For any band, the idea of losing a member just after completing work on a new album is a nightmare. So imagine when that happens to a band following the completion of their original lineup’s first album in over 18 years, and that departing bandmate just so happens to have been the band’s voice since day one. That’s the scenario NYC hardcore metal legends Biohazard found themselves in this past Summer when frontman/bassist Evan Seinfeld suddenly left the group.
Such a situation would’ve been the final nail in the coffin for most bands. Instead, though, Biohazard moved forward continuing to play shows with former bassist Scott Roberts filling in. And on January 20, after long delay, the band will release their new album Reborn In Defiance. However, while they’ll be releasing it via Nuclear Blast Records worldwide, Biohazard will be giving away the album for free via Revolver Magazine’s website and Repudo.com, with a physical release date slated for April 16 (Record Store Day).
A few days before heading out on the road for their upcoming North America tour, Biohazard guitarist Bobby Hambel took a moment to chat with Metal Insider. During our conversation, Hambel discussed the band’s decision to give away Reborn In Defiance for free, the band’s chemistry with Scott Roberts (who will be touring with the band in support for this album), the possibility of Biohazard becoming a five piece in the foreseeable future, life after Even Seinfeld, and how the band was able to accomplish so much against all odds.
How did Biohazard come up with the idea of releasing the new album Reborn In Defiance for free online in the U.S. without label support?
Well, it took a while to get to the point we’re at as far as putting back the old band together, going on tour and actually making a record. We had this arrangement with Nuclear Blast Records to release it worldwide, and the United States was left separate. The United States, that’s our home. And we want to give back to all the people all over the world of course, but in America, we wanted to do a separate release. We wanted to do a release with extra content. Possibly live recordings, extra songs that aren’t on the full length LP just to make it a more interesting and meaningful release.
But the way the industry works on its own calendar and seasonal type of activity, I mean there are times when they say you should never release a record during “these months” or you should only release it during “this time.” And we said we wanted the American release at the same time as the worldwide release, but with the American release we wanted to add all of the extra material I just mentioned. We couldn’t get that done for whatever reason. And we already gave away like 4 or 5 songs. So we figured let’s just let everyone hear the record. And then when we’re ready to give the physical release with all of the stuff we really wanted in there in the first place, then we’ll just release it at a later date because we couldn’t do both at the same time.
The important thing to us is that they just get the music and get the record. The whole industry has changed. I just think it’s all about playing live. We just want to be a live band and get out there and play. The release of records and the recording part of it is great, but it’s not what we’re really about. To us, basically doing a record is an excuse to get yourself on tour again. And the touring is where we live. The records are a moment in time, that moment of time has passed and we’re already looking forward to the next one and just being on the road. And besides that, what started with [the idea of] us giving away music was that these people are supporting us, and we’re like “Yo, let’s give them some tracks? There shouldn’t be a price tag on everything.” The economy sucks, what’s the difference? Getting the music out there is what’s important and hopefully inspiring people to come to our shows to see us live and do what we do. That’s 99% of what we are, is a live band.
So you wouldn’t say that giving the music away for free would devalue it?
No, I don’t think it devalues it at all. First I would question that. When there is a physical release, there will be so much extra content and a completely different type of package that if people wanted to buy it, in a market value type sense, then not really. The free record is an introduction to what’s coming with the actual physical release because there’s way more material. There’s artwork, videos, live recordings, unreleased songs that aren’t on the other versions. It will be more of a collectable item for those who view it that way. But as far as devaluing it as a piece of work, I don’t think it devalues it. People might appreciate it even more.
Who will be distributing the physical album to stores in North America on Record Store Day (April 16)?
It depends on the territory, but it’s all under the Nuclear Blast umbrella. I’m not sure who’s actually carrying and distributing before it ships to stores. I’m not really sure about that, I wish I could answer that now. But like I said, my mind isn’t on that at all. My mind is on preparing for the shows coming up and working on the new music for the new album that we’re going to do as soon as possible.
Speaking of the upcoming shows, word slipped that Scott Roberts, who filled in for original frontman Evan Seinfeld shortly after his departure, would be joining the band on the upcoming tour. Does this imply that Roberts is now a permanent member of Biohazard, or is this just a temporary arrangement?
Well, it’s not a temporary thing at all. As long as Scott wants to play with us, he can play with us, basically. Evan had left the band, and we wanted to go out and fulfill our obligations and due something touring for this album. And Scott offered to come in and do the touring with us. Now where that goes in the future, when it comes time for Biohazard to regroup and make a new album, I mean we still have other ideas too. There’s a possibility we may want to work with just a singer AND have a musician onstage with instruments, and do some other changes to the lineup. We don’t know yet, but this last record was done as a four piece and this is the record we’re going to tour on right now. So Scott was willing to step in for Evan, and we can put the show on the road. It’s the “show must go on” type of thing. So it’s up to Scott. I mean thank God he’s here and we’re very excited that he’s into it because it’s just so natural to have him come in.
It really is an in-house family type of situation because during the years when I was out of the band, Scott joined Biohazard as a guitar player. He recorded with them, he toured with them, he was in the band. And I knew Scott from back when I was in the band and when back in the early days we toured with his other band The Spudmonsters. And when I rejoined to do the reunion tour, which is all it was at the beginning, for me to bury the hatchet with my old friends and to get back onstage for the 20 year reunion. It was great because for me it was a way to make amends and a way for me to get out there and play in front of the audience I had left for so long. I feel like let a lot of people down, the people who were supporting us, and it was my way of making things right. And Scott totally understood that, and Scott offered to be my guitar tech and be a tech for the band on the road. And it’s all good, we’re all friends. This shows you the guy’s level of support for the band. As time went by, Billy was having a baby, and we had these shows booked. So Billy [Graziadei, guitarist] went home, and who better than Scott? He knows the music, he jumped right in and saved our asses, and we played a couple of shows without Billy.
Then when Evan left the band, we had three shows booked and confirmed, and we were like “Well, what are we going to do about these three shows?!” Scott was like “I’ll do it! Give me the bass. I know the songs on guitar, I’ll just learn them on bass.” So he came out on bass and basically saved our asses again.
It sounds like he deserves the MVP award!
Yeah, he’s the MVP! The only person he hasn’t stepped in for is Danny [Schuler] on the drums. So now we got to get him learning drums just in case [laughs]. It just shows you that it was totally natural. When we play with him live, from all of his experience in the band, it’s like he’s a regular part of the band. It’s not like “Ok, this is the new guy. This might be awkward. He doesn’t know when we do certain breakdowns and timing things.” There are very subtle things in a live performance that a tight band knows, and only they feel. And that’s what makes the music sound the way it does. When we go to a certain part and we pull back the beat just a little bit, we know how to do that with our eyes closed without even looking at each other. But somebody else who would jump in might know the music on paper and in theory, and then when you get in there with them they mess up that whole part because they don’t get how we approach it. Scott knows that about us. So he’s in the pocket with the band.
I guess I’m just a little surprised to hear that Scott’s still joining the band on the road because I’ve read that Biohazard had held open auditions. Did you guys ever end up auditioning other musicians?
Yeah we did, that’s why I said before we were still entertaining the idea of having a singer. The label, management, and everyone around us, everybody was trying to come to our aid at the time. When Evan had left, it was like we had everybody in the neighborhood giving us a different remedy for the common cold. Like one guy calls me up and said “Yo, you should have chicken soup!” and the other guy is like “No! Take argan oil” and another guy is like “No! Vitamin C!” Meanwhile, you’re sitting there with this fucking cold and nothing works. That’s kind of how it was. There was a lot of influence, a lot of people scrambling around trying to figure out options for the band, until we were forced to relook at the band.
And then the ideas that came up were “Wow, maybe we should just make it a five piece!” or maybe we should do this or that. And then we said “Let’s see what that’s like.” So we announced we were holding some auditions. We received a bunch of videotapes…videotapes, I’m from the old days! [laughs] We got some video files or whatever the fuck you call them, and we saw a lot of cool people stepping that would obviously bring something to the table. And we were really inspired. Then time is ticking down, we have a tour to do, Danny’s wife if pregnant, we have all this stuff going on and we’re on the opposite ends of the country right now. We got all of this stuff going on.
So the decision to just stick with this lineup [with Scott] for now comes from the fact that 1) the record was recorded with that type of lineup and that’s the record we’re supporting on tour. 2) I’m not going to say economically, but it’s easier for us at this point in time and in this late in the game to just do with what we got with the meat and potatoes. But we still have that whole idea and concept of bringing in another singer. And now I’m thinking if we’re going to go on tour with another singer, let’s wait till we do a record that has another singer. I believe that if you do a record, you should be able to bring that record on tour and do it exactly the way you did it in the studio. So we made the decision to hold off on having the fifth guy. That’s all, but it’s in no way a final decision. It’s Biohazard, everything’s got to be completely fucking twisted, upside down and totally unorthodox.
It wouldn’t be fun if it wasn’t!
I know, but the distractions and anxiety that goes with it all, it’s like a rollercoaster being in the band. But I love it, we all love it. We are all dedicated to it a 100%.
Speaking of rollercoasters, as we mentioned before this marks the last Biohazard album without frontman/ bassist Evan Seinfeld. The band has obviously been able to move on, but does Seinfeld’s departure still come as a shock to you?
Yeah, I’m still shocked. I was at rehearsal last night and although I’m playing and everything feels great and Scott’s doing an amazing job, once in a while in between songs I’m thinking “Wow, this is so different,” and “Why is he not here?” And it’s the same question you’ll have when any type of serious change happens in your life. You go “Wow, this is strange. How did I get to this point?” But we’re getting used to it, the idea that he’s gone, and we’re just going to keep going. It was his choice. We didn’t choose for him to leave, we didn’t tell him he had to leave. Evan just made his choice, and that’s it. Hey man, we’re all grown men.
And I said this before and I’ll say it again, for me it was a little bit different cause I came back into the band. So I had a different goal, a different set of values here because of my past and mistakes. I needed to pick up the pieces and put my life back together in a lot of ways, and part of that was somehow and in some way regrouping with the band and going back out and playing to the people who’ll support us no matter what. And for me to get back with the band after all those years was like “Wow!” Everybody said this could never be done, that this was never going to happen. Hence Reborn In Defiance, which implies to a lot but I’m just giving you one example. Anyway, here I am back in the band and I’m sure the rest of the guys are very happy in their own way, but I was really grateful and was really blown away at how life can really turn around for people.
Then when Evan left, inside I was a little upset, but then again I was like “Wait a minute, he’s a grown man. We’re all grown men, and there’s no guarantees in life.” And the fact that we got the original band together after being apart for twelve years, and we stayed together long enough to tour the world for a little over two years AND do a fucking full blown studio album together, that’s more than any of us could’ve asked for! It was just a few years ago when we were still not speaking and the laws of the universe would never allow us to cross paths. That’s how it seemed. So I’m grateful for all of it, and we understand that we can’t expect any more out of life. We can’t demand that one of us stay in the band now if he’s got to move on with his life. So we’re just happy, and Reborn In Defiance will be a really special record for us.
I find it really interesting how you view the album as a milestone for the band, as it rightfully is considering it’s the first album with the original lineup in about 18 years. Is that why the band opted to not rerecord Evan’s parts following his departure?
Yeah, because that would be dishonest. Evan, Billy, Bobby, and Danny made that record together. Whether we’re together now or in the future doesn’t mean shit, man. That’s the record we made together, and that’s the record that’s coming out. We’re not going to run back and say “Ok, let’s erase all of his tracks and get a new singer in here and put his tracks on it,” after Evan just worked on it because it’s a piece of artistic expression. You can’t fuck with it, you can’t go back and change anything once it’s done. It’s like when you exhale breath, it’s gone. Whether it stinks or it smells fucking sweet, I don’t know but once you let it out it’s gone, it’s there. You can change the way the next one comes out, but once it’s exhaled, it’s exhaled.
What’s done is done.
Exactly, and we’re still proud of it. We’re not the type of people that would run that type of game on anybody. I just think that’s fucked up. Some bands have done it, I guess they had their reasons to do it, but we wouldn’t do that. No way!
This last question may be a little vague, but given your all of your experience in music thus far, is there anything you know now that if possible you’d tell yourself back when you were first starting out?
If I could give myself some advice? Oh wow, that’s tough but I’ll tell you what, from me personally it would be to watch out for fucking alcohol for one. Two, to take it easy, take it slow, and don’t believe in as many people that were coming at you at the time. I had a lot of disappointments when it came to real people actually all being exposed at once as being fake people. I would tell myself not to be gullible, basically. But how do you tell somebody who’s naive not to be naive? You can’t. I don’t know what to say, it’s kind of like a trick question because when you’re that young, you don’t have periods to learn the lesson. You have to learn the hard way. But there’s nothing you can really change, or would I want to because everything happens for a reason. I mean, here we are today, and I’m in the band getting ready to tour. How the fuck did this happen? But everything that happened in the past lead up to this.
But for me, as far as the band goes, I would tell myself to fucking maintain dedication and don’t let anything tear the unit apart, which is what happened to us. A lot of outside influence helped, there was a lot of stuff going on. There was looming doom around the internal of the band after a while just because of the surroundings that went with us getting some success, so much traveling, and so much activity going on. It was just a little much at the time. But life is a beautiful thing man. I’m really grateful to be here and really grounded now in my life. I look back and I remember all of these people who were there and now they’re not here anymore, the people who have passed away, people in the same position as I’m in; musicians. If they had one more day alive, what would they do? And the answer is really basic. They’d be basically themselves and the happiest, be with their family and do what they love. And the fact that I can do what I love because of my family is really important to me.
Very lucky to be here, we’re all lucky to be here! Who knows how long any of it’s going to last. Life is not a certain thing. So let things be what they are, just do the best you can every day, and try to get as much out of this world as you can, which is why we love doing what we do because we get to see the world. Very fortunate, being a high school dropout and now I’ve traveled the planet!
That’s more than most people will get to do in their life!
Exactly! And I still hang out with the guys in my neighborhood who I was in grammar school with. That’s the beautiful thing about Brooklyn, NY, is that I’m still friends with those guys. And no matter what happens or how bad I do, they’re still proud of me because I got to break out and do something else that not everybody got to do. And I’m very humble for that. Music is a beautiful thing. The industry might change, the whole business of it was fucked up in the first place, but being able to fucking make music and have it take you to faraway places so other people can feel what you’re doing and relate to the words that you’re saying, that’s fucking beautiful!
So this whole thing about making records, if the industry wasn’t set up where you’re forced to make a record in order to get booked on tour, I don’t think we’d even make as many records or worry about it. We’d just record when we feel like it. It’s all about playing live, but unfortunately if you don’t make a record then you’re not going on tour. And that’s somebody else’s fucking rules, that’s not mine.