I’ve been keeping up with the Unholy Rat King since I started Echosynthetic. I remember covering his early singles and being really impressed at the different directions he was going with music. While most artists had found a niche in their respective sub-genres of synth based music, Unholy Rat King stood out because he didn’t seem to WANT to settle into a sound. He seemed keen on experimenting and coming up with creative ways to tell a story. I liked his music then, but I absolutely love what he’s doing now. I’ve had the opportunity to get my hands on his new Wine Into Blood EP early so I’m going give you the full rundown before it releases June 6. Pre-orders are up NOW at Bandcamp for the insanely low price of $1.00. That’s less than a 20 oz drink from the vending machine. Seriously…$1.00. Give this guy some love…he’s doing good work and deserves all the recognition he can get.
Wine Into Blood kicks off with Fallen from the Pure Faith, an ominous intro track filled with feedback, electronic warbles, echoing kick drums, and truly sets the stage for what is to come. If you’re looking for a happy trip in the neon soaked sunset, we aren’t taking that road. No, we’re headed for darker territories, the kingdom of the rats, where the Unholy Rat King reigns supreme. Proselytized in Wine follows with a plinking synth intro that immediately gives way to a heavy EBM beat. Chaotic imagery abounds…like we’ve stumbled upon Wonka’s boat down the river in the chocolate factory only we’re going to be lucky if we make it out the other side. The Sacristy is next, with an off-kilter beat and a further descent into madness. Honestly, as you listen through these tracks it’s like you’re progressing through the levels of a hellish video game, with each track representing the next dark level you’re going to have to fight to survive. As if on queue, Harbinger hits with the digitized screams of some horrible creature. The hook in this track is a surefire winner and is certainly one of the best songs on the album. It fades out into a blistering layered synth solo that brings us further into the heap.
With no hope in sight, Supplicant Sacrifice brings the heat with an intensity that we’ve not heard yet. Overlaid over all of this are creepy plucked strings, very reminiscent of the dungeon delving sounds you might hear in a Diablo game. Gives me the shivers! Don’t let your guard down yet! Shortcut Through Hell has a hive mentality to it, an oppressive feeling that you’re surrounded on all sides. Echoing synths pull you into the darkness where a bass line that is undeniably catchy takes over. Heavy bass drums, high register synth work, and a breakneck pace ensue, taking us to the end of the EP. But wait. We’re not done here. Oh no, Unholy Rat King has a special surprise for you…a remix of his earlier single, Activation Sequence from none other than FacexHugger. It’s a brilliant revision of the song and couldn’t close the EP out any stronger. Any one of these tracks are worth the $1.00 entry cost, but if this remix doesn’t convince you to buy I don’t know what to tell you.
Now that we’ve explored his music, let’s talk to the man behind the madness, the ruler of the underworld…the Unholy Rat King:
For someone new to your music, who is the Unholy Rat King?
The Unholy Rat King is a monstrous, humanoid, plague-bearing rat, leading his people through battle in a dystopian future. A rat king is a mass of rats that have become entangled, sometimes by the tail, or by hair or sap and they all get stuck together. It is gross and I kind of took that idea and was like what if one broke loose? He would truly be the king of the rats. This album is the Rat King’s super-antihero origin story and I’ll be chronicling his rise to power over on my backstory blog.
As a person, I am a thirty something dude who works a very corporation-y day job and is obsessed with 80’s culture. Horror movies, video games, and tv shows from my childhood are still a big part of my life. I am an absorber of pop culture references, over-user of GIFs, and movie quoter. I have been married to my awesome wife for ten years and we have a little puppy. Music has always been a huge part of my life and I am very excited to be creating it.
You’ve just finished up recording Wine Into Blood. How do you feel now that it’s finished?
Relief, ha ha. Actually I am really proud of these songs. It was hard for me to hang onto them once they were finished since I had been like, song is done ok it’s a single now. Putting together a somewhat cohesive release was a lot of fun, and I am really excited for the future.
What was the writing process like?
For this I started with a listing of names for the tracks. I watch a ton of movies and keep a note in my phone of lines or concepts that I find creepy. Once I had that, I wanted to do more of a concept album and create the backstory for my persona through the music and written out on the blog. From there, I had an idea of the direction I wanted the songs to go. I start with finding creepy sounds in Synth1 and build the backdrop because I like most of my songs to have a creepy horror movie vibe to them. Next, I built a drum rack in Ableton that I used for almost all of the songs. I build my drum pattern so I have a structure to go off. After the drums, I lay down my bass line, and then try to find a good lead. Once all my patterns are down, and I feel happy with the song I like to add effects that make my sounds slightly dissonant and odd. I really enjoy NES soundtracks, and chiptune so I try to include some aspects of those sounds as well.
There’s an amazing remix by FacexHugger on the album. What was it like working with him?
In a word: awesome. I really admire his work and he had just come off putting out Chasing Replicants and I knew he was working on other stuff so I almost didn’t ask. But, one night I had a couple of beers and fired off a message and he was down right away. I had really wanted to incorporate Activation Sequence because that was the jumping off point for the back story that was in my head. What he did with it still blows my mind. I really dig the way he incorporated parts of my song, added in his FacexHugger flair, and combined it all in a way that works really well. Like I said about video games, both of us were like this has a super Space Invaders/Galaga sound to it.
How do you feel your music has grown since you first started recording?
I feel like I have progressed in leaps and bounds. My first couple songs were actually made on the GarageBand app on my phone just to see if I could make music. I feel like every song, especially on this album, is a progression from the previous one. I wrote them in order and have been listening to them a lot in the last week or so, and I can hear them get better. I think the hardest thing I come across is hearing other artists’ releases and being like, oh man I am bad ha ha. I really have to talk myself down from the ledge. I really have to think some people have been making stuff in some capacity for decades in some cases and synthwave for years. I have only been making music since October, so I will get there, and I will keep progressing.
What artists have been your biggest inspiration, both old and new?
I grew up listening to mostly heavy metal up until the last year or so when I found synthwave, but I have always enjoyed bands that use synths in some capacity. Bleeding Through, iwrestledabearonce, Arsonists Get All the Girls to name a few. I really like the incorporation of synths and metal. For synthwave, Glitch Black, Vulta, and Occams Laser are huge inspirations to me. I want to be on their level with my music. But those are just a few ha ha. If I didn’t name you, you’re probably an inspiration to me as well I just didn’t want this whole interview to be a list of who inspires me.
What have you found to be the best way to get your music heard by more people?
Twitter. I am always on the Twitter. It is the best way in my opinion to reach out and talk with people immediately. Sometimes things get lost in the weird algorithmic timeline sauce, but having people re-tweet, post about, and comment gives you that instant gratification. It is also how I have met and interacted with tons of other artists and fans.
Most embarrassing album in your collection? We know you’ve got one.
I was going to say I don’t have one, but then I remembered back in High School I bought Esta Loca by Too Kool Chris based purely on the fact that it had a dude on the cover in a puffy jacket with a car with rims on the cover. It is 6 remixes of the same song and it was just bad. Look it up. It is hilarious.
*Editor’s Note: Here ya go! I did the work for you.
Are you a fan of the old forms of media coming back into fashion?
I love it. I would like to buy more because the art is amazing and having a tangible thing is very cool. Problem is I don’t have any way to play them. I would like to do a physical release in the future because people really enjoy them.
Favorite horror film?
That is a tough one. It isn’t really horror, more sci-fi, but The Terminator. The soundtrack is on point and Arnold’s slow creeping killing machine is really amazing. For straight horror it’s more of a toss up between Hellraiser and The Shining. The effects in Hellraiser are awesome for the time and the creepy kids in The Shining still make the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
What’s on the horizon for the Unholy Rat King?
I would like to continue getting better with my production skills. Upgrade my DAW and really continue learning all the tricks of the trade to make the best music for the listener. I have a couple things in the immediate future I am working on, a compilation of sexy summer sounds, and a couple covers I think will be fun. I would like to put out another album by the end of the year. Working with Ethereal Delusions to master my future releases. Taking this from being more of a hobby to something I can spend a majority of my time on. Hopefully I can scrounge up enough to do some type of merch, be that shirts, stickers, or physical release of music. Basically I can see myself doing this for a long time. 2020 is the year of the Rat, so be prepared for things to come!
Anyone you’d like to thank or shout out?
Ok this is where I am going to get even more long winded, so bear with me. First and foremost I would like to thank my amazing wife for supporting my urge to make weird little bleeps and bloops in our living room. Echosynthetic and Watermelon Banzai for sharing my tunes all the time and your constant support of the scene. Vampire Step-Dad and Hexenkraft for talking with me on my personal account and getting me more interested in synthwave and giving me pointers on marketing. FacexHugger for agreeing to remix my song and knocking it out of the park. Ethereal Delusions and JJ Christie for talking production and giving me pointers. Dreddd and Gregorio Franco for wanting to make some jams together. Atom Cyber for making my banging artwork. Every single artist and fan who has listened, preordered, shared my music, or read my blog. I interact with people on a daily basis and they have become a big part of my life. The synthwave community as a whole for being accepting of a new guy who is just starting out.From the bottom of my little mutated rat heart I do this for you. If I didn’t name you, again, I am sorry but in the interest of brevity I should find an end.