Metal On Loud caught up with Florida based death metal group Hate Eternal, who are currently touring in support of their crushing studio album Infernus. Founder and vocalist Erik Rutan answered a few questions for you metalheads and Metal On Loud fans.
Thanks so much to speaking with us here at Metal On Loud. Infernus was one of the standout albums of 2015.
Oh man, thank you so much. Really it’s my pleasure. Thank you for the interview.
So Hate Eternal released Infernus last August, and it’s been extremely well reviewed. How do you feel about the album today? And the reception surrounding it now that you’ve had some time to let everything digest?
We worked a long time on the record. The interesting thing is to work a super long time on an album and in the past I’ve done records that for one reason or another, time restraints or deadlines that maybe later on I’d have some reservations or I wish I could have done this or that. But with Infernus we worked a long time on it. Season of Mist have been really understanding with us saying ‘listen, my schedule is busy but I want to spend the proper time to make it the way I envision it.’ It’s been almost a year since it’s been out and I have to say I’m just as pleased now as I was when we finished it. J.J. and I worked very hard writing the songs together and crafting material over a two year material or so. I worked really hard on recording it and mixing it. I guess I’m feeling the same way I did a year ago, really excited about it. I think it’s one of the best records on our catalogue.
I think the end product speaks for itself. I understand you recorded this in your studio in St. Petersburg, Florida. It must be a little bit more comfortable than your standard recording session when you have that additional control and home-base feel?
There’s pluses and minuses. When you’re doing your own record there’s a ton of responsibility, you know? I got to sing, I have to play guitar, record everything, track everything and produce everyone else that’s recording and on top of all that mix it. It’s a lot of responsibility, but for me, going back 25 years ago when I recorded my first album with Ripping Corpse, something I always wanted to have was my own studio and to be able to record my own band and my own records. That was kind of a dream of mine more than anything else. Just recording my own stuff, and to be able to do that is one of the most amazing things in my career. It’s also one of the most taxing and stressful kind of moments. It certainly does help to have your own studio where you have your own time. I spend a lot of time there, and my house is only three and a half miles from my studio. I live at the beach, so if I’m ever having a bad day I just crawl out early and head to the beach for awhile. I cant imagine recording anywhere else now, having my own studio. I love it. But it definitely comes with a lot of responsibility.
It says here Infernus is your highest charting album ever, which is certainly a testament to your hard work. Certainly cool to see in todays music climate.
Thanks. And you know what? It’s hard to say musically where the album lies, because I’m proud of all the records, but when it comes to a production standpoint there’s no doubt in my mind that this is my favourite sounding record I’ve done with Hate Eternal. Musically speaking I feel like we covered a lot of territory of what we’re capable of doing. The thing is with Hate Eternal we try to expand a bit every record and keep to the roots of what we do and who we are without completely changing the direction of what we represent. I feel like Infernus really captured, musically, what we are in 2016.
You guys formed in 1997 in Florida, correct?
Yes that’s right.
When I think of Florida when it comes to metal, it really seems to me to be the hub and the genesis of death metal. You had such amazing innovative bands come from there, a band your really familiar with in Morbid Angel, and Obituary and Death. It’s really this proving ground for death metal. Did it feel that way for you coming up in Florida?
Yeah, definitely. For me, I’m originally from New Jersey, but certainly Florida death metal was essential in my influence and inspirations. Obviously, Morbid Angel being one of my favourite bands of all time and who I was fortunate enough to play with for many records and tours. Deicide, Obituary, Death. There’s just so many killer bands in Florida. Florida death metal, I’m partial obviously, but it’s some of the best.
What were some of your biggest musical influences when you started out?
I grew up with a lot of my family members being classically trained musicians, so I kind of grew up in a classical family. Ever since I can remember as a child I was surrounded by classical music. My sister played classical piano, my dad played cello, my dad played pipe organ and classical piano and I played violin when I was a small kid. That’s really my first kind of taste of music through my earliest memories. I feel like classical music really inspired how I hear music and how I learn music, just due to the technicality and complexity and the organization and counterpoints. As I grew older, my mom listened to everything from Billy Joel and Elton John to Motown, different types of music. My uncle listened to Alice Cooper and Kiss and Black Sabbath and that’s what really turned me on to more heavier stuff. From then I found Iron Maiden and Iron Maiden is what really changed my life as far as metal was concerned. Iron Maiden was kind of the first metal band that made me a pure metalhead. I was ten years old, and man, from that I found Judas Priest, Ozzy, Metallica, Slayer, Kreator, all the thrash movement and then death metal. That’s kind of how I ended up where I’m at.
It’s amazing how certain music and albums in particular really stand the test of time, and are as good today as they were 30 years ago. Your Maiden’s and Metallica’s.
I just listened to Master of Puppets in the van. It’s 30 years old and it’s still one of the best metal records of all time. You just cant mess with it. It never gets old. I just bought it recently again, and I don’t know how many times I’ve bought Master of Puppets. I’ve had it on vinyl, cassette, probably three or four versions on cd. Just listening to it today, it’s like man, it’s still one of the best metal records ever.
You talked about your time in Morbid Angel. It goes without saying that they’re one of the definitive originators of the death metal genre. How could you sum up your time with Morbid Angel, and the impact they had on you as an artist?
Ah, totally. Some of the best years of my career were spent with Morbid Angel. When I joined Morbid Angel I was 21 and obviously a big fan at that point. My band Ripping Corpse had opened for Morbid Angel when I was still in high school … just being in Morbid Angel at such a young age and going from where I was to playing with at that time the biggest death metal band, and to me my personal favourite death metal band of all time, was an incredible experience. I toured for full albums, I played for three albums, I got to write seven songs for Morbid Angel. I had so many great experiences doing the records. The various tours we did touring with Slayer, touring with Pantera, headlining and touring. I learned so much from those guys when I joined the band. They’re all about seven years older than me. I just had such a tremendous learning experience on how and what it takes to make it in the music business. Those guys worth ethic and what they put into their music was astonishing and at that time I just thought Morbid Angel was years ahead of anyone else musically. To have that opportunity, it was always an honour to play with them, and it’s certainly some of the highlights of my whole career.
What do you think it is about the metal genre that creates lifelong fans? You’re not so much a fan of metal as metal is a part of your life. It’s a lifestyle. Not everyone get it or understand it, but those who love it really love it, and every fan and artist knows that.
It’s funny, because I think it’s different for various individuals. For me it was just more than playing the music and saying I jam on this or this. For me it was a way to express myself, emotionally speaking in a way that was taking a negative and turning it into a positive through music. When I was a teenager before I started playing guitar and playing this kind of music I was basically a juvenile delinquent. I was in trouble all of the time with the law with fights and I had a lot of angst and other emotions I just couldn’t control. But when I found guitar and found metal I was able to put all that negative emotion into creating something constructive and positive. It’s like when you meet someone who says ‘nah I grew out of metal,’ they were never truly into metal in the firs place in my opinion, because I kind of feel that metal is lifelong. I’ll be 80 years old and I’ll still be cranking Master of Puppets. I’ll be half deaf at that point with hearing aids telling my wife to turn it up or something, but I’ll be enjoying it the same as I enjoy it now or that I enjoyed it 30 years ago. I just think metal is something, a tight knit music with people that love it, who are loyal and dedicated and I kind of feel like people who listen to metal are some of the most dedicated loyal fans you can ever meet. It just goes to show, why can I still pop on Iron Maiden, Metallica or Slayer 30 years later, the same bands that I was listening to as a kid? It’s because there’s something special about it that I think other genres don’t have.
I’ve always been amazed at the bad rep metal fans, and musicians get. I’ve been to a lot of shows and festivals and have never felt more at home then at metal shows. It’s like one big family. No fighting, no bullshit. I think metal has a very unfair reputation still, because it really does have the most passionate and awesome fanbase.
Totally, it’s awesome. I’m going to be 45 next month, and I’m out here right now going on the road again because I love doing this. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be here, I’d be at the studio or on the beach … I’d be doing a lot of things, but I love playing music. I love playing metal, I love listening to metal. It’s hard to imagine not doing it. I just can’t imagine not playing metal. It’s awesome.
So to close off, you guys are currently wrapping up your final North American tour of the year in support of Infernus. What’s your plans for the rest of 2016? I understand you may look to do some touring overseas?
We’re doing this tour and then I have a couple of records that I’m going to be working on in the studio. We’re looking at trying to get to Europe at the end of the year. Next year we’re going to try to get back to South East Asia and Australia and Central America as well. Usually I’m writing all along. I just tend to write a lot, whenever inspiration finds me. Luckily I have a studio, so whenever I’m writing I just track what I’m working on and keep building. That’s pretty much been my life for a long time now – writing records, touring the world and recording bands that I really admire. I can’t complain about any of it.
Thanks so much for this man. Best of luck on the tour!
Thank you so much. Appreciate the time.