Into Blackened Chaos: An intimate discussion with San Diego black metal outfit Ruines Ov Abaddon

By Sebastian Vazquez

A black metal band from the pits of San Diego, Ruines Ov Abaddon is a six-piece group that has an extensive history dating back to late 2008. With their recent studio release ‘Chaos Reborn’, the band has recently announced a tour in promotion that will trek across seven states. A group that has dealt with several lineup changes over the last 8 to 9 years, the band has solidified a lineup capable of creating powerful blackened metal music, with all the frills of blast drumming and fast strumming, but still capable of retaining a gravitating pull of originality.

I was able to sit down with three core members of the group, founder and original member Chris Bourne (vocalist), Rory Packard (drums), and Ben Cockerham (guitar) to chat and discuss their recent release, upcoming tour, and band life in general.

So, there is definitely a long history of this band. Would you care to elaborate more on the history of Ruines Ov Abaddon?

Chris: We played our first show in August of 2008. It was me (vocalist), Aleev, and Pat doing original guitars. It was just us three for a bit. We then linked up with Kyle (drums) and then our bassist Danny. Back then it was very difficult keeping a core group of guys together since we all started off so young and we had to deal with people going off to college and getting into different interests.

As of now, how long has this current lineup been together? How long has the core group of you three (Chris, Rory and Ben) been together?

Rory: I have been on… close to about five years until this point.

Ben: Yeah, and I have been in the band for about 3 to four years now.

So you guys have been together longer than some bands in San Diego. Chris, would you consider these two as like, legacy founding members status?

Chris: Yeah definitely, specially the way this EP was released. This basically describes the way this band is now. The way in which the songs were written definitely has everyone’s unique musical touch to it. Rory came on as a very progressive drummer, adding stylistically a very different approach to our music. Ben is a very proficient technical death metal guitarist. So we all have varying styles coming in and contributing to our music.

How would you classify yourself?

Chris: Well, I have always been traditionally a black metal musician. That is mostly how I write, including vocals.

Ben: …….and power metal!

Chris: Yeah I listen to a lot of power metal. But mostly in Ruines it has always been black metal. So it has been a pleasure to have Rory and Ben to be able to contribute their styles into traditional black metal music.

Rory: I think with us, we had to learn and really change our writing and playing styles since I can’t do all the crazy stuff that I would like to do and I am musically confined in the boundaries of this particular style of music and Ben is definitely in the same boat. We have to write outside of our understanding of what is normally in the traditional style of black metal. But we still like it to be challenging. And I really hate to say it but catchy as well. I think all of us are in the boat in trying to put our minds in this recent release and having a hand in finding something we all really liked.

Ben: It was definitely one of our first times writing for Ruines Ov Abaddon and putting stuff on the CD and it definitely was a process. Rory and I worked a lot together.

Very interesting. So what was your last official studio release?

Rory: That must have come out in…2010 or 2011….or maybe in 2012. It has just been because of the many lineup changes and the coming and going of different people in the band.

Could you elaborate more on how different line up changes has affected this group or just you guys in general? In a good way or in a bad way? Because a lot of artists kind of go through that a lot, especially local artists who are trying to get their name out with a solid core group. Sometimes lineup changes decimate a band or even moreover, take a band into a different musical direction.

Chris: I think mostly it was all good. Sometimes when there is a lineup change and people act too quickly and the band might not be making the right choice. At least in the case for Ruines, I was really excited to get Rory and Ben on board. Originally, Rory was supposed to be on for a tour. However, afterwards when it all ended, he wanted to stay and had more say in the band you know? And Ben wanted to join and add stuff too. It was like adding fans of the band instead of just adding a random person that I did not know. So to answer your question, it has always been good. The fact that fans that are coming to see us might actually not even recognize us having new members, it is easier to transition in and out of a lineup because we all wear paint and no one knows what we look like. I have had people come up to me and be like, “Hey Ben, when do you guys go on” and that has happened like a million times (laughs).

Rory: I have been along and experienced a lot of the lineup changes and can say that it has been a progressive step as far as musicianship as well too. We have been trying to take on people that are better at their craft or taking it a little bit seriously because it really makes a big difference in the end product and what comes out of it.

With lineup changes specifically for Ruines, especially in bringing in new members in Rory and Ben and incorporating their progressive and technical death metal styles respectively, what would you say specifically, for the people out there reading this, is the sound of this new release? What can people expect when they first hear it live?

Chris: It is basically fast and in your face. But there are technical elements in there. There are parts in there that you will be definitely humming the next day. I remember when we were finishing the recording process for it and having some parts stuck in my head for weeks and it really pissed me off. But then again it was a good element because ideally these are the parts that fans or potential new fans will be singing in their heads for weeks.

Rory: I think what also helps is energy. That is the word that comes to mind when I think of this release. The energy that we get and the positive feedback that we get from playing these songs is really great. Just the response from the newer songs is cool. It shows that people are into it. That means a lot because you put out a lot of music and you don’t know how people are going to react to it or take it. Some people aren’t going to like it and you don’t really give a damn because you play music that you really enjoy.

Ben: Well I would say that it is definitely fun. We tried to put together a record that is as fun as possible.

Fun is a good word, definitely. I saw your guys’ CD release show at the Merrow back in November. I had never seen you guys live nor had I ever heard your guys’ music before. But when I saw you guys take that stage as a group of six musicians dressed in black and covered in paint, you all really had this infectious energy to the performance. Especially since you all look so intimidating and daunting and made a stage like the Merrow look so tiny. Right off the bat the fans were super into it and I saw many people get up from their bar stools and walk on over to see what the fuss was about. I can only imagine what the response is going to be like on the road for you guys. Care to share more about your upcoming tour? Or care to share about your thoughts about promoting your newest record?

Chris: We leave March 3rd and get back into town the 18th. It spans across 7 states and is 14 shows in only 15 days. To me, this band has always been a live band. We want to try to attract people that do not particularly like our genre of metal or do not really have a taste for harsh vocals but can appreciate a great live show. I have always thought that this is what sets us apart from other bands because I really stressed, especially to the other members of the band, in having a high energy, head-banging type of performance. Even while we are on stage, I like to turn around and scream at them and tell them to move or head-bang. We sometimes have people come up to us asking if there was an issue between us but then I tell them that I was just getting into the music and the live performance and wanted the other band members to feel like how I am feeling. I sometimes do not even know that I am doing that consciously. So going on tour for me is awesome because there will always be that one person that went to the show that never really heard about us or does not particularly like our style of music, but their experience with our live performance drew them in. At the end of the day, that is all that really matters when we go on the road. I mean, we have done some stops on the road where there were only four or five people watching us, but by the end of our performance, all of them were right in there with us.

Ben: That is the sense of accomplishment that I really like. Like going on the road and seeing new people come out.

Yeah, you guys definitely have a growing fan base. Your release show had an incredible turnout, especially for a black metal band in San Diego. You pretty much filled up the entire venue area. That is quite the accomplishment.

Rory: Definitely. For a San Diego black metal band, that turnout was great. Ruines have been around for awhile so I am happy to see the large support that we have here.

How is your turnout like in other cities? What do you guys do other than going on tour to promote your music elsewhere?

Chris: We were just in LA for RuinFest and people were packing the place by the time we got on stage. People were telling us after we performed that the venue was packed! As for your other question, I really stress and I really like doing promotion on the ground. The face-to-face interaction is what I think a lot of people and newer fans really appreciate. It might sound overrated or outdated but I think people really like having something in their hands to listen to or to remember an upcoming show date. It shows seriousness as a musician.

I agree. There is nothing more powerful than that face-to-face interaction and having a small conversation with someone about your music.

Chris: Definitely. For this tour specifically, I have been heavily promoting it on the ground. I have been adding people and maintaining contact with people from cities that are at our tour stops and chatting with them almost daily, hyping them up for when we come. I actually like to take the time out and make special requests to friends or people willing to promote our upcoming shows on this tour at places like in San Antonio and El Paso. Talking to people really goes a long way.

That reminds of the old Myspace days when every local band had a street team or something like that and having really young kids like in middle or high school wanting to get out there and help the local bands in promoting stuff. I think that tactic is still viable today.

Rory: I have not heard that term in YEARS!

Yeah, but it is definitely relevant today. It is like you put yourself out there, and talk to fans or random folks over social media or you make posts and videos and spend hours and hours and hours cultivating a fan base just to get them through the door. It is almost like dating you know? Like spending a lot of time over the phone to get someone out to meet you and see where it goes from there.

Chris: Yeah, the best thing is really making yourself emotionally invested in the fans. They are more inclined to get through the door and support the local scene.

So, to changes gears a bit, what was the writing process like in particular for this release? Was it a dramatic shift from your previous writing and recording endeavors or was it similar? How did you guys approach it?

Ben: The guitar parts for sure were something that I let sit for a bit. I would dwell on it for hours getting different riffs here and there. Then once I felt that I was able to get a good amount of riffs that would mesh really well and form a definite structure, I would write a very basic drum part to it so that Rory would kind of catch what I am trying to accomplish.

Rory: Once I would get his skeleton ideas I would take it and then program drums over his ideas and try to really capture what he is feeling in certain sections of the song. It probably goes through three or four versions before I am actually happy with it. Then we try to get a structure where all of us are happy with it.

Ben: Yeah, essentially we get all these riffs we like and spend time arranging it, you know? Like deleting riffs or adding them or moving parts here and there.

Rory: If you break down Ruines song structures, they are pretty basic. But the art is how you put them together. Because if you cannot put together the song well or even something cohesive, then your song won’t stand at all. So far, I think we put together a solid-standing three songs here.

I agree. Cohesiveness is something really important, especially in the genre of black metal. In black metal, there are the staples of blast beats on the drums or fast strumming on the guitars and complemented with harsh vocals. But I think what really sets apart the best and the worst is the ability to transition between parts in a song and mesh it well.

Ben: That is probably the hardest part in being able to change a song around and making sure it meshes well.

Rory: Yeah, like when are you going to shift gears in a song, but even more specifically why are you making a transition here and there. That is why a lot of people who are fans of black metal, because of the emotions they experience while listening to it. For a lot of people black metal can be a really long droning song but for somebody else it might be this magical black metal journey (laughs). However, that is not what we are looking to do. We are looking to write music that is simple, effective, and something that has energy to it. There is so much music out there today that might be well-written and has its energy too, but comes off as stale.

Ben: I want you to feel like when you are leaving the show that you just had the best sex of your fucking life.

To the point where you are talking about it the next day?

Ben: Yeah. Like texting your friends and sending them photos of your recent score (chuckles). But if I did not see people getting into it or head-banging, I feel like I really did not do my job right.

How do you contribute in the writing process, Chris?

Chris: Basically, during the process where guitars are getting written, I will typically be sitting next to Ben and start writing some ideas down. If I come up with something I will sometimes hum it to him. If I have a song idea, I will try to hum Ben a guitar line until he can play what I am trying to write down. After a structure is put together, then I will sit down with it and starting thinking about where I want to sing on it. Once the structure is made, I will start crafting the lyrics.

Has the writing process always been that way?

Chris: No. When Rory was not in the band, our old drummer needed to write his parts out when we would rehearse, since he was not as articulated in programming the parts out with Guitar Pro or with a MIDI program. But now with Rory in the band, things are a lot more efficient when it comes to rehearsal since we can all bounce things around and learn the parts at home. I can trust each member of the band to be able to learn their parts and then have a solid rehearsal. If Rory says he is going to spend the day to learn the song, I can bet you that he will show up to rehearsal knowing it.

Rory: Yeah, and to throw my two cents in, I do not have a ton of free time. So to me it is a waste of my time to be standing in a room waiting for someone to learn how to play a song that they haven’t taken the time to learn yet. I would rather have someone take the time to learn the parts at home or bounce ideas around on our own time and build something cohesive. It makes life easier for all of us in the rehearsal place.


Rory: As long as you can trust the other guys in the band to learn the stuff that you sent them, then you are already ahead of the game. There is a lot of stupid stuff that comes with being in a band so if you eliminate that stuff then it makes the band life a lot easier.

Ben: Yeah, when Mozart was writing music he didn’t hire his clarinet player to not come in and know his parts. It is the same thing being in a band and that also includes the back and forth writing process.

Rory: The black metal genre is very simple in nature. Especially on guitar parts. It is more about playing something …

Ben: Like you have to have a powerful melody, but try not to overthink it too much. It isn’t a matter of not enough notes or having too many notes, or being busy enough or having musically interesting stuff in it…

Rory: It is not always about cramming the most stuff you can in a song. We do cram a lot of stuff in our music, but we try to space it out enough to make it feel otherwise and breathe. That is the biggest part in maintaining the same elements of our previous recording and bringing that into what our recent release is. Like our first record had a ton of catchiness into it and that is why we have a ton of fans that like our old stuff. So we tried to incorporate those elements in this EP and being mindful of what I just said is a challenge.

Well I think you guys did a really good job in writing three tunes that really are cohesive together and they really mesh. I would say you accomplished that.

Ben: That is what we really tried to do with all the songs. During the recording process we really tried to keep the songs as fluid as possible as a singular idea, and even toyed with the idea of having each song lead to the next.

Chris: Yeah, we had some guys that helped with the recording process and suggested having like one larger, singular piece separated by the three track listings because they really felt the songs could flow well into each other.

So moving away from the writing aspect, does Ruines have any big plans after the tour?

Chris: During the tour the guys always have their laptops. There are always songs being worked on. One of our most well received songs, ‘The Force Seeks Revenge’, was written in a Motel 6 parking lot on our first tour. We got two other tour offers this year that we still need to get off the ground and learn the details, but for sure one is on the east coast and one is with a bigger band and would be a West Coast type of thing. On another note, the band right now has about four songs so hopefully between the tours we can finish up some of those and shoot for recording a full-length soon. We have a couple of San Diego shows lined up, but we are mostly looking to tour and keep writing some music. That is the best plan right now. The feedback from this tour announcement has only been the beginning, especially promotion wise. The wave is riding slow right now with the tour announcement and we have feedback coming from all over and we are maintaining contacts and making sure they are going to come out when we come into town. We want to keep the train going.

You know, that is one of the reason why I wanted to interview you guys. You guys seem incredibly professional, and have always had the local buzz following. Even with your response you have years and years of experience under your belt and always found the motivation to keep on going after you guys went through lineup changes and dealt with the larger issues. I do not know many bands in San Diego that have been around for almost a decade. So what is it that you think that separates you from other bands or other musicians that makes you find a reason to keep on going?

Ben: I can see a lot of bands becoming jaded and not trusting the process or seeing the results fast enough for them. Bands might be playing a couple shows a month and still might be getting the crowd draw they want and packing the house. It is hard for people and bands to see the progress that they are making, even when they feel that they are not making progress. Every show fucking counts. But overplaying your scene can also really hurt you. It is better to play every two months or three months. You build more tension that way.

Chris: You want to always keep people wanting more. It is something you have to do. You know, when you first start playing in a band, or when bands first start out, you play shows all the time. When we first started out we were playing shows at SOMA and at the Legion Post all the time. You have to be more selective on doing shows especially since a lot people have other obligations and may or may not be able to catch you guys play if they have to work or something like that. We turn down shows all the time. Why play a show if you are on the opening slot of a larger touring band and nobody is going to be there, if you can instead host a headline show and expect a hundred people?

Are there any wackier moments that people do not really know about? What is something that you may do outside the band and without the paint?

Ben: Well I don’t fuck whores. I am a pretty laid back guy I guess. I jack off a lot. I may not be that interesting. (laughs)

Rory: I work. A lot. If it isn’t work and drums… it’s… hanging with my GF and that is pretty much it. I also sometimes like to troll on the internet. I can’t control it anymore.

Chris: I watch a lot of hockey.

All of you guys do?

Rory: Well, Chris watches it a lot more than I do. I was a huge fan back when I was younger. Recently, with my new NHL Access, I can catch up on the Penguins of course. That is the only team that matters (laughs).

Chris: Well, my favorite team is the Canucks.

Rory: The greatest sport known to man.

Chris: To answer the other question about wackier stories, we were leaving Houston and headed to New Orleans and right when we left the hotel, Rory decided to reach back and grab a piece of pizza from the night before and we went and stopped at a gas station. Everyone knew we had a five-hour drive ahead of us. So we all got back in the van, got onto the freeway onramp and Rory asked for a bag and said that “it was not going to wait” and takes a shit on the front seat and then chucks out the window. To this day we call it Rory Burgers. And that is not the only poop story. There are plenty.

Rory: Yeah, we pretty much have a lot of poop stories.

Ben: Well, when we were on tour I once wore the same pair of underwear for 11 days.

That is a form of dedication, I would say.

Chris: I got a good one from when we were on tour in Japan. We had a show once and after we finished the show, Rory and the other guitarist were trying to get us into a hotel but then were denied because it was full. So we stayed out all night. A fan from the show took us to the market and grabbed a basket and filled it up with Asahi beers. Ben got so drunk that he fell asleep, on the street. We had nothing better to do, so we stripped him of all his clothes, except his boxers. We grabbed a sharpie and everybody drew on him. But the best part was around 5 o’ clock in the morning, some Japanese guy comes walking by in his business suit, going home from a bar or just getting into work, and he stops, and draws on him too.

Rory: Yeah, we tried to get anybody passing by to write on him. I remember laughing so hard that I was actually crying. I do not think I have ever laughed so hard at somebody else’s expense.

Chris: Those are the times you look back after you play a show in front of four people and then remember all the reasons why you are in a band in the first place. This is really why we tour, to get some more poop stories (laughs).

So is there anybody that you want to thank? Anybody that helped with the inspiration?

Ben: I definitely would like to thank right here Sky Goodwin, for being our band mom and taking care of us. She is the silent member of the group that always helps with getting the gears turning.

Rory: I am thankful for everything. This band is cool and has a great fan base; it grows every time we play somewhere. We are always getting new fans and that’s great; that’s the point of being in a band. I also would like to thank Sky, she is great. She takes care of aspects in the band that we can control or handle when we are on stage and it makes a HUGE difference.

Ben: Getting those mutherfucking T-SHIRTS SOLD!

Rory: I would also love to take time in thanking my girlfriend in being supporting of me and being able to put up with the times that I can’t see her when I am doing stuff with these guys. She puts up with a lot of my crap. That is pretty difficult in finding someone that actually puts up with my crap. That is pretty cool. But the fans have to definitely be the biggest thing.

Chris: First and foremost the fans. Without them this would not be possible at all. Our secret members (nods at Sky) and the many folks that do what they can in keeping the local scene alive, when they do not have to, is really the backbone to the music in general. But I would also like to thank the band members, because Ruines is my baby and without them I would not be able to keep this going. I thank them everyday for contributing so much and wanting to continue working on this project and making sacrifices to play music.

Ruines Ov Abaddon links: facebook | twitter | instagram

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