Being in a working hard rock band without the muscle of a label behind you is a grind, and few people know that better than VTT. The New Jersey quartet formed in 2005, but the band's members are veterans of the music scene there. Lead by guitarist Emir Erkal, VTT have been slugging it out on the East Coast club circuit for the past few years, and things are finally beginning to pay off for them.

The best thing to happen to the band was getting Biohazard and Suicide City guitarist Billy Graziadei to produce their new album, 'Symptoms of Sin.' The hardcore hero gelled well with the group, getting the best performances VTT have ever laid down on tape. Another blessing has been new vocalist Gil PZ. The Texas transplant injects their new material with boundless energy and character. Noisecreep recently caught up with Erkal and he let got us up to speed with everything VTT.

This is your third self-released album. What are some of the pluses and some of the drawbacks you've experienced doing it this way?

I can easily say that this is our best work so far. The fact that it was produced by Billy Graziadei and recorded at his studio are the major pluses. And of course, the limited time and budget are always the drawbacks.

New Jersey has a rich musical history, but how is the hard rock scene doing there right now?

In one word, it sucks! Too many bands -- no, I should say, too many bad, amateur bands and then too many cover/tribute bands. And if you'd get lost among them, you maybe cannot come up to the surface again. On top of it, there is no real hard rock and metal going on anymore. It's all part of this stupid new trend, thinking that some noise and screaming over it make good metal. That's why we try and play out of state more and more.

Do you feel camaraderie with a lot of the bands there, or is the competition too fierce?

On the other hand, yes we do have a lot of friends in bands in New Jersey and other states, and we do support each other. But there is also a lot of competition going on everywhere, which is ridiculous. This is art, not sports!

Emir, you had your new vocalist, Gil PZ, move out to New Jersey from Texas to be in the band. Did that level of dedication drive you to work even harder? Was it intimidating at all?

Actually, we didn't make him move from Texas to New Jersey. Instead, he had already moved -- it had been like three months -- when we found and met him. But we still live far away from each other, even in this small state, and there is a dedication there where he has to drive miles and miles from his place to our practice studio all the time. But we all do sacrifice a lot of things for our band, project and art.

What kind of influence did Billy Graziadei have on the songwriting side of things?

He's an amazing musician and a great friend of ours. It's great to work with him any time. He really didn't get involved with the songwriting process, but he helped us shape and structure our songs in the pre-production.

In your bio, you emphasize that VTT isn't overly concerned with originality but stress the importance of a great song. Do you feel that the current crop of younger bands are trying too hard to be technical and sacrificing the song in the process?

We believe that almost everything has been tried and done in music, as far as originality goes. I mean, there are only seven basic notes in music, and whoever came up with a new riff today would remind us of some tune from the past. So we don't need to go crazy trying to find some original riff or melody. But if we do care about the quality and greatness of a song, then we'd have great riffs and melodies in that song anyway, regardless of them being original or not. I'm not against new and younger bands going all technical anyway, because that teaches them through the process.

What does 2010 have in store for the band?

2010 will be our year, and we'll be rocking and touring more than we've ever had. We just signed a deal with a better and bigger booking agent, so things will be busier for us. We have already had some local shows scheduled around the New York and New Jersey areas, one of which includes opening for the mighty W.A.S.P. on March 12 in Jersey. Plus, we'll do some shows with the one and only Biohazard, and then a 20-to-25-date U.S. tour will follow in May -- and hopefully some European dates. We might even have a Japanese tour late this summer!

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