– Versión en castellano aquí –
One of the highlighted albums of 2015 has been RUSTY PACEMAKER’S Ruins. A sublime work, emotionally charged in every track, and developed by a single person. That is why we contacted Rusty Hessel, the man behind this project that is based, quite simply, in love for music. Let’s see what he tells us …
Subterráneo Heavy: First of all, thank you very much for answering these questions. How is the promotion of your new album, Ruins, going? It is getting great reviews, isn’t it?
Rusty Pacemaker: Well, actually I have to thank you for giving me the chance to talk about my music with you. You know, I am a one-man-band running a one-man-label and therefore I am not only responsible for the musical stuff but also for the production and the promotion. For an unknown solo artist as I am it is not easy to catch the attention of magazines and webzines. Keeping this in mind I can say that the promotion is really running great. I established good contacts to many webzines and underground zines worldwide and I am happy to receive some really good reviews for Ruins. I also achieved an appearance in some bigger zines like the german Legacy or the english Terrorizer. To be mentioned in the really big mags such as Metal Hammer in Germany for example you need to have a proper distribution in the respective country otherwise they will not write about you. This is the weak point in my career, that I don’t have a deal with a distribution company. Anyway, it always feels good when journalists write positive about my album and it motivates me to move on and work hard on new songs. Especially the Spanish people seem to like my music as I received many excellent reviews from spanish zines.
Subterráneo Heavy: It draws my attention the fact that you are a completely self-taught musician and you are able to compose great stuff.
Rusty Pacemaker: Thanks for the compliment! Generally I compose on the guitar. I always play around until I stumble over a riff or a melody line which I like. I repeat this very often then to get into it and to find the right feeling for it. These ideas are the basis for new songs upon which I build up the whole song then. Mostly I finish one guitar so that the structure of the song is fixed soon though sometimes even this changes from time to time. Then I add the bass and more guitars, finally I write the lyrics and the vocal line though mostly I know what the song will be about thematically when composing the music. Sometimes I skip to compose the solo guitar during the pre-production and wait until everything else is recorded. For example, the solo guitars for “Pillow of silence” were the last tones I composed for the album when everything else was done and recorded already. Then I immediately recorded the solo. This saves some time and also gives the material some spontanous character. Concerning the drums, I program a primitive rhythm during the pre-production and then hand over the tracks to my drummer Franz Löchinger who arranges the perfect drum tracks for my songs. All this sounds very calculated but in fact I often feel like I have no control about my songwriting and sometimes I find myself surprised of how a song is developing what is an amazing experience.
Subterráneo Heavy: In 2010 you release your first album Blackness and white light through your own label Solanum Records. Do you have any more bands on your roster? Do you spend a lot of time working on the record label?
Rusty Pacemaker: I don’t have any other band on the roster, I have only two releases under Solanum Records so far and these are my own two albums. I have founded the label because I wanted to publish my music and share it with the world. As an unknown solo artist of my age and having a family instead of a live band you will never get a contract. The music industry is totally fucked up and there is no money at all for supporting new bands. Most of the younger bands buy themselves in, pay the promotion and tour for free. If you are a young band and are able to share the costs between the band members, want to play gigs and have fun then this way makes sense and is a chance to become known as a band. And of course you profit from the media contacts a record label established throughout the years, from the distributional possibilities a label offers and if you are lucky a tour will be organized for you. All that is just not my case at this point of my life and career as a musician and I can hardly imagine that I will ever be offered a contract by a record label which I will be able to sign. But on the other side, never say never, life’s always changing and I want to stay open minded to new possibilities. Now, to come back to your question, I spend a lot of time working on the record label when releasing and promoting my album. For a few months I spend hours and hours in front of the computer, searching the internet, sending thousands of e-mails, preparing promo packages, giving interviews and trying to achieve the best possible promotion for my music. After that promotional period I almost spend no time at all on working on the label. I prefer to be back on the guitar and to write new songs what I definitely love most, to be creative, this is my drive and passion! The main reason I don’t have other bands on the roster is that there is not very much I can offer to a young band. I can’t pay their production, I am not able to organize a tour for them and I can’t offer a distribution. For now, Solanum Records is just my personal platform to publish my own music.
Subterráneo Heavy: What do you think are the biggest differences between your new and your debut album? Are you satisfied with both or would you change many things today of both?
Rusty Pacemaker: A record is always a moment in time and when releasing an album I want to do it in the truest sense of the word and release it. I have to accept that Ruins is the best album I could have done at this point of my life. Also Blackness and white light has been the best album I could have done at that time. That’s just the way it is! From this point of view there is nothing I want to be different or changed because it is not possible anyway. The biggest difference between my two albums is the sound and production, definitely. Of course I developed as a songwriter and I would consider Ruins more Metal influenced than my debut album which has more rock than metal to offer, I guess. Both carry a lot of darkness and melancholy in themselves. This is what they have in common. When creating Blackness and white light I did everything for the first time in my life, composing, recording and I also mixed and mastered it by myself what, to be honest, was like searching for colors in the darkness for me.
Sometimes I wonder that the overall sound is not so bad at all but nowadays I consider it more as a demo. Still I’m proud of it but sometimes I am courious what my old songs would be like if they were dressed in a better sound costume, if you know what I mean. Maybe I will re-record them one day cause from the songwriting point of view I think they deserve it. Perhaps I pick up one or two songs from Blackness and white light and record them for my next release once again or I will re-record the whole album one day, or maybe nothing like this will ever happen. We will see. To hear what a professional sound engineer like Markus Stock is able to do with my songs just convinced me to never ever mix or master anything by myself. Markus did such a great job when mixing Ruins and I feel that he totally understands my music what is an awesome experience.
Subterráneo Heavy: In the end result of Ruins, it show that both, sound as compositional work, have been taken care of in every detail, I guess it must have been hard for you to give life to this album…
Rusty Pacemaker: It has been a lot of hard work, that’s for sure but in the same time it also felt easy to do it cause it all comes so naturally. As I am a one-man-band I am responsible for every detail in songwriting and for every instrument except the drums. Most of the time composing isn’t really hard for me, quite on the contrary it’s something extremely vitalizing and satisfying for me. Of course, sometimes it happens that I got stuck a little at a specific part of a song but then I see it as a challenge to find exactly what I am searching for while at the same time I wouldn’t be able to even imagine what I am searching for. I hope this doesn’t sound confusing for you! Concerning the sound I just tried my best to deliver a good quality direct signal. Mixing and mastering seems like artistic science or scientific art to me and I made the wise desicion to look for a proper sound engineer for my project as I by myself would never have been able to achieve a satisfying result.
Subterráneo Heavy: What about the relationship with Markus Stock of THE VISION BLEAK / EMPYRIUM, who, besides playing drums, mixed and mastered the album?
Rusty Pacemaker: The drums haven’t been played by Markus, they were handled by the good friend of mine Franz Löchinger. This guy is a professional drummer and the best choice for me. The drum recording session took only one single day. That’s hardly to believe, isn’t it? But I have witnessed this incredible performance. To Markus Stock I only had contact via e-mail so far, unfortunately. I introduced to him my finished recordings in October or November last year and he immediately was interested in mixing and mastering my stuff. He really likes my album and after a few e-mails I felt that he completely understands my music. I never told him that I want Ruins to sound this or that way. I wouldn’t be able to describe a specific sound anyway so I asked him to mix how he understands my music and he did a fantastic job. Markus is a very friendly guy and it makes me proud that he mixed my album. We still have e-mail contact from time to time. He told me that probably he will be in Vienna with THE VISION BLEAK next year and that we gonna have a drink together then. I am looking forward to it.
Subterráneo Heavy: In your own words Ruins “is a journey which makes you to know yourself”. Please, explain to people who have not heard the album yet what this means. And tell us why that fascinating and devastating cover …
Rusty Pacemaker: To be honest, the words you quoted actually were not my own. After the production has been finished I was thinking about the right words for a press release but didn’t find any. It feels strange to praise or even describe my own music but something had to be written about it of course. So I took some phrases out of some old reviews about my debut album Blackness and white light and put together the text for my press release this way. My intention was to make people curious about my release and the words ‘a journey which makes you to know yourself’ seemed suitable for this purpose.
Concerning the cover I first thought about a picture of an old ruin, maybe a church ruin but this idea seemed quite boring after a while. In metal and rock music there are so many albums with a ruin on it’s cover so I didn’t want to add one more. Then I was thinking about the lyrics of the title track and with the words ‘…we lie six feet under, still believe we fly, so high. The more we rise the deeper we will fall…’ a dead bird came to my mind. Immediately I decided to design the artwork according to this vision and the result couldn’t be better described as you did, fascinating and devastating…
Subterráneo Heavy: For me, this album is absolutely unclassifiable, there is doom, psychedelic rock, metal… Did you really make a compendium of all your musical influences? Do you think you have left something to be done?
Rusty Pacemaker: Thanks again! I always like it when I’m told that my music can hardly be compared or catagorized. I truly don’t care about specific genres and styles. I would describe my music as guitar orientated, dark and mostly melancholic. I try to give feelings a transportable form with the instruments and skills I have. That is what art is all about, I think. You know, there are so many rules and laws in our society nowadays. When composing I want to enjoy total freedom. I am restricted by my skills on the guitar anyway but with my abilities as a songwriter and guitarist I just want to do what I want and yes, what I make is some kind of a compendium of all my musical influences. That’s unavoidable, I think. I am convinced that I am influenced by all the music I love and listen to since ever. And of course I have left something to be done. I just have to figure out what it is.
Subterráneo Heavy: What is your favorite musical style? Tell us what your reference albums are and what your are listening to lately.
Rusty Pacemaker: My favorite musical style is metal. I have a collection of about 900 cds and some vinyl at home. I am collecting music since I was a teenager. Like most people of my age I started to listen to heavy music in the eighties with bands like SABBATH, OZZY, MOTÖRHEAD, PRIEST, SAXON. In the nineties I explored even darker music like MOONSPELL, TIAMAT, LAKE OF TEARS and black metal bands like ENSLAVED, NECROPHOBIC or NAGLFAR. I am a huge OZZY and BATHORY fan and if it is not metal I sometimes listend to some punk music or classic rock like JETHRO TULL for example. You may wonder if I tell you now that I do own all releases of ENRIQUE BUNBURY, he is a brilliant artist. Generally I can say that I am very much into guitar orientated music. Latest I have been listening to ENSLAVED’s new album In times, great stuff! Talking about reference albums…well there would be too many I think but the bands I have mentioned before hopefully gives you an idea about that.
Subterráneo Heavy: Are you planning any kind of tour for Ruins?
Rusty Pacemaker: I never performed live and I’m afraid it won’t happen in the near future. RUSTY PACEMAKER is a studio project and I don’t tour for several reasons which I don’t want to discuss here at this point as most of the reasons are of private nature. On the other hand, never say never and if there are fans out there who want me to play live maybe I’m gonna hit the stage one day.
Subterráneo Heavy: What is the immediate future for RUSTY PACEMAKER? And what about in a long term?
Rusty Pacemaker: It would be nice to be able to see the future, wouldn’t it? Well, we all tend to plan and you know, life is what happens while we make other plans. Anyway, I will finish the promotional and label work soon as ‘ruins’ is out for half a year now. I am already hungry for writing new songs and spending more time on playing guitar and making music. I am full of ideas for new songs and I like to try out some new stuff. I am just too curious how my future songs will sound like. Don’t expect a new RUSTY PACEMAKER album too soon because I run my musical career besides my regular job and often I haven’t got so much time left for it as I wish to. But one thing is for sure and that is that there will be a new RUSTY PACEMAKER album in the future. I am looking forward to it!
Subterráneo Heavy: Thanks again Rusty, a pleasure to have discovered your music, albums like Ruins are really needed today… Your last words?
Rusty Pacemaker: Thank you very much, it feels so good to know that there are people out there who like my music. A relationship is established through music and that is amazing. Art connects and unites people all over the world and that is really needed too. I would also like to thank the readers who have come this far and read these words right now. Thanks for your interest! Take care and… hasta siempre.