EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH FULL BLOWN CHAOS FRONT MAN RAY MAZZOLA
Here’s the thing about Ray Mazzola, vocalist for New York’s own Full Blown Chaos: the guy has a natural born gift for storytelling. I learned this back in February, when I was lucky enough to be invited to dinner with the members of Soilent Green, music video auteur extraordinaire David Brodsky, and Allie Woest, Brodsky’s partner/producer/sometimes editor/general right hand. Full Blown Chaos were on a temporary hiatus from touring at the time (a hiatus which, their fans will be pleased to know, is now over), and so Ray joined us, and within seconds of sitting at the table, he was trading war stories from the road with Soilent Green/Crowbar drummer Tommy Buckley. And, as nice a guy as Buckley is and as many good stories as he had to tell, he just couldn’t keep up with Ray; I won’t repeat any of Ray’s stories second hand ’cause I could never do them justice, so I’ll just say that I can never again hear Napalm Death’s “The Code is Red” without bursting into hysterical laughter.
So after dinner I interviewed Soilent Green guitarist Brian Patton (and some of the dudes from Car Bomb, who also showed up at some point), and then Ray was cool enough to sit down and let me pick his brain for a little while – and to share one of his special stories with our readers. To say that the story is a doozy would be to put it mildly. Little wonder this dude is such a charismatic front man.
Above, watch the David Brodsky-directed video for Full Blown Chaos’ “Halos for Heroes,” from their album Heavy Lies the Crown; after the jump, read the full transcript of my conversation with Ray.
Yeah, about six months ago [Now closer to eight months ago – Ed.].
Looking back on it now six months later, how do you feel about it?
Still love it. I listen to it all the time. It’s probably one of our best records that we’ve done, and the material has a lot of meaning for me… it was one of the records where I was able to express myself freely, be really angry on (laughs). So I got a lot out on that record, so I like going back and re-listening to it and re-kindling a lot of anger and vendettas that I still have to carry out (laughs).
Was there something specific that was going on in your life at the time?
Yeah. I mean, there’s always something going on. There’s always something wrong happening. Y’know, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all” – that’s me. That’s me. I’m the one with the perpetual cloud above my head. So at the time there was a lot of shit going on, between switching labels [from Stillborn to Ferret] and having a lot of people against us, judging out business decisions, and a lot of bullshit with family and friends… all these people just pressing against us when we’ve always been out there helping everybody we could. And then when we turned around and were like “Hey, we could use a hand with some stuff,” a lot of people walked away from us.
But it turns out that we really didn’t need anybody.
Well, that’s gotta be good to know.
Oh, yeah. We’re pretty self-sufficient. We know who our friends are.
So what’s the writing process like in your band? Does someone come in with a completed song, or do you just jam shit out?
Both. Y’know what? We have different methods. It all depends. A lot of the time, the guys will be jamming on something and I’ll write something on top of it, or use something I’ve already written – ‘cause I’m constantly writing. Something pisses me off, I write about it, something’s good, I write about it, nothing’s going on, I write about it. So I always make it a point every day to put something on paper, even if it’s just a paragraph. I always have something, I’m always emptying my mind, I’m always writing. I recently moved, and the majority of everything I have is just boxes and boxes of notebooks with stuff I wrote – short stories, poetry, lyrics, songs for other bands – y’know, people ask me to help them with stuff. So I’m constantly writing.
Do you ever go through your old writing?
And do you ever think “Oh, we should use that now?”
Um, yeah, but I’ll never… I won’t use full material, I’ll just cannibalize stuff I’ve already done that I haven’t used, or stuff from before Full Blown.
So it’s either we come to it like that, or we just sit down and we just go, just create – I’ll just sing patterns, and they’ll play patterns, and we fit together the puzzle pieces, we’ll just get it all in.
So going into every album, do you guys have a set vision of how you want the album to be?
Yeah. Y’know, when we go into the studio… a lot of bands will have a couple of months to go in and record, and we’re really no nonsense when we get into the studio. The longest amount of time we’ve ever spent in the studio is eleven days. So we go in, no nonsense, let’s bang it out, do it the best we possibly can, to the best of our abilities. We don’t like wasting time. So we’ll do it until it’s right, but there’s a lot of times when we don’t have to repeat it so many times… there are a lot of times when we’ll sit there and go “Alright, we gotta re-do it, alright we gotta re-do it” – I’m anal with that. I’ll pick on everybody’s stuff. I’ll sit there with super expensive five thousand dollar headphones and pick out every click, every screech, and I’ll watch the waves down to the files, y’know, the individual notes, and just be like “Nope, that’s not right, erase it, do it again.” Y’know, I’ll run over it with a fine tooth comb, because that’s our reputation that’s going out. So I’m pretty anal when it comes to that.
But it’s never a lengthy process – we’re just very professional. We get in, get the job done, and get out.
Y’know, we took some time off, I had some family stuff going on that I had to deal with, and it kinda put everybody in a bad spot, the band fell on a little bit of bad luck, as usual. So we decided it’s time to stay home for a bit and then re-group, and get a lot of stuff out of our system – stay home, work, pay some bills off, and then head back out when we can. So we’re gonna be heading back out in May.
Y’know, this is the longest amount of time we’ve had off in like six years. Normally it’s like two weeks off. In 2004, 2005, and 20066, we did over 300 shows each year.
It was like 312, 317, and 318 [shows] or something. So it was like back to back to back to back to back, having no days off, and then in 2007 we did between like 200 and 250 [shows]. So, I mean, this year, with the time off we already had, we might pull off like 200 shows, maybe 200 plus.
That’s still a lot of shows.
Yeah (laughs). We love to play, that’s the thing, y’know? We like getting out there… this is our art, how we release our problems, our issues, this is how we vent – we play and get it out. And we feel great after.
You guys also recently did a new video for “Halos for Heroes,” with David Brodsky…
And that video has kind of a storyline to it.
Now is that a collaborative effort between you and Brodsky…
…or is it more like you say to him “Okay, you tell us what to do.”
Well, that too. I mean, he’s the one person, for anything, you feel safe in his hands. Y’know we were kind of mulling around different ideas, and we had this kind of mob hit-theme we were working with, and we put the ball in Dave’s court and he took it, and that was that. And he turned up with this monster of a video. And everything was great, the story line was great, it was better than… y’know, our previous video, they had originally wanted monkeys in the video. And I was like, “No, no monkeys, they throw shit.” From now on, we know we’ll go to Dave, ‘cause it’s effortless, the thought process. We know it’s gonna be quality no matter what. And we like the way he works for the band and works for himself in the same time frame, ‘cause he’s not gonna put out something that’s gonna hurt him. He’s not gonna put out [the video] unless it’s gold by his standards. So, y’know, you can’t get quality like that everywhere. So you go where the quality is. It’s never quantity, it’s always quality.
So before at dinner, you were telling some pretty crazy road stories… is there anything you feel comfortable sharing with people?
Everything. Everything (laughs). I’m not one to shy away.
You have a favorite road story you wanna share?
Oh, man. My favorite? A lot of them are favorites. You have to be specific. It depends on what you can think of. Like, dealing with girls, dealing with booze, dealing with drugs, what?
David Brodsky (calling from the other room): Girls, booze and drugs!
Okay (laughs). Here we go. We were at Pops in St. Louis. And this place is surrounded by strip joints and nude car washes. We were there with Superjoint Ritual and Strapping Young Lad. And there was a girl there all night bustin’ everybody’s chops. She happened to be a stripper at one of the clubs. She was like “Come out and see me,” so we went and saw her before the show. She’s like “I need to meet Phil [Anselmo], I need to meet Phil.” That’s all she said. She ended up ponying up four grand to meet Phil. She had it ready in cash, she was like “I need to meet Phil, I need to meet Phil.”
So I ended up going onto Superjoint’s bus, and I was talking to their sound guy, Troy. And Phil had his woman with him, there was no way he was gonna go out and do anything.
So they had just finished off a huge bottle of Jack. So I was like, “Alright, this is what we’re gonna do.” We go back outside, and she’s drinking beers in the lot, she’s doing whales of coke like the size of my thumb off of bumpers, she starts doing them off the trailer and the bus. She’s whacked out of her mind, screaming “I wanna meet Phil! I wanna meet Phil!”
So this was the plan: we taped her up, and we told her “Phil wants to ride you like a horse, like a pony.” She says “Whatever, I don’t care,” and we’re like “okay.” So we tape her up, we take her shoes off, we tape her elbows, we tape her hands together behind her head, and then we start wrapping the tape around her. And she’s almost completely naked – she just has her thong on. So her tits are hanging out and she’s all taped up to the point where she’s just on her elbows, and then we put her legs up and put tape around her ankles and her thighs. So she’s literally on her elbows and knees, totally taped up. We put her shoes on her knees, and then we take the bottle of Jack and BOOM! Right in her ass. We’re like “You’re a horse, you need a tail.”
So, bottle of Jack in her ass, she’s going around and she’s kind of like wagging [the bottle] around, and everybody’s laughing, everybody’s hanging out the windows of the bus, and she’s like “Where’s Phil?! I want him to ride me!!!”
My guys are honking the horn in the van, everybody’s getting ready to leave, she’s sitting there by herself, taped up, we got her hair now taped up in a braid, going as close to her scalp as we can get it down to her ankles. And this is a shit fuckin’ neighborhood.
So finally Troy, the sound guy, comes out, and he’s like “Yep. Where’s the money?” So she looks over to her purse. He goes into her purse, takes out the money, he hands me like five hundred bucks, takes the rest of the money, knocks on the side of the bus by the back lounge. Phil looks out the window, laughs, and puts his head back in. And before Troy gets on the bus he goes “There, you met him.”
I run off to the van, I hop in, she’s cursing her face off. They start throwing bottles at her from the bus windows as they pull away right past her. She’s trying to walk on her elbows and her knees, and we were the last ones to pull out. And seeing her left out like that, in the parking lot of the venue… she never got to meet Phil… she got a wave out of him, that was it.
That was probably the world’s most expensive wave.
Oh, yeah. That was probably one of the funniest things that’s happened… and there’s been a lot.
It sounds like it.
Oh, yeah. I love these stories.
There’s one for another time… I’ll just start it. There’s this girl, we call her “The Texas Gobbler.” And we were with Obituary in San Antonio, and this girl came on the bus, and she’s named “The Texas Gobbler” for a reason. She kinda looks like Little Orphan Annie, but all grown up. And it was… it was pretty bad. For Obituary to tell us that they’ve never had a night crazier than the night we brought them on that tour, that’s a big achievement in my eyes. But that’s another story for another time.
Full Blown Chaos play the Skate-O-Rama in Utica, New York tomorrow night. For a complete list of tour dates, hit up their MySpace page.