Sick Of It All Vocalist Lou Koller Discusess New Album "Based On A True Story"
For more than two decades Sick Of It All has been championing the New York hardcore scene, sticking on track to release a new full-length album every few years. After four years of touring the band recently set loose "Based On A True Story," their latest fist-pumping, mosh-inducing foray into hardcore. Commenting on the new album, vocalist Lou Koller stated: "This one is definitely a combination of all the stuff we’ve done in the past. I think we’ve matured enough that it’s more focused and our writing is way better. We’ve written more memorable songs..."
Lou spoke with me about the lyrics on the new album, the recording of the music video for "Death or Jail," their recent tour dates with unlikely allies AFI, and his love of Manowar. These topics and more can be found in the transcription of the interview below.
xFiruath: Is Sick Of It All the only band you guys are involved with right now?
Lou: It’s just Sick Of It All for me. I do guest spots on other band’s records and I’ve done that for years. The only guy in the band who works another band right now is our bass player, Craig. He plays Bass for the Cro-Mags whenever they need him and he has free time.
xFiruath: It’s been four years since the last album “Death To Tyrants.” What’s been going on with the band since then?
Lou: A lot of touring. We did almost two years off of “Death To Tyrants.” Around that time we were thinking about getting into the studio to write because we had a bunch of ideas but then we released a tribute record. We didn’t expect it, but we got a bunch of calls for tours so we toured off that record for another year and a half almost. We finally had to say “enough” and get back into the studio.
xFiruath: Your new album is “Based on a True Story.” Tell me a bit about the new album and what’s different about it from your last release?
Lou: This one is definitely a combination of all the stuff we’ve done in the past. I think we’ve matured enough that it’s more focused and our writing is way better. We’ve written more memorable songs I think. We loved the production we had on “Death To Tyrants” with Tue Madsen. We said we wanted to work with him next time, but he wanted us to come to Denmark because he said he could do it even better from the studio he was more familiar with, and I think it shows. ‘Death To Tyrants” has got great production, but this one just sounds ten times bigger and has a more “in your face” sound.
xFiruath: What’s going on with the lyrics on this album?
Lou: It’s a little different now. “Death To Tyrants” is more political, but this one is more introspective. That’s why we used the title “Based on a True Story.” It’s about stuff that happened to us growing up and things that we’ve experienced, both good and bad.
xFiruath: I just saw that new video for “Death or Jail.” How did the recording go?
Lou: We went up to Boston to do some shows around St. Patrick’s Day. A friend of ours who did our last video said he had a real easy and fun concept. We did the day after our two shows and we went into this warehouse he had booked for us. We just had at it. I got smashed against a wall by an actor playing a cop for like three hours. That was fun.
xFiruath: I liked the shots inside the car with everybody screaming the lyrics.
Lou: They said “You ever see Cops? Just act like that while you are in the car.”
xFiruath: Not too long ago I spoke with another New York hardcore band, Killing Time, and their guitarist Carl Porcaro was telling me about how the scene there seems to come and go in waves. He also mentioned how there has been a lot of violence plaguing some of those cycles. What are your thoughts on where the New York hardcore scene is now compared to where it used to be?
Lou: We’ve stuck it out. Killing Time was around and then took a hiatus or broke up for years. For us it never really went in waves. I see it going in waves more in the interest of the mainstream. Magazines for certain periods will suddenly interview hardcore bands and then they’ll let it fade out before coming back. They do it with everything, with whatever will keep readers interested I guess. I’d agree with him though that there have been cycles of violence plaguing the scene. We’ve been through it constantly and you have to pick and choose what kind of bands you are going to play with. If you are going to play with bands that promote that kind of thing then you are going to get that kind of thing at your show. We were friends with bands that have questionable backgrounds but we’ve always told them we don’t want any stupidity at our shows. To us, hardcore has nothing to do with that. Hardcore is all open mindedness to us.
xFiruath: This was a few years back now, but tell me a bit about getting your song “Injustice System” on Grand Theft Auto IV.
Lou: One of the guys who works for that company, and was in charge of the music, wanted to make it an authentic mid-80’s New York City. And of course they had the mid-80’s hip hop. But you can’t talk about the ‘80s in New York without New York hardcore. The director of the video game was like “Well, you live through it, you choose the bands.” He did a really great favor for all of those bands, because it’s another way to expose your music. I thought it was really cool that they kept authentic by putting some New York hardcore in there. We kind of wanted to re-record the song, but they wanted the one we did in the ‘80s. We’re not embarrassed by those songs, but I think the performances could be a lot better since we know more of what we’re doing now. Back then we were just going into the studio for the first time.
xFiruath: What is your tour schedule looking like to support the new album?
Lou: We’re doing a couple of shows. We’ve got our record release show on June 11th in New York. After that a bunch of festivals in Europe and I think by early Fall we’ll do a full U.S. tour.
xFiruath: You guys had a U.K. tour with AFI, which seems like an odd combination as they really aren’t the same style of music as Sick Of It All. How did that tour go?
Lou: That was great. We’ve been friends with them for decades. When they started out they were like a California hardcore band. They were more on the punk side that was faster and aggressive and they’ve progressed into what they are now. Even when they were changing we were still friends with them and we took them out on the road. They really appreciated that and they just returned the favor. They wanted to show these kids another side of their influences. We were lucky enough that they still respect us and love our music. Playing for their audience was great because it’s a totally different audience. Out in Europe they still have a large punk following, which surprised me, so it wasn’t that big of a stretch. We got to play for some really young kids. I think in Scotland the age group was like 13 to 29. These 13 year old kids who had never seen hardcore before were just blown away we came on. It was fun.
xFiruath: One more quick tour question here. I saw that you had a South American tour lined up with Terror that got canceled. What happened with that?
Lou: Me and my wife are having our first baby, any week now. Instead of doing a full tour in the summer in South America, which would be about two and a half weeks, we’ve postponed it to early next year so I can spend more time at home with the family. Instead of that we’re doing just two more shows in Europe. I thought it was funny that I got an email from some guy in South America saying that “I guess you’re going for the big money in Europe.” I’m laughing because we’re doing two shows. If we played a tour of South America we’d make a hell of a lot more money. This is just so I can spend time with my newborn daughter. That’s the only reason. Terror are friends of ours so I’m sorry we can’t do it with, but I think H20 is going to do it with Terror now through South America. I think when we go, it looks like it’s going to be us and Comeback Kid.
xFiruath: You’ve been to quite a few different countries touring. Is there anywhere you haven’t gone yet that you’d like to hit?
Lou: We had to cancel a tour of Korea about five years ago and we’ve never gone to there. China has also been asking us to come, so China and the Philippines and places like that. We’ve gone through Eastern Europe, which was amazing and we have to get back to them. There’s three places I’d really like to go we haven’t played, which is Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Alaska. They are closer to home, so it’s like we can go halfway around the world but we can’t go to Hawaii for some reason. I’d love to play Alaska.
xFiruath: What have you been rocking to lately?
Lou: A whole bunch of stuff. There’s a band from New York called Tombs. I like that new album “Winter Hours.” I’ve been playing that a lot in my car. It’s really heavy, it’s Helmet meets Neurosis kind of stuff. I like the new Cancer Bats. I’ve been listening to Maximum Penalty a lot. Believe it or not I still like metal and I love Manowar.
xFiruath: Hey there’s nothing wrong with that. Everybody needs a little Manowar every now and again. Any parting words about the new album?
Lou: We’re just hoping people like it. We are really happy with it, sound-wise and song-wise. We’re hoping people pick up on it.
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