Unholy Passion (Part 1)
CoC chats with Ralph Santolla of Deicide
by: Jackie Smit
You've read it a thousand times before: bold claims that a troupe of fallen musical heroes have turned a page and returned to the incomparable form that once made them great. Chances are, if you're anything like me, you've also ended up disillusioned on virtually the same number of occasions. However, with Deicide's latest opus, _The Stench of Redemption_, you can believe the hype. This album doesn't merely represent the best work they've delivered since _Legion_; it's the sound of a band reborn, laying down some of the most challenging and captivating work of their career bar none.

In the midst of it all sit the new boys, Jack Owen and Ralph Santolla -- no strangers to the metal scene, but possibly two of the last people on the planet that you'd have predicted would eventually end up replacing the brothers Hoffman as the band's guitarists a decade ago. Their addition to the ranks hasn't been without controversy either, but then the bones of contention surrounding Deicide could fill a graveyard.

What follows is part one of our double-sized feature on this most prolific act in the death metal genre, and before I got round to discussing all matters Deicide with founding member, Steve Asheim, it was Santolla himself who was sat in the hotseat.

CoC: Before we get into anything else, let's talk about the incident that Deicide had in Texas where you were arrested. Word has it that the police got a little heavy-handed with you, so first and most obviously: are you okay?

Ralph Santolla: I've got some sort of nerve damage in my right hand. My thumb feels completely numb on the inside, it hurts on the outside and that's actually spread to my index finger as well. As far as my ability to play: it hurts a little, but it's not too bad and it doesn't bother me. I have to play; it's the only thing I know how to do, so it doesn't really matter how bad it hurts.

CoC: As far as your arrest is concerned, have any formal charges been made against you, and are there going to be long-term ramifications for this?

RS: I got charged with a felony, assault on a police officer, so it's a big deal. I predict, and my lawyer predicts, that in the end I probably won't even have to go back to Texas and that the charge will just get dropped, because there are so many witness statements backing me up. So I seriously doubt that it will even go to trial, but if it does I'm perfectly confident that nothing will come of it -- besides me losing money, which is going to be a pain in the ass. I won't make any sort of plea bargain or anything like that. I did absolutely nothing wrong, and that's just the way it's going to have to be.

CoC: All the reports I read about the evening mentioned that it had been riddled with problems since the start, but were you surprised when the cops showed up as well?

RS: I was absolutely surprised. <laughs> Thing is though, that I only really even figured out that there were cops in the place when I turned around and one of them pepper-sprayed me in the face. I didn't even know that they were in the building before that. I still don't know why they were in the building.

CoC: Given some of the bad luck that Deicide has had over the years when it comes to touring, I guess this is just another in a long line of road tales then?

RS: The thing is that since Jack [Owen, guitarist] and I joined the band last year we've done over a hundred shows. We've only cancelled two out of all of those, and that's because in both cases we weren't allowed to play. The only reason why we cancelled the European festivals this summer was because we found out that the promoter was robbing us blind. We were getting paid a lot of money to play those festivals and the promoter, we found out, was pocketing about eighty percent of that and not telling us about it. By the time we found out, it was too late to arrange for anything else to make up for it. But we're trying to repair all the damage from the past when the guys were having trouble with the Hoffmans. I know that Steve and Glen hate cancelling shows, and when we play, we have a great time. We're definitely having to do some repair-work for other people's mistakes though.

CoC: Listening to the new record, I think it's very obvious that the fire's been lit inside the band once again. As a new member, what's been your observation on the mood inside the band right now, and what are you guys expecting from _The Stench of Redemption_?

RS: <laughs> That could probably be about three or four questions right there. The music being different I think is down to several things. Definitely Steve and Glen, I believe, feel reinvigorated. Steve writes a lot of music; he's constantly writing stuff, and I think that he's incredibly underrated as a musician. Now with me and Jack in the band, I think he feels like he can write whatever he wants to and we'll be able to play it. I have a really deep understanding of music theory and harmony and stuff like that, and I think that makes it easier for he and I to work together, because I can extrapolate what he's thinking and what he wants that much easier. So, that's one reason for the change. The other is that Glen and Steve are both very open to ideas. They told us to do whatever we wanted to, so while Steve wrote the riffs, I had the freedom to put my own ideas into the songs as well, and I have ideas all the time, so I stuck everything I could on there in the time allotted. So that's another reason for the change.

CoC: And the mood in the band?

RS: Well, I live with Jack. We're best friends and we hang out all the time anyway. Steve, Glen and myself talk on the phone at least once a day and we all get on really well. What happened in Texas really fucking sucked, and especially for me -- that show left me in a really bad situation. But we're pumped about this new album. The reviews that are coming out are spectacular, and personally I think that the record probably has the best guitar playing that I have ever done.

CoC: After all these years playing different styles, what attracted you to play in a band like Deicide?

RS: I was playing with Sebastian Bach, who had picked me up while I was in Iced Earth. He really wanted me to be his guitarist and he told me that when time came for him to do his album, I could write all the music and that I'd have complete creative control. So we agreed under those terms, but the problem with Sebastian is that he has a really hard time letting go and he has a really hard time sticking to what he says in that sense. I mean, have you seen the show "Supergroup"? Telling Jason Bonham when and where to play, hit his snare drum and things like that; Jason took it in his stride, but stuff like that drives me insane. Me and Sebastian are both super high-strung and he's a great guy and a great singer, but us working together just drove each other crazy. I also wasn't too crazy on the musical direction that he wanted to take the album in, so then Jack asked me whether I felt like doing thirty dates with Deicide, and the only thing I had on the schedule was one festival date with Sebastian, so I agreed and ended up having a great time doing it. I've been asked to join bands for years and I have turned down a lot of them, and there are some big names there that would surprise a lot of people. I will always only ever do what I want to do, when I want to do it. I used to just love playing guitar and recording some of my stuff and I didn't really care whether people heard it or not. I also didn't really like touring as much, but that's changed now over the last five or six years. So when Jack asked me whether I wanted to do this, I was ready to do and it worked out really well.

CoC: One of the hot-button topics with Deicide came right after you joined, when it became apparent that you don't share many of Glen's views on religion, which seemed to be a problem for some fans. Internally, has this ever been an issue?

RS: The thing is, I hardly know anyone that I share a view about religion on. Every person's different, and Glen absolutely fucking hates Christianity. Who am I to tell him what to think and what to do? I'm just as fucked up as anybody else. The thing with the death threats starting was because of this: when we were supposed to play in Chile, the fucking douchebags that worked for the promoter plastered the poster -- the one that had a picture of Jesus with a bullet-hole in his head -- all over the city when they had specifically been told not to do that. They put it on churches and everywhere else and so the mayor got pissed off and he had the show cancelled. Then in the hotel, some girl came up to me and asked me for an interview. I asked her who it was for and she told met that it was for some webzine, which later turned out to be a major newspaper. She asked me how I felt about that, and what I said was that I was pissed off that those idiots did that and got our show cancelled. Not that they made the flyer look like that. And in the article, they twisted it around and misquoted me. She also asked me what I thought about some fan who had murdered a priest in Chile last year. Now, I'm not a very patient person, and I have a really low tolerance for stupidity. I was like: "What the fuck kind of question is that?" Of course I don't condone some asshole murdering a priest. Then suddenly a bunch of people started sending me all sorts of messages on MySpace, threatening to kill me, and a lot of those people are probably pretty serious. Personally I'm not afraid and I'm not intimidated, and all those people can fuck off. I'll tell you this though, a couple of months ago we were playing with Vital Remains and [Dave] Suzuki came running up to me on stage and grabbed me, just to kind of fuck with me. I didn't see who it was at first, and when it happened, I thought it was some guy who was coming up to stab me. So that was funny, but it freaked me out. Then when the cops pepper-sprayed me in Texas, the first thing I saw was someone holding something to my face and I thought I was about to get shot. That freaked me out a little bit. But, you know, I'm not worried about those people. If somebody wants to shoot me, they can shoot me.

CoC: I think the irony in all of this is that it highlights one of the dichotomies in a genre that hammers forth the ideal of thinking for yourself and having your own ideas, yet for some when the ideas differ from their own, the way that they respond is no different to some of the politicians and the religious nuts that they are supposed to be rebelling against.

RS: Exactly. I'm not going to tell people that what they believe is wrong at all. I'll drink and I'll party more than ten fucking black metal bands put together. I'm definitely not a choir-boy. I have my own thoughts on religion, but at the end of the day, I just want to play my guitar and play metal and have a good time. The rest of that shit is none of anybody's business. What I'll never do though -- I'll work at McDonald's before I pretend to be someone I'm not just so that people accept me. I guess that attitude is what's caused a lot of the problems in my life. But there are two kinds of people in this world. One kind -- and Glen is one of them -- aren't afraid to be themselves. There's another kind that, for some reason, that offends them, and that pisses me off. I will be myself, and I don't really give a fuck what anyone says. I know who my friends are, and that's all I need. The funny thing is that these metal kids are constantly ripping on me on Blabbermouth, and I'm really close friends with a lot of the bands whose T-shirts they're wearing. I'm not going to pretend to be some dark and angry and evil person so that people think I'm metal. I have all of that in me, but the most important thing is that I play my guitar, and you either like it or you don't. I really don't care one way or another.

CoC: Sidestepping from Deicide for a minute, I know you had some medical problems a while back. How are you doing at the moment?

RS: I have yet to have the surgery that I need, because of the costs involved. I don't have the money. But my overall health has improved a lot. I exercise more -- there are a lot of reasons basically. That keeps my problem from deteriorating more. I'm going to get it sorted out at some point though. The problem I have affects my heart and basically my whole body, but it would take years and years and years to become life-threatening, so right now I feel really strong and it's more of a hassle than anything else really. I'll get it fixed at some point and I'll be fine.

CoC: You've also got your fingers stuck in a lot of musical pies aside from Deicide. What's happening with all of your other projects, particularly now that you're going to have a lot of your time taken up by your commitment with Deicide?

RS: Here's what's happening: I'm ready to start another instrumental album. I'm going to have Steve DiGiorgio [Sadus] on bass and I've spoken to Jason Bittner from Shadows Fall about playing drums, although I don't know how their deal with Atlantic is going to affect things. Plus those guys are really busy, man. Then of course, I'm committed to Deicide, and I also have my own band that I'm doing with the other guitarist for Sebastian Bach; a guy by the name of Johnny Leonard. It's called Stare and we've been working on that for a while. We did some demos in England. Then the only other thing that I'm really concerned about is doing the Ex Cathedra album.

CoC: That's the project that you've had in the works for a while now with Gene Hoglan and Steve DiGiorgio, right?

RS: Yeah, and that's going to be something really, really special. It's a tribute to the metal albums I grew up with, and I'll continue to work on that until I have an album's worth of what I think is really high quality material. There's no pressing need to finish that up, so I'll just wait on it until the time comes.

CoC: You mention guys like Gene Hoglan and Steve DiGiorgio, and obviously you've worked with a significant number of very influential people in the metal genre over the years. What are your thoughts on the current state of the genre?

RS: I think it's really great now. I mean, it's obvious that metal has made a big comeback all over the world. It's always been there, but now it's just much more high-profile, and I think that a part of it is because there are bands that are doing some really great stuff; they're definitely metal, but they're also doing their own thing. For instance Soilwork, Opeth, Children of Bodom, Arch Enemy -- those are all great metal bands, who back in the day would have been absolutely huge. So, I think that there are some great bands around at the moment, and that's what's keeping things healthy.

CoC: So what are the plans for you for the next twelve months?

RS: Well, _The Stench of Redemption_ comes out on the 22nd of August and there's going to be a lot of touring in Europe, North America, South America, Japan, Australia -- we're going to be going to a lot of places. We're going to be doing as much touring as we possibly can.

(article submitted 7/8/2006)

4/27/2008 J Smit Deicide: Death Walking Terror
8/12/2006 J Smit Deicide: Unholy Passion (Part 2)
7/17/1996 A Gaudrault Deicide: Lucifer'S Right-Hand Man Speaks
3/6/2011 J Carbon 7.5 Deicide - To Hell With God
5/25/2008 J Smit 9 Deicide - Till Death Do Us Part
8/12/2006 J Smit 9 Deicide - The Stench of Redemption
2/29/2004 J Smit 8.5 Deicide - Scars of the Crucifix
4/12/2002 M Noll 6 Deicide - In Torment, in Hell
11/20/2000 M Noll 2 Deicide - Insineratehymn
1/1/1998 P Schwarz 8 Deicide - Serpents of the Light
6/3/2005 T DePalma Deicide / Immolation / Skinless / Despised Icon / With Passion Tear Through the City, Tear Through the Soul
12/31/2004 J Smit Deicide / Arkhon Infaustus / Ted Maul Glen - You Are Forgiven
12/26/2003 J Smit Deicide / Destruction / Nile / Akercocke / Dew-Scented / Graveworm / Misery Index Redemption at the Palace
8/12/2000 M Noll Deicide / Immortal / Cannibal Corpse / Marduk / Vader / Dark Funeral / Hate Eternal / Vomitory There's No Mercy in Satan's Oven
3/14/1999 P Schwarz Deicide / Rotting Christ / Aeternus / Ancient Rites / Behemoth Dead by Dawn
5/10/1996 V Singh Deicide / Fallen Christ / Immolation / Incantation The Wave of Death
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