Sunday, March 10, 2024

Interview with Lock Down by Dave Wolff

Jeff Lombardi
Interview with Jeff Lombardi of Lock Down by Dave Wolff

How did you achieve the underlying heaviness of your full-length “Step Over The Bodies”?
The process was pretty organic. The guitar tones represented what we gravitated to. Justin and I are huge fans of crunch masters such as Dimebag Darrell Abbott, so I think that’s the baseline of where we start. Of course, there are a lot of other variables that make up your sound. I think most guitar players are like Eddie Van Halen, where you’re never satisfied always chasing a tone. I’m already envisioning on the next recording to use lighter gauge strings to brighten up the sound and add a little bit more warm mids. The drums have nice power behind them. It’s a combination between performance, equipment (DW drums), and it didn’t hurt having the king of the Brooklyn beats Danny Schuler of Biohazard mixing.

In the bass tracks, there are hints of industrial music, giving the album a menacing quality. Do you think this was a conscious decision or did it just happen that way? In what ways does the sound you achieved on the album reflect the attitude of the band?
There was no conscious decision with the writing direction. I think our style draws from all genres of aggressive music. Some more obvious than others. I can tell you that Hatebreed’s “Satisfaction Is The Death Of Desire” was the reason I moved back to New York from California to start a new band with Eric. We’re long time friends going back 35 years. We also played in Bile together during the “Suck Pump” era. I left Bile and was on hiatus for a few years living in San Diego. Then I heard “Last Breath” from Hatebreed and it was a game changer. That inspired me to start writing again. I wrote most of the album over a two month period. Then we connected with Justin who wrote “Won’t See Me Comin” and “Eternal”, plus we collaborated on “Blind Rage”. It all came together very quickly, and flowed naturally.
You can try to calculate and arrange riffs to make them fit… sometimes it works, but the best songs are the spontaneous ones. I wrote the title track “Step Over The Bodies” in ten minutes the day before we went to the studio to record. The next day, Roi wrote the lyrics on the spot and recorded the vocals without every hearing the song before, and nailed it on the first take. It’s my favorite song on the album and came together last minute.
Outside of the band we’re all relaxed funny guys, but the sound reflects our intensity and raw energy.

Why did you part ways with Bile, and how did you spend your time while on hiatus in San Diego?
Chris Liggio and I played in Napalm together and after we disbanded he approached me to join an industrial band he was starting, and although he was the driving force and primary song writer, it still felt like a band where everyone contributed with their roles. Three years later it was no longer fun and felt like a dictatorship. If you’re not playing with people to be hired hands, you shouldn’t treat them like they work for you. It just wasn’t fun anymore, so it was time to move on. The first few years were amazing, so no regrets.
After that, I stepped away from music for a few years. I was focusing on a career that generated income for independence. I never wanted to be in a position again where I had to depend on people for my next meal or place to sleep. There were plenty of days where the record label did not send a per diem, or if they did, it never reached my pocket. I’m also a diehard handball player, and spent most of my free time playing.

Napalm is going far back. At least two full-length albums were released by that band between 1989 and 1990. Were they disbanded afterward or what's the story with them?
Napalm was my first band right out of high school. We were a thrash metal band right around the time of the second wave of the genre. Napalm was signed to Steamhammer SPV records. After a couple of albums and European tours, we disbanded for various reasons, such as differences in musical direction.

Did the decline in popularity of thrash contribute to the musical differences within Napalm? How did the decline of thrash affected the local metal scene?
Eric Roi
I don’t think it was the decline of the genre, because during this time it was still near its peak. There was an oversaturation of thrash bands, and we overdid things trying to stand out and differentiate ourselves from all the bands forming left and right. The first album came very naturally, and was received very well by everyone, including the critics. We received favorable reviews from Kerrang, Metal Forces and Metal Hammer magazines. The U.S. branch of the label that signed us was shut down, and we only had the parent German label to work with. Unfortunately the band was in limbo for about a year until they gave us the opportunity to record the second album. So we had a year sitting around overthinking and experimenting outside styles, such as funk, which I think our attempt failed. The third album we wrote, was back to our roots and was much heavier, and we had gotten better as musicians. Unfortunately we lost the confidence of the label and we were dropped, which led to the breakup. The local scene in New York we were a part of had begun to trend in the hard-core direction.

Thrash metal made a comeback during the mid-to-late nineties. Did you discover new bands or regain interest in older bands during that period? What was your opinion of  “retro-thrash?
I didn’t listen to any new thrash bands in the 90s, but I did start listening to how metal evolved at that point. Really loved what Slipknot and Fear Factory were doing. There are some thrash bands that got better with time… Kreator is unmatched and just keep getting better. I still listen to all the classic 80s albums from Slayer, Exodus, Testament, Anthrax, and of course Metallica. I think all of them aged well.

What are the similarities and differences between writing and composing for Bile and writing and composing for Lock Down?
Bile was a great outlet for live performances. This day is still the best thing I’ve ever been a part of from that aspect, it was a spectacular thing to behold, and to be a part of. From a songwriting perspective, it was a bit frustrating as most of the songs were written and recorded, and then presented to the band. I was only able to contribute to one song on “Suck Pump” which was “Get Out”. Lockdown was, conversely, the exact opposite. Although I am the primary songwriter, I demonstrated the songs and rehearsal, and everyone was able to put their own stamp on it. Going forward I would prefer to collaborate… I like being part of a team in every aspect.

Do you channel the energy you generated in Bile when performing with Lock Down? Or do you primarily draw inspiration from hardcore? What is the contribution of metal to your sound?
I would say a little bit of both. There’s definitely a blueprint for hard-core performances that I’m sure is subliminally there and influences the energy. Visually, there is a lineage to Bile. We have continued with the vibe of wearing masks and face/head coverings during some of our shows. Plus, we are implementing a two or three vocalist attack similar to Bile. We like the diversity and contrast, as well as the performance intensity.
Metal is definitely in our DNA. I was learning guitar during the height of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal as well as the first wave of Thrash.

What are some of the topics discussed on “Step Over The Bodies”? Were there any developments that inspired you to write the lyrics for that album?
Eric Roi is the primary creative lyrical force. Inspirations are across the board drawing from personal experiences as well as outside perspectives. For example, “Steadfast” is a close family who served in the armed forces for our country. The lyrics are inspired by his story. We are not trying to make a political statement with the song. Roi is simply describing the human experience.
“Enlightenment” describes the growth of your soul. “Trail of Tears” is about the American Indian genocide, specifically the story of the Trail Of Tears so the song holds a lot of emotion. The track “Human Racist” is just hating on the negative side of some human instincts such as war, prejudice, and betrayal. The title track “Step Over the Bodies” is about overcoming obstacles in your way and the betterment of yourself by raising your own bar. “Hard to the Core” is the embodiment of hardcore as a movement. “Blind Rage” is a general vent for the angst of life interpreted by the listener. “Respect Collected” sometimes people give you respect and other times you must take it from them. “Duked” is about betrayal which unfortunately we all experience at some point. “Won’t See Me Comin” is a first-person perspective of a vigilante “Hatred” is our disgust of oppression in any form. It’s ugly and should never exist.

Is it difficult to express personal experiences through your lyrics? In general, are they written in such a way that listeners will be able to relate to them?
Eric Roi is the main lyricist, and his thoughts just seem to be an endless flow. He sends me texts all the time of lyrics he’s writing and extremely brilliant. I’ve contributed to lyrics over the years, but it is much more of a difficult process for me, where I start out with a first draft and then make multiple edits. I really leave it up to Eric to handle, he’s a genius at his art. I think the only lyrics we ever intentionally wrote with the audience in mind was “Hard To The Core”. Everything else is just what is swimming in Eric’s head.

Generally, how have magazines and webzines responded to “Step Over the Bodies”? Are there any publications in particular that most understand the band's perspective?
So far the responses have been supportive and positive. To be honest I didn’t know how it would be received. When you’re a fairly new band, you’re kind of in a bubble where the only feedback you get it is the local fan base and friends. Regardless of any feedback good or bad, I learned the hard way a long time ago not to write for anyone but yourself. The best songs are the ones that just come naturally.

Provide a brief description of the video you recently released for “Trail Of Tears”. Can you tell me who worked on it with the band and how do you express the lyrics through the imagery?
Our friend and media director Pete Dolan created the video. We let him know the song is about the genocide of Native Americans. Eric Roi is American Indian and Filipino. So he wanted to tell a version of the story. Pete added some silent movie footage, which I thought was awesome. Reminds me of the Iron Maiden video “Run to the Hills”. So it has a certain darkness to the vibe.

What has been your experience with SelfMadeRecordsLLC since you signed with them, and what led you to hook up with them?
The label has done a great job of socializing our name. That was the primary objective… having the music be heard. Our business relationship started with an interest to be involved with a compilation that led to a larger idea to release our full length we already recorded.

Does Lockdown have a good reputation among rock and metal fans outside of New York? Where in the US and other countries are you well received?
We have a solid fan base in our area. We also support our Long Island hardcore community and other bands. It’s probably like a lot of scenes globally where everyone sticks together. Most of the Lock Down members have been in a lot of bands over the years and formed lifelong friendships some veteran groups. Eric played with “In Your Face” who were one of the earlier NYHC bands. So there’s a lot of ties there. Craig from Sick Of It All and Parris from the Cro-Mags have supported us through social media. That’s a huge honor for us to get the nod from legends in our scene.

How has hardcore managed to maintain its sense of individuality despite the pressure people are placed under to conform? Describe the core values of hardcore that have endured throughout the years. In general, has adhering to those values been easy or difficult?
Hardcore has retained its integrity throughout the years, because it’s true to life and the core values it was built on. Hardcore to me is very honest and organic. So it’s easy to be ourselves, and not have to fit into any particular image or mold.

According to your description of your songs, some of them may be perceived negatively by people who don't understand hardcore. Is the genre responsible for positive changes in the world?
I don’t think it’s any artist’s responsibility to change the world. It’s honorable if lyrics and messages spread positivity and open the listener’s mind to intake knowledge. But this is art… it doesn’t have to move mountains or serve a guiding light.

Are you currently writing material for another release, or planning to? In what direction do you see the band heading in the future, and what are you most interested in being recognized for?
We have four songs completed for a release by the end of the year. We will continue to write and keep things fresh, but I doubt we’ll deviate too far from the sound we’ve established. One of the songs is titled “Vigilante”, which is the continued story of the song “You Won’t See Me Comin”. Another is “Street Fighter”, which is about a motorcyclist fighting to share the road with four wheel vehicles who put his life in danger. Eric rides, so he’s probably speaking from personal experience. Another song is “Life Sentence”, which is basically life can feel like a fight until the death. It can be a struggle for most of us. The fourth song is “Still In Business”. You could say Eric and I are affiliated with a group of local friends known as SIB. The lyrics are about all of our fallen brothers, who were part of this community. Thirty years ago it was referred to as a gang by New York news media, but it was really just a large group of friends because at that time there was a lot of crews and clicks. Sometimes there was violence when one group passed another group. But I would’ve never referred to it as a gang. We didn’t wear colors, nobody was jumped in, and it was not organized in traditional manner. It was about strength and numbers and protecting each other. Musically, the songs still have a Lock Down vibe, maybe slightly more metal riffs. I’m looking forward to collaborating the guys and seeing what’s next on the horizon.

-Dave Wolff

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