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Toxic Ruin's Stephen Behrendt: "It was cool to re-live the writing process and just sit back and enjoy it for what it is. Every listen prior was trying to pick out things that may needed to be changed in the mix or re-recorded…"

Interview with Stephen Behrendt from Toxic Ruin
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 10 October 2021, 9:31 PM

Listening to one's own creation after its completion, can be a deemed as a last quality checkup, yet without the ability to change anything, what was done, was done. There is no escape from it, unless one wishes to restart everything, retaking the time in the studio. When Stephen Behrendt of Toxic Ruin listened to their new album on his phone, he knew that it was it. And that is quite a chance. Releasing a strong Thrash / Death Metal release that also crosses borders, in the image of “Nightmare Eclipse”, the skies appears to be the limit. Steinmetal had to check in with the next promise of M-Theory Audio

Hello Stephen, it is awesome to have you for this conversation for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing man?

Hey man, I'm doing great! Thanks for having me.

I first caught a glimpse of Toxic Ruin with the first singles out of your new album, and sophomore album, “Nightmare Eclipse”. And yes, you got me started. Since the album is already up and about, how do your fans grasp it? What were the initial reactions once the new tunes hit?

Everyone seems to dig it a lot. So far, we've only heard good things about it, so we must be doing something right!

Prior to the release of the record, and also while it was written, it had been quite tough in the US, whether the political situation concerning the presidency, and let’s not forget the wretched pandemic. The latter is still relevant in its highs and lows. How have you been taking it all? How did it influence the band’s activity, other than not being able to perform live?

Quite honestly the album was written before everything got turned upside down and was getting mixed and mastered when the pandemic hit. We actually had a tour cut short because of it. We just took it in stride if you will. Kept the grind going and played what shows were allowed. With precautions set in place of course. We really just homed in on our sound and made sure that we were going to be 100% ready when it was time to drop the album.

Looking forward, now that there are vaccinations all around, some areas of the world are already providing a third dose, do you see this pandemic coming to an end or is it going to be living beside it until the end of time?

Honestly, I don't see it going anywhere for a while. We're just going to do what we've got to keep ourselves, families, and fans safe.

One of the major aspects about the band is that you made a substantial career move by signing with a label for the first time, M-Theory Audio. Was this signing also in deliberations earlier on prior to the debut album? What made you think that it was time to sign and become a roster band?

The signing with M-Theory came as a surprise to all of us. We had shopped around for a few months in August of 2020. We received a few offers, but nothing that really made us feel like it was something that we couldn't do ourselves. In December we had decided to release the first single with the intentions of a self-release slated for April of 2021. A few days after the first single release M-Theory got in touch. We liked what they had to say and decided this was the best move for us. Since then, it's been an absolute pleasure working with them and we hope to have a partnership for years to come!

With the current situation, in your view, how did the happenings in the US influence the lyrical concepts displayed on “Nightmare Eclipse”?

I don't bring direct political views into our music. If I do that it represents the whole band. We've all got different views on things, and I don't want to bring any of that to our music directly. If I do write something political, I try to keep it vague.

In your perspective, what does “Nightmare Eclipse” tell the listener as the latter dwells within its twisted world? Would you say that whether there is a problem that is raised throughout the songs, there is also a given solution?

Nightmare Eclipse was actually based on an anime that I really enjoy. So, to figure that out, you'll have to figure out the show and see for yourself!

Other than being a cool artwork, I have the feeling that the artwork has more to share than can be understood just by looking at it. Can you explain please what am I looking at here? Who made this artwork?

So, the concept was based off of the anime that the title track was written about. I talked with Mark Richards of Heavyhand Illustration about it, and he absolutely killed it!

When it comes to being a songwriter, where do you find your personality among the songs?

I find my personality in the lyrical content. Most of the time I write the lyrics start to finish. There are times when I am stuck on an idea and bring it to the guys to help brainstorm parts. But for the most part it's in the way I write the words and the words I choose.

How did “Nightmare Eclipse” contribute to the band’s current image? Would you say that it made an overall on it, making it something new?

Overall, I'd say that this is only the next step to something bigger. During writing this we discovered who we are as musicians and what we've got to do to take the next step.

Continuing your journey at being the threshold between Thrash and Death Metal, American made, born and raised, “Nightmare Eclipse” is one hell of merciless number. I believe that this record actually emphasizes the convergence between new and old, melodic and brutal in manner. How do you find the band’s musical development over the work on “Nightmare Eclipse”?

Thats kind of what we're going for! We're considered a "thrash" band and that element will always be a big part of our music, but we like to take all of our influences and put it in the music. As long as it's heavy and good, we're fine with it.

As you were working on “Nightmare Eclipse”, yourself as a musician, what did it make you bring out of yourself? What did it demand from you that the debut album didn’t?

This record was the first that I wrote lyrics completely by myself knowing I'd have to perform what I'm writing. So, with that in mind I focused on writing the best words I could, while also writing the best bass I could. Having to keep both instruments in mind was a challenge, but I took it head on and was really happy with the result.

You talked about being a much more mature band overall, crossing “Nightmare Eclipse”. How does this maturity come into place also on a musical level?

We're just better musicians than we were on previous records. Musically we are always pushing ourselves and lyrically I'm pushing myself to write better as well. It's not just a bunch of riffs anymore, there's more thought behind every aspect of it.

How do you find the contribution of “Nightmare Eclipse” for the band’s chemistry and work relations? Furthermore, how did it further help you support your joint position as both bass player and vocalist?

We've always worked well together, there's really no ego in anyone. We all make decisions as a band about structure. We let everyone do their parts and make suggestions as needed. But overall, it's really no different than before.

We talked about the band’s evolution in its music and what the record demanded from you, nonetheless, there is yourself as a growing songwriter. How would you say that the record enabled you to progress as a songwriter?

It really pushed me to try to come up with catch lyrics and vocal patterns. This is something that our original vocalist had done, and I had only helped with in certain parts. It's pushed me to think outside the box with it.

It was hard for me to ignore that Tankard styled crunchiness in your sound. Surely it is one of the reasons why the album is so addictive. Who engineered the album? What was your initial vision for how the band should sound on this record? What is your appreciation of the end result?

We had this record done in my hometown at Carp Town Studios. It's ran by Marc Birr (front of house for Soulfly) and Nick Weyers (guitarist for Aronious). We went in and told them make it sick. We have complete trust in them and everything they do, so it was easy to take a back seat and let them work their magic. We are completely pleased with how this record turned out.

I found myself listening to a measure of your material’s complexity, yet also banging my head to heavier and simpler parts, on “Voices Of Death”. For me it is a track that is divided into two segments, each displaying a part of a face. What do you make of this tune?

It's a song that was intended to tell a story musically and lyrically. It's one of the longer ones on the record and is kind of a nice break for me as it's honestly one of the easier ones to do musically and vocally.

I didn’t really expect to listen to an instrumental tune right there, but thankfully it rapidly grew on me, “It of the Horrid Storm”, displaying an old school driven Thrash Metal path, but it gets twisted in time, and for the better of course. What can you tell me about working on this particular track? Why was it chosen to become an instrumental?

This was the first song we had written for the album honestly and it was written with the intent of being an instrumental. So, with that in mind we composed everything to make it interesting throughout without words.

Once you had the record in hand, when you sat down and listened carefully to the final product, how did it make you feel? What ran through your head track after track? Where did the record lead you?

I first heard it off a phone when we got our test presses. I was so thrilled to dive into it and listen to what we had created and was beyond happy with the results. It was cool to re-live the writing process and just sit back and enjoy it for what it is. Every listen prior was trying to pick out things that may needed to be changed in the mix or re-recorded, and even prior to tracking picking out sections that could make songs better. So, to just sit back and enjoy what we created was really cool.

I noticed that there is a mild live activity in the US at the moment, even though it is still a bit risky. Is Toxic Ruin taking part of this new wave of live shows? Do you have anything planned for 2022?

We are taking part and following any guidelines put in place by states or venues. And we've got tour plans for 2022 as long as everything trends the correct way.

Stephen, it was a pleasure to have you, thank you for the great music and the powerful force that you guys are channeling. I wish you all the best and thank you

Thank you as well, best wishes from all of us! Cheers!


 



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