Interview with Deny The Cross vocalist Carlos Ramirez | By Hutch
The frantic minds of drummer Dave Witte, guitarist Dan Lactose, bassist Ramon Salcido—aka Frank Ripple—and Carlos Ramirez despise stagnant moments. This fever renders another brutal, low-end frenzy for hardcore and powerviolence fans: Deny The Cross. The band’s members, collectively, have been in Municipal Waste, Spazz, Discordance Axis, Hope Collapse, Black Army Jacket, Agents Of Satan, and more.
“A few years ago, Dave and I were hanging at a Municipal Waste show here in Los Angeles,” Ramirez explains. “We were talking about grind and powerviolence bands that we had played with back when we were in Black Army Jacket [together].” Witte is one of metal’s most revered drummers, whose resume includes Discordance Axis, Burnt By The Sun, Birds Of Prey, Exit-13, Municipal Waste, and the new band, Brain Tentacles. Add in Lactose and Salcido—who Ramirez and Witte have known since the ‘90s—and Deny The Cross were birthed. “It took a few years of talking about it, but we finally got the songs written and recorded by 2015,” Ramirez adds. They finally appear together on Alpha Ghoul, which Tankcrimes released at the end of August.
Due to being spread between Richmond, Virginia, and various cities in California, recording and playing are infrequent for Deny The Cross. Ramirez admits, “We’ve only played the Brainsqueeze Festival, which Scotty [Heath] from Tankcrimes did back in 2014. I’m hoping we could do some more shows within the year.” Ramirez laments another aspect of the geographic limits, adding, “I wish we could have banged the record out together in one studio, but we had to figure another plan of attack. Dave tracked his drums at a studio in New Jersey, while Dan and Ramon did the guitars and bass in Oakland. I then flew up to Oakland to do my vocals a month or two later.”
The synchronicity stands out, regardless of where each member recorded his vicious contribution. The talent is steep, but Witte stands out in any band. Ramirez agrees, “Dave’s insane drum patterns lift everything to another level. There are so many powerviolence bands going right now, but few have drummers who can bring it like Dave does. That’s just me being honest with you.” The vocals are soaked in vitriol and coarsely screamed. The riffs are tight and urgent. One pleasant aspect of the crisp but thick production is the bass pushed in the mix, accentuating the short, crashing songs. “I’m thrilled that folks are bringing up the bass on the record,” Ramirez notes. “I think that’s another aspect of Deny The Cross that stands out. Ramon is doing really interesting runs that add color to the songs on the record. There are many moments where he’s playing a completely different thing than Dan. I love when that kind of stuff happens in heavy music.”
That music is based on California powerviolence. The interesting expansion is the plunk and occasional groove of New York hardcore, especially bands like Life’s Blood, Raw Deal, and Antidote. Blast beats mixed with thrashy spurts combine to create a savage blend. Ramirez boasts, “We had a clear sonic mission with Deny The Cross, which was to play ‘90s style powerviolence and meld it with NYHC and classic crossover. It was important that the material wasn’t just a chaotic blur of noise. We wanted the parts to be memorable. Anything that didn’t fit into the criteria was cut. Since Dan was in Spazz, he knew how to write riffs that got to the point, remained vicious, but also had a catchy quality to them.”
Lyrically, Ramirez is confident in the words he spews. “Since I’m 41 now, I think my lyrical game is much stronger than it was back when I was in my 20s,” he says. The anger is as venomous as anything he has screamed in the past. “A few songs, ‘The Prayer Position,’ ‘Religious Narcotic,’ and ‘Idol Cleanse,’ deal with my distaste for organized religion,” he explains. “There’s a song called ‘Everyone Is Wrong’ that is my take on all of the political talking heads on CNN and Fox [News] spewing their bullshit. ‘Vigilante Fantasy’ was inspired by my love of ‘80s exploitation films like ‘Vigilante’ and ‘Vice Squad.’” And just to prove they are dudes who are having fun and who love their scene, Ramirez adds, “Oh, I wrote a love letter to Pushead in a track called ‘Bacteria Tribute.’”
“Deny The Cross is a straight up kind of thing. The guys didn’t get cute with shit,” Ramirez says, endorsing the simplicity in his band. Alpha Ghoul is a masterful, malicious album that portrays the seasoned talents of four vets of the scene. The only negative attribute is the scheduling conflicts caused by the members’ other residencies, but Ramirez still wants to capitalize on the momentum of Alpha Ghoul. “I’m optimistic that we’ll be doing more stuff together in the future,” he says. “I mean, I’m getting hit up by promoters and other bands about doing shows, so the interest must be there.” It’s definitely there.