Sick of It All is a hardcore punk band formed in 1986. The band is one of the most influential band in the history of hardcore punk, belonging to the modern hardcore scene, for all the good reasons, the SOIA can be considered as “godfathers of the world’s HC scene. “Based on a True Story” is their ninth studio album, released April 20, 2010 via Century Media Records. Sick of It All are: Lou Koller (vocals), Pete Koller (guitar), Craig Setari (bass), Armand Majidi (drums).
A few weeks ago, Sick of It All, performed at New Age Club in Roncade (Treviso-Italy), sharing the stage with another NY HC icon, Madball. I had just finished interviewing Freddy from Madball. For many reasons, before leaving to Roncade, I hadn’t a chance to fix the interview with Sick Of It All, but their tourmanager kindly asked me to wait while he went to see if the band is available or doing the soundcheck. Exactly after 2 minutes, Armand (Majidi) entered the backstage, the drummer of Sick Of It All, and I said smiling: “Hi Tarja, I’m Armand and I’m here for the interview” 🙂 Very Good! We sat down on the sofa, where only moments before I had talked with Freddy.
Thank you Tarja! In fact, I am particularly excited that this time, the Italian shows hit the weekend. You know, many times we’ve come to Italy, it has been in the middle of the week. And our promotors have always said, that it’s a shame that we couldn’t do concerts at the weekend, also for the public, but this time it actually happens. And this is a very good thing!
So this time, you’ll have maybe some time to go around to see places and relax, as tourists?
Well, not really. We play every night, so we don’t have time to see the cities where we stay. And unfortunately tonight we play in the industrial area and not in the city center. So, we have no chance to go around to visit it.
Many years of Career … and you are always the godfathers of NY HC … How does it feel?
Well, it feels … strange, in a sense, if you think we’re playing for so long. No one expected it at all, you know, 25 years later, we are still doing this. Especially when I think the beginning, all this was so small and humble, as if it were a part of a community. And it’s strange that the other bands faded away, and we stayed around …I think it must be a kind of destiny. Well, we always acknowledge, that before us, there were people, and we like the idea that also the public acknowledges that there were people before us, speaking of NY HC movement… Bands like Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags, Bad Rains, and each generation before, to beat the way for us. And if we go back to the ’70s, we find many punk-rock and heavy metal bands, which have inspired us a lot. You know, it would be nice to know if people were interested to search all this music history, back to earlier times. You know, I don’t really consider us as godfarthers, as if WE had started all this!!! no, it’s not like that, and therefore this “godfathers of HC” seems so strange to me. You know, we have only begun to emulate all the bands we loved, so we didn’t start something new. The only thing that is incredible is that 25 years later we are still around to play.
You know, we’ve always wanted to highlight that we are a reality-based-band. We never touch a theme that is made of fantasies. You recognize a true HC because it tells true stories … and this is Sick Of It All at100%, as so it’s also our new album.
The CBGB’s no longer exists … do you think the world of punk / HC, feels this lack?
Well, CBGB’s was one of those important icon places, not only for the hardcore, but also punk and other music scenes. You know, for example, Talking Heads came out of there, as well as many other bands … Blondie, Patti Smith, Cro-Mags, and many many others. It represented a huge change in the music scene for many years. It was owned by one man, Hilly Kristal, the entire lifetime of CBGB’s. Hilly decided what was going on in there, you know, there was no corporate control, everything was so simple. But today … you have to pay lots of taxes and bureaucracy and all this stuff, and it sucks because everything has become much more expensive for the average person … and also more complicated, because when you make a show, the difference between the band’s fee and the final ticket-price becomes enormous, so that eventually, the band doesn’t see the money, but only those who sit behind the desk, even if it is the band doing the work on stage… and that’s why the CBGB’s, for us, was a real organic and down-to-earth place…Unfortunately, CBGB’s is now history. However, one thing I’d like to say, and this is my personal opinion… if I were “Hilly,” the owner of the place, I’d given more credit to hardcore. You know, even though the HC shows were the biggest business he ever did in that place, he always treated pretty badly the HC bands. That’s why, when I hear people talk about CBGB’s and that it was fantastic, I always speak up: “Well you know what, that guy, Hilly, didn’t really respect HC as it deserves …. it was HC that kept open those doors for lot of years”.
Well, I think that helped us, in a sense. You know, we never had any main-stream success, that is what keeps us always hungry and looking to make some steps to move forward and open ourselves to new audiences, it’s maybe one of the motivations that keeps us still going. You know, if we had had a “bigtime” commercial success already 20 years ago, and if today we’d still do this but on a much lower level, perhaps we wouldn’t be strong enough to keep the band going and Sick of it All would now be completely another band. So I think to maintain a constant level for so long as we did, it really helps us to move forward.
In the video “Death Or Jail” you have problems with the police … I’m sure the police, in recent years, has been there hanging around … but still today, don’t they leave you in peace?
Oh, haha, it’s just a concept for the video. we are talking about when you’re young … we represent our friends who were caught in bad situations with the cops. You know, the song was written for our friends, with whom we grew up together, but some of them ended up in a dead-end situation. In the song we’re asking what could it be, what force it is, and WHY the life guides somebody in that direction, to the point where you have only two choices left, death or jail. It seems that every generation has the same types of problems, in a different ways.
Many bands have recorded your songs, what does it mean for you? … that they owe you a lot, or what do you think?
Yes, it feels great, especially when they sound better than us, really! .. well, I was very pleased when we did the tribute album “Our Impact Will Be Felt” (2007), to celebrate our twentieth year back then. And the songs that, for example, Rise Against (“Built to Last”) and Ignite (“Cease Fire”) did, they put a lot of melodies in the songs, and I really liked that. To hear the versions of other great bands and how they see our songs, it’s really a pleasure. And you know, if we are not really godfarthers, but I think we’ve been maybe a sort of a catalyst for other HC bands to get into this genre … but as said, if you’re emulating songs of Sick of It All, it really means that you’re emulating Agnostic Front and Cro-Mags and everything that came before us. For this reason, I can not take all the credits.
Tell me one thing, Armand, on stage you never lose a hit … how can you have so much energy? … but are you a human being? LOL
ahahahahahahahahah … Well, yes, at least I feel like a human being …but you know, there was a moment when I was struggling to move forward, but today I’m still here hitting. Sometimes I wonder how I can play the songs even though I feel otherwise. And you know, I drink lots of beer, and there have been days that I’ve felt the effect, eh …And when it happened that we’d a concert the next day, I was dragging me on stage and sat behind the drums, asking myself, how can I’m able to make it. … but I’ve always managed to do it, however it’s a mystery to me where my energy comes from? You know, I’m also a vegetarian, so I have my “green food” to eat and I try to avoid fast food at all costs, especially before the shows. .. then another thing, when I’m on the road, I never do the exercises with my drums before the shows, I’m too worried that they could take away energy that I need on stage. And yes, I take my vitamins before I go on stage. Last year I started taking some “extra greens” and supplements, which dissolve easily in the blood-stream and I feel stronger for it. It ‘s a very powerful boost of energy, it’s clean and has no crash afterwards, but it’s as if I had eaten a good and rich meal. That’s it!
Well, hahaha … every time we meet with Madball, we play a game called “Mafia” LOL You know, is a card game, each player picks up a card that says what role you have to do. We are usually a group of eight people, two of them do the mafia-guys, and the others must find out their identity …this game sometimes gets really crazy … hahaha it’s really fun! for example last night, I didn’t go to bed before 8:30 this morning, because we played “mafia” up till 6.30 LOL But this is total fun and relaxing way to spend some time together, because we all put our passion in it.
Hahahah, I must try it one day…. The next question is a must, you know, I’m of Finnish origins, and I heard that you were there some time ago. How was it?
But really, you’re from Finland? Great! Yes, in fact we have just been to Helsinki, and it was a great show! And you know what, you have very good HC bands coming out of Finland. We played with 3 bands, and we were very impressed on all of them! Finland seems to be a place where people don’t feel obligated to be a total imitation of something or that they should fit in a certain style, but they put their own stamp on the music. And each band that played with us was completely different from the next one. It was a great show, and later, we were saying among us: “Hey, these bands have something special! We hope they’ll be recognized also outside the country.” You know, I always had the idea that the band should be original and they should always try to put their own stamp on stuff.
Armand, before I let you go, the last question … Now the word is yours, what would you say to your Italian fans and those, like me and my friends, who drive up hundreds of miles to come see your show?
You know, I hear all the time that people have done a long way to see our show, it’s really incredible! We as a band, appreciate it a lot! Thinking about all these efforts that people do to support us, is truly amazing! You know, there’s an old saying: “Without the fans the band wouldn’t exist.” And it’s totally true. It ‘amazing, especially in Europe, where people aren’t giving up a certain kind of music. In America, instead, seems to be a much shorter attention towards HC. You know, here in Europe people are still coming to us, even 20 years later. We meet each time people that were at our first European show …!!! And this kind of loyalty is something very rewarding and fullfilling for a musician, it’s an incredible support we get …
Armand, now I think they’re calling you … but thank you very much for this chat. And needless to say, I cannot wait to see you on stage tonight … split it and have fun!
Tarja, we’ll do it, I promise, Ciaoooo, see you there … 🙂
Audio Service: Lorenzo Armanetti – Photos: Alessio D’Anca, Matteo Lavagna, Sick of it All Myspace – Black-and-white photos: Dinetta