Q&A: RITUAL Frontman Rises from the Dead
For a big chunk of this millennium, vocalist Matt Ryan Tobin dedicated his musical life to Dead and Divine, an Ontario-based post-hardcore collective that spawned five well-received releases between 2004 and 2011; toured the world; then subsequently burnt out.
From the ashes of Dead and Divine comes Tobin’s new band, RITUAL. The five-piece – which also features Matthew Rigg (bass), Aaron Le Tual (guitar), Dillon Forret (drums), and Timothy Busa (guitar) – are closing in on the completion of their first album, and while the details are slim, their video for “Americhrist” (watch that below) will give you more than a fair indication of where the band is at.
Ahead of RITUAL’s performance on Saturday, February 7 at the Northern Rights Music Festival at Hamilton’s Club Absinthe (alongside Protest the Hero), Riffyou.com caught up with Tobin to learn more about what has brought him to this point.
RY: What inspired your transition from Dead and Divine to RITUAL? How was that process for you and how challenging was it to start anew?
Matt: “Dead and Divine was done. I wasn’t. There were always prerequisites with D&D. Especially in the song writing…being the guy writing the majority of the music and having four other people who were dependent on you to do so. Demanding you have a chorus in every song eventually makes you reach a boiling point. I didn’t want guidelines and dos and don’ts anymore. Music had become a business, as it eventually does, always. I was done with the business of it. I wanted something better and different for myself, something freeing. There was zero challenge with RITUAL. It was me, by myself in the beginning. Then I found four incredible guys who wanted to be a part of it and I couldn’t be happier.”
RY: Having been with Dead and Divine for as long as you were, how intimidating was it to start from zero again and work back up the ranks?
Matt: “It really wasn’t. It was exciting. I’d like to think I never had that sense of entitlement or fed my ego to the point where starting all over was never an option. I was ready to start over again but I’d be lying, if I said my past endeavours had no effect on my future ones. In my head it was: ‘I’m ready for sleeping on floors, playing legions and dive bars or basements, starving and being broke again. Hell, that never ended for D&D anyways.’ But at the same time, I was hoping my past 12 years of experience would look good on paper enough to help Ritual get a good job. I was ready for whatever. Either way I just wanted to play music.”
RY: It’s been suggested that Dead and Divine was a bit acrimonious near the end – is that true, or just a rumbling? If true, how tough did it get to be part of that band?
Matt: “D&D was like…the Amityville Horror house. It was family in a home. It was nice and big and cozy from the outside, but once you stepped inside it was quite the opposite. It was cursed. If you were inside, you were ravaged by demons and it harmed everything it touched. It rotted you out. However, if you left the house, or just stepped outside for a few moments, it was as if nothing was ever wrong. The band was cursed, haunted and afflicted. It affected everyone. So, one day I decided to torch the fucking house.”
RY: With RITUAL, how do you feel that you’ve evolved musically?
Matt: “I couldn’t really tell you. If anything, the creative freedoms have allowed me to see and hear things that I couldn’t before. Subtle or maybe nonexistent to most whom aren’t me, but I notice and that’s all that matters. People will compare it to D&D regardless, and already do based on a couple songs. It’s me though, It’s going to happen and it’s going to sound that way. But the dudes in RITUAL have brought things to the table that I wouldn’t have and that makes it great.”
RY: What’s it about the guys in RITUAL that make this an ideal situation for all involved?
Matt: “None of them are dicks.”
RY: We know that a new album is very close to ready for mass consumption. What can you tell us about the direction of it? Also, is there a title and release date in mind?
Matt: “No title yet, maybe no title. Not sure, probably not? The direction is forward. That’s all I can really tell you. I don’t like interpreting my own music for people. Where is the soul in that? I want people to hear the record and take from it what they want – that’s half the experience of music.
RY: What expectations do you have for this band?
Matt: “I don’t have any. Expectations will kill a band.”
RY: Pardon the play on words here, but is there any particular ‘ritual’ you have before playing a show or sitting down to write a song?
Matt: “A half bottle of Shiraz with the boys is all I need.”