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Ross Dolan Immolation - Interview
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Immolation have been delivering some of the most unique, and creatively dark, death metal the underground has witnessed for over 25 years. Spewing forth unrelenting, chaotic and twisted sonics while continuing to push the limits of a genre they helped define. For the first time ever in their career, Immolation are set to tour Australia so we had a chat with bassist/vocalist Ross Dolan to find out what the band will be bringing to the shows.



Steve: Good morning Ross it's Steve from the Rockpit, how's things your side?

Ross: Good morning man, nice to meet you. Things are good! I just did another interview about 20 minutes ago went really well with another guy from Australia, looking forward to the trip man, I can't wait!

Steve: Yeah same here, this will be your first trip down under?

Ross: Yeah man first time in 28 years! We're pretty excited for sure [laughs]. This has been a long time in the making, it just sucks that we never really had the opportunity to come before but yeah man, we are ready. I was just telling the other guy earlier we have about 17 songs from every record we plan to play for as long as they'll let us because I know we've never been down there so it will be cool to give everyone a little dose from every record so we are psyched!

Steve: For sure! So it's been a couple of years since your last release, do you have any plans to release anything in the near future or are you happy to keep touring and taking it day by day?

Ross: Yeah well actually the new record is done, it will be out in January. We're actually going to play a new song when we come down and play the shows for you guys so yeah, we should be getting our 8th round of mixes today and we should be wrapped up today. So yeah like I said, January we've got 11 new songs so it should be a good one. I think everyone's going to dig this one, it should be dark and miserable [laughs], everything you would expect from an Immolation record.

Steve: I would expect no less actually! So without giving too much away, what was your inspiration for the new record?

Ross: I guess topically and lyrically we touch on some of the same ideas that we touch on with the last couple of releases so a lot of it deals with our world today, like some of our last releases we have some of our obligatory religious songs and some of the stuff we dealt with on "Majesty And Decay" and "Kingdom of Conspiracy". It's definitely not a part 2 but like I said, topically and thematically it's in the same ball park. Inspiration just comes from life in general, everything inspires us today. You read the news, you have some good inspiration to build upon a lyrical idea or a song idea musically. It's definitely a strong one, I'd say the last couple of records have been pretty solid writing wise so I think this one falls right in with those. Every song has it's own thing going on, it has the elements that I think our fans really latch onto. The sick heavy dark parts, the fast intense stuff, the multi layered parts, all the crazy guitar stuff that is layered on there so you know every song has that. We don't really have any songs that are too slow or too fast or heavy, it compasses the whole spectrum [laughs].

Steve: Excellent can't wait to hear it! So given that you guys have been around since 1988 and yourselves and progenitors like Suffocation have been around so long, what do you think keeps bands like yourself vibrant and excited besides passion and everything else. What keep you excited about modern metal as opposed to back in the day?

Ross: Well I guess the essence of the music is still there, obviously metal has changed quite a bit since we started. I mean from the way we acquire the music back then it was completely different, no computers, there was no digital anything. It was all pretty much hand written letters to bands to order their demos and you would wait for a response back so you know we had to work a lot harder back then and to aquire bands that we found in fanzines from around the world. But that being said it was also a much tighter network of bands and fans so you know each band back then, let's say the mid to late 80's that started this scene kind of had it's own identity, it's own unique sound. I don't care who the band, was every band had it's own thing going on whether it was Nihilist from Sweden or Autopsy from California or whoever it may be but every band had it's own thing going on which was very cool back then. 28 years since we started it's a lot more difficult to find that uniqueness that certain bands still have that identity which is very important but it's much harder when you have so many bands out there doing the same thing or pulling from different aspects of the extreme metal genre and incorporating that into one but for us I think we've always been passionate about the music. We enjoy the whole journey, the writing process, the recording process and especially the live aspect because to me that is where any band shines, that's where you have that one hour to make your point. It's kind of sink or swim when we get up there, it's all a part of that journey and that interaction between us and the crowd and the energy. We still love it, we love creating dark haunting music that has something to say and is done in a way that our fans kind of appreciate the fact that we haven't strayed very far from that template that we layed out when we started back in 88. It's something that we never made a living off of, it hasn't been tainted, it hasn't become a job to us. It has become, 'Ok let's write a record so we can generate some money'. It's never been like that with us, that has kept us pretty well grounded, that fact that we have to balance our "normal lives" with what we do with Immolation. It's still kept us hungry and very much in tune with what we want to do and what our fans want, it's all of that combined.

Steve: Great stuff! So in terms of the live set and given that you have such an extensive back catalogue to choose from, how do you guys come up with a set list on a nightly basis? Do you throw it in a hat and see how it comes out or do you have something in mind?

Ross: That's actually a really good question because that's probably the favorite part of the process, picking a set list. You don't realize until you get to the point we are at right now with a lot of releases and it's very hard to pick songs that, A we're going to be happy playing because we have to like playing the songs live and you know songs that represent all the records which is hard to do especially when you have time constraints if we are a support act and we only have 45 minutes then your not going to be picking some off older releases. You've got to cut some out so that's the hardest part, it depends. Bob (Vigna, guitars) and I will sit down and look at all the releases and we'll just say, 'Ok I'd like to play this one, we haven't played this one in a while, let's bring something new into the set that we haven't played in a couple of years', and sometimes there are those songs that are tried and true that the fans are always looking forward to hearing they want to hear certain ones. "Father, Your Not A Father" or "Into Everlasting Fire", songs like that so we try and keep them in heavy rotation without relying on those. It's always hard that balancing act, picking the songs that are going to go over well and you know there are those songs that you know from experience aren't great to play live, they are just quirky or herky jerky and they just don't gel with the fans so we've weeded them out of the setlist. Not that we don't bring them back, we just don't bring them back that often.

Steve: You might make an exception for Australia?

Ross: Yeah well for Australia we picked a lot of the stronger stuff off all of the records. I mean we may only have one song off some of the records but we picked a good one, like the first record we have a few that we are playing. We have a couple of songs off the newer releases, the last two we have a new song we'll be playing then. We'll be touching the EP's and all the other records, we have at least one or two songs off each so at least we'll have something for everybody because you know how it goes. Some fans only like the later shit, some like the early stuff only and some like the stuff in the middle, it's weird with us. You never usually get a straight answer if you ask 3 different Immolation fans what's your favorite record, they're all going to say something completely different which I like, I think that's great [laughs].

Steve: Yeah for sure man. So is there anyone in the industry that you'd still like to collaborate with or write with or have you been lucky enough to this point to hit the mark?

Ross: Yeah I mean we don't do much collaborating, I mean Bob and I collaborate with Karyn Crisis over the last couple of years on the "Gospel Of The Witches" release and we are proud of that which is very cool because it's completely different. It's not like extreme death metal but it's very dark and atmospheric in it's own way, very heavy and it's something different. If I was going to do anything else band wise that's what I'd do because I wouldn't want to do extreme metal because that's something I've been doing for so long for 28 years so it's cool to kind of step outside and do something different. I've done various guest spots on other death metal releases, mainly people we know and good friends. That stuff is always fun and it's an absolute honour when I'm asked to do something like that, you know stuff like that is fun because there is no weight on your shoulders. You just go in and like, 'Ok what do you need me to do?' You just do what they ask you and that is fun and it's cool to help out your buddies and be part of something different you know? But as far as collaborating we haven't done much of that as far as having any people jump in and do something together or do something completely different but I think because mainly Immolation takes up most of our free time between work and life and the band, we don't have a ton of time and that's why the Gospel Of The Witches I didn't think was going to work out initially because of time but it did because Karyn was able to work their schedule around ours which was super cool. That's always been a problem, just having the time. You never want to do anything half assed, you want to do something 100 percent or not at all.

Steve: Yeah that makes complete sense! So finally do you have a message for the long awaiting fans of Australia?

Ross: Yeah I'd like to sincerely thank all our fans for sticking with us for the last 28 years. We used to get a lot of hand written fan mail from Australia and New Zealand requesting we come and play and now we have the internet for our fans to chime in on Facebook etc and we are not the cliche'd band that just hangs out backstage. If you see us out and about come up and say hello or whatever, we can't wait to see you guys!

Steve: Awesome thanks so much for your time Ross! It's been great chatting with you this morning and we're really looking forward to seeing you soon.

Ross: Cheers brother, see you soon!


Thursday, September 22: Perth - The Rosemount Hotel
Friday, September 23: Melbourne: Max Watts
Saturday September 24: Sydney - The Manning Bar
Sunday September 25: Brisbane - Crowbar

Tickets and tour details can be found at Direct Touring.

Interview by Steve Monaghan on September 9th 2016