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Toledo Steel's Richard Rutter: "I remember going into the studio to record the first EP, thinking it would be fairly straight forward because we had already played the songs together over and over. I was so wrong…"

Interview with Richard Rutter from Toledo Steel
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 04 May 2020, 12:54 AM

No rest for the wicked, and Ozzy didn't just come up with that title out of the blue. Virus or no virus, there is work to be done, and there no that much of a time to sit down in comfort. While folks are at home, locked, there is time to work on new releases, fresh material to be unleashed right after all this goes away. The hard working British Metal starlets, Toledo Steel, have time on their hands, but they have been using it wisely, working on their next album. For now, through their label, Dissonance Productions, they issued a special compilation, which includes both of their first Eps, "Toledo Steel" and "Zero Hour", capturing their past with a view towards the future. Steinmetal had a chance to talk with Richard Rutter, the band's vocalist, on the compilation, a little on the early days, going forward, and more…

Hi Rich, it is awesome to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine. It has been a while since we have seen each other, it was back in the Power Of The Night Festival 2016, where we performed on the same stage. So, how have you been doing matey?

Yeah Lior, that’s right! That was a great festival and it certainly doesn’t quite feel like 4 years ago. I’m doing good thanks.

Well, the world has been in quite a sticky situation with the Covid-19, even though slowly there is a sign of returning to a kind of normality, it will probably be here to stay for at least a while. How do you see this pandemic in the UK? Could things have been done differently in order to prevent the developments that occurred in the country?

Where do I start… there’s differing opinion across the country on how things have been handled throughout and especially so at the beginning of the crisis. Maybe the lockdown could’ve been imposed a bit sooner but there was a resistance to a lockdown at all from the government and that is now seen as a big error of judgement by a lot of people. I was quite surprised initially at how compliant the British public have been with adhering to the guidelines and there hasn’t been much in the way of chaos like I expected in the local communities.

There’s definitely been a lot of different reactions with how to deal with the lockdown but everyone’s circumstances differ somewhat and that ultimately affects the response of course. Most people have adjusted quite well to the changes but the whole country is eager for the easing of restrictions and gradually returning to normal as much as possible.

I started following you guys right after I got back to Israel in 2016 from the Cyprus show, and you have been proving yourselves as quite an active band in the live area. With the Covid-19, every aspect of a live performance was shut down completely. How does Toledo Steel cope with the situation? Have you thought of coming up with a solution in order to promote your music other than spreading links online?

I’ve noticed a lot of bands doing live performance or Q&A videos to keep up band activity and their fans engaged. That’s not really something we’ve thought of doing to be honest, we’re still working on finishing up the recording of our next album and once that’s done there’s all the mixing and artwork etc to sort out so that’s the top priority at the moment for us.

While you boys have been preparing for your upcoming album, I noticed that you already tracked vocals mate, your label, of course with your knowledge, is issuing “The First Strike of Steel”, which is your early ears, which is your “Zero Hour” and “Toledo Steel” EPs wrapped up in a shiny new Digipack with a killer artwork. I guess it was only natural for you guys to have this one out in order to provide these EPs a proper home? Were there other reasons?

The compilation was suggested by our label quite a while back and it’s great to finally have it all finished, they’ve done a really good job with the repackaging of it all. With the much better cover artwork and booklet it definitely looks like a more professional product and to now have all those songs on one disc is great.

We originally had 1000 copies of each EP pressed independently and we managed to sell pretty much all our copies of "Zero Hour" over the years and quite a few of the first EP too. It made no sense for the label to repress each EP without revamping both discs into one release. There was also an error on "Zero Hour" originally where the gap in between each song is too long. That is a mistake we made at the time and because of this, the intro track doesn’t run smoothly into "Fallen Empire" like it’s supposed to! It’s nice to now have this corrected on the compilation.

Were there any deliberations of whether to include new tracks on this sort of compilations, perhaps a set of covers to fill this one up further?

Now you mention it, that would’ve been a cool idea! It’s not something any of us or the label considered really. We’ve played a few different covers live over the years though and it would be cool to record some for a future release further down the line. For now, I quite like the fact that the compilation is just highlighting the time in which those first two EP’s were written and recorded.

I presume that listening to the end product it spiked some early recollections of those periods of time, a newcomer band on its first steps, recording properly for the first times, inexperienced in a way, how was it really? What can you share about the experiences over these EPs?

It was hard work at times haha, but great looking back on how it all came together. I think no matter how much more experience you get as time goes by, it’s always tough recording because you’re trying to put down your absolute best performance and capture something you can be proud of forever. You can analyze every little detail and be your own worst critic. I remember going into the studio to record the first EP, thinking it would be fairly straight forward because we had already played the songs together over and over. I was so wrong haha. The first session threw me off totally and I had to rethink my approach for the following session. By the time of recording "Zero Hour" we were all more focused and clear on what we wanted so it was slightly easier but we all had our moments where we had re-assess parts of the songs to make them flow better etc. I can remember how excited we all felt when we were sat in the studio together at the time of mixing both EP’s and hearing it all come together, especially with "Zero Hour".

What about regrets? While listening to these rather old songs, did you grab yourself by the neck saying “I should have done this differently” or “Nah, I didn’t nail it right” etc?

Yeah I can definitely now hear parts of songs where I could’ve done something better or maybe even slightly different. I don’t have any regrets though because I know I did the best I could at the time and I probably wasn’t even thinking of too many other possibilities.

What do you miss when thinking about the band’s old days? How was the dynamics between the members back then?

I wouldn’t say I miss anything in particular but I look back on it all with great memories. The dynamics were maybe a little disjointed at times and there were a few slight personality clashes which meant not everything went as smoothly as it should’ve done.

Musically, Toledo Steel, right from the get go, judging by your early “Toledo Steel” EP, as I already have your “Zero Hour”, has been walking the same walk, talking the same talk. I guess that there is no chance for you guys to surprise with something that is out of the ordinary for you?

There will no doubt be subtle changes and new influences with each release but we’re not planning that orchestral album just yet! I feel there’s quite a lot of potential for what we can do in the future without compromising our sound as a heavy metal band. Time will tell in what ways that will happen though.

Though you are a stick to your guns kind of band, how do you find the progress of the band’s music nowadays, in reference to the early EPs? Is it merely experience in songwriting?

It feels more focused and we try more than ever to focus on coming up with well-rounded songs. We also work together more now than ever when it comes to writing.

Talking about your motivation towards NWOBHM, I heard a few folks from your local Metal scene, calling the new bands playing NWOBHM, Grandad Metal bands. Well, I know that this music movement was prior to our existence, and probably the ones who were there are much older, yet where is the respect for the founding fathers? What is your input about that?

Unfortunately, there’s always going to be people who make those kind of comments but I certainly don’t worry about that. Rather than coming up with silly tag lines like “Grandad Metal” they should just focus on what they do like instead. We all reach Grandad age eventually (if we’re lucky) haha. All those older bands paved the way for heavier music so you can’t dismiss or ignore its importance. Anyone with any real knowledge of rock and metal in general should know this.

Coming back to this wonderful song, “City Lights”, other than the “Sight Of The Sniper” of yours that I am a big fan of, is a strong hit, feels and smells urban. What do you remember of the times that you guys wrote it? Was there a sign that it is going to be one of your strongest?

Matt our drummer came up with the chorus melody and lyrics before any music was written. The music was then written around that chorus idea and then Matt and I subsequently worked together on the rest of the lyrics and melody ideas. I remember thinking we had a strong song at the time but I didn’t think too much beyond that. "City Lights" is definitely one of my favorites from those first EP’s too though.

Well, at first I wanted to reserve this question for our next interview for your next album, but I thought what the heck. Tom Potter, your guitarist, a wizard with a giant feel, really captures this wave of music with excellence. Do you see him remaining as the sole guitarist, or do you have plans to recruit a second axe?

At the moment we have no plans to recruit a second guitarist but we’re not against becoming a five piece again at some point in the future. There just hasn’t been a suitable candidate to fill the role of a second guitarist and tick all the necessary boxes. We don’t want to settle for less and rock the boat right now. It would be nice to have the additional guitar player live but also the dynamics within the band with the current lineup feels great and we’re all happy remaining as a four piece until the right person comes along.

Leaving aside the pandemic, which is a massive headache for every band out there, what do you think are the main challenges of Toledo Steel going forward in time, let’s say until the upcoming album will be in sight?

The next album will be released hopefully around September time. It could possibly be delayed a bit though due to the pandemic. I’m not completely sure as to how it will affect the release date, if at all. If it can be released on time, it’s not far off really so I’m not worried about us fading into the background too much because we can’t play live again just yet.

The main challenge for us will be that we can hopefully book plenty of shows for next year at the latest. There will no doubt be a backlog of rescheduled shows that were meant to happen this year. I also hope that there’s not too much in the way of small venue closures, that would be a nightmare if bands can play live again but there’s a serious lack of venues for it.

Other than the tracked vocals for the upcoming album, what can you share regarding the progress of the album? Any hints of what is to be expected?

It’s all coming together nicely! There’s still more guitars and vocals to record but we’re making good progress. It’s still going to sound like Toledo Steel but this time around we’ve focused more on melody than "No Quarter". There’s a real mix of songs and a couple of slightly different things thrown in musically this time. It should hopefully be a well-rounded album start to finish without any of the songs sounding too similar.

Rich, plenty of thanks for this interview mate, certainly you guys are going to garner additional fans from this fine compilation of early recordings. Cheers mate and be safe.

Cheers Lior, take care man!


 



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