Date: October 2007
Interview by: BillyBadBreaks (BBB)
An interview with Billy Milano of M.O.D.
I spoke with Billy on the verge of the release of his latest masterpiece “Red, White And Screwed” and I was blown away by what he had to say. If you are a fan of S.O.D. and M.O.D. you may think you know him, if you are a hater you probably don’t want to know him. I hope this interview shows there is a lot more to Billy than meets the eye…
How you doing?Billy – I’m doing good man, how are you?
Good. I just got hold of a copy of the new record (“Red, White And Screwed”) and I have to say it is the best thing you have done since the first album (“U.S.A. for M.O.D.”).
Billy – I appreciate that.
What kind of feedback have you had?
Billy – Nothing but amazingly positive. At the end of the day I’m happy with the record and if other people aren’t I’m still happy. I’ve never been one for waiting for people’s accolades, it’s not me.
This is more brutal and in your face musically than usual. Did you write the music?
Billy – Yeah, I wrote the whole record with the exception of a couple of songs with Scott Sargeant and I. Really it developed as a band thing as we rehearsed it. Everyone brought their own perspective to what we were doing, and being able to play bass made me more in tune with the music. If you read the lyrics to “Red, White And Screwed” you might come to the conclusion that the record has a common thread. I really wrote the lyrics about myself, it is an introspective record about where I come from and the things I was taught in my life. The title “Balls On Bread” is really misleading as basically it is saying I am here, this is what was taught to me by my father, my lessons in life, this is what I embody, and damn the torpedoes if I am going to change. You go from that song to “Alphabet City Stomp” where the song is about when I was a kid and being a bouncer at CBGB’s and how I got into hardcore. There is a whole litany of things on each song which reflect on me personally. The title track is not me saying “America is fucked” or “People think America is fucked,” this is me saying “I’m fucked because I believe in what I believe and I’ll be damned if I’ll change my beliefs to make people happy, accept me or sell more records. I am not a politically correct person because if you look it up you will see what is happening is the opposite. When you talk to people and they hate George W. Bush, mind you I hate George W. Bush, look at Hilary Clinton; they are just two sides of the same card. It is the same political machine; it has nothing to do with us as human beings.
I know who I am and why sometimes my lyrics are brutal, and why sometimes they make you look at something you think is sensitive. The reality is I am making you take a look at that subject and not through the eyes of a left or right wing politician. I mean there is no left or right in this country. We are not a democracy, we are a republic, but what do I know?!
You hit on two things that really struck me: how personal the album is and the political thread through the songs. Do people not understand that you usually write as a character and now this is first person commentary?
Billy – I don’t know what they get and that is the problem as they don’t get much about me or life. This record is more of a personal first party introspective of what I am, what really bothers me and what I feel should be recognized. I think there is a political theme through the record but a lot of it is me being true to who I am. I would be a liar if I said I thought everything was going great throughout the world, I see a lot of things going on in this country and with our Middle Eastern policy which I don’t agree with. I’ll give you an example; do I think we should have bombed Iraq and Saddam Hussein? Fuck yeah! The guy was a fucking scum bag; he killed hundreds of thousands of people in the war with Iran. Incidentally, this was a war which we (America) also backed, but so did France, Germany, Spain and Russia, China and North Korea, on opposite sides of the fence cashing in on the chaos. The reality of it is we shouldn’t be forcing democracy on people who don’t understand it at this point. They come from a religious stylized government and their culture has to be honored for what it is. Now, jump forward, do I want Iran to make nuclear weapons? Personally I don’t give a fuck because Pakistan has them, France is the same. I don’t have a problem with Iran having a nuclear weapon. At first I thought maybe they shouldn’t as they are threatening Israel, but then again, Israel has nuclear weapons so who is going to lose? I believe in a nation’s sovereignty, not just ours, but Iraq’s as well, I think they have a national identity they need to maintain or it gets lost. I don’t want us to go in and bomb Iran because I know that deep down inside the Iranian people are, for the most part, begging to be allies with America. They are a self-developing democracy, why should we go in and fuck it up because of a couple of lunatics with turbans on their heads?
I know you don’t care, but don’t you think people would be surprised how deeply you think about these? I get the impression that people see your characters and your great sense of humor, but don’t realize there is a lot more to it?
Billy – I won’t speak for other people. I can speak succinctly for myself; I can articulate my exact motivations for what I say and what led me to that conclusion. I don’t just go “Yeah, he’s bad” because that is what everyone else is saying. The shortcomings of other people are not my fault. If they are not willing to take the time to discover who I am, then that is OK, but don’t critique me from a point of ignorance. I am as self educated as you can be at this level, I read voraciously, 6-8 hours every day. I read two Middle Eastern newspapers and the BBC, CNN, New York Times and the Washington Times. I have a college level education and scope on what is going on in the world, but it is limited to what I have chosen to look at. I have studied religion as a hobby for many years. I am not a religious person; I just want to understand it and the difference between the religions and some of the prophets and mouthpieces of different times. These people were enlightened and were only touched on in history. There is a lot of wisdom in some of these people.
One of the things I have really liked about the stuff you have done is you have managed to use humor to tackle some really difficult subjects, especially on the new record, for example “Jose Can You See?.” As an immigrant myself I have a problem with people not wanting to assimilate.
Billy – I have a big problem with that because my grandfather’s side of the family came over in the 1900’s. A member of my family has fought in every major war since the Revolutionary War, so this is where I get my patriotism. There is a social commentary hidden in my music for the enlightened mind, I think that is what still motivates me, I am teaching without preaching and that is important.
Is America better off for letting people into this country that we don’t know? No! You can’t walk on George W. Bush’s front lawn, but you can walk across the border! Why is that, there are laws in place? We have spent $200 billion on protecting our borders, where did that money go if it didn’t go into new border guards?
I am realizing more and more that the people who claim to be the progressive party (the Democrats) are not progressive at all, as they are actually hindering progression. This is a country based on values and a way of doing things, so the word of law should apply to everyone equally. This is a constitutional guarantee. If we don’t apply the law equally to people entering then what have we achieved? Nothing? Bill Clinton and George Bush signed treaties that opened up out borders to trade. Basically the population is unable to understand what laws and principals are important to this country. I don’t care if 100 million Mexicans want to come here to work and live, I really don’t. They should have to do it legally. To think this Congress and Senate haven’t repealed the Patriot Act, or reinstated the Sedition Act or the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. They haven’t done or changed anything. I don’t follow this political charade; I just wanna know why these people have changed nothing. They should be held accountable by law and our constitution. We have the ability to remove our government from power, not by guns, but by voting as a nation. It is constitutionally guaranteed to us by Thomas Jefferson. The problem is we have a nation of uneducated people. In school no-one teaches how our government works, or how to be involved in government. They have dumbed down the population so much with their curriculum that they have destroyed this country. That is exactly what they want so they can milk every nickel.
They have turned us into a consumer society.
Billy – It is ridiculous, this is why we have all this illegal immigration. They say it is because we want cheap labor. No, it isn’t, it is because when they are here they want to tax the piss out of them.
My opinion of you was based on what I had read and heard, but after meeting you I found you to be very different, very articulate and very funny. Do you feel S.O.D. has been a millstone around your neck as people don’t take you as seriously as they should?
Billy – Let me tell you a funny story; one time a reporter went up to a wrestler, Dr. David Schultz, and asked if wrestling was fake. He smacked him in the face and the guy fell to the floor. The wrestler said “That is an open hand slap, did that feel fake?” and then smacked him again, breaking his nose! The bottom line is this, Hulk Hogan doesn’t walk into a food store in yellow trunks and say “If you don’t pack my eggs right I’ll snap you in half!” He is a normal human being. The problem with society is they cannot separate me from what I have done. It is not an issue of me, it is an issue of them, and so your question falls on them. It is not something I let bother me because I know the average I.Q. out there is 80 points less than mine when it comes to the world and its events. I think on a much higher level, and multiple dimensions, and these people would never sit down and allow me to express that in a way that might enlighten them because they would be intimidated by that. Let’s be honest with ourselves, I am a Sherman tank with a brain, I not only have the muscle power I have the brain power. You see, if you come out like a Cro-Mag gorilla people say “That is what he is” because they can take it at face value. But when I show I have an educated and enlightened mind, then I become a threat, not just because I am enlightened, but because I’m powerful in mind and body. Look at some of these people out there talking about politics, they are skinny kids. People think they are intellectual because they cannot fight. They can only use their bands as a means to an end to express themselves. It’s like Hollywood, you gonna sit here and tell me that people are intimidated by Sean Penn? I am not saying beating people up is a great idea, but when people who are educated are also physically imposing, that makes other people nervous and safeguard their own well being and it puts them on edge. People don’t see it coming with me and that is what bothers them, they feel slighted and that it is personal. The world doesn’t want me to be anything more than a character but I happen to be more than that.
It must be frustrating as music journalists, and your average listener, are really lazy. Why bother to take the time to think about issues? They hear you do a song like “A.I.D.S.” and it is funny…
Billy – They say it is offensive, but the reality of it is that song was way ahead of its time, not just because it was funny; it was a question of a cultural identity that was never criticized for what it had done. What is the song really about? It was about a lifestyle choice that could be hazardous to your health. It is a question of morality versus humanity. Listen, sticking a hamster up your ass, whether gay or straight, is ridiculous. Where was the ASA? That was a big trend back then. I was like who the fuck does this shit? You know, those people deserve AIDS and deserve to die. You know, I am an animal rights activist and that is really offensive to me, and not one fucking person in the music industry that touts itself to be the progressive think tank of the world, said anything about it.
I think it is easy to dismiss you because people don’t think about the message and just look at the subject matter. People say “He’s just being offensive.” Back in the UK people used to put stickers on S.O.D. and M.O.D. records saying you guys were Nazis and they totally missed the point. I found it frustrating so it must be tough for you?
Billy – If people want to challenge me intellectually, have at it. Take your best shot because you are going to lose. If you are going to come at me physically, take your best shot because you are going to lose. That is why people are offended by me, not because I am an 80 pound weakling saying these things, but because I am a 280 pound wrecking ball saying these things. I have never claimed to be more than I am. I’m not racist but I do have bigoted points of view because an individuals thoughts may not generally apply to a consensus of people, but people tend to look at things in a focused microcosmic way. It is not my fault people don’t agree with me, but it is my right to speak what I want to speak. I will give you an example, on “U.S.A. for M.O.D.” I used the word nigger on the record. Why did I say it? I’ll tell you why, because NWA was saying all this crazy stuff like “I’m a nigger with a big dick, fuck with a nigger like me and I’ll kill you.” I was like “Why isn’t the music industry saying anything about this, why aren’t they saying wait a minute what are you saying?” What gives you the right to say that? It is offensive. I remember the guys from Roadrunner Records laughing about it, saying NWA were great, but they were offended when I used the word. I thought everyone was allowed to express themselves, but I guess my freedom of speech has to be kept under check because you don’t agree with what I said. Basically I said the same thing as NWA. It is all perspective, because the bottom line is I am white and conservative, and not a liberal. Liberalism is pretty sick as a philosophy as it forces lifestyles, and people you don’t want to interact with, on you. I personally don’t have a problem with anybody, but I don’t need to be told what to do. That is not liberalism that is fascism. It is one of the most misunderstood points of our modern age as it is forcing all these ideals on us while taking away the rights of people to say “Enough!” People don’t understand me because they want to look at me and take me at face value because they need to have someone to blame, because they are too afraid to say to themselves that they didn’t have the time to understand or learn. That is also a problem with journalism in the world and music.
People are always looking for a quick quote and they want to be able to gloat and say “This guy is bad, and aren’t we all great for not agreeing with him?”
Billy – That is the conundrum of liberalism, it sets out to free your mind, but it ends up controlling it. It really is a self-defeating system as they feel they know more than you and so they become the fascists, and not the other way round. Ninety nine percent of the population is led and told what to do by the one percent.
Most people are happy to live their lives with their heads in the ground.
Billy – Of course they are.
Who wants a life where you have to think and struggle?
Billy – The whole thing is this, I don’t believe in God, but I am a very spiritual person. I believe in good living and good karma. It doesn’t mean because there is no God we should run amok in the world. I think if we can come to terms with our humanity as a species we would be better off. Unfortunately, people who claim to be the enlightened minds are usually not. It is the people going against the grain, taking the tough path, who are the ones usually considered to be heretics at the time they lived. But they are hailed as philosophers or statesmen in their later years or after they have died. Maybe that is my legacy, I am not looking to be praised or held as a statesman, but I am 99% more enlightened than the world of the entertainment industry. It is easy not to care, it is easy not to educate yourself, and it is easy to just say “Oh, I agree with him,” because it is safe. I won’t bend to the whip of the taskmaster. Just because a thousand people are screaming at me doesn’t make them right.
Can I ask you a few questions about your old records?
Billy – Sure.
Your stuff has been notoriously difficult to get hold of in the US; in fact it was always easier picking them up in Europe. “Devolution” and “Dictated Aggression” were re-released in 2004…
Billy – Yeah, they came out on my friend’s record label Blackout Records.
Are they still available?
Billy – They are but not in the retail chain, you have to order them. This is a sign of our times and it reflects a different philosophy in Europe than America. Europe is a lot more progressive in the way it does business with stylized fads and long term bands. In the US it is basically what is hot at that second; if it is not hot it is off the shelves. We have such a huge eclectic marker here; do you know how big a record store would have to be to hold everyone’s back catalogue? It would have to be as big as a fucking Wal Mart, and how would you find anything at that point! In a way that is why these records are hard to find, not because people don’t want them, it is because you cannot service everyone and everything they have done. Believe me; I have just as many problems finding Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and The Beach Boys as I do my own stuff. As there is not a huge demand for it, it doesn’t warrant having four or five copies on the shelf.
Part of the thrill is finding things, making some effort to track a record down.
Billy – I went home to my mom’s house back in New Jersey and spent a couple of days there. I went through my old 45s; UK SUBS, THE EXPLOITED, ANTI PASTI and DISCHARGE, I had records by all these great fucking bands. There were so many good records! I still hearken back to my days of punk rock and listen to STIFF LITTLE FINGERS. I loved that era, it was so innocent and yet political in a smart way. Let’s be realistic, America is a very selfish society; the critics and fans want to be fed right now, they want to download it right now, not wait until next week for it to arrive. They don’t want to appreciate it, they don’t want to pay for it, they don’t want to go out and earn it, they want mommy to go out and get it for them. Everyone wants if for free or on a deal, everyone wants it because they think they deserve it. They want the Internet, they want an Xbox, they want a motorbike; it is such a fucking ridiculous cycle of self-affirmation that it is really destructive in the end, because we have lost our music scene.
So, I assume you hate downloading as much as I do? You don’t get the artwork and lyrics…
Billy – Certainly you don’t get the pride of ownership. What it comes down to is it really shows the level of hypocrisy in the base of fans that buy music and movies. It really shows in a very succinct way what is wrong with America: no-one wants to fucking go out and earn it; no one wants to go out of their house, go down the street and find it. I remember driving two to three hours to stores looking for records. Today if you cannot have it in your living room now you don’t want to know it. Now there is no sense of self-worth with anything. Everything is a reward. You go to school now and if you do a good you get points towards something in the school store! What the fuck is that? When I was a kid and you did well in school, you came home and your dad said “Good job,” and that was that. Now it is what do I get for being good? Here is my credit card, what is my reward? Do I get any frequent flyer miles? What the fuck is wrong with people? They want rewarding so they can feel alive and have self-worth.
Thank you for the fan website www.sod-mod.com, where there are numerous free downloads of concerts and demos.
Billy – I met Sjouke online and he had this website. He has done some artwork for me; I brought him into the fold to be involved with not only S.O.D. but also M.O.D. He did the new M.O.D. album cover and he helped me put together the S.O.D. “20 Years Of Dysfunction” DVD package, as well as the S.O.D. “Rise Of The Infidels” package. I was more than happy to sponsor him for the unofficial site. The truth is he has the passion for it that supersedes anyone in the band, including myself.
I hate to ask about S.O.D. because the last time we spoke you were pretty pissed off with them.
Billy – Feel free.
I know that people will want to know if S.O.D. is really over.
Billy – Absolutely. In 1999 I was approached for 6 months to do the S.O.D. reunion, which I did not want to do unlike certain members of the band. I have worked for a living and had quite a lot going on in my life that I gave up to do that record to help Scott Ian personally. Now fast forward; we on the road to Europe and the drummer quit the band on the first day of the tour, for whatever his reasons were which are really incidental. Scott and Charlie are not nice to the fans and are disrespectful to the band. It is not where I am at; I didn’t come from that philosophy of treating people that support you like they are fucking cannon fodder. In the same breath I will say this; I had a great time with S.O.D. when the times were really good. When the times were really bad I had a good time because I chose to have a good time with people that were around me. I’ve done all I can to put it out of my life. I feel totally comfortable that it is done, I have given the fans everything they need to say thank you. Not only do they get another DVD (“20 Years Of Dysfunction”) there is the EP with a live record and live video (“Rise Of The Infidels”). They also have the S.O.D.-M.O.D. website that will feed their needs as much as possible. The thing is I have made my peace with it. I don’t know where M.O.D. is going to take me but I have no illusions that I am going to do it. I am going to go out and tour with this new M.O.D. record and have some fun, and if I keep getting tours that make sense I’ll go and do them. If I don’t I have other things that I want to do including producing records. I’m really comfortable with my life mentally.
I guess people don’t understand that you could easily make more money with S.O.D. than M.O.D.
Billy – Without a doubt I would make more money just for recording a new S.O.D. record, and they want to do it, I said absolutely not. I would have to tour all year with M.O.D. and I still wouldn’t make the same money if I spent 3 weeks in the studio with S.O.D. I don’t feel I wanna go down that route; it is like fucking an old girlfriend. It was good at the time. I feel I have done what I need to do with that band, but more importantly I feel like I left it on a good note with the fans. Believe me I don’t like Charlie Benante, I talk to Scott occasionally with an email, and that is it. They know I am not coming back which is why they are not talking about an S.O.D. reunion, although they would really like to as they really have nothing going on in the ANTHRAX camp.
The first S.O.D. album was an undeniable classic but after awhile I felt the reunions were starting to tarnish the legacy.
Billy – Yeah, but that is someone’s opinion and that is OK. The only thing I was worried about on “Bigger Than The Devil” was Scotty had lost his guitar sound, Charlie lost his enthusiasm and drum tones and Danny’s bass sounded like cock! The only thing that sounded good on that record was my voice.
Your new album reminds me of “Bigger Than The Devil,” but has the sound that “Bigger Than The Devil” should have had. I was really disappointed when that record came out, for the reasons you just mentioned.
Billy – You have to realize that Scott and Charlie only did that record for money, whereas Danny and I did it because we wanted to. There is not an amount of money that would make me do it again, so I choose not to do it. “Bigger Than The Devil” was a let down because the other people in it were a total let down. There were so many negative vibes with Scott and Charlie. Charlie was very distraught that ANTHRAX was failing and floundering. Everyone seems to think I am bitter about it, I am not bitter, I protected those guys. Shit, the moment I met those guys I was saving their asses when some Nazi skinheads wanted to beat them up for having long hair. They are their own worst enemies and now everybody sees it. You know, I did all the business for S.O.D.
Scott is a very genuine guy and he enjoyed making that record because Scott and I have that kind of childish fool inside us when it comes to having fun. He doesn’t take himself too seriously. Charlie was a real bummer, like when we played Chicago. If you hear the unedited version of the live DVD when I am going to announce one of the ballads someone yells “The ballad of ANTHRAX!” and Charlie literally ran off stage and hid! S.O.D. will always be a very significant thing in my life and I am truly thankful for that.
Was the ANTHRAX reunion all about money?
Billy – Absolutely. I had a problem with it because after Daryl from PANTERA was murdered in 2004 ANTHRAX announced they were going to do a reunion because of that event alone. This is fucking bullshit because I have the same business manager and he was talking about it none months before Daryl was murdered. That is why I started all this shit with them. It is really offensive to me that they would cash in on their friends death.
They changed back to Joey after their record sales dropped with John Bush. They had a great career, they had played together for a long time and they should not be complaining that their career is gone; they should be doing something about it. That should be a new band; it’s time to do something new. The reason you don’t have anything happening in their camp is because Scott Ian is finally doing something on his own. I think he doesn’t wanna do S.O.D. either; he wants to do something of value to him.
I want to ask you about “The Rebel You Love to Hate.” Was that the one where the record label did nothing with it?
Billy – Nuclear Blast, who do a great job in Europe, don’t have the network to get it to the stores and sell it in America. It isn’t a priority to them if their bands don’t sell here. I had a product that I couldn’t sell in my own town. How do I survive? It came down to when I was going to tour in 2004. They had done a miserable job with S.O.D. We did seven interviews for “Bigger Than The Devil,” can you tell me you ever read any of them? Never! They had no ads; we did two tours, but nothing. Nuclear Blast had their heads up their own ass. I had sat on “The Rebel You Love to Hate” for a year and they promised to help me. By 2004 I had spent my own money to make my own video, which they wouldn’t play on Fuse because it wasn’t metal enough! Anyway, Nuclear Blast did nothing for either of my records and after Daryl was killed Scott Ian called me and said “Let’s bury the hatchet.” He said “I’ve known you don’t like Charlie, but I’ve known you for a long time” and I thought he was genuine. I love the guy, but the fact is when he’s around Charlie he’s a c@nt because Charlie’s a c@nt. Charlie doesn’t want anyone to be friends with anyone else because he’s intimidated by people. I got a phone call from Nuclear Blast and they were getting ready to promote the M.O.D. tour and they were like “Now you are talking to Scott can we get another S.O.D. record?” I said “Why do you want an S.O.D. record when you haven’t promoted either the S.O.D. or M.O.D. records?” Basically it came down to if we didn’t give them a new S.O.D. record they wouldn’t support the M.O.D. tour.
When it came time for me to do that tour my records weren’t in the stores. Megaforce Records, who I didn’t have a record with, gave me tour support against my back catalogue! Nuclear Blast left me high and dry as this was not just their product it was my livelihood and my art. So I wrote them a letter and asked them to place ads and put my record in the stores, but they wouldn’t do it so I put it online for free. If they weren’t going to make it available why not give it away? I wasn’t taking away from sales! I put it online for that tour so people could say “Hey, I just saw this band, let me check out the record.”
Any tour news?
Billy – The best thing to do to figure out what I am doing is to go to www.Billymilano.com.
Thanks Billy, great to speak to you!
Billy – thank you!
© Copyright 2007 BillyBadBreaks