Intervju med Bobby Hambel i Biohazard!
Tidigare i veckan blev jag uppringd av Bobby i nu albumaktuella Biohazard. Med en New York-dialekt tjockare än råolja berättade han om vad som händer med bandet just nu, vem den nye medlemmen är, hur arbetet gick med nya plattan, minnen från 80-talets New York och han ger även en känga åt dagens teknologi.
Bobby Hambel: Hello Niclas!
Hey Bobby, how are you?
BH: Good bro, how ya doing?
I´m good. Where are you calling from, New York?
BH: I´m in Jersey right now.
How´s the weather?
BH: Freezin´! Fuckin´cold!
Same as here then.
BH: Where are you at?
I´m in Stockholm.
BH: Oh shit, awesome!
I actually talked to Billy in early June last year. I was kinda wondering, I listened to the album back then and it´s not coming out until now, is it the same version of the album now? Was it all done back then or has anything been added?
BH: I believe it´s the same record, yeah! Added to it? I´m not sure I understand what that would be? I know that in June… we had to push the release back for whatever reasons. Far from perfect and far from easy to deal with sometimes. Sometimes things like that happen, but yeah, it´s the same record. We´re looking forward to releasing extra bonus type material to go along with the music and the world tour. There will be extra material available for download or to purchase on a disc coming out really soon. We´re trying to get some stuff out there. Live recordings and extra material, like songs that didn´t go on the record but we still have them written. We wrote a lot of material for this album and you can´t fit all of it on one record, so we had to narrow it down to the songs that kinda float the best with each other and all the stuff that was left over, you add the stuff that we´re still working on now, because we´re still writing and recording, we should have a lot of stuff to release. There´s a lot of stuff coming out with Biohazard.
Yeah, that was kinda why I was wondering, since I figured that the album was done back then in June and then the release date was pushed back and I just got a feeling that maybe you worked on it more, but I guess it was other circumstances that made you push it back then?
BH: Yeah, other circumstances. (laughs) Which is unfortunate, but everything happens for a reason. I think it´s great that we´re starting our tour at the same time as the record´s coming out. It´s a great way to start off a new year and everything just feels very positive right now.
Have you found a new guy? Is that all set?
BH: Yeah, we´re good! What we decided to do was basically not to over complicate things and panic, because we had a lot of… as you can imagine, outside influence as far as people that mean well, like people close around us or in our immediate contact, that would reach out and offer help. Everybody had a new suggestion. It was like a cold remedy. Everybody had their own little homemade recipe for how we should continue as a band and we needed to look at each other and just keep it really simple. “Who is the most natural person to step in?” and that was Scott Roberts, and I´ll tell you why! Scott was the most natural guy because one, we´ve known the guy forever and we´ve toured with him forever and he actually joined Biohazard playing guitar when I wasn´t in the band and he was also in a band with Danny called Bloodclot and Scott knows all the material and the way it worked out is that when we put the original band back together for the reunion and I returned, Scott stepped right up and offered to come out on the road and tech and help us and that was just such a great thing. That´s what friends do, you know. There were no issues with me returning to the band and him stepping aside and offering to tech. It´s the real deal, he´s like family with us! And it was great because here we have a tech who knows the material back and forth and then some things came up where a couple of us couldn´t make the show or we couldn´t make it to a gig, Scott would jump right in and help us and save the show. Scott actually had to do that a couple of times and there´s no awkwardness jamming with him. He has our groove and he knows our feel, he´s part of Biohazard in a big way. He´s already part of the crew and the immediate family so it was the most natural thing and we´re lucky enough to have a guy like that in our corner, who has our backs.
I read that back in August you announced that you were auditioning people. Did you go through the auditions?
BH: Yeah! We went through a couple of things. You see, that´s what I´m talking about. Let´s go back to what I was talking about with outside influences that mean well and try to help us, Biohazard was all of a sudden getting steered into different directions. People were saying “Ok, now you should just change the entire thing and add a front man to the band and another bass player!” and sure “Why the hell not? Let´s get fucking congas and a fucking keyboard player and get some back up chicks to sing?” and I´m like “Wait a minute! We just made this record and we didn´t have any of that shit on this record, so why bother putting that kinda live band together anyway?”, first of all. Second of all, if we were gonna do something like that we really needed to give it a lot more time and energy, than we were able to do, so we definitely checked out some singers and we entertained the idea and I still think it could be a really cool thing to have five guys on stage instead of four. Who knows? We might still do something like that in the future, but right now, for all reasons just to keep this thing rolling, the one that made the most sense and the one we could definitely feel the most at ease about and definitely bank on and feel confident, was asking Scott to step in. He´s one of us and he knows all the material and he can hold it down. For the next album, if we wanna write music that has extra this or extra that and different instruments, I´m all about it. We´re all about it and we´re not into holding ourselves back and we love to experiment and find new sounds and new music. We´re not gonna limit ourselves, but this record was done as a four piece and I think we´re gonna go out and tour for this record. But then you have people who go “You need to go out and find somebody that looks and sounds exactly like Evan!” and then others that go “You need to find somebody that doesn´t sound and look like Evan!” or “You need to find two singers and a DJ!”. How about that! It was a little fuckin´crazy, but everything seems to be working out for the best. And I appreciate you asking.
Cool! Back in June when I asked Billy for the title he said that you had one and were about to tell people, but then you guys played Download or whatever and you decided to change it. Was that when you changed it into “Reborn in defiance”?
BH: Eeehhh, I can´t even say… “Reborn in defiance” was kinda always a suggested title. That idea came a little bit earlier. It was around before it got chosen. There were definitely a few working titles. We had a lot of titles kicking around while the record was still taking shape. That´s what happens when you´re forced into having more time than you thought you were gonna have. All of a sudden you´ve got time to change things in your mind and go back and revaluate things, you know. I think “Reborn in defiance” really sums up and is completely explanatory in a lot of different ways and a lot of different angles. “Reborn in defiance” into so many different parts of this, whether it´s musical or music business wise, band structure, just a life´s journey and the struggles we´ve had to overcome to get to this point as a band all these years later. There´s so much of it that just applies.
Have you guys been in touch with Evan since he left?
BH: Well, it´s a little awkward… we´re not really speaking with him like every day. We´re well aware of how he´s doing and he´s doing ok. He´s doing his other thing and we wish him well, you know. He´s got another band he´s jamming with and he seems to be excited about it. When you get to be in the position that we´re in and I hate to say our age, but we´ve been around for a while and we´ve been through this whole thing and one thing I knew, coming back into the band and I had my own reasons why, but I always knew this is a blessing and a lot of people don´t get a second chance to do something. Finish something they started or change something wrong that´s been done or go back and fix mistakes. We´re very fortunate that we were able to and it´s because of the fans we´ve played to all over the world. That´s we´re the demand for us to get back together really came from. We owe it to them! I always knew there are no guarantees in life so the fact that we got together in the same room and actually jumping on a plane together or a tour bus and getting on stage and touring the world for almost two years was… wow! It was an amazing thing that nobody thought would ever happen and the fact that the four of us actually managed to keep it together long enough to do an album together, was another thing that was more than we could ever hope for. The fact that it didn´t stay together the way people would´ve liked it to, is no surprise. When I say no surprise, I´m saying that there´s nothing guaranteed in life. The fact that we got the original band together, a full world tour and a new album speaks volumes and I´m very proud of it and we´re all proud of it. The fact that one of us had to go his separate way, that´s life, man! We wish nothing bad on Evan. We´re just gonna keep playing and he´s got his own life and he´s got things going on and we hope he´s alright and we hope he finds what he´s looking for.
You mentioned earlier that you´re still writing and coming up with ideas. I guess it´s not gonna take that long for the next album to come out? And being on Nuclear Blast, what kinda deal is that? One album or more?
BH: Well, I hope so! I think Nuclear Blast is awesome and they´ve been excellent to work with. It´s something to be said for a label like Nuclear Blast to take notice and believing in a band like Biohazard, because what they did is kinda “in defiance” of their world and the industry. Biohazard has never been like a top forty fucking top rock fucking one hit wonder type thing where people look at us as dollar signs! People get it and believe in us out of respect for what we do, which is better for us because we get to work with people who´s the real deal, you know what I mean? I wouldn´t know how to act in the area of the music business where everything is bubble gum façade, one hit wonder, flavor or the week type of trend, because you can´t trust anybody around you because they´re only paying you because you´re popular at the moment and that could disappear tomorrow and as soon as you´re not making them any money, they fucking leave you in the dirt! What we do in heavy metal is more of like… the label understands the band. They´re behind it and they understand what it´s about and they believe in the band. For Nuclear Blast to believe in us and what we have to offer the world, was great and they stepped up and we give them a lot of respect for that!
Touring wise then? You´re playing a couple of shows in the US soon, right?
BH: Yeah, we´ve got some shows coming up in the US and Europe and then we´re going to Australia.
You´re not playing Sweden though!
BH: I´m not sure right now. I have to go look at the tour dates. I have so many tour dates that just came in. I´m really embarrassed I don´t know that. I don´t think there´s a Swedish show, no.
Any plans for coming here during festival season?
BH: Totally! We´ve been talking about it and the festivals. Biohazard loves the festivals. I´ll never forget when we were young and first went over to Europe. You´re talking ´89 or ´90 and when we first saw the European festivals like in Holland and the outdoor atmosphere of the festivals, was so special to us. We really don´t have that in America, you know. We never had anything that cool. (laughs). We always loved them since day one, so any chance we get for festivals, anybody´s that booking us or anybody that knows us, they all know that we love festivals and we jump at the chance to play them, so… I can´t remember the last… I definitely know we played a Swedish festival with Motörhead back in ´95 when I was with Biohazard in the early days. I´m not sure where it was… I forget… Fagersta… I know we played in Fagersta with the original Cro Mags and The Exploited and GWAR. That was like in 1990.
Awesome! You should play this festival in Gothenburg called Metaltown! They´ve got Slayer, Machine Head, Anthrax and you would fit right in there!
BH: You think so?
BH: That´s cool! Yeah, I´d love to!
Finally, what were you up to right before you joined Biohazard? Were you in a lot of bands before Biohazard?
BH: Biohazard was my first band that ever did a record! I was 19 years old when I first got together with the guys and started the band together. Before that I was in another band in Brooklyn called Rattlehead and we were making demos and stuff, but we never got the chance to make a record. We were just jamming together. Biohazard was the first thing that turned out to be serious and we´re real lucky because the way we put the band together, we were under some great mentors and we had a great home town club called “L´ Amour and there were some really ass kicking bands around at that time and great musicians. They allowed us to believe in ourselves like “Hey, you could really make this a real band!”. The timing for Biohazard was the reason that did it. It became my life right away and then I left, you know.
How would you compare the New York/Brooklyn/New Jersey scene back then to today? Are there still a lot of bands happening and stuff similar to Biohazard and what you´re doing?
BH: Well, as far as music goes, the east coast has always had its own kinda edge and its own type of sound or flavor, whatever you wanna call it! Just like in Europe, you have different type of metal bands that come from Germany and from Sweden. In America we have the west coast bands, the Bay Area metal bands and they definitely had their own style. They were the pioneers. The east coast always had its own thing too. It just formed into what it is with different elements, that´s all. As far as the scene goes, it´s very different now compared to when we were younger. How the clubs are, how the shows are, how the crowd is. It´s a little different. We still love to play in our home town area. It´s still great and we love it, but everything has changed since when we started. The whole world has changed, you know. When we started out dude, you were a band and you had to make a demo tape, a cassette tape, man and you had to print up all these posters and we´d get like a hundred posters or a thousand posters and then get giant buckets of glue and paint brushes and we´d drive around in New York City at 2 o´clock in the morning looking out for the cops, because what we were doing was illegal and we would just put up Biohazard posters all over the city to promote. And stand outside in front of clubs and hand out flyers. There was no fucking myspace, no internet, no cd´s! We had to trade demo tapes and we had to do real hands on street level promotion of our band. Now it´s a totally different world! Now you don´t even have to leave your house! We put up like 50 posters down one block and freezing with the glue all over us and one guy on the street corner watching out for the cops and then we´d drive around and hit the next block and then come back and look at our posters and there was another band there posting over our new posters! It was a territorial thing and then you´d have a fight with the band that posted over your posters and it was like crazy fucking shit that used to happen! That´s where we came from.
Sounds like it was a bit more exciting, a bit more alive in a way.
BH: It was more alive because the underground was really underground, you know what I mean? And there wasn´t access to the things that were underground unless you went and became a part of the underground. You had to go to the dirty clubs, be in a dirty band and see a dirty show. You couldn´t just click on a mouse! It was completely different, so you had to be a part of it and when you´re a part of something that´s underground that the rest of society doesn´t really get, that´s when it´s more special to you. That´s when you´re more loyal to it! That´s when you embrace it more and you´re like “Yeah, I own this shit! This is me and who I am!” and you proudly wear that t-shirt of the band you support and there was more like a camaraderie between the people who shared the common interest in the scene. It was a bit more chaotic and a bit more violent, but it had its own way of living and breathing, so I really prefer the old days better but here we are in a new world and we´re still playing. It´s interesting!
Absolutely! Dylan was right, the times they are a ´changing!
BH: Yeah, well some of this shit I don´t know about! (laughs) All this technology can´t be that great, you know. One day we will all wake up and it was just a fad and technology´s over and we´ll go back to everything being analog and dial up phones and fucking land lines. That would be awesome! (laughs)
Yeah, we´ll see what the future holds! I hope you get to Sweden soon!
BH: When we play, you gotta come up and hang out and introduce yourself, man!
I will! Excellent talking to you Bobby and have a great day in New Jersey!
BH: Yeah, tell all people to look out for all new Biohazard material on the horizon! Alright bro, thank you!