RAVAGE – A Talk With AL RAVAGE (Lead Vocals)

Posted on August 17th. 2017

Questionnaire by Jason Houston on behalf of METAL TO INFINITY WEBZINE BELGIUM

Jason: I know that the band’s home base is Boston. Is that where you’re originally from Al and if so I have to ask is there much of a music scene/or even much of a Metal scene there these days?

Al: There is a great metal scene in the Boston area right now with a great variety of bands. We’ve got lots of emerging newer melodic traditional bands like Ice Giant, Shadowlynx…speed metal bands like Seax…female fronted bands like Seven Spires… thrash bands like Black Mass, doom bands etc and there have been always been a lot of death and blackmetal bands around. So lots of good new metal as well the scene stalwarts that have hung around for a long time like Meliah Rage, Matthias Steele, Armory etc. We are originally from Malden, which is just north of Boston. One of the only well-known bands from Malden is Extreme, the 80’s funk metal band…they are still around too actually. We used to practice in the Boston area a lot, but now we practice more in central Massachusetts because our drummer is from out near Worcester. But most of the guys from the band are from the Boston area.


Jason: Ravage sounds like a really METAL name if you will Al but I was curious if Ravage is your actual name or if that’s a stage name you came up with?  In regards to naming the band Ravage I have to ask did you ever have any doubts about naming the band after you?

Al: Well no, actually I didn’t have any doubts about naming the band after me because I didn’t. My real name last name Firicano but when we started out in the mid 90’s we played a lot of shows in the punk scene because there weren’t any metal bands to play with and it is sort of a tradition in the punk scene to have stage names or be called after the band name like Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious, Joey Ramone etc…so people were calling me Al Ravage and my brother Eli Ravage and it stuck for me. For him, he didn’t like it so much so he goes by his real surname. The band name I came up with when I first started the band. I thought what is the most metal band name that isn’t taken? Ravage obviously… it was at a time before the internet, so I remember going to music stores, going through all the new and old records trying to find a band called Ravage, and since I couldn’t, I naively figured no one had ever used the name. It was a couple of years before we discovered that there were a couple of Ravage’s in the 80’s but we figured since they were broken up we’d keep using the name. We’ve tried changing it a few times, but the fans keep dissuading us. So I guess we’re stuck with it and Al Ravage soldiers on…


Jason: While I know you’re the lead singer in the band Al I was curious if you play any instruments  or if you’ve always been a singer?

Al: I started out as the drummer of the band, but we could never find a singer, so I started playing drums and singing and when we finally found a drummer I just sang. I still play drums in the band Iron Will and I fool around with keyboards and bass guitar but I am not even really serviceable at those instruments.


Jason: Who were the Singers who really inspired you, you know the guys who played a major role in you growing up to become a professional musician yourself?

Al: In the beginning, the biggest influences were James Hetfield, Bruce Dickinson, Ozzy, Dio and Rob Halford… those guys are the greats. But I’ve always liked singers with unique voices like Lizzy Borden, King Diamond, Udo Dirkschneider of Accept, David Wayne of Metal Church and Ritchie Turner from Agony Column. David Wayne is probably my favorite all-time metal singer just because he had such a fantastic range. He could do screaming harsh thrash metal vocals, power screams and also clean ballad singing. Glenn Danzig probably had some influence on my being able to see the low-range and mid-range vocals as something acceptable for metal – though I still get a lot of flack about being a low-vocals singer generally. A lot of people don’t seem to think it’s metal vocals if you aren’t singing high all the time…


Jason: Do you remember what was the point in your life when you knew that you wanted to take a shot at being a professional musician?

Al: I started high school and took up the drums…I must have been 12 or 13 years old…it was probably 1993-1994 and I traded an old guitar to my brother for a cassette copy of Metallica’s self-titled album and then discovered Iron Maiden shortly thereafter and that just opened the door to metal…and at this point I have been playing metal music for most of my life.


Jason: Could you please share with us how you first hooked up with the other members of the band and what year the band first came together?

Al: The band played its first official show in 1996. We existed in thought for maybe a year or two before that, but it wasn’t until 1995/1996 that I found musicians to play with. We’ve been through a lot of line-up changes over the years but my brother Eli has been in the band from the beginning – first on bass guitar, then rhythm guitar then lead guitar. Our other guitarist Nick Izzo has been with the band for about 17 years. He emailed us in 2001 when we were looking to add a second guitarist. He said he had been following us for a while and we bonded immediately because he was the only person the Boston area we had ever met at that time who had head of Rhapsody, Luca Turilli and Gamma Ray. Tommy G is a longtime friend who has filled in for us over the years and just joined full-time recently when our bassist Rich Berte moved to Florida. Derek Jay is the drummer of Seax. Eli was playing in Seax for a while and Derek played some tracks on our recent recording and we asked him to join full-time when our previous drummer Dan “The Hammer” Kowal moved to Colorado. We had played shows with Derek years ago back when he was in Trauma Concept, so we’ve known those guys for a while.


Jason: I know that the band has gone through several lineup changes over the years.  How hard is it for you every time the band has to go through a lineup change?

Al: It’s only hard if you get members who don’t like to learn the old material ha ha. It’s been relatively smooth transitioning for us because we’ve had the same three members for seventeen years – we’ve just had a new rhythm section ever couple of years, so as long as the bassist and drummer learn the songs, it’s cool.


Jason: Who’s currently in the band?

Al: Myself on vocals. My brother Eli Firicano on lead and rhythm guitar. Nick Izzo on second lead and rhythm guitar. Tommy G on bass and Derek Jay on drums.

Jason: What do you remember most about Ravage’s very, first professional gig?

Al: The first show we played was a punk, underground show in an attic and the cops showed up because the neighbors complained about the noise. The first real club show we played opening for a well-known act was opening for Lizzy Borden in 2002 on his Deal With The Devil show in Attleboro, MA. He put on a fantastic show even though he had a bad cold. Lizzy Borden is one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen.


Jason: Ravage recently released its latest CD called The Return Of The Spectral Rider.  Talk a little bit about this new CD.  I mean how would you rank it against some of the band’s previous releases?  How many songs are on it?  who produced it?

Al: We self-produced the CD in our own basement studio. Eli and Nick did most of the engineering and Eli mixed it with some input from the rest of the band. We used five different drummers because we didn’t have a full-time drummer at the time and we had a fantastic time recording it. Everyone did a great job and added their own flavors to the songs. The whole thing was a re-recording of our “Spectral Rider” album which had a limited release on Germany’s Karthago Records in 2005. We didn’t like the production value of the original recording and since we didn’t have the original tracks on that one we always wanted to re-record it. So when we finally got a studio together we decided this was the best time to do it so we could test the capabilities of the studio. We recorded 12 tracks and a bonus track which appears on the digital version that you get when you buy the vinyl version. We had Peter Rutcho do the mastering. He is a well-known metal producer who has worked with acts like Revocation etc and he produced our last recording “The End Of Tomorrow” which was released on Metal Blade Records in 2009. This release is a little more trad metal than the last release which had more thrash elements – though we always have a good mixture of stuff. There is a little thrash in there, doom elements etc as well as rockin’ trad and speed metal stuff.

Jason: How happy are you with the reaction you have gotten from fans in regards to Return Of The Spectral Rider?

Al: It’s been great. I mean I am happy as long as we like it and maybe one or two people outside the band enjoy it – that is “mission accomplished” as far as I am concerned, but it’s reached parts of the world that I never thought our music would make it to. I mean if you told me when we started out in 1996 that someone in Tunisia would have Ravage on their stereo I’d never have believed you. But that is the great thing about the connected world we live in.


Jason: In regards to the new CD I was curious if the songs on the CD were all written specifically for this CD, you know written in the same time period or was there any older material that had been laying around for a while that the band re-visited when you went into record this latest CD?

Al: This was all old material. Some of it was extremely old. I mean there are a couple of songs on there that we played at our very first shows in 1996 and 1997. I think the newest songs are “Spectral Rider”, “Turn The Screw” and “Masque Of Black Death” which were written around 2003/2004. So it was great to revisit, or “return” to that stuff and give it a final version. The bonus track “Father Of The Atom” was the only song we had never recorded before. It didn’t appear on the original version of the album, but it was one of our oldest songs. It is basically an old punk song, written when we couldn’t really play our instruments very well. All the material has evolved and been reworked over the years of course so it is neat to hear how they all turned out.


Jason: I understand that Ravage is currently working on another CD that’s in the works called Ravage The Earth. What can you tell us about this other CD that you’re currently working on?

Al: Wow, that’s some deep research you’ve done. Yes, there is a plan to record all the material we have been working on for years. We have enough for a double album really which I have thought of calling “Ravage The Earth / Ravage In Peace” and maybe releasing on a double vinyl…but those kinds of ambitious plans don’t always pan out due to budget restrictions etc. I hope we get the chance to record it in the best way possible and release it properly because, having listened to demos of these songs for years, I think I can definitively say it will be our best release, our magnum opus, if you will. Maybe one of the best metal albums ever? Or at least pretty good…ha ha. We’ll let the listener be the judge.


Jason: Do you remember what was the very, first album that you ever bought was? If so I was curious what do you remember most about buying that album and putting it on for the very, first time?

Al: Oh I remember it very clearly. The first metal album I actually bought for myself was Iron Maiden’s “The Number Of The Beast”. I got it on cassette and I raced home to listen to it. I remember being mesmerized by the cover artwork – even though it was a tiny version of it. I probably stared at it for an hour trying to make out all the details before I even put the album on. I popped it into an old Fisher Price cassette player I had – which was basically a toy, but I liked it because it had a headphone out – and I put on my headphones and I remember I had it turned up way too loud and the first notes of “Invaders” just blew me away. I thought “this is totally awesome!” and I sat and listened to the whole thing straight and I was hooked on metal ever since.


Jason: Is there an album in your collection Al that still to this date you can point to and say that’s the album that really had a major impact on me and played a major role in me doing what I am doing today?

Al: “Number Of The Beast” had that impact, for sure. But even before that, I have to say the self-titled Metallica album and the preceding Metallica albums – And Justice and Master Of Puppets had a huge impact early on. I was a huge fan of that Metallica self-titled album. I basically wore out the cassette shortly after hearing it and that got me looking for other metal bands when I started out.


Jason: I read on your FACEBOOK page that one of the bands that influenced you was Black Sabbath.  I have to ask if you have a preference when it comes to Sabbath?  I mean do you prefer the Ozzy era over the Dio era or would you say you’re equally a fan of both eras?

Al: I am a huge fan of all eras of Sabbath. I tend to like Ozzy’s solo stuff more than I like Ozzy Sabbath. This may sound sacrilegious to Sabbath fans, but I actually like the Sabbath material by singer in the reverse order that probably everyone else likes Sabbath. My favorite Sabbath albums are the Tony Martin stuff – “Headless Cross”, “The Eternal Idol” “Cross Purposes”…”Tyr”…even “Forbidden” – I love that stuff. It’s all fantastic. Then I love the “Born Again” album with Ian Gillan – it’s some of the most evil-sounding, heaviest Sabbath stuff. Then the album with Glenn Hughes… I am a big Glenn Hughes fan. I am a huge Dio Sabbath fan… “Dehumanizer” is probably my favorite of those, but they’re all great, and then of course Ozzy. I just eat up anything Sabbath. I hope there is a Tony Iommi/ Tony Martin reunion at some point.


Jason: In regards to Black Sabbath how do you feel about the fact that Black Sabbath has now played their final Concert and called it a day?

Al: It’s too bad, but in the end they’re weren’t sounding that great live with Ozzy and they were playing the same old songs. I thought the new Ozzy Sabbath material was OK, but not nearly as inspired at the Heaven and Hell album. I really wished Heaven and Hell could have made more albums. I’d also liked to have seen Ozzy doing some Dio songs or Tony Martin songs or something…something to mix it up.. but due to obvious reasons that would never happen. I am more upset that since Tony Iommi is getting up there in years and had some ill health, he won’t be doing a reunion tour with Tony Martin or Gillan. But I hope they at least get to record some new material.


Jason: I also know that your band was influenced by Early Metallica and I can hear that in the overall sound of RAVAGE but I was curious first of all how you reacted to the Black album when you heard it for the very, first time?  Did you love it like me or like millions of Metallica fans around the world did you feel like they sold out and hate it?

Al: I loved the black album, and I still do. It was really the album that got me into metal completely. I think part of it’s appeal is that it is really the metal “primer” album. I mean, you can’t really get a better introduction to metal music than that. The songs are all dark and heavy with a couple of tasteful ballads, great subject matter and perfect production. What’s not to like? “Load” and “reload” are another story. When “Load” came out I pretty much stopped listening to Metallica – I thought they had sold out and that “Load” sounded like bad country-influenced b-sides from the self-titled album. I remember being an angry 15 year old kid when it came out and they had this contest that if you won, Metallica would show up at your backyard and play a show. I entered because I wanted to win so they would show up and I could tell them to fuck off because their new music sucks. Now looking back, I totally understand where they were coming from with their image change and trying to stay relevant in that music climate etc…but their music from that era still sucks and they’ve never quite recovered.


Jason: In regards to Metallica I have to ask if you’ve heard their latest CD called Hardwired To Self-Destruct and what do you think of it?

Al: I have heard it. It is their best music in a long, long time. I think Hetfield’s voice in particular sounds stronger than it has since the black album. My god, they are listenable again for the first time in 25 years ha ha… there are some songs I actually like! Unfortunately, while it is a return to form, it doesn’t have the magic of their early work – but you can’t top their first five albums – each one stands amongst the greatest metal music ever written. They didn’t ever have to write another song after 1992. So why try to top it? I think bands generally write too much music. Eventually you are going to put out something that’s not up to par. Their early work just comes from a certain time and place and the quality of the song-writing was just impeccable. The new stuff has some elements of it but isn’t the complete package and I doubt they’ll ever recapture it if they haven’t 25 years later. Oh well. Who am I to judge anyway?


Jason: Thanks again Al for taking time to speak with us here at Metal To Infinity.  We really do appreciate it.  is there anything else you’d like to say to all the RAVAGE fans out there?

Al: Thanks to everyone who has stuck with us through the years. Join The Society For World Wide Ravage and follow our exploits at www.Facebook.com/RavageTheEarth and our website www.RavageTheEarth.com. Check out the new recording “Return Of The Spectral Rider” and RAVAGE IN PEACE!!!