I love an underdog, especially one of the metallic kind. Perhaps you may be asking yourself what do I mean by that exactly? Well, I’m about to tell you and in this case, the underdog story begins back in 2010 when former members of Imagika, Dark Angel and Eldritch formed Kill Ritual. The band was one that took its traditional Heavy Metal influences and then blended and molded them into a very powerful, modernized machine. The music of Kill Ritual has always been very guitar-oriented and that’s surely due to the presence of axe-slinger Steven Rice. He has been the one singular, constant presence in the band since the very beginning. In 2012 Kill Ritual issued their debut album The Serpentine Ritual (Scarlet Records) to much critical acclaim and positive acceptance. That was followed by the 2014 effort The Eyes Of Medusa (Golden Core/ZYX) which one again garnered the band increased attention and accolades.
In 2015, changes came to the Kill Ritual camp, the inevitable types that usually become most bands at some point or another. So enter vocalist David Reed Watson (Rage Of Angels, Electric Messiah, D.N.A.) who brought his wide spectrum of emotion-infused banshee vocals to the band. Watson and Rice became the heart and soul of Kill Ritual that fueled the phenomenal 2015 album Karma Machine, an album produced by Steve and mixed/mastered by the legendary Andy LaRocque (King Diamond). The album propelled the band’s status further into the metallic community where increased awareness of Kill Ritual‘s awesomeness grew exponentially with all the right people. That brings us up to now, May of 2017 where incredible things are happening with Kill Ritual yet again. First off is they have a new album in the can titled ‘All Man Shall Fall‘, details of it will be forthcoming soon but you can read my review of it now here. The second bit of news, and it is nothing minor or of any small feat itself, is Kill Ritual are preparing to head to Europe for a tour. But this is not just any European tour as the band will be providing direct support to the lethal duo of Raven and Hirax across the Old Country. The trek launches on June 7th and the guys are in need of some financial assistance so they’ve launched a GoFundMe campaign that you can donate to at this location.
So, now that we’re all caught up, let’s get to the business at hand, shall we? Of course that business is Kill Ritual vocalist David Reed Watson and guitarist Steve Rice and trust me, business is good! The pair have just wrapped up recording the incredible ‘All Men Shall Fall‘, Kill Ritual‘s fourth studio full-length. That alone would be excitement a’plenty for any band, and of course it is with them, but they’ve also just amassed an incredible touring line up for Kill Ritual to ravage Europe with little over a week from now. Being a big fan of the band’s right from the start, I went full-tilt over their last outing, Karma Machine, and now the new record too. Therefore it was a no-brainer to drop a line and get the guys on the wire for some conversation. The following is that conversation, The Taste Nation LLC Interview With Kill Ritual’s David Reed Watson And Steven Rice!
Pat Riot – Let’s start with current events: Kill Ritual are on the verge of releasing your fourth studio album, ‘All Men Shall Fall’. What can longtime fans of the band expect with this latest album? And what about the average music fan that’s never heard Kill Ritual before?
David – Our last album, Karma Machine, was an introduction to me and my style of singing. By no means am I a thrash singer, and Steve knew this but he had faith in me, which I appreciate. It’s nice working with somebody that lets me just go for it. Anyway, I consider myself more along the lines of Jon Bush from Armored Saint or Joey Belladonna from Anthrax. We’re more Hard Rock/Metal Singers. Mixing my voice with Steve’s thrash roots for the last album (Karma Machine) was a true test to what we could create. Some of the hardcore fans, the ones that went back to Steve’s Imagika days didn’t know how to take me (laughs). Seriously, it was a big change from the last singer, who had done The Serpentine Ritual and The Eyes of Medusa. This next album, All Men Shall Fall, was written for me, for my voice. Steve got an idea of what I could do vocally and put the music around me.
The writing process this time around was much smoother and I got to do what I do instead of trying to form myself into what the old singer had done. We are two different animals… and to answer your question about the fans again — some didn’t like it, but WAY more did than didn’t. I think with this next album we’re going to hit a much broader audience while still maintaining a good amount of the San Francisco Thrash roots.
Pat Riot – What was the recording line-up of the band for the new record? Please share a little of the songwriting process of Kill Ritual with us…who does what? Assuming you’re the main lyricist, where do you find lyrical inspiration?
David – This time around we kept it simple. Matt Thompson did all of the drums. Matt, as you well know, is the drummer for King Diamond. Everything he sent to us fit incredibly well to what Steve had written. And, like the last record, Steve did all of the music; Keyboards, Bass, and Guitars, AND he even wrote the lyrics to one of the songs, Dead Man On The Water.
As far as inspiration for lyrics… let’s just say, there is a LOT to write about today. When Steve and I started All Men Shall Fall, we based it on Man’s shortcomings, be it, sex, drugs, politics, religion or spirituality, etc… I tried to touch on as many of these subjects as I could. It might piss off a few people with some of the subject matter, and if it does, good. It gets them thinking. Anything I write I try to get people to think. I’ve never been the boy loves girl, girl loves boy, type of writer. I’ll leave that to Bon Jovi (laughs). I laugh, but in fact the last song on the album [‘Kage‘] I wrote for my Fiancé, Taylor… so I retract that statement (smiles).
Pat Riot – Speaking of inspiration, who are some of your biggest… who would you cite as being your own influences? How did you get started upon the path as a musician (i.e. specific event, album, etc. that opened to door for you so to speak)? Are you a “self-taught” vocalist or no?
David – How long do we have (laughing)? I’ve had a lot of influences in my life. My Dad was a Banjo player and a singer in a band called the Tikis. They toured around New England a bit… record deal, etc. so I guess that is pretty much where it started. Probably my first influences, other than family, would have been, Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), Ian Gillian (Deep Purple) and David Bowie… that was until I saw Ronnie James Dio live with Black Sabbath. That blew me away, I was like, sign me up! I am basically a self-taught singer, although I did sing in the choir, theater… stuff like that. So I got to see other people’s techniques and pick up on them.
Steven – For me, it started with Elton John’s Yellow Brick Road. First album I ever bought and what a great choice. Brilliant stuff. Then it was Kiss, Cheap Trick, Steve Miller and got heavier with Rainbow and UFO. Thin Lizzy was a big influence. But as soon as I heard Priest live as I was at a UFO concert and they opened I was completely hooked and they’re still my favorite Metal band. Two big albums that blew my mind were Priest’s Unleashed In The East and Maiden’s Killers. I was done for after that!
Pat Riot – Each of you mentioned my favorites there too as Ronnie James Dio is/was my favorite vocalist of all time, ever and Judas Priest are my favorite classic metal band as well. Nice!
You (David) joined Kill Ritual prior to the 3rd album ‘Karma Machine’ being recorded…how did you land the gig? Were there any challenges in performing the earlier material in any way? What do you feel that you brought to the table by joining the band (feel free to brag, LOL)?
David – You’re asking a singer to brag (laughs)? Ok, the 3rd album, Karma Machine, was already done, in the can and ready to go out the door when the singer quit. Steve literally deleted all of his vocals then sent me the album. To this day I have no clue what he wrote about, how it sounded… nothing. I commend Steve for doing that because I’ve been down this path before. It’s very hard to write new lyrics and melodies after hearing what somebody else had written. I was fortunate enough never to hear a word. Now, Steve, that’s another story. He got the material back with me singing and I’ll have to let him explain how he wrapped his head around that… I know I would have had a hard time. So to answer your question… there wasn’t a challenge because I never heard anything. Everything you hear on Karma Machine now is me. My lyrics, my melody lines, everything. I remember sitting down with Taylor, listening to it, looking at her, looking back at the music and going. Huh. I think this can work. I like to believe that I took a thrash band to the next level, into more of a progressive metal band. I’ll never knock the old singer… he did what he did, and he did it well, I might add… and I do what I do, hopefully as well. I guess that’s for the fans to decide.
Steven – Like Dave mentioned…I just had to let it go and move forward. I’ve been there and done that many times through the years with singers, etc., so I can get past it pretty quick. It was time for a fresh start and direction so it was great the way it all came together. I’d like to also mention that even though we get associated with Thrash, Kill Ritual isn’t really a Thrash band. To me, it’s just Classic Metal with some Thrash elements. I never want to be pigeonholed into one style of music or metal sub-genre, so Kill Ritual will always bring elements of whatever we feel like bringing in.
Pat Riot – I know Kill Ritual are headed to Europe soon on an amazing tour with Raven & Hirax… how excited about this trek are you all? How exactly did this opportunity come about?
David – I’m very excited! I’ve been to Europe quite a few times but never with a band on tour. I’m a virgin! After our last tour here in the US; 7000 miles, 30 days and 28 shows, this will be a breeze! Some of these places in Europe I’ve never been to so I’m excited to meet the fans and see their beautiful cities.
Pat Riot – Kill Ritual sure has amassed an amazing ensemble of players for the European Tour…how was each selected or decided upon for this upcoming run?
Steven – The guys brought in for the tour are people that I’ve toured with or been in bands with or have known awhile. Jim Pegram from Mudface / Angerhead, Chris Lotesto from Ion Vein, and Dave Chedrick from Ruthless / Ed Force One. It’s always a challenge rounding up guys that want to do these type of things and are willing to make the effort to tour. So it’s been a good turn of events that it’s all worked out and we can pull off the tour with this lineup. Will these guys be here for the long run? I don’t really know, but we’ll keep moving straight ahead and hope for the best.
Pat Riot – Kill Ritual albums always have such fantastic images/artwork…how involved is the band in bringing those images about (i.e. Is there an idea or rough outline presented to the artist or is it entirely up to them, etc.)?
David – You can attribute that to a long time Kill Ritual confidant, Jobert Mello. Steve’s been using this guy for years.
Steven – Yeah, he was recommended by my friend Chris Boltendahl, who sings for Grave Digger.
Pat Riot – In the current, ever-changing music environment… what are, or has been, some of the biggest challenges / obstacles for you all as a band?
David – It’s tough for ANY band, even the successful ones. I’ve got some close friends that have been in major Rock Bands with HUGE budgets through their labels. The challenge for them back then was not blowing all of their cash, pay back the labels and hopefully have something left over. We don’t have that today. Today there is no money up front. You take it out of your own pocket and hope for a good return.
So, I’ll speak for myself here. Money! It’s tough telling your boss that you’re taking off on tour for a couple weeks to a month and having them hang onto your job. I ran into this problem back in 2013 when I was heading to Europe with Rage of Angels. My boss just couldn’t afford to hold my job for me. It was a tough decision and one that a lot of musicians have to face. Do I stick with my day job or do I follow my dream? Well, suffice to say, I’ve got support from Taylor… but it’s a struggle. By the way… Rage Of Angels decided after I left my job that they couldn’t afford to have me come over because a major venue fell through. That was tough because I had a lot of people supporting me through a GoFundMe. I felt foolish telling them that it was canceled.
All in all, the best thing I can say about today, being in a band, is this… it weeds out the ones that just want to become ‘Rock Stars’. You’ve got to love what you do or you’re in the wrong business. If you want that Million Dollar contract… well, those are few and far between.
Pat Riot – What type of non-musical things do you both enjoy doing in your personal life (hobbies, passions, etc.)?
David – I’m an avid Cyclist and have been for years. I used to race Mt. Bikes, now it’s predominantly my road bike (Blue RC-6). I’m also an energy worker… a Reiki Master. I’ve been doing energy work on people for several years now. I used to be a life coach as well! I think that is why I love writing. I want people to know that they matter. Too many people today don’t think they matter. They delve into drugs, alcohol or other addictions. I live in Sin City… If you’ve got an addiction, this is not the place to be.
Steven – For me, it’s cooking. I love to eat so I better be able to cook!
Pat Riot – What are your own expectations with the upcoming album release, EU. tour, etc.? Are there any other Kill Ritual-related items on the horizon we should know about?
David – I’m excited to release it. We’ve got a buzz around us at the moment and we’re seeing the momentum pick up. I think people are actually taking us seriously now. After this tour we’ll be working on some other tours this year which Steve can elaborate on. We’ve also got a video in the works for one of the songs. Shit… Steve’s already got the next album written for me to start working on, so I’ll be tackling that soon enough.
My hope is that we can get a solid crew together and not have it just be Steve and I. I like collaborating as a complete band. That’s my personal feeling. But if it ends up just being us…so be it. We’re writing great stuff.
Steven – Yeah, unfortunately for Dave I write all the time and have already put together a good 8-9 songs for the future. No rest for the wicked and since we have our own fairly decent studio to use at home why not. Better then bowling and trying to fuck the bartender! HA!
Pat Riot – I have a tradition of ending interviews with an open floor… feel free to say, share, rant, etc. about anything you’d like:
David – Support local music! Buy CDs! Buy shirts! Go to concerts! We are not self-sustaining entities with money falling out of our pockets. I think a big misconception of being in a band, of being a musician, is that someday we’ll grow up and get a REAL job. I’ve HAD a real job. I did what I was told to do by society and I was fucking miserable. Seriously… if you’re an accountant and you love accounting… then by all means, follow your passion. But, if you hate it and you do it until your dying day… are you going to say, “I wish I would have (fill in the blank)” or are you going to say, “Fuck! That was one hell of a ride!” (Mic drop)
Put me down for the latter life option, please! But in all seriousness, David is absolutely on point with his comment there and no one can make you happy but yourself. Life truly is what you make it and we each determine our own destinies, I fully believe that. Both David and Steven seem clearly in tune with their own passions as well as they prepare to undertake the next incredible series of events in the Kill Ritual legacy. The imminent release of their new album ‘All Men Shall Fall‘ is coming soon and even sooner than it, Kill Ritual will deliver their metallic goods to the masses of Europe starting next week. Can things possibly get any better at this time?
I want to thank my guests David Reed Watson and Steven Rice of the magnificently kick-ass heavy metal machine that is Kill Ritual! They’re part of a band that more than deserves your attention and support and I urge you to accept that challenge immediately.
– Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker