IMMOLATION INTERVIEW!!! Ross Doland part 1 (by The Exhumator)
Wednesday, 07 March 2012 09:01

Immolation1988IMMOLATION is a band that needs no introduction when being featured in an interview, so I'll tell you about this special and what we mean with it. We've decided to start with IMMOLATION just because is one of our favorite Death Metal bands, and for whom really isn't? IMMOLATION is one of the bigger bands in the genre and have delighted us with many great records through all these years. It's been a while since the band formed and so many interviews have been captured in some fanzines, so many memories of friends and acquaintances, in fact, each one of us have different memories, different stories about how we got to know the band and the meaning of their music in our lives... Anyway, so many things could be said, remembered and shown about the bands and music we like that we have decided to make specials like this. In our next issue, we plan to do the same with SADISTIC INTENT and further on with MORBID ANGEL, MORTEM, INCANTATION (you'll be able to see a good chat with the latter in this issue, too), etc...

 

I must say that I've invited many guys who've had some kind of relation with the band, sadly, I haven't got answers from everyone or there were some I've liked to include, but were impossible to reach. We, as a publication (and fans) must thank to the band for their disposition to answer our interviews and to every one who gave us their opinion or sent us pics, interviews or gave us some hints to reach the guys... I must also say that thanks to this special I was able to meet the band and saw them on stage for the first time this 15 November of 2010 in Madrid, along with MACABRE and NAPALM DEATH and it's almost impossible for me to express what this concert meant to me, specially a day after my birthday or because Ross Doland pointed at me with his finger and dedicated me the track "Immolation". I was in shock and injured my neck... I don't mean to sound like a crazy groupie meeting a band she likes, ha ha... No, no... This is just a story of what has happened during the making of this special. Now I'll have a bigger memory to talk about and tell everyone. That is part of what we mean and want to aleeve with this kind of specials...So, I give you IMMOLATION! 

1- T.E.: Before we begin, I must say it's a great honor for us that you have agreed to this in depth interview and be part of our special tribute to IMMOLATION. Without a doubt, you guys have been creating Death metal for many years now, and we know that there are many stories behind each album. I had the urge to make a band tribute for quite a long time of a band that I liked a lot and I decided to start with IMMOLATION, this issue will include a lot of interviews that have appeared in some old fanzines and I wanted to give it a bit of freshness to this tribute publishing a new talk about the past, present and future of Immolation, so, take a breath, put some good music and start the interview by telling us how has been your life and health these days, very tired after the release of new album "Majesty and Decay "?


Ross Doland: We are all doing well and at the moment gearing up to start touring the end of the year for the new album. We start the end of September here in the US for our first headlining tour since we released the "Unholy Cult" album, so we are very excited to be able to play a longer set and have our good friends in VADER join us for the tour along with ABIGAIL WILLIAMS, LECHEROUS NOCTURNE and PATHALOGY. Immediately following this we begin a 2 month tour supporting NAPALM DEATH in Europe. This should be an amazing tour for us with a band we know and respect tremendously, so we are really looking forward to the end of the year!!!! Other than that, we are all busy with work and life, but mainly getting geared up for all the touring coming up!!!

IMMOLATION_FLYER

2- T.E.: Well Ross!, Before talking about the new album, I would like you to take your mind to the past and tried to remember some things. Any fan of IMMOLATION knows that Bob Vigna and Tom Wilkinson were part of RIGOR MORTIS, the band which he claims to be Pre-IMMOLATION. At that time, "What were you doing Ross? How did you meet Bob and Tom and that time and decided to form Immolation instead of continue as Rigor Mortis that already had some releases?


Ross Doland: At the time I was just working and being a normal teenage metal fan (going to concerts, buying records and writing bands to order demo tapes, etc.). I was good friends with Andrew Sakowicz, the singer/bass player of RIGOR MORTIS, and knew the other three guys as well, and I would sometimes go down to the RIGOR MORTIS rehearsal space to watch the band rehearse. We had some good times, and it was really cool to watch your friends play music that at the time was dark and heavy and unlike anything else out there. I wasn't really doing much musically. I had been playing bass for only a few years at this time, and had jammed with a few people, but nothing really serious or anything that I was really passionate about; it was just something fun for me at the time. I believe I met Tom at a POSSESSED show here around 1986/1987, and we became friends instantly. I met Bob some time later at the RIGOR MORTIS rehearsals along with Tom's brother Dave. I went to all of RIGOR MORTIS live shows here in New York, and was a big fan, so when Andrew decided to leave the band in early 1988, Tom asked me to join RIGOR MORTIS to take his place. Tom was going to sing, so I was just asked to play bass, and I was very excited for the opportunity to play in a band that I actually liked and admired. We immediately began working on new material. Bob came over to my house one day and started showing me the song "Immolation" and I loved what I was hearing and was really excited about getting it down and jamming it with the other guys. It was a big step up from what RIGOR MORTIS was doing, and we all agreed that since the new material was much different than the RIGOR MORTIS s songs that it would be best to change the name and continue on in this new direction, focusing on new songs and dropping the older ones. This was the beginning for us. It really just came together as simply as that and we never looked back.

 immo2

3- T.E.: At that time you were very young; can you tell us how you became involved with metal and what were the bands and musicians that inspired you? What you remember the most about that time?


Ross Doland: When we formed IMMOLATION in early 1988, I was 18 years old. I had been into metal since around 1981 or 1982 I believe, or at least some time in that general time period. My first metal concert was DIO on "The Last in Line" tour in 1983/1984. Back in those days I was all about IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, DIO, DEF LEPPARD, QUIET RIOT, VAN HALEN, RUSH and that kind of stuff because at the time that was probably the heaviest stuff out there. My tastes got heavier and I started getting into stuff like VENOM, SLAYER, METALLICA, DESTRUCTION, SODOM and that heavier stuff around the mid 80's. Those were great times with so many great new bands and so much enthusiasm about the heavier music. As for inspiration, I would have to say Steve Harris from IRON MAIDEN was the main influence on me as a bass player, and IRON MAIDEN was the band that got me interested in playing bass along with a good friend of mine a the time. We would get together and try to figure out Maiden songs because Harris was such a stand out player that it was fun and challenging to us to try to learn his licks. Later on it was bands like VENOM, SLAYR and METALLICA that inspired me to take things further as a musician and to get more seriously involved in playing. Like I said, it was a great time for me, discovering so many new bands and meeting some new friends that all shared a common interest in heavier music. It was really the beginning of this life long passion and obsession with playing music.

 

4- T.E.: Can you tell us how were those days when IMMOLATION was formed and how you guys were deciding what style to play, the theme of the lyrics and where the name of the band came from? Why Neal, thought the Immolation name?


Ross Doland: When we first started the band in early 1988, we were all having a great time rehearsing and writing new music. We focused all our energies into the band and it really started consuming most of our free time. We loved every minute of it and would usually practice 4 to 5 nights a week, sometimes more if we could. We rented a monthly rehearsal room for about $350 a month that we would all split and we could usually go there every night unless the owner had a gig and couldn't be there to let the bands in. We spent most of our time there, writing new songs and playing the few original songs we had at the time over and over. As for what style to play, we knew the direction we were heading in as soon as we changed the name to Immolation, there was never any confusion about that. We all wanted to play something dark and ferocious, something that was intense and had feeling, something that was haunting yet well played and executed.
We were all about creating dark heavy music even back then, and that was the path we knew we were destined to go down. Our old drummer Neal came up with the name IMMOLATION. He thought he heard the word in an old Death song "Sacrificial". The line where Chuck says "Manipulating lives, is your way of life" was the line that Neal thought he heard "Immolating lives, is your way of life", because we didn't have the lyrics to "Scream Bloody Gore", so we had to guess a lot of the times. He told us about the name IMMOLATION and what it meant, and we loved it. It officially became the band's name from that point on!!!!

 

5- T.E.: In the first two demos of the band, Neal Boback played as a drummer; as far as I know Neal was also the creator of the first band logo and some promotional flyers. Where is Neal Boback on these days? Why did he leave the band before recording "Dawn of Possession"?


Ross Doland: Neal was technically our second drummer. Tom's brother Dave Wilkinson was Immolation's first official drummer in those early days until he just got tired of the rehearsal schedule and wasn't having fun doing it anymore. Neal was a friend of ours who loved the music and came to all our rehearsals, so he decided he would give the drums a try, and that was it. He never really played drums before and decided it was something he wanted to try and he did an amazing job for someone who never played before. He bought a new drum kit shortly after and really began to improve as a player. He did create the first version of our logo that appeared on the 1988 demo, but we had a friend of ours create the actual logo that appeared on the 1989 demo shortly after this. Neal played on both the 1988 and 1989 demos, and he was gearing up to record the album once we signed with Roadrunner, but as we were getting closer I think he began questioning his abilities as a player and started to have reservations about actually recording on the album. We had faith in him and kept telling him he could do it, but in the end I guess he didn't feel he had what was needed and didn't want to do a poor job for everyone's sake, so he told us he couldn't do it and we found our third drummer, Craig Smilowski before the recording session for "Dawn of Possession".
Neal still lives in Yonkers today on Bob's street and is an electrician. We still see him from time to time.

 

6- T.E.: Every time I listen to the demo II, it makes me reaffirm that it is a fucking gem, I actually really like the cover and I have a bootleg T-shirt that I adore. I have understood that this cover was made by Luc LeMay and have always had the doubt if it's the same Luc from Gorguts. Can you clarify that?


Ross Doland: The 1988 demo was a 2 song demo that had the songs "Immolation" and "Dawn of Possession" on it, and the cover of this was just simply the old original logo that Neal drew up. The 1989 demo is the one you are talking about. It had 3 songs on it: "Internal Decadence", "Despondent Souls" and "Burial Ground". Yes, it was Luc LeMay from GORGUTS that drew the demo cover for us. He was a good friend of ours from the early days that was writing to us at the time, and we asked him to do something for us for the demo cover. We were originally going to include "Fall in Disease" on the demo as well, and we did record this song with the other three, but we weren't happy with something in this song, so we left it off the demo, but this was the song that inspired the artwork, but ironically the song never made it on the actual demo.

 

7- T.E.: Now that I mention the cover of Demo II, in this demo you already had the classic logo that identifies the band and apparently was made by friend of yours called "Renato Gallina" and then on "Dawn of Possession" Mark Mastro of ROTTREVORE adapted the logo as the definitive one (T.E.: Mark Mastro also designed logos for DERKETA, ABOMINATOR (Aust), etc.) Can you remember and share that part of the history?


Ross Doland: Well, from what I remember, after the very first logo that Neal designed, we decided we needed a more professional version that looked a little less home made. I was in touch with Renato from the band DISEMBOWELMENT from Australia, and he drew a better version of the original logo that we eventually gave to Mark Mastro (ROTTREVORE) to re-draw in a more professional manner. Mark was a good friend of ours and a graphic designer who offered to make the logo for us, so he did. What he came up with was the logo that was on the 1989 demo and on the first two albums. We were really happy with what Mark did, but really it was a combination of the first two logos that inspired the final design that we eventually used.

 

8- T.E.: In 1991 we got the first long-play, I mean "Dawn of Possession", released by Roadrunner. I'm not going to ask anything about the music of this first album, as you must have answered questions in relation to this album too many times and is a cult album for any fan, but I wanted to ask about Patricia Mooney, she appears in the credits of LP as responsible for art direction and I don't understand it, ha, ha, ha ... I assume that she worked together with Andreas Marshall?

Ross Doland: Patricia Mooney worked for roadrunner at the time as the art director. Her job was to do the actual layout for the album. We met with her at the roadrunner office once we had the finished artwork from Andreas and all the lyrics and credits and thanks list, and we sat down with her and she showed us how everything was going to look when it was all put together. This was before all this was done on computer, so she had everything put together by hand so we could see how the layout was going to look. That was her job and we thought she did a good job of it!! So, she actually never worked with Andreas nor did she ever meet with him.

 

9- T.E.: Who was Lisa Marie Thompson? I imagine it must have been someone very important to you...


Ross Doland: Lisa was a good friend of ours who lived close to us back in the early days of the band.
She was a big fan of the growing extreme metal scene back in the late 1980"s and she was also a die hare IMMOLATION fan. She was an awesome girl who was very sincere and very passionate about the music.
She was a huge supporter of all the heavier bands that came through New York and was really a good friend and an amazing person. Unfortunately she was taken from us before our first album was released. She was very excited for us that we had been signed to Roadrunner and her and her friend Barbara (who we are still good friends with today) took us out to dinner to celebrate our signing with Roadrunner. She was a real special person that was well liked by everyone and we were all devastated to hear of her passing. She will always be remembered by us and all those who knew her and we still think of her even today. She would have been very proud of what we have accomplished and it is a shame that she isn't here today to enjoy it with us.

10- T.E.: How did you find Craig Smilowski after Neal Boback left? Did he play in another band before IMMOLATION? What happened to Craig?


Ross Doland: Craig was the drummer from GOREAPHOBIA. We played with GOREAPHOBIA back in 1989 and were good friends with those guys, so that's how we met Craig. Craig was an amazing drummer that really had a great style of playing. He had a lot of "flavor" to his playing, had some great fills and had a great style. Once Neal decided he wanted to leave the band, we immediately thought of Craig and asked him if he wanted to play on the first album for us. At that point, we didn't really ask him to join the band; we just wanted him to record the album for us. He agreed, and during the whole rehearsal and recording process, we decided he would fit in really good with the band, so we asked him to join and be our permanent drummer.
He agreed and that's how Craig became our drummer. The GOREAPHOBIA guys were fine with this and were happy for him, so it all worked out good for everyone. They found a new drummer shortly after and they later came out as main support for us on our first US tour in 1992
.

 

11- T.E.: More than four years have passed since the release of "Dawn of Possession" to only come back and kick our asses with "Here in After," Can you tell us how it all happened with this new record? How were you giving life to the lyrics and the whole concept behind the album?


Ross Doland: This was a strange album for us because it took almost 5 years to put it all together and get out. This was a strange time for us because we were in between labels and struggling to get a new deal and at the same time write new songs and still get out there and play shows. We originally wrote "Away From god", "Towards Earth" and "Christ's Cage" first, and then we recorded them and released a demo of these songs that was only sent to record labels and some radio stations. From this, we eventually got some interest from Metal Blade, and later signed with them. Once we had a good idea of who we were going to sign with, we began to finish up the writing for the "Here in After" album. Everything came together pretty quickly after that. Most of the lyrics were either written of close to being finished before we got into the studio.
"Under the Supreme" was one of the last one to get written lyrically, and this I finished while in the recording studio. A lot of the concepts and ideas for the other songs Tom and I discussed and went over long before the studio, and most of these songs I had finished before we got into the studio, which gave me time to rehearse with and fine tune before we actually recorded them. Once we decided on the title and what it meant to us, we got a concept together for the artwork and once again got in touch with Andreas Marschall to paint the album cover for us. It was an amazing cover and we were all blown away by it when we finally saw the finished product
.

 

12- T.E.: I see the cover of "Here in After" as a continuation of what "Dawn of Possession" was, you know, all the subject of angels and demons, something like the struggle between good and evil, the collapse of religion, etc ... How do you work this issue with Marshall?, Did you send him ideas of what you want and he is free to draw? Who has the ideas?


Ross Doland: Yes, you are correct; it is sort of a continuation of the first cover in a sense. The demons and angels just simply represent good and evil, and the title "Here in After" means here in the after, or what is after life. So we decided to depict an afterlife where everyone goes when they die, the good and the evil, the meek and the mighty, the poor and the wealthy, a sort of hell. It was done as a mockery to the whole concept of heaven and hell, so we thought it was a cool concept. We got all our ideas together and we would send all this to Andreas, sometimes with a sketch of what we wanted, and he would send us a sketch back, we would make some suggestions, and then we wouldn't see the painting until it was completed. It's a good thing he always did an amazing job because if we didn't like what he sent, it would probably have been a pain in the ass to change anything since it was a completed piece of art when we finally received it. Andreas was just so good at bringing our ideas to life that we really didn't worry, we knew he would do an amazing job every time!!

 

13- T.E.: I like the lyrics that IMMOLATION has on their albums, this anti-religious message is the right balance for death metal music and I have it very clear that for you the lyrics are just as important as the music, do you mind what people think about your lyrics? Is it a message to the listener or rather is a common feeling in the band that does not matter to anyone other than you?


Ross Doland: I don't really care what other people think about what we do musically or lyrically. Ultimately, it is the four of us that need to be happy with what we are doing first and foremost. If other people appreciate it, all the better. Of course, we want other people to enjoy what we do and get our message, but if they don't, that is fine as well. When we started doing this back in 1988, we were writing and playing music for ourselves, and in a sense we still do, but we also have in mind our fans, and we would never release an album that would alienate our fans. The lyrics sum up the collective views of all the members of IMMOLATION. We are all Atheists and believe in fact and science not fairytales and myths. We certainly take pride in our lyrics and feel they are as important as the music, so of course we hope people read them and understand them, but again, we are just writing about how we feel personally on these issue. Whether the lyrics deal with religion, war, social issues or our own personal demons, they are in fact our own personal opinions, so if people agree with our point of view, great, if not, that is fine as well.

 

14- T.E.: I'm sure that for anyone in Christianity or any religion that follows a biblical God, seeing your covers and the name of the songs must be something totally negative, you know, all this scares some people and may become a real attack on their beliefs ... You never had problems with some Christian fanatic or a family member who does not understand your music?


Ross Doland: No, luckily we have never had any problems with any of this nonsense. We live in an age of science and discovery, we learn new things everyday that disprove all these antiquated beliefs that people have been clinging to for centuries. Its time to step out of the darkness and into the light and see the truth. If people are offended by our message and our artwork, that's too fucking bad, because I personally take offense to the religious right forcing their beliefs and agenda's on the public for centuries, for telling people what they can and can't do with their own bodies, and for generally misleading and poisoning the weak minded with these narrow-minded beliefs that hold no credibility, have no basis in truth and that are quite frankly no better than a children's story. I think our fans know what we are all about, and our message is for them and for anyone else out there who has a brain and can think for themselves!!!!

 chile

15- T.E.: Now let's recall "Failures for Gods" in 1999, the band continues to mature and again made a strong album, this time our countryman Alex Hernandez joins the band, a new member in IMMOLATION and a drummer unknown for most of us even in Chile. Ross Please, tell us about Alex and how he became a part of IMMOLATION. What was the major contribution from Alex for this album and for the next two that followed?


Ross Doland: Alex played in the band FALLEN CHRIST from Queens N.Y., and we met him when we played a show with these guys shortly before Craig left the band. We saw what an amazing drummer Alex was, and he was a really cool person as well. Once Craig left the band, we only had a short amount of time before we were to start touring for the "Here in After" album, so we had to find somebody quick. We met with Alex, and he joined the band right there on the spot. He rehearsed for the tour and did a fine job.
When it was time to begin the writing for the "Failures for Gods" album, Alex already had a good idea of the Immolation style, which was different form FALLEN CHRIST. It was a little rough for him in the beginning, but he soon found his groove and became comfortable with our style as well, and by the time we were about to record the "Close To A World Below" album with him, he was much more comfortable and more confident in the studio and did an amazing job. Alex's amazing style and intensity added a new element to the band.
He took what Craig did to a whole new level and added so much new and creative elements to the songs that it was nice to hear the new material with this new element
.

16- T.E.: Why does he leave the band? What was the relationship at that time?


Ross Doland: Alex left the band at a really bad time. We had a whole US tour booked right after a European tour with only a week in between, and after we returned home from Europe he told us he wouldn't be doing the US tour. He had a medical condition at the time which would have prevented him from performing as well as he would have liked, and this left us with only a few days to get a replacement or be forced to cancel the tour. We were in a very bad predicament, with very few options and very little time. Luckily we found our present drummer Steve Shalaty to fill in and save the tour and eventually become our permanent drummer. Our relationship with Alex was good, but a little strained in the end. We felt like he wasn't happy anymore and wanted to move forward with his life, and we were fine with this and supported his decision, we were just a little upset with how he left us before the tour that's all. We are still good friends and in fact he just came out to see us play live in January in New York. It was great to see him and we were happy he came out. It was his first time seeing us live since he left the band, so there was a bit of closure that night and we all had a good time talking and catching up.

 

17- T.E.: Ok Ross! In "Failures for Gods" the band stops using the band's classic logo on the covers of Immolation and on this subject I'll be really honest with you, I have often talked to friends and fans of the band none of us really understand why decide to stop using it and create a new image, I must say that the new logo is crap that does not transmit anything, simple letters that would please even my mother and neglects the essence of the font, property of the bands style. You know what I mean Ross, the old logo is amazing; I've never met anyone who does not like it ... Why the hell decide to opt for a simple logo, without design, without any creativity, so to speak? In fact these days I bought the shirt of "Majesty and Decay" and I imagine the old logo and I think that would be a thousand times better ... Please you can send me to hell but comment on this topic.


Ross Doland: Ha ha ha ha, we get this a lot from some people, and simply put, the main reason why we made the change was because we wanted a logo that was more simplistic that wouldn't take away from the artwork and more importantly, would be easy to read for both our fans and new fans. I am not a big fan of logos that you can't read, it really does the band no good when you see their name, and like their music, but don't know what the name of the band is because you can't read the logo. I think people just need to get past this because it doesn't affect the music and what the essence of the band is, it is really irrelevant, and besides, the old logo is still on the albums in some fashion, and we still use it on some of the shirts. The logo never made the band what it is, it is the music !!!!!!!!!! Here's a funny story. After we signed the new deal with Nuclear Blast, Gerardo at the US office is a huge old school IMMOLATION fan and always loved the old school logo.
He really tried to talk us into using it on the new record. So we had their art department design a few different versions of the album cover once we had the artwork. We used both the old and the new logo just to see what it would look like. When we saw the version with the old logo, it just didn't look right, it really took away from the artwork and it made it look strange. We told him this and he agreed with us. He felt it really didn't work at all with the new artwork and agreed with what we said, so we all agreed that the new logo looked much better. So it is something that we did actually consider for the new album, but it didn't work
.

 

18- T.E.: Can you talk about the concept and theme behind "Failures for Gods"?, You know, is a matter of reading the lyrics to No Jesus, No Beast, Failures for Gods, God Made Filth, but I wish you were a little deeper, beyond what one can interpret ...


Ross Doland: "Failures for Gods" was basically calling religion a failure and all the gods produced by religion failures. I think the title is self explanatory, and the lyrics for the most part were very anti religious from start to finish. It was one of our most anti-religious albums, and I think all the songs dealt with religion in general and its general lack of "delivering" the goods. It was a very harsh album lyrically, very blunt and I think it looked at religion from many different angles, and was in fact quite deep in its message of disillusionment with the established religions and beliefs. It challenged these beliefs from the first note to the last and it planted seeds of doubt about the validity and relevance of religion today and whether it is doing more harm than good.

19- T.E.: Speaking again of the lyrical content, how are the instances where you think about writing for a song? How are the mind states? Do you need a special stimulus for this? How does it happen?


Ross Doland: I need the music first. I need to be inspired by the actual music before I can write the lyrics.
I usually have some ideas and concepts that I try to develop a bit before we go into the studio so at least I have some sort of foundation to build on, but I often have nothing until we are in the studio. The last few albums I collaborated a lot with Bob, and together we developed most of the songs together and fine tuned them until we were happy with them. This has really worked out well because of the two different viewpoints and having a second person giving you their ideas and comments really helps motivate me and helps make the lyrics the best they can be. I have written so much about religion that I find myself out of new ways to express myself, and there is also sometimes a lack of fresh ideas, so we have slightly moved into other areas of inspiration and have built up these ideas and concepts and integrated them into the IMMOLATION mold over the last few albums and I think it has worked out great and made for much darker and more relevant topics. As for inspiration, I am inspired by life, what I see around me and by books. I read a lot and always get inspired by books and life in general
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20- T.E.: This is really strange for me Ross, after releasing "Failures for Gods" in 1999, just one year delay in completing the fourth album "Close to a world below", in fact, the album you have less time taken to perform ... Please tell us what is special about this disc Explain to us by this time all happened so fast...


Ross Doland: We had so much time wasted in between the first and second albums, and then again between the second and third albums (a total of 8 years) that we really wanted to put something our as quickly as possible so as not to keep the fans waiting for to long. We also had an offer to do a big tour at that time, so this was a motivating factor in getting the new record finished as quickly as possible. The tour actually never happened, but it did allow us to get the album out quicker and we did a good amount of touring for this record both here and in Europe. Most people really like the "Close to a World Below" album and think it is one of our best, so we are proud of this and are also happy with the end result as well. This album was Alex's second with us, and he did a great job, and again, we touched on a lot of anti-religious themes lyrically including one that was getting a lot of media attention here at the time, and that was the disturbing issue of pedophile priests. This inspired the song "Father, You're not a Father" and it is one of the few songs that people never seem to get tired of.

21- T.E.: Perhaps is my idea and I got the wrong vibe but... in this new CD the concept and lyrics are more straight forward?


Ross Doland: I don't think there was that much difference from the last album. I really don't think they were any more straight forward than the 3 albums before, and they once again dealt heavily with our anti-religious views, but I think actually the concepts were a bit more abstract than those of the last albums. We were all really happy with this album and especially liked the lyrics because they really dealt with some issues that were relevant to the time the album was written, and this marked our last album that was completely inspired by our anti-religious views (except for Dawn of Possession, which had many different lyrical themes in addition to anti-religious themes).

22- T.E.: Two years later comes the fifth album and let me tell you it's a fucking gem, although I like all the band's albums, "Unholy Cult" exceeded my expectations. Can you talk about "Unholy Cult" and all the effort behind the production and composition?


Ross Doland: Unholy Cult was a great album for us. We were very happy with the material on this record because it was probably some of our strongest and most diverse up to that point. Lyrically we started to branch out and explore some different topics and started to move slightly away from the heavy anti-religious themes were had written about prior to this album, and with that we started to write about a different face of religion, the more fanatical side. Production wise, it was one of our best produced up to this point because it was our third album working with producer Paul Orofino and I think he was very familiar with the band and what we wanted to achieve at this point. I think it was a very strong release and a release that saw a lot of touring all over the world. It was our first release on Listenable Records, and we were very happy to be working with our long time friend Laurent Merle, who had been a friend and supporter of the band since the beginning. It had a lot of great songs, and again, along with the great production and renewed lyrical inspiration, it really was an album that we were very proud of and still are to this day. Many songs on that album were heavily inspired by the events of 9/11, and this allowed us lyrically to explore new sides of religion and fanaticism and how they affected the world at that time

.

23- T.E.: Also in this record a important bond with a large company as it is Metal Blade Records is broken and you guys moved to Olympia Records. IMMOLATION only released this album with them because after that you signed to Listenable ... What happened in this period Ross?


Ross Doland: Actually, we got out of our contract with Metal Blade and signed a three album deal with Listenable for Europe, and we signed a licensing deal with Olympic/Century Media Records here in the States for 3 albums as well. Olympic, shortly after we signed the deal with them, was taken over by Century Media, which made us a Century Media band from that point on. So we had two different labels for the next 3 albums, Listenable in Europe and Century Media in the US. It was a bit confusing, and probably wasn't the best move to make, but we felt it was a good move at the time. We were very happy with Listenable and really felt they went out of their way to move the band forward and to genuinely put all their efforts into promoting the band. Our experience with them was a very positive one and the only thing that would have made it better would have been if they had a bigger presence here in the US, in which case we would have signed a worldwide deal with them.

 

24- T.E.: Uffff! Another great thing that happened in "Unholy Cult" is that Thomas Wilkinson, one of the founding members of the band leaves, I guess it was not easy for you (although Bill Taylor was an excellent replacement) What happened to Tom ? What is he doing these days?


Ross Doland: Tom really stopped being an active member of the band around the "Failures for Gods" album. He didn't play on this album ( Bob did all the guitar tracks from this point forward), and he really stopped performing with us live at this time as well. We did a tour during this time as a three piece and another tour with John McEntee filling in on second guitar. Tom's only contribution at this point was some lyrical ideas and concepts, and some actual song titles, but he gradually stopped participating in the band and focused on his business. By the time "Close to a World Below" was out, Bill Taylor was our permanent second guitarist and Tom's participation in the band had ceased. He was newly married at this time with kids and had a business, so it was impossible to dedicate himself to the band the way we needed him to, so he left on good terms and Bill took his place.

 

25- T.E.: We're in 2005 Ross, IMMOLATION attacks again this year with another record called "Harnessing Ruin", in fact for this album the band releases a clip and introduces a new member, I mean Steve Shalaty on drums for now on, also a label change to Listenable recs. Phew, quite turbulent time? Wasn't it?


Ross Doland: Well, as I said earlier, we were already with Listenable Records, and Steve joined the band during the touring for the "Unholy Cult" album, so although this was his first time recording with the band, he had toured and performed with us since the previous record. It wasn't all that turbulent, because we were happy with Steve's performance and dedication at that point and new he would fit in with us perfectly.
We had no doubts about his talent and were looking forward to releasing something new with him behind the kit. "Harnessing Ruin" was probably our most straight forward album musically, which was done intentionally, but it was also one of our heaviest and darkest albums to come out. Again, we concentrated less on religion and more on world events as a whole in the lyrical department. It was a great album that got a lot of critical acclaim in the press, and it was also the first time we recorded an official video which got some airtime over here on some of the bigger video channels. It was a great album for us and a great first album for Steve to play on
.

26- T.E.: Hey Ross, I can assume that I was not so hard to accept an offer from Listenable, I knew very well that you were friends with Laurent Merle for many years, probably because of what Laurent did in PEARDROP'Zine and the support they gave IMMOLATION from the beginning. What do you think of Laurent and his work with Listenable? Was it good for IMMOLATION?


Ross Doland: As I said earlier, we were very close friends with Laurent, so when the deal with Metal Blade ended, I was literally off the phone with Metal Blade and on the phone with Laurent telling him we wanted to work with him. It was really a great time for the band to be signing a new deal with someone we knew and trusted and a person we knew we could rely on to do what was necessary to move the band forward. He did a phenomenal job and we definitely made the right move at the time to work with Listenable. We had a long history with Laurent. He was the first European to write to us to say how much he liked the 1988 demo and that he wanted to interview us for his magazine back then (which was USD magazine). This was before he started Peardrop magazine. So he was someone we knew on a personal level and someone we were excited to work with since he had already built up Listenable Records so well up to this point. Our collaboration with him and Listenable was great for the band and we really felt he did everything he could for the band and for this we will always appreciate his hard work and dedication. It was a great time for the band and a very positive experience as well.

 

27- T.E.: Since I'm talking about Laurent and PEARDROP'zine, would you tell me what they mean to you and how important have they been in the history and development of Immolation. What have been the zines that bring you the greatest memories? Do you still have them in your collection? On the other hand, where you friend with any of the editors?


Ross Doland: They mean everything to us. Laurent was and still is a good friend to us. We have had some differences of opinion on our deciding to take a new path and sign with Nuclear Blast for the new record, but we felt it was the right move for the band now, and this was not an easy decision or one we took lightly, and in no way was it a slight to Listenable, simply a business decision, but aside from this, he is still our friend and hopefully still an IMMOLATION supporter. His friendship and passion for the band has been a constant in our career, and his opinion always meant the world to us. Peardrop was a great zine with a fresh perspective on the music and a great approach that didn't take things so seriously. There were so many great zines from this time, and many of the writers we were pen pals with and kept up a regular correspondence with. I remember all of these magazines were different and unique and each one had that personal touch by their creators, so it was a really great time for the underground with so many great sources of news about this very underground music.

 

28- T.E.: As you know Ross, this interview that you're giving me will be to complete an extensive special tribute to IMMOLATION and includes many old interviews that have appeared in old fanzines. It is for this reason that a cult interview will also appear, I mean the Laurent Merle interview that he did with your mother Edna, in which she said he had no trouble with your long hair or the music played that it was better than being in a gang of New York, ha, ha, ha ... I know Ross, what was the first thing you thought when you heard that Laurent wanted to interview your mother?, ha, ha, ha How the hell did Laurent get this interview? Can you tell us?


Ross Doland: Yes, this was certainly a classic interview for sure!!! I really don't think I knew about this until he sent me the issue with my mom in it!!! They were both pretty secretive about the whole thing, but when it finally came out; we all thought it turned out great. Laurent was here on vacation around that time (around 1989) and he was staying here with me. During his stay, I guess he approached my mother and asked her if she would be into doing an interview. She agreed and had a great time answering his questions and being part of his magazine Peardrop. They kept it quiet so they could surprise us when it was out, but I give Laurent lots of credit for doing something unique like that!!

 

29- T.E.: Well, since we are speaking of zines, I need to mention Chris Forbes of MetalCore'zine. Chris was for many years kind of IMMOLATION manager, what are your memories of Chris and his work with MetalCore'zine? How you guys met him and how important it was for you in those years?


Ross Doland: Chris was and is still a good friend and supporter of the band and extreme music in general.
I think Metal-Core is one of, if not the longest running fanzines ever. He is still releasing new issues after over 20 plus years. We first met Chris back in the late 1980's in the South Jersey area, and he interviewed us back then for Metal-Core at that time. We became friends and eventually we asked him to help us out and manage the band in the period between the first and second records. He knew a lot of people in the scene and was very much a part of the underground, so we felt with his love of the band, he would be a perfect addition to the Immolation family. Chris always did a lot for the band and really pushed us as much as he could. His brother had a home studio at the time and we actually recorded the three song demo with the three "Here in After" songs on it that ultimately got us signed to Metal Blade. Eventually we started to handle more of that stuff on our own, and the label did a lot of promotion, Chris was very busy with his zine and distro, so he stopped working with us on that level, but it was a mutual decision. We are still good friends even though we don't see him as much anymore. I did run into him at Maryland Deathfest this year and he is doing well and we will probably be doing an interview with him for an upcoming Metal-Core issue!!!!

30- T.E.: Ja, ja, ja... What the hell did you think when he talked shit about the early work of bands like REPULSION, MORBID ANGEL, NECROVORE?, Ha, ha, ha ...


Ross Doland: It is funny that you mention this, because when we met him, he knew that we were a new band that was formed with two members of RIGOR MORTIS (NY), so he then told us that he gave RIGOR MORTIS a bad review of their demo. It was classic, because we looked it up and saw how he bashed the demo, so we all got a good laugh out of this. In time, I think he learned to appreciate the more extreme forms of music that started to emerge at that time, but in the beginning he was not getting it!!!!!!! It was funny though.

 frank_stoever_immolation-1

31- T.E.: Also let's remember Frank Stover from Germany, who edited the fanzine Voices from the dark side and he also collaborated with you assisting in the promotion and merchandising sales. What are your memories of Frank and Immolation in Germany?


Ross Doland: Frank was another long time friend and pen pal from the early days. He did a great job with Voices From the Darkside, and we asked him as we did Chris to assist us in further promoting the band in Europe. He agreed and did his best to spread the word for us overseas. This was a labor of love for these guys because obviously we couldn't pay them since we never made any money from the band, and this is why we will never forget their massive contribution they made to the band with their time and passion! Frank was a great guys that would always come out to our shows when we were in Germany, and he would always do what he could to help the band. Unfortunately we lost contact with him, but it would be nice to run into him again in the future to catch up and see how he is doing.

 

32- T.E.: Today Ross, Are you really interested in zines? Are you aware of them or you follow a few?


Ross Doland: Nowadays, the only zines I get are the ones that are given to us at shows. Internet changed a lot of things, some for the better, and most stuff is now online, and the interviews we do for fanzines these days we usually never see. There are a few people who will send us a copy or two, which we always appreciate, but overall I am not as on top of this as I used to be 20 years ago. I honestly don't have that much time these days with my work schedule, family and time needed to rehearse. I am usually short on time lately and never seem to have enough hours in the day to do everything I need to do.

 

33- T.E.: Are you tired of having to answer the same shitty questions in fanzines? What is it that you don't like to answer anymore? When, an interview becomes entertaining to answer to you?


Ross Doland: I don't really like when we get a new interview from a zine that is interviewing us for the new album, and they want to know how the band formed, or what kind of music we play, or what happened with Craig, or why did it take so long between the first and second records. When I get these questions about things that happened 15 to 20 years ago, before most of our younger fans were even born, I have to ask what the point is. It is yesterdays news and it is not even relevant anymore. Most of the times I just delete these questions and move on to the next question. They don't need me to give them a history lesson, they can just look at our bio to get all the answers to that nonsense. What you are doing is different. When you approached me, you told me it was going to be an in depth, all inclusive interview that spanned the whole life of the band for a special issue, so this is no problem and something that is fun for me given the nature of the project, but for regular press, I don't have the time for questions that are so outdated they don't really even matter anymore.

 

34- T.E.: What was the first interview responded as IMMOLATION? Do you remember that?


Ross Doland: The first two interviews we ever received in 1988 were from a friend of ours named Kim August who wrote a fanzine called ULTIMATUM in New York and from Laurent Merle when he was writing for a fanzine in France called USD with his friend Ludo. These were our first two interviews and I remember them clearly. We were very excited when we received them and were even more excited that they had our 1988 demo and liked it so much that they wanted to interview us. We received the issues a few months later and were very proud to show our friends and family our first official interviews for the band. It was a good time for us.

35- T.E.: Ross, I've never seen the band live, but I remember that by the year '94, IMMOLATION was announced to visit our country but was cancelled and if I remember correctly, you only played in Colombia and Peru. Why was the show cancelled in Chile?, I think it was organized by Mario Bustos and Cruel Wretch in Santiago ... How was the tour and what memories you have of South America?


Ross Doland: We only played in Peru back then, and I vaguely remember there being a show in Chile, but can't honestly tell you what happened or even if it was officially booked. Back then, you had a lot of people contacting the band from all over the world wanting to book shows, and unfortunately a good number of them just weren't legit and able to put on a proper show. Usually what would happen is they would make a lot of promises and talk up a good game, but when the time came for them to deliver and actually get you the plane tickets, they never were able to deliver the goods, in which case the shows didn't happen. We then got very selective with whom we worked with, and if we couldn't get any references form reliable people we knew, we just never moved forward on these propositions. The Peru show was great. The promoter's name was Jorge, and he was a really great guy who did a great job and we had great fun. We played with the Mortem guys who we are still friends with. One of the guys lives here in the States now and we always see him. The show was great and we met so many great people in Lime. We hope to tour more extensively in South America with the new record, in fact we had some good offers to play in Chile recently, unfortunately the timing was no good for us due to other touring commitments, but we are trying to work something out for next year.

 

36- T.E.: Ja, ja, ja ... Now that we're talking about memories of South America, I have to comment on something that was talked about a lot like an anecdote when you played in Peru, he, he ... I guess you must remember "Celeste", a loving Peruvian girl that you had the pleasure of meeting on your visit to that country ... Well, It remains as an anecdote that Celeste gave special gift to Ross Dolan at that concert, ha, ha, ha ... I think you disappeared with her for a long period of time... The funny thing is not that you fucked a woman in Peru, but rather, that Celeste has been well known in the scene for his "Blow Jobs" to guys in SARCOFAGO and TORTURER when they were also on tour, ha, ha, ha ... I could bet you that this is shit that nobody had said in an interview! Ha, ha, ha ... You were one more for Celeste, Ross! Ja, ja, ja

Ross Doland: Sorry, hate to burst your bubble, but you have the wrong guy. I had a girlfriend at the time and I never fooled around when I was dating someone, ever! I don't know who you heard this from, or why it even made it into this interview, but I can assure you there is no truth to this at all. When we played Peru, we were only there for a weekend, we played the show, met a bunch of people and visited the metal mall and that was about it. (T.E: Ha ha... I'm sorry about the question Ross, but this was some kind of myth in Peru, maybe you'll be able to refute the myth with your words now, ha!)


37- T.E.: Ok! Back to the band, what were we saying? ja, ja ... Ahhh! on "Harnessing Ruin" ... Well Ross, this album was great too, although the only thing I really didn't like was the cover. How was the work behind this album? What can you say about it?


Ross Doland: This album was our first studio recording with drummer Steve Shalaty. He had toured with us for the "Unholy Cult" album, so he was already a member of the band, but this was his first time appearing on CD with us. This was a very stripped down album, a more straight forward album and a much heavier album than our previous efforts. We tried to make an album that was more direct and to the point, and "Harnessing Ruin" was the result of this effort. There were a lot more subtle political tones within the lyrics, as well as some religious and social commentary, but there were also some songs that dealt with war, religious extremism and personal issues, so it was a very diverse album lyrically. It was a very dark and heavy album. We felt Steve did a great job behind the kit. The writing for this album really happened very quickly, it was a bit rushed, and we actually changed some arrangements while in the studio, which was a first for us, but in the end we were all happy with the end result and it actually got really good reviews in the US and European press.

 

38- T.E.: Year 2007, seventh album entitled "Shadows in the Light", this time you also made an excellent video clip for the song "World Agony". How is the work behind the creation of a video clip? How much time the band invests until is finished?


Ross Doland: This was actually our third video clip, but this one probably had the biggest budget.
We recorded a live video clip for "Of Martyrs and Men" when we filmed the main performance for the Bringing Down the World DVD. Then we shot a video for the song "Harnessing Ruin" off that album, and this was more of a performance piece, low budget, but the end result was amazing and we really felt it made the point we were trying to get across. "World Agony" was more of a production for us. I was something we got up at 5 in the morning to do and we spent all day until about 9 at night, so it was a very long and exhausting day. This video was filmed in some old rock quarries under Paris. They were just a series of old tunnels and cave underneath the city that had a really cool look, so this is where we filmed the video. It was fun to do and it really looked great when it was all put together. We wanted just a simple performance piece, but the location really made it unique and cool for us. It was just a very long day like I said, and after 16 hours of filming, it started to get old, but we had fun all the same
.

 

39- T.E.: In regards to the videos, what are the metal videos that you most remember and also your favorite ones? Do you have an idea for one that you like to do in the future?


Ross Doland: There were quite a few classic metal videos back in the day. Any of the IRON MAIDEN videos, especially "2 Minutes to Midnight" were classic back then. The JUDAS PRIEST videos were cool and then when the heavier bands started to make videos, this was great. MEGADETH "Peace Sells" was killer, Metallic's "One" was great when it came out, and moving into never stuff, Morbid Angel's "God of Emptiness" was a total classic for us. The last few BEHEMOTH videos are just amazing both conceptually and visually, done really well and dark. We certainly have plans to do a video for one of the newer songs, but we haven't had the time yet and we haven't picked a song, but we are going to try to get something sorted out while on the road the end of the year.

 

40- T.E.: Damn! The year 2010 and the eighth album "Majesty and Decay" arrives, your latest work at the moment ... This album is a new masterpiece and I do not know if its possible to play better, ha, ha, ha ... This record has it all, the essence of IMMOLATION, is heavy, technical, darkness and grabs you the first time, and also the new cover is a work of art ... It is simply magnificent!, tones and the concept is very well done ... What else I can tell you Ross? Please tell us about this new album and everything behind its creation; hours of rehearsal, composition, theme and anecdotes from the recording ... All please!

Ross Doland: The new album is probably our finest work to date. We are all really proud of this new release and feel it is one of, if not the strongest IMMOLATION album to date. It came together much differently than all the others because we actually had time to prepare a proper pre-production. Bob started writing riffs about a year before we went into the studio and was recording them into a recording program along with drum beats he would program in so we could get a feel for the parts. We were listening to about 70 riffs for a number of months before we started to arrange them. By this time we were very familiar with the material and knew which parts were the stand out parts and used these as foundations to build the songs around. Once Bob started arranging the material, we started working together more frequently until the songs were finished.
He would have full song arrangements with mock drum beats to give us all an idea of tempos and the feel of the parts. This helped Steve tremendously in understanding the parts and it really made the process much smoother and more productive. When we first went out to Steve's house for our first rehearsal together for the new album, we played through five songs the first weekend with almost no problems, which was truly a remarkable feat for us. Once we were ready to go into the studio to record the songs, we were all very familiar with the material and well rehearsed, and most of all, the songs were exactly where we wanted them.
There were some minor adjustments made right up until the final mix, but all the little changes and embellishments really made the songs quite unique and some of our strongest yet. It is a very powerful,
dark and militant album. It is one of our most dynamic albums, and I feel it is our best sounding album in the bands 23 year history. It was one of the most stress free recordings we have ever made, but also one of the most busiest since we really worked full 10-12 hour days right up until the final day.

 

41- T.E.: What happened with Listenable? Why the change to Nuclear Blast?

Ross Doland: Basically our contract with Listenable was fulfilled and we were free to pursue other options. We decided to see if there were any other labels interested in working with the band, and Nuclear Blast expressed interest in working with us. We really spent a number of months weighing all our options to see if there was some way we could continue working with Listenable because we were really happy with them and all they had done for us, but at the end of the day, we honestly felt signing with Nuclear Blast was the right move to make at this point in our career. We were not disappointed. Nuclear Blast has been nothing but amazing and we are very glad we decided to work with them. They have already put a lot into the band in just a short amount of time, and they have really helped us out tremendously and are always available to us if we have a problem or question.

 

42- T.E.: Do you know Ross?, I tried to get the vinyl edition as well but it has been hard to find, in fact I did not find it in Nuclear Blast and I've only seen on E-bay at prices quite unfriendly, which surprises me because is an issue that came out this year ... What can you say about it?

Ross Doland: The vinyl was released in a limited number, maybe 100 or 150, and they sold out immediately. We only got 4 copies for the whole band, so we asked them if they could repress it, so they did and pressed up another 250 of which we bought 50 for our friends and family. The rest sold out just as quickly as the first pressing. It is nice to see people hungry for vinyl these days as we were back in the 80's and early 90's.

 

43- T.E.: What are you listening to these days, Ross? What are the old and new bands you like? Do you only listen to metal or do you clear your mind with some other kind's of music?

Ross Doland: I listen to all types of music from classic and extreme metal to classic rock, jazz, blues and anything that strikes me. I usually find myself resorting back to my old favorites most of the time, but I am always hearing new stuff that we get on the road or from friends. I can't keep track of things like I did when I was a teenager, but I still occasionally find a gem here or there.

 

44- T.E.: In this days, are you married, do you have any kids? How is typical day for you Ross?


Ross Doland: I have a serious relationship with the same girl for 4 years now, and although we aren't officially married yet, we are committed to each other as if we were married. I have no kids and have never been married, but she has two great kids from a previous marriage. She is perfect for me. She supports me and my passion for music, is a great person and a great mother. I am lucky to have found a woman like her.
As for my life, it's pretty uneventful. I work pretty long hours at my day job, I read a lot, in fact I am always reading. I am a big history nut, especially World War 2 history. I really love traveling the world and experiencing life the way it was meant to be experienced. But music is my true passion. IMMOLATION is what drives me and motivates me to be creative and it has opened many doors in life and allowed me to meet many great people throughout the years and see so many great places
.

 

45- T.E.: What would you like to happen with IMMOLATION in the near future? How would you like to be remembered when you and the band Immolation also come to an end?


Ross Doland: I would like to just continue making great heavy and extreme music for our fans as long as we possibly can. It is something we love doing and we will continue to do it until it is either no longer fun anymore or until we just physically can't do it anymore. I would like the band to be remembered in a positive light. As a band that was always honest with their fans and themselves, a band that always tried to create the best music we were capable of, and a band that never gave up, never quit or gave in to trends and did it for any other reason than being passionate about it. We have done this consistently since we started in 1988, and will continue to do so until the end!!!!!!

 

46- T.E.: Ok Ross! You must understand that we are fans of IMMOLATION since Robert Vigna had hair, ha, ha, ha ... So you can understand that for us is a great honor to have your answers in our pages and still be able to make this special tribute to IMMOLATION. Thank you very much for your support to our fanzine, for your music and your sympathies. You have this space to finish this tribute as you want. Keep blessing us with so majestic DEATH METAL!


Ross Doland: Thanks Gabriel. Great interview!!!!! Thanks for being patient with my answers. A big thank you to all our fans in South America, especially Chile. We can't wait to get down there to meet you all in person and show you some dark music the New York way!!!!!

 

Interview by Gabriel "T.E." Gatica