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Rest in Pieces

interview by Joy Williams
published in Thrash Metal (U.S.)


Rest in Pieces/Thrash Metal Magazine



“I've listened to punk all my life, but I never held the values of punk. I'd listen to the Sex Pistols, then I'd put on a Rory Gallagher album.”

--Armand Majidi


Rest in Pieces' bio states that they "aren't about clichés, images, or the 'business' of music. They're about music, period." Indeed, writer/singer Armand Majidi says, "That's the thing. I'm just in it for myself. I'm in it for my own musical enjoyment. If I'm doing something which isn't musically satisfying to me, I'll stop. I'll do something else."

Formed in 1985, when Armand was still a "dirty-faced punk," Rest in Pieces quickly became a well-known presence on the New York hardcore scene, where the music that went with the lifestyle was all-important. Over the years, the band went through many personnel changes, acquiring current members Rob Echeverria (guitar) in 1986, and Craig Setari (ex-Agnostic Front, Youth of Today and NYC Mayhem) and Chris Cirino in 1989.

Although they've always been considered hardcore, the current lineup brings a lot of metal crunch, even a little melody, into the mix on their latest Roadracer release, Under My Skin. Armand has some mixed feelings about the record. "I think the production could have been done a little better. We would've gotten a better sound if we had done it all at Normandy Sounds in Rhode Island. But we mixed the album in Power Place Studios in New York and that kind of took away from us. But I can live with the album. There's a lot of things I think we could've done better, but there's a lot of things I think came out sounding not typical."

And perhaps that's because the band's main writer is not a very typical hardcore scenester.

Q: Obviously, you do have influences outside of hardcore. What do you listen to?

ARMAND: I listen to anything. I mean, I can get enjoyment out of any kind of music. I can get enjoyment out of disco, club music... Just something that has substance—not something that's just in one ear and out the other—a catchy melody, a vocal line, anything. If it has musical substance, it's good. And that's why I like to use all different kinds of influences from any kind of music I hear. Then you have all these different influences working in one song and it comes out sounding like new. For example, you have a typical hardcore kid trying to write a typical hardcore song. He's just trying to make up his own version of another band's song, which is pretty lame because you wind up with pretty stagnant kind of music. So what we're trying to do is we're taking a lot of different influences from everything we hear and try to get just a little new direction—not necessarily trying to create a whole new trend or anything like that, but just adding variety.

Q: But the whole punk/hardcore thing started where you didn't even need to be a musician. The sound was very stripped down and the force of the emotion was all that was really important.

ARMAND: That's good for a live set but when it comes to sitting down in your living room and listening to something, that's when you expect a little more.

Q: Eventually, too, a lot of these people found out that they were actually musicians, and the limitations of punk and hardcore began to wear on them.

ARMAND: Yeah. After a while of doing that, if you are going to do music, then you might as well utilize this ability that you have instead of just sticking to five chords in one song and that's it. You might as well throw in a whole bunch of stuff just to keep yourself entertained.

Q: Then why are you in the stripped-down hardcore music scene?

ARMAND: Well, uh, that's a question I've been asking myself lately, too! OK, I'm not too crazy about the scene, I'm not too crazy about the hardcore scene or the metal scene. I just don't like a lot of the people involved. And there's all the trends and things like that [which] really make me sick sometimes. But I can live with a lot of the problems in the hardcore scene, and it's not something that really grates on my nerves that bad. But it's just the music that I'm most comfortable playing. If I set down to write a song, I always think about the power that I can put into it. I mean, I always try to work melody into it as well but it's just a natural kind of thing for me to sit down and think about the amount of power I can put into it. But, even on this album—it's going to surprise a few people—there's like a few soft spots on the album. Just actual vocal melodies, where I actually have to sing, you know, as opposed to a screaming pitch. After a while, you just have to do something different.

Q: So you think you probably will change?

ARMAND: Oh, definitely, definitely. I mean, right now we're in a state of flux. I guarantee that the next stuff Rest in Pieces comes out with is going to be probably very different from the album. All the ideas I've been coming up with in my head have been for a very different style from what the album is—maybe a slower and harder sound, a little more danceable crunch. I don't know, it's hard to explain. I want like slow, danceable beats but with a really heavy sound to them. It's nothing like Rest in Pieces is going funk, I would never want to do that, especially with all the bands today. I would think of it like just good beats, but it wouldn't be like we could play with the Chili Peppers. A bouncy drum line is always really good with a really hard song. It just adds color to the whole thing.

Q: Would you say you're getting bored with hardcore?

ARMAND: Definitely! I'm sick of hardcore. We;re not hardcore people. We have a lot more backgrounds of old '70s rock, of heavy metal.

Q: I've observed that the musicians are generally a lot more open to other kinds of music than the people "in the scene."

ARMAND: Oh, of course. That's 'cause everybody in the scene's too concerned about what is cool. Like, a lot of people would consider themselves too "hard" for liking Rod Stewart, that's for fairies. But if the song is good, you can't argue against good music. You can always say something about somebody, but when it comes to his music, you can't knock good music. I've listed to punk all my life, but I never held the values of punk. I'd listen to the Sex Pistols, then I'd put on a Rory Gallagher album.

Q: So what did your parents think of your being a hardcore punk?

ARMAND: Actually, they were pretty tolerant of... Actually, when I think about it, they were very tolerant of me. Because I was, I guess, a punk in high school, running around wearing swastikas—even though I was never, like, a white supremacist Nazi, because I'm not all white, anyway. I guess I just wanted to rebel—I hate to use the word, because it's such a cliché. A lot of the time I look back at myself and I think I was a little punk who should've been straightened out; but at least, through my being a dirty-faced punk, I've learned which way to go.

Q: Do you think about what is going to happen to you over time? Or do you just take things one day at a time and figure you'll deal with the future when it gets here? Ultimately, what's in the hardcore scene for you?

ARMAND: Oh, no, no, no. I really have to plan for my future because I'm the kind of person... even though, I could just do that, I could just say, "Well, I'll just do this tour and not worry about it for a few months." I could do that. I'd rather not, though. Because when you come back... I mean, coming back from the Sick of It All tour, we made just a little bit of money, which lasted us maybe a month or so. But once that money is spent, you look at what's going on in your life and, "OK. The only other thing we can do is go back on tour again." And once that's done, and you think of all you could've done, the house you could've had, the family you could've had...

  

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