When speaking to lead throat Sal over the phone while the Queens, NY quintet were on tour with Anthrax, we spoke about his NYHC roots, his experience recording their scorching new release THE BEGINNING OF THE END, and some guilty pleasures and pranks the boys partake in while on the road.
How did you guys come up with the name Sworn Enemy?
Well, when we had to change our name from Mindset to Sworn Enemy, we all sat down and were thinking of names we had on our minds. I don't know how exactly we came up with it, but I know that Jamie (Jasta from Hatebreed) called us and said that he had the name and it was something with sworn, and then someone came up with enemy and it just fit. We were like, let's try it and see how it works and that's basically how it came about.
How did the current line up you have right now form?
Me and Lorenzo have been playing together for close to 11 years now and our drummer Paulie's a good friend of ours from playing in Everybody Gets Hurt, a Queens based band. Our new guitar player Jamin worked for us for three years from 2003 to 2005 and now he's playing guitar. Our new base player Ed also worked for us, so it looks like if you worked for us before, you kinda get the job.
How was recording the new album different from previous studio experiences, like who'd you work with, stuff like that?
Well on this one we flew out to California. We went to San Diego to Big Fish studios and worked with Tim from As I Lay Dying, who also engineered it, and it was the same, basic thing as far as the recording versus AS REAL AS IT GETS. This one differed by us flying out and staying at a hotel every night but the process wasn't really much different except the location of where we did the record. San Diego is a hell of a trek from New York.
What was the best part about recording in San Diego?
The final product. The way it sounded, I mean, to me it was like, night and day from AS REAL AS IT GETS. This record, the sound, the production, and the quality, is just a handful better.
What was the hardest song to record, the easiest song to record and the one you feel came out the best?
Hardest one, hmm. It's pretty funny, but the hardest one was "Forgotten". There was this one line in the song I just couldn't get the timing, and it's real simple. "It's just a better way", that's all I had to say, and I kept fucking it up, I couldn't find the timing, I didn't� I don't know what the hell was the matter with me, I must have had a brain drain or something, but I had to do it about a hundred times before I got it right. Besides that one, they were all pretty easy to me, I don't think any of them were really difficult, just that one. The one I think came out the best� let's see. I haven't� you know what it is; I haven't really listened to the record enough times, like the final product, mixed and mastered and everything. I still have a version that doesn't have the mastering on it, so I'm not sure what the final product even sounds like yet, so, I couldn't even tell you. I know, it's my record and I don't even have it yet but that's how it goes. You know, I'm the last one to find out everything, and to get everything. But, I think they all pretty much sounded from the unmastered version pretty awesome.
Do you prefer gigging or recording, and why?
Ah, gigging. It's so much better to be on the road, just playing shows in front of hundreds of hundreds of people. That's what I live for. There's nothing else I'd rather do. Recording is cool, but I don't like to be cooped up in the studio for too long. I'd rather be out on the road. That's my high, being on the stage for like 40 minutes and enjoying it.
How would you describe Sworn Enemy to someone who has never heard of you before?
I would say it's not for the weak at heart. It's very brutal, hard, heavy, up-tempo, and something that is an acquired taste, that's for sure. Thrashy, it's got the very moshy parts. I guess that is the best way I can describe it. Those are the best adjectives I can think of anyway.
What bands are you currently listening to and are there any bands that we'd be surprised by? Like� any bands you'd be embarrassed to �
Well, I mean, we've been� We've been kind of rocking out to some Skid Row and Poison lately. You know, it's a nice change to listen to that and not hear the (imitating chugging guitars) all day. We listen to Anthrax and God Forbid and Mantis every night and sometimes it's nice to listen to something a little more mellow. We've been listening to a lot of, what is that soundtrack, 80's Ballads, Hair Metal ballads?
Right, yeah, that's what we've been listening to. So, it's nice, it's different you know, it's mellow. If we want to listen to something to drive to, let's listen to something mellow to chill our ears.
Have you ever thought of doing a Sworn Enemy cover version of an 80's ballad?
We were joking about that this morning, we were saying, "yo, let's do Twisted Sister's "We're Not Going to Take It". Oh, it so totally would rock. I was feeling it, but I don't think anyone else was.
What band has been the biggest influence on you and why?
For me personally, I'd have to say it's been Biohazard for the simple fact that when I first bought their record the lyrics just hit home with me. They ar real; they don't talk about any of these bullshit fantasies going on. Everything they dealt with, you can relate to in some way shape or form, and that is why the way I write. I always wanted to write like how they did it, so people would feel the same way like I felt towards there lyrics. I want people to feel that towards my lyrics
How do you feel about the current state of heavy music?
I think it has really turned around in the last year or two and it's looking up. Metal is coming back definitely, so I'm pretty stoked about that and hopefully we are in the mix of a lot of that. I'm just praying and hoping that it stays in the trend it's going in right now because it's getting bigger again.
You have one of the sickest voices out there, so how do you take care of that?
That's a question I've been asked a lot and you know what, I can't even answer it because all I say is I just drink water. That's it. I mean, I smoke cigarettes, which people tell me don't do. I eat a lot of fast food shit, which people tell don't do. I do everything that I am not supposed to do, and it never bothers me. But the one thing I do, that I make sure I always do is I always drink a lot of water, just to keep myself hydrated.
Now, you guys coming from the New York hardcore scene. How do you feel about the closing of CBGB's and the New York hardcore scene in general? (CB's will be closing down Halloween of '06).
Well that's, that's a shame because if you look at some of the people and the performers that have played there, the place is a landmark and it shouldn't be shut down. And, that is definitely going to hurt the hardcore scene a lot because if you look at most of our hardcore bands, there are no places to play in the city unless you are really big and you can sell out an Irving Plaza or Roseland or, you know, something to that effect, so how many other places are there where smaller bands can play?
How do you feel about the New York hardcore Scene today, any bands you have your eye on, anything you are digging?
Of course, there are plenty of bands out there man; you've got our friends at Billy Club Sandwich, Irate, you've got Everybody Gets Hurt, Inhuman, Most Precious Blood. There's a lot of New York bands out there that are keeping that shit going.
What is the best thing about being a New York Band?
You get notoriety from being from New York. New York has always been a mecca of the world, it's like the centerpiece. Everyone knows New York. When they toured, everyone knew New York hardcore because Agnostic Front put New York hardcore on the map. They opened the eyes of the world to New York hardcore and it remained like that. It's always been a stigma, in a good way. If you are from New York, it seems like you always have people wanting to know about you, people wanting to come and see you. And hey, I love it, it's great. I'm not going to front.
How do you guys spice things up on tour and keep the morale going?
We like to joke around a lot; we like to pull a lot of pranks. We are a very comical bunch in this RV, so there's a lot of joking around going on.
What was the last prank you pulled?
Um, we were just in Europe with Madball, not too long ago, and it's Ed's (bassist) first tour, and he got to go on a bus, didn't have to do shit, got treated like a rock star, so we felt that he needed to get a little Ashton Kutcher type Punk,. So, he got really wasted this one night, and as he is climbing up the stairs to his bunk to go to bed, and he bangs into Freddy Madball, and Freddy is like, "oh, hey Ed, whats up, watch it", you know? And Ed was so wasted he was like, "ahh, whatever", and he went to bed. So the next day we were like, yo, we are going to get him. The gig was sold out, and we had our passports down on the table, so we made like we were talking to our manager, telling him that we have got get sliced and were thrown off the tour, making him feel like it was all his fault, and we had all the posters at the club saying Sworn Enemy cancelled, blah, blah, blah, this and that. You know, this dude was almost in tears, I swear to God. And thenm we were like "yo, you've just been Punk'd. That was the best one we've had so far.
That's crazy, it's kind of merciless, but it's funny anyway.
Yes it is, it is merciless, but it had to be done.
When you are not in Sworn Enemy, what are you doing?
Well, I do landscaping. I'm not happy to say that, but what can I do. I can't find a full time job when I'm home because I'm always on tour, so I take whatever I can get. Some very good friends of mine own a landscaping business and he gives me work when I need it, so I'm grateful for that.
And what's the toughest part about being in a heavy metal band?
The fact that you don't make any money. I mean, you know, it's tough to go home and pay the bills when you are coming home with three cents.
What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
Wow� don't quit your day job. Go to school, go to college, get your education. But, if someone has the desire and the heart to want to play in it, I say, you know, give 150%, because if you aren't going to give 150% don't do it because it's going to take every ounce of energy that you have to try to make it in this industry.
Now, you guys have quite the itinerary coming up man, run it down so far�
Right now, we're on tour with Anthrax, God Forbid and Mantis. Then we are going to tour with God Forbid and Mantis after the Anthrax tour is over, and then I think we are possibly going to be doing some Madball dates. After that, we have Six Feet Under coming up, so we are pretty much going to be busy through to April.
Anything plans for the summer yet?
Well, we haven't heard anything yet, but we are really trying for Sound of the Underground. That's going to be our goal to get that. Last year's was a total success and I can only envision it getting better this year
What bands would you like to tour with that you haven't yet?
Hmm, I think the only band that I want to tour with that I haven't toured with is the Cro-Mags.
There are always a whole bunch of things going on in the hardcore scene. Do you guys have any side projects going on?
Nah, no side projects yet.
Right, give it a little time, right?
Give it a little time, you never know, something might pop up.
What's the best advice you ever got?
The best advice I ever got� I've gotten so much advice�you know what I think the best advice I ever got was just stay true to your roots. Don't forget where you came from.
Do you have any final words for us Sal?
On January 24th, help us out and go pick up THE BEGINNING OF THE END.