Interview with Willie Psycho

Article by: Robert Stinson Photo by: Gio Blitz

I couldn’t help but notice the smell of premium bud emanating from a hotboxed van as we walked into the parking lot of Riley’s Sports Bar in Point Loma. The doors flew open and the band immerged freshly baked with Willie Carter (lead vocalist, bass guitarist) taking the helm with sound equipment in hand, sporting his signature dreadlocks. He was joined by Fernando Ramirez (guitarist, backup vocals) who could have been mistaken as the love child of Eddie Munster and Alice Cooper; and Moose (drummer) rounded out the team with a dirty bag over his head, looking like a reject prisoner of Al Qaeda.

In the lobby of the adjacent hotel, the band reminisced about their whirlwind cross-country tours that saw them play with the likes of Warrant, The Misfits, Ice–T, Problem from Snoop Dogg’s Pound, The Exploited, Greg Ginn from Black Flag, and local artist Mr. Dubie. Their singles “Said N’ Done” and “My Black Wings” have garnered them air play on satellite radio while their first release PSYCHO 4 LIFE sold close to 40,000 copies. Always controversial, the band has been gleaned from the gutter punk scene and fused with rap, funk, and reggae, creating a barrier breaking sound that will blow your eardrums out. With their much anticipated album The Predator, slated to be released in the near future, Willie Psycho is sure to become a force to be reckoned with.

What was it like growing up a misfit hard rock fan in New Orleans?
Willie Carter: It was difficult because most of my friends were into rap and hip-hop, but that’s not to say that I don’t like that style of music; my tastes just varied. I just felt out of place being the only black kid in a bad neighborhood who was listening to and playing rock n’ roll. I got beat up a few times on the way to school because of it.

What major challenges have you guys faced when dealing with individuals within the music industry?
Fernando Ramirez: Oh man, you know everybody has their expectations about what they’re going to get out of the show. Everyone from the promoter all the way down to the soundman expects to get their pay. If the crowd isn’t there, the pay isn’t there; it’s very simple and sometimes it can suck, especially when tempers flare. I got into music to have fun and that’s what I intend to do. I just like to show up and play.

I bet you have some wild road stories; what was it like thrashing your way across the country?
WC: Well, on our last tour, we had Moose with us while we toured with Mr. Dubie, who I have to give a shout out to because he’s crazy big. We wound up traveling to Fresno, Sacramento, and then to Las Vegas in the back of a U-Haul van because our vehicle got messed up. There were eight guys, one chick, a dog, and a keg of beer. It was 124 degrees outside and the other guitar player, who is no longer in the band, finally had enough – he couldn’t do it anymore. By the time we were finished with our gig in Vegas, all of us were tapped out of cash, so our last resort was to try our luck at one of the casinos where we played the penny slots. One of the band members won $100 and that was enough gas money to get us home.

There’s a strong emotional core at the center of your music. Can you talk about some personal experiences that influence your songwriting process?
WC: The songs that I write and sing about all have a personal meaning to me. Some of the emotional content stems from my dysfunctional childhood, which is something that a lot of people can relate to. So, pretty much, I write songs about what I’m feeling and that raw aggression is what comes out.

What is it about the nature of politics, police brutality and anarchy that make them topics of influence for lyrics?
FR: For the most part, the cops have outlived their purpose. This includes the courts who seem preoccupied with racking up convictions and looking good at their job. In reality, they’re causing more harm than good. I think our music reflects the attitude that you need to stand up when you see injustices happening to your friends and family.

Do you feel that over time as more success comes to you and your perspectives have changed that it will affect the dynamics of your sound?
WC: For 10-12 years, we strictly played underground punk and I was pretty close-minded when it came to adapting to different styles. Now, we’re incorporating rap and funk, and mixing everything else into our music, trying not to fit into any specific genre and actually playing music that we like to play; it has made all the difference. I mean, how does a former punk band have more hip-hop fans than punk fans?

Your band has been very vocal in their support of cannabis usage with singles like “Legalize It.” What is your opinion about medicinal marijuana? Should it just be legalized for recreational use or should things be left as they are now?
WC: Personally, I think it should be legalized just like alcohol. I mean, we all like to blaze a big fat one now and again, some more than others.
FR: You talkin’ about me? I’ve had family members go to jail over totally bogus minor possession charges. When they put away people for marijuana, they’re messing up someone’s life for nothing.

Indicas? Sativas? Hybrids? What strains do you guys usually stick to when you want to burn one down?
Moose: All of the above! It’s ridiculous that politicians waste their time attacking dispensaries; do they not have better things to do with their time? Legalizing it would be a way to clean up some of the damage that was caused when Bush was in office.  It’s about time that this country wakes up and sees the light. That’s just my opinion.

Who are some of your major influences?
FR: I think we all come from different backgrounds. For myself, I love 80s glam rock, Wasp, Mötley Crüe – you know, all the dark metal bands. I also like some of the thrash bands from that time period, like Megadeath, Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Judas Priest; it’s all great stuff.
WP: I grew up on Slayer, Morbid Angel, DJ Quick, Ice-T and Public Enemy.

What projects are you guys currently working on?
WC: The next album we’re working on is called The Predator. It’s currently in preproduction. It’s kind of like our last album Psycho 4 Life, but a lot grittier with more guitar solos in it. We’re adding more songs that are in the rap/rock genre because we’re all about mixing it up.

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