Interview with Craig Locicero (guitars)
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: October 9, 2011
It's been roughly 21 awfully long years since the Frisco thrashers Forbidden last paid a visit to Finland, doing sort of a mini-tour with their friends in Death Angel in January 1990, consisting of three dates all in all. In other words, it was great to see them booked to Tuska Festival that was exceptionally arranged at the end of July, in Helsinki, Finland.
Forbidden reunited permanently in 2007 after being on hiatus for many years. The reunited Forbidden's comeback album, titled "Omega Wave", was released in 2010 on German label Nuclear Blast Records, also clearly proved the band was hungry for doing new stuff, and ready to take the world again to bring their live shows all around to as many countries and cities worldwide as possible.
I caught up with guitarist Craig Locicero at the backstage shortly after their well-done performance at Tuska Festival, and Craig wanted to shed some light on the current activities of the band, briefly going back in his mind to the past times of Forbidden – plus talking about Demonica, Chuck Schuldiner, ‘Not-As-Big-4' – among other things.
Luxi: It's been quite a long time since you played last time here in Finland, 20 years or something, uh? So, how did you feel about playing here at Tuska festival today?
Craig: Well, first of all it's a huge, huge honor to play here – and it's an even bigger honor to be put on the big stage and we could certainly tell that a lot of people didn't know who we were. You have to earn them, one at a time. You have to make your way through and convince them. I think by the end of the set we'd done that. Even the people back by the drinking tent. There was a lot of them sitting there looking at us. I looked at them a few times and pointed them... yeaaah... we're looking at each other! But yeah, it was fun man. I love the festival atmosphere and I thought today was a really, really good one.
Luxi: You did sort of mini-tour here in Finland in early 90's with Death Angel. Can you still remember any of that tour you did back then?
Craig: It was mini for you, but it was two months for us! (*laughs*) We were out for a long time. I used to drink a lot, so I have a hard time recalling most of it. (*laughs*) I remember "Twisted into Form" had not come out and we were playing a lot of "Twisted into Form" and the crowd was like "what are you doing?", you know. It was still a really great tour. I remember one of the first things I saw was somebody handed me a big bag of blood deer meat. Because we were in the forest, and the guy walked out of the forest, just like that! Walked out of the forest, "here's a bag!" Wow, fuck! But they were great shows; I do remember some really good shows. People were crazy and I got introduced to things like Jagermeister, stuff like that. I'd never had Jagermeister (*then all of a sudden, Andrew Sneap walks in*) It's Mr. Andrew Sneap – what's up Mr. Andrew Sneap? Hey, you got your Judas Grease "Gin After Gin" shirt on? (*laughs*) That's "Gin After Gin"! We have all kinds of pranks... sorry about that. I love these guys, by the way.
Luxi: Ha-ha, alright. So, Thrash is back, but so is Forbidden. What's up with Forbidden camp anyway? It's been kinda hard to read any news from you guys as your official Myspace site hasn't been updated that actively as of lately...
Craig: No, Myspace has been pretty much abandoned by everybody, not just us. So everything is pretty much at Facebook as far as updates stuff. I mean, Forbidden has been extremely busy. The last month we were on tour in the United States. We toured the States twice, did the cruise (70000Tons of Metal that is), came out to Norway, went to South America, and this is the beginning of a huge tour. We start here, then we go next week to Australia and soon after that we go to the UK for Bloodstock, then a Czechoslovakian festival, then we go home for a week and a half, then we go to Europe for an extensive European tour. Demonica is gonna open and Communic is gonna support. Mark and I are gonna be pulling double duty, which should be intense. I've never done that so I don't know what it's gonna be all about. It's gonna be tough. Luckily the Demonica material is much easier to play than the Forbidden stuff that's really hard. Just got to put a lot into it, you know.
Luxi: "Omega Wave" that was your 5th album in 13 years since "Green", came out last year – and it's been pretty well received among the Metal fans all over the world. Have you had any time in your hands to start writing and demoing any new stuff since the recording sessions of "Omega Wave"?
Craig: No, not yet. Everybody is really waiting for the next inspiration to strike because there's so much to do to support this album and I just want it to be as good as "Omega Wave", and "Omega Wave" had the luxury of being a fresh slate, so we had years of not doing it. I came into it, I sat with Mark originally and our catchy phrases were "embrace the Metal", "let it be, just have fun with it" and we did. I want to have the same exact feeling going into this one – and it won't be the same because we'll have all this experience behind us, but we're not gonna try to write anything next time, just like we didn't try to write anything this time, we just embraced the metal as I said, and it's gonna be fucking great eventually. We're gonna start with a fresh new slate and we're gonna write a new album but I don't see that needing to happen this minute.
Luxi: What are those most important key factors in Forbidden's music in your opinion that make Forbidden to sound like Forbidden?
Craig: Russ Anderson. A: Number one. His voice separates us from everybody else. Nobody sings like Russ, nobody's got five tools like Russ. He can do everything, other singers can't. But he also has to really take care of his voice, that's the only other thing you know. Musically we can write what we write because we know we have the pallet here and then Russ can do whatever. So when him and I sit and work on this stuff, it's like you can do anything. There's times when Russ is like "I don't know if I can do that... Yes you can!" And he does! It's amazing to watch happen in the studio. Sometimes he'll walk in, not sure if he's able to pull it off and he fucking does it and does it better than I ever dreamed. I think that "Omega Wave" is the first album that shows everything he can do. It's the first one! There's always a glimpse here, a little touch there, but he's always rushed in and out on this album because I actually have to take the production into consideration and I'll say "Russ, this is where we'll spend our time."
Luxi: Does he train his voice at all?
Craig: No dude, he doesn't really prepare at all! I mean, he prepares, but he doesn't like warm up, he doesn't... he just goes out there and blows it out. The amount of talent... You compare that to people who have to do all these things, the amount of talent he's got is fucking ridiculous. If he actually warmed up and did other things on top of that? Oh my god, I don't even know what he could do!
Luxi: The ‘Big 4' has got a lot of media publicity since they started playing concerts together again. But as the ‘Big 4' is old news these days already, how about ‘Not-As-Big-Four', I mean, Forbidden, Testament, Death Angel and Exodus joining their forces and start touring around the globe. When is that gonna happen?
Craig: It will be eventually, but I think the most important thing for all of us with families is to try to find a way to do that and have everybody come out of it with a lucrative edge, you know? It's hard because the guys on top of that are gonna be Death Angel and Exodus and they're gonna have the ability to take as much money as they need to for their fucking thing, and it should be more, but if you add us and Death Angel, a few more hundred here, a few more hundred there... You put all of us together... It's not that our fans are all the same, but if you put us together, it's gonna be ridiculous because Exodus, Testament and Death Angel have been around and around. We're new again: We're coming back. Like you saw today, a lot of people don't know who we are; we're earning them all over again. If we did something like that, it would be wonderful. I just don't know if the powers-that-be won't fuck that up, you know. Eventually it might happen, and I want it too, but those powers-that-be could definitely come into the whole thing and just piss all over it because we're not gonna lay down and not take anything for that, we all deserve to be paid to do things like that.
Luxi: I personally think a tour like that would draw a lot of people for sure...
Craig: It would be great. In a fantasy world it's great. Everyone just has to absolutely find a way to make it work. Which would mean the guys on top would have to give up something that would be hard for them to give up, and I can't blame them. That's what we're looking at eventually, hopefully one day it'll all come together.
Luxi: Both Mark Hernandez and you also have Demonica that will also do European tour this August and September, Forbidden and Communic also being a part of the same bill. How hard is it actually to play in two bands, especially when it comes to touring together with both Forbidden and Demonica?
Craig: I think we'll be fine, but I think some nights are gonna be physical as fuck and they're gonna be really hard. It's a great honor to have that come together and do that, and it's really cool for the guys in Forbidden to let that happen you know. Because there's three others guys, and we asked first. We didn't just go and do it. It's something we ran by everybody. So I think it's gonna be cool as fuck, and everybody likes Hank, everybody loves Klaus, and they met Marc Grabowski when we went at his house in Denver and he's a great guy; the love is there you know. It's just gonna be super physical (*laughs*) it's gonna be fucking physical as fuck!
Luxi: So, you've never done this type of thing before, sharing a stage twice during one night?
Craig: Never, never, I've never done it! And here I am at 42. I'll be fine, but yeah some days will kick more ass than others. I kick more of our ass I mean.
Luxi: Forbidden has probably played hundreds of gigs since they day the band has existed, so instead of asking what's the best show you've ever done with the band, I am gonna ask can you recall what's actually the most bizarre and thought-provoking gig you have ever done with this band – and when and where it happened?
Craig: Thought-provoking... Well, my thoughts are always provoked. I'm always thinking. There's definitely been some that have been a little bit weird. The weirdest shows we did were in Finland, those early shows were fucking weird. There's that radish shit. What's that stuff? What's that all about? There's some stuff I've never seen since then. I don't drink like that anymore so...
Luxi: You got your debut album out, titled "Demonstrous" last year, which was received pretty well also around the world. Have you had any time to work with any new stuff since then?
Craig: It was on Massacre and what's great is that we're free, and I think that we proved that we can write a really cool record. I think the next one will come out on a better label, should be Nuclear Blast. It's funny because they didn't like it at first. They didn't like the demo, but they loved the record. Hank's just got to be very patient, because Mark and I intend on committing some Demonica time next year.
Luxi: Have you been writing new stuff with Demonica?
Craig: No, I didn't even write anything besides my parts on the last album. It was really Hank's vision. Hank and Klaus really brought us a bunch of stuff and then Mark did his drums, and then I did my parts, so I didn't have any input in the melodies, the vocals, which is a big part of what I do. I had nothing to do with that. But I liked the end result. It was fun, it was care-free and it was fucking piss-in-vinegar better; it was cool, very metal. That album is was about a broken heart. If you can't read through that, Klaus went through hell. And that's what Demonica is; it's Klaus' journey through fucking hell. I really love it for that.
Luxi: What about other members of Forbidden; do they have any side projects just like Mark and you?
Craig: Steve's got his thing going on, his S&S project. Every time he gets a chance, he went home and put out... (*talking to Steve*) Your new album is pretty much arranged –ready to go right?
Steve: We're recording that right now.
Craig: Yeah, yeah he plays with Ron. He actually borrowed from him originally. There's some cross-pollinating. Which is cool; this kind of thinking is progressive and I go over to my right, and I look at these dudes over here and they all fucking play in a hell of bands and they all know each other. Last night I was sitting with Michael and Sharlee, and the keyboardist from fucking Spiritual Beggars too is in Opeth and everything and I'm like "we got 12 bands between us!" (*laughs*) We had a lot of fucking bands, we had really good time hanging out last night, just talking about music and I hope one day to be able to bring Spiralarms that was in Spiritual Beggars and go on a good rock tour. That would be fucking awesome. But that's like down the road and through the woods, you know.
Luxi: If we go back in time – like 10 years, Forbidden was a part of the "Thrash of the Titans" festival in 2001, which was sort of a co-benefit concert for two Chucks: Chuck of Testament and Chuck of Death (sadly we already know what happened to Chuck of Death). Do you know if there have been any plans to organize similar events any time soon for a benefit of some seriously sick musician?
Craig: I have no idea. If that ever comes up, if god – whatever you believe in – forbid, somebody I care about a lot, that we all care about, gets anything like that... But you know, we're all getting older, so you know the older you get the more people drop like flies and that's just the way it works. It's funny because people don't really see death like that, you get depressed about people dying, but if you're fortunate, you watch people dying around you. That's part of your fortune, you know. Look at it that way, you look at it as some depressing moment... You know, we're so fortunate to be breathing, all of us. Hopefully no one will ever have any real sickness or a serious disease that we know about, but it just happens. What are you gonna do about it? Chuck is an ass-kicker, he fucking is strong. Chuck Billy ripped a hole through that thing and fucking crumbled it up and threw it away. Chuck Schuldiner wasn't physically that strong and it was in the brain too, so it was a lot harder. That breaks my heart. The whole thing with Chuck Schuldiner really, really breaks my heart. He was on the brink of doing what he wanted to do. Death was what he was doing, Death is what people know him as, but he really wanted to get into melodic stuff. He really wanted to break out and have a singer and just be able to blow songs up and play leads... I'll do my Chuck: "I really don't wanna do all this fucking screaming." And he really didn't, you know. He was true blue metal fan.
Luxi: Actually this year in December, it'll be 10 years since Chuck died. I was wondering if it would be a good idea for Metal bands to do some shows around at that time, on December 13th – and play cover versions of Death songs, just to show some tribute to Chuck.
Craig: I don't know if it lends itself to Russ as much, but we certainly could do it if we could find a way to make it happen. I'll tell you... I'll segue to the band we just got off tour with, and I wear their shirt today: Revocation. They toured with us, they're from Massachusetts. They sound like Death. They're a fucking really good band and people compare them a lot to Death and their guitar player is kind of a cross between Jeff Waters from Annihilator and Dimebag Darrell. When he steps into a solo, he really takes you there dude. Fuck, they're great, so I really had to give a plug for Revocation because a lot of people compare them to Death and if anyone asked us to do something, I'd say go get those guys, because they're fucking great at that, you know. But I would do anything for Chuck and his family and his mother, if they ever ask me if I could give something, I'd give them my hoodie that I had of "Individual Thought Patterns" I had when I played with them. I'd give them that to auction off or do whatever they want to. It's thin, it's like thinned out now, but yeah, I would do anything for that family. Chuck treated me great, I've never had a problem with him. Not many guys can say that because... he was tough on people. He wasn't tough on me though, he was a real sweetheart to me and that's how my friendship with Gene Hoglan cultivated from that – he's like my brother. Ever since then Gene and I have been really, really close.
Luxi: As you have noticed, this new generation of Metal heads has found Thrash again – and kids are forming new Thrash bands that try to capture some of that same vibe that many 80's Thrash bands had back in the day. Do you find it somehow surprising that Thrash has come back in such a strong and big way, many of once disbanded Thrash bands (Exodus, Death Angel, Artillery, etc.) as well as new Thrash bands getting so much recognition as they do nowadays?
Craig: It has because they're trying to relive something that was in the past and this comes up a bunch. And honestly you can never go backwards that far and do exactly the same thing because the influences that everybody have are different. I've talked about this a lot because people ask me this all the time, and it was a really short list of stuff we listened to, or not listened to. We listened to everything – we listened to The Beatles, The Black Flag, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Saxon, it goes on... What we listened to was vast, but our outside influences of what we were writing about was very small: Nuclear war, god, the devil, what else, you know, what else! It's fucking small dude. These days the Internet has opened up this wide can of worms of things you can write about, but yet their influences of what they're into now is so small, it's like a tiny window of what we listened to when we were playing. Not the shit that influenced us when we were playing. So it's really weird little things, it's not anyone's fault man, it's just like... you can't reproduce what we did because you don't have what we had and the simplicity of what was out there. It's a very minimal bunch of stuff that crept into our brains that made the music we did. And these days there's so much and people are so concerned with being so precise. Fuck precise, this is Thrash Metal! If it's true Thrash Metal, there's a clink and a clank and a fucking (*makes squeaky sounds*), all these noises that happened because Thrash Metal was never perfect. I can go back to my Exodus shows, my Venom shows, my Slayer shows... That shit was never perfect. But was there attitude? Fuck yeah! It was a different thing, dude. Nowadays people are so worried about every note "oh, god it's gotta be perfect"... If I did that dude, I'd be fucked because I'd be mad at myself every night. If I fuck up, I fuck up...
Luxi: Can you name some new Thrash bands that have impressed you in one way or the other?
Craig: Well, not necessarily all Thrash. We just got off tour with Havok which was really good, they're out of Denver and they remind me of us because they don't give a fuck. I like that! (*laughs*) You guys are cool, you don't give a shit! Evile is a really cool band, I really like them a lot but they do give a fuck and they're very precise, so it's not a bad thing but I want them to let loose more. I like Evile a lot, great songs; they have the potential to be a really great band. There are too many to really just sit back and name, and not enough great ones to sit back and name either. There are many good ones, but it's an intangible in Thrash Metal that's just like... That's why we're back, I'm more than happy to bring that "fuck you!" back to the whole thing. That's what we are, this "melodic, fuck you!" band, basically.
Luxi: So, how will the life of Forbidden continue from here, now when you have played at the Tuska festival?
Craig: Australia next week, spending quite a few days there for a bunch of shows, something like nine days. Then we come right back to Europe and go to the UK, Czechoslovakia, then we come back for a week and a half off, then we go back for our European tour then we go back for the United States tour, then we come back for another European tour – those will be both supporting other bands that are bigger, which we should be doing, and I think we'll pretty much do a few things here and there next year, but we'll kind of wrap it up after the year because we'll have been out for a year. We'll have a video out finally; the "Omega Wave" video is actually cool as fuck. We've seen one that's about 50% done, it looks great. It's done, but it's not finished being edited. We've seen one edit and it looks fucking awesome.
Luxi: How was the whole process to do it anyway?
Craig: We sat in front of a green screen and rocked out. I talked to Jon Schnepp ho does Metalocalypse and we talked in detail about what we wanted to do and how we wanted to take it to different places. He spent a lot of time on this. We basically got four times more work out of him than the amount of money we spent because he likes the bands, he likes the songs. He's spending extra time on it and it's really gonna kick some ass, man. Videos are cheap to make now, but when somebody spends that much time editing, it's gonna be something special.
Luxi: I'm looking forward to seeing it.
Craig: It's cool dude. We haven't had a good video EVER. So it's finally nice to see something... and I think that's when this band will finally accelerate.
Luxi: I remember you also had this one video from the Distortion album, which I really like.
Craig: You mean, "No Reason"? It's cool, dude, but it isn't this cool. It's not as cool as "Omega Wave".
Luxi: Yes, that one exactly. I think all those grotesque blood and riot scenes in it, look pretty darn killer in that video actually...
Craig: The blood part is great. If there was a way to make the blood happen in the whole video... (*laughs*) "No Reason" is a cool song. We just don't go over that stuff live now because it would be lower in our set you know, people would just be staring at us. We will eventually be able to do more of that. He really wants to though, he's a student of Forbidden, he knows "Green" and "Distortion" a lot. That's the difference between him and Glen. Glen didn't know that shit. He wasn't in the band, he didn't know. He knew all that stuff.
Luxi: "Distortion" came out with two different covers; one for Europe and one for the American version. Can you remember the reason they decided to do that?
Craig: Well, the original cover was a great idea that Kent Mathieu never got to finish. The label told him he better hurry up. So he just took a sketch and colored it in. So we were never happy with that, we loved the concept. Never got done. So multiple artists, two different things. We got three different covers for it actually... four! Not us though. We were only in charge of the second one, and I don't even remember that artist's name, but he was really good, it was the one with the weird bird cage, it was very strange and avant-garde, but I liked that one a lot. The one we have no idea who did is the one with the mouth and distortions and the frequencies scream. I thought that was maybe the best one, but I don't even know who did that, who may have put that one out.
Luxi: My time's up, so thank you for time to do this interview and good luck to you guys in the future with Forbidden... Thank you Craig, one more time.
Craig: Thank you – and my apologies for never really having a chance to finish our other interview on Myspace, which was the plan originally. So sorry about that, Luxi.
|Other information about Forbidden on this site|
|Review: Forbidden Evil|
|Review: Omega Wave|
|Review: Twisted Into Form|
|Video: Omega Wave|
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