We did the interview out back of the Marquis Theater in Denver next to their touring vessel, an old short-bus, school bus. We talked about some mutual friends from the LA and Oakland Pyrate Punk chapters but our conversation was immediately interrupted by blaring fire truck sirens and to these guys' surprise the fire truck was white. Apparently they had never seen a white fire truck, I asked if they had ever seen a bright, pale, green one they hadn't. Only red fire trucks for VERBAL ABUSE and crew.
From there I proceeded to have a chat with Nicki Sicki of the famed VERBAL ABUSE. Let me ad that the entire band was way cool, everyone was really down to earth I enjoyed hanging out with them. I think a lot of people get the wrong idea about some of the older bands. VERBAL ABUSE is still at it in total DIY fashion. There is no rock star bullshit. These guys are driving over night, sweating out Denver's pollution out their pores while they try to sleep, in an old school bus wearing the same clothes they played in. And the show...It kicked ass! VERBAL ABUSE attacked the stage with the energy and prowess of a band more than half their age. In short they tore shit up!
Thrashhead: How long have you been out on this tour?
Nicki Sicki : Yeah, we just went out the 26th (of May, 2011 – ed), this is the beginning of the tour. We've played so far...Fresno, Long Beach, Las Vegas and Albuquerque. Tomorrow night is Des Moines.
Thrashhead: Wow, that's a pretty big drive!
Nicki Sicki : Yeah! At least tomorrow we pick up our driver in Des Moines. Then we don't have to drive these long distances like right after we play. That kind of gets old.
Thrashhead: Some history...When did VA get going? Early 80's, late 70's?
Nicki Sicki : About 83. We started out in Texas and moved...Well we moved California in 83...About 82. Somewhere around there.
Thrashhead: You guys could even be cited as an early influence for DRI and MDC...Being their influences, who influenced VA?
Nicki Sicki : Me and Dave had SICK PLEASURE before that. My biggest influence ever was Jerry from LEGIONAIRES DISEASE. That was like 1978, 79 and I was a 14 year old run away kid. I saw that band...I guess the second biggest impression on me would have been the DEAD BOYS...They entertained when they played. I really learned a fucking lot from these guys. It's not just getting up there and running through your songs real fast. You gotta keep everybody's attention. Those two bands really fucking got me good.
Thrashhead: Where in Texas are you from?
Nicki Sicki : Houston.
Thrashhead: Texas, being very conservative, especially back then, how did your average Texan react to hardcore, to punk rock?
Nicki Sicki : By the time VA started in 82 there was a scene going, it was pretty good, it was the early 80's. I ended up playing in LEGIONAIRES DISEASE in 79, that was my first band, I was 14 years old. Back then they didn't have anything to relate it to, there wasn't any "you have green hair cuz you're a punk rocker", it was "you have green hair because you have green hair" and nobody knew what punk rock was in Texas. My Dad actually hired deprogrammers and he jumped me in a movie theater and drug me out because he thought I joined a cult!
ED: (guitar player in VA) "Thats how hot it was in Texas!"
Thrashhead: Shit!... You moved to California in 83...
Nicki Sicki : No, I moved to California in 79. I joined SICK PLEASURE and we came straight out. SICK PLEASURE, me and Dave had that in 1980 out in San Francisco. When that ended I went back to Texas for awhile and then VA started and I came back (to California – ed).
Thrashhead: To the Vats...
Nicki Sicki : Yeah, it was us and DRI, MDC and the DICKS and we were all four on tour together. This was like 83 maybe and we all got to San Francisco, that's were the Vats were and all four bands stayed, nobody went home! We all saw the Vats and said "Lets live here for free!". It was a place to practice it was just an awesome place, no band went home.
Thrashhead: Describe the Vats a little bit...
Nicki Sicki : It was an old Hamm's brewery that closed down. This guy was renting an area of the first floor that was slated to be torn down, it was going to be a parking garage in like 3 years. There was no way anyone was going to rent it as a beer place; they had already sold the property. This guy was just renting the bottom floor; he had a recording studio in there. He wasn't authorized to rent anything other than the rooms upstairs. He wasn't authorized, nobody would pay him. So once you got in the room you were in! It was like he got how ever much he could get out of that first time and then that was it. You didn't have to pay anymore rent because he wasn't authorized to rent those rooms anyway.
Everybody lived there; every band that was in the bay area at that time was living there. It was bad! It was really nice, it was like four stories...When you walked in the rooms, it was an old vat...that they brewed beer in. You had a portal for a door...The guy downstairs had a jack so you jacked yourself a bigger hole out of it and figured out some make shift door to put on it. And the rooms had no square corners, it was round on all the edges and it smelled like old stale beer. No window...that's what you got to live in. But it was a big giant room, big enough to set the band up and everybody could live in it.
Thrashhead: How long did you live there?
Nicki Sicki : About 4 years...3 years maybe.
Thrashhead: Did people gradually move out and move on or did the cops come in and kick everyone out? What was the end?
Nicki Sicki : I think we were on tour when it ended; I wasn't there when it ended. I'm sure the people hung on with their finger nails not letting go, they probably had to fucking drag people out of there at the end. We were gone when they tore it down.
Thrashhead: When did you leave the band, 84?
Nicki Sicki : In 84 we toured the US and put out the 'American Band' album and then it was the beginning of 85 when I left the band. Joie was doing the...I don't know if you've hear the 'Rock Your Liver' album, Joie wanted to do the glam thing and I didn't like it. So I grabbed this dude (points to Ed the guitar player – ed) and we started AFTERBIRTH and I've been with him ever since. AFTERBIRTH was in Texas and we kind of morphed into becoming HUMUNGOUS and we had Cheetah from the DEAD BOYS playing guitar in that.
Thrashhead: How did that come full circle to VA getting back together?
Nicki Sicki : I went to prison for 8 years. When I got out we just started playing again. The week I got out of prison we started playing and have been playing ever since.
Thrashhead: Do you mind if I ask? What did you go to prison for?
Nicki Sicki : Drug possession. In Texas though...8 years.
Thrashhead: SLAYER did the 'Undisputed Attitude' album they covered some VA songs on there...
Nicki Sicki : They did 5 songs.
Thrashhead: Did you get royalties from that?
Nicki Sicki : I got good money. Everybody, I made sure everybody in the band got money. I wrote all the music and everything, they were mine, but I figured when we had a six pack of beer we split it down to 2 beers a piece...We split the money up and...the first check was $14,000! They treated us pretty good.
Thrashhead: I figured a band as high profile as SLAYER they had to do it all on the up and up...
Nicki Sicki : SLAYER contacted us; they were actually friendly with us. They walked me through how to start my own publishing company so that I would make the most money. I published all the songs under my name before they released it, they showed me how to sign up to collect my royalties. They showed me everything so I would get the maximum amount of money out of it. We'd played with them before. When we toured in '84 we played with SLAYER up in Canada. They loved us. On the 'Hell Awaits' album, the collage...There is only one bald headed person in there, it's me!
Thrashhead: Were you fans of SLAYER?
Nicki Sicki : I didn't know much about SLAYER until we played with them. They were great guys but I wasn't really into the metal thing. Plus they played didn't play as fast, that album was 'Haunting the Chapel', they were just like a basic metal band back then. They kicked our hotel room door in while we were in Canada and said "We heard you were the fastest band out, you gotta come down!". They let us play on their equipment; they just wanted us to play with them that night. And one of the guys...Was it Kerry King?...had a DEAD KENNEDYS button on, "Yeah I'm into punk" and pointed to the button and I go "That's like if I had a RATT button on and said I was into metal!" (Laughter erupts!) SLAYER was awesome about the way they treated us. They told me to publish the songs. I had no idea about anything like that.
Thrashhead: You've been pretty active over the last few years. This is the second or third time to Denver in the last few years. What are plans for the band at this point?
Nicki Sicki : We just put a new record out, it's a split. We're gonna start working on an album when we get back from overseas again. We'll keep playing as long as people keep coming to see us. I love playing, that's all there is to it. That's all I know, that's all I've done since I was 14 years old. I'm going to play music until the end, of some sort ya know. Sometimes the band will almost get mad at me. I'll keep us out on the road 5 or 6 months, it's where I'm happy. This is home right here (points to their cool short bus – ed), this is all I need. I like playing music that's what I want to do. I've got stacks of songs I still haven't even gotten to show everybody yet. I have enough songs to have two bands for the rest of my life probably.
Thrashhead: What has the punk rock life taught you?
Nicki Sicki : Without that I don't know where I'd be. I'd probably being prison right now. I probably would have just kept doing drugs until they put me in prison. I'm a vegetarian, have been for 24-25 years. I don't own a piece of leather...
Thrashhead: How did you get into vegetarianism?
Nicki Sicki : Back in the early days, MDC was some our best friends. Dave...I love Dave to death. I'd hang around with them and they'd always be pushing that line. I probably resisted it back then because it was being pushed. Eventually it got to me...from bands, from CONFLICT, MDC, the bands I just loved. You just hear it enough that after awhile you have to start thinking about it. At first I put up a fight against it, I'm not one to be told to do anything. If you tell me what to do I'm probably going to do the opposite. Even if I don't want to do it!
Thrashhead: Are there any current bands you are into?
Nicki Sicki : I honestly don't understand when people say is not around anymore...the old days...I find bands every day that I just blow me away. It's all out there and so much easier to find, just look on the internet. Back in '84 you had to send off letters and get a tape from some band you don't even know and you'd finally get that tape and go home and listen to it...It was like you had to fucking work at it. It's just right there, millions of bands...Look at our ipod that's in the stereo, you just start scrolling...
ED: 5000 fucking tunes on there!
Nicki Sicki : I love the Japanese hardcore stuff, I love the Swedish stuff that's going on. It's everywhere; it's not just in the big cities anymore.
Thrashhead: What did I not ask that you want the world to know about VA?
Nicki Sicki : Sometimes people come up to our shows and we are not the same band as 'Rocks Your Liver', that is not us. There is nobody in that...that is not us, it's a whole different band. 'We're an American Band' that us, we don't play those songs or anything like that, this is its own entity. That was just a band that called themselves VERBAL ABUSE, it wasn't my band...I like the level we're at, I like to drive around in the bus. I'm not really trying to get any further than this, I've already gotten to where I want to be.