EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH HATE ETERNAL’S ERIK RUTAN
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It’s a cold winter night (technically morning) in January. Somewhere in a warehouse in the bowels of Brooklyn, Axl and Vince have infiltrated director David Brodsky’s set for the new Hate Eternal video, “Bringer of Storms,” in order to nab an interview with the death metal God known as Erik Rutan. Hate Eternal are having one hell of a day – after a personal loss and a vehicular mishap, they just barely made it to their gig in Manhattan that night to play a killer, if abbreviated, set, and now they’re doing this video shoot until six or seven a.m. before they have to squeeze back into their van and start the long haul to Baltimore (which is geographically closer to where they started their day than it is to where they’ve ended it!) for another show tonight.
Surely, the dudes in Hate Eternal would have every right to be in terrible moods, and trying to grab the dude for a ten minute interview in between set-ups should be cause enough for the monstrous demon Rutan to reign death down upon our intrepid reporters. But Rutan and company actually turn out to be a group of down-to-earth, soft-spoken, incredibly nice guys, and their fearless leader – he who was part of arguably the best line-up Morbid Angel ever had, he who has produced already legendary albums for the likes of Cannibal Corpse, Vital Remains, Goatwhore, Six Feet Under, Through the Eyes of the Dead, Demiricous, The Absence, and Pain Principle, he who has persevered with his labor of love, Hate Eternal, in spite of every seemingly insurmountable obstacle thrown in his path – is only all too happy to indulge these puny fanboys with their precious interview.
Above, check out the clip for “Bringer of Storms,” directed by David Brodsky. It comes off of Hate Eternal’s new album, Fury and Flames, which hits stores February 19 on Metal Blade.
After the jump, check out the complete transcript of Axl and Vince’s interview with the mighty Erik Rutan.
So, first of all, obviously your new album, Fury and Flames, is about to come out. What can you tell us about it?
Well… I’m pretty pleased with it (laughs).
Yeah? Anything in particular? Did you have a vision for this album going into it?
I wanted to really make the stand-out album amongst the trilogy I guess. It had a lot of meaning behind it, had a lot of important people involved… Shaune [Kelley], a friend of mine for over twenty years, is now playing guitar with me, and [Cannibal Corpse’s] Alex [Webster] is one of my best friends, he’s playing the bass, and a new drummer [Jade Simonetto] that’s just devoted every God damn second to making sure that this is the best record it could possibly be.
I’ve never had this type of situation before… my old bass player, Jared [Anderson]… when he passed away it really affected my whole outlook on the band and how I was gonna approach the record [Anderson died in October of 2006 – Ed.]. That’s how I made decisions to get who I got involved in the band, too. Before Jared passed away, y’know we were talking about him potentially coming back to the band and when he passed away it really kind of… he was one of my best friends and if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t still be doing Hate Eternal. He stuck with me in the early time when I first started the band, and… I wanted to dedicate the record to him. I just had that shit going on in me when I was writing this record, I guess, a lot of personal shit. But I had the people around me to make the record exactly what I wanted it to be, which was awesome. They worked so hard, and every one of them, they just killed themselves on this record, due to my… y’know, drill sergeant type of mentality that I have in the studio (laughs), already, but… doing this record was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, for so many reasons.
And that’s why the end result, man, it’s got so much more power to it. I mean, I love all the records we’ve done, I’m really happy with them, but this one has something underlying to it that just makes it so much more important to me.
As you pointed out, you’re a notorious perfectionist… at what point do you know that it’s okay to walk away?
I didn’t with this one, actually.
No. I kind of let it go…
Isn’t there a temptation to become the death metal Brian Wilson or whatever?
Well, with this one… man, I couldn’t let it go. The only way I let it go is because I had to. It was hard. And actually when I did let it go, I went through like a week, maybe even two weeks, where I was just lost for awhile. ‘Cause I’d worked on this thing for so long and put so much into it and was so focused on this record because of the other shit going on in my life that really made me just wanna make this just the most epic album I’ve done, and the meaning behind it… it just totally took over. So actually, we just finished it like a month ago, and it was like “Holy shit!” It was hard, it was hard to let this one go. If it wasn’t for deadlines, thank God (laughs)… I need deadlines. And Metal Blade, they wanna promote the record right, but I worked on it ’til the last second. And I worked these guys to the last brink… as far as I could push ’em.
So you’re obviously very happy with this new line-up.
It’s a totally fresh line-up, there’s no one from the old Hate Eternal albums besides yourself, right?
Yeah. And you know, for awhile, it was just me. That’s just the way it ended up working out, that’s not how I really intended it. But when Jared passed away, it really was just me. So, for awhile, just by being really focused on the writing aspect, just because it was just me, and not having any outside influence from anyone or even any type of opinions or anything, just letting it all fly, it really helped.
And then when these guys came in, they really grasped onto what I had already set forth and added their own element to help to make what I had started that much more special, because it felt like they were with it, and worked hard to really add their own flavor to what I’d already started.
It’s a new approach, a new sounding record, production-wise, y’know, new lyrics that are sort of different from the old pattern and new songs with different vibes… it was an all new start, in a good way. And Metal Blade, well, you know Metal Blade…
I needed to clear out some things. I don’t mean people or anything like that, just things that needed clearing out within me. I cleared all that shit out.
You touched on something else that we wanted to ask you, which is: how do you keep it fresh after all this time? You’ve obviously been doing this a long time, with Morbid Angel and Hate Eternal and you’ve produced a shit load of stuff, even just within the last two years: Cannibal Corpse, Vital Remains, The Absence, Through the Eyes of the Dead, Demiricous… and everybody says for all of these bands, that you produced the best stuff that they’ve done in ages… do you ever feel burnt out?
I’ll tell you, I actually… coming into this tour, it was like, man, I’d just finished Hate Eternal and then I did Soilent Green right after and then I was mixing… and then I’m touring on the road and my grandmother passed away last week when the tour was supposed to start and then we got in an accident today and, like, sure, man, you think “Holy shit.” But that’s why it’s good that I’m out here [on the road], I need to be out here, just jamming and doing what I do. That’s why I have to do this. Some people say “Sooner or later you’re just gonna wanna produce,” but I really need [to do] both. I have two careers, and I work hard as fuck at both of ’em.
You guys are obviously troopers, ’cause we were there tonight, and you looked like you literally had stepped out of your van and onto the stage…
We did. We literally did. We just drove from fuckin’ Florida, we left yesterday at like two in the afternoon, and then we got in an accident today…
But you guys killed it. You only played a few songs, but you saw that crowd…
Yeah, it was awesome, man. I mean… I love New York. I mean, I’m a Jersey boy, and I love coming home. I went to school in New York so I’ve spent a lot of time here. It’s funny, when I think of… when I’m playing, when I think of home, I think of here. I just love playing New York, man…
We hear a lot of people say that they don’t like playing here…
Aw, shit, I love New York. I spent a lot of time affected by New York… I love New York. There’s no place like it in my opinion, and I’ve been everywhere. There’s something about it… Hate Eternal, we’ve always had a really good strong base in New York. People here appreciate the fuck outta the band and I appreciate the fuck outta them.
I mean, all this shit today, y’know, we just bought a new van and it got fucked up and we had to go to a body shop and… today I was just driving like a maniac, I was just like “God damnit, we’re playing New York, God damnit, whatever I gotta do, we’re making it, we’re playing something.” We were talking about it in the van – “We’re gonna make this fucking show, I don’t care what it takes. And whatever we can play, we’re gonna play.”And Black Dahlia [Murder], they’re cool guys, and the club owner [of B.B. King’s] is a cool guy, they let us go past the time to squeeze us in after [the Black Dahlia Murder’s headlining] set. That’s fucking class.
So how long has this line-up been out on the road? Not very long, right?
It was our first show tonight.
Wow, so that was historic…
Yeah, first show with this line-up. I mean, we practiced for the last twelve days, and y’know, me and Jade [Simonetto], before we did the record we practiced for two months straight before we even tracked anything, and then we met for four of five days every month while I was producing another record, and Shaune lives right near me so we were getting together… y’know, this shit is serious to me. Hate Eternal is serious to me.
“Focused” is the word. It’s not… people sometimes they get the wrong impression of the band, that it’s all just speed and all this, and it is chaos, but it’s controlled chaos, and there’s a big difference. But it’s focused, and it’s angry, for sure. ‘Cause this record has all kinds of shit going on.
“Bringer of Storms” is the only song we’ve heard so far, but what we really like about it is that it’s something totally new for you while still being very distinctly Erik Rutan and Hate Eternal.
Yeah, it’s still me. But that’s why I picked this tune [for the video], ’cause it’s not as characteristic as some of the other songs… it’s still brutal as shit, but it’s epic. Epic equals video (laughs). I tell you, there’s some crazy shit on this album…
So what’s next for you guys?
We’re working on doing a full headlining tour in April. I got four albums, man, it’s hard playing twenty minutes… I wanna play the whole new record, dude.
Well we wanna hear it!
So then we’re gonna do some headlining shows in Europe and then the summer’s wide open and then I’m producing the next Cannibal Corpse album…
So it’s gonna be another busy year for Erik Rutan.
Oh yeah, totally. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
-AR & VN