RINGS OF SATURN have crash landed with their fourth studio album, Ultu Ulla. Coming out on July 28th via Nuclear Blast Records, the American deathcore outfit have a lot planned around their new record. But how does it fit into the band’s discography? We spoke to guitarist Miles Barker and drummer Aaron Stechauner about just that, touring, and all things RINGS OF SATURN.
Your new album Ultu Ulla comes out next week. Are you excited?
Miles: Yeah! It’s been a long time coming. I started writing for this album literally over a year ago, so everything was finished in August. So, I’m ready for it to come out, man! I’m excited. I just want to know what people will think.
What do you think people will think of it?
Miles: Hopefully they like it! I think a lot of people who aren’t a fan of the band originally for various reasons will probably like it, because it’s a little more accessible, I guess you could say. Which is a total rip from someone’s YouTube comment [laughs], but yeah, I think it’ll open up a lot of opportunities for the band with new fans as well as making the old ones happy.
What do you think you’ve done differently on this record?
Aaron: It’s a lot more, in our opinion, cohesive of an album. From song to song, as well as section to section within each song, there’s a lot more structure, not just in the literal structure sense, but also in the melodic sense. It’s a lot more tonal music, it’s a lot less atonal. So, for anyone who doesn’t know what that is, basically, most of the time there is a key or key change throughout the song, but that kind of keeps it to where everything and every note and every solo has more of a purpose and structure to it than previous RINGS OF SATURN efforts. So that’s something I would say, along with just, we just tried to make it, like Miles said, a little more accessible, there’s more stuff you can just jam and groove and get into. You know, there’s still chaos and nuts RINGS OF SATURN signature sounds, but it’s, I’m not going to say toned down, but it’s a little more refreshing to listen to.
Other than that, what do you think will make the record stand out?
Miles: I think, with everything Aaron said, I think that alone is pretty much going to be the main thing that’s making it stand out. Artwork’s crazy, the music’s crazy, the production is pretty good. It’s not any different in any other aspect really, aside from the album just sounding different, which I guess is the whole point of an album *laughs*.
Aaron: Yeah, I don’t think there’s anything else that’s going to make it stand out, but the things I mentioned are major things and are huge differences from previous records. I think that’s pretty much it! [laughs]
Miles: And live, we’re going to be sounding really tight, I think. It’s going to be sounding really good compared to previous records that we’ve toured on. This one’s going to be coming across a lot better live.
Aaron: The songs translate better, not necessarily because they’re easier, but because the previous albums, a lot of the material, especially on drums because the material really either wasn’t written by a drummer or with the idea of drums playing it in mind, so it wasn’t really feasible. And some stuff was impossible unless you changed it, and tweaked it a little bit just to be able to do it. On this record, we kept it hard and pounding and fast, ripping music to play, but it’s a little more feasible because we wrote it with the mindset of a musician, knowing we’re going to have to perform this, so we can’t write things that are completely out of our capabilities, or even human capabilities.
Miles: That’s a very good way to put it! [laughs]
So how did you go about writing and recording the record?
Miles: Well, with this record we were on tour for a while. We were gone for two and a half months, got home, and we signed the contract on that tour, so when we got home it was pretty much time to get working. So, I immediately went to Vegas, like right after I got home to kind of remove myself from the typical writing environment and hang out after a tour, I wanted to decompress. I think that was a very good choice, because what ended up happening was in the two weeks that I was there, I’d already wrote over half the record. And that was like, unheard of, I never do that. That never, ever happens that quickly, so I think that was a real interesting thing. So, it ended up that a good chunk of the record was done, you know, a couple weeks, I started doing some more, then Luke started I think a week after I got home, so I had a bunch of stuff already done. And I’d send it to him (Luke), I’d send it to Aaron, and it was like “Yeah, that’s cool”. There wasn’t much input aside from maybe like “Oh, try this”, but basically got a good chunk of it done, Luke started writing. Then, at that point when we were getting towards end of the record is when the collaboration kind of came in. Where it was, “Okay, we need to have this be this way, blah blah blah, here’s structure, let’s copy-paste this part here”, or whatever. That’s kind of what ended up happening with that. So, I guess on this record, I don’t know how it was with previous records, but I did the majority of it. And once we did that, Aaron came in and did all the drums, and after we were done with that, Ian did the vocals.
Awesome. And you did a music video for Inadequate. Whose idea was the video?
Aaron: It was none of ours. The video as far as the location and theme and everything going on, was just the guy who directed it, Tommy Jones, he works for Nuclear Blast. So, we had a video budget and obviously needed to do one for this album, so he just did it, he just told us where to go and where to show up, and we did that. So, yeah!
How was it? Fun?
Aaron: Yeah, it was pretty fun. It was outside, it was hot, I had to do a whole bunch of takes, just because drummers usually have to be in a bunch of takes.
Miles: [laughs] You got screwed that day!
Aaron: Say if you have a shot where you’re not doing the full band, you’re just filming the guitar player or solo shots of the singer, the drummer has to be there, because if the singer is in front of a drum set without a drummer or without cymbals moving or something, it is not consistent. There’s going to be a continuity error. So, I had to be in almost every shot, and then drummers end up also being not in most of the shots in the final cut. So, it’s always cool to see that I had to be in every shot, and then wasn’t in most of them in the video” [laughs] That’s usually how it goes.
Miles: The roof that we shot on also, had like tar on it. Because that’s how roofs are. It was so hot that the tar was melting and just destroyed our shoes, it was a mess. I had a lot of fun, though. Aspects of it were fun, all the Nuclear Blast people were really cool, and other aspects like Aaron mentioned and such, were not as fun.
Going onto Nuclear Blast, RINGS OF SATURN are getting a lot more popular as time goes by. Did you expect to get as big as you are now?
Miles: I think it’s hard answering that. You know, Aaron and I both haven’t been in the band since it started, we kind of joined in when there was a good thing going, more or less. There were things that could always be better. We always have THE BEATLES in the back of our minds, so [laughs] it was good. But yeah, I think seeing the way the band was going and what was planned, and then we started writing for this, I figured it was going to do pretty well. So, I think seeing what happens within this next six months to a year after this record comes out is going to be a pretty good, long term indicator of what may or may not be happening.
What would you say the main themes in the album are?
Aaron: Lyrics and themes and stuff like that, we don’t have anything to do with. Ian [Bearer, Vocals] does all those, and when we write the music and whatnot and our parts, the lyrics and alien themes and story of the album and whatnot isn’t really something that’s in our minds at all just because it’s separate, its own thing. As far as the theme and story and whatnot goes, that’s all Ian. I mean, I know that it’s about aliens in space but I think this one has to do with the time space continuum aspect of sci-fi, but that’s the extent of what I know about it.
It only takes listening to one song to know RINGS OF SATURN all really talented and you’ve been playing for a long time. How long have you both been playing your respective instruments for?
Aaron: I’ve been playing for around 12 years, I started when I was ten. I didn’t take it super seriously until a few years into playing drums, but yeah, I did play around when I first started. 12 years, and then seriously, maybe like 10 or nine or something like that.
Miles: Yeah, kind of the same thing for me, I didn’t start playing when I was ten. I got a guitar when I was 10, played for a couple years. And then, I took some lessons and stuff like that, off and on, then when I was 15 or 16 I got really into it and I was taking lessons all the time and doing stuff in school for it. Yeah, about the same time. But I don’t think anyone picks up an instrument and goes “Yep, this is what I’m going to do forever”. I can definitely…not even going to go there, yeah.
I’m kind of in the same process, I’ve been jumping from instrument to instrument for years and still don’t know what I’m doing. Torn between drums and bass, but why not do both?
Aaron: At the same time.
Yeah, literally at the same time. Grow an extra couple arms, it’ll be fine!
RINGS OF SATURN are playing Summer Slaughter and a few dates before the record comes out. How do you think fans will react to the album in a live format?
Aaron: Yeah, we’re playing four new ones on this tour, two of them we played on the last tour already and the reception of that was really good. Especially one of them in particular, Inadequate, people really liked it live. I think it’s one of those songs, where it’s cool on the record and you’re like “Damn, that is sick” but you always say, “That would probably be really heavy, really gnarly live”, and you see it, and it is, and it’s something so simple but something that hits so hard. And I think that a lot of these songs are like that on this record. Every song has a section or two of three or five sections that make you go “Wow, that is really cool!”, and I think that’s gonna happen on this tour. I think there’s some really cool stuff that’s going to happen. As far as fan’s reactions to songs that we’re going to play for the first time, as well as, like we’ve said before, these songs we believe fans like a lot better live than previous records just because the way they were written. A lot of it was with the intention of being performed and still having that wow factor, obviously. So that’s what I think is going to happen, that’s my prediction.
Miles: I think so too. With having the album out, that way people can actually hear the song and then hear it at the show so they kind of know what’s happening. So, I think on the CARNIFEX tour, a lot of people were not getting into it as much, they obviously enjoyed it and liked it but they weren’t able to really get into it because they had never heard the song before, it wasn’t available anywhere.
Do you reckon you’d ever do a live album?
Aaron: I don’t know if we would ever, in this particular kind of band, would ever do a live album. We’ve been toying with the idea and wanting to do a song, a little compilation music video with audio stems from the show, but as far as a full 40-ish minute album, maybe down the line if we do a headliner tour or some better venues and more of a production budget and crew and whatnot, but for now I don’t necessarily see that happening at the moment.
A track like that would be really cool. Something for the people who have never seen you guys live to get a little taste of what you’re like. Do you have anything in the works to play some other countries?
Miles: I hope so! [laughs] I really hope so!
Aaron: Yeah, we don’t know about this year in particular. We had something this year that was supposed to happen but it fell through. Most tours and most things like that that you hear about end up falling through, that’s why you don’t really get your hopes up until you see that it’s announced and you have a whole bunch of information. But if not this year, definitely next year for sure.
Where would you like to play?
Aaron: Europe, and I know that’s happening. Australia definitely, that’s somewhere we’ve never gone. We’ve had opportunities in the past and really have wanted to but for one reason or another it didn’t happen.
How are you feeling about the festivals you’re playing this year?
Aaron: Yeah, we’re excited about it. I know I am!
Miles: Yeah, I’m really excited. CHILDREN OF BODOM‘s flying there and that’s one of my all-time favourite inspirational bands, we’re playing the same day. And on top of that, the venue that the festival is being held at is close to where Aaron and I live so we don’t have to fly out and do anything, we can just drive there from our house.
Performance aside, it should be quite easy for you then!
Aaron: Yeah! Totally.
What else is in the cards for RINGS OF SATURN this year? Anything else planned?
Aaron: Yeah, we have a tour in November/December that isn’t announced yet. As far as I know, it’s still happening. We had something in October that I think fell through and it may get filled with something else, I’m not sure. But yeah, like I said everything is always up in the air and we don’t exactly know if it’s happening at all until it’s announced and we see things rolling in motion. Even if we’re told “Yeah, we’re doing this, this is how much we’re getting paid, blah blah blah”, a lot of the time it just goes away, so we’ll just have to see.
Fingers crossed you guys could come to the UK at some point, that would be cool.
Aaron: Yeah! We were supposed to be in October, that’s what that was. [laughs]
Ultu Ulla is set for release on July 28th via Nuclear Blast Records.
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