We first met Andrew Lee, sole musician behind Ripped To Shreds, when Demo:listen covered his band Disincarnation, back in 2017. To say that Andrew has come a long way since then would be insulting all around. Disincarnation ripped, but there definitely shined a diamond in that rough.
After Disincarnation broke up, Andrew stayed the course. Ripped To Shreds, we found out last year, was the result of him wanting to write music at his own (indeed, slower) pace. Which, based on how productive he’s been as a result, attests to that age ol’ adage “Slow and steady wins the race.” While co-conspirator BW may have him shredding on this grindcore demo, or that brutal DM tape, or this black metal 12”, Andrew remains a steadfast devotee to underground death metal. “From day one,” he told us last year, “my aim was to create crushing OSDM worship.” Now we find him on the brink of his own future death metal classic.
埋葬, may be that classic, or, more likely, it’s lurking in Andrew yet to be spawned. But there’s no denying that his debut 埋葬 is vicious, ridiculously hard-hitting, and extremely refreshing; an undeniable ripper of true death metal form. But by drawing on his heritage rather than retreading familiar thematic ground Andrew, without pretense, without gimmick, rendered his debut album so much more than an auspicious beginning by an impressive new talent.
In honor of the release of Ripped To Shreds’ follow-up EP, Eight Immortals Feast—which we’re psyched to be streaming below—we catch up with Andrew Lee to find out what’s up, what’s next, and what this killer new tape’s all about.
I’ve been really blown away by the reception. I’m not totally sure how many CD copies were sold by Craneo Negro and Polywater, but I guesstimate around 1000 copies total have been sold worldwide across all formats, through myself and all the various labels and distros who’ve worked with me. Shout out in particular to Pubmetalshop from Taiwan for taking (and moving!) something like 60 CDs. Definitely unexpected, especially considering both Necrolatry and Craneo Negro Records are relatively quite obscure and I had no prior scene cred.
Extremely limited editions always bum me out as a consumer, but predicting demand is not an exact science and it still took us a month to sell 150 copies. If we’d made 300 to start, we’d probably be sitting on another 100 copies at the moment. But Night Rhythms is working to repress the vinyl ASAP so anyone who missed out on it will be able to get in on that soon.
Some of the album material I’m still extremely proud of: “撿骨” and Yellow River [“Yellow River Incident, 1938”] in particular. Some of the other songs are a bit raw and maybe could’ve used some more polish, but I think there are people who enjoy the unpolished vibe.
How did you record these three new songs? Did you do anything differently this time around? You played everything except drums. Where’d you find Gu Ji and what made you decide to hand off the drumming responsibilities to him? Not to mention, your absolutely savage guitar tone this time around. How did you get it, and what made you want to go thicker and dirtier?
On 埋葬, I recorded DI tracks and sent them off to Damian [Herring] for re-amping. This time around I decided to mic up my Mesa F-50 combo for rhythm tracks. I’m also using a TC Electronics Eyemaster instead of a Boss HM-2 because the input jack on my old one is busted; it’s a little warmer and has less high end than the original HM-2. I wanted a very rough and raw vibe for this demo, so even though I’m a one man band I wanted to sound like a band playing live together in their parents’ garage. I mic’d the amp about 2 feet back to get some more room sound, and did minimal takes. If a take had some mistakes, I didn’t go back and overdub it. I normally blend DI and amp sound for bass, but on this I only used the overdriven bass sound.
I pretty much don’t play drums anymore because it’s a huge time sink and I was writing more complicated songs that I wanted to finish right away instead of in a few years when my drumming skills caught up, and I would’ve had to spend thousands in upgrading my kit to get a sound that I was really satisfied with. Gu Ji just means ‘drum machine’ in Chinese; I put that down instead of ‘drum programming’ because I want people to listen with their ears and not their eyes. For a more garagey mono drum sound, I played the drum tracks back through my monitors and recorded it with my phone.
In what regard do you think you’ve changed the most as a solo death metal musician since 埋葬, and how do you think that shows itself on these songs?
I think my voice has improved a fair bit, but the biggest change is my production ability. Maybe you can’t tell as much from these intentionally raw songs, but for more polished examples there’s the new Skullsmasher album coming out next week on Selfmadegod Records, which was self-recorded and mixed, and I mixed the Black Ejaculate demo dropping on Iron Bonehead in May. Being able to hear my own songs 90% of the way I envisioned them took a lot of the guesswork out of writing. I’m not thinking, “will this part sound better with a proper mix or better vocal processing?” If I listen and it sounds like it bangs hard, then I don’t dwell on it longer. If it doesn’t immediately feel good, then I know it needs fixing.
Okay so we open with an eponymous song on this new demo. What’s “Ripped to Shreds” all about? Was it always going to be the opener?
I wanted something that was non-stop d-beats and polka beats for maximum rotting filth to open this demo. Too many modern OSDM type bands start off with a savage debut album that’s all riffs and aggression, but then on the sophomore they swerve right into prog wankery and forget how to riff. New RTS will never feature clean singing, 5 minute extended solos, or acoustic guitar.
The title track here is blunt force head trauma. It’s super grinding, too. Can you talk about writing this song, and what you wanted to achieve with it? Also, what’s this one about, lyrically?
As I was writing the new album I figured it needed something a little more straightforward and murderous. I wanted to get some early Cannibal Corpse and Carcass vibes in here, which is where these two demo tracks come in. Not to say that the upcoming album is proggy in any way, but the songs are a little longer, with some tricky rhythmic bits and melodies. This song is inspired by the Eight Immortals Restaurant murders in Macau in 1985, where a gambler murdered a family of 10 who owed him a debt and forcibly took over their restaurant. He then apocryphally cooked their remains into pork buns and sold them.
What made you want to cover “Pestilent Excruciation,” and how did you go about making it so awesome?
I’m a massive Insect Warfare fan: World Extermination is easily my favorite grind album of all time, and this particular song off the Carcass Grinder split is one of their best. There’s obviously a ton of grind influence in RTS, and even more will be on display in the upcoming EP and second album. Also I’m personally extremely biased towards HM-2; it automatically makes any riff at least twice as awesome, so if you start with riffs as awesome as Insect Warfare’s, it just goes off the charts.
What’s the occasion for this new three song promo tape?
I’m playing a mini “tour” in Taiwan, hitting Paramount Bar in Kaohsiung on 6/1 and Revolver Bar in Taipei on 6/2. I figure almost everyone in Taiwan who was going to buy 埋葬 already has a copy, so I wanted something new to hock.
You found three musicians for these dates in Taiwan, right? Varg Satanism on rhythm guitars, Jack T on drums, and DeRek on bass. How did you find these guys, and have you played with them yet?
The first drummer I had lined up had to drop, but the incredible Chris Yeh from Bloody Tyrant very graciously agreed to step in at the last moment. Bloody Tyrant is a long-running folk/death band, and one of the bigger pure metal bands from Taiwan. For the other two, Derek organized a Butcher ABC gig back in October that also featured his band Brain Corrosion and Varg’s band Fetus Slicer. Brain Corrosion’s stage presence and performance blew me away, so I asked them to do a split with me. When I was looking for a vocalist who spoke Mandarin and could play bass, Derek was the most obvious choice. Varg I chose because he’s probably the only guitarist in Taiwan who’s actively doing any kind of OSDM (and HM-2 at that)! Haven’t managed to jam with em yet, but I’ll be flying into Taipei in May, so there’s plenty of time for rehearsal.
Will this be a stand-alone release, or will any of these tracks be re-recorded?
The two original tracks will be re-recorded for album 2 in suitably ‘professional’ quality.
What’s next for Ripped to Shreds, man?
Once we complete these shows in Taiwan, we’re looking to hit up Japan and maybe Malaysia/Singapore. Gonna do my best to bring these guys over to the US but that may take a bit of juggling. There’s a split with Brain Corrosion that will hopefully be out before the end of the year, as well as a 20 minute EP that will definitely be out by the end of the year. Album 2 is almost completely written, so with any luck you’ll see that before the end of 2020.
I’m reserving my copies for sale at the gigs, the tapes can be purchased online at Nameless Grave.