Ritual can’t be a new name to those who attended a European hardcore fest or show this summer. The band has spend four weeks on the road together with Soul Control in support of their latest record Paper Skin. Drummer Philipp got out of the van and started answering some questions we sent their way.
So after this 4 week European tour with Soul Control do you think Ritual will be stronger and more unified as a band or will you all need mental counselling before you ever share a van with each other again?
I am not going to lie: After this month on tour we were all happy to leave the van. This doesn’t mean we don’t get along with each other when we’re on the road. Not at all – we had a blast! This might have even been our favourite tour so far. But when you’re doing the same thing all the time, you just need to do something different for a while. RITUAL is not a job and I guess that if it ever starts feeling like one, then something goes wrong. It’s still our number one passion, so we need to get away from it every now and then to keep it exciting for us. I assume it is only natural to feel the need to slow things down after a month on tour.
The hardcore-scene in its entirety is a good example for the uselessness of considering the national belonging as a unifying factor.
On Paper Skin you experimented with instruments like a harmonium, an upright bass and synths. Why did you want to incorporate new instruments? Did you rehearse with them before going into the studio?
No, we didn’t rehearse with any other instruments before entering the studio. However, the idea of including a harmonium was already there when we wrote the record. We found all these instruments when we went to the studio to record the Kissing Pavement 7” in July 2010 and from then on it was clear to us that we needed these instruments on the album. Still it was exciting to keep some uncertainties before going to the studio, so we didn’t really know what was going to happen. The studio days were totally thrilling.
Some say you could have gone farther experiment wise. Did you take the previous record into consideration and didn’t you want to scare off the Ritual fans?
Not really. On the one hand we wanted to make a record that would be capable of leaving room for influences that do not necessarily come out of hardcore/punk but out of the music that we like to listen to nowadays. And on the other hand we wanted the record to have that specific energy that we like in hardcore. I mean, there are some “weird instruments” and some “weird harmonies”, but in the end the record still sounds pretty homogeneous and compact. I guess that’s what you’re referring to. But then again it was never our aim to sound too arty-farty, we just wanted to make a significant record and then it really doesn’t matter with which means you try to achieve that.
Paper Skin is out for a while now and while reviews are pretty good, the record doesn’t seem to be that much talked about as Beneath Aging Flesh And Bone. Do you have an explanation for this? Might it be that since Ritual isn’t a straight edge band no longer, you lost some following because of that?
I’ve never thought about it like that. But if that’s your impression, I can only give you my assumptions: We were never that kind of hype band, but when Beneath Aging Flesh and Bone came out, I guess we were new to some young kids who got excited about the record. And as fast moving as the hardcore scene is we’ve probably lost the appeal to some of these people as new hypes came up. I think this is how the reception of hardcore works; it always comes in waves. Still I don’t mean to sound bitter. It’s really fine with us. We made the record we wanted to make and lots of people like it, even people who didn’t like us before. And on our shows we can now mix our set with old and new songs which makes it way more exciting for us cause the songs are so different. We really feel comfortable about it.
Straight edge hasn’t got anything to do with it though. I mean, straight edge is not a sect, so why should anyone care? If anyone really thinks he/she can judge us by the things we drink or don’t drink, I’d just laugh my ass off. I’m not friends with quasi-religious fanatics and a personal choice is still a personal choice. And then you should know that RITUAL isn’t a straight edge band since 2008, so that was even before our first album for Reflections Records, which makes the question obsolete anyway.
If anyone really thinks he/she can judge us by the things we drink or don’t drink, I’d just laugh my ass off. I’m not friends with quasi-religious fanatics and a personal choice is still a personal choice.
What would you say are the main topics of Paper Skin and are they different from the subjects you touched upon on Beneath Aging Flesh And Bone?
I think it makes sense to look at this development from the very beginning on: The development in Julian’s lyrics is a journey into the inside. When we started the band we wanted to have a certain political approach to it, but more and more we got disillusioned by the idea of imposing certain views onto other people or alternatively doing nothing but “preaching to the converted”. This change of paradigms was reflected in “Somewhere in the Rain”, I guess. Beneath Aging Flesh and Bone still tried to hold up a certain political approach, but one that is only verbalized from an individual perspective. There really isn’t only one truth. Paper Skin continues this development and is way more sensitive and even sensual. It is about self-abandonment for someone else’s sake. It is about giving and receiving and about both the pleasant and the depressing things that go along with it. In the widest sense it’s a record against isolation and for a careful way of treating each other.
The past few weeks of touring a lot has happened in the world, take the killings in Norway, the financial crisis in Europe and much more. How much of this kind of news do you ‘get’ while on tour, or do you really live in a whole other world? Is it important to you to still have an idea of what’s going on in the real world?
In general, I definitely think it’s important to know what’s going on in the world, but as you pointed out it’s really difficult to keep up with the news while on tour. For example, on this tour we went to England in the very moment when the riots broke out. Our first day was in Brighton where everything was quiet, so we didn’t really have an idea about how bad the situation actually was. We could only find out by talking to locals who were really concerned about it. But even these people were kind of overwhelmed by it and didn’t have an appropriate analysis of what was happening and why. Then rumours came up that the riots would spread all over the country, but fate had it that wherever we went the riots were already done. Our last UK date was in London and even in Camden where it had looked like a civil war only a few days earlier everything had been tidied up. It really was a mind-blowing experience being in a country that had created a monster by itself. But of course it’s a rare exception to actually be in the middle of the news of the world. Normally you can only find out by checking the internet once in a while or talking to people.
There’s a lot of talk about the euro-crisis. Since you’ve spent the past couple of weeks all over Europe, do you have the idea of a crisis in Europe? Is Europe a union or have you spend everyday in a very different country. If there’s one thing you think is very common for all Europeans and what are the strangest differences you have encountered on tour?
That is really a difficult question. The thing is that when you’re on tour, you are not a tourist who wants to discover other cultures and tries to learn about similarities and differences – you are a hardcore-kid playing music for other hardcore-kids, so you primarily focus on the things you have in common. In general we do not think in borders and nationalities. The hardcore-scene in its entirety is a good example for the uselessness of considering the national belonging as a unifying factor. What really brings us together is the love for music and for certain ideas on which this scene is based, so hardcore is pretty much international by nature.
I cannot say I understand much about economics, so I will not go out on a limb with my assumptions. All I can say is that we haven’t really witnessed the Euro-crisis while on tour. For instance, last year in March we played in Athens in a quiet time between the demonstrations, we still sold plenty of shirts at the show and the kids who hosted us didn’t seem that affected by the crisis, so for that matter we didn’t recognize any differences. It was more weird to us that they don’t throw the used toilet paper into the toilet but in a little bin next to it.
Since you also have spent quite some time with the Americans in Soul Control, is there a difference between how a European band acts like on tour and how a US band tours in Europe?
I’m not sure about that. Maybe there are more differences than I’ve recognized, but the thing is that when you’re on tour together, you just want to have a good time, so you don’t look for the disparities, you look for the things you have in common and I can truly say that on our tour with Soul Control we found lots of things that we have in common. I’m not sure if this is an answer to your question though. Well, over the years we were told many times that we as Germans are way too PC. Huh?
Which fest is better to play Fluff or Ieper? And do you ever see a band like Ritual on a Eastpack Resistance/Never Say Die/Hell On Earth kind of tour?
No shit to Ieper Fest, but we are preferring Fluff Fest a hundred times. That fest has a specific vibe and we’ve always been welcomed kindly. So this is our natural first choice when it comes to European hardcore festivals.
Nah, I can’t really imagine that we’d ever do something like the Eastpack Resistance tour. I don’t like most of the bands that are playing these kind of festival tours and I mean, apart from the fact that there has never been an offer, I don’t think we’d do ourselves a favour with it. I don’t think our band works in that kind of setting, so I guess it would only depress us.
The thing is that when you’re on tour, you are not a tourist who wants to discover other cultures and tries to learn about similarities and differences – you are a hardcore-kid playing music for other hardcore-kids, so you primarily focus on the things you have in common.
What’s next for Ritual? Are there plans to tour the US? Do you want to explore Russia?
For the rest of 2011 we only do three weekend trips. We’re playing three shows with RISE AND FALL, OATHBREAKER and HESSIAN. Then there’s one weekend with our friends in PATSY O’HARA and another one with KADAVAR and then that’s it.
At the moment there is no serious offer for a US tour, although we’d obviously love to do it. But yes, there are some vague plans of going to Russia some time soon. There is also talk about a Southeast Asian tour in early 2012. These are things we want to do before touring mainland Europe again. We did that so many times, I think people need a break from us and we need a break from them.Back to interviews overview