Interview: Ringworm Discusses Their World of Art

Interview with guitarist Matt Sorg, and Human Furnace  |  by hutch

A few months ago, I interviewed Ringworm for their Bleed EP. That was the first Ringworm release of new material (go buy some live and re-releases on A389 Recordings!) not on Victory in over a decade. I got a little too excited and delved into questions of their history and outlook. Hating being redundant, with Hammer of the Witch about to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world, I wanted to get into the minds of the members as far as the new material and what it triggers. There is obviously a band of thinking minds behind these songs. Angry, violent minds, but intelligent. I thought Ringworm could discuss their world of art and what has led them to this batch of new feral insidious material. Catch them on tour as they pillage cities on the way to SXSW. Relapse Records is the band’s new home and I cannot imagine a better pairing.

BOOKS

Can you discuss some unique books on your shelves?

HF: I have a lot books around my home: art books, how-to books, autobiographies, a bunch of books on religion, and the like. One of my favorite books is an ornate German bible from 1862, complete with cooper buckles and hand- printed pictures. It has hand- written liner notes. Someday I’d like to find out what they say. But the real prize in my library is a complete four- volume set of Edgar Allen Poe’s complete works. The set is number 40. It was printed in 1908.

What was the first book that was outside the norm of what your peers were reading?

HF: Probably the Necronomicon. I didn’t think it was strange to be reading about Satan in 7th grade. To me it was just another fantasy book, but I guess regular kids thought it was weird or “scary.” I dunno.

MS: I have a lot of books on the occult as well. Crowley, LaVey. The Magus. Necronomicon, etc… but more than anything I have books about KISS and my other favorite rock bands (Thin Lizzy, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Zeppelin, etc…) and a lot of books about serial killers. When I was younger I read a lot of horror by Stephen King, Clive Barker, Lovecraft, and Poe but now it’s mostly books on music and real life murder. I love watching Cold Case Files, HBO’s Autopsy and all the other real life murder TV shows.

Can you discuss its impact and what it led to?

HF: That book in particular didn’t have a huge impact on me really, but I guess it may have opened my mind up to more free or outside the box thinking and perhaps, tapping into dark imagery.

How did you hear about it?

HF: I can’t really remember. Probably from the first Evil Dead movie or some satanic rock band.

ART

The artwork for Hammer of the Witch appears quite unique. How does it relate to the songs, lyrics, and vibe of the album?

HF: The art for the record was actually done well over a year ago. I curated a gallery show entitled Life and Death in Black and White. It hosted some of the best illustrators from the United States and Europe. This was my piece for the show. It’s entitled “The White Witch.” After completing the piece I knew right away that I wanted to use it for our next record cover. I had already been playing around with different ideas for the record, so in a way the art dictated the title of the record and, in particular, the title track. I’ve always been interested in witchcraft, witches, etc. I’m also intrigued by the idea of the “witch hunt,” both figuratively and literally.

Can you explain the sections (Runes? Astrological? Satanic?) and how you went about the steps of creating it?

HF: The symbols used in the art are ritualistic witchcraft symbols of various meanings. You’ll have to do some investigating to find out. The illustration itself took close to 200 hours and it was done primarily with micron pens.

Is it important that is a female figure? What does she represent?

HF: The idea of the female witch is classic and timeless, really. It represents nature, and the positive and negative in life for me, so yeah, it is important for it to be a female figure.

TATTOOS

How long have you been tattooing?

HF: 23-24 years.

What tattoos get you excited to sit down and rip?

HF: I really like doing tattoos that have a dark vibe to them. Horror portraits, and highly detailed type stuff, but I pretty much do a little bit everything. Coming up, I had to learn to do a little bit of everything just to be able to make a living. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing when tattoo artists are well rounded. Plus it also keeps things fresh.

Are your clients Ringworm fans or just degenerates from Cleveland? And depending on that, do they have a strict vision, or let you expand and massage their ideas?

HF: Well I’ve been tattooing just about as long as I have been doing the band. So at this point, I have a really great and loyal clientele removed from what I do in a band. But I’ve tattooed a lot people that know me from Ringworm, I guess.

Do you find that owning two shops detracts from the love of the act?

HF: It makes things difficult at times. It makes it tough to leave work at work, if you know what I mean. I’ve owned the shops for going on 17 years. So, although it’s difficult sometimes, you get used to it.

THE ALBUM

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}

One of my favorite tracks is “Psychic Vampire.” Can you talk about the music – that loose bass line and the almost grind- like drums in the middle, with sparse riffing into a wild solo….

MATT: I based the main riff off of Killing Joke’s “The Wait”” and I just went from there. That blast part in the middle was something I wrote 20 years ago and recently discovered on an old rehearsal tape and it fit in the song so I used it. That song is one of my favorites on this record.

The lyrics of “Do As They Say, Do As They Do!” is delivered with fierce condemnation. Inspiration?

HF: By definition a Psychic Vampire is a person or creature that feeds off the life force of another living creature. This definition can be expanded in many different directions. I can guarantee that everyone has been in contact with one more than a few times in their lives. I believe that they exist.

Are these songs the same Ringworm formula or new approach?

MATT: I tried to mix all of the eras of the band into this record. There is a good deal of thrash still in there if you listen but there’s also a lot of punk and hardcore too. “I Recommend Amputation” is probably the thrashiest song in the whole Ringworm catalogue. It’s very Slayer inspired. I wanted it all to be represented somewhere. John also contributed to the writing this time which adds a new element.

When and for whom do you “recommend amputation”?

HF: This is basically about detaching yourself from manipulative organized religions.

What does “The Vicious Circle of Life” entail?

HF: As in all of our songs, I write lyrics based around or from personal experience. Life is not always good. Sometimes I think it’s very important to realize this fact and, at times, somewhat “celebrate” the fact. I often find comfort in depression or melancholy, I guess. Sometimes when I have been at my lowest, I’ve never felt more alive or creative. The human condition is a strange thing. Oh shit,.. Maybe I’m goth (laughs).

Die Like A Pig” is another favorite. How are we all dying like pigs? Is it inevitable or avoidable?

HF: I believe that was the last song we had written for the record. I personally wasn’t really into it. It has a tricky timing pattern to it, so I had a little bit of trouble with it at first. But after we tracked it, I changed my tune. This is yet another in a long line of songs about the general overview of the human race and the “dumbing down” of our species. Not to say that there isn’t good people and beautiful things in this world, mind you. I know they are out there, but I prefer to let the new Disney star sing about those things. I’m far more sensitive to the latter. Watch five minutes of television or read a newspaper. It is lies. It’s greed. It’s materialism. We are all considered pigs waiting to be slaughtered, by those who really run the show. And, as much as, most of us don’t want to be a pig waiting for their turn under the knife, or another part of the great machine, I realized by the end of the song that, there comes a point when you feel that there is nothing you can do about it. It’s about waiting for your turn, but you realize that you are waiting for your turn, so to speak. A lot of my lyrics tend to do this. Lyrically, they tend to point out the evils of the world or certain people and at some juncture the point of view changes after I realize that I may be no better than who or what writing about. That’s the struggle, trying to be the “better” person and at the same time trying to survive in a shitty world.

Lastly – when you were staring Ringworm, I doubt longevity was a consideration. What do you do to keep the voice and stamina so voracious 20 years later?

HF: (Laughs) That sometimes is a mystery to me. I haven’t always treated my body very kindly, to say the least. I definitely smoke too much and most times drink too much. I’m a workaholic, an insomniac, and I’m riddled with stress most of the time. So I would actually have to attribute the longevity to sheer will power and anger. Although, to be fair to myself, the older I get, I’ve have come to know certain limitations with my voice and body over all. I do treat myself a little better these days. I have a better diet, see a trainer and shit like that. Still smoke and never sleep, but you can sleep when you’re dead right?

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