Bassist James Rinker
Interviewed by EvilG
Shadow Demon are one of the more exciting new REAL metal bands to emerge from the US in a long time. The blend of thrash, melody, and power metal is presented seamlessly and will please fans of such bands as Persuader, Iced Earth and Testament. If this were the late 80’s, many might call this power metal, but today that term often refers to something else. Shadow Demon are more of an old school thrash band with vocals that are gruff yet melodic. When you dig beneath the surface of their brand of thrash, there is aggressive power metal and traditional metal to be found.
Starting out, what is the significance (if any) of the band’s name, Shadow Demon?
None. It was just a name that Jeff came up with.
Stylistically, the band is a mixture of heavier power metal and thrash. Is this what you set out to acomplish or was that just the sound that came out?
Our two biggest influences are power and thrash metal so we certainly wanted to bring in the flavor of both, yes. We’re very happy when listeners recognize those as our dominant elements.
Riff-wise, alot of the material sounds more like melodic thrash with elements of traditional metal. It’s the vocals and some of the drum patterns that brings to mind power metal…at least that is what I hear Is that anything how you might describe your sound?
Yes, pretty much. Of course we throw in some twists here and there but I think that is a good broad description.
As a reference point, those who are fans of what bands should check out Shadow Demon? I would say Persuader, Testament, and Iced Earth…
Amazing! Those are exactly three of the four bands that we list when we are asked that question. The fourth being Blind Guardian, of course.
Tell me about the recording process – I believe you did the recording in your home studio? Have you done that before or have you recorded other bands since then?
Yes, that’s exactly how it was recorded. I’ve been a hobbyist recording engineer for a number of years and have collected a decent amount of equipment and software mostly for personal recording purposes. When we did our EP, we were very lucky to have access to a very good studio to record all the guitar, bass and drum tracks but we didn’t have time to record the vocals the way we wanted them. We wound up recording the vocals for the EP in my fledgling home studio and the process was perfect for us. It allowed us to actually rewrite some things on the fly and come up with something more satisfying. When we recorded early concept and demo versions of the songs for ‘Grimoire’, we did that in the studio here as well and it was such a good and relaxed process that it seemed natural to continue the final recording here as well, especially since we had no real way of affording a commercial studio. Doing things on our own time and at our own pace was the biggest advantage for us. Since then, mostly because we also practice and write in the studio, it’s not really practical to record other bands at the moment.
In hindsight, when you listen back to the CD, is there anything from a recording or song point of view that you wish you’d done differently?
As far as the songs, no. I think we’re very happy with the way the songs were written. Recording-wise I think we could have done a few different things with the guitar and drum sounds. We have a list but it’s not too long, actually. I think the biggest thing we will certainly do differently if we have to do it ourselves again is have an outside engineer take the lead on mixing the next album.
To you, what were the biggest changes between you EP in 2003 and now with Grimoire of Ruin?
Adding two new permanent members and maturity of the band as a whole. We’ve stretched out a bit in a couple of different directions writing-wise since 2003 and we’re just more comfortable and confident together than we were then.
Do you write your material together, or is there a song-writing team? Or, do you all bring in pretty much finished songs to finalize in a jam?
Up to this point we generally have a bunch of seed ideas recorded usually by Jeff and me. It can be anything from a bunch of riffs recorded in a rough song arrangement to just a vocal melody fragment. We then all just listen to the bits and pieces and as things strike one of us as interesting that person will just run with it. Up until now it’s been just Jeff, Blaine and me writing stuff as Jay and Ryan came into the band after we pretty much had all the Grimoire songs figured out. Probably there will be more of the same process for the next album with everyone contributing ideas but we’ll see.
What is the story behind the album’s title, Grimoire of Ruin?
We had probably 70% of the album written at the point we decided to get serious about coming up with a name for the album. At the time it was just Jeff, Blaine and me and so we had a few get-togethers where we talked about the songs, the themes in the lyrics and so on and wrote a bunch of different title ideas. One of the things that seemed to be almost a common thread was the idea of loss. Whether it was loss of self-identity, the wiping out of a culture, loss of our concept of reality or a person’s life just about every song had something related to that idea. Jeff proposed the idea of the collection of songs being like stories or writings bound together somehow (like a book) so after thinking about those two things together the title was born.
The cover art for GRIMOIRE OF RUIN is very eye-catching and Mathias Noren did a fabulous job on it. Was this a peice he created just for the album or was it something already in his archives? How did you end up working with him? Did he contact you or are you fans of his work for Communic, Ayreon, Jag Panzer, Evergrey and Into Eternity?
Yes, it’s an awesome piece of work! We came up with the concept and originally talked to Travis Smith who had done the cover for our EP. Travis didn’t think he could do our idea justice so we asked around and one of our friends pointed us to Mattias’ site. The funny thing is I own a few of the albums you’d mentioned (Jag Panzer, Into Eternity and Manticora) but hadn’t put together that they were all covers by Mattias. I wrote him and asked if it was something he’d be interested in and he accepted the project and we went from there. I think the only hard part of the whole thing was the exchange rate from US Dollars to Euros. J
You’ve opened for some fairly big names in metal…being a band with little touring experience and only an EP out at the time, how did you manage to land sweet opening spots in Seattle for Sonata Arctica and Kamelot/Epica?
Two things. We keep putting ourselves and our material in people’s hands so that they are aware of us and then keep knocking on doors and talking to people. That’s key. The second is having a direction that actually fits reasonably well with those two bands. Seattle is a bit funny as there are not a lot of bands doing power or traditionally influenced metal around here.
Have you played locally with any of the other big names such as Nevermore and Heir Apparent?
Yes, we’ve played a small festival here in Seattle with Heir Apparent a few years ago. We know Terry Gorle very well as he mixed and mastered our original EP. We run into the guys Nevermore from time to time but we’ve never had the pleasure of opening for them, yet.
Nevermore, Heir Apparent, Queesryche, Metal Church are all based in the Seattle area - are there any other, shall we say, “true” metal bands in your neck of the woods that people should be on the lookout for? And if there’s not, does that make it harder to play many shows locally or do you play with bands that are not really compatible to your style?
No, there really aren’t any others, sadly. Yes, it makes it very difficult to set up shows because of that. There are a lot of death and metalcore sounding bands around here and typically people that would come out to see those bands don’t care for our stuff (“Singing? Yuk!”) and vice versa. It’s actually a bit discouraging at times.
What kind of touring have you done so far to support GRIMOIRE OF RUIN or what is planned for the coming months?
Very little, I’m sorry to say. Part of that is that we’re still relatively unknown and part of that is because we haven’t yet put the required effort into making a solid tour happen. We do have plans to make it out onto the road at least a few times this year but what we can realistically do remains to be seen.
Have you tried to tour the west or east coast, or anywhere in Canada (Vancouver is pretty close and we have a writer there that could perhaps cover the show…hah!)? Any chances of playing in Europe?
No, but anything is open at the moment. If we were invited to play Europe and it were financially feasible to do we’d do it in a heartbeat, of course. Playing in Europe is one of our top goals right now.
Speaking of Europe, do you get more interest, e-mails, CD purchases…from Europe, or are most fans from your local area?
A bit of both, actually. We get a lot of interest at shows here but then outside of shows we don’t get as many sales and fan mail from people in the area. We do get quite a lot of interest from overseas, mostly Europe but also South America and Japan. I think we’ve sold more CDs to people in Germany than to the rest of the USA outside of the immediate area, if that says anything.
Does the band still manage itself or have you linked up with any sort of manager or management company? I see you are associated with Earsplit PR…how is all that stuff working out for you?
We are still self-managed for now. Earsplit PR has been very good for us and we were actually a little surprised and grateful when they agreed to take us on. It’s been a pleasure working with Earsplit. Unfortunately, as far as management goes, we haven’t found or been recommended the right person or agency for a band where we are now. Metal is a somewhat difficult entertainment business to be in so we’ll just keep working at it until we find the right fit for us.
Now that GRIMOIRE OF RUIN has been out for a few months, are you pleased with the response it’s been getting from both press and the metal fans?
Yes, for the most part. Earsplit helped us send out over 100 promo packs to North American magazines and webzines and we sent out a few dozen more world-wide. So far the response rate has been good, but sometimes a little slow depending on the reviewer’s loads. The press reviews that we’ve received tend to be much more positive than negative, which is always great. Fan response has been very positive which is the most gratifying thing to read. It’s great to be able to connect to people with our music.
Has the album been released or is it being distributed by anyone in Europe?
Not through a regular distributor, no. We’ve had sales to a few small shop owners and festival booth proprietors but that’s been it other than direct individual sales. We are still slowly working on that and I’m hoping we’ll find a decent distributor sometime soon.
I love the album, but if I had to make one criticsm it would be…what’s with the opening to “Sea of Oblivion” – sounds like a bad impression of black metal! Then when it slows down is sounds like off key vocals…
Ha! First, I’m very happy to hear you like the album overall. Yes, we knew that certain choices we made may not sit well with everyone but that’s fine. With just about every song we were trying something a little experimental.
Chris Slack does a lot of local photography for the scene and even comes up to Vancouver to shoot shows occasionally. Is he becoming your official “unofficial” photographer? Are you close friends with him, as well?
We’ve known Chris for a while and he has *always* done great photo work. As long as he’s willing and able to shoot our shows, we’ll keep hiring him!
What is the biggest hurdle that the band has overcome so far, and what do you think your next biggest challenge is?
Honestly I’d have to say finding a good permanent drummer was our biggest hurdle we’ve overcome so far. We literally searched for years in the area for someone good enough and willing to play our style of music. Because of the scene here, it was hard to land a drummer that was accomplished and actually understood the music. As with everything with this band so far, patience and work paid off in the end. Our next challenge and goal is to play in Europe. The original three of us have had this goal in mind for some time and I truly believe it’s just a matter of trying until it happens.
What are your plans (short and long term) for 2007?
Get out there and do some shows with as many of them being out of this area as we can manage. Write more songs and get a good start on the next album. The #1 thing, though, is to enjoy ourselves along the way.
Thanks for you time and for the killer CD…looking forward to hearing more of you in the future!
Thanks for the opportunity to appear on MR!
Visit the Official Site of Shadow Demon