Interview With Devin Townsend Band Turned Terror Syndrome Drummer Ryan VP
The Internet has been an obnoxiously attractive platform for the success of many metal bands over the last few years. My Space, last.fm and YouTube have all helped shape what is widely known as the New Media Explosion, lending itself in large part to the dreadful emo-rock phenomenon. Where MySpace is concerned, several metal and hard rock bands writhe for a spot at the top of the most played charts, yet few have managed to actually impress anything new upon the genre. Terror Syndrome have, against all odds, broken through in only a few short months. The hype started in April of this year with some raw mixed Mp3s and quickly evolved into five full album-ready songs. After much growth and cohesion, Terror Syndrome average hundreds of hits per day and are prepared to release the ultimate metal album in the form of Stupidity For All…At least according to Devin Townsend drummer and Terror Syndrome founder, Ryan “RVP” Van Poederooyen.
“I love music and I love music that makes me go, ‘WOW, that sounds fucking awesome!’ That's the approach I took with Terror Syndrome, “he says. “ I wrote a bunch of songs that I thought sounded cool. I wrote my version of the ultimate Metal album. It's my vision and my opinion, it doesn't mean that everyone out there will like it but the main thing is that it's honest and true.”
With the help of Shaun Thingvold, who has produced and mixed several artists (from Strapping Young Lad and Lamb of God, to Fear Factory and Paradise Lost), RVP has been able to take his budding solo project and turn it into a demo with intense depth and range. When I asked him what the experience was like, Ryan assured me this was the least challenging aspect of getting the album in the can. “I've done quite a few records with Shaun…from the DTB [Devin Townsend Band], to Drumming Session work to Terror Syndrome. So when we came in to do the record with Shaun, it was like another day at the office with a good friend. He's an excellent engineer and knows how to get any sound you want. From a Producing point of view he was very easy to work with as well, I'm pretty picky when it comes to my producing approach and on this record I really put Shaun to work with all my production ideas. Everything turned out awesome and Shaun completely understood my approach to producing, which really made things flow nice and easy during the recording process. We've been working hard on this record for nearly a year now. We've gone back and re-recorded some vocals, guitars and little things here and there, we've done some pre-mixes for mixing and still need to finish them and the list goes on. It's been a long and picky process but the end result will be awesome, I promise you that.”
Comprised of three DTB members, Terror Syndrome delivers an established musicianship and deep history. RVP clarifies,” It’s important to know that Terror Syndrome started out as my solo project and then turned into a band as the album evolved, so there wasn't much collaboration in the musical or vocal parts of the album at all,” he continues. “I wrote the whole album musically except for the two instrumentals which Dave Young [Devin Townsend Band] co-wrote with me, and ‘Motionless’ which I co-wrote with my brother Jay [Van Poederooyen] who is an amazing engineer/producer and songwriter. Vocally, I'm not a singer, neither are the other guys in the band so we just let Denton [Bramley] do his thing and I produced the vocals once he had some solid melodies for every song. Getting back to the instrumentals where there was collaboration.... Either Dave or myself would come to rehearsal with an idea for the song and jam it out from there. Sometimes we'd write stuff on the fly too. It all came down to what worked the best for the song, no egos, just a hunger to write the best song we could together. I love the instrumentals and Dave's ideas are a large part of both the songs.”
Speaking of Denton, RVP reflects on their ten year relationship,” He was the original singer for a band I started here in Vancouver called God Awakens Petrified. When we parted ways in GAP, Denton and I always said we would do something again, something big. Terror Syndrome, many years later, is that big thing.”
So what is this ‘thing’ that Denton does so well? Ryan concedes,” I had written the whole TS album instrumentally and was talking to Denton on the phone one night about how the vocal end of things weren’t working out for me at the time. He told me to email him a song so he could lay something down for me. He said, ‘I'll lay down the best vocals you'll ever hear for this song’ being as cocky as Denton is! I remember rehearsing with [Terror Syndrome] that night and when rehearsal was done a couple hours later, Denton had already emailed me all the melodies for the song. The band listened to it and was blown away from the first listen. That song is now titled ‘When God Was Sober’. The crazy thing about that song is that we barely changed a thing with his vocal melodies/arrangements from the Demo to the finished product. I knew from that point that the “big” thing Denton and I talked about for years was ready to be unleashed.”
Bramley left his punk band The Miserables in April of this year after some consideration into the likely direction Terror Syndrome was taking. The opportunity afforded Terror Syndrome’s new singer immediate immersion into the writing process. “He [Denton] is an amazing lyricist. I did write lyrics for one whole song titled ‘Motionless’ and contributed lyrics to a few other songs with Denton. My lyricism is largely influenced by Mike Patton [Mr. Bungle, Faith No More]. Denton's a big Mike Patton fan as well. So whenever Denton and I contributed lyrics for the same song, it worked out really well and made sense,” comments Ryan.
Drawing upon his own ambitions and talents, and those of close friends, is certainly not the only thing RVP has going for him. He has years of effort under his belt with Devin Townsend, who got his big start with guitar legend Steve Vai, and has built Terror Syndrome with solid support from several Metal Heavyweights such as Alex Skolnick [Testament], Trevor Dunn [Mr.Bungle, Fantomas], Byron Stroud [Fear Factory, Strapping Young Lad] and Christofer Malmstrom [Darkane]. “I can't say enough good things about Devin. He truly is a musical genius, in my opinion and a good friend. I've learned so many things from the guy from writing songs, to producing material to being the best you can be at your instrument.... no limitations. Dev and I have a great relationship and the mutual respect is there, which is awesome. As far as his contribution to the Terror Syndrome album... it was amazing! The song he did definitely sticks out and you'll know its Devin. It's an instrumental song with [Grammy Nominated] Michael Manring on Bass. It's a really crazy sounding song and it lends a whole new sound to the record, so it's not all 'metal in your face' the whole way through. The same goes for all the other artists who had guest appearances on the record. All these guys did amazing work and they all lent their unique styles of playing to the music, which definitely made the album more diverse.”
Such good company doesn’t come as a surprise when one hails from Vancouver. That is not to say Terror Syndrome subscribe to a particular scene, in North America or otherwise. As Ryan explains, “I don't think Vancouver has a special sound in the Metal scene. You could say that Nickelback, Default and Theory of a Deadman have created a special sound for Vancouver in the Rock Genre but as far as metal goes, Strapping Young Lad was by far the biggest Metal band to come out of Vancouver. Three Inches of Blood are starting to do very well for themselves as well but even those two bands don't share a 'special sound'…Zimmers Hole and Savanah [Edmonton, AB, Canada]…I think both those bands have some really cool sounds going at the moment and are definitely worth checking out.“
Beyond the vast northern reaches of B.C., Terror Syndrome are well traveled, having been on the road with Testament, Opeth, and Megadeth. Being a huge fan of Opeth myself, I just had to ask what his favorite experience was. “I'd have to say that Opeth was probably the coolest band. I love their music and when we (DTB) toured with them it was awesome. I had a ton of great memories from that tour and they are really cool guys as well.” Unfortunately, TS have no immediate plans for a tour to support Stupidity For All. “That will be decided when we sign with the right label or if we decide to release it independently. We are working on playing some shows pretty soon and maybe getting on a couple tours with signed acts if all goes as planned. We're in the middle of talking to booking agents and seeing what is viable for us at the moment.”
Terror Syndrome remains an as-yet-to-be-signed band on par with Euro chart toppers In Flames and American newcomers Devil Driver. The band’s slow approach to the biz is unspoken advice that should be well heeded by artists in a similar position.” We simply are looking for a label that will support us and make us some what of a priority. We don't want to be another signed band that gets thrown a couple bucks to make a budget album, thrown on a couple tours and then forgotten about. We want a label to tour and market the hell out of us so we can be exposed to the masses. We have a very professional album pretty much in the can, it just needs to be professionally mixed and mastered, then we're good to go with an amazing sounding record. If we can find this kind of support in a label, I know both the label and Terror Syndrome will benefit from it. The big local radio station is behind us, which is played all over BC. The fan support is awesome and we really appreciate it. As far as keeping our fan base up.... I feel real confident that it's only going to naturally get bigger. People are loving the music and we're letting them know by returning their emails or their messages to us on MySpace. I think just keeping in touch with our fans daily maintains the hype and relationship. There's a mutual respect between our fans and us. I think it's important to show appreciation to these people everyday, to show we love their support and enthusiasm; in return they spread the word to all their friends. Right now the word is spreading rapidly and I really don't see it slowing down anytime soon. With the right label marketing us, the potential for a huge fan base worldwide is extremely realistic.”
You can keep tabs on Terror Syndrome on their MySpace page, and soon to open domain which boasts the design talents of Geoffrey Rousselot [Deep Space Design], who will also be designing the cover art and CD package. Selected tracks from Stupidity For All can be heard at www.terrorsyndrome.com.
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