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Imagika's Steve Rice: "Norman Skinner and I reconnected while Kill Ritual was on tour with Iced Earth. We hadn't seen each other in a long time and had a couple drinks and bullshited etc and here we are..."

Interview with Steve Rice from Imagika
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 30 August 2019, 10:55 PM

Back from the dead, and into the light, or to be accurate, right into the burning fire of a constantly changing Metal scene. Earlier on the US Power / Thrash Metal Imagika was one of the toughest in the underground of the American Metal scene, however, after a time period, it simply evaporated. I guess it was only a right time to get it back to action. Last year it happened and here we are with a new album and label. Steinmetal talked to the band's founder Steve Rice about getting back together, the new album “Only Dark Hearts Survive” and the experiences behind it.

Hello Steve, it is a pleasure having you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing sir?

Doing well Lior. Can't complain. Hope things are rocking on your end of things.

Finally, after eight years of silence, and the power thrashing mad Imagika are back in business. Correct me if I am wrong here, but Imagika’s inactivity all these years was mainly due to the rise of Kill Ritual? If there are other reasons, please shed some light

No not really. Imagika essentially disbanded and broke up. It had run its course at the time and some of the other guys wanted to move on to other projects hence me forming Kill Ritual. I didn't see the use of doing nothing so I moved forward in a different direction. All things happen for reason and while I was not super happy with the way the band died at the time it was probably for the best in hindsight.

Do you think that the return of Imagika is due your wish to give it another go, another chance to make it even mightier than before? Is there also a connection to Kill Ritual’s current situation?

It just came to be because Norman Skinner and I reconnected while Kill Ritual was on tour with Iced Earth. We hadn't seen each other in a long time and had a couple drinks and bullshited etc and here we are. I had a bunch of material hanging around that really wasn't going to fit Kill Ritual's new CD which is a concept and darker and more progressive. So I started sending Norm material to check out and bam we had a recording going very organically and quickly. I wrote a couple more tunes in the same vein and we were ready to record. Jim came in on bass along with Matt and we had the CD wrapped in a month off and on part time and it just felt good. I think the material is strong and more mature so hopefully the old fans find it appealing.

Imagika’s return led to its signing with Dissonance Productions, where also Kill Ritual is, along with introducing a new studio album titled “Only Dark Hearts Survive”. Talk about a mystical type title, what is it all about? What ran through your head when you first heard of it? We are a bit philosophical here

The song is really about how some people take pleasure in seeing other people fail. Norm refers to them in the song as Dream Eaters and Jackals which I thought was cool. When I saw the name of the tune I thought it was perfect for a title and is one of my favorite songs on the record. Plus, it made for a good concept on the art.

With the album complete, and probably you listened to it more than a couple of times, what is your personal appreciation of it? Are we expected for a fistful of Heavy Metal kind of comeback? Is the end result according to how you envisioned the album to be? 

We'll it came out pretty damn good. It has the right sound thanks to Andy and his studio Sonic Train that we used for the mixing. Simple, classic Heavy Metal. No over the top BS. We all did the tracking at our own studios so it was cost effective, but all of us are old farts who have been around the block a few times so we know how to get stuff done. I think all the performances are organic and real. The was no over the top drum editing, vocal tuning, etc. what you are hearing is the guys doing their job well.

What I have always liked about Imagika is the exponent mixture between melodic Metal and riff based Thrash Metal. Like listening to a Bay Area body smasher, yet with tuneful exits of Dio. Sometimes crossing even through the barricades of Hard Rock in the process. Would you say that Imagika remained consistent on “Only Dark Hearts Survive” or there is an evolutionary process ongoing?

You absolutely nailed it there Lior! That is exactly what the band has always been about. I think we have really got that going on this CD. Songs are short and to the point with a bit of modern arrangements, but you can definitely hear the Bay sound along with classic metal riffs.

Your return to the scene, a year ago, also introduced a new skinman, Matt Thompson, also of King Diamond. How was this connection between you guys started? What do you think of Matt’s skills? Is he Imagika material?

That's the Andy La Rocque connection since I've been working with the guy a few years now. I wanted to utilize a top notch guy and since Matt had already played on the last Kill Ritual CD and made that sound fantastic I knew he'd nail this. He is a great player and like I mentioned before what you hear is the real deal! It's not some hyper edited to the grid Pro Tools cock up.

How was it to work again with Norman Skinner on the new album? I have to say that he nailed, made a good job singing on this release. What do you think of his vocal approach on “Only Dark Hearts Survive”?

I think Norm did great. He's a better singer now. Matured melodies, better pitch, better harmonies and as always very cool lyrics. Fans who dig him from the past should not be disappointed.

We are coming down to the songwriting of “Only Dark Hearts Survive”, how did it went down? Due to you guys not being in the same studio for quite some time, have you tried out new approaches to writing songs, or did the writing process remain the same?

Like I mentioned I had stuff hanging around. The music was for the most part was all written and arranged from my end. Norm got finished music to write off and it was done. That simple. So by the time he laid down vocals I had already completed the tune in my studio and he recorded vocals at his studio. That simple. I didn't question his stuff and he didn't question mine. Everyone played what was needed for the tune. I guess that's the benefit of doing this forever!

While sitting down on the material for “Only Dark Hearts Survive”, how do you personally develop raw material into an actual song track? What are you giving more attention to rather than anything else while writing?

For me when writing I'm conceiving everything in the process. I'm hearing arrangements, melodies, drum grooves, etc. so that when the guys get the song it's pretty well mapped out. They add their spin to it while keeping to the songs identity. Norm adds his magic and we're are almost always 90% there. We might cut a bit or add a bit, but it is usually pretty close to my original vision.

Which of the album’s songs is that one tune that you can’t seem to leave aside? That track that means the most. Please elaborate on your pick.

The title track because it has great lyrics and I love the old riffing. "Where Our Demons Dwell" because it has some bad ass guitar playing on it and a dark vibe. Last probably "Suffocate On Hate" because of its menacing feel and very catchy chorus. Oh and definitely "The Faceless Rise" because of the old school Accept type riff that opens the tune.

What are the next challenges for Imagika? Looking forward five years from now, do you believe that the band will remain, keep producing albums and such?

Damn let's see…If the CD does well and we still have the fire and desire why not. We all have other bands that we need to work on, but if Imagika is doing well and we're given a good response I imagine we'll keep rockin' a bit longer.

Have you already played some of the new tunes in recent shows that took part of? If so, what were the reactions from the fans, which I assume have been waiting for you for quite some time?

We are playing 2 hometown shows in a couple weeks so I think the tunes will go over well! I just need to remember how to play all the old riffs!

Do you have plans for going live to promote the new release? Perhaps a visit for bone-breaking in Europe?

We'd love to. I hope we can make it over there next year. I don't see why not with the right circumstances.

Steve, I would like to thank you for this interview.  “Only Dark Hearts Survive” is a great work, and I deem to be a wonderful back in the saddle deal. Please try not to be gone for long again, you guys have been missed. Cheers sir.

Lior thank you and we hope to see all on the road again soon. Cheers!



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