I had the opportunity to conduct an in-depth, close-up interview with Dark Ministry, a five piece Canadian metal outfit started by drummer Rik Charron. Rik spent 18 years playing drums for Exciter and appeared on five of their albums. We delved into their musical lives and backgrounds, tastes in music, hobbies, their careers with Dark Ministry, their instruments of choice. In short, we were given a glimpse and great insight into a truly amazing, unique band.
Rik, you started Dark Ministry in Aug of 2015, so it’s still a relatively new band but the band has made a lot of strides since it started. For instance, you guys have already played with Razor, Cauldron, and Blaze Bayley. You recently signed to a great label out of the Ukraine, called Metal Scrap Records, and you released your first ep The Sermon Begins off of that label. What made you want to start up your own band?
Rik: Since I left Exciter, I just wanted to do my own thing. I had my own vision of what I wanted to play music wise. I felt my hands were a little bit tied in Exciter and I wanted to get my own music out there, and I found the right guys to do that. The only way this band actually made it really good is because of the way all of us really got along and started playing together. The songs came out really fast. It’s hard to say! When you’re in band, and you just want to keep playing even though something else falls apart, you always want to try to put something back together. So, it’s not that I want to be famous and all that stuff, to me I just like to go out there and play. If people like it, excellent, if they don’t, well that’s their opinion. The music is more for us in the first place, in front of people that really want to dig it.
I LOVE the name Dark Ministry. How did you come up with that name? What is the idea behind it?
Rik: That name just popped into my head. I was trying to figure out something that sounded evil and sinister at the same time, but not really death metal or flashy either. So I was just coming up with all kinds of things. I had Iron Cross. All these names were all taken. It’s hard to find a good name, so when I came up with Dark Ministry, I looked it up and nobody had that name. I had a really great name before that called Ninth Gate, and there was another band in the UK, that was already signed and they had that name. So when I told the guys Dark Ministry, they all kind of went “yea, that’s a cool name” so, that’s what stuck.
The artwork on the ep is amazing! Rik, you came up with the concept for the artwork right? Or did you guys put your heads together and come up with it?
Rik: I came up with the concept and I brought it up with the rest of the guys. They put their input in, so everybody had a say in what it actually looked like, but I had the vision of what it should look like and when we talked to Rafael, the artist, he came and drew exactly what was in my head. When I showed it to the rest of the guys, they said yep that’s it, that’s cool!
Tell me how you came up with the concept for the Dark Ministry? Do you see the Dark Ministry as a reflection of yourself in some way or could it be a just a representation of some evil force in nature that is there? Is it a reflection of man himself? I mean, what thoughts were you thinking when you came up with this concept?
Tyler: I don’t think we actually thought that far ahead. We never thought of a deeper meaning. I think it’s just a cool image, almost like a mascot or something for Dark Ministry. Like a cool figure, you know, like Iron Maiden with Eddie, Vic Rattlehead with Megadeth, it’s just a character.
Rik: We weren’t really looking for a mascot. All I wanted was a decrepit church and the name Dark Ministry in front of the church and we needed somebody up there doing the sermon and that’s what came out.
Who is the artist?
Rik: Rafael Tavarez. He’s from Brazil, he’s a really great artist! It was almost like he was in my head when I talked to him about it. He sent me a drawing concept and I was like “that’s it!” and then he put colors to it and that’s when it basically came alive.
Where does the band draw its influences from?
Tyler: That’s actually a pretty tough question because there’s a lot of different elements. The foundation of our sound is very much thrash with elements of modern metal, death metal, black metal, maybe a little hint of metalcore and groove metal. I think we’re kind of all over the place, I wouldn’t say because of our age range, but because we all have a different background.
Rik: Dave will come up with a riff, Brian will come up with a riff, and we work with that to make the band sound like us. We just work at it until the sound comes out and if we’re happy with it we keep it, and if not we keep working at it until we are happy with it.
Let’s talk about Dark Ministry’s first musical work, The Sermon Begins, which was just released on Metal Scrap Records March 30. Listening to the ep, it’s so good. So much energy just thrown at you, amazing musicianship all the way around. This ep features former guitarist Max Neckshredder, who was there when the band first started. What is the story behind his departure?
Dave: It’s a bit of a touchy subject because we were all such good friends, but the longer things went on it became apparent that we were kind of on different pages musically. It just got to the point where we had to part ways for everybodys sake.
Rik: The problem with being in a band, its great to be friends but when youre really good friends that’s the hardest part of being in a band. Sometimes its not good to be really great and close friends in a band.
Brian: You have to be professional. That means you have to have a certain amount of detachment, so you want to be having a good time but you don’t want to be having a good time at the expense of getting anything done either.
Tyler: We were all at a level that we were ready to expand, we were ready to go to the next level. This band is all about progressing. When people hear the new album, they’re going to hear a very different sound compared to The Sermon Begins. Its going to be the same style, but more aggressive and with a lot of different elements in it.
Yes, we’re very excited about that. This ep has been played on lots of radio stations, internet and FM around the planet already! How does that feel knowing your music has been played and talked about in different countries all over the world? It’s also had some reviews in different webzines around the world.
Rik: It’s a really good feeling for myself. I’m just glad people remember who I am, and I’m glad people are really liking the music we come out with. I couldn’t have done it without these guys whatsoever.
All I am is the drummer. I play the drums, I lead the band, but ultimately most of the songwriting comes from the band. We all put our two cents in and what came out was The Sermon Begins. We’re really ecstatic at how much people really like it out there. From what I’m hearing, a lot of places in the States really like it. When I was in Exciter, we weren’t really being talked about that much in the States, so I’m just hoping when this album comes out, it makes an even deeper impact and it helps us explode and do some tours. I’m just happy that everything is working out. Like I said I couldn’t have done it without these guys.
Dave: Just to expand on that. Rik’s a veteran and he’s been doing this for years. Me and Tyler are in our early mid-twenties, and it wasn’t too long ago we were just amateurs practicing away, trying to get into the business, honing our craft in our basements. I’ve only been playing for like seven or eight years. For people to like The Sermon Begins the way they do, a lot of that material I wrote when I was young, I’m thrilled people like it and that people are listening to it all over the world. It makes me so excited to be able put this newer stuff out because its going to be so much better.
Tyler: You could say we’re blood driven haha! It’s cool to know that people in New Zealand and stuff have heard it you know? It just makes me want to do it more, to improve, and get better.
Rik: Australia too.
You guys have signed on to Metal Scrap Records for a digital release of the ep, which will provide distribution in over 200 different countries around the world through over 600 outlets such as Itunes, Amazon music, Google Play, Spotify etc. Why have you not released any physical copies with a label yet?
Rik: We’re looking for the right deal on that. We got a really good deal with the digital distribution but we’re also looking for something that’s lucrative and will pay us for the actual album as well. Nowadays, a lot of record companies don’t pay for the recordings, they don’t pay the band at all for the album, they pay for what they get in distribution, and if they do pay for the album, its pennies on the album. That’s not what we want. Right now, we got a really great digital distribution deal which is lucrative for both us and Metal Scrap Records. If they wanted to do the same deal for the album but for the physical copies and do the same kind of deal, we would not balk at that at all. We’re looking to possibly keep Metal Scrap for the digital distribution of the album but for the physical ones we’re going to maybe shop around a little and see what deal we can get for the physical album to be sold and made for us.
You have to wait for the right deal. There’s a lot of bands out there that sign anything that comes their way and they never see any money whatsoever, the record companies make all the money. We’re trying to do this a different and smarter way, and the smartest way right now for the ep was what we did in the form of digital distribution.
Tyler: We want to make a living doing this, a career.
Dave: I want to jam with these guys for the forseeable future even beyond that. If Rik lives to be a hundred, I’ll jam with him even then. I’ll be in a walker haha!
That’s great! That’s a good attitude. You have a great website darkministry-official.com. Fans can buy copies of The Sermon Begins on the site. Where else can fans find you guys on social media?
All: Facebook, Bandmix, Bandcamp. Brian, Dave and Tyler have Instagram.
Rik: I have Linkedin so you can find us on there as well.
Breaking News! You have brought in two new players to the band. Guitarist Brian Farnsworth and bassist Karl Kalli. They both make their debut on Dark Ministry’s first full-length album. How has the transition been for all of you?
All: It’s been horrible lol.
Brian: Rik hits me a stick haha.
Rik: Yea, he never shuts up either so we always have to beat him down.
Haha. He always has some kind of philosophy going on. (Everyone laughs).
Dave: He’s too smart for the rest of us lol.
Tyler: He makes me think outside the box more, I dissect music a little more. He’s given me a lot of advice and suggestions, and just all around good advice.
Dave: Brian is a pretty “learn-ed guy” (everyone laughs). He’s been a session player, he studied at the University for music, he’s done everything. He has a wealth of experience, he’s good to have on our team.
Rik: It’s great to have somebody that’s dedicated and professional which has actually helped the whole band as well. Also, he helped us out in noticing that there was some timing issues on a few things. Even myself, being a timekeeper, I hadn’t noticed the time issues. They’ve all been fixed and now the band sounds tighter than it ever was.
Brian, how’s it been for you?
Brian: For me, its been seamless. I knew Rik before, a couple of times we played together. He asked me if I wanted to come out and do this thing, and I was like alright, I’ll give it a shot. After that everything fell into place. They’re a good bunch of guys, they want to do this pretty badly, they’ve worked very hard, and they’ve got a professional attitude.
I’m REALLY looking forward to hearing some new music. You guys are really gearing up to record your FIRST full length album which fans are anxiously waiting for. When do you expect to be done recording the album? Have you guys thought of a name for the album yet? Artwork concept?
Rik: Artwork concept not quite yet. We’re going through a few ideas. The name of the album? No, we haven’t actually chosen an actual name yet. We’re thinking of Unleashed or something with Unleashed in it, but it’s still up in the air. As for the recordings, we’re hoping to get in there next month at the latest, and go in there and just belt out the songs hopefully in a weekend, because I’m pretty sure we can do that, shouldn’t be any more than three, four days tops. Then we’re going to do the pre-production, the solos and everything else. The album should be out by July if everything goes well.
Dave: We’re not a hundred percent on the artwork but what I can tell you right now is that we have a lot of themes based on our songs. In metal, there is a lot of mythical stuff, fantastical stories, or history. What we’ve been touching on lately is a lot of real life themes, apocalyptic things like murder, anger, and real life gritty circumstances. The darkest side of life basically.
Rik: Things that you can read in the newspaper.
Rik, you played drums for Exciter for a very long time, 18 yrs to be exact, 1996-2014 to be even more exact and played on five of their albums: Thrash Speed Burn, Death Machine, Blood of Tyrants, The Dark Command, and New Testament. That’s just cool in itself! What was your experience like in Exciter? You’ve played some big festivals like Wacken, Bang Your Head, Sweden Rock, True Thrash Fest, any I’ve missed?
Rik: Keep It True, Rock Hard Fest.
What was that like playing in front of huge crowds like that? You know, like thousands. That is probably what you envision for Dark Ministry, one day playing big festivals in different parts of the world, just getting out there, making music, playing for all the metalheads out there. I’m sure everyone in Dark Ministry wants that.
Rik: It’s hard to explain. You’re in a surreal mode, you’re all psyched out to go up and start playing the show. You get up on stage and that’s what I focus on most is getting up there. I psych myself up to play drums for these songs on stage so I try not to look at the crowd as much as possible. I’m a kind of shy person, so looking at the crowd, it kind of made me nervous. I’m just glad I had the drums in front of me so I could hide in a way sometimes (laughs). Sometimes if you saw me play on videos, you’ll notice that my head is down a lot because I’m trying not to look at the crowd. I’m just focusing on the drums. So when I’m playing in front of a big crowd, it’s great, but sometimes the more smaller clubs and more intimate places are even more exciting because then you see how much the crowd is right into your music. It’s great to play on the big stages, it’s great to play in front of thousands of people but youre only appealing to say a five thousand to twenty thousand person crowd no matter what because there’s only a certain amount of people that like your music in the first place. If you play in a smaller area like say a three hundred seat place, every person that bought that ticket is there to see you. So sometimes it’s a little more nerve racking to play on a huge stage because now you know you have to perform, and you have to give out your best for this crowd. Anybody can make a big impact at big festivals, but it’s really fun to play it.
Rik, what’s the typical crowd at Wacken?
Rik: Now it’s over a hundred thousand. When I played there with Exciter, I think it was peaking at seventy or eighty thousand. We played right after Iced Earth and I think there was like thirty or forty thousand people watching the bands. There’s several stages there. Our stage basically stays in one spot and all they have to do is basically turn and theyre looking at the next stage. It is a little bit nerve racking playing in front of thousands, but exciting. I don’t know how well the crowds really hear the bands when theyre way out in the back of the field. They cant see anything that’s for sure. If you’ve never been on a big stage and you look out into the crowds, you can only discern faces up to about the fourth or fifth row out. After that, you cant really tell what their faces are like or if they’re really into it, except that they’re doing the fist pump into the air or anything else, but otherwise you cant see their expressions. If you’re playing at night its even worse because all you see is maybe the first two rows.
You’re also skilled in other instruments like guitar.
Rik: Yes, I’m not what you could say skilled, but I do play guitar. I played bass, xylophone, saxophone, clarinet. I can play the piano as well.
That would be fun to see you play saxophone.
Rik: No, I sound like a dying goose (laughs).
Rik: I started drum lessons at age seven. I started out on the bass guitar at age six, but the bass was too big for me. So the teacher said not now but later on in his life he can start learning how to play bass. Then I saw Peter Criss when I was seven, and I said that’s what I want to play and I started taking drum lessons. I’m going to be fifty this year so I’ve been playing for forty-two years. I’ve played in many types of bands. I’ve played in school bands playing early classical rock then I started playing in heavy metal bands. I was in a band called Distemper, and we were very close to being signed to MCA Records, but then something happened and the band blew up and I ended up leaving the band. Then I was in quite a few other bands but nothing ever really took off. Then all of a sudden I got called by Exciter. I thought it was just a joke at first. I went in there and there was John Ricci and so I played. I thought he didn’t really make that much of a reaction so I thought I didn’t get the gig. So I left and about a week later he called me back for a second audition to see if I could play good with the next bass player that they had and that was the bass player that they chose. He just came over and shook my hand and said youre part of Exciter. I was like ok cool and then he said get ready heres all the songs, we’re going to be making the album in about a year. I’d say it took us six months to a year to write all the songs properly. Then we did our first album The Dark Command. I played in Exciter 18 years, all over the world, on many stages. Then out of the blue it basically came to a halt I took a little bit of a hiatus. Then I started up with a band called Ninth Gate and that fell apart. I had Jaques Belanger on the vocals. He was one of the singers from Exciter. There was some musical differences here and there and I had a vision for something a little heavier than what they had, so the band basically fell apart from there. Jaques is actually a little progressive. He’s a great singer into all kinds of different styles. So anything from Frank Zappa all the way to Nightwish, he can do it all, Judas Priest, everything. Great singer. I think he wanted something a little bit more progressive and I wasn’t into the progressive part. I moped around for a little bit then I decided I was going to put my own band together. I got my manger to come out and start helping me look for players and right there we started getting everything going. This is what happened. We got The Sermon Begins together, recorded it, put it out. There was a little bit difference on certain paths on certain players so this is the way the band is right now.
You’ve been drumming for 42 years. When did you decide you were going to play drums the rest of your life, make it your career?
Rik: Ive always been an angry, violent kind of kid when I was younger so this was one way to let my anger and violence out. If I was really in a bad mood I’d just start playing the drums. It was better than going out there picking fights like I used to. So playing the drums lets out all the energy and frustration. Even today if there’s something going on with the daily work or at home, I get to the warehouse and I take it out on the drums, not the guys. I just play as hard as possible and it lets all my anger and frustrations out and by the time I leave I’m calm.
Brian, you play guitar. First of all, how were you approached to join Dark Ministry?
Brian: Well, funny story. I was actually playing with another Exciter alumni at the time, who shall remain nameless. Rik’s unscrupulous manager (everyone laughing) approached me through the backdoor by calling him and asking whether or not they could get guitar lessons which I teach, and that really went over like a lead balloon at the next rehearsal. I was kind of by the wayside because I didn’t know what was happening because there was a still a possibility that something with this other band would go on, and then he of course self-destructed. After that, I worked with Rik a little bit off and on with some of my own material and he contacted me just after Christmas 2016 and said they might have an opening, would I like to come out. So I said sure why not. That’s pretty much the end of that story.
How long have you been playing guitar?
Brian: For a while now. Im not going to date myself like Rik, I’m smarter than that, always thinking haha. Since the first year of high school I’d say.
Rik: He’s a hundred years old now lol.
Did you play anything else before you started the guitar?
Brian: That’s another sad story of the power struggle between my parents. I wasn’t actually allowed to learn music, so it wasn’t until I had done successive years of whining and griping that they finally broke down and let me play guitar by my first year of high school and that was on the condition that I join the football team as well so there’s a back story there too.
So did you take lessons or did it come naturally?
Brian: I did, absolutely I did. Im the nerdy kid, I don’t like guesswork so I took lessons almost immediately once I picked up the instrument. Because my mother was a concert pianist and a music teacher, that included me learning by myself, I was going to take lessons and that was the end of it.
Why did you want to play guitar?
Brian: Because its cooler than piano. Drums kind of came up but that was absolutely killed in the early stages, my parents said no we’re not going to listen to drums, that’s not going to happen in our house. I was like so what about the guitar and they said ok, so that’s pretty much how that conversation played out. This is going to sound really sad, but I didn’t know there was such a thing as bass. When people said well why don’t you play bass, I said what’s a bass? I was thinking it was an upright piece with a bow, so playing an electric bass never occurred to me. So I ended up with guitar and that’s kind of where it stuck.
You’ve played with some professional musicians in your time, you have a background in music theory. Can you give us a little on your musical background?
Brian: I went to University where I studied music theory. That was an interesting thing. I played with some of the Montreal jazz guys so that was an eye opener because I was a death metal kid and all of a sudden you’re going through all of these elaborate jazz progressions, and all these knuckle busting chords and it was really a rude awakening albeit my fifty percent average In music that year lol. I finished up with that and then came back and did some classical training at the Royal Conservatory up here. There’s not really an equivalent for it in the U.S. None of that classical training shows up in my playing but that was another great learning experience.
You’ve had to learn all the songs from the ep, plus make new ones with the band so its been a great thing. You and Rik know each other too so that has helped.
Brian: It was actually a pretty smooth process. I came in and Dave was really, really helpful. He ran me through the parts note by note and made sure everything was correct. It was just a question of getting together tight with the rest of the guys in the group. It went a lot better than I actually thought, these guys are actually much better players than you hear on the ep so it was really good, it was a lot of fun.
Dave, what made you want to join Dark Ministry?
Dave: Going back to my background in music, my dad has always been a guitar player growing up but he always listened to a lot of seventies psychedelic rock, stuff in the eighties and nineties and stuff, so I was exposed to a lot of that growing up. When I was twelve I started playing drums with them on guitar. He had a lot of his own songs and stuff. He’s a good singer. We had a friend that left a drum kit at our house for storage. I started playing. I got a bit of an ear for my own taste in music. I was about twelve. I eventually moved on to metal. It really grabbed me, the force behind all the music, the energy, it’s something I haven’t experienced personally with any other genre. I know everyone has their own taste for like electronic music, some people like rap or whatever. My taste is for metal, that’s just the way I am, it fits my personality. Eventually when I moved on to playing guitar at 15, it became apparent right away that it was something that fit my personality perfectly. Everything about it, the image, the techniques, the pride and the creativity. I was self- taught and I would always kind of wow people that didn’t know much about rock or metal. Simple techniques that are simple to me now like finger tapping, they’d reinforce me and be like wow , Dave, that’s so cool. I started thinking if everyone thinks I’m good why can’t I keep this going. If I’m just getting better why change? If I’m doing good stuff, why not keep the wave going. Eventually I moved when I was twenty and went to St. Lawrence college in Kingston for the music program there. Like Brian, I was the death metal kid in a world of jazz, acoustic, and blues players from all over the world. I attended for a semester at the U. I learned a lot especially under Dr. Adrienne Shannon, the program coordinator. She was a pianist. She spent decades as a professional concert pianist. I’m not sure how far back but I’m sure many decades. She was impressed with my playing. Eventually I dropped out of the course. A funny thing happened. I had an injury where I had dislocated my arms. I couldn’t spread them out or raise my arms over my head. All I could do was play guitar. So for a few months, in the middle of winter, I was stuck in my house playing a lot of riffs and some of those riffs are going to be on the new album, a lot of things I use for Dark Ministry now. I moved back from Kingston, and somehow connected with Rik and Dark Ministry and not long after here we are today.
Tyler, I understand you’ve done some acting in your time. Tell us about that!
Tyler: It started when I was quite young. My brother had bought some film and a camera and we just started making home made movies. Then we later branched off into the Ottawa filmmaking scene and we started doing movies for their festivals. I got my big break when I did background work for Trailer Park Boys III called Legalize It. That was my introduction into the professional world of filmmaking. I still do a little bit of acting on the side. I continue to do some filming with my brother doing short films that end up going to Vancouver film festival. I got a few gigs doing stunt work like getting shot off of a horse for a civil war movie. So I was really trying to pursue acting, but I really wanted to be in music because I loved metal and hard rock, it was the world that I wanted to get into. So I started staying away from the world of acting and started focusing more on music. I auditioned for a lot of bands. I’d go all over the region and fell into a few bands. There was one band where I was playing bass and doing back- up vocals and then I was in another band where I was focusing more on vocals. It was always very disorganized and hard to get together all the time, and I was at a level in my life where I was ready to take it to the next level and be a professional and jam two or three times a week. I was at that point. I ended up meeting Rik. His manager wrote me and asked me if I’d like to audition for the vocal position. Back then it was a different incarnation of Dark Ministry. I tried out and I guess there were issues with some band members, and that version folded. So I chalked it up to a good experience and went back to my own thing. Then later on I got another message from Rik and his manager about auditions and thought ok I’ll try out again. So I went to three auditions total and then was told I was going to be the next vocalist for Dark Ministry.
Tyler: I got to meet Bubbles, Ricky, Ray who is Rickys father, Mr. Layhe, Randy and Sarah. Going back to my background in music. I started out as a guitarist. I got an acoustic guitar when I was about ten years old. My dad got an acoustic and developed problems with his hand like a carpal tunnel sort of thing so he couldn’t play it anymore. So I snuck around and started playing it. He encouraged me to play acoustic. I had it in my head I was going to be a rhythm guitarist. I got into electric guitar. Then I met up with some buddies of mine that were a lot better at guitar than I was. I was still a beginner and they’d been playing for seven or eight years. So I thought maybe I should switch to bass or something and then they said why don’t you try singing. I always liked listening to music, and thought it would be cool to be a vocalist. So I decided to try it and thought this could be my calling. It gave me a rush like adrenaline. I got to be loud and obnoxious. I got to be aggressive. It really fit my character of just being in your face and being a crazy guy.
Karl, how about you. Had you worked with Rik in the past?
Karl: Yes, a couple of years ago I met Rik. He was looking for some players for a new band. It was actually the beginnings of Dark Ministry and through a mutual aquaintance I came for an audition. It was our first meeting and it went pretty well.
How were you approached to join Dark Ministry?
Karl: I actually came through the said aquaintance. I had worked with him on some projects in the past, played with him in a couple of other bands. At the time he was portraying himself as the guitar player for Dark Ministry and he and I had had some previous contact as well. It kind of went to me and that’s how it came about.
What made you decide to join Dark Ministry?
Karl: I kept tabs on what was going on. I had initially put out the word on my facebook page and everybody was talking to me about Dark Ministry. Things kind of fell apart on my end of it, but I kept telling all my friends on facebook to keep supporting Dark Ministry because they were doing great things. So I myself kept tabs on the band and what was going on and what Rik was doing or saying. I liked what I saw and heard, and I just kept keeping tabs and then I heard they were looking for a bass player through the network of friends knowing friends etc. and next thing I know things were better after that, things went smoothly.
Can you give me a little on your musical background?
Karl: I’ve been playing since I’ve been about twelve, started out with classical guitar. In my teens I went through the electric guitar, then went back to classical guitar for a long time and then I bought a bass but kept playing guitar in a few bands as a lead guitar player and a rhythm guitar player. I started transitioning myself to bass because I’ve always thought of myself as more of a rhythm guy, always looking at the groove, always looking at the beats. It was just a natural progression and I’ve been playing the bass for about four or five years now. I still play the guitar but I really started gravitating towards the bass about three years ago really heavily.
What did you find so comforting about the bass? Had you ever thought about playing bass as a career?
Karl: I’ve always been a rhythm guy. Sometimes I feel that if I ever had the inclination, I probably would have gone to the drums. But the bass is a natural fit for me being as I’m a rhythm player. I’m always listening to the drums anyway. I didn’t start seriously thinking about it until about two years ago. Actually, when the first dark ministry audition happened, that’s when it entered my mind that this could be a real thing for me.
Are you self-taught or did you have lessons? Do you play any other instruments besides bass?
Karl: I’ve never taken any lessons in any instruments at all. I’m all self taught. I spent a lot of time playing the guitar especially within the last ten years when I first had a resurgence of practicing, studying scales and theory. All those things I didn’t do when I was in my teens and twenties. I went back to that with the guitar so those many many hours and sessions have definitely payed dividends in terms of playing the bass. I dabble with keyboards. I like to tell people I play four, five or seven string, I play mandolin, twelve string. I don’t spend a lot of time on any other instruments just stringed ones but I do dabble because it makes me more well rounded as a musician. If you have strings on your instrument I can play it. I don’t dabble with percussion ones either.
What kind of vision do you have of yourself for your role in Dark Ministry? Now that youre a part of the band what would you like to see happen, what would be your vision for the band.
Karl: All those things that you dream of a band that’s up and coming. The band has got really great musicians and excellent song craft, great creative process going on. I’m ecstatic about the shows overseas. I’m looking for more of that where the big metal markets are maybe South America. The sky is the limit, the world is our oyster.
I think it’s interesting that some of the guys in Dark Ministry are so young playing with a seasoned Pro like you Rik. You must have seen something in these guys to say you know what? Let’s go with this.
Rik: What I saw in their eyes was drive which a lot of people in the Ottawa area don’t seem to have anymore. I’ve had guys my age or a little bit younger try out in the band that are great guitarists but for some reason they just didn’t have the drive to continue. Everyone in the Ottawa area either wants to be in a cover band or in an original but never really go anywhere but the Ottawa area and just play the Ottawa circuit. That was not my goal when I told these guys what I wanted to do. Their eyes lit up and they got more serious and this is exactly what I wanted. At first I was leery about having younger players with me because I have my views of what I want to hear in music and they have their own views. We have our own tastes in metal but for some reasons our differences in styles actually works really well in this band, making us sound really original and I just decided this was the way to go. When Max left the band we chose Brian because he’s more my age but he has that drive as well. He has more experience.
Brian: I’m not that close to his age lol.
Rik: We all have the same drive now. For a little while it just became stagnant when Max was in the band. We would come to the warehouse and it seemed like party central. We just came in and played our setlist, did a few things and they were gone to party. I wasn’t into that whatsoever. I just wanted to work. Now everyone seems eager to be at the rehearsal. It’s more of a serious band because now, were taking this more seriously. We’re not just there to hang out with the boys. I think the band is going to turn out to be a lot better than it ever was. Before there was no if’s and’s or but’s about it , it was more party central. Now we can sit there for an hour and just chat about music, business, merchandise, what we’re going to be doing, or just anything else. We talk about how we wish the vocals to be on certain areas, what the guitar parts should sound like or what I should be doing on drums. Everyone has an opinion and we’re working together now. We’re not working against each other anymore. We don’t call it practice anymore we call it rehearsal now. We even lose track of time now at rehearsals because we so much more serious and into it.
Dave: We were definitely like five individuals before. We were inefficient, less results, everything was time consuming. Now were definitely more of a unit for sure. Everything is always results, all progress and growth. It’s very stimulating!
You guys have played some shows with some big name artists such as Razor, Cauldron, and Blaze Bayley. What was it like for you guys playing with them? Rik, I know you’ve already met a bunch of great artists like Dio, Mickey Dee, Lemmy, Tommy Lee, etc so speaking to the younger ones what has it been like playing shows with these guys like Razor from the eighties? And Rik I know it was cool for you too, to meet some fellow musicians.
Tyler: In a sense it almost felt like a priviledge. I never thought I’d get to play with someone like that. For me it gave me that drive to want to go out there and make our stand, especially because we were the first band on and I wanted to get out there and set the bar. That was my intention, I wanted to impress.
Dave: I wasn’t a big Canadian eighties metal fan. I’m into the big four thrash of that era. A lot of modern metal. But it was very humbling to play with them. You see whose professional, how they act, its good just to look at them and observe. If they think positively of us, and me, then that’s great. I’m proud of that. I’m proud of myself and everyone here. I thank them for giving us that opportunity. I did want to impress them. I don’t want to say there was competition between them and me but I did want to make my mark. We’re here too. We respect them but here we also are.
Rik: What’s really cool is watching the big names sit down watching us. It was an eye opener for both Tyler and Dave.
So, what’s it been like working with Rik? He’s a heavyweight too! Have you been able to learn anything from him? Do you feel pressure to perform on a higher level than what you’re used to? Or did you have an easy time blending in? And what about vise versa, Rik, what’s it been like working with these guys.
Dave: I showed up to the warehouse with just a practice amp and a baby blue Stratocaster. I didn’t even know what I was getting myself into. I thought it was just a meet up with Rik where we’d talk and I’d show him a couple of things I can do. But he had this monster drum set and he said you need to get a cabinet and a real stage amp. And I said that’s fine, if you see real potential in me I will go make an investment. I was ready to move anywhere to make this work. I was ready to go out west to California, to New York or Toronto. I was talking to people in Texas. I really wanted to make this work. I somehow connected with Rik. It was a great opportunity. I had Rik and our manager in my corner backing me up, supporting me.
Tyler: I felt the exact same way. Being a vocalist I felt a little pressure because vocalists always get the most criticism. I was nervous and I wasn’t sure I’d fit or be the right one for the job. Now I’m a hell of a lot more confidant and constantly trying to get better all the time. When I’m singing at the rehearsal I pretend I’m either in front of a hundred thousand people or I’m in a recording studio. I’m just trying to be a perfectionist almost.
Rik: I think these guys actually benefit from the fact that I don’t really have an ego and I’m not really bossy. I let them come up with what they have and we work together. It’s a unit now that Brian and Karl are in the band. We’re not here to show off. A lot of times Brian will even say we need more Dave in this part. It always felt like Dave was in the background but not anymore.
Dave: We were definitely accommodating a lot before but now the right guys are here and theres nothing holding us back from anything. We talk about everything. There’s no tiptoeing around touchy subjects and we all coach each other.
Karl: Most definitely, as much time as I spent in the past practicing and trying to up my game, I spend even more now. That drive and ambition has leaked into the regular aspects of my life, even to where I’ve scaled back on some of my “sins and vices” that I used to indulge in. I’ve really backed off on a lot of those things. I consider that as being an important thing towards being a pro in this industry. I really started to put in the work within the last ten years and that was the driving force behind it. I wanted to turn this “hobby” into being a pro.
Brian: I believe there is a show coming up for the album debut in September in Kingston, Canada.
Rik: The album debut show is going to be for Kingston and Oshawa, Canada. We will also be doing a five date European tour supporting Vendetta in October. We’ll be going through the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, and Slovakia.
That’s cool that you guys are going on this tour considering you’re still a new band. You’ve only been around as a band for two years now and to be going on a tour overseas is really amazing!
Rik: Yes, we are really looking forward to that!
Describe a Dark Ministry show visually and musically. I’ve seen some videos of some of your shows. There is so much energy. You project a lot of energy, you can feel it.
Dave: Tylers alter ego comes out and scares the hell out of everybody. When Tyler is on he has a voice like the devil himself, he doesn’t hold anything back, that’s for damn sure.
So, whats the standard equipment each of you use?
Tyler: For me I always use a Sennheiser mike. A lot of people use Shure but there’s something about Sennheiser. I just feel more comfortable with it.
Rik: I use Pearl drums. I’ve been using them for a long time. The drums I’m playing right now have been played on every Exciter album. I was endorsed by a cymbal company called TRX. I still have those cymbals. In the rehearsal hall I have Sabians and a couple of my TRX cymbals. My sticks are Ahead sticks or sometimes just Vic Firths or ProMark. My drums heads are all Evans drum heads.
Dave: I haven’t really found my guitar of choice yet. I’ve played a Fender Stratocaster, an Epiphone Les Paul, a Schecter custom and a Dean Razorback but I’m still looking for the perfect fit. I’ve been using a custom signature Schecter model and I have a Dean because I was influenced a lot by Pantera. So was Max and we had a really good thing going for awhile. We both had Deans. I don’t want to knock the guitar, but It was an Asian made model. As with most Asian technology it wasn’t exactly built to last so I was having some trouble with it but now that we’ve been doing all our songs in thesame tuning, I’ve just been exclusively using the Schecter. It’s a signature model that I don’t want to use forever but it is a great piece of machinery. It’s been through hell and even looks like it too. It has some marks and rust on it but it sounds so awesome. I’m still looking.
Karl: I like a more eccentric type instrument… it extends to everything I buy, drive, wear. I don’t necessarily go for what is trendy or popular. It’s about what appeals to me so I couldn’t quote you on anything specific. With an instrument I’ll pick it up, play it. Many times I’ll play it unplugged especially with electric instruments. I’m looking for feeling and tone when the instrument is not plugged in because my feeling is that if it has those qualities then, its going sound really good when you plug it in.
Isn’t Schecter sort of an underground or obscure brand of guitar. You always hear about Jackson or Dean, Fender, there’s ESP, but you don’t really hear Schecter.
Dave: That is true. In the metal community, Schecter is a big name. Lately in the past five or ten years a lot of famous guitarists have been getting signature models and endorsement deals from Schecter. I just find they’re really growing. I find they do put out quality equipment but I am still trying things out.
What strings are you using?
Dave: I go through the regular Ernie Ball.
Brian, whats your preferred axe/guitar?
Brian: The best guitar I own is my Carvin seven string, a DC-747. Because like Dave says we’re using the standardized tuning at this point so really what I’m using most of the time now is an Ibanez SZ with EMG pickups in it. It’s been a faithful workhorse. Like Daves Schecter it’s been through war and back and it looks like it, but its served me faithfully for many years now. I used it when I was a session player in Toronto so it’s really done the work. I have the usual battery of stuff at home, like the Fender Stratocaster, the Jackson Performers and all that kind of nonsense but, that I can’t kill it with fire so I use it all the time.
What about strings?
Brian: Usually just the D’Addario standards.
Tell me how this journey has been for you guys up to this point.
Brian: It’s been incredible, it’s dreamlike. Because like Dave said you kind of start out hoping you’re going to make a break in this business. For these guys they got lucky. they started young. But Rik and I, we’ve been around the block a few times. You appreciate that you don’t get many chances to do this thing. So it’s been really good. For anyone interested, I will offer this up. When I heard the ep I thought this was a good band. But when I got in the room with these guys they are much better than even the ep would lead you to believe.
The album debut show is going to be a great show because it’s the first time you guys will play together as this new lineup and also the first time you’ll be playing songs off of the new album which consists of this new lineup. So it’s just going to be a really cool show.
Rik: We were really thinking of shelving some of these songs we were doing before and we are actually writing more songs with some of Brians riffs and some of Daves riffs.
Dave: In addition to everything that’s been going on were going through an extensive editing process. We’ve definitely sharpened things up. We’ve enhanced our strengths, cut out our weaknesses while we still have time. Nothing has been recorded obviously. We definitely just want to put all our cards down on the table so to speak when we record.
Rik: We work on certain parts to make them fit better. The way the lineup is now, which is actually really cool, is we’re reworking some parts of the songs. We’re fixing things. It’s really great to have your bandmate say “do you really like the way we’re playing in this spot” or “should I change it” Now there’s no walking on eggshells. We can tell each other honestly what we like and don’t like about certain things. There’s no griping, everyone just puts their head together to change the part.
How about some fun stuff:
Dave: I hear Pantera shows used to be pretty crazy. I would have loved to have been there in the mid nineties at their peak but right now it’s more difficult to decide who I’d want to play with because it would be something that would have to fit for all parties involved. I really love Lamb of God. To share the stage with them would be like you’ve made it right there.
Rik: For me it would be sharing the stage with my old colleagues like Destruction, Exodus, Testament or Judas Priest. That would be the ultimate dream for me.
Brian: Back in the day I would have loved to have been on stage with the old Sepultura when the Cavalera brothers were still in the band. That would have been an amazing good time. Today, I would love to be on stage or on tour with Arch Enemy. I was always a fan of Mike Amott. Even way back in the days with Carcass. Daniel Erlandsson is a fantastic drummer. Jeff Loomis is a brilliant guitarist so that would be amazing to see.
Tyler: Its pretty tough because they just named all the bands I really like too. For the past, I’d have to say Death. I’d love to open for them. For the present, I’d probably go with Lamb of God and Sylosis.
Karl: I don’t really have any from the past, I just leave the past in the past, but with the present I’m enamored with a lot of bands I’ve been keeping up with that are unsigned, you know leading the charge of new metal brigades like Twelve Foot Ninja or Gemini Syndrome. There’s a host of bands I could rattle off but those are the two that stick out for me. Bands that are really bringing metal back to the forefront. Bringing it back to its glory. Also, Gojira would be cool to play with.
Any hobbies, favorite books, food or tv shows for each of you?
Rik: I fix cars, watch tv lol. I play a little bit of guitar. I do some model making as well.
Tyler: Spending time with my family. I like to work out and swim. I find it’s a pretty good stress reliever for me.
Brian: Back in the day I used to do modeling like Rik, miniatures and stuff. I used to do jujitsu. It takes it’s toll on the body.
Dave: Well we’re from Canada and it gets pretty cold up here for many months of the year so I grew up playing a lot of hockey. If metal could be compared to a sport it would probably be hockey or mixed martial arts. Blood and fighting on the ice. It was the best times of my life I ever had, basking in the glory of winning or punching someone in the face! I played hockey as a kid, long before I played a guitar, long before I knew what heavy metal was really. I still kind of do play. The concept of aging and slowing down bothers me because I love to be intensely active. The power and energy that drives our music comes from that sense of strength and determination. I still play hockey recreationally whenever I can.
Karl: I’m big on hands on pursuits. I like to fix things and tear things apart which my parents were really upset about when I was growing up. But I still like to do a lot of those things. I like to repair furniture, frisbee, sking, hitting the beach, big on the outdoors. Not outdoorsy in a forestry way but outdoorsy in that I like to enjoy drinks on patios in the sun. I like going to concerts and festivals.
Any favorite books or food?
Rik: For me its Warhammer 40,000. I love those series. Also, Horus Heresy. As far as tv shows I’m stuck on Netflix. I’m binge watching X files right now haha I binged watched Enterprise. Other than that, I like watching movies.
Brian: I read the Lord of the Rings series until the covers fell off of the books. I was a big fan of that when I was young. I watched the crap out of the Iron Fist series on Netflix, also binge watched the Luke Cage series. They’re kind of two halves of the same story, but that was my latest indulgence on Netflix until 3 am lol!
Dave: I like biographies a lot. I read a lot of biographies of people, show business, actors etc. I recently finished reading two books. The biography of Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones and Jenna Jamison the porn star. It’s not because she was a porn star it was just a life story. She’s married with a new baby now but obviously she’s retired from that life now. It is an interesting story. As for food, I experiment with a lot of different types of food. I make some recipies at home. I definitely hone my skills during the day cooking.
Tyler: I enjoy a lot of autobiographies of actors and musicians. One of my favorites was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography. I just found it very inspiring about how he started out and got to where he is now. It’s just something really relatable. One of my all time favorite tv shows is Sons of Anarchy. I really got glued to that and Breaking Bad. Im also a hardcore Simpson fan. My favorite food is seafood. I love vegetables and chicken. I’m old fashioned, steak and potatoes!
Karl: I guess you could lump me in with those Netflix people that binge watch something but a lot of times I’ll watch informational type shows, BBC type stuff. I used to read a lot of fiction and Scifi stuff but now if you look on my dresser you’d find a physics textbook or something.
Rik: My influence was Buddy Rich, Peter Criss and Clive Burr. My influences have always been musical.
Tyler: For me musically I really got into Meatloaf. He was an inspiration with his operatic vocals. Ronnie James Dio. Ian Gillian from Deep Purple has been a huge one as well.
Dave: As for musical influences, I grew up in a different generation where you looked at the song instead of the artist. Some guys that also had a big impact on me are Jim Root (Slipknot), Willie Adler/Mark Morton (Lamb of God), and Synyster Gates (Avenged Sevenfold). It’s know Avenged Sevenfold isn’t everybodys cup of tea when it comes to metal but the guitar work is really amazing at times. I’ve been told that there some similarities between Chuck Schuldiner and myself.
Brian: Dave beat me to it. I was a big fan of Chuck Schuldiner. He blew my mind. I’ll take it one step further, I also like James Murphy. He played with Death and he also played with Testament for awhile, and he played for Disincarnate. He’s a fantastic guitar player. He’s kind of under the radar but he’s also a great player. Also, the G3 guitar hero guys Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Yngvie. They’re big influences because they show you what’s possible with the instrument.
Karl: Exciter was a big influence for me from my teens and to my twenties and thirties. I always kind of looked up to them. A legendary Canadian metal band from Ottawa, how can you not look up to bands like that. A lot of my reading material is about people who think, people who had things to say, people that had a stand to make, people who have scruples and morals, hold their ground and plant their feet. Plating your feet is a bass thing lol.
Thank you so much for this interview. You guys are unique, raw, no gimmicks. Heavy, Solid, tight, amazing musicianship on all fronts. So much energy! You’re the real deal. We look forward to what Dark Ministry will bring from here on out, and we wish you guys continued success!
All: Thank you!