Recently I went to Chicago to visit family and do some interviews and one of the very cool people I wound up talking to was Bill Fay who plays guitar for Roman Ring. Along with bandmates Nate, Franco, Jason and Danny they’re making some tough Chicago-style math metal, and since it’s been a long time since I was on the scene there, I was curious to hear what things were like today.
EP: So I’ll date myself here with a story about 1983 when Black Sabbath came to town with Ian Gillan from Deep Purple on vocals. I was just seventeen and really didn’t understand ticket buying so I went all the way down to the venue to buy my tickets. I wound up getting delayed and lost and showed up at a lone ticket booth in an empty parking lot downtown thinking I was late for the 10am tickets to go on sale, and that the show had sold out already. It turned out that the first ten rows had been reserved until noon and I wound up with front row seats. The show was amazing. How could it not be? Black Sabbath X Deep Purple?! Was there one particular show you saw back in the day that really changed things for you?
BF: For me that would have been the Rage Against The Machine’s reunion show at alpine valley in ’07. I was completely blown away by how many people were at that show and 100% into it and screaming the lyrics. There was also a pretty sweet mudslide that if you stepped on it you were going down it whether you wanted to our not.
EP: What about today? Who are some of the Chicago people that are putting on the best metal shows?
BF: Currently I’d say bands like Thieves, Jar’d Loose, Ox King, Wasted Fortune, all these bands put on really great shows with either great energy, tight playing, and just looking like they’re having a good time on stage.
EP: What’s the best current metal album in your opinion? What makes it so?
BF: When we met a few days ago I mentioned that I’m not a really good metal head, but I have been listening to more metal the last few years. Unlike some of my band mates I don’t go too far down the rabbit hole of finding metal bands. Currently there are three bands that come to mind that are current, but are all probably due for another album by now are, Cattle Decapitation, Obscura, and Spawn of Possession. All of them have some crazy technical styles, with drummers that blast at a 1000 bpms, singers that sound like pigs vomiting, and really catchy riffs. What Travis Ryan does Vocally on Cattle Decapitation’s Monolith of Inhumanity you’d have to get 6 vocalist from other bands to do what he does, the guy’s range is insane and not human. Christian Muenzner who is in Spawn of Possession and formally Obscura is one of my favorite guitarist regardless of genre, he is another one that plays like he’s not even human. The drummers in those bands are all amazing, but of the 3 Hannes Grossmann of obscura is my favorite
EP: Is there a Chicago band from days past that you think should have gotten more exposure? Maybe a lost treasure people outside the city don’t know about?
BF: My number one pick from that was this band called O’Glorious Leader, I’ll admit I’m a little biased because I have been in bands with several of the members, two of which are my best friends, but that’s because of this band. In the sea of local bands from back in the day they were one of the ones that just shocked the shit out of me. I was going to a show to see Small Town Murder (the band I would join and become Roman Ring) and some other locals and OGL happened to be on the bill. They got up on stage and for 30 minutes just killed it and I was hooked. After that I was determined have my band do shows and go to as many shows of theirs as I could. Unfortunately it was relatively short lived after that and they disbanded a few years after that show. If you do a quick Google search you’ll find their sweet MySpace page they haven’t touched in years, but it’s sweet that it still exists, just make sure you blow the dust off.
EP: What about the clubs, where are the hottest shows happening right now?
BF: One of my personal favorites is Cobra Lounge for so many reasons; amazing staff, great stage and room, awesome sound, and when the kitchen is open one of the best buffalo chicken sandwiches ever! Other great venues would be live wire, which is small but some of my favorite shows I’ve played and seen were there. The empty bottle is sweet, the sound there always sounds good, I’ve yet to play there but I’ve seen some awesome shows there. The bottom lounge is sweet, also great food, however it’s massive place and they get a lot of big acts that I’m not too into.
EP: Who are some of the people really driving or contributing behind the scenes? Maybe a producer or promoter?
BF: The group Unholy Empire is doing some awesome stuff, however I’m being biased because they are our label. Even before that most shows being booked you’d see the Unholy logo on the flier and you still do. More specifically Eddie Gobbo books some really awesome bands and sets up some great shows for us even before he was a part of Unholy. Rick Linus the guy in charge of the label has been really great to work with!
EP: You just released the Babel EP which moves fast and hits hard. There’s a lot packed in there. Do you come into the studio with your ideas already mostly constructed or is there a lot of improv and discovery as you put the songs together?
BF: Being technical metal we really try to construct 99% of the music before recording, that other 1% is reserved for solos and drum fills and outros. On recordings I like to keep it pretty straight forward, it isn’t until we are playing live that I’ll get a little crafty because then I have my pedal board in front of me and I get to make a bunch of wacky sounds. Nate’s not a fan of that, but it puts a smile on my face and our friends that know our songs well enough to know that when they hear my guitar sound like a slide whistle I’m clearly fucking off.
EP: Can you tell us a little about your gear kit? What are some of the effects and tools you use to really define your sound?
BF: I’ve acquired a lot of gear of over the years and tend to switch stuff out from time to time but the main gear I always go back to are my Ibanez S prestige that I absolutely love but it doesn’t look like it cause it’s taken some beatings and a Parker Nitefly that I completely stripped and refinished and built a pick guard for with one pick up. To me it’s a great live guitar because it’s really simple and less likely to have any issues. For an amp I’ve been using my Peavey 6505+ for a while now cause it’s not too expensive and it sounds great, plus I’ve been using an effects loop now and as a result using that with my mesa two channel the effects don’t sound as good. The Peavey holds a special place in my heart because I completely change up it’s looks with a new front and white tolex. For cabs I switch between and Engl with v30’s and g12k-100’s and a Framus Cobra with an x pattern of v30’s and greenbacks. However I’ve recently started building cabs and even impressed myself with the way they’ve come out so I’ll be playing those soon. For pedals I’m not to crazy, I have my boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor to help cut back on extra noise, a boss tu-2 tuner which everyone should have, everyone! Boss DD-3 delay, CE-3 Chorus Ensemble, RV-5 Reverb all go through my effects loop which makes switching on and off of all three easy with the peavey. Honestly with our current set I’ll only switch these on 3 or 4 times for a few seconds. I have a PS-5 Pitch Shifter which is a lot of fun, I use it to dive bomb because my parker has a fixed bridge and the whammy bar on my Ibanez broke several times and I gave up fixing it. Last I have a Dimebag Darrell signature wah and an digitech whammy 2, which everyone assumes because I have these I’m a huge pantera fan, and sadly I’m not really, I just think that particular wah is one of the best Dunlop makes, and with the whammy I like making slide whistle sounds.
EP: OK, last question. Music is the same worldwide, and metal fans are equally rabid everywhere, but what makes a Chicago metal fan special?
BF: The thing that makes a Chicago metal fan special would be dedication. Honestly the metal scene in Chicago has really gone down since I was a kid going to metal shows. Chicago really isn’t a big market for metal which is why a lot of metal acts usually don’t come through here or at the least play in the suburbs. Being such a small group I feel like people are a little more picky when it comes to their metal, so if you can hook a Chicago metal head to like your band you’re doing something special.