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Wednesday 25 July 2018

The Spotlight: Pre-Bloodstock Interview With A Ritual Spirit By Paul H

A Ritual Spirit Interview

The metal scene in Scotland is no less intense than it is in the rest of the country. Winners of the Glasgow Metal To The Masses was A Ritual Spirit, a four piece outfit from Edinburgh. I caught a few minutes with the band to find out more about the Scottish winners.

As with all my interviews for Bloodstock, I started by asking the band to give us a quick history of the band and introduce us to the current line-up. Guitarist Steve starts the story: “Oli (singer/guitarist) and myself formed the band after leaving another band in 2010 and got together with Dave (drummer), our bassist at the time left in 2012 and after a few line-up changes we now have Martin on bass” Oli continues “Yeah we spent 2010 writing songs and recording our own demo then unleashed them into the Edinburgh live scene in early 2011” Bassist Martin comments “I knew the guys from the Edinburgh scene; my previous band had played many shows with A Ritual Spirit. When they asked me to join it was an easy bedding in period “. Drummer Dave finishes the history: ‘I knew Stevie from a few years back and got asked to 'help out' while they searched for a permanent drummer. He knew damn well that I'd enjoy hanging out with the guys and playing their songs and that I'd eventually join full time”

I’ve only checked out a couple of tracks on YouTube including Visceral Decay which is a great track. A Ritual Spirit has a sound which is lighter than many of the bands at Bloodstock this year. How would the band describe their sound?

Steve:” We’ve always said we’re a rock band. People seem to have a tough time nailing down who we sound like, we’ve had everything from Metallica to Placebo thrown at us, but we like to think we sound like A Ritual Spirit”. Martin: “Metalgrunge or "Munge" if you like “. Dave: “LOL at 'Munge', what about 'Gruntal' though?”Oli: “Full Gruntal Munge? Can I say that?!“

I think you just did Oli so now we know; full Gruntal Munge. I hope that’s clear!

Who are the main influences for the band?

Steve: “Metallica, Alice in Chains”; Oli “I'd have to say Nirvana too, it's pretty cliched to say that nowadays but they influenced me pretty heavily in the 90s“

Martin: “ Stevie and Oli do the majority of the writing but what is contributed from myself is heavily influenced by the likes of Alter Bridge and Black Stone Cherry“

Dave : “I've got loads of influences, but I can't play nearly as good as any of them so I'm not sure they actually count! Anthrax, Lamb of God, In Flames, the heavier side of things. Bloodstock is definitely going to be my cup of tea!” Oli generously and no doubt correctly adds, “Dave's a way better drummer than he says he is “.

So, with a wider range of influences than some of their fellow artists, could they surprise us with something different they also like? What’s the guilty pleasure? Steve is straight in: “70s funk and soul, grew up loving it” Oli adds his own:” Folky singer songwriters – The likes of Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, John Martyn and more recently Tom McRae. Mark Lanegan too but obviously that goes back to the Screaming Trees days, really enjoying his solo work though “. It may be Martin who hits big with his response: “80s disco. Can't help it. I'm not even sorry”. But Dave hits the jackpot with his answer: “Tiffany, I Think We're Alone Now. Still got it on my playlist to this day “.

Oli adds, (I think) tongue in cheek, “I think we might need to find a new drummer!”

The band released their debut album Carnival Carnivorous in 2013. What kind of reception did they receive? Were they happy with it? Steve starts with a quite reasonable point: “At the time we were really happy with it, we worked hard on it and to have your own album in your hands is always a great moment, when it came out it was really well received, and we sold out of physical copies pretty quickly “. Oli reflects.” Hindsight’s a funny thing, at the time I was over the moon with it, right now with a bit of perspective there's a lot I'd change. It's not even been five years since its release but it's almost nostalgic talking about it now. Kind of like an ex-girlfriend who you remember fondly but you don't want to see again because you know you'll end up ripping each other's eyes out!”.

Dave adds his view “I'm dead proud of it. It's the only time I've gone into a studio with only a rough idea of what I was doing on the songs - Normally I can't play what I'm supposed to, but that's another story! I recorded some drums and left Stevie and Oli to fire some guitars and vocals around them. I loved what they'd done when I heard it all for the first time “. Oli continues “Unfortunately that was when Iain, our original bass player left the band so Stevie and myself had to fill in on bass duties, we spend a week recording the music and then the next four or five months tracking vocals whenever we could afford another session in the studio “.

The band got to the Semi-Finals of the Scottish MTTM in 2017. What persuaded you to have another go in 2018?

Steve: “We loved it the first time, the venue the Scottish M2TM is held in (Ivory Blacks in Glasgow) is a great place, the staff and organisers Kelvin, Fede and Rob are great, so we thought yeah let’s do that again”. Martin added,” the competition itself is one thing but it’s also a great opportunity to network and promote. We've met some great people and gained new friends and fans”. Dave agrees: “Yeah, great way to meet new pals that play music and enjoy hanging out. I'm pretty poor at going to see bands play, these gigs helped me get out the house and check out some Glasgow based bands that might not manage to play through our way “.

What about the band’s road to the final? Oli starts the story. “We did one of the early rounds as a three piece because Stevie was ill, in another round the van broke down on the motorway and to top it all off Martin's wife went into labour the night before the final. I'll let him tell the rest of that story... “

Martin continues. “Yeah that was some journey. A lot of fantastic bands were involved, and we feel privileged to have won. But the final itself - I hadn't slept as my wife gave birth in the early hours of the morning so I was on another planet come our performance. We must have done something right!”

Big congratulations to Martin and his better half. Impressive staying power!

One of the joys of doing these interviews is that we are slowly getting a feel for the metal scene across the UK. I asked the band about the Scottish metal scene? Did they feel confident they could get to the final?

Steve again. “We’ve always believed in our music, but we knew it would be tough “. Oli continued, “Yeah the scene's pretty strong up here, there's some fantastic bands around and we were competing against some of them in M2TM. We went out in the semi-finals in 2017 so we were definitely aiming for the final this year” Dave is also happy to give a view. “With us having that 'lighter' sound mentioned earlier, I never really imagined we would win and get to play Bloodstock, but always wanted to win each heat so that we'd get to go and play another gig in Glasgow”.

How did the band use the build up to balance gaining support and avoiding saturating everyone?

Steve explained, “We are from Edinburgh and the final is in Glasgow, we haven’t played Glasgow a lot, so we haven’t had a chance to saturate them with us...YET! But we noticed a few faces coming back in the heats which is always good “. “Yeah”, adds Oli, “we changed the set each show to keep it interesting for the audience and ourselves. By the semi-final we had a set we were confident in so we kept that for the final “.

What about that winning moment? I asked the band to tell us a bit about how it felt. Steve is first to explain. “Surreal to be honest, I can remember looking at the other guys in shock” whilst Martin added “sheer elation. I think we didn't fully realise what had happened until a week later but when we were announced as winners it felt like all the hard work had paid off “. Dave added “I was stunned and remained stunned for a good 2 weeks afterwards. Dead chuffed as well though” I was full of adrenaline, literally shaking! “

The band has a Friday slot on the New Blood Stage and will be sharing the stage with our Welsh brothers in Democratus. I’d say that Friday is a score but are they happy with that?

Oli confirms he is; “As a Welsh brother myself I'm very much looking forward to Democratus! Yeah I think we're happy with our Friday slot “. Dave continues,” I’m happy with a Friday slot for sure. I'd hate to see the state of us on say the Sunday after a few days camping and drinking. I'm pleased that we can come and do our thing on the first full day, and then relax and enjoy the rest of the weekend afterwards. Looking forward to seeing a few bands and I have loads of friends that I don't see that often heading down for the weekend, so really looking forward to hanging out with all them at some point “.

Whilst the band are playing, they are also there for the weekend. Who are A Ritual Spirit Who looking forward to seeing at BOA this year?

Steve starts: “Suicidal for me and of course the mighty Priest!!!” Like many, Oli identifies Gojira. “Gojira on the main stage and Dead Label on the Sophie stage but I'm probably more looking forward to seeing the bands on the New Blood stage, always like to come home from a festival with a handful of decent new bands to listen to”. Martin meanwhile is looking forward to something else altogether. “Heavily looking forward to Devildriver. Haven't seen them live before but I've got the records, so they are a must see for me.” Dave is more expansive “LOADS! Suicidal, Onslaught, Priest, Gojira, Paul and the lads in Obzidian who I've known for years now, Unyan and his latest band Drudge, Valafar (Finally!), Mr Big!!“

And to be fair, who doesn’t want to see Mr Big?? No? Then you are a fool.

So, what can we expect from the band? Why should those who are undecided come and watch?

Oli is straight on it. “We're a straight up, slightly rough around the edges heavy rock band. We play with passion and honesty, from the heart. If you're a fan of metal, grunge or rock there should be something in our set for you “. “It's more than just the edges that are rough at times!“ adds Dave. Oli continues “Aye, our cover of Spoonman at Wildfire Festival last year was pretty rough. So was the hangover the next day come to think of it”.

Amazingly, the band are BOA virgins. Still, why should you go to BOA?

Oli starts:” I think we're all popping our Bloodstock cherries this year, can definitely recommend the M2TM process though” Dave hasn’t been either as he admits. “I've never been I'm sorry to claim, but all I hear from people is how brilliant it is. It sounds like a really well laid out event with great people and bands, but without the 15-minute walk between stages to catch your favourite bands that are playing back to back “. That’s one of many reasons why BOA is so amazing.

We moved on to the final couple of questions. A Ritual Spirit has played with some decent bands in the past. What are the highlights so far? “A lot of the bands we’ve played with have become real friends“says Steve. “Definitely gigs with Darkness Divine and Freak Show, it’s always just a really good night “.

”We've done a few shows with Warrior Soul, they've been pretty cool “adds Oli whilst Dave reminds the band of “that time Kory Clark joined us on stage while we murdered one of his songs, but he enjoyed it as much as we did LOL. The I.C.O.N. guys were ace to be around. I'd like to do more gigs with Electric Mother as well “. “I wouldn't say we murdered that Warrior Soul song “adds Oli, “more full gruntal munged it! “

After Bloodstock, what does the future for A Ritual Spirit look like?” Amazing and busy!!” according to Steve whilst Oli adds,” we’re currently writing our second album; the first single ...The Ever After should be ready pre-BOA so in the very near future we'll be releasing that. Afterwards more recording and as much touring as possible “. Dave is a little more to point. “Sweaty gigs, loud music and hopefully lots of fun “.

Our massive thanks to the guys from A Ritual Spirit for a full and honest interview. Remember kids, if you want some full Gruntal Munge, these guys are the ones to see. Catch A Ritual Spirit on the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage on Friday 9th July at Bloodstock.

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