Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Being double booked is never a good thing. When you have 2 interviews scheduled in the same city but at opposite sides and with a limited time to get from 1 to the next it can be a real test.(especially at my time of life and also in rush hour)Having successfully chatted to Queensryche,I put a strain on both my lifespan and muscles traversing Dublin for my date with Biohazard. Despite being on course for my slot the band had already began their sound check,so I was forced to wait while supping a few pints of the black stuff(to top up my iron levels of course)
After witnessing some warm up brutality from the band I retired to the front bar of the venue with the surprisingly soft spoken singer and guitarist Billy Graziadei.
Looking back Billy over your musical career with Biohazard,what were the highest and lowest points for the band?
Billy”Lowest point? I think that there were more than I can remember. It seems that every great moment in our career which stands out, there were tons of fucking let downs and disasters. Some of them almost made the band implode.We were always tested, but for a long time I thought it was just the music industry, but I realized that I have been doing it for so long that it is just a part of life. Everybody gets fucked with, there’s twists and turns,ups and downs in life in general. It doesn’t matter how many times that you get knocked down its standing back up that counts. For us obviously we are fighters and we stand up both figuratively and literally and keep going. There has been a lot”
Its part of your culture and upbringing and the area that you are from?
Billy”Yeah, growing up in a struggling situation, you learn to survive you know. I think for me first struggling. I have four brothers,and we are all Irish twins. We are all like eleven months apart,so we are real close. Struggling financially as a kid, then my parents split up. As a young kid then my mother died. Those things like a troubled home life, at the time I thought that I was the only person in the world that was dealing with shit like that. Most people have to deal with shit like that in their life some worse than others. It’s overcoming that, those are the situations that make you a stronger person. That’s why I am proud to be here today. One thing about an older person,is that they are a survivor”
What motivates and drives you to keep going personally speaking?
Billy”Dude, every day there is something that just puts in my head like”wow”. In the States we have a big war between the politicians and they shut the government down. Every country has to deal with the bullshit of bureaucracy and politics. That has been pretty heavy. Having a kid and being a father, changes your views and perceptions of things. Last night we were in Wales, everybody was telling me about their history. I knew a bit about the history of Scotland. Hearing about the struggles of people , not just in the last week they are always there but the longer struggles. Over years and decades. Last night we were in Kay town which is Keithly and I went for a walk. I got caught up doing something at the sound check, and didn’t eat with the guys. I went for a walk just by myself, found an Italian restaurant and just walked in. I sat down, ate some dinner and had a conversation with this dude. He was dressed up pretty tidily and I was bit skittish like”why is this dude talking to me”We had a conversation and he asked”are you in the band that is playing up the town at our entertainment centre?”I said “Yeah, Biohazard!. He said “yeah,I know who you guys are”I asked him if he was coming to the show but he said”no I have a political meeting, but thanks for coming to our town”I replied “Your town?”and he was like”We are really proud that bands like you go really out of the way to come off the beaten path and come to Keithly”That is the whole point of this tour, but to get back to your question and how it relates. I had a cool conversation with the dude, and when he was leaving one of the kids said that it was the mayor of the town. I gave a shout out on stage, saying that I was eating dinner and I met and had a conversation with their mayor. Everybody started booing, and I said no,no. That he had thought that it was a great thing that you guys had a great club, he supports it and bands playing and coming here. You need people like that, people that aren’t going to rape you but that will help you out. I thought that it was cool, later on I gave another speech about the political situation in the States, and what we are going through. I said that most of the politicians are just full of shit except your politician, I like that guy and you should vote for him. Anyways we are not a political band just care about social issues. You asked me what are the things that keep me juiced-keep me going. Everyday something else just steps in, and kind of like fuels the fire that has always been burning inside me.”
What in your life are you the most proud of?
Billy”Everything, it has changed. It could go back to just kicking off drugs, and stopping doing heroin and crystal meth. That was a big accomplishment for me, and being in the band. Then we played CBGB,S that was a goal and like a dream of mine. Then it was a record deal,I think that in life that you have to have realistic goals. If you sit there and you set something that is too far off, and if you say that I am going to climb Mount Everest tomorrow, impossible you cant. If you say that I am going to go to Mount Everest tomorrow then maybe you can do that. Then you consider the next stage. Today I am going to take just ten steps, when you do that it builds your confidence and it helps you make another ten steps the next day. For me all those milestones have been massive and a pleasure. There have also been a lot of two by fours to the head, that almost knocked me out. I stood back up,being a father was a big change in my life. It was a great addition to the foundation that I had built over the years.”
Have you ever had any brushes with death over the years?
Billy”Yeah a couple, not most of them have been guns in my face. I didn’t know if I was going to make it out, and this was going to be it. I am not a tough guy. A lot of people tell you stories about how tough that they are because of situations that they have been in. The situations that have been in , have made me a part of who I am. As have the people that I have met, and the experiences that I have had. The great ones make up the part of my personality that I am proud of. The bad ones have a play in that too you know.”
What is your greatest regret?
Billy”I think its better to regret things that you have done rather than things that you haven’t done. I have righted the wrong but ….When we split up with Bobby it was a big disaster for the band and I carried it with me in my heart for a long time as he did. We broke up in 2003 and the regret I had was never getting back together with Bobby. In 2008/9 we did that we got back together I had moved on to other bands and I had did everything that I had wanted to with Biohazard, but that was the 1 thing. The minute that we got back together that reignited the fucking fire that I had inside of me with Biohazard, and I threw everything out. Now its just Biohazard”
Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?
Billy”Of course we are working on a new Biohazard record right now. Our goal is to make it 100%kick ass that we can play every song live and have everybody not lose a step. When we play the newest album right next to Punishment that people will be like”Fuck yeah!!!”
You have sort of already answered this next one. Do you still retain the hunger and the passion that you first had when the band started?
Billy”Way more…being a father. On a personal level I still see the same shit, and the more you see that then the more frustration angst and energy you have towards whatever subject it is. Being a father you are not as selfish, as you start to look at life through other peoples eyes. You look out for other people way more, Biohazard has always preached tolerance and equality in the world. Seeing that when I am gone that I live on through my children. I always felt that I live on through my music but I live on through my kids, how I raise them and my values that I pass on to them are going to live on. That opens a whole new world. I remember one story but I don’t want to bore you….”
Its OK, this is a pleasure as a long standing fan to be able to do this and talk to you…go on
Billy”We had dinner once with some friends and also some friends of theirs in La. They were big in construction in La. They were telling me that they were all happy and all excited because they had just been awarded these construction permits. They said that they got this company guy a 5 year loan to build a whole complex interest free. Then the first thing that I am thinking is “what!!”I donate my time to my daughters school, I do fund raisers, I do music projects to save the music programme. I do all this shit because the local government cuts the education budgets. The primary and most important part of society is educating the youth. Of course I was aware of it before becoming a father, but now it hits you right in there. I looked at the guy and said”I pay more money not just in taxes, but I donate more money for both my kids and your kids. You are gloating just because you are going to be building a fucking building interest-free that will just be sitting empty. The economy is so fucked up, how the fuck is that justice.? He said “yeah but I cant get involved with that”. I said that “you are a father bro, that is more important than building an empty fucking building that is going to sit there”. So life changes!Its like I said before if someone throws a straight punch at you, you move back. If they throw a cross you try to try to parry. Just do whatever you have to do to dodge the bullets and they will survive. I think the credo with Biohazard from Hold my own is survival of the fittest. That has always pretty much stayed in my heart as my credos for living. I believe after my mother died as a kid that I have been in some of the worst situations. I have thought that “this is it,and I’m done”I am going to get shot right here, and that this motherfucker is going to shoot me and I am gone. My back is against the wall and there is no way out. Something always happens, a weird twist of fate that gets me out of it”
Would incidents like that then make you have a religious or spiritual belief?
Billy”I was raised as a Catholic, as for believing in a higher power…We have had some issues, personal things with the family and the church that have blew my mind. I couldn’t believe what happened. I respect all religions, in those type of situations that I just described to you. I thought that it was my mother looking out for me. Getting back to your question, regarding the ups and downs for the band and the changes. In the early years, for “Urban Discipline” and the self titled first record we only knew what was in front of us. We sang about our neighborhood of Brooklyn and city life and that’s it. We were never outside of that area of New York City. Then we started to tour around a little bit and leave New York. We realized that it wasn’t just New York that was fucked up with shit happening. It was happening to our friends in Washington Dc or Boston and different parts around the Us. Then that music reflected in “Urban Discipline”With that record we started touring more around the world, and we realized that these problems were everywhere. The title”State of the world address”came from the Us president every year has a state of the Union address about the state of America. Where we are and what is going on socially,economically and politically etc…It was a twist on that. We started to see that it was the world and not just Brooklyn city lives. You learn that through experiences, for Biohazard that art imitates life.Life experiences have influenced our art and our music.”
What about the worst piece of advice that you have been given….?
Several minutes pass before Billy replies.
Billy”I have got to tell you. One of the things that I have always believed in, in the worst situation there is a buried lesson and it happens for a reason. Everything happens for a reason and you can always get something from it. A good or bad situation it doesn’t matter. As I have always pulled something positive out of the negative that I don’t really remember the negative. Of course having my family break up as a kid, my mother passing away…all of those things. Coming from a broken home made me a better husband and father. Having all of those experiences it is hard for me to say which was the worst. Even in the worst I have learnt life lessons. I have got to write that down(laughs) and give that to my kid.”
Craziest on the road story, anything instantly spring to mind?
Billy”I have got to tell you, the last time that we played here at the Tivoli with Biohazard. We went on stage and played three songs and the security guards started swinging at our friends-our family. We just jumped down and started to fight with the security guards. We are all one people ,and that really affected everybody. It was crazy because they just ran away, closed the gates over the bar. All of a sudden there was like fifteen hundred/two thousand kids and us locked in this club. This punk rock kid jumped up on stage and started blowing fire. We went into the dressing room , brought out all the beer and just started passing beer to everybody. They left us there for like an hour to cool down, and then when it was over they opened up the door. Everybody shook hands and went on their ways. Nobody got arrested and we were just like”Wow, Ireland rocks”
Obviously you are married now with a family, any hobbies outside music?
Billy”Ironically fighting. I am a big fighter and I love martial arts. Ju jitsu is my big love, and I train whenever I can. Which as you mentioned earlier is created for the small man to beat the big man. Its never too late to start. I know a lot of people that started jujitsu at like fifty and became black belts. Very quickly you will learn how to defend yourself because how often are you going to get into a fight anyway? The biggest advantage is in the well being, in the exercise just in becoming more grounded in life ,and being able to cope with the worst possible situation as it comes. The other thing too about martial arts is that I once saw a movie with Jean Claude Van Damme. His character in the movie was training and his teacher took him to a bar and made him get really drunk. They picked a fight with some locals , and the idea was that it was all second nature. Body mechanics and moves that are repetitious are always second nature even drunk. I unfortunately had problems after partying, and….second nature.”
If I am keeping you back from anything that you have to do please tell me..
Billy” its all good, maybe after the gig we can have a beer together?”
What advice would you give to a kid trying to make a living in the music business. Is it harder these days to earn a living? Many bands that I speak to ,even established bands still have to work at other jobs.
Billy”The reason you start, never lose sight of the first love that you have for something whether its a martial art, playing guitar, playing drums or building models. When you fall in love with something it is that fire that grabs your attention at the start. You can never lose that, and stay true to what brought you to that love in the first place. I know that it is hard for people to accept Billy from Biohazard using the word “love”but that is reality. Play music because it is in your heart and soul. If something happens great, you get a record deal then great.If you don’t then who cares.You played and had an experience that you enjoyed.No one can ever take that away from you.It is more difficult, that’s what we do regarding second jobs. We have other professions that we do and other businesses that we are involved with. That way we don’t have to rely on Biohazard to pay for our food or put a roof over our heads. That makes us enjoy it way more. Its not a job it is a pleasure and an honour that’s what.”
Looking back are you proud of your musical legacy, or is that something for fans to judge?
Billy”(laughing)I don’t know, that’s for you guys to say. I just do what I do and we just happen to all gel at the right time and sometimes better than others. For the most part it is a band of guys that had similar taste , similar dissatisfaction’s with the world and similar views that came together, it just clicked and it worked!
Finally if you had the opportunity to sit down with anybody and have a chat who would that person be.
Billy”Simple, it would be my mother dude.”
Thanks for the opportunity Billy to chat. Look forward to catching up and having a beer with you after the show.
Billy “it was a pleasure, thanks for talking to me today, and catch you later!