How’s it going with the current tour and the latest album, “Based On A True Story”?
Armand Majidi (drums): Well, this is only the second night but so far it’s been incredible. We played in Poland last night and we had a really good crowd. The show was like a giant party, everybody had a lot of fun, there was no trouble. Everybody was totally happy with the outcome of it. And then tonight, we’re coming at you and at a sold out club. So we’re already seeing some really great results of putting Madball and Sick Of It All together and doing this “New York United Tour”. You always kind of hope for the best. You never know who you’re going to reach with any certain album. One of the reasons why we decided to sign with Century Media a few years back is that they’re a European based label, so our whole European presence got a boost. This is where hardcore is the strongest out of the entire world. Europe is a place that loves and supports hardcore unlike any other area. Even in America hardcore, especially old school hardcore isn’t necessarily what a lot of the younger kids want to listen to. It’s only kids with a real interest in the history of the music, the roots of the music that would go and search out for the old school bands and want to learn about them, which is a pretty limited amount of people. All the new kids that are getting into aggressive music might decide to go for something more mainstream and that’s unfortunate because the hardcore scene in America is suffering from it. But Europe is where it is the strongest, so we felt that it was important to get our records put out by a company that’s based in Europe. And I think it’s done really good things because “Death To Tyrants” and “Based On A True Story” have sold really well in Europe, way better than the Fat Wreck Chords releases that we did before.
Hardcore is such a realistic kind of music and Sick Of It All has realistic lyrical themes so I think “Based On A True Story” could have been the title of any previous Sick Of It All albums. How come you only came up with it this time?
Ha ha! It’s the title we really liked and that seemed to drive that point home. Whatever fans are getting into us now are possibly not familiar with our stuff from the past and with the fact that we are a reality based band and hardcore in general is a reality based music. There are a lot of people that are just getting into it now and that don’t really know that. And that’s such an important part of the music, the fact that the guys up on the stage are exactly like the guys off the stage. We don’t dress up, we don’t have a fancy show or anything like that. It’s just a realistic version of musical emotions. Even if people aren’t technically good players, they’re up there doing that thing and getting their aggression and frustrations out and getting that release. Hopefully, the audience will be able to connect with that and also feel the release from it. So, having people understand that will hopefully increase the connection between the audience and the band.
Is “Based On A True Story” a concept album?
No, not at all, ha ha! It’s not. It kind of came out looking that way because of the booklet and everything, but each song has its own meaning. They’re not really connected in any way, there’s no theme that runs throughout. So, it’s not a concept album.
Sick Of It All is getting closer to its 25th anniversary. Do you plan on celebrating it in some way? Will you bring out a DVD or any other special release?
There’s been a little bit of talk with some ideas being thrown around but we don’t have anything solid yet. We have enough touring coming up where doing a recording might be kind of tricky, especially that Pete lives down in Florida and the rest of us live in the New York area, so it’s not like in between tours we’re all together in one place. Pete would have to fly up to do some kind of special recordings. But we are considering something. We’re trying to come up with an idea for the 25th year anniversary to make it something special. But unfortunately the whole industry side of things has to approve it, so we have to see if Century Media is interested in doing something like that and we’ll go from there.
During these 25 years so almost never had any line up changes. What is your secret?
I don’t know, ha ha! I can’t really put it into words because I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we were all friends before we were in a band together. And I guess whatever bonds we established really, really early on, it has been able to persist all these years and did not splinter apart. We know that we are lucky to be able to play music for a living. Sick Of It All is a well received band, we’re a successful hardcore band, people seem to enjoy our shows and we have this whole communal spirit thing where we want everybody just to have fun. Everywhere that we play, even if the audience is small, like playing certain shows in America nowadays, everybody seems to be there for the right reason, to be really supportive of the band and feeling that appreciation. We know that we are lucky for it, we live a great life for it, so what’s the point of doing anything that’s going to sabotage that? To be able to do some different kind of music? That might be nice but we’re so busy with Sick Of It All that we don’t even have time to think about doing that.
In 2007, a Sick Of It All tribute album called “Our Impact Will Be Felt” came out, featuring bands like Madball, Bane, Walls Of Jericho, Ignite, Hatebreed etc. Have you heard this album?
Yeah, of course.
And Hatebreed did the cover of another Sick of It All song on their “For The Lions” release. Have you ever recorder any cover songs and / or featured on any tribute album?
The only time we did that was a Misfits tribute record. We did “All Hell Breaks Loose” for it and I think it was back in 1996 or ’97. So, it’s been a while since we’ve done anything like that. The only other time we were asked to do a tribute record was a Bad Brains tribute record but Bad Brains is one of those bands that we hold and such high regarded and anytime in the hardcore scene a band decides to do a Bad Brains cover it’s only so inferior to the original that we just didn’t really want to go there. They’re hard to touch, they’re such a great band, especially vocally. You can’t touch H.R., so much character and personality comes to his voice. He’s an incredible vocalist and it’s really difficult for anybody else to recreate that. They’re one of those untouchable bands, so that’s why we turned it down. As much as we wanted to do it, we thought that a tribute record to Bad Brains is not worth the weight.
Do you follow what is happening in the hardcore scene currently?
Because we play with all different kinds of bands, whether they’re brand new, a few years old, ten years old or whatever, we experience the hardcore scene all over the world first hand. It’s not like I have a really, really deep insight or knowledge on every single new band that pops up but this is my life, I’m involved in hardcore music and I’m always looking for good new bands to tour with. Bands that people like, bands that people are just grabbing on to and would like to see live. It’s very important, as you can see by tonight, to get a good package together. So, I spend a good amount of time at home checking out new bands on Myspace. Actually, Myspace has been a big help to me because even if I hear about one band or if people tell me: “Oh, you’ve got to check this one band out”, just from their friends I can check out another band that might be of interest. And from there, I can check out more bands. Having that community link up on the Internet really helps me a lot regarding what bands are the new bands that people are interested to see. Actually, I don’t like to spend a lot of time on the computer but just I have to because it’s a business.
Would you say that people spend way too much time on the comp than they should?
Oh, hell yeah. Definitely. I have kids, too, and if I would allow my kids to spend, let’s say, all the weekend on the computer screen, I don’t think it’s healthy. I don’t think it’s the right for people to do because it takes the social aspect of the world and it changes it so much. It also makes everybody really kind of sedentary and not active enough. There are so many unhealthy things about it, not just mentally but physically. So, I’m not a big supporter of the whole computer world and I always try to limit my computer work to be able to be more social and to spend more time with my family – and to be able to do other things that are more productive because for the most part, people aren’t productive when they’re on a computer. If I spend four hours with a guitar in my hands writing songs and then I might have something at the end of the four hours that’s going to translate Sick Of It All being able to record something that will lead to a release, that will lead to a tour… There are so many better ways that I can spend my time. So, besides just doing the business and the band, I don’t really mess with the computer at all.
Did your kids got used to you being away from home so often?
Well, they’ve only known this. So, there is that. Every time I leave on tour they really get bummed out. They’re like: “Oh, I wish you weren’t leaving” and it sucks to hear that. There’s the certain element being at home which is time that’s cherished. I don’t like to leave either but at the same time this is a great life and I have to be thankful for the opportunity that I’ve been given in my lifetime, for this to be my destiny. I think it’s healthy also for me to have this release because I think everybody that’s attracted to hardcore has certain screws anyway. So, being able to get out those frustrations and everything is very healthy and I think it’s good for my psyche to be able to do this as well. If I was just a stay-at-home dad or a working guy back at home, I don’t know if I would really have as happy of a life as I have now. I don’t think so.
What do you think of the old stereotype according to which New York is such a dangerous place to live and the people involved in hardcore are troublesome guys?
What I think is that the people that don’t really push that so much are the ones that are from that kind of background – and the ones that push that too much are the ones from regular middle-class backgrounds, and that are faking it. That’s why I like the guys from Madball, for example. Freddy had a really, really tough childhood and anything that he writes in his lyrics and anything that he stands for is real. As long as that reality is being presented, there’s no problem with it. What I don’t like is when bands come out of the suburbs and pretend like they’re some kind of a tough gang. They want to portray hardcore as just pure violence and everything which ends up being totally counterproductive because all they do is create this atmosphere where kids have to fight each other at shows and in America that has really ruined the hardcore scene.
Is it still typical nowadays?
Very much so. It’s really rough because we have problems, even though we’re not a gang affiliated band and we don’t have ties to any kinds of gangs or anything like that. But Chicago, for example, is one of those towns where they have a lot of gang problems within the hardcore scene. To me, it’s so stupid for that to be the case because a lot of these kids aren’t from tough backgrounds or anything like that, they’re just doing it to be stupid, deliberately ignorant and to fight each other. To beat each other up at a hardcore show instead of doing something… If you really have some kind of aggression in your life that you want to get out, then join the military! Do something with it that’s going to be useful somehow, some way, rather than just destroying a music scene because hardcore is small enough, it sucks that we have to deal with all that violence on top of it, just to make things worse. Sometimes we’re trying to book a show in a certain city and two weeks before there was a big fight at a show and then the promoter says: “No thanx, we don’t do hardcore anymore.” And there was a perfect venue. So, we encounter that a lot and it’s a real shame that the United States is that way. I really, really hope that the gang mentality doesn’t spread anywhere further than it is already.
Is there any political or social movement that you sympathize with or that you’re a part of?
No, we’re not really politically minded people. I mean, we have songs that touch on political topics and that’s as activist as we get being able to express ourselves through music. But actually to put time and effort into some kind of activist movement, I just don’t have that kind of time because my time is already completely taken up between being a touring musician and a parent. Activists usually are college students that are able to fully put their lives into the cause and I just don’t have that kind of time. But I have done work with PETA before. I have been involved with PETA just as a musician who is vegetarian and supports everything to do with being anti-meat industry, anti-animal testing or whatever it takes to try to push that cause. That’s something that I hold really dear. So I would definitely deliberately go out of my way to do things with them. Or to invite them to our shows and have them set up a table, show videos and hand out pamphlets and stuff like that. That to me is an important thing that people have to understand because especially now that the world being so overpopulated and not enough food going around, the meat industry is something that’s so wasteful of all natural resources. The fact is that meat is just a feast sensation rather than anything else and you can live a better life, a more healthy life living vegetarian lifestyle. But there are so many people that don’t understand that or refuse it just because of old traditions and old world ideas about where protein comes from, which are completely outdated now. There’s so much proof that the vegetarian lifestyle is a healthier lifestyle. So, that’s something that I hold dear and get involved with as much as possible.
How would you define hardcore? What does it mean to you musically and as a way of life?
We’ve always described hardcore as something that’s supposed to be free. That’s freedom to be able to express yourself as an individual, not needing to fit in with some kind of clique or group. The more that happens, the less diversity hardcore has and the less it has to say to the world. That’s one of the things that are really important to us, that’s why we try to deliberately book packages that are diverse, where you have bands from different scenes all playing together, playing aggressive music but in different styles with different audiences to bring people together, to try to keep that diversity within the scene. Hardcore without freedom will only suffer and the more bands become cover versions of each other, the more the scene suffers. Freedom and originality are very, very important to hardcore.