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Interviews Usurper

Interview with Rick Scythe (guitars)

Interview conducted by Barbara Williams (Crowley)

Date online: January 15, 2003


A big "Hail" and greetings from "Hell" Paso, Texas!!! How are you guys doing?

Great! We just finished recording our 4th full-length album, and debut for Earache Records entitled "Twilight Dominion." We are very pleased with the result. It will definitely be some music to slay posers to.

Usurper started as a side-project. What band did you come from and what made you form Usurper?

Nothing important. Nothing you'd ever heard of. We've been doing this band for 10 years now. Usurper is all that matters to us.

Do you have the same members or is there a difference in the line-up?

I and the General D. Slaughter started USURPER as a little project in Carcass Chris - Guitars1992. In 1993 we got Apocalyptic Warlord (drums) in the band. Then in 1995 Jon Necromancer joined to record our first album, Diabolosis. Since then we had a couple of different drummers, and we recently added a second guitarist. But the core of the band, Myself, General and Jon Necromancer, have been in this band since the first album.

Why Usurper? Who came up with the name?

USURPER is one who dethrones a leader, steals his power, and reigns in his throne. We felt it fitting for the type of music we play.

How do you write your music and how do you get the inspiration for your writing?

I've written all of the music and a lot of the lyrics since day one. In the early days it was just trying to re-capture the vibe of the first wave of mid-80's extreme metal bands, but doing it with a modern and slightly twisted feel. The same spirit is in us today, just things progress a bit the longer you're on this Earth. Now I am influenced just by myself or lyrics or weird sounds floating in my head. I never pick up a guitar at home unless I am near my 4-track recorder because you never know when a simple riff can be perfect. If I don't record it then, I never remember it exactly... it will be gone forever. Basically, I write a song on guitar, program a basic drum track, and record everything myself. Then I give a tape to the band; they learn it, and we twist it into a USURPER song.

Do you consciously think about staying in your style or music? As a musician, do you play other sorts of music on the side or is this your 100% musical taste?

GENERAL DIABOLICAL SLAUGHTER - VocalsUSURPER to me represents many aspects of the metal we all like. Our roots are in mid-80's underground metal, as well as some classic metal, 70's/early 80's rock, and some dark atmospheric music. Metal is the greatest form of music, so we want USURPER to always be a fist-banging, head-banging metal band. We want each album to have its own vibe, and we like to experiment a bit from time to time, but the end result will always be DARK, HEAVY METAL. Yes, I play other music on the side--by myself. I write a lot of material, some of which is just a bit too weird or not metal enough to be USURPER. Some day I will make sense of all these lost riffs and songs in a little side project. Not some big super group or anything that will rival USURPER. Just me, and possibly some help from some other musicians, and just do it total underground, hard to find, not on a big label.

Usurper had been one of the first bands that turned me on to death metal. To what do you contribute your talents?

Thank you! I think it is just our natural drive. We live the music we play. We don't care about fitting in with a certain scene or specific genre. We play what we want to hear with 100% conviction. To some fans like the upfront aspect of the band--the balls-to-the-wall metal attack. Others like the more twisted, subtle dark elements of the band. All in all, it's fine by us. We will just continue to do what we do.

One of the elements of your heaviness derives from the drumming. Is meter (staying with tempo) the more important component for you or do you just get into the music itself and play what you feel?

Timing and meter is VERY important to us. On early albums we were rushed for time and plagued with small budgets, so there was no time to spend really long on each song. But then we had Apocalyptic Warlord in the band. The guy was like a human metronome. Once Hellstorm joined we had a bit more money to record with, and doing things the old way didn't work as well with him. So now everything we do is to a click track. Some argue that that takes away the "feel"... that is bullshit! If anything, it just locks the drums and guitars together as tight as possible which creates a massive, precise sound.

How would you describe (or categorize) your style of vocals? Who have been your role models?

The General is influenced by the fore-fathers of extreme metal: Cronos, Tom Warrior, Tom Araya, Mille as well as people like Lee Dorian.Dave Chiarella - Drums

The music scene really changed between the 70's, 80's and 90's. What would you say has been your strongest influence?

Obviously mid 80's underground metal. But there is great music from every decade. We don't take anything for granted. We respect ALL quality metal from all eras.

Which bands are on your list of favorites? If I were to look through your CD collection, what would I find?

My CD collection consists of mainly things I got for free. I think my vinyl collection is more telling. I like a lot of different music: MERCYFUL FATE, (old) SLAYER, SODOM, BLACK SABBATH, CELTIC FROST, NUCLEAR ASSAULT, DRI, SAMHAIN, GOBLIN, TED NUGENT, DIO, VAN HALEN, SLAUGHTER, IRON MAIDEN, DARKTHRONE, MORBID ANGEL, MELVINS, NIFELHEIM, KING DIAMOND, VENOM, MOTORHEAD, KREATOR, SCORPIONS, DR. KNOW, DANZIG, IMMORTAL, VONDUR, and much more.

How do you compare the Death and Black metal scene here in the States and in Europe?

It's basically the same. You get some more crazy die-hards in certain parts of Europe, but basically you can find rabid underground metal fans everywhere.

Which songs do you like most playing live?

We like the more aggressive songs live. Some of our longer epic songs work better on the album. For us, we are usually in a position where we only have 45 minutes, so we pick 8 or 9 balls-out aggressive songs.

Outside of playing Metal, what kinds of things do you enjoy doing?

Rick “Scythe” Sprague - GuitarsNot much. Metal is my life. When I am not playing it with the band three times a week, I am either at home working on songs, or having a couple drinks, listening to metal and watching metal videos with the boys. At home I lead a pretty secluded life. I don't like to go to bars to hang with regular people. I hate crowds, and I don't like hanging out in the scene. In my free time, at home, I just like to watch obscure movies, read obscure books, watch the Simpsons, and kill some brain cells.

I have heard and read really good things about you. Are there any critics? (How does all this make you feel)?

Of course we have critics. We've always had a small yet very strong legion of fans around the world, including some magazine people and such. That is great! We hold our fans with the highest esteem. But we've always had the occasional big "mag critic." Most of these critics are the biggest losers who are just working for a magazine to get free CD's and to brag to their friends. They are not fans of metal anymore, just leeches. Total big shot, blow hard posers. Why would we care what a poser would have to say about us?

Do you feel that Death and Black Metal bands have it more difficult to gain recognition compared to those who play other types of metal?

Fuck yeah! There is no other reason why extreme metal warriors play this kind of music than for the love of it. There are not a lot of sexy groupies or huge royalty checks. Most tours are van tours where promoters treat you like shit. USURPER has been doing this for 10 years, not just playing in a band and recording CD's... that's the easy part! We've traveled Europe two times and the States countless times. We've had everything from big "tour bus" tours playing for 4,000 people to little van tours playing little toilets. Things always go wrong on tour. We've experienced everything from getting our van robbed in broad day light in Buffalo NY to getting in a knife fight with anti-American Arabs in Hamburg, Germany. You can make some money on the road, yet you can also lose secure jobs to come home to, and it can put strains on relationships. We wouldn't change a thing, though. We live for this! We know of certain bands that form NU-Metal bands to sell out and make money. They can all fuck off! We also know a lot of kids who were die-hard in their 20's, yet they reach 30 and cut their hair and stop listening to extreme metal. There is no sell out ever for USURPER. If more people start liking us, and we actually make a living off this some day, fine! But we don't expect it. We'll just continue to do what we do and do it 100% until we are uninspired.

Have you gotten any gifts from fans? Which would you say would be the coolest or weirdest?

We have received some strange gifts over the years. I got an axe from Jon “Necromancer” Woodring - Bassthis weird Polish freak. It weighed about 30 pounds. I actually used it in some photos. Also, my good buddy Sven from Germany was trying to get me a custom painting of the Jersey Devil by some famous artist. I never got it, but I have gotten some other cool things from him as well as other die-hard fans over the years.

You have some kick-ass album designs. Who designs your CD artwork and who has the final word on what actually goes on the album cover?

Thanx! Artwork is very important to me. I hate modern bullshit, abstract, photo shopped artwork. I hate that lame scratchy Nevermore style that seems to be the trend these days. I am old school. I love cover art like DIO's LAST IN LINE; KING DIAMOND's ABIGAIL; MERCYFUL FATE's DON'T BREAK THE OATH; KREATOR's ENDLESS PAIN; SODOM's AGENT ORANGE; all the IRON MAIDEN covers, etc... I like artwork to not only fit the vibe of the album, but to be a cool piece of artwork. No guessing at what it is. No lame modern abstract bullshit! I usually come up with a cool concept or a sketch and commission an artist to bring it to life.

Noticeably, your lyrics are very strong and straightforward in content.I have just recently read an article (on anus.com) about boycotting Christian metal. What are your feelings about that? What does "Metal" actually mean to you?

I don't care about that bullshit. I believe people should do what they want. If some kid is a die-hard Christian and wants to form a Christian metal band, go for it. I just think that Christian lyrics with extreme metal sounds a bit goofy, but I'd never want to ban it. I never heard a Christian Metal band that I liked (unless you count Trouble), but to waste time and energy to boycott it is a sad joke.

I have just recently heard some heavy criticism from a metal fan who finds that Black metal is no longer acceptable because the satanic content most albums have. As an atheist he sees this as a form of religion. What's your take on this?

Usurper - 2001Well, I suppose he is right. Satan is merely the evil deity of Christianity. So to worship Satan is taking a religious stance. But that is what Black Metal is... it is SATANIC! VENOM invented Black Metal. It is supposed to be raw, ugly, Satanic music. It should be extreme yet rockin'. But if you're not Satanic, then you are not Black Metal. Nothing gayer to me than this trend of new "Black Metal" bands that aren't Satanic.

How is the music and being Usurper connected with the person you are? Is your band image a reflection of you or completely separate?

We live this music and lifestyle. This is the way we are. I am a metal freak obsessed with the paranormal and the unexplained. It comes across in my music, image, and lifestyle. I feel I have nothing to prove to anyone.

How do you see yourself as part of the death metal scene?

I don't. I suppose USURPER is part of it, but I personally take no part in it. I am very secluded. I hate going out and supporting the scene.

You just released a new CD. How many copies have you printed? Are you satisfied with the sales thus far?

Twighlight Dominion was just recorded. It won't be out until April, 2003 on Earache worldwide. I don't really care about sales. We just want to sell enough to keep the band going. We like to tour and have a big budget in the studio and you can't do that without selling some albums. We've been fortunate so far. We just want to make sure that this album is available to everyone who wants it around the globe.

Absolutely LOVE Skeleton Season, but tell me a little about the lyrical content of Necronemesis.

It is basically the same as Skeleton Season, just a little more upfront. Most songs we write are about the paranormal. All true and documented stories. Everything from: UFO's, Crypto Zoology, lost civilizations, Native American mythology, werewolves, time travel, ghosts, etc... we also occasionally have songs about our lifestyle like "Warriors of Iron and Rust" and a new one called "Metal Lust."

Usurper has appeared a number of Compilation CDs. Do you think this had helped promote the band?

I suppose it can. We really don't care. Comps are usually made by labels to promote. We have little say what song they use or how we're presented.

You have done a tribute to one of my favorites, King Diamond. Why did you chose to do that one?

Because King Diamond is one of our favorites. We wanted to do Halloween because it fits more with our concepts, but someone else already did it, so we chose CHARON. It is cool because Michael Denner co-wrote that one, which gave it more of a MERCYFUL FATE sound.Usurper - 2001

Which, would you say, has been the most fun contribution on Compilation CDs?

Probably the HEADBANGERS AGAINST DISCO 7" series. We were on a 7" with NIFELHEIM and UNPURE. It was a total underground classic!

What kind of books do you read? Any good books you would like to mention?

I only read factual books on topics like: UFO's, TIME TRAVEL, CRYPTOZOOLOGY, LOST CIVILIZATIONS, BIG FOOT, MIND CONTROL, GOVERNMENT CONSPIRACIES, UNEXPLAINED... My favorite author is John Keel, he wrote the book Mothman Prophecies on which I based a song in 1997 called "Dismal Wings of Terror." Later they turned the book into a horrible Hollywood piece of crap, but I am still a fan of that as well as Keel's other books. My buddy Sven from Germany actually introduced me to John Keel! This was amazing! I now keep in contact with Mr. Keel over the internet.

How do you see yourself as a role model (or idol) to many young people who listen to and who get into your music?

I don't. We have influenced some people, and we know we have some really great fans. But I'd never say I was a role model. I like to think people have their own brains, and although they are fans of my music, I'd like to think they can think for themselves.

Any last words to fans or anything you would like to add?

Thanx for the interview! To keep updated on EVERYTHING we do, check out our website www.usurper.us

Other information about Usurper on this site
Review: Necronemesis
Review: Twilight Dominion
Review: Cryptobeast
Review: Diabolosis
Video: Metal Lust




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