Biohazard and Powerflo’s Billy Graziadei is back with his first solo venture – BillyBio – and record, Feed The Fire. I spoke with Billy a couple of weeks ago, he’s currently on tour across Europe with, Life Of Agony. We chatted about the record featuring a ripping line-up: Ra Diaz (Suicidal Tendencies) on bass duties, drummer, Simo Perini (10 Foot Pole/Guttermouth/The Bloody Beetroots) and Dan Palmer (Death By Stereo/Zebrahead) and is produced by Tue Madsen; jujitsu, his first Oz tour with Slayer, songwriting and more. Enjoy!
BILLY GRAZIADEI: I love Australia! I got a lot of great stories and memories from that country.
What’s a story you could share with us?
BG: I’ll tell you a story about when we were on tour with Slayer, it was our first time in Australia. We were really close to the band, Sepultura, and they told us about a group they were friends with from Sydney called, Mindcrack; I called them up as soon as I got there, I was an avid surfer at the time and knew they were surfers and I wanted to get my fins wet.
These dudes party like crazy! We threw some parties backstage, the Slayer camp and management had a thing against those guys and me ‘cause we threw the parties. We’d toured through the US and Japan already with Slayer so we’d been on the road together a few months already. I got along with the Mindcrack guys so well, I invited them to the last show of the tour in Woollongong… I told them to drive up from Sydney for it and do an encore with us. Everyone was psyched! They showed up late, were a little drunk already, came backstage, one of the guys is rocking back and forth in his chair and kept repeating this mantra over and over “I gotta do something they’ll never forget”. I was like, ‘bro, what are you talking about? I gotta teach you this song. Don’t fuck it up!’ The kid kept repeating his mantra. We ended up not having time to do the song at soundcheck, but we called them up at the end of the show anyway and introduced them; they stumbled on stage except for the kid I was friends with. We went into the song and half way through the song he appears at the barrier and he’s getting on stage and he’s butt naked! I thought, ok, this is pretty funny, he said he was going to do something I wouldn’t forget. He stood on stage singing, no one wanted to stand next to him because he was naked with his dick hanging out… he ends up next to me and he starts pissing on stage. I thought, man that’s foul! [laughs]. He was so drunk and out of his mind. He then squatted down and then stood up with some chocolate in his hands…
Ewwwww! That’s SO gross! He pulled a GG Allin!
BG: [Laughs] He tried to draw a Biohazard symbol on his chest. I thought it was pretty funny, then an odour hit me… the guy had shit himself and smeared it over himself. It was the most disgusting thing I’ve seen in my life. I thought it couldn’t be real, but it was! When he got off stage he went and knocked on Slayer’s dressing room door to see if they had towels he could use to clean himself with. They already didn’t like the guy, they got pissed off and wanted us off the tour. I was like, ‘listen, the kid is drunk… it was everything you guys sing about—he’s a drunk metal fan—it’s no big deal’. It was written about in all the papers, there’s a VH1 TV show called 101 Most Metal Moments… the way the story gets told is that they make it seem like it’s one of the members, the singer of Biohazard, me, covering myself with faeces on stage. When I meet people and I say, ‘oh I have bands called Biohazard and Powerflo’ and they’re like, “Oh I heard about you, you were on that VH1 show and you’re the guy that covered yourself with…” blah blah blah the story goes on [laughs]. The true story is what I just told you! What a great way to start our interview [laughs].
[Laughter]. What have you been working on today?
BG: I’ve been working on my truck which is one deal… then I’ve been rehearsing for the new BillyBio record, Feed The Fire. I’m super psyched about it and ready to unleash it into the world.
Having so much on the go with so many projects in the works at one time; do you ever find it hard to relax?
BG: They say when you find something you love, do it for a living because then you’ll never have to work a day in your life. I’m blessed to become so at one with my creativity that it’s not work to me. You don’t make the money that you used to make because everybody is stealing your music but, creatively my soul is at ease and at peace and I love doing what I do. I have a studio here in Compton, a shitty section of Los Angeles; it’s a great place for me to chill and make music, I produce other bands—I’m always writing and working.
The thing about this solo venture is that it’s been a long time in the making… I’m always writing for my bands: Biohazard, Powerflo, Suicide City, other people’s bands… it’s an easy thing for me, it’s 100% me… being in a band sometimes is like being a painter and having to ask the painter next to you, if it’s ok to use brown instead of green? Sometimes that gets a little diluted. A band’s vision, it becomes the band work. I’ve always been a writer on my own, I love brining my ideas untainted into the band that I’m working with. It’s a natural process for me to do this project. I’ll be releasing another record after this one coming out because I like doing it all so much.
Awesome! Was there a catalyst that helped get you to finally make your solo work?
BG: We were doing a Biohazard record, we were in the studio, we had beef with our old bass player… my drummer and I are the peacekeepers of the band, we keep everything together; I know how to get different personalities to work with each other. This time it was rough though and I couldn’t solve the issues. We ended up leaving with ill feelings, I came home to L.A. from New York and I thought to myself—now is the time!
Over the years there were many situations where I would write a song and whatever band I was with at the time, I’d bring in the song, sometimes they’d get picked apart, everyone adds their two cents – which I’m okay with, it’s a band effort. As an artist though I like to have my vision untainted, lyrically and musically, I like to see that painting I have in my head hanging on the wall… after that I can change it. It seemed like a good opportunity. That vision and effort got side-tracked a little, at the time I was working with Sen Dog and Roy on the beginnings of Powerflo. When Sen told me they were going to be working on a new Cypress Hill record, I thought that would be a great time to release my solo stuff. I put my nose-to-the-grind, put the songs together, teamed up with some great guys, and now I’m about to release it. Next week I go on tour with Life Of Agony in Europe.
What themes have been manifesting in your song writing for this record? I know that you see song writing as a form of self-expression.
BG: I can’t help but be influenced by what’s around me. I speak the truth. The shit that I’ve seen… everyday we’re just inundated with bullshit, the political situation in the world is upside down, humanity is at a place that I never thought we’d end up… I’ve been singing about all this for years, it always affects me and I love sharing how it affects me at different points in my life, sometimes it’s old issues, sometimes its new, sometimes it’s an issue of watching the younger generation which I feel really akin to… rebel against the way things are now versus the way I rebelled about things when I was their age—there’s something in it for everybody, that cares.
From your songs, and even just things you posts online, you seem like a pretty positive person to me…
BG: Every day I wake up I’m thankful for waking up with my eyes open and I look at every day as a challenge. I look at the things in front of me, it’s all a challenge, they’re not problems, there’s solutions, I just have to figure out how to turn things I want into reality. That makes life a lot easier. Ironically my blood type is B+ [laughs].
[Laughter] Awwww. Previously you’ve commented that songwriting was “a laborious chore before, but now I can articulate my ideas through music better than I can through words”; what changed for you to be able to do that?
BG: For me, being sober and clean… a lot of times a lot of artists rely on that to help them focus and shut out the outside influences from their art and self-expression but, for me, I think that had a lot to do with it. I’d watch other artists when they make this exclamation that they’re clean and sober, sometimes their art changes for the worst in my opinion… for me though I became more astute and could articulate what I wanted to articulate. There were some issues when I tried to kick everything, I remember those moments… I can attribute that to when things became a little more fluid to me.
Why did you decide to move to L.A.?
BG: [Laughs] Aaahh, I miss the East Coast! I miss the seasons immensely. I miss asking someone what time it is and they look at their watch and say “fuck you, go get your own watch”—I like the attitude. I married a Brazilian who got sick of the East Coast weather… I was thrown an ultimatum, either we go to Brazil or we go to L.A. There’s a saying: happy wife, happy life. [Laughs]. We picked up and moved and I haven’t regretted it since.
Why is music important to you?
BG: It’s been a grounding source in my life since I was six. From my mother singing to me when I’d play piano to learning from my grandfather and uncle how to play and improvise and grow as a musician; to all the awesome bands I got turned onto. At an early age it was Kiss, then The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, then I got turned on to punk rock and it changed my life for ever. Then there’s getting turned on to all the classic metal up until now with all the modern stuff, it’s been… music saves! Music and art inspires changes, helps people grow. It saves me and continues to save me.
The Bad Brains are one of your favourite bands, right?
BG: I love the Bad Brains. Rock For Light was my first introduction to them. ‘Sailin’ On’ is such a great song! I was big into Minor Threat and then Cro-Mags. I remember seeing them after I Against I came out, they had Living Color open up for them, it was Leeway too. When Living Color came on no one knew who they were, they weren’t big yet; they played ‘Cult of Personality’ the pit blew up and was crazy. It was an awesome show. Bad Brains opened up with “I Against I” and it was fucking amazing!
What’s a song that you’ve written that you’re really proud of?
BG: All of them!
I knew you’d say that!
BG: [Laughs] Well, there’s many. I’ll tell you this, people say to me that, I’m a father, that I teach jujitsu, I’m a respectable citizen, I go to meetings in my neighbourhood, I’m involved in the music program at my kids school, I do charity work… the things I cared about when I was younger, I sill care about now in middle age, but I care about them more in a deeper way because I see how actions impact our lives. I mix with all kinds of people, not just people from the hardcore scene, some lawyers, doctors, garbage men, people from all different walks of life… I get this comment a lot that “the person that I see in interviews and on stage with your bands, you seem different to what you are in real life”. My answer is always the same, I’m not different, I’m who I am because of all of my experiences I’ve collected over the years, good and bad. Who I become is a product of who I have met and the experiences that I’ve had, the stories behind the scars are immense and they’ve all formed me into the person that I am. I’m very coherent and lucid with what affects me, my surroundings, my family, my community, my scene – I love the underground music scene—it’s a true honest way of living. I feel like I’m closer to everything I love and I see the effects of my actions more.
My art and who I am sells my music. I like the conversations like this one more than interviews. We don’t do enough talking anymore, I love to talk.
Me too! Did you learn anything about yourself while you’ve been making your new record?
BG: Yeah, I did. We always do, to me, if you’re an honest artist you have to really share what’s truthful on the inside. I’ve always been independent politically, and I’ve seen how a two party system is a joke, it obviously doesn’t work. They have so much power, it’s more like divide and conquer now… it’s just bullshit after bullshit, slander after slander, and manipulation after manipulation. I’ve found that what’s happening… aw I don’t wanna be to super political because there’s a whole other side of my music—I love to just fucking rock and kick ass! I’m not a preacher, I’m not going to sit out there and preach politics to people; I do share my views on everything though. There’s part of me that is one side and then I see part of me on the other side on different issues. It’s interesting to see how it has unfolded, especially in the lyrics.
I’ve followed what you do since I was a teenager, I saw that first tour with Slayer and then the next one with Pantera.
BG: They were such great times. I remember being backstage with Pantera – you’ll get a kick out of this – we had a contest, Phil and I, Dimebag and my guitar player at the time, the guy from Helmet [Rob Echeverria] … we had a contest to see who could hold the longest note. Dime loved that I could sing high and scream high, Phil couldn’t hit that high, Dime tried to imitate me but never could but when I came time for this guy Rob to hit the note… he’s not a singer either so he’s trying to outlast Phil and I who are singers, our lungs are made to last long [laughs]. I gotta give it up to him though, he lasted for a long time with this one note; he held it so long he passed out! He fell over! It was fucking hilarious. It was right before we went on, he stumbled on stage ‘cause he was so dizzy.
I know you do jujitsu; do the things you learn from your practice filter into your everyday life?
BG: Yes. Jujitsu is like this, you’re constantly being challenged to within milliseconds of your life or millimetres of having a bone broken—you end up being able to deal with any situations. You could be thrown into the worst situation of your life and still remain calm and be able to find a solution. Whether it’s verbal or physical… the verbal part of jujitsu you can translate it into finding ways outta situations, or finding solutions to difficult situations. A lot of people easily lose their temper or see everything as an attack, jujitsu helped me adapt to different situations in different ways—to be able to cope!
Could you please share with us a life changing experience you’ve had?
BG: Of course, once you get passed a certain age and you begin to accept things for the way they are, it is what it is, my upbringing, the things I’ve been through, have all evolved me to who I am. It’s all made me a stronger person and a better person.
Losing my mom at a young age was a rough thing. It affected me more as I grow up. Talking those issues out with people, some professional and some not, writing about things in my lyrics—it all made things a little bit easier to cope with. I remember… we all go through things growing up, and when you are going through them you think… I have a very close friend that’s battling alcoholism right now and he feels like he’s the only one in the ocean treading water. No matter how many times your friends say, I know, I’ve been there, I with you now and I’ve been where you are so there’s hope and there’s help… but the minute you start to talk to other people you realise that the ocean is full of other people treading water and that feel like they’re drowning, just like you. You don’t know that until you share it though. For me, sharing my experiences through writing about them helped me cope on one side but made me also realise that there’s other people that go through the same thing—you’re never alone. The way social media is these days, unfortunately, it makes you feel like you’re alone in a room full of people and that can be pretty heavy. People pretend that their life is so amazing, but all the while they’re miserable and dying inside.
I’ve heard that there’s a new Powerflo record in the works?
BG: Yes there is. Sen Dog and I took a break we were both working on songs. We look at it like it’s kinda like wine, it has to ferment, it’s gotta grow and ripen. We have a whole thing that is ready to go.
I read an interview with you and Sen when the first Powerflo record dropped and you both said that you both bring out stuff in the other; what does Sen bring out in you?
BG: It’s funny because honestly, he made me a better me in a lot of ways, I think I made him a better him too… the way Sen would flow his words, the way he spits over my music is kind of like a different way, then from me; he always has another angle to it. It just makes go wow! I would have never thought of that! It’s such a cool thing for me.
We’d be working on stuff together and sitting there and I’d be like, let’s make this more groovy. You can tell from Biohazard, I love the groove stuff. I’d be like let’s make it more bouncy like your stuff, like the Muggs production of Cypress Hill. He’d be like, no, no let’s make it more aggressive like your stuff. That was a common thing going back and forth between us. When I heard the new Cypress Hill record months ago I told him it was a great record and he heard the BillyBio stuff I’m doing and he thought it was killer… we both complement each other in a lot of ways, brining that together is what I love about Powerflo.
What else is important to you outside of music?
BG: Family, 100%.
What things do you do in your day to get through?
BG: Music saves like I said before, it helps me to escape. Jujitsu, is another big escape, it’s my meditation, my yoga. I was never a guy that could just shut everything off, music and jujitsu helps me do that though.
Anything to add?
BG: I don’t know who will make it to Australia first BillyBio or Powerflo? It’s a race [laughs]. I will be there with either one soon though.
It’s such an exciting time for you!
BG: It’s always an exciting time. I don’t let shit get to me. You have to keep an even keel and got through life, use the tools that you have to help you to cope, try to stay grounded. In the worst of the worst or the best of the best I try to remain the same. Everything is exciting, whether I’m recording a record or touring or not even doing anything. There’s a reason why all cultures look to their elders for advice and guidance, I don’t feel I am there yet but I feel the palette of wisdom I’ve been collecting and experimenting with has given me a point where it’s easier for me to help people through certain situations ‘cause I’ve been there.
I worked out at a young age the importance of helping people.
BG: Yeah, wouldn’t it be a better world if we all had that belief.
To me, the most important things that I value are creativity and love. The acts of both of these, the process, the awareness is everything.
BG: Me too. For me, being a creative it’s a release and I find people who pick up on that it touches them in a way that gives me some energy back to do it again.
I love that. We’re all connected in this big circle of energy.
BG: Yeah, 100%. If you can do it and still kick ass, it’s AWESOME!
At the end of the day Bianca… remember I was saying as a kid I was turned onto the band Kiss?
BG: You can say whatever you want to say about them but, there was this entertainment element they had to them that I saw and thought, oh my god! Then I stumbled onto punk rock and was like, whoa! It’s not about playing well, it’s about the message and delivery. That spoke louder to me than anything ever before. All your senses are being bombarded… when you make a record you have to sell that with one sense, how they hear, the auditory sense… you can’t even control how loud they listen to it. You have to put so much into explaining what you feel inside, it has to be communicated in how you play and you sing it, or bend that note, it’s a hard thing to do. For me, I’ve been searching for that expression and how to capture that my whole career and it wasn’t until this solo record, BillyBio, that I achieved that. When you hear my vocals and hear my songs you’ll hear me communicating the best I’ve ever been able to communicate what’s inside of me.
You’re the first person I’ve talked to about the record, I’ve mentioned my intention to make it here and there but I never had anything tangible in my hand. You’re the first person I’ve talked to since it’s been done and it’s going to come out. It’s so cool to actually talk about it.
I’m stoked. I always seem to talk to artists when something interesting is forming and they’re in big growth periods… I always chose who I chat with using my intuition.
BG: Thank you so much for chatting with me.
Feed the Fire is out worldwide November 30. For more info, tour dates and new go to BILLYBIO.com
*All photos courtesy of Billy’s insta: @billybiohazard
Create forever, Bx