Ringworm are almost undoubtedly one of the longest lasting bands in hardcore, period. After four years, the Cleveland crossover heavyweights have just dropped their first album in four years entitled “Scars”. Kicking of another Australian tour with their old friends Mindsnare, we caught up with Ringworm’s very personable front man Human Furnace to talk about the band’s past, present and future.
Hey man, please start out by telling us your name, what you play in Ringworm and your favourite thrash album of all time?
Oh geez well, HF, I sing for Ringworm. My favourite thrash album of all time? Boy that’s really tough. I’m gonna go with maybe, The Accüsed – “Maddest Stories Ever Told”.
You guys have been around for twenty years now. Do you feel like proper hardcore veterans by this point?
Ah, I would think so. I don’t know. I definitely think we qualify, yeah. If we’re not, then, we’re in trouble I guess. So yes, I would think so.
Does it feel like twenty years?
Yeah well I guess so. Sometimes it does, sometimes it feels like forty years. Sometimes it feels like we’ve been doing it two years, you know. Some days you’re feeling it, some days you ain’t.
Your fifth album “Scars” was released just recently. How have you found the response from critics and fans so far?
It’s been really positive, I mean we’ve been getting some really good reviews. And the fans seem to like it a lot. You’re never going to be able to please everybody because some fans just want you to write the same record over and over again. It’s been really positive. I mean critics and reviews have never meant a great deal to us, cause we just kinda do what we do and we do what we like to do. It’s never meant a big deal. This record in particular I was a little bit curious because we wanted to know where our fanbase stood with this one because it’s been four years between the last record and this one. After twenty years you want to know where you stand with it and, you know, we’ve been getting a lot of positive reviews, a lot of good feedback and when we play the new stuff live it comes off really good. People know the material, they request the material, so it’s a nice feeling to play live and have people scream out the new material to play. It’s a good feeling for people to want you to play new stuff after twenty years.
How do you think “Scars” compares to “The Venomous Grand Design” or older material?
Well what we tried to do with this one is we tried to maybe incorporate a little bit of what, I guess, throughout all of our records we’ve been known for. Whatever that may be, you know what I mean? And then try to also add a few new trickers that we’ve added to our arsenal over the past couple years, like obviously there’s a lot more guitar work in this one. Maybe a little more melody in some spots if that’s even possible since I can barely hold a note. We tried to incorporate some of the older stuff and then still kinda do something new. I mean granted, we don’t want to do anything that’s well beyond what Ringworm is but we also don’t want to keep making the same record over and over again. There’s really no point in that. So, you know, we tried to incorporate the old stuff and tried to do something new with it. We’re pretty happy with it.
How was it working with Ben Schigel again? What do you think he brings to a Ringworm record?
Ben’s really great to work with because he doesn’t really… I mean we’re really efficient in the studio. We’ve kind of learnt to have to be like that because for one we never get a lot of money to record. So we’ve got to go in there and we can’t mess around, we go in there and we do our job and we do it quickly. Barring any setbacks we try to have a good time but it’s time to go in there and work. Ben’s really good with that, keeping a nice quick pace. Plus he’s got a very good ear for things and he kinda lets us do what we want. We can go in there and tell him how the feel of it should be, what we’re trying to go for, and he’s always been able to nail it for us. He’s a really easy guy to work for. I like doing vocals with him because me and him work really good together. Sometimes he comes up with different things that I could try and it pushes me to expand my somewhat limited range.
"Scars" sees another release on Victory for you guys, a label which has undergone huge changes to say the least. Is it weird to be amongst so many bands which sound absolutely nothing like Ringworm?
Well after we release this last record we’ve fulfilled our contract with them. So we’re no longer with them. But Victory has been changing for quite the past few years. Almost instantaneously after we signed with them in 2001 it already seemed like they’d started to change their agenda and what they wanted to focus on. Which is fine but we kinda stuck out on that label, we really had nothing in common with them towards the end. Their agenda is completely different from what we’re trying to do and what we’ve always done. We’re looking forward to a fresh start somewhere else to put it politely.
Just to segue, bands like One Life Crew, who were also a Victory band earlier on, and of course Integrity emerged out of Cleveland in the 90s with Ringworm. What’s the hardcore and metal scene like in the city nowadays?
You know what, there’s still a good scene in Cleveland. Being as old as I am, I’m somewhat removed from a lot of the younger bands that are going on because that’s not my scene anymore just because of the age difference. But Cleveland’s always been a big strong city in general with bands and a lot of the older bands like obviously Ringworm, Keelhaul, Red Giant, and a lot of the older bands are still viable and still important and still playing. And then there’s a whole younger generation of bands that are really coming up a little bit from what I’ve seen. Cleveland’s pretty diverse as well, I mean there’s not always just a hardcore scene but there’s punk rock bands, tonnes of good straight up thrash bands. There’s country bands, there’s all kinds of good bands in this city. The music scene in general always seems to thrive. It has its ups and downs over the years but every two or three something good will happen and then it may quiet down a little bit and then it pops back up again. I think it has a lot to do with Cleveland being fortunate enough to have lots of venues to bands can play whereas some cities don’t. And in this town there’s at least 15 to 20 places a band could play on almost any given day. So that helps the music scene.
Cleveland can be a depressing city you know. It’s not the richest city in the world to say the least. There’s a lot of unemployment, there’s a lot of depressed, drunken people in Cleveland so music is an obvious and easy outlet for a lot of young kids and a lot of old timers too. Music, like anywhere else, can be your escape and in this city sometimes you need an escape a lot. I think that has a lot do with all the music in this town.
Have you done much with Gluttons lately? Or Holyghost?
Yeah actually Gluttons stays busy when… Ringworm’s been really busy so it’s kinda hard to do those bands as much as I’d like. Holyghost is more of a solo thing so I continue to write for that. Some day those songs will see the light of day. But Gluttons continues to write, we’re actually playing tomorrow night. We’ve got enough material for a full length so we’re hoping something like that might happen by next summer. Gluttons is a band I really like to do. It’s fun, it’s really just dirty rock n roll type stuff. With Ringworm there can be a lot of pressure on us because it’s more of a job at times. We try to keep it fun and light with that band. I would definitely like to do it more than we do it right now though.
Ringworm recently played the iconic This Is Hardcore Fest. How did that show go?
It was awesome! It was fucking great. We had a really good time, there was a tremendous response. I believe we played it last year as well and this year was like, twice as good. Because that was the tail end of our tour with Nails, Bitter End and New Lows and that just capped the tour off. There was a lot of excitement in the air and it felt a lot different to last year. There was a lot of anticipation and there was just a great crowd response, people knew the new material and lost their minds. It was a pretty good time.
Did you get to check out many other bands at TIH?
Well we got the privilege to watch Nails every night and I really love that band so they were really great. They really killed it that day too. We kinda got there a little bit late so we didn’t get to see all the bands, it’s an all day fest and we were still travelling on our tour. Got a chance to see Youth Of Today which was a treat, like a time machine for me. I grew up listening to that band so that was pretty fun to see. But yeah I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to see a lot of bands, but Nails particularly had a really good set that night and Youth Of Today was really fun.
So what were the highlights of the Nails, Bitter End and New Lows tour?
Oh man there were a lot of good shows on that tour. San Francisco was excellent, Austin which is a great town for us was unbelievable, Boston was a great show, Brooklyn. Well Brooklyn was after that tour but we had a good show there. There were just a lot of good shows on that tour, it was a really good package. Every band brought something to the table, you know, brought their own clientele with them. All the bands worked together really well. We’re all really good bands, we all got along really well, and we had a lot of fun. It was probably one of the best ones we’ve ever done. So it was really fun.
You’ll be of course joined by Mindsnare on your Australia tour through September. Do you know those dudes well?
Absolutely. We came to Australia before in 2006 and we were fortunate enough to have them on the tour as well. We just got along with those guys great, we’ve kept in contact over the years and they’re just an awesome band. So we’re super excited to be playing with those guys again. They’re just great guys, we’ve got a lot in common in terms of our age and our music background. They’re just a really fun band to watch, I can’t wait to watch them every night.
What are you expecting from the shows?
Well I’m not really sure. The last tour we did was fantastic. All the shows were superb. I’m just hoping these shows … you know since 2006 it’s been consistently been getting better and better. I’m hoping for sold out shows to be honest with you. I hope it’s a really good time, everybody just get their rocks off and has a blast. So I’m hoping it’s gonna be good.
In Melbourne you’ll be playing Bastardfest alongside some local metal acts including Psycroptic. Ringworm really sit on the cusp of metal and hardcore. Do you find that you generally attract a fairly diverse crowd?
Yeah I mean I think we bridge that gap as well. For years it seemed that we were too metal for hardcore kids and too metal for hardcore kids. Recently in the past couple years everyone seems to be coming around. There’s a lot of metal kids out there that had never seen us or heard of us, and they see us play and are like “are you guys a new band?” and we’re like “pff, no”. We’ve been around twenty years but they haven’t heard of us yet because maybe they assumed we’re a hardcore band or just frankly wouldn’t think to go look for a cool metal band or cool crossover band on Victory Records, you know? So yeah, everyone seems to be coming around. I like to say we’ve got something for everyone. Since we started we’ve always made a point of blending hardcore and metal and a little bit of punk rock. A lot of in your face attitude about it when we perform it. We like to play for a cross-section. It’s nice to see metalheads out there for sure.
After you finish your Australia tour, what does the rest of 2011 hold for Ringworm?
Well we finish the Australian thing and come home for about a month. Then we head out on our second leg of our United States tour which is more of the southern states which we weren’t able to hit on the last one. We do that for about a month, come home for a couple months over the winter break and then hopefully we’ll have Europe in our sights for February. Nothing confirmed yet but that’s kinda what we’re maybe leaning for. Then maybe something else again in the springtime and then it’s back to writing and hopefully get a new record out sooner than four years.
See you real soon! Thanks for your time dude.