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Interview: Ramming Speed

mit Jonah Livingston vom 30. Juli 2013 via Mail
Weshalb sollte ein junger Mensch heute noch zur Gitarre, zum Bass, dem Mikro oder irgendwelchen Drum Sticks greifen? Man muss ja nur mal irgendein willkürliches Interview nehmen und man wird mit größter Sicherheit auf eine oder mehrere Passagen stoßen, in denen sich Musiker darüber aufregen, dass es bei der heutigen finanziellen Lage kaum noch möglich sei, eine Band am Leben zu erhalten, ohne Bon Jovi oder Black Sabbath zu heißen. Viele regen sich zusätzlich dazu auch über das "böse" Internet, fehlende Innovationen oder zu starke stilistische Entwicklungen in der Szene auf. Grantler, Unker und Ungläubige gibt's genug.
Doch trotzdem finde sich immer wieder junge – oder sich jung fühlende – Menschen zusammen, um zu musizieren. Aber aus welchem Grund? Tatsächlich bloß wegen des Spaßes an der Arbeit? Oder macht man sich doch im Hinterkopf noch Hoffnungen darauf, ein großer Rockstar zu werden und dann all die bis dahin angehäuften Unkosten und Schulden zu tilgen? Vielleicht finden sich in der Klampfen-Mucke tatsächlich noch Menschen, die Musik der Musik wegen produzieren? Jonah Livingston, Schlagzeuger der US-amerkianischen Thrash-Punk-Grind'n'Roll-Band Ramming Speed, versucht uns im Interview Antworten auf unsere Fragen zu liefern und dabei den bisher zurückgelegten Weg und die Ziele seiner Band darzustellen.
Viel Spaß beim Lesen!

The Interview:

Alex Kipke: Hi Jonah! Thanks for taking the time for this interview. How are you doing?
Jonah Livingston: I'm doing well man, thanks for getting in touch!
Alex: Can you please describe your role in the band?
Jonah: I play drums, send emails, and make boozy cocktails whenever ice is available.
Alex: How are things going with Ramming Speed?
Jonah: Things are great right now. We just came home from touring with Valient Thorr and Gypsyhawk and made a ton of friends, played some awesome shows, jumped into tons of pools ... all the awesome shit that should happen on tour. The new record is out and we're all taking a month to work and save money before we go back out on the road to keep supporting it.
Alex: What would you say are the main aspects which make your music special and unique?
Jonah: We're not inventing new genres or anything, but we're also not just playing straight up thrash. We bring in some of the American and Swedish D-beat sound, grind some of the riffs out, add in some big guitar harmonies, maybe sprinkle in a touch of Boston hardcore and it ends up being music we're all super stoked on playing. Also, not to be cheesy, but we're best friends. You can tell, we genuinely have a great time playing together on stage and, sadly, that's not really true of a lot of bands.
Alex: How would you describe the band’s stylistic development and history? Where would you see the main stations or “milestones” of the band’s past?
Jonah: When we got home from our first US tour, it was a very life affirming time. That's when we really decided to start taking things more seriously, in terms of modeling our lives around the band as apposed to the other way around. That's when we started writing our first full length and making the lyrics a lot angrier and based more on current events. There are tons of milestones after that – every tour gets bigger and louder and faster with more problems and stress, but also new friends, riffs and beers to try. Obscene Extreme and Fluff Fest were the first big outdoor fests we played and I'll never forget those. Touring with Municipal Waste felt amazing because it was the first time we were taken seriously as band on that level.
But there's also the smaller scale stuff, like a couple of years ago we played a DIY basement fest benefiting the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, a place that helps the victims of rape and sexual assault. Not only is that kind of benefit awesome to be a part of, but the show itself was completely nuts, with kids swinging from pipes and knocking over our gear... I heard that someone said we shouldn't be allowed to play house shows in town anymore because kids go too insane when we play. What a great problem to have.
Getting the new record “Doomed to Destroy” out is clearly a huge step for us. This is, in a lot of ways, our first “real” album, considering the time we put into the songwriting, the quality of the recording, and the support Prosthetic's put into the worldwide release. This is a new beginning for us.
Alex: When did the music actually become your life? Was there any key moment?
Jonah: I think I basically answered that above. If you want to get literal, my grandmother gave me hand drums when I was like, four years old, I got my drum set when I was around eleven years old and that was the beginning of the end for any hope of having a real life outside of pounding on wooden buckets.
Alex: Has there been any point in your career, where you actually thought about giving up this whole music business?
Jonah: There was one morning, maybe it was the second full US tour, and I woke up on a wooden floor with no blanket next to an empty keg. I was covered in sweat and beer, every bone in my body hurt and my brain was pounding and I remember thinking “This is day two of a two month tour, is this really what I want to do with my life??” and I legitimately thought about it for a few hours. Once the hangover went away I realized I was being an idiot, and of COURSE this is what I want to do.
Even with our band getting robbed and searched by cops and having shows cancelled and losing girlfriends and running out of money, I've never looked back or questioned this life since then. Love your friends, play metal, die laughing.
Alex: And what can you tell us about your latest album, “Doomed To Destroy, Destined To Die“?
Jonah: If you like heavy music and you don't buy it you're an idiot. I'm kidding, but it really isn't that bad! This is the record we should have made years ago. It took us along enough, but with the new line up and Kurt Ballou as the engineer everything finally came together. It's the heaviest thing we've ever done, with the best guitar solos, the fastest blasts, and definitely the most brutal vocals. At the same time, I think the songs are the most memorable. There's a bunch of Ferrari-sized party riffs that are going to get stuck with you.
Alex: What reactions about the new album did you get from the fans and press so far?
Jonah: For the most part the press has been awesome. It's wild to see glossy magazines like Decibel (US), Iron Fist (UK), SLAM (Germany) and Rock Sound (UK) not only paying attention to us, but sharing our excitement. It's still pretty early on, though, so I think a lot of people are just now getting around to checking the record out. If anyone reads this and decides to buy it, let us know what you think!
Alex: In general, how important are the critics or fans and press for you personally?
Jonah: I don't really care about bad reviews, but the good ones are always very validating. We put so much fucking work into this band, it really makes your day to get a pat on the back from someone at a show or to see an awesome review online. It really makes a difference to find out that your hard work is having an effect on people.
Alex: Generally, how is you songwriting process done? Is it like actually composing them or more like having a large-scale jam session?
Jonah: There's a few song writers in the band and everyone has their own way of doing things. In the end every song has input from the whole band, but some songs are initially worked out as a group and some songs are brought to band practice pretty much done.
Alex: Has there been anything special about the production process?
Jonah: Recording at Godcity with Kurt (who is wildly familiar with making metal/hardcore records) was a fantastic new experience. He knows how to dial in super gnarly sounding guitars and big sounding drums, and working with singers to get really angry-sounding takes. At the same time he also listened to what we were going for and helped find us a unique sound; he wasn't pushing us to be more like Converge, or Black Breath, or Kvelertak, or any of the other bands he's recorded. He wanted it to be a "Ramming Speed" record.
Alex: Where do you see the development or differences when comparing this album to your earlier ones?
Jonah: This record is a HUGE jump from the first LP. The songs are better, the recording is better, we learned way more about our instruments and went through a couple line-up changes. You can tell it's the same band, but it's an evolutionary leap for us. I don't think anyone is going to pull the "their first 7-inch was better" card with this band.
Alex: Are you satisfied by the results or are there maybe some things you’d have done in a different way now?
Jonah: You can always pick at things - there are definitely a couple of drum fills I wish I did differently - but, as a whole, we are all very proud of what we did. I think having two more days to track the music would have made it less stressful, but fuck it, this is the record we made and we're happy with it.
Alex: Which track from the new album do you like most and why?
Jonah: I love playing Anthems of Despair (Summer Jam). It's mostly a heavy, sweaty d-beat track, but it quickly devolves into a super sleazy motorcycle riff that leads into a huge mosh part/singalong and a tequila-tinged guitar harmony. I love hearing the guitars party when the vocals are brutal and this is a great example of us just fucking going for it.
Alex: What’s the intention behind your music? Do you want to transport a certain message – or different ones in different songs? Or is it more like pure entertainment?
Jonah: The lyrics have a definite message that isn't subtle in any way, but the riffs are fucking riffs man. We're playing heavy metal and punk because it's a great goddamn time to do it. This type of music should help people experience something exciting and primal and maybe even inspiring. It's up to the kids whether or not we're successful.
Alex: How important is the direct fan contact? Do you try to stay in touch with them 24/7?
Jonah: I check in on all the band related internet accounts fairly often, not exactly because it's "important" but because it's awesome sharing with people all the photos and stories from the road and keeping in touch with all the random dudes and ladies we drink beers with every night.
Most people like a band because of their music, but you love a band because of who they are as a whole. Our band is our lives and it's cool to have people from all over the world be a part of that.
Alex: Is it sometimes hard for you to manage this professional life as a musician besides personal life with your family?
Jonah: Being in a full time band makes every part of your life more difficult. Not only relationships with loved ones and family members, but your health, money ... everything else suffers. If it's not worth it then you quit and go get a real job. If you decide to keep going then, obviously, playing on stage for half an hour a night and traveling the globe is more important than being constantly sick, not being able to pay rent, or having a stable love life. Haha.
Alex: Currently, a lot of bands have a quite hard time to get their concert halls sold out, especially in rock and metal music. How do you make people come and watch you live on stage?
Jonah: We played Fluff Fest in Czech Republic with this hardcore band Ruiner a few years ago and they probably had 4000 kids screaming along, moshing, stage diving, everything. It was incredible. I was talking to the singer and I asked him "You guys played in Boston to 40 people last week and tonight you play a show like this, how do you make any sense of it?". He just looked at me and said "We're breaking up, I have no idea how to make sense of it".
I think you just have to get up there and sweat as much as you can, hit as hard as you can, jump as high as you can. If you're playing to 20 people or 2000 - just crush your songs, play the riffs loud, bleed, puke, give it everything and people will come back to see you again.
Alex: What's up next for your future?
Jonah: In September we're doing a US tour with Valient Thorr and Lord Dying to keep getting the word out on the new record. In November we're heading down to play "The Fest" in Florida and probably lining up another tour right after that. I'm hoping we can come to Europe at the end of winter/early spring.
Alex: Now it's up to you to leave some final greetings for the fans out there!
Jonah: If it isn't too bold I'd love for people to do two things for me. The first is to come to one of our shows. That should be pretty easy because we tour quite a bit. The second is to let everything go when you walk in the room. High five your friends, high five us, jump off the stage, run around the room, and appreciate that every once and a while we can make everything that fucking sucks go way for just a few hours. I've been reading a lot of Kurt Vonnegut lately, so I'll leave you with this quote -
"I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'"
Moderation: Alexander Kipke

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