Interviews : Ruins (Alex Pope) – 14/05/2009
Upon first arriving on the Australian metal scene in 2002 Ruins saw success with their first two releases Spun Forth as Dark Nets and Cauldron. Their reputation saw them secure support slots alongside such Black Metal heavy weights as Celtic Frost and Immortal, along with being handpicked for Satyricon’s first Australian tour. June 2009 will see the release of their third studio album Front the Final Foes and the beginning of the Unleashing the Extreme Australian tour alongside Psycroptic and The Amenta.
Metalobsession.net had the opportunity to talk in depth to Alex Pope from the band about the upcoming album and tour.
MO: June 2009 will see the release of Ruins third album Front the Final Foes, what can fans expect to hear on this record that differs from that of your first two releases Spun Forth as Dark Nets and Cauldron?
Ruins: Front the Final Foes is just a little further along our path. We have evolved yet refined our approach. The songs are a bit more direct and powerful, yet still they go deeper and more complex in some ways. I am pleased with our development, things are tighter and more concise, but it is still chaotic, vicious and natural… it is aggressive and violent, but sleek and strong.
MO: Both Spun Forth as Dark Nets and Cauldron showcase a superior talent for creating highly atmospheric music without losing the music’s intensity, have you continued this trend with the new album?
Ruins: Well, hopefully yes! I think that is a good way to describe what we are after – keep things heavy and powerful whilst still relating a wide range of feelings and emotions. I’ll experiment with what I do like, but I don’t know… if anything our songs seem to get simpler and more refined, but within this, attention to the smaller details makes these simple things even more complex than highly technical playing. What I mean by this is, when there is a lot of space… which gives this mood…well every little nuance in the beats, and the riffs becomes so variable, you have a lot more options, the simpler the parts are… it becomes more complex; to approach these feelings correctly can be more difficult to nail than a highly technical sequence… there are only so many ways the notes can fall when they fall at 260b.p.m.
When it slows down and there is space in the mix things become complex in a different way. A lot of options open up with the feel. The song-writing should tie these feelings together, and the production should help articulate the different moods across different parts. It is savage music, primal music, violent music, but sometimes soothing music. It is cathartic, in a way of speaking it is about destruction, but in another view it is the opposite of this, it is to fortify. Ruins’ music is to strengthen, to harden. We cultivate a warriors perspective, sometimes this evolves into a sorcerers view, but primarily the way of warrior is fundamental. It can be powerful to use ‘victim mentality’ to manipulate the listener like so much black metal does, but I think you have to really know where you stand with this to truly make it convincing.
So much of this Black metal music ends up sounding pitiful and weak, rather than coming from a place of no pity, and being powerful. Ruins is a bid for power, we attempt to rid ourselves of weakness, sometimes the music is quite uplifting… this is the warriors pleasure at smashing that self-pity that the morose feelings bring, in a way our music is about describing that shift; studying that shift, this is the basis of what we are about, therefore dynamics play a big part in the music. We are always in death’s vicinity.
MO: I read an interview that was published during the release of Cauldron where you went into great detail about the cover art by Rev. Kriss Hades. Who designed the cover art for Front the Final Foes and is there any specific significance to it?
Ruins: Well this is in limbo in some ways. Rev. Kriss Hades has been working on this new art for us – a rendering of a moth-like creature out of the Ruins symbol – an idea I had been discussing with Kriss for sometime. The moth is a significant symbol in our sorcery. However as far as he is concerned he has not finished his final work for us yet! We actually have a drawing from him which he has been working a painting from. As far as we are concerned we are very happy with this drawing he has done already. We have worked up a more graphic cover from this drawing and then the finished painting from Kriss is the next release…? We wanted the release available for this tour of course, so we moved on with it when we needed, but this will only be Australian release.
When Kriss finishes this next painting perhaps we will use it for the international release of ‘Front the Final Foes’ or maybe just the vinyl release? Or maybe save it altogether for the next Ruins album which is is already in the works – we will record again before the year is out.
MO: Both of Ruins previous releases show an exquisite talent for not only the instrumental capabilities but for the lyrical content, can you tell us a bit about how you select subject matter and invariably put it into such macabre and dark words?
Ruins: Ruins is just an extension of my life, my view or views really haha! We have tried to describe, invoke or even command many different feelings and bring many different thoughts with what we have created over a couple of albums. It is music for the weak to die by and the strong to live by; I am really speaking more personally – internally that is how I feel about the music and what it does to me, what I am trying to do within myself. At the same time as inspiring my will; it is my will. I want it to strengthen, I seek personal power. It is savage music, sometimes vicious music, because I want it to harden people; or send them running. It is heavy and primal, strange but seductive. It is an attempt to describe the warrior’s view; that may lead to a sorcerers understanding of things. To describe the warriors view death is always at side.
This is what Ruins are all about. In my view of things this is fundamentally what black metal is built upon, a satanic tradition also colours this; and we also identify these images as part of our black metal. The mysteries of Satan could be seen to be a key ingredient, but for me this is really just a way of talking about something that can be very near impossible to speak of. Satan can perhaps be seen as that spirit of rebellion that can enable desire for spiritual understanding at all, key to the gate even. The will to spiritual freedom or empowerment, then it becomes a different issue, describing obsession, possession, and Satan describes so perfectly so much else, helps me describe the effects of what would otherwise have to remain occult-(hidden) experiences and workings.
Again this is all only a way of talking. The landscapes of altered states of awareness, and of non-ordinary realities, these are indescribable realistically because reason and rationale is not boss; I think my lyrics sometimes illustrate the obvious limitations of any language, yet hopefully also the incredible powers of.
The overall message is quite open to individual interpretation. The listener will always read their own meanings, if they give it any thought at all? Some songs are directed at describing certain events, so in some instances this translates as sounding personal to me, but it can always be taken in the more generalised view too.
MO: Track 4, ‘Draw Near the Ice’, on Spun Forth as Dark Nets contains some samples of what I assume is a Chinese man shouting at the end and Track 6, The Ends of the Earth, contains an excerpt from a collection of poems by the unconventional Ghost of Poetry Li He. Does this bare any certain significance to you and are you a fan of poetry in a larger sense and use it to inspire your lyrics? I know Pink Floyd also borrowed lines from some of Li He’s poetry for Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.
Ruins: That sample is actually from the Japanese film ‘Throne of Blood’ which is basically a reworking of Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, and as such it is a pretty basic grounding in some sorcery concepts. This relates directly to what ‘Spun Forth’ is all about – it is our introduction to this world, or perhaps our introducing others to this view of the world.
Poetry, philosophy, historical, anthropological, theological or theosophical texts, many things inspire… especially where these forms seem to overlap, I am pretty interested in working with this sort of stuff, in fact the new album features a sample that is a quote from work of William Blake.
Regarding the Pink Floyd connection, that is amazing because I actually didn’t realise it! I am a fan of some Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett, but honestly I had not realised this connection until now. This is more than just cool coincidence trivia to me… it is absolutely a picture of the kind of synchronicities that ‘Spun Forth’ is all about describing.
MO: Which bands have you found to be most influential over the years in developing Ruins sound and do you draw influence from any other genres of music aside from metal?
Ruins: My listening habits are far too many and varied really to even know where to begin. I think the core that is important to our band probably begins with stuff like AC/DC, Black Sabbath and Motorhead really. Along from this, Slayer, Celtic Frost, Bathory and then on to Dark Throne, Mayhem, Satyricon, Thorns, Immortal.
There is much more obscure stuff too that is all part of my picture of where we are at – Craft, Shining, Leviathan/Lurker of Chalice, so much stuff. Some other core bands for me from a bit more leftfield would be Killing Joke, Slint, Samhain and I also really like old Misfits and Danzig – honestly so much stuff!
MO: June 2009 will also see Ruins embark on the Unleashing the Extreme tour alongside fellow Tasmanian band Psycroptic and The Amenta, how did the idea for this tour come about?
Ruins: I guess we have been talking about this forever really – the three bands have been so linked over the years. We are all certainly allies and can manage to work together, so I think that doing shows together was always a plan. Ruins have played with Psycroptic, The Amenta have played with Psycroptic, and The Amenta have played with us too, but as far as I can remember we have never done all three together before. This should be a good tour I feel!
MO: You were featured on The Amenta’s latest release n0n, how was it working with them?
Ruins: Well I was really only involved a little on one track doing vocals. They wrote the music and lyrics, so I just brought to the song my sound and a little vocal phrasing which they seemed pleased with. I think they just wanted a range of vocal sounds on the album, and this was a sure way of achieving this.
MO: Dave Haley is most definitely known not only for his talent for wielding a drum stick, but also for sharing his talent around in such bands as Psycroptic, The Amenta, Aborted and Nervecell. Does it ever get in the way when writing, recording and touring with Ruins?
Ruins: Dave is not really involved with other bands in the creative process like he is for Psycroptic and Ruins. Things may work out differently for Ruins musical output if Dave wasn’t so busy and wanted to work more closely with me during pre-production and production, but really the situation is just dictated basically; we do what we can, when we can.
This has resulted perhaps in more of a focus on written and recorded stuff than time put into the ‘live’ vehicle and promotion, but I’m not too worried about it – we are what we are because of our circumstances, and I am pleased with this.
MO: With the increasing rise of fame that Psycroptic are currently experiencing could we expect to see two new live members to replace Dave and Joe or will Ruins always revolve around Dave’s schedule where possible?
Ruins: This is a bit of a contentious issue haha! I had certainly thought about my options in substituting Dave and Joe where the ‘live’ band is concerned, so we are able to tour more, but to be honest this has just not felt like the right thing to do so far.
The core of this band will most likely remain the duo that it began as, Dave and I, Joe is the next significant character as producer really, second guitarist is a bit of an afterthought. Our live bass player Kai has actually recorded the bass session on ‘Front the Final Foes’ which is the first one for him. Truthfully it is just as difficult for me to have more time for Ruins ‘live’, as it is for Kai, as it is for Dave and Joe regardless of their commitments to Psycroptic. For Ruins to operate as a ‘live’ band more consistently, it will require lifestyle change from me and Kai, let alone scheduling the time with Psycroptic. It is not a problem though, as far as I am concerned.
MO: Have you ever considered starting another project of a different genre or is Black Metal where your heart lies?
Ruins: I have played in many bands of various styles over the years, but Ruins is what is coming right from my heart, this is all I can focus on at present, and I try to encompass all of my inspiration and differing influences all under this one banner really. I think this diversity gives us strength so long as we recognise what really doesn’t belong in the first place; otherwise embracing the diversity of ideas to input is really helpful in creating interesting, hopefully pioneering black metal.
MO: What kind of a live show do you intend to bring to the upcoming tour, do you have a certain set of songs you like to play or do you try to mix it up each time?
Ruins: We will play a few new songs, a few off the last one, and a few off the first one, we will mix this around a bit, but I think it is best to try and do a few songs from each album. The Ruins ‘live’ show is certainly a ritualized event and I think this is important for black metal. We try not to forget though that we really are just a band up there playing, so we don’t get completely lost in theatrics, but engaging the audience like this is certainly part of it – to set the correct scene to prompt the kind of feelings we are after, the feelings we are looking for in the crowd response too.
MO: Ruins choose to stick with the Black Metal tradition of corpse paint which has been traced back to resemble that of the Oskorei, a legion of dead souls in Norse Mythology. Does corpse paint hold any special significance to you or is it simply just to increase the atmosphere of the music?
Ruins: Really a live show is total catharsis for me in a condensed form, like making an album is catharsis over a year or years; it is catharsis in an hour haha! We enjoy using intros and outros, and sequencing the songs in interesting ways, I can really say no more because it depends on the setting and circumstances.
Regarding theatrics, makeup, costume, props, I know it is not crucial, however I enjoy using it when I do. Of course in a sorcery context it is a prop, and maybe seen to be a juvenile unnecessary one in a certain view. To look from the view that belongs to ‘black metal’ however. I have to say “so what!” more power to us for using our props when we want to; there’s the black magic in black metal for you. We always cultivate what you could only call a ‘dark’ image – regardless of the level of theatrics that may or may not come with. We do what we need to do in the moment. All that said and I don’t mean to trivialise the ritual we engage in. Whatever path we take we tread that road with total conviction. In this view the paint absolutely holds special significance, and it is precisely the power that these ritual tools have, to trap attention, to shift awareness, to heighten perceptual awareness, and to increase the range of perception. It is fundamental to how the ‘atmosphere’ of the music can be ‘increased’.
MO: Can Australian fans expect to see more visits from Ruins throughout the year once the Unleashing the Extreme tour has finished?
Ruins: We are playing at home here in Hobart, Tasmania on July 31st. We are rumored for a festival in Adelaide later in the year, and probably the Australian Metal Awards in Sydney in November. Besides this I think we will actually be back in the studio for most of the later half of the year!
MO: Do you have any plans for an international tour in the near future?
Ruins: We are trying to plan some shows in Europe next year, we have had many options already but it has been difficult to schedule. I think our potential regarding this just gets better and better really though. It would be great to jump on a high profile Euro tour as an opener, or just do some small club shows of our own… we will see! U.S. tour would be good too, it is all just a matter of time and timing for us.
MO: What is the best part of live performance, is there one particular show in your career that stands out the most and why?
Ruins: Well mostly live shows are a stress until they are underway… I usually always enjoy a show in hindsight though. There are really only a few gigs for us that have not been hugely significant for the development of our career as a band, and these have been some of the most fun anyway, given less stress haha! But I guess career highlights would be Brisbane Satyricon show December 06, Melbourne show with Celtic Frost in July 07, and Sydney Immortal show March 08.
Why? Is a combination of our actual performance and of course the response to our performance, not to mention the performance of the headliners! haha!
MO: The list of Australian Black Metal bands has slowly been building over the years with new and old acts such as Ne Obliviscaris, Empyrean, Virgin Black, Austere and Astriaal. How do you think the scene has evolved and which Australian Black Metal bands would you recommend to your fans?
Ruins: I like all sorts of Australian bands, and it is hard to decide how widely I will use the term ‘black metal’? If I look to the past through untill now I could talk about the certain features in Hobbs Angel of Death, Sadistik Exekution, Bestial Warlust, and in another way also Portal or disembowelment, or The Amenta. They have all been bands I enjoy. But I guess really the significant bands in black metal not mentioned, are probably Abyssic Hate, and of course Nazxul.
From Tasmania we have Striborg. Striborg has been a friend to me since my youth – ot to shatter the misanthrope image! Unless you live in Tasmania you might find it hard to imagine just how real the misanthropy and reclusion of Striborg is! We communicate mostly through writing letters, I haven’t seen him in the flesh more than once or twice a year for many, many years haha! He got me both directly and indirectly into so much music over the years. Much of my core inspiration stems from my connection with him since over fifteen years ago now.
There is also a brilliant up and coming band called Thrall. Hopefully their debut is out soon. This is certainly one of my favourite things. Look for this band. Originating in Tasmania, and currently living in Japan. Album should be available soon, not sure who through? There are lots of good bands from Australia for sure. There are many interesting black metal bands from elsewhere in the country. There honestly is quite a lot I could recommend for different reasons.
MO: Lastly what in your opinion is the number one Black Metal album of all time?
Ruins: This is way too hard haha! Can I have a top 10? Actually I think it is most in the ‘black metal’ spirit, and the Ruins spirit, to say that ‘Front the Final Foes’ is the best black metal album of all time haha! If I don’t answer this question with this kind of arrogance, I will honestly need a top 50. I am serious!
MO: Good luck with the tour and I look forward to hearing the new album out in June.
Origin: Hobart, Australia
Queries: Holly McBride
Retorts: Alex Pope (Vocals/Guitars)
UNLEASHING THE EXTREME TOUR: June 2009 featuring Psycroptic, The Amenta and Ruins
June 4th – Players Bar, Mandurah*^ with Plague
June 5th – YMCA HQ, Leederville (AA)*^ with Malignant Monster, Sworn To Thanatos
June 6th – The Rosemount Hotel, Perth^ with Nails Of Imposition, Deathfuckingcunt
June 11th – Brannigan’s, Gold Coast* with The Meat Grinder
June 12th – Rosie’s, Brisbane with Laceration Mantra
June 13th – Sands Tavern, Maroochydoore* with Ablaze Withsin
June 19th – The Basement, Canberra with Punishment
June 20th – The Manning Bar, Sydney (Lic/AA) with Dred
June 21st – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle with Black Asylum
June 26th – The National Hotel, Geelong with Tenth Dan
June 27th – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne with Tenth Dan, Guild Of Destruction
June 28th – TBC Melbourne (U18)