Intervju med Billy Graziadei i Biohazard
Jag mötte upp Billy på hotell Birger Jarl inne i stan och fick börja med att lyssna på kommande plattan. Öl severades av Darren från Warner och jag slog mig ned vid ett fönsterbord och lyssnade samtidigt som jag drack god öl och tittade på folket som traskade förbi i ett regnigt Stockholm.
Nu är det ju lite svårt att bilda sig en uppfattning om en platta efter en lyssning, men nog lät det riktigt bra emellanåt. När sedan plattan var färdiglyssnad och vi småpratat lite om hur mycket Evan Seinfeld uppskattade porren i Prag, satte vi igång med intervjun som kom att bli ganska lång då Billy pratade non stop.
Samtalet kom bl a att handla om nya plattan, Evan, tidiga influenser, USA, Mellanöstern och Hammerfall.
Well, the obvious question first. Why did he leave?
Billy: I´m glad you asked that first.
Billy: No, it´s important and we can get it out of the way and talk about the record. It dropped like a bomb shell. It kind of came up from left field. We finished tracking the record in late February and really didn´t have much contact with him that much. Everything was through management and I was working on the mix with Toby and some additional overdubs and different ideas and some piano and keyboard stuff. Then a couple of weeks ago he calls up and says “I can´t do it anymore!”. He´s got a bunch of personal stuff and it´s mostly secret. But it´s personal between… it´s what´s going on in his life, but he made a decision and we weren´t happy about it, but we made our decision to continue and keep going. It would be great if he was here and I know he´s proud of the record and as happy as it came out as we are. We were all there and made it together and focused equally on it, but rather to let it die out, we said “You know what? Fuck it! We´re all psyched and happy and even though things are different it doesn´t mean much has changed!”. The heart and soul of the band is still intact and we´re gonna continue!
It´s a solid sounding album!
Billy: Thank you!
How´s Scott working out?
Billy: He´s great! He was the guy after Bobby. It took us a long time to find him, but we knew him and he filled in for us at the last minute, but he stepped up and did it. It was a tough obstacle to overcome but we did it. We played Download, which was cool and the next day we played the Metal Hammer boat and that was a phenomenal show! All the kids were like “Wow!” and even the editors of the magazine were like… and they´ve been doing this for ten years and in the past three of four years with Anthrax and Hell Yeah and they were like “Nobody´s rocked the boat like you guys did!”. It was cool! What happens in the future when I go home, we´ll sort that out, but right now I´m just here to talk about the record. I´m glad you asked that question first!
As I understand it, Scott is not gonna be a permanent member and you´re gonna find someone else.
Billy: We don´t know what we´re gonna do right now! Yes, the answer was that Scott was just temporary, but who knows? He did a great job and the feedback from everybody was like “Wow!”. He looks a little like him and he sounds a little like him, but we´re not looking at this as a replacement, it´s more like a change. Something different, you know, but it´s still Biohazard. There´s opportunity to bring something new to the table and we´ll see. Right now it´s just playing and doing a lot of press. I haven´t had one second to have a crap by myself, let alone anything else. (laughs)
Writing for this album, since it´s been a while, did you use stuff that´s been around for a long time or did you just sit down recently and come up with all new stuff?
Billy: It´s all new! When we first got together… we pretty much kind of broke up in 2003 and then the record that we were working on at the time, didn´t really come out until 2005. Some people don´t even know about it. People I´ve talked to were like “Yeah, the last record, Kill and be killed!” and I´m like “No, there´s another record after that one, like three years later!”. When we first started writing the record, I didn´t think the band would last two weeks. It was great the first two hours together and the two days, and then two weeks passed and two months and I was like “Wow, its´working!” and I kept waiting for that explosion like it used to be, but a lot of things have changed. We were the same people as we were, but we didn´t care about the same issues. Things that were important to us when we were with Bobby, weren´t issues anymore and we kind of let go of a lot of things and we kind of found ourselves in the same place as when we first got together. That was a big breath of fresh air. We went into the studio and started working on new material. We were jamming on riffs that were like… I wouldn´t say rehashed, but typical Biohazard things and it was pretty easy to write at first. Then we found ourselves with eight, nine, ten songs or something like that. It was some music ideas, some lyric and vocal ideas and I was like “This is too easy! We´re gonna bang out a Biohazard record in two weeks? Is this really good?” and I was like “This is cool! That´s eeehhh and that´s eeehhhh! I don´t want it to be eeehhh! It´s gotta be Fucking yeah! I gotta be able to fucking sell this and I wanna be on stage and feel good about it. I don´t want it to be an excuse to go on tour!”, so we all talked about that and pretty much threw everything out and then we were like “You know, let´s just be fucking straight up and honest with each other!”. Like “Is this truly great? Does this make your dick hard?” and that was the approach we took. It took a lot longer and we said “We need somebody who´s not part of the band to help us keep focused!” and Keith our manager was in line with that and brought in Toby Wright and introduced us to him and there were a couple of ideas for producers, but we had never in the past let anybody in that circle. It was just us. We know Biohazard! We´re not gonna let some fucking stranger in our creative world! That was tough at first, but Toby fit right in and he was just a fly on the wall. His biggest input that which was most valuable, was saying stuff like “You´ve got better in you!” you know! “You really think that´s good? C´mon, gimme something else! Go back and work on it!” and we were jamming fucking loud. I always felt that our records didn´t have a live feeling and that was something like “the grass is always greener…” and when we´d finish a record, I´d go listen to the new Machine Head or the new Slayer or Metallica and go “Man, that sounds fucking amazing!” .
The new one from Machine Head doesn´t sound that amazing though! The single “Locust”.
Yeah, kind of boring.
Billy: They always blew our records! (laughs) But the grass is always greener, like you know, you´re buddy´s girlfriend when you´re 19 is always hotter than your girlfriend. But the point was that with this record, we wanted to keep that live energy since our cd´s missed that, but for the first time I think that we hit it with the sound. I keep listening to other records and “Wow, that sounds good, too!” and I go back and listen to my record and it´s like “Wow, it kicks my ass!”. I crank it in my truck, “Fuck yeah!” and I put in my little head phones and it sounds great! Finally! It took us fucking long enough, but finally we got the sounds there! We had moments here and there which were cool, but I think we wanted to make a record that would last longer than the tour cycle. There´s a reason why we don´t play a lot of songs off certain records and there´s a reason why we play songs of of “State of the world address” more than any other album. Those songs were written while we were touring and we played those songs live before we went into the studio, just like this record.
Did you record it in your studio in New Jersey?
Billy. Yeah, but we moved to LA. I moved to LA and opened up another studio and then got robbed in New Jersey and then had three disasters in 2010 in LA, but survived. Two floods and a fire, so we changed the name to Firewater studios and we did it there.
Cool! What´s it like working in LA? Is it any different, getting a vibe in LA, to recording in New Jersey? Does that have any impact at all on the music?
Billy: We used to think that it would, but I think that we´re all products of our environment. It´s the nature nurture thing and that influence came from growing up in New York, so it doesn´t matter where we are. You could put us in Stockholm and we´d still sound like Biohazard. How I see things with my eyes are different than how you see with your eyes. How I experience issues in my life, I share my way. I can´t write about what you´ve been through, but if I happen to write about something I´ve been through, that you´ve been through, than you can relate to it. That´s what attracts me to other bands when I hear a good song and it deals with an issue that I can relate to, it becomes one of the bands that I put on top of my list. So it wasn´t any different. The hardest thing about being there, was flying guys out to LA. Evan was there, but the other guys, that was difficult.
I wrote down some of the lyrics: “They´re the problem, we´re the solution”, “Stand up and fight for what you believe”, “The world has become so negative”, “You´ve taken everything, but you can´t take who we are”, “It´s killing me”, “Decay”.
Billy: But it´s all different songs!
Yeah, I know!
Billy: That first set of lyrics,, “Stand up and fight” is from a song called “Countdown to doom”, but it´s going on right under our noses. Sweden hasn´t really had that many revolutions, but America has and there will be another one, but in the Middle East, people are uprising and I´m like “Fuck yeah! You go! Stand up for yourselves!”.
Yeah, about time!
Billy: Yeah, especially with the oppression that´s been going on there. It´s insane how much oppression there is in that part of the world. There it is! That´s pretty much what it´s all about, but the opening line of that I love and it´s inspired by a little from spending my time here. The opening line is “We speak a different language, but I know we feel the same”. I learned early on that we as New Yorkers weren´t the center of the universe and that someone in Stockholm can have the same issues that I have, in Brooklyn. What was fucked up in Stockholm, had similar fuck ups in New York and Berlin and Teheran. People all have struggles and there are a lot of similarities. It´s a small world and the Internet shows us that.
Definitely! Have you always been interested in politics and cultural things?
Billy: I don´t look at us as a political band other than a socially aware band. It´s kind of like… I think politics are headlines to what´s going on socially, that´s all it is! The subject that politicians grab onto to win office, the popular vote! Politicians are generally liars and artists can tell the truth and speak how it is, you know, through our eyes. That´s why I think that music and art… people assimilate themselves more with that than they do with politicians. Sheep tend to follow the politicians blindly and artists tend to stick the middle finger up at what´s going on. Like the things in Middle east, but unfortunately there´s a price to pay for that. Did I answer your question?
Yeah, kind of! (laughs) It´s so interesting with the US and how so much is about money in politics a lot more than it is here and the latest issue with Obama and his birth certificate and Donald Trump. It makes for a good comedy!
Billy: Yeah! And he´s (Trump) got a show called “Fired” (The apprentice) or whatever and he quit! “You´re not fired, you quit!”. What´s funny is the mockery of the American elections. I didn´t see it until… I was here because I dated a Swedish girl for a long time and spent a lot of time here, but it was here, watching the elections going on at home, that I saw the showbiz thing to it. With Bush and Clinton… who has the more balloons and Clinton playing the saxophone in Prague? That whole thing is showbiz, that´s what it is! But I have to say, I watched the elections and I voted for Obama before we left, because we were on tour during elections and we were in Paris and we went to a bar and partied there with everybody. They closed the bar down, but we kept some friends there and we hung out and partied pretty heavy, but watched Obama become president and get voted in, in Paris and it was awesome! It was great! The first time in my life that I ever voted for someone and was proud of my vote and felt like I made the right decision and that I wasn´t voting for the lesser two evils. And I felt like the rest of the world for the first time in a long time was like “Wow, America made a right decision!”.
And in a way a brave decision!
Billy: Yeah and a gutsy decision!
I read somewhere that this album is a tribute to Pete Steele. Any truth in that?
Billy: I hate that and I get that question all the time! Those things are in the liner notes and it´s a personal issue for us. Somebody in the band said something and now it seems like a selling point and I´m not gonna cash in on Pete´s name. He was a friend that we lost and that we looked up to and he was part of naming the band. He suggested the name to us. End of story! Every record we´ve made, we´ve lost friends and we dedicate all of our records to friends and family who´ve died. Bobby´s father died while we were making this record and it´s also dedicated to him. That´s it! I don´t want it as a selling point for the record.
Right! I interviewed him when he was here doing promo for their last record.
Billy: He was a great dude, right?
He came in with a Viking’s helmet on and a bottle of wine and he was a fun guy!
Billy: Yeah, I miss him, man!
Back in the day when you started out as a musician, what made you get into the heavier kind of music? Was there a certain album that got you into heavier stuff and not getting into playing, like Journey music?
Billy: I like Journey and they´re cool and as a musician I appreciate it more, but Journey didn´t grab me the way Killing Joke grabbed me or the way Minor Threat grabbed me or the way Agnostic Front or Iron Maiden grabbed me! It wasn´t until Biohazard that I got turned onto Judas Priest and Motlörhead. I don´t know what it is, but to me that´s the soundtrack to the revolution, not Journey! Journey wrote some great music and I probably kissed my first girl to a Journey song, but music inspires and provokes and changes and for me, that´s what good music is. Any music that doesn´t do that, should be playing right now (points to speakers in the hotel) and that´s cool too, because we all need to have something on in the elevator while you´re going up to the 13th floor.
Billy: But what was the first? There´s too many to mention. The first band I was into was KISS. It was the costumes and all that shit and as a little kid I was like “Wow, this is cool!”. I had no idea what they were singing about, I had no idea about anything! It´s not until I got older and when I got older it was punk rock. It was a lot less talented but way more emotional and then I was like “There´s a message here! These people are singing about stuff they really believe in! They´re screaming and yelling!”. I was looking at their expressions, but it was all pictures back then, there wasn´t video back then and especially any tv-shows that played punk rock music. Some music is entertaining, some is about a show like KISS and some has imagery and stuff and there´s GG Allin, but then there´s music with a message and at that time it was all Minor Threat, the whole straight edge movement, PMA, that was really cool and touched me, bands like 7 Seconds. I think combining those things, I realized it should be entertaining, like the live show of Biohazard is fun and energetic and we fucking love it! We´re not Slipknot! Slipknot is like a modern day KISS. I get more KISS from Slipknot than something I got from Minor Threat, but that´s just me! I´m sure other people feel different. So I guess it was KISS and for now I´ll just say Minor Threat, Bad Brains and Dead Kennedys.
I always felt like in the 80´s when you guys started out, New York always felt more hardcore and in LA you had the more girly stuff with spandex and the makeup.
Billy: Twisted Sister!
Yeah, but in the 70´s you had New York Dolls and Wayne County and stuff like that. It always felt like it was a lot tougher in New York than in LA in those days.
Billy. It still is! I live in LA now, but New York is home! In New York you wake up and it´s cloudy, rainy, snowy, ice, more commonly that describes the weather than sunny and the attitude in New York is that if it´s way too sunny, you´re like “Hmmm, where´s the fucking cloud? Any minute now it´s gonna fucking rain!”. It´s more pessimistic, but I prefer that. In California you wake up and 99% of the time it´s not gonna rain and the sun is out and people are happier in that environment. I think that… we´re a product of our environment. I´ve never had a … knock on wood… I´ve never had a gun pointed at my face in LA, but I have in New York, a few times. I´ve never been mugged in New York either. I grew up in the streets in New York city and I know that shit happens in the streets in LA too. LA is a bad city too! Maybe LA does a better job of hiding the crap. In New York it´s like “Fuck that!. It´s right in the open. New York is more in your face! That reality has shown its face through the times, through the 70´s and 80´s and 90´s and you still have bands like Madball coming out. LA had Bad Religion and New York had Agnostic Front. It´s not just New York. You have Boston, DC and the east coast, but it´s funny that the west coast was more San Francisco, LA and maybe a part of Arizona. Not much from Florida even though some great bands came from Florida, but in the early… the seeds started to sprout there whether it was metal, punk rock or hardcore, those were the cities. I remember and I love so many bands from California, but my only taste from California was from magazines like Flipside and Maximum Rock n´roll. They´re not around anymore, now they´re collector´s editions, but that´s where we would hear about all these shows and then being in Biohazard and getting a chance to play some of these places and meet these bands, to meet Mike Ness or Bad Religion or Pennywise was like “Wow!”. We live in South Bay and Black Flag and some of the greatest bands that I love, came from that area and it´s fucking weird!
Alright, cool! Do you know about the Swedish band Hammerfall?
Billy: Of course!
And you know that they wanted to use the Biohazard symbol on their latest album?
Billy: They did?
Yeah, but they couldn´t because your management told them they couldn´t.
Billy: Really? We don´t own the symbol, but it is synonym with Biohazard. We had an issue with Chiamaira and they changed it a little bit after they had a conversation with us about it. We still haven´t seen them since then, but I have a big problem with them. It´s like “I wanna name my band Graziadei, but I´m gonna spell it a little different!”. It´s my name, it´s me! It´s not a stop sign, but it is public domains to a certain extent.
Do you own that symbol when it comes to music?
You do, ok. I was talking to the guitar player in Hammerfall and they wanted to put it on the album and then they immediately heard from your management, that you guys owned it.
Billy: They saw that it´s a good symbol and so did Pete Steele too!
When are you guys coming back to Sweden then?
Billy: In the fall! The record comes out in September so we´re hoping to be here right away, before the weather gets bad, but I love Sweden in the winter too.
Great! You´ve got any other projects going on right now? I know you´ve been involve in tons of stuff.
Billy: Yeah, I did! I had tons of stuff, but because of that tons of stuff, it brought me back to the love I have for Biohazard and it helped me expand and grow as a musician and as a singer and it enabled me to help being one quarter bringing this album to where it is now. Do I have any intentions right now? No, I don´t! All I wanna do is Biohazard! I´m happy and I love where we are and I can´t wait to go home and work on another song and send it to Danny or Bobby and see what they think. We´re in a good place and we´ve made it through some crazy times. We have some great stories to tell and a lot of scars, but in the end that´s what you take with you to the grave.
What´s the title of the album?
Billy: We had a title. We had a few titles but we settled on a title and was like “Ok, that´s it!” and I was ready to tell everybody and at the last minute, at Download or Metal Hammer, something came up and we were like “Oh, that´s pretty cool!”, so we decided to hold off instead of spit out a title and have it changed next week. Within a week you´ll have the title and the artwork!
Is that a hard thing coming up with? Do you always go through bunch of titles and then change it?
Billy: No! I remember “State of the world address”, spit right out, “Urban discipline”, spit right out, “Mata Leao”, we went back and forth with different ideas and then I came up with an idea and I liked the fact that it was a different language and the whole idea was not telling anybody what it was about. Let it mean what you want it to mean, which was stupid because people are like “Just tell me! Please tell me what it means?”. “Kill or be killed” was supposed to be called “Never forgive, never forget” and it was all about what happened on September 11th in New York, our home. We were all there and those lyrics all came out the first two months after September 11th, but we realized it´s a marketing machine behind our records and the record label is gonna blow that up and capitalize on that horrible thing that was world changing for everyone. We changed it. We didn´t want to cash in on that horrific event, so we changed that title at the last minute. Horrific artwork and I hated it. That record was a different era for us. That was a hit record and by that I mean, we aimed, we wanted it to sound ill and aggressive like the subject matter that we were dealing with and we did. We didn´t want it to sound nice and pretty. It sounded like we were in a garage and recorded it.
Is it gonna be a full blown world tour?
Where are you gonna start it?
Billy: When I go home we sort out the situation with the band and then we start making those plans. It´s actually being put together right now and we have different options and ideas, but as soon as we´ve settled, we´ll have it planned out.
Do you remember the first time you went abroad playing? Was there a major difference between the US audience compared to like the European one?
Billy: Yeah and I´ll never forget it! First stop was Denmark, Copenhagen and then we came to Sweden and we had a conversation the first night in Copenhagen and I remember talking to this kid and he was like 15 and I had a jean jacket on with the American flag and the flag was upside down. I was proud of America, just not proud of the politics in America, but this kid knew more about America than I did and I was like “Holy shit!” and then it started to click and I slowly learned that we are told that we get a good education in America and then you find out you didn´t get a good education and then you school yourself. Americans are under false guise that we are free and under false guise that we are properly educated and we can barely speak English! Luckily, I learned another language, but America is a different world and now with the Internet everybody knows. It´s a great country and I´m proud of it, love it, but I see the faults more now, as everyone else does, than I did 20 years ago. I´m glad to say that we had some hand in that enlightenment.
Well, I love it! I´ve been there a couple of times and in 2008, my dad and my brothers and I did this road trip for five weeks and saw it all. Grand Canyon…
Billy: Isn´t that amazing?
It was just mind blowing! There are so many beautiful things and there´s a lot of ugly things, but I mean, it´s the same thing here in Sweden.
Billy: It´s very diverse and it´s like Europe. If you go through all of Europe from south of Italy to north of Sweden it´s a huge difference.
Absolutely! Thanks a lot!
Billy: Thank you!