Interview with Albany rockers BISHOP
(Hey guys, you may remember my review of BISHOP’s record Hate Wide Open. Now I present an interview with the entire band. Enjoy.-Derek)
Derek Kortepeter: Tell me how you guys got started as a band?
ROCK: Tommy and I started as ‘Dead Bishop’ back in 1993. Vinny replaced the outgoing bass player in 1998.
VINNY: The three of us are brothers; Tom and Rock are full brothers and I am their half brother.We all have the same mother, along with my younger brother Dominic, who is also our “head of security” (laughs). We grew up together and were always close. Those guys would play what my dad called “noise” and “binge and purge” music in the shed in the backyard of our house in Guilderland, NY (which is a quiet suburb of Albany) loud as hell. I was 5 and I would love to come in, watch, sing on the mic and get in trouble. From then on I wanted to be in the band. I bought my first bass when I was 9, a fender fretless jazz with no amp!!! (I couldn’t afford one for a couple of years so I would play with the headstock against the kitchen garbage can to make it louder). Finally in December of 1998, I was 13, in eighth grade and got the call. My brothers said I was in. I specifically remember Tommy saying I had to keep my grades up to be in the band. I was good in school anyways so it was no problem. Thus Bishop was born.
TOMMY: Yes, that is pretty much how we started.
DK: Was music always the thing that interested you? Or did the passion come later in life?
TOMMY: Yes, music and anything creative interested me although, I got side tracked by sports for most of my youth and teen years. When I was done with that stuff, I was required by Rock to purchase a guitar so that we could jam together. I started straight off slamming out thrash riffs. I would make my guitar practice’s a workout.
ROCK: Absolutely – my cousin Sara used to babysit me when I was 4, 5 and I remember her playing old Ramones, Kiss, and Led Zeppelin vinyl. Then I would try to make a drum set using pots and pans (until my mother found all dents in the bottom of her saucepans!)
VINNY: For me it was just watching my brothers play and wanting to be in the band. Also I got to go to their shows at a very young age at clubs that I probably shouldn’t have been allowed in. I got to see all sorts of incredible music, moshing, and crazy stuff. As a special “encore” they used to play Helmet “In The Meantime” and I would come up onstage to either sing or play bass. I also got to see Life of Agony at a club in Albany called the QE2 (now closed) on their River Runs Red tour. My cousin Sara took me when I was like 11 or something. The place was so packed they made us watch on the stage next to the bass player. It was hot, tight, and people were going absolutely apeshit. That was a moment when I said I want in on this business (laughs).
TOMMY: I liked all styles of music depending on how it struck me. When I picked up a guitar all I wanted to do was play loud, hard and furious. For that, my idols where Scott Ian and Danny Spitz (Anthrax) as well as, all the larger than life heroes of the thrash world (Sepultura, SOD, Testament, Queensryche). I then melded into a bit of Rollin’s, Jimi Hendrix, Soundgarden, NIN, Ministry, and Bjork (She’s just so darn sexy)
ROCK: Helmet, Anthrax, Jimi Hendrix, Zeppelin, The Who. For me, as a drummer, I always felt a strong connection with the drumming styles of each band and I think play into how I use my instrument and how I want it to fit within the structure and impact of the songs.
VINNY: Definitely Helmet, Quicksand, Faith No More, Orange 9mm, Anthrax, Soundgarden, Clutch, Alice in Chains, the list goes on. Also I must say King’s X . I feel they are a big subconscious influence that affects our music a lot. For me personally Type O Negative also. As far as how it affects our music, I see it like this. You listen to this great music and it gets in your head. Not just the music but the feeling, and it translates into your songwriting. We generally have a more “Positive” approach to music and want people to get amped up and motivated to do great things when they listen. When I hear Helmet “In the Meantime” I feel like I can do anything; work out, put in a concrete driveway at my house, wash the dishes or change the oil on my car!
DK: Let’s talk about your latest album Hate Wide Open, first of all why did you guys decide to take an entirely DIY approach (i.e. sans producer etc.)?
ROCK: Money! Seriously though – having the looming ticking hourly rate on you while trying to create is nonsense. We figured, we are all good at one thing or another so let’s try figuring out what each guy can do, then come together to put out the best album we can with what we have at our disposal.
VINNY: Time and MONEY. We have been doing this for quite some time and have picked up a lot of production, recording, and live sound skills (which in some cases go hand in hand). So we said we had better learn how to do this stuff ourselves. Plus, we just have found that if you want to get your vision across, you’re best bet is to do it yourself.
TOMMY: Because I was told in a dream that, “You(BISHOP) must set forth the new fury, of which all shall harken to heart, You(BISHOP) must set this task solely upon yourselves, virgin of all input except from the hands, hearts and mouths of YOU!”
DK: What was the process of creating the songs for the record? Were the songs spontaneous, scripted, or a little bit of both?
ROCK: Both – basically we like to write the music first, and then turn lyric duty over to Tommy. Sometimes the music came quick, sometimes it was a trial and error – but we weren’t concerned about time, just making a song that we felt was the best.
VINNY: A lot of the songs started as Rock and I jamming, either with me on bass or guitar. Sometimes I would come up with the basic “Riffs” at home and we would come together at practice to hash it out together. Rock would give his input and in our own little “music speak” we would communicate what we want for each part. Rock would tell me “do a slide here, give it a little chunk chunk there, some “broooash” there, you get the drift. Michael Bay style (laughs). I would do the same. I’d be like, Rock do this fill, do a little ba da dump dump here, give me a slayer fill there. Then Tommy would come in and add his flavor with the guitars, and come up with cool leads. Tommy would write the vocals, and then we would come up with some of the backing stuff together. On this album we wanted to all sing, and to add as much as we each could to the music. We went through many rounds of revising and editing songs all the way up into the recording process. Many a long night was spent taking a step back to objectively look at the music and having to make some tough decisions.
TOMMY: And so it was done.
DK: You discuss a philosophical system that holds “we are now witness to the ‘Hate, Wide, Open’ that exists in our world today.” Can you elaborate on what specific things you believe need to be changed in the world? Do you think your music can bring about a deeper discussion about these issues?
TOMMY: For me it is an Awakening to the fundamental dysfunction of humanity…..The Ego. The ego which drives us to fear, hate, and violence in support of defending ourselves. “If I have all the money, I will be safe, if I am the strongest, nobody can hurt me, if I get you before you get me then I’ll be safe” It’s egoic thoughts such as these that drive the madness you see around you. By becoming aware of your ego, you are beginning the process of progress, a paradigm shift forward for humanity. The only way for us to Move, forward, is to become one, to work together, to come together and open up about who we are to each other. We need to re-build bridges of hope. The Bishop venue will be one location to do this. To open up and “witness” the truth. So, it’s not so much the music which opens the channels, it’s who’s behind the music. The music is the doorway in…..
ROCK: Music should touch you – no matter what type of music style it is. Some people connect with Mozart, some connect with Slayer. Music is a catalyst for change, so YES – we wanted to write from the heart and feel that there will be some people that should connect with the sonic impact and lyrical message we are putting out.
VINNY: Now a days it seems everyone is always trying to get one up on each other. We don’t take enough time to have patience with one another. Everyone wants to be a tough guy/gal or a big shot and that really isn’t necessary or productive. We are all on this planet together, let’s make the most of our time here and help one another.
DK: You have been together since 1998, how would you say your music has evolved over the years?
ROCK: I would say our songwriting and song production has drastically improved! In the beginning we were just winging it – which isn’t always a bad thing, but with time comes a better perspective on what works musically and lyrically.
VINNY: We have matured and learned to have the discipline to put the music FIRST. When you are writing and producing music, you need to develop taste in whatever you are doing, and that is a very tricky and subjective thing. We have gone through some different stages for sure. Just listen to our last three albums. Centipede, our first full length, came out in 2001, followed by Rock On in 05’ and Steel Gods in ’07. Much has changed in that time, but at the same time we have always strived to put out the best music we can.
TOMMY: As is all things in life, it’s a process in discovery. Finding who you really are. Whether it’s better or worse depends on how much you accept the truth. I feel that, we (BISHOP) bathe in the truth. Now it’s a matter of coming to terms with it, to surrender.
ROCK: Music is passion, our art – and you will do anything for it. We dealt with our fair share of booking agent con-artists, NYC ‘showcase night’ shows, drunk little people trying to steal our van, etc, etc. Putting in a lot of time rehearsing, playing dead-end dives in front of barely a crowd – it wears on you emotionally and makes you question why even bother. But it’s those few and far between moments where you get an email or some stranger says they love this or that song you wrote – then all the crap you put up with is worth it.
VINNY: I have to agree with everything Rock said and add – living in a culturally dead part of the country. The three of us come from Italian immigrants who came from a rural mountain town in southern Italy. Hard work is all they knew and I think those values are in our blood. The work is easy, and when it is something you love it is actually fun! The hard part is when you do it all and get no reaction, either positive or negative, from a crowd of 10 people who don’t get it and stare at you with blank faces. Which is fine, because like Rollins said, you give it all no matter how many people are there to see you, and we always do. It can just be a little frustrating at times.
TOMMY: Many trials, yes many trials but, we were pretty savvy and aware of what was going on. We just played the game.
DK: Since you are from Albany (and I’m from Los Angeles), I am curious what the music scene is like there. Is BISHOP well-received? Are you known in any other regional music scenes (I ask since you have been around for quite some time, which is impressive since so many bands break up after only a couple of years)?
ROCK: Albany (Upstate NY) USED to have a great scene from 70’s, ’80’s and early to late ’90’s….then it went to shit! The only way you could get a decent gig was to play covers alongside your originals. Live music clubs and music mags folded, so the scene wilted away. BISHOP is well received EVERYWHERE ELSE other than our hometown (although we do have a lot of old friends that support us!).
TOMMY: Yes, I agree the music scene in our area is difficult to navigate. There are less and less venues to perform in and the change in attitudes and what people value on their free time has changed.
VINNY: It seems the further west we have travelled the better the reception. We did a few smaller tours out to Ohio and had some of our best shows out there. When we did the Lady Luck tour in 2006 we toured all the way to Las Vegas, playing shows in places like Indianapolis, St. Louis, Phoenix, Albuquerque, and Wichita. We met great people and felt great vibes in those places.
DK: What type of experience do you want your audience to have at BISHOP shows? Do you find that you play to an often receptive audience (i.e. like-minded rock fans)?
ROCK: For the most part – no matter what size crowd, we do connect with people. I notice we get fans who are fellow musicians that dig the way we play, and we also get the casual listener – and they may not even be into our genre of music – but they say they liked a song’s lyrics, or they enjoy just watching us and the energy we put into it.
VINNY: I always try to make a connection with the crowd. After the set I like to talk to everyone because it is exciting to meet people who are as passionate about music as yourself. I also like playing shows where the genres of the bands are mixed because we seem to get new fans who would have never thought that they would like heavy rock music, and that is exciting in itself. We want everyone to have a great time and come away from the experience motivated!
TOMMY: You will watch and hear what we have to say. Then, we will talk!
DK: What can we expect in the coming future from you guys?
ROCK: Getting Hate Wide Open out to the masses through shows, word of mouth, radio, and definitely more new music – sooner rather than later!
VINNY: Absolutely. It is time to get the music to the people. We will see you on the road!
TOMMY: Good stuff!
DK: Is there anything else you would like to say before this interview concludes?
BISHOP: Support Independent music/musicians! If you like what they do show some love – buy their cd, buy a shirt, support their art, and spread the word. That is what keeps the engine going!
BISHOP can be found at: