Erik Rutan certainly needs no further introduction. Through his involvement in RIPPING CORPSE and MORBID ANGEL, every Death Metal lunatic should be familiar with this guy. Most recently he has returned with a new band on his own called HATE ETERNAL and unleashed his debut album, a brutal Death Metal assault entitled "Conquering The Throne" via Wicked World / Earache records! Time to let the man speak out himself . . .
What actually lead to the break-up of RIPPING CORPSE back then?
"Well, we had been a band for 7 years. The label we were on went bankrupt, we did another demo, but no one was interested signing us. After all these frustrations and all of us being a bunch of lunatics we decided to let it rest. It was one of my toughest moments of my career. Everyone else decided to take a year off and regain their composure. I moved on and started ALAS and then joined MORBID ANGEL in 1993."
Do you think the "Dreaming With The Dead" album ever did justice to the real qualities of the band?
"No, not really, I mean I am very proud of the record but when we did that record in 1991, it was all old material already, stuff written a few years before it. We thought we would be doing another record the next year so we decided to put our old material on "Dreaming With The Dead" saving our newer stuff what unfortunately was a mistake. The label went under 6 months after our release and about 25 songs written by me and Shaune went to waste. RIPPING CORPSE was a very special time for me, they were and still are some of my best friends. I will always feel that we never really got to prove what we were really about. But deep inside I will always know."
What do you think of the RIPPING CORPSE follow-up project DIMMAK? Are you involved in that in any way as well?
"I think DIMMAK is one of the most creative and original bands out there, period. I have had no involvement with DIMMAK except for the fact that I am still very close with those guys and do everything possible to support them. They are truly awesome!"
What have you done in-between the split-up of RIPPING CORPSE and the offer to join MORBID ANGEL?
"I started my other band, ALAS and then about 2 months later after our split, I joined MORBID ANGEL."
Was it ever a problem for you not being accepted by Trey as a songwriter, but just as a stand-in guitarist for tours?
"I’ve certainly felt from day one that Trey respected me as a guitarist and accepted me as a creative songwriter when I first started playing with MORBID ANGEL, it was a couple months after they recorded "Covenant" in ’93. I did all the touring for "Covenant" and when it came time to record "domination", Trey gave me a lot of freedom to write for "Domination". that is why I was able to create the songs I did like "Hatework", "Eyes To See, Ears To Hear", "Nothing But Fear", "This Means War" and "Melting". he let me write 5 songs for the record and I felt truly honoured that he had enough faith in me to allow all my material I wrote for the CD. That was a huge honour and it showed how much Trey respected me. Before "Formulas Fatal To The Flesh", I knew at this stage of his career that he wanted to write the whole CD himself and I totally respected that. That is when I broke off to start my own band, HATE ETERNAL. I then came back 2 weeks before the "Formulas Fatal To The Flesh" touring to show my support of the new MORBID ANGEL and out of respect for MORBID ANGEL. They have been and always will be my favourite Death Metal band."
Not long ago you were also involved in a project called ALAS… whatever happened to that?
"Yes, I have had to make some line-up changes, but have now stabilised the line-up. I shall be recording my first full length CD early in 2000 at my own studio, dimensional sound, with my new singer, Martina Hornbacher, known for her work with THERION. This is a record I have been working on for quite some time and I am very excited about getting it done. It shall also have real strings on the record, like violins, violas and cellos. the record is orchestrated, kind of like "Hatework" was, but much more melodic, yet advanced and eerie, very dark and intricate."
When did the idea of HATE ETERNAL come to your mind and how did you hook up with the other members?
"Well, I came up with the concept of HATE ETERNAL for I felt that after a decade of playing Death Metal, I wanted to prove that I could do well on my own. No compromise, nothing but my complete vision and I have always wanted to front my own band and sing and play guitar. I used to sing back-up vocals in RIPPING CORPSE and I felt that with HATE ETERNAL, this is my chance to prove myself, how what I can truly accomplish. I wanted to create an assaultive attack with a ferociousness that I had never truly captured in my previous efforts. This record truly is very angry, full ofrage and intensity. To get the right guys involved I knew it would be a task. After trying out a few drummers, I found Tim Yeung, my drummer, who is amazing and was only 18 at the time, now 20. Then I got Jared Anderson on bass and backing vocals. He used to sing and play bass in an awesome band called INTERNECINE. When they broke up, I recruited him for HATE ETERNAL. Then, I originally was going to play all the guitars and write the complete CD myself, but me and Doug Cerrito have been friends for 9 years. When he told me SUFFOCATION broke up, I was devastated. I told him, guess what, I just signed with EARACHE and I want you to be a part of HATE ETERNAL. I let him write a few songs and the rest is history."
Please tell us a bit more about each one of them!
"Tim played in a few local bands in New York where he is from. He has awesome precision and attack with his drumming. Very consistent and diverse in his style from jazz to Death Metal. Jared, was once a guitar player who decided many years ago to play bass and sing. One of the most aggressive and technical bassists I have ever seen and his voice is sick. Doug, known for all his work in SUFFOCATION is a master with his guitar, or how I like to call him, the riff master. He is one of the best. I am very proud to have such quality musicians and friends in my band. This has been the hardest record of my career yet, but it has also been the most rewarding."
Tell us a little bit about the demotape that you put out a while ago. Was the line-up already the same as it is now? Which songs appeared on it and how do you judge its qualities nowadays?
"I have the same drummer, I played all the guitars on the demo and sang. Alex played bass on the demo with us for he is my friend and I did not have a bassist at the time but I ended up getting my permanent bassist. 2 of the 3 songs appear on the record and I have to say they are 200% better, especially my vocals. The whole CD came out way better than I even had expected. I put in so much effort into this record. I played guitar, sang, engineered, mixed and produced it. I put everything I have into this record."
Did you sell it or was it just meant for promotional purposes?
"I sold about 1000 CDs that were split with ALAS / HATE ETERNAL, about 500 tapes and also sent out over 500 tapes for promotion and sent out over 200 packages to magazines and fanzines. I do all my own mail so I definitely put in a lot of effort to make everything happen."
Was it already clear from you straight from the start that hate eternal was gonna be a brutal Death Metal act? I mean, ALAS was also quite different musically, so…
"Oh, it was very clear. I was on a mission to create a death metal record like no other. To hopefully create a Death Metal record that would be considered one of the best and most savage ever and revive the Death Metal scene. I set huge goals and high standards for this band. The fact that ALAS is so different is why I am able to separate each band musically and creatively. They are totally different from each other but are both parts of my emotion and my soul. They are part of me, just in different ways. They are essential for my existence and all part of me."
When did you start writing the material for HATE ETERNAL? Did you maybe even use ideas which you originally had intended for MORBID ANGEL?
"I started writing the material in late ’96, early ’97. Everything I wrote for HATE ETERNAL was strictly used for HATE ETERNAL. I only had 2 months to write for "Domination" so I never had any left over riffs. I wrote all 5 songs for "Domination" during those 2 months and wrote the HATE ETERNAL record after I split from MORBID ANGEL."
Was it already clear from the beginning that you would work with Wicked World / Earache or did you shop the demo to other labels also? What made you go with Wicked World after all?
"Well, I did send the demo to a few other labels but it was Earache who stepped up to the plate and gave me a very fair deal. I have known all the guys there for many, many years and so has my manager, Gunter Ford, so it made sense to keep it in the family. Gunter set it up for me and I completely trust all his business decisions. He is amongst the elite of all managers and I feel is truly the best, period. He said lets do it and I agreed."
With "Nailed To Obscurity", "Dethroned" and "Spiritual Holocaust" there are also three songs on the album that have been written completely by Doug Cerrito, your other guitar player. Were they composed exclusively for HATE ETERNAL or is that SUFFOCATION leftover stuff?
"I dropped a few of my own songs so he could write on the record. We wrote all the songs specifically for HATE ETERNAL. We wanted to keep the feeling and the roots of our previous efforts with MORBID ANGEL, RIPPING CORPSE and SUFFOCATION but create something new and fresh so HATE ETERNAL wouldn’t sound like any of those bands that we had a part of."
What inspires you lyrically these days – do you consider Death Metal lyrics as kinda limited?
"I derive much influence from my personal visions and emotions mixed in with elements of knowledge from my reading of different literature and my interest in such things as the occult, black arts, the Aztecs, Sumerians, Egyptians, various forms of mythology and different sects of religions. Like my widely diverse influences in music, I approach my lyrics in a similar fashion. To me, lyrics, of any form, whether it be Death Metal or what ever music is a direct outlet for me and I find writing lyrics very intriging and stimulating to my mind and feelings. I take my lyrics very serious."
To me the whole album has a pretty big MORBID ANGEL overtone, so I guess it is still more or less an honour to be part of that band as well, isn’t it?
"I, to a certain extent agree and disagree. 90% of the material on HATE ETERNAL is stuff that would not be appropriate for MORBID ANGEL but I feel because of its attack and approach you would say it has a MORBID ANGEL feel. It is a much more straight forward record and I would say, more technical. MORBID ANGEL has more diversity in its approach as far as slower songs, mid tempo and fast songs. This record is nothing but pure adrenaline and straight in your face and has more diversity in its plan of attack and technique. For me, nothing can be compared to MORBID ANGEL. We are a different band with a different approach. It has always been a honour for me to play in MORBID ANGEL, they are the kings of Death Metal and the innovators. any comparisons to MORBID ANGEL for me are very flattering."
Where did you actually draw your main musical influences from? I guess there’s a lot more than just MORBID ANGEL, isn’t it?
"Back when I first started playing guitar I liked DESTRUCTION, DARK ANGEL, MORBID ANGEL and I also listen to a lot of classical music like Mozart, Bach, Vivaldi and Beethoven. I also like various exotic music, soundtracks and also some of the older Metal bands like IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST. They all have had a influence in my playing."
When did you actually start singing? Your voice sounds so matured to me already that I can’t believe that it was the first time for you to do this deep growling… I even guessed that you hired David Vincent as a session vocalist for several parts on the album, but that was obviously wrong, so…
"Well, I can tell you, it took me a lot of work to sing with a lower approach. I have been singing high vocals since ’89 in RIPPING CORPSE, singing backing vocals, always high screaming. I have been working on the lower style of vocals for a few years now. It has taken me a lot of time to work on my vocals and to sing and play these songs together. It has been a lot of work and I feel I did a very good job considering it was my first record with me singing."
By the way, are you still in contact with David? What’s your opinion about his current musical activities and how do you see the (political) controversy he caused while he was still a member of MORBID ANGEL?
"I have not talked to David for a very long time. He has moved on in a totally different musical and personal direction now that I do not affiliate myself with at all. But, I will always respect David for all his work with MORBID ANGEL and I feel he was certainly one of the best vocalists and frontmen out there in Death Metal. As far as the controversy is concerned, I never truly knew what it was all about. When it comes to politics, I know absolutely nothing."
I was very surprised when I found out that the album wasn’t produced in Morrisound studios, but at the rather unknown Greenhouse FX studios in Tampa instead. So, how did you find out about its qualities and what made you record there instead of Morrisound which you already know a lot better?
"To be honest with you, it really had nothing to do with the quality of the studio, because it did not have a lot of gear. It was a very inexpensive studio but it was my friend who owned it and had just opened it. He had never engineered Death Metal. The reason I went there was because I knew he would let me come in his studio and do the record basically myself. I did most of the engineering and mixed and produced it myself. We recorded on a 1" 16 track tape machine, a Beringer 8000 console and some Shure sm57’s, that’s about it. I wanted to make a very clear record but at the same time, make it very dark sounding and truly create a evil vibe, totally underground, yet of a higher quality. I went to engineering school many years ago and also have a studio. I will be producing the next KRISIUN record for century media over in Germany in November. I had to do this HATE ETERNAL record at 3 different times because I was touring with MORBID ANGEL, so it was very tough, I mixed in a total of 3 days and a total time of 2 weeks."
It came to me as another surprise that you also handled the production job (along with Wes Garren engineering). And the result sounds extremely promising, so have you maybe gained any kind of experiences in that department already?
"I did most of the engineering myself except when I was doing my performances and mixed and produced it solely myself. I did go to school for audio engineering and have produced many projects including the last RIPPING CORPSE demo, other various demos and all the ALAS and HATE ETERNAL demos. This was my first record I solely produced myself and I learned allot from this experience (thanks a lot for all the complements). I also started my own studio here in Tampa called Dimensional Sound studios and look forward to doing some records there. The first one will be the ALAS CD. I also have a couple of other records I am setting up right now for next year."
What made you use this old painting of Hans Memling for the album cover? Are you into art in general?
"I thought the painting made a very powerful statement and it had a huge impact on me when I saw it for the first time. I wanted to use a classic painting and this was over 500 years old. I thought it was very suiting for HATE ETERNAL. I am very much into various artists and paintings. Have you ever heard of Salvador Dali, (sure, I have! – Frank) he also did some very interesting work (absolutely! – Frank)."
Over the past couple of years black metal has taken over the underground, and brutal Death Metal had to suffer a lot from that. So, I was wondering what your opinion about black metal in general is and why you stick to Death Metal anyway?
"Death Metal is my lifeblood. it is, what moves me, what drives me, what fuels me. it is an essential part of my existence and I plan on continuing my consistent attack of Death Metal for many years to come. I am Death Metal, it is what I am. I respect many of the black metal bands and their believes. Marduk and Emperor are, I would say, my favourites."
What do you think was the reason for the lack of interest in Death Metal after its big breakthrough in the early 90’s?
"A lot of Death Metal became repetitious and boring and all started to sound the same except for the few choice bands. So many Death Metal bands came with the trend and just flooded the scene, I think people wanted to hear something different, but yet still extreme. That is why with HATE ETERNAL, I made a pact to create a record of devastating power and to prove that musicians like myself will always keep Death Metal alive."
Do you have any fave bands at the moment? Any albums that you are constantly listening to?
"I really like DIMMAK and KRISIUN, they are excellent bands. I think VADER, NILE and Marduk are great, too."
Is HATE ETERNAL a full-time band for you or was it just that you had too many ideas lying around that needed to get released in one way or another? In other words: are there more albums and maybe even tours coming up?
"HATE ETERNAL is a full time band. nothing I do is just a project. My music is way too personal and important. I feel I need to follow through on everything I do. I plan on doing many records with HATE ETERNAL and touring here in January and coming to Europe in early spring of 2000. I already have many songs for the next record so be prepared. I am no way close to being done yet. I have set many goals that I will stop at nothing to achieve."
You will tour Europe again soon with MORBID ANGEL – wouldn’t it be possible to bring the other HATE ETERNAL members along and do support shows?
"I thought it would be a good idea, but I do not want to overshadow my playing with HATE ETERNAL, by playing with MORBID ANGEL. hopefully in the future we can open for MORBID ANGEL, but not our first tour. I want HATE ETERNAL to prove what it has to prove on its own, let it stand on its own two feet, if you know what I mean. That is why I refused to have a sticker on the front of the CD saying "featuring members of MORBID ANGEL and SUFFOCATION". I want it to succeed on its own merit. Death Metal fans are very smart and very loyal. People know who I am and know HATE ETERNAL."
Any final thoughts? Anything else you’d like to add here?
"First of all, I would like to thank you for this interview and the support and to thank Germany for all the support over the years. I look forward to coming over there to tour Germany and will expect to see all the loyal Death Metal fans there. This record is truly dedicated to all the true Death Metal and extreme metal fans out there. together, we shall all conquer the throne!!!!!!!!"