Sick Of It All - 22/03/2006

As one of the longest standing bands still proudly waving the flag of New York Hardcore, Sick Of It All have made their mark as one of the cornerstones of NYHC, proving that heart, hard work and dedication to hardcore is about more than just the music and an image, it’s a way of life. Originally formed by brothers Lou and Pete Koller in the mid-'80s, Sick Of It All set the tone of their music and ideology by offering a no-frills view of the world around them. Often revolving around politics, social injustices and life on streets in New York, the band wore their views on their sleeve and made no apologies.

The four-piece will be celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2006 and coinciding with that monumental event is the release of the bands 9th full-length studio record. The upcoming record, entitled ‘Death To Tyrants’ will be released april 18th and shows the band is nowhere near slowing down. With this album recorded in the Atomic Studios in New york Sick Of It All are firing on all cylinders. On ‘Death To Tyrants’, the band pulls no punches and shows clearly why they are the definition of “hardcore.”



During their trip to Europe to promote their latest album Lou and Pete Koller also visits Amsterdam to answer us some questions. This is what they had to say.

It took you guys some years until this new album was released, why did we have to wait for so long?

We could have put it out at the end of 2005 but we wanted to take our time. And we’re celebrating our 20th anniversary this year so we thought that would be perfect timing. It gave us a lot more time to write and we made a demo. Danny from Biohazard let us use his studio for free so we had the time to really get everything just right, after the songs were recorded we took a couple of weeks to let them sink in and then we went back to do make the final changes.


How did you launch into writing the material for ‘Death to Tyrants’ after your previous album?

Everybody comes up with their own ideas and we all give our opinions, that’s how we always work. This time we actually took a couple of days to work on each song.


Had all the songs already been written before you entered the studio, or did you make a lot of changes during the recording sessions?

Actually we always make lots of changes, we listen to a song over and over and after learning one song we will start the other. So we take the time to get it right. The producer Tue Madsen also gave us some good advise and he had some good ideas so it all came together very well. We were in the studio for about 3 weeks to a month. For us that’s quite long. We finished two days early and we were playing and f#$@*ng around with the equipment. Our drummer Armand who started hearing things, he would move things around and then put them back and we would just sit there thinking he’s crazy! So we were playing around with the electronics, it was good fun. We should have put that weird stuff at the end of the CD Hahaha.


Did you have a certain idea of what you wanted to do on ‘Death to Tyrants’, any elements you definitely wanted to have on the album?

We didn’t have any special ideas but we all wanted to make this album the best one we’ve ever made! Working with Tue was great because he’s been a big fan of SOIA for years and he really wanted to work with us. Months before we went into the studio he started to visit all our live shows to learn what sound he had to capture on the record. He did a good job. Hardcore is something that’s best listened to live and that’s what we needed on the album. As close to the live shows as possible. This album really represents us, it’s clean but not poppy and heavy but we’re not metal so it’s us. It could be a really good live album.



Who was responsible for writing the songs for the new album?

Pete and Armand were responsible for writing all the music.


You recently signed a deal with Abacus Recordings, why did you choose them and for how many albums did you sign?

Abacus is Century Media in Europe. Long ago somebody said to us, “if you’re going to sign a label, sing not just the biggest or best but sign a label where the guys who run the label love your band”. And this time we did. They love us so they will try their best for us. The guys from Century Media have been coming to see us since 1992. They were always there. We weren’t satisfied with what was going on with Fat Wreck Chords in Europe. It was all good but not great. When Century Media told us about Abacus (mostly hardcore) we said all right, let’s do it. It feels better to be on a label with other bands from the same scene. We signed for two albums. We had a great time with Fat Wreck chords and they did a lot of stuff for us, but this is even better. The advertising and promoting is very good and we need it, we’ll see what happens when the record comes out.


Have you received any feedback on the new album yet and what do you personally think of it – are you satisfied with the outcome or would you have liked to have changed anything in retrospective?

Yes, we got some good, positive feedback and reviews. The funny thing is that some people say, this is great, a fresh and new sound. And then others say, this is great, you’re going back to the early Sick Of It All! So it looks like everybody will be happy. In retrospective we’d like Tue to go back and re-record ‘Life On The Ropes’ and ‘Yours Truly’! Hahaha!! No really we love ‘Yours Truly’ because the way we wrote on that album was just totally free, we didn’t give a shit and that was great.


You recorded this album in the Atomic Studios in Brooklyn, was this a conscious choice?

The studio is owned by some good friends of ours, it’s a place we all know so we feel comfortable being there and it’s a good location for everybody to travel to. Tue Madsen had no problem with flying in and staying in New York so that was very nice.


How did the recording process proceed and how much time did you spend in the studio?

Well this actually all went pretty smoothly. We ended two days early like we said. We rehearsed a lot and we really knew what we were doing when we entered the studio. The only tricky part was when Armand changed a song like two seconds before we were going to record it! That was hard because we learned all the lines and stuff and then he changed it. Armand wrote the lyrics for fourteen out of the fifteen songs!!



The last album seemed a little harder, more traditional Sick of it All. Was this a natural thing?

We try to make every record a bit different from the last one, I guess this is what we wanted to sound like on this album. That does come naturally.


The new album was mixed by Tue Madsen (The Haunted, Gorefest, Heaven Shall Burn). Are you satisfied with the mixing result of the CD?

Yes, he did the mixing and the producing part. A lot of people think this album was recorded by Dean Baltulonis who did our last record because it’s his studio. Tue did the whole thing by himself and he did a great job!


Did you have a larger budget for this album than you had for the previous albums and did this change the way you worked?

The budget was good, about the same as it was for the other albums.

We don’t need that much for recording. We are fulltime musicians and have to feed our families so we want to keep as much money in our pocket as possible.


Could you please describe the implications the title ‘Death to Tyrants’  has for you, what does it stand for and is there a special meaning behind it.

It’s taken from the song ‘Uprising Nation’, it’s about the frustration over what’s going on in the world. We basically don’t like the people who run the countries, not just the States. Most governments lie about what they’re doing but in the USA they don’t even bother to lie. They just do whatever they want and mess everything up. But the crazy thing is that so many people elect these idiots!! We are mad about the way they tried to offer help after Cathrina….

It was a major mess. A lot of our frustrations come from politics but also from what’s going on all over the world and around us. It feels good to ventilate our feelings and frustrations through music, our lyrics are important to us. On the other hand, when people come to our shows, we just want them to have fun, we don’t want to preach or anything.


Do you have your favorites on ‘Death to Tyrants’, songs that you think are somehow above the others?

“TakeThe Night Off”, “Uprising Nation”, we could name every song on the album! Haha! No, we’re just kidding.


Ok, now some questions to enable our readers to get to know you a little bit better:

How do you feel about illegal downloading of music from the internet, many albums these days are on the internet even before they are officially released!

That sucks!! We don’t really sell that many records. We live off our music so it doesn’t help. We can only hope that people listen to the album on the net and then buy it anyway. You’ve got to support the bands you like! In the States we have to work our ass off to become known, the music industry only looks at the first week of the album sales, so if you don’t sell enough CD’s in that period then you’re done. We have to sell merchandise and CD’s on the road to earn some money. So we’ll be touring a lot!!



How did you get involved in the music business?

Probably by mistake, haha. Well it’s like every boy’s dream, you want to be famous and learn to play an instrument and start your own band. We’ve had to learn to do everything ourselves in this music business so we don’t lose the money we make to the wrong people.


What songs and bands do you listen to yourself these days?

Just about anything, but mostly punk and hardcore music. Very old R&B even sometimes. The Motown stuff. Whatever strikes the mood!


Sick Of It All is one of the longest standing New York Hardcore bands, how do you see the future with this band?

We’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing. First of all we’ll do some touring for the new album and then we’ll take a break after which we’ll attend some festivals. And then we’ll start thinking about writing the next record.


What is your opinion about the New York hardcore scene these days?

The biggest difference with the old days is that there is no centre. Back in the old days you had CBGB’s and everyone would get together there and hang out outside, but nowadays there’s a lot of stores and boutiques around it and on the one hand they think it’s really cool that their stores are next to CBGB’s but on the other hand they don’t like the people that come there so they get the police to send them away. They tell you to get in the club or go down the block. So there’s no centre now, there’s a lot of good young bands popping up in different area’s though. There’s a scene in Brooklyn and there’s been a scene on Long Island for the last ten, fifteen years which has given us some of the biggest bands out there now.


Is there anything you want to tell us after these questions?

See you guys out at the shows hopefully and we know you’re going to love the new record so just check it out! We also have a compilation coming out probably in the fall. We don’t want to call it a tribute record because that makes us feel weird but we just asked a bunch of our friends if they wanted to play their favorite SOIA songs and they all said yes right away so that was great! Sepultura have already recorded ‘Scratch the Surface’ and Hatebreed recorded a couple of songs and a whole bunch of smaller bands like Kill Your Idols and Bouncing Souls are going to record too. We asked the bands to do our song in their own style, so Dropkick Murphy’s did stuff with bagpipes, real cool. It’s not just hardcore bands, there’s all kinds of music on the record. We don’t have a title for the record yet, any ideas?

Thanks for your time!

You’re welcome!


Martina Schouten & Talitha Martijn


Current line-up:

Lou Koller - Vocals

Pete Koller - Guitar

Armand Majidi - Drums

Craig Ahead - Bass

Sick Of It All albums:
2006 - Death To Tyrants   

2004 - Rare Cuts  

2003 - Relentless Single     

2003 - Life On The Ropes   

2002 - Live In A Dive     

2000 - Yours Truly        

1999 - Call To Arms            

1997 - Built To Last                        

1995 - Live In A World Full Of Hate          

1995 - Spreading The Hardcore Reality     

1994 - Scratch The Surface            

1992 - Just Look Around          

1991 - We Stand Alone                  

1989 - Blood, Sweat & No Tears