Still Thrashy After All These Years - Forbidden's Craig Locicero

The veteran Thrashers are on their way to Australia for a week of shows at the end of the month. Master guitarist Craig Locicero talks to Metal as Fuck about the relative merits of busses, vans, and touring in general.

Thrash metal. Greeted with hilarity by the likes of Kerrang! magazine in its infancy as a genre (by 1988 that august journal seemed to have conveniently forgotten how merciless it had been to Metallica and Slayer at the start of both bands careers), the primal urgency of the form somehow transcended whatever journalistic sniping came its way, in the process forming a bond with millions of young headbangers the world over attracted by its rebellious message of non-conformity and alcohol-fuelled resistance to the man. By 1988 not only had Kerrang! caught up, but the first flush of excitement had ebbed away. Your own correspondent had despondently headed to the bar with members of Onslaught and English Dogs at Metallica’s Hammersmith Odeon show on the Master of Puppets tour a couple of years earlier because the band had become ‘too slow’; a new injection of blood was required, and luckily, on the West Coast of the United States, young musicians were taking steps to ensure that that new injection was administered.

Forbidden was one of those ‘second wave’ thrash bands, part of a generation of technically-superior bands that ultimately were seen to have failed (with the possible exception of fellow Californians Testament )in their quest to uphold the gains made by Hetfield, Araya et al. Like many second wavers, the bands in this movement suffered at the hands of over-inflated record company expectation, hype (Vio-Lence, featuring Machine Head’s Rob Flynn and Phil Demmel, had to endure the ignominy of seeing their debut release, Eternal Nightmare, released by MCA Records in a vacuum-sealed ‘vomit pack’)and, crucially, lack of grade ‘A’ material. Unlike most of their peers (again with the exception of Testament), Forbidden were an altogether tougher unit, and through sheer guts, talent and determination were able to carve something of a career for themselves, especially in Europe, on the back of excellent albums such as their 1988 debut Forbidden Evil and a coruscating live EP Raw Evil- Live at the Dynamo, that really showed the opposition how it was done.

I mention this live EP in particular because it came up in a conversation Metal as Fuck happened to be having with fleet-fingered Forbidden axeman Craig Locicero on the eve of his band’s upcoming trip to Australia for a run of shows nominally in support of last year’s ‘comeback’ album, Omega Wave. That EP was my first introduction to the band, and, contained within it’s grooves was an incendiary version of Judas Priest’s Victim of Changes that for me marked out this band as real contenders. But more of that later. I first wanted to ask Craig about the nature of touring in 2011 for a band like Forbidden – It’s all a bit different to the late eighties, isn’t it?
"For sure. Now, touring is the only way for a band to make the leap from echelon to echelon. In the eighties touring was used as a vehicle to promote records; and you had a vague idea of how well you were doing, sales-wise, through your touring. That doesn’t happen so much now, with everything being digital and nobody wanting to pay for music, but you can see whats happening more now I think as a band by being out there.”

It’s given a modicum of control back to you as a band?
"That’s the positive way of looking at it. In the eighties we had a record label that had a reputation for ‘selling albums from the back of the van’, they were a real criminal operation; now we have a very dedicated record label that wants to help us, and a bunch of dates in Europe and Australia to promote the record. We’re still not making any money from it, but its better!”

How has touring changed personally for you? Has it got harder to get on a bus and do the hard grind?
"It’s easy to get on a bus, We did our last tour on a bus and it was fine. The tour before that we went across America in a van. It was a nice van – it was new, a fifteen seater and there were only eight of us. But that means that not everyone can lay down at the same time! And you get involved in arguments because everyone is bunched up together which isn’t good, and neither is the smell close up of everyone’s farts. But I like the driving. I loved seeing the continent unfold as we drove through the country. And it’s cheap. Touring by bus is very, very expensive!’

That it is, the price of a decent Nightliner in Europe now is about $900 a day, which means a lot of t-shirts have to be sold at every venue just so a band can keep its head above water! I would imagine, however, that for a touring musician it’s easier to write new material on a bus than in a van?
"I’ve never really done that, I tend to wait for inspiration. When it hits, it hits hard! Sometimes the other guys are on the bus saying ‘we gotta write!’, but, you know... if inspiration comes on the bus I have no objection, but it might also come in the laundry, or the bathroom...”

There was a thirteen year gap between Forbidden albums before Omega Wave. Talking of inspiration, had you stockpiled a lot of ‘Forbidden-style’ material over that period? Or did you write all the material freshly with a new Forbidden album in mind?
"I did have a lot of material that I was keeping for Forbidden. But when it came to it we didn’t use any of it. I didn’t want to look back. And you know, with the way the world is today... when I write rock music it comes from my heart and soul – I close my eyes and it’s there. With metal, it’s very much a vehicle – a very good vehicle – to express my displeasure with the world. So I got back into writing new stuff slowly, but by the time I’d written Hopenosis it became a bit easier. Then (former Nevermore/Testament/Vicious Rumors guitarist) Steve Smyth joined the band and writing became easier still.”

Russ Anderson’s vocal power must make songwriting relatively stress free too?
"Definitely. You know a lot of bands these days have to have two singers because one can’t do it all? Russ can do everything. He’s one of a dying breed. I think he’s the best five-tool singer in the world today. Maybe Corey Taylor of Slipknot could get near him. But I know when it comes to writing harmonies that Russ will be able to do it. Sometimes he’ll say ‘can I do that? I don’t think I’ll be able to do that.” Then he does it. He can do anything he wants to when he tries.”

And so we’re back to that Live Evil EP – As a young headbanger I thought Rob Halford was the man. Nobody could get near him. And then I heard Russ Anderson blazing out Victim of Changes. It was an amazing version.
"It was a much faster version!”

Haha. Craig Locicero – thrash metal to the core.


Forbidden tours Australia from July 30th