THE BRAVEST MAN IN METAL: IN WHICH THE BRAVEST MAN BREAKS BREAD WITH OTHER BRAVE MEN
Take a look at these promo pictures:
This trio of black-clad, metal mongers seem the type of unkempt and uncouth individuals for whom refinement and anything pertaining to the finer things in life is something to rail against with extreme prejudice. Such refinement could serve as fodder for some of the most venemous death metal mankind has ever growled out while on his way back to its collective cave-and-sewer-dwelling existence. If that’s the image you have in mind of Hate Eternal, well, I’m here to shatter that preconception and your personal projections. In most ways, the dudes are three of the friendliest, most gentlemanly, downright fucking hilarious and accommodating people I’ve ever met.
A few months ago, I spent a few days on the road with the band, slinging merch for them. I quickly discovered that when it comes to their ferocious and irascible on-stage image, the complete and utter opposite is in effect when it comes to almost everything else, especially when all things culinary and gustatory are involved. Watching guitarist/vocalist Erik Rutan command the mic as his hands fire out a furious flurry of callous-and-tendonitis-inducing riffs, bassist/vocalist JJ Hrubovcak’s bulging arm and forehead veins as he holds down the technical low-end, and drummer Jade Simonetto endure the equivalent of a full body marathon behind the kit, you get the impression these dudes’ post-gig meal would involve tearing raw, rancid meat from the bone at best or greasy fast food at worst. Everything mowed down as inhumanly fast as possible without little regard for what’s actually hitting their taste buds.
To the contrary, mon amis; Hate Eternal are total foodies. One of the first things Rutan said to me on the first night of the tour was, “We’re not like most other touring bands. We will go to insane lengths and spare no expense to eat well.” The maniacal grin he had on his face as he was imparting upon me this bit of information did nothing to prepare me for just how culinarily insane things would get during the time I was out with them. We drove like madmen through the streets of Montreal at 3am on a Tuesday to score incredible Chinese food. We rushed to a pastry place in Simonetto’s neighborhood one morning after an overnight drive from Toronto to make sure the freshest possible baked goods were obtained. We ordered gourmet pizza in New Jersey to tide us over for the drive during the inevitable traffic jam into New York City. We’d automatically tune into the Food Network whenever a TV remote was within reach. Not to mention the hours and hours of food discussions and meal reminiscing while driving, I’m crowning Hate Eternal honorary Bravest Men in Metal for being high fallutin’ gastrosluts, which is totally out of character from what most people would probably expect. Next time they come through your town, don’t bring down booze, drugs or your band’s demo; just point ‘em in the direction of the best eatery in town and watch them play their set twice as fast as normal.
What follows is an interview I did with the dudes from Hate Eternal on their favorite topic. Bon appétit!
What’s the most you’ve spent on a meal while on tour? What was the damage and what did you have? Was it worth it and would you hesitate to do it again?
J.J. Hrubovcak (bass/vocals): That’s easy. It’s definitely when we ate in front of the Coliseum in Rome. The total bill was 500 Euros! Luckily it was with 10 people, so we only ended up paying 50+ Euros a piece, but it was for a meal that wasn’t that great. That’s to be expected in a prime tourist spot though. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, because we were looking at this monolith of history right across the street in perfect weather.
Jade Simonetto (drums): Definitely Rome. We got snared into an Italian trattoria-type scenario in front of the Coliseum. The sunset, the accordions playing in the background and the owner’s sales pitch made for a pretty convincing pick. After a nice antipasto and main course, a nice-a prosciutto for you…. if I’m not mistaken we were we’re looking at $600.
Erik Rutan (guitar/vocals): I totally agree. The food was terrible, but the views were amazing just sitting outside the Coliseum. It was hilarious; they just kept asking, “Would you like antipasto, wine, etc?” We kept saying yes, then – BAM! – came the bill. WOW!! We still would do it again for sure, good times…
What are the craziest lengths you’ve gone to, or the most ridiculous thing you’ve done, in order to score awesome food while on the road?
J.J.: There are tons of stories ranging from driving miles and hours out of the way to almost getting shot being in the right food joint at the wrong time, which incidentally turned out to be a very wrong food joint anyway.
Erik: That was totally “When Getting Chinese Food Goes Wrong” [laughter]!!! Long story, but everyone made it out alive and the food sucked.
Jade:…killed a man….
Erik: He had to do it! Jade needed his protein!
If a venue offers catering, do you bother?
Erik: I totally will eat it, but then we go out to eat later as well. A lot of times, it’s pizza or whatever. Sometimes the clubs have some good cooks cooking up stuff, but that’s kinda rare. We love buy-outs, man, so we can eat what we want, when we want.
J.J.: Promoters in Europe will sometimes cook a meal themselves or ask someone they know to do it. Nothing beats that when it’s done with care. A specific smorgasbord of local Hungarian food in Budapest comes to mind. Most of the time, we prefer buy-outs so we can find something.
Jade: Sure… gotta get my grams in bro.
You toured Asia last month. What did you shove into your gullets while you were over there? What did you absolutely avoid?
Erik: When we are in different countries, we always try all the food from that part of the world or whatever region we are in; or at least some of it. I ended up eating some stingray, which was really different tasting, but very good. I thought someone might end up eating dog or drinking cobra’s blood, but no one did. I didn’t want to go too crazy. I wanted to try some of the street vendor stuff, but after going to the Center for Disease Control website and reading all that, believe me, you will change your mind on what you eat and what you don’t eat.
J.J.: I was hoping to try a lot of foods that locals would eat. Items I’ve read about include dog soup, scorpions on a stick, durian fruit, a coffee that comes from cat droppings called Kopi Luwak. Now that I’m back, I can say we were nowhere near half of these foods, but we did get to try durian, Nasi Goreng, a local Indonesian liquor called Arrack made from coconut and other local foods.
Jade: I was up for anything as long as it didn’t still have a face on it.
Having been to various corners of the world where certain styles of cooking originate, how would you say, for example, the authentic Italian food you had in Italy compares to the Italian food you’ve had in the states?
Jade: It’s definitely different. You also have to consider different regions of Italy. I’ve had great Italian both in Italy and America.
Erik: I gotta tell you, growing up in New Jersey I had some amazing Italian food for sure, all the time. Italian food is one of my favorites, although I love all kinds of food. Being in Italy is amazing, though. We always try to seek out the restaurants in the towns and villages. We have eaten some amazing food in Italy and had some freaking awesome wines as well. Actually, we have also had some great thin pizza over there. I love Italy!!
J.J.: Nothing beats the meals you can consume in small towns outside of the tourist areas. We had a meal in San Sebastian, Spain that was just awesome and included free fried pork face — with the whisker hairs still on it! — as an appetizer. The proprietor didn’t speak a lick of English and we only understood a bit of Spanish, but generosity crosses language barriers. She made us feel like we were regulars. Just like anywhere else, if you go to the right restaurant in the states, you can get an authentic experience here as well, but nothing beats the small towns.
Have you ever committed the ultimate act of sacrilege and succumbed to fast food when you had the option not to? Or taken it one step further and gone to a McDonald’s or Burger King while you were on tour in Greece or something?
J.J.: Absolutely! I would exclusively eat fast food in the U.S. or cheap food (i.e. Doner kebab) in Europe, until about a year ago. I wanted to save bucks while on the road, but I got sick of watching Erik and Jade constantly winning with every meal! Even though I ate on the cheap, I barely ate U.S. fast food in Europe because that defeats the purpose of being there. There are ways to eat cheaply and still eat well everywhere, though.
Jade: We only eat that slop when there are absolutely no other options.
Erik: Yeah, J.J. used to be the dude who never spent a dime on food while Jade and I would spend lavishly on great cuisine. We finally broke him down, though [laughs]! He spends more money then we do now and has totally taken over the throne of eating and spending!! When we were in South Korea, we ended up eating Taco Bell. It actually felt so wrong to do it, but they were open late and readily available. Funny thing was the meat was better quality then what we get here so it wasn’t half bad. But we try at all costs not to eat fast food on tour which is easier said than done! We have five-star restaurant taste buds on a ramen noodle kind of budget [laughs]!!
I’m going to throw a list of foods that I’m sure you’ve tucked into in your time. Where would one go if they wanted their taste buds to experience a mind-blowing food orgasm?
Erik: Lanna Thai, various locations.
Jade: Momma makes the best pad thai I’ve had thus far.
Erik: Umberto’s, Mario’s, Renna’s, Marcello’s, Paci’s, Delosa’s…I can keep going [laughs]!
Jade: Mario’s, in St. Pete or any oven thin crust I’ve had in Italy.
Jade: There’s a ton of great sushi in Montreal, but you’re gonna pay the big dollarinis for it
Erik: Mario’s or Il Vagabondo (New York).
Jade: Yeah, I bet you like that cream sauce, don’t ya?
J.J.: Texas or Spain.
Erik: Don’t eat it.
Jade: Portugal. Hands down. Me and my merch guy, Ben hit a goldmine when we ordered a steak at 1am from this little corner dive in Lisbon. We didn’t even bother with fork and knife; straight caveman eating.
Chinese food in general
J.J.: China One in Idaho.
Erik: VIP in Montreal or Charlie Mom’s in New York City.
Burritos and Mexican food in general
J.J.: Taco Bus.
Erik: Taco Bus in St. Pete, Florida.
Jade: Taco Bus, St. Pete.
Erik: Frays in St. Pete, Florida.
Can you give us a short list of some of the most stellar meals you’ve experienced and give us recommendations from your many travels? What restaurant(s) that you’ve stumbled across would you say are your favourites and why?
J.J.: We had an awesome Lebanese meal in Dubai when we were there. And a great Italian meal in Seattle.
Jade: All my best eating moments have either been Florida, the tri-state area [New York, New Jersey, Connecticut] or right here in my hometown of Montreal.
Erik: Yeah, that Lebanese food was incredible in Dubai. VIP, a Chinese restaurant in Montreal. Last tour, I think we ate there three times in two days [laughs]! Mission Burritos in San Fran is awesome! I ate some Serrano ham, literally it was just a leg on a stand at a bar in Barcelona, Spain. The guy cut me off a few slices of the leg and it was incredible. All of the places I listed above as well are places we always eat at.
What’s been the most surprising food experience you’ve had on the road?
J.J.: Finding mealworms in vegetables at one joint. Beef head tacos, calf lung and tripe soup weren’t the best either.
Jade: All that comes to mind is the kielbasas we had in Poland after a show. This dude with a fire pit was serving up late-night sausage. Yup… late-night sausage and it was the best sausage you ever put in your mouth. Giggidy.
Erik: Yeah, Jade and J.J. love sausage [laughs]! I found bone marrow in some chicken teriyaki once… freaking disgusting!
You’ve just been sentenced to death by electric chair for a crime you know you didn’t commit. The chances of the governor calling with a stay of execution are next to none, so you say, “Fuck it. I’m going to go all out with the indulgence and extravagance!” What are the prison officials bringing you for your last meal?
J.J.: I have to say that of all the foods we’ve tried over the world, I’d have to go basic: Five peppercorn steak, medium rare, with a lobster tail. One side of garlic green beans, one side of garlic mashed potatoes, clams, pesto pasta, and an unsweetened iced tea with lemon (unlimited refills, of course).
Jade: A plate of grandma’s spaghetti & breaded chicken. Still the best meal I can think of, even after 28 years.
Erik: Such a tough call there!! I would have Mario’s Italian White Pie with Spinach, a Taco Bus’ Cochinita Pibil tostada and a Cajun Shrimp Po Boy from a local place near me. Add some Butter Chicken with naan bread, my lady’s pesto and my mom’s chicken parm and garlic bread, then maybe a cannoli for dessert and an Arizona Green Tea. Eat ’til I puke and then keep eating. I mean it is my last meal, right?
Most people/bands go on tour and lose a shitload of weight. Hate Eternal does the opposite. What’s the most you’ve ever gained on a single tour? Which tour?
J.J.: Jade needs to answer this one.
Erik: [Laughs] Only Jade can answer that. He has gained tons of weight on tour. Literally, the only guy I have ever known to do so. “Fatty Netto” we call him, or “Two Shakes Simonetto.” Actually was “Three Cone Simonetto” as well. Three ice cream cones in one night. The boy can eat!!
Jade: Anywhere between 10 and 20 pounds. I didn’t get the nickname “Two Shakes” for nothing. I was notoriously known for ordering a milkshake at the beginning and end of my course.
Is this the strangest interview you’ve ever done?
Erik: It’s out there, but not the strangest. Man, some of the shit I have heard, seen and read you wouldn’t believe! But this is top five!!
Jade: Probably, but keep ‘em coming!