Over the last couple of years, a number of bands have seen their cool quotient rise after exposure on MTV's "Beavis and Butt-head," and most take it in one of two ways. Either they're grateful at being pronounced "cool" by America's most recognizable rock critics, or they resent the suggestion that it was a couple of cartoon characters (and not years of hard work) that put them over the top.
Almost no one, though, reacts with the kind of nonchalant indifference Biohazard's Billy Graziadei exhibits when asked what it was like to hear Beavis enthusiastically pronounce, "These guys rule! They rule!"
"It's entertainment," Graziadei says, his shrug almost audible over the phone. "Not in an educational way, and I don't want to say 'mindless entertainment,' because it's not. Kids dig it.
"But people don't get the Biohazard message from watching 'Beavis and Butt-head.' What they get is, they see the band, and they get the little jokes that Beavis and Butt-head make. But they do remember the name, and hopefully they go out and pick up the album -- they buy it or they steal it or they tape it from a friend -- and that's when they get the Biohazard message. That's when they see the lyrics, and read what we have to say, and hear the music."
If it seems odd to hear a member of a thrash band talking about the importance of getting his band's message across, it's probably because you don't know Biohazard.
Despite the ferocity of the band's over-amped sound and the jTC fearsome visage these tough, tattooed Brooklynites maintain, the guys in Biohazard aren't merely thoughtful, responsible and well-spoken -- they're downright upright. Nor are they shy about sharing their views about right and wrong. Why else would the band have dubbed its new album "State of the World Address"?
What the band has to say, however, hardly follows the usual line of rock-and-shock cliches. Take, for instance, the band's attitude toward gangster posturing. While some musicians might revel in playing the bad guy, Biohazard takes a negative view of how, as the song "Tales from the Hardside" puts it, "the virus of hate infects the ignorant mind."
"We realize that we have a responsibility as role models," says Graziadei. "A lot of kids emulate a lot of the things that we do and we say, and they look up to that. When you have bands preaching about being gangsters, and shooting guns and being in gangs and [stuff] like that, to me that's -- I don't know. I don't really believe in that.
"There are many ways to deal with racism and deal with gangs and deal with drugs. Why glorify it? We've lost too many friends to see any good in suicide, or sticking a needle in your arm, you know?"
Biohazard doesn't just let its music do the talking, either. "I think it's important that we always keep our feet on the ground, always remember that there's no difference between us and the kids that come and see us," Graziadei says. "I always go and hang out with the kids and sign autographs, meet with the kids and talk with the kids. Look 'em in the eye and say, 'Thanks for coming.' Let them know that there's no difference between me and them. I just have a guitar and sing onstage."
Needless to say, this is not the way the fans generally interact with their heroes.
"So many times I've had kids say to me, 'So many bands, they just pretend they don't hear you when you call their name,' " Graziadei says. "So I tell the kids a lot of times people do that because it boosts your ego. I mean, I'm not going to lie. When kids are screaming your name, or dyeing their hair like yours, or piercing their eyebrow, or getting similar tattoos that you have, it boosts your ego."
But Graziadei and the guys aren't in Biohazard merely for the ego boost. They're in it for the groove.
"Music is the universal language, especially rhythm and groove," the guitarist says. "It's something you can jump up and down to, or tap your foot, bob your head, snap your fingers. . . . That's our strong suit. In fact, we just did the first three dates of the Pantera tour, and kids are coming up to us and telling us, 'No one grooves like you guys groove.' And I think that it's cool. To watch a kid move and feel the rhythm while we're playing it, it's cool.
"Because when the four of us do click together, when we hit the nail on the head, our eyes tear," he adds. "And onstage, when everything is working and everything is in tune, there's something in the air. I've been trying to find the words to describe it. But there's no way to describe it. Musicians can understand it between themselves, especially guys in bands. But when it clicks, it clicks."
0$ And Biohazard definitely clicks.
What: Biohazard in concert
When: Tonight at 7
Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion, Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia
PD Call: (410) 481-7328 for tickets, (410) 730-2424 for information
To hear excerpts from Biohazard's "State of the World Address," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6145 after you hear the greeting.