Aliens. I’m not referring to the meme, but the recurring concept of which California-based deathcore quartet Rings of Saturn like to bring into the extremities of their music. With their latest record “Ulla Ulta” hitting the shelves very soon, we spoke with guitarist Miles Dimitri Baker about the band’s latest effort, his use of structures on guitar, recording with Rings of Saturn for the first time and how everything went down for the band, in the studio.
“It was difficult, how we made it happen” he starts “We finished writing the album and then, Lucas (Mann) and I went over who was going to record what. Once that was done, Aaron (Stechauner) flew out to Florida, and tracked the drums on it and got it done in one day. Then, Ian (Bearer) flew out and tracked the vocals. We just had some issues and missed some deadlines for things, and we had to go to a different producer to get the final product. But, you know, it’s done and it sounds good, so it’s all good!”
With Miles joining Rings of Saturn in 2014, after “Lugal Ki En” was released, along with drummer Aaron Stechauner, who apparently, had performed with Miles several times prior to becoming a part of the Californian deathcore act. So, one can only imagine that for him and Aaron, Miles must’ve had one hell of a life-changing occurrence to be joining a big deathcore group, and recording a full-length for the first time in his life.
“Oh, yeah, it did!” he says. “But, it was a good experience. I had never been a part of a full length record, before. I had only done and released singles and things like with other band Interloper, and guest solos and those sorts of things. Like, Aaron and I have both done that, before, too. But, being part of a full length is really interesting, especially in this band. Because, Aaron and I have been in bands together when we were sixteen years old. So, coming full circle, and being in different bands and have toured with other bands outside with each other, landing back in the same band, and now, first time for the both of us, being part of a full length record on a major label, it feels really cool as friends, and as an individual. It’s really excited, having been involved in the writing, and doing a lot of it. It was an experience I could go on about, for ages!”
Considering that Miles has already written and recorded music before, his experience with writing for Rings of Saturn was different and challenging, but very rewarding, as his own work on the strings has been able to blend in with the rest of the band just fine.
“It was hard, I mean, I almost did all of the writing with the guitar at hand. It was encouraging that this record was a lot more suited in the tonal realm of music. Everything is very smooth, structured, and it holds all of the other Rings of Saturn themes, as well. But, a major part of what I wanted to do with this, was to make that sound fit, and I think we did make that happen. So, overall, the hardest part of it was getting that amount of it done, because, that was something I had never done before, in that amount of time, and making it work with the band while still being very different. It’s a very different sounding record, but you’ll think that it definitely sounds like Rings of Saturn.”
Speaking about some of the tracks off “Ulla Ulta”, Miles shares his thoughts on what songs he feels will be the most receptive on the album to the fans. It seems as though one, which has already been released on YouTube with a music video, and another that he feels is ‘dynamic and really neat’ is one that the audience should look out for.
“I think Inadequate is really well. It’s a very solid song, and was really fun to write. Really straightforward, but it still has that heavy Rings vibe, while being simple. As far as what else is on the release, I think Margidda is gonna do really well. That is a very cool song, and one of my favourites off the record. It’s very dynamic and really neat. There are plenty of other tracks, but those two are probably, my favourite, so far.”
Though Miles didn’t work on the previous Rings of Saturn LP “Lugal Ki En”, he feels that there is a big comparison between “Ulla Ulta” and “Lugal”, saying that it’s got more flavour, which has accented the record in a more unique way.
“In comparison, I think it’s a lot more mature of a record. It’s a lot less kinda like the off-the-wall shredding, it’s definitely there. But, it becomes more of a flavour on this record, and I think that’s what the entire record is about. It’s a little more dynamic, and now I’ve brought my writing style into this band and everything has become more accessible, I guess you could say. But I think the band has now has a lot more touring opportunities, as well as new fans. People who aren’t into the band and becomes too crazy, might like this record, because there’s a lot more stuff that’s kind of pulled back, melodic and has some cool harmonic structure going on with that. So, it’s a lot more of an accessible record, compared to “Lugal Ki En”, which was a really balls-to-the-walls crazy, the whole time.”
Asking Miles about his use of musical structures in writing, he gives a good breakdown of how he approached those methods in Inadequate, where he talks about the chords, progression and use of arpeggiators throughout the track.
“I come from a classical background. So, I’ve really studied with the music and if you take a look at Inadequate for example, because this one is really straight to the chords, with this one. The introduction starts off with four chords – A minor, G# major, F major and E major. So, it’s chucked in a one-six-five progression, pretty standard. This whole song is based off two of those chords – A minor and G# major. So, you get the sweep arpeggiators doing the same thing as the intro, and then I take that and go into the next riff, the same two chords, but now adding a bit of a chubby pattern on it. Then it goes into the next riff, adding those two chords again, but we’re adding a six from the key.”
“So, this whole song is really just about manipulation of a given theme, and that’s something I do in a lot of my writing, and I do that all throughout the record, not only structurally, but also harmonically. You hear a lot of similar things happening, or you’ll hear something that may sound different, but it’s directly related to the part that proceeded it. That’s something I like to do with my writing – basically, make the most out of the smallest amount of material, and that’s a really simple concept. Next thing, it sounds very much at home, and you don’t have things that are like “oh, that came out of nowhere” or “no, that didn’t fit”, because you’re using the same notes, but just in a different fashion.”
Rings of Saturn have secured a number of shows in the United States, along with two big festivals in the country, which Miles is most excited for, at the moment. He is also really keen to see how the newer songs from “Ulla Ulta” will translate with the crowd when they perform live.
“We got a big tour going in the US, like we do once a year, and then after that, we have Ozzfest and Knotfest, which is gonna be really cool, and it’s also close to where I live, too. We already have the setlist together – two of which, we’ve already played live on these tours, and I’m really excited about it. I think it’s gonna go really well with how the songs translate live. And like I was mentioning with the theme variation and stuff, a lot of the stuff is great to play, because it’s smoother on the fingers.”
Ending it off with asking about the possibilities of touring overseas, it’s really transparent that Miles and Rings of Saturn would easily be in Australia by now, if they had the chance. With the band being part of the major international label Nuclear Blast, it’s safe to say that the chances of them touring here and elsewhere around the world, is quite likely to happen, soon.
“I would love to go to Australia. If I had control of this, I would be there, immediately. There are a lot of things that are depending on when we go somewhere, like there’s a tour going on, we’re doing a headliner or a support tour. There’s a lot of things that are out of our control. However, we should be going there with Nuclear Blast, a major label and with a full length record coming out, internationally. So, granted nothing goes catastrophically wrong, we will definitely be playing all over the world. I live in Southern California, and I’ve heard Australia is very similar to that!”