RAVAGE: Interview with Vocalist Al 'Ravage'
Interviewed by: Lord of the Wasteland, EvilG, Metal George, & Celtic Bob
Intro text by Lord of the Wasteland
While the rest of the metal dudes their age are busy applying eyeliner or writing breakdowns, Massachusetts’ Ravage are not only writing REAL metal but they are doing it well, too! Brothers Al “Ravage” Firicano (vocals) and Eli Firicano (guitar/keyboards) planted the seeds for Ravage in 1995 as a retaliation against the shoe-gazing flannel-mongers of the grunge era and after playing musical chairs (quite literally, as Al started out on drums and Eli on bass) and trudging through the eastern seaboard underground, the band in its current incarnation finally came to fruition in 2001. The CURSE OF HEAVEN E.P. (raved about in an October 2003 review by our esteemed former colleague, JP) was released in 2003 and generated enough buzz to have several labels clamoring to sign the young band. Eventually choosing the small German indie, Karthago Records, Ravage self-financed the recording of SPECTRAL RIDER, which, in itself, saw personnel changes within the band, delivering eleven new tracks and a remix of the title track from the CURSE OF HEAVEN E.P..
Let's start with the basics since many of our readers won't know a lot about Ravage. How did you all hook up?
My little brother Eli and I started the band back in 1996. I had the name as far back as 95’, but it was just me and a drumset at that point. I had no one to play with, but I knew I wanted to create a crazy heavy metal band to help rid the world of the Bushes and Everclears and Presidents of The United Stateses that were saturating the commercial airwaves at the time with their insipid brand of watered down grunge-alterna-rock garbage. My little brother Eli took up the bass and I met a talented guitarist named J.C. in school… so I finally had a band. However after we hammered out a couple of songs and practiced a bit, it became evident that J.C. was enamored with the aforementioned stuff we were struggling against! So we had to part ways with him pretty quickly. Another friend of mine, John "The Ogre" Koziol joined on guitar and the next few years saw him switching back and forth between guitar and bass (before his eventual departure in 2001)… I took up the vocal duties (since no one else was interested in embarrassing themselves by trying to sing) and I was singing and playing drums for a while because we had the hardest time finding a decent drummer who didn’t want to play just slow hardcore beats… Eli eventually took up the guitar and became the lead guitarist… we went through endless line-up changes for the next few years…played a bunch of shows and cut some cheap demos… and to make a long story boring – we met up with Nick Izzo (our other lead guitarist) in 2001, Howie Snow and George Bellofato were playing in one of Eli’s little side projects recently and when our drummer at the time, Phil Coyne, joined too many bands and couldn’t make a full commitment to Ravage, we parted ways with him and George stepped in. When our bassist Anthony Bud left due to arguments about the direction of the recording, Howie stepped in on bass and that was that.
Who are your main influences?
As a band we have always drawn off of classic melodic heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, early Metallica and Megadeth…but individually we have very diverse tastes and influences… when we started out we were more or less a punk metal band because we didn’t play our instruments particularly well… we were just little kids… I wanted the band to be a hard-rockin’ metal band with a dramatic stage show… sort of like a mix of WASP and Iron Maiden… things didn’t quite pan out that way. We did away with the stage show some time ago because it was just cheap and goofy, and I think we ended up having a heavier, more complex, more diverse sound than what I probably set out for in the beginning. That is probably due to the many infuences of the people who have played in the band… my brother Eli listens to a lot of European Power Metal, some Black Metal and 80’s thrash… Nick Izzo the other guitarist is into the Gothenburg sound and the neo thrash/ melodic death stuff as well as Power Metal and neo classical metal… Howie Snow our bassist listens to a lot of death metal, prog, hardcore and jazz…George Bellofato our drummer listens to a lot of hard rock, classic metal and jazz… and I like a lot of classic rock, traditional heavy metal, and classical. So everyone brings something different to the table, but we are all linked by a musical common ground at the same time.
With the average age of the band members being 22, what drives you guys to create "traditional" heavy metal when most guys in their early twenties are into metalcore??
Basically, we don’t pay attention to trends – whether you like metalcore or not, it is a trend. People are picking it up because X band sold X number of copies. This band evolves, but it evolves naturally through a kind of musical osmosis. Obviously modern music – the state of things as they are will bear some influence on us, but it won’t change our core beliefs, or why we got into music to begin with. I started out with a clear vision of the music I wanted to play almost 10 years ago (basically when I was just a little kid) and it really hasn’t changed all that much since then. As a band, we make music that moves us and that we think is meaningful in some small way – and it has always had a certain amount of melody and a certain amount of heaviness and certain dynamics. I’m not going to lie – our music has boundaries and those boundaries can only be stretched so much. Someone might say "my, that is limiting, you aren’t exploring the full artistic potential of the music blah blah", but I’ve never felt that way. I like to explore within the tradition and do interesting things within the tradition, but to keep the tradition. I think there is plenty of room to explore and try new things and be creative while maintaining your identity as a band and staying within the genre. We aren’t a prog act. We aren’t going to throw a country song in there just to be "different" or "out there". By the same token, I’m not going to start growling or belching or whining like a bratty little emo girl just to suit MTV or radio or a label or anyone else – for the simple reason that it doesn’t fit. You can say "that’s boring", but I didn’t set out to change metal dramatically, I set out to add to the pantheon of great metal in the mold that I loved. That being said, you’ll hear the occasional weird time change etc, but that is more to add dramatic effect – to enhance rather than distract…we just aren’t going to stray a whole lot. We’ll make the necessary changes to keep things fresh and interesting, but if I want to do something that is outrageously different I will start another band - I won’t try to fool the fans as others have tried to do in the past.
Have you felt any pressure playing traditional metal within a land plagued by following the latest musical trend, the most recent being metalcore?
Pressure? No. Simply because we’ve never cared what the masses though from day one. We always knew we’d have to shove our brand of metal down people’s throats for them to take it because when we started metal was the furthest thing from cool. When I started the band we were fighting alterna-rock (people who hated metal)…then it was fighting nu-metal (which people thought was metal…even more annoying)… now it’s a struggle to get noticed amidst all the metalcore (which is the annoyingly overblown trend of the present time)… tomorrow it will be something else… "fighting the world" as one well-known metal maestro so eloquently put it.
Is it true that the band formed in 1995? Weren't you only 13 years old?!?!?!?
Yes and… yes. The band started out with me playing along on drums to Iron Maiden tapes on this crappy Cannon (I believe it is the same company that makes the cameras) drum set my dad bought for me when I was 12. I painted "Ravage" on the bass drum head and I would just bang along to Metallica and Maiden and Ozzy and Priest… mostly the live albums. I knew the sound I wanted, but it was a looong time before I found people who were good enough to play it and shared the same musical goals, and it was a looong time before I developed into an even half-way competent singer.
Is the band your full-time job or do you all have 9-5 jobs?
The band is a full-time expense but doesn’t pay full-time…or even part time ha ha. Unfortunately we all work. We’re pretty realistic about the money end of things. I’m really more interested in just making a couple of classic metal albums that people will revere…that is the goal at this point… if I were rich and could give away a million albums for free, I would… just so people would listen. The real reward is getting to blow people’s minds with a live show or hearing that someone has enjoyed your recording and gotten a worthwhile "metal" experience out of it. Ya, it would be great to make albums for a living and not have to deal with the daily garbage most of us deal with… but we’ll take what we can get. That’s what you get for living under a capitalist system ha ha. In the USA ha ha. Honestly, with the money motive, I think a lot of bands make too many albums anyway… everyone waxes and wanes creatively, but sometimes it is better to just put your best forward (as far as recordings go) and just stick to that. I don’t see us making a plethora of albums. We have a lot of great material now, but when it runs out I’d rather have a few great albums and play some great varied live sets then be constantly putting out watered-down material. Though I may be biting my tongue in the future…that’s how these things go. I’m glad I’m not a politician.
What do you feel is unique to your band compared to others out there today?
Good question. Obviously there aren’t a whole lot of bands playing our style of music in the USA at this point. So what distinguishes us from the foreign bands or bands from the past? I think it can be summed up in two words, diversity and character. Stylistically we have a blend that is pretty unique. Although we are a "traditional" metal band, we explore the genre more than your typical "power metal" band…so we will have a song that sounds 80’s thrash, and a NWOBHM song and a late 90’s power metal sounding song all on the same CD or have songs that have elements of all three seamlessly blended (or at least we try to blend them seamlessly). As far as the vocals go I don’t tend to do the ball-bustingly high vocals – partially because I don’t have the voice to pull it off in a decent way – and partially because I think it is boring and/or annoying to do it all the time. We like to have a diverse range. Some people say I sound like Danzig… I don’t necessarily agree. There are some very low parts in the vocals, maybe more than other bands, but I stretch it up there too and there is a lot of mid-range stuff – whatever works basically, whatever heightens the experience, and that is where the "character" part comes in. I think we try to make each song have a character, an identity, something you can experience and latch on to. Not that we are necessarily just trying to write commercial pop tunes, but for example…lots of bands have a duel lead guitar attack, but I really like the solos we come up with. I think Nick and Eli make a conscious effort to make the solos a great part of the song and each solo is memorable with a real character to it.
Why did you decide to use the name RAVAGE as there are a plenty of other RAVAGE’s around (for example...)?
Well basically, I wasn’t aware of any other Ravage’s at the time I came up with the name and it seemed like a cool name. Later on we were just too dumb or too stubborn to change it. I think I first came up with the name in a library of all places… I came across the word "ravage" in some book I was leafing through and thought that would be the coolest band name. It was either that or from seeing the comic book Ravage 2099 which had come out around that time…. It has been a long time, I don’t quite remember. But in any case, since I had never seen a "Ravage" CD in a record store I figured the name had never been used and was all mine. This was 1995 and I didn’t even have a computer, let alone an internet connection ( internet usage wasn’t as widespread as it is now, kiddies). I didn’t hear about any other Ravage’s until we had played some shows a few years later and our guitarist John discovered that Aetheist had been called R.A.V.A.G.E. and by then we didn’t feel like changing it. Again, from a business standpoint it is probably the dumbest idea… but it is part of the attitude of the band… it was something we liked and we didn’t care what others thought… some people hate the name… the fans seem to like it a lot… and basically they won’t let us change it. As far as I know, we’ve had the name for a longer time than any other Ravage before us or anyone who has taken the name since we started, and I don’t believe anyone was active with it on any noticeable scale when we did start. We’ve never been challenged by any previous Ravage and I think we are suitably distinguishable from all other bands who have tried to use the name, so until we get some serious legal challenge from someone, we really don’t have any impetus to change it. In short, we’re too dumb for our own good.
Your voice is quite unique. From where do you draw inspiration vocally and lyrically?
Vocally, I’d rip off Bruce Dickinson if I could, because I think he is probably the best metal singer… Halford has the best screaming voice, Dio has an amazing voice and can make weak material sound good just by singing over it, but I don’t think the "Number Of The Beast" vocal performance has ever been topped. That being said, since I don’t have the ability to rip of Bruce, I come out somewhere between him, Blaze Bayley, Ian Gillan etc… my voice is pretty smooth and mid-range, so I try to make it a little raspy at times to be more "evil" and I experiment with some things high and low…but my basic goals are to not spoil the great music that the guitarists come up with and to add a little to it if I can. As far as the lyrics go, early on I was inspired by Metallica’s lyrics and when I was 16 my lyrics featured the word "death" about 8 times in every verse (ah, adolescence), I still think Steve Harris’s early lyrics were great for his use of different speakers within the lyric (like in "Run to The Hills" – first half of the verse is the natives, the second is the calvary) but these days mostly I am inspired by what I see and read, both in stories and in the newspaper, and stylistically by the writers and poets I read. Sometimes you get as much from the evening news as you do from H.P. Lovecraft or Tales From The Crypt comics. It all depends on the particular song. But I have always blended fantasy with a social message and a healthy dose of ambiguity.
When I first heard Ravage, I thought "Blaze Bayley singing Jag Panzer songs." Do you agree with this statement or hear anything in your sound that would lead someone to make that comment ?
A lot of people compare me to Blaze. I’m not quite sure whether or not to take that as a compliment or an insult or something in between… a lot of people hate Blaze. I think he’s a pretty good singer – wasn’t right for Maiden, but his solo stuff is great and I liked the albums he did with Maiden but they could have gotten someone who fitted better. That being said… I see where one could compare me to Blaze… we both basically belt it out and sometimes go beyond our range…sometime successfully, sometimes not… sometimes a little flat on those little in between notes (no one is perfect). As far as the musical comparison we are an American metal band like Jag Panzer and Iced Earth – generally melodic but heavier in the guitars than the European metal sound so the characterization fits somewhat. However, I think we are probably somewhere between that sound and the sound of a band like Twisted Tower Dire, who more closely emulate the European metal side of things.
How solid is the lineup and do you all get along well?
Given that we’ve had almost 20 members in the past 9 years I’m not sure if I’m ever comfortable saying the line-up is solid… but three core players, Eli, Nick Izzo and myself have been together for the past 4 years so we have persevered through whatever changes have been needed and I don’t see that changing. That being said, we all get along really well. This is a great bunch of guys and very competent creative players. I can honestly say this is the best and most tight line-up we’ve ever had and I can’t wait to make a recording with these guys. I think the next album with the material we have prepared will be really special.
How often do you guys get together to practice?
We have been practicing at my house twice a week but we are moving into a new practice space so we will probably practice more often in anticipation of our lastest recording and some upcoming shows to promote our current CD.
The Album - SPECTRAL RIDER
SPECTRAL RIDER is one of the best power metal albums I have heard this year. How has the response been so far?
So far the reponse has been great, and that isn’t your standard PR bullshit response to this question… well, it is…but it is truthful as far as I know and it has been surprising to me because I of course felt the album could have been better than it is. There have been very few reviews so far but they should be filtering in soon enough. The feedback from fans has been overwhelming and we’ve gotten good marks from the press so far as well. We are our own worst critics so anything positive that comes in is very reassuring. When we set out to record this album we knew we had a lot of really good songs, so it was just a question of finally being able to capture a performance that does them justice and when you are under the constraints of a self-financed record... it can be an arduous ordeal to say the least…especially when you are broke ha ha. So regardless of what we think… or how we think the album could have turned out… ultimately the fans will decide if it is acceptable metal fare, and we’ll go from there.
Do you get any flack for referring to your sound as US Power Metal? Some people think all power metal is flower metal whereas Ravage is much more bally and has more in common with classic heavy metal.
Good question. Honestly at this point we are still searching for a categorization that fits – ironic for a band that set out to play traditional heavy metal, eh? "Power Metal" obviously has it’s negative connotations…"Speed Metal"… no one seems to know what that is for sure… "Power Thrash" makes it seem like all your songs have to be fast…"Traditional Metal" sounds too boring and old hat, and I don’t like to think of us as a retro act, we’re not some parody or a joke and we’re not some pop-punk kids pretending to be metal like Sum 41 etc… US Power Metal seems the easiest characterization because "Power Metal" by itself sounds cool…and then we add the US to it to make us sound like big tough Americans. Would anyone dare call it flower metal if they knew it was "made in the USA"? I think not. That may bear it’s own biases ha ha, but that’s life, it’s complicated.
What exactly is the "Spectral Rider"?
The Spectral Rider is a spirit of vengeance. The song has a 9/11 influence to be sure. I was thinking about the state of the world and the last US presidential election a lot around the time I wrote the lyric, so it has a lot of political influence to it, to be sure. It is basically a little fantasy story about this Spawn-type sci-fi character who is goaded onto the path of violence by the powers that be, and when he rebels, they destroy him, but he rises from the ashes for revenge. Underpinned in the story are a lot of questions like "how much freedom are you willing to sacrifice for safety?" and "vengeance at what cost?" It is the raging debate in America over the past four years… what should the "response" be? Is there any "response" that can be meaningful. Obviously the US is involved in a very costly war right now…which a lot of people are ignoring… and sometimes it seems that if you ask questions… or dare to pay any kind of real attention you will be crucified in the court of public opinion. Some people say the war is a "response" to the threat of terror… is it? If so, how does one break the cycle of violence? Maybe violence is the only answer. That is what the song is all about… the "spectral rider" is an embodiment of a lot of hard questions and you can look at it from every conceivable viewpoint. Rather than make a statement I try to keep things ambiguous so people can listen to it and ponder and come up with their own conclusions… just more argument and chaos, and that is the most fun.
How does Spectral Rider differ from your previous release CURSE OF HEAVEN?
The main difference is that the drums are real and live and played without a metronome or triggers on "Spectral Rider" and the drums on "Curse Of Heaven" are programmed. Because of that, I think "Spectral Rider" has a looser, more "raw" feel than "Curse Of Heaven" which came out a bit robotic and sterile sounding. We also got a heavier guitar sound this time. I’m not saying we were necessarily 100% happy with the way the drum sound turned out, or that we wouldn’t use triggers in the future, but that is a main difference as it stands. There was a lot of experimenting on this CD, and you live and learn. The other main difference was that we recorded every note of "Curse Of Heaven" in Jack Fenstrermaker’s studio, whereas "Spectral Rider" was recorded in 4 different locations and put together in Jack’s studio.
How did you land the deal with the small German label, Kathargo Records?
The "Curse Of Heaven" demo was basically recorded to try and get us some sort of recording deal, so I sent that out to numerous labels. I believe Stefan from Karthago heard of us from his friend who works for Iron Glory records. We compared the Karthago deal with the other minor deals we were offered and it seemed like the best deal – as it allowed us the most musical freedom and allowed us to get our album out there, which were the basic goals at the time. A couple of other labels offered us money to record, but they wanted us to record ballads etc and we had a very specific plan for what we wanted so we weren’t having any of that. So we went with the self-financed deal and Karthago handled the artwork, pressing and distribution.
Your website mentions that there were "a year and a half of various trials, tribulations and assorted horrors" to get SPECTRAL RIDER out. Can you explain what these were?
For various reasons I can’t go into the sordid details, but I’ll probably write a "tell-all" book at some point when I feel like pissing off everyone I know. The least of our problems included a studio flood and a computer crash…so there were acts of God and technical woes in addition to the human side, which I won’t go into at this point. We also emerged from the recording having lost half the band – Phil Coyne and Anthony Bud both left during the recording process. So let’s just say the album took far far too long to record, for reasons that were beyond our control, and I lost a few years off of my life from the stress.
How long did you spend writing and then recording the album?
The writing was about 9 years in the making. We played the song "Wake The Dead" at our first show in my attic back in 1996. Other songs like "Turn The Screw" and "Spectral Rider" were written just about 2 months before they were first recorded. The recording took far longer than it should have for various reasons. Basically, the "Curse Of Heaven" demo was a 6 song demo and was recorded over a span of two months. At the time we recorded it, we felt it took a ridiculously long amount of time to record. "Spectral Rider", a 12 song album, took about a year to record and yet we spent about half the time actually in the studio than we did for "Curse Of Heaven". It was ridiculous and then it was ridiculous. But again, with a self-financed album you are at the mercy of many forces beyond your control. The people in this band, as in any band, can be very self-critical… so when forces are out of your control it can be particularly frustrating. You definitely get what you pay for in this business at this level… but you live and learn. There are going to be people who are happy with the sound and people who aren’t happy with it. The people in the band will probably never be happy with it. The fans will ultimately decide if the album is good enough.
Were "The Wasteland," "The Wicked Way," "Curse of Heaven" and "The King Forgotten" re-recorded for SPECTRAL RIDER or are these the same versions that were on the CURSE OF HEAVEN demo?
These are brand new versions. All of the parts for all of the songs were re-recorded except for "Curse Of Heaven" which is a bonus track and is simply a remix of the version from the demo with a new, better sounding recording of the intro lead guitar.
What are some of the background stories or inspirations for what are your personal favorite tracks on SPECTRAL RIDER?
One of my favorite tracks on the album is the opening cut, "Turn The Screw". The lyric is half-inspired by the Henry James novel "Turn Of The Screw", and half inspired by my dog. I would take my dog, Mick, for walks last winter and there is this construction lot by the side of my house and he would stop there and stare into the darkness…looking out at something I couldn’t see. So that kind of inspired me to write about the illusions we encounter in life and how difficult it can be to express levels of meaning through language – which is what the song is about.
"Masque Of Black Death" is another favorite of mine. Lyrically it’s a fusion of two unrelated short stories - "Masque Of The Red Death" by Edgar Allen Poe and "The Minister’s Black" veil by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The music was a reworking of a very old song we had that was originally called "The Dragon Slayer". It is one of my favorite tracks on the CD, and one of the most fun parts of the recording was when we were doing the group backing "hey" shouts in the bridge.
Why is Ravage spelled backwards on the rider's chest on the cover of the CD?
I honestly don’t know ha ha. That wasn’t something I specified. My only guess is that it is some kind of convention racers use so that people can see the writing in the rear view mirror, but that is just a guess. Perhaps someone more familiar with cycle racing would know.
If I had to say one negative thing about the album, it’s the cover art. It does not match the quality of the music contains on the album at all. It looks like something a teenager could of drawn on a schoolbook while bored in class. So what is up with the cover?
Well that isn’t the first criticism I’ve heard of the cover art, to be honest, and I hope to god we don’t become known as one of those "bad cover art" bands like Metal Church who never seem to get it right – but my honest view of the cover art is that it is a good artwork. Yes, maybe it isn’t the most fitting artwork it could have been, but Vincente Feijoo is a good artist and it is a good artwork. We rejected numerous album covers and the label rejected a few and this was the compromise. I actually drew 2 covers myself! I assume those would have been criticized as harshly or more harshly, so in the end, although I am sorry that on the one hand poor Vincente has to bear the brunt of the criticism for the art itself, I am on the other hand grateful I am spared a little criticism for my own art.
Do you still play the drums or provide input to George Bellofatto's playing?
Yes, I still play, and although we do critique each other insomuch as we make sure our overall performance falls in line with our goals for the band’s sound – we tend to allow a lot of leeway for people to be creative in their individual parts. Phil Coyne, who played on the album, has a very busy style, very double-bass heavy - George is more solid with his own particular flavorings.
SUCCESS: It’s a Long Way To the Top...
How do you see the internet helping to get Ravage music out to the fans? Has the internet really changed the way people listen to music compared to the old days of tape trading when so many bands and so much music wasn't at the fans finger tips?
It’s hard to say really. A lot of people will listen to music on the internet and provide positive feedback, but as far as sales go we’ve made the vast majority of our sales on the ground in the trenches – you play a show for people and if they like it they buy the CD, or they pick up the CD and look at it in a store and buy it. Sometimes the horse won’t drink unless it gets a dip in the water first. It’s definitely great as a tool to get people to listen to your music and get exposure – from a sales standpoint I couldn’t tell you if the burning hurts sales or helps them. When napster first came out I thought it was great because you could find rareities – like live bootlegs – which were very difficult to find otherwise. For all I know, Napster probably hurt the bootleg industry more than anyone. I wasn’t someone who ever downloaded a full album – I like to own the album and have the full experience with the artwork, lyrics etc in hand. But that is just me, most people will take something for free if they can – and of course companies are the same way –they will get away with selling something and not paying royalties etc if they can – those are just the dangers of the free market and you have to deal with that by being creative or through government regulation – whichever your particular political philosophy favors, I guess.
Is your account on MySpace.com responsible for you getting a lot of new fans?
It’s definitely a good way of getting the music out to people – getting people to listen and hearing the feedback. I love to hear from people who listen to the songs and download them and enjoy them etc. I know for a fact many people are being exposed to the music who otherwise probably never would have heard of us. Now, whether or not all that will translate into people actually buying the album and going to the shows remains to be seen. We’ll see when we start playing shows to promote the album next year.
How far do you feel you can take the band within the metal scene both musically and business wise?
I know we can make 2-3 great albums and we can play some great shows. Beyond that I don’t know. We take it one goal at a time. The demos got us to a certain point. At this point we are seeing how far this album can lead us – hopefully we’ll be able to play some good shows and then record a new album and go on from there. Our goal right now is to become the first Ravage to actually put our 2 full-length albums, I don’t think that has been done, and besides people need to hear "Ravage Part 2: Ravage The Earth" the sequel to "Ravage Part 1: Damage". So if we can get a deal to put out another album I will be happy at this point. If someone wants to actually pay us to record it, so much the better.
How about label interest? How far do you want to take the band?
If someone wants to offer me $1,000,000 to sit around in a high priced studio and record the next album, I’d be happy to take it. The songs are basically written and they aren’t going to change. On the other hand, if I have to work 2 jobs to scrounge up the money to record it myself, I will. Either way it will be done if we can just hold things together – which is what we’ve always managed to do. The goal is to make some great albums and just get them out to as many people as possible and play some rockin’ shows and have fun.
I was wondering about the status of the live situation for the band?
We love playing live. Playing live is what it is all about. There was a time when we would play anywhere anytime. We are now more selective about shows . We try to play as many "good" shows as we can. There is obvious club politicing to deal with, so getting on nationals in local clubs is tough – it is a real pain in the ass… and we refuse to "pay to play" for obvious reasons… but we still seem to get our fair share of shows and they are always fun – the crowds are great. We am hoping to do some real touring next year.
Has Ravage ever done any tours with major bands and have you played outside the eastern seaboard?
We have played as far south as Virginia but have never been offered any kind of real tour. Hopefully we will be branching out to Europe and the rest of the US in the coming year. If we are offered a tour we’ll take it…that would obviously be great… but remember when you were asking about the bias associated with being in a traditional metal band in the USA…
Al, Eli and Lizzy Borden
What and where would you say have been the best gigs for the band?
The best gigs we’ve played have been up in Salem MA at a tiny hall called Sputnix… just a great crowd… and an all metal crowd…these kids can headbang… it is like something out of a Metallica live bootleg from 1984… just a great metal experience. A band will play covers and the kids will know all the words to all the classic metal songs. It is too bad the local governments are cracking down on all ages shows…it is really killing the live music scene in our area and probably this whole country in general. All-ages shows are the life-blood of metal and there are almost no all-ages venues in our area. Aside from that, our best individual show may have been when we opened for Lizzy Borden at their local appearance on the Deal With The Devil tour – it was great because Lizzy Borden is one of my all-time favorite bands. Beyond that, we played a high-school "field fest", an open-air football stadium show a few years back and that was great…great crowd response… and the infamous More Force Fests 1 &2 put on by the infamous Joe Notcommon and Notcommon Records – those were a blast as well. Hopefully our big CD release in January will be our new highlight as we are playing in Boston’s best rock club, The Middle East.
From where have you received the most positive response from both playing live and for album sales?
Well there is nothing like the roar of the crowd when you are putting on a good show. That is definitely the most gratifying thing about playing in a band – entertaining a live crowd. It is great to hear praise for the recordings, but the recordings are just a record… the live shows are where it all comes together – the individual experience, the group experience and the band becoming an active part in that. However, knowing that someone you’ve never met, living in a far off land, is listening to your music – that is pretty cool as well.
Now that you are signed to a German label, do you have any plans to play any shows in Germany?
We will be playing the Swordbrother’s Fest in September 2006 in Germany with Attacker. That should be a great show and we are very excited about finally getting to go over there and see the European fans. We are trying to see what we can do about getting on another show or short tour around that time or sometime during the summer of 2006 but there is no news to report as of yet.
Are you friends with any of the other Boston-area bands, like Meliah Rage? Does Boston have a metal "scene"? Besides Aerosmith, Godsmack & Meliah Rage, I can't think of any other Beantown ‘metal’ bands!!
Meliah Rage is actually a New Hampshire band, I believe. They don’t play locally all that often, but I’d really like to play a show with them some time. Boston actually does have a metal scene and it is fairly diverse. We’re friends with lots of metal bands – The Accursed, Bane Of Existence, Hekseri, Abhorred, Random Acts of Violence, Devil In The Kitchen, Dreaded Silence, Cryptic Warning… the list goes on…mostly death metal, black metal or thrash bands…but there is at least one fold metal band, DITK, and some punk metal… and we are a traditional metal band…so there is a lot of diversity within the scene..it’s just a pretty small scene. Obviously almost the entire metalcore trend is based out of MA… the Worcester/ Springfield area…which is about 50 miles away from Boston, but that is like a whole different scene. They don’t support the Boston metal bands all that much out there.
How about the local scene in New England, anything else going on besides Ravage owning the scene?
Well, the Worcester Palladium is the metal Mecca around here… we actually get a good stream of national metal acts coming through there. We haven’t had the opportunity to play there as of yet, but hopefully we will within the coming year. Again… club politics. That is one of the few venues in New England that we haven’t played.
What is the status of the Ravage DVD, "The Years Underground 96-06"?
It’s currently on hold. The plan has shifted toward making it a live album which will be recorded at our CD release show on January 6th at The Middle East Club…or a collection of live material with a couple of new tracks to be recorded soon and some old demo cuts. If we get some good footage there we may package the live CD and bonus tracks or bonus videos or a DVD…depends on a lot of factors…how well things come out…if there is any demand for it… we’ll see what we come up with early in the year, but there should be something out before we begin recording the next studio album. Depends on if we get a deal for it or if we have to put it out etc etc etc. That’s all in the future to come…you’ll hear about it when there is news.
A recent press release stated that you’ll be recording a live CD. After only one full-length album, what do you think makes it necessary to do a live album? Do you think the studio recordings accurately represent the band’s true sound?
Well, we are in a sort of unique situation as far as a debut album goes. When we recorded "Spectral Rider" we had a different drummer, Phil Coyne, and no bassist. So the live recording will give fans a chance to hear the band as we are now with all the raw energy of the live show. I personally love live albums… if they are produced correctly and you have a great crowd going, then the crowd can be another instrument unto itself and I’d really like to show the fans around the world a taste of the live experience before we actually get a chance to go and show it to them in person. Plus we are hoping to put together either an EP or full length before the next studio album which encapsulates the sounds of the past 10 years – so some live tracks in addition to some new studio recordings and old demos will all work together nicely if we can get this done in a decent way.
How does Ravage's sound differ from that of The Al Ravage Band?
Well at this point The Al Ravage band only exists on paper or in the form of a few rough demos lying in a computer, but it has a completely different sound. It is more of a harkening back to our raw punk metal roots and actually I am taking a lot of ancient songs we no longer play and reworking them. It will be a "cyber punk metal" band if I ever get it going – Alice Cooper type theatrics with wild goofy modernized, brash punk metal music. You can track the progress of that band at www.AlRavage.com and there is a rough demo up at www.myspace.com/alravage.
You’ve mentioned that you are writing a novel. Care to elaborate on its subject?
Word really gets around. The novel is just another one of those things I’ve always wanted to get accomplished before I die. The album was one of them. Whether or not I finish it remains to be seen, but hopefully some time early next year I will have the first draft done. It is a fantasy story about little forest creatures… I won’t go into it any more than that.
Will your label--Society For World Wide Ravage--ever be home to other bands or will it remain exclusive to your own recordings?
If I find something that I think is really great and no one is picking up on it, perhaps I will put it out. At this point I don’t have the time or means to spend on it. It is another one of those things that is waiting for when the band has some down time, and of course if no one wants to put out a recording that we do – and we believe in it, we’ll put it out ourselves, but for now the label is inactive.
Are there are any other goings on with you or Ravage that you’d like to let our readers know about?
We have a big CD release party taking place on January 6th 2006 at The Middle East downstairs in Cambridge MA and we are putting together our biggest stage show yet. It should be a blast, we hope to see all the Boston area metalheads there. We’ll hopefully get to see some of the fans in Europe and in the other parts of the USA on tour some time next year. Till then you can chart our progress at www.RavageTheEarth.com, www.myspace.com/swwr, or www.AlRavage.com - all should be updated soon. Ravage In Peace!!!
SPECTRAL RIDER reviews in Metal-Rules.com