Brooklyn's Biohazard: the exclusive interview
Over the summer, in promoting their new album, "State of the World Address," New York band Biohazard played in the nearby Merriweather Post Pavilion, opening for Sepultura and Pantera. Biohazard is (and always will be, according to the CD jacket): Billy Graziadei-vocals, guitar, piano. Bobby Hambel-lead guitars, acoustic guitars. Danny Schuler-drums. Evan Seinfeld- vocals, bass. The following is an interview with Graziadei.
Q: What do you think is the hardest thing about living in Brooklyn?
Graziadei: Just from talking to a lot of friends, a lot of people, there's similar things goin' down in the whole world. That's what we've noticed traveling around. So that's why, if you look at our lyrics, and you look at each of our three albums, you can see, now that we've traveled the world and been to different places, we can see that things are fucked up everywhere - not just Brooklyn. And you're definitely a product of your environment. But I don't think it's any easier or any harder to grow up anywhere else. You have different problems everywhere you go, and then you have very similar problems. Say there's a drug or murder problem in Brooklyn. You know what New York's like - there's so many people crowded into one area ... you're gonna see the gangs, you're gonna see all the problems.
I had this conversation with a friend in Holland. He said, "You guys are always talkin' about Brooklyn and how bad it is, and the things you experience," and not that he didn't believe us, but he said, "We don't have those problems and I live in Amsterdam." And I said, "Well how many people ya got in Amsterdam? How many people ya got in Holland?" He said, "About 12 million." I said, "Oh yeah? Well, there's about 12-14 million in New York City! So don't compare Amsterdam to NYC, compare the whole country, and then you'll see the problem. There's not too many people crammed in (to Holland) like there is in New York City."
Q: How did the song with Cypress Hill's Sen Dog come about on your new album?
Graziadei: We wrote the song, and we were friends with him, and we heard his voice in the song. We were like, "It sounds like Sen would say something like this." So we asked him to listen to the song, and he came to the studio and jammed on it, and we asked him if he wanted to record it with us, and he did."
Q: Weren't you in the Onyx video? How did that happen?
Graziadei: They asked me to do a remix of Slam, and I did that. Then they asked us to do a live version of the song, so we ended up doing the video and became friends with them, and that's it. Then we did the song for "Judgement Night," the soundtrack. We have similar people who help us out, like management, so there's ties that way, but we're friends.
Q: Have you gotten much flak from the hard-core scene for signing to a major?
Grazadei: Well, this is the way I look at it. Here's Bobby's analogy and I believe in it. Do you eat bread?
Shawna: Bread? Yeah.
Grazadei: Do you care what truck brings the bread into the store? That's how I look at it. It doesn't matter to us what label we're on. A record label is a business, and we all know what business is about.
Shawna: Yeah, you had that song "Business" on your last album.
Grazadei: And we still sing it and we'll always sing it. With Warner Brothers we're able to reach more people, and that's why.
Q: And they don't have any artistic control?
Grazadei: No, we made sure. That was very obvious. They didn't even try to ask us. We've had more trouble in the past working with independent labels than we have with Warner. Being on Roadrunner was like being on the top of a hill and screaming at the top of your lungs. But with Warner, it's like being on a mountain screaming into a P.A. You can reach so many more people.
Q: But have you heard much flak?
Grazadei: Not flak, but kids ask us why we signed and how do we look at it, et cetera ... but if you look at our lyrics on our new album, it's right there. You can tell we're not trying to sell out and change.
When we first came in contact (with Warner) they just said "Here's the contract, go record your album. Biohazard knows Biohazard best, ya know?" It was cool. They didn't ask for lyrics or demos. They just said write your music and do what you gotta do.
Q: Any thoughts on Lollapalooza and Woodstock '94?
Grazadei: Someone told me that we're playing Woodstock (laughs), I wish we could, but we'll be in Europe. I think that shows and festivals like that encourage kids to have open minds to all different types of music. We don't play just one type of music. Biohazard is just Biohazard. Like on the first album, I played piano, and people would just come up to me and say things. They'd say you can't play piano, you guys are hard-core! And I'd say fuck you! To me, it's about doing what you wanna do. That's what the whole movement's about. Being hard-core is, if you have an idea, you fucking go at it. You wanna punch the idea through someone's fucking face - and I don't mean that literally, I mean it philosophically. So we don't care - we don't play music for kids to love us, or for the record company to love us, or to sell albums. We just do what comes natural.
On this album there's a lot of piano stuff, I played timpani drums, strings, and a triangle. In Europe they still have festivals all the time with different bands. We're going over there and playing with Peter Gabriel one festival, and with Red Hot Chili Peppers another festival ... and we've done so many other shows. We did a Fishbone tour last spring.
Q: Didn't you play horns with them?
Grazadei: Yeah, it was cool. We have a lot of respect for them, they're an amazing band and amazing people.
Q: Why are you in a band?
Grazadei: I don't know. I love music, I love to play. And things just happened and I just ended up in Biohazard. I remember when we first started playing, it was Easter Sunday 1988, and I was driving through the city and I had to go to work and Evan was giving me a ride to the train station. I popped the demo we just made into my walkman, and I was like "Wow, that's music that we made!" Every kid that's in a band knows that feeling. It's cool.
We just kept doing what we were doing, and the more people ignored us and said that we sucked and that we had nothin' to say and that we were "chest-beaters from Brooklyn," we just said "You don't like us ... fine." We just turned around and went in different directions and just kept doing our own thing, and now people are more interested.
Maybe it's 'cause of all the kids that support us.
Q: What's next?
Grazadei: Touring. Just keep touring.