Thursday 17 September 2015

'Treading the Serpentine Path & Back!': A Conversation with Ryan Lipynsky

 By Chris Bull

In 2006 I heard an album called 'The Trident' by a band called Unearthly Trance. Songs like 'Permanent Ice', ‘The Air Exits/The Sea Accepts Me', 'Decrepitude' and 'You Get What You Want' instantly spoke volumes to me. This was a band who were not stuck in genre mediocrity, a band that were a square peg in the round hole of doom. From then on I was hooked. I sought their earlier albums and salivated at the prospect of new ones. I trawled eBay and discogs to get my hands on their rare split 10" and 7" releases and any merchandise I could. Then in 2012 it was all over. The announcement of their dissolution hit me like a death in the family. I consoled myself listening to their back catalogue and the knowledge that Serpentine Path were close to releasing their debut album. Fast forward to 2015, the band are back! Playing shows and writing new music, as well as being involved in several other projects. I prepared the probe for guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lipynsky.

SL). Ryan, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. I must say it's fantastic news to hear UT are back and firing on all cylinders, what spurred this reunion on? 

Ryan Lipynsky: It is hard to say exactly, but I think it was a combination of having time away from the band to really appreciate it and the fact that the 3 of us were still playing together in other bands. Jay and I started doing Humanless, which is a band that has myself on guitar and Jay on bass. Starting to do that band in conjunction with continuously doing Serpentine Path, inevitably lead to conversations about possibly doing UT once again. From there, it really was just Jay and I trying to get Darren on board and after he was up for it, we just got into a room and blasted out a bunch of a songs and it felt great! We all just missed playing our songs. It was the desire to connect with our music that brought us back together. I think having a break and being able to reflect on the past, gave us an immense sense of pride and passion for what we created as well as what we could still do in the future.

SL). The ‘Ouroboros’ CD compilation released by Throne Records was a great way to chronicle your legacy as well as feature a couple of unreleased songs. They're also responsible for rereleasing what many consider to be your landmark album 'In The Red', how did this collaboration come about?

Ryan Lipynsky: For years people asked us for CD/Digital versions of these hard to find songs that were on vinyl releases. After we broke up, this was the last thing I wanted to even think about. But as time passed, I was once again in contact with UG/Throne Records and he actually brought up the idea of possibly doing a CD collection of hard to find songs. Going through all this old stuff and putting it together also was a catalyst in getting back the band. Throne had in the past released a split of UT and Suma, so we knew that him bringing back Throne Records and wanting to put out something by us made perfect sense. ‘In The Red’ re-release was also Thrones suggestion but it was something we wanted to do for years. I think that album is really one of our best.

SL). A video surfaced on YouTube recently of a show you played in St Vitus bar in New York where you aired new material, how close are you to having a whole album complete?

Ryan Lipynsky: Well, I have lots of songs written, enough for an album for sure, but we are still in the early stages of putting the next full length together. We have three songs we have worked on so far, but between dusting off the old songs for shows and our own busy personal lives, we are taking things as they come. No rushing, just going to let things develop on its own organically. But we do have a goal to record sometime early next year.

SL). Speaking of that particular song, it reminded me of some of your earlier work, particularly 'Frost Walk With Me' and 'Summoning The Beast'. In what direction will your new album take you?

Ryan Lipynsky: Hmm. Not sure I agree with you on those song comparisons? “FWWM” is fast black metal-ish kind of song and the new song we played “Lion Strength” is not that similar to that song in my opinion. “Lion Strength” is more of a brooding doom song [along the lines of “V”] with a quiet middle section [almost Om/Sleep like?] and a Celtic Frost like riffing end with a guitar solo. That song has developed since that show and we just wanted to test it out live. I think album 6 will be a mixture of everything we have done in the past and with plenty of new elements. The focus on the stuff I have written is killer RIFFS first and foremost, solid song writing and the focus on strong vocals. Most of the tempos are in the slow to mid paced with a few faster ones. I think the goal is to make the best UT album ever. We will always chase that concept. Some of the stuff we have could be heaviest stuff to date. But everyone says that right? haha

SL). When can we expect to see a new album hit the shelves? Will it be released via Relapse?

Ryan Lipynsky: Not until later next year to be honest. The plan is to do it with Relapse but we have no concrete plans yet. Just gonna continue to work on the music until we are ready.

SL). On your last album 'V' and The Wooden Wand split, your drummer Darren Verni supplied some vocals, can we expect him to rock the mic again?

Ryan Lipynsky: I really hope so! Darren has great brutal vocals and incredible singing vocals too. On our recently short tour we did “Physical Universe Distorts” into “Submerged Metropolis” every night and we all enjoyed doing those songs. I also like having the freedom to just play guitar have a break during the set. So it’s a great element to expand upon. Darren said he is down for more vocals as long as he can pull it off signing and playing drums at the same time. He also has already written lyrics for a new song called “The Great Cauldron” which is a mammoth beast of a song. Excited to start playing that one out live!

SL). Verni seems like an absolute beast behind the kit, like the love child of Dale Crover and Jason Roeder. How good is he in real life?

Ryan Lipynsky: I can tell you that you absolutely hit the nail on the head with those two. He really plays like a mix of them and also has his own unique flair that really makes any idea I have even better. Darren easily hits harder than any drummer I have ever played with. The two of us have played in bands together since we were kids in the 90’s. He was a solid drummer even at age 11! He's the kind of drummer that almost NEVER messes up and is the first one to know if one of us hit a bad note at rehearsal. His ear is impeccable. I call him the quality control guy of the band.

SL). I've always found UT to be a band with no boundaries. Comparing ‘SOSSOS’ to ‘In The Red’ and ‘Electrocution’, it's difficult to tell that it's the same band. Was this a decision you made at the formation of the band or something that just happened organically?

Ryan Lipynsky: Well I think from the beginning, we were a band that had lots of different influences. Black Metal, Doom, Sludge, Classic Rock, Hardcore, Noise etc.. Even on our first demos there are seeds of all those influences. The only thing I can say is after our first album “S.O.S. , S.O.S.” we didn't want to ever do that album again. Some people love that album, but that really does not represent who we are as a band on a whole. “In The Red” is much more accurate of what we wanted to sound like. “The Trident” and “Electrocution” was us consciously trying to push the boundaries with our sound, style and speed. I think for a bit we hated that we were pigeonholed as some sort of drone/doom band and we purposely did whatever we wanted to break that stereotype. Now, that is not to say that our bread and butter is crushing slow riffs, but we will not rule any idea out and never want to be so predictable like so many other doom/sludge bands. I remember years ago when we first started, we were put into the category of doom on a doom metal website list and that I think that is still makes sense: Unclassifiable Doom.

SL). UT are quite prolific when it comes to limited releases. You've released several splits with fairly unknown bands in the past, how do you choose which bands to release stuff with?

Ryan Lipynsky: Usually any band we do a split with is either someone we directly are friends with or a band we have toured with. Most of the splits come up by random ideas from ourselves, a label or another band. And if we have the time available and think the idea is good, we would usually go for it! Ultimately being a band on tour, it’s always smart to have cool merch and limited things people could bring home from the show. That is where we sold the majority of our hard to find releases, on tour.

SL). And which of your splits would you consider to be your favourite(s)?

Ryan Lipynsky: Good question. I think they are all pretty cool in one way or another. Off the top of my head ‘The Endless Blockade’ one was great because we put a song that was long and experimental on it and the TEB side is absolutely amazing. It was released by our friend who does Chrome Peeler and the cover art was perfect. Another one would be the UT/SUMA collaboration release that was on Throne Records. Each band traded vocalists for a song and we even collaborated on a noise track. We had that out on a tour together so it was perfect and effective. I created the art and layout to that release and it is the favorite one I have ever done for our DIY releases. But again, all of them are cool and special to us. We are doing another split in the future that hopefully will come to fruition next year! The tradition will continue!

SL). Some of your splits have included covers of bands like His Hero Is Gone and Winter, bands that I have to thank you for exposing me to, would you say that it's a goal of yours to turn fans of yours on to bands (or other artists) they may not know about?

Ryan Lipynsky: Yes absolutely. I think the best thing that could happen is someone discovering one of our favorite bands through a cover version that we record. I personally love to record cover songs but I am not sure we will be doing too much of that in the future. It has kind of run its course. I’d rather put new material out at this point!

SL). While we're on the subject of Winter, Stephen Flam of Winter is the 2nd guitarist in Serpentine Path. Is there any new SP music in the pipeline?

Ryan Lipynsky: We recently put up an older unreleased song before the last album on our bandcamp called “Venom”. It will hopefully be released on a vinyl compilation eventually. As for new stuff, Tim Baghaw has many riffs/songs written but we are taking some time to focus on Unearthly Trance and Tim also has a new band with Lee Dorrian called “With The Dead” that he recently recorded with. So nothing new immediately, but when the time is right - we will most certainly reconvene. 

One thing I should mention is that the next album will be back to the line up that was on the first S/T album. Stephen Flam stopped playing in SP a while back as he suffers from a terrible ear problem which prevents him from being around loud music. We wish him the best and it was cool to record “Emanations” with him but, yeah, Serpentine Path is back to a 4 piece.

SL). The eponymous SP album was utterly devastating. I often use 'Crotalus Horridus Horridus' as a reference point when explaining what "heavy music" truly is. How did you get it to sound so heavy?

Ryan Lipynsky: I must credit this to Tim Bashaw’s appetite for soul crushing doom and Jay Newman’s ability to capture, record and mix these kinds of sounds. Jay has done an amazing job with the two Serpentine Path albums that he recorded. So I guess it boils down to combined experience and having ability to execute our visions by recording things on our own. Our goal for SP is and always will be to make something uncompromising heavy and horrific. The guitar tone on the first album is fucking sick. I love it!

SL). You're involved in a lot of different projects, now might be a good time to spread the word about each of them and their status.

Ryan Lipynsky: The Howling Wind - Black Metal project I do with Tim Call of Nightfell/Weregoat/ Sempiternal Dusk etc. We have a new album written that we hope to record sooner than later. We are playing our first ever show in Brooklyn in November! Humanless - A newer band which Jay and I are members of.  We have written lots of new music that has gone in a interesting new direction which is focusing on cleaner guitar and melody. Something new and unique for sure. We are excited to record an album. Force & Fire - A band I do with my old buddies Pat and Bago and we recently recorded/digitally released an album recorded by Jay Newman that will come out on vinyl on Throne Records in a few months/next year. Style is a bit faster upbeat sludgey metal with all harsh vocals with some h.c. influences. RL:ZZ is my experimental project that recently completed an album that was in the makings for a few years. Heavy industrial influence on the new one.

I also have a solo project recording that I recently put vocals on that I recorded in 2012. I hope to put that out digitally soon once I finish the mixing. It has all clean vocals and rock type of sound. Something that was challenging and rewarding for myself. I will probably just use my name for that solo project.
Darren plays drums in The Shelter Sky with Eddie of Cattlepress. From what I heard they just recorded something new! Killer aggressive metal band. Jay also has done a grind band called Kaiju Daisenso that recently put out a 7”.  That is all I can think of at the moment! haha As always, there are some other things potentially brewing but I won’t mention things until we record something!

SL). As well as a reunion for UT, Buried At Sea have come out of hibernation and both bands will be embarking on a run of shows soon. Knowing of your relationship with Sanford Parker, did you have to do much arm twisting to not only bring Buried At Sea back but to put together the tour or was it more a case of him pressuring you?

Ryan Lipynsky: This whole thing came about because both bands were asked to play
the Midnight Communion III thing in Long Beach CA. I think it was Sanford who suggested maybe we should make a little tour out of it. So Ryan from Midnight Collective booked and set up the whole thing. It is awesome. We feel super excited to hit the West Coast as the last time we were there was a very long time ago! As far as Buried at Sea, I was pleasantly surprised to see them initially on the Long Beach show and as soon as we knew there was an option to tour with them, we were totally game for that.

SL). Other than the Buried At Sea tour and the new album, what can we expect from UT over the next few years?

Ryan Lipynsky: I think what you can expect from us is to stay around. Not sure how much or how little we will tour, but we really enjoy creating and playing music together. That is the bottom line. We are older now and it think somehow wiser. This band is something we appreciate and have grown up as people playing in UT. Expect more music and to never lose track of our identity. We will always play by our own rules.

SL). Any plans to cross the Atlantic (hint, hint)?

Ryan Lipynsky: We have one thing booked that should be announced sooner than later!

SL). Ryan, if you'd be so kind, please regale us with a little known fact on the subject matter of your choice.

Ryan Lipynsky: Before “Season of Seance, Science of Silence”, right after we did the first 2 demos [“Sonic Burial Hymns/Nuit”], we recorded practically 2 albums worth of songs with this guy who had no idea how to really record, mix or engineer. He said he was doing it to help us out and get the experience but in the end it became a totally aborted recording session. I am so glad it was, as it sounded like crap [for the most part] and mainly because it was mixed [unmixed] terribly. We got into a huge fight with the guy and he held the poor recordings ransom. So we abandoned the whole thing and recorded the lo-fi demo “Hadit” in our old practice space which was done with one mic on a 4 track. Soon after that, we went on our first tour with Electric Wizard and Sons of Otis! Fate had a good way of working out with that situation!

SL). In 20 words or less, explain UT to the unsuspecting reader and why people should listen to your music.

Ryan Lipynsky: Unearthly Trance is an ultra-heavy band focused on originality, creativity, darkness and the light; but most of all quality songs!

Band info: facebook | bandcamp