It is always a pleasure to have the opportunity to chat with a band who have a long history behind them. Biohazad were one of the early bands that started to fuse heavy metal, hardcore punk with hip-hop. Since they formed in 1987 in Brooklyn, New York they’ve played all around the world and have a lot of stories to tell. I caught them in Wolverhampton before their gig at the Slade Rooms and managed to talk to guitarist Bobby and drummer Danny about the very beginnings, touring in Europe and the States and what it really means to them personally to support bands and music.
I had a very short time to do the interview despite the fact that it had all been arranged beforehand. When I arrived at the venue I caught Billy who took me backstage where I met the rest of the band. At that time they were already supposed to be on stage so I had to be quick.
Biohazard’s recent tour schedule must have been a pain in the *** because they played in a different city every day. Danny said that “I just feel really lucky to be on tour. I’m just happy to have the chance to tour. Some of the bands can’t tour or certainly not in the way we do. It has its moments but I like touring everywhere we go.” There must be a difference in touring in Europe and in the States. “The US is very different than it used to be. Europe’s always been amazing for us. Fans are friendly, welcoming and fucking accepting of different stuff. It’s great in the States, too but fans are a little more hardcore in Europe.” This is when Bobby joins in the conversation, too. “Hardcore meaning more dedicated.”
With a band having been around for this long there is always a bit of a nostalgia as far as the beginnings are concerned. Bobby told me all about it. “It never seemed like it could happen. It never seemed like a reality. It was always a doubting thing. Luckily in Brooklyn we had a great scene, a great club at that time with lot of musicians and people were very dedicated. We lived, breathed, slept music. That’s all we did back then and just taken it seriously and talking to people and trying to get people to take us seriously when we first started playing. That was the hard part. New York was famous for its attitude back then. We got more fuckyou’s and it was rough trying to get people to show us a little bit of respect, you know what I mean. And we started playing and we didn’t care and we were trying to do our own thing and just not holding back the way we wanted to play. We weren’t trying to please other people who basically expected of us ’this is the way you’re supposed to play this kind of music’ or ’you’re supposed to perform this way’ and we were like ’let’s just be ourselves and see what happens’.”
I also wanted to know how they manage to handle record labels and how they managed to find one in the first place. Bobby explained it: “I don’t think we really tried to find a record label. What we did we went to a local studio and we made a demo tape.” At this point Scott from the background says: “We’re supposed to be on right now.” Nevertheless, the conversation goes on: “and it was cassettes back then and we started handing them out, trying to sell one here for five bucks. Basically mostly just giving them away. Back then music was trading underground.” It turns out that “We were just kinda like a word of a mouth thing and then record companies came to our shows pretty much. We couldn’t believe they were there, you know.” Danny wasn’t there from the very beginnings but he has something to add. “We were lucky, too, that we had a local club, the local scene that we were in. We benefited from it and a lot of our friends that were in bands, too, helped us out a lot, like a support. All the bands who knew each other, hooked each other up with shows, spread the word. It was a great community, great circumstances we benefited from.”
Bobby and Danny also talked about how it felt like when they left New York for the first time. “Back then we didn’t expect to leave the state of New York and thought it was gonna be a huge accomplishment to get over the river to play in Manhattan.” Danny remembers the first time they had the opportunity to play in New Jersey: “I remember the first time we played in New Jersey. We were all like ‘Wow!’ We planned it for like a week, yo, how we’re getting there, directions … holy shit!” Bobby sums it all up: “We’re still amazed the places we get to travel to. It’s incredible. Now we see the whole world for what it is as far as music is concerned. And that’s what’s great about music, everybody can relate to music. No matter where you’re from or how fucked up the government is, people can relate and language barrier doesn’t matter.”
As a band which tours extensively surely there must be plenty of stories about crazy gigs. One of them was their Donington gig in 1994: “We got kicked off stage. We are proud of it now. We treated it like we all do our club shows like ‘hey, our stage is your stage’ and there were 80,000 people there and it got a little out of hand.”
Billy showed up as well, a bit later than we expected but he had a very good reason. His son, William had his 6th birthday that day so he wanted to make sure he spends as much time with him as possible. Later during their set Billy recorded the crowd singing Happy Birthday to his son. It seems tough guys have a heart, too.
I also wondered about when Biohazard’s next album is released so I had to ask Danny about it: “Biohazard always works at its own pace. I imagine there are bands who are very famous and get a lot of pressure but I think we avoid having that kind of a pressure and thankfully we don’t really have that kind of a pressure like they do. Not that it’s bad being succesful, actually we are grateful to be this successful. I think the real challenge for us right now is to give people a compelling reason to wanna give attention to us.”
Danny told us about what it means to support bands: “Nobody buys records these days. I mean not nobody, I still buy records today. I used to collect records and I buy music but now I like the convenience of having an iPod and mp3s and all that but I never stopped buying music. People who steal music, I don’t get that. I’ve got a lot of friends in bands who are pretty successful, they go out touring, they make money with doing what they’re doing, they have their professional, serious career. If I called them to send me a copy they would but I’m gonna buy my friends’ records.” Danny continues: “I’ve always supported bands. You know, when I was a kid and I’ve gone to concerts and there were always people bootlegging T-shirts outside. Me and my friends always said ’nah, we don’t buy from the bootlegs. We buy from the real shit insde to support the bands’. You know, they are out there working. The myth that everybody makes a lot of money and everybody’s rich and everything. Nah, man, they’re fucking working guys out there doing it, making sacrifices to do it. I mean, it’s a lot easier than a lot other things out there but you gotta respect the effort that people put into it and support it if you believe in it.”
After all this I really wanted to know if Biohazard is considered to be underground or mainstream. But before Danny managed to answer, our time was up and they had to head to the stage. A few minutes later I found myself in the crowd helping crowdsurfers get close to the stage and thought that these guys after so many years would play with the same dedication and energy in front of five people as well as five thousand people.
All pictures by Vivien Varga and MetalRecusants.com.