Hardcore king, certified badass jiu jitsu black belt, producer and overall jack of all trades Billy Graziadei hasn't known rest in decades. Yet the unthinkable COVID-19 pandemic allowed one of heavy music's most prolific voices time to be a family man, apart from being a tireless artist. But that doesn't mean BillyBio hasn't been busy.
Days ahead of the release of his sophomore record under his solo project BillyBio (Leaders and Liars, out March 25), Graziadei caught up with Metal Injection for a deep dive into the new record, his long-history with NYC hardcore legends Biohazard, the 30th anniversary (and batshit crazy story behind) their landmark album Urban Discipline, the sophomore record for rap-metal supergroup Powerflo, and much more!
You've always been a guy juggling a ton of different projects. Did the pandemic give you a chance to have a little breather?
I looked at the pandemic as a remission for me, like a break. It was the first time in my whole fatherhood and being a family man that I was home every holiday, every birthday. I didn't miss anything. I was with Toby Morse from H20 yesterday and we were talking and we were laughing. It's to a point where you almost get kicked back out of the house and your wife says to you, "can't you go back on fucking tour already?" I'm anxious and biting at the bit to get back on the road. But I used that time, as everyone else, to better myself to learn, pick up new trades, new interests to give a little bit of time to do things that I always wanted to, or wish I had time for. I was super prolific in the studio between BillyBio, the new Powerflo record, did some Biohazard stuff and then a bunch of new bands that I produce and write for.
I guess your basic question is there ever a break? I don't look at it as a break or needing a break. My whole life, and this is a recent realization, and I know I'm a metal dude and hardcore kid, but in reality I'm an artist. I'm a creative and my whole life is my art and that's what I do. And each little thing, not to belittle them because they're such a major part of my life, but they're like little babies, and things that I create. Under BillyBio I guess it's the culmination of the umbrella of just who I am. I always felt like I was a solo artist with Biohazard, even though we are a band. But I brought in a lot of music that were finished pieces. I have recordings. There is a version of Urban Discipline with demo versions of songs that I wrote, like the way I brought them into the band. For me my whole life is one art expression, I guess. A little bit too deep for us headbangers, but it's reality. It is what it is. Each little thing is a little chapter.
The BillyBio project itself, to me, is the most rooted in heavy metal that you've done. I get the callbacks to some of the greats in the '80s, the real amalgamation of a lot of your different loves. Was that a conscious choice or just how it came out?
You nailed it… I don't focus on any goal. I don't sit down and make a plan and say "I want to make this record heavier than the last or more metal or more groovy." I just let it flow. And there comes a point, though, where the songs just magnetized together and it formed this picture. There's always something boiling inside of me and they kind of bubble to the top and the song pops out like a new baby, you know? And then sometimes it's pure, it's awesome. I feel like it really manifested well and expresses what I have authentically inside. However, there are some songs that are bubbling, almost ready, and maybe they weren't there for Feed the Fire, or they weren't there for the last Biohazard record.
There's always something going on, but like I said, there comes a point where there's certain groups of songs that just magnetize together and it's like "bam! That's the fucking record." It's called Leaders and fucking Liars. I had to leave out the "fucking liars" for marketing. But my point is that moment, I love that. I love all the different areas of creativity, how things come together with the artwork and the energy and the time and the thought that I put it into. Not just the songs and the music, but the artwork, the packaging, the videos. It's all one expression, which kind of leads back to that first question that you ask. It's all one thing. It's like turning yourself inside out a little bit and sharing what you have on the inside, which is a little bit vulnerable, but I've been doing it for so long. And maybe it's like my skin is so thick that when I turn myself inside out the vulnerability and softness is on the outside, but there's a layered armor on the inside, so it doesn't really get to my soul and kill me if the people don't like what I do. But that's not my goal, which ties into the metal side. I just let it flow.
I grew up being in love with so many different types of bands, from punk rock to hardcore to metal and hip hop, and it kind of manifests in different ways. I don't guide it. I don't try to go, "Oh, this is more hip hop. Let's make it more hip hop." I just let it flow. It's real. It's authentic. It's me. And I think the underlying theme is I always try to be this way. It's like I want to take a fucking cable and plug it into my heart and give it right to your ears as authentically and as powerful as I can. That's why I love playing live because you can see my emotions. It's easier to express my words when you can see my vocal expression and my body and posture. On record or vinyl or tape or CD or MP3 you don't have that. So I have to fucking make my voice bleed to try to get that emotion in every way. So I think in this record I hit it in a sense.
As a goal for me, every second record for every band I ever loved spoke to me the most. For Biohazard it was Urban Discipline and a lot of people love all our different records, but that was a pivotal record for us. The second record is when a group of musicians and artists release something and they go on tour. It's when you're on tour, you find out if you really get along, you gel as artists, as people, as humans and you discuss life and you share your opinions, but you play those songs over and over again. The second record keeps that energy that isn't there on the first record for every band. And so for me this record hit it in a lot of ways, but I'm glad that you feel that. I feel it too. I think that the metal-er, heavier side came out more on this record.
You mentioned Urban Discipline, and amazingly that record turns 30 in 2022. Any prevailing thoughts of that record cycle, and era of the band?
It was a very crazy, crazy part of my life. We found something in our life that we'd love to do more than anything else, and that was play music together. It cleaned us up off of drugs and alcohol. It got us off the streets and we were so busy that I was no longer Billy Graziadei from Brooklyn. I was Billy Biohazard. That was who I was.
We were so busy touring. We are on a record label from Long Island and they signed us, a band called The Sweet, which is an old rock band that's pretty cool. And Sheer Terror. It was incredible, cathartic. We were just like, "Wow, we got a fucking record deal!" And our manager who, was our buddy of ours from Brooklyn, he's like "Don't celebrate. Now the hard work starts!" And we were like "What do you mean? We got a record deal!" He's like "That doesn't mean anything. You got to go fucking sell records for them to keep you!" So we went on tour and we just lived in a van, slept on people's floors like we all know about from every fucking band, but our record was nowhere bro. It's very discerning. You go on tour and you're living in a van, you're sharing, you're pooling your money, taking T-shirt money to buy pizza. I remember going to pizza joints and you eat a slice. And then you wait for the family next to you, because they always left two or three slices, and you walk over and when they leave you get the slice! It didn't touch anybody's mouth, but it was free food.
So anyways, our record was nowhere and it was depressing. Like, what the fuck are we here for? Nobody knows who we are. There's no advertisement. So we went to the label after one or two tours. A few of the guys, Danny and Bobby would distract the guys and Evan and I would roll up to the back of the warehouse and we would steal cases of fucking CDs from the record company. And then we'd go on tour and I'd walk into stores and I would say "Hey, we're a band called Biohazard. Here, I have five CDs, can we do a consignment deal? Just keep them here. We're playing tonight, I'll tell everybody the records are here." I never went back (to get the money) and I'm probably owed a lot of money with interest. But the point was it was that DIY ethic and that was always my thing and I still do it. I don't rely on anybody else. I make my own records. I own my own studio. I direct and edit my own videos.
It was never about a business for me. It's about expressing myself and finding ways to navigate the bullshit, to make it work and Urban Discipline came out of that. That part of my career with Biohazard, and with music in general, it catapulted us. It was probably the worst and the best decision of my life. We were stuck on a record label for seven records or something like that. Our record is nowhere to be found, and we're like what the fuck, we just killed our career. So we try to get off the record label and still rob them with free CDs and sell them without collecting the money like idiots. But we ended up making a deal. We found this lawyer who did the best he could, but we found him, I swear, on the back of a matchbox in Times Square, and he negotiated a deal to get off the label for like 15 grand or something like that or 12 grand, I can't remember, but at the time it was a lot of money. And even now if somebody offered me that amount of money, I'd be like "Wow, cool!" But at the time it was almost like "Wait a minute. Hey, Bob, how many zeros is that?!" So we're like how the fuck? We can't do this.
So we ended up striking a deal with this merchandise company, and I would never give this advice to any upcoming band. Hold onto your merch rights. Don't sell them. But we needed money upfront. We struck a deal. It was the worst fucking deal of our career because we were so desperate and we were so unknown that we needed this money to buy off the record label, so we sold the rights. And then while we were making more and more noise with Biohazard all through Urban Discipline, State of the World Address, Mata Leão, we were signed to this shitty merchandise deal making pennies on the dollar to recoup this money. We didn't make any money because we were on this shitty deal. But it's like I said, that was the worst and the best decision because if I didn't make that bad decision our career would have been over and not starting music for fame and fortune was the only reason we were able to make that decision because it was all about the music. We didn't care.
Now we get off the deal and we had a little bit, a couple of grand extra. We had no record deal. We had [four] songs. We had "Urban Discipline", "Punishment", "Shades of Grey", "Black and White and Red All Over." Four songs, and those songs became like the strong staples of Urban Discipline. We went on tour and self-financed a tour with The Exploited, a punk rock band from Scotland who I loved and we toured the whole country. We played those songs every night and continued writing. We came home and got a deal with Roadrunner, thanks to Scott Koenig, a great friend who just passed away. Rest in peace. We started our career pretty much then with Roadrunner and Urban Discipline. And it was a great experience.
The people at Roadrunner, it was like a refreshing breath of air. The label was filled with people that loved music and there were a couple of guys at the first record label that did, but the owner of the label was all purely business. He wasn't a music fan. But Roadrunner was just filled with fans of music, and we felt like we were kin with them and they were brethren in the music scene. They were at shows when they worked behind their desk and that was an awesome vibe and an experience and start of a career.
2022 marks 35 years of Biohazard. You've been pretty upfront about the fact that Biohazard is still active and there could be new music on the way. Can you give us a status report on Biohazard and any potential new Biohazard material?
You know, we talk often. I was with Evan at a memorial for my friend Scott, who I just mentioned and it was great to see him. Danny and Bobby and I talk quite often, and during the pandemic there were a few people that wanted to play bass for us. And then during the pandemic we were all discussing and had a heart to heart. And basically the outcome was like: life's too short. If we don't take away anything from this pandemic, it's like if we're going to do something, let's put the band back together again. I'm the only member of the band that's still active in music. I know the guys do things here and there, but it's what I do with what I love. It's me, so I'm going to keep going.
With Biohazard, it's always been a vibe thing with us. It's not like we sit down and say "Hey, in 2023 let's make an album. Let's go on tour and release the album mid-tour. In a business sense that'd be great. If I had the business sense that I have now I would have been way more successful. But like I said, that was never my goal. It's still not my goal. My goal is music and art first. I probably won't be recognized for anything awesome until I'm dead and gone, but it's OK. I have other means to pay the bills and I have a great wife who supports me.
Biohazard is kind of like a vibe thing. It's like when the planets align and shit lines up we do it. There's been different crazy twists and turns of our history, and I would imagine there will be in the future, but that's life. The pandemic was the fucking craziest curveball anyone ever thought would come, you know?
I have to close off by asking about Powerflo. It's always been such a fun project to me. You teased earlier about a sophomore record. Anything you can share?
Funny you should ask. Yes, we're finishing up the second record now and it's fucking killer, bro. And I got to say it's kind of like having two girlfriends and you don't know who you want to spend Friday night with, you know? I have to juggle. What I want to do eventually is tour together. Fred, my drummer, Frederick Rios, a phenomenal drummer, he plays in both bands, so him and I are pretty tight.
Sen, when we originally started Powerflo, the plan was that we both juggle Powerflo with Biohazard and Cypress Hill. Cypress Hill just dropped a new record, my new record is coming out, so now it's become juggling BillyBio and Cypress Hill with Powerflo. So you've got to just pick your passion and we're able to kind of fluently make it all work. And the timing just seems to work out. It is what it is and you deal with it. But I'm looking forward to sharing that. It's not done exactly yet, but it's pretty dope. Stay tuned for more information. I'd love to get on with you and talk to you about that when that's ready.