August 2009

I caught up with The Casualties on their latest touring run making their eighth stop on their current U.S. route making their mark upon the Los Angeles terrain. Their new album "We Are All We Have," has just been released on Side One Dummy Records, and it's easily their most aggressive album to date. Prior to their sold out show their bassist Rick Lopez spoke to me over the phone about the new CD, and their upcoming tours.

1. How, when, and why did you form?

Rick: For the love of punk rock music because there wasn’t any at the time. It was all for the music, we formed in the 90s and have been playing strong ever since.

2. How does it feel to play back in the U.S. and how is the current tour going?

Rick: The current tour is going great we just released the new record and this tour is to support that record. We’re out on the West Coast right now we’re about o play L.A. tonight – one of our favorite cities to play. We’ve been having huge turn outs, having kids who are into the punk scene and punk music come out, having lots of energy. After this tour, we’re going be heading out to Japan next month and then South American in December pretty much hitting the road non-stop.

3. "We Are All We Have," came out this past Tuesday have you gotten all the partying out of the way?

Rick: Well the partying is part of the tour and it’s something we do - it’s why it’s there. We don’t want to get up on stage and look like retarded drunks. We want to make sure we play good, go out and have fun and have a couple laughs, when people come to a show. We want to make sure that all of our attention is focused not only on us but the audience as well. We don’t want to suck on stage, so when we drink and party we save it for afterwards because when we do play we want to make sure we don’t totally suck!

4. What are a majority of your songs about? Is there an underlying theme?

Rick: We don’t have an agenda on what we write about we just write about what’s currently going on around us and the world. What we’ve seen or heard about. Sometimes we have political themes to our music like our previous albums, but this one not as much basically whatever is the most importance to us is what we like to discuss musically.

5. What are your immediate music career goals?

Rick: Just make the best records we can make and do a lot of touring and make sure people like our music and have a good time. Doing what we like to do as long as we can. Making sure the music we make is what we want to do. Not writing songs on topics that aren’t our thing, what’s important to us and what we like doing.

6. What can you say about your secret show on September 27 out at the Cobalt Cafe?

Rick: Oh yes, we’re doing a secret show in L.A. before we head out to Japan the following day.

7. What is one of the toughest interview questions you've been asked?

Rick: “What does punk mean to you?” I just hate answering that. It’s not something that you can really describe and what it means to you. I know the answer I just can’t put it into words. I sit down and think about it but just don’t know what it really means. It’s one of those questions you just can’t answer.

8. Out of all the shows you have played, on this tour - is there one that stands out as a favorite? Is so, please explain.

Rick: L.A. is one of our favorite places to play – the Key Club is a smaller venue to play and normally always packed, which is good so I’m really looking forward to playing it.

9. Who are some of your favorite bands you've shared the stage with? Can you name some of the bigger bands that you've played with if any?

Rick: Yeah one of the bigger bands we’ve played with was Bad Religion really cool guys and we pretty much followed them growing up, so having the chance to talk to them about music was awesome. Circle Jerks a favorite of mine was another really cool experience for me, to be able to hang out and talk with those guys about music was great. As of right now we’re touring with a band called the Krum Bums they’re an up and coming band from Austin, Texas, and those guys are great.

10. What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Were you able to overcome it?

Rick: I really think the biggest challenge is all the people within the world talking down on us and talking crap. Saying things such as “You guys can’t play music” this and that situations, you then worry about what other people will say either online or in person. So you wonder how many of those people will be talking crap. It’s a real challenge from all angles.

11. What advice do you have for fans who want to start their own bands?

Rick: It’s a lot of hard work and you should definitely do it, no matter how hard you try don’t listen to what other people say - do what you want to do. Screw what everybody else has to say just go out and play and do what you love to do.

12. What should people know about you? What sets you apart?

Rick: I think what sets us apart is that we’re hardcore and more louder and that’s what I like we have our own uniqueness and I’m like that as a person and all of us in this band and we do what we really feel we should do. When you see us playing we’re not doing this for a paycheck we’re doing this because it’s what we love to do and what sets us totally apart from everyone else.

13. Thanks for doing the interview, anything you'd like to add?

Rick: Our new record is out now and we’re touring on it, so come check out a show pick up a record and come check out The Casualties.

Los Angeles local radio station Star 98.7 threw together a “Battle of the Bands” competition out at Universal Citywalk the night of August 26 2009. Right outside the Hard Rock Café a stage was set and 10 various bands were ready to rock the night away one by one. But only one would walk away victorious in the end. One of those bands was a Los Angeles local known as A Lucky Day Later. Their leading front women Alicia Nancine screamed and shouted her heart out during the band’s quick 2-song set as the judges watched and rated their overall performance. When it was all said and done, Alicia had mentioned before cutting off into their last song “We have free music and giveaways to hand out so come hang with us afterwards to get some free stuff”. After that was said the band concluded their set rounding off a night that was truly rock n roll.

Are the idols we love dead? According to Italy’s standards this is a true statement but let’s re-worded it in a different format. Idols Are Dead is the correct term we were looking to use. These thrash metallers have given us the proper arrangements of heavy metal infused with thrash metal inspiration located in between. So what is this band trying to prove? That they’re “Mean”!

You heard right, “Mean,” wasting no time Idols Are Dead grabbed a hold of Gabriele Ravaglia of Fear Studios, one of Italy’s finest to perfect the band’s unique and creative style and detect the proper sound barrier to call their own masterpiece. Keeping up the pace the band went off to win an award at the Heineken Jammin Festival Contest (2007) along with getting to share the stage with legendary acts such as Slayer, Iron Maiden, Stone Sour, plus many more.

Shortly afterwards Idols Are Dead signed a deal with Scarlet Records in December (2007) just 16 months after forming. Thus “Mean” was born and so was 9-tracks of pure heavy metal entertainment. Clashing together the old school thrash vibrations blended in with heavy metal inspirations, Idols Are Dead have crafted together a well rounded piece of art. Each tune is catchy and upbeat easily drawing in the listener with its captivating lyrics. Decrypting about the usual heavy metal formula i.e. sex, drugs, music and then some.

Some classy tunes worth mentioning include “Let’s Do It!” “Dance With The Devil,” “Pain For Sale,” and “The Name of My Rage.” Each one detailing the instrumental craftsmanship quite easily, for instance with “Dance With The Devil,” this jamming tune takes you from rockin to stunned. The fast racing guitar riffs with grind chillin solos filling in the empty pieces the other instruments forgot to max out. Whereas “Pain For Sale,” delivers the music in a whole another fashion – letting the vocal chords to do most of the dirty work shouting and echoing the chorus lines as the lyrics seem to bounce about.

Overall Idols Are Dead extends itself to sounding mean at first glance, but in the long run it’s just your ordinary guys just doing what they do best. Which is what? Create and let’s not forget of course – playing music!

Lead front man and vocalist for rock n rollers/heavy metallers Idols Are Dead are indeed dead. Dead serious about gaining some fan exposure and building up a steady fan base to keep their music flowing for everyone to enjoy. Mana spoke to me about the band’s beginning’s along with the current release and future details about everything else thrown in between.

1. What’s the name of your band? What’s the origin of that name? Have you changed the band’s name before?

Mana (Vocals) - The name of the Band is Idols Are Dead. I personally came up with that idea. For me it is like a statement that means that nowadays the real Idols are not existing anymore… I see too much overnight sensations and I don’t think that for a teenager of these days the Singer of Tokyo Hotel represents what James Hetfield was for me 15 years ago you know… and no this was the first and only name we’ve ever had.

2. Please list the name, age, school, and respective instrument of each band member.

Mana: Ok, here we go:

Mana – Vocals, 34
Maxx C. – Bass, 35
Luka – Drums, 35
Ico – Guitars, 31
Alley-X – Guitars, 30

Sorry, we’re too old for school we all have daily (shitty) jobs…

3. What genre of music do you consider your work to be? Who are your major influences?

Mana: We like to define ourselves as “Thrash & Roll”! We have main influences coming from both Thrash Metal of Bands like Metallica, Testament and Slayer and from Hard/Sleazy rock a la Motley Crue and Guns N’ Roses just to name a few…Many reviewers have agreed with that definition!

4. How long have you all known each other? How did you meet?

Mana: It’s really a long long time we all know each other in the Band. Most of all myself, Maxx, and Luka. We have had 2 other Bands together in the past years called Electrocution (in the 90’s) and Folder (2002-2006). Ico and Alley came in the picture few years later even if we already knew the Bands they had in the past years when we were in Folder. We have meet in the rock clubs of our hometown Bologna (North Italy).

5. When did you form your band? What inspired you to make music together?

Mana: We have formed in August 2006. The idea to form this Band came from me and Luka. We were pretty bored of the Bands we had at that time and decided to create a new Band together doing some heavier stuff than our previous Acts (we played nu-metal in 2006). I personally contacted the other guys and they all agreed to join this new breed!

6. Do you have a record label? Are you a member of any music organizations?

Mana: Yes we have. It is with indie metal label Scarlet Records. It is distributed in the entire World. Within the U.S. on thru the Caroline Distribution. Yes we are member of Italian “Siae” for publishing editions etc…

7. What can you tell me about your instruments? (i.e., are you subject to brand loyalty or will you play with whatever’s available? What made you choose the instruments you have now? Was it cost or was it a style/model/brand/color preference?

Mana: I can list you our gears ok? I got a Shure SM 58 as mic., Alley and Ico have an endorsement deal with Schecter guitars (the same of Avenged Sevenfold) and Maxx plays a Warwick Bass. Luka plays Premier Drums and has a deal for cymbals with Italian brand Ufip.

8. Where have you performed? What are your favorite and least favorite venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?

Mana: We have performed pretty much everywhere here in our country and we will tour the U.S. in March/April 2010. The best venues we have here in Italy where we have also performed are a couple of rock clubs in Milan called Zoe and Rolling Stone. We honestly haven’t least favorite… we’re happy and honored to perform everywhere we have the chance even if the Club is very small and stinky he he… Yes we will perform this fall in few more clubs before our U.S. journey!

9. Which songs do you perform most frequently? Do you ever play any covers? Do you have a set play list?

Mana: We just have an Album out and it consists of only 9 tracks so we’re “forced” to play the whole record every time. When we got a longer set we add few covers like Pantera’s “5 minutes alone” and Motley Crue’s “kickstart my heart”… It’s pretty funny when it happens!

10. Who writes your songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs? Do you think these topics will change over time?

Mana: We write songs all together. It often happens that all start from a guitar riff but it will be the 5 of us together that work on the song to finish it. I do write the lyrics after the song is finished. The topics are pretty personal even if we also have “politically-oriented” lyrics where I scream all my rage against Italian politics…Yes I think they can change over time… it will surely depends on my mood.

11. Could you briefly describe the music-making process?

Mana: As I already told you it all starts from a guitar riff and we build the song all together adding various ideas to complete the final structure. I immediately start to think about melodic lines with no real words first. When I’m sure of the lines I add the real and complete lyrics on the finished song!

12. What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous?

Mana: You have to consider we have our own rehearsal room so we don’t have a set time but we go when we want! It is all pretty spontaneous I have to say… One day we like to rehearse in particular is Sunday.

13. How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?

Mana: We have just an album out and the song writing of it was very spontaneous. We’ve now started to write the new record and it seems heavier in the verses and more melodic in the choruses… I’m pretty excited to see what we will be able to create with this second effort!

14. What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?

Mana: The biggest challenge is probably to breakthrough in the U.S. you know… and no for now we haven’t overcome to that challenge because we know it’s soooo difficult! Although I have to say that we started this Band as a joke and after 3 years we have an Album released worldwide and we’ve already shared the stage with Bands like Iron Maiden, Slayer, Stone Sour, Faith No More, Limp Bizkit, Death Angel, Lacuna Coil and more…
I can see the glass half full!

15. What’s your ultimate direction for your band? Are you seeking fame and fortune?

Mana: I can simply answer saying we wanna have fun! If fame will come it will be welcome and if not we will have no problems neither… we wanna go on doing our 150% and see what happens!

16. What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands?

Mana: I’d tell them to believe in their music and to be professional as much as they can! I think it’s too important nowadays to have a well produced album first. After that it’s also important to have a good image and naturally the most important advice is to perform everywhere is possible!!!!

17. How can fans-to-be gain access to your music? Do you have a website with sample songs or a demo CD?

Mana: Log on our MySpace profile! This is the URL: You can see everything about us! And yes we have samples of 4 songs… hope kids will go to check this out! And hey! If you like the songs go purchase the album.

18. Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge for offering financial or emotional support?

Mana: The most important support would be the one coming from kids! If they’re fans of some bands they have to BUY their records! The illegal download is killing music and the young bands will pay the price of this damage! Please, save your money and buy original music!

19. What is the toughest interview question you've been asked?

Mana: I’ve never received tough questions actually… cool interviews every time!

20. Any last words?

Mana: … like this one he he! Thanks a lot for this chance and hope to see you when we’ll tour the U.S. next spring!

-Mana/Idols Are Dead.

When it comes to any type of tour, during any time of year there is one thing to do in a time like this, "Loose Your Mind!" This is exactly what the 900 people scattered about the Pomona Glasshouse did on the night of August 18 2009. A sea of black t-shirts and long hair covered in sweat ran up and down if not all around the Glass House, screaming and shouting throughout half the night. The night itself having had started off fast and heavy, with an intention that wouldn’t fade away anytime soon.

As the crowd slowly formed background music buzzed - playing numerous tracks as the fans stood waiting for the night of the Decimation of the Nation Tour lead off to a toxic start? Britney Spears “Toxic” filled the air as the stage darkened lights shining on/off a blood shade of red. Until the song had drawn to a close, utter silence cluttered the air as each member of Toxic Holocaust walked upon the stage. Each of the 3 musicians grasping a hold of their instruments as the set started off without hesitation. Lasting for a mere 20 minutes total, dishing out “Nuke The Cross, Wild Dogs and Endless Armageddon,” thrashing and bashing was all that could be seen.

Toxic Holocaust Set List:

1. Wild Dogs
2. Gravelord
3. War is Hell
4. 666
5. Nuke the Cross

Nothing more or nothing less could come of the almighty Toxic goers Toxic Holocaust. Next up was a different type of thrashing one consisting of pure death metal aggression by none other than Dying Fetus. Another 3-piece combo that put brutality to the test, the whole room erupted in chaos everywhere you looked. Guitarist John Gallagher enraged the crowd growling and shouting with all his might getting everyone in an adrenaline rush. Nothing but madness came out of the 30 minute set up that Dying Fetus had thrown out doing anything they possibly could to get the crowd up in heat and utter rage. Musically speaking the instrumental work Dying Fetus played was fast and brutal nothing but heaviness came out of them in the end rounding off to being intensely brutalizing for all to see.

Dying Fetus Set List:

1. Homicidal Retribution
2. Your Treachery Will Die With You (New Song)
3. Justifiable Homicide
4. Pissing in the Mainstreem
5. Grotesque Impalement
6. Praise the Lord (Opium of the Masses)

You shall soon believe the brutalizing fate, when it comes to Los Angeles locals Winds Of Plague. Who kept the enraged crowd impacted and ready to mingle? Fans did just that, jumping onto one another shouting along with the lyrics and rocking out to the beat of the music. The musicians themselves were going right along with it. When it was all said and done, several vocalists including their keyboardist jumped in on all the fun. One of the vocalist literally jumping onto the crowd holding the microphone out as the fans held him high in the air, while others jumped in to share the spotlight. What could be better than to have unknown strangers standing on top of you singing their heart and soul into the music they so love. It’s called weird but entertaining fun!

Winds Of Plague Set List:

1. Decimate the Weak
2. Origins and Endings
3. New Song 1
4. Angels of Debauchery
5. New Song 2
6. The Impaler

But the weirdness not to mention fun doesn’t end there, the night raged onward wrapping up with the two headliners Chimaira and Hatebreed. After taking their sweet time Chimaria came on to show the crowd why they had taken their time. It was merely because they had wanted the audience to bear witness to the mayhem within. That’s exactly what had happened, mayhem that kept flowing way into the night, Chimaira just warming it all up with such memorable tunes as “Resurrection, “ and “I Hate Everyone.” As the so-called night was drawing to a closing point, last but not least was of course Hatebreed!

Chimaira Set List:

1. The Venom Inside
2. Ressurection
3. Secrets of the Dead
4. The Dehumanizing Process
5. Destroy And Dominate
6. Pure Hatred

The almighty conclusion of the night life, that couldn't bear to turn away such a warm welcoming. Playing for only an hour Hatebreed threw together a set list containing the old, new, and latest material that would last late into the night. Jasta shouting “This doesn’t even feel like a week day it feels like the weekend”. Adding “You 900 people make it feels like 9,000 people.” Not to mention “At the end of this show you will leave with a smile on your face, this is called "Perseverance". Jasta had said a handful of catchy remarks that left the audience begging for more. Clearing out the night with some cover tunes taken off their all covers album “For The Lions,” Jasta saying “This is a tribute to Slayer, this is “Ghosts Of War,” along with Black Tide’s cover of “Thirsty and Miserable.”

When it was all said and done though, Hatebreed and the rest of the Decimation of the Nation Tour line-up had proven a point that night. That this night was a night Pomona‘s Glass House would never forget but cherish to remember walking away with smiles slashed upon their faces.

Hatebreed Set List:

1. To the Threshold
2. Live For This
3. I Will Be Heard
4. Doomsayer
5. This Is Now
6. Proven
7. Perseverance
8. You're Never Alone
9. Defeatist
10. Destroy Everything
11. Last Breath
12. Before Dishonor
13. Ghosts Of War
14. Thristy and Miserable

Written/Photographed By: Natalie Perez