Conquering Black Horizons: In Conversation with Voices Of Ruin vocalist David Barrett

Interview by Jason Williams

Los Angeles based melodic death metal quintet Voices Of Ruin has been in existence for nearly a decade, and in that duration they have established itself as one of the most honest and hardworking bands in the Southern California metal scene. Not straying from their path and instead honing their skills in playing exactly the style of music they love and want to play, Voices Of Ruin have released two excellent albums thus far, and still have a long journey ahead. Most recently, they embarked on a successful North American tour with Vader, and Metal Assault is very pleased to welcome them home by having them on our Viper Room event Friday June 30th, also featuring Castle, Alien Satan and Malison. On June 5th, after their set at the Santa Ana show of the Vader tour, our man Jason Williams sat down with vocalist David Barrett for an interview. Enjoy the pleasant chat below, and join us at the Viper Room next week!

Despite the bus issues from part of the tour that’s still being solved right now, Voices of Ruin gave a great performance. The band has a really nice following here in Southern California. I’ve seen some of your shows at the Doll Hut as well, with the same reactions. How would you describe the fans locally here?

You know, so far so good. It’s been a great show today, lots of fun. We’ve built a big following here, you know? We’ve been playing here for 10 years, and we do our Ruin Fest here, at Malone’s. We do this every year, putting this festival on at the end of the year. And that helps our draw here, and a lot of people come out for that, and being part of this touring package has been great! The Doll Hut, we’ve had a lot of cool shows there, man. It’s a good venue to go to, it’s a blast.

When did Voices of Ruin realize the local following they’ve had here? May be at a particular show or tour one day, and you realized, “When we go to these places, we do well when we play.” How do you believe you’ve captured that audience?

A lot of networking, man. From start to finish, talking to bands, talking to fans after the shows. We’ve played a lot of shows that just had 5 or 6 people. It wasn’t overnight success, but a lot of hard work. Talking to our fans, we care what they think. If they want to see something different, we’ll try to cater to them. We’re never going to change our music (laughs), I want to make straight of that. But it’s just very important that we talk, we network, and hang out with other bands. And that’s just really helped build us. Staying away from the “Pay To Play” stuff is really showing us as well that we have our following, that we’re not paying for people to come out, but they’re coming out and enjoying the show. Just building that networking, it’s huge man.

Do you believe that same networking enabled the band to get on this Vader tour? How was the band contacted for a support slot?

We were approached by Precision Metal Booking, Steve Worley actually, singer from Sacrificial Slaughter. He booked the tour, and he reached out to us. He saw our success as well, and wanted to help us out, give us an opportunity to join on the road with this killer tour package. So he reached out to us, and asked if we were able to do it. We looked at each other and said, “Hell yeah! Let’s do this thing!” We’re very stoked for him to give us that opportunity. Networking is what got us there. Actually our guitar player is a former member of Sacrificial Slaughter as well, so there is some connection there. They’ve known each other and our bass player Wally has known Steve for 10 years as well. But I think the music and our success, for Steve to see that, really is more of the catalyst than the networking.

I would say overall, the metal scene in California is fairly spoiled. For all of the shows that we’re able to get, and I’m always curious to know what it’s like in other parts of the country, how their metal scene is. Texas, of course. Oregon, New York, Florida and Seattle as well. Is there another state or city that has a surprisingly strong metal scene?

You know, the first show of the tour was in South Carolina. We pull up to this place, and it didn’t look too glamorous on the outside. They open the doors, it’s a place called Ground Zero. Beautiful venue, great staff, and it was packed from start to finish, and I had not expected that at all. We expected a smaller show, but to be honest, all of the shows, and as you said about Texas, that was great too. Florida was phenomenal, great turnout there. Mesa, Arizona we played last night, it was a crazy show, they loved us out there, and definitely have a good thing going. We’re most excited to go up in the north, and travel to Chicago, and New York, some of those cities and then go from there, it’s something we’re really looking forward to.

So overall on this tour, the fans have been really receptive to Voices of Ruin? I believe the band is fairly accessible, not extremely brutal or not very soft either. An overall great middle ground that I believe can be attractive for various fans. Because of that combination, have the fans been receptive that way?

Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny you say that. When we were looking at the tour package, we were like, “Aw man, we are the only melodic death metal band, the rest are heavy hitters.” Micawber are so fast, they’re got some thrash vibe to them. Sacrificial Slaughter just beats it up, I mean they’re brutal, gore and death. Of course Internal Bleeding, heavy slam old school guys, really hardcore. I think the closest band that we would be, is probably Vader. Which is really cool, of course. They have a lot of groove, which we can get along with. But we’ve had a great response, man. I think people like and want to hear something different. Being the second band has helped us out as well. They’re kind of like, “Who are these guys? Who is this band?” I think yeah, it’s been very receptive, and just awesome, man.

Your last record ‘Born from the Dark’ was released two years ago, and it’s still your latest studio release. What is the band’s next step in regards to the sound going into the future? Will it be an expansion or a honing in of the previous record? It’s difficult to not want to repeat the same album, or stray way far off what you feel comfortable with.

It’s definitely evolved. We’ve changed a lot from our first record to our second. I don’t know if a lot of people have heard our first record, ‘Into Oblivion’. What’s changed a lot is the recording process, and what we want to do moving forward is more pre-production, and be more comfortable in the studio when we get there. But I definitely think our sound is evolving, it’s going to be a lot … I don’t want to say it’s exactly heavier, because that’s quite cliche, but it’s going to be a lot stronger, harder hitting, more deliberate. Some of the older songs we had very little time to write and record, so I think we’ll do a lot more pre-production and be ready for this new one, and it’s going to deliver a stronger hit. It’s going to be faster in some places and slower in others. We have some surprises for the record, and we have a lot of material, but just waiting to hit the studio. It’s going to a Voices of Ruin album, but evolved.

Any confirmation for studio time?

Nothing official, but we’re looking at Fall or early winter. We’ll hit the studio and hope to release by Spring next year. That’s our plan, and we’re independent, so  we’re also wanting to shop as well.

Tom (Barrett, lead guitarist) is your brother in the band?


I’ve heard a lot of varied stories and thoughts on what it’s like for siblings to work together in a band. What’s it like to work with Tom?

It works really good, you know? It’s funny, we didn’t become close until we got together for the band. It has its ups and downs, but we work really well together. We know each other, and we’re also a close knit band. We all talk to each other daily, and practice all the time together, always hanging out. Our other guitar player, Steve (Carlton, rhythm guitar), he lives with us as well, so them being together works out really well. But we bicker a little bit, Tom and I, you know? It’s fun (laughs).

Does Tom generally write the music of the band, while you focus on the lyrical and vocal aspect?

He does all the songwriting, yes. Steve, now that he has an album with us under his belt, he’s starting to give some contributions. But Tom is the main songwriter. I do the lyrics, and write them all. A little bit of his help too. The cool thing about being a brother with somebody, is that you can talk to him and say, “Hey, man. I need a little help here.” Having that close camaraderie, you know? You’re not embarrassed to say what you feel. You should never be embarrassed by a bandmate, but when you’re that close, you can say, “Hey, could you help me out? I’m struggling a little bit.” Tom handles 99% of the songwriting, he does everything, and is just a workhorse.

When the album is released, what will be the next step? Considering you are a strong local metal band, what does Voices of Ruin want to go and do? With the studio recording imminent, what are the goals?

We want to shop this album a little bit, see if any major labels want to buy it. Our biggest goal is to continue to being on tours like this, and getting our music out there. It’s very difficult being an independent band, but these days it’s a little bit easier now. The social media, Spotify, all these sites that we have our music on, it’s accessible. But the next step is getting to a good label that will take care of us and help put us on these touring packages together. That’s our main goal.

A few years ago, Cryptopsy talked in detail about being independent, and making it easier in certain aspects. Back in the day, if you didn’t have a record label, you were nothing. But now a lot of bands are either on smaller labels, or independent. Would that be an option, depending on what’s offered for the album?

We would like to stay independent, if we can continue booking tours like this and have success. I think it would be beneficial for us. We’re really looking for a strong booking agent that we can communicate with consistently. I think as a whole, we’re doing a great job managing our band, making sure our music is out there. We also take care of our merchandising, booking, we do everything a true manager would do on the inside, so I think that’s the one thing a label would help with, is help reach places that we can’t reach to. It’s hard when as a band you email places and you don’t hear back from them. But we’re starting to get that pull, so I believe being independent would be the strongest, but we’re open to listen to some of the labels that want to buy something and have a good opportunity for us. But we want to own the band, to own our music. We don’t want to give it away, and say, “Here, you can have it and do what you want with it.” So that’s very important to us, that it’s our music.

Speaking about places that the band hasn’t gone to yet, has Voices of Ruin been outside the US? Or gone to Europe before?

Nope, and talking about goals, that’s what we want to do as well. We want to get on an European tour. I think our music would be very good in Europe. We kind of pride ourselves in having an European, I don’t want to say Gothenburg style, but kind of that Gothenburg style melodic death metal. I think we’d have a good following there, and that’s where we want to go.

Does the band actually know through word of mouth, or through social media, how the response is from other countries and Europe?

Absolutely. We did go to Wacken, Tom and I, just attended in 2010. We also brought a lot of CDs with us, so we were able to get some distribution out there. Our guitar player Steve, his fiance lives in Norway as well, so we got some people out there talking. We do all our own merchandising as well, and have shipped a lot of stuff out to Germany. We had a couple of bites in Finland, people that bought our stuff. A lot of Germans, though. I don’t know if that’s the stem of us being at Wacken and giving out CDs, but the German crowd wants us to come out there. We posted our tour dates, and one fan through social media said, ” Come to Germany!” I think we do have some people out there that want to see us.

A couple of years ago, I interviewed Tomas Lindberg from At the Gates, and I was initially surprised to hear that the band has other jobs, and only plays in the band as a hobby, not solely playing music for a living. I have heard a lot of others would like to just play music only. And another band who does it as an extended hobby, Ulcerate from New Zealand, also have career jobs that they want to keep. How will you manage your jobs when the music opportunities increase?

It’s difficult. We’re all busy, and a lot of jobs. Working 40-50, sometimes 60 hours a week. It is a difficult balance. We would like to have the opportunity to put more attention into our music. But financially, we need stability, and right now the money isn’t there. Given the opportunity to get paid more consistently and frequently, we would definitely be open to putting our hearts more into our music, I shouldn’t say our hearts, but putting more time. Our hearts are definitely there. It’s definitely a difficult balance, but we take it very seriously, practicing twice a week religiously. I mean as a whole band, on our own time, we’re always practicing, so I think we make a good balance, and we make sacrifices from our personal lives. Just certain days we practice, and sacrifice certain things. There’s a balance and I think the music is very important to us, and we take it quite seriously.

Voices Of Ruin links: website | facebook | twitter | instagram

Catch Voices Of Ruin on Metal Assault Night Vol. 6 at The Viper Room on Friday June 30th!

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