Interview with Deathwish bassist/vocalist Biddy | By Hutch
Blasting out of Minneapolis, Deathwish are set to release their second LP, Unleash Hell, on Beer City Records in spring. Their thrashy brand of the Motörcharge style—Motörhead meets Discharge—has been honed here to a vicious surge. Bassist and vocalist Biddy’s frank admissions explain the allure of dark and rebellious music, which has become a life-defining mission. Of Unleash Hell, he says, “This has better production, better written songs. The artwork is completely different, but phenomenal. Our guitar player, Rob—a.k.a. Guinea Pig Champion—writes 90 percent of our music. Our first record, [2015’s Out for Blood] took all the time in the world. So, now the pressure was on. Can we write a better record? I hope so,” he jests. Biddy also plays in Wartorn and grabbed a new lead guitarist, Jimmy Claypool from In Defence. That pedigree would ensure a better record.
“This is more aggressive. It rages more, while being a little progressive, a little more precise,” Biddy assures. His lyrics demand the feral snarl of these heavy riffs. While he may not be writing the majority of the music, Biddy appears to be the director of the band: subject matter, musical direction, and tour planning all are his responsibility with this monster that is Deathwish.
Unleash Hell was recorded by Adam Tucker at Signature Sound Minneapolis. Tucker has been recording since the ‘90s. Biddy holds only admiration for Tucker. “He is the best I have worked with,” he says. “Adam throws in ideas and they accentuate what we were doing, not pushing the song somewhere foreign. The process is smooth as glass.”
Deathwish had an April 2016 tour with M.D.C., their second tour with the O.G. punks. First was Chicago, then looping through New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, and Louisiana to eventually hit Fort Collins, Colorado. Thirty-four shows in 35 days. “When I woke up the next day, I had to be at my mom’s for dinner,” Biddy says. “I didn’t know what state I was in. When M.D.C. tours, it is the pedal to the floor. They give 110 percent, and we are right there with them.” He adds, “This past year, we played 100 shows with tours, that’s not including weekend gigs.” Deathwish will embrace the road again to spread the gospel of Unleash Hell. They have upcoming tours in Europe, plus two fests. The band are also doing another future tour with M.D.C. and D.O.A., plus a D.R.I. tour coming. D.R.I. took them out before and Spike Cassidy wants them to come out with D.R.I. again.
The intent and motivation remains the same: to play demonic rock ‘n’ roll and leave venues in their wake. Armed with new material that engages and punishes, Deathwish forged Unleash Hell with an even darker commitment. “This record was inspired by things I grew up on,” Biddy says. “That song, [Rolling Stones’] ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ all the stuff that alluded to Satan, [Black] Sabbath, [Iron] Maiden: I was into it even as a small kid. There is something about it which is very powerful. As a child, I believed in that, because I grew up Catholic, and they scared the hell out of you with fire and brimstone. But, as a small child, I was like, ‘Bring on the fire and brimstone!’” Biddy was drawn to the dark elements of the religion not for shock value, but as a side effect of his defiant search for truth.
Biddy’s push toward the forbidden came from a rather natural reaction to how the world treated him. “I have a mental illness, Tourette’s—I have a mild case, dealt with it my whole life. I don’t experience happiness, just depression and mania. As a child, I had paranoia.” He quickly connects his disability to seeking out alternative answers, adding, “The devil made sense when I was kid. The Church tells you about a great God, giving people gifts. Here I am, suffering. Why? Does God hate me? What about children with cancer? What about wars? Where is God then?”
Biddy continues with the honesty of a kid, an aspect that has left a permanent impression. “Even as a believer, I was angry. How do you rationalize that? The Church’s explanations were never making sense. They never added up, just devoid of logic.” He continues to explore the contradictory stories in the Bible that most doubters question. “God says, ‘Thou shall not kill,’ but he floods the planet? Which is because he’s angry at people—that he created.” His skepticism is palpable, but having heard this example countless times, this isn’t the impactful moment. The following reveal is Biddy’s true stake in the fight: “At same time, I am highly emotional,” he acknowledges. “My mental illness makes me more emotional or depressed.”
Defiance is a genetic propulsion for Biddy. He immediately offers the heroic stances of his ancestors. “The rebel was engrained in me,” he says. “I am a German Jew and Ukrainian. We didn’t do so well in WWII. My great grandfather was thrown between two train tracks, because he told the Brown Shirts to go fuck themselves. The other side of my family were Ukrainian farmers who said, ‘Fuck Stalin, because he’s starving us.’ And even others were rounded up into camps as Gypsies. My family is made up of rebels. We did not listen to the status quo. If something doesn’t make sense, it’s bullshit. And we are going to call out the bullshit.”
“In the Garden, Satan told them they were naked,” Biddy pivots back to Catholocism, referencing Adam and Eve. “Satan told them the truth. Now, as an agnostic, I know Satan is probably not real. But, if he was real, God made him that way only to have a scapegoat to blame. That’s where I identify, because I was born with mental illness, someone society can blame. In private school, I had learning disabilities. But I didn’t have learning disabilities according to them. I had the devil in me. So, they were going to beat the devil out of me. I got the shit beat out of me all the time.”
Biddy reports his parents “being totally cool” out of those environments, but still, the trauma of abuse from these institutions impressed their brand into Biddy. He reflects on their distorted logic, mimicking, “‘Oh, you can’t spell? You have a disorder? We’ll put you in a harder class.’ All the solutions were backwards back then.”
“Kids say, ‘Oh, things are out of control these days,’” Biddy expands. “No. Things were way more dangerous when I was kid.” He reminisces about how close minded the general public was in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. But instead of dismissing this new generation, as a child of rejection, Biddy takes an empathetic approach, noting, “I am going to defend the millennials. The joke is that, ‘Oh, they are so easily offended.’ But, I couldn’t have blue hair back in 1985 without being called homophobic slurs and being beat up. I can’t tell how many times I got hospitalized because I was a skateboarder. People couldn’t handle me eating in a restaurant in the mid ‘80s, because I had a blue mohawk and two pierced ears.” Biddy recounts a few specific attacks. Luckily, he was armed with an alliance with his parents, but when his father called the authorities in one of these incidents—which equated to attempted murder upon Biddy’s 16-year-old self by an adult—“the cops said, ‘Yeah, but isn’t your son a skateboarder?’”
Biddy always had music as an outlet and weapon of retaliation, and Unleash Hell is a sharper sword that Out for Blood. Unleash Hell is reflective of that sentiment’s cinematic origin: gladiators with nothing to lose attacking the system’s corrupt leaders. The fury in Deathwish’s music attacks with speed and precision and killer riffs. The term Motörcharge—combining the sounds of Motörhead and Discharge—is often used to describe them, but Deathwish pushes even those limits. “I think we are different,” Biddy says. “We have a more metal influence, like Disfear, Toxic Holocaust, and Midnight.” Not that Biddy denies pure adoration for Motörhead. “I had been seeing Motörhead since I was a kid. But then, when I saw Inepsy, I thought, ‘This sounds like Motörhead, but they’re killing it.’”
Biddy doesn’t want to fit into a genre slot. He wanted to join a band, but d-beat or Motörcharge or crust usually come with fettered characteristics. He knew the style which he wanted, especially after playing in a slower, doom/stoner band. Biddy wanted an electric rush, grit, and rage to be the driving force. “But I couldn’t, because they made up 800 rules of how it had to be,” he says of his former bandmates. “When I play in bands, I ask bandmates, ‘What do you want do to do?’” He takes their response and pushes, “‘Let’s do that, plus three more things.’” Biddy continues, “You can see the excitement on their face to begin with what their passionate is. I’m trying to play with the most passionate people I can find.”
“I’m addicted to rock ‘n’ roll,” he says. “That is my drug. It is what I will do until the day I die. You can’t O.D. on it. Well… we’ll find out.” Playing guitars since he was 15, Biddy has always used music as a release, but 30 years later, it’s more of a lifestyle than ever. He still works, as a barber, a trade that has enjoyed a recent resurgence with the cool kids. “That’s just more competition,” he laments. “I have been doing this for 25 years.”
Despite his dedication to the art of haircutting, Biddy’s music will always be his primary focus. “I’m playing more than I have ever done,” he says, “and have got to tour with my favorite bands: Municipal Waste, Oi Polloi, D.O.A., M.D.C., D.R.I., Hellshock. How the fuck did I get this lucky? If I end up [having] a stroke tomorrow, it would balance out.”