! I just think it’s bullshit that violence is being so deeply intertwined with hardcore right now, that there’s a segment of our scene that thinks it’s cool, that it’s hard, that it’s like being in a gang, it’s like friends don’t let friends fight alone, you know, I have your fucking back, all this bullshit that is just so scary and counterproductive to everything I think it’s supposed to be about. There’s a lot of it going on right now and there’s a lot of kids that are afraid to speak out. There needs to be a line drawn as some point, like, ‘Look, we stand up for non-violence,’ you know what I’m saying?
Aaron Bedard: There needs to be a segment of the scene that’s absolutely unapologetic about non-violence. We all need to come together and not fucking stand for this bullshit with this fucking crew mentality. I just can’t stand it, and I’m going to speak out against it onstage as many nights as I can on this tour and just try to draw a line in the center, you know? It’s as simple as that.
RoughEdge.com: Hell, you come from that old Boston crew shit era from the eighties…
Aaron Bedard: It still exists!
Aaron Bedard: Still exists! It still exists all over in every major city right now. It’s just like, me versus you and if you cross me, you’re going to get your face beat in…it’s just so fucking shitty. I can’t stand it.
RoughEdge.com: Agreed. All right, so you guys drew a matinee show today. What do you think of it? It’s pretty wild. It’s like the CBGB’s weekend matinee gigs!
Aaron Bedard: Yeah! It’s weird, because it feels natural to me when it’s dark out and I think there might’ve been even more kids here if we had played a nighttime show, but at the same time it is kind of endearing in that it reminds me exactly like you said, those old CB’s days, or the Rathskeller in Boston was another club that used to have day shows on Sunday and when the show was over it was still light out.
Aaron Bedard: It was kind of cool. You don’t get to play the day very often, but I feel like it’s an Achilles’ heel. I feel like this is a real nightclub, you know? I think there might’ve been another hundred kids here if it was a night show, but I had a blast. I really did.
RoughEdge.com: Oh, I think you had a really good turnout for an afternoon show. It was really crowded by the time you guys hit the stage.
Aaron Bedard: Yeah, it’s just that we came through here a couple of months ago, but I can’t complain.
RoughEdge.com: Speaking of CB’s, there’s a lot of chatter about the fate of the club in August!
Aaron Bedard: Yeah, I did some interview with a magazine from Sweden. They were over there, some big national magazine was doing a piece on the significance of that club and the importance of it being there, because it’s very probable it might be closing down, so they wanted to talk to different bands about what the club meant to them, you know, and just trying to say something about CB’s. When I asked the dudes who work there, they’re pretty tight-lipped, you know? Nobody would tell me how bad it really looks, so all you can do is cross your fingers and hope that…you know, this club has gone through this so many times in my life. They’ve closed, they’ve come back. I’ve heard so many times that they’re a step away from the wrecking ball and they’ve always seemed to persevere, so all you can do is knock on wood and hope that they make it because it’s like, the greatest club, you know?
Aaron Bedard: It totally lives up to its stereotype in every way! Such a great place to play. It’s the greatest stage to play, man. I love that club! Such a shame.
RoughEdge.com: Yeah. Well, my last question is, in your eyes, the future of hardcore punk looks like what?
Aaron Bedard: That’s a good question. I don’t know what I’d say to that, man! That’s a good question and I want to have a good answer for it…I mean, I usually don’t get stumped!
At this point, the lead singer of Verge, Sean Murphy joins the conversation
Sean Murphy: That’s a good question.
RoughEdge.com: If you want, I’ll let you off the hook…
Aaron Bedard: Fuck that shit! I mean, there’s so much optimism and I don’t know if we can overcome all of this bullshit.
Sean Murphy: Sometimes things have to die out in order to keep on going.
Aaron Bedard: That’s very true.
Sean Murphy: And make a new beginning.
Aaron Bedard: I’d have to say that I look at it with a huge question mark, that it seems like we’re at a crossroads. Kids now are going to be put to a decision if they really want to make this a part of their lives, like there seems to be two roads that you can travel and there’s a road where you can try to keep this beautiful and positive and about passion and self-expression, and then there’s a much darker path that you can travel that is about trying to get ahead and trying to make money and to take all that it’s worth through this. I think every kid is going to be put to a decision at some point, like ‘What does this mean to you?’ It’s getting very, very popular, you know?
Aaron Bedard: Punk rock and hardcore has definitely become marketable. It’s in the malls, it’s on MTV…
RoughEdge.com: It’s surreal, man.
Aaron Bedard: It is so surreal! You can wear the shit on your back for fucking $10.99 at the mall now, so I think every kid sort of needs to make a decision and I think what Sean said is sort of right that I have been thinking, like, maybe there needs to be a division and the kids that are truly about punk rock, anger and rebellion need to go back to the basement. Maybe we need to tear it down and rebuild it and knock all the violent fucks out and we’re not going to allow violent fucks around and we’re not going to be letting people wear fucking gang insignias on their sweatshirts at our shows. This is about kids who want to have a good time and be a part of something bigger, something special, you know?
Aaron Bedard: If that just means there’s 40 of us, you know? (To Sean): I mean, you guys have such a beautiful thing in Providence right now, you know what I’m saying? You guys are really building it up from the grass roots in a lot of ways.
Sean Murphy: Hopefully we’ll keep it, too. It’s not all the kids that are into the same thing. It’s kids of different…
Aaron Bedard: It’s like a tight-knit community! Every time I’m down there I feel like everybody knows each other and everybody loves everybody. That me versus you bullshit where you’ve got to watch your back doesn’t seem to exist.
Sean Murphy: Yeah, pretty much. I hope it never comes here.
Aaron Bedard: And there are a lot of scenes like that around the country, you know? There’s a lot of scenes where it’s like ‘We’re not going to deal with a lot bullshit,’ you know? Syracuse, I think has that feel right now.
Sean Murphy: Yep.
Aaron Bedard: So when I look to the future I honestly see a big fork in the road and that every kid is going to have to make a decision about what this means to them.
RoughEdge.com: That’s an excellent answer, man. Well, I wish you guys well for the rest of the tour and I thank you for having me, as well as your hospitality.
Aaron Bedard: No problem, man. Thank you.
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Revised: 31 Jul 2018 23:38:09 -0400.