Hate Eternal’s latest effort Upon Desolate Sands landed in a few of our year-end lists for best albums of 2018. Shortly after the record was released in October via Season of Mist, the group teamed up with Cannibal Corpse for a North American Tour. While everything seemed to be moving along as expected, it was shortly after the trek when frontman/guitarist Erik Rutan’s already-busy schedule drastically changed. Just four days after the tour wrapped up, Cannibal Corpse guitarist Pat O’Brien was arrested on December 10th for burglary and charging at an officer with a knife and is currently getting the help that he needs as the band, fans and friends continue to support him through this difficult time.
With that being said, Rutan was asked to fill in for O’Brien during their Decibel tour (that kicks off tomorrow, the 17th!) as well as supporting Slayer’s final North American trek later this summer. Despite the hectic schedule, Rutan knew he was the right choice as he’s already produced four of their albums at his own Mana Recording Studios down in St. Petersburg, FL. Between the release of one of the best albums of 2018 to having a pretty full 2019 schedule, Rutan somehow found time to talk to us about the album, touring with Cannibal Corpse and looking back on 20 years since Hate Eternal’s debut album, 1999 Conquering the Throne.
How would you compare Upon Desolate Sands to your prior efforts?
Upon Desolate Sands, it really embodied so much of everything I’ve done in my whole career. I mean, I’ve been recording music for over 30 years now, and Upon Desolate Sands really captured a lot of what I’ve done up to this point. I really wanted to encapsulate a lot of the things that I’ve been able to achieve in my career, musically speaking, and put it into Hate Eternal. It’s one of my favorite records I’ve been able to work on and one of my favorite album productions that I’ve been able to produce as well. It’s been a huge accomplishment for me, and it’s also nice to know that the fans and listeners took what I’ve done in Hate Eternal and been very pleased with it as well. That’s always the icing on the cake.
Yeah, of course, it definitely popped up on many year end lists for best metal albums. Did you expect it to be one of the year’s best?
For me, being content or happy with things that I do is very difficult because I’m always striving for better. I always believe I can do better, and I guess that’s why I’ve had a career for over 30 years. I continuously work harder to be better at everything I do: to be a better person, a better musician, a better producer, a better everything. I put so much effort into everything I do that I tend to focus on doing the best I can and being satisfied to the best of my ability with what I do. I hope that people appreciate it and respect it, but I guess I don’t project in that way of … I try not to think about outside sources as much as just what I’m doing and knowing that I gave everything I had.
But I had a feeling with this record that it would be well received, because I felt it was one of the best things I had done in my career. And it was good to know that other people felt the same way, but you never know what other people will think and their interpretation. I always keep true to myself in everything I do, and I have for my whole career, and it’s done me well to this point, so I don’t see it changing. You hope that people love it, but then to this day, when you feel impassioned about it, which I do, there’s no better feeling than that, to feel like you just gave everything you had. Everything I do, every record I work, every performance or every thing I do in my whole life I put everything I have into. And all I can do is hope that people see that, and I think with Upon Desolate Sands, everybody did, it was very pleasing.
It was a great album. I really enjoyed it. Can you go into a little detail about the process of writing the song, “All Hope Destroyed?”
Musically speaking, it’s such a different song from what I’ve written in the past, in some ways like a very musical song. It kind of took on a whole different life, and I think part of it was me jamming with J.J. J.J and I have been playing together for 10 plus years now, and Hannes being an amazing drummer that he is, I just wanted to create a song that was, musically speaking, like an opus. Something really different than the norm. And to me, that’s one of my favorite songs to play, and it’s one of my favorite solos of the record at the end as well. I just crafted that song. It kind of took on a life of itself, and I just flowed with how the song was composing together.
It’s kind of a journey, I think, that song. It takes you on a different path, and to this day it’s still one of my favorite songs. I hope at some point, I do a guitar playthrough for it, which I’ve never done before, but it’s something that a lot of guitar players and fans have asked for from me, and it is something that I hope to do this year is the guitar playthrough for that song.
That would be awesome to see.
You’re going to be touring with Cannibal Corpse soon on the Decibel tour, How was it learning Cannibal Corpse songs?
I found out right before the holidays, and then I went to visit family in New Jersey for a week. So it’s been a lot of work obviously to learn a headlining set with Cannibal Corpse, but I’ve been working my tail off. I’ve been playing guitar eight hours a day and working with the guys. Everything’s going great actually. I just learned the last song of the set, which I’ve learned 15 songs in 3 or 4 weeks, so I’ve really been working my ass off to make sure that, one, I know the songs. The good thing is, one, I’ve produced four Cannibal Corpse records, two, I know all the records because I’m a fan of the band, and then, three, these guys are like family to me. They’re friends of mine for a long, long time.
So a lot of the songs I already kind of knew in my head, but just not on the guitar, I just have to apply it. But I’ve been working my ass off because obviously Pat O’Brien is one of the best guitar players in death metal, in metal period, and a really good friend of mine, and all the guys are. I knew that when things happened that I might be needed, and if I was, I was gonna make damn sure that I was there to help the guys in every way I could, and also be the best I can to go out there and play my ass off because that’s what I do. I play guitar. I’ve been playing guitar for 30 plus years, and I love doing this shit. I wake up. I work on Cannibal Corpse songs. I go to bed thinking about Cannibal Corpse songs. That’s all I’ve been doing for the last four weeks. But I’m feeling good.
Awesome to hear that you guys are so close. You will also tour with them again for Slayer’s final tour. How does it feel to be part of such a legendary tour, to say goodbye to one of the top four thrash bands?
Well, come the end of 2018, I had no idea that my 2019 would end up being what it is right now. All these things happened to lead to this. I had to change my whole projection, and I had to shuffle a lot of things around in order to make this all happen. When playing with the Cannibal Corpse guys, I mean, we’re such good friends. I’ve produced four albums with them. We’ve done probably five tours together with Hate Eternal. So for me to tour with Morbid Angel and Cannibal Corpse coming up is really awesome. And then to be able to tour with Slayer on their farewell tour … I had the fortune of touring with Slayer and Pantera when I was in Morbid Angel. To be able to tour with Slayer again is pretty amazing, but at the same time, Pat is a really good friend of mine. I care about Pat tremendously, so it’s a very unique situation. I’m excited, but at the same time … I don’t know what the word would be.
I guess so. Listen, if someone had said … I don’t know how to describe the feeling actually, because I care about Pat and the Cannibal guys tremendously, and of course want what’s best for them, individually, collectively, in every regard. And in this situation, I’m more than honored and proud to be able to play with Cannibal Corpse and fill in for Pat, but of course my thoughts are on playing the Cannibal Corpse songs. On my friend Pat I will be thinking positive thoughts for him as well. It’s a very unique situation for me. I’m excited, motivated, honored and concerned. There’s a lot of emotion involved in this.
The one thing I know is that I’m gonna go out and be at my utmost best playing these songs with Cannibal: touring with Morbid Angel, and then touring with Slayer. It’s kind of overwhelming a little bit. The whole thing is massive. I’ve been putting down and practicing my ass off, making sure that I’m on point. Anybody that knows me knows that everything I do I put 110% into it and certainly Cannibal Corpse I’m doing everything I can to make sure that I’m honoring Pat O’Brien in the way he deserves to be.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Conquering the Throne. Do you have any plans to celebrate that album?
Well, man, this year is definitely … there’s some things going on the rest of the year that haven’t been announced and I can’t really speak from. But my year has completely changed. There’s things I had planned that are no longer planned, and I had to rearrange some things to accommodate everything. But it blows my mind that Conquering the Throne is 20 years old. Holy crap, man. It’s amazing to think. I can remember like yesterday we were recording the album. It doesn’t seem that long ago, but it sure was. My Hate Eternal touring this year I think is going to be scarce, unfortunately. Between my off productions and Cannibal Corpse tours, I definitely hope to do at least one or two Hate Eternal tours.
The fact that Conquering the Throne is 20 years old, man, it still blows my mind. I was thinking about that the other day: wow, 20 years, it’s just wow. I don’t know if we’ll do anything special for the record, but I certainly will have special thoughts about it, because it was the beginning of Hate Eternal, and an amazing memory. The beginning of this whole ride with Hate Eternal. It’s definitely an amazing memory and it just blows my mind that 20 years has gone like that. Man, wow.
It’s crazy how fast time flies.
It sure does.
You said that there’s some things that you can’t reveal, but are there any plans that you have in the works that you can elaborate on…
I have a couple album productions with some bands that I can’t really speak of, but, man, between the Cannibal Corpse touring, the two album productions I have, and then we’re working on a European tour for Hate Eternal, just because we have not been there in a few years. That’s all I have really planned right now, but that’s pretty much filled up my whole year, so I hope to tour the rest of the states and the West Coast with Hate Eternal, if not this year, hopefully early next year. We’ll see. Obviously, in the last couple weeks my whole year completely changed. Man, it’s a little complex for sure. Between Hate Eternal and owning a studio producing, it’s always complex. Everything I write is complex. My life’s always been complex, so this isn’t anything new. It’s just a new path of complexity that I’m taking the journey on.
I like that. I actually like that expression a lot. It makes things fun and exciting.
You know what? It is. To me, I’ve always been up for the challenge. If somebody says, “Hey, I bet you can’t do that.” I’d be like, “We’ll see about that.” Or when I was a kid, then people said, “Ah, you know, you’re living a pipe dream. You’re never gonna accomplish that.” And I’d always say, “We’ll see about that.” And here I am, 30 years later, doing everything I always dreamed of and more. For me, I guess, nothing’s ever been really simple. But there are a few things in my life that are, and I really appreciate that. And luckily the simple things in my life are some of the most important ones, and that’s my relationships with my family, friends, and my wife. They’re very simple. Thank God, or thank whoever you wanna thank. But everything else in my life is complex, but my relationships are simple, so I think that’s a pretty good balance.
It’s always good to have a balance. For fun, can you name some of your favorite death metal albums from last year, or any recent ones you can remember?
I gotta be honest with you, last year, man, I didn’t listen to much of anything, because all I did was sit in the studio. And I was writing Hate Eternal and recording the record and then going on tour. So I gotta be honest with you, there wasn’t much I listened to last year at all. Man, I was submerged in work, and I didn’t get to hear too much. But if I was gonna throw the couple records that I did get to hear that I really enjoyed was the new Krisiun record and the last Deicide record, those are awesome. But off the top off of my head, those are probably two of the only records I got to hear last year that I really enjoyed.
Is there anything else that you want to say or add?
I would like to say to everybody that’s followed my career for so long and been supportive of everything I’ve done, man, I thank them and I’m very grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had. I’m going to continue to work my ass off and craft music from the heart and continue down this journey.