Skinless – Remaining Ruthless

Monday, 29th June 2015

Anyone from the upstate New York region will no doubt recall Skinless as being one of the scene’s biggest success stories. After a massive number of shows and working on their own, they signed with Relapse Records and crafted their second album, Foreshadowing Our Demise. The band become more world renown with the push from Relapse and followed up Foreshadowing with two more releases, culminating in 2006’s Trample the Dead, Hurdle the Weak. But by getting to that point, the band had lost a number of members through the years, including vocalist Sherwood Webber. The band eventually folded in back in 2011, but decided to re-form, with their ‘classic’ line-up (which created Progression Towards Evil and Foreshadowing Our Demise).

But what good is a reformation without new tunes? Skinless decided to write their first new album in almost a decade, entitled Only the Ruthless Remain. It’s clear upon first note that it’s not a simple, ‘cash-in’ reunion album. Everything feels like vintage Skinless, of course with a few upgrades (one of which being a second guitarist – Dave Matthews). DR was able to chat with vocalist Sherwood Webber on the album’s release day, to discuss the band’s outlook, touring, and even discuss the lack of sound clips (which were highly prevalent on the band’s debut).

Dead Rhetoric: The album was just released today, how have the responses been so far?

Sherwood Webber: The response has been huge so far. Not only our friends, who are blowing smoke up our ass, but from people that haven’t even heard us before. I haven’t paid much attention to the criticism, but it’s always nice to know that people are on the same page and are feeling the same things about the music that we are making.

Dead Rhetoric: You just did Maryland Death Fest, and I know you’ve done it before. What do you like about that particular festival?

Webber: It’s super unique as far as the US shows go. There’s nothing like it. People come from all over the world. I’ve seen old German friends there. Just a bunch of maniacs from all over. There’s a big Denver crew there, and I’m from there so it’s kind of like being home but being able to party with all your friends from all the different states. It’s a good meeting point for everyone who is deeply into the scene.

Dead Rhetoric: Are you still involved with Denver Black Sky?

Webber: Yes, we are working on Denver Black Sky for December 5, 2015. And yeah, that’s a lot of fun too. We don’t have any aspirations about making it as big as Maryland Deathfest. We just want to do one or two cool shows a year. Denver is so isolated, sometimes you don’t get to see the acts that we want to bring in and pair up with everyone else. So it’s a great excuse to throw down and drink some beer with bands you don’t hear every day.

Dead Rhetoric: Using the classic line-up, how did the decision come about to add a second guitarist?

Webber: Noah [Carpenter] was playing with Dave [Matthews] in his other band Armor Column. He immediately recognized his work ethic and talent. Noah came to me and said, ‘this is the most dedicated guy I’ve played music with’ and he is. The guy builds his own guitars, he is incredibly talented and motivated, and he practices nonstop. He actually motivated the rest of us and made us come to his level. We are all hardworking guys, but man, he takes it a step further. It was a great fit, both talent-wise and stylistically.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you think he’s getting sick of all the ‘Dave Matthews’ comments and jokes that have been going around?

Webber: He’s lived with it his entire life, it’s just on a little more amplified scale now that people say it in metal press. But I don’t think anything phases Dave.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel is the quintessential element of Skinless’ sound?

Webber: It all really revolves around Noah and his style. He’s the founding member and has always been the driving force behind the music. You can hear the old Skinless demos and draw lineage all the way to Only the Ruthless Remain. You can hear his style – it’s really his sound. And then everyone else is just built upon that. You can listen to the band now and after all these years, we have a sound and a style. It’s not like when we put out Progression Towards Evil and we were a new band and it’s like, ‘oh where is it going to go?’ You can hear those similarities throughout the years but we are very clearly defined as a band, and that’s just fine with us.

Dead Rhetoric: Going along with that, how do you feel Only the Ruthless Remain differs from what you’ve done in the past?

Webber: I don’t think it actually differs a whole lot. Every album for a band is a snapshot, and this is certainly where we are at now. The break gave us a lot of motivation this time around. Everything came super naturally. It wasn’t like ‘ahh, I have to sit down and pen some lyrics.’ It was like ‘man, this is fucking exciting.’ Every time I would just get a new track and be ready to rock. I’d get the feedback from those guys and it was incredibly exciting. To fly to New York and practice – crack open some beers with those guys in the rehearsal room. It made me feel the way I felt the way I did back in 1998 or 1999 when the band was really taking hold and creating our own identity. Fuck, I say more power to Skinless. A lot of bands just don’t come back and it’s awesome man.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you think that it can be helpful from time to time to take a break and step back for a bit?

Webber: Oh sure, I think so. We are all older now and have families. All those life things that go on kind of contribute to it. You find out whether you are a lifer in a band, or you turn around and grow up. That’s what a lot of people do, and I’m all about it because I love my family more than everything. It’s certainly nice to fly out for a weekend, play a metal festival, and hang out with your friends like when we used to tour. The frequency in which we tour is certainly less, but the intensity of that meeting is certainly more.

Dead Rhetoric: Speaking of maturing and growing up, do you feel that lyrically, the band has stepped up a bit since the days of “Pool of Stool” or “Tug of War Intestines?”

Webber: I wouldn’t put too much emphasis into maturity of lyrics, but back then it was kind of like, ‘who gives a fuck,’ we didn’t really care. We just wrote some lyrics that made ourselves chuckle. I’ve found a creative outlet in actually writing some death metal lyrics. There’s definitely some more thought, but we haven’t grown up at all.

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