For those that have never heard Usurper before, introduce them to your music.
RS: 100% Hard old-school dark thrashing Heavy Fucking Metal! An iron fist in the face of all Nu Metal, rap metal, and bullshit Ozz fest wigger metal!
You have a new album out, “Twilight Dominion”. Tell us a little about the album and the songs.
RS: 12 songs, nearly an hour of Metal. They lyrically deal with everything from the paranormal, werewolves, ancient legends, time travel, and of course a fist full of traditional heavy metal anthems.
This is your first album with Earache. How do they compare to your previous labels?
RS: They make all other labels look like a pile of puke!!!!
What was it like working with a well-known producer like Neil Kernon? Did he try to mold your sound to his liking or help you to get the sound you wanted?
RS: Usurper molded HIM to OUR liking! HA! HA! In all honesty Neil Kicks Ass!!!! The guy is a genious and pushed us harder than ever. This is definitely USURPER's finest hour!
How does the songwriting process work with your band? Does one person do the majority of the writing or is it an equal partnership?
RS: I write all the music, and 50% of the lyrics. Basically I track everything on a four track (rythems, drums, bass and even vocals sometimes if I have the lyrics), I then give a tape to the band and have them learn the songs. The structures are set in stone as well as the riffs, arrangements, yet everyone has the task of leaving their own mark on each song. Basically to come up with their own bass fills, drum fills, vocal accents and patterns, and solos. So even though I do the majority of the writting, the whole band is responsible for the overall sound. Actually Jon wrote some music for the song INVINCIBLE OVERLORDS on this album.
How do you work in the studio? Do you record songs from beginning to end, or in pieces? Do you use click tracks? How many guitar layers do you use?
RS: HA! HA! i can't give away too many secrets... I will say this, I use an advanced click track to track all my "ghost" guitar parts. What I mean by this is that I program an extremely basic drum pattern/click for all the songs and then do a simple guitar track oer that so the drummer can lay down his drums. Once the drums are done, then I do about 4 tracks of rythms. I play all the rythms on all the albums. Next we actually flip-flop between vocals and bass. The General does his best work in the first 6 hours of the day, then we take a break and do 6+ hours of bass. Then the next 3 days the same schedule of mornings vocals/bass night. After that I do all the clean guitars and accoustics. Finally Chris does his leads, and then I do my leads.
There are a number of musicians in our readership, what gear does your band use? Please be as specific as possible, amps, pickups, guitars, strings, etc.
RS: We have an endorsement deal with BC Rich USA (page 12 and 13 of the new 2002-2003 catalog). My main axe is a 1997 BC Rich USA Custom shop Ironbird with Alder body, Ebony fingerboard, 24 frets/neckthru, Seymore Duncan Invader pickup in the bridge position and Seymore Duncan Distortion in the neck position, with a Gibson Style bridge. Jon uses a US custom made BC Rich Ignitor bass (only 2 bass ignitors were ever made in the custom shop). Carcass Chris uses a BC Rich Beast (quilt top) with Duncan Invaders in both positions and a Floyd Rose Trem. I also use my trusty Washburn 12 string accoustic. We all use Ernie Ball Stainless Steel Strings. I use a pretty light gauge for our music. we tune in a range from D to C (varies on different songs) but I use the standard 10-46. It is a bit light, but I like to get nice bends on a lot of the sustained notes. I like to slightly waver some of the slow dirge parts, so for me this gauge works best. Chris uses a heavier gauge string for the bottom strings and a light gauge for the top. Jon uses ultra heavy bass strings. Amps: For guitar it's Line 6 Flextone HD, Mesa Boogie tripple rectifier, and for bass: Trace Elliott. We use 35 watt celestion Speakers in oversized Maple cabinets. Jon uses Eminence speakers. We don't use many rack effects. I use a few Line 6 effects occassionally, but to me nothing is better than pedals. I use everything from Jimi Hendrix Wah, to the classic "Big Muff", to the DOD Octoplus and other various old gems...
Will you be touring to support the new album? If so, where?
RS: Fuck yeah!!! US and Europe definatly. With as many other strange places in between.
What do you like most about the music industry?
RS: I like the fact that we're on a label who gives us a decent budget to record, and that they know how to push us, so all we have to concentrate on is writting, recording, and touring.
What do you like least?
RS: All the scum bag rip offs! Stupid pay-to play events. Pencil neck geek reviewers. Fat ass poser crittics. The internet (I can't beleive that thing is still around????). But most of all: idiots who are content just downloading and burning CD's instead of supporting true music. Metal news flash to all you thieves: "If the majority of your CD collection is burnt CD's you are not a metal fan, you are a poser and a nerd!"
How long have you been doing this?
RS: This interview? Well I am a slow typer so 2 nights so far...
If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?
RS: I wouldn't do much differently. USURPER prides itself on learning from our mistakes. We have a long history together and even the shitty times and situations have been a blast!
If you hadn’t been born in this century, when and where would you like to have lived?
RS: I'd love to have lived in Rome in the hight of it's world domination! I'd be a mighty Centurian of Rome! Hail Caesar!
Who are your musical heroes?
RS: Ted Nugent, Eddie Van Halen and Jon's mom. She's great on the piano but she SUCKS ON THE ORGAN!
What do you do in your spare time?
RS: I'm a complete recluse. I rehearse with the band 3 nights a week. And to me that is my social life. When I am at home I like to compose songs on the four track. Watch obscure movies. Read obscure books on the paranormal, conspiracies, the supernatural, etc. Do some sketching. Pump Iron. Listen to tunes. I like to just live in my own world.
How hard do you push yourself?
RS: It's not even such a matter of "pushing myself". This music, and the metal way of life is in my blood. All I think about is music, lyrical inspirations, cool artwork and other USURPER related ideas. I have such a huge inventory of ideas and "lost riffs" that when I get a chance I will make something of it someday.
When are you completely satisfied with your work?
RS: Never 100%. I think that is what drives me. Trying to capture the ultimate riff. Trying to record the ultimate album. Trying to develope the heaviest guitar sound. TWILIGHT DOMINION is definatly the closest I've come to that. I am 99% happy with everything.
What are you listening to lately?
RS: Talk radio, Bathory: Nordland I, Destroyer 666: Cold Steel for an Iron age, Slayer: South of Heavan, Dark Throne: Hate Them, USURPER: TWILIGHT DOMINION, KISS: KISS.
What is your favorite album by another artist/band?
Rs: man it's hard to pick just one. I'd say MERCYFUL FATE: NUNS HAVE NO FUN ep, SLAYER: HELL AWAITS, CELTIC FROST: MORBID TALES, a few more too. Basically just Metal albums that stood the test of time.
What song of yours are you the most proud of and why?
RS: I like a lot of them: DEAD OF WINTER off THRESHOLD OF THE USURPER. It's very dark and dynamic. It is an epic and it creates a mood that I can never capture again. I also like ANNO SATANAS: that is a perfect combination of The General and Rick song writting. It is the quintessential USURPER classic. Ultra dark, heavy old school thrash metal! I also like GOLEM off the new album. It is another epic with strong lyrics, cool melodic parts combined with abrasive heavy metal. The mood of that song is giant and brooding. The music reflects the story line of the lyrics. I also like DISMAL WINGS OF TERROR off SKELETAL SEASON. It is a fast, chaotic song. Once again the music fits the story line, and builds to a nice climax.
Are there any songs you’ve done that you wish you hadn’t?
RS: yeah. We've a had a couple that just didn't sound the way it did in my head as it turned out in the studio.
Had any of you recorded with any other groups before Usurper?
RS: We all have. Nothing though that could touch USURPER.
Is it possible to be on the road and not eat any junk food?
RS: No. Beer, grease wheels (pizza), and weed are the staples of our diet on the road.
People have the image that it’s non-stop partying when bands are touring. Is that true?
Rs: For us it is. No joke, we've partied plenty of bands under the table. I guarentee there is no amount of alcohol too large for us. We make most bands look like a bunch of school boys as far as partying goes!
What does your contract rider call for in terms of backstage amenities?
RS: Ours is very stripped down. We don't view ourselves as rock stars, we just ask for the basics. 6 cases of beer, a bottle of Jack, a bottle of Jaggermeister, 1 hot meal, and that's about it.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a musician?
RS: I'd be a cryptozoologist. I'd travel to the Himylayan mountains and search for Yeti.
Other than your current band members, if you could get any musician living or dead, who would be in your “dream band”?
RS: It would have 3 vocalists: KING DIAMOND: VOCALS, RONNIE JAMES DIO: VOCALS, DAVID LEE ROTH: VOCALS; TED NUGENT: GUITAR, MARTIN AIN: BASS, GIORGIO GASLINI: ORGAN, DAVE LOMBARDO: DRUMS, MYSELF: GUITAR
What’s the first song you remember hearing?
RS: rain drops keep falling on my head.
What was the first album you ever purchased?
RS: Van Halen: Women and Children First.
How many CDs and records are in your home collection?
RS: around 300 vinyls, 2,000 CD's (most of them I hate). And so many tapes that I threw about 300 out and I still have over 500.
What’s next for you?
Any last words?
RS: check out our website: www.usurper.us