Sick Of It All interview with Lou Koller: From the Vault

Below is a cleaned-up version of an interview D.U.’s editor conducted that appeared in Curious Goods ‘zine #5 back in 1991.

The time: November 29, 1990, before the show. The place: The 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., backstage. The subject: Sick Of It All’s Lou Koller (vocals), E.K. (Eric Komst, drums), and Eddie Coen (bass). I sat down on the couch with Koller and E.K. and Coen was standing against the wall. There was screaming and yelling from the next room where Agnostic Front was, and people such as Pete Koller (guitar) and some road guys were coming in and out. Of course, introductions were in order.

Curious Goods: I saw you guys at the Bayou in D.C. back when you were opening up for Exodus, y’know? And I came up to Lou after the show and I said, “Has anyone ever told you that you sound like the singer of the Crumbsuckers?”

Koller: Oh, now I remember you, yeah!

Well, you guys ready to go? Okay, question number one: That EP that’s coming out in January, We Stand Alone, what’s that gonna be like?

Koller: It’s the new stuff with the new members. And the live stuff is just, like, the last things done with Rich [Cipriano, bass] and Armand [Majidi, drums]. It’s kinda like a transition, y’know? It’s gonna have forms of the old band and the new band.

The demo and the 7” you guys did, what did those do to spread your name around?

Koller: It did fine. The demo got us a lot of recognition everywhere through Maximumrocknroll. And then after that, we put out the 7” and that, like, secured our hardcore following, y’know?

So you got the In-Effect deal by sending the 7” off to the label?

Koller: No, actually Steve Martin and Howie Abrams, they both worked for Relativity, and they both came from the hardcore scene and all that. Steve Martin was in Agnostic Front. They were getting really screwed by Combat. They were outselling a lot of the metal bands on Combat, but they were still getting treated like shit ‘cause they were just a hardcore band. So they came up with this idea to start a label that could push different types of music without overshadowing one or the other, y’know? And that’s how they started In-Effect. And Howie and Steve, they knew us and they liked our stuff and they saw that we were one of the fastest-rising bands in the New York scene, so they picked us up.

Do you like how the “Injustice System” video turned out?

Koller: Not really. I think there shoulda been a lot more live stuff. And I think Armand shoulda been playing the drums on it, which is an argument I had the day of the shooting. ‘Cause Armand was there, he played on the record and he did the tracks, but they had Max [Capshaw, drums] in the video. And I think they shoulda used a lot more live stuff. The live stuff was a lot more intense, but they didn’t want it to look like the Agnostic Front video. The riot footage, that got all censored too, which really pissed us off. Because, I mean, a band like Guns N’ Roses can have riot footage. All these big bands, just because they have a lot of money behind them, they can have all this riot footage and without blanking out any policeman’s face. We had to do that for fear of being sued by the cops. And the same thing with our album. We couldn’t put the lyrics in the record to get it into certain stores, because they would find it offensive, y’know? But a band like Slayer or Metallica or whoever can have “fuck shit” all over their record and print it in their record. And it’s just because they bring in more money that they’ll let their record stay there. It all has to do with money.

What do you think of those parental advisory stickers they put on the albums?

Koller: I really think it’s bullshit. It’s like, I was just reading an article on this band Vio-Lence where they made them take off a song called “Torture Tactics.” But yet Atlantic Records put out a song by this rap group, uh, Audio Two, where they make fun of homosexuals, they make fun of white people, they make fun of this and that. Why is that permitted, but you can’t have this other song which is about other countries torturing people for information and stuff like that? And it all boils down to one thing: who’s got more money, who’s gonna make them more money. So you see, they cut out the Vio-Lence song and they look good to the P.M.R.C., and they sneak in the other one that’s more money anyway for them.

Did you get that “Clobberin’ Time” from the Fantastic Four comic?

Koller: Yeah, one night when we were practicing, Rich came up with a riff and then we just built on it from there and decided we’ll use the intro. And then one night I just said, “Let’s call it ‘Clobberin’ Time’,” and they really liked it. We kept it.

Are you guys into comic books, then?

Koller: Yeah, I used to be really into it. I still read some of ‘em.

E.K.: No, not really. Not at all.

Coen: I’m into Batman.

Koller: We still get shit from some kids in New York, like the new punks in New York, saying that we promote violence with that song. To us it’s not promoting violence, it’s all fun, it’s an outlet. “It’s clobberin’ time” doesn’t mean turn around and beat each other up, it means just fuckin’ let out your aggressions, y’know?

I understand your lyrics get misinterpreted a lot.

Koller: Ohh yeaahh. I mean, kids are coming down on us for lyrics like that, “My Revenge,” “Pushed Too Far,” which is all just songs about being pushed to the edge. How come nobody’s coming down on Slayer and stuff like that for wearing fuckin’ Nazi symbols all over the place? I don’t see anybody asking them that shit in interviews.

Do you have any info on songs for the new LP?

Koller: Right now, the only two solid ones we have are coming out on the 7”, which is “We Stand Alone” and “What’s Going On.”

Coen: We’re just gathering ideas. We’re doing shows now to get tight and get a feel for each other. We have some ideas, though.

Is everyone gonna get an attitude with the new LP’s lyrics, like they did with the Blood, Sweat, and No Tears record?

Koller: I guarantee ya, like I said, those new punk kids who hate us, they’re just gonna cut it all down as metal. Even if it doesn’t sound nothin’ like metal, they’ll just say, “It’s metal, forget it, they sold out.” Which is what they’re saying now, even before we’ve written the second record. Lyrically, I guarantee ya, people’ll take things wrong. Like the song “We Stand Alone,” people’re gonna be saying, “Oh, what, are they all stuck up now? They don’t need anybody?” The whole thing is like the hardcore attitude. It’s like, we really don’t need the fuckin’ music industry as long as we got those kids and everybody behind us, y’know? We don’t need these other kids, we don’t need Maximumrocknroll, we don’t need anybody. As long as we got our fans who liked us from the beginning, that’s what it is, y’know? The other new song, “What’s Going On,” it’s all about the bullshit that’s going on in New York right now. And I guarantee you, somebody’ll say, “Oh, there they are promoting gang violence again.” The thing is, nobody talks about any of the other songs that we’ve written, like “Injustice System,” “Breeders of Hate.” They all ask us about the ones that pertain to violence. And my answer to that is, “If they never get pissed off, what the fuck’s their deal?”

How was it with Armand and Max? Were you cool about it when they left or were you upset?

Koller: Um, well, Armand was always, like, in and out, y’know? We decided once we were gonna try a different player, Max, and he just didn’t work out because he was too young. When he left, Armand wanted to come back. Then the last time, what pissed us off was that we just got off the D.R.I. tour, we were all ready to write for our next record, and Armand and Rich just quit. We had offers to go on other tours at the same time that whole summer for really good money, but they still didn’t wanna go. So I was very bitter about that, but it just took till we got new members to get over the bitterness.

So you’re cool with them now?

Koller: Well, we were cool through the whole thing. I just felt a little resentment, but that’s just, like, the childness in me, y’know?

How did you get the new guys, Eddie and E.K.? Did you do a lot of auditions?

Koller: Not a lot. We had a couple auditions. [laughs] We tried out, what, two bass players before Eddie? And he just waked up and he knew his shit. [laughs]

Cohn: Come on, you knew it was gonna be me. [laughs]

Koller: Yeah, it was weird because we had two bass players. They were alright, they were good. One guy played a total slap style which had nothing to do with our music, and then Eddie came in. He just knew his shit and had a great sound, so he was it. E.K., we tried out a lotta drummers a long time ago and we called them all back up, but nobody was really into it. So we were like, “Shit!” And E.K. said he wanted to try out. First try out was alright, he was good, just shaky. And the next week we tried him out again and he knew everything. It was cool.

What do you think of people calling you the D.R.I. of the ‘90s and posicore and all that?

Koller: It depends on who you read. If you read a metal magazine, we’re the D.R.I. of the ‘90s. If you read another fanzine where it’s straight edge—

Cohn: Yeah, it really can’t be interpreted to any kind of one specific type of music. We’re just getting really souped up for the new shit we’re writing. It’s gonna be, like, sorta out there and energetic, but great. But when it comes to a live thing, the people who dig us is gonna flip.

Koller: Yeah, you’ll see. Like a freight train.

“If you’re a hard, tough gang member, what the fuck you gotta reach for a gun for if you’re so hard?”

What do you think of all this talk about hardcore dying? I read a few interviews with Warzone, for example, and they say the whole scene’s dead and the straight edge thing is fake.

E.K.: Well, as far as Warzone went, that’s my old band. I did two albums with them and I toured and shit like that. And they say that because they turned away from the hardcore. They got overproduced by some producer who just took their shit and fucked it all up, changed the speeds, took samples with the drums instead of playing live, changed everything and just, like, total Paula Abdul mix for a fuckin’ hardcore band, and it was weak.

Cohn: They just lost their direction.

E.K.: Yeah, that name sounds like shit now because of what happened to that last album, y’know? I mean, a lotta people from New York like it, from what I heard. It’s, like, big over there. The kids’re like, “Wow, new style!” and shit like that. But here, it’s like—

Koller: See, as far as people saying hardcore’s dead is exactly what he just explained. It’s people who are getting out of hardcore saying it’s dead. It’ll never be dead ‘cause there’s always new kids coming into it who have, like, the ideals that you have when you first got into it when you were 15. You were like, “Oh, shit, we’re gonna change the world,” or whatever, “This is such a neat scene.” In New York I know it’s getting really fucked up with these bullshit little gangs and everything.

Isn’t that what they say about the Alleyway Crew?

Koller: That’s bullshit. The Alleyway Crew, the Lower East Side Crew, they were never gangs. They were just groups of people who hung out together. It was just a name to thank, so you didn’t have to sit up there and say, “I thank Joe, his brother Willie, this guy Smith.” There’s the Alleyway Boys, there’s the Lower East Side Crew, there’s the Youth Crew. Now these other kids who saw the Lower East Side Crew and the Alleyway Crew and they were like, “We want our own clique and our own group.” But what they did, they were heavily influenced by the rap thing like N.W.A. That album came out, all of the sudden everybody was a gangster. They robbed, they had guns, they’d bring knives to shows. A kid pulled a fuckin’ gun out at the Killing Time show last weekend! For no reason, for no reason.

Coen: I was standing there. I was freakin’, man.

Koller: He pulled out a gun because somebody looked at him wrong! Y’know, if you’re a fuckin’ hard, tough gang member, what the fuck you gotta reach for a gun for if you’re so hard? Fight the guy one on one if you’re such a man!

Coen: That’s not a reason to fight anyway, just ‘cause someone looked at you wrong.

Who do you think are some the forefathers of the hardcore scene?

Koller: Well, you mean nationally? It’s so weird because you can start in D.C., Boston—

Well, let’s say for New York, then.

Koller: For me in New York? Uh, Major Conflict was one of the really early ones. Earlier bands like Nihilistics and Urban Waste, I like them but Major Conflict was a heavy influence. For me, the two big ones are Agnostic Front and the Cro-Mags. Then you got Major Conflict—

What did you think of that new Cro-Mags album?

Koller: Best Wishes? I liked it. I really did.

Cohn: I think it’s a great album. I think it’s great.

Koller: But I think making your songs longer to appeal to other people is bullshit. There’s a lotta stuff they coulda cut out. You could tell on certain songs there’s a section added for no reason.

To me, I think they crossed over and went metal.

Koller: Maybe if they did cross over, it’s still, they got that Cro-Mags crunch.

E.K.: Yeah, but even the first album had a metal groove to it. It was more street sounding. Even when they were hardcore, they were, like, kinda metal at the same time, kinda freight train, y’know?

Koller: Yeah, but they were more original on the first one.

How do you compare the metal crowds to the hardcore crowds, like when you did the Exodus thing?

Koller: That was weird, because actually in D.C. we played to a 99 percent metal crowd.

Cohn: I think a lot of the metal bands are influenced by hardcore. It’s, like, almost the same kinda style in certain ways. The speed and everything, they took offa hardcore, but they just get away with it and call it metal, y’know? People get scared of the name hardcore, but I think a lot it’s the same, like the energy.

Koller: You were at that show. When we walked out everyone thought we were Annihilator, and we weren’t Annihilator. By the first two songs there was two kids up front, and by the third song fuckin’ the whole place started getting up. By the end of the set the whole place was crowded and they were all getting into it, which surprised the shit out of us! [laughs]

That’s all the questions I have. Do you have anything you want to tell the fans to sign off with?

Koller: Well, like I said, we got the 7” which is also gonna be on cassette. It’s gonna have four live tracks on cassette and two live tracks on the 7”. Just watch for it. Thanks a lot. ■

Check out more Sick Of It All coverage: interview in ‘zine issue #2 and then in ‘zine issue #6, from the Just Look Around era.

And check out more old-school content here at the blog From the Vault.


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