New York’s Subzero have been entrenched in the New York Hardcore scene for 30 years now bringing their gritty sound and style to audiences around the globe. We have not seen a new Subzero record since 2004 but that is about to change as their new 6 song EP titled “Beauty In Sorrow” is due out this October on Upstate Records. Singer Lou DiBella is one of the most charismatic dudes you are ever gonna run into at a hardcore show with a great memory for things related to his band as well as the hardcore scene in general. We caught up with Lou recently to talk about Subzero shit and to try and get some insight as to what the new EP holds. The 2020 Subzero lineup also consists of: Larry Susi on bass, Richie Kennon- guitar, Matty Pasta- guitar and Riggs Ross on the drums. Make sure to check in with their Facebook and Instagram pages to get up to date info on band happenings. Lead photo by Aga Hairesis with graphic work by Bas Spierings, and additional photos by: Jammi Sloane York, Stephen J. Messina, Linda Aversa, and Jamie Davis.
IE: Hey Lou, thanks for taking the time out of your day to do this. It’s been a while man! How have you been?
Lou: Hey Chris! Thanks for thinking of me and the band for the interview! We go way back with you brother. Excited and honored to be doing this with you. I remember being in a couple of In Effect issues from back in the day. I actually still have every issue that you’ve put out! We always had some looney interviews going on back then when we were younger. Always cracking on each other, not taking shit so seriously and just having a good time with it. When hardcore was less “business like” if you know what I’m saying. Back then in those days of NYHC... if you were in In Effect it was like, “Yo! we made it!” Haha. Always well respected and I’m proud to see you’re still at it now.
COVID days have been...WEIRD… I guess weird is the right word. At first nobody really knew much about what the fuck was going on and it was a bit freaky. We actually lost quite a few family members and friends throughout this pandemic. Just lost our Aunt Angie yesterday. 102 years old strong, straight outta Da Bronx! Still rode the trains in her hundreds...kicked major ass and survived through IT ALL and then this shitty virus is what kills her. Really!? It’s fuckin sad. Terrible. Not a joke, man. There’s a lot of Facebook “scientists and doctors” out there who have their theories about all this shit and seem to know it all. While they go on about their theories...I’m gonna stick with the advice of the experts who’ve graduated from prestigious institutions of higher education and dedicated the greater part of their adult lives to studying and working hands on in the field of science, biology, medicine etc. Until we get a full grasp at what the fuck this thing is and what needs to be done to get rid of it or at least keep it from becoming fatal on a mass level...I’m gonna stay cautious and follow the advice from the experts and wear my mask while social distancing myself from the general public. I also have a compromised immune system because of my 5 year history with cancer. Yes, I’ve fucked up a couple of times and have forgotten the mask and had been in contact with a friend or two in the past, but other than that... I’ve been on point. Keeping my distance for mine and my family’s safety and out of respect for everyone else. Surprisingly, my kids have been fine and haven’t lost their minds being all cooped up and all. We’ve adapted pretty quickly to home schooling and doing what we need to in order to get through this. And since I have them locked up in the basement with a couple loaves of bread and a bowl of water since this started... I think it’s safe to say that they haven’t become infected yet.
IE: Although Subzero has played reunion shows from time to time it has been 15 years since your last album, “The Suffering Of Man” came out. What were some of the factors with all of you guys that sparked the desire to write, record and tour with some new music?
Lou: Well, it’s not like this was just some hobby for us since we started the band. I wouldn’t call them “reunion” shows. We never really went anywhere. We’ve always been a part of the NYHC, punk and metal culture. It’s a way of living, in a sense. It’s not like something that could just go away and totally be forgotten about. It’s absolutely 100% become a part of our lives, a part of who we were and who we’ve become. We ate, shit and dreamed this shit 24/7 and still do till this day. It’s in our blood. We now have families and “real jobs” so it’s hard to just get up and tour as much as we used to and we’re not out dropping a new record every year. We never did that in our earliest years even... but we’re always in it and thinking, living and breathing it in some way or another. We all have other bands we’ve been working on, Richie has his studio… it can never really go away. This band alone has been something that’s been a part of me for LITERALLY more than half of my life. Not to mention being involved in these scenes years before the band existed. The same with everyone else. I hate when a new band comes in and tries to take shit over and blows the fuck up overnight cus they’ve fooled everyone to falling in love with them and then they’re just GONE a few years later and never heard from again. Like it meant nothing to them. The money wasn’t there so they just left to pursue something that’s more lucrative to them. We were never in it for money and are still here 30 years later without a dime to show for it. It ain’t about that. If it was then we would be one of these bands who I was just talking about. This scene isn’t a fucking trend. This shits been going on for many, many years before us and was started by people who were ridiculed, abused and out casted from what was/is considered “mainstream society” all because of what they/we looked like and listened to. This scene saved a lot of people’s lives and gave them a sense of purpose. Kids fought and worked hard to build this scene and to make the music. To INVENT new styles of music and fashion that were THEIRS which they could call THEIR OWN! It’s a scene where people can wear or listen to hardcore, punk, metal or some obscure shit and not be judged for that... because everyone there is there for the same reasons as you or everyone else. We all relate to and can understand each other in some way or another! This culture was underground and held so pure and SACRED at one point. I can’t say the same as much now since so much business has come into the equation. And because of the internet and modern technology it has become exploited more than it ever has before… BUT times change and we figure a way out to keep it real the best way we can by honoring and remembering the roots and where it all came from and why it was created in the first place. Not at all saying to get stuck in the past. I’m beyond down with progression and bringing change. Just respect where it all came from and protect it from being taken away and being used until it’s no good anymore and thrown away and forgotten about like a piece of trash. If anyone can’t respect that then they ain’t gonna last too long and will eventually find something new to latch on to until the next big thing comes along. Fuck that shit. That’s why we’re still here and why we always will be. That’s why... even though we don’t tour as much or whatever... we never really went anywhere either. Always supported the bands, the music and always contributed in some way or another to help keep this scene alive. This is not a trend to us. As cliché’ as it may sound... it’s a part of our lives 100%... without a doubt. And if we feel like it’s time to write some new music... that’s what we’re gonna do. There’s no rules on when someone needs to drop the next album or tour. We’ll do it our way when we feel like it’s time. That time happens to be now and we’re gonna put out something that we’re proud of no matter what anyone else thinks about it. If you dig our new shit… then fuckin awesome! That will truly be appreciated, for sure. If not… I appreciate you’re honesty and I’m/we’re still cool with you no matter what. There’s never been a thought about why we’re doing this. It’s just what it is.
PHOTO BY: JAMMI SLOANE YORK
IE: So you guys are working on this new one with Mario and Upstate Records. Can you tell us how you hooked up with him and also tell us about the songs on the new record?
Lou: I just happened to keep noticing that every time I opened one of my social media pages, I would see this label Upstate Records consistently pushing any one of the bands on the label. I mean, literally every day I went on I would see a post from Upstate Records hyping some shit up, so I was curious. I saw they had a whole slew of cool bands from all over the country. It’s a fairly new label next to most of the others I was talking with... but, he obviously pushes hard and puts out quality music and packaging along with good distribution. It seemed like just what I was looking for. I contacted him and he turned out to be one of the nicest guys who seemed genuine as can be. We hit it off and worked out an agreement. Since then, Mario and his label partner who also happens to be his wife, Kim… have been nothing but AMAZING! Super great people who treat the label and the bands more like a family than a business looking to make money. I mean... Mario genuinely cares about his bands on a PERSONAL level. I know, cus he’s always there to talk if I’m going through shit at home, in life or whatever. Like he’s my real brother and I haven’t even gotten a chance to meet him yet! Ha! It’s like I’ve known him forever. That’s saying A LOT right off the bat! So, yeah...I am a THOUSAND percent comfortable with him and know that Upstate is DEFINITELY the right label to put out this EP which is entitled “Beauty In Sorrow” and is scheduled to drop this fall with a new single “House Of Grief” set to be released this August. Again… a lot of different styles and influences are coming out of these songs on this EP which is just a taste of what our full length is gonna be like. A lot of unexpected surprises added to these songs. We’re really very proud of how everything is coming out. The other song titles aren’t 100% official yet, so I can’t really answer that. All I can say is that there’s a broad range of so many different styles intertwined throughout the album.
IE: While setting this interview up Mario told me I should ask you what your favorite jarred sauce is, haha!
Lou: Mario! Up ‘yer nose wit a rubba hose!
IE: OK, back to the new music. So you guys were recording this new one at a studio Richie runs (or owns?) and were making progress with finishing it up and then what happened?
Lou: Yeah, Richie opened a new studio a couple of years ago called Barking Dog Recording Studios in Brewster, NY. Right down the street from the old Boardwalk Cafe club actually. Place is dope. Richie is a phenomenal engineer who truly puts the effort into making whatever he’s working on sound great. He gets real involved with the bands he’s working with which is great. He was working as an engineer at Big Blue Meenie Recording Studios in New Jersey and then at Sear Sound in Manhattan. Along with Electric Lady, Sear is one of the last great, HISTORIC recording institutions in Manhattan who have worked with everyone from Bowie and The Police to Sonic Youth, Bjork and Nora Jones and the like. After a few years there and with the experience he’s gained… he decided it was time to open up his own place which he’s been wanting to do for many years now. It’s been quite successful so far. We actually recorded our other post punk/punk band there called BLACK IN MOURNING. Members of Subzero, Into Another, Youth Of Today, Stabbing Westward etc. EP is finished. Just has to be mixed down. Stay tuned for that as well. As far as the new Subzero record... we were making great progress and then the pandemic hit us. The owner of the building that the studio is in had to close the building down for liability reasons. It’s back up and running now and we’re rolling hard with finishing up the rest of the recording which is set for this October. Come down and check the studio out! It’s literally a 5 minute walk from the Metro North train station or a 40 minute drive from Manhattan.
IE: Was there any temptation or thought about sneaking in to finish up what you had left to do or were you literally locked out?
Lou: There was really no way to sneak back in to work. Totally impossible. Sucked, but in a way... it turned out better for us ‘cus while we were waiting… we wrote and added an extra song to the record which is a plus for everyone. Just had to be patient and wait this shit out. They say good things come to those who wait. I’m still waiting. Ha!
SUBZERO DRUMMER RIGGS ROSS WORKING ON THEIR NEW EP
IE: Going back to “Happiness Without Peace” and even before that Subzero’s sound was always about heavy style hardcore but you guys would always drop in some more punk rock style hooks or melodies. On “Necropolis” you had a song like “Swimherd” as an example. “The Suffering Of Man” was more straight forward in the heavier hardcore style with less of these punk type of influences. My question here is where are you guys going with this new one as far as musical style?
Lou: Like you’re saying... we never followed any trends or ever stuck to a strict “cookie cutter” format when writing our music. Whatever comes out of our minds is what it’s gonna be. And we’re not gonna dwell on living in the past or feel the need to have to sound the way we did coming into this 30 years ago... or the need to bite the styles of those who came before us. Absolutely, all of that stuff is always somehow incorporated into our music to some degree WITHOUT A DOUBT... because it’s who we are and what we were influenced by. At the same time we still leave doors open to invite in a larger range of different influences of ours to try and keep shit interesting and fresh. Never wrote specifically for the audience. It’s not about making music for what you think THEY want to hear. Of, course we want them to dig it, but if they don’t... then that’s totally cool and I respect that. If they do... then awesome and I’m happy we could relate on some level and respect them just the same. Either way… if you’re not writing from your heart or what YOU want to hear... then it ain’t real and that’s gonna show.
PHOTO BY: JAMMI SLOANE YORK
IE: The lineup you bring back with yourself, Larry and Richie gives this reunion a genuine feel as you guys were 3 quarters of the Subzero lineup that everyone knew and saw over the years. Can you tell us about the other 2 band members history as far as what bands they have played in?
Lou: Well, it’s not really a reunion. We never really went anywhere. Just took time off to do some other things. We still have a whole albums worth of material and then some that we’ve been writing while not touring. All that will come out after the EP. Matty Pasta has been playing guitar with us for well over 10 years now. He did multiple European and Japan stints with us, did the EXODUS/SUBZERO tour with us and hasn’t left since. I found Matty years ago when he was playing in Merauder and while playing with us he was also killing shit with Crown of Thornz, Skarhead and Leeway for a few years in between. We knew Riggs Ross, our drummer since he was like 13 years old. I think his first hardcore show was Subzero. We all met and remained friends ever since. He went on to play for Hatebreed, Madball and Crown of Thornz for sometime before he joined Subzero like 3 or 4 years ago. Riggs is an absolute animal on the drums and we’re thrilled to have him finally recording with us. Matty as well. Two amazing musicians who are also true, long-time friends/brothers. It’s the best recipe for being in a band together. If you can’t get along with your band mates you may as well pack it in or move on to something else. Never gonna work. We’re lucky to have the bond that we all have. I’m beyond grateful to know and have all of these guys in my life. Till death!
IE: The video for “Liohearted” came out in 2007 and is closing in on 900,000 views and is probably the visual many think about when they think of Subzero. The video is a mix of footage from a CBGB’s show as well as footage of you walking around on the street. Can you tell us some backstories to the making of the video?
Lou: The song was written after going through my 5 year battle with stage 4 Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Died twice. Brain radiation, spinal taps with chemo injected into my spine to bathe my brain in it, bone marrow transplants, multiple different kinds of chemo for literally 5 days a week 5 years straight. Walking corpse. But! Against all odds, after being given a death sentence with what they said was a 23% chance of living... I beat it. Positive mental attitude, good friends and family and sticking to the doctor’s orders every single day. It was a crazy journey. To lighten things up, sorta, haha... I remember the first day I got out of the hospital so that I could continue my treatments at home. My girlfriend at the time brought me to a nice Italian restaurant across the street from Rodeo Bar in Manhattan to celebrate me at least getting out of the hospital. I ordered this giant veal shank with this giant bone sticking out of it! Mouth watering after being cooped up in the hospital for so long. I ate the shit out of that thing. 5 minutes later, cus I was still on chemo, obviously... I was nauseous as fuck. All the owners and staff were there trying to help comfort me. I finally was able to stand up after a half hour of laying at the table unable to move. We began walking across 3rd Avenue to our apartment. As we passed Rodeo Bar which was a cool restaurant/bar/ music venue where a lot of blue grass and rockabilly bands would play... I got sooooooo fucking sick again. Now, Rodeo Bar is on the corner of 27th Street and 3rd Avenue. The walls around the place were actually windows that went from the ground up to almost the ceiling all the way around. People dined at tables right in the window so they could look out into the street. Well, here I come with my girlfriend, sick as fuck after eating this giant meal and nauseous from the chemo. What happens next? YES... I HURLED a MASSIVE amount of VOMIT all over the windows with a packed dining room just on the other side hahaha! The look on everyone’s faces was BRILLIANT! Like someone just got their heads blown off in front of them. I said sorry through the window and nervously laughed a little and continued to walk. Sometimes you gotta laugh and make light in these situations when you’re literally dying. What else could I do? Haha. Anyways... yeah. The song “Lionhearted” is about facing the challenges that life throws in front of us and trying to knock down the walls that are holding us back. It could relate to anything in our lives, really. Addiction, depression, loss, grief, sickness, loss of a job or whatever it may be... me, my cancer, of course. Whatever it may be... it’s a song about gathering the courage and the strength to overcome. I think cus it’s so highly relatable is the reason it’s gotten almost a million hits by now. Totally unexpected. I wrote the song for me and to tell my story and it turned into this. Pretty humbling. I get a lot of mail still from people around the world who are going through a lot of hard times in their lives... thanking us for the song and letting me know how much it’s helped them. Very humbling. Probably the coolest thing, other than having children, that’s ever happened to me. I am grateful on many levels. The live shots were from a show we played during the last weeks of CB’s before they closed for good. An amazing show! So many heads came out to support it! It was awesome. The jump shot in the beginning was our boy Damon, Mike from Last Call Brawl, our friend Josh, Bryan Fitz, who was the guy getting jumped... later with the shotgun in his mouth. That scene was filmed inside of Manitoba’s. Dick Manitoba from the legendary The Dictators... his bar at the time. 99 Avenue B. Lotta crazy stories from that place. Oh, jeeez... you don’t wanna know. Haha. The scenes where I was in the hospital bed were actually in the director’s, Kevin Kuster’s (directed Hatebreed, Redman, Wu Tang, Madball, etc) apartment made up to look like a hospital room. We had a special FX makeup artist make me look sick again with the bald cap and makeup. Famous horror tattooer Paul Booth is in one of the scenes giving a “Lionhearted” tattoo to someone. It was just a great day. A lot of work, but tons of fun. Rat Bones is in a few scenes in the back alley of CB’s and other places. Been forever since I watched it. I’m sorry if I can’t remember everything about it right now other than it was a lot of fun with a lot of great people. I just remember playing the show and then passing out asleep soon after cus I was totally exhausted. It was a great day and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to do something so cool with so many great people who came out to be involved! James Dijan! aka Malta The Damager was there on stage! Danny the Wop and the boys! Good times. I have to go back and watch it now to see all the faces. Watch the "Lionhearted" video HERE.
SUBZERO '93. FROM LEFT: LOU, LARRY, ANTHONY SCHIAVO, RICHIE. PHOTO BY: LINDA AVERSA
IE: You guys played CBGB’s often and as time marches our memories start to fade on certain things. What are some things about going to CB’s as a fan of the music and also playing there that you will never forget?
Lou: Hardcore blasphemy, but I gotta be honest... I wasn’t a diehard CB’s fan. Not saying I hated it, but I liked other clubs better at the time. I liked chilling outside of the club on the street with everyone more than I liked playing there. I don’t know what it was, but it wasn’t my favorite place to play or to see bands. As far as PLAYING NYC during “our days”... Wetlands and Coney Island High were my favorite spots to play and chill. Always great times whether we were there to play or just there to see other bands. After the 80’s and maybe very early 90’s... CB’s just didn’t seem to have the same aura about it anymore. That’s the vibe I got anyway. Kinda sucked playing there, I thought. I don’t know. Just didn’t feel it 80% of the time. I wish I could say something better. Ha! Going there as a fan of the bands in the 80’s/early 90’s was crazy! Those who were there know what I mean. I loved going to The Ritz back in the days! There was just this incredible vibe about that place. The sound in there was like no other. It was fucking haunting. My favorite hardcore show ever was there with Bad Brains/Leeway in 87/88? Sold out show. I remember being on the street after Leeway and it was packed the fuck out with tons of heads all over the street getting wild. Multiple hardcore and skinhead crews just getting nuts. Bottles breaking, fights popping off one after the next. Times were still crazy in the city back then. Not everyone on the street had tickets and I’ll never forget... once the first chord from “I Against I” rang out into the streets... EVERYONE, including those with no tickets, bum rushed the front doors and plowed through the bouncers or whoever was working there. Fucking insane! The place was FULL! Every single person in the god damned place was singing the chorus together “Ohhh ohhh ohhh ohhh”! The hairs stood up straight on the back of my neck. Chills up my spine. And that music in that theater! Ah, man...NO other place on earth would Bad Brains have sounded as incredible as they did in THE RITZ that night! Just the greatest! Amazing experience!
IE: This band has had some great experiences over the years as far as sharing the stage with some heavy hitters in the world of heavy music. Iron Maiden, Slayer, Megadeth, Motorhead and even Eminem. That’s a pretty crazy list for a hardcore band. Can you talk about some of your experiences with playing with some of these bands I mentioned?
Lou: Yeah, man... so many stories. From hiding in a utility closet on a ship from Sweden to Finland smoking weed with my guys and Jerry Only (he had to sneak it cus they aren’t supposed to drink or anything while on tour haha) while he told us all these stories about them back in the early years and playing with bands like Black Flag who would sleep over their house when they were in town. Stories about the Danzig days and the “situation” between him and Misfits at the time. So many cool stories he was telling us. It was like being a bunch of kids sitting around the campfire while the older guy told ghost stories or some shit. Pretty awesome moment. Or there was when our tour bus was parked next to Megadeth’s bus at Grasspop Festival. Me DRUUUNK and fighting with an already aggravated Dave Mustaine at his tour bus....IN THE POURING RAIN! Haha. After telling him I was gonna kick his ginger ass... I spilled my beer on him by accident then MADE him take a picture with me and sent him back off to his bus. He was PIIIIISSED… red as a tomato... there’s a photo of his evil/cry baby stare back at me and my "what the fuck you gonna do" look back at him. Ha! Laser eyes burning holes into each others faces. His tour manager stands by his side and stresses out... while Chris from Ryker's stands by MY side and eggs me on. Ha! That's what you get for parking your bus next to ours. Dick! That was Subzero/ Rykers European tour. One of my most memorable moments was standing on stage with Maiden during “Revelations” and listening/ FEELING the wind of 20,000 people CHANTING in breaks back up towards us. DA, DA “HEY!” DA, DA “HEY!” Incredible feeling! You could only imagine the feeling of performing in front of that every night. Chills. Or watching metalheads bungie jumping off a giant crane while Slayer is RIPPING through “Raining Blood” at dusk with fire and explosions! Haha! Crazy! And then there were the fights. Sooooo many damn fights. Especially touring with Misfits. Our label Century Media told us before we began the tour that there were gonna be a lot of old school punks there for Misfits and they’re gonna be spitting on you if they like you and spitting on you if they don’t like you. Either way... I wasn’t having that shit. One too many times after the next and shit would set us the fuck off. Mic stands bashed over people heads! Entire drum kits being thrown at the audience, squatters bum rushing the merch stands every other night! Violence everywhere! Best though was when Doyle would jump in and fight with us and nobody knew who he was cus he wasn’t wearing his makeup! Hahaha! I don’t know man. There are so many damn stories I’ll be here for days. But those are a few good ones, I guess. Subzero has been at this now off and on for 30 plus years and with that comes a lot of blood sweat and tears.
THE INFAMOUS LOU VS. DAVE MUSTAINE ENCOUNTER.
LOU (CENTER) DAVE MUSTAINE (ON BUS) & CHRIS RYKERS ON LEFT.
IE: When you think back from the beginning of the band to today what are some of the things that bring you the most pride about what Subzero has accomplished?
Lou: Just sticking it out and never trying to be something that we’re not. Never kissing anyone’s ass to play on any shows or to get to do the things we had the opportunity to do. Proud that we’ve always been true to ourselves and always wrote what we wanted to write for US without following “the rules”. 30 years later we’re still that. Along with that came a diehard cult following of people who were there for us in the beginning and are still here for all of our shows now along with so many new faces. I’m grateful for that. I’m proud of being that kind of band who got involved in this for more reasons than just to play in some band. Proud to be a part of something so cool and meaningful which is this scene, this culture...and to have contributed to keeping it alive for all these years and for the many more to come.