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XS ROCK: Tell me about the latest band news? Any new projects coming out, live shows or announcements?
Al: At the end of May we finally released our “Return Of The Spectral Rider” full-length album, which we had been working on a while. So right now we are busy promoting that and we have some nice local shows coming up supporting NWOBHM legends Raven in NH, and 80’s thrashers BloodFeast in Worcester, MA. The really big news on the live front is that we will finally have a chance to play one of the major European Festivals next year. I can’t announce which one yet, but we are definitely going to Germany and hopefully to a couple of other countries in Europe next Summer. So everyone is very excited about that. In the meantime we are mixing the first full-length album of our side-project band Iron Will – which is the brainchild of Tony “The Metal Duke” Canillas. We’ve had that band since 2001 but never really recorded anything so we finally recorded the songs we have and that should see the light of day later this year. Also in the meantime we are working on new music and the pile of material we have built up since the last release and we hope to have another album of all new material out sooner or later.
XS ROCK: How long has the band been together?
Al: The band played it’s first official show under the name Ravage in November of 1996. So at this point, we’ve actually been around for over 20 years. We’ve had a number of members come and go, but myself and the two guitar players Nick and my brother Eli have been together since 2001 – so about 16 or 17 years at this point.
XS ROCK: What was your main motivation for starting or being in a band?
Al: Originally we wanted to bring true heavy metal back and take over the world and be huge like Iron Maiden, Metallica etc. These days the goals are a bit more modest. I mean, for all intents, metal is back – there are tons of great heavy metal bands touring and recording. There is lots of good new music out there and it’s all very accessible because of the internet. So the new goal is to just make our contribution to the book of heavy metal – maybe just release a couple of albums that we hope will reach some people and be remembered – and have fun playing some good live shows to as many people as possible.
XS ROCK: What is your music background?
Al: My brother Eli and I had some classical music training as kids…we sang in choirs, took piano lessons etc… that all kind of went out the window when we became teens and voices changed etc. But when we discovered heavy metal we got back into music in a big way. I took up the drums and he went from bass to rhythm guitar to lead guitar and then back to playing around with keyboards and other instruments. Nick started on guitar playing punk and metal music and progressed to more classically influenced power metal type stuff.
XS ROCK: What image do you think your music conveys?
Al: I think heavy metal songs should call to mind a lot of vivid imagery… they should tell a kind of story inside your head. That’s what the best, classic heavy metal songs do, and of course anything well-written has to have a subtext – different levels of meaning make it more interesting upon repeated listenings or readings, so we incorporate a little bit of everything into the lyrics – some Christian imagery or symbolism, Pagan, Mythological, Political, Satanic, ha ha…whatever the given song calls for…
XS ROCK: What are your immediate music career goals? (Next 1 to 3 years.)
Al: To get a new (probably double) full-length album recorded, get it released and play some good shows. The ultimate goal is to get to play at the big European festivals.
XS ROCK: What are your long-term career goals?
Al: To make some music that is well regarded by heavy metal fans and is remembered in some way, and to have a helluva good time doing it.
XS ROCK: Which do you prefer? Writing new songs and recording or playing for a live audience?
Al: There is nothing more fun than making an immediate connection with a live audience who know and anticipate a certain song because you are having fun playing the music you want to play and you get to see the audience having that enjoyment too. But it is a chicken and egg situation because you have to write the song and get it out there to have a good live experience, so the recording end has a certain level of satisfaction to it as well. It’s a longer and more arduous process than going out and playing a live show – a little less immediate gratification. But we usually have a great time recording songs, so that is fun too.
XS ROCK: What are your songs about? (What specific themes do they cover?)
Al: We kind of run the gamut of dark subject matter. The music is usually on the dark side so it tends to inspire darker lyrics. We’ve tackled a lot of ‘bigger’ subjects on the lyrical end of things… war, economic inequality, environmental devastation etc – but usually through a filter of something fantastical like a story about vampires or ghosts, zombies, dragons, science fiction-type stuff… a good blend of all things sci-fi and horror but with a realist theme behind it. Just good metal subject matter.
XS ROCK: Do you have any outrageous tour stories from the road? If so, please fill us in.
Al: We seen some funny stuff at shows over the years. I remember we played in Germany with a band that had a pretty elaborate stage show that included the singer having these sort of mini flamethrowers under his robe strapped to each arm and he shot out these ten foot flames while they played. I was sure he was going to burn the place down, but it turned out alright. We actually played another show where there were fire breathing strippers…so fire balls seem to follow us around a lot. Actually natural disasters happen to follow us in general. I remember we were on tour in California. We went to the beach and the moment we got there we heard there was a Tsunami warning. We left the Atlanta area shortly before a huge flood on that tour as well.
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your fans?
Al: I don’t know if it was ‘strange’ per se, but I had a fan invite me to witness him getting a Ravage tattoo done. I drove out to his tattoo artists shop, saw the design and he had it inked on the spot. It was really cool, he got the artwork from our “The End Of Tomorrow” album tattooed on his shoulder.
XS ROCK: Were your parents supportive of your aspirations to play in a rock band?
Al: We were lucky in that our parents always supported any kind of artistic project we endeavored, ya. They helped us out with equipment and a place to play in the earliest days – music lessons when we were very young, and let us use their van a lot when we got older and needed something to get to gigs. They aren’t big heavy metal fans though so they don’t get to a lot of shows. They are more into classical music.
XS ROCK: What are your favorite tracks to play live?
Al: I like all of our songs, so in particular I like songs that get the crowd going like “Grapes Of Wrath” and “Damn Nation” – stuff the audience can sing along to and give me a break, and I like songs like “Freedom Fighter” which have cool lead breaks where I can play air guitar.
XS ROCK: Which band or artist inspired you to perform? Why?
Al: In the earliest days, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Ozzy and Metallica were the big influences – and still are, to a great extent, but these days I am inspired more by the locals bands we play with who keep the scene alive playing their original music and rockin’.
XS ROCK: If you could design a dream tour for your band, who would be on the bill?
Al: I think the ultimate tour would be Ravage opening for a bill of Lizzy Borden, Running Wild, U.D.O., Black Sabbath (with Tony Martin singing because Dio is unavailable), Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden – someone should book that festival, and we’ll play.
Tommy G: -Appetite era GnR with Twisted Sister would be pretty cool.
XS ROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
Al: Keeping the band together for all these years so that we have the opportunity to do more cool stuff.
XS ROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band what kind of career do you think you would have?
Al: Well playing in a band isn’t much of a career… it really doesn’t really pay the bills. At this point it’s more of a fun hobby than a money-maker. But if I had more time and money I’d like to be a ghost-hunter, exorcist, or maybe run an old theater.
XS ROCK: What type of equipment do you use for live shows?
Al: Eli and Nick play through Mesa Boogie cabs and Engl pre-amps. Nick plays Ibanez guitars. Eli puts his own guitars together… sort of. Derek plays a Pearl masters drum kit and I think Tommy just plays the bass through whatever we have on hand.
XS ROCK: What do you think of the current music scene?
Al: It think it’s great. It’s more diverse than it has ever been, and with the internet you can pretty much hear any band any time you want. There are a lot of great new traditional heavy metal and thrash bands coming out, and our Boston area scene has a ton of great bands.
XS ROCK: For anyone that doesn’t know you, what would they be surprised to know about you?
Al: They’d probably be surprised to learn that we’ve been around for 20 years because they probably haven’t heard of us.
Tommy G: I was once in the same bathroom as Ric Flair and he took a really loud shit.
XS ROCK: If someone had never heard you before, how would you describe your sound?
Al: We’re a mix of traditional New Wave Of British Heavy Metal – style heavy metal with influences from late 80’s thrash bands and late 90’s Euro power metal bands.
XS ROCK: Is there anything that you’d like to promote or say to your fans out there?
Al: Thanks to everyone who has helped us out by picking up a copy of the new release “Return Of The Spectral Rider” on CD or Vinyl or digital download. It is available for streaming online, so check it out and if you like it, buy a physical copy or buy a download version – you can get one song for 99 cents… every bit helps as we are trying to scrape together a few bucks to help us get to Europe next year. Join The Society For World Wide Ravage at www.RavageTheEarth.com our official website or like us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/RavageTheEarth
XS ROCK: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us at XSRock!