Ramming Speed are a five-piece thrash metal band from Boston, MA that released their new album a few months ago. In the past, they’ve worked with labels such as Tank Crimes and Brutal Panda Records, but on their latest effort, Doomed To Destroy, Destined To Die, they released it through Prosthetic Records.
I got a chance to speak with Ramming Speed drummer Jonah Livingston and singer Pete Gallagher before their CMJ Metal Insider performance at Club Europa in Brooklyn. In the interview below, they talk about the new CD, touring, and more. See them on Nov. 29 at the St. Vitus bar with Toxic Holocaust and In Defence.
What do you think were some important things that helped you make the bridge from the DIY band you used to be to being on Prosthetic Records?
Jonah Livingston: (Laughs) I don’t think there was any switch; we are still doing most of the work ourselves. We’re lucky we have a team of people helping out with stuff. We were a DIY band because it seemed like the right thing to do. Booking our own shows just makes sense, and playing basements is more fun than playing bars. It was just natural for us. At this point, we are still playing basements here and there. We are still booking a lot of shows ourselves. Now we have this awesome team of people in this office in L.A. brainstorming on how to get more kids to check out our record.
Pete Gallagher: I think it’s one of those things where you have a natural progression, where we work up to a point, someone was interested in helping us put out our music, but we can still continue to do the work we had been doing.
It’s been five years since your last full-length. What songs on the album were you working on for the longest time?
JL: “Hollow Giants” or “Ministry Of Truth?” “Ashes,” we wrote that one years ago.
PG: That was actually one of the first songs that we had after the ANS split.
JL: A lot of songs we were working on for years and then a couple of them came together a few months before recording.
Throughout these last couple of years, about how many different changes and evolutions did most of the songs go through with the intros, outros, solos, etc?
JL: Probably countless. There isn’t a single song on the record that we just wrote and agreed and played (laughs). All of them we argue over for hours. We’ve gotten better at learning each other. They all get worked on. Some of them we’ll write a song for six months and then tour and decide to throw out half a song.
PG: It may not feel right or whatever it is. You bring a skeleton and then the group rips out all the bones and you have to put the bones back, and then you need to put the flesh and the skin and all of that. You bring something raw, and whatever people don’t like or like, you work on it and hammer it out. Sometimes you can go months without an ending like the one we just came up with today. We’ve been playing it for a long time, but you just get to a point where you don’t have any more and then you stop.
Tell me about this song you were working on today.
JL: We had a quick band practice before we got here today. We are all working real hard and at the moment we are working on our next record. Maybe five songs done so far. So one of them we have been playing it for months now and it found an ending this afternoon. To me it sounds like Mötley Crüe getting beat up by a real metal band in a good way, so now that song has an ending (laughs).
“Hollow Giants” it is the longest song on the album and it has a deep and sorrowful feel to it. Can you explain the story of how this song came to fruition and what the lyrics are about?
PG: That was Kallen’s [Bliss, guitars] baby. He had the idea and at first he was like, “Oh, I got this slow riff going on.” He plays it and then two months later he is like, “Oh, I got this other part.” We heard it over time—he built it up. I think he was watching a lot of Spaghetti Westerns.
JL: That’s where he got the idea. Something slow, single note-y, and I think you can’t hold me to that. We hadn’t done anything that slow as a song. It was cool, it was interesting.
On the other hand, “Cretins And Cowards” is the shortest song. What were some of the difficulties in editing it from an idea in your head to when you hit the recording studio?
JL: Short stuff is the easy stuff.
PG: I think it just comes naturally. Length isn’t necessarily a conscious decision. “Oh, I’m going to write a short song in a minute and 30 seconds.” I kind of just write a bunch of riffs. You figure, especially for the fast ones, you half it in its time, you probably are playing about a three-minute-long song (laughs). We just tend to play it very fast.
I’ve read that “Anthems Of Despair” is one of your favorite tracks to play from the new album. Do you have any special memories of it being performed live that are worth looking back on?
JL: Honestly, we haven’t done that many tours with that song. I am still waiting—maybe tonight will be the night. I’ll have some awesome memories, maybe someone can help me out. I’ll stage dive. I want to see people ripping off each other’s skin and wearing skin cloaks and stage diving with skin cloaks on. The last few tours have been cool, but we could use a little bit more skin cloakery, more blood.
PG: When I say screaming until our throats bleed, it not’s meant to be a metaphor. I want everyone on stage to see some blood spewing from their mouths. That song is awesome to play (laughs).
Nate Newton from Doomriders offered up some guest vocals on your new album. Can you speak about the tracks he appeared on and how the dynamic of the songs were affected?
PG: “Hollow Giants” was the only one he lent his vocals on. Jonah had known him for a long time and asked him if he wanted to come down and hang. He came down one day and then the clean singing part—the real throaty one toward the end—that’s the one that Nate does toward the end. I kind of always had that part in my head on how that was going to happen and how it could sound. His vocal styling was just perfect for it.
JL: I have been listening to the Doomriders record a lot. He has like, a good, new Danzig wail kind of moan. He lives not far from the studio. I was like, “Would you be up for swinging by the studio and trying out some lyrics and lines?” He was like, “Yeah, sure, just tell me what time to be there.” He was super chill, real relaxed, wildly pro. He listened to the part once or twice, learned the lyrics, and just did it in like, maybe 15 minutes. We were kind of rushed in the studio, so it was cool we had time to fit him in there. After seeing how good he was at it, I wish we had more stuff for him to try out. For our first record, in a real studio like that, it was awesome to have one dude swing by and do something like that.
How many years do you go back with Nate?
JL: We aren’t best friends, but he is a good acquaintance from the Boston music scene. I booked a Doomriders show six or seven years ago. I have known him through booking shows and the music. He was always just a nice dude.
Any advice for musicians just getting ready to perform their first international gigs?
JL: You probably want to sneak merch with you, since it’s really expensive to get printed over there. Learn how to say, “Hello, I don’t speak the language (of the country you are in).” Ask how you say “beer” and “sandwich.”
PG: Also learn to say, “We are (insert your band name), thanks for coming out tonight,” in every language you can. People appreciate that—that goes a long way. Play shows in squats, be a punk rocker. Some of the best shows we ever played were in German and Spanish squats.
You have a nationwide tour coming up with Toxic Holocaust. How long do you expect your set to be, and are you going to be able to add any sort of special rarities into your set this time around as compared to other tours?
JL: It’s going to be a 30-minute set, I am sure. We are going to play mostly songs from the new record. We would like to do one song from the first record. Maybe one or two songs from the split with ANS on Tank Crimes. If people want to hear songs, they should go on Facebook and tell us.
Ramming Speed will be performing at the St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn on Nov. 29 with Toxic Holocaust and In Defence. For more information, go to facebook.com/rammingspeed.