Thursday, June 15, 2006

"Everything we do is a tribute to Black Sabbath"

It’s been more than long enough again since my last update and everything I have stacked up in my Megalomaniacal folder isn’t getting any younger while collecting digital dust. So here’s an interview I did with my friends in Rise And Fall around the time their “Into Oblivion” record was released. It took some time to get the answers back and it took three times as long to post the stuff up here. Some of the stuff might be outdated, but whatever… In the meanwhile Rise And Fall has done a European tour with Doomriders and a US tour with Guns Up and Blacklisted. Also their record got released in the US by Deathwish Inc. Records. All this didn’t happen when the interview was done, so keep that in mind. Here’s the interview I did with Bjorn and Cedric.
Oh yeah, if someone can tell me how I put this blog’s sidebar with all my personal info and stuff back to the top of the site, let me know. I fucked it up one way or another. Also it seems as I can't upload any pictures. If someone can help me, get in touch.

Okay, let’s kick it off properly. "Into Oblivion", your second full length has been out now for almost a month and I’ve seen quite some interesting reactions on the release by various segments of the hardcore in-crowd. How do you feel about all those reactions so far? I don’t know, but to me it seems that the reaction to the album is a lot bigger than I would have thought at first and I assume it’s a bit the same to the members of Rise And Fall, even after just one month. What are some of the most curious reactions you have gotten in the four weeks since the release?
Cedric: Well, I'm positively surprised about the reactions. The positive response seems to have broadened indeed, it seems that a lot of "different" people are into our sound now, as opposed to when we put out "Hellmouth". The major part of reviews I've read have been really enthusiastic. Looking back at the reviews "Hellmouth" got, feelings were sometimes mixed and we were considered good but average. Now, the feedback's been nearly overwhelming. I did expect "Into Oblivion" to do better ", but looking at the reviews they definitely surpassed my expectations! The most curious reactions would have to be the people that prefer "Hellmouth" but hey, to each his own... I just think the new record has so much more to offer.
Are you actually satisfied with the way everything turned out? I know I was a bit bummed when I first saw the artwork as I expected something, how to say, more original from a band like Rise And Fall. Are there little things on the record you get annoyed about already, like every member of every band gets once they have put out new record? What are some those little futile things?
Bjorn: Generally speaking, I'm really satisfied and proud of the album. But of course being the overly critical perfectionists that we are I'm sure everyone in the band already has a few minor issues with the album, the songs or the layout. For me personally that would be the cover art, because as much as I love the rest of the lay out (the booklet, the back cover etc) and Jake's work, I feel like the cover isn't the best part of the artwork and could've been "better" maybe. I'm not sure though. It is a strong and harsh image though so that's the upside, and a lot of people seem to really like it and I have to admit I'm into a lot more than I originally was so what am I talking about?Cedric: I'm really satisfied with the result. I think we managed to create what we envisioned. I personally wanted to push this record to the extreme soundwise, and that's what we did. Of course as a musician you work on a record with a certain time limit, so you can't avoid the fact that some parts "could have been better" or whatever. But for us it's hard to put it all into perspective as we were working on the album the whole time. I recently listened to the record again, for the first time since long and it turned out that the concerns I had were kind of exaggerated. Those futile things I worried about are just little things that turned out different but not for the worse. They're pretty irrelevant. We learn, you know.
Comparing "Into Oblivion" to "Hellmouth" it definitely sounds like Rise And Fall finally has found its sound. Where I think "Hellmouth" sounds a bit boring at times I don’t have this feeling anymore when listening to the heavy monster sound of "Into Oblivion". Do you tend to agree with what I’m saying? What are some of the reasons for this evolution? Did you guys start listening to other music between the writing of "Hellmouth" and "Into Oblivion"?
Bjorn: I definitely agree. I still like "Hellmouth" and it was an album we had to make in order for us to get to where we are now. Looking back it sounds a little dull, too polished and clean. Most of the songs sound too much alike in my opinion and that is definitely something we worked on when we wrote "Into Oblivion". The main reason for the change in sound and songwriting, next to everyone getting a little older and better at what they're doing (well, hopefully), would have to be that for "Into Oblivion" 90 % of the music was written by Cedric, while on "Hellmouth" he'd only been in the band for a few months... so in my opinion it's definitely Cedric growing into his own as a songwriter and everyone in the band being involved with the whole process and being determined to write a record that would blow "Hellmouth" out of the water.
Cedric: There has most definitely been a big evolution in the sound of Rise And Fall. Right after the recordings of "Hellmouth" I started to find my place in Rise And Fall. I felt more self-assured and I knew what the band and I were capable of. As we were writing songs I always found it important to write in function of the song, which means stripping down my riffs when they were too complicated, finding the best possible song structure, etc. All this in order to get the most aggressive and complete songs. As for influences I get influenced by anything I hear and anything that can contribute to the primitive, raw sound we were aiming for. As a fan of music I continuously discover new music and new bands, it could be that some bands got my attention, but in the end it was all about getting that aggressive vibe and still being Rise And Fall. When I write a new riff I basically think about how hard I can bang my head to it.
Let’s talk punkmetal. I remember last year, before summer, that we were joking around in your car again about weird/stupid subgenre names such as rapcore, metalcore, etc. Eventually we ended up saying that Rise And Fall plays punkmetal and at that point you decided to coin the phrase and to begin profiling Rise And Fall as a punkmetal band rather than a hardcore band. So, for once and all, define punkmetal to the bloggists. Why did you decide to coin the phrase? What other bands (old and current) do you consider punkmetal? And who do you feel are the godfathers of punkmetal? What bands or sound or philosophy would you totally not like to see associated with punkmetal?
Bjorn: Punkmetal first and foremost is a state of mind, an attitude. It is a fuck you towards all the polished, overproduced would be hardcore that has been flooding our scene. It most definitely also is a fuck you towards the attitude that has come with it: bands nearly whoring themselves out to "get somewhere" and climb that ladder, the increasing commercialisation and commodification of hardcore and this whole situation where all these bands that have nothing to do with hardcore (musically and ideologically) still take advantage of this scene, its kids and its network. That's what comes to mind when I think of the PUNKMETAL attitude and it is something that grew out of disgust for all the shit I see around me these days. Musically we decided that PUNKMETAL was the term that best defined our music, since we try to combine the attitude, anger and energy of hardcore punk with the heaviness, darkness and brutality of (good) metal. Musically, we're not a pure hardcore band, though we're all hardcore kids obviously. We sure as hell ain't a real metal band either so you could say we're hardcore punks playing metal. PUNKMETAL. I wouldn't claim to have invented the term because I swear I've seen it being used before in old magazines when dudes would try to describe the Cro-Mags for example, or Integrity. Those bands would definitely be the godfathers of punkmetal, in my opinion. Other bands I'd call punkmetal would be bands as varied as Ringworm, Gehenna, His Hero Is Gone, Mind Eraser, Tragedy, Celtic Frost, Venom, Motorhead, Inepsy etc. I guess you get what I'm saying.
We touched the subject of your artwork a little bit already and coincidently the artwork was done by Jake Bannon, the singer for Converge, the mixing of your record has been done by Kurt Ballou, the guitarist for Converge, and you’ve toured with Converge and now, surprise surprise, you are doing a US release of "Into Oblivion" with Deathwish Inc. Can you kiss any more ass to get a deal with Deathwish Inc. or what? What’s the deal with that? Does Rise And Fall kiss any ass to get something done or don’t you all give a fuck?
Bjorn: In order to kiss even more ass, we're touring Europe in March with Doomriders, which is Nate from Converge's other band. We figured we might as well go all the way! Seriously though, we like to work, play and tour with people we respect and that know what they're doing, plus we're all into Converge so I guess that explains a lot. Deathwish is putting out "Into Oblivion" because they're really into the album and believe in us as a band - if they'd put out every band that kissed their ass they'd put out a few records every week I'm afraid. We've always done and will continue to do things our way... Kissing ass and sucking up to get ahead is NOT something we've ever done or will ever do.
On a more serious note now, I’m assuming you are pretty happy to get the Deathwish Inc. support. I know you have two US tours planned, can you tell something more about that? Why two already? And what’s the deal with touring Japan, I heard things about that too.
Bjorn: Well most of these things are only plans so far, but we're definitely doing a ten day East Coast tour at the end of April with Blacklisted and Guns Up! Siked as hell about that. After the summer we want to do a longer US tour as well as a Japanese tour. With Deathwish doing our record in the States and Alliance Trax doing it in Japan, it only makes sense to go over there and promote the record. I hope everything works out as planned because touring those places would be like a dream come true. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
“Hellmouth” also got a US release, on SA Mob Records, are you happy with how that worked out? Did you have any intentions to work together with them again for “Into Oblivion”? And do you have other foreign releases planned in order to get better tour support? I’m thinking about a Russian release or a Chinese release or something.
Bjorn: Yeah, we're definitely pleased with how SA Mob helped us out with the "Hellmouth" record. It's a small label with no real distribution or whatever, but EMS is an awesome dude, one of the nicest dudes I've ever met in hardcore actually and the fact that he took the risk to put out a record for a band that no one over there had heard of just because he was into it says a lot. He works hard for the label and is an all around genuine person, and actually, he might be doing the US vinyl for "Into Oblivion", that isn't sure yet though. No Russian or Chinese adventures yet, but we are talking to a sweet Brazilian label for a South American release so there ya go!
I remember walking into the studio when you had just recorded your demo and that has only been some three years ago and now here we are, again doing an interview, but so much more has happened to Rise And Fall in-between. And it seems as if the crazy ride isn’t over yet. Can you and the band still cope with the fact that you keep getting more and more attention? Do you think eventually you will be totally exhausted with the pace of things that you either will have to step back, break up or something like that? Are you afraid something like that could happen –perhaps sooner than you wish-?
Bjorn: I don't know honestly. Thing is, you only live once and all I want is to get the most out of what I have and what I love doing. So on one hand I'm really happy with how things have turned out for Rise And Fall, starting as project between friends with no real ambition or plans and growing into a hardworking band that tours and puts out records and does fairly well. On the other hand I'm never totally satisfied and always want more. Maybe because this band is one of the only things that truly matters to me and I put so much of myself into it, just like the other dudes in the band. So right now I think things will only get busier and I'm looking forward to that. I don't think we'll be exhausted anytime soon, it's not like we're going to tour 9 months out of 12 or anything. We want to go as far as we can, play as much as we can and spread the punkmetal plague... and when our time's up and we don't love what we're doing anymore then we'll have to step back or break up.
Your record starts with some cracking guitar amp noises followed by a few heavy slow notes before all hell breaks loose. Are both of those things tributes to Black Sabbath (Sabotage kicks off with resembling cracking and Black Sabbath the album starts with one of the heaviest riffs of all time before all hell breaks loose)?
Cedric: The beginning of the record is all about setting the right mood for what's about to come. We wanted to sound as live as possible on this record, so what better way to start it then to plug in your guitar? About the slow notes, they just feel right, they have to be there, it's hard to explain. As I said earlier, I stripped it down to what is really necessary.
Bjorn: Everything we do is a tribute to Black Sabbath.
Let’s talk songs titles and where you got inspiration for them. Let me know if what I assume is wrong:
"The Void": Black Sabbath’s "Into The Void".
Bjorn: YES.
"To Hell And Back": the opener of "Lucifuge".
Bjorn: No, I stole it from Venom. It's a Venom song.
"Lost Among The Lost": an island where a bunch of people survived a plane crash and get haunted by something mysterious.
Bjorn: No. Even though I am in love with Evangeline Lily.
Any other song titles you care to explain?
Bjorn: "Ruins" as a song and songtitle is kind of sequel to "As The City Burns" off "Hellmouth". "Stakes Is High" is the title of a De La Soul album... I'm not a big fan, but thought it sounded good. There's more but I don't want to give everything away.
Where did you record that crowd going mental at the beginning of the track Into Oblivion? Was that that one show Pit counted at least 20 people moshing during the break in Give And Take?
Bjorn: No, it was recorded at that one show on the same tour were we were forced to play at 7.15 and the doors opened at 7.10... Now, that was fun. In all seriousness though, for people that were wondering, we got that off Slayer's "Decade Of Aggression" live album.
What’s that dude saying in the beginning of “Lost Among The Lost”? Something about God? Where’s that sample from? Does it have to do with the fact that your drummer JP is a practising Catholic drumming for a devilish punkmetal band? Did he want to get some sort of praying as compen sation for all the evil on the record?
Bjorn: JP being a Catholic and Cedric being a Satanist definitely complicates things for us, but we manage. The sample on "Lost Among The Lost" is actually Danzig being interviewed on the infamous Danzig home video. It's the part where the interviewer asks him "Do you believe in God?" and then Danzig's like "Do I believe in God?" etcetera. Pure genius.
On different descriptions of Rise And Fall I see the same bands always popping up as influences, let’s have a little check-up on how far these influences are correct. Tell me where, when and what you listened to (of) the following bands and whether or not you feel as if those bands are an influence on Rise And Fall as a band:
Celtic Frost: Cedric: I listen to the first two records almost on a daily base. This band has redefined the RIFF. They know like no other how to write a REAL RIFF. Next to that they have the sickest guitar sound, it still doesn't sound dated. Let's not forget "Morbid Tales" dates back to 1985. Yes, that's one year prior to "Reign In Blood". Bjorn pays tribute to Tom G. Warrior’s "OEGH" in every song we write.
Motörhead: Cedric: We want to be as loud as Motörhead. Next to that we try to capture the raw drive that Motörhead possesses like no other in some of our songs. You just cannot deny Motörhead's legacy on heavy music.
Leeway: Cedric: We obviously took our name from this band. This is definitely one of my favourite New York hardcore bands. AJ Novello writes amazing riffs and songs that certainly have an influence on me. Although I prefer the Born To Expire record this band has kept on progressing through their other albums without watering down.
Neurosis: Cedric: Although a lot of bands try to imitate them no one gets near the sound they've been creating since the "Souls At Zero" record. Isis? No offence, but give me a fucking break. Neurosis can be loud or quiet but they got you by the throat ALL the time! That influence kinda infiltrated on “Stakes Is High”.
Ringworm: Cedric: This band, together with Integrity and the Cro-Mags is the foundation of our sound, our starting point if you will. "We are Gods if we are heartless. Drink his blood and piss on the bastard’s carcass."
Danzig: Cedric: The first four Danzig albums are the exception on the rule that no record is perfect. There is NOT one flaw in the first four records. I know it, Bjorn knows it and you'd better know it too. His music influences me in all my musical endeavours, no matter how far stretched that might seem.
Cro-Mags: Cedric: Pure genius. The second riff in Live In Sin is my personal ten seconds of Best Wishes-era-Cro-Mags-worship.
Entombed: Cedric: Yes. As a guitarist I cannot deny the influence the sound and music of Entombed has on me. They made me turn up the mids on my amp pretty bad. From the Nihilist demos to the newer stuff, we listen to it all.
Discharge: Cedric: A band I personally discovered way too late. The pounding drums, manic guitar and raging vocals is something I want to translate in a maybe more contemporary manner in Rise And Fall.
Dead Stop: Cedric: The mark that Dead Stop has left on the hardcore scene here is nothing short of amazing. Not only are they talented musicians but they showed everyone what the essence is of playing in a hardcore punk band. From releasing their own records to creating a huge manic following to introducing kids to bands that otherwise would be long forgotten. I'm certain this band has a huge influence on every hardcore-minded band around today. It will be weird to see them play their last show.
Integrity: Cedric: As mentioned a starting point and still a big influence on the Rise And Fall sound. Personally I got into hardcore in a time where every hardcore band was starting to sound like a third-rate Slayer rip-off. Integrity showed me you can wear your Slayer influences on your sleeve while still being a real hardcore band.
Black Sabbath: Cedric: This is the band where everything starts with for me. Tuning down your guitar in 1970, creating a wall of sound surrounded by a dark overtone while everyone is wearing flowers in their hair, now that's a statement. I will listen to the first six albums everywhere anytime.
Tragedy: Cedric: One of the more recent bands that has influenced me. They create this dark, original, dirty, raw sound that reminds you that between all the crap that we're exposed to there are still bands that capture a true hardcore punk feel. Seriously, the intensity and the power they possess is almost scary. Few bands can be this convincing.
Born From Pain: Cedric: This band shows that to get somewhere you just got to do it. A shitload of hard work has gotten them where they are today, Europe's biggest hardcore band. They definitely got their shit together.
When Rise And Fall just started out you played a bunch of cover songs, I remember an Icemen song, a Ringworm song and Leeway’s Rise And Fall. It’s been a while since you played any covers, are you planning on keeping it that way, or are you cooking some up?
Bjorn: We're into playing a cool cover song once in a while but since we switched drummers and worked on "Into Oblivion" for such a long time (writing songs, recording them etc.) we didn't really have the time to learn any new covers. However, we recently recorded Integrity's "Kingdom Of Heaven" for an Integrity tribute record so I think we'll play that a couple of times too live. I have a few other songs in mind that I'd like to cover but it's hard to get everyone to agree on what we should and shouldn't do.
What’s next for Rise And Fall? What will be the next thing you’ll be recording?
Bjorn: In 2006 we'll focus on touring and playing as much as possible so we'll see how that turns out. We just recorded that Integrity cover and there's talk of maybe recording some more songs later this year for a new release in one form or another. Nothing solid yet, so I can't really tell you more.
Do you have any idea how many times you had to answer to me on this question already: Any last words?
Bjorn: This would have to be the 3rd or 4th time, I think? Probably the 4th if I count the interview we did in Roeselare in '98 outside Ronald's infamous Salon Benefit show. As always, thanks for the interview and continued support. Stay punk.