EMQ’s with RONIN
Hi everyone! Welcome to our new EMQ’s interview with Long Island, New York based Rock band, Ronin. Huge thanks to guitarist, vocalist Chris Feldmann, for taking part.
What is your name, what do you play, and can you tell us a little bit about the history of the band?
My name is Chris Feldmann and I provide the rhythm guitar and vocals of Ronin. The band, initially, was just jam sessions between me and Andrew Vitale (bassist for Ronin) starting in late summer 2016. We’re a little bit late to the music/band party, starting in our mid 20’s. After a bachelor party weekend in Atlantic City, the jams started. I rode with Vitale, and we talked about music the entire ride and how I had been playing guitar for a couple of years, and wanted to take it further than just me alone in my room. He dropped me off at my house and went straight to Guitar Center and bought a bass. It stayed just us for most of 2017, until his buddy Jack Lenihan jumped on drums. Lenihan wanted to pursue more of his graphic design and art career, so he dropped out when we got more serious about forming an actual band. We got Justin Maas to jam with us a few times in early 2018 on drums and he got hooked in quite quickly. Vitale and I had a bunch of songs we were working/jamming on and Maas helped us flesh them out somewhat into a 6 track self-recorded demo and to finally get our band name in December of 2018. In Early 2019, shortly after we put the demo out, we enlisted our immensely musically talented friend Jack Mauro for lead guitar work, and we’ve been trucking along like that since. So, Ronin was officially founded in early 2019, but stems back to mid/late 2016.
How did you come up with your band name?
At first, it came from necessity. As in we just needed a band name after weeks and weeks of throwing ideas around, we had to just choose a name. This need came from the fact that we were going to a show for a band that we were potentially going to open for, and at that time, we didn’t have our name. We didn’t want to look like a bunch of idiots at the show, because undoubtedly, we’d be asked, “so, what’s your band name?” or “what band are you in?”. We decided to hunker down and choose a name. We wanted something short and to the point; nothing over the top or too much of a cliché. Ronin, by the definition, kind of fit our overall sound as well; not adhering to anyone else’s criteria or idea of what we should play, I.E., not having a master. Our overall approach is to not being too genre/subgenre specific and cornering ourselves musically.
What Country/Region are you from and what is the Metal/Rock scene like there?
We are from Long Island, New York. Long Island, before Covid, had a pretty solid local music scene with a number of very cool venues. We hooked up with a number of cool people that showed us love and support through gig offers and what not. We were really rolling too before the lockdown. Had about 9 or 10 gigs lined up through May that all got cancelled, so that was a big bummer. Our sound is always funny at the shows too. Some of the rock shows we played at, we were a little too heavy for the collection of performers, and then at some of the harder metal shows, we were probably on the lighter side. So, we always seemed to get caught somewhere just off-brand of that particular event, but that helped us stand out, for better or for worse. I hope Long Island’s scene comes back stronger than ever but unfortunately a few of our favourite spots to play closed their doors, but we have hope they can reopen, even at a new spot if possible. Gotta support the local scene. We always make it a point to arrive early and stay late, even if only one of us can do so. We really pride ourselves in showing the other acts and promoters the proper respect, because we are still very new to this. Not that it’ll change the more seasoned we get, but just a point of importance for us.
What is your latest release? (Album, EP, Single, Video)
This is actually our self-titled, debut album. We put out a 6 song demo a couple of years back, but this is an actual full-length release that was professionally recorded. We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished on this debut, and people should listen to it to hear some good old-fashioned rock music. We recorded it at VuDu studios in Port Jefferson, New York. We self-produced the album along with Frank Mitaritonna. He engineered, recorded, and mastered the album. He also helped mix the album with Mike Watts.
‘Spider And Fly’ (Official Lyric Video)
Who have been your greatest influences?
I’d say Metallica for sure is the most obvious from our sound. They’ve influenced me immensely from a very young age and they still do to this day. Hetfield is king in my book. Big part of my more aggressive vocal approach and playing style. Alice in Chains is also up there, I think. That sort of gritty, dirty rock sound mixed with the beautiful harmonies Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell created; I think there are definite shades of those elements in our sound. I also have to say Avenged Sevenfold. Maybe not the most noticeable right away, but I know that I can recognize it for sure. In some of the different experimental type-sections we throw into songs, like the tonal shifts in ‘Temptress’ and ‘Down’. Also, some of my vocal approaches at times are similar to that of M. Shadows; certain vowel sounds and expressions. Definitely one of my vocal/musical heroes.
What first got you into music?
My family has always been very musical and we always had music on when I was a kid. I sang in chorus and even Symphonic Choir in high school, but like an idiot, I never picked up a guitar until my mid-20’s. Ya live and learn though, and always better late than never, whatever cliches help me sleep at night. But it was really the bands like Creed and Metallica who were super important in my younger years in the mid/late 90’s. I always call them my first loves, because they introduced me to rock music and the heavier stuff. Really blew me away when I first heard those bands and would shape my life for years to come. Hetfield specifically. The absolute main reason behind the decision to finally pick up the guitar is, was, and always will be James Hetfield. He captured me from a young age when I first heard ‘Until It Sleeps’ as an 8-year-old gangly kid in elementary school. That fascination turned into obsession as the years rolled on and only took my dumb ass another 17 years to follow through.
If you could collaborate with a current band or musician who would it be?
It would be Metallica for sure. Just to hear the roar of the crowd of probably tens/hundreds of thousands singing every single word and note of every single song they’d play in their set. To watch the masters at work alongside them. Can’t imagine how that must feel, but perhaps some-day I will.
If you could play any festival in the world, which would you choose and why?
Probably either of Rock am Ring or Rock im Park over in Europe. They always have such incredible line-ups with bands like Volbeat, Korn, Disturbed, Green Day, Gojira and tons of other great rock/metal bands. The crowds are always enormous and those people really appreciate rock music and are there to participate. So, I’d definitely go with either of those.
What’s the weirdest gift you have ever received from a fan?
I don’t know if it classifies as a gift, but our band’s FB and IG occasionally gets some interesting and obviously super “legitimate” DM’s soliciting sexual favours and invites to “exclusive” chat rooms. Stuff like that.
If you had one message for your fans, what would it be?
To the ones we have currently, our deepest and most sincere thank you for connecting with what we’re doing. To any potential fans: Aren’t you tired of hearing everyone say that rock is dead? Well, so are we! We’ve got some very different vibes and feelings across our 8-track debut and we strongly believe it’ll resonate with you and make a connection that you so desperately crave! So, come aboard and ride with Ronin!
If you could bring one rock star back from the dead, who would it be?
Man, that’s tough. It’s between Stevie Ray Vaughan and Cliff Burton. I’ll go with Cliff because he was only 24 when he tragically died in that bus accident. He barely showed the world what he was made of and yet he’s influenced innumerable musicians for almost 40 years now. The real kicker is that his death wasn’t anything of his own doing and legitimately an accident. Was of no fault of his own. So, I’d bring him back if I could.
What do you enjoy the most about being a musician? And what do you hate?
Playing live is everything to me. It fills me with so much joy and excitement that it’s hard to contain. Doesn’t matter if the place is packed to the gills, or there are 10 people scattered out. Being up on a stage and performing original music is unlike anything else. The part I hate is doing all the other stuff outside of actually making or playing the music. Like marketing, promoting, endlessly and painstakingly submitting to playlists and other people. I also hate the fact that I’m not just a musician, but that’s unavoidable at the moment.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
Gatekeeper of streaming and playlisting. Drives me nuts. Sucks for artists’ wallets but helps with exposure if you can get on. It’s so hard to get on meaningful playlists where that exposure will amount to real change and you feel like a chump while doing so. Again, it’s really one of the only games in town, so you kinda have to just keep chugging along and work within the system, regardless of how frustrated you get. I wish there was less importance placed on what a few “influencers” think or promote to the world. Do I have a solution, no, but I’ll complain, nonetheless.
Name one of your all-time favourite albums?
I feel like talking about Avenged Sevenfold. So, I’d choose “City of Evil” by them. Is it my favourite? Probably not, but it’s in the top conversations for sure. Whether it’s the subjective personal impact or objective technical musical greatness, this album checks all the boxes. I had only discovered them about 10 months or so prior to this album being unleashed to the world and launching the band into the stratosphere, and when that happened, I was absolutely hooked. The riffs, the shredding, the vocals. I loved this album top to bottom. I lean more toward singing, instead of screaming, although I’m a fan of, and respect both, so Shadows changing up his style and approach was a plus in my book. All the different sounds and styles they covered on this album still astounds me and shaped my taste and own writing to this day.
What’s best? Vinyl, Cassettes, CD’s or Downloads?
CD’s. I love CDs’ to death and it could be just a product of my generation. Riding to junior high school in 2001 with my Walkman in hand, Metallica’s “Load” being worn out like nobody’s business inside. ‘Until It Sleeps’ bombarding my ear drums in all its sonic glory. Call it nostalgia, but physical media like CD’s will always be more appealing to me than digital. Feels like you actually own something and you know you gave something back to the band by making the purchase.
What’s the best gig that you have played to date?
Without a doubt, January 31st, 2020 at, depressingly, the now closed down Revolution Bar and Music Hall in Amityville, New York. That was such a great night, and one that we hold even more dear because it would become our 2nd to last show of that whole year because of the pandemic. The place was pretty packed out. We brought a decent amount of those people and so did a few of the other bands that played alongside us, so when we played our 30-minute set, the place really was full up. Not only was the place packed, but the crowd was also really responsive and active as well. We had a great time off the stage too with a few of the other bands before and after our sets. Met a lot of cool people and really just fired on all cylinders the whole night. All 4 of us were so locked in and the band was really rolling. Real damn shame that we only had 1 more gig after that and the other 10 or so gigs we had lined up got cancelled. Makes this gig that much more special, also considering that the venue had to close its doors.
If you weren’t a musician, what else would you be doing?
Hopefully creating in some other way, shape or form. I work at a junior high school in the special ed department currently full time, so I’m sure I’d still be doing that too. The hope is for this band to eventually take over my occupational time completely however and with our debut release, I’m confident that could happen sooner rather than later.
Which five people would you invite to a dinner party?
I’ll answer this one assuming you mean alive. Let’s go with Dave Chappelle, Jim Carrey, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stone Cold Steve Austin and James Hetfield. It’s an interesting crew of people, but we’d have a lot of laughs, deep and interesting conversations and hear a load of wonderful stories. Not to mention I’d have the chance to meet my childhood heroes in person. If only. Perhaps some-day.
What’s next for the band?
Well, we’re remaining optimistic about the state of gigs for the coming year. So, hopefully a slew of live shows and gigs for us. We really feel that our music will connect and resonate with a lot of people, so we want to get our debut album into the hands of as many people as we possibly can. Whether it’s through live shows or streaming, we just want people to hear what we have to offer. Will that lead to gathering a larger, sustainable fanbase? Getting a regional tour going? Getting a manager, and perhaps even getting signed by a label? It’s all within the realm of possibility for Ronin. The only certainty we have is that we’re here to play music that we love and have a damn good time while doing it. So, come aboard and get nutty with us!
What Social Media/Website links do you use to get your music out to people?
Those are the main ones we use and you can access all of those and more through our main website.
Jaffa Cakes! Are they a cake or a biscuit?
I’d classify them as a cookie if anything. And yes, I had to look these up.
Thank you for your time. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Just want to give a sincere thanks for giving me and our band the chance to chat and get the word out about our debut album. I’ll just add, another time that you should all listen to our album! And turn it up LOUD! Cheers to you and yours! Here’s to many more years and successes for all of us! Much love and appreciation from the boys in Ronin! We are Ronin, and don’t you forget it!
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