Sick of it All: A Lesson in Violence
10-Jan-2013 Words: Brian Giffin
Latest release: Based on a True Story (Century Media/EMI)
Festival website: www.soundwavefestival.com
Sick of it All were only in Australia eight months ago, yet in a few weeks' time they will be returning to feature at the Soundwave Festival. During the intervening period the New York hardcore veterans have at last started work on the follow up to 2010's Based on a True Story. Laughing as our interview is finally connected after two previous attempts - during the second of which the conference company accidentally left hold music playing as we tried to speak to each other - vocalist Lou Koller admits that the album should have probably been completed already but for life getting in the way.
"We were supposed to start an album right away [after the Australian tour], but then my brother's wife gave birth to their first baby so we took a bunch of months off for that and then they had to move so we took another bunch of months off for that," he says. "So we finally started writing."
Koller promises that the next record will be an "expansion" on the last two albums, but that there will also be a sting in the tail influenced by their 2011 compilation set.
"For our 25th anniversary we did a record called Nonstop which was, we re-recorded our favourite Sick of it All songs. And that inspired us to put a little bit more of our old school style in there too," says Koller. "So it's going to have a little more aggression and some old school flavour thrown in for good measure."
While looking back at their own early work has helped to fire the creative process, Sick of it All also find plenty of motivation from the newer breed of acts that probably drew their inspiration from them. Even older bands that convinced Koller to get into hardcore also continue to electrify him.
"New bands, young and up and coming bands, we'll see 'em and I'll be totally inspired to want to go home and write. But it's not like we sit there and say, 'Wow, that new band has such a cool new style we have to copy it'. It's more like, 'They do what they do really well, we should push ourselves to be like that in Sick of it All'," Koller says. "It's also older bands too. Craig (Setari - bass) fills in with the Cro-Mags a lot. I went to see them and they were playing with D.R.I. Watching the Cro-Mags and D.R.I. was so exciting that I wanted to get in the studio to write and record so we could get back out on the road."
The Cro-Mags of course took part in Soundwave last year but were probably better appreciated at the Sidewaves they played opening for Hatebreed and Biohazard. To Lou Koller's eyes, there is a strange and considerable irony in that.
"It was funny to me that the Cro-Mags would be the opening band for that [show], because they influenced Biohazard and Hatebreed. Those bands wouldn't exist without the Cro-Mags. But it was great that fans of Biohazard and Hatebreed got to see the band that inspired them."
As the Cro-Mags influenced Sick of it All at a time when hardcore's popularity was beginning to decline, so Sick of it All has in turn influenced a legion of musicians. Their violent and uncompromising style and stance ushered in New York hardcore's second wave and opened the door for a third and continues to resonate today in the urgent rage of hundreds of underground acts. Yet it isn't just punk and metal bands that hold his band dear, as Koller explains.
"We played the Reading Festival one year with Dashboard Confessional and Coheed & Cambria and some others, and the guy from Dashboard Confessional comes walking up to us and telling me and my brother Pete that Sick of it All was a huge influence on him through his whole teenage life, and he kept that drive that he got from Sick of It All with him," he says. "Here's a guy who just gets up and sings with an acoustic guitar and people just melt, you know? He's telling us that we're a huge influence on him. We're like, 'Holy shit, that's awesome!'"
Koller is also pretty enthusiastic about bringing Sick of it All to the Soundwave Festival. "I hear that Madball's coming this year, which is great," he says, and they have since been named to play a Sidewave show together. He promises that fans will see a different side to Sick of it All this time than on their previous tour.
"This will be more of an across the board type of thing, a mix of a lot of older stuff from the last few albums. We're gonna try and play a variety. Hopefully the fans will love it. We also listen to our fans and whatever they ask for on Facebook or Sickofitall.com. We always take it into account."
His band's last Aussie visit is still pretty fresh in his mind - one very special moment in particular.
"Every show we had a lot of fun and the crowds were amazing. Sydney of course and Melbourne was great, Perth was a lot of fun. I think the highlight," he recalls with some awe, "was going with Agnostic Front out to Bon Scott's grave and just standing there, with Agnostic Front, the band that made me love hardcore... it was just a cool moment."
With Sick of it All still as potent now as they were more than twenty years ago, hardcore fans are sure to be left with some cool moments of their own when they hit town. Lou Koller guarantees it.
"I know there's a million bands at Soundwave, but you've gotta come see us. You ain't gonna be disappointed man. I'm telling you right now!"
Brian is the editor of Loud and the custodian of the Australian Metal Guide.
Sick of it All are playing the sold-out Soundwave Festival and these shows with Madball and Vision of Disorder:
26/2: Manning Bar, Sydney NSW
27/2: The Esplanade Hotel, Melbourne VIC
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