INTERVIEW WITH MARC “B.B. PLAZA” BUSQUÉ
BY KEVIN STEWART-PANKO
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ARNAU MONTFORT AND LOPES
YOU CAN’T KEEP A BUNCH OF YOUNG, ENERGETIC THRASHERS DOWN. Spanish crossover thrash wizards Crisix backs their boundless ideas, vim, vigor, and cutthroat work ethic with some ferocious and sprightly metal capable of sparking mosh pits in hell and old age homes in equal measure. With The Pizza EP still cooling on the racks and Full HD recently released, we tracked down perma-grinning guitarist Marc “B.B. Plaza” Busqué to chat about how pizza and thrash metal rule and run his world.
Your Skype name is Metal Academy Marc. Are Metal Academy Marc and B.B. Plaza the same person?
The Metal Academy is a music school that focuses on metal—death metal, thrash metal, and the different styles—but on the details that you would not find in regular music academies or rock academies. It’s pretty cool, and a lot of US and European bands come by and visit the school. It started two years ago, and it’s for everyone, every age. We teach rock, of course, but also really detailed metal stuff. I’m the specialist for thrash and its techniques, like hand position and rhythm changes. It’s something that may be harder to find and you need specific people to help out.
After 14 years, five albums, and everything you’ve experienced, how has the meaning of Crisix and the band’s goals changed over time?
We’re not actually originally from Barcelona. We’re from a small town near Barcelona, and it’s curious how these five people came together in 2008 with the focus to do a thrash metal band with old school influences. It was really rare at the time, and now I can say that this has value—to have five people with the same focus and commitment in the same band. A lot of bands struggle with this because it is really hard, and for the past 14 years, this is what keeps us alive. This band—this family thing—is what has kept us going through the highs and lows that a music career can have and all the problems we can face. This is one of the most special things we have as a band and this is real value of Crisix. Nowadays, it’s still a family and after all these years, we’re releasing our fifth album as we grow up together more and more. We started out as kids who didn’t know how the music industry worked, and it happened so fast that in our first year we played at Wacken Open Air after we won a contest in Germany.
“CRISIX IS ABOUT TEAMWORK AND FAMILY, AND WE REALLY HAD TO FOCUS DURING THE TWO YEARS OF THE PANDEMIC”
All of sudden we were on the map as a thrash band, coming up with all the other thrash revival bands all over the world. We were there, but we had no clue what to do. We had no label, no management, no booking agent, and that’s where it started. Not because we played the biggest metal festival in the world, but because that was where we really had to build our career. Now, we had the focus for The Pizza EP that we released last September and now Full HD. All of this happened during the pandemic, which made us focus and say, “Okay, this is the big thing that we now have to do.” The hardest part was finding all the people to make the magic happen. This isn’t something we can do alone. Crisix is about teamwork and family, and we really had to focus during the two years of the pandemic and not be dragged down by the situation of not being able to play shows and having whatever economic and financial issues. We are really proud of what we’ve been able to deliver.
You mentioned the thrash revival. Was that part of what originally motivated Crisix’s formation, or did you just happen to fall into it?
The funny thing about that revival is that you had a lot of bands who had the same intuition at the same time. It was about how cool old Metallica, Exodus, and whoever are and wanting to try and play as fast and make something like that, but do it in the 2000s. A lot of bands in the worldwide scene grew up with this mentality, and then in the MySpace era, we started to find each other. That’s where we connected with Fueled By Fire, Gama Bomb, Bonded By Blood, and Violator, and it created a scene because we were following each other, influencing each other, hearing each other’s music, commenting on it, and eventually we’d play together. When I watched the Murder in the Front Row movie, I really connected what they had in their physical space and time in San Francisco with what we had and how we connected with other bands over the internet. It’s not that different. We weren’t in the same place physically, but thanks to the internet, we had the same dynamics and could make this worldwide. I was really proud of this, and we tried to capture this feeling with “World Needs Mosh United,” the first single off the new album, with all the bands we grew up with and having the singers from Warbringer, Bonded By Blood, Gama Bomb, Fueled By Fire, Violator, Insanity Alert, Suicidal Angels, Dust Bolt, Nervosa, and Angelus Apatrida all sing on the song. That was cool and one of my biggest achievements.
“WE HAD THE IDEA THAT WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW IS MOSH, SO WE BUILT A SONG OUT OF IT”
Was that easy to put together because everyone was at home doing nothing? And how did you get Chuck Billy involved in the video?
We played with Testament in Europe a couple times. They’re really great people, they saw our show and were congratulating us, and we had that bond. We have a lot of respect for Chuck because he’s one of the strongest figures in thrash metal these days. It was like a domino. We had the idea that what the world needs now is mosh, so we built a song out of it and it made sense that this song was not just sung by us but with our friends. They were all into doing it and everyone had this shared feeling of what we need because we all missed this part of our lives. It was something that went beyond the band. It’s a message everyone related to and it was natural that everyone wanted to be part of the song. When we had everything ready, Chuck said he wanted to be a part of it, too.
Crisix is more positive and jovial than most other bands, and thrash is the most appropriate subgenre of extreme music in which one can put lightheartedness on display. Was it you and your bandmates’ attitudes and personalities that led you towards thrash and crossover?
Yeah, I’m getting what you’re saying. Thrash metal has a wide range of possibilities, and we all love the whole thing from the aggressiveness of Sepultura and Exodus to the darkness of early Sodom and Kreator. In the end, everything is our own personality as a band. I don’t know if it’s because we are from Barcelona or Spain, but we are really happy people and one of our musts is to have fun. We never tried to make people laugh or smile on purpose, but it’s something we saw happening naturally when we’re playing. We did a European tour in Holland, Belgium, Germany, and France, our first shows after the pandemic. We saw these people coming to our shows, and we were playing super aggressive and fast, but people were smiling. It was curious to see that reaction of people smiling, moshing, and jumping. This is something we never paid too much attention to or gave too much value to, but it’s something that’s unique in our personalities and music to make this fun but serious music that makes a happy connection with people. We don’t plan it or do it on purpose. Maybe it has something to do with finding the source of what makes us happy and then passing that on to people. We’ve found it with this music—a blend of aggressiveness and fun with a message. Anthrax is also a good example of how to deliver this fun thing, and it’s not easy to do. It has to be in your personality to do it in style and naturally.
“WE WERE PLAYING SUPER AGGRESSIVE AND FAST, BUT PEOPLE WERE SMILING. IT WAS CURIOUS TO SEE THAT REACTION”
How was touring coming out of the pandemic?
It was a process. When all this started, the first shows we played had people sitting in a theatre, or when we did Hellfest from Home, we went to France and the facilities were there and the same, but it was empty and we played to cameras on an empty festival ground. The same for Wacken Online. When shows were starting and we confirmed these three tours in Europe, we had to really fight for it. It was a situation where everyone was canceling and negativity was all over the place. We were one of the few bands that was lucky enough to play shows in Europe because our team of booking agents, managers, and friends were stubborn. We wanted to play, no matter the risks, and thanks to that we’ve been able to play 30 shows between September of last year and now, and most of the shows were sold out. No one knew how those first shows were going to be, but everyone wanted to have fun and maybe some of the rules got forgotten as we freed and liberated ourselves after two years. The shows were normal with people doing normal things like moshing. It was a struggle to set up the shows, but when they happened, everything was perfect and we were lucky to experience that.
Was all the stuff you did during the pandemic—the EP, LP, short film/videos, packaging schemes, video for “World Needs Mosh United,” specialty pizzas available around Spain, cookbook, and video game—planned before the downtime, or did it come out of having all that free time to fill?
When COVID struck, we met in the mountains because we wanted to isolate ourselves in a bubble far away from the news and the negativity. We had a meeting where we made plans and focused. We had 20 or so songs and we thought it would make sense to do an EP first, then an album later. One of the first ideas we had was to write a song about delivering pizzas, because I was delivering pizzas in the early days of Crisix and had a bunch of funny stories. Then, the idea came to record an entire EP called The Pizza EP that comes with a pizza box. Then, we thought a bit more about doing an official pizza. Then, having a cookbook. Then, a video game. Everything started with “How cool can we make this EP?” The Pizza EP opened a lot of doors to marketing strategies that were really challenging. We could have just made a record and put it out there, but we wanted to make something fresher and more original, and this allowed us to do this. It was one of the most challenging things we’ve ever done for the simplest record we’ve ever done. It was easy on one hand but super challenging on the other, and we learned a lot. We applied all that to then focus on Full HD and we started to create the cover art with the double vision and 3D glasses that comes with it. We learned from The Pizza EP to make the physical format more attractive and unique. To have the full experience, you just can’t go to Spotify, you have to see the full album with the 3D glasses and see the hidden messages that are all over the artwork.
“WE WANTED TO ISOLATE OURSELVES IN A BUBBLE FAR AWAY FROM THE NEWS AND THE NEGATIVITY.”
Are the pizzas you created in conjunction with the EP release still available?
We had them in Galicia, Barcelona, and Madrid for a limited time, but now they’re just in Galicia. We are planning to bring this pizza idea to festivals, so when we play that people can get a Crisix pizza with a pizza box.
And did you actually do the Judas Priest riding out on a motorcycle thing with a pizza delivery moped at a show?
(laughs) Man, it was hilarious. When we did that onstage at a festival, it was amazing. It’s like our paying tribute to Judas Priest, but in our humble and comedic way. Yeah, we did it, we delivered pizzas on stage! You can see it at Hellfest from Home, which was the first time we did it.
At what point do you feel your live show progressed to become fully representative of the band and your music?
The more we grow and the more we play on bigger stages, the more we think about how we can push our show more and more. When we had the opportunity to play before Slipknot at Resurrection Fest in Spain, we brought a bigger production. Also, at Wacken, we had the same mentality—to bring the production because these were shows that had a lot of attention on them and we really wanted to make them something special. Of course, you can’t bring super massive things everywhere, like our drum platform with an extra drum kit we put on stage that gets carried out into the crowd so Javi, our drummer, is playing while being supported by people, like he’s crowd surfing. All these things we can’t do or bring everywhere, but the more we’re growing, the more we’re going to be bringing all these productions.
Crisix refused to sit around and mope during the pandemic, but how do you feel those two years have changed the band?
There’s a bright side and a bad side to the past two years. One of the bad things is that we stopped touring, our plans for tours in Europe with Destruction, our plans for the US and Japan all got cancelled, and our team had to double the work to reschedule everything. On the other hand, we allowed ourselves to have a space, a golden moment to sit down and plan things. 2019 was a big year for us. We toured the whole world, and with the rush of playing here and there, you sometimes forget what is missing and what could be better. The stop made us unite more as a family and build a basis for the future. We took advantage of the situation in as many ways as we could and we needed to do that.
Do you ever get accused of being a gimmicky type of band?
It’s true that pizza, beer, and thrash are a cliché that everyone knows, which is why we wanted to call it The Pizza EP, to really focus on this cliché in the best way possible. We wanted to make it different because we didn’t want to take it too seriously, but we had my story and it became part of our story as a band, and we wanted to build off of it. It sounds like a thrash cliché, but no one had released a record in a pizza box before. So, we were like, “Let’s do it because it fucking kicks ass!” I didn’t fear exposing ourselves as this thrash cliché band because I knew what we were doing was great stuff. It wasn’t just, “Let’s make a song about pizza.” It was, “Let’s make an entire release about pizza and do it 100 percent!”
Hawaiian pizza—pineapple and ham—yes or no?
In the past, I would have said no, but when I started delivering pizza and eating it all the time, I found that eating pizza with pineapple was better for your digestion, so even if I didn’t like the flavor too much, I was all for it. The newer edition of The Pizza EP has pineapple on it. The label put pineapple on it without asking us. People are going to open the vinyl, see pineapple, and they are going to freak out!