MATG Exclusive: One on One with Ricktor Ravensbruck
Written by The Black Metal Bitch
All photographs of Ricktor courtesy of TJ Pendragon and Victoria De Rais
Ricktor Ravensbruck is no stranger to the music scene and has worked with a ton of big names in the underground metal scene. If you were alive in the 90’s and listened to Satanic music there was a pretty good chance you’ve heard of The Electric Hellfire Club who were at the forefront of the Industrial/Metal scene alongside bands like Ministry, Nine Inch Nails yes, everyone’s favorite scapegoat, Marilyn Manson. Fueled with psychedelic drugs, cocaine and a whole lot of Satanic controversy, the band dominated the music scene. After a break to catch up with life, Ricktor has returned to music, collaborating and playing live with the witchy, psychedelic Chicago-based Coven; as well as teaming up with Kult ov Azazel mastermind Julian Xes to drop one of the heaviest, yet diverse industrial-black metal albums ever with Wolfpack 44. I recently caught up with Ricktor to talk about his latest shows, his difficulties with labels and the future of all his endeavors as he gears up for Roadburn in Holland this April.
Black Metal Bitch: Hi Ricktor, thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to talk to us! We spoke awhile back (beginning of the year?) and you were living in Florida at the time. Did you relocate?
Riktor Ravensbruck: You are most welcome, and it is a pleasure. But actually, I never lived in Florida. My co-conspirator in Wolfpack 44, Julian Xes does; and Thomas Thorn from my (now-former, I suppose) band, The Electric Hellfire Club, lives there also, and there was some talk of me relocating there but for a myriad of reasons it hasn’t happened. I’m a Wisconsin native born and bred and still stuck here, ha!
BMB: I know you just went back down south to play with EHC and the reviews were great! It was hosted by the Church of Satan? I noticed Peter Gilmore was present as well! I imagine it must have been a great show and a great night.
RR: It was a very interesting event all around, and the two EHC performances were rewarding but also melancholy because they were the last ever. The EHC hadn’t performed live since we toured for the Electronomicon album in 2002, and there’d been talk of a reunion show or two for some time now. So when the opportunity for the shows to be involved with the release of the second The Devil’s Reign art book, it made perfect sense. And yes, the Church of Satan has been involved in the release of those books and was involved in the organization and promotion of the entire two-day event, but to what extent I can’t comment, simply because I don’t know. And you’re correct, Peter Gilmore was indeed there, as well as a large contingent of CoS people. I’m not actually a member of the CoS, but The Satanic Bible was my first introduction to real Satanism way back when I was teenager – I found the book in a Walden bookstore in a mall and was intrigued so I bought it – and I’ve got nothing but respect and admiration for the writings of Anton LaVey. So I hold in high regard those that keep that particular Black Flame alive, and the majority of CoS people I’ve met or interacted with are very intelligent, honorable, and oftentimes powerful people. Mr. Gilmore included, and he’s a rather nice fellow as well. The shows themselves had all the highlights and pitfalls of every EHC show – it felt like I’d stepped back in time, to be honest and only a week or two had passed (laughs). Without the insane drug and alcohol excesses of that time period, of course. Several members are now completely sober, and while I cannot claim the same, I certainly don’t indulge the way I used to. I’d certainly be dead if I’d kept that up! But yeah, overall the last ever EHC shows were a success. A very cool and fitting farewell.
BMB: I know Jinx (Dawson) of Coven was also there! You’re also a part of that band as well but I don’t know the details. How did you get hooked up with Jinx and the rest of band?
RR: Well, I’ve been a Coven fan since high-school, which began when I was perusing the vinyl at a long-gone record shop and happened upon the first Coven album, Witchcraft: Destroys Minds And Reaps Souls. I took one look at the cover and thought “Whatever the fuck this is – it’s coming home with me!” And I’ve been a fan ever since. Forward to around the time Wolfpack 44 was coming together and I saw that Jinx was offering occult Sigil creation via her Ebay store. So after I’d contacted her and had her create a couple of sigils for Wolfpack 44, we got to talking a bit. She’s really a lovely person (although intensely private – perhaps we just had a Demonic bond), and I enjoyed getting acquainted with her. And of course it’s quite exhilarating when one interacts on a personal level with someone they’ve idolized for so long. Cut to the studio in Chicago where I was commencing laying the bed tracks for what would eventually become the Wolfpack 44 album, The Scourge. I already knew I would have a number of guests on the record, and I had the idea that if Jinx was into it, I’d record a Coven cover with her reprising her vocals. Jinx was amenable, so I sent her the instrumental track for our version of “Wicked Woman,” certainly a Coven classic, and I also sent her another track I’d written. I was amazed when Jinx quickly returned some amazing lyrics and vocal ideas! That track ended up being “To The Devil…A Daughter” – versions of which were released on both The Scourge, and the Coven album entitled ‘Jinx’. It’s very cool to have two quite different versions of the same song on two albums on which I’d participated. The cover of “Wicked Woman” didn’t see inclusion on ‘The Scourge’, but was on the aforementioned Coven album, ‘Jinx’, re titled as “Wicked Woman ‘13” and things just kinda went from there. Wolfpack 44, as mentioned, contributed a couple of songs to Coven’s Jinx album; I then did the guitars on the Light The Fire EP that came out earlier this year, and now as a full-fledged member of Coven, we’re headlining the prestigious Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, Netherlands on April 20th or 2017. We’ve signed with United Talent Agency, one of the biggest booking agencies operating, and we’ve got some very cool stuff on the horizon. People can expect to see Coven live in many areas of the US and Europe over the next few years, which will be the first anyone’s seen of the band on a stage in over 25 years. It’s rather exciting stuff. And ya know…Jinx and I have become very good friends since we met, and it’s pretty awesome to work with such an iconic person. And when the EHC 25 year reunion/Devils Reign became a reality, it was only natural to ask Jinx to join us. Which she did, and was great!
BMB: I have to say, The Scourge is a masterpiece. I absolutely cannot say enough good things about it (it made my top ten of 2016!). From start to finish, every track has its own different style and is equally powerful whether it’s heavy and fast or just slow and pure evil. Is this a result of your collaboration with Julian of KOA? I imagine between the two of you, both veterans in the underground, that making music was a great experience.
RR: Thank you so much for your kind words, and I’m very glad you dig it! And yes, absolutely the finished product would not be anything like it is now without the killer talents of Julian Xes. The way it happened was that I had already begun laying the bed tracks of some of the key songs on The Scourge without an actual band. It was just myself and the producer I’d hired in Chicago. I had a kind of vision for what I thought the songs could be, but once Julian got onboard, the songs began to take shape and become what they are on the album. I wrote a good percentage of the music, and Julian wrote quite a few of the lyrics. I helped a bit with those, and we both worked very hard on the arrangements and the additional instrumentation and sonic stuff…like the samples and sound effects, etc. And where we are now, I couldn’t really imagine it’d be much like Wolfpack 44 without Julian’s involvement – he’s integral in my opinion. Also a cool fuckin’ guy and great friend. As far as the experience? The album is cursed (laughs). Just so many obstacles. I’ve often said that it is continually the forces of white light trying to prevent this album from reaching its intended audience, but really it’s been a fool’s parade of shitty people. Label owners, studio jackasses, etc….all with their hand out for more and more money. And once we were committed with our blood and tears, we had to stay the course.
BMB: Did you and Julian sit down one day and just decide to start a band or has this been an idea of yours that’s been kicking around?
RR: I had kind of disappeared from the music business for nearly a decade. Just the usual: marriage, drug addiction, prison. When I finally reawakened and found myself still alive, it reinforced my purpose, which I’d completely lost sight of – music. So I rededicated myself to it and then had to figure out what to do, or if anyone still even remembered me. Luckily they did, so I figured the best way to reassert myself as a viable musician was to record an album. Didn’t know what it was gonna be just yet, but I secured some funding and went into a studio…and it basically morphed into Wolfpack 44.
BMB: What were some of your musical inspirations when putting together The Scourge? What were your intentions when you set about making this album?
RR: I don’t know that I had any actual inspiration from one particular thing in making The Scourge, to be honest. The influences that I credit to my formative years are largely rooted in traditional metal and hard rock, plus some industrial stuff, but once you get to a certain age and experience level, it’s more like what things are motivating you in the world-at-large around you…and that can be anything. Mostly a completely cynical and misanthropic worldview, I suppose… and Satan! But once Julian came aboard, in addition to some of the guests, the album’s direction began to become clear to me. I couldn’t stand a lot of what I was hearing on many current releases, which was a production value set to full blast — everything pushed to the front as loud as it could be. A kind of attitude that everything needed to be louder, faster, and more brutal than the album that came before, almost “oneupmanship” – and the quality of music as a whole has suffered for it. I love brutal, dark, metal music, certainly….but I also come from the way-old-school and I know musical theory and all of that stuff. So I will always love harmony, melody, and actual musicality. And I wanted to embrace that, too. So there was a conscious effort to create a record that is, in a way, meant to be listened to as a whole. With dynamics – loud, heavy songs mixed with others that branched off the beaten path, and interspersed with softer musical interludes, pretty passages, even. Peaks and valleys; quiet and loud. Kind of like…well, listen to any old classic rock or metal album, like Sabbath and Priest, Iron Maiden, Zeppelin: those kind of records. They don’t blast on 10 the entire time….and that’s one of the reasons why many of the old, classic albums still hold up today: they don’t fatigue the ear and every one of them, almost to a fault, has the kind of dynamics I’m talking about. As an example, one of my favorite songs from The Scourge is “By Serpents Beguiled” a song I made the conscious decision to write without any electric guitars. And there aren’t any on the track…just layered acoustics, a Hammond organ, and anything else I found around the studio which made sound. Including a kiddie keyboard and an answering machine. And then I had Julian lay down this brutal, black metal sounding vocal track and the contrast between what’s going on musically verus what’s going on vocally is totally what makes the song cool. It is arguably my favorite song on the record.
BMB: I absolutely love “By Serpents Beguiled” by the way, such a great track. In addition to Julian you got to work with a lot of talented musicians in the metal scene (Paul Collier of Angelcorpse on drums and Sorath from Against the Plagues, Kommandant to fill in on bass) as well as your old bandmate Thomas Thorn. What was it like working with those guys (and in Thorns’ case, again)?
RR: Well, just to clarify on the first two guys mentioned: Paul had absolutely nothing to do with anything on the album beyond appearing in one of our video clips – he was just a drummer I admired and hoped would fill the live spot. He shambled off to who knows where, and Sorath (aka Milo Kovacevic) had come aboard later, basically after the album was already finished. He’s a killer player and I’ve since brought him along with me to Coven, but Thomas Thorn indeed contributed quite a bit to the record. Several vocal tracks, a spoken word intro and a number of lyrics as well. I’ve maintained for as long as I can remember that he is one of the greatest lyricists in music, and he certainly did nothing to dispel that with his work on this record. We have a long and storied history together but that’d take a year to recount, so I’ll just say that when we work together it’s either gonna be absolutely magical or we’re gonna be at each other’s throats. Also, on the album we have Jinx Dawson of Coven, of course, as well as Dana Duffey from Demonic Christ and numerous others.
BMB: I totally left out Lord Ahriman (Dark Funeral)! How did you guys get together and what was his contribution to the album?
RR: Whom I was also gonna mention! Actually, both Lord Ahriman and Dark Funeral’s other guitarist Chaq Mol appeared on the song “Chamber of Nightmares” and they absolutely killed it! I had worked with and gotten to know Ahriman when we did the Wolfen Society record, and more so when EHC recorded at Abyss Studios in Sweden in 2001. And when Dark Funeral toured the US in 2012, he introduced me to Chaq, who is a great guy as well. Both are incredible musicians and it’s a complete honor to have them lend their talents to the album.
BMB: I know you’re going to hate me for saying it, but there is definitely a hint of Industrial in the sound of the album and I can’t help but notice you worked with Nikk Dibs of Bile fame on the production of the The Scourge. How was it developing the sound with Nikk and how big of a role did he have on the final product?
RR: I don’t hate the “industrial” tag, not nearly as much as I bitch about it (laughs). Seriously though, how could we not expect such descriptions when my past association with the genre is what got me known to begin with? Not to mention that I have never shied away from using electronics and samples, and whatever the hell else allows me to achieve the sonic results I’m after. As far as Nikk….well, that is a touchy subject. I’ve moved past reopening the old wounds publicly but in a nutshell: I began the project with him and he’s an extremely talented musician and producer, and he was in fact hired for the recording process of what would eventually become The Scourge. Sadly, he didn’t have it in him to honor his commitment to me, and in order to finish the album I ended up having to redo much of what he began – at a different studio and at much additional cost.
BMB: Oops, I’m sorry to hear that. I know in past interviews you don’t claim to be a black metal band but you have to admit there is a ton of black metal influences with Julian on guitar and also vocally. Personally, as a fan of USBM, I couldn’t be happier with WP44. Have you noticed a positive response from USBM community?
RR: I’m not sure how the US Black Metal scene has responded to tell you the truth. Almost unanimously the reviews have been great, worldwide, such as they are. The record has not really gotten out there, essentially because it doesn’t have a label at this time
BMB: With such a list of guest musicians on the record how has that translated to playing live?
RR: As of this writing, Wolfpack 44 has never performed live. There are plans to change that, however, right now I’ve been preoccupied with Coven and the now-completed EHC reunion performances. And Julian has a lot going on with Kult ov Azazel as well.
BMB: I have to ask about Deadlight (French Label). According to the official Wolfpack Facebook page you are not happy with those guys at all. Firstly, how did you get hooked up with the label and secondly, just what the hell went wrong?
RR: Are they a label? Because given the pathetic way it is operated, it has more in common with just one douchebag running it out of his bedroom than an actual record label. They approached us about releasing the album with terms we found agreeable, which was basically a 50/50 split: we provide the finished master recording & product layout, they press the CDs & vinyl, and then we split the product equally. At that time, it made sense because we were getting a lot of press and had plans to tour and perform live, so it would serve as a stepping stone to get the record out there, which we planned to license to a real label thereafter. What went wrong? What didn’t go wrong (laughs). He screwed up every single thing without fail. He lied to us repeatedly. He never paid any attention to detail whatsoever. We constantly had to check his work for errors, misspellings, and other mundane stuff any person with half a brain could handle with ease. Kept repeating the same mistakes over and over, which only made us look bad. The final straw was that he started taking advance pre-orders for both the CD & vinyl, and when the releases got delayed for whatever reason, he just left those people hanging. Who would then approach the band inquiring where their product or money was. And of course, we’d have to answer to them, not him. It finally got so bad that people would complain on our personal pages and I became weary of making excuses for him, so I began telling the truth publicly. He didn’t like that, so he cancelled production of the vinyl (or so he said – we believe he never actually started producing the vinyl and it was just another in a long line of lies). And that was that, that fucking dishonorable creep…He also had the overblown sense of entitlement so common these days. For instance, just because we had this crappy little manufacturing arrangement with him, he felt he could just go ahead and use the names and likenesses of our other projects and bands anytime he wanted without asking. Continuously using those names for his own self-aggrandizement, which, unless one has expressed permission, is an absolute no-no in this industry. Only parasites do shit like that and Alex Von Deadlight or whatever the fuck he calls himself now is the epitome of a music industry parasite. Most of the time, like many music critics, people like him are failed musicians – they don’t have the honor, integrity and fortitude to make it as a player, so they gravitate towards the other jobs in the industry. Since he’s obviously a failure at that too, it might just be best for him to find a different career. I hear mimes do well in France, although if I ever run into him there may just end up being white face makeup smeared all over the walls!
BMB: Well, I was going to ask if Deadlight being a European label would be helping out with setting up a possible European tour but I think I have my answer on that one.
RR: Once we do gear up and begin performing live, certainly. Europe will be a market for the band, perhaps even more than the US. Audiences are historically a lot less fickle over there, but it will have nothing at all to do with Deadbeat No-Records.
BMB: I’ve been a huge fan of the Electric Hellfire Club since the mid-90’s and would love to know if there’s going to be any chance fans can get something new from that band. Is there just a bunch of material somewhere on a back burner that’s sitting somewhere and waiting to be polished off?
RR: The EHC just had the band’s first ever best-of compilation released on October 21st through our stalwart label, Cleopatra Records. Entitled “Necessary Evils”, it’s available worldwide via normal outlets. New music? One never knows…at this time it seems unlikely, but I never say never when it comes to EHC. Any live performance has come to an end, however, and there is no unreleased stuff sitting in a vault somewhere.
BMB: The message of Satanism is abundantly clear on both musical outlets so it seems like a pretty natural transition for EHC fans. Do you find fans of your old band are also fans of Wolfpack 44?
RR: Some are. Anyone familiar with EHC knows that there was an evolution to the sound of the albums as our career progressed. Although never a conscious decision to do so, the last couple of records took on a bit more of a metal sound – heavier guitars, mostly – and a contingent of fans took umbrage with that. They still whine about it every time something gets posted from those later records – “I only like the first three albums, then they went metal. Ewww,” which is, of course, not the case at all. The band has, at the end of the day, always sounded exactly like The Electric Hellfire Club and no one else. Which, by the way, I am particularly proud of – originality is becoming extinct more and more in heavy music these days.
BMB: You’re no stranger to the road and playing live so I have to ask if there’s any crazy road stories you can share with our readers. What’s the craziest shit you’ve seen on tour?
RR: (Laughs) Well, in the interests of protecting the identity of those involved I’d better not. Suffice it to say that to date, the majority of my tour decadence occurred in the mid-to-late 90s and early 2000’s, and back in those days drug, alcohol and hedonism were embraced and encouraged – almost expected of rock bands – rather than looked down upon the way it seems to be today in our snowflake SJW-PC world. And we definitely lived that way. And when you are on tour or locked in a recording studio nine, ten, eleven months of the years as we were for nearly a decade, well….you need an outlet for the pent-up aggression, homesickness and residual energy. Lots of people think touring is this big, glamorous thing, and it can be, but mostly it’s boring travel many hours every day, grimy backstage rooms, shitty food, and all the other industry bullshit we dealt with for so long. And after years of it….you collectively become this raging animal that consumes anything in its path. It’s a wild ride and I could tell you stories that would make your toes curl. Best to leave it to the imagination for now, I think.
BMB: Where are some of your favorite places to play live and why?
RR: Here in the US a few places spring to mind, although I’m sure I’m forgetting some. Played the Whiskey-a-go-go in LA a number of times, and of course that stands out, just because there is so much storied rock n’ roll history that took place within those walls. Also, the Limelight in New York City was cool, because the venue was an old Catholic church. It’s gone now, though, I believe. A very cool venue in Seattle called The Fenix was also one of my faves.
BMB: I was hoping to hear New England on there somewhere! I know you’ve also done some guitar work for Acheron in the past as well. How did you hook up with Vincent?
RR: He was associated with the Church of Satan back in the day, and therefore Acheron and The EHC knew each other and our paths would periodically cross. I got to know him even more when we did the Wolfen Society record, and when Acheron approached me about about lending some leads to their ‘Kult des Hasses’ album I was happy to oblige them. Great record, too, I think – one of their best.
BMB: It’s a shot in the dark, but you were a member of the Wolfen Society, which is sort of a super group of Satanists and big names (Acheron, Dark Funeral, Incantation) is there any hope for reviving that project?
RR: There was talk of a full-length Wolfen Society album for a lot of years, lastly around 2012, but I haven’t heard much since. I’m kinda thinking there might not ever be another, however it wouldn’t be my decision regardless. If asked, I’d consider contributing. The sole record we did, Conquer Divine, still comes up in conversation a lot and seems to have a nice little cult following, so that’s cool.
BMB: I ask everyone I interview who their top five USBM acts are. Who do you like?
RR: Hmm (laughs) I’ll probably get some shit for not being “troo” and “kvlt” for saying this, and probably for unintentionally overlooking some friends’ bands – but as much as I love good, quality black metal, I’m also very picky when it comes to what BM bands I’ll listen to. Mostly because I feel that for every one or two good and talented bands, there’s twenty more that haven’t yet taken the time to become proficient at their instruments or who don’t strive to find an original voice in the sea of clones already flooding the genre – especially American BM bands, as sad as that is to have to say. But five bands, you say? Ok, here goes: Kult ov Azazel, Demonic Christ, Wormreich, Absu, and a great band I caught in Chicago a few years back but know very little about called Ominous Resurrection.
BMB: Those are good picks! (KOA) is usually on there. We’re at the close of 2016 do you have any New Year’s Resolutions, Ricktor? Is that a silly question to ask?
RR: Not at all silly nor unreasonable as far as questions go, but I don’t really ascribe to notion of a resolution at New Years. As a strong, misanthropic, Satanic male I resolve to achieve many things each and every year – and then strive to make them reality. And right now I can’t think of a single one. (laughs)
BMB: What can fans hope to see in this coming year with your music?
RR: Well, now that the EHC 25-yr reunion shows have come to pass, the next major event is the return of Coven to the live stage, which will happen on April 20th, 2017 at Roadburn Festival, which takes place in Holland. It’ll be the first time in over 25 years that Coven has performed live, so it’s been a very high profile thing. That will be the kickoff to a lot of live stuff for the band, who, as I mentioned before, have just signed with a new agency. So those tours and dates are being plotted and considered, both in Europe & the US, and we are currently auditioning and rehearsing a live band to play the dates. Rather psyched about that stuff. We’re also in talks with a number of good record labels to not only reissue the old Coven catalog, which really needs a proper home, but also to do a brand new full-length Coven album, too. So that will likely happen this year. Then, as if that isn’t gonna keep me busy enough, Julian and I would like to give The Scourge another push, because really, it hasn’t been heard the way it should. Maybe we can find a label who’ll license it and actually do a proper release. We wanna do another one for sure, as well, and with the second Wolfpack 44 album I look forward to writing more of the musical side of a record with Julian. And there is still every intention of doing the stuff live…just a matter of time and money and Satan. But isn’t it always?