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THROWDOWN


Throwdown - Rising To The Challenge

By Dr. Abner Mality

There are some bands you just HAVE to see live to understand what makes them tick. Throwdown is one of those bands. Their anger and conviction does come across on CD, don't get me wrong, but it just doesn't compare to the complete and utter thrashing they deliver live. If you aren't physically and mentally exhausted after one of their live shows, go check yourself into the local morgue, because even somebody who hates metal will still feel the rush from Throwdown live.

Their rise has been steady over the last few years. I first saw them on the 2004 edition of Ozzfest, when they stole the thunder from Hatebreed, who they often have been compared to. Not long after, I saw them in the more cozy confines of the Forest Hills Lodge, where they excelled even more and almost upstaged headliners Bleeding Through. They then came full circle, headlining the Lodge and causing the most furious pits ever seen in Rockford.

It was before this most current show that I got the chance to speak to bassist Dom Macaluso, who was quite relaxed in contrast to the rampaging tough guy he is on stage. Dom opened up about the gradual rise of Throwdown, the fertile Orange County music scene and the band's straight edge beliefs. Read on, McDuff, and enter the pit...


WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: You guys have been on the road for what must seem like forever...

DOM MACALUSO: (laughing) Yeah!

WC: Do you even remember what home is?

DM: Kinda! Yeah. Girlfriends, home, everything like that is now a vague memory. We have to take pictures from time to time to remember what it was like. We work hard.

WC: How's the road life been treating you?

DM: It's good! For a band of our size, we literally need to do it to pay the bills. But by the same token, we want to keep our name out there, we want to strive to get to that next level. We're working hard now and the road's been treating us good. There's been noticable improvement.

WC: Well, the last time I saw you play here, you were opening for Bleeding Through. Now you're headlining.


DM: Yeah, we're moving right along.

WC: There didn't seem to be a whole lot of time between your current album "Vendetta" and your previous album "Haymaker". Does inspiration hit you guys that quick?

DM: Well, it's funny because "Haymaker" did come out two and a half years ago (Ooops! Another blunder!--Red-faced Mality) but because of marketing, it was done in such a way that it seemed like "Haymaker" was a lot newer.

WC: The real breakthrough for the band seemed to be Ozzfest 2004...

DM: Most definitely. Any band that gets the opportunity to play Ozzfest is in a good place, you know. We were more than happy to play last year, it was a great experience and it gave "Haymaker" new life. It got out to people who thought it was a new record.

WC: What's your opinion of how Ozzfest was run? They cram an awful lot into a short amount of time. You can get the plug pulled on you if you go over by a minute.

DM: Right! It's a strict regimen. They've got you on for 20 minutes each day, with a five minute changeover. For some bands, that seems impossible to do. But the experience was incredible nonetheless and it was the best tour we've ever done, hands down.

WC: Looking at the packaging of "Vendetta", it's pretty obvious there's a big concept running through this record. I get a feeling of "The Sopranos" or "The Godfather" coming out of it...an organized crime kind of vibe. Can you explain a little bit more about the concept of the CD?

DM: Sure. The album's called "Vendetta" and the imagery is based around the title track. It actually has a lot to do with this band. We've had to shovel a lot of shit and overcome a lot of stuff and endure a lot of things to get where we're at today. In titling it "Vendetta", it has to do with overcoming those obstacles. It's a big F.U. to the people who stood in our way to get where we are. So we have our own vendetta against those people. The word "vendetta" brings to mind Mafia imagery and things like that. We branched it out to the Clarks over at Asterix Studios and we let them know our concept, that we wanted to be kind of Mafia, kind of classy and involving both dark and light. That's what you get with the cover...the guy with the praying hands. He's looking for redemption but he's got a missing finger. You know he's done something wrong. There's a whole lot of messages going on there.

WC: Religion is a big part of the concept. You've got pictures of the hymnal on the inside. I tried to make out what was written on that bloody slip of paper sticking out of the hymnal and it looked like the same phrase repeated over and over.

DM: Yeah, they really took off with the whole concept of dark and light. If you noticed, the guy in the confessional booth has got blood splattered on his collar and his lapel. It's subtle but you can tell something's not right. That's kind of the theme of the record.

WC: Almost like a David Lynch movie! Do you think the title and imagery of the record has the potential to be misinterpreted by some people?

DM: Oh, by all means. On one hand, we've gotten several miscommunications over it. We are a straight edge band and in
one of the pictures, the guy is smoking a cigar and it's raised numerous questions . The praying hands on the cover leads a lot of people to ask if we're Catholic. A lot of questions have been raised but one of the things we want to accomplish was getting people to ask questions. We wanted people to dig a little bit deeper and read the lyrics and not just take things at face value. We've been that band forever, we've been very blunt and in your face but we've been growing up and maturing. We want people to scratch beneath the surface of Throwdown and see what is really going on.


WC: In your video "Burn", you have a guy who seems to be burning away his past life. Is this something you advocate people to do?

DM: We have a hand in everything we do and that concept is ours as well. A lot of people live as robots, without any meaning and purpose in their lives. The video is a play on a businessman realizing his life has no reason. He's trying to burn away that past and live again.

WC: You can get a fresh start...

DM: Yeah, for sure.

WC: It seems like Orange County is ground zero for a huge music scene, including yourselves. What is it about the area that brings that out?

DM: We get asked this all the time. There was definitely a lull in the 90's where we kind of helped to keep things going and move it along. I guess there's a pretty healthy economy there, most people are middle class, so there's not a lot of worries on that level. Because of that, it brings forth more art, it brings forth more entertainment and music. People have a little more time to explore things if their nose is not to the grindstone all the time.

WC: Is it a pretty unified scene? Do you hang out with the likes of Bleeding Through and Atreyu?

DM: Yeah, everyone has known everyone else forever. I went to high school with Brendan, the lead singer of Bleeding Through and Dave, our vocalist, went to high school with the lead singer of Eighteen Visions. We known each other for years and years but it's to the point now where all of us are gone so much, we barely ever see each other. But there's still good spirits and friendly competition between all of us.

WC: The music of the band is pretty down to earth and fairly basic, in a time where many bands are going all out to be technical and melodic. Is that deliberate, to provide some contrast?

DM: Yeah, most definitely. We've experimented with different sounds in the past but you've hit the nail on the head. There's so many bands doing the metalcore thing, the melodic, more European sounding metal. As far as we're concerned, we wanted to have our niche writing stuff that sounds more like traditional American metal, whether it be Pantera or a simpler Slayer or Agnostic Front. We wanted to mix those elements with hardcore like Madball or something like that. That's where we feel our niche is.

WC: Today's hardcore scene has a lot of bandwagon jumpers. Are you optimistic about the state of hardcore or will it just be a flash in the pan?

DM: (chuckles) That's a great question, we ask ourselves that almost every day. All we can do is do what we do and try to separate ourselves from the rest. You won't see us up on stage wearing eyeliner or dressed in all black or wearing mesh shirts. There's a lot of that stuff going on and I'm not knocking it at all, but we're trying to do something just a little different. Hopefully, we can ride out that trend and not be a part of it.

WC: The last DVD you guys put out surprised a lot of people because it was so humorous. There were a lot of funny hi-jinx on it. A lot of folks have the image of hardcore bands being these dour tough guys who never laugh. Were you trying to smash that image?

DM: Yeah, a lot of people don't know our history. We've been in this band for eight years and we started off as kind of a joke. From Day One we were like "hey, if we get any further, let's make a DVD, it will be funny, showing how stupid we were back then." The DVD wasn't supposed to be out on the national level and it is. Again, scratch the surface, dig a little deeper, figure out who we are. A lot of people judge us on that level.

WC: Even people who don't like your music seem to enjoy the DVD, because it's on a very honest level and it's not contrived. Now you guys do have that straight edge lifestyle, but you don't preach about it much on the surface. Being on the road, you've got to be faced with a lot of temptations...drugs, booze, tobacco, meat. How do you deal with that?

DM: It's like second nature, we don't even think about it anymore. I've been straight edge for the last twelve years or so. If we were a little bit weaker in our convictions, there would definitely be temptations. There are close friends of ours that party all the time when we're out on Ozzfest or Sounds of the Underground or any tour, really. By the same token, those bands respect us and they don't even think twice about asking us to smoke or drink. So it's not really that hard for us.

WC: Have you ever had kids coming up to you before or after a show and saying "Throwdown has helped me get through rough times"?


DM: Yeah, most definitely! We always have people coming up to us or maybe sending us an email saying that we have helped them through a phase in their life. That's what we're here to do and we appreciate that more than just getting people to start a pit or something like that.

WC: So you see yourselves as more than entertainers?

DM: For sure. Otherwise, we wouldn't be carrying this straight edge flag.

WC: What was the last CD you picked up for your own enjoyment?

DM: For me personally, it was the last Coldplay album. They're great musicians. I'm at the point where I listen to heavy stuff, I listen to soft stuff, I listen to whatever sounds good. I encourage all of our fans not to get tunnel vision, to branch out and explore.

WC: What was the last gig you checked out just for yourself?

DM: There was a band from the state of Washington called Acceptance, who we feel is right about to break through. They are friends of ours and a great band. We saw them play with bands called Anberlin and Saosin (not sure of what he said here...Doc) that are on the Warped tour.

WC: What was your Spinal Tap moment?

DM: You know, this is my first band, so it's all kind of mind-blowing. I've never had to struggle through being in several bands so every day is a new experience for me. Like being on Ozzfest last year or playing in Japan so far away from home and having kids sing along. It's just unreal when I actually contemplate what's going on?

WC: But was there ever an incident that was so whacked, when things went so wrong, that you just threw yours hands up and couldn't believe it?

DM: Uhhh...no. We deal with stuff daily. I don't know if you heard, but we just had a van breakdown and we missed three days worth of shows. It's road life and it has extreme ups and downs, extreme highs and lows.

WC: How do you see yourself evolving in the future?

DM: It will be interesting. We were just talking about after we finished this album. There are a lot of bands now doing this "southern metal" thing. Now we're kind of like "oh crap, now we gotta stay ahead of this phase". We know our music and we know what our fans want, so it will be heavy, of course, and with some progression. We'll see.

WC: Any last words?

DM: There's a lot of preconceived notions about Throwdown and people who hate us for no reason or have misjudged us. Check out our album with an open ear...that's all I can ask.


Throwdown's Official Website