Born of Fire
CoC chats with Eric Rutan of Hate Eternal
by: Jackie Smit
"There are a lot of hybrid bands around these days, fusing death metal with hardcore or black metal or whatever. Then there are those bands that are keeping pure death metal alive -- Krisiun, Origin and guys like that. I think the death metal genre as a whole has definitely changed, but then again everything does. It has to."

Eric Rutan is waxing philosophical; hours before Hate Eternal are due to the hit stage for their first London gig since releasing the colossal _Fury & Flames_ opus. To say that there's a sense of anticipation in the air is a gross understatement, and with several other journos waiting their turn to talk to a man who undoubtedly qualifies as one of the death metal genre's most incorruptible ambassadors, I'm acutely aware that the clock is ticking on our interview. Thankfully Rutan is the kind of guy who you could pretty much leave to talk into a dictaphone for twenty minutes and you'd still probably end up with a fairly sensible article.

He continues to outline his band's raison d'ĂȘtre: "There's not a lot of bands that are pure in the essence of what death metal is all about anymore, and I'm just glad to be part of that middle wave of bands who still play it like it's meant to be played. It's my personal mission to keep pure death metal alive."

CoC: One of the common themes I've heard out of the mouths of everyone who's worked with you as a producer is that you're obsessive about everything being perfect. How hard are you on yourself when you're in the studio?

Eric Rutan: I'm ten times worse. <laughs> I'm the hardest critic on myself. It's like, when I'm done with a Hate Eternal record I should buy everyone in the band a vacation on me, because it gets that bad. You know, when you're doing your own record -- especially the newest one where I had so much going on personally and I wanted it to be so good -- I'm just way worse on myself than I would ever be on anyone else. I'm always striving for perfection, but I feel that's the reason why I am where I am. I work hard, and I always want more. I'm the first guy to say that someone has done a great job, but I'll very quickly tell someone if I think something sucked. I'm good at spotting potential, I think. If you look at the band members I've had in Hate Eternal, all of those guys have been really talented and when I have people in my studio I think I'm very good at getting a sense of what they do well and getting that out of them.

CoC: A lot has been said about the influence that Jared Anderson's passing away had on _Fury & Flames_, and I don't want to dwell on that. However, what I was very interested to find out from you is, given how personal this record was to you as a result of that, did you ever get to a point during the writing or the recording where you felt like you were over-exposing yourself slightly and things almost started bordering on being invasive?

ER: Yeah, I felt that way for sure. I mean, this record was something that I was completely dissolved into. The only way I felt like I could get over some of the shit that was happening in my life was by writing music, and that's why it became so personal. It was also quite challenging in a way, when I realised that doing interviews for the album would necessitate me talking about all these things over and over again. I think my situation definitely highlights the human side of this industry as well, because people look at musicians like gods, but by opening up people can see that I'm just a human being and I'm fallible. As far as Jared in particular, every time I sing a song or I talk about him, I feel like I'm paying a small tribute back to my friend. As much as it's hard to talk about, I feel like he deserves it. The last song on the new album, "Tombeau", was written entirely for Jared and every night I play it, I think about him every night. I wanted to keep his spirit alive and this new record wasn't just about making a great album but paying tribute to one of my best friends. There's a lot of emotion going on that's reflected on the album. While I was working on it, I was actually producing a few other bands too, so I never really had any personal time to reflect on things to any great degree. And to be honest with you, the emotion on this record doesn't just come from Jared, but also from both my grandparents passing away in the last year, from losing bandmates; it was a really tough time for me.

CoC: You spoke about the journalists and having to answer certain questions about the album; I've always been interested to know what it feels like from a musician's point of view when in a situation like yours, you're being probed on essentially the death of your best friend. Do you feel like there's a certain lack of empathy or respect from the media, because of the fact that -- as you mentioned earlier -- musicians are often seen as infallible?

ER: Sometimes. I wouldn't say that it's a common thing, but sometimes the press can definitely be hard. I mean, you could read a review of your album and even though your whole life was poured into the making of that record, they just tear it apart like it's nothing. It does sting when that happens. But you've got to get over it. I don't mind honest criticism, but I have a problem with people trying to drag you down for just no reason whatsoever. When people are just giving their honest opinion though, you've got to be able to take that. I've just learned that's the way it is. You can't go and bash the guys on Blabbermouth or slam the media or whatever. That's just pointless. There's a degree of professionalism that I think musicians should stick to; always take the higher road.

CoC: Much of the criticism aimed at _Fury & Flames_ has centred on the production; some have found it overpowering whilst others feel it accentuates the emotional element on the record. What's your take on this?

ER: I wanted it to be the heaviest album I have ever done and I think the production helped achieved that. So, it's not all perfect and pristine, like a lot of records these days, but that's what I wanted. I went for a sound that I thought would capture the band in the state that it was in at the time. I think, for the most part, the press for the new record has been incredible. Some people haven't enjoyed the mix or they've thought that it's one-dimensional. I personally disagree. I'm proud of everything I've done, but this new record is particularly special to me.

CoC: Coming from a band like Morbid Angel, what did you learn during your time with them that you would say helped you get to where you are the moment?

ER: Oh man, when I started playing with Morbid Angel it was just incredible. They were just super professional and an amazing band. They're all a bit older than me, so when I started out with them I was only about twenty years old. I learned a lot from touring with them, playing with them, seeing how the industry worked and learning about what I liked and didn't like. It was incredible being given the opportunity to play arenas with Slayer and Pantera, through to playing in dumps. Just watching those guys work is an amazing experience. Their work ethic is just incredible, and I'd say that was probably what I gained most from my time with the band.

CoC: Having started with Morbid Angel at such a young age, wasn't it ever slightly overwhelming to share a stage with a band that you undoubtedly must have idolized growing up?

ER: At first, it didn't really bother me. I was young and feisty. <laughs> It hit home when we went out on the road and started touring _Covenant_ and all of a sudden I was playing in front of 2,000 people a night. I had my 21st birthday on that tour. <laughs> It happened so fucking fast that I didn't have time to realise how big it was going to be until I was on the road.

CoC: As a musical statement, what does _Fury & Flames_ say about Hate Eternal in 2008?

ER: You know what, I think that _Fury & Flames_ is definitely the heaviest thing we've ever done. I think it's helped to establish Hate Eternal as an entity on its own. This is the fourth record we've done. Some people love us. Some people hate us. Some people don't give a shit. But we definitely have our own sound, and I'm fortunate to be surrounded by some incredibly talent players.

CoC: What are your plans for the next twelve months?

ER: I'm producing the new Cannibal Corpse album, and Hate Eternal are going out as main support for Job for a Cowboy in the States. We're definitely coming back to Europe early next year as well.

CoC: Are we going to have to wait long for another Hate Eternal record?

ER: Not that long, I don't think. We've been on the two and a half year cycle for a while now, but I think we might do something a little quicker for the next one.

(article submitted 5/7/2008)


ALBUMS
2/12/2012 A McKay 10 Hate Eternal - Phoenix Amongst the Ashes
4/15/2008 A McKay 9.5 Hate Eternal - Fury & Flames
6/20/2005 J Smit 8.5 Hate Eternal - I, Monarch
3/16/2003 M Noll 7.5 Hate Eternal - King of All Kings
10/12/1999 P Schwarz 8.5 Hate Eternal - Conquering the Throne
GIGS
1/25/2004 J Smit Hate Eternal / Dying Fetus / Deeds of Flesh / Prejudice Why, Mr Sound Engineer, Why?
10/13/2003 A McKay Hatebreed / Madball / Hate Eternal / Terror / Cephalic Carnage Hemp Heaven? No, It's Iowa!
8/12/2000 M Noll Deicide / Immortal / Cannibal Corpse / Marduk / Vader / Dark Funeral / Hate Eternal / Vomitory There's No Mercy in Satan's Oven
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