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Vitriol - Interview with Kyle Rasmussen

Updated: Apr 2

All photos (c) Arjuna Sabio

Interview by Josh Perrin



ViaOmega - You have recently returned from the road as we execute this interview, how has it been for you on tour this year with all things starting to return?


Kyle Rasmussen - Very inspiring. The hunger and fervor was burning from the crowd every night. Two years without live music has left everyone starved. It was obvious to me that this downtime has generally reset a certain attitude toward taking live performances for granted, ourselves included! Even when attempting to diligently remind yourself it can be hard to pinpoint what nourishes you until you feel empty in its absence. Loss is a great teacher.


VO - The pandemic has been a serious challenge for most people, especially for musicians. Many have gone through very depressing times and many have been inspired in different forms. Do you think that you can relate to one of these sides more than the other, and if so is there something you could share about how the past two years have had an impact on you and your work?


KR - Being a man who often struggles when trying to find the silver lining, so to speak, it was an emotionally and psychologically grueling time. I had been working very hard for roughly eight years to try and “break” Vitriol into being an actively touring band. After that long struggle our signing with Century Media and subsequent touring schedule was that oasis in the desert moment for me. Barely a year after being on the road and still very much in the honeymoon phase, everything was brought to a screeching halt. I’m of course grateful that it didn’t happen before we had a chance to hit the road at all, but it certainly slowed the momentum of our debut LP, one we had hoped to tour on and promote more than we had the opportunity to. I also found myself in a difficult position professionally. I worked as a body piercer prior to dedicating myself to Vitriol full-time. Due to the nature of a viral pandemic returning to that job was not a viable option for me. I had the choice to pursue an entry-level position in another field or do my best to get creative. I decided to start a small business with my partner Sofia making spiked guitar straps. I knew absolutely nothing about starting and running a small business so that was and continues to be very challenging and all the while I was doing my best to chip away at material for the second Vitriol full-length. Long story medium, I burned out hard. Lost a lot of motivation and gratification that I am still working to reclaim. Doing my best to focus on thoughts of gratitude as I have many things to be grateful for. Ultimately I’m very satisfied to have built a life within and that contributes to heavy metal culture. That is a dream come true.



VO - From whatI can see you're doing better than you ever have before and the entire crew of ViaOmega is rooting for you. Since it seems that everything is back on track and before we go into the details can you spill some of the news or expectations of new releases and tours that are being planned or do you go day by day with opportunities you receive?


KR - Thank you! I’d say a little bit of column A, a bit of column B. Our top priority at the moment is completing our second full-length record, the writing for which is very far along. Without giving too much away we have an official tracklisting and the core compositions to accompany them. Lyrics need to be completed, layers and additional instruments added, but the foundation has been laid and it is sturdy! We are counting on a release some time next year. Tours we accept or decline on a case-by-case basis as they come across our desk. We will be performing at Modified Ghost Fest next month in Vancouver, Canada and our next outing after that will be a string of killer fests in Europe which starts in August. Brutal Assault, Party San, Motocultor, Death Feast, it’s going to be a monster run! And there will be a tour following those dates that has yet to be announced, but  we are extremely excited to be returning to Europe. Beyond that we want to commit as much time as we can to making the next album all that it can be.


VO - Let’s get a little more technical. It seems as though guitar players are highly influenced by your technique as well as your passion for playing. I dare say that not only guitarists but pretty much all of the audience because of your emotion and the feeling that you emanate through your music is very inspirational. Tell me a bit more about the beginnings, when you first picked up a guitar and what led you down the path you are on now?


KR -That means a great deal to read, I appreciate that. I fell in love with heavy metal music when I was very young and I was fortunate enough to have a stepfather come into the picture when I was around 5 or 6 years old. He was a thrasher and guitarist and he introduced me to the staple classics. I was a very wild, energetic, and confrontational young man. Hearing early Metallica, Slayer, Testament… it spoke to my soul before I knew what a soul was. It was a whirlwind romance, no doubt. “The Four Horsemen” was the song that planted the seed in my mind that I was going to play guitar a full six years before I’d ever pick one up. My connection with metal and metal guitar music was an emotional connection from the beginning and the nature of that relationship always persisted. I discovered extreme metal genres at the same time I began playing guitar somewhat seriously. The first time I heard death metal vocals it was over for me, I knew that THIS is what I wanted to be about and be a part of. My relationship with metal as a language of self-expression, as a means of communicating existential truths, crystallized when I discovered death and black metal, specifically. I never made a mindful decision to be overtly expressive or physical with my playing; it’s simply a manifestation of the nature of that relationship with the music. The music moves me and I welcome that. I feel much more real in that place.


VO - Aside from guitar have you practiced or become skilled in any other instruments?


KR - If you consider a DAW (recording software) an instrument! Haha. Learning how to function as a modern musician is very demanding. Figuring out how to record my own ideas was almost as challenging as becoming a competent guitarist. I dabbled with the violin in elementary and middle school, but nothing serious. The guitar became my main squeeze when I was 13 and the rest is history. I’d love to learn my way around a piano one day. The mother of all instruments, and an incredible compositional tool.



VO - In the time since you've started Vitriol the hard work and energy you have put into it has given you significant recognition. What were the hardships of this journey that you can recall?


KR - If I provided a comprehensive answer to that question I’d fill an entire magazine; it was a gauntlet for sure. It’s difficult to even know where to begin. I’ll pick a few and do my best to be concise: I’d say the first major obstacle was trying to find Vitriol’s sound. I always knew what I wanted Vitriol to be in the abstract sense, but fleshing out its sonic attributes was very time-earned, and at times, soul crushing. There was a point where I walked away from guitar for 8 months (the most time that I ever spent away from the instrument) because I didn’t think I had it in me. I simply couldn’t get the ideas to the point where I felt they did any justice to that abstract, knowing of what Vitriol ultimately was and needed to be. I had no idea the size of the mountain I was endeavoring to climb until I reached its summit. Not only was Vitriol’s music more idiosyncratic than I had anticipated but also much more technically demanding. I was writing well beyond my ability and that was a very defeating experience. Always falling short, spending years with my efforts had never been enough. I often joke about Vitriol playing the role of the classic dissatisfied, disciplinarian father, but that’s really what it was, and in many ways, continues to be for me. I’m very grateful for this. My life has taught me to believe very seriously in the currency of suffering and my journey with and commitment to Vitriol is underpinned by that belief. This bar I had set for myself and the band was also very alienating to collaborating musicians. I went through many guitarists and more drummers over the years with no one really willing to suffer to such an extent for a vision that was not theirs. I can sympathize completely. Adam, Vitriol’s bass player and co-vocalist, is the only one that has been here since Day One and even he walked away from the band once. Finding a core group to pursue this dream has always been a major obstacle. Lastly, I’d say convincing people what Vitriol is. When we first started playing locally many people in our underground scene didn’t really know what to do with us. We were too “C” for these fans, too “Y” for those fans, too “Z” for that scene, if you get my point. It took a lot of hard work and an uncompromising approach to the band’s artwork, logo, and overall presentation to bring the vision into focus. I think we’ve finally established a foundation of identity that I’m comfortable building upon.


VO - Tell me more about the process of your writing. Is it something that comes organically or is it more of a preconceived idea of how you want it to sound and be conveyed?


KR - I always begin with a preconceived idea of the experience I’m trying to convey, but how best to create that is always some version of me probing around in the dark. With that being said, I’m always open to happy accidents. Sometimes I find something valuable that defies the goals I had set for a song and I do my best to embrace those discoveries. Vitriol as a band and project does have some set parameters. Figuring out how to grow as a band and as a creative entity while protecting what is essential to Vitriol’s identity is the challenge moving forward. What does Vitriol’s next phase of life look like? The north star is always truth-seeking, finding strength and vision in confrontation, and a preparedness to adapt to the ruthless conditions of that journey. How to best mobilize yourself toward those goals shifts with the seasons of your life and your location on that journey. Onthe first album I tried to express the fortification I found in embracing anger, self-destruction, rejection, and even hatred. I did my best to render an image musically of that existential place on the first record. As my tools for truth-seeking evolve, Vitriol’s sound will along with it. I hope so, because that’s a place you can’t survive in unmitigated for too long.



VO - Concerning your inspirations, aside from other musicians and bands, what are some sources in this world that lend themselves to your creativity and inspire you with Vitirol?


KR - I’m very inspired by film. Sometimes even more so than music, depending on the year. Dedicated filmmakers rely on achieving a fully-realized vision by speaking to the viewer through multiple dimensions; cinematography, the score, dialogue, direction of the actors, color and editing, and so on. The demand that is put on a creator of a great film is monumental, and those who have mastered the many languages required for filmmaking are great sources of inspiration. One of the earliest movie magicians that inspired my own creative work was David Lynch. His approach to writing dialogue is so musical and often very dissonant. He relies on tapping into something much more direct, maybe even primordial, over more conventional storytellers. For those who don’t find his approach effective his work can appear unnecessarily abstract and pretentious but that is not my belief at all. Being inspired by filmmakers also empowered me to express the artistic voice of Vitriol through more than just our music. I do my best to make sure that our art, merchandise, music videos, logo… that it all carries the voice of Vitriol.


VO - How do you personally view the extreme metal scene these days versus how it was in your youth?


KR - That’s hard to say. I think we are progressively initiated into many different rungs and circles of any given scene as we grow in age and level of participation. I think in many ways the scene I was surrounded by in my teens is still very much there and I’m the one who continued moving. To be honest I’ve always been a fairly solitary person, especially in my passion for extreme music. I’ve always felt out of touch with whatever scene I found myself sharing a space with, more or less. I do get the very real sense that extreme metal is approaching a moment of being witnessed by the larger culture as speaking to something about the human experience that no other genre or medium can in as honest a way. I think Slayer, very specifically, started tugging at a thread that continues to unravel and you can’t put the monsters back in their box. I’m very excited to be a metal musician in 2022, I consider it to be a sincere honor. People are awakening to the magic within the ruckus. Metal has been whispering loudly for a long time now and its message is about to be vetted in a way that will be much more significant to another swell of commercial success. At least that’s my prediction, and I’m very excited to see the forefathers knighted by creative culture.


VO - How has the local environment embraced your band since your beginning and do you see much of a difference between then and now?


KR - Vitriol began with a somewhat unique sound so we had the challenge of carving out our own fanbase from the ground up. None of the established genres had a plug-and-play fanbase we could readily speak to in their respective language. It wasn’t too hard to get the ball rolling, but I’ve certainly seen bands that were much closer to being overnight successes. It was fairly hard earned but these days we have a committed group of local fans and it seems to be growing. If any of you are reading this now, thank you!


VO - Let’s go back to the artistic side of yours. Many of your fans already know about metal adorned guitar straps with your entity Steel Weather. Was this inspired by something you feel was needed to create or from another facet?


KR - To be honest, the idea was born from financial necessity. I had to keep the lights on when Covid came around but I knew I wanted to continue contributing to the culture I love and be able to provide something that I was genuinely excited about and believed in. Steel Weather was the answer to the question. It kept me in the world I wanted to remain in, it kept me creative, which is very important to me, and in a way it kept me in touch with Vitriol fans, all while building something that could continue to grow. I had fought very hard to make a life in heavy metal and I didn’t want to lose that.


VO - ViaOemga is highly focused on artwork. Where does your vision come from and how do you choose artists to execute your ideas? have you been with the same artist since the beginning or do you like to keep it more varied?


KR - I try to make sure that the vision for the artwork comes from the same place as the music. Like I mentioned in my reference to filmmaking, I treat the artwork as an opportunity to tell the same story, only through a different dimension. Where that vision comes from is difficult to articulate with words, which is precisely why I've chosen to articulate it with art and music. I like to keep the artists that we work with varied. There are so many ways to speak to one experience and being able to collaborate with artists in the social media age almost makes it impossible to restrict yourself to working with only one since there are so many talented artists out there. I see it as a great privilege to be able to shine light on their work. Most of the artists I’ve reached out to for work on an album or a merch design were found while surfing Instagram or other social media platforms. Every once in a while I’ll find one whose voice seems to be very in line with Vitriol’s and I’ll reach out for a commission and it helps that I’m also very excited by visual art.


VO - if you were to go on tour with five of your favorite bands (dead or alive)  or your ultimate realistic tour lineup, what would it be?


KR - Brutal question! Haha! Man… what an incredibly difficult question. I’ll give two answers. One being a tour with five of my favorite bands that are no longer active, and one of five contemporary, presently active bands that I’m very fond of.


For inactive bands…


Angelcorpse

Rebaelliun

Myrkskog (although they’re allegedly active)

Averse Sefira

Panzerchrist


For newer, presently active bands (I’m avoiding active “legacy bands” here, so no Immolations or Marduks)


Dead Congregation

Lvcifyre

Panzerfaust

Avslut

Diabolizer


VO - Well thank you for your time and I am excited to see what’s to come. What would be a few words that you'd want to forward to aspiring guitarists in extreme metal?


KR - Thank you for your time and interest! It means a lot. And I’ll steal the words of a much more accomplished musician than myself and leave ya’ll on an extra pretentious note. “To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.” - Ludwig van Beethoven

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