I found out about Scythe recently while looking for more info on Rick Scythe’s former band Usurper. I wasn’t aware that they had broken up and was surprised to find out that Rick had started Scythe. His Myspace and Facebook pages had a couple of his new songs on them, so I listened to them and liked them enough that I wanted to hear more. Rick graciously agreed to be interviewed by me and it was a pleasure and an honor to speak with an underground death metal legend. If you are unfamiliar with Rick and his work and like blackened death metal, click on the links at the bottom of the page, check out Scythe and pre-order the debut album “Beware the Scythe”.
Thanks for doing this interview! Would you please start off by giving a bit of background information on yourself and how Scythe came to be? Also who are your influences?
RS: I’m Rick Scythe, I was the founder/songwriter of Usurper from 1993-2007. When Usurper broke up in 2007 I started this other short-lived band called Nightshade which was at the time just a 2 man project doing some stuff slightly different than Usurper. It was a good change of pace. Once that band broke up in 2009, I wanted to put out a solo record with different musicians on different songs.
I put the word out online, these 2 other guys joined forces, and it quickly went from a solo project to an actual band. Right when things were rolling with these two other guys, we lost our rehearsal spot and we dis-banded.. That’s when Dan (bass) and Tim (drums) entered the picture. These guys were in the live version of Nightshade in 2008-2009 and since we clicked musically, Scythe was re-animated with these two freaks as a full time band in late 2010.
Our influences range from Venom, Celtic Frost, Ted Nugent, Bulldozer, Sodom, Mercyful Fate, Blue Oyster Cult, King Diamond, Manowar, Asphyx, Unleashed, Usurper, Black Sabbath.
I’ve only been able to hear the new songs on your Facebook page and let me say: They kick some serious ass! I’m sure your new album is going to be awesome. Can you tell me a bit about how the new album sounds and any concept there may be to it?
RS: thanks for the positive words and support! The new album, BEWARE THE SCYTHE is an iron fist in the face of all trendy, weak music and a spikey gauntlet in the face of all hipster pretenders. Musically, it kind of took off where Usurper left off at first, but things kind of evolved into our own sound. We are kind of doing things a bit more straight forward; a thick wall of iron-fisted riffage, sing-a-long chorus’ and of course wall-to-wall death grunts! Every song is 100% headbangable and fist-bangable – that is the main priority.
Lyrically, BEWARE THE SCYTHE deals with a lot of weird, occult powers that have plagued mankind, since he first used… words. Every aspect of society is run by globalist occultists who have bloodlines that are tied to 13 Illuminati Families as well as ties to the Annunaki – and they have infiltrated everything from the politics of the ruling elite tyrants to bad pop culture. Everything in our society has occult roots, the age of witchcraft and occult powers have always run this planet so our songs deal with everything from the very early witch burnings, to modern occult ceremonies (like the Cremation of Care/Bohemian Grove), to the ancient giant races of Nifelheim/Annunaki that have been part of human evolution, to near-futuristic Satanic medical practices/robotic evolutions such as cyborg DNA/Chimera creations, to the rise of the New World Order and other end time prophecies. This planet of the humans we live in is a strange place.
How did you come to be signed to R.I.P. records?
RS: Stan from R.I.P. has been one of my best friends since like 1994. We see eye to eye musically, politically, sense of humor,and overall sense of kick assness! Back in 1995 when head Not Found (Norway) put out the debut Usurper album on CD, we wanted a vinyl release. R.I.P. Records was just starting out… so it was only logical to have R.I.P. Records release the debut Usurper album on vinyl… and now in 2012 it is only logical to have R.I.P. release the Scythe album. In this odd twilight zone we are unfortunately forced to deal with called “the scene”, which is full of idiots, posers, false-metallers, hipsters, scenesters, wanna-be rock stars, and facebook-superstars you need people who got your back so to speak.
What formats is the new album going to come out in? Are you going to charge for the digital download or put it up as a freebie?
RS: No freebies… people will steal, burn and illegally download it anyways, so we will have it released on very high quality formats with very high quality artwork, inserts an layout designs for the true metal warriors.
It will be released late March 2012 on CD and Vinyl by Primitive Reaction Records (Finland), and R.I.P. Records (USA / North America) on vinyl. I will also release it on iTunes and Amazon in March 2012. I own all the rights and will never directly give my music to some label. Everything SCYTHE does will be through a partnership with true, quality labels who will license our releases for a specific period of time. I will always obtain all publishing and ownership of the songs and recordings. We will eventually release it in South America on CD and on cassette for the Eastern European countries and Russian Territories as well.
The cover will be the same concept for each version, but will be illustrated by an artist specifically from the country of origin of each release. This way each release will have a special look and feel unique to a certain part of the globe. Very few people buy things these days, so it is our obligation to release quality to the few that do.
What is your viewpoint on file sharing and downloading? Good or bad and why?
RS: I’m an old fucker. I’m from the tape trading days of the 80’s with people who always wanted to use IRC’s or who always requested to “p.s. – please send my stamps back” (which I never would). I suppose it’s good that you could press a button and get to sample a lot of different music. And it’s ultimately kick ass that it destroyed all these greedy, shitty labels that ripped every band off… fuck them! I’ll never be a slave to a label again, you can quote me on that!
But it’s this young generation of kids who are between the ages of 16-26 now who grew up with computers and don’t actually own an actual record collection that think everything should be free… well I guess it is, but you know what, that is very un-metal. I am so glad I was born when I was, I hate this modern way of thinking. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be able to fit your entire record collection into an iPod and take it wherever you go, it is great to sample music first and to spend all day checking out and discovering new bands online, it’s great to hear things before you buy – it forces quality, but if you really like something, and you really call yourself a “fan” you should want to own a tangible product.
On downloading-I totally agree with you and feel that fans should support the band and buy an actual product whether that be the CD, MP3, Vinyl or what have you. Spotify and Rdio are sites that charge $10 a month for “all-you-can-eat” music. So you get a subscription and for that $10 you can listen to anyone whose label has given permission to that service. Both have agreements with 99% of all record labels (Usurper is on there too). The think behind these services is that people won’t download for free if they are given an “a-la-carte” option for a fairly cheap amount. The labels get a portion of the amount that people pay and they are -supposed- to divvy up the profits based on the amount of streaming that occurs to the bands. Right now this is a low amount as these services haven’t totally caught on yet, however I heard that Spotify is at 3 million subscribers right now. Proponents of these services feel that even though bands aren’t making a lot of money off of these right now, they do get a lot of bands exposure that they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten and give them at least something money wise, even though right now it’s an extremely low amount due to the relative newness of the format. Do you think this is a fair system or another method for labels to screw bands? I got into a lot of Usurper’s music myself via Rdio which I probably never would have heard otherwise.
RS: This seems like a good service, I will have to look into it and see if it’s worth it to have SCYTHE material on there. As far as Usurper’s music being on there, I can assure you I will never see a dime for that. Earache sells our stuff a lot of places online and we haven’t got a royalty statement from them since maybe late 2006. But whatever, at least the music’s out there I suppose.
What’s been your career highlight so far?
RS: I have been very fortunate. I got to tour 17 different countries throughout the world with Usurper. First European tour in 1998, 26 dates with Cradle of Filth in 2000, Touring with Manowar in 2003… all that was great. Headlining the mainstage, day 1 of Norway’s’ Inferno Fest 2006 was awesome. But I think if had to pick one thing that is the highlight, I would say having King Diamond sing my words for a song I wrote, which was the title track of Usurper’s 2000 album, NECRONEMESIS. Hanging out with one of my favorite singers of all time, showing him my shitty hand written lyrics and having him personally add his vocals to our album still gives me shivers!
Anything in your career that you haven’t achieved yet that you still want to?
RS: Not really. I could put my guitars down forever and still feel like I’ve accomplished more than I ever imagined. However, I am inspired to constantly create new music. I would say at this point in my career I want to create some kick ass music with SCYTHE. I would love to head overseas for some shows with the guys in my new band and have a blast. I think I would like to play in Japan some day.
Any plans for a tour? If so when, and with whom?
RS: No. I don’t have desire to tour anymore. I just want to play a few select shows of quality each year. We’ll always play a couple shows a year in Chicago, but I don’t want to become a band that plays bitch to open every show in town. I don’t want to become this band that you get to see once month. I would like to play select shows in the US and overseas only if it is something of quality and importance, or somewhere I never been before… other than that I will just record. I have no desire to pile in a van and hit little dumps for a couple weeks to try to raise the profile of SCYTHE. That is not important to me. I am a bit of a recluse. I like to be isolated and am kind of uncomfortable being around people for long periods of time.
Any bands you want to take the time to recommend?
RS: STONE MAGNUM! This band kicks total ass. Totally heavy… real doom metal, not hipster stoner doom, but classic heavy doom that is 100% metal.
You’ve been playing extreme music for a number of years. What keeps you going on living this lifestyle and doing this style of music?
RS: I can’t stop, I’m addicted! I honestly thought about retiring in 2010. No one would give a fuck. The scene is so trendy, it’s always about “here and now.” It’s filled with so called “journalists” who have a revisionist view of the scene, who make Usurper a mere footnote. Let me tell you this USURPER was a pioneer band of the Chicago Metal Scene. We were amongst the first bands to pay homage to original thrash, classic metal anthems and early 80’s black metal, we were doing this when nearly every band sounded like modern 90’s death metal. We were amongst the first Chicago bands to ever tour Europe, we’ve pioneered the death grunt style of metal, we kicked total ass… yet Usurper gets ZERO credit and ZERO respect anymore!
So I’m definitely not doing this to please the masses of false idiots. I’ve seen so many trends come and go. I’ve seen so many bands who opened up for Usurper, who got a break from me personally, that are now on “a rocket ship to planet rock star” , who completely ignore myself and Usurper now… all I got to say is BEWARE THE SCYTHE MOTHERFUCKERS! The “Windy City Wildman” (Rick Scythe) is back. The crushing snow blower is in your face, what are you gonna do about it? You don’t like it… you can kiss my ass. SCYTHE is here to kick some ass!
What led to the decision to not release the album with a bigger label such as Earache? Bad experience or just wanting to maintain total control of your music?
RS: I want to maintain 100% control of everything with SCYTHE. What does it even mean to be on a big label anymore? Back in the day it meant good distribution…. well you don’t need that anymore. Back in the day it meant big studio budgets to record… we record everything ourselves now so it doesn’t cost a dime. Die-hard USURPER fans will find this. Real metal bangers will find BEWARE THE SCYTHE. I don’t care about record sales, touring budgets, or kissing ass so people like my band. I know this album kicks ass from beginning to end. I knows this band kicks ass, but the scene now has 10’s of thousands of bands to choose from, so I just want to please the real metal warriors out there.
Plus we got ripped off by Earache… not completely ripped off because we took advantage of them just as much as they did us. I wasn’t some idiot, I knew how to play them and get $24,000 to record with Neil Kernon twice, and to get them to promote USURPER so we could make money playing shows.
You see, things kind of snowballed for Usurper. We were very hungry and had some clear cut goals back in the day when we first started out. We managed to tour the states in 1997, then we toured Europe in 1998. At the time we were on Necropolis Records, which was a very kick ass label at the time. Then we toured US and Canada with Cradle of Filth in 1999, then in 2000 they asked us to tour Europe with them, which was a massive tour, getting to play some very large venues.
After that tour Earache kind of noticed us and offered us a deal. To us Earache had so many classic bands in the day like Morbid Angel, Bolt Thrower, Cathedral… that although it’s wasn’t the classic era of Earache Records, it was still very cool to be part of that history.
I don’t have many hard feelings, they gave Usurper a lot of exposure and feature articles in some very big magazines – I’m just kind of pissed about how we got screwed. When we signed with them, there was no wording in our contract about internet sales. I think in early 2001 downloading was kind of new and iTunes wasn’t even around then. Twilight Dominion did pretty well, then we put out our next album, Cryptobeast.
So we started playing some bigger shows, headlining little fests all over the place in the US and overseas in around 2006, people knew the songs, they would sing along, we were getting paid to play… a lot of money, getting flown around and all that, but then Earache gave us our statements and they were very quick to point out that Cryptobeast was not selling as good as Twilight Dominion… we then figured it out, it was because people were downloading our album.
It kind of sucks, but we also got a lot more exposure and got to make money off shows that we otherwise wouldn’t have if we were on a smaller label. Ultimately though it lead to the end of Usurper. I don’t want a label in control of my musical career anymore.
Any interesting stories from the “early days” in Usurper you would like to share that people may not be aware of?
RS: Oh man there was so many wild stories. We were pretty out of control for a while. Drinking and other things, it was constant metal 24/7 for us. We would rehearse 3-4 nights a week, spend all weekend hanging out and partying at our giant rehearsal loft. We were like a gang back in the day – almost like the Guns n’ Roses of shitty underground metal. Not many people could keep up with our lifestyle. We always managed to find ways to keep the labels interested and get to go on tour too.
Can you give a short list of Death/Black/Extreme metal albums that you would recommend for someone who’s just getting into it?
RS: To me, I think it’s essential to have Venom: Welcome to Hell/Black Metal; Celtic Frost: Emperors Return/Morbid Tales/To Mega Therion; Possessed 7 Churches/Beyond the Gates; Mercyful Fate: Don’t Break the Oath; Sodom: In the Sign of Evil/Obsessed by Cruelty; Bathory: self titled/The Return; Slayer: Hell Awaits/Reign in Blood. Those albums are the backbone of all Death/Black/Extreme metal in my opinion.
What do you feel is the best Usurper album for those who haven’t heard any of your stuff before?
RS: I would say the first album: DIABOLOSIS or the mini-cd that came out right after that: THRESHOLD OF THE USURPER, are both the essence of the classic USURPER sound… I would also recommend CRYPTOBEAST, which I feel was USURPER at the pinnacle of songs that were meant for the stage to be played in front of bigger audiences. CRYPTOBEAST has some of the best metal anthems around. It was that very early era and the very last album that best represent the USURPER sound and style.
I noticed on your Facebook page that you seem to have a lot of books that you’re interested in-any recommendations?
RS: It depends what someone is into. I don’t like fiction, I only read true, well documented books on the unexplained. I just like to explore all kinds of weird unknown topics. I have a lot of books on cryptozoology which is always interesting as well as a lot of conspiracy topics.
I love all of John Keels books. I wrote a song about Mothman on USURPER’s 1998 album, SKELETAL SEASON. which is based on his book, THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES. Later it was made into a shitty movie, but that book was chilling and all 100% true. I even got to correspond with John Keel before he died and got filled in on all kinds of weird things.
I also think Steve Quayle is a genius! He really opened my eyes to how everything is connected from angels, giants, illuminati, new world order, demons, ancient civilizations, UFO’s, occult science, cross-bread DNA of humans and animals, about how the Greek and Roman Gods were really Annunaki and not fiction… it’s all connected. Steve Quayle’s “Angel Wars”, “Aliens and Fallen Angels: Offspring of the Gods” and “Genesis 6 Giants” are phenomenal.
There’s also this book by Kathy O’Brien called, “Trance-formation of America” it is the most absurd thing you will ever read, but 100% true and documented tale of her life as a CIA sex slave and the Disney connection… totally mind blowing. Totally chilling!
I love all of Alex Constantine’s books too. It is so well documented and factual, some of the creepiest conspiracy stuff around. Like “Psychic Dictatorship in the USA” and “Virtual Government”. Read this and get enlightened on the occult practices of the global elite.
I like very old, out of print UFO books too. Stuff from the 50’s like George Adamski and Truman Bethurum’s “Aboard a Flying Saucer”. Tales this weird have to be true… was it a CIA mind experiment, or truly Alien encounters? Regardless, it talks about traveling to civilizations on the Moon, Venus, and the Moons of Saturn – all of which were inhabited, and still are inhabited, all of which have breathable atmospheres. George Adamski even included pictures taken from the moon which shows a thin veil of clouds. The books have been out of print for decades, so they will cost you some cash, but well worth it. Not the same old boring Hollywood tales of the Grey’s, or the fake Roswell stuff used by the government to confuse people; this is Planet X, Nordic aliens or Time Travelers, true UFO tales.
And just for fun: What did you think of Morbid Angel’s newest album Illud Divinum Insanus and the accompanying remix album? Did you listen to them?
RS: I don’t know. I thought the Altars of Madness and Blessed are the Sick were some of the best death metal releases back in the day. I kind of lost track of them over the years. I’m glad David Vincent is back in the band because I always thought he was a good frontman. I heard people saying the album was garbage, but the few snippets I heard sounded like classic Morbid Angel, then I heard some stuff that sounded kind of weird…. whatever. The band was doing this a long time, I’m sure that they wanted to expand their sound and add new elements. They have a massive back catalog of classic “hits” to play live. I’m sure after all this time they wanted to incorporate other elements. They are a very talented band, they’re pioneers, I respect them.
Anything else you’d like to say to the readers?
RS: Check out www.scythe.us as well as our facebook page: facebook.com/scythe.chicago. Check out our music, if you like it, support it by buying a copy on the format you desire, if you don’t like it KISS MY ASS!