Interview with vocalist James “Human Furnace” Bulloch | By Hutch | Photo by Joe Calixto
Cleveland metallic stalwarts Ringworm have been shredding eardrums and expectations for eons—in underground band terms. They have been creating their version of thrash-injected hardcore since 1991, and arguably, if you excuse some nostalgic bends, their material keeps improving. In that time, they released seven studio albums beginning with Birth Is Pain in 2001, making Death Becomes My Voice, released May 3, their eighth overall and third for Relapse Records. With all the touring, side projects—check out guitarist Matt Sorg’s band with bassist Ed Stephens, Shed The Skin, on Hells Headbangers—and day jobs, one has to be impressed.
Fueled by a festering world mired in self-destruction, vocalist James “Human Furnace” Bulloch’s misanthropic incantations burn brightly on Death Becomes My Voice. While Ringworm always explore furious thrash licks and riffs, this time, Sorg and Mark Witherspoon’s chaotic guitars and Ryan Steigerwald’s maddening drums are increased to the level of carnal savagery. Death Becomes My Voice contends to be Ringworm’s most brutal work—and that’s not hyperbole. Their focus and confidence are obvious.
Bulloch attributes this to the long-sustained chemistry of their current lineup. Galvanized by many live shows each year, this roster has been writing relentlessly. “At this point, it’s a relatively smooth process for us,” he says. “We’ve always been really efficient in the studio. [It] saves money, and it is less stress when you are prepared. Occasionally, you’ll run into an issue or two, but nothing crazy.”
“I think every record has its own personality, but we always try to stay true to what it is that we do best: keeping it fast, heavy, raw, and nasty,” Bulloch continues. “We stay honest and continue to make music that we enjoy and not try to cater to the ever-changing market. Personally, I love the fact that fans can know what to expect.”
Bulloch’s lyrics are vivid depictions of murder, revenge, horror, and inhumanity. Through this creative outlet, as well as his tattooing, he creates visceral offerings of the ugliest impulses of human—and supernatural—beings.
To help bolster Ringworm’s invigorated sound, Taylor Young was recruited to produce. Then, mastering duties were handed to the King Midas of metal, Brad Boatright at Audiosiege. “It was a really cool experience working with Taylor,” Bulloch offers. “We wanted to shake things up and go with a fresh take with this new record. Taylor, early on, expressed a lot of interest in doing the new record. We really liked what he’s done with other bands. Plus, he’s a fan from way back, and for us, we thought that was kind of important, as sometimes, over [the] years, bands often drift away from some of the signature things that they do. Sometimes, that’s on purpose, but most times, you don’t even know notice the finer nuances of your sound that only a fan of your music notices. Taylor brought out a lot of power and aggression with the new material, coming from that point of view. Plus, he just made the whole thing heavy as fuck—raw and brutal.”
“Also, this time around, we tracked live drums and guitars,” he continues. “We tracked at Mercenary Studios here in town with our buddy Noah Buchanan. He did an awesome job capturing everything and preserving the intensity. For the vocals, I returned to work with Ben Schigel at Spider Studios. Me and Ben work really well together. He knows how my voice works, and he knows how to get things and sounds out of me that sometimes I didn’t think I could. Then, yeah, finally, Brad Boatright at Audiosiege was the icing on the cake. He always does a fantastic job. So, I guess the whole record was a five-way effort between [the band], Noah, Taylor, Ben, and Brad. We couldn’t be happier with the result.”
The song “Carnivores” stands out on Death Becomes My Voice. A pummeling bassline from Stephens is inundated with blast beats. Relegated to a new speed, the throat-clenching experience is elevated by damning lyrics from Human Furnace. “Yeah, that song really rips. It’s pretty ugly,” he says. “Lyrically, that one addresses the way humans treat each other and the inevitable outcome of total destruction. We’re animals at our core. To think anything different is being obtuse and dishonest.”
Adding to the litany of chaos and destruction screaming from the turntable’s needle is another scorcher, “The God of New Flesh.” Bulloch adds, “That one speaks to the nature of worshipping the gods of our greed, vanity, and war, but ultimately, it will end in futility.”
The pessimism embedded in these new tracks reflects a world of smoldering embers, proven by repulsive acts driven by repugnant religious zealotry and racism, such as the recent mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and church and hotel bombings in Sri Lanka. While it makes Death Becomes My Voice seem prophetic, Bulloch notes, “I think all those [events] are incredibly horrible. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see a time when these types of things will ever stop. I’ve always found the best thing that I can do, on a personal level, is just be the best person you can be and treat others with dignity. The world can be such an ugly place. Things rarely make sense. I often pray for the meteor to hit us. It would be fair.”
Until the universe judges us and reacts with colossal punitive measures, Human Furnace will continue writing, drawing, tattooing, and screaming, and he says Ringworm will hit venues in the U.S. in 2019, as well as “getting back overseas.”