TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
For Tartarean Desire’s American Editor Tony Belcher, who has been listening to Biohazard for some 13 years now, this September 2005 interview with founding guitarist Billy Graziadei -- upon this highly influential band’s swansong, no less -- was both an honor and a privilege. Read on to see Billy’s advice for Mastodon and Lamb of God, what he thinks of The Cure and Joy Division, and how Biohazard coined the phrase “our stage is your stage.” Watch out for a final tour in 2006 but for now, check out the interview, motherfucker! (to “borrow” some choice Biohazard verbiage).
Let me get started by addressing Biohazard’s ~15 years. How do you account for the band’s longevity, particularly in the presence of all these trends that have come and gone, or inevitably will go?
Biohazard is real -- we didn’t start the band with any goals of making it big or getting rich. Making honest music about how we felt and how we were effected by our surroundings is how we dealt with the problems that plagued our lives. We remained true while many bands and trends have come and gone!
Thankfully nowadays image is not as important as the music, for the most part, but back then it was new and kind of significant: Biohazard had two “long hairs” and two “shaved heads” in one band -- y’know, it combined Metal and Hardcore. In fact, I think Biohazard is largely responsible for starting off this whole Metal/Hardcore combo -- at least in terms of widespread popularity -- and bands like Hatebreed, for example, owe a debt to you. Do you find that Biohazard caters more to one audience or the other or is it as simple as you guys play and kids show up?
Our audience was more broad, we brought in people who were more into Hardcore, others more into Metal, even people who were more into hip-hop.... We created our own style and then kind of went back underground. There are a lot of young fans out there that are into bands who are, were, or seem [to be] influenced by Biohazard -- all who have no idea who we are! I prefer to be the unrecognized innovator instead of a fool who follows someone else’s lead!
The band has always been about the fans and unity and there is no “us and them.” Kind of like Phil Anselmo’s “our stage is your stage” commentary with Superjoint Ritual, how meaningful is it for you to still connect with fans of seemingly all ages and backgrounds after all these years?
Funny... I think we coined that phrase, “Our stage is your stage”! [Anyway,] to me it has always been a big giant family with our audience. I don’t look as people as fans -- they’re friends. This is the reason I always had so many problems on tour with over zealous security guards!
Let me jump into the new record. How long did writing and recording “Means to an End” take and what is that process typically like?
When I -- we -- sat down to write the music and lyrics for “Means...” I took a look at our career and asked myself what songs/albums stood out as classic Biohazard albums in my eyes [and] for me it was "Urban Discipline" and "State of the World Address"! I wanted to have our new music grab me the way those albums grabbed me with the energy, vibe and intensity. That was my inspiration -- to make an album that really said BIOHAZARD! I’m proud as hell of making an album that captures what we are about in every sense!
I actually stated that MTAE fits in nicely between UD and SOTWA in my review, but let me ask if things are made significantly easier by owning and using your own studio -- Rat Piss Studios?
The new recording studio is called Underground Sound Studios. We moved into a bigger place where we could do more for less -- and without the rats! So yes, owning our own studio is awesome. [There's] no bullshit to deal with, just our own!
About the new record, does a Biohazard song start with a riff, a vocal line, a lyric, or is that something that changes from album to album or even song to song?
There has been no formula for "Means to an End" -- most of the songs were brought in as complete ideas [and] then we would jam the songs as a band which is where the songs would become Biohazard songs!
Regarding lyrics, those of Biohazard always seem to be at least somewhat personal -- what are your sources of inspiration?
Plain and simple -- nice answer. About your last record, “Kill or Be Killed” was really different for Biohazard but still great because it was massively down-tuned, heavier, and maybe even slower in some places to the point of sounding like it was influenced by EyeHateGod. In your opinion, how is “Means to an End” different or perhaps better than your previous releases? Did you strive to get back to the sort of basics of what the ‘Hazard is about and away from the down-tuned madness of KOBK?
My influences happened when I was younger [and] I think EyeHateGod was probably influenced by maybe the same bands [and] eras. In addition to what I said before, with "Means..." I went back to the original classic tuning of Biohazard and tried to get the heaviness out of the riffs rather than the low tuning I wrote with on "Kill or be Killed."
Somewhat related to that, what is your favorite Biohazard record -- besides the new one? Everybody always seems to pick the new one....
They’re all my favorites [and] some stand out more than others for different reasons, but each album is a huge part of me. [I mean, I spent] years of my life between writing and touring for each album!
Going back to the previous record again, “Kill or Be Killed” was originally called “Never Forgive, Never Forget” and the artwork from the proposed NFNF was instead used on “Means to an End” -- what happened there and why?
We didn’t want to have an album with a title that would give the marketing geniuses of the world reason to exploit the attack of 9/11/01. I loved the artwork idea I came up with for that title NFNF, so I used it for "Means to an End" -- it actually fit better with this album, so it’s sometimes odd how things work out.
Switching gears a bit, let’s talk about the new record and ~new label. Knowing Biohazard’s history with record labels, how has SPV/Steamhammer been for you?
We’ve been with SPV for several years -- only in Europe -- [but] they are new here to the [United] States so it seems like with anything new, it’s all trial and error. As a whole they’ve been great, mostly because the label is run by fans of the music!
Related to record labels and the music business, pretty big buzz bands -- at least ‘big’ in terms of Metal -- Mastodon and Lamb of God recently signed to Warner Bros. and Epic/Sony, respectively. Do you have any advice for them or other bands making the jump from indies to the majors like Biohazard once did?
Don’t do it! It killed our career and that is one of the things I would do different!
Now I’ve got a question about how Biohazard are able tour with everyone from Slayer to Agnostic Front to Clutch -- I mean, you guys can tour with anyone Heavy. Is this just a testament to Biohazard’s crossover appeal?
I guess.... We’re fans of so many different types of music and friends with a lot of bands so that is perhaps why. With my new band, Suicide City, I’m finding the bands we play/tour with even more diverse, with bands like Otep, Mindless Self Indulgence, Mushroomhead and even Dope.
Also about touring, what are your upcoming plans and do you have any ideal tour partners?
No definite plans right now, but sometime in 2006 we will do one last tour!
Kind of related to touring since you inevitably are exposed to new bands, are there any acts out there that you really enjoy, or anything you see that’s the “next big thing” per se?
I see a lot of great, original music out there and I also see a lot of cloning going on.... Sad but true, [but] for every innovator there are a dozen clones right behind them. The positive thing is that I see bands mixing different styles, and the musicianship has stepped up a few notches!
Got any skeletons in the closet as far as bands you listen to while on tour or even at home? I mean, sometimes on the bus you hear stories.... Like Kirk from Crowbar loves Sade and Zakk Wylde loves Elton John....
There will always be the classics: [Black] Sabbath, [Led] Zeppelin, Bad Brains, The Cure, Joy Division, etc., but I’d have to say Tom Jobin, Ceatano Veloso, Maria Rita -- I love the Brazilian music scene, past and present!
For those who might not know, or even those who think they do, what are Biohazard’s influences? I mean we all worship at the altar of Black Sabbath, but beyond that....
Black Sabbath, Bad Brains, Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front, Minor Threat, Iron Maiden -- how’s that for a few?
Switching gears again a little, but whom, if anyone, would you consider to be your true peers in either the Hardcore or Metal scenes -- today and earlier?
For me, I was into more of the Hardcore [scene] in the earlier days of Biohazard. The other guys were more into the Metal, so for me, I’d have to say Agnostic Front and the Cro-Mags, [then] Bad Brains, Minor Threat, [and The] Misfits.
This is something that a lot of people have talked about, but in light of what would’ve been his 39th birthday less than a month ago -- August 20, about the time I originally wrote these questions -- do you have any comment on the tragic murder of Dimebag?
Dime was an awesome friend who I had some incredibly fun times with -- he was true, honest and a fucking rockstar through and through and I’ll forever miss him!
Okay, let me wrap this thing up, Billy. There have been some rumblings here and there on the internet that “Means to an End” is not just the name of the new record, but that it’s also an epitaph of sorts. Can you set the record straight and tell me if Biohazard has run its course? And if not, maybe you can address how these rumors got started.
I have achieved a lot with Biohazard and I’m proud as hell of everything we’ve accomplished! As an artist I’ve moved on with my new band Suicide City and the other guys have moved on to new things in their lives. We will always be brothers from different mothers, [but] we are now brothers from different mothers who no longer work at the family business!
Well, I could probably ask even more fanboy questions, but these will suffice. I want to thank you for making the time to do this interview. Do you have any parting words for your friends and listeners?
It’s not goodbye, I’ll see you soon!
Thanks to Karin Graziadei, Billy’s wife, of MyRockstarKilledYours and Dave Brenner from Earsplit for making this interview happen.
Links of interest:
My Rockstar Killed Yours