“It’s kind of strange to be honest as we’re used to just flying under the radar so often and just continuing doing what we do and it seems that it’s just coming around full circle and people are starting to get it.”
Ringworm, hailing from the Cleveland hardcore scene and with a name the band would never thought would stick have now been around for the best part of 20 years and have delivered slab upon slab of blistering hardcore rock! They have just released their newest album ‘Scars’ to great reception and just celebrated the 10th anniversary of what many consider their stand out album ‘Birth Is Pain’ which also resulted in a small tour where it was played in its entirity.
We had the chance to talk to Ringworm vocalist Human Furnace (aka James) about all things Ringworm, the new album, touring, the music industry and we then strayed to his art of tattooing. It’s a diverse read, so check it out and get an aray of Mr Furance!
Over to you James…
I know you probably won’t tell me be it would be remiss to not ask. Can you tell me where the name Human Furnace came from…
OK, thought so ha ha, so ‘Scars’, your newest record has been out for over a month now, how has the reaction been to it?
Everything is very positive, like all of it, when we’re playing live everyone is really getting into the new material and we’re getting nothing but positive feedback on it and everyone seems to dig it, so, even the bad reviews are good reviews, they say ‘well I don’t like this but I’m sure a lot of other people do’ that type of thing so it’s getting a really positive response.
How did the songs come together for this one?
Well, we had a lot of material to choose from this one, between the last record and this one it was about four years and we did some touring for the last record and a couple of guys in the band doing some other projects and focussing on other things in between and we did have a lot of songs to use for this, so it came together fairly easy, we just had to decide on what songs we wanted to pick for the record. So, it wasn’t that difficult of a process to get it all together.
Was there a certain theme you were going for on this new album?
Well, its not a concept record, but this one lyrically, it has a theme, lyrically, you know, the only thing I really sing about is myself, the way things affect me and the way I perceive things, that’s the only thing I really know how to sing about honestly, it’s the only thing I really know. So that’s kinda what this record is about, its more of an introspective than anything else, it’s kind of just a little diary of mine if you could put it that way, so they’re all real personal songs for me.
How would you compare it to previous releases?
Well, just the sound of it, we kind of wanted to go for a more raw, more organic sound than the last record that’s for sure. Just the material itself, we kind of tried to combine everything we’ve become known for and then tried to incorporate that into it as well as well as moving forward in a direction that we’ve been going with over the past 20 years, we’ve been progressing a little bit at a time, we’re not going to come out with a love ballad album or anything like that, but we try and do new things here and there, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel either, we do what we do and we try and incorporate some of the old with some new tricks we have, some of our new arsenal.
Really? No love ballads?
No, well, they’re all love ballads, if you ask me, they’re all love ballads in a certain way, but some people have a different idea of what a love ballad should sound like. I think they’re all love ballads.
You’re heading back to Australia next month to play some shows and have been here many times before, how do Australian crowds compare to those around the world?
We were there once I think in 2006 I believe or something like that and we had a fucking blast. All the crowds were excellent, and it was great to be able to tour with Mindsnare again, because those dudes kill it every night, they’re the best dudes to hang out with and we got along with them right away, so we’re looking forward to just being able to hang out with them and have a really good time while we’re there. And just the Australian crowds, they’re really, as opposed to over here, but maybe it’s because many bands don’t get a chance to tour down there but they’re really into it, they’re really excited about it and everyone seems to have a really positive attitude about things, where as in the States sometimes, our music, one could say that it’s not very positive, or that it doesn’t make people want to hug each other but sometimes over here it gets a little too violent you know what I mean. It’s a little too aggressive, I mean that’s what the music is geared for to get your rocks off but over there it just seems they do it in a more positive way and I like that , I don’t like seeing people get their face smashed in or anything like that, I just like seeing people getting a nice release for it and having a good time and all the crowds in Australia last time I remember were superb so I’m looking forward to even a better time this time around.
What can we expect this time around?
Well, we just got off a tour here in the States and as far as out set list goes we tried to mix up a little bit of each record on it, so there’s equal amounts of our records in our set and all the new material that we’re doing is going over really well, the more people know it, the more people are asking for us to play new material which is pretty strange when you’ve been around for so long and you put out a certain number of records and people start requesting new songs, that’s a pretty good feeling, it means you’ve kinda hit the mark somewhere you know, the way things have been for a lot of bands is you just want to hear the old songs, you don’t want to hear anything new, so when people are requesting new songs and they know the words to the new songs already, that’s a pretty good feeling you know.
Earlier this year you did some shows to celebrate the 10 year of your Victory debut ‘Birth is Pain’ how were those shows?
Yeah that was earlier this year, we did like a 10 day, 10 show tour and we played that whole album in its entirety and then after that we played a shorter set of new material too but we were doing that whole album. It went great, it was really awesome, great turn outs, it’s been rather strange because just being around as long as we have and it being out for so long, it’s just kind of weird, because when that record came out no one really seemed to care about it too much. 10 years later it’s everybody’s favourite record in the world and you’ll never be able to top it, which is always a strange thing when that happens you know. That’s why when we play new material, people want to hear new material its that much more satisfying too because its great that people like a certain record and that’s going to be their favourite or whatever but its nice to be able to know that they’re still into your new material, but that tour was excellent. And this time around on the last tour, places that we played a year ago when there was not many people there this time around there was many people. Seems like we finally have an audience that’s starting to come around to what we do.
2011 sees the 20 year anniversary of the band, obviously a lot has changed in the music industry over the past 20 years but what do you feel has been the biggest change you’ve seen take place that has impacted the band?
I’m sure the music industry as a whole hasn’t changed, its always been about trying to take a band and either exploit them or try and make money off them, I mean that’s probably the same formula that’s been around since the 70’s when you found out that you can maybe take advantage of bands and make a lot of money off bands and I don’t think a lot of that has ever changed but in the hardcore genre, in 20 years, the term hardcore music I’ve seen it change from my hardcore growing up as Corrosion of Conformity and Septic Death and bands such as that, that was my hardcore, maybe some Minor Threat and that was hardcore for me growing up. Now, hardcore is way more a broadened term, its metal more than anything, even the purest hardcore bands around today, 90% of their riffs are basically metal riffs from the late 80’s or early 90’s so hardcore is an ever changing animal and obviously with like YouTube and even the internet, when we first started the band we had to correspond to tape trading and mailing actual handwritten letters and stuff like that so there’s a lot more accessibility to anything out there and a lot more than you can do as a band for yourself. Labels are in big trouble these days, obviously with downloading as well and things like that, they’re kind of in trouble. It’s a weird industry, one that I prefer not to live in, I don’t like to deal in the industry perse because it’s such a sick and twisted business, so we try and stay out of it as much as we possibly can be it that we’re in a touring band that puts out records and we have to put up with that stuff every day, it’s a lot different, if that helps. That’s a topic that you could talk all day about…
You’ve talked about releasing a DVD covering the 20 years of the band, is that still in the works? When can we expect to see it?
Yeah, we’ve just been really busy, and the sheer amount of material that we have, I mean photographs and small cassette recorders and different formats of recording stuff, from video cameras to DVR to VHS tapes I mean we have volumes and volumes of stuff to just put into a format that we can look at them onto a digital format that we can put together and we have it’s just been taking a really long time, and to be honest, over the last couple of years, this band has done a lot of things, so we keep adding to it, there keeps being more that we want to add to a DVD so when it got to the point that it got to well maybe we should put something out because it shows where we’re at right now, we keep doing more and more so we just keep adding to the volumes that eventually is going to make it on to a DVD, so we’re still working on it.
We’ll aim for the 25th Anniversary?
Ha we’ll see if we make it that long, we’ve got a few more years to go before we hit 25, but we’ll see how that goes, I mean as of right now, we’re firing on all cylinders, things are starting to come around a little bit, we’re getting excellent reviews and the turn out at the shows is excellent, it’s kind of strange to be honest as we’re used to just flying under the radar so often and just continuing doing what we do and it seems that it’s just coming around full circle and people are starting to get it.
I have to ask, are you still involved with the tattoo stores?
Oh yeah, that’s my bread and butter, that’s actually where I came from, I just got off work.
What was it that made you get in to that?
Well, I’m an artist, that’s what I do for a living, when I was younger I did everything from portraits to band album covers and T shirt designs and murals and anything to make a buck and when I was 16 or 17, a lot of my friends were getting tattooed, and they would come to me to draw them a design and eventually the guy that we were all getting tattooed by finally started asking, where they were getting all these pictures from and telling me to come up there, so I went up there and he really peaked my interest and really pushed me in a direction and said, well maybe you should eliminate the middle man and start doing these tattoos yourself. Then at the time a few of us started getting a lot of them and one of us started doing them and a few of us started doing it. That’s been a real job since. It’s been the only thing I’ve ever done, just as long as Ringworm, I’ve been tattooing for 21 years.
How many stores?
We have 2 right now, we have 3 at times and we still may have a 3rd on the way. The tattooing industry is just as sick as the music industry, they’re a dime a dozen, especially with the popularity of tattoos right now and I’m sure it’s the same around the world, there’s probably a tattoo shop every 500 ft where you live and it’s just a weird industry to be in now and we’re doing very well, my shop has been there for 16 years so we do very well.
There’s a thing about loyalty for tattoo artists, I’ve been going to my guy for 15 or so years, people don’t stray.
Yeah, it’s like that you sound like someone who might have a lot of tattoos and I’m sure everyone you know has one and it’s just the popularity of it and I don’t know if you get the same television programs down there, but the television is riddled with tattoo television programs, Tattoo TV and in a way its good for the industry but in a way there are more bad things about it, once you think tattooing has reached it’s peak in popularity they go and do something perverse with the industry and the craft work of it that just makes it seem trivial, that’s what happens and then you get every guy that can pick up a piece of paper wants to be a tattoo artist you know? It’s almost raising a whole new generation of scratch tattoo artists that because they saw it on TV think well I can do that and I’ll be rich you know. It’s not like that.
And for instance, a four hour tattoo doesn’t take five minutes.
Yeah exactly, its become a commercial art, its not an underground craft anymore, it was bound to happen but its being almost trivialised at this point in some instances, for doing it so long I don’t know sometimes it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth you know, at times I wish it would just go back underground again you know where at times I felt more comfortable you know.
We’ll see what happens.
Yeah we’ll see what happens, either way, that’s my business and its how I make a living, so for better or worse.
Lastly do you have any messages for your Australian fans?
Just one that we’re super excited to come back, we had the times of our lives last time we were there and we expect nothing less this time so, they just better be ready because we’re really ready, so we’re gonna blow some people’s faces off that’s for sure.
Band Members: Chris Dora – Drums, John Comprix – Guitar, Human Furnace – Vocals, Mike Lare – Bass, Matt Sorg – Guitar
Latest Release: Scars (Victory Records / Riot! Entertainment)
Catch Ringworm on tour in Australia and NZ in September:
Sep 16, 2011
Brisbane, – , AU @ Step Inn
Sep 17, 2011
Melbourne, – , AU @ Corner Hotel
Sep 18, 2011
Adelaide, AU @ ENIGMA BAR
Sep 20, 2011
Palmerston, – , NZ @ The Carvery
Sep 21, 2011
Auckland, – , NZ @ The Kings Arm
Sep 22, 2011
Central, – , NZ @ Void Hamilton
Sep 23, 2011
Newcastle, AU @ CAMBRIDGE HOTEL
w/Mindsnare, Hurt Unit
Sep 24, 2011
Sydney, AU @ ANNANDALE HOTEL
Sep 25, 2011
Perth, AU @ AMPLIFIER BAR
w/Mindsnare, Negative Reinforcement