Sunday, August 25, 2013

Interview with Scythe done by Patrick 8-25-13

Metal Hails!!
hope everyone is having a good weekend? {or week if your reading this during the week! thank you either way}   here is a new interview with a man who really needs no introduction in the underground metal scene Rick Scythe the former man behind the legendary Usurper.Is now one of the the driving forces behind Scythe if you enjoy old-school heavy metal mixed with NWOBH. then be sure to check out the bands new  LP "Subterrean  Steel" through  R.I.P Records.
enjoy and keep the flames of metal burning eternally!!
Patrick and Primitive ways

Interview  with Rick Scythe  vocals,guitarist for Scythe done by Patrick

1.Metal  hails Rick! how is your week starting out?Thank you for taking the time to fill out this interview with me.Please introduce yourself to the readers.

RS: I'm Rick Scythe, best known as the guitarist/songwriter/founder of Usurper [1992-2007].  Currently I am the guitarist and vocalist of the band Scythe [].

2.When  did you first  discover the great sounds of metal? Who were some of the early bands you listened to?Who  are some of your current  favorite metal bands?

RS: That is going way back for me. I think it was around 1980. I was turned on to bands like Van Halen, Ted Nugent,Scorpions, Kiss, Black Sabbath. I was drawn in by the big sound and big presentation... then it escalated into discovering heavier and heavier bands. I got really into the early thrash and speed metal bands in the mid-late 80's, as well as some crossover, early doom metal and classic heavy metal... basically anything that was faster, louder, or heavier than regular hard rock... then it was all downhill from there HA! HA! I don't really listen to much current music. Out of newer bands I really like Stone Magnum, Hedlok and Tyrant's Blood.

3.Before  Scythe you were in the Legendary metal band  Usurper when  you formed the band band did you ever dream the band would get as big as it did? Out of all of Usurper's releases and songs do you have a particular one that sticks out as your personal favorite?

RS: I never knew for sure that we would actually accomplish the things we have, but we always had certain goals and a non-stop desire to accomplish them. We always wanted to tour the world and release many albums as possible, and we actually got to do this! I wouldn't say we were a huge band, but we definitely made our mark. We put out 7 releases and toured/played concerts all over the globe. Usurper consumed every aspect of my life from the mid 90's until its' demise in 2007. It was my number one priority, above family, friends, jobs... number one thing in my life.

As for personal favorite Usurper track... I can't just pick one song. I would say an early song like, "Slavehammer" best captures the essence of the rawness and sheer headbangability of the early Usurper years and "Kill for Metal" best captures the precision, tight, heavy metal anthems of the later years. So those 2 songs are the ones I would use to introduce someone to Usurper who has never heard the band before. I feel those best capture the Usurper sound and style.

But I always liked "Vatican Time Machine" off Twilight Dominion album, that song was always fun to play live and had a great lyrical theme. Also the title track to our third full-length album, "Necronemesis" featuring King Diamond doing guest vocals, (for obvious reasons).

4.Why did Usurper decide to call it quits after so many years?Was it  long after the demise of Usurper that you formed Scythe?

RS: Things just kind of self destructed with Usurper. There was a lot of frustration due to the strange situation we were in; the band was getting to be more well known than ever before, we were headlining shows, fests and mini-tours all over the world, we were packing the venues, people knew all the words to our songs, yet our album sales for Cryptobeast weren't reflecting that? We finally realized it was due to the internet, but no one in the band was really aware of how to adapt to the changing times. We were used to doing things the old way with big recording budgets and putting out physical products. The times changed and we didn't. This led to arguments and frustration between the band members as well as with the label. Finally the wheels just came off the wagon.

After Usurper broke up in 2007 I did a short lived 2 man project which was more experimental / horror metal music. I wanted to do something different from Usurper because it would have seemed too odd doing a new version of Usurper with different members. Also I figured we just needed time to cool off and regroup. I honestly figured Usurper would eventually reform.

In 2009 Usurper was getting a lot of good offers to get back together; we got offers to play fests and perform various live shows. I wanted to do this, it felt like the time was right and there were a new breed of metal fans that were just discovering Usurper. I contacted drummer Joe Warlord and he was up for it; original vocalist General D. Slaughter was also possibly interested if it was the right situation, but a few of the other past  members did not want to do it. So it never happened.

So instead of re-forming a new version of Usurper with new band members, i decided to form my own band called Scythe; w
here I could carry on the traditions of Usurper, but also just explore other territories. I didn't want to do what most old bands do when they reform, by having one original guy and then the rest new members and calling it "Usurper".  I figured I would form a new band taking up where Usurper left off, but also blazing our own path. It wasn't the easy way (starting from the bottom again), but it felt like the "right way". This type of music is in my blood and I had many songs written that I never recorded with Usurper, so Scythe was born to fill that void in my life.

5.What is the current line-up for the band?For the readers who have never heard Scythe's music how would you best  describe it?

RS: Scythe consists of Dan Geist [Bass /Vocals], Joey Contreras [Drums / Backing Vocals], and myself Rick Scythe [Guitars / Vocals], we are a 3 piece, where all 3 members are equal and important to the sound of the band.  Stylistically our sound can best be described as a combination of mid 80's speed metal, with the impact of late 80's/early 90's thrash/death metal, combined with elements of NWOBHM  power, 70's hard rock headbangability and classic Heavy Metal anthems.

Our sound isn't fancy, but it is played with conviction skillfully executed - no sloppiness disguised as "raw": Razor sharp, precision guitar riffing; low end rumbling bass such as Venom / Motorhead; full-on speed metal drumming with no modern digital triggers and no blast beats... all 3 members assaulting ear drums and cracking skulls!
It is underground metal for fans of underground metal; played with integrity and sincerity.


6.Over the years between Usurper  and Scythe you have toured all over the world  with some great bands.Where have been some of your favorite  countries/places to play? Is their any country that you haven't gotten to play yet that you hope to play with  Scythe?

RS: We were fortunate to play 17 countries from 1997-2007, all around the globe. Our first ever European tour was great; 2 weeks of non-stop insanity! We were the opening band for the Enthroned / Hecate Enthroned tour. I made some great friends and it was our first time overseas. We traveled in an actual tour bus and got to play many different countries.

Later we toured with Cradle of Filth in 1997, 1999 and 2000. Those were some of the biggest venues we ever played and we got to play great places like La Leterie in France, Alcatraz in Milan, Italy, and my all time favorite venue, the original Hard Club in Porto Portugal.

We also toured with Manowar, which was very awesome! Getting to support the "Kings of Metal". People always used to say Usurper was like the underground, extreme metal version of Manowar, so it was great touring with the legends themselves!

We also headlined places like Mexico, Canada, West Coast of the USA (with Exhumed opening up), Minneapolis Mayhem Fests, and we peaked by headlining day one / Main Stage of Inferno Fest 2006 in Oslo, Norway! That was undoubtedly our pinnacle. We never got to play South America, Asia, Australia or Former Soviet Union... I would like to play all these places with Scythe. We most likely will tour South America in 2014.

7.What about  some of the bands who have been some of your most memorable or fun shows to play?  If you could set up a dream show/tour who are some bands{past or present} who would you love to share the stage  with?

RS: Scythe has only played 4 shows in our career. But we got to play with some great bands like, Desaster, Midnight, Gates of Slumber, as well as some great local bands like Malas, Superchrist and Stone Magnum. We will be directly supporting Sabbat from Japan this October and plan on touring South America and possibly a fest in Europe when the new album, "Subterranean Steel"  is out. People have been very supportive so far. Some die-hard Usurper fans have been showing up to shows as well as younger, new fans who have just discovered Scythe. It is always total non-stop, headbanging, fistbanging, metal anthems when Scythe plays live.

A dream show? Alright... a fest with Ted Nugent, Manowar, Celtic Frost, and Scythe!

8.Scythe  just  released their second LP "Subterranean Steel" through R.I.P Rec.  how long did it take the band to write the songs for this release? How has the  response  been from the metal press and the metal fans so far

RS: Most of the songs were simply written as a continuation of our first album, "Beware the Scythe". I never stopped writing after that album was recorded, so if "Beware the Scythe" had 13 songs instead of 9, a few of these songs would have been on the first album. A few songs were re-worked songs I wrote for Usurper, but never recorded.  Other songs were collaborated between myself and Dan Geist, so it is very similar to the first album, but more precision and impact. The album won't be officially released until September 11, 2013. The advance copies are out now for reviewers and so far people seem to really enjoy this album.

Compared to the first album, I would say the songs are tighter, more aggressive, more headbangable with a very big, thick production - totally raw and in your face, yet clear, precise and powerful. It is for fans of all forms of real underground heavy metal.

9.Does  Scythe have any upcoming shows,tours in support of  "Subterrean Steel"? If yes where will the band be playing?

RS: We are still in the planning stages, but for sure we will be supporting Sabbat here in the USA. We have a South American tour being worked out right now. Also planning some shows in different states and possibly Europe. Only time will tell how many or how few shows we will do for this album. One of the downfalls about being an underground band is the fact we are not affiliated with some big record label. Big labels call the shots with the big tours, so realistically that isn't even a goal of ours. We want to spread the Scythe name by word of mouth and focus on quality shows rather than quantity.

10.Rick you have been  a part of the underground metal scene for years now so I was wondering how do you feel it has changed?Do you feel technology{computers,email,social sites etc..} have helped or hurt the underground?

RS: Back when Usurper was starting out you would print up little quarter page ad's for your demo and and mail them all over the place. You would get other quarter page ads for other bands and also send those out in your mail. You would have to physically mail your cassette tape to fanzines and magazines and wait months to get a review back. There was something cool about that, which the younger generation of fans will never experience... Having said that, I would say the internet is a good tool to speed up the process and save a lot of money on postage. The internet is a much more powerful tool to spread your bands' music around the world. It is great being able to connect with fans via email or social media. Those are the aspects I really like about the internet age.
The bad part about technology like the internet, is that music now is much more disposable. When someone can listen and download songs for free from their couch, or their phone - the recordings all of the sudden don't have any value. Albums have lost meanings to the newer generation. People don't care about entire albums as much anymore, they listen to a song and download it on their hard drive. They want things NOW! They want quantity over quality. An Mp3 to a lot of fans is better than an actual track - which of course in reality, it isn't. The sound quality is much less. Mp3's sound smaller and thinner.... Cover art, booklets, lyrics don't mean anything to a lot of people.
It doesn't matter to me because Scythe will continue to release proper albums with a side A and a Side B for both ourselves and the small minority of fans who like the old ways of metal. To me, a physical album where you can look at the cover in your hands and read the booklet or lyric sheet and take in the artwork when you listen to an album in order from beginning to end is best way to experience recorded music.

11.In your opinion  what is best and worst about the underground?And what does the term Underground metal mean to you?

RS: The best thing about the underground is the ability to be your own boss, call your own shots and do things the way you want to do them. It is great having like-minded people to work with and like-minded people who appreciate your music. Having a small, but loyal fan base and friends is the best part of underground metal. Mass appeal is great as long as you don't have to sign your rights away and become a puppet to a corporation, (which is very hard to do).

The worst thing about the underground is the constant struggle. There usually isn't a lot of money in underground music, so if you want to dedicate your life to it, be prepared to make some personal and financial sacrifices. Be prepared to work a job all day, and then treat your band as a full time job too. Be prepared to run into creeps, losers and assholes who want to rip you off and put you down.

Anyone can be a die-hard underground warrior when they are a teenager or in their 20's, living at home and being a slacker. It is much harder being an underground metal warrior in your 40's, dealing with everyday life and the physical limitations on your body. That's why when most people hit 30, they cut their hair and leave the old ways behind. Underground metal is a lifestyle, whether you are a die-hard fan or a die-hard musician,.

12.Coming back to the band you handle the guitars for the band when did you become interested in playing guitars?are you self taught or did you take lessons when first starting out?

RS: I got into music around 1980, I was 9 years old, but I knew the magic and power of rock n' roll! I was hooked instantly. I loved watching bands like the Scorpions with their cool looking flying V's. I remember by the time I was 12, I begged my Mom to let me take guitar lessons. I had this big acoustic guitar and I went to this teacher that had Mel Bay books. Basically it was exactly what I DID NOT want to play. It was all lame songs from like the 40's and early 50's. Basically pre rock n' roll era guitar chords.

After 4 lessons I told my Mom I didn't like it. She was angry that I quit the lessons. So I saved up money for a cheap electric guitar and little 15 watt amp and I learned how to play myself. I was completely terrible, but at least I was trying to figure out what I wanted to play. I joined a few bands by the time I was 15 years old, but it all sucked.

It took me many years to develop my style. I learned from watching better guitar players and taking advice from more experienced musicians. So yes I was self-taught, but I also had some minimal formal training and also learned tips from other guitar players.

13.Who are some of your influences,favorite guitarists?Do you play any other instruments?

RS: As a kid it was Ted Nugent, Eddie Van Halen, Rudolf Schenker. Later it was guys like Kerry King/Hanneman, Tom G. Warrior, Michael Denner/Hank Sherman. All these guys knew how to play with conviction. It wasn't always about flash or technicality though. I appreciate anyone who cultivates their own sound and style. I like when you can hear a guitarist and instantly know who it is. I don't care so much about shredders or theory slaves like Steve Vai or Joe Satriani; I appreciate Johnny Ramone more then them. That shredder style where the rhythm is just an after thought to play leads over just doesn't move me. Rhythm guitar to me was always as important as the leads. I always liked the entire song, not just the guitarist, but a song to me needs to be guitar based. I love guitar tone, to me that helps define a bands sound more than anything. That is one thing you will notice on "Subterranean Steel"... the guitar tone is MASSIVE! It is definitely the Rick Scythe tone, perfected and amplified!

As for other instruments. I play bass, obviously it's not much different than guitar, except how you approach it. I also program drum machines for demo versions of every Scythe and usurper song. I use it for a model of how to explain the type of drum parts I want for the songs. Obviously the drummers then take it, add their own fills and own personal aspects to it, but I like to come up with root drum beats.

Playing to a drum machine has helped refine and develop my guitar playing. There is zero room for error when playing to a drum machine. That has made me rock solid with timing and rhythm playing. Really helped me improve as a guitarist and a song writer. When I write a song I hear the entire song in my head, so even if I can't play something, I can explain what I want.

14.You also handle the vocals for the band when did you start singing?Who are some of your favorite vocalists?

RS: I started in 1999 doing backing vocals on the "Necronemesis" album. Since then on every tour I always added backing vocals in Usurper, also on all the albums from Necronemesis on. At first it was hard to get the coordination down, but now with Scythe, it almost feels awkward when I am not singing. Dan Geist also contributes vocals, so the vocal attack live is just like the albums. We both sing main vocals and backing vocals and also combine vocals at times.

Vocalists to me are like guitarists; I like vocalists that have conviction and have their own voice and personality. I hate mundane death metal vocals that sound generic. To me anyone can do that. I don't mean specifically the death metal style, because that sounds great when done properly.  I mean the approach many death metal bands take; where it is just bland, monotone and has no conviction.

Some of my favorite vocalists are King Diamond, Eric Adams, Tom G. Warrior, Cronos, General D. Slaughter, Dan Tyrantor, Tom Angelripper, Bruce Dickenson, Ronnie Dio... I'm not saying I can sing like any of these guys, but I like how all these guys have a certain personality to their vocals. There is a certain cockiness and conviction in which these vocalists all portray. A certain attitude that I can't totally define. For instance, take evil guys like Tom Warrior and Cronos, they still had a subtle sense of humor and used certain words and phrasings to add an over-the-top dynamic; they had conviction. I like vocalists who aren't afraid to take chances and are proud of their words and performance, and don't care if people mimmick them or goof on them. You always know you are doing something right as a vocalist/frontman if your die-hard fans love you, but people that don't get it make fun of you by doing bad imitations.

15. You and the band come out of the great Chicago,illinois  area I know their has been a lot of great bands coming from this town and state since atleast the 1990's. so I was wondering what is your opinion of the scene in Chicago?

RS: Ehhh... I don't really care. I never cared about fitting in with the Chicago scene. Geographic location is the most overrated criteria for determining how good a band is. Just because you like a few bands from a certain area doesn't mean that every band from a similar location is great. I never was like that growing up. Sure, I was curious where my favorite band was from, but I never instantly loved every sub-par band from the same area just because they are geographically close to my favorite bands.

There were some great Chicago bands that I have the utmost respect for, but also some terrible bands - it had nothing to do with the fact that we all live near each other.. The legend of Chicago grows, it's the new trend I suppose, but in all honesty I don't try to fit into a scene. Read any old Usurper interviews, the scene wasn't always so great. Having said that, if bands support Scythe, I support them.

There are many good classic Chicago bands, for example: Usurper, (who disbanded), Funeral Nation (who just reformed), Macabre, (who never went away), Master, (who haven't been based in Chicago for many years)... compare that with up-n-comers like Nocturne (who is actually a one man band) and Sons of Famine (who are new but made up of veteran musicians), all these bands sound totally different to me; none of them sound similar in any way, none have much in common except we all happen to live, (or have lived)  in a relatively close proximity to each other.

It is not like Sweden where all those bands all have a similar Entombed guitar tone and similar melodic thrash approach. To me Chicago bands don't have a specific style or sound. I will say this though: the fans in Chicago are getting better and better. Shows are getting bigger and a lot more people like this style of metal Scythe plays than did when Usurper started out.

16.Who are some of your all-time favorite Illinois bands?Are their any new bands you think the readers should keep an eye out for?

RS:  Survivor, Styx, Cheap Trick are all legends. The Shadows of Knight are the best though! Keep an eye out for Scythe! Subterranean Steel will kick your ass!

17.Well Rick we have  reached the end of the interview thank you for taking the time to fill out this interview with me.Do you have any final comments for the readers before we close out?

 RS: Thanks for the support!

To order a copy of a Subterrean  Steel  from  R.I.P Records check out the web-store/site here.

to keep up with all the latest band news,updates check out 

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