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RIVERS OF NIHIL's Jared Klein: "Being able to do things for myself really helped me out during this weird time and become a braver person than I was before. I’m being more vocal nowadays and standing up for myself. COVID helped me put myself first..."

Interview with Jared Klein from Rivers of Nihil
by Alex Barnard at 29 October 2021, 7:17 AM

Jared Klein is the extremely affable drummer and backing vocalist for Progressive Death Metal titans RIVERS OF NIHIL. Having joined the band before the recording of “Where Owls Know My Name,” Klein is the first drummer to be featured on more than one RIVERS OF NIHIL record. Jared was very kind to talk to Metal Temple writer Alex Barnard about the band’s latest album, “The Work,” and, as you will see, he’s very quick to have a good laugh.

When did you first pick up the drums and who was your first drum hero?

My dad, for sure. My dad did two tours with Engelbert Humperdinck back in the day, a little after I was born until I was like four years old. So, he’s one of the main reasons why I picked up drumming. My brother is also a touring musician, and my mom is a singer. She got me into singing and my brother and my dad were the ones who inspired me to play drums, so the fam was a huge influence on me \[laughs].

That’s awesome! What kind of music did you have growing up at home with such a musical family?

It was kind of all over the place. My dad played a lot of funk, my mom played a lot of ‘90s hits, as well as a lot of classics. Her singing style is really inspired by the ‘50s, and both of them have – I guess you could say – a jazz background. My dad was nine years old when he was playing in a high school jazz band…so yeah, it was kind of all over the place. And then when my brother, who is ten years older than me, would visit, he’d show me new metal bands to get into. When I was ten, he brought me DIMMU BORGIR and DYING FETUS and said, ‘hey, listen to this.’ \[laughs]

That’s a pretty crazy introduction to the genre! Were those the first metal bands you listened to?

Yeah, DIMMU BORGIR for sure was the first band I really got into. I still don’t know if I’m pronouncing it right, but they’re one of my favorite bands for sure. Listening to “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia” was a game-changer for me when I was ten years old. I was like, “what is he doing? What are blast beats? How are you doing that?” \[laughs] But yeah, so I got into that, and then slowly I started getting in the drums when I got my first drum set at 14 or 15, got more serious with it and talked to the right people. I met Brett from REVOCATION, which is how I tried out for RIVERS and now I’m in RIVERS. We’ve been doing it since 2017 and I’m pretty stoked on that.

Yeah that's right, you are still technically the newest member of RIVERS OF NIHIL. Did you come in for “Where Owls Know My Name,” or am I getting my history mixed up?

Yeah, I came in during the end of the “Monarchy” tour cycle, so I finished that out. I think I'm the first drummer to be featured on more than one album, so I’m happy to be a part of that and to continue working with the dudes because it’s really been fun.

When you came into the band, how much of the material for “Where Owls Know My Name” it had been written? What was the process like when you first became involved?

I think there was one or two songs written, but we were still touring and stuff like that, so when we were done with the album cycle, we took a bit of a break. Brody (Uttley, lead guitar) started sending me songs, and then I kind of just started playing them over and over again like I did with “The Work.” But yeah, he would send me files and I would improvise over click tracks and do what I can, and then in the studio we improvised my singing parts, which we also did for “The Work.” We did have some idea of what we would do for most of the songs, but there were some parts where we just said, “let’s mess around and see what happens.” So it all worked out in the end.

Right, and your voice is really important part of the mix. You have Jake (Dieffenbach, lead vocals) doing the death growls and being the “drill sergeant of Death Metal” as I like to call him. There is Adam (Biggs, bass/vocals) doing his Black Metal scream and his lower, melodic singing, and then there’s you with the higher parts. Was that something that you presented to the band as a way of saying, “hey, here’s something that we can add to give us a bit of a different sound,” or was it unintentional?

You know it’s funny, I never really sang around them when I first joined because I’ve always been shy about my voice. Even though my mom taught me how to sing as a kid, I was still really shy with it. Life has show me that I can either be too loud or invisible, depending on the situation. So, I kind of got scared and singing around people and I never did. And then, when we were recording “Where Owls Know My Name,” Biggs didn’t really know what to do for either the chorus of “Hollow,” or the bridge of “Where Owls Know My Name.” And I kind of just said, “I have an idea. Let me see what I can do,” because he was getting really frustrated by it and I didn’t want him to get burnt out from recording that day. So I went in and sang the part and Biggs was like, “I didn’t know you could sing!” \[laughs] and Grant (Carson, producer/engineer) said, “do you want to put some harmonies on that and then we can call it a day?” So it worked out. After recording that, Biggs said, “I want you to be on ‘The Work.’ I want to hear you more, and I love your voice.” Hearing that was a really big boost of confidence.

You brought me to something that I was going to touch on anyway but, listening to “The Work,” it feels like you guys were moving away from Death Metal composition towards more pure songwriting. Was that intentional?

I think it pretty much just has to do what we were all going through during COVID. Brody was writing whatever the hell he wanted and I’m all for it because it turned out really sick. I don’t know future plans for us genre-wise but I’m all for wherever we decide to go. We’ve been talking about, “what if we go back to tech-death?” Or “what if we continue down the path of songs like ‘Maybe One Day?’” We can pretty much do what we want to keep ourselves happy because that’s just what we do anyway. We were a little skeptical about the album because we were just doing what we wanted and then, when it was done, we thought, “well what if people don’t like it?” \[laughs] But thankfully, people did enjoy it and are still listening.

Yeah I mean, on songs like “Wait,” I was thinking to myself, “damn, this kind of sounds like a shoegaze song but it sounds so good! Is this really RIVERS OF NIHIL or is it the new M83 album?”

\[laughs] Yeah, there were some shoegaze elements on there for sure. That song kind of came out of nowhere.

Were there a lot of songs on the album that came out of nowhere like that?

Yeah, there were a bunch of other songs that didn’t make the cut. There was a funk song, but I might be doing something with that eventually with Brody. Yeah, that was the only song that really was very shoegaze. Brody hit me up one day and said, “hey I made a lo-fi song and I think we’re going to do it.” And that’s “Wait.”

Well, it adds a really great balance to the album for sure. Were there any new techniques you were using in the studio during the recording of “The Work,” and did you guys actually get to work together in the studio during COVID?

Well, I flew over in November last year and I was there for three weeks. We stayed in a hotel that was somewhat close to the studio in Lancaster, PA, just to make sure that none of our significant others or family members got infected. We wore masks in the studio and we were just all-around very cautious. Techniques wise, it was the same deal as on “Owls.” I used the exact same kit and snare, but I also added some new percussion that I got at Guitar Center, like tambourine and claves. We also just recorded a bunch of weird noises like us dropping things and screaming. You can hear a lot of that on that weird part of “Terrestria IV.” KING CRIMSON was definitely in mind for that song. Also, in terms of my own influences on this album, I was listening to a lot of rap and tried to incorporate a lot of the hi hat patterns from the albums I was listening to, as well as Latin beats.

Right, I can kind of hear some of the rap influence on your hi hat technique. Listening to some of the lyrics, I know you said a lot of it was inspired by COVID but they also reminded me that work in and of itself can be very taxing. When you think of the word “work,” what does that evoke in your mind?

I have to get up early and I have to give my time for about eight hours and focus on just that and work my ass off. Even if I’m not feeling it, I have to put in my 100%. Work is work, and it seems like I don’t stop even if I don’t have a job or if I’m doing something else. I’m always working.

I hear you. Do you ever fear the possibility of burnout?

Oh yeah, burnout scares me too, and it has happened before. I've done manual labor pretty much my whole working life, and there have been days and I’ve just come home from a 12 hour shift and gone right to bed or straight to practice just so I could keep the momentum going. But most days when I get home from work, I’m ready to plop.

Speaking of grueling work, I’ve heard before that the road can be pretty tough for musicians, but you've just had this long break away from the touring cycle. How much have you guys missed being away from touring?

I missed it a lot! I was ready to keep going once that last show was done in February 2020 and I still wish I could be out there right now, but home is important. I spent a lot of time figuring out things that I could do while I was away and, obviously, looking forward to the next tour. But it was everything I wanted and more, and I absolutely miss being on the road. I don’t miss Jon’s (Topore, rhythm guitar) farts, but still \[laughs].

Of all the songs on “The Work,” which is your favorite?

My personal favorite is “The Tower.” “Void” and “Maybe One Day” too, especially because the music gave me goosebumps while I was listening to it even before lyrics. I don’t know, each one has something different for me and they’re all very important because they all had a different journey for me, depending on where I was in my life when I learned each song. At the same time as I was learning each song, I had a buddy come over while I practiced and he gave me good tips and was a good support during the writing process. Sadly, he was unable to see the release of this album because he passed away before I left for this tour, but he still lives on with me. He helped me figure things out and get grounded before practice if I needed it. But yeah, I don’t know, I could tell you about every song on that album because they're all that important to me.

I hear you. It’s like trying to choose your favorite child.

Exactly! It's tough. You really can’t do it.

One last question: obviously this past year and a half has been very tough for everyone. What has been the thing that has kept you going through it, your silver lining?

Yeah man I mean, of course they were times when it got dark and I thought that we would never have live music again. But even during those times, I was still able to do a lot of what I wanted to do. I went hiking a lot. I did a lot of things for myself and by myself. I got into photography a little bit. Being able to do things for myself really helped me out during this weird time and become a braver person than I was before. I’m being more vocal nowadays and standing up for myself if needed. So yeah, COVID helped me put myself first and become a better person in that way.


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