Dan Geist - Bass
Rick Scythe - Vocals, Guitar
Joey Contreras - Drums, Additional Vocals
Scythe is the new band of Rick Scythe from the splitted-up Usurper and 2012 gave us the debut "Beware The Scythe", an album that keeps alive the old school sound of the artist, let's find out what he has to tell us.
Hi Rick, it's a pleasure to have you here with us, how are you doing and what are you doing in these days?
Rick: I am doing fantastic my friend! Just cranking away with Scythe, preparing songs for our next album. Which we are hoping to start recording very soon.
Usurper splitted-up in 2007 and after five years maybe something of that band is still alive in Scythe? How was your band born, which are the reasons that made you return on the scene and who are the other members?
Usurper ended in 2007 after a long career. When it ended I started a short lived project where I met Dan Geist (bass) and Tim Pearson (drums). That band lasted from 2007-2009. I took some time off in 2009 due to a lot of personal issues that came up and was actually debating retiring... but then in 2010 I was revitalized and I started the first version of Scythe. In 2010 I originally planned on doing Scythe as a solo project, where I would play all the guitars, bass, drums and sing and just have various guest musicians help me out, but then I found a few guys. I originally had a second guitarist named Joe Martinez and a drummer named Ben Mulvey, but things got weird rather quickly - right when we were starting to get tight and sounding good (and when we enlisted Dan Geist to play bass), then those other guys kind of lost interest. So we needed to start over again. In 2011 we got Tim Pearson to play drums and decided to keep Scythe as a power trio. We played a show and began recording “Beware the Scythe” later that year... then Tim quit to form his own band. So we had to get a new drummer. We now have a new drummer named Joey "King Kong" Contreras. The band is now tighter than ever and we will are working on the next album.
No one was expecting the split-up of Usurper after the good album "Cryptobeast", what happened in those times?
I didn’t really expect it either, but things just kind of came crashing down. Basically the internet for the first time really began affecting sales negatively. The band was bigger than ever, we were headlining shows, mini-tours and fests in different countries, more people than ever were going to our shows and knew the words to our songs, yet sales for "Cryptobeast" weren’t as good as our previous albums. Earache didn’t want to release the final album of our contract but never officially dropped us. So we were stuck... in the meantime we had to part ways with our second singer Dan Tyrantor, then there was a lot of frustration and fighting with the other members in the band. Finally I felt it was time to end Usurper. It is kind of sad because I was the first and last original member; I was the primary song writer, and founder and the only guy in Usurper who was part of every demo, album, tour, so it was ultimately my decision, but it was still a very hard thing to deal with. But as they say, all good things must eventually end.
"Beware The Scythe" is a warning to who thought that you were out of the scene or just a tribute to the Grim Reaper which you like so much? Why do you find it so captivating?
Basically it’s a warning to those who have thought I was gone. It is a statement to all these worms in the scene that have either slandered me, shit-talked me, misquoted me, betrayed me, ignored me, ostracized me, made me a scapegoat, attacked my character , insulted me or basically stabbed me in the back over the years. So I guess you can say I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder! HA! HA! People thought I was gone, so they no longer had any loyalties to me or even to Usurper for that matter. I found out who my friends were pretty quick in my downtime. I’m known to hold a world-class grudge and I have a memory like a steel trap when it comes to stuff like this. All I have to say is, "The Reaper is coming... fear the reaper... Beware the Scythe!".
Black/Thrash but also Speed, Doom and Rock'N'Roll, you put anything in this album, there are some references to NWOBHM too, are you totally satisfied?
Yes, but we have just begun to explore the Scythe sound. We as a band are into all forms of real metal and rock n’ roll and it is evident in our approach. We are not trying to mimic any old bands though. What we are doing is fresh and original yet familiar at the same time. We’re not trying to re-invent the wheel, but we are spinning that wheel onto our own path into uncharted territories. Usurper never got credit for how original we actually were and it seems the same way with Scythe for some people, but that’s alright, we will continue doing what we do. There is no band out there that's doing things quite the way Scythe is.
Time goes by but your Eighties attitude doesn't die, how do you write a song? What did inspire you (music, movies, books) for the tracks of the album and how did you write fitting lyrics for them?
The Eighties were the golden decade for all heavy metal. Yes there were good bands before that and good bands after that, but ‘pound-for-pound’ the 80’s delivered the most classic era for all forms of metal. For that reason it will always be in my blood. As for the song writing process, I approach things the way I did in Usurper. I read a lot of obscure books, then I usually get inspired about a concept that would make a good metal song and come up with a title, or words... usually that will coincide with how I want the music to sound. I like music that fit’s the lyrical mood. I always record rough 4 track demos with guitars, vocals and basic drum machine patterns. I give that to the guys in the band so they have a model of the basic sound and structure of the songs. From there, they build their own ideas into it and create embellishments and moods through their individual performances. For the next album I am doing things this way again, but also writing some riffs together with Dan Geist. He even wrote some lyrics this time around. Joey is adding a lot with percussion elements and pushing certain aspects from me, so it really is becoming a full band effort. Lyrically I like to explore topics most bands don’t such as: crypto zoology, conspiracies, New World Order, cyborg-human hybrids, Tesla Technology, Occult science, mysterious civilizations, alien races, Annunaki and giant legends, end time prophecies, time travel and of course anthems to Heavy Metal... I like to paint a picture with the music and lyrics, which when listened to while looking at the album artwork will take the listener into a fantasy world; it will provide a realm of escapism and entertainment, not preaching some fake bullshit.
R.I.P. Records and Primitive Reaction are the two underground labels which you worked with for the release of "Beware The Scythe". How are the relations with them and how did you get in touch with them?
I will start with R.I.P. Records. Stan from R.I.P. Records is the manager for Scythe (also someone who I constantly bounce ideas off of), and has been one of my closest friends since 1994. R.I.P. released Usurper’s first album, "DIABOLOSIS" on vinyl in 1995 and through the years Stan has had my back and I have his back. We are into the same music, have the same political views and same attitude. It was only natural RIP would release "Beware The Scythe" on vinyl as well as our future albums. Primitive Reaction Records I was introduced to by my good friend and artist for Usurper named Juha Vuorma. When Usurper split in 2007 I was looking for a label who would re-issue our THRESHOLD OF THE Usurper 1996 MCD on CD and vinyl with bonus tracks and unreleased material. Tuomas from primitive Reaction not only did that, but he proved to be a true underground metal head, reminiscent of the relationship I had with Paul Thind from Necropolis Records. So I knew I wanted to work with him for the CD version of BEWARE THE Scythe as well as our future releases. I own all my music and lyrics and have freedom to do what I want with it, I can sell it online and license it to be released on other labels in other territories. I would rather work with underground labels of quality than shitty plastic major labels who fuck over bands.
The band's logo and the artwork of the album represent definitely what we could expect from Scythe, who worked for them?
Artwork is VERY important to me. It always has to represent the mood of the songs as well as some literal aspects of the lyrical themes. We actually have 3 logos. Our primary logo and secondary logo for t-shirts and albums was designed by the legendary “Lord of the Logos”: Christophe Szpajdel, (who is most famously known for designing the Emperor and Enthroned logos). I designed our early logo which was based on the Usurper logo, but we don’t use that one much anymore. I also came up with our "SKULL N' CROSS-ScytheS" design. I liked the lettering for the Usurper logo and I liked how we also had the "Horned God" image to go with it, so I wanted something similar for Scythe. Actually all of our logos I wanted to have elements of the Usurper logo yet be totally unique too. The album cover for BEWARE THE Scythe was based on a black and white sketch I drew and submitted to 2 different artists. The CD version features artwork by long time friend and artist for Usurper named Juha Vuorma from Finland. I am a huge fan of his artwork and I love the way his creepy, oil paintings create a mood. The USA vinyl version was painted by an amazing artist from Canada named Damien. He was commissioned by Stan from R.I.P. Records and does an incredible job with detail and rendering of stone, skin, sky. Everything he does has this over-the-top professional quality reminiscent of fantasy artists like Ken Kelly. I usually come up with additional sketches, photos and images for the inner booklet, inserts and gatefold. We do some elaborate things for an underground band but to me it is very important to have imagery that fit’s the songs.
Do you like European Thrash Metal? And do you know the three Italian bands: Schizo, Necrodeath and Bulldozer?
I love many European thrash bands. I am an Italian American so of course I always had an ear open for great Italian bands like Bulldozer, (who are my favorite band of all time from Italy along with the horror freaks GOBLIN)! Schizo is great too! Necrodeth, kicked ass, Mortuary Drape was pretty cool as well… Death SS was highly underrated too. I remember even this hardcore band called Negazione that was pretty good. Italian bands got over looked for some reason in America. I don’t know why except that there are a lot of posers here in the states.
Which are the main differences between the European and the American sound in your opinion?
In the Eighties and early Nineties I think there were some vast differences as far as approach and attitude, but nowadays it is really hard to tell. I really don’t care about keeping up with current trends, I like to forge my own path.
Which are your favorite bands that you consider fundamental?
It is basically the same stuff that influenced me in Usurper. Bands such as Venom, Celtic Frost, Manowar, Motorhead, Ted Nugent, Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath, Bathory, Sodom, Bulldozer, Witchfinder General, Slayer, Possessed, Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Cathedral, Vondur, Samhain, Death SS, Dark Angel, Iron Maiden, Goblin, Voivod, Hellhammer, Winter, Devil's Whorehouse, Deathwitch, Samael, Asphyx, Trouble, Dio, Amboy Dukes and others I am forgetting. I was never the type of person who was only into one specific genre of metal, and I think it’s pretty obvious when you listen to my music.
Vinyl never disappeared and it's still the most appreciated format from the collectors, cds are comfortable, tapes were the ones that you used to bring with you everywhere. Metal is maybe the only musical world in which the three formats are all present, is there a reason in your opinion? Personally I hate files, mp3s maybe they can be good for a first listening but they can't replace any of the other three.
I agree with you 100%. I love the sound of cassettes I think sound-wise they are the best, then vinyl, then CD. For complete packaging my ranking order is vinyl, then CD, then cassette. MP3’s sound like garbage. As you said they are good for a quick reference. Even .WAV files are good to have loaded on an ipod or something, but still don’t always sound great. But I do think it is great to be able to put music online for new and old fans to sample. I’m all for that. One thing I do like about the digital age is this: I remember the days when I had to bring 5 or 6 cassette tapes (minimum) with me whenever I left the house. I had to make sure the batteries on my walkman were fresh and make sure not to rewind or fast forward too much, because it was the only way to tune out the world and the only way to walk around listening to music. So I will admit for this purpose an ipod is better. But for day to day listening, cassette, Vinyl and CD are the way to go.
As musician and listener, what is the today scene lacking compared to the times when you started? Was there more "scene" attitude, more collaboration and less marketing? Which are the ups and downs of the modern metal scene?
There are a lot of things missing. The overall sense of loyalty and brotherhood seems to be gone. It used to be that a band was like a small family, like a gang. You had pride in your band and always looked out for your brothers of metal. Now it is a bunch of people who want to be superstars. Everyone has a face book page or online presence. Everyone thinks they are individually important, everyone wants to do side projects, which always starts to water down the strength of their original band. Kids don’t seem to be die-hard fans of specific bands anymore, they just listen to a sample of everything and are always ready to move on to the next thing. Nowadays any band can just record albums at home so the scene is littered with bands that just sound like whatever is popular because they don’t have to earn a recording budget by spending years crafting their sound. The recording quality just sounds synthetic and computerized, and artwork is just done in photoshop, not painted by hand. Also the way kids listen to music has changed things for the worse. In the old day you had to search for bands, perhaps word of mouth or read a review in a shitty photo copied fanzine. Then you physically had to purchase an album. It cost money so that made the album actually “worth” something, you actually had to invest time and money into a band. The listener would listen to the album front to back many times. Sometimes it was an instant classic, other times it had to grow on you, other times it was a dud, but regardless you gave every album you owned a complete listen many times over. You would look at the artwork, read the lyrics and liner notes and it was a different experience.
What is Metal to you and what do you think if I say "supporting it"? I think there is so much confusion about it, let's explain to the younger ones that downloading millions of mp3s is not good?
Supporting Metal is really about supporting bands by buying their albums and spreading word to others and staying loyal to bands who put out great albums. You should see the bands you like live whenever possible and buy a shirt or something... it is the only way you can make sure this music doesn't go away. Kids also need to learn what an an album is. An album should be listened to in order. It has an opening track on Side A and a closing track on Side A. Then Side B would have it’s own opening track and then obviously the album closer. Every song has a place within, which contributes to the mood of the album. A second song on an album is also very important; it actually sets the pace of the album it decides where everything flows from there. Cover art is also very important. Every self respecting metal head should have an actual tangible record, CD or cassette collection. Mp3s are for sampling, not for serious listening,. Now a days kids just hit shuffle and have music more as background music. Everything is free, everything is just a click away, so music is disposable and worthless now to most people. I suppose for a Britney Spears fan or Lady Gaga fan or Nickelback fan, this method of hitting “shuffle” is fine. Pop music is meant to be flavor of the month and plastic. Pop music was always about having 1 or 2 radio hits and the rest of the album was filler, so for a pop fan MP3‘s are superior to an album. Metal was never meant to be like that, it was meant to be experienced as a complete album, something to add to your collection and form life long memories just from picking up the cover.
How is the Chicago scene? Are you friend of any band and are there any acts which deserved more luck?
I’m sure there are great bands, I just don’t go out much anymore to shows. If a band supports Scythe then I support them. Stone Magnum, Johnny Vomit, Malas, Superchrist... and others are all good bands.
One of the most used critics about the music we love is about the usual clichés that gave it life, what can we say to this people? And can't we find clichès in any genre? Is this an endless "war" against nothing?
HA! HA! So true. Many bands just sing about silly Satanic cliché’s without really having an original twist or personal connection. Many death metal bands just sing about gore or dismembering women because they are young and frustrated that they can’t get laid. Whatever works for any band is fine by me, I don’t really have an issue with it. Lyrics are important to me personally and to Scythe as a band so I stay away from those types of clichés. My lyrics all come from very personal perspectives. I read true, documented books by such authors as Alex Constantine, Zecharia Sitchin, Steve Quayle, John A. Keel, Lauren Coleman, Jim Marrs… stuff that seems like fantasy or fiction but is true. Also topics from texts such as the Book of Enoch, Revelations and stuff like that. Sometimes my political views come into a song, but never preaching, more or less tales about sinister governments and globalists; so even if you don‘t believe in conspiracies they still make fascinating tales. I like my words to allow people the option to explore deeper meanings (if they so desire), so they can find out the truth behind the lyrics,… or they can simply read the lyrics and view them as entertainment if they wish. No matter what, the lyrics should at the very least have an original perspective. Even the metal anthem/title track “Beware The Scythe” on face value is just another metal anthem, yet every line has deeper meanings and some metaphoric language.
And here we have the Vatican with its "dogs" against us... What do you think about the so called "opium of the people"?
Usurper had a song called, “Vatican Time Machine” about this weird invention called the Chronovisor which is rumored to still be in the vaults of the Vatican. I love the master artists from the Italian Renaissance. I love stone statues and monuments and religious artwork. The Vatican is an amazing place visually and historically, but it also harbors some deep, dark history. There is much Illuminati influence and actual occult aspects to the Vatican government. You see, I view myself as a “good” person. I am not evil at all. I believe in living my life with honor, pride, dignity, honesty, integrity. I believe in protecting the weak and attacking the tyrants! I am also a defender of anyone loyal to me and a man of my word. I believe in mutual respect and being able to look my fellow man in the eye, shake his hand and having it mean something. I believe in personal accountability and unwritten rules and codes of conduct. I believe in strength through knowledge and learning about history , respecting my elders and having an open mind about things that can’t easily be explained. Unfortunately the world is full of pathetic little worms. It is full of rotten, shallow, empty people. People who are out to fuck you over at any chance they get. People who believe stuff like CNN and Yahoo News are factually important and accurate. People who take pride in being ignorant. People who are too spineless to take a stand for what is right. People who are close minded and think they have all the answers to religion and politics and try to shove it down your throat. I am simply out to discover the truth of the universe. I don’t need corrupt people pushing their beliefs on me. If you are my friend, I will always defend you. If you are my enemy… look out!
Back to Scythe, when will you make the second album? Are you already working on it?
We should start recording very soon. The new album will be called "Subterranean Steel". It is my homage to a life of uncompromising, underground Heavy Metal. The album will have anywhere between 9-11 songs. We might save some for bonus tracks, so I won’t give all the titles just yet. The songs that will for sure be included on the 2nd Scythe album are: "Nights Of Terror", "Subterranean Steel", "October Dies", "The Grunting Dead", "The Bray Beast", "Thunder Hammer". It should be released in October 2013.
How was playing live your songs again? In all these years, which are the shows that moved you or that you consider unforgettable? Would you like to tell us any anecdote?
So many classic show in Usurper. I would say a few really stand out such as: Headlining day 1 / Main Stage of the 2006 “Inferno Fest” in Oslo Norway. Also Milan Italy opening for Cradle of Filth in 2000 at this huge venue called “Alcatraz”. This place was amazing! It was so big, there were a few thousand people there, all head banging, first banging. The stage was so big that I remember thinking, "This must be like what it feels like for Iron Maiden". Also in Florence Italy on that same tour, I head banged so hard that my brain literally smashed into the front of the inside of my skull! Also Jon Necromancer was breathing fire and he accidentally lit some girls’ hair on fire at that show. But so many shows killed! Scythe is just starting out but we are trying to do things the right way. We are slowly working on a proper stage set with pyro, fog, lights and stage sets... so far people have been very supportive and tons of old and young headbangers seem to appreciate what we are doing.
How is Rick's life besides music? Other hobbies, job... The every day life.
Yes I have a regular life. I have a day job which is actually pretty cool. I like what I do and can finally afford to pay my bills for the first time in my life, HA! HA!. Of course Scythe is my number one priority, but I don’t want to have to rely on Scythe to make money, this way I am sure I will never be forced to sell-out. Other than that I am pretty quiet. I like to spend a lot of time at home. I have a small house but at least I have some land. I like to have a brew, go into my backyard and spend some time exploring the night sky with a telescope and a good cigar! I don’t like to go to shows much or hang out in the scene too often. I would much rather spend time with close friends, or just with my woman and have a few beverages... or even spending time alone with my dog “Thor“, reading obscure books, recording demos/playing guitar, listening to pod casts, working on drawings and illustrations, watching obscure old horror movies, watching American football with my brother. Occasionally I go out to a couple neighborhood pubs and will shoot pool or play pinball... I have also just started wood carving and plan on making my own guitars in the near future!
The interview is finished, thanks again for the time you spent with us, you can leave a last message for our readers...
Thank you for this long and interesting interview! If you were a Usurper fan be sure to support Scythe! If you never heard Usurper but love real Heavy Metal, hard rockin’ classic era thrash metal and old style speed metal check out Scythe, you will not be disappointed. Check out our website: www.Scythe.us and "Like" us on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/Scythe.chicago.