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Interview With Ravage Reveals a Tour Filled With Deer and Fireballs

On August 21st I went to see the Boston traditional/thrash metal band Ravage perform at Dingbatz. Supposedly doors were at 7 and the show was supposed to start at 8. When I arrived with my friends, the only people at the venue were the bands playing. They were waiting to load in. after about an hour of waiting for someone to let us in and socializing with Ravage, I decided to interview them outside the venue. It turned out that it was a 9:30 show and 9pm doors and it wasn’t posted on the website, nor was anyone really informed until last minute. It was the first time I’ve ever experienced this at the venue. In the end the show was amazing and well worth the 3 hours I had to wait until the first band, Ravage, took the stage. Though the whole band was present during the interview, mostly the singer, Al, and the guitarist, Nick, answered questions. Lots of humor was present throughout the interview, which made it a lot of fun. I hope readers can get a few laughs out of it.

Zack: So how’s the tour been going?

Al: It could be better, could be worse, we could be dead.

Zack: Well are people showing up to the shows?

Al: People as in more than one person, you could say yeah.

Zack: Alright, that’s good. Any stories from the tour?

Al: Our van broke down between St. Louis and Kansas City so we were stuck in the middle of nowhere for 5 days. Most of the crazy stuff that’s happened has been getting stories from the crazy people we’ve met. So we haven’t witness any crazy stuff, except maybe a deer crossing the street a couple hours ago when we were around NJ.

Nick: More deer than people in NJ.

Al: I think we see more deer than fans at these shows [everyone laughs]. In Ohio we saw like three or four deer in the forest and then we saw a deer crossing in NJ.

Zack: Well you know Dethklok did fish. Maybe you should target deer [laughs all around]. So what’s the hardest thing about the road… other than the van breaking down?

Al: Finding a place to sleep that doesn’t have dog piss inside or out. The hotel we stayed in smelled like piss and then we stayed at a road stop one night, a truck stop, and Nick had this brilliant idea to camp out on the side where they had this grassy knoll we’re like ‘ok this looks good looks like a nice grassy field.’ They had sleeping bags but I didn’t, so I just slept on the grass with a blanket and pillow. We wake up in the morning walking around and brushing our teeth and stuff and we look up at this sign [that says], ‘Pet Area,’ [everyone laughs]. So finding a place to sleep is the most fun and disappointing part of the tour.

Zack: What were the best cities so far?

Nick: We haven’t really seen much and Ohio didn’t really offer much of a city.
Pete: Fort Wayne wasn’t that bad.
Al: Fort Wayne was the coolest show, but if we’re talking about as far as the city, St. Louis.
Howie: We saw the arch.

Zack: What about the best crowds?

Al: Best crowds so far was in Canton, Ohio surprisingly. We played with Mortifier and they brought their local crowd, which was like metal people. We actually got to see them and they made a little movie, like a horror movie, that they played over the bar, so we got to see that. That was the highlight of that.

Zack: You’ve been touring a lot of local scenes, rather than big venues. So what are the best scenes and support you’ve seen for bands?

Al: Fort Wayne, Indiana and Canton, Ohio so far. We played with Zephaniah and they brought their local crowd and we played with Mortifier and they brought their local crowd. The other shows we played, for instance Cleveland was a great show, none of the other support bands showed up. So of the four bands that were supposed to play, we were the only band that played.

Zack: Did people actually come out?

Al: There were seven people there. A college radio DJ was pushing the show so he got a few people to go and then there were two stragglers who were just hanging around who actually came.

Zack: Have you seen anything too crazy or deadly at any shows? Anything ridiculously stupid?

Nick: We saw a fire and chainsaw last night [band breaks out into laughter]. It was like a seven second grindcore band over ipod samples. They had chainsaws and bloody aprons and yeah…

Al: fire and blowtorches.

Nick: It was this band called Fuck Face.

Al: I’m in the other room, we were getting our stuff ready cause we were playing right after the next band and we see that they’ve got smoke machines going. They said there was a chainsaw, [but] I didn’t see a chainsaw. So I walk out and they’re wearing butchers aprons covered in blood and blood smeared on their face, but other than that they looked like a grindcore band. All of a sudden the song cues in the guy picks up a blowtorch…

Howie: He had a blowtorch and he had alcohol in his mouth.

Al: And he blew it right over me [everyone laughing]. I was totally unaware, the guy has a drink and then the guy picks up this blowtorch and fires this huge ball of flame towards me. They were blowing flames and this place is The Sterling Hotel, which is like 100 years old. The bartender was telling us that they insured the ceiling, it’s one of those wedding cake ceiling where it’s beautifully painted and 100 years old and this guy is like blowing fireballs. The fucking crash cymbal caught on fire and the blowtorch was still on fire and they’re walking around on stage and shit.

Howie: Yeah I thought he was going to set the drum set on fire cause he started spraying the cymbals.

Al: they had these two little blowtorches and he was drinking some kind of flammable stuff is that you use to blow fire out of an old water bottle. He was downing it too he was getting a whole mouth full and spit it all over the thing and the blowtorch was still on fire when he put it on the ground it was great man.

Zack: So how’d you get signed?

Al: We were on a German label before, a little German label called Karthago Records and they put out our last CD in 2005, but everybody hated that CD. Everybody hated everything about that CD. The production was really bad.

Zack: The demo was better than the album kinda thing.

Al: Yeah. That was a big nightmare. We sent them some of the new songs, and they were like “well I don’t know about these new songs” so we were like “really, they sound a hell of a lot better than ‘Spectral Rider’ so what are you talking about?’ and they were like ‘well we don’t know, we like some of the songs we don’t like other songs,’ so we started looking around for other labels, other underground European labels because nobody listens to metal in America. SO I sent out this EP, a 6 song EP, to everybody trying to get interest from an underground European label, but a lot of those are closing up. We actually got an offer from Sentinel Steel, which used to be from NJ, but now I think they’re not. So we were probably going to go with them and then Dennis form sentinel steel said, ‘oh well I can’t afford to put out any releases this year.’ And then we’d have to wait another six months so we were pretty much just going to put it out ourselves. I was looking into advertising some stuff getting prepared to put it out ourselves. We were about a month from putting it out and metal blade just contacted us and said they wanted to bring it out so I said okay. So it took another six months to put it out since we had to wait for them, but it’s better than nothing.

Zack: So has the signing helped with gaining fans? Did they help you with the tour or was that just put together by the band?

Al: well it was only released on Tuesday and the two shows immediately after the release were cancelled, so last night was the only post release show. It didn’t really help much last night, but there was one guy who had the CD.

Zack: Well have they helped with promoting the tour?

Nick: We’re on the Metal Blade newsletter and you can find the tour through the Metal Blade site. Actually the Metal Blade Europe site is actually better for us, we have banners all over that site.

Al: Well at this point they’re doing everything that we’ve expected of them. They put it in the stores, now we’re just trying to get people to [buy it]. This kind of metal has been so beaten down in the last 20 years in America, so we’ll take what we can get.

Zack: Obviously financially it’s been a big help.

Al: We wouldn’t have been able to do the tour without them, without the advance we got for the CD.

Zack: Yeah that’s what I was thinking, because you got signed and then you got this huge tour.

Al: If we had not had the CD ready to put out, if we had not spent all the money on it already. We actually spent the money on the advance to pay off our debt and finance the tour so we’ll see how far that gets.

Zack: So how’s your local scene in Boston?

Al: Ah it’s kinda like this.

Zack: Alright. Cause I know a bunch of bands from the Boston scene.

Al: You know it’s the same 80 people who come to a show in the Boston scene on a good night. The whole Worcester and western mass scene is totally different form the Boston scene; we have nothing to do with those bands. There’s a lot of metalcore out there and I think in the Boston scene it’s more of a college town and more poppy and underground death metal and stuff.

Zack: Oh well at least there’s some metal.

Howie: Most of the good national metal acts play in the Worcester area, about 40 minutes away, but now we have our very own house of blues where I guess some metal blade bands have shown up.

Zack: Have you guys opened for any of the bands that come around?

Howie: No

Zack: So it sucks pretty much.

Al: Yeah.

Zack: It still is a scene [laughs]. What do you think about file sharing?

Al: File sharing?

Zack: Is it the devil? What you think man.

Nick: Like torrents? What are those things

Zack: Well whatever you use.

Howie: They’re awesome… I… think.

Al: Well even within the band there are different opinions on how stuff should go. At this point you can’t stop somebody from taking your whole album and ripping it online and selling it for 15 cents at some Russian website. I really don’t know. I think it’s done the damage it’s going to do at this point. If people want to buy a CD they’re gonna buy a CD, if not, they’re not. All the people who are going to steal music are going to steal music, so now there’s a question of is there going to be a format change. Are we going to have vinyl or something else along with the download, but I’m not afraid of it we haven’t made money off of music anyway [laughs]. That’s something the labels are going to have to shake out. I have no problem with going back to the vinyl format because that’s the preferred format for us.

Zack: Yeah vinyl sounds awesome. What they should do is make one vinyl master, rip it to FLAC or some lossless format.

Howie: Well this band Ex Mortis, they released the vinyl and gave you a CD key to download it for free off the internet. That’s something cool because I’m already annoyed at CDs, but I still like the booklet and the artwork. So if they could go back to something like vinyl where it’s more of a collector thing I’d gladly pay like 20 bucks for that. And then get some lossless quality download from itunes or amazon or something. So I think they just need to change or otherwise they’re just going to keep getting ripped off. The publishers aren’t going to suffer, it’s just the bands that’ll suffer.

Al: Or if it’s a Cd you gotta have to have a DVD with it or something worth it just to buy it.

Zack: Yeah of course.

Howie: Then you have to make the DVD actually worth buying [laughs] like a live thing or something like that.

Zack: Do you think file sharing has helped expand your fan base at all?

Nick: I didn’t know our files are getting shared [everyone laughs].

Zack: But they are.

Nick: I hope they are [everyone laughs again].

Zack: Yeah I did a search the other day.

Al: That’s awesome [more laugher]. The guy at the last show who bought the CD said he downloaded it before it came out.

Howie: That’s bullshit [even more laughter].

Al: Supposedly Metal Blade has a thing where they water mark it so they know who is stealing it.

Nick: Like this CD contains viruses do not… [laughter interrupts him]

Al: I guess we’re not afraid of it, but let’s see where it goes.

Zack: What has helped you most so far in your musical career, Connections to people, your talent, or sheer persistence?

[Side conversations about when someone was gonna let us into the venue, since no one had shown up for the venue yet]

Al: Well the persistence has kept us here. The persistence has kept us around a lot longer than all the local bands that we had played with who are now broken up. So if you are not persistent, then you are not gonna stick around to get somewhere. I think we’ve always felt like we had something good as far as the songs, so it was only a matter of us getting good enough to present them the way we want to present them and get someone to produce it the way we want this to sound. Also for the scene, the whole thrash metal revival thing, which helped broke a little ice on us getting signed. So it’s definitely been persistence, quality of song writing has kept me interested.

Nick: They’re songs we like to play regardless of them being seven years old.

Zack: That’s important.

Al: As far as connections the internet…

Zack: Internet connection there’s you go, that’s an important connection [laughter].

Al: I don’t know how things went in the 80s with tape trading and stuff, but I think people know of us just because of the internet. We never would have gotten the European connection if not for the internet.

Zack: What’s your musical background like as far as formal training?

Al: As far as music goes, my parents always encouraged us to do art and music. I started singing when I was a little kid in choir. Actually a semi-professional choir. And then my voice changed and I discovered metal at the same time. I wanted to be a drummer so my parents got me a drum set when I was 12 years old and that’s when we kinda started the band. I wanted to start it as a drummer, but I couldn’t get musicians and stuff. Then I was sorta forced into the singing thing because we could never find a singer, so I started to develop that and relearn how to sing. I’ve dabbled in instruments, but mostly drumming and singing.

Nick: In middle school I played french horn and saxophone. Eventually when I was 14 my mother decided to get a guitar and she couldn’t do it. So I picked it up and started doing it.

Zack: She was like here you take this. [laughs]

Nick: Yeah. My first guitar stuff I was really obsessed with was like Aerosmith and Green Day and Alice in Chains. Then the late 90s got a bit confusing with all the bullshit that was on the airwaves, but there was always Randy Rhodes and Metallica. I was living at Virginia at the time, but once I moved up to Boston I found the internet and discovered Europe’s hotbed of metal. For me Kai Hansen of Gamma Ray and Helloween is my main [influence]. I never really took lessons and I’ve been using youtube a lot now for instructional use. I also look up to Paul Gilbert as my guitar god.

Zack: This one’s for you Al, in writing lyrics, what are your influences, what’s your writing style and how do you get ideas?

Al: I’m writing little stuff all the time, like pseudo poetry and prose and crap. But as far as lyrics to our songs, a lot of it comes from the music. These guys will hand me a demo or riffs of stuff they’ve pretty much put together into a song and I’ll try to see what that kind of evokes from my mind. As far as a story or an idea of what the music is driving towards, what it sounds like. Then I’ll take that and try to come up with a fantasy story for that or horror story, something cool and nerdy. It may be inspired by comics or…

Zack: Video games?

Al: Yeah maybe video games or a horror movie or something out there and crazy. Then I’ll take my feelings about what’s going on in the world or my life or a crappy gig we played and try to inject it into that to give it more meaning. It’s basically a mix of fantasy and reality and greatness.

Zack: How about the music?

Nick: Like he said, Eli and I have the songs down. I don’t know, for me I don’t have much emotional attachment to the music. I just play music to have fun. To me I’ve been totally spoiled by the computer age where I just jack my guitar in and go into some computer editing program and just play like crazy for hours on end and eventually something comes out of it. Then if it’s a full song that’s great, but my favorite thing is to bring the songs to the band and we actually sit on it for two years and then we mold it into what we’ve actually been playing. And howie’s been in a couple of years so we got more influences coming in, so I like the direction it’s going in getting the different styles of metal finally is good.

Zack: So what’s the coolest musician or band that you’ve met along your journey, including locals?

Al: I’d say it was cool to finally meet Lizzie Borden. We only met him for two seconds, but he put on an awesome show. It was crazy to meet him because we didn’t think we’d actually see him and it was on this reunion tour in 2002. He put on this great show and we were like the only people in the audience, so it was amazing. It was in this tiny underground club in Massachusetts. Alex Skolnick as far as coolest people.

Nick: We’ve run into him about three times. The first two were with a jazz trio and he was really cool to talk to and hang out. I guess more on today’s underground, we threw a little show in Mass. and Ex Mortis and Bounded By Blood played and they were hanging around and they were cool as hell.

Zack: So what does the future hold for you guys?

Al: More shows like this.

Zack: Well after the tour.

Al: Well we’re touring for a few months, we made this crazy long tour in the United States. If we survive that, we’re coming home, we’re gonna work on new songs, or the two year old demos we have, and whatever new stuff few can mash together with that. We’ll see how the album did, see if it sold at all in Europe or overseas Japan and see if we can get a tour in Europe next year because that’s been our ultimate goal: to get a tour in Europe. If we can do that, that’s what we want to do. We have some options as far as the next record can go, we’ll see where that goes. We’d like to make more albums, it’s just a matter of being picked up for more by Metal Blade.

Zack: Is the contract with Metal Blade for only one album?

Al: No, it’s a multi-album deal, but with the state of the record industry: they’re dropping bands all the time. Ultimately you have to have some success to continue on, so we’ll see if we can put out an album with them. I’d like to put out an album either way, [but] it’s just a matter of getting the money together for that if we get dropped. As far as what we want to do, we want to get to Europe next or Japan or any other place overseas that is cool to play and after that make an album.

Nick: We’ll see what the future holds.

Zack: Good plan and keep playing. So how do you make this money? Do you have day jobs? [laughs] What do you do when you aren’t playing music?

Howie: You mean what we did? [band laughs]

Al: Almost everybody had a job before we started this, so everybody quit for the tour.

Zack: Yeah not like you could say, “I’m going on a two month vacation and I want that paid.” [everyone laughs].

Al: Yeah, pretty much, so we don’t know what the future will hold, but we felt that we had to try it and see. With the state of the economy right now if you have a job it’s really crappy. Nobody threw away a career. Nobody had a job that they’d thought they’d have for 20 years. We’ll come back and try to get jobs and see if we can survive financially after this or see if we can get another tour opportunity.

Zack: That’ll be good. Good luck with the future. Any last words?

Al: Go buy the album! We need to eat! [everybody laughs] We need food goddamn it!

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