Interview with Erik Rutan of Morbid Angel (September 1995)
by Alain M. Gaudrault
from Chronicles of Chaos n°2
CoC: We're in a laundromat just down the road from the Opera House on Queen
Street East in Toronto, where Morbid Angel will be playing. I'll begin by delving
a bit into your past Erik, namely your previous band, Ripping Corpse. What caused
Ripping Corpse's demise?
Erik: Everybody in the band just got sick and tired of working at it. See for me, I mean I'm 24 years old, so it's like I've been doing it for about 8 years, and I guess Ripping Corpse lasted for about 5 or 6 years, and everybody wanted to take a break, while I pretty much didn't want to take a break at all, I just wanted to keep working. The band broke up and I just started working on my own project, which I'm still doing.
CoC: What's the name of the band?
Erik: It's called Rutan, it's just my last name. I have Alex (Webster) from Cannibal Corpse who's playing bass, and it's a very different thing, it's different from Ripping Corpse, different from Morbid Angel, it's very heavy but melodic.
CoC: So your joining Morbid Angel didn't promote the demise of Ripping Corpse
since the band had already broken up?
Erik: No, people seem to like trying to associate that, but that's not the case. The band broke up, and I was still working on my project when Morbid Angel called me up and wanted me to tour again. I felt I was at a low, I mean, you spend 6 years in a band and you think that's it. We did an album, we lost our deal, I thought that was it, but that was just the beginning. Now I'm on a different planet!
CoC: Were there any general tryouts at all for filling in the guitarist
slot in Morbid Angel?
Erik: There was a tryout I guess for me, they flew me down but I don't think they would've flown me down if they didn't feel secure that they thought I could do it. I mean they paid for me to fly down and stay in a hotel for a week and stuff like that, because at the time, I really didn't have much money. They took care of me, bought me some equipment and made sure I had all the right necessities. I also had to play on different equipment, a different guitar, because Trey had been working on the sound for quite a long time and he wanted to keep that the same. I was anxious because I didn't know if I'd be able to pull it off. I was thinking "Man, I'm gonna go down there and just devastate, I have to".
CoC: Do you any idea why Richard Brunelle left?
Erik: He never really wrote any material, I think that was part of it. Trey wanted somebody that could write material, that could add to the flavour of the band, kind of expand into a different dimension, rather than Trey who, up to Domination, had written everything, you know, and I guess Richard was writing in a different style and not writing really towards Morbid Angel and I guess he felt that he wanted to go in a separate way, and everyone in the band felt that they should go separate ways. Richard was just back basically to fill in for the Black Sabbath tour. The split was a mutual thing. Richard's a great guitar player and he's a very good guy. I've known the guy for a long time, but he just went to a different dimension. He's working on another project right now.
CoC: Some fans have indicated that Morbid Angel seems to be running out
of fresh ideas, that the first two albums were the band's creative peak, and
that the group is losing steam with _Covenant_ and _Domination_, the latest
two releases. What do you say to those people?
Erik: Everybody has their own opinions about everything, but I feel _Domination_ has a wide variety of material, from the slowest pace to songs like "This Means War" which is blistering speed. The creativity on this album I think is the best. I think _Domination_ is the best album yet, and I think the band feels that way. I mean, I love every album equally, but the clarity of _Domination_ is superior. Besides, the lead work, Trey's leads I think on this album really shine. I'm really happy with my lead work, and the songwriting on this album is the best, and people seem to lose sight of the actual song, rather than a rhythm here and a rhythm there. That's great for some good bands who have great rhythms, but do they have great songs? To make a song like "Where the Slime Live", that song to me is unbelievable, I love that song. Or "Dawn of the Angry", I mean that's just so brutal, and even "This Means War". Really, I haven't had many people say that to me, but the people that do, they're saying that now, the album just came out but, 6 months down the road hopefully they'll have changed their minds about it.
CoC: Let's diverge a bit and address the issue of Morbid Angel, and David
in particular, being accused of supporting white supremacist ideologies, making
certain derogatory remarks against black people in particular.
Erik: That's just absurd. I don't know, people try to tear up our band with their quotes and bullshit, but it's meaningless to me. People have been trying to bring down the band for so long it seems, and they'll say anything to cause a stir, but it's not true. David plays with a black drummer in the Genitorturers (Gen of the Genitorturers is David's wife), and Pete's South American. That's all just ridiculous.
CoC: There's a definite anti-christian bend in the lyrical direction, usually
portrayed through satanic imagery. Is this only a tool used to offend christians
or is there a set of beliefs held within the band that tends toward satanism
of any kind?
Erik: Offense is not meant to be given to anybody. It's not like a lot of satanic bands, but it's just that everybody has their own beliefs in this band, and it's more than a satanic image, I know for myself and Trey and everybody else, we all believe in the Ancient Ones who are ancient Sumerian demons, which is vastly different than Satanism. We all dabble into Satanism beliefs a little bit, but not solely held down by that. All the lyrics, as far as David's concerned, they come from his heart. They're not meant to offend. If people are offended then that's their problem, but Morbid Angel's all about feeling. All the songs, everything's completely about feeling. The only statement we try to make is to believe in yourself, don't fall into trends, believe in yourself and whatever empowers yourself to conquer is what should be done without bleeding onto other people, at no-one else's expense but your own. We try to keep a positive image even though some people perceive what we're about to be negative, to us it's completely positive, and that's succeeding.
CoC: Is this strictly a North American tour or will you also be doing Europe
Erik: We'll tour Europe immediately after the States. Immediately after that we're going to Australia ... and New Zealand actually.
CoC: Who opens for the European and Australian legs of the tour?
Erik: For the European tour, ... There's a band called Immortal, I think they're opening for us in Europe. I always look forward to Europe because Europe's a great place to tour. I just like it because it's different. I'm from America, so you go to Europe, it's a whole new surrounding, you get to talk to different people, it's great, I love it.
CoC: One final question on the direction of death metal in general. Some
say that it's a dying genre which will eventually go the way of speed metal,
either dying out completely or going to a more commercial incarnation. Where
do you see death metal going in the next 5 to 10 years?
Erik: I see death metal pretty much dead already, and the cream of the crop is still growing and producing, but everyone else is really going to have a hard time within the death metal genre. There's so many bands that came out while it was cool, while it was happening back in 1989 to like 1991. Everyone signed everybody and didn't really realize which band's great and which band blows. Unfortunately it became so overpopulated that bands started getting dropped from their labels. Up and coming bands can't even get a deal. I know bands, like these guys named Eulogy in Florida, I mean they're a great band, and Nokturnel, these other bands I know of that are really great bands but they're having such a hard time getting signed, it's a shame.
Erik: You see, Morbid Angel, we have our own scene. Morbid Angel fans are devoted to Morbid Angel. It's funny, we get so many new fans now, 14 year old kids, you know? You keep continuing on, and growing bigger, because every album consistently is selling more records. _Domination_ is doing incredibly right now. Everything is going well for us, although I can't say the same for other bands. Whoever wants to stay with a career in this type of music, they need to work really hard. That's why we're touring non-stop. We did a video, we do in-stores, we try to do anything possible to help this band succeed. We don't have any plans of going down the way many bands have, we want to stay and keep going without compromising. We don't compromise, we didn't compromise on _Domination_, we did what we felt, and every other album will be that way. We'll never "sell-out" if you will, or change the integrity of the band or the feeling. And notice that every album since _Alters of Madness_ has been consistently different than the last one, and that's the way it'll always be. We're just going to keep going, we're not going to stop, it's like a train, really. I mean for myself, I know I've got a lot of material I want to put out, I've got plenty of ideas, and Trey has plenty of ideas. I'm not even at my prime yet, I'm still on the way up. Material definitely is not a problem in this band, there's never a lack of material, and now that me and Trey are together, there's two people writing the music. It'll just becoming more and more creative."