Ripping Corpse, Dim Mak, Hate Eternal. Thereís one name which is nowadays firmly connected with those three stand-out bands. Shaune Kelley. Incredible guitarist and composer. He has been here since the very beginning and he has been through it all. Still rather unknown to the Ďmajorí Death Metal crowd but anyone who knows his efforts simply appreciate those works immensely since itís nothing but pure mastery. If you speak of creative originality in extreme metal you never should forgot to mention Shaune Kelley. This interview is something that was dwelling in our minds for ages and it was time to make it real and release it out of our heads. Shaune made it happen and answered completely & incredibly promptly proving he is not only a guy who has unique things to play but he has lots of things to say as well. All we can tell you now is: Dig up and play Ripping Corpse, Dim Mak albums while reading this interview along. End up the ride with the last Hate Eternal opus magnum and look forward to even more extreme art to come!
Conducted by Jan & Saint.rap
Originally conceived in August, 2008.
PDF version of the interview (old design).
Hi there Shaune, being chosen as a victim of our interview, we would like to start the stream of questions with this one. You are known for many people as a guitarist who abounds with one of the most original guitar styles. From our point of view, you do belong into the league of guitarists like Trey Azagthoth, Doug Cerrito or Denis Dí Amour. All those players have started their paths somehow and have been influenced & taught by other guitarists before they have come up with a more original brand of playing of their own. Tell us about your beginnings, please. Since when have you been exposed to listening to music? What genres and bands have introduced you to the world of music and metal later on? Have you got any musical education? Was guitar the first instrument you have ever played seriously - what has fired the magic, which has made a guy called Shaune Kelly to go and pick up guitar?
Well, first off thanks a lot for putting me in those leagues. Itís been a long hard road... I was first introduced to the guitar by my father. As I was growing up my father was always playing loud electric guitar. So I think he really implanted it in my head early... He played a lot of Beatles and Stones and some original stuff too. Early on I was hearing what he was listening to and not into music much yet. It was around when I was like 15, my aunt and uncle took me to an AC/DC concert and I saw Angus Young shred it completely and took a liking to hard Rock/Metal guitar playing. After that concert I started collecting metal records and practicing everyday... Judas Priest, Scorpions, Accept, Sabbath, Hendrix, Iron Maiden got me started which turned into the heavier stuff Metallica, Venom, Nasty Savage, Anthrax, Slayer, DRI, then on into the heavier darker realms of Kreator, Sodom, Bathory, Destruction, Pestilence etc. etc. into Death Metal. It was in the Metallica days, that I really began to practice hard and started to realize I wanted to be in a band seriously and did. I think the fact that my dad was good and always playing sparked me off early on. He showed me my first metal riff in Victim Of Changes by Judas Priest.
As we have found out, yours and Scottís beginnings are connected with an allegedly heavy-speed-punk metal band called The Beast. Can you elaborate a little bit on the style of the band and the band in general? How did you met Scott? And how about the rest of the bandís members, did they participate in other bands worth mentioning after The Beast broke up?
Ah yes, The Beast... That was some fun stuff. It was like horror speed metal punk... Scott was more into like Rollins, Black Flag stuff and The Misfits back in those days. They were actually getting quite big at one point as Johnny Z signed them to Mega Force records. Thereís a compilation record out there called Born to metalize that they were on before I got in the band. It was crazy because I was just like 16 playing with these older guys. How I met Scott Ruth... I was jamming with Brandon Thomas as a teenager in his basement. We were good friends... Brandon got an offer to join a pretty big band in the area called Dirge which was hard core. Anyway the bassist felt so upset that he stole Brandon from me that he hooked me up with Scott Ruthís number who just happened to be looking for a second guitarist. I gave him a call and they gave me a tryout. We lived in the same town so I saw Scott around a lot at the local music store Jacks. I loved The Beast so I was excited about it. I ended up getting the spot and they called me Ďthe kidí. Iím not certain what the rest of the guys is doing at this point but that was a great start for me being able to play in bars at 16 and get to learn from the older cats.
Itís kinda crazy, but during the time when you and Scott were in The Beast, we started to attend school. How would you describe the scene and its spirit back then to people like us? How do you look at those times nowadays, after all those years? Which bands do you remember as the real mates who were fun to play and hang out with?
It was a lot more genuine back then. All the music was fresh and just being created so things were more interesting. These days I hear shit that Iíve heard twenty years ago rehashed again and again. It was a cool vibe. It was really cool to actually be a part of the whole damn thing from the very beginning of Death Metal and still going. It makes me proud. As far as bands that were great to play with there were too many to name. I think we played with all my favourite bands at one point or another so it was just killer all around. We were very tight with fellow Jersey heads Revenant and Suffocation. Thatís some cool bros.
Letís move to the Ripping Corpse chapter. What things made you to start RC? How did you come up with the bandís name? According to the Kreatorís title song or thatís just a coincidence? What were your goals with the band in the beginning?
Well The Beast broke up in a pretty ugly way so me and Scott decided to stick together and make a heavier project... It was no coincidence. When I heard Pleasure To Kill by Kreator I had realized the direction I wanted to head. A more brutal fast way with twisted riffing and melodies. I loved it. Itís funny, I actually asked Mille from Kreator at a show we played with them if it was cool to use the name and he said yes. So I got the stamp of approval from the main man even... The main goal in the beginning was to make the sickest most musical shit possible... Evil Brutal and sick but with some talent and skill. We were really just doing whatever we wanted to do.
Itís interesting, where/how did you find other band members?! After all even Ripping Corpse demos are original and deliver so to say above-standard musicianship. All members were incredible musical individuals which we suppose were not so common at that time, was it? Finding such people and clicking together perfectly always seems like a miracle anyway...
Well like I said I grew up in the same town as Scott and Brandon Thomas was just one town over so I knew those cats already. Erik Rutan as well. As far as bassists we did some searching and found some interesting dudes and ended up with another local Dave Bizzigotti. Dave later left the band and we found another killer player in Scott Hornick. Also from Jersey. He knew of the band and liked the music. So after trying out a bunch of guys he was the one that stood out. Heís the bassist in Dim Mak now. Heíll be on the next record. I would say there was a lot of good musical talent in New Jersey and New York at that point which made it easier. Bands and styles progressed fast in a circle the past 20 years.
What is the story behind taking a second guitarist into Ripping Corpse? How did you met Erik Rutan and when did he join the band? Was there anyone handling the second guitar duties before him? Erik somewhere said he literally came to your rehearsal and said he is going to be your 2nd guitarist, is that for real?
Well sorta. He came to our rehearsals a lot... At first it was just me on guitar, we released the first 2 demos with just me as I didnít even know Erik just yet... I met Erik through Brandon... They were friends and lived in the same town... Erik used to listen to me and Brandon jam a lot and me and him began hanging out a lot as well outside the jams. We became best friends pretty much. He had a guitar laying around so I started showing him riffs and techniques I was learning and he picked things up well. He finally got to a level where he caught my eye and expressed interest in joining the band so I got him a tryout. At the tryout he did great and the rest is History he was our second guitarist.
Well, there you have all the Ripping Corpse releases and below are special tasks concerning more in-depth look on every release from RC discography. In first case: Could you, please, provide comments on the interesting moments or whatever you can associate with recording and stuff of all those releases? Can you give us your opinion on how was the band doing during that time, how was your fan base and the name of the band growing, how did the relationships evolved in the band during those periods, whatever...
Secondly: How would you comment musical, compositional growth of the band? How about your musical experiences, the understanding to music as whole, the rituals of music creation, your first own playing techniques rising, changing & evolving during that era? There we go: Death Warmed Over - Demo 1987 - Splattered Remains - Demo 1989 - Demo # 3 - Demo 1990 - Dreaming With The Dead CD 1991 - 1992 Promo.
Death Warmed Over was the birth of it all... I remember recording that demo for like 200 bucks at some home studio in New Jersey... It was a good time when thrash metal was thriving and growing... As far as our skills at that point we were young and just forming a style so itís a little mixed up. It was apparent to me that we were on to something though. Splattered Remains was another very cheap recording... We did that live on the fly for like 150 bucks. I think thatís when we started coming into our own style and direction. It was a little more solid and brutal. I remember the engineer stating we were going to hell for writing that music, LOL. It eventually got pressed to Vinyl in some underground demo series. We began to really kick ass at local shows at this point. Demo 3 was when Erik got in the band and we started becoming pretty brutal live and people were really starting to notice us. This was when we also got a Manager and the ball started rolliní... This demo got us our recording deal with Kraze records. I think with each recording we were getting better... Ahh, Dreaming with the Dead... All the songs I wrote growing up became a reality. Getting to record with a good budget and great studio was awesome. It really felt good and like something better was gonna happen. I remember many good times around that time as we were playing like crazy at that point. Getting to mini tour with Morbid Angel was around those times and the fans were just sick. Iíll never forget that.92 promo This was after everything was lost... The label we were on went bankrupt and the reality crumbled. We were shopping for a new record deal again... I think this is our defining moments as far as musicianship and where we wanted to be musically this is my favorite stuff still... Also This is when Erik was going to school for music engineering so he was actually an intern at the studio we recorded at so itís like his first hand in production... In actuality these times were grim as it was when Death metal was dying due to many bad bands. It was oversaturated with death metal. This demo never did get us another deal so we ended up recording another record ourselves. There was actually another full length album we never finished but were in the process of recording... I have the rough mixes of the songs and itís pretty disappointing we couldnít complete it. Iíve got 12 rough incomplete tracks of me Brandon and Scott Hornick in my archives. The reason it never made the streets is the band combusted during the recording. The reasons were personal but lets just say it was time to end.
Can you cast your mind to the recording process of the album and share some memories? Why did you decide to make the production of Dreaming with the Dead yourselves? What was the role for sound engineers during recording/production process? Could you, please, also put some light onto the fact that despite the time when filthy sound was behind majority of productions your album showcases incredibly clean, kinda dry (I call it kokain-driven sound) yet dreadful, dynamically brutal sound? Was the production aimed fully to sound that way or did lack of experiences leave its spot there?
To be honest at that point I didnít know anything about the actual recording process. We were young and green. We looked at a bunch of studios and picked what appeared to be the best one... It turned out to be Quantum sound in NJ... The house Engineer Bill Klatt had done some pretty big things so we trusted him... We just kinda went by ear as he never recorded anything that brutal at that time. Bill did a decent job. Recording processes were different back then. They didnít have the luxury of Pro Tools to help. The shit was all live so you tried to get shit right fast. We did go for a brutal but clean and clear sound yes. Of course it could always be better but it was a good first record. Some people love the sound and some hate it so itís a mixed bag. I was happy with it at the time and it is what it is.
In this context, could you unfold the way you set up the guitar sound and stuff? Eric is a great Marshall fan, which we could say about you as well, at least on behalf of your Marshall cap. What Marshall model do you use and consider the best one (why)?
I personally like the artist and the JCM 2000 as far as Marshalls go. The reason why is the crunch of the EL 34 power tubes. They have a heavy tone.
At that point me and Erik both used the Marshall artist heads. They werenít very loud heads however only 30 watts so not the greatest live choice. They did rip in the studio however. Now these days Iím endorsed by Laboga amps out of Poland and Iím very happy with the sounds Iím getting from their Mr. Hector stack. A very Marshall like sound with total balls. Iím happy to be on board with them, their amps are total metal.
Could you think of things causing an impact on music creation, to which extent were Ripping Corpse influenced with any ďstate of mind changingĒ substances, and now we donít mean just alcohol (you certainly drunk seas of it, ahah), but how about LSD etc. - judging just according the thanx list within the artwork of Dreaming with the Dead it must have been insane times. Which goods did you use and abuse and what for an impact it was leaving on exploration your music and sound? Well, many RC riffs sound definitely kind of three dimensionally to say the least. John McEntee told me that Brandon could get drunk pretty much before a gig and perform ungodly anyway, hehe.
Ripping Corpse was all about the mind altering experience. Insane and Twisted Absolutely. It was made for drugged out freaks. We all definitely enjoyed our share of beer and pot but it reached a stage where there was much LSD and other things induced. We developed some of those guitar techniques on Dreaming with the Dead by tripping and playing for hours just drifting off into regions unimaginable. It became addictive just tripping and jamming in this trance like state. So thatís part of the whole thing without question. I wrote 85% of those songs under the influence of mind altering substances. I was really able to create some disturbing shit all fucked up like that and come up with some original shit. I remember we actually did a show and we all tripped balls. It was intense. All I remember is I saw a pack of wolves in the crowd running wild at one point as we were going off on stage. Seriously, crazy shit.
How about the bandís management during all those years? How were these things working in the band before and after Gunter Fordís arrival? How did the cooperation with Gunter Ford originated? Itís needless to say, that G. Ford was working for Morbid Angel in that time and there was Altars of Madness CD released on Earache and around for 2 years. He certainly had enough contacts... How did Ripping Corpse benefit from that in terms of albumís support, promotion etc.?
Well he got us the record deal and did get us a lot of hookups but Gunter didnít last but for a year or so. Having a manager at that point really helped us no doubt but I think it became difficult once he got Morbid Angel too as far as what he did for us. We still talk to Gunter on occasion now and are friends but thatís that. Thereís not much to be said.
Finally, how was the labelsí response towards Ripping Corpse? In the end you signed Maze America, which showed as quite fatal lately, have there been any other options besides Maze America? Speaking about Morbid Angel and your management above, were you also negotiating with Earache?
At first it was awesome. The label had us come to the office and made everything seemed great. They promoted it well and did everything they were supposed to except the going bankrupt part. It seemed excellent. At that point Earache was also interested and Digby actually flew over to see us practice. He offered us a contract but it wasnít quite up to par. It was lame... When we requested some changes he basically backed away totally so we ended up signing with Maze. There was no way to tell us what sucks. Just out of nowhere we were told Oh Youíre fucked the label went bankrupt. They ended up paying us with CDs so for a while we all had huge amounts of DWTD. Theyíre all gone now, thanks to you sick fucks.
Just a slight turn, does Dave Bizzigotti play somewhere these days?
Yes, Dave still plays bass. He has various things going on somewhere in California. Heís still playing bass. He runs one of the Ripping Corpse pages on Myspace. I run the other. I still talk to Dave now and then and heís doing well and is still curious about whatís going on.
We know, this is going to be some dead horse beating for you, but we canít omit the theme of Ripping Corpse break up. In fact the Promo 1992 was the last official release done by Ripping Corpse ever. From what circulates around internet, you have put together material, which sounds fantastic and unmatched by others even these days. Itís how it is but what were these inevitable reasons leading to the bandís split? There was the fact Eric was leaving the band, did that also make its part in disbanding?
All I really want to say about the breakup is that it was just time to end it man. Itís a touchy subject and a bummer. We worked long and hard and got little in return so tempers were flaring. It was very disheartening and combustable. As individuals we were also heading in different directions we just reached a point where something had to blow and it did. There was a huge blowout and the band broke up. Thatís just how it went and thatís about all I wanna say. Weíre all still friends now but as I say Let that Corpse Lie.
Tell us about following happenings after Ripping Corpse break up - to which extent were you (de)motivated in creation of new music? What for the heaven and hell were you going through as a band and as a person till you have released the Dim Mak demo in 1996 and album afterwards? Was the demo entitled Cobraís Eyes or was it nameless?
In a way I felt freed and reborn. Not that I didnít like Ripping Corpse but I just wanted a totally different project with a whole new way. I was totally motivated and never really stopped writing music after Corpse. I was just undercover for some odd years crafting new things... I was feeling deprived as a person of what I needed to do and that was play music. I knew I had to come back even more powerful... That first demo was nameless and it was our first experiment into a different sound and style. It was another inexpensive recording so the sound wasnít that good but it had some fresh elements that sounded good. I tried to always make sure you knew it was me playing although the riffs and arrangements were different than Ripping Corpse. It felt good to get back in the game really at this point.
As of today, when one says Ripping Corpse, what comes to your mind first? What were the most memorable moment(s) of Ripping Corpse career for you and what things do you like to remember even nowadays?
Iíll be honest itís kind of a bad nightmare to me. To this day weíre still getting shafted on that album. There was supposed to be a big re-release on Relapse records but another wrench got thrown into the works by Maze again so thatís not happening. I feel it just never got the justice it deserved at the time. As far as what I want to remember it was all the great shows we played with all the great bands and killer fans. Iím still here now doing sick shit so itís just cool that people do remember it and appreciate it for what it was. Iím glad I could make an album with that kind of longevity too. But people must realize I am still here now and still playing in DIM MAK and HATE ETERNAL. Iím still here and more brutal than ever.
So next thing which followed was new band, new name, different line-up. How did you hook up with Dennis? As for the name, was the reason for its change the fact, that you have not reached the deserved success with Ripping Corpse and wanted to close that chapter or did you rather reflect a will to move musically/conceptually somewhere else - sort of a cleansing process? Focusing on lyrics from the Enter the Dragonsís song Drunk with the Demons: The streets are my graveyard - The gutter is my tomb - My mind it grows weaker - There is nothing I canít lose - All my honor all my meaning - All my youth all my worth - Burn me bone to cinder - Release me From this earth. Could we look at these verses as a partial expression of your escape from the past?
It was a cleansing process... A change was needed. A complete makeover so to speak. It was time to move on into the future with a new band. It wasnít for anyone but us. It wasnít a sell out or aim to please the masses. It was to me a stronger more heavier forceful style. Less insanity and more condensed aggression. As far as those lyrics yes and no... All of Scottís lyrics can take on double meanings and you can take them how you want. So maybe but that song in particular I believe was about what a crackhead whino types life is like as he was drunk with demons.
You picked up a label Dies Irae from Singapore for the release of Enter The Dragon. Why such a huge jump to Asian grounds? It had to be quite clear, that the label wouldnít do much flexible job in distribution and all those things in the US, Europe. How do you value Dies Iraeís contribution to Dim Mak? Is there a chance to obtain Enter The Dragon somewhere? How about a re-release of that fantastic album for those who were sleeping in that time?
Well at that point we shopped that demo around and to be honest Dies Irae offered us the best recording deal. It was an awesome one off contract. We basically got everything we wanted except the distro. They were very much like Willowtip in that they cared about the quality of the music. Maybe not a big label but one that cared. As far as getting Enter The Dragon you probably wonít find it anywhere but Ebay if youíre lucky... I was actually thinking of asking Willowtip to do it as they just released Intercepting Fist so weíll see what happens.
Why have you picked up the album name according to a Bruce Leeís movie?
After Ripping Corpse I started really getting into the martial arts and reading tons of MA books. I started reading some of Bruceís books and they really just started making me think a lot and actually started helping me in other areas of life besides the physical aspects. I think his writings were genius and his martial arts style was just totally complete. The whole Jeet Kune Do concept is a way of life really incorporating anything and everything that works as a means to simplify anything and everything in life. Itís much more than just that but you get my drift. It was just such an awesome concept that I decided to take this way and use it in my music. Hence came Enter The Dragon. The song Spirit of the Dragon is a dedication to Bruce Lee and his works.
Also was there a special reason for picking up gold and red colors for the booklet of Enter the Dragon? If not, still the digipack looks fantastic.
Thatís a perfect example of why we went with Dies Irae even the package was nice... Actually Scott did some research and found out what important invitations and such look like in China. It turned out to be Red and Gold. It just has a nice royal look to it.
Production and sound of Dim Makís albums belong to another interesting topics. First album was produced by Stephen Deacutis, second album by Eric Rutan and the recent one by Stephen again. How come you joined with Stephen together for Knives of Ice? Anyway what was the reason of your return back to Sound Spa Productions?
Steve Deacutis is actually Erikís Mentor as far as recording. Erikís started his career as an intern with Steve... The main reason to go back to Steve this time was just the ease of doing it as Steve was just 15 minutes away from us. We didnít have to travel far at all. I always liked Steveís sounds and knew he would do a great job. I think we will be doing the new Dim Mak down in Florida with Erik again since I now live down here. At Mana Studios.
The following album Intercepting Fist has become much more heavier and faster than Enter the Dragon. Overall the music leaned towards a more extreme metal direction than its heavily-hard-core-influenced predecessor, even the Ripping Corpse legacy was breathing there much stronger than on the previous release. What made you to move to the more extreme branch of expression and as said, to a partial return to Ripping Corpse sound and techniques? How do you personally perceive those two albums, what does the achieved evolution between them mean to you?
I think it was more the recording than anything. I did make it heavier material but along the same lines I thought. On Enter the Dragon I only did 2 guitar tracks total so it wasnít quite as dense in the guitar department as Intercepting where I did 4. Also you had Hate Eternalís Mr. Rutan making it sound heavy as fuck so I think it just sounds heavier due to that but still similar in style. I remember on Enter Steve made everything clean and clear and thatís how we wanted it but we knew later on it wasnít heavy enough and made it a point to get that stuff heavier on Intercepting. I personally like Ďem both. They sound different from one another and I thinks thereís a good progression there between the two and it just showed me we still were onto something all these years later.
Brandon left the band after Intercepting Fist. In which state did this act left Dim Mak? Youíve played with each other since the beginning of Ripping Corpse and you must have had survived many ups and downs together. What for the hell could happen that Brandon left after all? But itís being said, that sometimes itís needed to clear air in order to start again, what is you relationship like nowadays? In our opinion Brandon was and will remain an inseparable part of Ripping Corpse and Dim Mak as he contributed with his unmatchable drumming style to the uniqueness of Ripping Corpse & Dim Makís music and his return could be just a matter of time as everything...
When Brandon left I was in disarray. I didnít know what I was going to do really. Just like you said there was tons of ups and downs with the whole band but I think at the point where Brandon left he needed to to clear his mind. I still talk to Brandon on occasion but havenít seen him in a while. Iíll just say I wouldnít hold your breath to long waiting for a Corpse comeback or even Brandon back in Dim Mak. Itís just not gonna happen. John Longstreth is now our drummer and will be on the next recording.
On a musical note, what comes to your mind immediately when speaking out name Brandon Thomas? What is your opinion on Brandon as musician and how it is like to compose & play with such a drummer behind your back?
On a musical note the first thing I think is, Damn heís got some drum skills. As a drummer I always knew Brandon was awesome since our first jam when he blew me away totally... It was easy with such a powerful drummer behind me to take control of the situation so to speak and really do it. He learned songs real easy and had great ideas to incorporate.. At first when he left I didnít know if I could get someone to replace him because his style was so unorthodox.
Which way did you come up with the material for Knives of Ice, were there any differences in comparing with previous releases? How and when did you come to conclusion to start using drum machine during the composing process? When you look back at it, did this way of composing bring you any positive elements and experiences?
Knives Of Ice is my proudest moment to be honest. There wasnít much difference in the writing style except it was much faster. I really feel like I finally accomplished my goal with it. After Brandon left it left me little option but to create some devastating shit so I needed drum beats at my fingertips and bought a Boss Dr. Rhythm 2 Drum machine. Itís a great tool for writing now and I still use it. Also because I didnít have a drummer handy to jam with anymore either. Truthfully this method is how I will always go now itís like pre-production at the same time. I really get to focus on the impact of a song and how the arrangement is going to sound when heard instead of played. Getting to digitally record it at home and listen back for days sometimes is how I decide whether a riff is worthy or not to stand the test of time. Having the drum machine also keeps my timing dead on.
What events have led to Johnís arrival to Dim Mak? How would you describe having John instead of Brandon behind your back?
Like I said. I knew I had to play with a drummer who was unreal after Brandon. So in my mind John was the only dude I was hearing at that point that was just out of control good. I knew I needed John in my mind so I had a friend email him and ask if he would be interested... He was and turned out loved the material and was also a fan of Brandon. So it was to me a dream come true. The rest is history. We got together and jammed and we clicked real well right off the bat so it was perfect. To be honest having John back there is even more explosive than ever. I think his performance on Knives proved that and when I let Brandon hear it he was blown away so it has his stamp of approval as well. Johnnyís just a beast behind his kit. A total pro. Itís sort of like having Brandon on steroids.
How much did John contribute to the writing process of Knives of Ice? John is very well known drummer especially for his insanely fast efforts in Origin. On the contrary Dim Mak are kind of known as masters of groove. Knives of Ice turned out as a hyper fast album, to which extend was this extraordinary focus on speed intended when you started composing with drum machine and no bone & blood drummer in sight?
As far as writing drum beats I basically told John to use the drum machine tracks as a timing guide but enhance them. If he had a killer idea we used it and he had a lot. He had total control over what he was going to play and played what he wanted to. The focus on speed was intended. Not because of the drum machine just because I knew Brandon was gone and I wanted to kick it up a notch. We covered the groove and slow route so I needed a rush of speed added. John also really made my vision a reality just being able to hit those inhuman speeds. His drumming is just another level of intensity.
Speaking of the groove Dim Mak has always had, nowadays accompanied with the lunatic drumming velocity, would you agree on us that you have kept the groove on in the music even if it blasts the most inhuman way? The use of two snares did help this a lot, in the end, when there are blasts going on (and not just in this case) two snares bring in incredible catchy drum patterns, it might be complex and hard to play but after few listens the catchiness and even the groove at the high speed shines through incredibly bright. Stupid but necessary question, are you aware of this and was it aimed? Not many, if even any, bands did achieved this in so extreme branch of music...
I think the groove is still in tact even in the speed. Iím glad you noticed. I make it a law to make your head bob so even in the fast stuff usually holds a groove. I am aware of the catchiness of the dual snare drumming. Iím not certain of its origin however. When I met John he had the two snares set up so it must be a drummer thing. It was also a goal of ours to be rememberable so we try to get some really rememberable moments in the studio. I told John treat it like Neil Pert treated Moving Pictures and I think he really did by adding all those crazy tricks. He really laid it on the table on Knives. I just remember laughing in awe when we were tracking the songs because he was just so damn intense. It was funny.
Youíve mentioned Moving Pictures by Rush. Are you a fan? How would you evaluate this band and overall their musical influence/inspiration they have had on you in a way? What you think of Alex Lifessonís style of playing? Which albums belong to your fave ones and why?
Oh yeah Iím a huge Rush fan. I must say the older stuff however. Man, the first time I heard YYZ it just blew my mind. The precision timing and licks of all the instruments played on such a clean sound is just amazing. Thatís when I started taking a liking to drums when I heard Moving Pictures. Neil Pert just shredded those songs with perfect timing and sick fills and beats. They had a huge influence on me as far as the shit you could actually do in a song. I loved Alexís playing. I think he was kind of underrated in a way... He had amazing chord progressions and some pretty twisted leads. I would say Exit Stage Left is my favorite Rush record. They basically did some of their best tunes there. And of course Neilís drum solo just tore it up.
As we mentioned, the two snares incorporation was great idea but can you tell us the complete background behind it?
I know when I met John he had two snares. Iíve seen it a lot now. I think only a drummer could give you the complete background of the whole thing. I do know John wanted to just really do some over the top stuff utilizing two snares. The effect was the same for me when I first heard it even. Itís pretty mind blowing stuff. It added a certain intensity level regular blasting didnít cover. John has a lot of skill and is capable of playing lots of different things.
Fast parts of Dim Mak music remind of Hate Eternal to certain measure, this similarity dwell in the way you and Eric structure melodies and harmonies, would you admit thereís a similarity in your styles? In fact when Eric joined RC you did teach him all the stuff, didnít you? That must have had an impact somewhere and actually it can be heard. Which things have you had in common with Erik as guitarists and on the other hand in which way did you complement each other, overall how did the ďchemistryĒ work between you two?
I think thereís a similarity in the intensity level and speed no question. But I think topic wise and Scottís vocals make Dim Mak a separate entity. Yes I did teach him the Ripping Corpse stuff and he learned it very well. We were also like best friends so the chemistry was great between me and Rutan. It still is now in Hate Eternal. Basically the way we compliment each other is by absolutely destroying together as a unit. Just the dual guitar attack is always killer and when you make it a dual death metal attack itís even sicker. We just feed off each other live.
Admitting the influence Erik had drawn from you and Ripping Corpse could also refer to Ripping Corpse having a mark on Morbid Angelís Domination, where Eric had been provided with enough space to compose and he has used that space phenomenally. Your point of view?
To me not really. If anything maybe the leadwork. I thought Erik really tried to write material that sounded like the morbid angel way and accomplished it. I thought his tunes were some of the standouts on that record and he did capture that morbid feel. The recording was awesome on that one so it was great to hear that guitar sound. Erik laid down some nice leadwork on there and really complimented Trey well. I think overall thatís a Morbid Angel product.
It appears as if Dim Mak has found real support for Knives of Ice in Willowtip. At last! Tell us about this story. How do you communicate with the label and how do you feel about having finally an album on a label which really cares and has the adequate tools to support the band properly? Does being under a well-running label have positive influence on the creative spirit within band?
Oh yes itís a good feeling when your label cares. Willowtip/Jason Tipton is a very cool guy and treats us awesome. Willowtip is a great little label. The story is I was sending my drum machine demo around online to some people to hear and Jason caught wind of it and contacted me. I sent him a copy and he liked what he heard so he offered me a contract. Thatís basically about it. We signed a 2 album deal so youíll see another Willowtip /Dim Mak product. Jason is not just some business man he actually likes quality music so thatís what makes it great. He understands it.
As far as we know, you and Scott are big Bruce Lee fans and all what concerns eastern martial art maybe. What has made martial arts and stuff appealing that it fired a deeper interest in you? Do you find the wisdom useful for the daily routine one has to undergone everyday? Are you so big fans that you started to practice Do Jeet Kune?
As I was saying earlier yes it does. Bruceís writings have helped me bigtime in regular everyday life. His self help theories and insight has been very useful for me. When I become in doubt I always turn to Bruceís writings. Itís very empowering. I think the overall challenge and competition is what draws me to it. Just overcoming obstacles in essence. Not to mention I like fighting. But Bruce Lee was way more than just kicking your ass. I like the way he wrapped so much knowledge into his way. Itís deep stuff. I have practiced some Jeet Kune Do techniques on my own time at home but not in a Dojo. I have a heavy bag to pound on at home.
And overall how about the balance of your physical and spiritual sides, spiritually you may fulfil yourself with Dim Mak a lot, but physically are you any active in some sport, gym or whatever? How do you keep yourself in shape physically and spiritually?
Well luckily Iím in good shape from working manual labor for 15 years with Scott. I do some working out at home with weights so I feel strong but Iím not bodybuilding or anything. Iím not much into sports except MMA and Boxing... Playing live onstage with Hate Eternal is a whole body and mind workout. Shitís very intense and takes some serious stamina to stand onstage while going off like that for over an hour in those lights. It can be grueling. To stay strong spiritually I usually read Bruceís teachings or other Martial arts books. One I can recommend is called fighting spirit by Bruce Thomas one of Bruceís students. Itís a great read. Hereís a link to that: Bruce Lee by Bruce Thomas.
Mentioning martial arts, do you follow some ultimate fights too?
Iím a huge fan of UFC and most MMA. I watch it all the time. At this point though thereís so many new fighters that I donít follow as closely as back in the day. But I do still follow some choice fighters like Rampage and Fedor. Iíll always watch ultimate fighting and boxing just for the competition of it.
Can you describe your attitude and access when playing guitar and composing? What comes sooner a riff or the idea? You have evolved a very original style of playing, which is simply distinct and easily recognizable from other players. After the years is it hard to come up with something still fresh and not repeat yourself? Shaune ďghost handsĒ Kelley, Iíve read that somewhere and it immediately got stuck in my mind.
My attitude would be explosive, deceptive and dangerous like a ninja. I try to let everything I possess out when I play.. All energies positive and negative. Usually The riff comes first as I write most of my stuff right off the cuff. I usually just play and when I hear things I like I record them and keep them safe. Sometimes I get a whole song in one shot other times I just get a couple riffs. But I never sit there and plan out a riff ahead of time I let it come naturally while jamming. Itís not hard to stay fresh for me luckily I utilize so many techniques that I always got something up my sleeve. I try to treat it like a 20 year long song that way Iím always on the right path continuing the journey. Actually Ghosthands is one of the many forms of Dim Mak the martial art. Itís one of the more dangerous styles. A buddy of mine started calling me Ghosthands and it just stuck.
Itís often being told that as man gets older, gets more mature and calmer. We donít know how much it relates your personalities but musically you seem to go whole different way, album from album, it turns out all more extreme. Could you give us some thoughts about it, think of all those stimuli that are not letting you down so you keep coming back with even more savage music?
Heh, Heh damn right!! I made it a goal of mine to never write pussy shit and be a poser. To get more and more explosive and sick, faster and heavier and just more skilled in doing so just like a fighter would. I always wanted to be that one MFR that never sold out and remained as brutal as it can get. Why??? I donít really have an answer except that Iím kind of a pissed off serious type person all the time that likes violent and brutal things. Maybe I need anger management... Who knows but Iím keeping that shit as sick as possible until I stop. The way it should be.
Enter the Dragon derived lots of musical aspects from hard core, as time went your metal dedication has overruled, do you have any explanation for feeling it this way? Hard core and metal differ yet they can be cross-overed to benefit from each other. How does these genres inspire you and what asset do you think these ways of expression have brought into music as such?
I love hardcore music as well as Extreme Metal. The (real) live power and energy it holds. Iíve seen some awesome hardcore shows in my time where the energy in the pit was just fever pitch. Thereís a raw real attitude in there that I dig. I wanted to add some of that into the sickness of death metal and see what my blend sounded like. Iím a fan of a lot of old school and new hardcore so it was not really to out there for me to add some to my style. After all I started out in a speed punk band. It actually brought in a whole new crowd of guys that like both styles of music so itís beneficial.
Why Dim Mak has never had a second guitarist?
I really just wanted to show what I could do alone on this project. I just feel the material doesnít require dual guitars. Itís straight forward and personal and allows me to do what I instinctually know needs to be done for my music.
Whatís next for Dim Mak, Shaune? You said you have some material together even before joining Hate Eternal. Is there something to come out any soon?
Yes weíre recording another record for Willowtip at the end of the year. So you will see another Dim Mak album hopefully early 2009 I have all the material written and I feel confident that it will deliver a powerful, exciting musical attack. It will be the same lineup as Knives with Me, Scott Ruth, Scott Hornick and John Longstreth. I took a new approach in my writing style this go around. I laid down a solid rhythm foundation first for every song. Then went back and finished all the harmonies for all the songs I have. It was like structuring a pyramid. It kept it totally fresh for me and just was a lot of fun. So Iím totally looking forward to recording it and Iím glad Willowtip is putting it out. I have a few surprises in store as well. So keep your eye out for that next year.
This interview was done before you joined Hate Eternal, which is still just incredible for us! Why did you refuse to join so long? Anyway, how are you enjoying all the intense touring and travelling, playing, getting known to new places, visiting Europe?
It was always a tough decision to join Hate Eternal just because of the move, job, friends and family etc.etc. It was a big choice to make. Just very tough. I just finally reached a point where I wanted to really do music professionally and tour and do what I was meant to do. Dim Mak became more a project than a playing live band so it was just time to make it happen. Mr. Rutan would call me once a year with the offer and this time just happened to be the time. I was struggling in depravity in New Jersey and really had no band just a project. As he said certain things happen for a reason. Now that I made the choice Iím down in Florida, Iím loving life. Playing with Hate Eternal has been an honor and just a killer experience. Getting to see the world was amazing and getting to brutalize Europe was awesome. The fans over there were incredible and really made it a good time for us. It really makes it all worth it and I see now why it is my path. Iím very appreciative that I got to experience this in my lifetime. As Bruce Lee said: The key to Eternal life is first one must live a life worth remembering.
You are also doing the vocals on stage with Hate Eternal, how come and how much difficult is it to handle those duties for you? You also were doing some backing vocals in Ripping Corpse, so itís not completely new to you, but still... Are you planning to do some backing on the new Dim Mak eventually?
Actually I did do some background vocs on Knives of Ice, the title track to be exact. Thatís me and Hank Veggian (ex-Revenantís singer) doing the backgrounds. With Hate Eternal I have quite a few spots live. Sometimes weíre playing so dam fast that it can be difficult to concentrate on the two things at once but it comes pretty natural to me. With Hate itís also about making the live vocals sound sick so itís just fun to let loose on the mike. Thereís a lot of double tracked hi/low vocal spots in Hate Eternal so it was somewhat required of me. I do enjoy it and weíll see about the Dim Mak it depends on whether Scott writes any background spots.
Weíve been talking about how itís like to play with drummers like Brandon Thomas and John Longstreth behind your back but we kind of omitted Jade Simonetto. What is he up to as a drummer? How would you say heís different to the other two drummers and what they have in common? In fact everyone of these drummers represents a different generation at least by age...
Jade is a phenomenon. His skill level for his age is pretty uncanny. Heís really got something going on with the combination of death metal and grindcore. Heís pretty much the perfect drummer. Heís young, heís hungry and heís got a lot of talent without being a prick about it. Heís really not that far off from Johnny meets Brandon. He treats drums like an athlete would and constantly practices endurance techniques and ridiculous double bass footwork. Itís pretty impressive. Jadeís already rather devastating at 24 so heís got so much to bring to the table in the future and heís very humble. Heís definitely a machine like John but has tons of groove like Brandon. Thatís how I would put it. Another awesome drummer in the making.
As for the real life. What is the person Shaune Kelly like in daily life? What do you do for living, what things inspire and motivate you to survive and continue in fighting with life?
Iím just a regular guy in real life and onstage. I make sure not to act like an asshole to people. As far as what I do for a living right now I clean movie theatre seats for a chair company. Itís great money and probably the best job Iíve ever had. Before that I worked with Scott Ruth in New Jersey doing landscaping for over 25 years planting trees and shrubs. Itís nice to not have to totally bust my ass anymore where Iím at now in Florida. As far as what motivates me. I donít need much Iím pretty motivated by nature but if anything I think itís mostly music and art. I really love being able to create sick twisted music. I feel lucky to have this skill and plan on writing much more.
In the end, Shaune, there is not enough words to thank you for the interview and the effort you had to make in order to answer all our questions which have been stuck in our minds for ages. Nevertheless all we can do is to thank you gratefully for everything, for the patience, for the talent and for the incredible music, which especially nowadays means much more than ďmusicĒ as you display a pure creative spirit of your soul in its great essence and strength. Only few are capable of that. Keep it coming. The last words are yours. THANK YOU!
Well I wanna thank you back for the in depth interview and say itís refreshing to me that someone is still listening. Iíve been here doing this stuff in the shroud of secrecy practically for 20 years now yet it still finds its way through the cracks to people like you. Iíve been doing this for you guys all along and Iím glad I never gave it up and either did you. Thank you. Iíve still got plenty in store for you all donít worry about that. The new tracks I have are more furious than ever and weíre gonna deliver another beast to you all soon. Thanks for all the support over the past two decades and Iíll see you out there.
Ripping Corpse @ Myspace (run by Shaune)
Ripping Corpse @ Myspace (run by Dave)
Dim Mak @ Myspace
Hate Eternal @ Myspace
Dim Mak Interview w/Scott @ Metalreview