Ryan Förster (Death Worship, Blasphemy)
by Niklas Göransson
Blasphemy guitarist Ryan Förster heralds the endtimes with a new Death Worship EP. The Canadian underground veteran speaks of literal on-stage combat, as well as how he once forfeited a lucrative career path in order to fully dedicate himself to black metal.
– This time around, when entering Fiasco Brothers Studio we were more prepared in every aspect of the process. We knew what we wanted from Len – the studio owner and sound engineer who also produced BLASPHEMY’s “Fallen Angel of Doom….”, “Gods of War”, “Blood upon the Altar”, etcetera – and he knew what to expect from us. The process went well, except for one small idea which took us down a rabbit hole and almost gorked the whole sound. We wanted that precise mix where the guitars are as punishing in sound as the drums and kept tweaking knobs without success. Instead, everything just became increasingly muddled and we were losing the plot. The sound was already quite good just off of the initial recording, without having to do anything at all, but we tried pushing it.
Luckily, since Fiasco Brothers uses modern audio software, they were able to undo all changes and restore the mix to how it sounded after the initial recordings.
– All of this remixing delayed the release – I hate missing deadlines but I’m glad we were able to step back and ensure the recording was as satisfactory as possible. And speaking about delays, once the masters were sent to Nuclear War Now! for printing, Yosuke started running into problems. The pressing plant was backed up because of this Record Store Day trend; all major labels wanted to release something by their top-selling bands, hoping to make even more money by exploiting the obsession of the collector, so a small and insignificant release like “End Times” got pushed to the end of the line.
Metal Archives have both yourself and BLASPHEMY vocalist Black Winds listed on guitar and bass, I’m assuming this is incorrect?
– Complete disinformation, Nocturnal Grave Desecrater and Black Winds only performed backing vocals – both on this EP and “Extermination Mass”. I wanted his demoniac roars on these recordings and he really delivered! All guitars and bass parts are my doing. I don’t know why websites such as Metal Archives publish false claims without first checking the facts? Just a few minutes of research or asking around would really help to attain and maintain accurate data. I recently looked up my artist profile on that site and noticed they list me as playing guitar on a REVENGE recording; this is also untrue. I’ve never played on any REVENGE release, I contributed some song-writing to the early material but otherwise Vermin is their axe destructor and should, in my opinion, be credited accordingly.
As for the cover artwork – one could certainly say it bears some resemblance to its predecessor, with another photo montage depicting what I presume to be the Great Leveller himself.
– Yes, both covers depict ‘The Desolator’. The subject matter stems from an idea I had; I wanted an actual photograph on the cover as I feel it brings some realism to the overall experience. This stems from my time in CONQUEROR, when we came up with that ‘Holocaust Angel’ photograph; I knew from the very moment we draped the Pooley Angel at Ross Bay Cemetery in a gas mask and bullet belts that we were on to something totally cult!
The first DEATH WORSHIP release was their 2016 EP, the aforementioned “Extermination Mass”. In conjunction with both this and the new twelve-inch, there were some grumblings among critics and listeners alike about how anything involving BLASPHEMY members receives the instant vinyl treatment.
– This is something people don’t know the full story behind. Both myself and James Read, the DEATH WORSHIP drummer, live in different cities and have done so since 1998. We can only get together to rehearse and record if certain conditions are met, or if we have money backing us. Nuclear War Now! Productions were able to finance “End Times” by releasing the EP version of our “Extermination Mass” demo as well as a number of t-shirt designs. In order to adapt to the reality of today, bands and labels must come up with new ways of doing things. BLASPHEMY related bands might get instant vinyl treatment from NWN!, but that’s because he’s a massive fan of our music and has the resources to do so. Only the best for his children, haha!
The plethora of latter-year BLASPHEMY re-releases appears to have elicited similar grievances. I suppose it’s better to let the bootleggers cash in on sold-out releases instead of making official versions available again.
– If BLASPHEMY and Nuclear War Now! weren’t getting these releases pressed, bootleggers would be all over them. There are so many BLASPHEMY bootlegs in circulation now and while money going into some scumbag’s pocket might be one thing, control over the product is an entirely different matter. That’s the worst – when you have no say in either layout or final sound, only to then have that inferior product passed off under the name of your band. NWN! may have flooded the market a little more than we expected, but in the end it’s for the best; if bands don’t want to keep getting exploited, they’ll have no choice but to change their way of doing things.
– From 1999 to 2001, BLASPHEMY were quite active with both rehearsals and performing live shows. We rehearsed every week and were getting things well on track. Unfortunately, Caller of the Storms’ house – which also served as our practice spot – was raided by the police so 3 Black Hearts, the old drummer, refused to go there anymore. We also lost our bass player, Bestial Saviour of the Undead Legions. Consequently, I was in a situation where I could focus on my career instead of music. Without a band to rehearse with, I suddenly had all this free time so I began climbing the so-called ‘corporate ladder’ and ended up running several restaurants throughout the Vancouver area. I had an apartment in downtown overlooking the ocean and saw the other BLASPHEMY guys only sporadically, maybe at live shows or some type of visit if there was time.
Ryan still collected music and his Ross Bay Cult label was doing rather well, but primary focus lay on his professional career. So, when BLASPHEMY started up again around 2008, Ryan held a lucrative employment and lived in a nice area of downtown Vancouver.
– I could’ve had an easy ride for the rest of my life, jumping through hoops the company set in front of me. But come 2009, when BLASPHEMY did those shows in Montreal and Finland, I really felt as if my job was holding me back. The company demanded my full attention but, with my mind firmly back on music, I just couldn’t give it to them any longer. And I could try to trick myself all I wanted, but I’m just not someone who jumps through hoops. At this time, in 2009 to 2010, it really seemed as if BLASPHEMY were going to go full out and record an album, do tours, play festivals, etcetera. But, once again, chaos prevailed and the plans didn’t go as far as I’d pictured them to.
That must’ve been pretty frustrating after dropping your career?
– I don’t regret this decision, not even for one second. I’m not a money-hungry person, I don’t have any children and feel little need to impress anyone. With this attitude I was able to do things like get DEATH WORSHIP started and move to Germany and experience life in a whole new way! If I was still stuck in the corporate trap, I’d just be one in a long line of zombies following their daily steps into the mundane and that’s just not for me.
In October 2017, American black/death veterans BLACK WITCHERY played the German city of Oberhausen. A video clip from the evening shows complete chaos erupt after Ryan, who made a guest appearance on guitar, kicks a meddling drunkard off stage. I can’t help but think that one would have to be some special kind of stupid to disrupt not only a BLACK WITCHERY set but one guested by BLASPHEMY members.
– That was a strange evening. I’d been speaking to the BLACK WITCHERY guys and, since I was attending one of their tour dates, they thought it would be a great idea for me to join them on stage for a couple of songs. BLACK WITCHERY and I have a long history together. We were in contact during the mid-90s and, as you and I discussed in the last interview, they even contributed to rescuing CONQUEROR’s “War.Cult.Supremacy” from certain eternal obscurity. I also helped them write some songs and Vaz, the drummer, played with BLASPHEMY on a number of shows. Furthermore, we had BLACK WITCHERY with us at the first round of shows in 2000 and 2001. At this Oberhausen gig, we planned to play several BLASPHEMY covers and a BLACK WITCHERY song in tribute to Tregenda.
Guitarist Steve ‘Tregenda’ Childers, one of the founding members of BLACK WITCHERY, passed away in a car accident in February 2016.
– When I walked on stage near the end of BLACK WITCHERY’s set, there was some guy right in front of me who was becoming increasingly belligerent. No problem, I’m used to such situations; this is violent music and we attract aggressive people to our shows. Anyway, he kept yelling and spazzing out about something but I just dismissed his behaviour as drunkenness. But then he reached for my guitar! I stepped back, closer to the stacked cabinets behind me so he couldn’t reach me. I just wanted to play these songs with my brothers and had no interest in being interrupted by some strange drunk.
Ryan first assumed his relocation strategy had solved the problem. Alas, no, the gentleman in question now attempted to climb up on stage, leaving Ryan no choice but to boot him back into the audience – all the while playing the song.
– Didn’t miss a note either. I caught him right in the chest, his centre of gravity, and he went down straight away. I needed to do something efficient so I wouldn’t have to stop the whole show to fight one bozo. When he landed back in the crowd, I could see his face turn from complete shock into total anger, haha! It was very interesting to watch this complete transformation from surprise to rage. Of course, he tried to get back on stage so I had no choice but to boot him again – still playing the song. That was my sole focus and I refused to let some clown stop me.
Judging from the video, after Ryan evicts the inebriated annoyance for the second time, Vaz first hurls his drum stick at the assailant, then comes tumbling over the drum-kit and finally leaps off stage – into a thrown chair.
– Vaz was in the audience throwing fists before anyone else understood what had happened. After seeing the entire situation unfold from his position behind the drum kit, Vaz decided to administer an attitude adjustment. This whole thing was something I never expected, I just wanted to play the damn songs. If my mood was different then maybe that whole thing would’ve been much worse; there are many occasions where I just want to cave someone’s face in. How do you think I get inspiration to write songs in CONQUEROR and DEATH WORSHIP? That’s me channelling this overwhelming hatred and anger. But that night wasn’t one of those times; I only wanted to have a few drinks with old friends and play some songs with my brothers on stage.
On that note, I can’t help but find it almost nostalgically refreshing with rowdy and quarrelsome audience members in this day and age. Such carrying-on was far more common back when I first met Ryan.
– There has definitely been a complete change over the decades. We can skip the small underground local shows I was attending at sixteen years of age because the city I grew up in had an almost non-existent metal scene. At the shows, there were us long-haired thrashers and some old burnt out punk-rockers. But we never mixed. They stuck to themselves, as did we. When I moved to Vancouver and ended up in a much larger scene, I noticed it was mostly other men at the shows and only a handful of women scattered here and there… most of which had been dragged there by their boyfriends. But these metal guys definitely had a passion for the music. In the Vancouver area circa ’99 to 2000, there were mostly jokers and joke bands. So many people there liked these ‘fun-grind’ bands who just played stupid shit for a laugh. Consequently, whenever something with a more serious take on music passed through, one of these joke bands would get on the bill and bring their joke audience with them. So, even this isn’t much to get very nostalgic about.
What Ryan has to compare to was playing with GODLESS NORTH on their 2001 European mini-tour alongside KRIEG and INQUISITION.
– That’s where I got a taste of the European black metal scene; I met many people who took this music seriously and were able to put on shows with like-minded people in attendance. So, I can at least compare Germany of the year 2001 to the Germany of today, and I see a clear difference. Back then it was a very intense event and you felt as if you were among people attending because a power or something bigger drew them there. It was really word of mouth and only dedicated maniacs came to the shows because information wasn’t as wide-spread as it is today with the internet.
I attended three of the German dates of this tour, one of which took place in Festung Bitterfeld – without comparison the best venue for an underground metal gig I’ve ever laid eyes upon. It was, if I recall correctly, an old abandoned industrial building and looked much like something out of post-apocalyptic themed fiction.
– I was extremely sick that particular day. Tour flu! But yes, I remember the compound; really cool and perfect for black metal. The back of the club had a bunk room which looked like barracks, with one long bed every band had to sleep on. It was like ten meters long! Really good turnout as well. I also remember we had a biker gang as security detail because Akhenaten of JUDAS ISCARIOT, who organised the tour, was afraid someone would try to attack him. There were guns brought there for additional protection too. The bikers were called Saxon Riders and I had one of them on stage right beside me standing guard while we were playing.
As it happens, more or less the first thing I witnessed upon entering the venue was an agitated Wolf from ABSURD come stampeding past me and commence clobbering a certain German scene personality associated with the tour.
– I remember a scuffle and that the Saxon Riders jumped in quickly, it didn’t amount to much while I was there. But right after the GODLESS NORTH set, I went to the barracks and crashed out; too sick to stay awake, so I don’t know how things went after that. Good times, these days it seems like just another fun night for the local vacuous oaf. Even at the REVENGE and MGŁA shows I attended recently there were some people I’d never expect to see at such a show. I can’t figure out how this music speaks to them in any way…? Especially REVENGE. In fact, there were two different audiences for this tour. For sure there were maniacs who were there just for REVENGE and had no interest in MGŁA, and mostly the other way around. MGŁA seems to appeal to a much wider crowd. And these days it’s nothing but phones in the air filming and Instagram selfies in front of the stage. Maybe some of these clowns were at those German shows back in 2001? If so, they were far less noticeable. With social media and online streaming, it moved away from the more ‘ritual gathering’ and more into a contest of showing off online. And never mind turning everything into a political situation and trying to get shows banned and fucking up great underground promoters for virtue-signalling posts on their favourite corporate-run social media platform. If anything seemed special about underground black metal over these last thirty years, it’s now been all but destroyed.