Local Spotlight: metal veterans, Black Ritual
Local Spotlight: metal veterans, Black Ritual
Black Ritual has been one of the long time members of the local metal scene in Charlotte since the early 2000s. There have been a number of lineup changes over the years, but the current lineup is comprised of Charlie Calebro-vocals, Gary Rackley-guitar, Eddie Cousins-bass, and Brad Seller-drums. They have recently released a fittingly named three-song EP titled “Resurrection,” and have also just filmed their first music video. The video will feature the song “Sick 66” off the EP and will be released soon. I asked the guys if I could come out and meet them at their practice room to ask some questions, get to know them a little better, and hear some tunes.
S16: For those out there who aren’t familiar with Black Ritual, how long have you been playing together?
Gary Rackley: Black Ritual started in 2004. Me and Chuck are the only original members currently in the band. Eddie came in.. in…2006?
Eddie Cousins: Yea, 2006.
GR: We were strong for 4 years…until 2010. Well, that’s when we separated. Is that right? That’s when I left the band.
Brad Sellers: What, y’all were married?
EC: Yea, pretty much married.
BS: I found out something new from this interview.
GR: In 2010, THE BAND, separated for a few years. For about 5 years.
EC: A little bit longer for Gary, but with us it was about 4 or 5 years,
GR: We got back together at the end of 2015 and here we are. We are feeling strong now, but as far as the lineup goes we did lose one of our original members within the last year. I was actually the drummer for many years, then I decided I want to play guitar. So, we found Brad which is the best thing that could have ever happened to the band. Me going to guitar and Brad coming in on drums. This is the perfect fit.
BS: I have almost been with the band a year now. April 11 of last year was my first audition.
GR: We had another guy playing drums with us for a little while, but it didn’t work out.
EC: We have gone through a lot of members over the last 10 years, unfortunately. Some were a one day, one night kind of thing and some were with us for years. It kind of shows who we three are, and now Brad, that we have been together for so many years that we are here for the long haul.
BS: That is exactly what drew me to the band when they called. If those guys have been in it that long, I know they are not going to just give up and say ok, we are done. I pretty much knew I was stepping into something real.
EC: When Brad came in we three just practiced together for three months alone. The dedication that he showed us….
GR: It was like he was one of the originals.
GR We knew we needed to get this going. We were always a 5-piece. This is the first time we have been a 4-piece and we are the most rock solid that we have ever been. Even playing shows, writing, just collaborating on everything. Band business. Rock solid. I couldn’t be happier.
S16: I have seen you guys playing quite a bit lately. What does the upcoming schedule look like for the band?
GR: We are wanting to play as many shows as we can. At the same time though, we are in writing mode. So it’s like we are taking time to write because we just did the EP. Where do we go now? Let’s write some more music now. Lets try to do a full album down the road.
BS: Even if we are writing new stuff and trashing it, we want to keep writing. Good stuff comes out when you least expect it.
GR: At the same time, we want to play some shows.
EC: We got to blend it. We got to find that blend. We took almost 3 months off at the end of the summer to get ready for the EP, to write songs and to just get tight. Our old guitar player left during that time and we spent months and months just finding out where Gary, Brad, and I were as as a three piece without Chuck. Once we got tight then Chuck came in and did his thing and put the icing on the cake.
GR: We are looking to not play Charlotte so much, because you will burn yourself out. We worry that everyone may feel like they know who you are playing again, so they may not come to the next show. They will just go to the one after that. Next thing you know, you have scattered crowds.
EC: You got to make them want it.
GR: Now it’s time for us to venture out and get our name known in other places. That’s another focus now is hitting the triad area, down in South Carolina, and over in Tennessee. We are excited to not have to only play in Charlotte. A lot of people are kind of bummed that Amos’ is going away, but it’s time to go out of Charlotte and start playing. You have Winston, Columbia, so many cities, even Hickory that we never even focussed on.
BS: When you play some of these other cities you get a totally different feeling from the crowd. Places like Spartanburg and Greenville always had some of the best turnouts for the metal bands.
GC: Don’t get me wrong, Charlotte is our home and home base and where we get out bigger crowds, but it is time to focus on some other places as well. We want to make sure we are playing here still and when we come back everyone is pumped for us.
S16: How do you feel about the metal scene now in Charlotte?
BS: I think it’s better now in Charlotte than it has been in a long time.
GS: You know, I think all these clubs closing down is doing that. Its making people go, hey we have a scene here.
BS: There was a 10 year span that Charlotte was kicking ass in its metal scene, but there was about a 5 year span that was rough.
Charlie Calebro: The 90s were good. As far as the band scene, you had Rocky’s, Jeremiah’s, the Ritz, and Tabloids.
BS: It was unreal then. I’d see bands all the time and say why the hell are they not signed or on tour or something.
EC: I think we went through a dry spell when a lot of bands broke up 5 years ago. Within the past 5 years so many have gotten together, like Skinkage, some of those other bands that have been around as long as we have. We got back together, and we could tell a difference. A lot of people were coming out and they were pumped up.
BS: There are a lot more younger people into metal now. Even the girls are getting into it now. In high school, all the girls I knew were into Metallica, but once I got into my 30s, you couldn’t find a female who wanted to listen to metal. It’s kind of like history is repeating itself again.
S16: So I was talking to another local band recently and they said they felt like the metal scene was dead here. What do you think about that?
BS: I disagree with that. It is a touchy subject and many people have different opinions about that. I have been playing in metal bands since ’91 and I think it’s stronger now than ever.
CC: I guess it depends on what they mean. There are a lot of types of metal, you have grindcore, thrash metal. I guess it depends on if they mean certain genres or just in general.
EC: They say that a lot about Charlotte and have for many many years.
GR: We (Charlotte) may not be as big as like Los Angeles, Seattle, or Florida, but the metal scene here, the people in it, are tighter than any other state there is. We are all very close. We are a big family.
EC: You come to a metal show, you are going to give hugs. We even have a band camp where we all go to. We have had up to 30 or 40 people out there. All bands and friends just getting together to celebrate each other.
GR: Nobody is playing music really, other than maybe some acoustic stuff. It is people just hanging out and are getting to know each other.
EC: It’s hard at the shows to get to know people sometimes because it is so hectic, but we do things like that to be able to take time to get know people.
BS: I can’t think of any other groups or genres that do anything like that.
CC: I haven’t been to one yet because I can’t spend 3 or 4 days without showering.
GR: They have shower houses.
CC: They do? Oh OK I can go then. I’m just sayin’, if everyone was drunk and tore up for 3 days with no showers, that would be bad. I couldn’t deal with that.
CC: I was hoping you were going to ask us that. We have gone through many phases, and we don’t sound now like we did when we first started. We aren’t set out to be one genre. We do what we do and it comes out like it comes out. It’s not thrash, it’s not deathcore. It’s Black Ritual.
BS: When someone asks me what kind of band I play in I just say a metal band.
EC: People our age probably feel metal is metal. The younger generation started putting in other names for it.
CC: A lot of the young bucks are coming out with a lot of different types of metal, and I like it. We just don’t play that style. I would do vocals over any of that type of music.
BS: There is a reason we never got into playing any of those other styles of metal.
CC: Yea, we are fucking old.
BS: I just never liked playing it and never learned how to be a death metal drummer.
GR: We all have different influences but one thing we can all agree on is Pantera, Sabbath, Testament, Acid Bath, and Corrosion of Conformity.
EC: One thing I love about this band is everyone contributes. Our songs have a little bit of each of us in it. It isn’t just one person writing the songs. We all contribute. I think that’s what gives us our diversity in our music. You can listen to one song and hear two or three different styles of metal and the next song is nothing like the last one.
GR: Two songs might be completely different, but you can listen to them and say, that’s Black Ritual.
CC: We don’t sound like anyone else. I wish y’all would help write the lyrics sometimes. That would be nice.
GR: I wish you would help write the guitar riffs sometime.
CC: Good point. I’ll stick with the lyrics. I’d rather write the lyrics than any of the instruments. You are right.
BS: I told you when I try to write lyrics it sounds like M&M.
S16: Chuck, do you write all the lyrics?
CC: I have so far. For the most part. Gary and Eddie have helped before. 97% of them I have written though. Eddie is a good writer, a poet, but our styles are so different, opposite end of the spectrum. It is hard to put something he wrote and something I wrote together.
EC: Chuck has an amazing ability to write hooks for songs.
GR: That’s why we pretty much leave him alone.
CC: Sometimes I have to really dig for it. I have a folder with me with stuff I have been writing since 2003. I have never thrown anything away. I just write and write. I have enough lyrics for 5 or 6 albums.
GR: Another reason we don’t jump in to help is every time the end outcome is like, damn, that’s exactly what we wanted. If I would have stepped in to help, I would have screwed that one up.
CC: I might get neurotic and want to change everything if someone was trying to help me anyway. I do love it. It is fun. I love writing and arranging the lyrics to the music. Some songs are a lot harder than others and some of the new music they are working on, I can tell it is going to be a chore.
S16: Do you like to have the music written first then write the lyrics:
CC: I like to do it that way if possible, but sometimes if they are in here creating it will just hit me and start clicking right then.
GR: We can always tell when that happens. Chuck will say, play it again. Play it one more time.
CC: Generally, I would prefer them to finish it and get a recording of it. I will sit by myself, start and stop when I want to. Stop it for a long time or go back and forth through different parts of the song.
S16: How did you write the EP?
EC: Two of the songs, “Blood in the Water” and “Sick 66,” Gary had those riffs. “Inceptions” was already kind of written with our last guitar player. After he left, we fine tuned it.
CC: Some of it came while I was here. Mostly I sat at home. Most of the time I have to come up with a vocal pattern. It is really hard to explain, but I hear a vocal rhythm and go with it.
BS: When we are creating and he starts singing, I screw the song up. I get so pumped up and focus on his singing and end up screwing it up.
EC: One of the reasons we wanted to get the music out now was to let people see where we are now as a 4-piece. This is who we are now and spent the last 6 months defining who we are.
CC: We have other new music ready to go now as well.
GR: This goes back to what I said earlier, we are in writing mode still.
CC: It’s better when I am able to write my lyrics after the music anyway because it can get boring for me. As they are writing, it is the same riff over and over or parts of a riff over and over. I feel like i should go home during that because there isn’t anything I can do. I have no physical outlet with that so I can be a pest.
S16: Where does the title of the EP mean for you, “Resurrection?”
EC: This is Black Ritual resurrected in who we are now. We thought about changing the title but it is really what happened to us and what is going on now.
BS: I felt like the name fit, as the new guy. I followed these guys for years before I ever met Gary or Eddie.
CC: Brad and I knew each other for a long time and hung out together before he ever met these guys. We lived right down the road from each other for years. We hung out at his house playing music real loud talking about how that’s what we were going to do, screaming SLAYER!
BS: I was friends with both of them on social media but never got to hang out with either one of them.
S16: Where can we get the new EP and keep up with Black Ritual?
GR: It is available on Amazon, Spotify, Itunes, all the normal places online. You can go right to Blackritualband.com, and it is up for sale there. Once you get to the page, the player is right on the front page and has everything you need to know about us.
EC: I am on Instagram as much as possible as well.
GR: We are stretched out all over the internet.
S16: I saw you were filming your first video; when and where can we see that?
GR: We just filmed it this week, so in a few weeks the editing should be complete and we will plaster it everywhere. It will be on our website.
EC: We may do an event to release it as well.
CC: It would be awesome to have it playing in the background as we play the first time it is released.
S16: Can you wait that long to hold off on releasing it?
CC: Are you kidding me? Nahhh we can’t hold onto to anything. We would be arguing with each other to do that. If one or two could be patient enough, the other two wouldn’t.
EC: This is really the first video that we have ever done. It says a lot about who we are now. 5 years ago, we didn’t do things like that. We wouldn’t do videos or interviews. We just wanted to play. Now, we have it in our frame of mind that we want to do it on a more professional level to get our music out there.
GR: At our age, this is our last chance. It’s not just about playing live, it is about band business.
EC: Nothing or nobody is holding us back. We want to show people that and prove that to people.
BS: Years ago it wasn’t that easy to make a video.
GR: it’s not really that easy when you are a blue collar working guy. We all want to take that tour. We want to do it more than once.
EC: Again. it is a resurrection for us. We are going to do the things that we didn’t do before and never had the opportunity, motivation or people to back it up.
GR: I want to do things I’ve never done before. I want to go on tour, make a video, make an album. I want to get signed.
CC: Hell yea. That would be great.
GR: I want to do all those music things that I haven’t done, and this is my last chance.
EC: We all feel that way. It’s not just his last chance, it’s our last chance. It’s the band’s last chance. We are all in it together.
GR: If it’s not Black Ritual, then it’s not happening for me.
S16: In a few sentences what do you want people to know about Black Ritual?
The Band: We do what we do and it comes out the way it comes out. We love to play metal and the feeling that we get from playing. Seeing people in the crowd singing the lyrics is a gratifying and a humbling experience for us. We love to see people in the crowd pumping their fists to the music and the occasional pit. We work hard, and we play hard. Give us a chance and we will do our job to entertain you. In other words, we are a great live band and we want people to come out to our shows and participate with us. We love our fans and the people who come to the shows more than anything and that’s the reason we do what they do. We want people to enjoy our music. If you come out to the shows we will love you and hug you. Support your local metal!