Interview with Johnny Virum of Virus Cycle

Though our introduction to Boston electro/industrial metallers Virus Cycle started with the remix album Return to Zombieland and moved backwards to their debut Alice In Zombieland it was immediate that the band was one which was bold in its exploration and pushing of the ever evolving boundaries within what we will loosely call industrial music and equally imaginative. Drawing post-apocalyptic soundscapes ruled by the soulless carcasses of the living dead Virus Cycle create inventive and intrusive experiences to ignite and consume the senses. Needing to find out more about the band and their sounds we had the pleasure to fire questions at band founder and multi instrumentalist/vocalist Johnny Virum.

Hello and welcome to The Ringmaster Review

How are things in the world of Johnny Virum?

In one word: BUSY!  We have so much going on in the world of Virus Cycle.  We’re working on the post-production of our new album, playing dates on our …The Dead Are Among Us! Tour 2012, and working on bringing Bluntface Records to the forefront of the industrial music scene.

Tell us about you the man.

Not much to tell really, just a guy who loves horror movies and writes music about it.  My music runs the gamut from industrial all the way to classical music. I also like to think of myself as a history buff – I like it so much I got a bachelors degree in it (which has absolutely nothing to do with the music business, lol).

What are the origins of the band?

Virus Cycle started in 2011 after the dissolution of my previous project back in 2009.

What was the inspiration or stimulus which brought Virus Cycle into reality?

I had been out of the music scene for around two years and wanted to start a project that was pure in its originality, but at the same time, something that would be able to stand toe-to-toe with the sound that has evolved into what is now the norm of the industrial scene today.  I created what could be considered a branch off that sound: Post-Apocalyptic Industrial Zombie Tech. It falls somewhere between industrial, aggrotech and metal.

You have been creating music long before Virus Cycle, has it always been in the same general genre as now?

Virus Cycle is much more experimental and more industrial than my past projects.  Before Virus Cycle, my projects had a lot of programming but were more towards the genre of goth-metal.  I feel I can take more chances in this new project and not be as worried about something not “fitting” into the genre norm.

What are the major influences which have had an influence on your music and invention?

There are many influences when it comes to Virus Cycle’s sound.  When it comes to guitar, it’s very similar to bands like Orgy, The Birthday Massacre and White Zombie.  I use a nasty fuzz pedal with a ring modulator in it from the 90’s.  I love the sound of the ring modulation.  When it comes to vocals, I have many influences but I try to make it my own as much as I can because today everyone sounds the same when it comes to industrial music.  On the new album Skinny Puppy, The Smashing Pumpkins and Cradle of Filth were influences.  When it comes to programming synths and drums, I go for my own sound all the way around. However a big influence for programming is John Ruszin from Carfax Abbey, Collinwood 13 and Sys2matik 0vrl0ad.  In every project he does he is consistent to his own sound.  I love that.

The band name comes from the movie 28 Days Later and you use many samples and film influences to shape and flavour your songs and overall themes. Does one come before the other when creating a song, i.e. do you bring the film imagery and sounds into already composed music?

Yes, that’s what we do. I write all the music first and when I’m done with that, then it’s time to relax for a week or two and watch horror movies while picking out sound clips and writing lyrics.

What is your way of working when writing music?

First I start with the programming.  It usually goes drums, synths, guitar, vocals, then sound clips.  After that, I usually go back and forth changing and tweaking things until it works for me.

Last year saw the release of firstly Alice in Zombieland and in the latter part of 2011 Return to Zombieland. Tell us first about Alice in Zombieland and its overall premise.

The premise of the album revolves around Alice, who is lost in a post-apocalyptic land overrun with flesh-eaters.  The album is really a journey of human survival in a world of the undead.

How long was the album in the making?

The album was in the making for about a year, which was great because I could go back and nitpick as much as I wanted.

We felt the songs within it had some eighties to early nineties flavouring, would you agree with that?

Alice in Zombieland was sort of an experimental album.  For many years I have been a fan of old industrial bands like Skinny Puppy, KMFDM, White Zombie, Throbbing Gristle and old NIN so I felt compelled to record an album that sounded like it was done in 1990.  I wanted to get a realistic feel so I recorded it on a four-track Tascam tape recorder and didn’t over-master it.

Return to Zombieland was a collection of re-mixes from notable artists as well as two new Virus Cycle tracks. Let us first talk about that pair of songs Bring You Down (Forever) and City Of The Dead which with no disrespect to the other people and tracks involved were the highlight of the album. Are the songs representatives of what we will find on the new album you are currently working on?

Yes and no.  The recording of those two songs was a learning experience for me and Otto Kinzel.  This was the first time we worked together in a studio setting, so we got to know how the other worked as well as what worked for us both in the collaboration process.   We came up with many cool tricks in those sessions that will become Virus Cycle staples such as the guitar texture and layering process. The drum programming is going to be totally different on the new album. Instead of just using a simple 4-4 type drum machine sound, I am using both electronic and acoustic drum kits and more “technically complicated patterns” (as Otto describes them) that are going to be nice and layered.

How would you say the songs have evolved from those on your first album?

The songs are a lot more organized, the sound quality is much better, and I feel that it’s a much more cohesive product.

As many of your tracks they both create a thick and enveloping atmosphere, is that aspect carefully crafted or something which organically evolves as your bring your songs to life?

The songs for the most part evolve into a shape all their own.  I like to layer and incorporate many different sounds that contrast one another.  Before the song is ready, it’s pulled apart and changed so many times before the final product is complete.

The rest of the album as mentioned is cover versions of songs from your debut. What inspired the album in the first place?

I have met a lot of awesome musicians while doing this new project, and I really love their sounds.  I thought that if I could do a remix album, I could introduce some of these bands that I have grown to love to my fan base and show them how much more these artists could contribute to my work. In many cases, some of the remixes on Return to Zombieland I enjoyed just as much as the originals.

Did you go to people or they come to you about re-mixing your music?

It was a combination of both, actually.

Our favourites were a couple from Lykquydyzer, friends of the site Ghost In The Static, and Otto Kinzel, who as you mentioned has since become a full contributor to Virus Cycle. We know him from his great work with Chemical Distance, how did you two meet and what led to the full creative union?

Otto had played in many bands throughout the New England area for many years. I never actually met him, but I knew of him from being in the same scene and having mutual acquaintances. I was working on the remix album and he ended up doing a remix of White Zombie that blew me away.  So when I recorded the two new songs for Return to Zombieland, I asked him if he wanted to produce them.  He did and ended up adding some programming and played bass as well.  On the new album, he is producing and playing bass.  He has been working just as hard on this new album as I have. He is a pro and it works out so well because it’s such a relaxed atmosphere between the both of us since we both understand what needs to be done and we don’t get too hung up on timeframes so we can get the best product we can, which takes time.

The band has also joined Bluntface Records, what difference if any has that made to the new album you are working on?

I am so ecstatic to be a member of Bluntface Records. The label works very hard to promote their musicians and projects all over the world.  It’s truly an international label with some artists not even based in the US.  The main difference with working with a label versus being independent is that before, you only had yourself to rely on; now it’s more of a team effort which is a lot of help because it expands your reach. It’s also cool to be able to believe in the label that you are on. So the easy answer is musically it didn’t change the album but it is going to change how it is marketed.

Could you give as any idea about the new album and is it a continuation of your Post-Apocalyptic /Zombie theme?

It definitely is. There are a few songs that deal with topics such as human emotion and witchcraft, which is a little different from the past two albums.  However, the new album lyrically as a whole is what you would come to expect from a Virus Cycle album: a very catchy chorus and verses that tell a story.

Do you have a date in mind for its release?

The new album will probably be released this fall on Bluntface Records (shameless label plug). Right now, the album doesn’t have a title as of yet.

The past months have also seen the band sharing stages with The Ludovico Technique and Mindless Self Indulgence. Both must have been great opportunities to spread ‘the virus’, haha sorry couldn’t resist.

It was haha. I was so happy to share the stage with both bands. The Ludovico Technique is a very hard-working band.  One of their major attributes is that they have a very unique sound and don’t try to conform to every other aggrotech schtick out there. And what can I say about MSI – they are legends!  We were so ecstatic to get the news that we would be sharing the main stage with them.  They have one of the most devoted fan bases in music today. There was about 400- 600 people at that show!

How does the live aspect differ to the studio for you in creating your atmospheric soundscapes?

Whenever I start writing, I make at a major point to only create stuff that will transfer over well in a live environment.  I hate to say it, but sometimes the more simpler something is, the better it sounds live.

We both have a mutual love of zombies themes and zombie movies I feel, so before we go what is your feeling about the TV show The Walking Dead, is it dark enough for you?

I have only seen the first season of the show, but it’s really cool so far. It reminds me a lot of Romero’s movies.

Thank you for sparing time to talk with us, very much appreciated.

Would you like to leave with some final words and maybe your favourite movie or line from a movie, or even one of your songs?

I’m not going to tell you what movie it’s from since everyone should know. I have seen this move a million times since the age of 5, and I still get chills when Ken Foree says, “When there is no more room in hell the dead will walk the earth.”

Read the Return to Zombieland review https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/virus-cycle-return-to-zombieland/

The Ringmaster Review 26/06/2012

// <![CDATA[
(function () { document.write("");} () );
// ]]>

&amp;amp;amp;lt;div class=”myfreecopyrightBadge”&amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;lt;a title=”law copyright” href=”http://www.myfreecopyright.com/registered_mcn/C6J4Q-RAFQK-SU8CW&#8221; target=”_blank”&amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;lt;img class=”MyFreeCopyright” src=”http://www.myfreecopyright.com/badge/C6J4Q-RAFQK-SU8CW&#8221; alt=”law copyright”&amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;lt;/div&amp;amp;amp;gt;The best and easiest way to get your music on iTunes, Amazon and lots more. Click below for details.

The Self Titled: Defaced

With the greatly impressive song Mr Nobody a constant presence on the daily playlist here and recently featured on The Bone Orchard podcast from The Reputation Radio Show, the anticipation for the debut album from UK rock band The Self Titled was an eagerly growing itch which only the release could alleviate. Sometimes such eagerness ends in disappointment such the expectations placed upon something but with Defaced, the band not only matched but easily surpassed those hopes. The album is a bruising slab of rock power brought with quality craft and invention. It has no pretence towards or delusions of breaking down boundaries but if there has been a better and more exhilarating collection of pure rock n roll tracks it is hard to bring them to mind over the past year with only the Trucker Diablo album able to match what The Self Titled have unleashed.

From Kent the quintet of vocalist Mark Campbell, guitarists Darren Towner and Dan Wright, bassist Steve Hobbs, and Paul Brander on drums, has become one of the most prolific and sought after bands across the UK, their dynamic stage performances leading them to supporting the likes of Kobra and the Lotus, Forever never and Jezabel Deva and thrilling festivals alongside bands such as Status Quo, The Damned, and Gun. Defaced was due to be recorded in April of 2011 but such the demand for them on the live circuit the band had to be put it back due to lack of time to give it the attention it deserved. Now they have been able to find that space and have unveiled an album which is deeply rewarding and pleasing. One doubts the band would ever put out something rushed or substandard but the album is of such might it proved the decision to wait was correct. Last year also saw the band lined up to sign with Blaze Bayley Recordings, the label set up by the man himself and would have been one of his first signings but things as happens did not quite work out and the band decided not to follow that link up.

The Self Titled has a sound which ignites all the best elements of rock and metal to combine them into a feisty force of infectious and compulsive sounds. There is at times a trash tendency which reminds of latter day Metallica but the Americans for all their good songs have never excited as much on their recent albums as the Brits easily do on Defaced. The album is not only impressive in its sound and songwriting but in the extremely high consistency from the opening triumph Soul Control through to the closing piece of might The Silence. The opener emerges on a sonic scraping of the ear to immediately explode in to a riotous surge of busy and hungry riffs and eager rhythms. The guitars flash and thrust with dramatic energy and the bass of Hobbs is a prowling brew of delicious contempt, whilst the vocals of Campbell with admittedly a more than slight Hetfield tone rasp and draw the lyrics perfectly. The song is an immense and undeniable start.

From here on in its simply impressive track after track, the likes of the following Twisted with its incisive rhythms from Brander alongside the mesmeric guitar play and the insatiable Stomp leaving one breathless and eager for more without reservation. The second of these two is a blistering storm of imaginative melodic rock and greedy riffs which is irresistible. If infectiousness could be bottled this track would be its advertising soundtrack, a nonstop exercise in perfect rock n roll.

Evert track is a highlight on Defaced but there is always a soft spot for My Nobody. The song within seconds lights up the ear with guitar and bass beckoning as irresistible as the vocals are brooding. It is another rampaging riot upon the senses with everything about it instinctively siren like, though the most muscular one you are likely to meet. With jabbing beats, bustling riffs, and brewing atmosphere building up to incendiary and wonderfully concussive crescendos it is one of the best songs unveiled this year.

The rest of the album though does not ever pale against the song with those previously mentioned and songs like the inventive Warped and the final song The Silence a quality match. The first is a clever blend of teasing grooves and again irrepressibly infectious riffs with intelligent provocative atmospheres and ingenuity, especially in the unexpected aside mid song. The last track is brings an outstanding close to the album to rival the outstanding start. The song bustles and presses the ear with an inciting air and power to leave one drained yet desperate to dive back in to the album right away.

    Defaced is truly outstanding and though there was a belief it would be good it swept those aside with something far more impressive in stature and quality. UK rock and metal has never been healthier with The Self Titled leading the way.

http://www.theselftitled.com

Tune into The Bone Orchard as it brings choice cuts from Defaced over the weeks ahead

RingMaster 26/06/2012

copyright RingMaster

The best and easiest way to get your music on iTunes, Amazon and lots more. Click below for details.

The Elijah: I Loved I Hated I Destroyed I Created

Whether the expansive and impressive sounds of UK band The Elijah find a welcome in the heart or not one cannot help but be stunned by the expansive and creative might the quintet possess.  It is safe to say they will not be a band for everyone but they certainly are not one you can ignore or forget. I Loved I Hated I Destroyed I Created is their debut album which at times is as equally challenging as it is deeply enveloping and emotively inciteful. It leaves one rich in thought and grasping for support before its magnetic beauty and intrusive and destructive veins. Arguably not an album to see off or dispel any black shadows within, in fact one wonders if it should come with a health warning for such dark times, it clasps the senses with epic weaves of compulsive ambience and striking textures. There is a haunting breath permeating every note to ignite emotions and thoughts incessantly whilst the music wraps itself around the ear with sheer quality and imagination veined with a kind of self harming intensity.

The Elijah according to the promo sheet with the album was “determined to make a record that sounds like no other”. The North Shropshire band certainly achieved that and though you could cite bands which have taken a similar premise as The Elijah it is hard to bring to mind many as dramatically successful and as startlingly powerful. The past year has seen the band leaving audiences breathless as they shared stages with the likes of Hope Dies Last, Matyr Defiled, Liferuiner, and The Bled and the band is on the back of the album, destined to again ahead as the five piece head out on tour with As Cities Burn in July and Hawthorne Heights in September and October.

Removing themselves to an abandoned mansion in the Shropshire countryside that feeling of isolation is felt throughout the ten tracks on I Loved I Hated I Destroyed I Created. There is also inspired rightly or wrongly, thoughts and emotions borne from despair and desperation as the tracks play like a soundtrack to enflamed shadowed passions to wonderfully encroach either tenderly or with a fuller intensity on the heart.  The songs from the opening In Misery through to the wrenching closer I Created are a sonically soaked emotional wave upon wave of sound, all carefully and diversely  shaped and flavoured but with an overall seamless presence. Like the way feelings and thoughts evolve through varied states within a deflated or elated heart the songs shift and expand within one album long emotive consumption.

The likes of I Loved, In Fear, and In Death combine inner peace and ignited harsher shadows wonderfully and though most songs stem initially from the quiet into dangerous and incendiary states they are brought with distinctly varied and gloriously imagined invention. The smooth vocals of Mike McGough are stunning throughout, the singer/guitarist marking himself as one very accomplished and expressive vocalist. Combining with him and bringing the corruptive element of the sound is Dan Tomley, his disruptively harsh delivery fuelling the dark and near violent shades of the album. From personal preference his delivery at times threatens to permanently distract from and spoil the beauty in the songs to leave one longing for a different or better control on his part, though saying that he more than adds to the anguish and distressed emotions during songs perfectly.

The highlights of the release come in the shape of the simply irresistible and majestic instrumental In Regret where the pure class and beauty of the band in play and composition is at its height and the unnerving emotional dissection which is I Hated. Both have a resonance and atmosphere which not only erupts the senses and mind into sparse thoughts but linger to continue inciting ideas and feelings.

We cannot say I Loved I Hated I Destroyed I Created is one of our favourite releases so far this year but it is definitely one of the most skilful and imaginative let alone provocative to treat the ear. The Elijah from this impressive opening is a band destined for global appreciation and acclaim. This album might not be the right key but it will happen.

RingMaster 26/06/2012

// <![CDATA[
(function () { document.write("");} () );
// ]]>

<div class=”myfreecopyrightBadge”><a title=”trade marks” href=”http://www.myfreecopyright.com/registered_mcn/CA56K-PL7N8-3MKFV&#8221; target=”_blank”><img class=”MyFreeCopyright” src=”http://www.myfreecopyright.com/badge/CA56K-PL7N8-3MKFV&#8221; alt=”trade marks”></a></div>The best and easiest way to get your music on iTunes, Amazon and lots more. Click below for details.

Katana: Storms Of War

If eighties metal from the likes of Iron Maiden, Saxon, Judas Priest etc spark those burning fires within then the new album from Swedish rockers Katana is a definite one for you. For the rest like us where the sight of patched covered denim and spiralling sonic vocals leave nothing but the urge to flee Storms Of War is not destined to change that opinion but it is actually deserving of at least a onetime listen. The album does not bring anything new to the genre it is inspired and steeped in, apart from a fresh eagerness but it certainly offers well crafted and easily accessible riff laden songs and melodic enterprise. Apart from arguably originality it is hard to truly criticise the release once personal taste is removed from the equation and that in itself makes Storms Of War note worthy.

Produced by King Diamond guitarist Andy La Rocque, the album is the follow up to debut Heads Will Roll which was released April last year. Between releases the band has been busy and unrelenting in its live performances sharing stages and tours with the likes of Where Angels Suffer and metal legends Lizzy Borden. From Gothenburg, the band is seemingly not one who can sit and rest on their last effort as the dates and reasonably short time between albums gives evidence of. Storms Of War also shows a band which takes care and consideration in their music, the songs on the release finely crafted and presented to the highest level with a production to match.

The new album continues where its predecessor left off meaning the songs are vibrant and eagerly pleasing without being far removed or startlingly evolved from the first album. As Katana show this is not an issue when the songs hit the spot accurately and agreeably. Opening with the rampant Reaper where riffs and expressive vocals rifle the ear as melodic guitar play scorches the senses, the album is immediately an infectious and agreeable companion. The song is undeniably excitable and honesty has us admit even feet were tapping at one point.

The following and rather tasty Wrath Of The Emerald Witch slips up a gear to go on another rampage of undemanding riffs and rhythms in league with sparking guitar creativity. The song is obvious and wears its influences proudly on its sleeve but damn is it irresistible and one of the best song on the release.

The likes of the epic sounding City On The Edge Of Forever, the marching anthemic No Surrender, and The Gambit another insatiably energised track, all easily grab attention. They may not leave any lingering traces after their passing but whilst in their company a heavy metal feast is ensured at the very least.

The best tracks on the album other than the opening pair come in the shape of In The Land Of The Snow one of the more imaginative and inventive songs on the album, and the stirring closer The Wisdom Of Edmonds Field. It is another song with an epic feel but is less obvious and more expansive than anywhere else on the album, the guitars weaving sharp atmospheres and imagery from their play alone and their results enhanced by the lyrics and vocals.

Storms Of War will delight all heavy metal fans especially those with that old school heart, it is relatively simple but relentlessly true to the genre with fresh if not particularly new ideas. For those adverse to the sound the suggestion is still to give Katana and their album one visit if only in a few songs initially as despite our obvious different tastes to the band we actually quite enjoyed it.

Ringmaster 26/06/2012

// <![CDATA[
(function () { document.write("");} () );
// ]]>

<div class=”myfreecopyrightBadge”><a title=”trade marks” href=”http://www.myfreecopyright.com/registered_mcn/CY6QV-JJBKB-FPJR3&#8243; target=”_blank”><img class=”MyFreeCopyright” src=”http://www.myfreecopyright.com/badge/CY6QV-JJBKB-FPJR3&#8243; alt=”trade marks”></a></div>

The best and easiest way to get your music on iTunes, Amazon and lots more. Click below for details.