Friday, June 2, 2023

Cut Throat Culture with Roni MacRuairi of WORDS THAT BURN

In this episode of The Rock Metal Podcast, we're chatting with Roni MacRuairi of the band Words That Burn about their new album ‘Cut Throat Culture’.

During our chat we touch on a lot of great tips for musicians, such as what Roni learned working with their producer, Josh Shroeder.

'Cut Throat Culture' was Produced, Mixed, Mastered by Josh Shroeder (Lorna Shore, Butcher Babies, King 810).

The band Words That Burn is for fans of: Parkway Drive, Bring Me The Horizon, Architects, Korn, Spiritbox


Guest Resource

Words That Burn Linktree - Connect with Words That Burn!

Guest Music Video

3 Heavy Hitters

1. Go into a record thinking about how to make the best record possible, rather than how to make money off of the record

2. Reach out to producers you want to work with, since you never know if they’ll have time for you

3. Write heavy songs stripped back down to just an acoustic guitar or piano to test if it’s a great song


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Show Notes // Transcript

Jon Harris: Roni, thank you so much for coming on. Go and say hi to all of our beautiful listeners. 

Roni MacRuairi: Hi, everybody. 

Jon Harris: All right. Great to have you on. Hopefully we can throw out some words that burn today. 

Roni MacRuairi: Awesome. 

Jon Harris: And this cutthroat culture, baby. All right, let's talk about this record. Cutthroat Culture. What was the greatest moment for you producing this record? 

Roni MacRuairi: I think having it finished was probably one of the pinnacle moments. Took a long it took a long while to get it done. We recorded it primarily throughout COVID, so we were kind of recording our parts remotely and then kind of putting it all together kind of in our guitarist studio. But the biggest thing was securing Josh Shroeder as producer. That was absolutely amazing because he's done some of our favourite bands. He's going to shore being like, the biggest one. King 810, our buddies from Detroit Ov Virtue, so having him on board was absolutely just the icing on the cake. Really was very cool. 

Jon Harris: Let's talk about that. Follow up question is actually another follow up question. We'll probably touch base with having Josh Schroeder as a producer because that's obviously a big one for you. And I can tell it means a lot for you and for the band. 

Roni MacRuairi: Yeah. 

Jon Harris: But working primarily during COVID getting things done remotely, then putting it together in the guitarist studio, how did that all work? Was it challenging? Was it rewarding? Is it something that you'll do again in the future? How did it all work?

Roni MacRuairi: Luckily enough, we all have our own little kind of like shadows in our houses, just primarily for just demoing ideas and so on. But when the isolation and all that kind of came in, we knew we wanted to do this album anyway, but it was just bad timing. So Shane, our guitar player, who has our main studio in his house, he just worked on a lot of kind of ideas musically and would send them over to myself. And then I kind of work on the vocals, or at least the vocal ideas, like, you know, the patterns and so on. And then we kind of bounce back and forth like until we talk. The song was at least structurally solid and then we'd help JR and bass and Jason do his drum thing as well. So it was actually quite interesting to do that because sometimes when you're on your own, you can kind of just like there's no noise, so you can kind of really kind of get stuck into your ideas and all that kind of stuff. Whereas if there's four people in the room and they're all kind of sharing ideas, sometimes something's going to get kind of muddled. So from that point of view, it worked out it well because I think it's probably our most solid album today. So there's definitely something to be said for it and we took a lot of time doing it as well. I think with the last album, we kind of had it done kind of. You know, six months from inception to finished, you know, whereas this was a year longer. So it's like we've started throwing ideas around for the next EP or next album, and we're kind of doing it this way as well, so it obviously works. 

Jon Harris: Yeah, we might even touch base on that one again. But working independently has its advantages, and remotely to that sense and throwing out some ideas for the next EP or album, potentially even working the same way, even though you don't have to. But that's one of the cool things. The blessing in disguise, I guess you could say, of the situation. 

Roni MacRuairi: I think so, yeah, I think so. And I'm not just talking about from my own point of view, I'm talking about from Shane's point of view, from Jerry's point of view. When he's putting his bass parts to a song, it's kind of like you can just really get stuck into it and try out multiple different ideas for different sections or whatever, rather than someone sitting beside him going, this is the rich. So he'll just get into it. Maybe try to harmonize language, change guitar instead of just playing the same. So it's really, really good to kind of, like, spend hours and hours on your own, just kind of getting into a mindset or a headspace that's your own. 

Jon Harris: Yeah, absolutely. What was the biggest challenge for you on this record? 

Roni MacRuairi: I suppose the polar opposite of that was we couldn't get into a room together. So it's really good to kind of have an idea and then go into the bathroom and jam it out just in the practice room and just jam it. And sometimes there might be just one little nugget of gold there that you could potentially become a song, whereas when you're isolated away from each other, you don't have that little kind of magic spot. You can't be around each other. So that was probably the most difficult thing from a recording point of view is that we didn't get to kind of just trash out the bits. Now in saying that the back and forth between, say, myself and Shane in terms instruction to songs for each song, that could have taken months. So we didn't just kind of settle. So we tried loads of different ideas in terms of bears lengths, chorus lengths, kind of middle parts, intros, just to kind of see what worked. You know what? Then let it breathe for maybe a month, and then come back, see if it still kind of sounded like it. 

Jon Harris: Yeah. Something you mentioned it was letting things breathe for a month or so. Would you say that was another sort of benefit to having that much time to work on the record, was that you could come back to certain things and go, oh, you know what? Maybe that wasn't the best idea, but it could have been released already if it had been, say, a normal situation?

Roni MacRuairi: Absolutely. Yeah. And I think it was a lesson that we can definitely take away from that process is that just to let the songs breathe. Because when you hear something new, you get excited about it, and then, as you said, like six months down the road, it could be released. Whereas with this, we probably went through two or three, four or five different variations of the same song over the course of a year just to kind of make sure we had it right, to make sure when we came back to it after not listening for a month or so, that it was still exciting. And I think that's. So that's exciting to us. We were still kind of really kind of buzzed about the song and how it felt and how it sounded, and that's even before we sent it over to Josh, we wanted to make sure that the songs were as. Good as they could be from the best of our capabilities before we sent them off to Josh, because we knew that he was going to get into it as well. 

Jon Harris: Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned something very important there. Everything is exciting when it's new. Everything is exciting when it's loud. But take a few days, a few weeks even. It sounds like a longer time. Come back to it, listen to it at a normal, regular volume. Does it still excite the crap out of you because you're the one who's got to play it and then sending it off to the producer and it sounds like Josh was incredibly supportive. Wasn't one of those producers where you're like, you send it off, you're super excited, and he's like, yeah?  Is that–? 

Roni MacRuairi: I probably would have cried if that hasn't happened. He did have notes for each song. He gave us a lot of guidance going forward as well, so it was such a good experience to work with someone who is at the top of their game, really. And for four boys from a small town in the east of Ireland, it's a very big deal for us to have somebody. He's that well renowned, who's just like such a good songwriter as well. I know that he writes songs with bands like King 810, and I think he might have don't quote in this kind of got stuck into the songwriting with Lorna Shore as well. But just to have his wisdom was just absolutely amazing, because normally we'd be kind of like, this is the song, that thing. And then when you have somebody kind of saying, well, maybe this or maybe that in the music, you might have taken some of the, let's say, since up, or brought some down or taken them out bakery or added something new and stuff that we wouldn't have imagined doing, because sometimes you're just too close to the song. What he brought fundamentally to the table was he gave the song each song its own identity, this new feel that, as I said, we just probably couldn't see because we were just so close to the demo, let's say. 

Jon Harris: Yeah, well, that's a funny way too close to the song. Something else that comes to mind is now that he has the experience of watching Lorna Shore explode, Butcher Babies explode, King 810 explode, Talah explode. He's watched these bands explode. And he knows the formula, he knows the recipe. It's just like going into the kitchen. You're not going to, oh, how do I make a cake today? No, you're going to follow the rules so that you get a cake out of the freaking oven. So therefore, he's got, as you said, that wisdom to look at something and say, actually, structurally, it make more sense and sell more records if you did it this way, or whatever the case might be, or it might hit harder if you do it this way. I know making money is not important to you at all, right?

Roni MacRuairi: Yeah. Yeah, sure. What's the rock and roll answer to that question? No, we're we're not no, like, I mean, it's great. It's great to see your album sell, you know. You know, it's it's it's great to see people kind of listen to you on on social media. It's great to see people giving you kudos for your two years of hard work, but you don't go into it with that attitude, you know? I think that would kind of just get into it. I think then you're writing for the wrong reason. 

Jon Harris: Sure. Okay, let's chat about themes on this record. I didn't get anything from Bloodblast or Believe as far as what kind of themes lyrically went into the record, and I believe I'm chatting with the right guy. What's going into this record? Is this a pandemic record, or is it something different than that? 

Roni MacRuairi: I think it's probably the most I'm feeling you're going to ask this actually, it's probably the most observational album, lyrically, that we've done. There's only probably one song that's personal, and the rest is just kind of watching the world go by kind of thing. When I say watching the world go by, I mean during the pandemic, I think a lot of people spent more time on their phones. I know I did. And you kind of just see how things change and people interact with each other and kind of like information you're given, information receive, information you're absorbing and how you kind of react and respond to that or how different people react and respond to that. And it's not really choosing any sides. It's just kind of like how I felt on any particular day. So if I was writing Dennis lines, for example, the lyrics for that, if I felt really kind of pissed off about certain things, that's what that song is going to be about. I didn't go in particularly to write the song with any topic in mind. It was just like if Shane sent me over music or is listening back to the music and I was just totally I can swear. I'm not going to swear. 

Jon Harris: Sure, go ahead. 

Roni MacRuairi: Okay, if I was totally fucked up about something that I read, which normally wouldn't get to me, that would be kind of like the catalyst, you know? And so yeah, it's not all bad either. It's just that it's more, as I said, more observational for that one song.

Jon Harris: Okay, that one song though...

Roni MacRuairi: It's called Michael. So my uncle died during COVID so I had the lyrics to what would become Michael already written and was completely different. It was more in line with rest of the album kind of thing and I didn't have them completely finished. But then when he passed away, I was lying on the soul for listening to the music and something just sparked me that the course came to me and I said, right, we're going to have to. Rewrite, complete rewrite, because this just came out of me in about 20 minutes, I had the song written, so the rest of them kind of goes a little bit more editorial in the rest of the song. But with this one, I just like, whatever lyrics were coming to me, they were the most honest, so I wanted to keep them that way. 

Jon Harris: Right. Yeah. Honest onyx lyrics. Honest lyrics, baby. Now, something you did mention was not going into a song with an idea in mind. Does the outcome, then, of the music surprise you when you're done working on your lyrics? 

Roni MacRuairi: Sometimes, yeah, sometimes it does. I'm not a big reader. I'm, you know, I like I don't really kind of have, like, a vision for a song when I hear the music straight away. Sometimes I just start start writing, and then an idea will kind of formulate, and then I'll kind of work on that a little bit more. So I don't go in saying that music is definitely a song about this. It kind of comes more when just like humming the melodies or doing my kind of demo vocals and it's normally gibberish and you might hear something that sounds like a word and then you're like, oh, that's kind of cool. I'm just going to write a sentence around this word and then that might set the kind of tone or the subject matter for the rest of it. But on the flip side of the coin, if I'm really again fucked up by something and I can squeeze that into the context of a song, I probably will. 

Jon Harris: How would you define success at this stage of your career? 

Roni MacRuairi: Well, I think when you when we kind of put something out, when you put some art out into the world, like, I mean, it's. If people kind of connect with it probably more than anything else. I was reading a piece about James Hetfield the other day and somebody asked him, what does that song mean? And then his response was, well, what does it mean to you? And I think I was like, yeah, that's actually probably more eloquent than what my answer would be. But that's, to me, probably the most important thing. If somebody comes up to me and say, that song is f-ing and brilliant, I love that. That course. That, to me, is probably what makes me feel good about it. It's not looking for kudos, but if somebody kind of connects with it, if somebody kind of reads the words and then it connects with them you said spiritually. If it connects with them, kind of like gives them goosebumps or makes them want to kind of throw down or whatever, but not throw down again, just like 1s then I think job done for me. 

Jon Harris: Yeah. Very cool. I'll start getting into some questions that I have some time for. One of them is, let's go back to Josh Schroeder. It sounds like you guys have a lot of things or you, anyway, have a lot of things to say about working with him. Goes into the working remotely part of it. You mentioned snagging him as a producer was great. Just take us through something that was, I guess, remarkable for you that you want other musicians to hear. Personally, I'm like, you snagged him. What does that even mean? Or it could be something that he worked with you on your vocals or something that you changed 
your life. 

Roni MacRuairi: Well, firstly, friends of ours and they're a band from Detroit called Ov Virtue worked with Josh on their last record, the one before that. And the production of it completely blew us away. So we kind of whenever we kind of got right, whenever we got into this new album, we kind of said, we have to ask Josh if he'll work with us. And we kind of expected a no, because who the hell are these guys?  We're not on the same level as any of any of the other bands that he works with, but he came back and said yes. So firstly, that was life changing for me, I guess. How we kind of brought the songs to life, how we gave them, as I said before, their identity, how he just kind of made us sound the best that we could. That was absolutely incredible. And we were chatting with him kind of back and forth through the process, which was amazing as well. But he just gave us a lot of advice going forward. Like, you mean kind of talk about stripping songs down to maybe just an acoustic guitar and writing a song that way and then building the adding the building blocks onto that. I can mean that the heavier guitars and the heavier vocals and.  Like, stints and all that kind of stuff. We never approached the song that way before, but I did a piano song and I sent it up to Shane and he brought it back with the guitars and stuff, and it sounds amazing. So that was a new avenue for us to explore, which I thought was really cool. 

Jon Harris: Yeah. It reminds me of an interview with and I've just lost his name, mike something from Social Distortion, which I guess shows my age. But nevertheless, they get together and they write campfire songs on acoustic guitars and they make sure that they stand on their own two legs as a campfire song, and then they bring in, as he puts it, the Les Paul's and the Marshalls.

Roni MacRuairi: Makes sense. Yeah, it definitely makes sense. Because I think what matters a lot to me is sorry, you got hiccups. Sure. Sorry is that as long as a good song is a good song, regardless if it's on the cusp guitar or on full band, and if you can strip a heavy song back to a guitar or piano and it still has the same effect or vice versa, then you know it's a good song. 

Jon Harris: Yeah, absolutely. Okay. A song is a good song whether it's on a piano or a guitar or whatever you've got going with it. 

Roni MacRuairi: You know what I mean? 

Jon Harris: That's fantastic. Yeah. I mean, if there's one thing we could take away from working with Josh Schroeder, aside from the how do I want to phrase it? We could say production quality. But that's part of being a good producer, is saying, you know what? I'm going to put one microphone in this room, and if it doesn't work with one microphone, it ain't going to work with 100 microphones. 

Roni MacRuairi: Yeah. I guess if I was to read into what his voice would be, I guess you can interpret it that way, for sure. As I said, I think a good song is something that can be kind of transposed on many platforms with many different orchestrations. 

Jon Harris: Yeah. Wow. Very cool. Okay, I think we've asked all of our questions. One other question I kind of have potentially in mind, if you have time, is because you were able to work on your own remotely if there was any gear that you may have used that kind of surprised you or was crucial to completing the record. 

Roni MacRuairi: The vocals that I did at home here, that was just all demo vocals. We went into another studio, a friend of ours, Paula Finn, we went into his studio and redid all the vocals again properly. But I did get a bit of kick when Lockdown came in first. I got a Røde, something or other I'm really bad with gear, the Røde mic. And I got some sort of interface, what's called it's a red one.

Jon Harris: Focusrite.

Roni MacRuairi: Correctomundo!  Scarlet, something other. Yeah. And that just basically allowed me to use Reaper, which Josh Shroeder uses. So if there's any ideas that we wanted to send to him directly, it was great. Transcribed directly across, but yeah, it was just having a decent microphone and a decent way of capturing my ideas. That was just the most important thing because I knew well, firstly, we didn't know how long last Lockdown was going to last. We thought it was going to be like a month, maybe two months, six months, whatever it was. But it turned out to be COVID, was nearly tears. So I'm glad that I invested in the gear because it's something that I use for them all the time. 

Jon Harris: What is the number one thing that you would like people listening right now to do? And that could be, I don't know, 100 jumping jacks. It could be, obviously, hitting up a particular social. This is a good place to plug listen to the record. This is obviously the I don't know, whatever you want it to be, actually. What's the number one thing you want people listening right now to do? 

Roni MacRuairi: Give the music a chance. We're a small band. Things like this are kind of platforms like your podcast kind of get our art or our music out to people that we probably wouldn't get it out to in normal life. So if anyone likes kind of like aggressive alternative metal core or whatever way you wanted to find it, then just give it a shot. Hopefully you connect with it. 

Jon Harris: Okay, so I think what you said was share the shit out of this podcast. 

Roni MacRuairi: Basically. 

Jon Harris: Yeah. I've yet to have somebody say that that would be so alarmingly refreshing. Share the shit out of this interview. That's why I'm doing it. Yeah.  Okay. Very cool. Give the music a chance. Platforms, I guess. Is that what you guys call yourselves? Metal core or whatever?

Roni MacRuairi: Probably. It doesn't really sound that metal, Corey, but a lot of the bands that we kind of listen to as references would be metal core bands. So I'd like to say we're not metal core. I'd like to say we're probably some sort of alternative of it, but, yeah, we're probably metal core. Okay. 

Jon Harris: Which, of course, is taking on all different shapes and sizes these days. 

Roni MacRuairi: Well, that's the thing. It's such a vast kind of genre now, so yeah, okay, let's say we're metaphor. Yeah, that's it. Sure. Why not? Sure. Core. Sure core. 

Jon Harris: Well, thank you so much for coming on to the Rock Metal Podcast today. 

Roni MacRuairi: Thank you very much for having me Jon thank you. 


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