Heart of Steel: Interviews

The Ravenous
Dan Lilker of Ravenous 

Interview by MetalGeorge

Do your like your Death Metal served raw and bloody, with a side of filth? Old school veterans The Ravenous hear your plea, and have prepared a rotting musickal feast for ya in the shape of their second LP, Blood Delirium. Of course, due to the fact that it's members have spent time in such legendary acts as Autopsy, Necrophagia, and Nuclear Assault, The Ravenous just may know a thing or two more than your average "brutal" or "technical" band out there when it comes to evoking the true spirit of death. I was lucky enough to escape from serial bassist Danny Lilker's torture chamber with my skin intact, together with some answers to my pending questions. The things I go through for you guys...

DanHailz man, and thanks for doing this interview! After the initial "Assembled in Blasphemy" strike, there was a period of quiet for The Ravenous, apart from your Milwaukee gig (at least from what I remember!), but lately you've struck back with 2 new vicious assaults, the "3 on a Meathook" ep and the killer "Blood Delerium" full length! Please bring us up to speed on what's been going on with The Ravenous to start things off!

Greetings. Well, due to the fact that we are, in essence, a project band due to geographical limitations, we aren't the most active band. We've played a handful of shows in our 4 year existence (and it's been like 16 months since the last one) and released the stuff you mentioned. It took less time between the EP and the new one, 'cos there was less label hassles. Hammerheart, who released "Assembled..." didn't work our after that, so it took a little while to hook up with Patrick and Red Stream, but it was worth the wait!



"Assembled in Blasphemy" impressed the fuck out of me for sure, I think it was one of the best debuts of that year, an awesome throwback to when Death Metal was truly sick and dark! Needless to say, I think we've all been waiting for this follow up! How has the initial response been to the new stuff from fans of the debut, and how do you feel it stacks up? Also, do you feel a lot of bands lack this "deathlike" feeling in the era of triggered drums and blastbeats galore?

From what I've seen, most reviews have been fairly positive. I think "Blood Delirium" is actually a little sicker and faster, which makes sense, because we've grown as a band. Hell, if we got to rehearse together like most bands, it would probably be better, but we have to deal with the cards we're dealt. I do think it's true that a lot of modern death metal is a little too mechanical sounding and precise. However, I guess it's a natural progression. You can't expect 17 year-old kids brought up on Cannibal Corpse and Suffocation to know of or play classic 80s death metal, which as more in common with black metal than some of today's death metal bands.



Adding to this question, would you say "bringing it back" is a primary goal for The Ravenous? When you used to say "American Death Metal", it used to mean "Scream Bloody Gore", "Mental Funeral", or "From Beyond", nowadays it seems to mean an entirely different thing, like who can play the fastest or most technical. What to you defines the term "Death Metal"? Should it be akin to "worshipping death?, and what bands past and present do you feel best represent this?

I don't think we consciously set about to bring back the old style. It's that Chris (Reifert, drums, Abscess, ex-Autopsy) writes 99% of the music, and he's somewhat of a recluse. He hasn't kept tabs on death metal's progressions. He just sits home with his vinyl and his weed, so his riffs are as pure as they were in the mid 80s, not tainted one bit by any modern influences. Worshipping death? Isn't that something Euronymous said a long time ago? (sure is!-mg) Well, musically and especially lyrically, The Ravenous satisfies the requirements for worshipping death, but we [dont'] walk around decapitating people or anything, heh heh. Immolation. Darkthrone. There's two good bands that cultivate death.(yeah...but Immolation suck, though.-mg)



What do you set out to achieve when you record a Ravenous album? How important is the progression from album to album? The new material stays loose and raw as fuck, and drenched in samples and hideous solos. It's not so dissimilar from the debut, yet at the same time there is a bit more texture to the songwriting, such as the old school thrash attack of the title song, "Festering Beneath the Fog", with it's Celtic Frost-lik atmosphere, or "Nightmares in a Damaged Brain", which showcases a very creepy, disturbed, and demented atmosphere. Speaking of which, could you please explain the line, "Fenriz is really sick"...a nice ode to Herr Nagel, eh? Haha!

We don't really have any plan of attack. We wouldn't progress too much and risk losing the feel. I guess Killjoy was saying hi to his buddy Fenriz, yeah.



How often do you guys get together and jam? With all these projects between you (Necrophagia, Nuclear Assault, Abscess, etc), where does priority for The Ravenous lie? Where does the lion's share of the songwriting come from, and is there much spontaneous songwriting/practicing in the studio?

The Abscess part of the band jams the stuff prior to the recordings, and for the ep and the new one, I did all my parts locally, having been sent the master tapes. First I learned the songs from a rehearsal tape. We can't prioritize The Ravenous, unfortunately. Chris writes the music, Killjoy writes the lyrics. Due to our bizarre recording technique, I couldn't tell you much about spontaneous practicing, it's just me and an engineer.



Does the Ravenous follow any set schedule when it comes to releasing material, or do you prefer to just let inspiration flow as it comes? Is there a lot of unreleased material lying around, waiting to be released?

No schedule. Chris just calls up and says, "I got some new shit, and I'm sending you a riff tape". As far as I know, all material has been used.



In comparison, the "3 on a Meathook" ep seems to have a very punk rock, simplified groove to it that I also dig a lot! Tons of Hellhammer and old Sodom influence here, I think! There's a heavier bass presence here, too, I think. Being a bassist myself, I really dig this, but was also wondering as to how you feel the ep stands next to the full lengths? Do you have any personal favorite Ravenous material? How is it playing with Chris Reifert as your partner in rhythm section crime?

Yeah, Killjoy mixed the last 2. I think the bass-driven production on the ep gives it that raw, punky vibe. I heard the mix and called Killjoy and said, "goddamn dude, you sure cranked the bass!" He said, "I just love that bass sound, and I cranked it". I think the ep serves it's purpose as a little in between release. I think it stands up to the full lengths fine, and is unique.



Speaking of bass, your playing has always influenced me, and I was wondering where you got your start and who made you want to pick it up? What gear do you use, and what advice do you have for other players? Do you have any preferences regarding pick vs. fingers, 4 string vs 5 string, etc? Would you say there's a secret to your technique?

Well, I'm old! I was first influenced by the bassists of Cream, Zeppelin, The Who, etc...Then came Lemmy and Steve Harris, and ever since I have not really followed any bassists. I have a Jackson JJ bass, a Sans Amp GT2 distortion, a Gallien Kruger head, and an SVT cab. I prefer using a pick on 4 strings, and there's no secret except kill.



Where does the bar lay with regards to how far you want to take The Ravenous? Is it considered a fun project to jam with, or something more serious to focus your energies on in the future?

At this point it seems that we will always be a project band...



With regards to touring, I know of your Milwaukee gig, but not much else. How many gigs have The Ravenous played, and how have they went? I assume you all have really busy schedules...is there any full scale touring planned? Maybe some East Coast gigs?

I'm not even sure how many shows we've done. There were a couple of Milwaukee Metalfests, November to Dismember in LA, and a couple of shows in NYC that were all spread out over a few years. Although it would be awesome to actually do a proper tour, or even get on some huge Eurofests, it doesn't seem likely.



How comfortable are you with the term "supergroup"? I mean, The Ravenous has some serious history, considering all the influential musick you've all been involved with. How do you feel when someone comes up to you and comments on how you've affected their life with what you've done? From Autopsy to Nuke, to Anthrax and Necrophagia, to SOD, Abscess, and Brutal Truth...it's all legendary stuff.

Well, thanks, but I'm not really down with the "supergroup" stigma. I realize it's somewhat unavoidable, but we're just some dudes playing music we enjoy. I'm always flattered when someone comes up and tells me how influential I've been, but I'm not thee type to get a swollen head about it.



Speaking of which, you yourself have always been a diehard undergrounder, with your hands in the more extreme stuff way back in the 80s. How do you feel about the underground's state today in comparison? I recently saw you interviewed in Slayer Mag as an "old thrash bastard"...how does that feel, ha! =)

It's really hard to follow all that goes on in the underground scene today, but it seems like extreme metal is as healthy as ever. I am, of course, proud to be an old thrash bastard, especially the first in the series! I don't know how to compare it to the scene of old...except to say the Internet has been a big help these days. I've started yet another band, brutal black death called Overlord Exterminator, and we threw up 2 songs for people to check out at http://www.earth-dog.com/sounds/04_Unearthing_Leviathan.mp3 and http://www.earth-dog.com/sounds/05_Sunrise_Is_My_Destroyer.mp3



You've never stood still, and have always had your hands full with music. Are you one of those people that always have to keep busy, like myself, and do you have much free time on your hands? Do you ever see "the" Dan Lilker retiring into quiet domestic bliss? (congrats on your marriage, by the way!)

I guess I just have a short attention span! I don't know, I don't really think too deeply about the musical endeavors I've been involved in. I'm one of those types who plays music because I love it, and it's very important to me, so it's coming more from the gut than the brain. I have plenty of free time. I work semi-fulltime just doing stock, and otherwise just hanging out with my lovely wife Heather. Slowly but surely, I'm kind of retiring bit by bit, just not recording or touring as constantly as I used to.



How was the recording? Were there any problems, or did it go smoothly?

I can only speak for the bass tracks, hehheh. I did the bass on "Blood Delirium" in about 4 hours. Like I said, (I"ll elaborate here) the recordings of the ep and the new album were done as follows: Chris calls me and tells me it's almost time. I then receive a tape of Chris playing guitar of the new songs, and I figure them out. Then, I get a rehearsal tape somewhat later, which helps, 'cos now I can tell how the drums go. Finally, those Abscess guys record their parts, and I receive ADAT master tapes, plus a rough mix CDR to practice a little more to, 'cos this is actually their recorded parts. I go to a local studio with compatible recording gear, pull up their tracks, and do mine.



The artwork and atmosphere are a very important aspect to the band, it seems. Paul Booth's artwork on the debut definitely caught the eye, and was very disturbing, and the new lp follows suit, though in a different way. Would you say the image and musick go hand in hand to a degree?

Absolutely. The imagery, lyrics, and music are al the basic building blocks of the final combined artistic presentation. The ingredients and recipe for the soupy stew that is The Ravenous.



How about the overabundance of samples? Do they all come from Killjoy's collection? It must be infamous! How do you go about choosing which one goes where and how to fit them in with the music? It works especially well on "August Underground", I think, especially the "I fuckin' hate you!"/"I hate you too!" exchange...where's this from?

I actually think there's too many samples, but that's just my opinion. Killjoy's the last person in the assembly line in the streamlined recording process. He does his vocals, throws on the samples and mixes. We don't have huge budgets to do alternate mixes and send CDRs around. We just leave it to Killjoy, and he uses his discretion. That sample you mentioned is from a movie called "August Underground", that some people Killjoy knows made. The video we did for that song has some clips from the movie.



What's next on the Ravenous agenda, as well as with anything else you have planned? What's the status regarding what your working with? Besides The Ravenous and Nuke, is there anything else your working on? You still jamming on any Black Metal material post-Hemlock? Has Anthrax asked you to rejoin yet, haha! =) Please fill us in!

Haha, indeed! I do not know as of now what's next for The Ravenous...could be we could do a US festival or 2, now that we have new shit out, but that of course depends on what the members' other bands are doing. I guess I already plugged my new band earlier. We're looking for a label at the moment, and we can be reached at overlordext@hotmail.com



Ok, I think that's it, man! THANKS again for your time in this, I really appreciate it! Best of luck with everything!! Die hard!

No problem, dude. Thanks for your interest.