Some time ago, the Michigan-based label, Dystopian Dogs released a two and a half way split release featuring the bands White Magician, The Great Kaiser’s White Magician and Prelude To Ruin. While I was impressed with pretty much all the 19 minutes of music included, I decided to do a feature on the latter. Members Victor M. and David Ruiz and Sean Cyriis Sethi all contributed in answering my questions.
Ruiz is listed doing all the instruments and vocals on the only official recordings you have done so far, the two tracks for the already mentioned split.
DR: – Ruiz wrote and performed both of the songs on the split. Ruiz was also a member of Borrowed Time at different times and in different capacities.
VMR: – My brother David and I are both Ruiz, but technically Sean is like a Ruiz to us, David did sing and play all guitars on the original Borrowed Time-demo, and Sean also played drums and co-wrote “Burning Mistress” on that recording.
SC: – It’s all Ruiz one way or another…
You are now a trio. Are you looking to expand with further members as well?
VMR: – For live if the opportunity presents itself, or if our own bass playing meanderings don’t suffice for the Power Time studio sessions we have discussed options with other Dystopian Dogs heavy metal collective participants who are more than willing, dare I say eager and insistent, to contribute in any way needed at the drop of a hat.
DR: – At the moment, the Ruiz/Sethi duo is perfect for Prelude to Ruin. While it was just Ruiz at the time the split was recorded, Sean was always going to be the drummer for Prelude to Ruin, irrespective of whether he wanted to or was even able to do it. I defer to Victor’s response for anything left unaddressed by my response.
You have all been in bands together before, and should know each other pretty well by now. Why are you the perfect fit for each other?
VMR: – We all grew up listening to heavy metal and rock roll together. I can’t even imagine playing music without them. In all honesty I wouldn’t even want to, for the music and people are all connected in a way that makes my life worth living.
DR: – The only bands I have ever been in, have included Victor and Sean. Victor is my brother, so I’ve obviously known him all of my life. Sean has been my dear friend for almost twenty years, and is basically another brother (from another mother). Victor and Sean know what I like, I know what they like, and when we combine our likes, we like what we do more than what anybody else does, including bands we worship. Everyone has their particular strengths, and while we largely coincide in terms of musical taste, there are a few areas in which we differ, but that only makes things better. I have been fortunate that I don’t make a living from this so I don’t have to tolerate being thrust into a situation where I have to write and record with anybody other than Sean and Victor. That happened one time, and to my ever-lasting disappointment, after I left, that band, despite huge prospects, fell apart because eventually it lacked at least one Ruiz and/or Sethi. If I had to pinpoint one musical fact that makes Victor and Sean the only guys I want to be in a band with, it is probably the fact that we all love the Nocturnal Rites album “Tales of Mystery and Imagination” with a fierceness that borders on weird.
There have been many successful constellations, either commercially or based on other criteria, that have consisted of two or more brothers. Do you think you have a special chemistry or bond that make the creativity flow?
VMR: – Without a doubt I feel a special bond with my brothers. Writing and recording music with them is something very special for me and I do not take it lightly. Cross us if you dare.
SC: – Firstly, although Ruiz are brothers in the familial sense, I would also consider us brothers in the musical and regal sense. We’ve known each other for about 20 years so little explanation is needed about any of our motives, riffs, lyric ideas, etc. I think that rapport is imperative to not only making quality music but also enjoying the process and resulting glories. It is a high honor and privilege to be playing in a band with David and Victor and I share every sentiment about what they said.
DR: – I think there is a special chemistry when brothers work together. Not all brothers are the same, but me and Victor are almost exactly a year apart in age and so growing up, I spent more time with him than anybody else. We like almost exactly the same things, so, while I can’t speak for other brothers, I can say for me that the person in the world who is most like me is Victor. We obviously have our differences, but at the root, we are both Ruiz, and Ruiz knows what Ruiz is like. So there is definitely a Ruiz chemistry that is unlike any other brother-brother guitar duo in the world, and it makes anything we do better. After Sean joined, Prelude to Ruin became a trio of brothers instead of just Ruiz. Sean has been a dear friend of Ruiz for almost twenty years and is one of the few people not related to Ruiz by marriage or blood that is worthy of, and accorded, brother treatment and classification. So Ruiz/Sethi, Sethi/Ruiz, whatever you want to call it/us, consists of three brothers writing metal songs that they like without any regard for whether other people like what is being written.
I like the band name. It could be that it’s influenced by the Fates Warning-track with the same name, at least it’s more likely than taking your name from this great track that is probably one of the finest pieces of Norwegian heavy metal ever made: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0ynoa2n-aw
VMR: – Although the song you posted is extremely awesome, I can say that I haven’t heard it before today. Thank you for sharing such great heavy metal. I must get a copy of this comp! As for the name, “Prelude to Ruin” was originally intended for the band that would later be called “Borrowed Time”. The name “Prelude to Ruin” is taken from the Fates Warning track, arguably one of US metals finest moments.
SC: – There’s a strong chance that it could be influenced by Fates Warning, I would even put 20 kroner on it. Thanks for sharing that track, ‘tis fine indeed!
DR: – That is indeed a fine slab of heavy metal. I wish I could tell you that was the inspiration, but it is the Fates Warning track. “Awaken the Guardian” is one of my top three heavy metal albums of all time and there will never be another band like Fates Warning during that period in their history. In fact, Prelude to Ruin was supposed to be the name of the band that eventually became Borrowed Time. The original incarnation of Borrowed Time when it was just me and Sean in my parents’ basement was called Prelude to Ruin. This is also a convenient opportunity to tell you that Prelude to Ruin was revived in large part over my disappointment over how Borrowed Time ended, and to continue the musical vision as it existed at the time the “Arcane Metal Arts” Borrowed Time release occurred. The songs on the 10” split with White Magician were written with the intention of continuing the musical profile of the first two Borrowed Time songs. In fact, “The Weird of the White Wolf” is the sequel to the Borrowed Time song “Sailor on the Seas of Fate.” So if you detect any similarity between the songs, it is because they were written by the same person.
Is it right that you used the name Prelude To Ruiz for some time, or was this more like a joke?
VMR: – To get into to great detail, the idea of Prelude to Ruiz was originally a hilarious joke told by one of my best friends Mike “Skinthrasher” Hudson. To this day I can still see his crazed looking face as he rolled the R while delivering the expert Quip! Unfortunately this was so long ago I can’t really say when he uttered it haha. I wonder what he’s doing right now? Probably watching the Detroit Tigers……it is opening day after all. Anyway, it was so good of a joke that we decided to keep it and decided to share it and make it more than a joke, a possible name even!!
DR: – It is true that the name of the band is both “Prelude to Ruin” and “Prelude to Ruiz.” Either is acceptable, but only one is correct. In 2010 when Borrowed Time was formed (when it was still called Prelude to Ruin) Michael “Skinthrasher” Hudson, the first drummer for Victor’s other band Sauron, joked that we should call the band “Prelude to Ruiz” since he correctly assumed that if me and Sean were involved, Victor would be involved also. Since that time we have used the names interchangeably, and we welcome, and, indeed, promote the ambiguity.
SC: – Frankly, I would never joke about such a thing but imagine, if you will, the band name ‘Prelude to Ruin’ displayed on a marquee as the headliner for Keep It True or some large metal fest and then the ‘N’ from the logo falls and is hanging on by the bottom hinge creating the appearance of a swinging ’Z’…
The songwriting showcased in the two tracks on the split release, is really flawless, but there are room for improvement in the sound/production. Tell me how you recorded the tracks, is this the sort of production you would want in an ideal world with unlimited resources, or are you already looking to improve it already on your next release?
VMR: – The tracks were recorded in a home studio, David recorded everything himself with direction from myself and possibly the Great Kaiser of White Magician and the Great Kaiser’s White Magician. The production was suitable for the time but the goal now is to make an even better recording sound. We plan to be doing everything ourselves, but that does not mean we will be settling for poor sounding recordings, we have the resources, and the ability to constantly improve and the goal is learn and express ourselves through not just performance and composition, but also through production and atmosphere. It is hard to pinpoint an exact sound that we are striving for but a few productions we are big fans of are Warlord “Deliverance”, Blind Guardian “ Somewhere Far Beyond”, Nocturnal Rites “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”, and Riot “Thundersteel”.
SC: – Of course there’s always room for improvement, whether it’s the sound itself, or the efficiency which you work. Ruiz can give the details of the split recording, however, I am taking more of a hand in the mixing and recording process for the future releases. We have already learned some lessons from this last one and other releases I have contributed to (Borrowed Time, Demon Bitch, Ghost Tower, Sauron, Twilight Hammer), so it’s important for us to improve upon every release in some way. It’s of paramount importance that all instruments and vocals are audible and the sound fulfills our vision. We will keep the sound in the old-school rock and metal vein, particularly with the drums—keeping compression minimal to preserve grit and energy. For recording, my most crucial advice is fix all problems upfront with your equipment and sound checks. Don’t rely on post to create audio magic. Additionally, many forces have aligned for us this year: skill with musicianship and audio recording/mixing, the quality of our equipment, having makeshift studios to easily lay down tracks and ideas, and the finished songs themselves. I woke up the other day and laid down some tracks while having my morning coffee which is as ideal as it gets. In that environment, you can record more relaxed and therefore better with no studio time or money restrictions, dependence on other people’s schedules, or any other compromises. I can assure you what we are working on already sounds better than any other recording we have done.
DR: – We appreciate the kind words regarding the songwriting, and you are correct, there is definitely room for improvement in the recording techniques. Those tracks were recorded by me in my home studio using cobbled together musical and recording equipment (all cheap), with expert guidance from Victor and encouragement from The Great Kaiser himself. I have no knowledge of proper recording techniques and so that is reflected in the recording quality. In a world with unlimited resources we would have the recordings sound like the Swedish band Universe’s debut album or Nocturnal Rites’s “Tales of Mystery and Imagination.” Upgrades have been made and experience gained from the recording of the first two tracks. We very much anticipate that subsequent releases (all of which will be recorded by the band) will be of much-improved quality. We don’t want to rely on anyone else for anything. Prelude to Ruin is intended to be completely self-sustaining both as to composition and recording.
Is “The Weird Of The White Wolf” and “One More Fight” two of more songs you had ready when you supplied material for the split, or were they the only ones that were finished at the time? If you had more material already, why did you choose these particular tracks as a first taste?
VMR: – When my brother came to me to discuss new materials and a desire to create once more, these first two tracks were what got everything started. Although there were plenty of ideas, these were the ones that were completed the soonest and therefore made their way onto this split as a result. Although they were intended as demo recordings, we liked them so much when they were completed that we decided to not complicate matters by trying to re-record them.
DR: – There were plenty of ideas for songs at the time, but those were the only songs that were contemplated for release. It was more just me scratching the recording itch that had developed over the course of several years since my departure from Borrowed Time. I didn’t tell anybody I was writing or recording those songs until I sent an early version of “The Weird of the White Wolf” to Victor. I followed that up with an early version of “One More Fight” and I think that Victor saw that I was ready to record music again and began assisting with the compositions. As is my wont, I also gratuitously distributed early versions to trusted friends for their thoughts. Originally those songs were just going to be released by me to friends for enjoyment. It was Victor’s idea to revive Prelude To Ruin and release the songs on the split with White Magician.
Speaking about split releases, they are probably not the most popular ones for the record buying public, as potential buyers often will have to enjoy both bands to feel they can afford to buy such a release. In your opinion, what are the pros and contras of such a release?
SC: – We wanted to do the split regardless of whether anyone would purchase it or not. White Magician are our brothers (also very good neighbors) so it’s something we all wanted to make a reality. The only con of the split is the limited number of songs from each band. Though I did not play on it, I thoroughly enjoyed all the tracks on it.
VMR: – My brother Sean is right, not much thought went into supply and demand, Dystopian Dogs does not work like that. More so, we simply wanted to make a split with our friends somehow and we committed to making it happen. The only con I can think of is that we didn’t get to all hang out in person together as much as we would have liked to because David lives so far away.
DR: – Victor is the most knowledgeable about this area. Split, three-way, stuffed into a football helmet full of cottage cheese, etc., it’s all the same to me. We don’t really care whether what we do is palatable for public consumption, and that includes the medium of the release.
The split is released on Dystopian Dogs, a label that is releasing a lot of stuff from bands within the Michigan scene. How would you describe what is going on over there, it seems to be lots of bands/projects with lots of the same musicians and also plenty of room for creativity/originality?
VMR: – Dystopian Dogs is a label that was formed by myself, Matt War (Wastelander, Harbinger) and Mike Tuff (Harbinger, Failed, Mike Tuff Band, Acid Witch, Temple of Void, Borrowed Time, Call for the Priest). We have all played in bands together and been friends for many years. The goal of the label was to release whatever music ourselves or our friends maniacal minds would produce and so far we have been able to. We hope to continue to do so until we simply cannot anymore. We all live relatively close to each other and being able to collaborate and support each other over the years has been one of the driving forces leading to so much output, plus we also distract each other a lot with hair brained schemes which can often derail entire projects but hey man you can’t win em all. Coming soon are cds from Dungeon Beast, Cruthu and Twilight Hammer as well as new albums from White Magician, and Demon Bitch all from the same scene of friends and guaranteed on the level head banging to be provided, no gimmicks only pure mayhem!
SC: – Everyone in the Dystopian Dogs collective or at least associated within a few degrees have a maniacal quest for music listening and collecting so I think that perspective prevents us from writing stale music since we know what’s out there. Of course that is my opinion but who’s doing the interview here? Also, it’s fairly obvious that our labelmates are ‘friends of ours’ as we are advocates for nepotism. The shows are controlled insofar that we only book at places and bands of our choice, or if other bands will have us. No more pay-to-play and including bands and venues who have nothing to do with our quest for arcane heavy metal and rock. We’re are all very proud to be Detroiters/Michiganders and of this collective.
DR: – It’s probably best that I have no involvement in Dystopian Dogs other than contributing music with Prelude to Ruin. I’m an attorney by trade and everyone would hate me after one day of me making suggestions/warnings about managing a record label.
How do you feel about sharing a split with White Magician? Their contribution is really great as well.
VMR: – LOYALTY IS OUR HONOUR
SC: – I feel good about it.
DR: – I think it was fucking fantastic. The White-Magician guys are all great dudes and while the songs were being recorded, I was actively bugging the shit out of Derek Dibella (“The Great Kaiser”). Derek then started playing the White Magician songs for me and from there, Victor posited the idea of doing a split, and everyone enthusiastically agreed to it.
I read somewhere that you have used or plan to use some old ideas from Harbinger in Prelude To Ruin. Are any of the two songs on the split based on these types of ideas?
VMR: – Harbinger never had an issue with ideas, we just had a lot to learn back then about how to get something done. We only managed to be able to complete not more than a handful of them haha. I blame myself mainly for much of that. Most of the ideas for Prelude to Ruin have been Harbinger ideas that we never got to, for that matter every song from the Borrowed Time days that David or I wrote was also originally intended for Harbinger.
DR: – Any band that has included me, Victor, and Sean as members has, to a certain extent, involved the same musical vision since the three of us are certified jerks and when we get together, we always tend to write the same type of music. So there is a lot of material left over from Harbinger and Borrowed Time that never made it past the rehearsal stage that will be seeing the light of day with Prelude to Ruin, which, more than anything, is simply a continuation of Harbinger and/or Borrowed Time when those bands included at least one Ruiz and at least one Sethi.
A Prelude To Ruin-release called “Lost Harbinger and the Tales from Tarzan of the Apes” has been announced some time ago. What can you tell us about this one?
VMR: – This is planned to consist of the remaining Harbinger tracks that were completed but never recorded. The lyrics and high-flying speed antics that will be displayed are meant to tell the tale of Tarzan as interpreted by the three of us. You see, the book is very inspiring (the whole series for that matter) and specifically for me it inspired some real creativity and gave me renewed sense of vigor when I read it many years ago. In a way the story set me upon the path that I am currently on with my friends and family and frankly it means a lot me. It should consist of about 4- 5 songs but may turn into a whole album given we did have a lot of songs planned around the fantastical tales from our youth. Ruby Crystals of Burma, Quest for the Ark, Running Dogs and Fleeing Thieves, plus the four Tarzan tracks one of which is a drum solo, so that’s seven songs.
DR: – Victor’s vision for this is a bit different than mine. I want it to be a concept album about the Disney adaption of Tarzan. Phil Collins really did the world a terrible disservice by composing songs for that original sound track. It is my goal, nay, my destiny to see that wrong righted. Victor and I will fight about this.
SC: –For ‘Tales,’ possibly a trio of songs, maybe more…it’s To Be Determined but it will be Loud, Wild, and Heavy, like Tarzan.
Will this definitely be your next release, or do you have other releases planned as well?
VMR: – Admittedly the tracks for ‘Tales’ are still in need of a great deal of rehearsing as they are more high flying than anything we have tried to do yet. The follow up to the split will be a five song ep that we are about to begin recording, this weekend actually!
DR: – As Victor said, our next release will be a five-song EP centered around a fictional story that will be represented in a musical, three-part trilogy. Further releases are planned for after that, but right now our focus is on finalizing and recording the five songs for the upcoming EP.
The band name Halloween Knight was also mentioned in relation to White Magician and the split some time ago. Is this perhaps a different band/project than Prelude To Ruin?
VMR: – Halloween Knight is a band that consists of myself and my girlfriend Susana. We both share vocals, while she plays bass, I handle all guitars and drums. We are currently working on our first single and music video called “Abductors from Gypsy Town”. This was initially intended for the split but it was decided that we would need more time to properly convey our idea as it is a bit on the hairbrained side of things. If you like I can send you the very rough demo of this song however it is meant to be accompanied by a music video to help tell the story properly.