Interview with Ian Fleming
Interview conducted by Michel Renaud
Date online: February 10, 2010
This came a little bit as a surprise for me. A couple of months after the interview with Robert from Ritual went online, I received an e-mail from Ian Fleming who is an original member of the band, asking me to phone him for "the real story." Needless to say, that was intriguing. A couple of weeks later I gave him a call to interview him (my first phone interview, as it happens.) Due to some problems with "free time" (what's that?) and also because I had no idea what Ian had in store for me, I didn't have time to brush up on all things Ritual and the interview is completely improvised. If you've ever wondered why there were two Myspace pages for Ritual, well, you'll find the answer here along with tons of interesting information about the band. You can find a link to the interview with Robert at the bottom of this page.
Michel: Sooo... This is a bit confusing. From what I understand, you're "the other part" of Ritual. I had this interview with Robert. Is he the only original member in the new band?
Ian: Well, here's the thing. I've been trying to work with Robert. Anyone that owns the first two records and opens them up and looks next to each song can clearly see that I'm the guy who wrote 70% of Ritual's material. That's the bottom line. I sang, I played the guitar, I played the bass, I did pretty much everything on Ritual's first two albums. Mike did some stuff too, but Robert was not very involved in the first two records. He was involved with the deal with Richard of Wild Rags Records, but then he went to jail. He wasn't really part of the writing and recording.
Michel: What about Soldiers under Satan's Command?
Ian: After the two records, I just couldn't work with them anymore because Mike and Robert were constantly fighting and I was just tired of it. As far as the new stuff goes, Robert and I got together about two years ago. We both had some ideas for new Ritual stuff and we were like "OK, we're gonna work on new Ritual stuff". And then he started doing interviews and, you know, he mentions me as like a "session musician". I don't know, I just don't like the way he's portraying me in interviews. I keep my mouth shut and I write music.
Michel: Do you mean "portraying you as a session musician" on the new stuff or on the old stuff as well?
Ian: Either way! His recollection of how the band started and the things that happened in the band is just not right. He's painting the picture to look really good for him, but it's not how it happened.
Michel: OK... Let's stay we start at the beginning then. How did Ritual start? Let hear the story of the band from your point of view!
Ian: I'm gonna tell you the real story of Ritual, and anyone who was there will say the same thing because this is how it happened: Ritual started as Mike, Robert and Mitch who played drums. Mike moved away and Robert and Mitch were just, you know, jamming in the garage. It wasn't a band yet, just them jamming in a garage. This is back when there was a publication called "The Recycler" in L.A., and musicians found each other through the ads.
Michel: What year was that?
Ian: This was like 1993-94. So, a guy I knew found their ad and started jamming with them, but he was not very good. I went with him one day to check out what they were doing and I really liked the direction they were going in and we had a lot of similar ideas. So Mitch, Robert and I pretty much started playing as Ritual, with me doing heavy amount of the writing. Very shortly after we started jamming and forming into a band, Robert and Mitch decided that they were gonna quit. I got a phone call and, you know, "this sucks, we're not getting anywhere" and they decided they were gonna quit.
Michel: That was before the first album?
Ian: It's way before the first album. That's when I had like one or two songs – Ritual songs. The first two real Ritual songs. Everything else was just demos. You know, you heard on the fucking Chapter 666... Demos, that's all they were. I get a call saying they were gonna quit and I'm like "I'm not". I wrote some songs and I like what I'm doing. Robert decided that if I was gonna keep going, he was gonna keep going. We started playing some shows, doing what we could around L.A. That's when Robert started talking to Richard over at Wild Rags Records about some sort of deal. If I remember correctly, Mike came back when we had an actual deal and we could work on a real record.
On the first record, basically all the writing was me and Mike. Robert was not there much, he was in jail.
Michel: He was already in jail at the time? Was it for the whole thing about graffitis on a church or something?
Ian: Yeah, yeah exactly.
Michel: OK... I thought that was later on.
Ian: Yeah, my mistake, that was later, but you have to understand we were writing this record in 1994 and we recorded it in November/December of 1994, right after that, all that shit happened with Robert going to jail. Even so, on the first record, Robert was there, he was around, but he wasn't doing a lot. That's pretty much it. That's how the band started.
Michel: You mentioned you were doing some shows back then in L.A. What was the reception by people to that kind of music at the time? We think L.A. in those years, we think hair bands, and it wasn't very long after all that crap died...
Ian: Well, it was a different scene. We were playing in the death metal scene. There was a clear line between the regular scene and the underground scene.
Michel: That's a good point – there was the whole death metal thing that had sparked in the late 80s/early 90s.
Ian: We were friends with most of the other bands. It was a close, tight scene – everybody knew each other, so... We weren't that well received but, you know, nobody was a real Ritual fan – there were no Ritual fans back then.
Michel: The whole black metal approach didn't "scare away" too many people then.
Ian: I think people just didn't really understand what the hell we were doing.
Michel: It's extreme, it's not death metal... What the fuck are they doing!
Ian: Right, exactly. In the interview with Robert, you ask with The Summoning and Demonic Winter Metal are closer to each other musically. He says that they lost the member who played the keyboards. Well, that's not entirely true. I played the keyboards, programmed the drums, I played the guitar, I played the bass, I sang... It wasn't like they just lost the keyboard player. They lost the guy who made Ritual happen.
Michel: OK... Well... That's a bit... contradictory I guess! *laughs* That's why when I got your e-mail, I figured... "OK, let's call him"
Ian: Bro, I've got one fucking piece of evidence and it's the albums. Open 'em up and look who wrote the songs. (Correct – Ed.)
Michel: Chapter 666... Was that you, or was it someone else?
Ian: Well, basically... Like I said, in the early days Mike moved away, so it was me and Mitch and Robert playing together. We still kept in touch with Mike and he would send us demo tapes that he recorded in his bedroom or whatever. And that's what a lot of those were; it was his demo tapes that he would send to us.
Michel: So it (Chapter 666) wasn't really Ritual, it was Mike?
Ian: Exactly. I think some of those were Robert's too.
Michel: I think some of the song names on Chapter 666 were on the albums – it's been a while since I checked it out, so I could be wrong.
Ian: I'm just trying to tell the real story, and I'm tired of Robert just acting like the main fucking songwriter and singer, which was me, was not a big part of the band. You asked him why the first two albums sound similar (compared to Soldiers... – Ed.)... Because I was fucking writing them! That's why they sound similar.
Michel: And you weren't there anymore for Soldiers...
Ian: No, that's when I left.
Michel: That certainly explains why it sounds so different. That's the first one I got and then I went and found the other two – and I like them – but I was like "whoa!" It was almost like day and night.
Ian: Well, now you know why!
Michel: *laughs* So, this re-formation of Ritual didn't happen because you were being referred to as a session musician or something...
Ian: Well, he just speaks about me very flippantly, and it's just wrong. I'm the guy that wrote the songs, the guy that played, sang on those two records, and it just doesn't make sense to talk about me like that. I'm tired of it.
Michel: I can understand! *laughs*
Ian: You have the link to his Myspace page and a picture of him on your web site. (The picture has since been taken down for unrelated reasons - Ed.) Well, I'm working on new Ritual material and you need to hear it, and you need to know that this is where Ritual left off.
Michel: I saw myspace.com/ritualblackmetal in your e-mail signature, which is different from Robert's.
Ian: That's the official Ritual black metal.
Michel: That's yours?
Ian: Yeah. It's been up almost three years. That's what I'm saying. Robert is putting up his own Ritual stuff and doing these interviews and trying to take credit for shit that I did.
Michel: I understand now why I was confused. I remember seeing both pages and wondering why there were two Myspace pages for the same band.
Ian: Because Robert put up a new one. Look at the dates on mine and on his page. Mine was up for a good year and a half before his was. Myspace.com/ritualblackmetal is my page, and there are two new songs up there: "The Perfect Moonlit Night" and "This Means War" and they're both new Ritual songs. I want anybody who's a fan of the first two Ritual records to go listen to the songs and decide for yourself if they sound like Ritual.
Michel: When I saw that there were two Myspace pages, I just assumed that the most recent one was the right one, maybe access to the other account had been lost and could not be retrieved for some reason, and the simple solution had been to just create a new page. So basically we have like two Ritual bands going, both with original members, and, I don't know, sort of competing!
Ian: I'm not competing with anyone; I'm just making music like I always have. Robert's competing with me.
Michel: But you can see how this can be confusing for people...
Ian: That's not really my fault. All I've ever done for Ritual was make the music and sing the fucking songs. I've never done an interview about Ritual, ever. So you've got a fucking exclusive right here, buddy! I keep my mouth shut. I keep my mouth shut until I'm seeing interviews where I am conveniently left out of the conversation. I don't care about drama or controversy, but I'm not gonna fucking keep quiet when somebody's trying to take credit for the shit that I did!
Michel: So, what are your plans for Ritual? You have a couple of new songs, are you working on an album?
Ian: I hope to make a full album. I have five or six songs just about finished right now, two of which are up on Myspace. I'm just making music like I always have. I talk to Robert and he's nice and "we're gonna work on a new Ritual record" and then behind my back is talking like I don't exist. I'm trying to make music, not fucking play little baby games. That's all I really wanna do. I might just not even call it Ritual and put it out under some other name, because I'm just tired of all the bullshit about Robert somehow thinking that he owns Ritual because he went to jail for desecrating a church. That doesn't make sense.
Michel: And there are already several bands name Ritual, so it may not be a bad idea to use some other name.
Ian: The only thing for me is that it's kind of sad because I put so much work into making Ritual really happen. Ritual was my baby, my project, and all those songs came out of my soul. That's just the bottom line. I mean... Fucking "Dark Cathedrals". You've heard his cover of "Dark Cathedrals", right? That's my song! I wrote that fucking song. He's covering MY song.
Michel: You're referring to the new version that's on Robert's Myspace page.
Ian: Yes, exactly.
Michel: Speaking of which. Since you did most of the writing. I don't know if you've seen that very weird interview with Robert on some web site, where the guy who did the interview obviously hates Ritual and he's turning it into ridicule. Have you seen it?
Ian: What site was that?
Michel: I don't have it handy, I'd have to e-mail you the link. The guy really didn't like the music. In fact I've seen a number of reviews and comments over the years that were pretty negative. Obivously I don't agree, otherwise I wouldn't have interviewed Robert, then you, and reviewed a couple of albums! *laughs* I'm just wondering what's your take on very negative comments about the albums you wrote.
Ian: My reaction is absolutely nothing because I don't really give a fuck. When I started writing music for Ritual, it wasn't popular, nobody knew what black metal was – it wasn't because I gave a fuck about what anybody thought about my music.
Michel: So... My feeling from this conversation is that there's not much hope of you guys patching things up?
Ian: Here's the bottom line: As long as Robert keeps trying to sabotage Ritual, then no. Nothing's ever gonna happen with Ritual.
Michel: When you say "sabotage" do you mean not giving you due credit, or the new stuff that he has recorded... Or both?
Ian: I mean... By putting up his own Myspace page, by covering Ritual songs from 15 years ago, and yeah, by not mentioning me in interviews. Basically by acting like he is Ritual, which he is not! He was a small part of Ritual, but he is not Ritual.
Michel: On the new songs, are you handling all the instruments?
Michel: So for now it's just a one-man thing?
Ian: Yes, that's what I'm doing.
Michel: Are you considering bringing in some other guys?
Ian: I have a band ready to go and play shows, and we're rehearsing these new songs and will probably play some new shows pretty soon. I might just call it something else because of all this Ritual bullshit, but yeah, that's what's going on. I just want people to know where they can find the real guy that made the music.
Michel: Have you actually talked to Robert about this whole thing?
Ian: No because, I just saw that interview just before I e-mailed you about it. I haven't talked to him since then, I can't get a hold of him. (This interview was done on January 17, a couple of weeks after Ian contacted me by e-mail. – Ed.)
Michel: So this whole thing is brand new to you...
Ian: Well, I know that he's done it in the past, portraying himself as the Ritual guy. But after trying to work with him, it's upsetting to me that's he's still pulling that shit behind my back, I just don't understand why he would do that.
Michel: I noticed that Robert is very active in promoting the band. Have you been promoting... "your side" at all or is this the first?
Ian: This is the first thing I've done. Like I said, I'm a guy that makes music. I'm a musician.
Michel: So basically, you write your music, you put it up there and you're happy with that.
Ian: It's fine until Robert started cutting me out of the picture.
Michel: Did Robert know that you had that other Myspace page?
Michel: This is fucked up. *laughs*
Ian: Yeah, it is fucked up.
Michel: I'm the kind of guy who tries to avoid conflicts as much as possible, so it's really weird for me.
Ian: It's weird for me. It's my music... It's fucked up man.
Michel: That's definitely interesting though.
Ian: I just wanted the whole story to be told for once, you know, and I'm glad you gave me a chance to do that.
Michel: It would be cool if you guys could mend fences and bring this all together.
Ian: I would love to, really, but like I said, he wasn't even really involved in writing the first two records so... Why do I need him to make Ritual? Me and Mike made Ritual. He's working on this new music and he calls it Ritual, but I don't think it sounds like Ritual at all. Do you?
Michel: It's different – but I haven't listened to those songs in a while so it's not fresh in my memory. Not bad, just different.
Michel: Any last words for our readers?
Ian: I just wanted the story of Ritual that actually happened to be known.
Michel: It's all good. Thanks for your time!
Ian: I appreciate it, Michel. Thank you very much.
|Other information about Ritual on this site|
|Review: Soldiers Under Satan's Command|
|Review: Demonic Winter Metal|
|Review: Chapter 666 (1993-1994)|
|Review: The Resurrection|
|Review: Epic Sagas|
|Interview with Robert Ritual on November 8, 2009 (Interviewed by Michel Renaud)|
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