Guitarist Craig Locicero and vocalist Russ Andersson
Interview and pics by Arto Lehtinen
Transcription by Duke
You are playing Summer festivals here in Europe. How has it been so far?
Craig: Festivals are great! We did Rock Hard Festival and that went well, much better than we thought it would. It was a thrash crowd! I´d say Sacred Reich and ourselves had the two best sets of the weekend so it was like "Back to the future", everybody was really wanting that.
You have done a lot of festivals during the last few years, you did Hellfest and Bang Your Head…
Craig : Just last year.
Do you think festivals are more suited for a band like Forbidden than smaller places?
Russ: More suitable…I don´t know. But it seems to work in our advantage. I don´t know if we´re an arena rock band or anything, but we´re a festival band for sure. But we can do it in a club and hopefully we can do it anywhere anybody wants to put us. I think it works in that setting, our songs are made for crowd responses.
Is it different from the States?
Craig: Yeah, the States are like a fraction of this.
Russ: We have some pretty die hard fans in the States though, so that´s cool too.
Craig: We may even have more fans in the States, but it´s hard to get to them. It´s so spread out and there are so few festivals. So you´d have to play every little club and that´s impossible for us at this stage in the game. But that´s a whole other issue. So coming here is much more rewarding than going out there. It´s tough to make it go around in America.
SOMETHING ABOUT THE LINE-UP
You´ve had some lineup changes, now you have Mark Hernandez on drums and Steve Smyth on guitar.
Craig: Yeah, we´re done with those as far as I think. Hopefully this is the band that stays there. But you never know, people can explode.
Steve Smyth has played in Nevermore and Testament so he´s a very well known guy. Has he brought something new to Forbidden?
Craig: Something we were missing when this whole thing came back was a team player. He brings that. He´s obviously very talented just like Glen (Alvelais) and Tim (Calvert) before him. I think Steve is maybe a liiiiittle more versatile, he can do more stuff. What he shows in Forbidden is just shredding and fucking attitude. But I think another thing that he brings is that he´s glad to be alive. Sometimes we forget about just living and just breathe. He almost died and he went through an incredibly crazy point in his life where he just saw the end of it all and he´s just glad to be here. And we´re becoming better friends every day, we know each other in a different way.
Russ: He´s a good melodic writer too.
And then Mark Hernandez came to replace Gene Hoglan.
Craig: Oh, Gene was just sitting in, he was never really in the band. His intention was never to really be in the band, he just helped us out because Paul (Bostaph) was committed to Testament. Paul committed to us in Forbidden in a meeting and then immediately it was like "Oh shit, I´m in Testament now!" We understood and had to do something about it so we got Gene. Gene loves playing with us so that´s cool, but Gene is all over the place, he does so many projects. Mark was an enthusiastic addition. We had no idea how much enthusiasm that guy has! He brings a lot of fire and he´s a fan of the songs in a big way so that helps. He´s a great drummer, he´s good to write with too.
He´s played in bands like Vio-lence, did you know him before?
Craig: Yeah. I knew Mark, he was in Re-ignition most recently. They´re a cool rock band with kind of a metal thing going. He´s always been a good showman, great showmanship! But I didn´t really know what he would do with our songs until we tried. First it was like "Yeah, he´s pretty good, he reminds me of Paul a bit". Which is good. But after a few practice rounds he showed that he has a lot of his own tricks up his sleeve. He grooves more like Steve Jacobs, which is like a really good groove. Paul was more frantic and choppy, in a good way too. That was his thing, caveman power! Paul has his great thing and Steve has his great thing and I think Mark is like a combination of those things – but different.
I read Glen´s MySpace page and he sounded a little bit bitter.
Craig: Very bitter.
Russ: It´s kinda funny from someone who quit. "laughing"
Craig: Yeah, I guess that if he really quit he wouldn´t have been that bitter… We had a stalemate. He had a history and people kinda knew it. He stays with a band a few months and then he leaves and it´s almost always his doing. The same thing happened this time. We offered him a chance and said "Do you wanna do this?" And he said "later, later, later, later" and we said "Dude, we´re doing it!" Then it gets a bit more ugly than we should really get into because he didn´t say any of the ugly things. We should just leave that out and let him do what he does and whatever he said is his version of it. If he actually believes that… good for him! I´ll always like Glen, I just think he´s his own worst enemy. I can officially tell you that, that´s my opinion.
He left the band in the early days…
Craig: He was fired back then.
… and Tim Calvert came in.
Craig: Tim was amazing, Tim was a great addition.
But nowadays he´s a pilot?
Craig: Yeah! So he´s not here.
Russ: He probably would be here if he wasn´t a pilot.
Craig: He´s flipping chemicals into the friendly skies. I haven´t seen him fly, or if I did, I didn´t know it was him.
Russ: I don´t know if I wanna fly with him… Knowing Tim, he might be drunk while flying!
He was in Nevermore after Forbidden, what happened then?
Craig: I don´t know about what happened in Nevermore, but he´s always wanted to be a pilot so he went and did what he dreamt to do. So we´re happy for him. Music is not in the cards for Tim ever again in a serious way, he´s a pilot.
WORKING ON THE NEW MATERIAL
You are working on a new album right now and have done some demo stuff…
Craig: It´s not all done. We have to go home and finish it up.
Is it going to be in the style of the first album or will there be some new style?
Craig: Yes! To everything!
Russ: Yeah, it´s a combination of everything.
Craig: Plus there´s buckets of stuff that we haven´t written so we can´t say what it´s all gonna be until it´s done. If we could pile the riffs up we´d probably have about a third of them done and then we have two thirds to do. So we have to go home and finish it up unless we get too many shows at the end of the year.’
Russ: Yeah, they keep throwing shows at us! Shows and shows and shows and there´s a time when you have to start writing and get something done.
Craig: Well we did, we got started a few times. Then there´s another bunch of shows. So we have to go FUCK, let´s get this done! So we have a couple of months with more shows then after August it´s all done and we´re really gonna buckle down and finish it, hopefully record it the winter and have it out by May. If we can make the May date, it might happen, or we have to push it all the way back to September.
Sounds like the both of you are really excited about the return of Forbidden. But in the first place when people started asking you about getting back together you were like "I dunno…"
Craig: That was more me!
Russ: Last year, this whole thing started as a reunion to play shows. Everyone took it like that too, half heartedly, just go in, play shows, have fun! It´s a Forbidden reunion, let´s have fun and party! Then it was kinda shocking to see the reactions we were getting. "Wow, people like Forbidden!" That was humbling, so we could just step back and say "Let´s do it!"
Craig: I was definitely on the fence, especially about if I could write this kind of music, I hadn´t written it in so long. I had done rock stuff, but the riffs have to come from somewhere. I thought I would have a partner in Glen, but he was not available. OK, I´m the lone fucking ripper! I started getting inspired when we were out on the road last year so about half way through I thought, "OK, I can see myself doing this again". Then when I came home I started popping out like "This is actually fun, I can go there!"
People always talk about your first two albums, but DISTORTION and GREEN are actually good albums, but a little bit different.
Craig: Oh yeah, we call them a slow burn. Not like the albums are slow, but people took a while to understand them. Now it´s really bizarre because I see people that told me ten years ago that they didn´t like it at all suddenly going "You gonna play anything off GREEN? You gonna play anything off DISTORTION?" So they like it now.
Craig: Constantly! I guess that´s the sign of a good thing. Immediate is nice, the other two albums were immediate, and those albums obviously came at a time when music was so different and we weren´t sure where we were fitting. We kinda lost ourselves and that was what you got. What you get NOW is a bunch of guys that see the rear view mirror clearly. We see where we were at our best and when people thought we were better and when we were writing all that melodic stuff. We have a great sense of who we are, what our purpose is. To do a non-thrash album right now would be a travesty, what we need is a record that represents our best in a new way with a new spin on it. It´s gonna cover all four albums. Right now I´m mostly into the TWISTED INTO FORM to GREEN era, it would be great if we could get the brutality of GREEN with the technical side of TWISTED. And the melodic sound of TWISTED, that was missing on GREEN for sure, except for a couple of songs.
What you did 20 years ago is basically what bands are doing today. They play the melodic stuff, but really fast.
Russ: That´s what´s funny about the whole thing too. Hopefully we can write something where that can happen again. But I would like to see a lot of instant gratification! We were one of those bands that did something that was… I wouldn´t say ahead of its time, but it takes a while to absorb it. When you do, you go OH! * laughs *
Craig: That certainly has happened. It´s amazing, people that weren´t into those albums are now going "You gonna play something off it?" No, we´re doing FORBIDDEN EVIL and TWISTED INTO FORM. That´s IT! This is the last time we´re gonna do it, you´ll never hear it again.
Russ: This is the last time in Europe you get to see that.
Craig: Yeah, we got albums to play, you know. Four albums and we can do a couple of songs off each record and then concentrate on the future. Hopefully it will stand up. Actually, I know that to us it will, but I hope people will think so, I really hope people like it.
You´re now on Nuclear Blast, or?
RUSS and CRAIG: No no no no no!!!
Craig: We are free agents! And so happy to be, after the things I learned in the last year. We don´t need that kind of pressure on us. That was a big risk. "You wanna do this without being signed?" Yeah. Because they´re all interested, so I hope we find the right home.
Russ: We have a lot of people behind us now. They´re not exactly in the record industry, but they´re helping us. They make sure we don´t crash and burn out here. It could get really disastrous. It´s really nice and really comforting.
Craig: It´s nice to be out here without a record label helping you. We just don´t need it right now. When that time comes, we´ll go to that.
Were you somehow disillusioned by the record labels? Your last album came out on GUN Records I think.
Craig: If we weren´t disillusioned by the business, we wouldn´t have our eyes open!
It opened your eyes now?
Craig: Yeah, at our biggest peak the record industry was reaming us at the highest level.
Russ: That was when they didn´t really count album sales.
Craig: They were pushing albums out the back of trucks in those days! I think we were signed to Relativity, the guys who went "Records? Yeah, I think we have some over here!" You can´t to that anymore, you can´t hide sales like you used to, everything is kept track of digitally. If you´re selling records at all, you´re fucking golden because people are mostly just buying songs. So it was a different era and we have to find out where we fit in there. We don´t know yet, but we are so glad that we´re not signed now. Nuclear Blast is a good label, they may be our label or they may not. Maybe they all will turn their backs on us and say "never mind". Then we end up with someone smaller who will love us and that will be the right label. We don´t know.
I suppose Forbidden is your main priority now, but you have another band going on. Are they on hold now?
Craig: Sort of. They´re on hold now because I´m here. But I think there´s a time for all of that, to be honest. We gotta concentrate on writing a record so that´s gonna be my priority when I get home. Hank Sherman is waiting with our Demonica thing, but they understand. There will probably be time to do something will Demonica early next year, before our album comes out. That might be the only times to get going with those guys. I have to get it out of my system because it feels good when I do it. Same with Russ, he has Parking Lot Prophets and it feels good when he does it. And then Spiralarms are gonna do some recordings but the songs are already written. We wrote a ton of songs over the years, that´s a much easier thing than what Forbidden is doing.
In the old days you were touring Finland, doing three gigs. Oulu, some hellhole in the middle of nothing and Helsinki.
Craig: Yeah, that was interesting. Helsinki was cool. All those gigs were cool. What I remember was being really fucked up! We were drinking shit we had never heard of.
So after Sweden Rock you are going home?
Craig: Going home, back to our families and to get pretty much a week off. Then back to work!
FORBIDDEN EVIL AT THRASH OF THE TITANS
Thrash of the Titans as Forbidden Evil, how did you get involved?
Russ: For Chuck. Chuck asked us to do it, he was having problems. He had cancer and it was kind of a benefit for him. It was hard to get it together actually. That´s one reason why Steve Smyth is in the band now. He came in to do it.
Craig: Because I couldn´t.
Russ: And we had a drummer, I forget his name…
Russ: Yeah, Jeremy. He wasn´t a bad drummer, but we did it for Chuck. I actually called Chuck and said "It´s not gonna happen, there´s no way to even get half of these guys up there". And he said "If you´re there, it will happen. With you up there, it´s Forbidden. Get whoever you can get and let´s do it!" So I said, "OK, I´ll do it for you, Chuck!"
Craig: That´s one singer talking to another…
Russ: * laughs *
From Chuck Billy to Chuck Schuldiner. When did you play with Chuck?
Craig: 1993. We were a really fast lineup. In fact, I came across some of it on YouTube and just thought "Fuck, we were fast!" It was the fastest those guys ever played. Gene was like "Since we´re all here and we´ve all got the arms, let´s push it!" It was fun. I became very good friends with Gene after that. And Chuck. And Steve all of those guys are friends. Chuck is obviously not here, which is a travesty. He was a genuine guy.
The official Forbidden site