It’s been over three years since Full Blown Chaos has released a new record, but it’s been no easy ride getting to where they are now. After constant touring and facing enough personal challenges that would take its toll on any band, the metalcore favorites have returned and are ready to once again prove themselves to new (and old) fans. Full Blown Chaos frontman Ray Mazzola took the time to talk with Metal Insider about their new self-titled album, which hits stores and outlets on February 1, as well as the thrills and hardships being constantly touring and recording.
In the Summer of 2009, you revealed that the band had gone through a lot of personal struggles and heartaches. How did that affect the recording and writing of the new album?
It’s one of those things where you can hit a wall and you can decide to pick yourself up and keep moving or you can just stand there and become a part of that obstacle. This record was very therapeutic. We all had our losses; we all had things that we needed to get over. With me personally, I lost both of my parents in 2008 on the same day from two different things. Having such a tight knit family unit, it was very devastating. Same thing with the brothers in my band, Mike [Facci, guitarist] and Jeff [Facci, drummer], they lost a couple of family members as well, grandparents. It was very dramatic, being that they hadn’t had such loss mostly in their lives.
And then there are other things also, like loss of work and just trying to catch up. When you’re on the road constantly, it does a number on you. There was a point where we were doing year after year over 300 days, and socially and emotionally it affects you because you lose track of your family; you lose track of yourself. It can definitely work a number, especially if you have kids, you have girlfriends, wives, this and that, people that are relying on you emotionally and even just the friendship factor. There’s been a lot of friends that we lost because they can’t wrap their brains around or can’t understand like “Hey, we’re on the road. We can’t keep in touch with you all the time.!” We look at touring as a means of our fun. This is what we do. This is our calling. We didn’t choose this; it chose us. That’s our mentality. And not everybody is suitable for it. It can either chew you up and spit you out, or you can roll with the punches in the van and keep moving.
We took all of that anger from all of our loss and all of the issues that we had with our friends, with our family, with fans, and with just life itself, and just pumped everything into this new record and made it as fun as possible for us. We’ve had other albums where we would go and pretty much write with our fans in mind, and with like ‘We want to have this type of sound, and we want to work this way.’ This album we totally wrote for ourselves. We totally had that mindset of ‘We’re doing this for us! Whether it’s just us listening to it for the rest of our lives, we’re going to do that. We’ll be satisfied with it no matter what.’ This is something that we did so every song we play we’re having the most amount of fun we possibly can, and it helped us get through everything we needed. Every song just hits the way we wanted it to. We have different aspects; there’s some positive songs, there’s some negative songs. We just wanted to write and not criticize ourselves and not cap ourselves out on our music either. We’re a five piece now, so our music capability has expanded. We’ve also evolved naturally in our musical taste. So we’re still heavy, we’re still a hardcore band that loves metal, and we’re still a metal band that loves hardcore. It’s pretty much just incorporating all of our influences and everything that has happened in the past few years all into just one album.
During this entire period, was there ever a fear that the band might break up?
No. A lot of people had said like “Oh, we thought you guys were done! Oh, we thought you guys were gone!” And everyone else was like “Oh, they’re still around? They’re still a band?” I mean, every band has a moment where they’re just overwhelmed by things at home or it could be anything. But there was never a solid moment where we were like ‘Alright, let’s just throw it in.’ We’re too motivated. We take a couple of months off here and there, and we just go about our lives and families. Sometimes we don’t even talk to each other for weeks or a month at a time. But we schedule a time, we get together and we just jam, and we laugh to the point where we’re almost ready to break all of our ribs. That’s the type of people that we are. We’ve been through enough to where can take the good with the bad and turn the bad into good. So there was really never a point where we were like “We’re going to be done. This is going to be it for us.” There’s been many times where we could have thrown in the towel, but that’s just not our style.
You mentioned before that the band became a five piece. In addition to enhancing the band’s capabilities, did adding another guitarist also uplift the band’s morale during this hard time?
It definitely did. The new guitarist that we have, his name is Mark Gumbrecht, and he’s been a longtime friend with the band. He was a guitar tech with us for many years. He also knew the material. Our drummer Jeff also had a couple of side projects with him. They [the band] knew Mark long before they even knew me. So it was pretty much just waiting to happen. We wanted to expand our writing. There was so many more things that we wanted to do musically, and it totally boosted morale having him in the band.
Everybody has a funny bone, but his whole body is made up of a funny bone. Anything that comes out of his mouth pretty much puts anybody in stitches. We needed that aspect in the band as well just to keep everybody straight, keep everybody happy, and keep everybody solid. He was going to be with us no matter what. So it was one of those things where it was like ‘Do we want him working for us or do we want him putting his expertise into the band and into the music?’ And I feel he’s made us a better band. He’s made us a better band musically, but also just over all as a band we’re so much better now.
Wasn’t the album originally supposed to be called Villains rather than it being self-titled?
You know, we were thinking of titling it that originally just because it was one of the first songs that we had. But then as the album started to evolve and started to come together, and with more songs being written, we decided to change it up. One of the first Full Blown Chaos CDs is a self-titled EP. It was self-titled for the reason that it was fresh, it was a new beginning and we wanted the name to speak for itself. You know, Full Blown Chaos: utter destruction; just as heavy as possible; no holds barred; balls to the wall; this is what we are, this is what we do, this is it. So we decided to go self-titled again because the EP is so old and outdated, and not a lot of people have it. That one EP was DIY. So we decided to reinvent ourselves, like a fresh start for the band. A rebirth of our brutality you could say, and we just wanted the name speak for itself.
So you really hope that this album helps define and represent the band to a new listening audience as well as previous fans.
I believe it will. We have our die-hard fans, [but] the scene changes every few months. There’s new faces every show. No matter what, you look and you see there’s different people all the time, but the more touring you do and the more you stay in peoples’ faces, the more they’re forced to remember you. When the music speaks for itself, then no worries. I mean, there’s a lot of shitty bands out there. I won’t name names, but there’s a lot of downplay in our genre of music. So you have to stick out, or you have to be memorable in a sense of your attitude, stage presence, and the overall vibe of the band. But it’s the music that’s going to stick out right away. For people where it’s not a flash in the pan, then it’s a slow burn. That’s how you have to consider it. With things like that, we just stick and punch, and win the fight. That’s what we’re going for.
We believe that everybody who listens to this is going to enjoy. And haters are going to hate. They’re eventually going to come out of the closet and be like “Alright, it’s good!” We’ve already had people do that with us for certain songs, going like “That song sounds like this band or that band!” But you know what? It’s ok to incorporate influence because that’s what it is. Copying is sometimes flattery, but we’re not copying anybody. We just put our twist on everything. Overall, we wrote this record for ourselves, and we hope everyone will enjoy it just as much as we do.
Your new self-titled album is your first release with Ironclad Recordings [an imprint of Metal Blade Records]. However, it isn’t the first time the band’s been on an artist run label [the band’s first albums were released by Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta’s Stillborn Records]. Do you feel confident that your album will be properly handled even though Trevor Phipps [Unearth frontman, also runs Ironclad Recordings] has commitments to his own band in addition to the label?
I have 100% confidence in him and his abilities. I know the risks when you have an imprint label that’s run by somebody in a band. You have other responsibilities. You have your own work to do, your own band, your own priorities. But knowing him personally and knowing his work ethic, and knowing the people behind him, everybody at Ironclad and Metal Blade, I know the record is going to be pushed properly. I have no concerns on that. If I was going to be worried at all when we talked about doing a record together, I would’ve just blown it off.
Well, when I interviewed Trevor recently, he raved about your new album!
Awesome! I mean, we go back! That’s one of those things where we’re mutual fans and friends. So it’s one of those things where one hand washes the other. We’re just trying to do the best we can. Not to sound cliché, but when the music’s bad, the scene’s bad. When the music is good, the scene thrives. And I hate using the word scene because, I mean, whose scene?! Metal scene? Hardcore scene? I’m talking about overall heavy music. And when the music is good, the scene is awesome.
Before landing on Ironclad, the band has gone through different labels including Stillborn and Ferret. What’s been the biggest issue or concern that you’ve had with how past labels treated the band’s releases?
Well, our biggest issue is just getting the marketing where it needs to be. I mean, everyone is hog wild about money, that’s just the world. So it’s just trying to get everything done with a certain amount of time and be able to reach every aspect of marketing. And there’s so many different techniques and strategies that where one will thrive, the other will fall short. It’s just what happens. It’s hit or miss. Unless you have a million dollars to pump into it, and nobody besides maybe Metallica has a million dollars [laughs], and do everything that you need to do, then there’s that risk. A lot of it falls back on the band too. The band needs to self-advocate as much, if not more, as labels do.
You mentioned before how the band released their debut EP on their own. Did the thought of going back to DIY ever occur to the band, or would it have been too much for the band to handle at this point in the band’s career?
We’ve had to do things on our own, and it’s difficult for a band to do their own stuff. Unless you have the financial backing and that type of monetary clout to push into your own album, then by all means I expect somebody to do it. For me, I don’t know about putting our own stuff out. On paper, it’s a possibility, but in real life there’s just too much involved. We all have our families, and to be able to dedicate that much time into it, we just can’t do that. That’s just not a possibility anymore. When we were younger 10, 15, 20 years ago, that’s more of a gung-ho reality. But for right now, we have bills, the roof has to be kept over our head, the electricity needs to be kept on. Music is still a 100% for us, but there are other aspects now where we need that back of a label, a publicist, and an agent. We could do it all ourselves. It’s not like we don’t have the resources to get it done, but it works better as a team than as a sole unit.
You said before how you hate to use the word “scene,” but Full Blown Chaos really has been able to cross over to both the metal and hardcore scene. Is it harder to win over one type of audience over another?
As far as scenes go, we’re a cross-genre band. People ask me all the time “Are you a hardcore band or are you a metal band?” The truth of the matter is that we’re both. We are a heavy band that writes heavy music. We embrace our hardcore roots and the hardcore scene, but we also have to incorporate our metal influences. That’s just where our background is. That’s where we come from.
Do you feel though that incorporating both types of influences has won the band more fans or has alienated “purists” of both scenes?
There’s always people who will give their opinions. Everyone’s going to give their two cents. If I was able to physically collect the 2 cents everyone has to say, I’d be a billionaire right now, especially considering our music. There are some hardcore fans that kind of complaining like “Oh, you’re too metal now, I don’t like you guys!” and there are some metal based fans that are like “That’s too hardcore! There’s too much core in my metal!” as I’ve been told before. And it’s just one of those things where you got to roll with it. We’re writing for us first. If we don’t write it for ourselves, then it’s not going to have any integrity behind it. The message is going to be lost. The vibe and soul of the music itself is just not going to be present. So we have lost some fans from both sides, but I feel that we’ve gained so much more by being able to incorporate a lot more.
Do you prefer playing in an intimate hardcore setting or playing at big metal festivals?
I love both. I mean, it’s weird to do both consecutively because when you’re always playing small clubs, you get wide eyed and want to do bigger things, and then when you do bigger things you’re like “I really want to get more intimate and play smaller things.” So I want to do both. I always love and appreciate doing both. I love working a huge stage and a huge crowd. Absolutely love it! When it’s more intimate and when we’re playing floor shows, and I can actually get in kids’ faces, I love that too.
Do you have any memories from the first time playing on a big metal tour or festival?
It’s hard to say “metal,” but Stillborn Fest is one of the bigger festivals we’ve ever played, especially early on in our career. Playing with Hatebreed, Biohazard, Sick Of It All, Madball, a lot of hardcore bands, but then you had God Forbid, Sepultura and a lot of metal bands. Something like that where it’s cross-genre was fantastic! Being able to play on stages where I was going to see big shows, like in New York with the Roseland Ballroom, one of my first shows in my life was there (The Ramones and Social Distortion). There was a time when I was there three to four times a week, and if I wasn’t there then I was at the Irving or all the other spots. So being able to play on that type of stage for that type of crowd is like a power kick. Those moments in my life stick out.
Starting next month, you’ll touring with Malevolent Creation on the United Hate Across America Tour. Are there any big plans after that tour finishes up?
Well in less than two weeks we’ll, we’ll being going to Japan before that tour. It’ll be our first time going to Japan. We’re doing a festival date there with Strife, Comeback Kid, The Ghost Inside, and a couple of other bands, and we’re doing a bunch of our own dates. It’s our first time being there, so we’re just totally psyched. In my mind, all I see is Blade Runner in my brain! We’re all just movie nerds, horror and sci-fi people. So we have that, and then the Malevolent Creation tour, which is going to be awesome. We’re totally excited about it! We thrive in certain aspects and genres, and I know we’re going to be able to win it on that tour. After that, we’re home for a couple of weeks. Then we’ll do all of April in Europe and the U.K. on a headlining tour.
Any big Summer plans?
Summer is still up in the air. We were hoping to lock in some of the bigger festivals, but with bigger festivals there are dollar signs all over it. I really will not care as long as long as I’m out on the road. As long as I’m on the road, and I get to wake up at 5 or 6 a.m. and have my coffee, and just keep going, then I’m good [laughs]. For me, “anywhere U.S.A.” is my home, and if we get some on some of the festivals overseas, I’ll be beyond stoked. Even if we’re just playing in our backyard, I’m ready for it.