INTERVIEW BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
KILLCODE is a five-piece American rock band from New York City. To date the band has released two EPs, one full-length album (KILLCODE, 2014) and several music videos. In recent years, they have toured with such legendary names as Twisted Sister, Ace Frehley and Lita Ford. KILLCODE has also appeared in several metal festivals around the world including Bang Your Head festival in Germany, the Guitar Scene Festival in France and Heaven and Hell festival in Mexico. The band has just finished its secord full-length album, called THE ANSWER, and at the moment it’s available on their official website www.killcode.net. Despite all of this the band is still relatively unknown in some countries. I met the band’s vocalist Tom Morrissey and guitarist D.C. Gonzalez recently in New York. It was a really interesting meeting, and now I can say that I know quite a lot about the band. We talked about the band’s past, present, and about what kind of plans they have for the future. Read on and get to know KILLCODE!
WHO IS KILLCODE?
Many of our readers don’t know that much about KILLCODE. So let’s start the easy way. Who is KILLCODE and what is the band about?
Tom: KILLCODE is a band from New York City. It’s Chas (Guitar), Erric Bonesmith (Bass), Rob Noxious (drums), D.C. Gonzalez (Guitar) and myself on vocals. We’ve been described as a Hard Rock band with metal and southern rock influences and I pretty much agree with that. To date, we’ve released two EPS, a self-titled, full-length album and we recently finished our new album called the “The Answer”. “The Answer” was produced by Joey Z, from the band “Life Of Agony” and I think it’s our strongest work to date. Last year we had some great opportunities touring the world and US and we can’t wait to get back out there this year in support of the new CD. As we like to put it, we want to “Spread the CODE”! We’re “Spreading the CODE” as we talk to you as well! (Laughs)
When was the band formed and how did the current line-up came together?
Tom: The band was formed by myself and Chas. We were in a band that was signed prior to KILLCODE. For whatever reason, that band didn’t work out. We both decided to try our own thing. Not really in a band sense but try and write some songs and see what comes of it. We sat down in his basement and wrote a couple of songs that right off the bat we were excited about. After that we reached out to Erric Bonesmith, a bass player that was a good friend of Chas and he came on board. We met Rob Noxious when Mistress Juliya, who was a DJ for Fuse Television at the time, put out a blast on social media that we were looking for a drummer. Rob at the time was living out in California trying to come back to New York. He contacted us and after one audition he was in! D.C. came in after we played with another guitar player, Pat Harrington, for a while.
That was about the history of the band but maybe it’s better talk more about the future than the past?
D.C.: That’s right.
THE WRONG SIDE
I need to confess that I hadn’t heard too much about your band before this interview, but I did know a few things. (Laughs). The first time I heard you, was when I saw the video for “The Wrong Side”. Tell something about that one?
Tom: That was off our the last self titled album :::KILLCODE::: and it was the lead single. It’s a ballad and for us it the first time we led with a song like that
D.C: I’ll tell you a funny story. Chas and Tom wrote that song before deciding to put KILLCODE together and before I was in this band. It was actually one of the first songs that these guys wrote. Anyway, for whatever reason they didn’t release or play it too often. At the time I was in another band in the NYC rock scene and we played shows with KILLCODE. They played “The Wrong Side” at one of the shows that we played together. I walked back stage and I said, “Why the fuck don’t you guys play that song more often or release it?” I said, “It’s fantastic”! It does have a different vibe than most of KILLCODE’s songs and I get why maybe some bands don’t like to try new things but it’s a great song and at the end of the day that’s all I care about! Anyway, as fate would have it, I joined this band and we’re talking about what single should be released and what video should we do for what song? I’m the one that suggested it’s got to be “The Wrong Side”. It shows the diversity of what you guys can do.
Tom: We said okay and I’m glad we did. It did make us more comfortable trying new things and being a bit more diverse. New songs like “Own It” and “Put It Off” that are on the new album, came about from being more comfortable trying new things. “Own It” is a new song I’m really proud of. Chris Wyse, bassist for OWL and The Ace Frehley band plays on this song and really added something special to it. “Put It Off” is a song D.C. and I wrote, very similar to “Wrong Side”. It’s is just DC and I playing acoustic.
D.C: Yes I agree. Sometimes bands get caught up in, we’re going to do this type of Genre. That’s not me. When we wrote the new song “Put it Off “, Tom was about to leave my house after rehearsal. We started having a very deep conversation about something and I also randomly started playing this little thing on my acoustic guitar. He started singing and it was like, with all of your experience, you can never recreate a moment like that. We literary wrote that song in maybe five minutes. The final recording on the CD is pretty much what Tom and I came up with on the spot. It was a deep moment. Especially after the conversation we were having. The new Album is a kick ass record! There is a lot of high energy tunes in there. But there are also a few songs that we tried, new things and slowed down things a bit.
I’m going to give you my judgment once I’ve heard the whole album.
Tom: Yes, yes. We have the New CD for you to do just that.
THE MUSICAL TRENDS AND NYC
I would say that what separates KILLCODE from many other bands is that your music and style doesn’t represent any single musical genre. It has elements of many different styles and what’s also great is that you’re not following ongoing trends too much. How does that sound for you?
Tom: I think you’re right.
D.C.: I don’t want to say that we set out to do something different. I just think we set out to do music we liked. We didn’t and don’t care about following a specific genre. We didn’t and don’t care about what everybody else around is doing. It’s a little bit tough at times but worth it.
Tom: Yes not a typical New York City band.
D.C: Some people might think we are too light to be on heavy bills. Or we’re too heavy to be on lighter bills.
Tom: Or too Southern Rock to be in New York City. (Laughs)
D.C: We don’t compromise because of these thoughts and I think it gives us very unique style. Collectively we love similar bands like Motorhead, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. But individually we all have different influences.
Tom: I think that’s what shapes us.
D.C: We allow everybody to bring their own thing to the table. We don’t shut each other down and I think in some bands, that happens a lot.
If I had to describe your music in brief, after hearing only a couple of tracks, I would then say that you sound like a bastard son of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Skid Row. What do you think about that? (Laughs)
D.C: Skid Row?
Tom: It’s funny you say that as we’ve had people come to us and say, “You guys are like Skynyrd meets Sabbath, meets STP, meets…” but not Skid Row. Although they were a great band!
THE MUSIC SCENE OF NEW YORK CITY
What if we go a little deeper into this New York thing? Everyone knows that this city used to be one of the most important cities in the metal, rock, hard rock and punk in the world. But things have changed a lot since then. The clubs have disappeared, musical trends and styles have changed, every thing is now different to what it used to be before. My question is, how have you guys survived in these circumstances? (Laughs)
Tom: Yes, like you said earlier in NYC before KILLCODE, there was a bit of quiet time and a down time in the hard rock scene. You had the indie scene and bands like The Strokes and Interpol and these other bands. For whatever reason, Hard Rock at the time wasn’t the popular thing.
D.C: No it wasn’t a popular thing.
Tom: After that the bands that we liked either broke up or they got to the next level. We decided, okay. Now it’s our time to start something new. So, what we said to ourselves was, instead of just worrying about KILLCODE, let’s worry about the collective scene, the New York Rock scene. We started putting together shows and booking them with our friends and the bands we liked. We wanted to make each show an event! It started working and clicking. Prior to our scene, you didn’t have any local bands on our level, headlining the bigger rooms. They played the small rooms. Local up and coming bands didn’t headline Irving Plaza, Bowery Ballroom, Gramercy Theatre or play at Roseland Ballroom. We did that but again, not just by ourselves. We did this with other local bands and like I said things stared clicking.
D.C: Yeah. In New York City back in the day there was a fantastic scene, Metal, Hard Rock, Hardcore and Punk. It was incredible. You would go to see a local band and there would be a line around the corner. There was just a natural scene everywhere you went, and even the bad shows were okay. Then I don’t know what happened. Everybody started disappearing. Where the hell did all these people go? They literally just disappeared from the city. You’re right. It was very, very quiet here for a decade.
A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN USA, EUROPE AND MEXICO
I have spoken with a number of musicians who are completely tired of the current musical trends here in the United States. Albums do not sell, and fewer and fewer people go to concerts anymore. But in Europe the situation is different. The album sales fall there too, but the gigs are still selling well. What is also noteworthy is the fact that also young people are going a lot of metal / hard rock concerts there. Many of them have learned to listen to this music through their parents and you’ll see a lot of father’s and son’s or entire families on concerts. Have you noticed the difference between the USA and Europe?
Tom: A huge difference
D.C: We did notice this traveling throughout the world, Europe and Mexico. There is a difference. When you’re in the audience, you see teenagers and you see people in their 50 and 60s. There is a really good mix and you can tell that those people are doing a really good job of raising their kids right. Right now in the states a lot of people are into pop and rap music. You turn on the radio and you’re just killing yourself trying to find a rock station and a rock band in the US.
Tom: In South America and Europe, it’s just a different passion. They’re very passionate about Rock and Metal. In the States lately it’s true that it hasn’t been that way. I will say it’s gotten to a point now, where it’s coming back. We’ve been blessed and most bands aren’t as lucky, to have the opportunity to be able to travel the world without record sales that are breaking huge numbers yet. But at the end of the day like you said, no one is making huge numbers, even the big bands, unless you’re Iron Maiden or something. So I totally get what you are saying. But for us we feel that if we can put on a great show, then you’ll buy the CD. We still believe that there are people who will still say, “Okay, I like them live and now I’m going to buy their CD.” I want to hear it and I want to feel it.”
One important thing nowadays is to make sure that you have enough good looking merchandise, t-shirts etc. A brand, and I can honestly say that you guys have really good looking stuff and designs.
Tom: Thanks! We do that on our own.
D.C: Yes we do.
Tom: One of the things that did help us in New York City and in general, has been T-Shirts, our designs and merchandise. Having great merchandise has really helped us spread the CODE. Building a brand has been key to our success so far.
NEW KILLCODE ALBUM
Let’s discuss next more about your new album. You already mentioned that’s already available on your website.
Tom: We finished it probably about six, seven months ago. Our management is looking at different distribution options and want to be sure it gets out there and promoted correctly so we are being patient. It is still available on our website killcode.net and at all our shows. Like I mentioned earlier, the album was produced by Joey Z, who is the guitar player for Life of Agony. They are making a big resurgence right now as well and one of our favorite bands when we were younger. It’s 11 tracks that we’re really excited about it. We definitely have spread our wings for a lack of better word. We pushed the envelope a little bit, in different ways. Not just we got a little heavier. We also got more introspective, a little more emotional. I won’t say light, because even the slowest songs to me still have some substance.
D.C: They’re deeper too. Actually, some of the slow stuff on the new release is our heavy stuff. It’s deeper and it’s darker.
So do you have any idea who’s going to release the album?
D.C: Essentially, we finished the album and we’ve been sitting on it for a bit. The record business is very weird right now. It’s like we can literally release this tomorrow and we just may do that and may be the best idea. Like Tom said we’re trying to figure out what’s the best way of releasing this and we’re negotiating with a bunch of different distributors and options.
Tom: We’re not in a rush and we’re not going anywhere. We’re going to be doing this for the rest of our lives so we have to be smart about it.
TOURING PLANS AND THE FUTURE
But what kind or touring plans you have for the next year already?
Tom: In 2016 we toured with Twisted Sister around the world and in Mexico. We also did an East Coast run with Ace Frehley. In 2017 we plan to return and play most of the festivals we played at in 2016 while hitting new places in the surrounding countries.
D.C: We also played alongside Kiss and Sepultura in 2016, which was amazing.
Tom: On the tours last year no one really knew who we were but we proved ourselves and for lack of better words, knocked it out of the park! That’s one of the reasons we are invited back to play again at these festivals this year. We’ll be back at festivals like Heaven & Hell in Mexico and Bang Your Head festival in Germany. What we’re going to try and do as well is use those as anchor gigs for surrounding areas like Finland, Sweden, Norway
D.C.: We’re excited to get back out there this year and there are many things in the works.
This maybe an odd question, but do you think that the last show you played in Mexico, in 2016 is really going to be the last Twisted Sister show ever?
Tom: I think so but I really can’t say or speak for them.
D.C: I think it’s the last show.
Now we have covered about every question I had in my mind, but how you would like to see the future of KILLCODE from now?
Tom: The future of KILLCODE at the moment is getting our new album “The Answer“ out to the masses and tour everywhere we can in support of it!
D.C.: I would say this, after being on the road with some of our childhood heroes and playing with these guys every night we’ve learned a lot. Bands like Twisted Sister were together for 40 years and that’s how I see KILLCODE. I hope that we’re allowed that opportunity. That’s what I want.
Tom: Thanks for the interview and if you or anyone reading this want to hear more, just go to killcode.net. You can listen to all our past music, a few songs off the new album and some free downloads! Thanks for helping us “SPREAD THE CODE!!!”