- Hello, Ross! You've had a show at Neurotic Deathfest recently, where you had to perform as a trio, due to Bill's absence. How was it? Was it hard for you to play without the lead-guitar?
- We had a great time at this year’s Neurotic Deathfest despite the bad news that it is going to be the final edition of the fest. It is a great fest and we have been fortunate to have been invited by Ruud to play the fest on four different occasions, so it is sad that he won’t be continuing because each time was better than the last for us. This time around we had to play as a three piece as you mentioned due to the fact that Bill had a family emergency that came up the day we were flying out, so there was no way we could have seen that coming. We did the best we could as a three piece. We toured on the Failures for Gods album as a three piece, so although it wasn’t the most ideal situation, we were well rehearsed and comfortable up there despite the fact that we were down a guitar. I think we made it work fine, and Bill is our rhythm guitar and doesn’t play any leads, but I think his absence was most obvious during Bob’s solos where the rhythm guitar was gone, but we managed and actually had some really great feedback on the performance.
- Let's talk a bit about your music. "Kingdom of Conspiracy", was there any key-moment that inspired you to create that album? How do you usually start writing the new songs?
- Bob writes all the music for Immolation. He has since the beginning, so there is no real “key-moment” that serves as a catalyst for the inspiration; it’s more of an “ok, it’s time to get a new record done” moment, hahaha. We always strive to make each new record stronger, darker and more intense than the last, but at the end of the day, we try not to outdo ourselves, we just try to write something we are happy with and something we can be proud to include with the rest of our releases. Lyrically, the inspiration always comes from life, from looking very critically at the world and what’s going on around us. From dissecting mankind and all its short comings, the inspiration is really endless; it’s just all about how it’s articulated in the songs.
- How does it happen that all your albums sound so holistically? Starting from the first song and till the end it flows in the same breath. Do you have any special approach for choosing the songs and their place in the playlist?
- There really isn’t any magic to that. The trick is that the songs aren’t written over a long span of time; they all actually come together in a short time period, maybe a few months, so all the songs sound like they belong together because they all come from the same headspace. If we wrote songs over a period of a year or two, then I think things may start sounding like there is less continuity. Luckily for us the songs usually come together quickly once we get into that mode, everybody goes into overdrive when it comes to rehearsing and making sure we listen to everything with a critical ear. Our biggest decision when the songs are finally done is the track listing. Putting the songs in the proper order on the album is extremely important, so this is what we usually bend our minds with after the hard part is done. Finding the right balance so that the album flows smoothly and there are no lulls is critical, but the songs usually dictate this, we just have to listen to them over and over and then it usually starts to make sense, and actually we start feeling this once we start hearing the mixes and we are hearing the songs finished for the first time.
- That was your first time when you worked together with Ola Englund. What can you say about this experience? Being in charge of album's engineering, what was Ola's main impact on the final cut?
- Actually the album was tracked and recorded in Millbrook, NY with our longtime friend and producer Paul Orofino, and once again we had Zack Ohren handle all the mix and mastering duties. During the mixing, Zack mentioned to us he wanted to use Ola to re-amp the guitars to see if he could get a better tone than what we had on tape already, which is pretty common these days, so we trusted his judgment and Ola was hired to do the guitar re-amping. We were very happy with the sound he got for us and decided we wanted to use this sound for the album, so it really worked out well for us. I think he was able to get us a heavier guitar sound that worked perfect with the songs and the vibe of the album.
- While composing new tracks, how do you decide on the quality of your own music? What are your criteria for a good Immolation song? What steps do you follow in order to create a perfect track for your album?
- Again, there is no real method other than feeling and being comfortable with knowing our sound and style and knowing what we want and how to achieve that goal. My main thing is to make sure things don’t sound like anything else out there or sound like anything we’ve done in the past. Having a blatant rip off of someone else’s music or our own is something we try really hard not to do. It has happened a few times in the past, and we changed the parts or deleted them from the song before we got into the studio. At this point in the game, we know what Immolation means to us and to our fans, and we know what we can deliver to our fans and certainly what we absolutely cannot deliver to our fans, so this helps the big picture and it helps us to weed out the material that is just not strong enough or just doesn’t belong on an Immolation record.
- It's, probably, won't be the easiest task, but could you select your 3 favorite Immolation songs? And why are they so special for you?
- This is a hard one, something I just won’t be able to do. I am very proud of all of our material, and each release was my favorite at the time it came out, so it’s hard for me to pick three from over 9 albums of material. I can say that I enjoy playing the newer material live, not because I like it better, but because it is fresher and newer, and I love the challenge of learning new songs and bringing them to the live arena.
- Ross, could you tell us a bit about the project you are involved, Karyn Crisis' Gospel of the Witches? What is that band and how did you get there?
- Karyn Crisis was the lead singer from Crisis, who we were label mates with on Metal Blade Records back in the 90’s. Crisis was huge in the metal/hardcore scene back then, and we had run ins with them at shows and met them on a number of occasions. They were all super cool and great musicians. Fast forward to the present and Karyn reached out to me while we were on the Decibel tour here in the US. She wanted me to do backing vocal on a new project her and her husband Davide Tiso were putting together called Gospel of the Witches. When she sent me the four demo tracks I absolutely loved the material. It was dark and heavy and had a lot of feeling. I really loved what I heard and loved the vibe of the songs, so I immediately agreed and did the vocals, which were more like dark chorus’, throughout the record, and I loved the idea and the end result sounded better than I could have imagined. Jamie King produced the album and it came out amazing, and Century Media eventually picked it up and signed us. During the time before the album came out, Karyn asked if I would be interested in playing bass and doing the backing vocals live and if Bob would be interested in playing second guitar live as well. We both agreed and here we are. I never thought I would have time or interest in playing in a second band in addition to Immolation, but it was something I loved musically and all the people involved so positive and such great people that everything just kind of fell into place. We have already played a few shows back in March and have a few shows coming up in July and plan to tour once we get agents lined up for the US and Europe. Karyn and Davide were super cool in working around our schedule with Immolation, so there would be no problems with conflicting schedules.
- Have you already started working on the new album? Could you share anything with us?
- Yes, we are right in the middle of the writing process as I write this. We have a bunch of songs ready and being rehearsed and a few more to write and finish up, and so far things are moving along nicely. This is going to be a dark album, and the songs we have so far are dark, heavy and extreme, something that would make our fans proud. I can’t wait until everything is finished. This is going to be our tenth full length, so it is a milestone for us and we want to make sure it is something that is going to make our fans excited and happy about. I can tell you it is very dark and very intense so far, so I don’t think any of our fans will be disappointed!
- Nowadays, many bands use Croudfunding campaigns to release their albums. What do you think about this? Would you like to try any campaign to release your next album?
- Yes, this is common these days and it is a great thing for artists to raise money for their projects since it is harder and harder these days for startup bands to get record deals, so it leaves them in a position where they need to do everything themselves to attract a label, so this is a nice avenue to achieve this. The Gospel of the Witches album was crowd funded, and things worked out great in the end because we were able to secure a deal with Century Media, so it was definitely a positive experience for the band. Fortunately for Immolation, we have Nuclear Blast behind us and they are able to cover our studio costs through the budget we receive for each album, so I do understand how fortunate we are to have such a label and a great team of people working for us at Nuclear Blast.
- Let's get back in time. Could you remember how you joined the band? Who came up with the idea of changing the name from Rigor Mortis to Immolation?
- I remember it like it was yesterday. I was a huge fan of Rigor Mortis (NY) and was friends with all the guys from visiting their rehearsal space and seeing them play live locally. There singer/bass player Andrew (who I was good friends with for a number of years before) left the band and the guys approached me one night at my job and asked me if I wanted to fill in for Andrew. I agreed, and started learning new material which later became the first Immolation demo (1988). We changed the name once we started working on the new material because it was so different from the Rigor Mortis material that we all decided the right thing to do was to change the name and start fresh. Our old drummer Neal Boback came up with the name Immolation and the rest is history, hahaha.
- Do you still have anywhere the original tapes of your first demos? Do you remember your feelings and expectations after you got those records into your hands?
- I have everything from back then on cassette, the original demos, our first rehearsal recording, our first show recording, all of it sitting in a big chest in my apartment. I remember those days like they were yesterday, and it was an exciting time, a great time for all of us actually. We never realized back then how far we would eventually take this, and we were just having fun with it and enjoying the moment. Looking back it amazes me that 27 plus years later we are still here, still relevant and getting ready to record our 10 album.
I feel extremely fortunate and proud to have been able to do this for so long while still enjoying it like it was still 1988, it amazes me really when I think about it, and I don’t think about it that often, but every now and then it’s nice to put everything in perspective. When the first album was finished and we first saw it in a record store was a moment like no other for us. We were proud and so excited to tour and experience the world, and we still look forward to this each and every release.
- Thank you for this interview, Ross. Would you like to share your plans for this year with our readers?
- We will be in the studio this summer and once the album is released we will start bringing the new material to our fans all over the world. We tour Europe in November with our good friends in Origin, so we are looking forward to returning to Europe for a full tour. Can’t wait to see everyone on tour!!!! Thanks!