Heart of Steel: Interviews

An Interview with Billy Milano

By Chris Hawkins

"Rebel You Love to Hate" is such a fitting title for Billy Milano's latest endeavor via M.O.D. Milano has regrouped and put forth some of his best material yet in his latest showcase of tongue-in-cheek, in-your-face Metal. It was a pleasure to have a chat with a legend as such, and it proved to be hilarious! Enjoy and be sure to check out www.billymilano.com.



I take it you're pretty psyched with the release of the new M.O.D….

Well, I'm just happy that the record came out as good as it did. I'm really stoked. I think it's the best record I did with M.O.D., and I think more importantly, it's the best record I've done since "Speak English or Die". It's showing that I'm an individual now as an artist. I'm growing still even in this late stage in the game.



The production really helps this time around. You were able to achieve a full, clear sound.

Thank you. That was a great experience doing this record. I tracked in a couple different places. I tracked with Paul Crook, did some at Big Blue and some at Paul's house. I was able to mix it at the studio I work in which is Water Music in Hoboken. As a result, I think it came out great. I love the record itself. Musically, it's the best record I've done. I think I spared no expense. I used almost all the publishing budget, the entire record budget, and some of my money from my personal account to make this record sound the way that it did. I think it's going to come back to me at the end of the day. I like the record, and I'm really proud of it. I think people get what they're expecting and much more as a result.



It definitely comes across as a very professional production, but it's not too slick.

Yeah, that's the thing. I don't think I could ever be Linkin Park, but without a doubt, there were certainly things I did on this record that are not traditionally things that I would do, using keyboards and samples...sometimes 20 tracks of vocals…


20 vocal tracks?

Oh yeah, on a lot of the backgrounds, I had 12-16 tracks and I believe on "De Men of Stein" I did 16 backing tracks and there was a lot of cool things that I hadn't done before. I wanted to go out on a limb and do it real. I got music right finally.


It was never wrong, though, was it?

Well, no. Is music wrong is like saying Picasso is better than Monet. Everything is art and it's all about the person who listens to it. I honestly love this record over and above everything outside of "Speak English or Die". This is M.O.D.'s "Sgt. Pepper". I'm serious! How much better could I write? I don't honestly think I could.



And "Rebel You Love to Hate" is two years in the making, right?

I started writing this music when I wrote a song called "Wigga" for "Bigger than the Devil". I just think that inspired me to do something that I haven't done before which is take my time and write music. I spent two years writing and a year recording and mixing altogether. I spent a lot of time in the fucking studio! It was a lot of work.



How did you hook up with Paul Crook?

Well, I was walking down the street in Hoboken, and he's standing in front of me. I was talking to him and I know the whole story about Anthrax dicking him over. I liked him. I thought he was a decent guy. Out of everybody in that crew, he was a nice guy. We just honestly started talking. He played me some stuff, and I was like not too terribly impressed, but I liked the fact that he had an understanding of what is considered to be the norm for Metal. That helped me make a decision to give the guy a shot. I sat down and talked to him, and I decided to work with him and pay him as a producer and to help me develop my ideas. It's not that I didn't have any ideas, but he certainly took things that I couldn't articulate with my hands and my abilities on instruments like keyboards and make it happen. That was an awesome advantage for me to finally have that, which I've never had. I was totally stoked and Paul was very cool, very caring and giving, and more importantly, very dedicated to making this record sound huge. He was very dedicated to getting the understanding of what I'm trying to say and get it to transcend into the recording. That was very awesome.



So it was the easiest climate you've had thus far to record and write?

It certainly was the most understanding and nurturing environment. If I didn't like something, he would keep it for an example. Things that I did that I didn't like, I wound up keeping as a result of having something later on to compare it to down the line. It wasn't all about getting it done that day because if I'm not done that day, it's never gonna happen. There was a lot of lee-way and latitude for me to come in and out of the studio to sit down with the ideas I've done. That was the advantage of doing it the way I did it and working with Paul. The guy just really communicated well with me. In the beginning it was a little rough, but once I understood him a little bit more, we were able to communicate in a way that was just totally expected. I knew what he was thinking and he knew what I was thinking. We read each other really well.



Were some of your past releases really rushed?

Well, you know it's the old story, dude, and this is the truth: time is the enemy of all music. That's just the truth. What is the one thing that bands never have enough of? Studio time, and you just can't fucking afford it the way some of these big bands do to make their record sound huge. You never get a chance to try shit, to remix shit. It's all a functionality of time versus cash. I was really fortunate that I'm involved in a recording studio, and I was really lucky that I was able to go in and not mix on a small-frame desk but mix in a $2000.00 dollar a day studio for 15 days. It makes a difference, bro. It really did.



Any tool you can use to get your art to be conveyed better is always a plus.

Absolutely. I've never had the luxury, though, of sitting down and taking advantage of that. Even if you spend 50 or 60 thousand dollars, how much time is that? It's really not a lot of time. Especially when you think about 60 thousand dollars to cover 40 days, that covers your tape and your dinners. You're back down to 30 days when you have to pay a producer. What can you do in 30 days? I took 70 days of studio time to do this record. More importantly, it took me 70 days of studio time where I was able to sit down and listen to my music and say, "I don't like it!" At the end of the day, I got exactly what I was looking for.



So is M.O.D. the main focus from now on?

Well, my main focus is me. What that encompasses is whatever it encompasses. I'm not going to turn away from promoting M.O.D.'s record as much as I can, and going out and touring and giving the fans what they really want with either the Killith Fair or M.O.D. touring itself. There are other things coming up that may actually happen. I've got a reading for Headbanger's Ball where I'm going to read for the VJ spot. I don't know if it's going to happen, but it's funny because the only place that doesn't like this record is Germany because they're fucking Nazis. They don't like anyone that has an opinion. I don't give a fuck. Belgium, England, France, Russia, America, everyone likes this record. I mean, do you like the record?

Hell yeah (laughs)…

Do you like it? What do you think of the record?

I like it. I don't want to blow smoke up your ass, but yeah, I like it….

I'm asking you the honest truth! Everyone likes this fucking record but Germany because they're too busy giving the Scorpions a ten out of ten. I'm fucking stoked. If I go into MTV like this, I'm getting the gig.

If that were the case, I don't think Headbanger's Ball would be short on laughs…

It needs to happen. They stole my music for five years, they fucking owe me. They used S.O.D. on Headbanger's Ball for five years. I never got a fucking dime. Give me my money! I could certainly give them something they don't have, which is entertainment…

And music!

There you go. Maybe they'll play some music that's not getting played. I don't think we need to see fucking Disturbed.

They only play 20 bands at any given time…

Without a doubt, I think there is something like 20 or 30 bands that they play. I can guarantee you won't see any fucking Puff Daddy videos.



What do you think of Nu-Metal, or more appropriately, Mall Metal?

You know someone once asked me, "What's it going to take to kill Nu-Metal?" The best thing I could think of is a curfew! It took all the fun out of it and it made what we do impure. I don't like it. It's boy band Metal now. I'd rather see some real Metal bands get back together like Schenker, which I'm glad he's doing it, and kick the piss out of some of these bands.



It seems there have been a lot of old school bands reuniting as of late. What's your take on that?

Whatever they want to do, you've got to respect it. I do. Even though M.O.D. put out a new record, it's not reuniting at all. Nobody's from the same band. It wasn't even going to be called M.O.D., but it turned out being so for the sake of the label. It's not that I have a problem with it. It's a great record. I'm really totally down with what I've accomplished with this record. It certainly stands on its own feet whether it be Heavy Metal, Rock or whatever you want to call it, M.O.D., S.O.D., P.O.D., or just fucking O.D., the bottom line is this record really is a strong record. It's not like a lot of the bands who are reuniting, it's totally something that I got really blessed with. The people who want to go the whole reunion route, that's great. I'd rather see bands that I grew up with coming back and playing for a couple years than these new fucking bands that play. I don't even know who the hell they are. You've got that band Evan…. the band with the chick singer….


Yeah, dude, you think she listens to Lacuna Coil at all?

(laughs) No kidding!

It's a disgrace. I am fucking so pissed! I loved that last Lacuna Coil record. It was an awesome record. Of course she's Italian. She's got that going for her too. What it really comes down to is I'm very fucking pissed off that that band didn't get successful. That's a band that absolutely deserved it.


It's depressing because money talks!

There you go. Welcome to the fucking music industry. It's fucking soulless. Of course the biggest problem is the fact that no one gives a fuck about anything.



So are you pretty happy with Nuclear Blast?

Well, I'll tell you what. When I first worked with Nuclear Blast with S.O.D., they did a piss-poor job. They never got their shit together. I don't think anyone on the label was completely prepared for the production and the endeavor that we were expecting. At the end of the day, Nuclear Blast for me, for M.O.D., has been very compliant with my requests, which have not been a lot. The people at the Nuclear Blast office in America, which are different than S.O.D.'s "Bigger than the Devil" crew in '99 are much better. They're established, Andrew Sample, Jill, the publicist, great girl. She's got her shit together. I did more interviews today than I did for "Bigger than the Devil" in the whole country. She's got her shit together. These guys got their shit together. A lot of it is because they worked hard, and when they put Nuclear Blast and Century Media together, it consolidated their work force. In America, when Nuclear Blast was by itself, they fucked up a lot of shit. I was very vocal about it, and now I'm getting preferential treatment. That's not what it's about…

You can't complain, though!

I'll say this, they've got their shit together now, and I did what my end of the job was. I delivered the best record I could deliver, and that's the truth. No one was expecting it, but everyone was loving it.

I'm anxious to read the lyrics. I don't have them yet since I just got the promo of the disc.

The lyrics are fucking rocking. They're funny. They're smart. They're not stupid. It's not just, "Hey, fuck you." It's happening.



So how did the songs come about?

I'll tell you, Chris, the record starting off when I was writing for "Bigger than the Devil". I wrote this song "Wigga" and no one liked it. I had all these ideas in my head; I just couldn't articulate how to make it happen. For me, that's where it all started. I knew I had a different agenda than the guys in S.O.D. Then, I was home stoned in my apartment with my girlfriend, and I watched VH1. The story of Weird Al came on, how he did his parodies, how he got away with certain things, and this and that. He mentioned something during an interview which I thought was amazing. He goes, "Most people don't realize it's me until it's too late, they're halfway into the song before they get it." There were a couple songs I wrote that were inspired by other bands and other scenes and I used almost parody-esque styled songs. I wrote a song about hypocrisy and the state of hypocrisy in the liberal music scene, "Rage Against the Mac Machine". That song totally sounds like Rage Against the Machine, but I wrote about all their different shades of gray, and how their principles are compromised when they see it's to their advantage financially. As a result, the song was driven toward that one thought, and that one overall description. It had to sound like Rage Against the Machine and played like they play, and it had to deal lyrically with that whole ideal that they talk about. I did the same thing with that song about Rammstein. It's not about Rammstein, but it's written in that Rammstein, pro-military, militant zeal of techno music which is basically a big fashion show based on fascist looks. They have the short cropped hair, the rubber, leather clothes. They get all charged up like a rally. I did the same thing with KISS. Originally, I wrote it to make fun of KISS because I never really was a fan of theirs. The most amazing thing about that song is Paul Crook gave me KISS's "Alive" to listen to. I listened to it and the next thing I know, I loved KISS. Here I am, listening to KISS going (in Gene Simmons voice) "Detroit Rock City!!!" I'm totally digging the purest attitude of the fun aspect of what they did.


The song is more like a great tribute to KISS…

Yeah, for me, a guy that never listened to them to get into them this late in the game, I look at them as purists. I didn't follow them for 30 years. I'm not the one that's jaded. I'm brand new! It's like the first time you ever watched TV. It's incredible. I put on KISS at 10 AM and crank "Strutter." (sings "Strutter") People are looking at me like, "What the fuck?" I love it!

It says something about their music…

Exactly! It's timeless. Music is ageless if it's written honestly.



You come from the scene in the mid to late 80s where Metal and Hardcore where first being mixed. It seems like a parallel can be made to right now with more bands crossing over. What's your take on the metal-core scene?

That's the one thing that's cool about music. No one owns it. You don't own a style or a scene or anything. Just allow it to breathe. It will always be there for everybody. I am totally happy that a band like Hatebreed who to me sounds exactly like Biohazard…I mean it's the fucking same band! If they're successful at it in America, and they can open it up for another 100,000 people for the next guy…better that than fucking Korn! I hate that shit! No one owns anything. It's there to be passed to the next guy. I don't ever want to be the guy that says, "I invented that shit!" Who gives a fuck? There you go. I didn't invent cars, but I still drive one! I really am lucky that I saw where I came from, and I respect where I came from and what it meant to me back in the day. I like seeing all these fucking kids. I like seeing these people 15 years old going, "Oh you were in a band?" Yeah, a band called S.O.D. They're like, "Who's that?" I just smile. I feel so cool. It's nothing. It was stupid. It sold a million records, and I don't care. It doesn't mean anything to me I had fun with it. Our generation got along the least, but accomplished the most because we set the foundation and the engine in motion. It really is funny and cool at the same time. I'm really happy that anyone cares enough about Hardcore in the music industry to actually bring it on MTV and on the radio, and give exposure to a band like Hatebreed. That's fair and I respect that.



Did you ever think things would take shape the way they did with so many bands selling out along the way?

What do you consider selling out?

Metallica could be a point of reference…

Well, you know you can say that about Metallica and a lot of people say that. Everyone better pray that the new Metallica record does well whether you think they sold out or not because when they do well, Metal does well. Metal music needs Metallica to be the biggest Metal band in the world. It's intrinsic to the success of Metal, and the responsibility that they have is enormous. Everyone's just jealous. If you're in a band from Cannibal Corpse to Opeth to Meshuggah to Dimmu Borgir, Kreator, Destruction, fucking S.O.D., M.O.D., none of us would turn down a tour with them.

I'm not denying Metallica's influence. I think the Black album and thereafter was a steady downhill turn…

Like I said, it's important for Metallica to be the dominant force in Metal, or you're going to have little kiddy Metal. It's like K-Mart Metal. Linkin Park is Heavy Metal for 14 year old kids. They get tired of it after three years and they don't listen to it anymore. They don't support it like we did. We supported Metal for 15, 20 years. Metallica supported Metal for 15-20 years. I don't agree with the fact that they never took anybody out after they got huge other than C.O.C., but that's not my position to say anything about that. I wasn't there to judge them or I was not them. I don't know what their idea is or what their principles for doing that were. I do know that we need Metallica to do well for Metal.



Is M.O.D. going to be doing any touring?

Oh yeah M.O.D.'s going to be doing the Killith Fair which is a tour that I started with S.O.D. except it's going to be a little more crowd-friendly because two of the guys in S.O.D. were still trying to be rock stars. I'm going to tour as much as I can worldwide. I want to play everywhere, dude. I want to see the world before it blows up. Who knows? We're going to do what we can. I think there's a lot of things that can go on right now that are going to be really critical to the success of this record and to the amount of touring that I do. Number one, I've got a song called "Wigga", I think it's perfectly ready to bust out of the box and take a lot of people by storm. We're doing a video for it, which is going to be incredible. Things could be huge for me, and hopefully I'll be able to give back to my music scene and help along bands and musicians that don't necessarily get the help they deserve.



Who are you thinking of taking out with you?

The Killith Fair isn't set in stone. I may go out and just do some M.O.D. shows before I try to do the Killith Fair and promote it. I'm going to be going against Ozzfest and Blackest of the Black, but I think it could be interesting for me to sit back and let the record develop and see what opportunity arises. I'm trying to get some shows with Andrew W.K. whose record I love, and I'm trying to get the song "Wigga" out in the general public. Call me crazy, but the song is so good. It came out perfect to the point that I think it could do something that a lot of us aren't expecting. Then I'll be the sell-out! I'll laugh all the way to the fucking bank! You can bet your ass this, my friend, if it becomes what I think it can become, I'm going to help out as many underground musicians as I can before I disappear. You'll read about me one day finding me dead on a beach, 70 years old…

(laughs) Just don't start hanging out with the likes of Oasis…

Oh forget that! I'd like to watch them fight, though. I'd like to hang out with them and tell them that the brothers are talking shit about each other.



(laughs) I've got to ask…is S.O.D. gone forever?

Yes. I've made up with Scott since it all started and I put my high standard of being a good and honorable friend and expecting that in return from everyone which he certainly doesn't live up to, aside. I just don't like Charlie Benante. The guy's a fucking woman. I just want nothing to do with him. Our first show back in '99, playing Dynamo, he quit after one show. Even Danny Lilker hates his guts. Danny's the most passive guy you'll ever meet. Charlie Benante's just a selfish woman and I want nothing to do with him. It's done. I'm not going to do it. I refuse to be involved with Charlie Benante. I didn't even want to do the "Bigger than the Devil" record. Everyone knows that. I told Scott for three months I'm not doing it. Get another singer. They called me up and bothered me for three months…

Who else would they get, though?

Dave Lombardo or Gene Hoglan. Do you think anyone would complain? No! Oh you mean to replace me? They can't get anybody, but I wish they would have because I didn't want to do it. The only reason I didn't want to do it is because I know the kind of people that Charlie and Scott are. They're not good people. They have a lot of bad karma around them. Everyone says, "Billy Milano's a shit talker". No one heard a peep from me since '95. I hadn't done anything but manage and produce. I'm not an ego maniac. I don't care what people think or if they listen to me. I don't give a fuck if I do interviews especially when I wasn't performing. This was something that I fought against for three months. Against my better judgment, I was talked into it from my business partner to do S.O.D. I closed my management company. As soon as Scott Ian got money in his hand, he disappeared and became a fair-weather friend. Charlie Benante quit after one show because he saw me talking to Dave Lombardo. I always used to say to him, "If you don't want to do S.O.D., I'll get Dave Lombardo to play." He walked in at Dynamo and I'm having a beer with Dave Lombardo, and he ran away. Charlie Benante can say anything he wants. I ain't jealous of Anthrax. They suck. They're only as good as the ideas they steal. It's about time someone said it. I didn't want to do S.O.D. I still don't want to do S.O.D. I never wanted to do VH1 with Anthrax. I don't give a fuck about any of that. All I cared about when I got back into the band with those idiots was that they treated everyone in the band equally, they toured for the record and spent time as a band during the experience, and that they honored their commitment. They knew well and good that I was closing my management company to do that record. I committed under those terms. As soon as Scott Ian got paid, you never heard from him again. Charlie Benante quit after one show because he saw me talking to Dave Lombardo. May God strike me down if that's a lie. Everyone knows it. Danny and even Scott freaked out. Charlie Benante calls me up at 1 AM and quits because he doesn't think it's going to get any better. It was such a great show for us to co-headline Dynamo. He said, "I don't think it's going to get any better than this so I quit." I was just like, "You're a fucking cunt." He's a cunt. He was raised by women. What do you want? Danny Lilker said it best. He goes, "No matter how you look at it, the S.O.D. fans got fucked." So any S.O.D. fan that is an Anthrax fan still is a fucking moron. I won't do anything for them including S.O.D. Anthrax used S.O.D. to be in the public eye again. For four years they sat around on their hands. I was out earning a living. Here I am. I made a great record. That's my fucking revenge. Stick it right up his ass, and I'm still going to knock Charlie Benante out!


(laughs) Well you made a good record and you made a focused record…

I appreciate that. At the end of the day, I can walk away and know that I rule. (laughs) I've got two great dogs, dude. I love what I do. I've got great friends. I live in a great town. What the fuck else am I looking for out of life? When I'm out on the road, maybe getting a blow job….


(laughs) Well, that's definitely a positive vibe…

Yeah, it's funny. It needs to be entertaining. Music is so serious. Be thankful that you can go to bed without some douche bag breaking into your house and putting a pistol to your head. People make me sick. War? I'll show them a real war. The war of the mind is fucking powerful, friend. I'm tired of watching all these liberal bastards spew their rhetoric, and I'm tired of these other people saying, "Well, I don't believe in the war, but I support our troops." How ass-backwards is that? It's not the message you want to send because it's cryptic. It has no stance. It's ambiguous, and it's cowardly. I don't believe in that. Who am I to mess in my opinion?


Website: www.billymilano.com