Rithiya Henry Khiev – The Realm of ExecutionThursday, 26th July 2018
Shifting priorities from a more band-oriented situation with Alterius into a solo driven venture that inherently focuses on his instrumental skills, guitarist Rithiya Henry Khiev has a lot to say in the metal realm. Releasing two EP’s over the past year (the latest of which Eviscerated Realm hits streets in September), you can tell the man has much to say in power, progressive, and extreme metal contexts – never forgetting the need for hooks and melodies to tie things all together. There’s something for everyone when taking in the djent-like/cyber textures to “Kepler” or the obliteration crunch and savage nature to “Research Hindered” – proving the man’s diversity and understanding of proper feel and context track to track.
Reaching out to Rithiya, you’ll learn more about the man’s background – the supporting cast for his ideas – as well as how he views the instrumental market for metal these days. It should be clear to see that the man’s passion for where he would like to go is limitless, refreshing especially in a market craving for DIY breakthroughs.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your fondest childhood memories surrounding music? And how did you make the progression into metal and eventually picking up an instrument to start playing yourself?
Rithiya Henry Khiev: I’d have to say jamming out on Cambodian folk music with the old man and my brother in the living room. We found an old ass acoustic in a garbage can a couple of blocks away, took it home, bought some strings, stuck in a 2×4 because of the bridge protruding pretty far out, and stuck in three wood screws to hold the entire back end in place (laughs). My progression into the metal world started off as a curiosity really. I remembered listening to the radio and manually scanning through the stations out of boredom in my bedroom mapping out what each frequency range was airing at the time. That’s when it struck me. I heard a snippet of Metallica’s “Wherever I May Roam” and stopped almost instantaneously. I was fascinated by how heavy the guitars & drums sounded compared to the oldies my folks would put on forcefully due to having just a single radio in the house at the time. (laughs) That’s when my world was flipped upside down man.
Dead Rhetoric: In 2015 you released an EP Voyager which consisted of old and new tracks for the progressive death metal project you were a part of called Alterius. What can you tell us about your time with the group, and how did you decide upon the final choices to represent the work of the band?
Khiev: Alterius was an interesting project that’s still quite alive but in hiatus at the moment. I composed all of the music minus a couple of solo sections, 95% of the lyrics, produced the vocals, & mixed / mastered the entire record. As for the writing process I essentially arrange (almost) completed compositions for song structuring. Then once the song structure is in place musically the way I like it? I’ll refine and polish from there. If the other members have an idea. I have them compose to that section with their visions, and we listen and discuss. The last thing I want in a creative / productive environment is for people to discuss just to hear themselves speak. (Which happens a lot with certain types of individuals and is a huge pet peeve of mine). So, please execute your thoughts and arrangements through action then present it to me and I will take it into consideration once thoroughly reviewed. Some may see this as being ‘cold’ but I’m the type of person who gets shit done that needs to move on to the next task towards the bigger goal (laughs) but, this is only when I’m the main creator. If I were just a live guitarist? You can tell me how high you want me to jump! (laughs)
Dead Rhetoric: Your debut EP as Rithiya Henry Khiev, The Finite Cycle came out last year – consisting of a mixture of instrumental tracks and a couple of vocally-led efforts. Tell us about the songwriting and recording sessions for this – and how you decided the specific guests/support musician-wise you collaborated with? How do you feel about the overall outcome now that you’ve had time to reflect upon this?
Khiev: It was quite hectic really. The Finite Cycle EP was material for the 2nd Alterius EP hence the “Voyager II” continuation but, I was dealing with a disagreement with the ex-vocalist’s work ethics at the time, and decided to end the whole band charades on my end and become a solo artist because I’m already doing everything anyways (laughs). It just made sense to me. Nick Scarfo and I worked amazingly well together, and he helped contribute a verse riffs for “Industrial Demise”, a guest solo for “Voyager II”, and wrote the main verse and lead hook for “The Finite Cycle”. I highly recommend Nick for session & guest work. He’s such a talented guitarist and a fellow gear head!
The songs for the Voyager II EP were completed for about six months which was ample time to think of a plan B just in case things didn’t work out with the vocalist. So I started imagining certain styles for guest guitarists that would fit the record, and immediately thought of Ryan Knight (ex-guitarist for The Black Dahlia Murder). The dude just rips with swagger behind the fretboard. So I hit him up on Facebook and an email, sent him the music, he dug the material, and accepted to be a guest guitarist! Joey Concepcion came out of the wood work. (laughs) As soon as I saw him play. I hit him up to be a guest shredder for the song “For All Mankind”. Dimtry Demanyaneko is a guitarist that I’ve been following for quite some time with his efforts as both a solo artist and the main axeman for his band Shokran. He was advertising guest sessions for fifty bucks at the time, and I hopped on that shizzle like white on rice, and had him guest appear for “The Finite Cycle”. A song that I’ll never be able to perform live but, came out gloriously awesome (laughs).
I’ve known Jeff DeMarco for quite some time and was always a fan of his work in both Excrecor & Solium Fatalis. So I asked away and he accepted to track vocals at his home studio! He also composed all of his vocal parts with very little input from my end, wrote lyrics for “The Finite Cycle”, and got them done within three weeks. All signs of a true professional! Charles Ayala approached me to write lyrics for “Maelstrom of War” and I said screw it why not (laughs), turns out he is quite the poet with much to say. And, Jim Gregory from Solium Fatalis wrote lyrics for “For All Mankind”. I had the drums laid out via midi pretty solid for the EP but decided to have Chris Dovas throw down for a more realistic feel. I am a big fan of his work. I think I covered everything!
Dead Rhetoric: Your latest EP is Eviscerated Realm – another strong five-song outing that showcases your wide tastes when it comes to progressive and extreme metal. What thoughts come to mind when composing instrumental music – are you conscious of the need for melody and hooks even as the technicality or shredding elements come up?
Khiev: Yes, I always try to come up with catchy but tasteful melodies for anything I compose, and to also make sure it’s not too technical because I’m also catering to the average listener and live show performances for the overall production. The shredding aspect is actually the last thing on my mind (laughs). I’m a horrible singer so I substitute it with guitar melodies and a bit of wankery here and there (laughs).
Dead Rhetoric: Discuss the importance of equipment and how it helps shape the output for your recording and live activities – do you believe the quality of your ideas gain a deeper level of respect and appreciation because of the attention to detail in terms of tones and production values.
Khiev: My internal rule of thumb is if it helps enhances the listener’s experience? Then add it in! But yes, doing everything from a DIY perspective allows me to efficiently plan for the entire production. My end goal is to acquire a production team for live performances to help execute the visions from my consciousness to the stage, and that takes a great level of understanding & communication to help make it as stress free but efficient as possible.
Dead Rhetoric: You have an interesting quote on your personal Facebook page that I would like to explore. You state ‘Djent I am not. However, I do appreciate the musicianship.’ Do you believe that there are times where people hop onto a specific new trend or sub-genre to incorporate it into their music, without really thinking about how it can truly enhance their output for the greater good?
Khiev: Music is compositions of sound that have the ability to convey emotion sonically, through my eyes that is, and if it sounds good? That means its good music. I highly dislike the ‘social constructs’ that get built around each genre of music. An artist in any medium should have the freedom to create whatever style they want without the petty criticisms but, unfortunately it’s a part of human nature to shun what is different from their ‘circle of friends’ in society.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe we are in a revival of sorts for instrumental music in the metal realm – almost as if a new generation is appreciating the wider landscape of influences at a musician’s disposal?
Khiev: It’s always been there. It’s just now being more accepted by the listeners. As the population of earth grows the niche markets will thrive exponentially over time along with influences by others. Will it ever reach the mainstream to Lindsey Stirling’s level? I highly doubt it unless, Norway takes over the world (laughs).
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of the New England metal scene at this point? Do you enjoy the diversity and opportunities that seem to be available between venues, promoters, bands, musicians, and the networking possibilities that grow out of this? What goals do you set for yourself either in the short-term or long-term – as in where would you like to see yourself and your musical career say within the next 18 to 24 months?
Khiev: I enjoy the metal scene here. All I’ll say is that, it needs refinement. We have the venues but now it needs to cater to the viewer’s experience. A rule I like to follow is. ‘Are you getting bored? Why? How can I stop this from being boring? How can I make this more exciting for the listeners?’ As for where I’d like to see myself in the next two years? Touring once a year while working under “RHK Studios” full time as a production service as well as a performing artist.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you think of a specific time in your life where you failed at something, but in the end that failure ended up setting you up for a future success or lifelong learning experience down the line?
Khiev: Musically, all of my past “failed” music projects have given me lots of insight & knowledge to pursue it from a difference perspective. From a life perspective? I guess when humanity failed my parents during the Khmer Genocide in Cambodia. Growing up in that environment and dealing with the aftermath first hand gave me a vast amount of compassion and understanding as I got older.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your top five albums of all-time – metal or otherwise? Also what have been some of your favorite concert memories purely attending as a fan?
Khiev: My top five metal albums are Arch Enemy’s Wages of Sin, Metallica’s And Justice for All, Nevermore’s Dead Heart in a Dead World, In Flames’ Clayman, and Dimmu Borgir’s Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia. As for my favorite concert memory? I’d have to say The Summer Sanitarium Tour in 2003 with my best bud and brother in-law. I was a little Rithiya that saw boobs all around me. Best night ever (laughs).
Dead Rhetoric: What can we expect from Rithiya Henry Khiev for the rest of 2018 into early 2019 as far as promotion and activities related to your endeavors?
Khiev: Lots of signature gear, a full-length album, & TOURING!!!