REST IN PIECES return to action at this year’s Black ‘N Blue Bowl at NYC’s Webster Hall on May 21st. During their run which started in 1985 they put out 3 releases including a 1985 7”, 1987’s “My Rage” and 1990’s “Under My Skin” with “My Rage” being the favorite of the bunch with the majority of their fans. Pieces frontman Armand Majidi and bassist Craig Setari would later go on to form the rhythm section for Sick Of It All and with the amount of touring SOIA does year in and year out it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that it took it this long for the stars to finally align for this reunion. We caught up with Armand in late March to find out more about this reunion show and what may lie ahead for the band after. Photo by: Ken Salerno, Graphics: Bas Spierings
IE: For a few years now it seems like Rest In Pieces has been a popular fan choice when the names for the Black 'N Blue Bowl are announced but a reunion never came to be until 2017. How long have promoters (not just BNB) been asking you to put Rest In Pieces back together and what made this year different from previous years where you finally said yes?
Armand: We've been approached to reunite for a number of years but never felt the time was right, and because Sick Of It All's touring commitments were too heavy. Even this year will be a total challenge. It's coming together now though because we finally got Rob's contact info after being out of touch for so long. Its crazy how many years can slip by between friends sometimes.
IE: Who are the people who will make up the band Rest In Pieces on May 21st at the Black 'N Blue Bowl in NYC?
Armand: It'll be Rob (Echeverria) on guitar, Craig (Setari) on bass, Danny from Biohazard on drums, and yours truly on vocals. With a drummer as good as Danny with us, Pieces should sound more solid than ever in the past.
IE: Have you kicked around ideas yet for the set list you will play? Have there been any band practices yet and how many would you like to get in before the show to get sharp?
Armand: Rob and Danny have been getting together since we confirmed the show, and tell me everything's going great. They'll be the most rehearsed members, with Craig and I coming in and dedicating a month and a half to it. I'm also getting my voice in shape at home. The set list will definitely feature every song from the “My Rage” album, as well as a few songs from “Under My Skin”. Beyond that, any earlier songs we'd touch might be a little obscure, but die-hard Pieces fans would be sure to know them.
ROB (LEFT) & CRAIG (RIGHT) @ CBGB'S. PHOTO BY: KEN SALERNO
IE: With the busy schedule that Sick Of It All has year in and year out it’s kind of hard to see Rest In Pieces coming back for more than a handful of shows. Now that the wheels have been put in motion for this show can you see some one-off types of shows for Rest In Pieces throughout the year or are you committed to just doing this one show and that will be it?... or still not 100% sure?
Armand: We'll see how things go and judge by the reaction the show gets. We're working musicians and making ends meet can be tough sometimes, now that royalties no longer pad our bank accounts. We rely so much on touring income that we have to stay busier than ever before. That said, if Pieces shows promise fun, adventure and some extra income, then why not?
IE: Since Rest In Pieces’ initial time together as a band the world (including the hardcore scene) has become a much more politically correct place. Do you look back over any old Rest In Pieces lyrics and think about changing things up at all or are you just going to leave things as they were originally done? Has the thought of it even come up when you thought about putting the pieces of all of this back together?
Armand: I didn't get into hardcore because I was politically correct, or to play that role. All our songs, including the ones that could easily be considered offensive, were all based on real life experiences from my youth. Everything will be as it was because there's an angry truth to some of it and goofy comedy in the rest. My main worry about how politically correct people have become is that comedy will be wiped from the face of the earth, and we can't let that happen. Also, I know I'm not a generalizing bigot, so any insulting terms used from bygone days will still only be directed at the individual who deserved it in the first place.
IE: With so much going on at the time in NYHC when “My Rage” came out how is it that One Step Ahead Records from California was able to sign you up to put out that album? There were so many DIY labels and smaller labels basically in your own backyard that probably would have been willing to do it. How did One Step Ahead scoop you guys up? I also heard through Craig that while visiting NYC that you guys kind of saved him from one of those scam card games on the street.
Armand: If there were any NY labels that would have been eager, they sure didn't make themselves known! Mike Rubenstein from One Step Ahead approached us because our bass player Josh Barker included his address as the band contact when Maximum Rock ‘N Roll reviewed our first single, so he got in touch that way. Either he liked our first 7", or he heard good things about us through the scene, but either way he offered to finance the record and we accepted. He was a cool guy and everything went smoothly. Can't say the same about him getting taken for $40 at three card monte on the streets of Manhattan, though! It's an easy trap for tourists to fall into. Craig saved him from any further embarrassment.
REST IN PIECES @ CBGB'S. PHOTO BY: KEN SALERNO
IE: I did an interview with Lou (Sick Of It All) in 1988 where he said that you were going to stay with Sick Of It All first just for the demo and a few shows and later on it became maybe for the album and then a few shows after that as well. Obviously all these years later you can say that things worked out real well for everyone. With both bands having this almost parallel like success and maybe Rest In Pieces being a little more popular at certain points what was it that made you decide to put Rest In Pieces aside and just drum for Sick Of It All?
Armand: I didn't end up committing to Sick Of It All until late 1991, when we started writing for "Just Look Around." By that time, Pieces was a done deal because we didn't have a solid drummer. There were a lot of years that went by when I was just helping Lou and Pete out, but those years also saw me become the drummer on all but three Sick Of It All song recordings. During those years, I also tried settling down and working for In Effect Records, which was Sick Of It All's label. The way Pieces ground to a halt put a negative spin on being a musician for me for a little while. It was a disappointing end to a very promising band.
IE: Do you wish you could have any do overs with the path that Rest In Pieces took back then? From reading some articles in the past it seems like you guys were not overly pleased with the recording on “Under My Skin”.
Armand: Of course. First and foremost, I would have never kicked Josh out of the band. Sure, Craig and I have always been really tight, and Craig was a more skilled bassist than Josh, but I should have foreseen the impact of making that decision. I lost a great friend and a smart, dedicated band member by doing what I did. Secondly, I wish the whole second album could be done over. Our drummer Al Brand wasn't the most technically gifted guy, but he showed a lot of heart and was really into the band. We tried recording the second album with him. Two solid days out of five were devoted to recording with him, but he was only able to get one shaky song down. I had to learn the drum parts and sit in on the rest of the studio time we had left. I think if we had finished the album with Tom Soares at Normandy Sound, it would have been a hundred times better, but we couldn't get it done and ended up with a watered-down mix from a different studio. I also really regret my vocal approach on that album, which I think would have benefitted from Tom Soares' guidance. A critic pretty much nailed it when he described my vocals on “Under My Skin” as "being serenaded by a congested thug!" I still have to laugh at that because it's so true.
IE: “Under My Skin” was a departure from the “My Rage” straight up NYHC style amd there was an almost 3 year gap between albums. If Rest In Pieces did not break up do you think that progression would have continued on musically or would you have been looking to do more stuff along the style that “My Rage” represented?
Armand: That's tough to answer because at that point we were making a concerted effort to carve a new path that involved mixing a lot of rock elements with hardcore. That's why we had Rose Tattoo and Skynyrd inspired slide guitar parts on the record. As much as my vocals were a failed experiment, I wanted to see what else I was capable of, and I wanted to add more melody to our music. If we had a solid line-up, and “Under My Skin” had been a different animal, I doubt we would have been so quick to fizzle out.
IE: For a few decades now you have been behind the drums and probably have like this comfort zone there while you play. Is it crazy to think that you may be a little nervous to be the frontman and be in the center of attention again or do you think it will be like riding a bike as the saying goes? Some singers need to use their voice and play shows to get sharp and almost build up their vocals again. Any concerns?
Armand: Of course I'm concerned. It's been so long and I'm not sure what it'll really feel like. I wish we could do a few warm up shows to shake the rust off, but we don't have that luxury. I'm just going to try to have as much fun with it as possible and pray there are no technical problems. No matter how well-rehearsed, bands are always prone to show-stopping gremlins. I think my voice should be ready for it, seeing as I do a lot of vocals in preproduction for Sick Of It All albums, so I haven't been completely out of the loop on how to use it.
IE: Sick Of It All covers Straight Ahead live. Has the idea for a Rest In Pieces song ever been brought about and if you could throw one Pieces song into the Sick of It All set which song would you like to cover… even if it was not a regular type of thing?
Armand: The guitar riffs and leads in Pieces songs are usually more involved than the stuff Pete likes to bang out, so I don't think it would work. Pete's a much different guitarist than Rob ever was, and I can't picture a wah guitar lead during a Sick Of It All show!
Armand, Craig, & Rob "Under My Skin" era photo