All Answers by: Rick Scythe (Guitars /Backing Vocals: Usurper), (Guitars / Vocals: Scythe)
TMF: Please introduce yourself and your band:
RS: I’m Rick Scythe, guitarist/founding member of Usurper (1992-2007), and currently guitarist and vocalist of my band, Scythe.
TMF: How did you form Usurper?
RS: Usurper was formed in 1992 as simply an outlet to recreate some of the classic 80’s underground metal that pretty much disappeared in the early/mid 90’s. It was started by myself and original Usurper vocalist, General Diabolical Slaughter in 1992 just writing songs and then when Joe Warlord joined on drums Usurper became an actual band in 1993.
TMF: How did the rest of the band come together?
RS: When Usurper released our first demo in 1994 (Visions from the Gods) we originally recorded as a 3 piece with our original line-up: Rick Scythe (guitar / bass), General Diabolical Slaughter (Vokillz)and (Joe “Apocalyptic” Warlord (drums). Then shortly after we recorded the demo, we got this dude Ryan Leavitt to play bass, but Jon Necromancer wanted to be in the band more and he was a better bass player, so Jon joined at the end of 1994.
We released our first album on CD through Head Not Found (Norway) and on LP through R.I.P. Records (USA) in 1995; then signed to Necropolis Records in 1996 and recorded our legendary “Threshold of the Usurper” MCD… then Joe had to leave the band for personal reasons. At that time a dude named Andy Von Chaos joined the band for 2 years and toured the USA with us when we opened for Dark Funeral as well asrehearsed for the Skeletal Season album.
Then in 1998 Andy left the band and ex-Funeral Nation drummer Dave “Hellstorm” Chiarella joined the band to record our 2nd full length album “Skeletal Season”; for that one we toured the USA and Europe for the first time opening for Enthroned and Hecate Enthroned.
1999 we recorded our 3rd album called “Necronemesis”. We had a bigger budget so we recorded at Nomad Studios in Texas (most known for Absu, King Diamond and Mercyful Fate). As chance would have it, King Diamond was recording his album, “House of God” and needed some extra days. He said if he could cut into our time a bit that he would offer to do guest vocals on our album… so we took him up on the offer. Also, Sir Proscriptor McGovern of Absu recorded vocals on “Full Metal Maelstrom. For that album we toured in the USA, Canada and Europe opening for Cradle of Filth.
2001: Usurper signed to Earache, we added a second guitarist for live purposes and recorded our biggest selling album, “Twilight Dominion”. We got to do various tours for this album, including opening up for Manowar!. In 2003 Dave “Hellstorm” Chiarella left the band and we had a session guy for live shows named Cleveland Stever. We did a tour with Enslaved and then kicked out drummer Stever from the band.
2003: Joe Warlord rejoined Usurper, and shortly after original vocalist Diabolical Slaughter quit… this is when Dan Tyrantor joined Usurper on lead vocals. We recorded our legendary album “Cryptobeast” and toured headlining shows/fests in the USA, Mexico, Canada and for the first time in Norway headlining the mainstage, day one of “Inferno Fest 2006”.
TMF: How did you come up with the name Usurper?
RS: We were huge fans of Celtic Frost when we formed the band and they had a song called “The Usurper” I thought it would be a cool name for a band so we used it… also Conan the Usurper book series had an influence too.
TMF: Describe Usurper’s musical style?
RS: we were influenced by early/mid 80’s thrash metal, and black metal combined with some of the heavier tuning and approach of early 90’s death metal with the attitude and presentation of classic heavy metal.
TMF: What got you into black metal music?
RS: Just a natural progression. As a kid getting into metal I was always looking for bands that pushed the boundaries. Bands that got faster, heavier and more over the top than the regular metal that came before them. I liked all the mid-late 80’s underground metal and even some of the fast hardcore stuff was pushing boundaries too.
TMF: What influenced the mix of thrash elements?
RS: In the mid/late 80’s most underground metal was generally called “thrash metal” or “speed metal”. Not many bands used the term “black metal” because that was Venom’s thing… it was the magazines and stuff like that that would start applying the term “black Metal” to other bands like Hellhammer and Bathory. It wasn’t until the 90’s where “black metal” became a ubiquitous term for a certain style of satanic metal. So for me thrash, black, speed, death all comes from the same roots.
TMF: What inspires the lyrics?
RS: in the early Usurper days General Diabolical Slaughter wrote most of the lyrics and they were tales of pagan warfare, battles between good and evil, ancient civilizations, uprising and stuff like that. Then when I took over the lyrics by 1998 from Skeletal Season onward I was more influenced by the types of books I read which were more about: cryptozoology, the paranormal, UFO’s, monster folklore, time travel and werewolf tales; basically stuff that haven’t been overdone to death in metal at the time. We also brought back “the metal anthem” which no bands in underground/extreme metal were doing at the time. Much more original than we ever got credit for.
TMF: What bands inspired Usurper?
RS: Celtic Frost, Bathory, Venom, old Slayer, Mercyful Fate, Possessed, Sodom, Manowar, Kind Diamond to name a few.
TMF: What was the theme behind Cryptobeast?
RS: The title track was about this weird creature that was documented to have come down during a storm and haunted this priest in the 20th century. When I read the story, it reminded me of this Assyrian demon Pazuzu… perhaps it was the same entity? So I kind of tied both stories together and made the song Cryptobeast. It was chosen as the name of the album because of how it tied in this ancient Assyrian/Sumerian deity with a modern day paranormal encounter; it was the blend of old and new. We had a song called “The Bones of My Enemies” about the Assyrians and other songs about more modern topics; plus our style was a blend of old and new so it was fitting for the title track.
TMF: What happened with the band after the release of Cryptobeast?
RS: The band sort of self-destructed. It was a shame, but at the time it needed to be done.
TMF: How come its been silent since then?
RS: Because Usurper broke up in 2007! We had a good 14 year run; we issued 7 releases and toured 17 countries. We got to work with legends in the industry like King Diamond and producers like Kol Marshall and Grammy Award winning producer, Neil Kernon. We could have kept going on. I had a 7 song demo written and rehearsed with the band, but too many problems began to arise at once. Our 2nd singer Dan Tyrantor had to leave the band, there were also problems with the label and people illegally downloading our material which lead to more arguing between the remaining members, plus various members were dealing with issues in our private lives… all of these factors created the perfect storm for Usurper to end.
TMF: Can we expect new Usurper music?
RS: Well 2014 is a special year because it is exactly 20 years since the first Usurper demo was released as well as 20 years since the classic line-up of Usurper began to rehearse songs for our first album “Diabolosis”… does that mean this will be the year you hear more from Usurper? I’m not sure this will happen again… however I will be re-issuing our debut album this year, “Diabolosis” on limited edition CD completely transferred from the original master tape reels (yes, our old albums were all recorded 100% on reel to reel, no digital computer recording), along with a bonus disc of live songs recorded in 2000 from Europe; all this will be released later this year.
In addition to that, this summer I will be releasing the last demo tracks from my 2007 Usurper demo. This 2007 recording was not a studio recorded demo; it was recorded on an analog Tascam 4 track recorder in my house, which was used to just model the songs for the other guys to learn (I’ve done this since 1996). It was never meant to be released because it is just me who tracked everything, but enough time has passed and enough people expressed interest in hearing these songs, so I am seriously considering releasing it.I re-listened to these songs recently and it sounds pretty good… this 2007 demo will most likely be digital only though.
TMF: Talk to us about your new project?
RS: My current band is simply called, “Scythe”. It kind of took off where Usurper left off. We have 2 albums, “Beware The Scythe” (2012), and “Subterranean Steel” (2013). I used some unreleased Usurper songs, which were re-arranged a bit as well as new material. It is basically the same style songs I would have written for Usurper if Usurper never broke up, but of course with a few twists and turns. In some ways it is bit more stripped down than Usurper with a few less “modern” touches. For example, there are zero blast beasts in Scythe… but other than that, it is what people would expect to hear from Rick Scythe.
TMF: What inspired Scythe’s creation and music?
RS: After Usurper broke up in 2007, I was burnt out with everything. The other members began doing different things. It was good taking a break from the daily struggles of 14 years in underground metal. I focused on a short lived horror/metal/art rock band called Nightshade. It was great writing some slightly different music with different people, with completely different goals and visual presentations. As time went on though, things just began sounding more and more like Usurper.
1n 2009, I had a very rough year personally. My father died, then a few other family members died, then right after that I got divorced. I felt like my heart wasn’t into things anymore. I felt like I had nothing left. The guy I was doing this new project with started getting very lame and things quickly became uninteresting to me so it broke up. I felt like I was literally left with nothing, I was debating just retiring from music all together.
It was around this time I started talking to drummer Joe Warlord and he seemed like he wanted to get Usurper going again. I had these 7 songs from where we left off, plus many years and albums of old songs I missed playing… unfortunately the timing wasn’t right with any other members, so instead of just reforming Usurper with all new people, (which I could have easily done), I decided to start a solo band called Scythe.
In 2010 I formed the first version of Scythe as a 3 piece with 2nd guitarist Joe Martinez and drummer Ben Mulvey. The goal was to just pick up where I left off with Usurper. I rearranged and recorded some of these Usurper 2007 demo songs and wrote new songs…. as the years rolled on I got some new members (including 3 different drummers), but the idea now is to treat Scythe as an actual band, rather than simply a “solo” project. I feel I am free to not only honor my past in Scythe, but also forge a new path with different members. So far there have been 2 Scythe albums released, “Beware The Scythe” and “Subterranean Steel”. I also have plans for a vinyl only ep in 2015.
TMF: What inspires you personally?
RS: As far as music I don’t listen to anything modern, I don’t want to be indirectly influenced by a new fad or something. I have a 25+ year history of writing my own songs so I am influenced by myself. It’s like an Oroboros; a snake eating its’ own tail or something .
As far as personal influences: I like to read obscure books, work on art, I also have an invention I have been toying with that I am going to try to build, I started writing a novel last year, unfortunately there are not enough hours in the day for all this so it takes a back seat to my music. I am very patient so I have no time limit or deadlines I am putting on myself. Other than that I am also launching a custom guitar line later this year, which I am very excited about.
TMF: What are your thoughts on today’s metal music and scene?
RS: I just stick to what I know. With Scythe my priority is to release quality recordings on quality formats for die-hards only! If people illegally download it, that is their problem. But I have no desire to sign with some big label. I own 100% of everything for Scythe. I own all the publishing rights, I own the logo, the artwork, etc. So when I issue a Scythe album, I simply license it to a label for a specific pressing, yet I maintain 100% ownership. Scythe will always issue LP’s, CD’s, Cassettes and other unique formats.
TMF: Do you believe black metal needs to be satanic?
RS: It’s kind of part of the definition I suppose. To me, real black metal should be influenced by Venom; that is the band who invented the term and the presentation of black metal. Nowadays, some of this music people label as black metal, doesn’t seem to have any Venom influences at all. It sounds too fancy and pretentious. I don’t consider Scythe or Usurper to be “black metal” however, I think we have more in common with bands like Venom, Celtic Frost, Hellhammer than many of these, hot topic vampire black metal bands out there.
TMF: What’s your favorite song by Usurper?
RS: It’s hard to pick just one song so I will name my favorite song off each release:
– 1994 Visions from the Gods demo: “Dusk”
– 1995 Diabolosis: “Full Moon Harvest”
– 1996 Threshold of the Usurper MCD: “The Dead of Winter”
– 1998 Skeletal Season: “Dismal Wings of Terror”
– 2000 Necronemesis: “Necronemesis”
– 2003 Twilight Dominion: “Vatican Time Machine”
– 2005 Cfryptobeast: “Kill For Metal”
TMF: Any last words?
RS: Check out the pages below and thanks for the support!