May 9, 2018 Interview – Tony Pizzuti of The Word Alive
Known for their truly energetic live performances and an unrelenting determination to their craft, The Word Alive formed in 2008 in Arizona and have been crafting both inspiring and diverse music ever since. From the early days of their debut, 2010’s Deceiver, to 2016’s Dark Matter, the band has been steadily building an impressive name for themselves for the past decade, sharing stages with nearly every band on the scene.
Thus far, May 2018 might just be beginning, but it has already brought some Violent Noise the way of Word Alive fans, with the release of the band’s fifth full-length studio offering on Fearless Records. To celebrate this fact, we recently had a chance to sit down and speak with Founding Member and Guitarist Tony Pizzuti about all things The Word Alive and Violent Noise, sincerity in songwriting, the struggles of a touring band, Architects, Michael Myers, and much more!
CrypticRock.com – This year, 2018, marks the 10 year anniversary of The Word Alive. What have been some highs and lows of the past decade?
Tony Pizzuti – That’s a good question! (Laughs) Like you said, it’s about to be 10 years. In the beginning, I was about 19 years-old when we signed to Fearless Records and started traveling and touring as a band. The beginning was really awesome, it was really rough, but at the age of 19 I was very ambitious and excited. I’d been playing music since I was 13 years-old – I’d actually been in bands since I was 13 years-old – so it was my dream just to get on the road even if it was living on $5 a day, sleeping in vans, driving overnight. It’s pretty rough but I loved it! (Laughs) I loved it, honestly.
As the years went by and our band started to progress – we started to have some sort of following – it became a little more difficult; in the aspect of just being away from family, friends, and whatnot. I’m very family-oriented; I’m Italian, from New York, so I have a huge family. My family is always supportive of me doing music, just amazing on that aspect, but they didn’t really realize that I was going to be gone 7-8 months out of the year. So, probably when I was about 23, it started getting pretty difficult for me being away from them – missing out on birthdays year after year, family events – and not really making a lot of money or having anything to show for it, financially, was definitely the low.
At the same time, we’ve progressed and been able to actually make this a career now. (Laughs) We’re not like how people think all bands are super successful; we still grow, we’re still struggling. I’m coming up to my 30s actually, I’m 28 right now, and I still struggle sometimes with that, financially. You just don’t know what you’re going to come home with on some tours! Sometimes tours can be really beneficial on that aspect, but it’s worth it to me. Money is not happiness to me! I’m doing what I love, performing music, connecting with fans and people who appreciate our music. Yeah, I guess I really don’t have a super low, just stuff like being away. So, the majority of it has been pretty good.
CrypticRock.com – Let’s talk the new album which recently came out on Friday, May 4th. Why call it Violent Noise?
Tony Pizzuti – I actually just had someone ask me this recently, and I guess what I would say is we call it “Violent Noise” because it just deals with a lot of internal and emotional feelings that we go through on and off tour. I know a lot of people probably assume once they hear the words “Violent Noise,” oh, this is going to be a really heavy album. It is, there are some heavy songs, but on the other half there’s just some Rock songs that are much lighter.
We’re doing things that we’ve never done before, like we had kind of like a Rap/Rock kind of song with this Rapper, Hip-Hop artist from Arizona – his name is Sincerely Collins. He has a feature on one of the songs called “Human.” It’s just cool! We just wanted to express how we feel, and the words “Violent Noise” are not really… I guess it would just be a character of the songs and all the things we go through, you know? (Laughs) It’s just noise!
CrypticRock.com – Completely understood. Now, The Word Alive is down to a three-piece core. How did that affect the creation and recording of Violent Noise?
Tony Pizzuti – We kind of put ourselves out as a three-piece, but Matt Horn – he’s our drummer – he wrote and recorded all of the drums on the album, and he had a lot of input on that aspect. So, he was great! You know, Zack, Telle, and I – and not to discredit any of the past members – we want to be the band we are now without those guys. All the stuff that we’ve learned from each other as musicians and writing the album, we still take all that from what we learned from the past. So, we definitely don’t want to discredit that, because we wouldn’t have been able to write this record without having those experiences and connections with our past members.
All three of us have kind of been the original members. Zack and I have been playing music together since I was 16 years-old. So, he and I have just been writing songs together since we were teenagers. It was a little difficult at times, because we’re all kind of stubborn. (Laughs) We all think, “This way is the way that the song should sound,” and we all have our opinion. I think that’s what makes our songs so unique and what makes The Word Alive, us three having those differences. We find a middle-ground and a compromise, and I think that’s what makes the songs their best.
Tony Pizzuti – Danny actually moved to Arizona recently, but he was going in and out of the studio with Matt Good as Asking was recording their album and finishing up. They were going back and doing a few things, so he was in town and we’ve been friends with them for so long. A lot of the members actually live in Arizona now, so we hang out with them off tour. A year ago, we did the European tour with them, which is one of my favorite tours we’ve done in a long time; just a bunch of buddies hanging out. So, we were just kind of like, we love Danny’s voice, we love him as a person and a friend, and it just kind of all worked out that he was in the studio. We were like, “Man, we really want you to do some guest vocals on this song, we feel like you would just kill it on this song!” So, he did the feature for “Stare At the Sun.” It just kind of worked out. We’re good friends and we’re all just trying to help each other out, just create music together. So, it was cool!
Sincerely Collins, actually never met him before. Matt Good, our producer, he’s done a few things with him in the past, and they’ve always kind of shared music together. When we wrote “Human,” the bridge was actually almost like a heavy breakdown kind of thing. I was listening to the song, I actually thought about it and I was like, “This song is so awesome, but I just feel like this bridge is taking away from the vibe.” It was just out-of-place. We’re like, we should just do kind of like a jam-y, experimental kind of sounding bridge. So, Telle tracked some vocal parts over it and it was awesome! We were actually really stoked on it! Matt mentioned like, “Hey, I have this buddy, he’d like to do some guest vocals, and I think it would be really cool, really unique for the album.” So, we were like, “Alright, yeah.”
He got there, and we didn’t even know what song we were going to choose; before he even got there we were like, “Oh crap, what should we do? I guess we’ll just have him try something and, if it’s cool, we’ll use it, and if it’s not then we’ll just stick with what we’re doing.” I was like, “You know what? Why doesn’t he try to do something over the bridge.” He came in, he sat down for an hour or so, and went in and just laid down some fire. (Laughs) It was just so awesome! We still incorporated some of the stuff that Telle did in the bridge, and kind of made effects and sounds of that; he did little melodies under some of the rapping… I think it was very tasteful for the song; it feels like it was supposed to be there, it doesn’t feel forced.
CrypticRock.com – That is important because so many bands will force something even if it clearly does not fit the song. Staying on topic of the album, do you have a favorite lyric and/or song on Violent Noise?
Tony Pizzuti – Oh, that’s so hard! I love the album: I’m very, very happy with it! So, it’s hard to choose a specific song. I do love the lyric in “Human,” though: “I’m blessed, I’m cursed / Thoughts in my head making it worse.” That lyric I feel really resonates with me. Especially, I know Telle writes very personally, but at the same time he tries to incorporate what we’re going through, so he can vocally do that for us instead of just musically. Yeah, I think that’s one of my favorites, or one of the lyrics that really stand out to me. I think we all kind of get the best of ourselves, and I just really relate to that lyric.
CrypticRock.com – It is a really relatable lyric, and there are a lot of great lyrics throughout the entire album. One that particularly stands out is from “War Evermore” when Telle sings, “Some people say that it’s the coward’s way, they don’t know what it’s like to feel this pain.” That seems deeply personal.
Tony Pizzuti – Yeah, I definitely agree. I just know all of us in the band, we’ve had a real rough last couple of years with personal stuff, family stuff, relationship stuff; just life, in general. We’ve had just a rough last couple of years, and after – we wrote that song in tribute to Chester of Linkin Park. He and that band are just such a huge influence to our band, and we wouldn’t be the band we are without that band. We just really wanted to, I think Telle was just trying to express that everyone goes through pain and everyone deals with it in their own way. Being an outsider, a lot of people assume.
A lot of the comments that people are saying about Chester, it really got to all of us; we just wanted to make a song about that. People can say what they want but they don’t understand when you’re in that kind of position or mental state, it’s uncontrollable. We just wanted to kind of put it out there that it’s okay to hurt, but there are people out there who care about you, who love you, and there is a meaning to life. Sometimes it’s not how you want it to go, but sometimes you just have to express those emotions. I think that’s what we were trying to do with that song.
CrypticRock.com – That song hits very hard, emotionally speaking. In the wake of Chester’s tragic death, there seems to be a growing trend toward anti-suicide songs, and many of them feel sadly insincere and scripted; as though these bands felt they should draft up something but there was no real heart behind the effort. For what it’s worth, “War Evermore” is not one of those tracks: the listener can feel that sincere pain and empathy, and that is what makes the song so powerful.
Tony Pizzuti – Well, thank you very much! That’s what we’re all about! When we started this band, especially Zack, Telle and I, in the beginning we always promised that… I love music, but like I said earlier, I’m very family-oriented. I was really, really fortunate to have such amazing parents and a sister; just a great family, in general. They’ve always raised me to be genuine, sincere and honest; to be conscious of people’s feelings. I don’t know. (Laughs) To me, it blows my mind because it feels like it’s common sense, it’s just common courtesy. A lot of people just don’t have that, and I feel horrible for that! When we started this band, we promised that we would never lose sight of that and that’s what our band is about; that’s what we want to be forever, no matter how successful we might be. We want to be genuine and just be good people. We’re just trying to spread a positive message and hopefully it will influence other people to want to act that way, or at least have them think twice before they do something. (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – Every little bit helps, right? Alright, to shift the conversation back, you guys are out on the road as we speak playing a myriad of different shows with different bands. Are you also going to be doing any spring festivals?
Tony Pizzuti – We’ve just got off the In This Moment tour with Ded, which was incredible! That was a great exposure tour for us. We’re out right now doing a few shows with Hatebreed. It was supposed to also be with Killswitch, but Jesse had a few medical issues. So, we still continue to play a few shows with Hatebreed, then we have some random stuff with Memphis May Fire and Born of Osiris. We are doing one festival with Sevendust, but that’s the only one I know of as of now. The summertime, I think we’re taking most of it off. We may do something international, but it’s just kind of up-in-the-air at the moment. From there, we don’t really have anything booked after this tour. Actually, no, we have an early fall tour, but I can’t really talk about that yet. (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – (Laughs) Understandable. If fans can catch you on one of these shows here and there, what should they expect?
Tony Pizzuti – They should expect that, no matter how many people are there or whatever the circumstances, we’re going to try to perform and put on the best show that we can. We do that at every show! It can be four people at the show who have never heard our band, we’re going to try to give them the most sincere and honest show that we can. That’s something that I’m very proud of about our band is that we never let anything get to us, we just try to always stay humble and thankful that we have the opportunity to travel and play music in front of people, no matter what. That’s what they can expect! (Laughs) Some new songs: we’re playing a lot of new songs off the record that haven’t been released.
CrypticRock.com – Will there be a headliner for Violent Noise?
Tony Pizzuti – Yes, it is very important to us to do a headliner for this record! We’ve been talking about it and we just want to make it really special. We’ve had a few ideas: we’ve talked about maybe doing the album in its entirety. I don’t know if we’re going to do that! (Laughs) I don’t think we’re going to do that, because I know we have a lot of fans who want to hear the older songs. I just know that, at least, we’re going to play a lot of new songs the next time we headline.
CrypticRock.com – Okay, if you could tell fans of The Word Alive anything – either about yourself, the band, the new album, whatever – what would you like them to know?
Tony Pizzuti – I would just have to say that on this album we really put everything we had into it, and we just hope that, at least one of the songs, you can relate to it and hopefully make you feel something. Even if it’s good or bad, as long as it makes you feel something, that’s what life is about: just having feelings and getting the feeling of feeling alive. (Laughs) As cheesy as that sounds, but that’s all I can really say.
CrypticRock.com – Your fans are certainly passionate. Two more questions. The first is, personally speaking, what albums that are upcoming or brand new are you most excited to hear?
Tony Pizzuti – I’m real excited to see what Architects put out. They put out that stand-alone single “Doomsday,” and having that past with their guitarist, their guitar player passing away from cancer, that really was a heartbreaking moment for our scene of music. I just think what they’re doing is incredible. I love that they’re such a unique Metalcore – I don’t even want to label them because they’ve got it all! I’ll just say aggressive music. I’m really excited to see what they put out, because that last single is amazing. I just love all the instrumentation and the vocals; I just love everything they do. I’m excited to hear what they have to put out next!
CrypticRock.com – They really are a must-see band! Okay, last question. At CrypticRock, we cover music as well as films, particularly Horror and Science-Fiction movies. Are you a fan of either genre and, if so, do you have any favorite Horror and/or Sci-Fi films?
Tony Pizzuti – I like some Science Fiction, but I do love Horror movies. I love all types of Horror movies: I love cheesy Horror films. I like the classic cult Horror films. I was petrified of Michael Myers from the Halloween movies! (Laughs) My family tormented me with that all the time when I was… Every Halloween there was this house where the guy was dressed up as Michael Myers, and it was the scariest place to me when I was a little kid. (Laughs) So, I love all those movies. I actually really love the Rob Zombie version as well; I thought those were great.
I’m a huge fan of the classic Horror films, and the newer stuff is kind of hit or miss. It’s very hard to come along to a true, creepy, scary Horror film. I think The Conjuring (2013) was one of them that I was actually very impressed by; I thought that was a great one.