Rick Scythe: “I have nothing but respect for anyone who has ever played in Usurper. But as far as any other bands featuring past members… it is not really something I think about. All I am concerned about is Usurper. The real deal is back! ”
Usurper uit Chicago is terug! Daar willen we natuurlijk het nodige over weten. Zeker omdat er ook een nieuw album is: ’Lords Of The Permafrost’ welke uitkomt via Soulseller Records. Gitarist en oprichter van de band Rick Scythe geeft tekst en uitleg.
Door: Pim Blankenstein – 11 april 2019
Hey guys, we obviously have to kick off this interview with a question about the return of Usurper. You disbanded in 2007, but you told me in an interview we did on your other band Scythe, you did get offers to perform with Usurper around 2009. The other guys weren’t up to it, so you started Scythe. Fast forward to 2014; I think the first seed was planted to actually reform in the original line-up, but I better ask you what happened next?
Hello again Pim, and thanks for the interview! Actually in 2010 I began to speak with Joe Warlord, (drums) about Usurper. We both agreed that we would get Usurper rolling again when the time was right. In 2013 we got a serious offer to reunite to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Usurper. Joe and Jon (bass) approached me with interest about reforming. We actually rehearsed a few times and things felt pretty good. Unfortunately Dan Tyrantor was on his death bed in Colorado, needing a liver transplant, so he couldn’t do it and our old vocalist didn’t want to do it. Myself and Jon agreed that we were going to split the vocal duties for the show, and things actually sounded pretty good. But at the last minute Jon decided he wasn’t up for it, so things just fell apart. Then in 2015, myself and Joe decided once and for all, that ’now’ the time was right. Dan got a liver transplant and was planning on moving back to Chicago. We got an offer to do a local fest called ‘Holiday of Horrors’ to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of our debut album, ‘Diabolosis’. Jon was on board, and we rehearsed together as a 4 piece. But shortly after that, Jon once again backed out. That’s when Joe suggested Scott Maelstrom to join the band.
So, this new line-up consists of two original members, the vocalist of the last studio album you did before the split-up and a new guy on bass. This suggests that any of the other former members weren’t interested at all? In addition, your drummer Joe is also in the band Bones, which also consists of two more former members. That hasn’t led to any problems?
I’m a founding member of Usurper. I am the only member of the band who played on every album and performed at every Usurper show in the band’s history. General Diabolical Slaughter (vocals) and Joe were the other founding members. Joe, had to leave the band in 1996 to take care of some personal matters. In 2003, Joe returned, but about three weeks later, General D. Slaughter quit. Shortly after that, Jon and Carcass Chris actually quit too! So myself and Joe got Dan Tyrantor (vocals) in the band, and soon after they heard how good things sounded with Dan, Jon and Chris rejoined. Since then, myself, Joe and Dan Tyrantor have been the core of this band from 2003 to the present day.
As for Jon, like I said earlier, we tried to make it work. But for whatever reasons, he kept backing out. It’s a shame, life is too short to have some big grudge or something. I don’t know if that is the case with him – but I can assure you this, it wasn’t because I had/have any problems. I have no hard feelings, no ill-will, and I always considered Jon a friend. However, at this point we need members who are 100% into the band. There is no animosity on my end, but if someone doesn’t want to do it anymore, it is time to move on.
As for Chris, we never asked him to return. You have to realize, Usurper was always a one guitar band when we originally formed. Chris didn’t join the band until seven years and five releases into our career. Even when he joined back then, he only played some leads on two albums. I recorded all the rhythm guitar tracks on both of those albums, as well as a few leads. He never wrote anything. I wish the guy nothing but the best, but when we reformed, we really wanted to go back to the classic sound of Usurper. All the die-hards who would write me over the years really stressed how much they like all the old stuff (the demo and the first four releases), so we wanted to go back to the old ways of Usurper. I have nothing but respect for anyone who has ever played in Usurper. But as far as any other bands featuring past members… it is not really something I think about. All I am concerned about is Usurper. The real deal is back!
One more thing I’d like to address referring to that aforementioned interview is that you said you’d like members to be 100% dedicated to their main band. As far as I understood Scythe is still active as well as Bones. So, what band has priority? And is it a workable situation for all involved?
Scythe is something I do when I have free time. I have an EP ready to go as well as almost a complete third album written. But I am going full force with Usurper these days, so Scythe is on the back burner. Yes, to me it is always important to give your all to a band, when too many side projects are going on it seems to water down the original band a bit, at least from my perspective. I never was into side projects, but that’s just my opinion, whatever anyone else wants to do in their spare time is fine by me. I will assure you this, Usurper is the main priority.
Now we got that cleared up, let’s move to the new album. When did you guys start working on new material once you got the line-up together? Did you already have a lot of ideas/riffs stacked somewhere?
Oh yeah man, I had songs, riffs, ideas, lyrical concepts in the works since 2007. Once we decided to record a new album, I dug through old files on my computer and decided where to start. I began putting stuff together, then myself and Joe got tight with the music, and once Scott was comfortable, he even contributed a bit. As for lyrics, myself and Dan started discussing topics early on. Dan and I are always on the same page about lyrics, so on this album, more than ever we just discussed a topic and I let him know where the words were supposed to go, and he wrote some killer lyrics. Things just fell into place.
Did you compose and record “just” the eight songs that ended up on ‘Lords Of The Permafrost’?
Yes, these were the eight songs we wanted on the album. We recorded eleven songs though. I have other songs as well ready to go when the time is right.
Can you tell some more about the recordings of the album. You went to Electrical Audio in your hometown. Did you record digitally or is it an analogue recording? And was it a smooth session?
They tracked everything digitally there, but we recorded without any click tracks or digital editing. We literally recorded live, and went back to add additional guitar tracks and vocals. But on the album, nothing was cut-n-pasted, nothing was snapped to a grid, nothing was altered using pro-tools, it was approached the same way as recording analogue in the old days. All drums, bass and centre guitar track were actually recorded and tracked live at the same time with no overdubs. We went in there well-rehearsed and well prepared. It was surprisingly our quickest, smoothest recording session ever.
The album is released by Soulseller Records from the Netherlands. How and when did you hook up with them? I guess you didn’t have any ties with Earache anymore?
Jorn from Soulseller was an actual fan of the band from the 90s. I believe he saw us live in Europe in 1998, but I’m not 100% positive about that. Once we reformed he contacted me and made us an offer we couldn’t refuse. I really liked the quality of their releases, so this was an obvious choice for us. As for Earache, we had one more album on our deal with them and they pulled the funding and didn’t want to work with us anymore, so needless to say that our partnership ended. They can go suck a proverbial dick as far as I’m concerned.
The artwork is very cool and fitting. Can you tell us a bit more about cooperating with Juha Vuorma on this?
I’ve worked directly with Juha since 1997. Back then I sent hand drawn sketches and notes for the ‘Skeletal Season’ cover via snail mail, from Chicago to his village in Finland. We would go back and forth via snail mail in those days. It was a very slow process. Back then neither one of us knew what an email was, much less owned a computer. Now we correspond over the internet, so it is much more efficient. He is not only a great artist, but I consider him a friend. I send him a rough sketch and general concepts that we wanted incorporated and he painted the cover. His artwork is classic, yet original. It is high quality, yet has some rough edges – perfect for Usurper.
You have a couple of shows lined-up for the coming months. Any plans of doing more gigs or possibly a tour? Any chance we might see Usurper in Europe?
Yes, we are planning some on-offs and headlining shows in the States at first. We are talking to some people in Europe as well. All I can say for now is, for sure we will be playing in Europe in 2020, possibly before that as well.
Right, that’s it from my side. Anything else you want to get across to our readers?
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