Rose Funeral Vocalist/Guitarist Ryan Gardner Discusses "Gates Of Punishment"
If any band has gotten an unfair rap over the last few years, Rose Funeral would be at the top of the list. Maligned and tormented for the last album, “The Resting Sonata,” the deathcore act went through a well-publicized “Uno” incident and a line-up that revolved through members almost every month.
The death metal crowd turned their noses up at them, but the band is fighting for their attention with “Gates Of Punishment.” Guitar solos, symphonic ambience, and better incorporation of breakdowns may give the band the ability to appeal to both the deathcore and death metal audiences for the first time. I had the chance to speak to vocalist/guitarist Ryan Gardner about all the criticism Rose Funeral has gotten, pleasing the metal community, and taking over vocal duties for the band.
The band is releasing their third album, “Gates Of Punishment.” In your mind, what makes this album stand out from the past two?
Ryan: Honestly, since we got our new guitar player Kevin (Snook), it’s definitely a step up. He has more of the soloing and the technical support for this album. The last album, we had a shorter time frame to write. This album, we took a long break, and we had all year to write. It was a better thought process. It just hits harder. We stepped up in the maturity, the playability, the technicality, and I think we did a pretty good job with that.
Did you always want Rose Funeral to sound like they do on this album or did it just come over a period of time?
Ryan: I think when we first started, we wanted to be more advanced than what we could play. As we practiced and kept sticking with what we do, we’re finally at the point where this is what I want to sound like. Even for the future, I still want to become more technical and show off a lot of that technicality. I’m pretty happy with the sound, but I’m also excited to see where it goes from here.
How did you decide to take over the vocal duties for the band?
Ryan: Actually, I did a year’s run on vocals when we put out our EP after “Crucify. Kill. Rot.” It went really well. I had a great time doing the vocals. The kids seemed to like it. Then, once I switched back to guitar, we got Timmy (Tim Russel). That was awesome, doing “The Resting Sonata.” He had to go because he had work and it took over his life. So I thought, ‘You know, instead of finding another singer and starting all over again, I’m just going to have to put the guitar down and start on vocals again.’ I think it’s easier to do that instead of saying, ‘Oh, here’s a new singer and a total new sound.’ I think the kids definitely accept it better.
Do you think your voice fits better with the band than Tim’s did?
Ryan: That’s a tough question. I know if Tim sang on this album, he would pattern it completely differently than me. His style was his and same with me. I’m patterning it my style. I can’t really say because I haven’t done a test run with Tim on any of the songs. I’m more of a low-to-mid range guy. I did do highs on the album, because Rose Funeral has always had highs. My style is more low-to-mid. This album is more brutal death metal. It does have melodies and melodic parts for the highs, but I think there’s more lows and mids on this album.
With a year to write this stuff, did you find the songs came to you a lot easier or did you guys use that time wisely to build the sound heard on “Gates Of Punishment”?
Ryan: We did use the time to our advantage, but I always finding myself when I’m not on tour, I’m recording and doing solo projects. For that, I can say, ‘You know what? I’m going to take some of my solo stuff, bring it to the table for Rose Funeral, and recreate it with my other guys.’ Like I said, just maturating and the playability, we stepped it up.
Tell me about some of the solo stuff that you do on the side.
Ryan: I have a lot of different things, actually. I have a death metal project and then I have a straight ambient/atmospheric/go-to-sleep kind of project. I have a pop-punk band with my guitar player from Rose Funeral. I like to balance it out. If I listened to straight death metal, I’d go crazy. If I listened to straight pop-punk, I would go crazy. I like to mix it up. I like to record everything here and there and keep the balance and keep my ideas flowing.
With all those different projects you have going at once, when it comes to having to sit down and write songs for Rose Funeral, did you have to be in a certain mood or mindset that’s different than the other projects?
Ryan: I bounce back and forth. What I’ll do is I’ll get some ideas together, I’ll piece them together. I’ll go on my computer. I’ll write a riff down. I’ll record it. I’ll go back to it and I’ll think on it. Instead of sitting there and go, ‘Oh, here’s a part and here’s a part,’ and just put it together, I’ll record it and see what I can do to make it better. If that doesn’t work, I’ll just jump over to another project. Do some ambient stuff, do some pop-punk stuff, and put down the guitar. The ideas will start flowing again for Rose Funeral.
Do you ever find that some of your ideas from the different projects mesh together?
Ryan: Yeah, I started thinking that with my one solo project, Buried Beneath. That was kind of more in-your-face death metal and that’s what I started to write for Rose Funeral. I was like, ‘Eh. I have to stop doing my solo death metal project because it’s going to turn into Rose Funeral.’ It would be the exact same thing. I kind of let up on my solo death metal project. I still jam around with it, but I do find my ideas for my other projects drifting into Rose Funeral, which isn’t bad.
Do you find that you prefer one project over the other, or do you try to give them all equal time?
Ryan: I do have some kids that say they like it better, but then again, with the new stuff coming out, it’s going to be...it does mesh together and start to sound the same. I get in that mindset where once the album’s out and I start doing my projects, I’m like, ‘Oh, I can do something heavier.’ Then I feel bad because Rose Funeral is my baby and I don’t want to do that. Other kids are like, ‘Oh, this stuff is so much better than Rose Funeral.’ I’m like, ‘Shit, I want you to like Rose Funeral,’ so I want to lay low on that.
Some may say the band has gotten a very unfair amount of criticism over the years. For example, you guys did the Nile tour in 2010 and people didn’t know why you were on that tour. Are you at a point now where you feel people are going to think about the band however they want to or do you think the band still have the capability to bring back some of those people that didn’t like the band earlier on?
Ryan: With the new members I have, it’s a totally different show. The people that did criticize us being on the Nile tour, the Vader tour and the Decrepit Birth tour, they are the straight death metalheads. They like the solos, but they don’t like the breakdowns. We incorporated both on the new album, so we’re trying to change people’s perspective on us.
With me being on vocals - I don’t want to sit here and bash Timmy - but Timmy was young and he didn’t really talk to the crowd as much as I would like him to. He could talk, but he was distant from them and didn’t really make the connection. That’s what I’m trying to do. I want to make a connection with these people that may not liked us in the past, and I want them to see that we’re cool dudes and we respect the death metal, the deathcore, the thrash; we love it all. We want them to have a good time and if they don’t like us, that’s cool. We appreciate them coming out and at least standing there watching. I can’t change their minds and that’s the tough part, but at least I’m going to have fun trying to talk to people and trying to change their minds somewhat.
Since you’re now the singer and playing guitar as well, was it easier for you to do the duel role? Did it take you a while to get used to finding that stage presence you need as a frontman?
Ryan: Well, I wanted to do both and wanted to keep it a four-piece, but then again, I’m all about some good stage shit. I feel if I’m singing and playing guitar, I’m going to be standing there, and then I got to talk to the crowd. I love bands that pull off four pieces, but we have the breakdowns to get the kids hyped. We have the solos to get the death metal people hyped.
So I actually said that we need a fifth member, we need another guitar player. So we actually have a fifth guy working with us right now to be our fifth member. I wanted to do it and I think it’s awesome and I think it’s a really cool thing. There’s not a lot of deathcore bands that do four pieces with singing and playing. It would be original, I thought, but it wouldn’t be hyped up to our fans. I want to run around on stage. I want to have fun and go crazy. I think it’s best if we do it as a five-piece.
You just used the deathcore tag on yourself. Does that tag bother you much?
Ryan: Not really. It’s the people out there all over the Internet that fight. ‘Death metal is better than deathcore,’ ‘deathcore is better than death metal.’ We do play death metal, we play black metal as well, and hardcore because we have breakdowns. It’s what we like and a lot of kids like it. Some people hate it. I don’t want to conform to what everybody likes, because that would suck. I just like doing what we do. I don’t mind being called deathcore. That’s fits us the best. I don’t want to say we’re straight death metal; I don’t want to say we’re straight hardcore or straight black metal. I would say we’re deathcore. It doesn’t bother me.
Do you find that there will come a point, even with bringing in the solos to appease the death metal crowd and the breakdowns to keep the kids coming, where it will just be too much to try to please everybody?
Ryan: I don’t think so, just because we try to write as comfortable as possible. I don’t want to make it so jumbled, but I do want to have a certain pattern to our songs that you can listen to and it flows. We want everything to flow. I think with adding the solos, it’s a nice touch. I can listen to deathcore bands, but I can’t just listen to straight breakdowns over and over, but that’s just my opinion. I do like old-school metal with the solos and I love thrash and I love the melodic touch.
I think on this album, we’re not just doing shred solos and popping them here and there. We do all types. We do a black metal-type solos; we even do rock n’ roll solos. We’re trying to up the ante with this band, instead of getting a generic sound. We definitely don’t want that. We did mess around here and there with different types of solos and it came out pretty good. It blended really well. For the future writing process, we can just take that and run with it and make something even better.
The album has a few guest musicians involved. Can you briefly explain their involvement in the album?
Ryan: We had Steve Tucker of Morbid Angel on the album. It was kind of cool because he’s buddies with the guy that we went into the studio in Cincinnati, Joe the owner. I went down there, and one of the band’s he was recording, Steve was there. I thought, ‘This is crazy. Steve Tucker.’ We just became really good friends and I was like, ‘Hey man, how about laying down some vocals on the CD?’ He said sure and he blew threw it. The guy does amazing vocals and he doesn’t even have to warm up. It was like, ‘Holy crap man.’ It was cool, growing up listening to Morbid Angel, and to have Steve Tucker of Morbid Angel a part of something was a really good feeling.
Kate Alexander was also a friend of Joe’s and she sang some pretty melodic stuff. We had just the right song for female vocals and she has a killer voice. I wanted to throw some operatic vocals on a death metal album. I really like that black metal, Cradle of Filth-type sound. I thought it was really cool. I wanted to throw a loop to our fans, like ‘Hey, check it out. Something new.’ You don’t really hear it that much in the deathcore scene, and we put it on there and it worked out really great.
The album also has more of a symphonic lean to it with “Beyond The Entombed” and the title track. Did you always want to bring that into the band?
Ryan: Oh yeah. I’ve always had an obsession with bands like At The Gates and all the harmonies; I love that stuff. We did bring in the symphony parts because it’s a good build-up. I see a lot more bands doing it nowadays with the symphony and symphonic stuff, but I don’t see it in our genre. It’s more in the poppy band stuff, with the breakdowns and whatever that stuff is. I’m not bashing it, but that’s the stuff I hear it in. I wanted to incorporate it on this album. We do bounce back and forth, like you’re hear a difference between our straight death metal songs and our more melodic black metal songs. We mix it up and we do blend it well. I think the symphonic stuff is a nice touch on this album.
What song on “Gates of Punishment” best expresses where Rose Funeral is at now from both a songwriting and musical perspective?
Ryan: If I would pick one song, I would probably have to say “Arise Infernal Existence.” That song is different. It hits off real death metal, then we go into a really pretty ambient part, and goes into a little -core. We have a rock n’ roll solo on there. It’s kind of an experimental song. We stayed on the path of Rose Funeral, but it definitely stands out more than the rest of the songs on the CD. I think kids will really like that song.
Could you see future albums being more experimental like that song?
Ryan: We’re going to see how that one goes and see what kids think. If they do like that song, then we’re going to take elements from that and put that into the future writing process. I’ve always really liked the atmospheric/ambient sound and we put that in that track “Arise Infernal Existence.” It came out really cool. It mixes well and I kind of want to put it in the next stuff, the next album we write. I think it’s pretty original.
Does the band have any definitive touring plans for the rest of the year?
Ryan: I got word that we might head out here on November 11-December 4 with Full Blown Chaos and Ringworm. We also have a possible tour in January with Molotov Solution, but everything is in the works. We do have definite tour plans and we’ll be gone by November. We’ll definitely be out on the road this November, whether it’s with or without the bands mentioned.
If you could tour with one band, past or present, who would it be and why?
Ryan: I’ll give you two answers. If I was going to say a past tour, it would be At The Gates. I love that band. They are very influential to me. For a band nowadays, I would love to tour with Fleshgod Apocalypse. I think those guys have a killer sound and hopefully, we can get on the road with them someday.
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