(The MetalSucks-sponsored METAL SUCKFEST in NYC early last month was a milestone event. Two NCS emissaries were on hand to witness it — BadWolf and photographer Nick Vechery — and they’ve already turned in reviews of the show here (Day 1) and here (Day 2). BadWolf also interviewed a number of the performers, including this discussion (completed a couple weeks after the SUCKFEST) of Ramming Speed drummer Jonah Livingston.)
I caught on to several outstanding bands at the Metal Suckfest, but none of them caught my ears the way Ramming Speed did. Their hooky mix of punk and classic metal is perfect recession-era drinking music. Thanksgiving weekend, I sat down with their drummer, Jonah Livingston [also head of TDB (Teenage Disco Bloodbath) Records] during the OSU/Michigan football game to talk about Suckfest, Boss HM-2 core, and why marching bands need more Entombed in their repertoires.
BW: Hello, Jonah! I’m just glad Michigan is actually ahead rt now!
Ramming: Cheers dude
BW: But enough about that. How does the band feel post-Suckfest?
Ramming: Personally I’m feeling energized, we spent a lot of this year sitting at home writing but it’s been super busy since the fest. We’re leaving on tour in a few days so this last month has been dealing with merch, finishing the booking, promoting etc. We also got to try a bunch of new songs at the Suckfest that seemed to work well, so we’ll be doing even more of them on the tour.
BW: It was a very good set! Are you changing it for the tour? As in, even more new material, or more older stuff?
Ramming: Out of all our new songs I think 9 of them are ready to play live, so we’re doing one set with like 4 new ones and 5 old, and a second set with 5 different new ones and 4 old ones. The idea is to switch off between the two sets every day so when we get home those 9 will be as tight as shit so we can hopefully we can hit the ground running and go into the studio as soon as possible after that.
BW: So you’re the sort of band that likes to test material on the road? I feel like that’s the best way to strengthen material.
Ramming: We don’t play songs unless they’re like 99% done, but there’s no way to get tighter then to be playing those songs for a month straight, under every condition you can imagine. It might sound like one thing in the practice space, but it’s going to feel and sound totally different when you’re playing a sweaty basement and kids are whipping beer cans at your head and knocking your gear over, so if you learn to bang them out in that situation, a studio or fest or whatever should feel like a breeze!
BW: It’s awesome that there are bands that still feel that way–a lot of contemporary musicians are very clinical, like nearly surgical in their approach, and I’m not sure it translates to a good show.
Ramming: We’re too dirty to be surgical about anything. You know.. infections, etc
I like some super technical bands, but live, I’d rather a band that’s sweating and bleeding. If a band looks like they don’t care, then why should you? Know what I mean? And that goes both ways. If a crowd is just standing their looking bored while someone pours there heart out on stage, they have to understand it’s very much an uphill battle.
BW: Well, in that case let me ask you a question that’s been nagging me about the fest: how did the crowd feel to you?
Ramming: We’ve played enough fests by now that I know not to expect the wildest circle pit on earth at 5pm, but I did look up a couple times and see some heshers running around. If you can win over a small handful of people as the second band on a huge fest, that seems like you’ve done your job. Of course it would be NICE if kids had been tearing their own limbs off and body surfing on them, but I wasn’t shocked when that wasn’t the case.
There’s this fest called Fluff Fest in Czech Republic, and that was one of the few we’ve played, again, early evening, when the kids went completely off the wall. Constant stage dives, the biggest circle pit I’ve ever seen. And that is mostly a straight edge hardcore fest. I guess that just goes to show you that you never know how these things are going to turn out.
BW: I saw a video from that fest–It looked like tons of fun.
Ramming: It’s pretty wild seeing all these hardcore kids just completely bugging out over a bunch of long hairs with pointy guitars. I think in general Europeans are more ready to see something different and give it a chance then Americans are, but that’s a whole other issue.
BW: The scariest concert moments I’ve seen all involve the straight-edge hardcore kids.
Ramming: There’s bad seeds in every scene, but it’s true that edgers gotta let loose somehow. Maybe that lends itself to pit domination.
BW: Well, their cardio has to totally eclipse mine, I’d imagine. And yeah, it was a super varied line-up. As a fan how did the lineup treat you?
Ramming: We had tons of friends’ bands playing, so it was a treat just kicking it in the merch area and saying what’s up to everyone. On stage, I always love watching Magrudergrind. While I wasn’t totally in the mood for the depression of Today is the Day, they definitely sounded great. Also, ALL PIGS MUST DIE! Holy shit, I’m so glad those dudes are doing that band. That was my first time seeing them and it hit the spot.
BW: Totally, and I love that style of music. There’s been a lot of great punk and metal hybrids lately–your band included. Why do you think now in 2011 there’s this push back in that direction?
Ramming: I honestly don’t know. There’s definitely a lot of the Swedish sound going around, between All Pigs Must Die, Black Breath, Trap Them, Rotten Sound etc. I think included in that is stripping things down to the basics: anger, compressed distortion, hitting hard, getting to the point etc. and a lot of punk shares most of those goals or concepts. When we were talking last time I think I said that we’re leaning more towards the Disfear, Tragedy end of the punk thing, but we’re all big fans of Entombed and when you combine d-beat and Swedish death metal, awesome things happen. Or at least… I hope!
BW: It’s funny. You mention Entombed and here I am watching the OSU/Michigan game explaining to my mom that Michigan’s marching band needs to learn “Wolverine Blues.”
Ramming: Does she get it?
BW: Totally does. Here’s my thing: the Sunlight sound got huge. Slaughter of the Soul gets released and a million Swedish bands try to make the follow-up to it, but I think these American punks are really following that strand of musical DNA. To me that new Trap Them record is way closer to a Slaughter part deux than, I don’t know, Nightrage or someone.
Ramming: I hear you man.. at the very least you could say that there was a fork in the road at that point and some people took the clean, melodic turn and some people took the dirty pissed off turn. All you have to do is look at what bands Tomas Lindberg has spent the most time with to see which direction he gave the thumbs up to
BW: I think that’s why he left, honestly. That’s why he joined The Crown. They may have done goofy shit like a song about Knightrider, but they had more ‘fuck you’ than The Haunted. And don’t get me started on Lock Up.
Ramming: Dude, thanksgiving night me and the dudes got wildly shitfaced and listened to Crowned In Terror. That record is untouchable. The Haunted put out one or two solid records, but he sounded really at home with Skitsystem and Disfear. His voice is so torn up and brutal. He sounds like a distorted guitar when he’s screaming. It’s perfect for crust and d-beat and maybe that’s why it was so refreshing and powerful in super-tight “surgical” Swedish death metal bands.
BW: Well it was the perfect mix. Punk has a ton of pop in its blood, and metal does too, so on Slaughter and Crowned in Terror and on that new Black Breath record and even sometimes in Municipal Waste, you hit this Zen of dirty gutter fuck punk and great songwriting.
Ramming: When we were recording our last record it was like “Pete, sound like someone tearing you apart, like your life is on the fucking line, sound like.. um… well Tomas.. ”
Pete obviously does his own thing, but if you’re going to pick anyone to pay attention to as a metal singer, that is the dude. Most people want to listen to memorable music, whether they’re metal heads or country music nerds, and that whole Swedish scene NAILED memorable. And, just to bring it full circle, our next album has much more of an emphasis on solos and leads that will get stuck in your head. Not just fast and aggressive, but fast and aggressive and with a little Thin Lizzy harmony tucked in the middle. I can’t wait for people to hear it man. I’m seriously so excited to get these things recorded
BW: Ok, so what, to you, makes a great song?
Ramming: I very much appreciate a hook, or something you can take away or look forward to next time. If it’s a hardcore song it might be the sing-along or breakdown, or in metal it might be a solo you can’t get over. I love songs that go out of their way to give you SOMETHING extra beyond what you’re expecting. So, the song “Under the Whip” by The Crown: the melodic tapping part they do over blasting in the chorus gives my ears a boner every time I hear the song, and because of that I’ve never gotten bored of that song or record
BW: Then, your new record. How else are you taking it that extra step as you mentioned?
Ramming: Not to sound cheesy, but it was a natural progression. We went through some lineup changes this year, like I was telling you last time, and there was a while where we were writing as a three piece. We used to have three song writers and suddenly we only had two, so they had to spend a lot more time sitting down and working on their song writing ability, not just shredding. Kallen really started writing songs that sounded like us, not just a combination of bands that we like. Pete, who just sings in the band but is a great guitar player, saw what Kal was working on and started sitting around for 5 or 6 hours a day pounding out riffs that were still metal and punk but explored more of the twin-guitar stuff, mid-paced double bass, NWOBHM sounds, etc.
Then a few months ago we started jamming with Blake as our new guitarist. He spent a few years doing a band called Coctopus that was totally 70’s/80’s arena rock via dirty D.I.Y. dudes. With him in the band now, the solos and leads are getting more towards something that will get stuck in your head, not just impress you with speed, though the dude can definitely shred. Our bass player, Ben, was the last puzzle piece and he’s done a killer job of taking the shreddy/punky/melodic pile that these dudes hand him and locking it down on the low end.
BW: Coctopus… That’s amazing.
Ramming: The engraving on the record says “The ocean just got a whole lot sexier.”
BW: I need to hear this, like, yesterday. But go on. [review forthcoming]
Ramming: I pressed 800 records for them cause I was convinced they’d be the next Annihilation Time or something, they did one tour, got arrested and never hit the road again! It was Phil and Blake who were both in Bones Brigade. We had Phil on bass, and when he and our old guitarist quit, we somehow picked up Blake and a Ben. So, we’ve had two members of Coctopus/Bones Brigade, but never at the same time.
BW: A family affair.
Ramming: Anyway, just to try and wrap up what I was saying above; the new record is d-beat under Maiden riffs, and blasting with hardcore parts. It really is slightly all over the map, but ultimately I really think leads to us finally having our own sound; it’s not just putting things together, it’s mashing them together. Compared to Kvelertak, it’s probably not that weird, but considering we started as a thrash band, it’s quite different
BW: You know I saw your band and I said ‘Finally, a Kvelertak with words I can understand!’ That’s an oversimplification, but it’s cool that after so long with these genre subdivisions that people are going all over the place in the name of a good time!
Ramming: No that totally rules man! That really is why metal RULES right now: you have Kvelertak mashing Jimmy Hendrix with Immortal, you have Revocation taking thrash into a whole new realm of shred and even someone like Skeletonwitch, who are just simply a metal band, not stressing about if a riff is “blackened” or thrash or death. They just sound like metal.
BW: When and where can we expect this new super catchy punk-metal power rock album?
Ramming: We’re supposed to record this winter, though dates aren’t set in stone yet. We’re currently label-less, so the plan is to fund recording ourselves, send it to all our buds at all the big labels, blow them all away, and then see who wants to take charge! We have our month-long winter tour that leaves on the 30th, and then a not-yet-announced-but-super-awesome metal package tour that we’re doing in the spring.
Ramming: One of the bands we’re going out with has been name-dropped above and one is a band we’ve toured with before. Good enough?
BW: Well, that tour sounds like a No Clean Singing must-cover.
Ramming: Check out Fatal from FL, there’s some thrash dudes that are moving beyond the hi top.
EDITOR’S NOTE: All the photos in this post were taken at METAL SUCKFEST for NCS by Nicholas Vechery. Ramming Speed’s facebook page can be found here. The band’s most recent release is a 2011 split with A.N.S., which is available on Amazon mp3 — and here, for your streaming pleasure, are all 3 of the Ramming Speed tracks from the split:
[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/05-Betrayed-Ramming-Speed.mp3|titles=Ramming Speed – Betrayed]
“Last Drop / Dogmatic Horde”
[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/06-Last-Drop-_-Dogmatic-Horde-Ramming-Speed.mp3|titles=Ramming Speed – Last Drop-Dogmatic Horde]
[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/07-Perdition-Ramming-Speed.mp3|titles=Ramming Speed – Perdition]