Interview: BillyBio

I make music just because it's inside of me. I express myself and if people like it, cool. They don't, it’s okay. I like it.

BillyBio aka Billy Graziadei has just released his second album, Leaders And Liars, and the follow up to his debut solo release Feed The Fire is an energetic collection of songs that take in a whole lot of musical influences, not just from the punk, hardcore and metal that BillyBio is known for but alternative and electronic sounds as well. Gavin Brown caught up with Billy to discuss how Leaders And Liars came to fruition, the making of the album and the musicians that feature on it as well as talking about his work as a producer, thirty years of Biohazard’s Urban Discipline album and ‘Punishment’ video, new Powerflo music, working with Onyx and touring with The Exploited in an informative and interesting interview.

E&D: Your new album Leaders And Liars has just been released. Have you been pleased with the response for the album so far?    

Billy: Yeah, dude, I’m just pleased someone like you is taking time to talk to me about what I create. That’s always humbling. I achieved a lot with Biohazard and I did so many awesome things and had great moments in my career, that I no longer look at it like, I gotta be on the cover of Kerrang! It’s great to have a gold record and all those things that, not to belittle but I’ve accomplished them. When somebody takes the time to talk about something that you create, It’s the ultimate compliment. I don’t do this for a living, I do it because I love it. So anyways, a long winded answer! Yes, I’m happy with this, it seems that people are really liking it. The reviews are great but to me, and not to sound like a cocky asshole but I don’t really care about that stuff. I make music just because it’s inside of me. I express myself and if people like it, cool. They don’t, it’s okay. I like it. I it’s like painting a picture on the wall. I don’t expect anyone else to want to hang it on their wall, but I like hanging my shit.

E&D: You recorded and produced the album yourself, was that an easier process with everything going on, so you didn’t have to rely on someone else producing or anything?

Billy: I like to produce my own stuff. I produced Powerflo, I do my own stuff and did a lot of Biohazard but with Billybio, I work with Tue Madsen, who mixed and mastered it and I found working with somebody after I recorded it and after it’s done having someone else mix it it’s a new set of ears, somebody else that can separate it when they’re not really involved with the day to day and the intricacies of the recording and the music so they add a different twist to it. I look at it like there’s always this vision I have, there’s always what I wanted it to sound like and then there’s the fact that the actual recording that you make, after there’s always a point where I look back and say Oh, I wish I would have done this. I wish I would have done that too. From the first record Feed The Fire to this record Leaders And Liars is the first time I hit all three and I have no desire or need to work with anyone else. It’s one whole thing bro, I pay as much attention to the artwork or the font that I use in the packaging, the artists I work with, the camera angles on the videos I make. I involve myself in so many details. It’s just an easier thing to produce my own music. I own my own recording studio, Firewater studios. That’s a godsend having that ability, especially during the pandemic, in LA they locked us down like everywhere else. You weren’t allowed to leave your home, which I thought was a fucking joke but I went to the studio every day, and I had a place to escape and create, having that ability was a helpful, grounding aspect of my life.

E&D: You mentioned producing Biohazard and Powerflo and you’ve produced Madball and Agnostic Front as well. Is producing for other artists something you’re going to continue with as well?

Billy: Yeah, I actually have a bunch of artists that I’ve reached during the pandemic. I think the proudest for me, is producing a new band called Cutthroat. That record is a fucking killer record. I also did a bunch of other bands that are a little bit different. I’m working with a new band from Leeds actually and that’s pretty exciting. Out of things that I’ve done, J Theory, he’s like an old school rapper from LA and he loves rock. It’s not really a mix of that stuff, but that came up pretty cool DelaDie this girl is kind of like Portishead meets singer songwriter kind of thing. Punk rock and metal and hardcore is coursing through my veins, that’s my go to and that’s pretty much where I draw my influences but starting piano at six years old, I had all these different influences that come out in my music.

E&D: That leads me on to the next question! With Leaders And Liars, there is so many sounds going on, obviously there is the punk hardcore and metal sounds but there’s also like alternative and electronic music as well. Do you think this album more than anything you’ve done, represents all of your different musical influences?

Billy: I never have any intentions, bro. Like, I don’t sit down and say, Let’s make it heavier than State Of The World Address or let’s make something that’s a more punchy. I just let it flow. I’m always writing, I’m always working on new ideas and there comes a point where I also don’t have a plan which in retrospect may not be the smartest business sense but as an artist, it was never about business. It’s all about the vibe and the energy that I have. When it is time to write a record, it’s an ongoing process, there does come a point when I really dig this part and suddenly all these songs gravitate towards each other and they form this picture. There was a point when all the songs that I was working on, not all of them, but a lot of them start to form this picture which ended up being Leaders And Liars and suddenly they jump off the page. All the dominoes all fell at the same time and it works. I like that moment. It’s a fucking really cool moment. In all my years with Biohazard, I learned that having that pressure, I kind of like it, it changes where your focus should always be. I remember in the early days, we finished State Of The World Address and literally, we weren’t even done mixing the record and we had to go on tour with Fishbone and it turned out to be a fucking great tour. But it was like we were always on on tour and we took a break to come home and do a record. That helped me try to carve out a path where I can always be creative so I started to bring recording gear on tour. Nowadays it’s even easier, I can have my laptop or my phone and I can make demos that are better than my first record! Sometimes bands come into me in the studio and they are doing demos as good so do you need me for it, but I like to add different flavours and bands call me the Brian Epstein of hardcore, where I make myself  the fifth member! The mentor, in addition to the producer and engineer and making the record.

 

E&D: Toby from H2O features on the album track ‘One Life To Live’. How was it working with him on the song?

Billy: Toby’s a good buddy, and H2O were one of the last bands we toured with. It was BillyBio, H2O, Agnostic Front, Gorilla Biscuits, Wisdom In Chains and Cutthroat. It was awesome fucking tour, and we came home and we were all sick. We all thought it was tour sickness. I have no idea if it was COVID, but the world shut right down right after which, as we all know, was devastating but that tour was awesome.

E&D: Was that the Persistence Tour?

Billy: Yeah, we ended up finishing in London on the same day that Kobe Bryant passed away. I remember all these things on the news, I don’t want to talk about the pandemic because we all went through it but that was the last tour. I was working on the song and Toby, besides being a good friend, I think he’s got a lot of great ideas and great energy and spreads a lot of goodness, he has a podcast, where he won’t talk about anything negative. If it’s not constructive, he’ll change the subject with any of his guests, which I think is fucking awesome. We get enough negative bullshit on the TV every day. Working with Toby was an honour, It was right in the middle of COVID and I had this idea to document it. I did a cool thing on my Patreon, where I took my phone and put it down every day and I would sit there with my acoustic guitar, coming up with riffs and I captured all these moments of that song coming together, from acoustic to electric to coming up with the drum beats with my drummer Fred and that ended up being that song, which was pretty cool. I don’t have any footage of Toby though, unfortunately, because we we we had to do it remotely, which really sucks but other than that it was killer.

E&D: Will you make songs with him again?

Billy: I would love to work with Toby anytime!

E&D: Jennifer Bair adds sublime vocals to a couple of songs on the album and you’ve worked with her before. Did you always want her to sing on the tracks she appears on?

Billy: Jen and I have been great friends for fifteen years, she’s like a sister. We had a project called Blu back in the day and it was more of a trip-hop thing and we never released anything, so whenever we get a chance to do something, we do. I like my music to emulate the world that I see. It’s not always great. It’s not always bad. There’s ups and downs and I like my music to kind of take you on that journey.

E&D: Can you tell us about who else you worked with in the album? I know you work with Robbie from the Exploited who played on a few songs.

Billy: The guys on the record are all members of BillyBio first and foremost, they’ve been friends for years. I’ve been touring with The Exploited forever, that was one of the first tours we did in the States. I probably collected more awesome stories from those dates than any other band! Roberto is playing in Suicidal Tendencies now and he’s out with Korn. He’s my bass player. Dan Manca is another bass player I play with he’s from Italy and rocks!  Fred Aching Rios is my my drummer, we also play together in Powerflo and then Dan Palmer is from Death By Stereo, who was touring with us for a long time and also Zebrahead, so all these guys, they’re buddies, and they’re all talented musicians and  me look a lot better than I actually am!

E&D: How was it touring with The Exploited back on the day and was it is as crazy as it sounded?

Billy: It was crazy. I’ll tell you, throwing mattresses and TVs out of windows and hotels. There was blood poisoning. Race riots, bouncer fights, crossing the borders with drugs. Missed dates, diseases. It was just all the crazy shit you hear about rock and roll. That’s what it was in. One of the greatest punk rock bands of fucking all times.

E&D: Have you got any live dates planned at all? Hopefully returning to the UK as well!

Billy: Yeah, I did have, I’m not going to complain about it because I’m sure every band has been dealing with the same shit. I was supposed to be there now, and then we have another tour in June that was cancelled. Everything keeps getting cancelled with the current state of the world, no pun intended! Hopefully this next tour that I’m working on for August won’t be cancelled but with the unfortunate situation in the Ukraine right now, we don’t know. We are optimistically looking forward to it, planning for the worst but hoping for something better as we just don’t know what going to happen next.

E&D: Can you tell us what’s next for Powerflo as well?

Billy: New record, but I found that it’s better to tell people about things that have already happened. I came home from the Persistence tour, with an EP that I was going to release that was pretty cool. I was looking really looking forward to it and then plans change so who knows? I do know that we’re just finishing it up now and it’s fucking badass. I was just talking to Sen Dog about it yesterday. What I want to do is tour both bands, that would be fucking killer.

E&D: That would be awesome! This year marks thirty years of Biohazard’s Urban Discipline. What are your memories of making that album and does it feel like thirty years?

Billy: Thirty years? It feels like three years! I have mentioned my Patreon before, I do this series called Tales From The Hardside, it’s like a book that I’ve been writing for years, collecting stories and telling stories about different tales on my touring and music career and my life in general. I tell a lot of stories about those those days especially the Urban Discipline era. We just had a vinyl release that has some extra stuff that we never released before. It’s pretty cool. There’s a lot of great memories, like I said, it feels like three years, not thirty years. It was our first time really, we did some a lot of touring on the first record but Urban Discipline is when we really started touring the world more. It’s interesting how looking back now, from our first record, we thought we knew everything in the world, and how the world seemed to revolve around New York for us, because that was our home. That’s all we knew.  We released Urban Discipline which is about urban life, our life in our city. We started seeing that things were similar during that touring cycle around the world. It wasn’t just New York, just London or LA, or Berlin. It was the whole fucking world that had similar issues to what we were experiencing and writing about. Then State Of The World Address came out, that was a realisation about just that, that things weren’t just urban New York, urban was worldly. That’s where the title of State Of The World Address came from. It’s cool to see the progression of our growth as not just musicians, but as people, as young New Yorkers touring the world and  leaving the pride of New York way but growing up and starting to realise that you’re not the centre of the universe.

E&D: Was making the video for ‘Punishment’ as fun as it looked like on the Brooklyn Bridge?

Billy: We did that with my boy Drew Stone and Parris Mathew from the Cro-Mags. I remember you needed permits, you needed planning, you needed so many things. That video we made off the cuff, there was no real vision.  I remember we were shooting towards the end of the day, the sun was about to set and I asked the guys, Hey, why don’t we go down to the Brooklyn Bridge, we just walk down the bridge and grab a couple shots, maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t. Drew Stone, he was the producer of the video and Parris Mayhew, guitarist in Cro-Mags was the director. Parris loved the idea but I remember Drew rolling his eyes because it was all about budget and trying to get the best footage. I should have brought this up with him when I did an interview with him recently! I remember he was like, No, we don’t time, we got what we needed, but I made it happen and we ended up getting two great shots. All of us walking towards the camera singing the song and then we quickly set up the last shot we did, which was Danny with a snare drum playing, sitting down in the Brooklyn Bridge. Two iconic shots of a video that was probably the most played video on Headbangers Ball ever. I have a lot of great memories. It’s all still clear, and it still feels like three days.

E&D: Will Biohazard do anything else in the future that you’ve talked about?

Billy: Who knows? I talked a little bit about it recently and it seemed like everybody picked up on it like, bam! This is what I do and it’s not like I’m taking a break from Biohazard to do BillyBio. I’ve always been BillyBio. I’ve always been a solo artist in a sense and it’s like each BillyBio is just the collection and different chapters are the bands. Biohazard, Powerflo, Blu, Suicide City. All these different moments in my life are all different chapters, creatively speaking. But Biohazard is a vibe band. It’s like when things are right, it works. We do something and it all comes together. So what the future holds is there’s no solid plans right now, but I’m not going to leave this earth without being on stage with Biohazard again but right now, it’s about Leaders And Liars and BillyBio.

E&D: Can you tell us about what you’ve got with Onyx got coming up?

Billy: I’m tight with the guys in Cypress Hill, they’re doing a show together In LA. Fredro from Onyx reached out to me the other day and then Sen Dog called me up yesterday asked me the same question. What do you got going on?! I do have something boiling. My music is kind of like, a soup you put on the stove. When it’s ready, it’s ready and what I’m working on, related to Onyx is almost ready, so we’ll see. Like I said, things can change at the drop of a hat.I like to talk about things that I’ve already done, not what I’m gonna do.It is a fact but I can’t talk about it!

E&D: You worked with Onyx back in the day. How was it mixing the hip hop and metal and hardcore worlds?

Billy: It was wasn’t a big deal, you know. It was just something we wanted to do. We grew up, obviously, with punk rock and metal and hardcore but also hip hop from Beastie Boys, Run DMC, Public Enemy, Ice T. We were working on the first record,  Ice T came out with Power. We were blasting that record. I remember hearing the first Cypress Hill record with ‘Hand On The Pump’, and we just like wow, so everything was just kind of a natural influence. The guys in Onyx reached out to me and asked me to do a remix for a song called ‘Slam’. It was a big song for them and through that friendship, we ended up working on the title track for Judgment Night, which came out fucking banging, and we got a chance to work with Jam Master Jay from Run DMC, rest in peace which was an honour to do. I think the result of working together turned out to be something that was bigger than we thought. We don’t really do things on a business tip. We weren’t a band that’s like, hey, let’s do this because it’ll make us big, or make us look cool. It was just like, shit happens, shit rolls, and it comes out, if it’s great, it’s great. If not, no big deal.

E&D: You mentioned you started writing a book and then you just started to tell the stories on your Patreon, but would you ever consider bringing the book out in the future?

Billy: With Tales From The Hard Side, there’s many episodes on my Patreon, every week, there’s a new episode, a new story, a new twist and it’s just like the floodgates open, you know, I turn the video camera on and I start talking and telling the stories. When you write a book, it is well crafted, well edited, well organised. What I really like about these videos on the Tales From The Hard Side series is that I tell the stories like this and they go off on tangents. Sometimes I’ll be talking about touring with The Exploited or Slayer, or Metallica and if something triggers in my memory, I go off on a tangent and tell another story that’s somehow related, but different. It makes it more interesting because it’s not planned out. I’m not reading from a script and I think books tend to end up like that. They start like someone is helping you organise it if you don’t have that skill yourself but for me, what I’m doing, it’s almost like freeform jazz. I’m letting the shit just come out and because it’s on video, I think it’s going to make much more interesting.

E&D: That’s excellent. Thank you very much for talking to me. It’s been awesome!

Billy: The fact that people still want to take time out of their life to talk about what I do means a lot to me, so thank you.

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