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Interviews : “Thrash metal, skullets, vocals you can understand” – An interview with Riley Strong (Desecrator)

By on November 22, 2014

Image: John Raptis Photography

Desecrator – Riley Strong

Since their formation in 2008, Desecrator have proven time and time again to be Melbourne’s premiere thrash band. The skullet-wearing 4-piece have desecrated venues all across Australia with their high energy performance and punishing onslaught of fast-paced riffs.

This November/December will see them touring Victoria and New South Wales again for the ‘Slaughtered in Summer’ tour, and the next date on that tour is their biggest support slot to date: opening up for Trivium and In Flames. Leading upto this gig, Riley Strong (vocalist/guitarist) “had a chat with Pat” about everything that’s happening with Desecrator at the moment, including new songs, new management, new music video and touring.

Metal Obsession: How is the next Desecrator album coming along?

Riley Strong: It’s coming along slowly, man. It’s always one of those things where it’s just hard as an independently run Australian band. You want to be on the road, you want to be taking the right shows, you’re running everything, you’re booking everything, you’re promoting everything, you come home, and even if you’ve done well and your tour has covered costs, you then go back to your day job to pay for the rest of your life. And then in between all of that, you try and write the album that’s gonna make your band reach the next level.

So it’s getting there, man, and it’s sounding hella cool. The new line-up is coming along great, the guys are really settled in, and they want to sink their teeth into new material and show the next era of Desecrator. It’s all sounding pretty positive, heavy and cool, but it’s slow because you’ve gotta fit it in with all of the things that make life kick by.

Metal Obsession: Last time you did a full album it was recorded at a live gig, which you felt had more intensity and aggression than a studio recorded album. After recording the ‘Down to Hell’ EP last year, did you feel as if you got an equal amount of intensity and aggression from that recording?

Riley: I think going into ‘Down to Hell’, we realised that we come out with something that was so raw and organic because it was live, so we needed to find our own sound in a studio, and find a sound that suited us in a studio, that wasn’t going to compete with ‘Live Til Death’, but stand on its own. I think because we did something that was specifically recorded and engineered towards being a vital release, we really felt going quite basic with the production and really harnessing the sound of the instruments in the room we’re in, rather than using a lot of modern techniques. It was gonna suit it, more so gonna suit the style, because we’re such an old-styled band.

I feel like it really did stand on its own. The sound really reflects the instrumentation that we’ve got on it. But in comparison to ‘Live Til Death’, it still sounds like Desecrator, but its own thing in its own right. We were really proud of it at the time, because going into it, we hadn’t recorded in the studio before, so it was unknown until we knew what we were doing.

Metal Obsession: When do you think this new album will be out?

Riley: At the moment, we’re still intensely writing. We have a bunch of tour dates coming up at the moment which is gonna sideline us for a little bit. But we’re trying to use the summer to write so we can get something out early next year. Whether it will be finished early next year or released early next year is yet to be seen. But we’ve got a lot of exciting things happening next year that we’re kind of starting to pencil in and I really want a new album. I feel that it’s time Desecrator did release a full-length studio album, so hopefully in the first quarter of the year I’ll have something in my hand that I’ll be able to throw around.

Metal Obsession: Are you hoping to get any record label attention for the new album?

Riley: Yeah, definitely. It’s something that as the band has progressed, we definitely had some inward focus. It’s a really exciting step for us that we’ve signed a management deal with The Flaming Arts. They’re based in the UK and they really want to get us to a larger audience in Europe, and that’s become a big focus for us, just looking beyond the Australian market and getting overseas. It was always on the cards but now it’s looking like being a reality. So part of that will be released overseas and taking our product over there with us. Hopefully that will play hand-in-hand and all work out in the right timing.

Metal Obsession: I was just about to ask about The Flaming Arts. So I’m guessing you have some overseas plans in the works for 2015?

Riley: There’s definitely stuff in the works. Nothing concrete at the moment, it’s a very fresh deal, we only signed a deal with them 3 or 4 weeks ago now. There’s a lot of talk and there’s a lot of positivity, they’re really keen to work on us and to develop us as a band and product, they see a lot in us which is great. Being based over in the UK, it’s always the goal to get your music to a larger continent, especially with thrash metal, getting to Europe is a very obvious place to take yourself. I’m very excited to get over there, and there has been a lot of ideas thrown around, but we’re yet to solidify something that’s worth announcing.

Metal Obsession: How did you come across The Flaming Arts? Have you been looking around for a booking agency or did they come to you?

Riley: We’ve been keeping an eye out for someone who wants to work on joining up the few links in the chain for a while now, and reaching the international market that we didn’t have as an independent band. So we’ve been keeping an eye out for involving a third party that could take us beyond the point that we could take ourselves. It was time for the bands growth, it was time for someone that had an expertise in the background above us. We’ve been talking to The Flaming Arts a little bit backwards and forwards about different tour ideas that they ran, and then when this slot to be managed and developed in their roster came up, it just all linked up, and it was a positive thing.

They didn’t have a thrash band on their roster at the time, they were developing in the way that they’re going to develop us. They were really keen to get us on the roster, they’d worked with Australian bands in the past and were really, really keen on getting other Australian bands on their roster. In this country, we have a reputation of being really easy to work with and cool to get along with, so I think that worked in our favour, and they just liked what they heard.

Metal Obsession: A few months ago you were filming some of your gigs for a new music video. When will this video be out?

Riley: At the moment, we’re still in the production stages. The music video is for a new single, for a song we haven’t previously played live, released or shown anyone, which is pretty exciting. It will be a new single and a new clip will be put out together at the same time. We finished recording the song in September/October, and the song is a really cool progression sonically for Desecrator, like writing style-wise and even sound-wise, I feel it’s a big step for us. The clip at the moment, we filmed three or four shows, such as a couple of the supports we did at The Hi-Fi Bar, and then of course the Brewtality Fest that was run by HEAVY Mag, which was an unreal night at The Bendigo Hotel.

Metal Obsession: You also filmed the WrestleRock gig you played as well, didn’t you?

Riley: Yep, and WrestleRock, where I believe you actually get hit by a chair!

Metal Obsession: Yes, and that better be in the video, otherwise I got hit in the head with a chair for no reason!

Riley: [laughs] Man, I haven’t actually seen the footage, but I really can’t wait to see you get hit by a chair! It’s all being edited up at the moment in the production stages. We were hoping to get it out now, but there were a few little production things that bumped it back a bit. If we’re lucky, we’ll get it out by the end of the year, or very early next year, you know, during this quiet period where there’s not a lot of shows after touring is a good time to do it. I’m excited to introduce the song and see the reaction!

Metal Obsession: Is this just going to be a live video clip, or are you going to film some extra scenes for it to show a story, like your last music video for ‘Balancing on a Blade’?

Riley: Nah, just at the moment, it’s more kind of a live documentation of what we do and who we are. We’re such a live band, and we’ve formed everything on being a live-focused act, and what we’ve done with the clip feels like it suits who we are. That’s the focus at the moment, there’s not much of a narrative like ‘Balancing on a Blade’. There’s still some ideas floating around at the moment, so we’ll see what washes up in the final cut.

Metal Obsession: So you said it’s a live clip for a song that you’ve never even played live before. How do you plan on making it work in ways like keeping the footage in sync with the song?

Riley: [laughs] there’s always ways, man. Hopefully it will all link up fine. Actually I know it will all link up fine, it’ll be great. We got some ideas.

Metal Obsession: You’re in good hands.

Riley: Yeah, we’re in good hands. We’re working with Rob Taylor who did the ‘Balancing on a Blade’ clip, and we’re after the result of that clip and how that came out. We’ve got full trust in him and his production qualities, he’s got a lot of ideas on experimentation and he’s from such a narrative, horror background that, whatever he comes up with I know we’re gonna be impressed. The ideas that have been hashed out so far make me have full faith in what he’s gonna do.

Metal Obsession: The next date on your ‘Slaughtered In Summer’ tour happening over the next month is a late announcement; your support slot for Trivium & In Flames’ second Melbourne show on Monday November 24. This is quite a different support slot for you guys, compared to the ones you usually get. Are you looking forward to exposing Desecrator to a new audience?

Riley: I think that’s the most exciting thing about it, is to play to a crowd that possibly haven’t been exposed to Desecrator before, which might be a hard sell, might be an easy sell. But that kind of stuff is what we thrive on, playing to people who possibly haven’t seen us, heard of us or even a rumour of us, and then getting to stand up in front of them and prove ourselves. Working with Soundwave Touring is something that we haven’t done before and we are really excited to do. They’re one of the big promoters in this country, and being called up to play with bands that they’re touring is a great honour. It’s a cool thing to be able to do, to prove our stripes and represent Melbourne metal, and represent what local Australian metal is to maybe even a crowd that partially don’t go and watch local bands.

When you play with these bigger international bands, you get a lot of people attending shows that might not go to smaller shows. They might not be aware that smaller shows exist. So, you get a brief chance to show them that heavy metal in this country can stand shoulder to shoulder with international heavy metal, and kind of win them over. It’s a really cool thing to do, and I think that we’re possibly going to be exposed to a crowd that are younger than most of the supports that we do snag up. We’ve played with a lot of older, more established bands, whereas these bands are still in the stereotype of being current acts.

Metal Obsession: About the people who only go to bigger shows like Trivium and other Soundwave bands but don’t go to local shows, as you mentioned, do you find that much of a problem?

Riley: I don’t see it as a problem, but it’s always a shame that people are unaware of their own countries musical identity in a style that they like. If people like heavy music and they’re unaware of their own countries bands, they might be missing something that they could really be proud of. So, it’s always a shame, but it’s gonna happen at the same time. Because international bands do get a lot more exposure than national bands, and there’s always a few that break through, but the bulk of bands go unseen, because it’s hard to take yourself to be seen on the level that they will actually take note of you.

I don’t think it’s a problem or a bad thing, I definitely think it’s something that can always be worked on, because it would only benefit the Australian scene and the Australian bands who have exposure to a wider crowd, but that’s what supports like these are for, and that’s what these chances at trying to captivate some attention, and win a crowd that might possibly buy a shirt, or tell their friends about you, or possibly get curious and start looking up some other Australian bands. Then all of a sudden through YouTube they might discover five Aussie bands and go to a gig, you never know. That’s what these chances are for, they’re chances for not only the bands who are standing on the stage, but there’s also a chance for a band to introduce some people to a scene, and a community that they might not be aware of. It’s a really good opportunity.

Metal Obsession: For those people going to see Trivium and In Flames on Monday who might not know Desecrator, give them three reasons why they should rock up early to see you guys.

Riley: Thrash metal, skullets and vocals you can understand!

Metal Obsession: Keeping it short and sweet.

Riley: [laughs] I think it should be, man. At the end of the day, that kind of thing is a quick sell!

Metal Obsession: Thanks for another great interview. Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Riley: Always love a chat, Pat! [laughs]

Catch Desecrator opening for metal heavyweights Trivium (USA) and In Flames (Sweden) on Monday 24 November at 170 Russell in Melbourne.

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Patrick has been a dedicated contributor to Metal Obsession since 2011. He believes that you can put Lars Ulrich's face on just about anything. Add Patrick on Facebook.