An Interview with Bobby Hambel from Biohazard by Mark Marker
MM: I’m sitting down with Bobby Hambel of Biohazard. How you doing Bobby?
BH: Good man, doing well.
MM: So you guys have been creating quite a fuss with the new record, Reborn in Defiance, which you put out on Nuclear Blast.
BH: Yeah, Nuclear Blast is a real cool label, cool people. They’re 100% behind us. They let us get together to do this record.
MM: I wanted to ask how it was working with Nuclear Blast, as you guys have gone through a few labels (including Warner Bros.) since the mid 90’s. Do they treat you right?
BH: Let’s put it this way, they treated us right from Day 1. Then when things started happening with the band and whatnot, they just rolled right with us. Basically, they delivered for us, above and beyond the call of duty. They really showed that they cared about the band, and they’re like that with all of their bands. They’re cool guys and they love music.
MM: A lot of people care about the band and you guys have a huge fan base. A lot of people have been asking, when’s the next tour?
BH: Well we’d like to get a tour going in the states. Reborn in Defiance was supposed to be released in the states at the same time as in the rest of the world but it didn’t work out that way. Kind of an unfortunate situation. We were disappointed that it didn’t get a full release in the states and that we couldn’t tour the states yet but…You really want to have the record out before you go on tour.
BH: We really wanted them to be released at the same time but one of our members departed before we got to do the US release so it got delayed.
MM: Well you did 5 East Coast dates, right?
BH: Yeah we did some dates on the East Coast and on the West Coast.
MM: So when are you guys going to make it down to Austin.
BH: (Laughs) As soon as we can, Bro! We’d love to. We love Austin. Next month we have a few shows coming up in Brazil. And we’ve been doing a lot of stuff overseas. But we took some time off to do some writing and are trying to get another record together.
MM: Do you have any collaborations planned with any hip hop artists in the future?
BH: Well, nothing right now. We did that back then because it was something that came up. Back then, it was pretty cool. And we’re talking way back in the early 90’s. But back then it was really new.
MM: Dude it was so fucking fresh! The stuff with Onyx.
BH: Yeah, yeah. Nowadays, people are kind of iffy about it. It’s just not quite as cool. We were a cool underground type of hardcore band and Onyx was cool and underground, and really hardcore in their way.
MM: Well it was a pioneering move and you guys are pioneers. I wouldn’t shy away from doing that kind of thing.
BH: Oh no, no! I appreciate that. Music is music. You do your best to make good music, no matter what. We did jam out with ??? from Cypress Hill and he brought a lot of cool stuff in and he’s awesome to work with, but we didn’t get a chance to release anything in the states yet. Hip hop is part of us in a way, just like metal, blues, hardcore and punk. We have so many different influences. If the opportunity arises…
MM: Is Tiny still your road manager?
BH: Tiny passed away.
MM: You’re kidding me.
BH: Yeah, he passed away. I think it was back in 96-97. We keep his memory alive. We talk about him on the road, play songs for him and remember the great times we had with him. He’s irreplaceable, you know. He’s definitely part of us. When we originally got the band back together, Tiny was a missing part of it. We never felt quite whole again without Tiny around. We miss him, and we know he’s in the right place.
MM: Man, I’m real sorry to hear that. He was a stellar character and I always enjoyed working with him the opportunities that I did.
BH: He’s on the list of holy brothers. Unfortunately the list grows but life keeps going on. You never know when you’re going to be on that list so you need to do the right thing. Keep trying to make it work.
MM: Speaking of making it work, you went on hiatus for a long period of time but now it seems you’re back and doing more than ever.
BH: Well I left the band for a while. They got a few other guys to come in and take my place. We just went our separate ways for a while. Then the guys ended up taking some time off to do other things, or spend time with their families, then I started talking to Danny. We started talking about what it would be like to get the band back together and then thinking about it and then the opportunity came up to go on an anniversary tour…20 years. We said alright let’s do it. Let’s bury the hatchet, let’s all be friends, be men and just go out there and play. Let’s just play for us and for the fans that want us to come back and remember why we did this in the first place. Let’s get back to basics and go out there and jam out.
MM: When was that?
BH: We did that in 2008.And we did really good. We went out on tour and opened for Korn and from the first show on, we got a really good response from the crowd. Then we went to Europe, we went all over and we decided to just keep it going. Let’s make a record. And we made Reborn in Defiance.
MM: Most bands would almost have to start over after a hiatus like that, but you guys went from playing clubs to playing stadiums and arenas. How did you go from playing the club circuit to playing even larger venues, especially after a hiatus? I know you guys are pretty close to your original lineup now, and have a lot of respect everywhere but how did you do that?
BH: Thank you, thank you. As far as the respect thing, whatever you do in life, that’s something you’ve gotta earn. You can’t get gratin unless you earn it. I think that, as band, you’ve just got to work hard and treat every show as if it’s the same show. It’s just as important whether you’re playing in front of 20 people or you’re playing in front of 20,000. You’ve got to play the best you can, put your energy out there and really give the people what they want. Play your heart out for people because that’s what they want! They want you to play and do your best for them every night, you know? And not every night is kicking. Some nights are great, some nights there are a lot of parties and people take off or your equipment blows. But as long as you play your heart out, they’re going to remember that. When you take a hiatus, then you come back and it’s like, wow, these people actually came back to see us and, it’s just amazing. And it’s very humbling.
MM: It’s magic!
BH: We’re very grateful. For us to get back together and be standing in front of huge festival crowds in Europe, thousands of people, and we just look at each other going man, how did we ever screw this up?
MM: That’s love in a bottle right there, buddy.
BH: Yeah, there’s no rule book on how to do this shit so…We gotta make our own mistakes, make our own fuckups, have bad times, or bad nights, bad performances, go through your disappointments, and you just gotta keep going. Every time you have a great show, you just gotta know that there’s another one coming.
MM: Speaking of all that love and admiration, Rolling Stone gave Biohazard the best band logo and I see it everywhere. It’s tattooed on everybody. Did you ever think about doing a coffee table book with photos of people that have your band logo tattooed?
BH: That’s funny man. And that’s awesome. We see so many and we have a collection of photos, thousands of pictures of people that have that tattoo. And every one you see, it makes you feel honored…to be doing what you’re doing. I think I would love to see a book like that too. We all would. When I say I, I speak for the band. We would all love to see something like that because, really, we go to a show and some guy goes, “Hey, remember me from back in the day? Well I got this.”
MM: In the time off that you took off from Biohazard, did you have any side projects going on?
BH: I did a few things. I went on tour with this band called White Devils, which was actually a guy from the Cro-Mags. So I did a month in Europe with them and some big festivals. But life was changing for me, you know? Leaving the band was pretty tough. I had to make a few adjustments in my life and it just didn’t work out. So I tried to dabble in a few other projects but it just wasn’t the same. I felt like something was missing, whether it’s because I wasn’t in Biohazard or if it was something else. So I got a regular job and just started doing my own thing. I kind of just drifted out of the scene for a while, worried about family and that kind of thing. But in the back of my mind I knew I was going to play again, and I knew that we needed to get back together again and make things right. Had to get back with my boys, you know? I always kept writing, and always kept playing, and was just waiting for that moment.
MM: It’s here and now, man. You guys are busting at the seams and I know you got some great years ahead of you. I just know it, bro.
BH: Thank you very much. I feel like we’re busting at the seams. It’s never easy. We go through a lot of dreadful, worries and stuff that a lot of people don’t realize. A band is no different than regular life, although maybe a little crazier and more chaotic. There are a lot of uncertainties in what you do, and you can never bank on things going exactly the way you want them to go. You can’t really plan, you can’t really assume that everything is going to work the way you plan it to be. Things always change, things can come up any night on tour, and you never know what’s going to happen.
MM: With that being said, what is the craziest thing that’s ever happened on tour?
BH: Oh man, I don’t know. There have been so many frickin things. Lots of shit: bad stuff, good stuff, funny stuff. You take it as it comes. We take it as it’s thrown at us. We’ll be on stage and the fucking stage is ready to collapse, like an outdoor festival stage, and the lights are swinging over us, and the boards are about to collapse. There’s been a few times where we’ve thought we were going to have to throw down, like get in a fight, get in a mad brawl, riots breaking out, our shit’s been stolen…all kinds of stuff. Me personally, I’ve had 8 guitars stolen in one night.
MM: 8 guitars?
BH: Yeah, and 4 of them were Les Pauls. I was pretty pissed off.
MM: I’m sure!
BH: I don’t want to bring up cliché stuff, but all of that stuff happens to all bands. You never know what’s going to happen.
MM: I’m sure it’s an adventure.
BH: We just went and played, for the first time, in China. We were playing in Beijing. They flew us there for one show, I don’t know why they wanted Biohazard…
MM: The Asian market loves American music…
BH: We were down there, and the Chinese kids were awesome. We were down there on Sept. 11th . It was the 10 year anniversary of Sept. 11th and we were in China! It was a very emotional day.
MM: Sure man, that’s your home.
BH: Yeah, we have numerous friends that were some of the first responders that were there. I have two friends that I grew up with that died in the rubble, when the buildings came down. I said to the promoter before we went onstage, “You know, it’s Sept. 11th.” He asked me if I was going to say something about it onstage and I said, Well, it’s Sept. 11th, I have to. I’m American”. And it wasn’t just about America, it was about the whole world. It just depends on how you look at it. I mean, we’re from New York. And he said please don’t say anything about China or you and I will go to jail. Then he asked what I was going to say. So I had to think of something to say so I came up with some words. He said, “That’s good. Just don’t make it about China or they’re going to arrest me AND you”. So I went out there and said “I dedicate this show to all the families and the victims of Sept. 11th and to all the Chinese kids, Cheers!” And they were all right there with us. And THAT was beautiful. Music crossed all the walls and barriers, like a universal language.
MM: I wish I had been there. It sounds like a very spiritual experience.
BH: Well, it is, man. It’s different than playing for some fucking knuckleheads in Brooklyn. We’re playing what comes out of our hearts and our minds and when people in other countries going through their form of life in their way can relate to what we’re saying it’s a beautiful connection that you can make with people. That’s what’s great about what we do.
MM: You guys wrote a record about the Sept. 11th experience, didn’t you?
BH: I wasn’t on that record.
MM: Oh, you weren’t.
BH: Yeah, but Biohazard always writes about shit that hits close to home…serious stuff that affects us. The whole Biohazard project is an ongoing sketchbook of stuff that we’re fleshing out, our demons and how we did it. It’s kind of like our therapy. Something pisses you off, you write a song about it. And you’ll always find that guy who says, that song you wrote about that thing that pissed you off, well that pissed me off too!
MM: Billy had a lot of side projects over the years. Did one of them stand out for you?
BH: What, Billy? I heard that Suicide City record a lot and I can see what he was going for with that. He was on a roll, and he’s really cool and really talented. We all have different influences and different things that we strive for musically and you put that all together and you get Biohazard.
MM: I know that Evan left the band and I was wondering what kind of impact Evan and The Tera Patrick Agency have on your sex life?
BH: What? Sex Life?
MM: Yeah, your sex life! I mean, were you hitting porn stars all the time?
BH: That’s what a lot of people think! Look man, I don’t know. We all do our own thing and that was his thing. I’ll leave it at that.
MM: I know lots of bands would be using every angle to get that.
BH: Some things are best left unsaid, you know?
MM: I was also going to ask how it affected girlfriends or wives in the band.
BH: Nothing anybody does affects us personally, you know? What I do doesn’t affect Danny, what Danny does doesn’t affect Billy, and all the way around. Everybody’s got their own lives and when we go to the studio those lives are left outside the door. When we get onstage there’s nothing else but that audience. And when we’re done with tour we go back to our lives until we get back together for another thing. I don’t give a fuck. I’m a musician. I play guitar.
MM: So you got Scott Roberts in the band. I love Cro-Mags, and I love Scott Roberts. Do you think he’s going to stick around for a minute?
BH: Yeah man, he’s also doing his old band, the Spudmonsters. They put out a new record. It came out real good. I got a copy of it right here. We got to play with them over in Europe. Scott pulled double duty. The new record is called Stand Up…For What You Believe. Check it out.
MM: Will he be able to balance everything?
BH: Fuck yeah, man. He’s a soldier. He jumped off our tour, we left him in Europe, and he jumped on tour with those guys. He’s one of them guys that just wants to play. He brings a lot to the table for Biohazard. We feel like we play better with him. He’s got this energy that’s all his and he gets us.
MM: Is he singing with ya’ll too?
BH: Yeah. Evan quit the band and we were sitting there, with shows booked and an obligation to Nuclear Blast and some tours for the record that they so awesomely helped us to create. They believed in us and we were like, what are we going to do? It was a couple of weeks away and we couldn’t back out. And Evan split so…We called Scott and he came right up and rocked out and helped us do the shows. We said we’ve got these tours and an obligation to the label. Scott said I’m in, I’m down, let’s play. He’s a really great guy.
MM: There was a moment in time when you captured MTV, put them in your pocket, rode off into the sunset and now you’re back. But when is MTV coming back?
BH: (Laughs) You’ve got a good way of putting stuff. I don’t know if it’s a Texas thing or…dude, where are you from?
MM: I’m from Houston, born and raised, now I live in Austin. Seattle’s my second home. We actually met in Seattle when I did your show at Rock Candy. You brought Sick Of It All and Fear Factory.
BH: Yeah, I’d love to do that tour again, go out with Sick Of It All and Fear Factory. That would be great. And it’s really cool that they’re all still playing. Yeah, it’s really great. We got to play with Agnostic Front and tour with them. That was a blast man. Everybody’s still going. There’s a lot of younger bands out there that I’d like to play with too.
MM: When you come to Austin we’ll be looking for you. I know everybody will be looking for you.
BH: We’re going to do these shows in Brazil, and we’re going to do some recording, then we’re going to put together an East Coast / West Coast run and Austin is definitely on the map. We’re going to be there for sure, also Houston, San Antonio, you know? Making the rounds. It’s been a while. We had some great times down there, back in the day. I remember playing with Slayer in Corpus Christi. We had some really good shows down there.
MM: Where did you play there?
BH: We played this big out door place. I don’t remember.
MM: Corpus is a beautiful little town. It kind of reminds me of San Diego in a way.
BH: Well when I was there it was just a big Slayer show.
MM: Well the whole Valley came to see it. We have this thing called the Rio Grande Valley. Talk about a market that loves metal!
BH: Well, that’s really cool man. Yeah, the new stuff we’re working on is real heavy. Reborn in Defiance has some moments that are some of the heaviest stuff we’ve ever done. It also has some lower, more melodic, deeper vocals than anything I think we ever did before, so it’s an interesting record. This next one we’re working on is just pounding. It’s a hard, heavy record. I hope everybody digs it.
MM: Everybody’s going to dig it and I hope you guys stick around this time.
BH: We ain’t dead yet. I think we’re going to last a little while longer this time. Thanks for taking the time to set this up. We appreciate it.
MM: No, thank you!