After some time confusion and a rescheduling, I had the pleasure of speaking with Adam Todd, the founder of CELESTIAL RUIN, a female-fronted Gothic rock band out of Vancouver, Canada.
We spoke for a few moments about our day and bantered back and forth about time zones and background noise before really getting into discussing the band, how he put it together, and some inside information on how the group works together to create their unique sound.
When did the band come together?
CELESTIAL RUIN started in about 2011, realistically a couple of years before that when I left the band that I had been with to work on something a little different for North America. It seemed that there is a huge surge in female-fronted hard rock and metal. I spent about 2.5 to three years looking for our singer before putting everyone else together. A friend of mine sent me a video of Larrissa, our singer, doing karaoke so I got him to get us in touch and that's how we chose our lead.
Tell me about your thoughts on future music with your producer, Joost Van Den Broek (Epica, Revamp, Xandria)?
Working with him has been incredible. He has worked with some of my favorites of the symphonic metal genre which is a favorite of mine. I am in awe of what he does with the bands he works with, such as Epica; especially on Epica's Enigma and am very much looking forward to Epica 7, which he is working on now.
I am super excited as well; I love it when new music comes out and especially getting to talk to the artist. A normal fan doesn't get the privilege to hear from the artist themselves how much work goes into it or how excited or proud they are. It's just nice to hear what you guys go through to get this product out to us.
Oh yes, it's definitely a process; especially with Pandora. The first one to be written was Murder of Crows and I think we actually wrote the initial bones of that song in 2013; the same thing with No Quarter, those were really early on. Sense of Exile we started in 2014, same thing with Firestorm and Nevermore. Even though they are a couple of years old to us, going through everything is was about a two-year process for this five-song EP.
It's really neat that you guys were able to work with someone across the water to come together and create this music.
We were pretty excited about it. We were really happy to have Joost to work with and then when Reuben signed on we were beyond excited; we couldn't have been happier.
That's really cool; so when you guys are working on future endeavors is this something you are going to continue doing?
Our plans, in terms of future recordings, we are always going to work with Joost; he's so amazing to work with I can't imagine us wanting to work with anyone else. He's got a way of pushing the artist he is working with to get the absolute best out of them without it even feeling like he is pushing. You'll go in and record a track and he'll work his magic to get you to do another take out of you and it doesn't feel like he's pushing you but then you listen back and you're like "wow! was that me playing that?" I think for future recordings we are going to work with him again. And again. And again. I think though, for future recordings, we are going to try to go to his studio in The Netherlands.
That could be good, because then you could have access to what he has there, making the music even better.
Yes, I think so.
So, what is your muse? When it comes to song-writing were does it come from? Do have someone or something in particular that helps you create?
For CELESTIAL RUIN, more than any band I've been with, it's definitely more of a collaborative effort for the song-writing. We will start with something from a keyboard or piano that someone has worked out or guitar riff or just a general idea of the feel we want to go for or a set of lyrics and start from there. Larissa has been going through a pretty trying time; she had to have surgery so during a three-to-four week period she wrote probably 30-40 different sets of lyrics. So, a lot of the time we come of a basic concept and feel so she will go through the lyrics to find what resonates with her lyrically and musically and then we flesh it out from there.
It's really neat that you guys are able to do that.
It's not common.
No it's not.
I mean, we are closer with each other than we are our own families; going through the history of the band we have all, in one combination or another lived together for at least a year outside of touring. Our bass player Mike and Larissa are now engaged to be married.
Wow, congratulations to them!
Thanks! So I mean, it really is a tight-knit group; we went through eight different guitar players before we found the right fit.
I think that is something a lot of, if not most bands go through, they just don't like to advertise it. They like to think that this is how it is and always has been.
Not for us; we are pretty much an open book. We have had our trials and tribulations, especially with guitar players. We've probably through the life of this band auditioned at least 100 guitar players, but it is the most popular instrument. We loved what all of our guitarists have done, its just about the right fit. We're pretty open about that. You look at the first album, the guitar work on that album is completely different than on this album because they are different guitar players.
That definitely plays a role; no two guitar players or instrumentalists of any sort really, in my own opinion, sound the same; so it makes sense that it would sound different.
Yes, definitely. I agree.
Something else that that is cool about the line-up, completely unintentional, but I think it's cool little fun fact is that we have always been a multi-national band. There's always been a member of the band that is not Canadian; there has always been other nations represented. We've had a guitar player from Japan; our old keyboard player is now back in the United States playing with a band called Dead Light Shines.
So,when you get into the personality aspect; what do you guys do together as a group to help your creative process?
At risk of sounding cliche, being on the road together kind of really helps everybody streamline their focus into one coordinated effort. We will come back and start writing right away; we have always kind of capitalized on that cohesiveness. There was one time when we did take that break and we found it was harder to get into the righting.
When it comes down to the way that you present your music, in your videos, are they a collaborative or do you have someone that does that for you?
For the lyric video of Sense of Exile, that one was done for us with some instructions for a company called Hammer Records out of Vancouver; it was actually the first lyric video they'd ever done. The company was doing a relaunch and offered video work in exchange for us to play at their show. We offered the show for the lyric video and gave them some direction like what the song was about and they went from there. For all the other videos, the ideas would come collaborative and I would do all the videos for us.
Oh, that's good, so you have video experience?
I'm self-taught on iMovie. I am completely self-taught; we've all got fairly high standards of each other, very high standards. Kind of makes it difficult to work with us for people who don't know our personalities because we have high expectations of ourselves, each other and the people we work with. Because of that high standard, if I didn't like something, I would scratch it and keep going until I found what I was looking for. Going through that process, you kind of learn real quick the tricks to get what you were looking for.
I love the fact that you guys have this close relationship; I'd really like to know how you met the other members of your band. I know that you auditioned guitarists an met Larissa through your mutual friend, but what about everyone else?
Our old keyboard player, Nathan, now back in the States, I met on Musolist, essentially a musicians classified. Mike, our bass player, reached out through an ad I placed on Craigslist.
Wow, that's really interesting.
Yes, all of our members have been recruited from offline. The Vancouver Craigslist actually has an area for musicians so people post there and that's how we find members. It's not a bad resource when you’re looking for musicians.
I am going to have to check that out, you don't hear about that in the States very often. So, when it comes to touring, do you guys plan out ahead of time exactly how long you'll be gone or is this more of a come-as-you-are let's find gigs on the way type thing?
Everything for us is well-planned because a number of us have kids, so we try to make sure everything is planned out. We have done a couple of tours with some booking agents, whom I won't mention, that kind of dropped the ball on us. There was one tour we did when we had a four-week break in Ontario in the middle of winter; the shows that they had booked were not officially confirmed, it was a complete dog-show.
Wow, so I guess it's definitely about planning things out, sort of a type A personality trait.
We'd be back on the road if we weren't as nit-picky as we are; dates just weren't fleshing out for us with the new tour booking agency that we were trying to work with. We can't work and make a living like that, so we aren't touring for the time being. Nobody can survive working two days per week.
I agree with you; a kind mistaken assumption is that you make a ton of money doing this. Even some mainstream top artists still have "day jobs." I know you were talking about the breaks, but other than the CD release party is there anything you are working on?
In terms of tour planning right now, we are just taking some time to get where we want to go. Ultimately, as much as there's a lot of North American bands popping up in this genre, we'd really like to focus on getting to Europe and start doing some tours there, especially with Joost behind us. He is essentially the Bob Rock of the Symphonic and Gothic rock genres. So we'd like to get over there sooner than later.
I think that would be really good for you guys; you see all of these great shares and a love of this type of music in the group but I can say that as a fan of symphonic metal and gothic rock I am a part of a small percentage here in the States so I can understand your viewpoint.
That’s why we get compared to Evanescence, because that is the closest thing that people can connect it to. I think we sound more like Delain than anything. (I agree, I love Delain too, their new album, Lunar Prelude is really good).
The Netherlands is huge for this type of music; it would be great for you to get over there. I hope it happens for you.
Thank you! Going back to the monetary struggles, the thing that a lot of people don’t realize, as you were saying is that even the bigger bands have struggles. Every member of Kamelot still has day jobs. They are selling out concerts all across Europe and still have their day jobs.
It’s just a show of dedication and passion for your music that you guys have your family and your jobs and still manage to create this music.
Back in September we all left our jobs, when we came back we thought it was going to be for a short time. When the tour we had been working on fell through we had to get jobs. Everyone has to eat.
There’s another band, they are more of just an American hard rock band and they were talking on the radio about how they still work as well. I think it’s neat that artists are being more forthcoming with what’s really going on with them behind the scenes. I think the fans feel a little more connected and see you as real people rather than rock stars.
They aren’t glamorous jobs. Mike our bass player, he’s a blazer so he works with glass; Aries our guitar player is a web programmer; I myself sell major appliances. It’s like this is what we are doing to make a little money so we can survive and get back out on the road. The jobs don’t allow freedom, we take it.
So, for Larissa, what does she do?
Larissa, she works for a body-piercing company.
That’s really cool. So, my next question for you is what type of music do you listen to?
I listen to a lot of European stuff. I’ve been listening to a lot of Slipknot (What do you think of the Grey Chapter?) You know, I don’t think it’s bad actually; I can a hint of the old-school stuff but I like this new direction. (I agree, I don’t know if you know who In This Moment is…) Answering for Larrisa, that’s probably one of her top artists. She wasn’t a big fan until after Star Crossed Wasteland. She’s been hooked ever since she heard Blood. (There’s definitely a change in their music, and will see them for the first time this year, pretty exciting) She’s also into pop and opera. (Is she an Andrew Lloyd Weber fan?) Yes, she is. (That’s so cool, I actually have three CDs sitting in front of me of the music he’s done.) Mike is more into the traditional 80s; he’s a huge Motely Crue fan, Metallica, Pantera. Aries is into Helloween, Symphony X, things like that. I myself, am into the female-fronted stuff. (What about Within Temptation?) Within Temptation is actually what I used to introduce Larissa to the genre and she fell in love with them instantly.
If you could create your own line-up, who are the people you would want to tour with?
That’s easy for us to decide that one: Nightwish, Kamelot, Epica, Within Temptation, and us.
Wow, that’s a nice line-up! I would be a happy music-lover with that one!
We’d be happy musicians with that as well.
Now, I want to see that.
I’d love to actually see that myself. Those are some of our favorite bands. Because I am a “network-aholic” I kind of network with everyone. I talk to Rob from Epica all the time; Otto from Delain. I actually took a couple of drum lessons from Casey of Kamelot. I have had the pleasure of having back-stage conversations with Nightwish and Floor. She was still filling in at that time, but it was interesting to see how she adapted. I knew she’d be their choice and about six months later they made her a permanent part of the band. (She is fantastic; I just love her voice)
I was looking for someone who could bring some grit, attitude, like Floor and that is where Larissa comes in. She has this really cool, blues-ey rasp to her voice.
Those first words out of her mouth, when she was singing, I was like this is really good. I am a lyrics person so I think that you can have amazing musical accompaniment but if the lyrics don’t catch my attention I can’t really get into it. So, a lot of respect for all of that hard work.
So, when you are playing a gig is there anything special, a ritual or something that you do?
We really do take the attitude that when you go to see a show, that’s what we want to give you, a show. We plan out our stage entrances. We don’t choreograph everything but there are certain things you know are going to happen and we know exactly when that will happen. I know that doesn’t answer the exact question, but we know exactly what we are going to do beforehand so other than a few moments to ourselves we just get started.
Just throughout our conversation it seems that you guys definitely plan everything out. So that will be very helpful for you guys. So, next question: of the music you have released, what is personally your favorite song? (I can probably answer that for everyone as well) Great, I’d love to know that!
I know for Larissa, its Firestorm. For Mike, it’s Sense of Exile, and myself as well.
I’m going to have to say Firestorm is my favorite, it’s just phenomenal. Sense of Exile is so good as well and I love the lyric video. You don’t see those very often. Whenever I do an interview, I ask if there is anything that the artist would like to say to our members and readers?
I guess the big one is if you like what you are hearing, like the Facebook page, pre-order the album. Definitely check in with us, send us a message, as well. We like to keep in contact with fans and respond to everyone who contacts us.
If you had the opportunity to do an unplugged show, would you?
Most likely. It would really depend on balance. In terms of the best show possible, we prefer the electric but if there’s an opportunity for it definitely message us.
Thank you so very much for your time, I appreciate you letting me intrude on your day to learn more about Celestial Ruin. We are excited to have you here with us and I am looking forward to hearing what you have in store for us next.
Tabatha Spears Woodruff