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Crossing over to metal audiences was something Sick Of It All did from an early age and why not? The music was cut from the same cloth, it was heavy and powerful and aside from ‘image’ the brothers Koller couldn’t see why the two didn’t pair up more often. In fact, as Pete knowingly tells, one of their most diverse early tours was amongst some of the heaviest metalhead line-ups around. “Of course, me and Lou were always like ‘Why don’t all these bands just play together? We like all these bands’ In the States things weren’t that open, firstly there was punk, then there was hardcore and the two at the time didn’t really mix so that would have been unusual. This bill however was mainly metal. It was Sepultura, Napalm Death, Sacred Reich and us and it was like a two month tour and it was really good, it was really fun and we crossed over to a lot of different audiences which was great for us as a relatively new band.”


ick Of It All’s second album ‘Just Look Around’ was released in 1992, again on Relativity but in 1993 they did something no hardcore band had done before: signed to a major label. Sure, there were their detractors shouting ‘sell out’ along the way but a hardcore band signing to a major? That must’ve been a first right? Pete recalls. “Yeah I think so. If you’re talking about straight hardcore with no ambitions of being pop or anything. And the good thing is that when they signed us, they didn’t wanna change us at all! They had this idea that you know what, they had Metallica who’d sold millions of record, then came along Pantera who were that bit more heavier and also sold a tonne of records and then they thought the next big thing was going to be something even heavier than these two bands. When they’d come and see us play in New York, we played at a place called the Limelight that held, I dunno, tons of people, eighteen hundred, maybe two thousand people and the two shows they came to see were completely sold out and they were insane! It was the height of hardcore in New York, it was insane! The shows went off and were totally crazy. The label guys from East West were like ‘This has to be the next big thing!’ and we were like ‘Who cares?’ [laughter]” You’d think, as is often the way with major labels, that they would want to dilute and change the band. Look at it on paper: four guys from the boroughs of New York City, playing some of the fastest and heaviest music dressed only in T-shirts and shorts. They didn’t care about image - in fact they didn’t care about much. They were just having fun. Ironically though, that is exactly the way the label wanted them which is was perfect for the mindset for Pete and the boys. Chuckling he recounts the events of the time: “Okay, a good story, we gave East West the first mix of ‘Scratch The Surface’ and our engineer at the time kinda slicked it up and cleaned it up. We were like ‘This isn’t what we want!’, and the label were like ‘This isn’t what we want either!’, so then we got a guy to come in and he made it dirty, so that’s what we have now.” Of course, in a scene born from the rebellious, anti-establishment values of punk rock, signing to

SICK OF IT AL L a major was tantamount to blasphemy for the punk police and Sick Of It All raised a few eyebrows and angered many an armchair critic. We discuss how they dealt with the punk police. “Back then there was these people on at us ‘These guys sold out, they sold out!’. Where are you now? I’m still here, in a dirt field, playing. That’s all I do, play the music that I love. Being signed to a major gave us the opportunity to keep on doing it, expanding our fan base and getting it out on a global platform. Why the hell wouldn’t any band do that?” Ultimately, this break sealed the band’s longevity. If it wasn’t for their time on a major we may not be sat here today reminiscing about their triumphant, thirty-year career, a feeling that Pete is quick to back up: “Of course, being on that major enabled us to headline the stage what we’re playing tonight. Because of them we had the opportunity way back in the ‘90s to build up a fan base, because back then people would see us at some random festival, wherever it was. People that were there had never even heard of us, but there was three thousand people waiting to see us because they had never fucking heard of us and from that day on we had fans. If you can get only 5% of that audience into you then you grow a strong fan base.” In a bizarre twist of fate - again thanks to the major label marketing machine - they got one of the unlikeliest breaks on what was arguably one of the most watched programs on TV back in the ‘90s. Couch potato, potty mouth teenagers Beavis And Butthead. The video for the seminal track ‘Step Down’ got the full treatment and catapulted them into homes across the USA, Europe and beyond. “Hell yeah! And they didn’t make fun of us, they were kinda into it [laughs]. You see we’re always kind of underneath popular culture - we pop up once in a while but we always stay on top. It’s really weird. But yeah, only good things happened from it.” On the 14th December 1992 a lone gunman by the name of Wayne Lo entered his University building in Great Barrington, Massachusetts and




Profile for Big Cheese Publishing