Interview with drummer David Miller
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: January 20, 2023
Toxic Ruin, formed in 2014 (2010-14 as The Ruin), is a thrash metal band located in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, that has recorded two full-length studio albums and one EP between 2016 and 2021. These releases have helped the band make quite a name for themselves. The band went through a slight lineup chance in 2018, but that didn't slow them down one damn bit. In fact, the band's sound got heavier and meaner while sticking to their thrash metal roots.
The Metal Crypt has always liked the band, so we wanted to find out what these guys have been up to lately. Do they have new songs in the making? Do they love a band called Death? Do they eat posers for breakfast? Read the following interview with the band's drummer David Miller to find out... ;o)
Hey Dave, how's life in Sheboygan? All's well over there? No random shootings, murders, gang violence, etc., eh?
Dave: Ha! No, it's pretty low-key here. We're not quite a Chicago or New York type of place!
We are here to talk about your band, Toxic Ruin. Could you reminisce a little bit on what triggered you to form the band back in 2010 (as The Ruin at first)?
Dave: Man, I just wanted to play metal on my drums! I started playing the full drum kit when I was pretty young, around 2002. Even before that I was playing concert percussion since about 1998, but I knew from the second I picked up a pair of sticks that I needed to be parked next to a couple of amplifiers and hidden behind a set of double kicks! The goal was always to play metal with other like-minded fellows!
Was it easy to find like-minded musicians in your area to play thrash metal?
Dave: It was pretty difficult, actually. My first band did mostly popular rock covers, but I was able to convince them to throw in a few Motörhead and Metallica tracks. Everyone in the local scene at the time (about 2006) was deep into the post-hardcore thing, and I wasn't. I wanted to thrash! So, over time I went through numerous different jam mates just to eventually come to what Toxic Ruin is now.
LESS DOOM – MORE THRASH
When the band was called The Ruin, did you record any demos? Was the music of The Ruin much different to what you now play as Toxic Ruin?
Dave: The music was a lot different from that era. There still may be some copies floating around of the one EP we had recorded in our guitarist's basement, but it was never released worldwide. It will forever be a local legend!
Toxic Ruin sounds like a more powerful name and has a more thrash vibe than The Ruin, which some may mistake as some sort of a doom metal outfit. Was that the main reason for the name change?
Dave: We actually had some heavy doom influence back in The Ruin days. So much so, that when we were asked, we would call ourselves doom-thrash. But basically, two old members had left, and they were replaced by three more. We knew the sound was going to change with the new lineup, and some of the new material we were working on removed the "doom" element, so we decided to change the name with the lineup. They're really two completely different bands.
2016 - SUBTERRANEAN TERROR
In 2016, you recorded your debut album, Subterranean Terror. What was the experience of rehearsing and recording the album like?
Dave: I can say it was a learning experience for all of us. Also, a ton of hard work! Everything was done DIY and took up pretty much any and all free time that we had outside of our day jobs. Looking back, it's definitely nice to have the support we do now!
You chose Belle City Sound in Racine, Wisconsin, to record, mix, and master the album. Racine is over 80 miles from your hometown, are there no suitable recording studios in Sheboygan that would have allowed you to record the album closer to home?
Dave: No, Sheboygan is not home to any legit recording studios. Belle City is awesome, though! And we decided to go there because it was the main studio used by Lazarus AD, and still used by Jungle Rot. So, they know what they're doing with metal in Belle City!
It's been six years since your debut album came out. How pleased are you still with it, six years later?
Dave: Subterranean Terror was the first full-length album that any of us had ever been a part of, and there were definitely several things, looking back, that we would have done differently or could have been better. I'm proud of it as our first LP, but it was just the start of better things.
Since your debut, the band has had a couple of lineup changes. Vocalist Chubzy McDuff left the band, as did second guitarist Mike Hasselman. What happened? Did work commitments step into the picture or wasn't the band chemistry on the level it should have been?
Dave: No bad blood or anything. Just lack of commitment. Jake, Stephen, and I wanted to go further, but Chubz was hardly around for rehearsal. When he left, Mike was close behind him because they were close friends before the band had ever started.
Was it an easy decision for Stephen to take over the vocal duties after Chubzy's departure and how did you find Blake Toltzmann to replace Mike?
Dave: Yeah, Stephen basically just took over vocals out of necessity. He was already doing backup vocals, and all of us wanted a more aggressive style like he had, so it was an easy adjustment.
Blake had approached us before Jake was in the band but, at the time, he was too young to play live in bars, so we had to turn him away. When Mike left, he was the first call Stephen made to find a replacement. The rest is history!
2018 – MORTAL INSOLENCE
Mortal Insolence, a 4-track affair released in 2018, which apparently was testing the waters to see if this modified lineup was functional or not. Apparently, it proved to be all that and more. Would you say with this lineup change, the band seemed to be on fire again and even more passionate in regard to your future goals?
Dave: Absolutely! The four of us are more solid in this form than Toxic Ruin ever has been! Mortal Insolence was completely written before Blake had joined us. So, after releasing the EP, we had more drive and an additional brain filled with riffs to keep us going!
You recorded a cover of Death's "Crystal Mountain" during the same recording session. Are you all big Death fans?
Dave: Hell yeah dude, Chuck rules!
How have people taken to the lineup change and the change to a more aggressive and heavier musical style?
Dave: It seems to be going over well! :)
I believe, after this EP, you played some gigs either in your hometown or some other towns. Can you remember how it was in 2018-2019 for the band gigging-wise; the times before COVID?
Dave: This was the time that we had really started touring the US. We were all over the place! It just so happened that we were touring the east coast with Lich King in March of 2020 when shit hit the fan and all the rest of the scheduled shows on the tour were canceled. Before we started our 18-hour drive back to Wisconsin, we all met up at Brian Westbrook's (Lich King) studio, and live-streamed our entire show! It was us, Lich King, and Stonecutters. And I have to point out the three of us were the first in the world to perform any live stream shows during that time!
Now on this ugly subject of COVID, can I ask how the band suffered from all this and all the restrictions that it brought?
Dave: I wouldn't say there was any suffering in our camp. We played shows where it was allowed, and the rest of the time we spent rehearsing and writing new material.
OF GETTING "DEATHLIER"
Nightmare Eclipse, the band's second album, came out in August 2021, which showed the band's hardened face musically, adding some vibes from death metal into the band's already harsh thrash metal sound. Would you say it was a natural musical progression to lean toward more death metal, knowing how much some of you love Death overall?
Dave: I think much of it has to do with us just growing and getting better as musicians. There's always been a slight death element to our music, it's just more difficult to write and perform. I agree, Nightmare Eclipse definitely had more of the death element in the mix, but we'll never fully leave the realm of thrash!
How did you get signed to M-Theory Audio?
Dave: We'll, long story short, we had sent the album to every other label that we could think of. We had a few responses come back and some with interest, but we could not agree on a deal with any of the labels that were willing to pick it up. So, after waiting some time, we decided to release Nightmare Eclipse ourselves. The first single that was dropped was "Ritual Rebirth." We released the music video for it in December of 2020, with the intention of releasing the full album sometime around April 2021. Then, not even a full week after the video dropped, the owner of M-Theory sent us a message asking if we were interested in label support. Everything kind of worked itself out from there!
At the end of August 2022, you got to play with Crowbar who was the headlining act in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. What was it like to play with such scene legends as Crowbar? Did you manage to talk to those guys?
Dave: Performing with national acts is always a favorite of ours. The Crowbar show wasn't the first and definitely won't be the last either. We try to just give them as much space and respect as possible, especially if they're on tour. The more help and convenience the local support can provide, the better. This show just so happened to be on a Wednesday night, in a small northern Wisconsin town, and with bad weather so the turn out wasn't the best, and Kurt (Crowbar) wasn't in the best mood because of it. We chatted briefly but got to talk a lot more with Kurt's wife, Robin. She's cool as hell!
You've already got five dates booked for January 2023 when you will jump on tour with Volcandra and Amiensus; both black metal bands. Obviously, these two bands will draw a lot of black metal people to the gigs, but I guess you are completely OK with that because metalheads aren't so close-minded but can accept many kinds of metal subgenres, generally speaking, right?
Dave: Everyone digs thrash man! Seriously, though, as long as it's a metal show, we typically don't care what subgenres are on the lineup. We always tend to find a large portion of the crowd are closet thrashers!
OK, time for the last question. What kind of goals do you have regarding the future of Toxic Ruin? I mean the kind of goals that are reachable at some point in the future...
Dave: Simple, finish the next album and get it released. The biggest goal is going to be learning how to play it well. We're writing some pretty crazy shit on this next one!
I want to thank you, Dave, for your time in getting this interview done, and in the very same breath would like to wish you all the best with your future endeavors with the band. Any fitting closing comments perhaps to wrap up this conversation properly?
Dave: Thank you, Luxi! And if anyone would like to help support or keep in touch with what Toxic Ruin is up to, make sure to follow us on all the social networks! It really helps a lot! Cheers dudes!
|Other information about Toxic Ruin on this site|
|Review: Subterranean Terror|
|Review: Nightmare Eclipse|
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