I love Cold as Life. When I'm in a pissed-off mood (which is often when I have to deal with television executives) and go looking for the perfect music to match that, I often throw something from the Detroit band's discography on. Since forming back in the late '80s, Cold as Life have dished out the kind of negative hardcore that isn't surprising when you know of the violent environment the band was birthed out of.
I won't dredge up the sordid details here, but tragedy has loomed over the band's history.
After many years away from the group, bassist Craig Holloway is back in Cold as Life, appearing on their recent Suffer and For the Few singles, and holding down the bottom end on their 2017 European tour. In this new interview, he opens up to me about both his personal history in and out of the band, plus his other projects througout the years.
The way I like to start these things is by getting to know a bit about your upbringing.
I was born and raised in the Detroit Metro area, and went to college at Wayne State University in Detroit where I studied graphic design. My parents divorced when I was in the 4th grade. As a result of having to entertain myself as a kid, I spent a lot of time daydreaming and drawing. That often got me into trouble at school where I was bored like most kids.
Did you have any older mentors getting into music when you were a kid?
I didn’t really have much interest in music other Queen and no mentors to introduce me to cool stuff, except the time when my older sister went on a Spring Break to Toronto in the mid-‘80s. She met some punk rockers who were in a band called Death Sentence and they gave her their demo cassette. I wore the hell out of that and the seed was planted. When I was in high school, I bought a VCR off a kid in art class. Back then, we used to have two VCRs so we could tape tapes. He accidentally left a Dead Kennedys video in it. It was from the band’s Frankenchrist tour in 1984. It was all over from that point on. I was on a mad quest to discover more stuff like that, so I started hitting up record stores for bands whose albums looked cool. On one trip, I brought home Minor Threat, Cro-Mags' Age of Quarrel, and Misfits’ Earth A.D. albums. There was no turning back at that point.
I read in another interview that your first punk show was the Descendents in 1986. What memories stick out from that night?
Those were exciting times. I just got my driver's license and was dating one of the few punk rock chicks at my high school. She and I went to see them at a hall called the Graystone. It was a total DIY venue. The guy running it was a biker-looking guy known as "Scary" Carey. There wasn’t any alcohol, so it was an all ages joint. I remember standing up close to the stage and when the band started to play, the pit broke out and people went bananas. That was my introduction to live music. The only other concerts I had seen up until that point were Van Halen in ‘83 and Men At Work shortly thereafter, but don’t print that last part [laughs]. I didn’t know what to expect. I got the hell out of the way cause there were huge dudes who looked like they were trying to kill each other. It was a blast. I would go back to the Graystone as often as possible, sometimes not even knowing who was playing until I handed Scary my money to get in.
Who were the big bands in your area during your teen/formative years?
Some of the bands who I got to see frequently were Almighty Lumberjacks of Death, Feisty Cadavers, SBLC, Disgust, and Heresy. These were bands that played often. Some are still wrecking stages.
What was the scene like?
The scene was great. After the Graystone shut down, I spent a lot of time at a bar called Blondies in Detroit, which was cool because it was only about 10 minutes from my house where I still lived at home with my dad. I saw a bazillion great shows there. A lot of friends were made, some I still keep in touch with thanks to Facebook, and some still come out to shows today. I don’t give a shit about my high school reunions. I have zero interest in that which is the opposite of the people I’d hang with at the clubs.
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Tell me about Full Circle, the first band you played in. Also, why did you choose the bass as your instrument?
I started Full Circle with a high school friends Jeff Postema and Greg Floyd. Our first show was at Blondies. The only reason I became the bassist was because I was taller and lankier and Jeff choose the guitar. It was easier for me cause I struggled to play chords, and I still do [laughs]. I liked the sound of the bass and later discovered it was less competitive and often provided more opportunities because there are fewer bassists compared to guitarists.
How did Ricochet first come together? Were you guys childhood friends, or did you meet the other guys via the hardcore scene?
I was asked to join Ricochet after I left Cold as Life. They were guys I met who were in other bands I played shows with.
Ricochet’s material has appeared on such labels as Initial Records and Victory Records.
Yes, we were fortunate to get on Initial Records. Andy Rich, Dennis Heppinstall, and Carolyn were the ones who started that label. They were in the Detroit scene. I think we were their second release. That 4-song 7” came out after we put out a 5-song demo. We didn’t tour. The longest road trip we did was in the early '90s. It was about a week’s worth of shows we booked ourselves. I think we might of played one place twice within the week. It sucked but it was exciting nonetheless. We would travel quite a ways to play some great shows though. Places like Hamilton, Ontario and Syracuse, NY. We played with some great bands.
At what point did you join Cold as Life, and what were the circumstances that lead to it?
I was asked to try out for Cold as Life when [original Cold as Life singer] Rawn [Beuty] saw Full Circle play a party. I clearly remember him watching us. He had a reputation that proceeded him. He apparently liked one of our songs because he asked us to play it again, which we did. I took it as a compliment. I wasn’t about to piss him off. The audition went well. The songs were great. While I was in Cold as Life, it was chaos. The guys were cool but wild. We had difficulty finding places to play because there was always a brawl.
The writing on the wall for me at that time was when we spent all day recording a dozen songs in a legitimate studio. It was a long day and there was a ton of drinking. The fellas had too much to drink and started beating the crap out of each other towards the end of the session. Not really sure why. Must of been the booze. One minute we were invincible, super-stoked to have just recorded these great tunes, to the next moment we’re throwing knuckles and trying to run each other over with a van in the studio parking lot. It was an emotional dump for sure.
Wow! That’s nuts.
I saw lots of violence at the shows, but when it came to physical fighting within the band, I started to question the band’s longevity. I was wrong cause while I was away, they kept on going. They also wrote some amazing music and are still crushing it today. I’m super-fortunate [drummer] Roy [Bates] invited me back to jam with them.
Going back to that time, I was still living in NYC, and the word on the street was that Cold as Life was comprised of real hard-ass motherfuckers. It sounds like that reputation was warranted.
There was a definite mean streak running through the veins of Cold as Life, and a lot of that anger was evident in the music written. But that was prevalent in the hardcore scene. A lot of people had issues. Whether it was an abusive upbringing, to some kind of addiction, we bonded because we had similar stories, and all had a fondness for hardcore music. It was a way for us to express ourselves and be creative.
Yeah, I'm sure Cold as Life was an important outlet to get more of those demons exorcised.
I’d say the band was one of the reasons more members aren’t dead or locked up. It provided something positive for us to focus on besides all the negativity surrounding us. As far as reputation, I’m not sure how to answer that because, I was in the fold and unaware of what people were saying that weren’t in the band. I think I’m the only member who didn’t come to blows with other members of the band. For some reason, Rawn never laid hands on me. I got lucky. I was a scrawny punk who had enough common sense and street smarts to survive [laughs]. We had mutual respect for each other. A lot of the stories are real and unbelievable, but you have to interview Roy. He was there through thick and thin. He can write a book. Maybe we’ll finish that documentary some day. All I know is that the story isn’t finished yet.
Since I never saw the band in Detroit, can you describe what a hometown Cold as Life show was like back in the ‘90s?
A bunch of ugly motherfuckers with attitude problems and something to prove. Boot camp candidates for a prison yard or juvenile delinquent detention center. Plenty of underage drinking, black eyes, and clenched fists with lots of body odor and fresh puke permeating foul clubs that had busted plumbing. No wonder there were very few girls [laughs].
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Why did you end up moving out of Michigan? I read that you first went to California for some time before landing in Austin, where you still are today.
I love Detroit and the Midwest but I was ready to explore. I like change and thought New York or California would be a cool hang. I couldn’t afford New York and figured at least I could sleep on the beach if all else failed. I was interested in both scenes. They had amazing bands with a lot of history. I wanted to experience that. I fucked up. I should of gone to NYC. The scene blew in LA. Lots of pay-to-play clubs and cheesy wannabe next big thing bands.
What is the story behind the formation of Blunt Force Trauma, the thrashy punk band you play in with Felix Griffin (D.R.I., BAT)?
Growing up, I cringed at the thought of Texas. I thought it was all cowboy hats and pick-up trucks, which is the typical yahoo stereotype, everyone seems to share outside of Texas. The first time I went there was like ‘98 for the South by Southwest festival. My wife, Rose, went to the University of Texas, so she was hip to the scene, even though she was more into the metal scene. We had a blast. She had family there and when we had our twins, our house got smaller. I was sick and tired of my 2-hour commute there and back, so we made a killing on our house and moved just outside Austin.
I started hitting the clubs and discovered Blunt Force Trauma. They were super-tight with tons of energy. It was cool seeing Felix in the kit. I remember vividly seeing D.R.I. at the Graystone back when I was 16 when they played with Nuclear Assault and Ludichrist. It was one of the most amazing shows I had seen. Fast-forward a couple of decades and I get the opportunity to try out. Luckily the previous bassist left to go cash in on some cheesy cover band. I had an in because I illustrated the band’s Hatred for the State CD. We went on tour in Europe and were gung-ho to get back and start writing songs for a new album. Unfortunately, the singer’s head wasn’t in the game and he went through a divorce. So, needless to say, what should of took a few months took years to finish and by that time there was too much bad blood to make it worthwhile.
How did you end up back in Cold as Life?
I moved to California in 1995, met my future wife, Rose, got married, had twins, and then moved to Austin, Texas in 2005.
Roy was at a Ricochet reunion show and approached me about rejoining Cold as Life. At first I was apprehensive to commit to CAL now living in TX. But I’m really happy I did. I’m getting used to the planes and commuting back and forth. I didn’t want to be the one to hold them back by not being local. They’ve been really accommodating and so far it seems to be working out fine. In fact I’m on a plane now flying to Baltimore to play a show Friday. We have a bunch of shows lined up this week including Brooklyn, Detroit, Windsor, and Mansfield OH. The only thing that really sucks is not being able to rehearse and write songs together. You just gotta stay sharp and be prepared when you hit the stage. But with today’s technology, it’s never been easier.
Cold as Life’s latest release is the Suffer/For the Few 7”, which I described on the site as “finds the group in fighting shape, delivering the raw hardcore they’ve always been known for.”
We got some new cats who have really stepped up. Jesse Adkins has taken over the vocal duties. He’s one of the most motivated dudes I’ve ever met. He’s a down-to-earth family man who lives and breathes Cold as Life. We also have “Metal” Matt Martin on lead guitar. He’s super-chill and too talented for his own good. He’s the kind of guy you’d scoff at because he’s so good at what he does that he makes you wanna retire. Then there’s TJ., the rhythm guitarist who is also a great father and an ex-Marine. The guy has a good head on his shoulders and he’s focused. He’s the guy who spends half the set jumping in the air going off. He’s a solid player who is also endorsed. Lucky bastard. He’s good at what he does, which explains why he’s in 13 bands [laughs]. All in all, even though these guys are young, they bring it. You can tell they were born and raised on Cold as Life and Detroit hardcore. They’ve done their homework and you can hear it on the new 7”. I’m pleased with the way it came out and how it’s been received.
The band did an extensive tour throughout Europe earlier this year. How was that experience?
It was a blast. We got to play places I never been before like the UK. We just missed the terrorist attack in France, and that was a little nerve-wracking because they were in the middle of a election and the riot police were blockading the streets in preparation for that. Luckily, nothing happened. We met some great fans and shared stages with outstanding bands. The weather was choice but the route was grueling, so we were constantly racing to the next gig whether by van, ferry, taxi, bus, or plane. So, we didn’t get much rest or opportunities to chill and sight see. It would have been a bust if we didn’t hire Dimitar Saveski. He saved our bacon and got us to the venue on time. Look him up. He’s legit. He’ll crack the whip on you but you’ll thank him later. All in all, we were able to break even hang with old friends and hopefully make some new Cold as Life fans.
What’s the plan for Cold as Life going into the next year? I saw on the band’s Facebook page that there was some recording going on.
Yes, we are busy writing new material for a full-length. We hope to have it available within the year. We’re taking our time because the last thing we wanna do is race to finish something to meet a deadline. It’s about halfway written.
Through all these years, which Cold as Life song has had the most impact/meaning to you and why?
I like the old ones because I was there during some of the creation and it takes me back to a time when I was young and more carefree, which is why music can be so rewarding. It can take you to a special moment in your life. But as far playing, I really enjoy songs like “Born to Land Hard” and “Little From the World.” Those songs have some major groove and they are also a kick in the teeth. It’s a privilege to jam with Roy. He’s a phenomenal drummer who has influenced a ton of drummers with his signature style. When I first joined Cold as Life, Roy switched from bass to drums. He was fed up with the drummer at the time and basically taught himself. Being a bassist, it’s important to be able to connect and lock in with the drummer. He’s a machine. You could just listen to the drum track and be able to identify who’s playing. He’s the backbone of Cold as Life. I don’t think it would be the same without him.
Tell me a bit about your work in illustration. I noticed that you’ve been doing that for quite some time now.
I used to draw a lot of the flyers for bands I was in back in the day. I still see people wearing my designs from 25 years ago. I even ran into some people in Europe this year who have some of my art tattooed on them. That’s a trip. Thanks to social media I’ve been approached by bands to do artwork. Nothing’s more exciting for me than to be asked to draw something for one of my favorite bands. It’s opened a lot of doors for me. All the band stuff has really come about for my love of music. I know bands don’t have loot set aside for stuff, so I try to be reasonable and work with them. The bigger challenge is now finding the time. My “real” job is as a storyboard artist. I draw commercials for advertising agencies. That’s how I pay the bills. I really want to get into tattooing, but, unfortunately, my schedule is so unpredictable I haven’t been able to focus and give that the attention it deserves.
What else are you up to these days outside of the music and illustration work you do?
Raising my family and being a good husband. Everything else is secondary. I’ve been married for 17 years to an amazing woman who is super supportive and unselfish. My twins, Ruby and Luke, are now 13 and in 8th grade. High School is right around the corner, so the adventure continues. Both of them are great students and have a passion for music. My son is playing bass and has been taking drum lessons for two years now. I’m prepping him for my future retirement [laughs]. Hopefully he’ll stick with the basoon and get a scholarship. Every little bit helps.
Excluding any you’ve played in, if you had to pick the best punk/hardcore band to ever come out of Michigan, who would it be and why?
Negative Approach. I’m almost insulted to have explain why.
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