BillyBio Continues the Legacy of Biohazard on “Leaders and Liars” (Interview)
As an original member of NYC’s Biohazard, guitarist/vocalist Billy Graziadei almost single-handedly spearheaded the early ’90s hardcore revival movement. Although Biohazard hasn’t released an album since 2012 (Reborn In Defiance), it hasn’t officially disbanded, either. However, Graziadei hasn't waited around for the band to resurface. Besides joining several other projects during this time, he also released his debut solo album Feed The Fire in 2018 under the BillyBio moniker. Now Graziadei is set to unleash his second album Leaders And Liars this Friday via AFM Records.
Forged in the spirit of classic New York hardcore bands such as Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags and Murphy’s Law, Leaders And Liars walks its own genre-defying path. Decorated with Graziadei’s love of punk, hardcore and metal, the 15 tracks are seamlessly molded from this strong musical foundation. Lyrically, from the social commentary of “Looking Up” to the political observations of “Fallen Empires” to the personal and introspective nature of “Turn The Wounds,” Graziadei pours his heart and soul into every track on the record. During a recent Zoom interview, Graziadei spoke with Invisible Oranges about his new album, the status of Biohazard and his future plans.
What’s the status of Biohazard? Are you still officially an active band or are you on hiatus?
I would say a combination of both. We just released a re-release of Urban Discipline on vinyl that's fucking killer. There was a song called “Five Blocks to the Subway” that was on our third record called State of the World Address, and we put a different version of that song that we were originally going to put out on Urban Discipline. But we held it off, it just wasn't ready yet. So, we're still active. We talk often and we will do something eventually. But as an employed musician, I'm the only one who's still doing it.
Although Biohazard hasn’t officially disbanded (bassist/vocalist Even Seinfeld is doing porn). But what about the rest of the original lineup — Bobby Hambel and Danny Schuler — are they still involved?
It's been in our blood forever, but I'm the only active one out of the four of us that are making records and putting stuff out. Danny just played on a record with some friends of ours from Dog Eat Dog and Mucky Pup called Kings Never Die. He's got five kids and he's busy with them. The plan is to do something, and right now I'm just inundated with all the shit that's going around with BillyBio and the new record.
You've also been active in bands Powerflo, Blood for Blood, and Viral, plus with your own recording studio. Do you always need to be doing something artistic?
I look at it like this, Kelley, there's the creatives that are doing it for a job, and the creatives that this is their life. And to me, it's my whole fucking life. Each record is just a fucking paragraph from a chapter from a book from a volume. From Biohazard to Powerflo, BillyBio, Blood for Blood, Viral, and Cut Throat; all these bands that I write for, produce, and play with. It's all just part of who I am. But I think the most pure shit that I release, and that really has the authenticity and an honesty of who I am, is BillyBio. What I write about and what I share is a mirror of what's inside of me. I love everything I've done in the past with other musicians and other friends and artists, but there's always a favorite. I love playing with the guys in Biohazard, I love Powerflo, but BillyBio’s just me. My whole life is what I do. I know people can make this seem insignificant, but whether it's hardcore, metal, punk rock or whatever, it's your life. If it's real, people can relate to it and I think when it's real people like it, because it's authentic. Everything that I do, I'm involved, it’s all one piece of art. It's not just the songs, it’s not just the title. It's the artwork that I labored tentatively over and the packaging and all the imagery. The videos that I spent countless hours worrying about and meticulously working on small little details. All these small little things is all one big giant fucking expression of art for me. I have found a balance to be able to survive being a creative; raise kids, be a good husband and a good family man. And I'm blessed for all that.
In 2018, you released your debut solo album Feed The Fire under the BillyBio moniker. For Leaders And Liars, what was your mindset while coming up with ideas and seeing it through to the finished product?
A friend of mine said I should check out Patreon. And I said no way, I'm not about that. Some of my friends do VIP tickets where you get to meet the band. I’m not about the money grab. To me, it’s all just about sharing who I am. But he said it was awesome and you can create a whole new platform of creativity for people who want to get closer to you. I ended up creating this Patreon because I felt like it was a way for me to show another creative side to what I do. And on my Patreon, Billy Biohazard, I released the making of… During the pandemic I was writing — I’m always writing — but I happened to put my phone down and captured a couple songs playing acoustic guitar in my living room, to working on the songs in the studio, and to having a finished end result of a final song. One of those songs ended up becoming the first single, “One Life to Live.” I did a series and it shows the progression. At the time I was doing it, I didn't know if a song was gonna end up being released. My focus is always in the moment on that song, and when I'm when it's done. The songs kind of form the record. I kept releasing these videos, it’s like a six-series thing. After it was done — it spanned over a couple months and I did this last fall — I compacted them all into a three or four minute video that I posted on Instagram and social media. There's no formula to the way I work. But one of the things that stands out the most is it starts with an idea. It starts with some kind of inspiration. And you and I both know that there's a never ending list of inspirational things going on right now.
These 15 tracks are short and to the point, filled with hooky, anthemic choruses. There's a lot of your own flavor in there combined with your influences. What were you trying to achieve musically with these tracks?
I don't want this to come off as a pigheaded Neanderthal statement, but I'm a fighter and I’ve been studying Gracie (Brazilian) jiu-jitsu for 30 years; I've been a black belt under them for five or six years. But that aside, you get to a point with anything that you do, you know it so well and you become so fluid in what you practice. So the most important thing is getting to the point. And every fight… I always was a big fan of Mike Tyson. He comes in and in two rounds, it's over; jab, jab, cross, and a fucking hook and knock them the fuck out. Say what you want to say, don't pull your punches. Be right to the point. I love the messages that I want to say, but it's not about showing off. It's not jazz, where I want to just show how talented I am as a guitar player. I love music like that; everything from Tool to Robert Fripp. But I’m a big fan of straight to the point punk rock; wham, bam, thank you mam. I put it all in there. And as a producer, I always encourage my artists that if something's really good, and you got a good vibe, don't repeat it over and over again, let it be an awesome thing. I like it when you really get to the point. If you really nail it and the authenticity is there, that's it. If it's fucking dope, people are going to play it again. They're gonna want to listen to it again. But if it's like beating a dead horse and repeating things over and over again, it’s pop formulas. I like that one-two punch. And I do that a lot with my music.
Leaders And Liars was recorded at your own Firewater Studios. What do you like the most about wearing the producer’s hat? Do you feel more in control or more pressure?
After spending a lot of time in super expensive studios with Biohazard in its heyday, where they’ve imported the wood from remote parts of Brazil for the flooring, you had to worry about whether you spilled your beer or kicked over soda. I didn't want that vibe. Creatives are most comfortable at home, they're their most comfortable in their bedroom where they spend most of their time. I wanted to create an environment where people felt comfortable creating, and they weren't worried about things. It’s a fucking beautiful place, but it doesn't have that uptight feeling. Being there for me is like being in a space shuttle or SpaceX spaceship having the best tools, but in your bedroom. So you feel comfortable, you don't feel stuffy
The album was mixed and mastered by Tue Madsen (Sick of it All, Meshuggah, Dark Tranquillity, Suicide Silence), whom has a great reputation. It’s massive sounding, but clear and all the instruments — especially the vocal harmonies — shine through. Was there something that you were specifically wanting to capture through his mixes?
There's always a record that you have envisioned in your head. And then there's the actual record that you make. And then when you're done, there's always the record that you wished you would have made. So those three things were always prominent in my career, especially during Biohazard. Tue helped me achieve and pull all those three together, so I hit the nail on all three of those things. What I heard in my head, what I actually created and what after the fact, there's no regrets. So Tue helped make that work for me as an artist. When I do my own music, I have to remove myself because I'm too close to it. It was the right decision picking Tue Madsen to work with. He’s a good buddy and he helped me nail it and make it work.
When Biohazard started, you guys practically spearheaded that early 1990s hardcore movement. What were those early days like?
On my Patreon, I have a series called Tales from the Hard Side. I’m getting close to 100 episodes, but it's all stories about my past. There's a story about how I almost knocked out Lars Ulrich at a club in New York, and the next day his management called and said they wanted to take us on tour. It's a crazy story about touring with Metallica and that's not normal. People ask me, “What's the best way to get on tour with a big band?” I would never tell them, “Stand up to the fucking drummer and almost knock his fucking teeth into his skull!” Lars is a fucking awesome dude, but he kind of dissed me in front of my friends. And I tell the story on Patreon. But there's a lot of great, awesome moments. There’s a story about how I smashed a tour bus window and covered Kerry King with shards of glass while we were on tour with Slayer. I tell all those stories on Patreon. It's super fucking entertaining and interesting.
What's your game plan for the rest of the year, including upcoming touring plans? What do you hope to achieve or accomplish going forward?
I’ve had a couple of world tours canceled, and that was a big setback. I'm trying to book some more tours. With the current situation between COVID and World War Three breaking out, looks like in Eastern Europe… I'm just hoping that things get better on a pandemic level and on a peaceful level. I'll continue creating and doing what I do. Everything else is just status quo. Be on the lookout for some awesome shit I'm releasing soon. I'm always dropping news on my social media, Billy Biohazard. It's a never ending creative cycle.
Leaders and Liars releases March 25 via AFM Records.