Interview with Tom Ribbat, lead vocalist of Guanajuato, Mexico based metal band Hot Demon Fear
(Hey everyone! So this awesome band got in touch with me after seeing my interview with the AlleyWays. Naturally, I gave them a listen and was blown away by their kick ass, take-no-prisoners heavy rock/metal sound. These guys are determined to be successful, and I have a strong feeling they will be. Have fun reading.-Derek)
Derek: So tell me how you guys met and started Hot Demon Fear? I also notice that you had numerous lineup changes, how did those impact you as a band?
Tom: Erik and I met through a common friend in Guanajuato during our last high school year; we weren’t on the same school. He already had several years learning and practicing guitar and he was deep into bands like Metallica, Led Zeppelin and The Doors, while I barely knew any of them. He had an unnamed cover band and it turned out that they needed a vocalist, so I decided to try out and see what happened. I had no musical experience of any kind, if only a few people’s opinion that my voice had a “nice” tone to it. The first thing I ever sung with them in rehearsal was “Enter Sandman” and it kicked ass, but I blew my voice completely. I became part of the band with the condition that I was to put my 120% to improve. We called our cover band “Thell” and from then on, we gigged wherever they’d let us (that’s just how it is in Guanajuato, sadly). It was during this five year lapse that we overcame a lot of line-up changes, where only Erik and I remained constant. We don’t think those had a significant impact on the band, given that, at the time, we were just playing cover songs and learning from trial and error; if only, they represented minor setbacks. It wasn’t until last year that we decided to write our own material and take things to another level.
Derek: Who are some of your musical influences and how do they contribute to the overall sound of your band?
Tom: Each one of us have our own influences when it comes to how we do our thing. Manuel (drums) has a thing for Rush, Avenged Sevenfold and Dream Theater. Bell (bass), unlike the rest of us, is an educated musician and has an affinity for classical music; he loves Megadeth and Tool, though. Erik (guitar) loves Black Label Society, Rainbow, Steel Dragon, well… basically any project with Zakk Wylde in it. I love everything Chris Cornell related, Jeff Buckley and David Gilmour, among others. Collectively, we mainly share a great passion for Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd and Metallica. It all reflects on both each one’s unique input in the writing process and the almost instinctive way we synch up to put it all together, a collective unconscious of sorts. It’s actually hard to explain (laughs).
Derek: I know that hard rock and metal has a strong following in your native Mexico, so how has your band been received by audiences in your homeland?
Tom: This is actually a delicate topic we find ourselves discussing with fellow musicians over and over. There is an actual very strong and united scene for hard rock and metal in Mexico, like you say, but it’s somewhat of an underground scene. Nowadays, reaching people is a lot easier with social networking websites at everyone’s disposal. Yet, it’s so easy to get one’s project out there for everyone to listen to that there’s thousands of new artists striving for a breakthrough emerging every day doing the same thing, so it’s much harder to pack a real, critical punch. However, we have been fortunate enough to have great gigs with amazing crowds in the course of this year and part of the last, worth mentioning Road to Hell & Heaven 2014: The Competition, in which we reached finals. And there’s many more shows coming…
Derek: How do you go about writing songs? Is it a collaborative effort or are there main songwriters in the band that everyone else follows?
Tom: For “Triad”, the process was the same with every song. Erik would come with a riff, we all would jam with it so the rest of us would contribute our part for it to become a song. It sounds very simple, but in the beginning it was really difficult to get in synch. It became much easier as we built content for the album further. In my case, I came up with the main vocal line for each song and sang it during rehearsals, but I wrote the lyrics after the main structure of each song was done. However, I always write a couple sentences mid-process for concept purposes, sing those and mumble the rest of the melody. It’s kind of unorthodox, but it works (smiles).
Derek: I notice a lot of jam session aesthetics in your song structures, are your solo breaks (like for guitar and other stuff) pre-written or just figured out on the spot in the recording studio?
Tom: We have very short experience recording in the studio, just the one time for “Triad”. In that case, we got into the studio with fully written material. Yet, it makes sense that the structure has a jam session feel to it. After all, that’s how the songs were conceived. However, during recording we try hard to stay aware of any and every detail that might not be working out in a particular song, so we can attack it before it’s irreversible. This actually happened during the recording of the “Let Love Die Tonight” lead guitar track. Erik stopped suddenly during the closing solo and just said “This solo isn’t right”. This could have been really nerve-racking, because we only had about three more days to record and we were far from finished, but thanks to our session’s producer Raúl Rueda Alarcón, it wasn’t. Calmly, he invited us all to sit down in a room, he picked a guitar and they both jammed for a couple hours until they got it. The end result was leaps and bounds better than what it was before, and for me, it is the single best guitar piece on the album. So yeah, we might explore a bit of experimenting the next time around.
Derek: So in our past conversations you have spoken about coming to Los Angeles to start playing clubs here. What brought you as a band to make that decision?
Tom: There’s a number of reasons. As part of what I’ve said before about the hard rock and metal scene in Mexico being an underground one, it is rather difficult to find great diverse venues to play in without touring multiple cities. We’d love to, but being an independent band makes things a lot harder when it comes to expenses. Even if we were to raise enough money to fund a homeland tour, the impact in terms of promotion and fan-base building might not be that good, partially due to our music’s lyrics being entirely in English. Los Angeles is home to bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Buckcherry, The Faceless, Incubus and Jane’s Addiction, to name a few. We’d like to take on the challenge of fitting in such a rich, yet different scene, and be part of an array of outstanding music projects as an equal from a distant land.
Derek: What are you guys trying to say as a band? What is your “mission statement?”
Tom: As a band formed under a huge overwhelming music monopoly that doesn’t speak for us (or any rocker, quite frankly), we decided to stand by what we believe in, to make the music we love in spite of the obstacles, trying different things and experimenting with new sounds but always being authentic and true to ourselves, a theme we sing about in “Wild Things”. Actually, the lyrics to that particular song could very well be our manifest. With that as our main principle, the end result is always going to be pure and raw Hot Demon Fear. That’s what we’re all about.
Derek: When people come to your shows, what do you want them feel when they are there and perhaps when they leave?
Tom: When they’re there, our main drive is to make everyone have a great time, to make them fall back in love with hard rock and metal, to remind everyone that its rhythms and themes can cover every color of emotion. Many times we’ve come across several people who think metal is the spawn of Satan, comprised of only noise and screaming, and that makers and listeners alike are all heretic social rejects. It’s rather nice to hear someone who thinks that way saying “Hey, I actually enjoyed this!” after our show is done. But it’s much nicer to have everyone enjoying the hell out of a gig from the start instead of over-analyzing it. When they leave, the thought “I want more!” rings like an optimal one for me.
Derek: Any new music in the works that we might get to hear soon?
Tom: Currently and very fortunately, we have our hands full with show dates to promote our first album, mostly covering a group of cities known here in Mexico as “El Bajío”, which includes Jalisco, Michoacán, Queretaro and Aguascalientes, in addition to some dates in Mexico City. Nonetheless, we have several riffs and ideas in our vault we can’t wait to get busy with, not to mention that we’re working in the early stages of our first official video. It’s only the beginning, and we’d love to have you all there with us.
Derek: Is there anything you would like to say before we conclude this interview?
Tom: A big thank you for the interview, cheers to everyone reading. We’d like to invite you check out our album if you haven’t yet. You can do it at – www.reverbnation.com/hotdemonfear and https://soundcloud.com/hotdemonfear – please let us know what you think in our facebook page www.facebook.com/hotdemonfear ! Also, a big thank you to all our fans and supporters. Long live rock n’ roll!