Brutal Renaissance: Rich Thurston (ex-Terror/Blood Has Been Shed) Talks Raising Up the High End Hardcore of Lowest

pic: Bent Photography

Between the deft, twisty post-hardcore tinged Deep Breath and the progressive/expansive brutality of Treason, it had already been a stellar couple years for multidimensional purveyor of extremity Rich Thurston, but the ex-Terror/Blood Has Been Shed/Culture lifer ain’t done yet: Along with Michael James Fisketti (Martyr AD/I Am Vengeance) he’s just dropped a killer riffs-as-piledrivers 7-inch via Blasphemour Records under the moniker Lowest.

Decibel recently reached out to Thurston to get the lowdown on Lowest, how he keeps so many hardcore irons in the fire, his past career as a professional MMA fighter, and where he goes from here…

So you’ve obviously been part of a slew of seminal projects and amazing records, yet I can’t help but feel as if this is maybe the most fruitful and impressive moment in your long underground music career. Is that how you feel?

I definitely have been pumping out some music that is for sure. March was the last show in Cincinnati. Seems like years now. Treason played with Kublai Khan and Terror. Once the governor shut the state down my job cut hours. While I was super happy I still had a job and an income it left me with lots of free time. Work then home. I had the Lowest stuff written and recorded musically for some time before the shutdown. I wasn’t quite sure what my plan was. I was sort of going for The Haunted-ish sound. I eventually started thinking about singers. I have been friends with Mike for close to twenty years. I asked if we would be down to do it. He loved the music and said, “Yes.” I just wanted to do it for myself. Write some songs and just throw it up on Bandcamp. After he did the vocals I was like, “Ok, this is something I want to keep doing.” I hit up Ryan at Blasphemour. It was the only label I asked about working with…It’s tuned to drop A which is different then anything else i’ve done. It has more of a groove oriented feel but I think it is super powerful. I needed someone to compliment that aggression vocally. Mike does that and more. He makes these songs what they are. He is the perfect fit for the music.

With the Deep Breath stuff I wrote and recorded all of it. All the instruments and vocals. Again, didn’t really know what if anything would come from it. I had worked with Irish Voodoo Records before with On Bodies and Justified Defiance. He was way into it so there will be a 7″ coming out in February. I feel like I just had a lot of riffs and ideas that wouldn’t work for Treason that I wanted to get recorded. I actually have two other projects I am planning on doing. I feel very fortunate to be able to still do this.

Is there a synergy between these projects? By which I mean, I suppose, do you find that by exploring different nuances via multiple avenues that you’re free to really lean in on the elementals?

I played in Blood Has Been Shed from 1998 to 2000. Corey Unger made me a better musician. I have told him this. He taught me how to play different things, showed me notes I didn’t know existed. I learned about songwriting and arranging. I took those lessons into all of the bands I have done since so these most recent bands were all approached the same way. I had different tones and arrangements for each. I had different feels for each. The origins and approach for creating them were the same.

You had a stretch as a professional MMA fighter. Does that inform how you’ve approached music in the ensuing years?

MMA is very regimented. I would do two a day [workouts] five days a week. It’s very detail oriented. Very specific moves and training. While I am a lot more loose in the writing process, meaning I don’t force anything and I just sorta play with riffs until something sticks, recording is a whole different animal. I’m all business. I love recording. I know some people actually hate it but really makes me happy. MMA made me happy. I loved the grind. The same attention to detail goes into the music I create.

It’s interesting, hardcore is so often seen as youth-centric and so many musicians within it burn bright and move on — either to more “rock” oriented projects or with life — and yet your excellent recent work, as well as several others, suggests to me there’s real value in experience and continuing to evolve within that world. Does that ring true for you?

I am so incredibly fortunate to be able to still do this. I remember my first band and our first practice like it was yesterday. Some of the new younger bands in the last say five years have truly inspired me and moved me. They give me the drive to keep and keep it interesting. I think people of my generation that are still into hardcore and metal have a unique view. We have seen bands come and go. Faces come and go. Genres come and go and come back again. I have taken a little bit of it all . From 1987 to present day and tried to use my experiences, both good and bad, and apply them to what I am doing. I come from a time with no internet. No bandcamps or soundclouds. Just kinkos and some wild ass ideas haha. A lot of bands don’t know that life. Today you can put a demo up on bandcamp and five thousand people can listen to it in a day. I think that has helped our music grow and become so much more than any of us thought it could. On the flipside it has given some people this sense of entitlement and an unrealistic view of themselves. It’s a give and take. I love hardcore and I love what hardcore has allowed me to experience over the years.

Finally, it’s a bit wide-ranging, but, as a corollary of the last question, what’s changed for you over the years in the scene? And what’s stayed the same?

Yeah the internet, for better or worse, had changed everything. The reach and the ability to get your music in people’s ears. Like I said before it also gives some this bullshit entitlement and that they can say anything with complete impunity with zero repercussions. Some have learned the hard way that isn’t true. I have seen layouts for records go from cut and paste at kinkos at 2 am to some of the most amazing visual creations. As far as social I think there have been a lot of things brought to the forefront that without that wide range of connection may be ignored or not believed. I know the old guy is supposed to complain and be like “back in my day” but I am really stoked on where we are and where its going. Sure some aspects suck but some shit sucked back then too. Overall I am proud to be apart of this community.