Biohazard will never be a 'sellout'
By Naughty Mickie
Photos by Dave Schwartz
I remember the first time I heard the strange sounds blaring out of my MTV-tuned television. It was the early '90s and I was awestruck-- it was metal, no, it was rap, no, it was... I watched the guys jumping up and down on the stage and the crowd moshing (only it wasn't called moshing yet). The music had this incredible power and it drew me in. Patiently, I waited for the scroll of the band's name, Biohazard, wow, this was something really new and it was gonna be big.
Strangely enough, Biohazard, although popular, wasn't embraced by the rock scene. And no other artists seemed to be seriously experimenting with this new genre of music. It didn't even have a name. Now flick forward to today. Rap-core is making a splash; being touted as the latest innovation in music. Only it's really not new. I did some research and discovered that Biohazard was coming to the Troubadour in Hollywood, California, and I decided to see if I could snag an interview with them to get their perspective.
Biohazard's current lineup is Billy Graziadei, vocals/guitar, Evan Seinfeld, vocals/bass, Leo Curley, lead guitar, and Danny Schuler, drums. They have recently released "Uncivilization'' on Sanctuary Records, which contains cool grooves like "Sellout'' and "Get Away.'' I had the pleasure of going one-to-one with Schuler who had just walked in the door after a 12-hour drive. His home is almost as wild as his shows, there is so much noise-- dogs barking, kids playing, but it's a happy "daddy's home'' kind of commotion.
"Why don't we start at the beginning, how did you form the band?'' I ask.
"Well, the band started really as an idea in 1987,'' responds Schuler. "Our original guitar player, Bobby (Hambel), and Evan met Billy and they had a different drummer at the time. A couple months after they started, I had grown up with Evan, we lived in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn, and our original guitar player, Bobby, I'd known him for a very long time, so I ran into Evan at a show and he said they had a band called Biohazard and they needed a new drummer. They wanted to know what I was doing. I told them I'd seen the band and we got together and we started jamming. That's about it, the rest is said. It's been about 13 years now.
"We've been surviving, we've never had that million dollar check,'' Schuler goes on. "Our fans are solid, they believe in what we do and it's real and very important to us.''
Schuler grew up with music around him.
"Everybody in my family are big music listeners and my mother's a very artistic person,'' Schuler explains. "All those creative elements made me a musician, I guess, also a burning desire to escape reality. I like being into art and music very much. I think it's creativity that saved my life in a lot of ways when I was a kid. It took me away from a lot of things that upset me, that I wasn't happy about. It has enriched my life so much. I've been playing the drums since I was four years old. I'm 32 now, that's 28 years I guess.''
Whoa, four years old. I had to learn more.
"I just got into it,'' Schuler replies nonchalantly. "I remember my mom was really into Elvis and I remember sitting on the couch watching some live Elvis special on the TV and like how charismatic and incredible Elvis Presley was, I couldn't take my eyes off the drummer. I said, 'Hey, I want a drum set,' so my parents scratched the money together to buy me a drum set. That was how I started, I always had drumsticks laying around. I always felt like the drummer.''
Schuler's current drums are from MRP (Mark Ross Percussion), which only does custom work. He has never had any formal music training.
"School was a real disaster for me,'' Schuler laughs. "I didn't take music at school, I tried to, I explained to the guy that 'I already know how to play the drums, you don't have to teach me.' But he really didn't like hearing that so he just got rid of me. He's probably still sitting there, teaching drums at the school in the ghetto and I'm having a good time going around the world, so whatever. What'd he know?
"I didn't even go to high school. I was playing music, I was a renegade, I was fifteen,'' continues Schuler. "I was in my first professional band when I was fourteen. This was in Brooklyn and they were all like 24 years old and I was fourteen. It was a cover band called Crystal T, they were pretty popular in Brooklyn. We used to play cover songs and they were all a lot older than me and I just started jamming with them one day, because of their guitar player, and they needed a drummer real quick. So they had me come in and fill in, not thinking that I could possibly be in the band. I was so good that they said, 'He looks eighteen or nineteen, let's just put him in the band.' At the time the drinking age for the state of New York was eighteen, so they ended up taking me to all these clubs to play. I was very professional at fourteen, I learned a lot. I still draw on some of those experiences today, 20 years later. It freaked me out, going out into the world, living in a van, playing shows with guys who were much older, watching them all babble and drunk on alcohol and me just being the little guy in the background.''
Most musicians have to work a day job to make ends meet, Schuler was no exception.
"Oh, I had other jobs,'' says Schuler. "I quit school when I was very young and I worked first at a shoe store, then at a women's clothing store. I used to sit up in the stockroom and tag clothes all day and dream about this ultimate rock band that I was going to form. I still to this day can just sit around and listen to music all day and nothing else. I think it comes from working that job for five years.''
Today, music is a full-time job for Schuler, along with spending time at his Staten Island home with his wife, his four-year-old daughter, his eight-month-old son and four dogs.
We go on to discuss Biohazard's influence on the music scene.
"It's interesting to see how it evolved,'' Schuler says. "I don't think that people really. I mean, I know we influenced a lot of bands, but I don't feel like anybody really sounds like us. They take different elements of what we've been doing. It's interesting, I mean I always knew that that was the way it was going to go because when we were very young, we were feeling hip hop in a major way. So we knew how real it was and how powerful it was and how much it really had in common with the hard-core and heavy metal music that we were all into. For us, it was all the same thing, we grew up in New York and Brooklyn was really experiencing the genesis of hip hop music. It was such a natural part of our lives that it was undeniable that if we'd form a band, the influence would be there because we were living and breathing it constantly along with all the hard music that we listened to. It was very natural for us. I think a lot of bands today come at it in a more affected, not so natural way. They just kind of form a band and they go, 'Hey, let's be a little hip hop.' And it doesn't seem as interesting.''
"What do you think about the music scene in general?'' I query.
"Overall I think it's really great that people have discovered that it all works,'' Schuler replies brightly. "It's not really a separate thing. It's not music for black people and music for white people, it all works and we can all relate to it. I think that that's a really unifying statement. And that's cool and it's satisfying and it makes you happy that people have realized that finally. 'Cause we were doing it and we were really chastised for it. I mean it's funny because after doing something for 10 or 11 years, all of a sudden they give you this respect for doing it for so long. And the same people who ten years ago were going, 'What's up with you guys doing all this hip hop music? You can't do hip hop and heavy metal, that sucks.' Now they're all going, 'Wow, that's so innovative and creative.'
"It's like we've been doing what we do for so long that we rarely take the opportunity to turn around and look back and analyze it.'' Schuler goes on, "Lately everybody asks that type of question like, 'How does it feel to be the architects of this genre that's been so wildly successful and never get credit for it?' People ask me things like that all the time now. I never really thought about it much until recently. I embrace that fact that a long of bands have climbed onto it and hip hop music and hard music, we're putting it all together. If it makes it something new, it's creative and cool; different. That's a good thing. Music needs to evolve, change. It's all good.''
Schuler has nothing but good words when it comes to the Web as well.
"The Internet rules,'' bursts Schuler. "We have the Web page, biohazard.com,
and we have our diary on there and the Bioboard. It's great, we go play a city
and that same night, kids are posting on the Bioboard, on our message board,
about it. It's amazing to me how quick you can get to people. I was just online
20 minutes ago. We played in this little town in Canada last night and already
there's posts up there from the show last night on our board. It's a great way
to keep in touch with the fans. Our diary, even though it hasn't been updated
recently, when we start the American tour, we will be updating it almost daily
from the road. It's great for people to hear information about the band directly
from the band. It's a great way to keep in touch with people, I love it. I'm on
there all the time.
"Mostly I just answer e-mails and fan e-mails, I use the message boards with friends and that kind of thing.'' Schuler continues, "But I have sites that I go to, I check out a lot of other band sites, I go to the Biohazard site, make sure it looks cool and everything's working right. I go to full contact fighting to get the latest on ultimate fighting because I love it.''
Every band has its own approach to writing, Schuler explains Biohazard's, "It happens all different ways, but on this last record in particular, it was like Evan, Billy and myself each wrote four or five songs and just brought them in. It was a different approach for us. We just kept them separate and made them Biohazard songs in the end. We all write, we all write similar stuff. Some of us need to have the other guys there and work through an idea and get feedback from everybody else. Some of us write a complete, entire finished song and bring it in like, 'Here it is.' It happens all differently, there's really no formula for it.
"For me, I tend to do everything for myself,'' Schuler goes on. "I have a little studio in my house where I just record and bring it in and show it to everybody. If they like it, then we'll record it.''
So what does the future hold for this innovative band?
"The U.S. tour is Biohazard, Candaria and Clutch and it starts next week in New York, then California in December,'' says Schuler. "We'll just keep going on stage, maybe we'll do another video. We have a video for the song, 'Sellout,' that's out there right now. It's just a really cheap video that we shot ourselves in our backyard in Brooklyn where our studio is. We're probably going to do another video really soon. And to keep working it, play out there, let people know that Biohazard is still alive, still the best at what we do. Keeping it real and presenting ourselves honestly to show we exist. People have forgotten about us.''
I feel as if I know more about how Schuler and Biohazard think than most fans, but I ask him if he has anything else to tell me.
"I'm so grateful that people are still interested in knowing what we're doing,'' grins Schuler. "It's been a long time, we've been around since 1988 or 1989 and I never thought that in 2001 we'd still be way into our spirit, still making music.''
The dogs begin barking for all they're worth for about the millionth time since we began our chat.
"They're really loud,'' Schuler remarks wearily.
And we laugh. Schuler, because he's happy to be back home with his family, and me, because it's a just different kind of music.
To follow Biohazard's road adventures, visit www.biohazard.com. Also visit www.sanctuaryrecordsgroup.com.
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