Vocalist/Guitarist Erik Rutan
Interview & Live Photos By Lord of The Wasteland
One of the busiest people in heavy metal today is undoubtedly Erik Rutan. As if fronting his own band, Hate Eternal, isn’t enough, Rutan also lends his production skills out to such diverse bands as Vital Remains, Cannibal Corpse, Cellador, Krisiun, Goatwhore and Soilent Green to name just a few. After spending eight years as part of the Earache Records family, Hate Eternal has found a new home on Metal Blade Records who is set to release the band’s fourth album, FURY AND FLAMES. This record is a scorcher from start to finish with the band motoring along at its trademark speed but a deep-rooted intensity is present, undoubtedly sparked by the death of Rutan’s friend and former bassist, Jared Anderson.
This interview was supposed to be conducted by telephone during a travel day between shows in Florida with The Black Dahlia Murder and Three Inches of Blood but getting the last slot of the day is always a crapshoot and delays pushed my time out beyond what I could do, so Erik was kind enough to answer my questions via e-mail instead.
FURY AND FLAMES – 2008
The new album, FURY AND FLAMES, comes out on February 19th. There seems to be less musical experimentation in terms of samples and exotic instruments this time than on I, MONARCH. Did you want to get back to a more straight-forward metal album with FURY AND FLAMES?
It wasn’t a matter of wanting to get back to anything specific, it was just what was written naturally due to all the inspiration and influence I had going on in my life. I just put everything I had into this record. It was a massive undertaking and I really wanted this to be stellar album of epic proportions. This album became everything of who I am and I just put all my focus, energy and effort into it.
Since you’re on a new label now–Metal Blade Records–did you approach this album differently, maybe like a fresh start or with a clean slate?
Everything kind of felt like a fresh start–the label and the lineup. Everything in my life had taken a turn. Some of it for the better and some for the worse, but I knew I needed to just let this record become what it was meant to be on its own flow. I wrote and played so much guitar during a long period. Every song reflects a different moment in time for me and it really makes this album special to me.
Bolt Thrower and The Haunted left Earache Records on less-than-amicable terms and didn’t have a lot of positive things to say about their time on that label during our interviews with them. Did you leave Earache for any specific reason? What made you choose Metal Blade Records?
Earache did the best they could for me but Metal Blade is just a much bigger label, the best in the metal business. I left Earache because I wanted a new start with a new label. I had been part of Earache for over a decade between Morbid Angel and Hate Eternal and I needed a new start. Metal Blade is such an incredible label. I have worked with them many times producing their bands and I knew when my contract was up with Earache that was where I was going to go. I have good relationships with all the people that work there and it is an honor for me to be a part of Metal Blade.
KING OF ALL KINGS – 2002 / I, MONARCH – 2005
The last two Hate Eternal albums—I, MONARCH and KING OF ALL KINGS—saw you handling all the guitars yourself. Why did you decide to get a second guitarist—Shaune Kelley—on board again for the first time on record since CONQUERING THE THRONE?
It was more like Shaune is one of my best friends and I wanted to see him take the opportunity I had for him. He had been going through some tough times and I always knew if anyone was going to be the second guitarist, it would be him. Ever since I started Hate Eternal, I always left it on the table for him. This time he just grabbed it. Shaune is an amazing guitarist and knew he would be perfect for the band. I have always written everything for two guitars but just nobody was the right guy. Shaune is. We just did our first tour as a four-piece ever and it was so fucking heavy live. I’m so psyched about Shaune being in the band!
“Para Bellum” and “Proclamation of The Damned” are real standouts in terms of the drumming and what skills Jade Simonetto (Camilla Rhodes) possesses behind the kit. I know he is in the French-Canadian band Camilla Rhodes, so how did you come into contact with him?
Jade contacted me online a year ago and just said, "Hey, if you still need a drummer, I know the Hate Eternal stuff." He said he is a huge fan of the band and would love to come down and try out. At the time, I was weighing my options as far as a drummer and something about Jade I really liked as a person. Then he sent me a video of him playing a few tunes and I thought they were awesome. He flew down and we jammed on something like fifteen old songs. Then I knew he was the man. We worked together for months and months to make this album unique and special. Jade practices all the time and is so dedicated to Hate Eternal and his drumming and he really gave me a new life on things. He is awesome! All the practicing we did together and pre-production really gave this album so many layers and expanded from our earlier records. It was due to time and all the effort from everyone.
Alex Webster from Cannibal Corpse plays bass on FURY AND FLAMES. Did he adopt a different bass style for the album than he uses with Cannibal Corpse?
Well, Alex just focused on writing some amazing bass lines for all the music I had. He enjoyed just writing the bass. We worked together for months, as well. He did what he always does, kick ass!
Jared Anderson (1968-2006)
The lyrics of “The Funerary March” and especially “Tombeau” are clearly inspired by and about the passing of your friend and former Hate Eternal bassist, Jared Anderson. Obviously, his death was a major emotional blow to you personally, but how much of that pain was channeled into the writing of the new CD?
A ton of pain was channeled into this album, especially from the loss of Jared. It really shook me up. He was such a good friend to me, as well as a band mate. I’ve always been tight with Jared and when he passed away, it was devastating. The only thing I could do was write music and play guitar to deal with it. I was producing a bunch of albums at the time and in my free time, all I did was play guitar. We had just talked a week before he passed away and it is still hard to believe he is gone. This whole album is dedicated to him and is in honor of Jared.
What is the inspiration behind the instrumental ambient track, “Coronach?” What is a “Coronach”?
Coronach is connected to Tombeau. Tombeau is a musical tombstone, while Coronach is a traditional Celtic lamentation for the dead.
“Hell Envenom” almost has a black metal feel to it with the moments of tremolo picking happening. Is that genre an influence to you at all?
To me this song is pure dissidence and death metal to the max. I do appreciate bands like Bathory, Venom, Immortal, Mayhem, Dimmu Borgir, etc. but I grew up more with thrash and death metal.
There are some really complex and technical solos on the new CD, especially on “Hell Envenom,” “Bringer of Storms” and “Proclamation of The Damned.” Do you still have a regimen that you keep in terms of practicing?
I just practice all the time, whenever I can. Not anything specific, I just freestyle play all the time. I love to play guitar.
You are currently finishing up a tour with The Black Dahlia Murder and Vancouver’s own 3 Inches of Blood. What is coming up after that?
We will be headlining the U.S. in April with Soilent Green and Skeletonwitch and then heading over to Europe in May with Cephalic Carnage.
I saw Hate Eternal in 2005 and 2006 as a three-piece and juggling vocals, lead AND rhythm guitar looked fairly effortless for you. Have you considered getting a vocalist for Hate Eternal and just concentrating on guitar when you’re playing live?
I would never get a singer. That is what I do. I am a singer and a guitarist. I have sung and played guitar pretty much since I started playing guitar. I always wanted to front my own band and sing and play guitar. Double the power, double the satisfaction.
Were you surprised when Randy Piro and Eric Hersemann announced they were leaving Hate Eternal to form their own project, Gigan?
Eric was never an official member. He never toured with us or did any shows, nor did he play on any albums. You can’t leave the band if you are never a part of it in the first place! Randy’s departure was a mutual decision on both our parts. We talked it out and it seemed to be the best decision for both of us. We are still great friends today.
HATE ETERNAL – 2002
Why do you suppose Hate Eternal has had so many line-up changes over the years?
Life has a way of affecting people. People change who they are and what they want to do in life. People also have false expectations of what it is like being in a band. Contrary to popular belief, being in a band is hard work and there are a lot of sacrifices you must make. Lots of people are not willing to make those sacrifices. I have for fifteen years and I never look back. I work my ass off. If you want to get anywhere in life, that is what is required. There is no free ride and certainly not one with Hate Eternal.
Is Hate Eternal like Annihilator or Iced Earth, with you acting as the core and then “hired hands” filling out the line-up?
I do write the majority of the material, do the business, interviews and produce the records, but I have never looked at Hate Eternal as hired guns, just musicians in a moment in time.
After Randy left, was Jared planning to return to the band again?
Jared and I were in talks about him coming back to the band. How it all would have turned out, though, we will never know.
You and Shaune were in Ripping Corpse together back in the early nineties. What is it like being in a band with Shaune again now that you guys are older?
Awesome, man. Shaune and I been friends for over twenty years. We had not jammed in fifteen years but this has been perfect. It sounds so killer live!
Any chance you’ll be busting out any Ripping Corpse tunes on stage?
I would say that is a no.
Of the three songs from the original ENGULFED IN GRIEF demo/split, “Sacrilege of Hate” and “Saturated In Dejection” appeared on the debut, CONQUERING THE THRONE. Will “Messiah of Rage” ever get re-recorded and released?
Well, Alex and I thought about it but felt it was different than the new material so not right now.
CONQUERING THE THRONE – 1999
You did a guest spot on the new Lizzy Borden album, APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH. Are you a fan or how did you get involved with that project?
[Metal Blade Records owner] Brian Slagel asked me if I would like to mix the album and I remember listening to Lizzy as a kid, so it was an honor to mix it, as well as doing a guest solo for it.
After leaving the band in 2000, you filled in on second guitar with Morbid Angel on their European tour in the summer of 2006 reuniting the DOMINATION lineup once again. It’s killer that David Vincent is back again, too, and when I saw Morbid Angel live with him in 2005, they smoked! It’s been four years since HERETIC was released, so is there any new music coming soon from them?
I really enjoyed those shows and had an awesome time playing with Morbid Angel again after many years. They are working on new material as we speak and I am sure will record a new record in the near future.
MORBID ANGEL – 2000
You did a side-project in 2001 called Alas that yielded one album. Is there anything further happening with Alas?
I will record a new album sometime. I have a lot of material, just need some spare time in between producing and Hate Eternal.
There were two huge setbacks on the I, MONARCH tour: Hate Eternal went on with the European tour when Derek Roddy quit and you played Vancouver after driving straight through from Cleveland. A lot of bands would have packed up and quit, so how do you remain so dedicated to your craft?
Life for me has always been about adversity, challenges, tragedies, as well as amazing moments. Hills and valleys, ups and downs, but when faced with this, I have always just taken them head on. Through many life experiences, I have become a very strong, hard-working person. I am very dedicated and loyal to who I am and what I do. Things happen for a reason in life. They may be bad at times, but if you weather the storm, good things can be on the horizon. I believe in Karma and feel I have good Karma now!
How do you approach a production job when you have bands as different as The Absence, Vital Remains, Demiricous, Goatwhore, Soilent Green, Cellador, Krisiun and Through The Eyes of The Dead? Will you expand to producing outside of metal?
I focus on every band individually. I engulf myself in the music of each individual as well as the collective band, the vibe they are going for, the sound and the direction. I try to be the extra member of the band that can also engineer and produce, as well. I love recording all kinds of music, so I really focus on the organics of each band and bring that out. I think that is why my albums sound different and my favorite producers–Tom Dowd, Rick Rubin, etc.–do the same approach.
Do you approach producing your own albums any differently than producing that of another band?
I am much harder on myself and my band I think, because I am so wrapped up in it, especially this album. I was obsessed with this being an epic. It’s much harder to hear and think clearly during your own album since I am so involved in it, but I still love doing it.
Which of your own production jobs are you most proud of and which are you most disappointed with?
I love all the records I am doing. I have had some amazing bands come to my studio and I am very grateful for that. Cannibal Corpse, Vital Remains, Goatwhore, Soilent Green, Through The Eyes of The Dead, Demiricous…the list continues. I love all the bands I have worked for but I don’t look at the disappointments, only the positives. Life is learning and getting better. That is what I do.
Hate Eternal—Official Site