Ringworm’s vocalist Human Furnace (AKA James) has delayed consuming frosty beers so he can talk me, and for that sacrifice, I am deeply honoured. He takes my call from outside a bar in Cleveland, Ohio, where said frosty beers will be consumed.
Ringworm has just finished the first leg of a US tour; how did it go and who did it with you? “We just finished about a week ago. It was superb. It was excellent. We went out with a few bands; Nails, Bitter End and New Lows, and we had a great time. It was a great turn out and they’re great bands. It was a lot of fun.”
Ringworm will be hitting Australian and New Zealand shores next month and it’s going to be mental: Furnace reminisces fondly: “We were down there in 2006, and coincidentally we were also with Mindsnare [who’ll also be supporting Ringworm this time as well]. We also did a show in New Zealand and that went over really well so this time we get to spend a little more time in New Zealand, which is good – and obviously hit up as much of Australia as we can.”
After the Australian/New Zealand tour it’s back to the US for more dates in October – nobody can say these guys are not working hard. “We come back [to the US] and then we head out for the second leg of the US tour for about a month. After that we’ve got plans for Europe and after that, next spring, the United States once again.”
It’s an odd way to do a tour; a bit of America then a huge flight to this corner of the globe and then back to the US again for more dates but Furnace is philosophical about the whole thing: “It just kind of worked out that way. We’re out for a month [on the road], and it’s hard where we’re at - and for almost any band - to stay out longer than a month and be able to maintain somewhat of a normal life as far as getting your bills paid and your job and stuff like that. This time we’ve focussed on the west coast and the mid-west of America. Next tour we’re gonna hit a bit more of the west coast/mid-west and also hit some of the southern states such as Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, New Orleans and stuff like that; all the places we’re not able to hit on the last time around. We’re gonna do it all again and really focus on those states next time.”
So who will be supporting Ringworm for the US tour? “The next tour we’ll be going out with a band called The Greenery, a younger band. I believe they’re on Prosthetic Records? [yes, they are] We’re pretty much headlining this one again. It’s just a small package of us and them, and pretty much local openers after that. It’s looking like it’s gonna be a pretty good tour as well. The response we’ve got for the last record, when we’ve been on tour, has been beyond what we thought it was going to be and every show turned out to be really great and we’re looking forward to keeping the ball moving, you know?”
Reviews for the new album Scars have been very positive but do Ringworm even give a fuck about what people are saying? “You know what? For us, being around as long as we have, which is going on 21 years or something like that, we’ve never really made it a point to care what reviews say because what’s in a review, you know? You could be getting reviewed by a 15 year old kid who’s never heard anything. We’ve never really cared about reviews although with this record, I was kind of curious to see what the reviews would be because with us being around for 20 years, you kind of wanna know where you stand with your fan base. I was very relieved to hear the reviews because for us, I guess we have a lot of things to live up to as far as what people expect of us, although we never really take that into account because we still do our own thing, what we do comes naturally; we don’t try to reinvent the wheel. We do what we do and we do it well so we really focussed on doing that for the last record and it shows in the reviews. People seem to have real positive reviews about it.”
He adds “Actually when we play live, we’re getting requests to play new material, which is strange, because for a lot of older bands, fans just wanna hear your old stuff, which we do but it’s refreshing to know that they wanna hear new material, and they know the words – they tell you at the show that the new record kicks ass and stuff like that. That’s good to hear. We don’t hang on every review but it’s nice to know that the record’s going over well and that the shows are going really good.”
“It’s nice sometimes. It lets you know that you’re doing your job right.”
Speaking of being around for over two decades, do you still go mental on stage, or are you slowing down as you get older? “It’s really just the opposite; as far as writing and playing go, we’re going the opposite way with it. We kind of feel that being this old, you have to go that much harder and that much stronger at it to really get your point across. When we perform live there’s not anyone who walks out of that venue thinking that we’re a bunch of tired old men. They’re blown away and that’s what our job is. When it comes to the time when we can’t perform at the intensity level that the music deserves then that’s the time that we’ll start slowing down and quitting. If we can’t do it 100% then why do it at all?”
So you won’t wheeling yourself out onto the stage in an electric wheelchair and oxygen mask? “We’re leagues away from that; we’re even sharper and more intense than we ever were.” Big relief.
It’s been four years since the last album so will it be another four years before the next Ringworm release? “I hope not. We’ve always been in a situation where we’ve never had any time constraints put on us, and sometimes it takes four years to put write a good album. That’s why I’m kind of happy about getting the good reviews because if we were to wait four years and put out a shitty album then it wouldn’t worth the wait. We want to make sure that it may take a while but it’s worth the wait. In the mean time, that’s why we’re hitting the road really hard; we may not be writing right now but we’re gonna be playing our asses off. Hopefully it won’t be four years till the next one but sometimes both lyrically and musically you just have to recharge. Sometimes writing an album every year isn’t the best thing for your band – that’s often when you start putting out stuff that’s sloppy and rushed because you feel you have to so sometimes a good record takes a couple of years; you can recharge your emotional batteries as far as writing riffs and writing lyrics.”
So what are you listening to? Is it punk madness all the way? “To be honest, I don’t really listen to a lot of hardcore. I listen to a lot of older stuff; I listen to a lot of old rock and roll, I listen to a lot of Foo Fighters – they’re like one of my favourite bands. The new Ghost record’s really good, I’m really enjoying that. I still listen to bands like Mindsnare – I listen to a lot of old Mindsnare constantly – it’s always on rotation. Sometimes I’ll pick something up here and there but usually I’m stuck in my own little world listening to old classic rock and heavy metal. I don’t listen to too much newer stuff but I’m not opposed to it; when I come across something I like, I’ll go out and get it.”
So you’re still going mental on stage; what about off stage? “I like to refer to our band as a mobile nursery school because you put a bunch of mid to late thirties drunks on a bus and we still act like we’re adolescents, you know? We’re act like we’re young stupid teenagers and that’s never gonna change. That’s one reason why we’ve managed to stick around so long because we still do have fun. The older you get, the rougher it gets, obviously, with ‘real life’ commitments; jobs, families and stuff like that but when we get out there we still like to have fun and cut loose – and that’s what keeps us still going at it because we know we’re gonna have fun. It’s almost like an escape for some of us so we still act like complete idiots and act like 12 year olds.”
You took a break from the music to focus on your tattooing; do you still have a studio? “Absolutely. That’s my bread and butter. When I’m not playing in the band, I’m at home tattooing everyday. That’s pretty much the only thing I’ve been doing as long as the band. I’ve been tattooing for close to 21 years; I pretty much started tattooing around about the same time we started Ringworm. I own two shops here in Cleveland and that’s how I make my money; that and other artwork, projects like that.”
See kids? It’s not all drugs and money when you play in a band (unless you happened to play in Led Zeppelin or Guns ‘N’ Roses back in the day). And on that note I let Furnace get back to his frosty, frosty beer. It’s 10:30am in the morning but I suddenly want one myself.