Interview with guitarist Steve Rice
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: August 30, 2012
Let's have some simple mathematics to start with, shall we? What do you get when you combine some ex-members from Imagika, Eldricht and Dark Angel into one compact, all things Metal and fire-breathing unit that is ready to unleash some hell – much for our pleasure, of course? This grouping is called Kill Ritual, and the band's debut 10-track studio album titled The Serpentine Ritual, will be available on Scarlet Records in the fall of 2012.
Guitarist Steve Rice (ex-Imagika) wanted to reveal some more about Kill Ritual for The Metal Crypt, so let's call Steve in to shed some light on Kill Ritual as well as on the band's forthcoming album, The Serpentine Ritual...
Luxi: First off, my sincere congratulations for signing a deal with Scarlet Records. I guess it must feel great right now, getting Kill Ritual signed to them?
Steve: Yeah it's been a long time coming and by the time the CD hits the market it'll be a year after it was finished. So it's a relief to get it accomplished.
Luxi: The Serpentine Ritual is the name of Kill Ritual's debut album, and it will contain 10 songs all in all. Would you mind telling us what kind of process it was all in all to get the whole album done – from the actual songwriting process all the way to the recording process? Was it a tough job, or did everything basically fall into the right places relatively easily?
Steve: A few of the initial songs were actually worked on a bit before Imagika disbanded. So Wayne and I actually recorded a 4-song demo to solicit the rest of the members of the band. So once we established the line-up the songwriting came pretty easy with Wayne, Josh and myself working out all the arrangements. I write all the music first then hand it off to Wayne and Josh to work on then the three of us work out the arrangements and we then hand them off to Danyael and Roberto to learn, etc. It works best this way since Wayne, Josh and I live relatively close to each other and the other guys are a few hours away so they are not readily available. The recording process was mainly done at my home studio except for the drums, which were done at Fang Studios who we have used since the Imagika days. I have been handling the engineering duties for a while now so it's pretty taxing on myself, but worth the effort since I'm not watching the clock all the time and can have control of the final sounds and editing. Everything went relatively smooth all in all and I think the end product will speak for itself.
Luxi: What about the band name Kill Ritual? The name sounds really cool and all that but I was just wondering whether there are some deeper thoughts behind that name, or was this name simply chosen because it sounds so 'metal' and is such a striking name?
Steve: Shit that was harder than writing the damn songs. I mean every name in the world has been taken so it was a real process. We wanted it to be simple and metal, but also a little open ended as not to pigeonhole ourselves later with a name that wouldn't let us grow a bit. I think it's pretty striking and metal.
Luxi: Was there anything on the record that, for some reason or the other, turned out to be a major problem for you guys, resulting in possibly some compromises that you were forced to do on this record, either song- or sound-wise, without finding a proper solution to get it and/or them corrected the way you originally wanted to?
Steve: There are always a couple songs that end up being completely different than expected. "Coat of Blood" comes to mind as the chorus part was rewritten at least three times before it was acceptable and this was after the drums were tracked so it meant a bit of edits etc. on my end. Also the bonus track ended up being a track we shelved for some arrangement issue, but I was able to salvage it after some edits and redo on the writing.
Luxi: None other than Andy La Rocque has mixed the record at Sonic Train Studio in Varberg, Sweden. Was it clear for you right from the very beginning that you wanted to use Andy's professional skills and services for the mixing process, or did you also discuss with some other studio owners about getting the mixing done?
Steve: Andy was choice number one because I've worked with him on so much Imagika stuff. I like that he makes every CD sound different and likes the band. He's a cool guy and his studio is very relaxing and cost-efficient. Plus he has years of experience to pull from and that is always a huge plus.
Luxi: Andy also played a guitar solo for one of your songs called "Coat of Blood". Was it his idea to suggest you this solo, or did you ask him first whether he'd be interested in doing it?
Steve: I asked him if he'd like to do it and he was cool with it since the song suited his style and playing. He actually recorded another track for Imagika on our last CD that came out great called "A God No More". So he was very open to the idea and it came out great for the song.
Luxi: From your point of view, how satisfied are you with the final outcome of The Serpentine Ritual? Are you 100% fully satisfied with it, or did that record still leave some room for improvement that you'll surely pay more attention to on your next release?
Steve: For the most part I think it's a very solid effort. All the guys played real well and I think we definitely have a sound that is all our own and not too close in sound or style to our previous bands, but still retains the balls and feel of our past. Josh is the big ingredient here as he doesn't sound like every other guy out there and has a more classic Metal / Rock voice. We've already started writing the next effort and I'm pretty excited by the new songs and enhancement of our sound and evolving direction.
Luxi: Without question, you guys have quite a line-up in Kill Ritual. As it's already known, the band features ex-members of Imagika, Eldritch and Dark Angel. I was just wondering whether this fact puts some pressure on you? I mean, having such known and experienced musicians in the band?
Steve: No pressure whatsoever really. We have the credentials, but that doesn't really mean shit in the long run because the songs either rock or they don't. We're able to make things happen pretty easily and the experience really pays off in the recording and live performance because we all have so much history there. I'd say the pressure for us is what beer to drink at rehearsal at this point! Pressure comes with success so if this CD does well we'll see where we're at in a year or two.
Luxi: While we are at it, talking about being under pressure, do you believe that sometimes being under enough pressure, it may kill some of your creativity or even push you away from the original goal as far as your vision about a band was concerned?
Steve: Of course! If money starts flying around everything gets condensed and controlled because it takes on a whole new level. But hey you just deal with it and adapt.
Luxi: How did you guys meet each other in the first place?
Steve: Well after the demise of Imagika Wayne and I decided to carry on as a new band and started putting the word out for new members. As I had mentioned we had already worked up a 4-song instrumental demo to find all the right guys and make it happen. Roberto was the first to come aboard as he answered an online ad we placed and just so happened to have just moved to the US about a year before and was looking for a new band. Josh came in next answering the same ad and we got him to record a couple tunes from the demo to see what that was going to work out like. We actually had a few vocalist try out for slot, but they might have been a little too close to our old style and Wayne and I wanted to definitely break away from that so Josh won the job. Danyael was the last onboard as he actually contacted us quite early on but wanted to make sure it was worth the effort in the commute from LA to SF when needed.
Luxi: Finding that right chemistry between each band member is always something that is a very essential part for having a stable, creative and correctly working line-up. Without this, bands just cannot survive in the long run. Do you believe that's what you guys have found in Kill Ritual; a perfect chemistry between each member of the band that know exactly what Kill Ritual is all about – and will be all about in the future as well?
Steve: I think so. We have a real solid bunch of guys involved and it came together very naturally so that's always a good sign. I mean thing always change and evolve so I can't predict the future, but I think the band is in good shape at this moment.
Luxi: When you gather for rehearsals, what are your sessions most often like? Intense, goal-orientated and sweaty sessions, or just relaxed jamming sessions and basically having a good time together, sharing beers and stuff like that?
Steve: Pretty easy going actually. Drink a beer, work on the material, etc. This is usually the case when we are working on new material. For the purpose of playing live we make it intense and play like we are performing the show with lots of energy and moving around. And also drink beers!
Luxi: Do you believe Kill Ritual basically offers the best worlds of your past bands musically, in which each of you have ripped something out from your past bands and brought some of those elements into the Kill Ritual sound?
Steve: Yeah I think we are always going to bring in elements of our past musical styles into the band. It's inevitable really. But we just naturally developed the Kill Ritual sound without having to discuss it. I'm a firm believer in the fact that once you start discussing how to write the music and what it should sound like etc. the magic is gone. It should just happen.
Luxi: You also shot a video for a song "Old School Thrasher" at Soundwave Studios in Oakland, CA, this July. Why did you decide to pick this particular song and make a video for it? Did you want to make sort of your own tribute dedicated to all old school thrashers and/or metal heads around the world, or am I completely mistaken about this?
Steve: Well the song is really just very catchy and has the perfect blend of old school for the vets and enough energy to attract the younger metal heads also. The song really is just a tale of what it's like to join a band and that initial experience of making it all happen. So we felt it would be perfect for our first video because we could keep it simple and energetic with a cool vibe. We picked the right guy and it came out real cool.
Luxi: How was Mike Sloat chosen to produce, direct and edit this video? Was he recommended by some friend(s) of yours?
Steve: He answered an ad I placed looking for someone to shoot a video for us and once I found out that he's done tons of shit for Machine Head, Testament, etc. and I realized I'd seen a ton of his work it was really a no brainer. He worked cheap too so that's always a plus!
Luxi: What about a record release party for The Serpentine Ritual? When and where will it happen officially (or unofficially)?
Steve: That is in the planning stages. It looks like it will happen in late October/early November and will probably be in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Luxi: Obviously doing gigs is something the band wants to do more and more all the time; going to as different places as possible just to play for all those crazy metal maniacs out there, and first and foremost, to get the word out about Kill Ritual as much as possible. How has the response been from the shows you have done so far?
Steve: Actually it's been pretty solid. We've made a pretty good splash right out of the gate and have won over most in the crowd with our stuff. I like to call our style Thrash and Roll since we have a little more rock and swagger in our version of Thrash. We're trying to keep it fun and positive without sacrificing the heavy or the power.
Luxi: Obviously one of your main goals is not only playing around as much as possible but also trying to make your living out of this band someday during a long run. Is this correct?
Steve: Of course that would be awesome, but we are realistic and realize it's all about the tunes first and the fun. As soon as it's no longer fun and a grind it's time to stop.
Luxi: What about your management deal with Germany's Rock 'n' Growl Management company: how did it happen? When you look at their profile, you notice that they have worked with tons of bands before, so all the experience they have behind them should speak for itself, I guess...
Steve: I solicited Rock N Growl after doing a little hunting for management to help us shop the CD. Axel was interested right off and we decided to work together. He's been very professional and has the right ideas about what's realistic in this current climate of the music biz.
Luxi: What's the biggest reward for you personally that you have gotten thus far by playing Metal music?
Steve: For me it's just the whole process from start to finish of creating your music, recording it, playing it and getting positive feedback from the fans. It's nice to know that you've done something that makes people happy and gives them joy. Playing an instrument is one thing, but being a songwriter is another and I happen to think I'm a songwriter who happens to play guitar.
Luxi: If you got a privileged opportunity to become a mentor for the Metallica guys for one day on how to play Metal again, what would be the first three things that you would teach them so that James and co. could find their way back on the right track– and start playing Metal after all these years of being completely lost – just no matter whatever they have tried to do to please either casual or die-hard Metal fans?
Steve: Hmmm I don't really like answering these kinds of things because whatever they've done past or present has been about as successful as possible when it comes to metal. Hard to argue with millions of fans and dollars!
Luxi: That's all for now I think, so I want to sincerely thank you for your time getting this interview done, and let's hope it was all worth it. All the best with Kill Ritual, and may your road be full of pleasing and positive things in the future. Keep it heavy and keep it Metal!! \m/
Steve: Thanx Luxi! Our pleasure! We appreciate the effort in helping to support Kill Ritual!
Kill Ritual band management (Rock 'n' Growl)
|Other information about Kill Ritual on this site|
|Review: The Eyes of Medusa|
|Review: The Eyes of Medusa|
|Review: The Opaque and the Divine|
|Review: Thy Will Be Done|
|Interview with guitarist Steve Rice on May 4, 2014 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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