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Interview: Erik Rutan of Hate Eternal

Few people in death metal can claim as much glory as Erik Rutan. Not only has he been a member of legends Morbid Angel, he has also produced some legendary death metal records and fronts his own band, Hate Eternal.

They have a new record titled ‘Phoenix Amongst The Ashes’ out now, and we caught up with Erik before he played in London.

AA: It must be odd to be in a band that is playing a gig days before the new album comes out.

ER: It is a little odd. We’d hoped that the timing would be a little better. We set up the tour a while ago hoping that the record was going to come out, but obviously not. It is a little weird because people don’t know the new songs, but it’s cool at the same time because people are like ‘holy shit, what the hell was that?’!!

But it’s great to be on tour with a new record. I’m never happy about much but I’m happy about the new record, which I think says a lot.


AA: Why are you so happy with this record?

ER: I think it’s some of my best work as a guitarist, as a songwriter, as a vocalist and as a producer. This is by far our best sounding album and the closest I’ve gotten with Hate Eternal to what I want it to sound like. I feel like this one, from a production standpoint, captures everything that I really hoped for – a big, huge, clear guitar sound and more natural sounding drums, nice bottom with the bass and vocals not too loud. I wanted to capture a certain vibe I guess. The songwriting is way more dynamic and atmospheric, which is something I tried to incorporate into the last record but my headspace in the last record wasn’t the best. This time I was refocused and did things a little differently. It’s so cliché to say that this is my best record ever, everyone says that, but I really do think this is one of the best of my career – and I’m a perfectionist.


AA: I’m guessing your bandmates must hate the attention you give to detail!

Oh yeah, of course! Any band that’s worked with me, and I’ve done something like 60-70 records now, will say I’m a ball-buster. That’s because I’m trying to get the best performance I can out of the band rather than let some studio magic make that performance. These days it’s like ‘that’s good enough, I’ll fix it later, I’ll edit it’ but I don’t believe in that shit. I use ProTools but I use it as exactly that – a tool. And on my own record I’m even harder on everyone else and myself because it’s my baby. But I always remind everyone that I’m much harder on myself than anybody else! You look at people’s careers and what they’ve accomplished and a lot of times the hardest-working guys who are the most critical of themselves succeed because they continue to evolve. The minute that you think your shit don’t stink is the minute you stop getting better.

A friend of mine says ‘results not reasons’. One day I was complaining a lot and saying that I wished I had this and that, and he said that to me. At first I thought he was busting my balls but then I thought you can sit here and make excuses, but instead of excuses just get results. Don’t make reasons, just do it.


AA: It must have been easier doing this record after all the troubles you had on the last one, particularly with [bassist and friend] Jared Anderson passing away

ER: The last record was tough because I’d replaced my whole band. On top of it Jared passed away. That really put me into a whirlwind of chaos. I questioned a lot of things about my life and career at that point. I had a loss in my family in the same year and how I dealt with it all was just working, I did about 10-11 records in a row. That really caught up to me by the end of the Hate Eternal record. When I listen to that record, it was totally chaotic and that’s partly because that’s what was going on in my life at that point. I felt so submerged in death and despair. Some people criticised that production on the last record, but I wanted everyone to appreciate the situation. I’m human, I’m not perfect. By the time I got to the end of that mix I was so burned out. That’s when I really had a hard time. The whole record in my mind was for Jared, so when it was done and I had to let go of it I had to face the reality that my bandmate and friend was gone. But because of all that, it kinda gave me a new lease on life on this record. Not that I’ll ever forget Jared, I don’t ever want to, but I just dealt with a lot of shit in the last few years to be in a better place now. I guess that’s how the Phoenix Amongst The Ashes title came about, it felt like I was in the rebirth process, but not quite taken flight yet – hence phoenix amongst the ashes and not phoenix risen.


AA: How do you go about creating a record where you’re not just a band member but also a producer. How do you separate those roles?

ER: It’s hard, very hard. After the last record I did consider having someone else mix it. People always criticise everything that I do and they criticised the mix the last time, so I used that as fuel and said ‘you know what I’m going to do this record myself’. My goal from the beginning was to own a studio and do my own records. I needed to do this because I felt like I had a mission, which is great. If you get to a point where you’re completely satisfied, you might as well call it a day!


AA: What made you interested in producing to begin with?

ER: Luckily I started another career a long time ago because I learned really early on that this business sucks. I did my first record right out of high school with Ripping Corpse and then the label went bankrupt and we never got paid. So I learned very early that you have to protect yourself if you’re going to succeed so that’s why I went to school for audio engineering and worked at a studio for a long time.


About Abhijeet Ahluwalia

Abhijeet Ahluwalia – I’m a freelance journalist who goes back and forth between London and Bombay. A huge metalhead, but I have an eclectic taste, from reggae to punk. Oh, and Manchester United are the greatest team in the world. Follow me on Twitter or drop me a line via Email.

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