Arizona's Sick Black Automatic is firing off some serious metal by way of Phoenix. The quintet has been moving up the local chain for the last couple of years, leaving devastation and residue in its wake. Finally the release of the band's first album, "Caught in the Black," is upon us, and the body count is piling up with every passing day. I managed to get the band to answer a few questions for us, and the answers are exactly what a real metal fan would expect from a serious metal flag-bearer.
Hey guys. Congratulations on the CD; it's really awesome. So what pulled you five guys together? What are your collective influences?
Terry Babicz (Guitar): I joined in 2016, the rest of the band were already playing shows and had songs written. My influences are all over the map. Main ones that I know show through are Metallica, Testament, Slayer, Black Sabbath.
Jason Hobbs (Bass): Norm, Greg and Ollie had been in the local scene so they were already well acquainted with each other, I relocated to Arizona a few years back and found some guys who were looking for a bassist…it was pretty apparent from the first time we met that we gelled. With regards to influences of course Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer come to mind, but also Kreator, Destruction, Overkill and Testament. Pantera, Death Angel, Motorhead, Sepultura, Maiden, Priest…. I could go on and on, which is nice all of us are music fans with a particular love of metal.
Greg Fleetwood (Drums): We are drawn together to make metal great again! Pantera, Metallica, Black Sabbath
Norm Carrier (Vocals): Greg and I started the band in 2015. It is the third project we have been in together. Tony Polizzi was our first guitar player and was with us until March 2016. Brian was a lead guitar in Greg's last project. I had wanted to work with him after seeing him play with Greg. Jason is our original bass player. After many auditions with others we knew we had our guy. You could tell he loved what we were doing and fit right in. Terry auditioned after Tony left the band, and we liked his attitude and what he brought to the table. We decided to stay a four piece and did not pick Terry up right away. After a couple of shows and meetings we decided we wanted a thicker more rounded sound and we had Terry back for a second audition. At that point it was a no brainer and Terry was welcomed into the SBA camp. It is a decision that I feel has been a deciding factor in our success to date. Personally my influences are Pantera, Queensryche, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Savatage, Prong, Rob Zombie and Fear Factory to name a few.
Caught in the Black sort of transcends (for me) any sort of genre tag of general classification. Do you guys consider the band any one genre style, or do you just fall under "metal" and let the sound carry you into whatever area?
Terry: I really think we are a basin of many styles of Metal. We are trying to incorporate what we like best out of our favorite genres.
Jason: Yeah we've discussed this and I think we've accepted the fact that we’re just a metal band… we take the things we like and throw them into the mix. All of us are open to trying new sounds, song structure, etc… the only constant I would say is the groove, that's non-negotiable.
Greg: I never liked to be classified in a genre. To me its all metal. We are an old school brand of metal if you need to call it something.
Norm: We are metal. Original, old school, grooving, heavy metal. I have never been big on the "genre" tag. Caught in the Black is a phrase that I wrote in our song Sick Black Automatic. At a certain point in the song I felt that something needed to be there. The words were inspired by the music. The meaning behind it was, thanks for coming to the show and listening to us, you are caught up in the message we are putting out.
Ollie: I don't believe we fall into any class of metal. Style wise, we try not to be all slow grind or all speed.
Songs from the CD seem to tackle a lot of real social issues (i.e. 'Weapons of War'), which is a severely welcome change in the current climate. Is this a conscious decision to address such topics or does it really just lyrical happenstance?
Jason: Norm is the primary lyricist so that's more his decision… I will throw ideas at him on occasion and he takes them and runs with them. I would say that we're not a political band by any stretch but we're not apolitical either…. I think we write from the perspective we have; working class Americans who have seen what has happened in this nation over the last several decades, what's the NWA line? "Our art is a reflection of our reality" I like to think we write with a message but we don't beat the listener over the head with it…
Greg: Mostly by happenstance, but it is what we feel that comes out of us.
Norm: Most of our songs have intentional messages. I am a veteran, and fully support the 2nd Amendment. The name of the band is a product of my beliefs. That being said some songs are lyrical happenstance. Sometimes you just gotta write to the music and let it flow. Most of the time there is some basic idea lyrically for the song.
Ollie: Weapons of War was written back around Desert Storm era. It crosses so many familiar lines we see almost on a yearly basis. Some lyrics were adjusted to fit more to the modern days.
Arizona has been a veritable hotbed of metal activity for over 20-years now. What has the reaction been at the shows you guys play?
Terry: I've noticed that we get a great response no matter if it’s a packed house or just wives and the other support bands. Phoenix embraces all music, including Metal, with the same enthusiasm as any other genre.
Jason: Arizona is a great metal state! There are so many absolutely amazing metal bands in this scene right now, and we've been fortunate enough to share the stage with many of them. As far as the reaction we get, I would say it's been extremely positive… we approach every show the same way, in that it doesn't matter if it’s 5 people or 5,000 we're there to give them the best show we can. One of the cool things about this band is our appeal seems to be across the spectrum… we have fans who are more into the traditional old school metal, but we've also got a lot of younger fans who more into the newer metal, which is terrific because I love all of that music!
Greg: Most of the reactions have been positive. "Good but different" as we don't sound like anyone else out there.
Norm: Obviously the music scene has changed over the years, and you are never going to please everyone. The crowds have always been very receptive, interactive and complimentary even if they were hearing us for the first time, or at the show for another band. Arizona has a very good metal scene.
Ollie: Very receptive.
You guys also have a pretty impressive lineage right now: you won AZ Talent Best Heavy Metal song for 'Flat Dark Earth,' a nomination for Best New Artist in the 2017 Appalling Events awards show, not to mention being featured in KUPD Playdio Band contest in '16. You guys are really pounding the proverbial pavement. That has to make a band feel good.
Terry: We've put in some hard work for sure. We do what we can, writing new songs and getting the word out. All of our accomplishments are well earned.
Jason: Thank you. It definitely feels good when people appreciate what you're creating… and as flattering as all of that is, I would say we're just now starting to tap into what we really have to offer.
Greg: We are doing the best we can with what is available to us locally for exposure.
Ollie: The recognition is much appreciated.
Along the same lines, Terry, you're originally from my way, Chicago, now transplanted to Arizona. What have been some differences (and similarities) in the metal scenes between the two cities?
Terry: Phoenix has amazing support for the local music scene. All the bands here really are a brotherhood and we celebrate what we do. In Chicago, the scene has an "Us or Them" mentality that does nothing to help anyone. It's really cutthroat there. No one really looks to help each other. If you are reading this and you're in another city, support other bands. People remember that and will help you too.
Greg: The weather is beautiful 24/7 lol
The blueprint on Caught in the Black is a really solid entry point. Is there new music on the immediate horizon, and will the sound advance into other areas or genres?
Terry: New music is always in the works. We have five new songs that we've played at shows throughout the past year and we have more in the hopper waiting to be finished. The sound on these pull from different styles of metal for sure.
Jason: Again thank you! Caught in the Black is just the opening salvo, like I said I think we're just starting to scratch the surface. We have quite a bit of new material that, while maintaining a lot of elements from this record, is going to take us to another level. Faster, heavier, louder but still holding that wicked groove.
Greg: The new songs already in progress have a different feel. We will not make the same album twice.
Norm: Absolutely. I am constantly writing lyrics and everyone always has at least one thing that they are thinking about or working on. We are four songs into the next CD.
Ollie: New Music yes. Keep it heavy.
With old labels like Combat and new underground labels re-entering the playing field, is there a desire for SBA to seek out some label support or stick with the organic, DIY mode?
Terry: We'll be DIY until we can't handle it anymore. I would love to get signed to any label. I also won't just sign away everything either.
Jason: It's so cool seeing Combat and others coming back to the game. The music industry has changed so much in recent years and it continues to evolve, the DIY approach and metal has always had a huge part there, allows so much freedom for the artist, but it can make it challenging to get your music out there in such a crowded playing field and that's where a label really helps… my answer would be that the point of making music is for people to hear it, whatever furthers that goal is what I'm good with, it would certainly be an honor to have label support.
Greg: We would like support from a label if the terms are right. We have been gaining ground on our own merit, but to have a force behind us would be welcomed!
Norm: I think label support in the future is a strong possibility. Until then we will continue to move forward on our momentum.
Ollie: Label support to me would be like a vindication or validation that we can be taken a lot more seriously.
SBA has played quite a few shows around AZ with some pretty notable names. Are you guys hoping to do a full-on tour of the States (or beyond) in the future?
Terry: We have been very fortunate to get put on some amazing shows here. I would love to tour if we had the chance!
Jason: We've been fortunate to play with bands like Destruction, Warbringer, Jungle Rot and No Raza among others… the thing I want to say first and foremost is that each and every one of them has been extraordinarily gracious and supportive. With regards to taking this show on the road, absolutely! As I said earlier the point of making music is for people to hear it and as much as I want people to hear our records nothing matches the immediacy of live shows so yeah I'm ready to get out on the road.
Greg: We hope to stretch our legs to select places out of Arizona soon.
Norm: I think every musician dreams of doing full on tours of the states and beyond. The reality is that we need to establish ourselves in Arizona and then look at some mini tours. After that we will take it as it comes.
Ollie: That would be fantastic.
Hey, thanks for the interview, guys! We really appreciate it. Any last words or announcements for the future of SBA you'd care to leave the fans?
Terry: Thank you, we really appreciate this chance for people to see who we are. New music is coming soon, keep checking in on our Social Media pages and our YouTube channel. Come see us live, you will not be disappointed.
Jason: Thank you! It's been an honor… just to encourage people to check us out, if you like what you hear then let us know, get out to live shows and support the bands you love, that’s why we do what we do.
Greg: We would like to thank everyone that has supported us the last 2 years to get us where we are today. There will be new music released before the end of 2018!