Based out of Vancouver BC, Road Rash is one of the worthiest flag-bearers of traditional speed metal to have emerged in the last few years. Already making a name for themselves with their high-octane live performances and compelling studio recordings, Road Rash is gearing up for their first US West Coast tour. Rhythm guitarist and designated hype beast Sheldon Byer recently spoke to Metal Assault about all things Road Rash and more. Enjoy the conversation below, along with a taste of the band’s music, and make sure to catch them on their tour which includes a free show at the Slidebar put on by Metal Assault!
Sheldon, it’s good to have you on Metal Assault. So, last year I discovered Road Rash guys when I saw you guys at the 5 Star Bar, which was the Frost & Fire after-party, I believe. And since then I’ve heard the band’s name quite a lot. You guys have been going for it, and I love that. Just for the sake of readers who are not familiar with the band, how did the band start? Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Yeah, of course! So, the singer/bassist, David Hammer as we call him (laughs), he started the band in 2014 and they put out a demo before I was ever in the band. The other members left him and I moved to Vancouver from Edmonton, and he was going to start a new band. But I told him, you cannot lose that sunglasses logo, man … and that band name. Who has that band name? It’s amazing. So, I kind of just kept it going with him, and then we got a couple new members, our drummer is from Brazil, and our new guitar player Benny, I guess he’s not new anymore. Together we put out the album Thunder in Paradise last year. I guess that’s the brief history of the band.
That’s cool. Yeah, I was kind of surprised that the name Road Rash wasn’t already taken by another band.
Yeah, I could not believe it either (laughs).
And keeping with the name, you guys play speed metal, or in other words, traditional fast heavy metal. I’m guessing that the founding member of the band already had this musical style in place for the band, but as a group and for you individually, what gravitates you towards this style?
Well, being a Canadian band, there’s Exciter and Razor, two amazing Canadian speed metal bands that we started to pull influence from. I always say we’re Canadian speed metal, because people tend to confuse us as a punk band sometimes. Obviously you’ve never heard Razor if you don’t get the kind of speed metal we’re playing (laughs). That, and Belgian speed metal like Warhead or Acid, very much in that vein. That’s where we draw a lot of our influence from, it’s definitely where David was going when he started the band, and I helped reinforce that when I joined.
Like I said, I saw you guys last year, and your live show was what drew me towards the band. I think these days your live show is what dictates your fan-following as a band and that’s how you end up selling any merchandise at all. May be it used to be different back in the day when people would actually sell records and then go on tour, but now it’s like the opposite. How much importance do you give to your live show?
The importance of the live show is our number one thing. I think we have more fans live than we do with our recordings (laughs). When we first started playing in Vancouver, not a ton of people came out. And then the word starts spreading that we put on these insane parties, and that you never know what’s going to happen at a Road Rash show. That show you saw us in particular in LA, I couldn’t believe it because it was probably one of the worst shows we’ve ever played (laughs). I kept blowing up and it was nuts, but I remember looking out into the crowd and thinking, man .. 5 Star Bar is packed right now, this is great! We’re doing terrible and people are loving it! And that’s because it’s like you don’t know what’s going to happen next with us. That’s kind of our whole thing. We’re very active live, lots of running around, getting as crazy as we can go, jumping off whatever we can. We have a policy that all the band members must own wireless units (laughs).
It’s funny you say that it was one of the worst shows you’ve played, but sometimes I think that’s how it goes. You as a band have to go with the flow and not make it show to the audience that you’re having a bad show.
Oh yeah, man. I’m like Spinal Tap, with the most technical difficulties that anyone can ever imagine. So I just sort of learned to go with the flow. Don’t upset anybody, just keep it rolling. It’s rock n’ roll!
Exactly, you’ve got to keep the show going. The other thing that I noticed about you guys which is cool is that you seem to have a good connection with a lot of other bands that are of a similar style, from Vancouver or even from California or other parts of the US. Is that a conscious effort on your part, to be friends with a lot of bands and have a scene together?
The biggest thing is support, man. It’s actually funny, you did that tour with Raven and Night Demon as the merch guy (2014), and I remember that you couldn’t get across the border to Canada or something, and you weren’t at the Vancouver show. But that was Night Demon’s first show and they were doing something like 50 dates with Raven. Jarvis and all the Night Demon dudes came and stayed at David Hammer’s house that night and partied with him all night. That was the kind of thing we do. It’s our mentality. We go support and we hope for support back. We create the scene just as much as these other bands do. We just really want to make a big, huge heavy metal party in North America, because Europe has got it so good, man! We’ve got to do something here!
Talking of tours, you guys have a little tour of your own coming up very soon, with Soul Grinder and Bewitcher from Portland. You must be excited about this one.
Oh man, we’re so stoked. That tour is going to be great! We’ve got a whole bunch of stuff lined up, playing with lots of cool bands. Actually one of the bands that played on the Pounding Metal thing last year is booked on the show that you’re doing with us (at the Slidebar in Fullerton), SirenHex. We showed up at the pre Frost & Fire show which they played, they were the first band, and it’s funny enough, they have a song called Road Rash. That made us laugh pretty hard (laughs). But yeah, our first gig of the tour is in Sacramento, then we’re playing a show in West Hollywood, doing the Pounding Metal pre-party this time, with bands like Haunt, Witchaven, Fortress, lots of great LA bands on there. And then we go play Frost & Fire, then come back and play Long Beach with Blade Killer which will be super cool. We’re also playing with Screamer from Sweden, which should be unreal. And then the show with you, and then we go down to San Diego and then back up home!
That’s a nice little run. Aside from that, what plans do you have in the near future?
We’re currently writing the second record and we’ll be playing a couple songs off of it at some of these shows coming up. There’s a couple bands that have been interested in doing split releases with us. We’ve gotten a couple of really shitty record deal offers that we’re not taking (laughs). We’re going to demo up this second record and see what people think. We’ve released everything on our own so far, so we’re open to getting a little more distribution, may be working with somebody in the future.
That’s awesome, man. So, you mentioned Razor and Exciter as being two of the biggest influences to Road Rash’s overall sound. For you individually, what are some of your favorite traditional metal bands or albums?
Considering traditional metal, obviously Judas Priest is right up there. Motörhead is my favorite band of all time, but unfortunately that’s been put to rest, so it’s been hard adapting in a Lemmy-less world. And I was talking about Belgian bands before. For Road Rash, I take a lot of influence from bands like Warhead and Acid, and there’s UK bands like Warfare and Blood Money. I take a lot from them in terms of my playing style which is very chaotic and aggressive. That’s just personally me. The other guys in the band are all over the place (laughs).
I can imagine! And in terms of touring and playing shows in general, is this going to be your first tour ever, or have you ventured out to these cities or other parts of the US in the past?
We’ve actually played only two shows in the US till now. The North-West Metal Fest which was put on by our friends in a Seattle band called Substratum, and the Pounding Metal Fest which you saw us at. So, this is definitely a big jump for us across the ol’ border!
That’s cool! Do you think you want to tour the entire US or do an extensive type of tour? I see that so many bands are touring these days, it’s kind of insane and it’s hard to even keep up. I feel that a lot of them are touring before they’re even ready for it. They’re playing to like 5 people everywhere, which could be a bad thing too. What do you think about that?
Oh, for sure. A lot of these bands are out there without even thinking about it. We’re taking a pretty big risk playing Sacramento on a Monday as the first night of our tour (laughs). The only backing we have for that is the members of Soul Grinder are actually all from Sacramento, so they really, really wanted to put this show together and we made it happen. But I see a lot of bands go out. Our merch guy and driver who’s going out on this upcoming tour with us, he went out with Spellcaster and he said that they played Oakland to like, negative 2 people (laughs). Oh man, that’s terrible. But then there’s bands like our friends in Bewitcher who are doing it right. They really went out and made a big online presence of themselves, then they went on tour and pounded through the States twice in two years, and they seem to have made quite a name for themselves by doing something like that. So, I actually look up to those guys quite a bit with what they’re doing, and I’m glad that I’ve been able to work with them on so many things, like this run of tour dates that we’re doing with them.
You talked about Bewitcher’s online presence, and that’s a big part of being in a band these days too. That’s how you promote yourselves. How much of that does Road Rash do, and do you take any part in that?
I am pretty much solely the entire online presence of Road Rash. It’s easier to just have one person do it, and I’ve got the time and knowhow to get us a little bit of traction on the internet. Though the community is big in a sense, it’s also very small and a lot of it is only connected online. Like, we just put out a video recently on the NWOTHM YouTube channel, which in my opinion is the best and probably the biggest channel to find bands of our style or similar style, and any new traditional heavy metal. The owner of the channel is Brazilian, and I believe he lives over in Europe. I’ve never met the guy before, but he’s super stoked on the band, he asked to put our album on his channel, which we of course allowed, and that probably got us a lot of pull. And then when I offered to give him the video, he was super stoked.
Those kind of bonds in the community definitely go a long way! You said earlier that you guys always go out and support the shows that come to your town and it’s not like you’re just going to only your own shows, which a lot of bands, even in LA, make the mistake of doing. I feel that it’s not the right way to go about it. Of late, what are some of the best shows that you’ve seen. I know that a lot of good shows have come through the US and Canada recently.
Oh, yeah man! Actually during the last couple of months, even the last year here, Vancouver has got some good shows and then some of them Vancouver peeps slept on, some of them not so much. This was actually almost a year ago, but Reed Breummer, the vocalist of Speedwolf started a new punkier, rock n’ roll kind of band called Poison Rites. They came up to Vancouver, and fuck, that was unreal. Unfortunately Vancouver slept on that, but man, what a great band. And then, funny enough, I went to the Power of the Riff fest in LA five or six years ago, and I met this guy randomly on the bus because me and my buddy had no idea where we were going. I just went to this random punk show the other night, like two weeks ago, and then this guy comes up to me and goes, “Hey man, I know you! We partied in LA!” It turns out his band was playing and they got booked on a punk show even though they’re a doom band. They’re called Easy Death fromVentura, and dude, they were fucking super-good, but randomly booked on this weird, harshly attended punk show (laughs).
That’s interesting. So do you tend to focus more on the underground stuff, instead of just going to bigger shows?
Well, anybody can go and spend $120 and go see some fucking band you’ve seen a hundred times, or spend 10 bucks and go see a killer band that’s got a ton of energy, and support them. Def Leppard is going to roll around, Scorpions are going to roll around, and they’re always going to sell, and that’s great, and those are classic bands that I love. I’ve also seen those bands many times now, and so, as much as I love going to those shows and I still do, I’m always keen to support the underground a little bit more, and all of Road Rash collectively feels that way.
That’s the way I think too, and on that note, people should come out and support your tour as well. Many of the tours are not even 10 bucks, and hey some of them are even free!
Oh yeah, that show we’re playing with you is free. You cannot beat that! (laughs)
– by Andrew Bansal
Road Rash U.S. tour dates w/ Bewitcher & Soul Grinder:
10/01/2018 – Sacramento, CA @ Blue Lamp *
10/02/2018 – West Hollywood, CA (venue name censored) *
10/03/2018 – Los Angeles, CA @ Pounding Metal Fest at The Lexington *
10/06/2018 – Ventura, CA @ Frost & Fire Fest #
10/07/2018 – Long Beach, CA @ Que Sera
10/08/2018 – Fullerton, CA @ Slidebar
10/09/2018 – San Diego, CA @ Til Two Club
10/11/2018 – Reno, NV @ Shea’s Tavern
10/12/2018 – Boise, ID @ The Shredder
10/13/2018 – Portland, OR @ Twilight