The Irishmen of FOR RUIN were flatteringly insistent on an interview. Fortunately they have the music to back themselves up. They were also extremely patient with me, putting up with my delays and seeming inattention. At last, their words are here, transcribed by the man himself, Frank Stöver…
Greetings, John. What’s new in the FOR RUIN camp?
"Hey Nat, thanks for the interview. I’m answering this from San Francisco in fact – over this way for a week with my day job. Things are busy with the band as you can imagine – we’re planning some upcoming shows, rehearsing new songs and doing a lot of promo for "Last Light" which came out in October."
Many bands got their start rehearsing long before they began recording. How long did you spend practicing before you recorded the first split in 2004?
"The first demo (in fact all 3 of the demos) are me on my own so the band really only became 4 people after I returned from a few years in Spain once the 3rd demo came out. We were signed on the strength of the 3rd demo really and the band’s initial lineup followed that really. So there was no rehearsing for any of the demos, it was just me on my own in those days, writing songs and recording them and pushing those recordings as hard as I could everywhere – the band didn’t put a foot on a stage until after the 3rd demo came out really."
Tell us about any bands or projects you were involved in prior to FOR RUIN.
"We all played in other bands before FOR RUIN I guess, local bands as kids and that sort of thing, nothing as dedicated as what we do now. The first FOR RUIN demo was split with Meiche, a primitive 2-man Black Metal band that I played drums and some guitars with – we never played live, it was studio only. Pete (Bass) used to play in a couple of local bands and Drew (guitar) used to play in a band called Hallowed."
Is there any chance of FOR RUIN reprising any Abhor material?
"I’ve never heard any of that (it was Pete’s old band many many years ago) so I doubt it!"
You played the Winterfest in 2008. I confess I don’t know much about Wintefest. Where is it held, who played, and are you hopeful that festival brought you greater exposure?
"Winterfest is now becoming an annual small festival in our home city, we’ve played it a few times really, not so much for exposure but it’s a good night out in a half-decent local venue in Cork. But numbers are down at these things lately so I don’t know if it will continue. We played with bands like Amon Amarth, Primordial, Skyforger and others at it over the years."
How often does FOR RUIN play live? How interconnected is the scene in Ireland?
"We don’t yet play live as often as we’d like to be honest. But we’re working on that. Our focus is no longer on the local scene here in Ireland – it’s a small scene of less than 1000 underground fans who are saturated with gigs of varying quality and everyone has less spare cash for gigs and music these days. The scene is well connected here, everyone knows everyone I guess – you expect that in such a scene. People here have made up their minds a long time ago if they like our style or not and we’re now focusing on the UK and Europe in 2010."
Recently, a resurgence in old Thrash Metal came about. Now the focus is oldschool Death Metal. While the interest in older Metal is a good thing, many argue–quite rightly, too–that the new music is a poorly engineered imitation. From what you’ve heard of newer bands, if any, do you agree or disagree with the prevailing skepticism?
"People get older and cling to what they used to like, we’re all guilty of that I guess. It’s a little closed minded and that probably doesn’t help new bands. Personally I never really liked Thrash that much and like it less these days… the resurgence in the last few years past me by as I had no interest in it. I saw and played with a few of the bands that were playing that style but its not really my thing so I didn’t take an interest. But there are certainly a good few quality Death Metal bands coming out that I have heard here and there. I guess there’s a hint of nostalgia to it, that old familiar sound that we grew up with and associate with a certain, probably more innocent and carefree, time in our lives."
Your new album, "Last Light", is only a few months old. Still, that’s old enough to have received some feedback. Aside from our compliments here at Voices, what else have you heard about the album?
"We are very pleased with the reactions. You only need take a quick look at the many reviews on our website to see that the press are being very kind to us. That’s important to promote the band of course, but more important is what the people at the gigs are saying – they seem to really like it and see it as a great step in the right direction for us. Everyone spots the improved production (compared with the debut album) along with improved technical ability, structured songwriting and increased pace almost immediately. In that sense we’ve achieved what we wanted to do."
I myself was reminded of the first Candlemass record when I saw the cover. Of course, you guys aren’t a Candlemass clone, but just because band A doesn’t resemble band B, it doesn’t mean band A can’t be influenced by band B’s expressive power. Which bands have influenced you by force of their originality and imagery?
"A comment in passing – Candlemass isn’t a band I’ve ever listened to really, but I know the cover of course. We wanted a simple iconic single colour cover that people would instantly associate with the band. But back to the question – the impact of imagery / artwork in Metal is so important to me. I think back to when I first started listening to Metal – trying to copy Derek Riggs covers and that sort of thing. The image and the music were inseparable. The mascot and the logo used to be key things and many bands took that route (Maiden, Megadeth, Anthrax etc.) and perfected it. In terms of musical originality – it’s tough to spot truly original bands, and originality can be overstated – I can think of many great bands that weren’t terribly original but they still knew how to write a good song…. When it starts to get boring is when you have a not-so-original band playing dud songs. In terms of imagery I’d say that early Maiden artwork had the strongest influence on me and later on I loved a lot of the Necrolord covers (Amorphis, Dissection, Sacrilege etc)."
The fact that it’s 2010 is staggering. Can you see extreme Metal enduring the way it has for another ten or twenty years?
"Tough question. I guess things will continue to come and go as they always have in music and particularly in the Metal world. I don’t see extreme Metal dying out anytime soon – there’s sizeable fanbases out there for it as the growth of the summer festivals clearly shows. But the music will continue to evolve and branch out, as indeed it should. I look at bands like Mastodon and Gojira as being examples of where Metal may well be going. I know they are not ultra-extreme, but they are growing at a strong rate and there must be some reason for that. The latest “post” Black Metal scene can’t pass quickly enough for me personally though, it seems to lack a lot of substance for me personally."
Back to FOR RUIN: you’ve had some personnel changes over the years. Are you still in touch with any of your old bandmates? Do they play in projects fans of FOR RUIN might have an interest in?
"I’m the only one that’s been there from day 1 and everyone that’s played in the band is still, I’m glad to say, a friend of mine. We had a couple of proto-lineups I guess as is normal for young bands. It takes a while to settle and for people to get comfortable in their roles and for the band to figure itself out and find a direction. Anyone who was in the band before that is still playing plays in bands today that are totally different stylistically to what FOR RUIN plays. The two Barry’s have a 2-man grind band called I’ll Eat Your Face and Ollie plays in a band called Molde while the others are not currently active in the music scenes where they are."
A lot of people strongly reject categorizations such as “Death Metal”, or “Black Metal”. Do you find such distinctions convenient for FOR RUIN at times?
"Categorization can be useful as a reference point for people who’ve never heard the band – but it’s also a broad generalization of course i.e. there are innumerable Black and Death Metal bands that we sound nothing whatsoever like. So I guess it can be a good and a bad thing… I personally prefer to say that we play extreme Metal and let people figure it out for themselves whether or not they like what we do!"
What about listening to other bands and being influenced by them? Bolt Thrower famously declared they abstain from most Death Metal so as not to pollute their sound. Could such a puritanical approach work for your band?
"I love listening to many styles of music, including extreme Metal so to cut myself off from that would be very tough for me personally, and I think that’s probably true for the other guys in the band too. In the beginning most bands are heavily influenced by their peers and heroes and I think that its natural that they try to emulate them and to a greater or lesser degree they may sound similar to them. But after a while bands usually find their own sound and style that makes them unique and I’m sure that happens whether they listen to similar styles or not. I think its probably important to listen to other styles of music too though, not only Metal – I certainly do this. I’m a fan of lots of stuff that many Metal fanatics would hate, from Dire Straits to blues to some 80s music to Sting & The Police and some Irish music… it takes all kinds I think and its good to keep your mind open to other musical influences. Its also important to recognize that musical influences are the only ones bands have – surroundings, education, history, current events etc. all play a part in our style I’m sure."
Are there plans for a tour?
"Yes – we will be announcing a short 4-date UK tour for April very soon. 2 of the dates are confirmed and we’re just waiting on the green light for the final two. We should have some European dates lined up for after the summer too. I’m almost sure (but these things always change) that we’ll be playing with one of the band you mentioned in this interview in the very near future in Dublin too, more info on that as we get it. We’ve been very lucky over the years to play with such great bands…"
Has the band printed any t-shirts or stickers? What about tape and vinyl?
"Yes we have 3 shirt designs (from "Obsidian", "December" and "Last Light") and some stickers were printed up for December too. The shirts and stickers are available on the website with all the band’s merch (www.forruin.com). We’ve never done any tape or vinyl – we may license "Last Light" sometime and might do a short vinyl run of that. We did a limited Collectors Edition CD of "Last Light" (still some available) of 100 copies of "Last Light" with a poster and a really nice numbered sticker too."
You mentioned that you have an advanced college degree. It seems that learned Metalheads are more populous than ever now. How long did you study to earn your degree?
"I generally keep my studies out of interviews but your observations seem to be correct – I know quite a few “learned” (to use your word) Metal fans and it seems to be coming more common. Maybe it’s a rebellion against the education or something, I don’t know ha. For myself I finished a degree in physics in ’98 and completed a research & thesis PhD in 2003. My day job is in the physics field."
Would you like to see more people in the scene accelerate their thinking skills by furthering their education? What do you think that would do to the richness of lyrical content?
"Definitely. Forgetting about the scene – I would like to see more people in general furthering their education, it’s a great thing to do for somebody and broadens your horizons (at the expense maybe of free time and having a decent salary!). If someone enjoys their education (as I was fortunate enough to) it allows you to think laterally and I wouldn’t be sure that some of my background hasn’t filtered into our lyrics and music somewhere."
Last but not least, the final words are yours. Anything you feel that was neglected about FOR RUIN in this interview, feel free to divulge here.
"Thanks for the interview Nat, much appreciated… I’ve been a reader of VOICES for many years (I remember when that great KAM LEE interview went up ha….!) and hopefully we will get out on the road in Europe before the end of the year. Full details are always up on www.myspace.com/forruinband and www.forruin.com."