Interview mit Sick Of It All

 

Ende Juli konnte ich bereits ein paar neue Songs vom neuen Album „Last Act Of Defiance“ von Sick Of It All live hören und erleben als sie im Club Universum in Stuttgart spielten. Eigentlich ungeplant und aufgrund einer Festivalabsage erst möglich, lieferten die New Yorker Legenden eine absolut ansehnliche Show, die mit Sicherheit noch eine Weile nachwirken wird. Bilder zur Show sind bereits online und gibt’s hier: SICK OF IT ALL

In dem Zuge lernte ich auch Armand, seines Zeichens Drummer von Sick Of It All, persönlich kennen. Wir hatten bereits in Stuttgart ein super Gespräch von Musiker zu Fotografin, deshalb freute ich mich umso mehr dieses telefonisch fortsetzen zu können.

Allschools:
Hi Armand!
How are you? A month ago we´ve met in Stuttgart. Sick Of It All played here an insane club show! You´ve been on tour for about a month. So what was it like?

Armand:
Oh thank you, I’m doing great, thanks. Well, the tour was a bit under a month. It was a few days longer than we usually do. Usually we shoot for a clean three weekends and then fly back home because we´re all –almost all of us- family guys now so everybody wants to keep the tour relatively short. And we always make sure that there´s a decent line of time in between. So we all have some time with our families. But this tour was great because it flew by. Like I´m going into it knowing that it is a little bit longer than usual I was thinking it might hit some point where the tour drag but it didn´t drag at all. It just flew by and we all had fun. It was over before we knew it. Which was actually a kind of a shame.

Allschools:
Your next album “Last Act Of Defiance” is going to be released this fall. On the 29th of September in Europe. So what can we expect from your10th full length studio album? We don`t mean to talk too much about politics. However, you are a band that is interested in political issues. What current conflicts or developments do you address in your current work?


Armand:
Haha, I haven´t count it exactly so let me see....yeah you´re right it´s our 10th studio album.
Well, you know I don´t know if it´s an effect of just growing older and just observing the world cause we´ve always been pretty dissatisfied with our surroundings. We´ve always been –even though when we were young. I would say we´ve been even more miserable, more angry. It seems like we´re angry, but we didn´t know exactly what was to blame for that anger. It seems like maybe now we come to that age where we kind of know and where we feel these problems in the world and we know exactly what forces there are work in the world that conspiring to do this to people, to make people feel powerless, to take people rights away, to keep people in line, to keep people in control. And all of those forces are what we address on this album from front to back. We seem always to have a theme on a record of defiance, of just a general dissatisfaction, and mainly it´s because we see the power to the media working together with powers of the government working together with the powers of big corporations that caused so many of the world´s problems. It´s not so much global issues all the time it gets down to more local things as well. But you always see those three powers working together for some kind of agenda. It always seems to effect on the individual on the same way. Either your life is controlled, they knock on your door and they take your money away, they´ll take your rights away and these are the things that make people feel powerless to do anything about it.

Allschools:
Yeah, you feel like completely helpless and sick in this situation and you don´t know why. So, it´s about manipulating people?!

Armand:
Yes, exactly. And that´s what it´s all about. I guess it´s just a part of human nature to comply, that you do want to fall in line, to go along with the masses and wanna be a part of the “herd” in a way. Because if you question things then you could be a subject to ridicule. But the thing is though it is very important to people to always question things and put them out. You know all those lies we´ve been said over last decades that is so unbelievable! Things are getting more blatant. It is almost getting to that point where new stories you can see how things unfold and how ridiculous they are and how they´re following a script.

Allschools:
Yeah, there are so many flash points of world politics at the moment.

Armand:
Yes and you know I really should include a fourth power in this whole thing: it´s the power of the church. It´s government, the media, corporations AND the church. I would say all the churches of all the major religions whether it be Christianity or Islam or Judaism or whatever. All of those churches are also having a really bad effect. Most wars are fought over religion - if not all. Even when you talk about a war of being a cultural thing really comes down to religion. Like what´s happening in the Ukraine right now. You might say it´s a political war but no its not. It has to do with about Christianity versus Catholicism. Which is a divide within the Ukraine that people have been very, very conscious though for a very long time. And now for some reason that´s not really discussed in the media. When it should be. The same way in Iraq. We all hear that much about the Shia versus the Sunni meanwhile that has so much to do with the fights that exist in their country. If you ask the average American what is a Sunni or what is a Shia they have no clue. Meanwhile those two factions of Islam are add each other´ss throws and they would love to see the other dead. So it´s such a great divide within the Muslim world that people in America don´t even know about it. And the media seems to be very careful in concealing those facts. To what end I have really no idea. I don´t know why they wanna keep people that ignorant but I guess in a way ignorant masses are the ones that fall in line, the ones that just accept. Instead people are encouraged to party and watch in their smart phones and that´s it.

Allschools:
Actually , this a thing I don´t understand: why people stop talking face to face and stare in their smart phones.

Armand:
One of our songs on the record deals with that as well. It´s called “Disconnect Your Flesh”. It has to do with taking yourself from the natural world and putting yourself somewhere where you don´t even need a body anymore.

Allschools:
It´s like living in the Matrix.

Armand:
Yeah exactly. And a lot people actually prefer that. It´s the place where they spend the most of their time. And I think that´s dangerous because it´s so important to be aware of your surroundings. To be aware of what people are doing around you, to be aware what impact other people have over you because if everybody put themselves into that spot how much easier is it gonna be for those sociopaths to be able to control you. It´s just a bad state of affairs.

Allschools:
And I think many human abilities get lost like being loyal or feel empathy. All those social values…

Armand:
Unfortunately this seems to be the case with the younger generation. They´re being brought up with something for example I didn´t grow up with so I have a hard time in relating to them and they have a hard time relating to me. It´s just difficult to break away from that lifestyle.

Allschools:
In “Facing The Abyss” Mad Joe Black of “Wisdom In Chains” did some guest vocals. How did this collaboration come out?

Armand:
We have a really deep history with the guys of Wisdom In Chains. We toured with them since they were a new band. They were one of these bands we heard about and we looked into them and found out that some of the guys in the band have Sick Of It All Tattoos, haha, and they´re actual fans of our music. So when we ended up playing with them we realized how good their songs were and how well they wrote music and how well they worked together. And you know Joe has always impressed us with his vocals. So it was great to have him come down and be a part of this record.

Allschools:
The new record has a great diversity. Of course it´s hardcore but there are as well punk rock and melodic parts.

Armand:
We´ve always tried not to dwell on one type of music. We always try to break up not just to the tempos but also the feel of the music. In a way it has worked against us sometimes in the past because people were confused by us. A lot of people want their band just play one style of music and stick to it. Some of the most famous albums were written that way as well. You can play a part of one song and a part of another song that´s like all the way onto the record and it could be part of the same song. Like one large song. A lot of albums are written that way or they´re famous because of that. But we´ve always tried to make things a little bit more colorful and tried to include a whole different variety of styles and attitude in our music. We grew up in a hardcore scene that was that way. We didn´t grow up in a scene were a tough guy hardcore band playing with another tough guy hardcore band or the more artsy hardcore bands playing with another artsy hardcore band, more political bands play with more political bands. In our scene when we were getting into the hardcore scene it was everybody from every different style of music was playing on the same show. It was not that rigidly categorized like it is today. And we like that aspect of hardcore to be chapped wide. So we always make the effort to make things different and keep things sounding fresh and to keep things interesting.

Allschools:
I always wonder how musicians/artists in general are creating their work. So how is it/was it for you writing a new record and did the way of creating music change in the last years?

Armand:
Unfortunately, the way things are now like Pete lives all the way down to Florida. So we don´t have that much time to spend together and work on music. He´ll fly up and we spend like a week together working on new music. But usually what we do is create new music separately. On this album we have songs by me, songs by Pete, songs by Craig and then Lou will write some lyrics, I´ll write a bunch of lyrics, Craig will write some lyrics and Pete wrote lyrics for the very first time for this record and he did a great job. It was cool to have his input as well lyrically on this album.




Allschools:
Oh wow. I didn´t know that.

Armand:
And it´s funny because you would imagine that Pete was gonna write lyrics it would have been on songs from the devil all the way back in the beginning of the band. But no, it´s on our 10th studio album and he came through.
The way we work on music changed a little bit because Pete lives away from New York, that aspect has changed the way we´ve been working together. But hopefully it doesn´t affect the bands appeal at all. Seeing the fact if you really like the new record that I´m happy to hear about that the way we´re working now is actually working out ok. That´s really what says it all is peoples reaction to it. I think it´s actually kind of cool because a lot of the albums we wrote in the past when people ask us to play a certain songs from older albums we have to tell them “oh I´m sorry we can´t really do that one live because the song on the album is like four minutes long and when we play that song live half way through people don´t care anymore”. That was one of the problems that we had. Throughout our history we wrote songs that were too long.

Allschools:
Is it really a problem to play a four minute hardcore song live?

Armand:
Yes, because the energy level drops. Then you get to these little dead spots you don´t want in your set. So we get more and more careful not to write hardcore songs that are too long. So on “Last Act Of Defiance” all the songs are right around the two minutes mark. Only DNC is a three minute song but this is a different style of music. And it has its place.

Allschools:
"Death To Tyrants" (2006), "Based On A True Story" (2010) and "Nonstop" (2011) were mixed by Tue Madsen. He is also responsible for the sound of “Last Act Of Defiance”?

Armand:
Yeah. The reason why is that we get along very well and he understands what to do with our music. He understands how to record us. What he always been successful in doing is he captured the intensity of our live shows in the studio setting which is something we always struggled to find before we met him.

Allschools:
You have been around since the mid 80s. In your opinion, what were the major changes in the Hardcore scene until today?

Armand:
Unfortunately, like I was saying before, the categorization of the scene is really affected in a somewhat of a negative way. But the industry has been doing that not just to Hardcore but to all music and it seems like that the industry look to pigeon hole people in one way or the other. They wanna push their artists only to a specific way and not have them be musicians do what they do. For example it would be nice if Sick Of It All could put out a record that is not really even Hardcore. Still have people accept it. But that is kinda difficult because the industry is set up in a certain way where people have these strict expectations of the artist to do a certain thing. And sound a certain way. I would say that aspect of hardcore has definitely been detrimental to the scene.
Especially because a lot of scenes that consider hardcore to be this or that for some reason they expect hardcore to sound like Slayer. If hearing bands that sound like Slayer, I think: Metal. And then when we play in front of that audience they say: you´re not Hardcore, you´re Punk. Meanwhile all we are is not bullying metal. There´s a lot of confusion about what hardcore is. And it´s because what´s happened over the years. The fact that Metalcore has such an effect on Hardcore. And it kind of took over. It´s been like a problem for us when people consider us to be not necessarily a Hardcore band but a Punk band. And it´s strange because we´ve always been the same band. We´ve always been a New York Hardcore band with more metallically influenced songs and more Oi and Punk inspired songs. And we mix them all together. We like the mixture but a lot of people get confused by it.

Allschools:
There will always be a crowd out there who´s open minded.

Armand:
And I will say that over the years musicianship has got better. A lot of the younger bands that are playing now and making the names for themselves are actually very good musicians. I´m very impressed with their musicianship. And sometimes they just seem to have a real neck for understanding how to make their songs be concise and very powerful in a good way. I´m seeing in a way like an improvement over the years of people taking the good aspects of hardcore from the 80s for example and just like making them better. The fact that they have so much history to draw from.
A straightedge band from the late 80s for example and all of their songs sounded a certain way. But they didn´t really break from that, ended up breaking up a few years later and try to do something else. Bands nowadays can take a little bit of that and make their sound more interesting. They can take a little bit of a band that came a few years after and add that into their sound. So you have more of a history to draw from. There´s a band that we´ve played with recently called Turnstile. They had a good mix of a whole lot of different sounds. One part would remind me of Underdog the next part would remind me of the Bad Brains and the next part would remind me of Youth Of Today. This whole mélange of different bands. They were put –all of these different styles- in one song that lasted a minute and a half. And the audiences reacted positively to older styles put together in that way. If that´s where hardcore is headed, like the future of hardcore, I think it´s kinda cool.

Allschools:
Turnstile is also on the EMP Persistence Tour that Sick Of It All headlines.

Armand:
Yeah, it´s eleven dates mostly in Germany. We´re looking forward to that.

Allschools:
Congratulations! When comparing the covers of "Nonstop" (2011) and "Self-Titled" (1987), we must admit, you`re looking better than ever. What is the secret of your band's longevity and what are your plans for the next 30 years?

Armand:
Hahahaaa, thanks! I think the bands longevity really has everything to do with the fact that we are all friends before we started the band. We all spend so much time with each other and hung out with each other so much and went to school together and everything for years before the band even started. The fact that we weren´t strangers before getting adjoining the band helped a lot. And the fact that we have that communal attitude of sharing all the money and all the credits, there isn´t an uneven split of money, there isn´t an uneven split of credits. Even if I write all the lyrics and the music for a song for example everybody gets credit and everybody gets the same amount of money. This is one kind of things when bands really get into the business and all of a sudden one guy wants all the credit and the money that kinda eat away at a band from the inside. We´ve been careful not allow things like that in. Those were some words of advice that were given to me long time ago from a guy who was giving us a publishing deal. He said that the two main things that break bands apart. One is publishing money. Two is wives and girlfriends. Those things are really probably responsible for most bands breaking up.

Allschools:
Hahahaaaa. This theory is already been approved.

Armand:
Hahahaa, yeah absolutely. And as far as the next thirty years go: I think one goal that I have is not to die.

Allschools:
You won´t. I wanna take pics of the shows in thirty years.

Armand:
That would be funny! I don´t know if this would be cool hahahaa!

Allschools:
One last question: While touring, you have been too pretty much every part of Germany. Any anecdotes?

Armand:
Well, I don´t know. This is always kind of difficult questions to answer. Coming up with like wacky tour stories. A lot of the stuff that we did in the past has always to do with weird. Other bands, and not necessarily just us, doing something. There always has to be a certain element coming from somewhere else that changed people in a way. When Toby from H2O, –he used to be our stage tech- was around things, would get destroyed and the rest of us would be involved as well. When there was a snapcase and we had Toby on the road with us that´s when cars got overturned. Things just got kinda crazy in certain spots. But there was always that outside influence. Sick Of It All as a band has always been very mellow and has always been very respectful. And we´ve always been careful not piss people off. But we´re having moments where things get a little out of hand. But I like to blame somebody else.

Allschools:
Hahahahaaaaaaa!!!

Armand:
Hahahaaa! The four of us are nice, calm and respectful people. We don´t have too many crazy stories.

Allschools:
“Last Act Of Defiance” ?

Armand:
Defiance is a theme that runs through the whole record. It´s something that we wanna see more of out of the people of the world. We want people not just to agree. That´s where we stride out against musically. We want people to come together and rise up against these forces that are constantly trying to put us down and control us.

Allschools:
I really like that you are still so rebellious!

Armand:
You know the world has never given us the reason not to be. The more you learn about the world, the more you realize that rebellion is a very powerful tool for positive change.

Allschools:
Thank you so much Armand for the chat and for your time. I really appreciate it.

Armand:
Thank you. Take care!