Hate Eternal – Channeling Negative Energy into Positivity

Sunday, 10th February 2019

It’s been twenty years since Hate Eternal first released Conquering the Throne, their debut full-length. With their seventh released at the end of 2018 (Upon Desolate Sands), the band is still going strong and pushing the boundaries of extremity. Few bands capture a whirlwind of energy and put it into explosive musical form the way that Hate Eternal does. Furious, frenetic, and still capable of being something you can recall later – Upon Desolate Sands is a death metal powerhouse.

Then there’s the man behind it, guitarist/vocalist Erik Rutan. His history with death metal goes back yet another decade prior to Hate Eternal. There’s also the production side of things, for which he is equally well-known. But in speaking with him, he still exudes a youthful passion and genuine excitement about the genre. But that’s not only for death metal, as he is able to reflect upon his life and find a positive takeaway for all the challenges that have been sent his way.

Dead Rhetoric: A few months removed from Upon Desolate Sands, what’s your take on it? Do you feel all of your goals with it have been achieved?

Erik Rutan: For me, I don’t think I will ever feel 100% accomplished with anything I do, because there’s always room for growth. That’s what has driven me for 30 years plus, I’m always striving for better. But I have to say, with the progress of this band, personally it [Upon Desolate Sands] feels like one of my biggest accomplishments. For us as a whole, not just individually, I think it really delivered everything we could have hoped for – we put so much into it.

For me, not only musically speaking, but from a production standpoint, it’s one of my favorite productions that I have been able to work on. It really captured what I was looking to get across with the musical approach, the players involved, and the tonalities we went for. I’m really pumped about how it came out. I’m very pleased.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you see as being the most important factors that you have to think about when you write a new Hate Eternal album?

Rutan: Actually one of the most important factors is not thinking. Just letting it flow naturally. I don’t put too much thought into the process so much as I let things occur organically through writing. For me, each record is a different chapter of our career, my life, and the life of whoever is involved. I just let these things become naturally inspired, from the beginning of me playing guitar until now. My whole career has been channeling energy into my music, and channeling a depth of who I am as a person and things that maybe I have endured in my life, and challenge myself constantly to strive for better – whether it’s better music, being a better person, or better everything.

With Hate Eternal, someone reminded me that it has been twenty years since the first album, and holy crap, that’s unbelievable! I remember it like it was yesterday. For me to continue to do keep doing Hate Eternal and writing records, always challenging everyone including myself, to bring out the best of us is just something I truly value and appreciate. I’m so grateful to have these opportunities to do this in my own studio and have all these great people around me. The only thought process going into any Hate Eternal record is just ‘let’s make this the best Hate Eternal record we can.’ I always want to capture the spirit of who we are and what we have done in the past, but at the same time, focus on the present and future.

Dead Rhetoric: In terms of channeling energy, where do you get the fuel from to continue to be inspired in your writing? As you were saying, even with just Hate Eternal, you are talking twenty years.

Rutan: It comes from my life experiences – things in my life that I have endured that have inspired me to do music in the first place. My whole life has been surrounded by music, since I was a child. I’ve been totally involved with music since forever. I was just meant to do music. For me, music became a way of expressing things in my life, either emotions or events, that I could channel those negative energies into something positive. After doing this for all these years, over thirty years now, it has been therapeutic to play this music in so many ways that I can’t say.

A lot of people meet me and say I have a very positive outlook, and I say, “If you met me thirty years ago, you wouldn’t be saying those same words.” I contribute a lot of that to the ability to work so many things out in my life through music and express myself in that way. Music is integrated into the fabric of who I am, in every way – spiritually speaking as well. I don’t think I’ll ever become uninspired. Not with the life that I have had and the inspiration behind it. I think it’s impossible to be uninspired.

Dead Rhetoric: How does it feel to consistently work with so many talented musicians in Hate Eternal? You have had a number of people in the band, but you’ve always maintained a high quality.

Rutan: My whole career has been littered with talented musicians! I’ve played with so many fantastic musicians, I’ve produced and recorded with so many incredible musicians. I feel so grateful that I have been able to be around so many great people. I guess you could say that I have a good ear for talent. I’ve always been able to find people to work with, whether they were experienced or not. I’ve been surrounded by it my whole career, and have played with so many incredible musicians. People know that I’m dedicated, hard-working, loyal, and passionate about everything I do. I think that extends out into how people perceive me to be. People know that this is the kind of person that I am.

I’m a straight-shooter too – I don’t sugarcoat things. I’m to the point, but I have people’s best interest in mind. From doing the right thing to making the right choices. I think when you are the kind of person that always tries to do the right thing, and are passionate about what you do, it draws in like-minded people. I’ve been so fortunate to meet with so many people and jam with so many musicians – holy crap it blows my mind to think that I’ve been playing for over thirty years with some of the best musicians and recording some of the best. To be so integrated into the music over the years has been awesome.

Dead Rhetoric: It was announced that you will be filling in for Cannibal Corpse in the future. What are you looking forward to, since you obviously have a great relationship with them?

Rutan: First and foremost, is the ability to be able to help Pat [O’Brien] and the Cannibal Corpse guys by doing this. I have done four album productions with them, I’ve toured with them probably five times, and I’m really good friends with everybody – they are family to me. So the fact that I can do this during a difficult time and come in and play these songs to a certain level – Pat is one of the best guitar players I’ve known and a great guy. For me to fill-in is a tremendous honor, and as you can imagine, I’ve been working my tail off for the last month working on these songs.

In some way, it’s something I never envisioned in 2019. Last year, after touring with Cannibal with Hate Eternal, so this year has been a bit of a whirlwind for me in terms of making everything happen with Cannibal and Hate Eternal, as well as my producing and my studio. I usually plan things far in advance because it’s complicated to play music and have a production career and everything in between. I am excited to be able to spend time with some of my favorite guys on the planet, and fill-in in an honorable fashion. I’ve been playing day and night, practicing to make sure I am doing these songs to the best of my ability for the Cannibal Corpse guys and the fans. Anyone who knows me knows that I am going to give the best that I’ve got, and I have a lot to give.

I’m looking forward to getting out there. Getting to tour with Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel – that’s two of the most important bands in my life, outside of Ripping Corpse and Hate Eternal of course. To do that, and to think that I’m touring with Slayer for the second time in my career – holy crap! I toured with them and Pantera with Morbid Angel, so to tour with them on their farewell tour is kind of overwhelming. I’m certainly ready and prepared for this thing, I’ll tell you that.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you balance producing and Hate Eternal at this point?

Rutan: Sometimes better than others! Some years I’m doing too many records and others I’m not doing enough of it. It’s hard to balance doing both things. But at the same time, I just look at life in a certain way that it will bring you on certain paths. Sometimes people have the ability to be perceptive. Because my life has been a tremendous journey, with some great moments and some difficult ones. I always feel like when it becomes more challenging, I’m prepared because I’m accustomed to challenge and defying the odds and overcoming them.

It’s a constant evolving challenge with producing and doing Hate Eternal. Now filling in for Cannibal Corpse, it posed a tremendous challenge, but I’m always up for it and always will be. It’s such a huge part of who I am – taking these moments and becoming a better man for it. I embrace the challenge and am willing to take on any of the challenges that life poses for me.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you see a difference in producing Hate Eternal albums vs other band’s albums?

Rutan: I would say yes. When you produce other people’s music, you have a different vision of it. When you craft your own music, your vision comes from a different place as well. There’s so many similarities between both. But doing your own record poses a lot of challenges that you have to overcome. It’s all about balance and keeping a level head and a clear mind.

But that’s the same with doing other records. When I’m working with other bands, I know that record is the most important thing in their lives. I embrace that, and I take that into who I am. I focus all of my energy into that very record that I am working on right there. I’m fortunate enough to have that hyper-focus and the ability to void out the fray and focus on the task at hand. I’m lucky to have that ability and it works very well for me. Doing my own records, I don’t think there is anything harder than that, because of all of the hats I have to wear and the responsibility, but at the same time, it’s also the most rewarding. It comes with the territory.

Dead Rhetoric: So do you feel that because you are in a band of your own, when you record/produce for other people, that shared sense of knowing how important it is to them gives you an advantage?

Rutan: Certainly – plus the fact that I play guitar, I play bass, I sing, and I understand drums very well – I grew up with different music and all that. My thirty years of recording albums as a professional musician and things of that nature. It definitely lends a hand in that. Also, when I do any record for Hate Eternal – it’s just so damn important for me. I know it’s the next step of my life and an evolution of my life and what I’m doing. I take that to heart when I do records with other bands. I know they feel the same way. When you are in the studio, that record is your whole life, and you put everything into it. I treat it as such.

Certainly, my connection in a musical sense and on a personal level – I’m good with communication and I have no problem also communicating the things that people often don’t like to communicate about. I don’t hold back on anything, and that’s who I am as a person. I try to lay everything out there on the table in all facets of my life, and that includes the studio, so we can ultimately be maximizing the potential of the individuals involved and as a collective – which includes myself. I work with music, and that challenges me on a daily basis. Everything I play and work on challenges me. It helps me be more prepared for challenging moments in my career.

As you can see, they just keep coming. Here I am, I’m still ready to face any challenge that comes my way. Hate Eternal poses so many challenges that it prepares me for anyone else’s albums, and vice versa. In between Hate Eternal albums, I probably do between ten and thirty albums, so I learn from those experiences and apply them to some degree, in my own way, to Hate Eternal.

Dead Rhetoric: At the beginning you were talking about each album as being a step and evolution of you and the band. What do you see as places where death metal itself can evolve?

Rutan: I think that death metal has evolved in ways that I could never even envision. Maybe I’m showing my age because I’m 47, but man, there are so many subgenres! Someone will say something to me one day and ask if I have ever heard of this subgenre and I will say, “What the fuck is that? I’ve never even heard of that! That’s really a subgenre, holy shit!” I guess I have to get with the times, because I’m still living in the old days in some capacity. But not really, because I’m up to date and well-versed on things that I need to be. Especially when it comes to recording and things of that nature.

To me, there’s no limitations on anything whether it’s music or life. I think anything is possible. That’s how I look at everything. I’d be curious to see where everything in music goes. Whether it’s music itself, the medium we listen to music on, the industry in and of itself – there are lots of question marks and challenges ahead. I look forward to seeing the answers!

Dead Rhetoric: That’s pretty positive spin on it!

Rutan: I’ve endured a lot of things in my life that has helped me look at things in a unique way. Some of that has come with age and experience. I focused so much of my life in my younger days on just negativity and emotion that took over my whole world. Now through music I have been able to express that and get a different grasp on things. I’ve learned that life is short – maximize what you have while you have it. Make the right decisions and do the right things and it will come back tenfold, and I’m a perfect example of that.

I guess it’s easier for me to look at things in a more positive fashion due to the fact that there has been times in my life that it was the complete opposite. So when I look at where I have come from, and how far I have come, and everything around me, its easy to reflect and become humbled and grateful for what I have and been able to get to. I feel like life is much more easily traveled if you are prepared, and I’m prepared for a lot. It helps your world when you have experienced a lot, and it has set me up to handle whatever is thrown my way.

Dead Rhetoric: I think we’ve covered a lot of what’s going on in the near future with Hate Eternal, filling in for Cannibal Corpse, and producing so I’m going to wrap up with something else. Based on all your experiences and what we have been talking about, have you ever thought about writing a book of some sort?

Rutan: I don’t know – I have thought about writing down my memoirs at some point because my life is such a unique story and no one really knows the whole thing. People have pieces, and some know more than others, but certainly it’s an interesting story – from the beginning to now. I don’t know if I would ever open myself up in that way. I do think about writing my memoirs so that it is there in the very minimal sense for family, but you never know.

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