Scythe | Interview with Rick Scythe

Rick Scythe has been playing blackened death metal for years. Some of you may know him from his former band Usurper, who were on Earache records for a while in the mid 2000s. Those of you who are not familiar with Rick's work need to get your head's out of your ass and take a listen to his new band Scythe. Scythe has recently released their debut album "Beware the Scythe" on CD, Vinyl and took the time to talk to me about Scythe, Usurper and the music business in general. Check out his Facebook page at to hear a couple of songs, then buy the album and prepare to get your face ripped off!

Congrats on your album "Beware the Scythe"! For those people who are unfamiliar with you or your work with Usurper, can you give a bit of a background on yourself?

“I'm Rick Scythe, I was the guitarist and primary songwriter of the band Usurper from 1992-2007. During that span Usurper managed to record 6 albums on such noteworthy labels as Head Not Found (Norway), R.I.P. Records (USA), Necropolis Records (USA), Earache Records (UK/USA). We also got to tour and play shows in 17 different countries and were amongst the first bands ever to bring back the old style of thrash/death/black metal of the mid-late 80's. Now I have a new band named SCYTHE. The debut album, ‘Beware the Scythe’ is out now on vinyl (R.I.P. Records) and CD (Primitive Reaction Records, Finland).”

Can you clarify exactly what happened to lead to the end of Usurper? My understanding is that it was a combination of burnout and lack of sales of "Cryptobeast".

“It was a weird time. Original vocalist Diabolical Slaughter left the band as well as drummer Dave Hellstorm. So on ‘Cryptobeast’ we reunited with original drummer Joe Warlord and enlisted vocalist Dan Tyrantor. We recorded once again with Neil Kernon and felt we had recorded the best album of our career. The songs were amongst the best Usurper music and lyrics of all time and the musicianship was top notch.”

“When ‘Cryptobeast’ came out in 2006 we got to do a lot of quality headlining concerts and mini tours all over the country and globe. We even got to headline the main stage of day one of the prestigious, ‘Inferno Fest 2006’ in Oslo Norway. So everyone knew the songs and the band was at its biggest point, yet the sales didn't reflect that. We soon realized it was because people were downloading the album.”

“When we signed with Earache in 2001, there was no wording in our contract about internet/digital sales, so of course Earache made 100% of the profit by selling our music online. Combine that with people just illegally downloading the music back then, it created a weird situation for us. More people were exposed to our music than ever before, we got more opportunities to headline, but actual sales figures weren't great.”

“Then Earache used this against us by saying they weren't interested in releasing the next album because ‘Cryptobeast’ didn't sell as well as the last one, yet never dropped us from our contract, so we were stuck. We had other labels wanting to work with us, but since we weren't officially dropped, we couldn't do anything. This caused a lot of tension in the band.”

“You had Joe Warlord who was a very strong personality who was kind of bumping heads with Carcass Chris, who was a very passive person. You had Dan Tyrantor who was very hot-headed, who had a lot of drama surrounding him at the time. You had Jon Necromancer who was also a strong personality, who was getting frustrated and kind of started drifting off doing other things and then there's me who's an alpha male, who gets very annoyed with shit, so I'm sure I came off like some kind of asshole too at the time. So you had these 4 strong personalities and one very passive personality all dealing with frustration in different ways.”

“Finally things just kind of exploded, or imploded. But no hard feelings. The Usurper years were the best in my life, but all good things must come to an end. I am really pleased now with Scythe.”

"Beware the Scythe" in my opinion is in many ways superior to your work in Usurper. How do you manage to get yourself to create new and exciting songs even though you've been doing this for so long? Many musicians tend to start sounding tired and recycled at this point in their career.

“Thank you! I agree. I love doing Scythe right now, I'm addicted to playing music. It is really refreshing to be in a stripped down three-piece. I have a great bassist Dan Geist who is very similar to me. We have similar headbanging styles and very similar attitude towards things. So I know when I write a song or riffs or whatever, that Dan can create a bass line so big, that we really don't need a second guitarist. We see eye to eye on many things, both have the same attitude and never argue or have these unproductive disagreements.”

“I am very inspired to continue where I left off with Usurper, but also go in some different directions. This band has a slightly different attitude and I also have incorporated some different lyrical aspects. Also the dual vocal attack gives things a really strong feel. I am always writing and recording music and always am thinking of lyrical concepts and ideas. I feel I am just starting to hit my peak as a musician and songwriter.”

Do you feel that Scythe and Usurper are similar bands or are you trying to distance yourself from the past?

“Obviously I am connected to both bands. I think it would be impossible to distance myself from Usurper. A few of the songs on ‘Beware the Scythe’ were originally supposed to be Usurper songs that never got recorded. But as Scythe goes on, I feel like we are really developing our own style. Both bands are rooted in the same mid-late 80's underground music, but Scythe is much more focused on the essence of headbanging, fistbanging primal energy of heavy metal. Scythe will always play some Usurper songs live, so no I'm not trying to distance myself, but I'm also not living in the past. Just listen to ‘Beware the Scythe’ and you will hear that Scythe is its own entity.”

As someone who's been around the black/death/thrash scenes for a while now, what do you think of some of the newer extreme bands out there like Job for a Cowboy, Whitechapel and other "Deathcore" bands? 
Lots of people seem to hate these bands, yet the younger generation seems to love them. Do you feel that this is a natural evolution or that it's an embarrassment to call these bands "Death Metal"?

“I never would listen to a band called "Job for a Cowboy" that name alone made me never interested in hearing them, so I have no opinion of them either way. I never even heard of Whitechapel, so again, I have no opinion of them...”

“I will say this quite honestly, a lot of these deathcore bands make me want to puke! I personally find this style horrible, it is mall metal for little high school kids who don't know any better, but to each their own I guess. A lot of these bands have this ultra lame, angry "frat boy" vibe that I want nothing to do with. I pretty much only listen to old metal. I remember Headbangers Ball made some comeback a few years ago and I tried to watch it once, but it was one crappy band with an emo guy wearing a baseball hat after another screaming, trying to act tough, yet emotional. I was perplexed, I thought to myself , 'the guitars are tuned low and distorted, the songs are angry, but this isn't metal'? What the fuck is this? The hair metal stuff was even more metal than this shit? I'd rather listen to Venom for the one millionth time than another second of that crap... no offense though, I'm sure these emo deathcore bands would say what I'm doing is garbage. They would be wrong of course, but they can always kiss my ass!”

Did you attempt to get "Beware the Scythe" on a label, major or indie? If not, why not? Do you feel labels are still needed by bands and if not, do you feel you would have been able to advance further in your career if Usurper had been a totally D.I.Y. band?

“I have no desire to sign with a big label. I want to maintain 100% control of Scythe. I'm sure that means I will miss some opportunities, but I would rather have a partnership with true underground labels that believe in Scythe than some label that will want to own all my music and just throw it away when the next new thing comes along. Perhaps I will change my mind somewhere down the line, but honestly I've seen what that is all about, and I'm not interested. Labels want what's trendy, Scythe is as un-trendy as it gets.”

"Beware the Scythe" seems like it was purposely done as an old-school extreme metal album, the sound, the lyrics and the packaging all bring an old-school vibe to the album. Are you hoping that it gets more attention due to the current "retro" fad that is occurring in metal these days?

“Perhaps it might perk the interest of some idiots into the retro fad, but this is not a fad for me. A lot of these retro wannabe bands seem to do things tongue in cheek. It has this blatant rip off style, like they're goofing around with it because they think it's ironically cool or something. I don't find this funny, or cute or ironic... I'm just 100% into this style of music and this style of presentation. I've been doing this for over 20 years. I can't wait until the next fad comes and goes and all these retro bands jump ship... Scythe will still be a spiked gauntlet in the face of all false, lame, weak, trendy, hipster, wannabes, no matter what's deemed cool or trendy.”

Any local Chicago bands you want to recommend the readers? Nachtmystium doesn't count!

“That's good because I wasn't going to recommend them, HA! HA! I would say Stone Magnum, Malas, Superchrist, Johnny Vommit... there are a lot of good bands from Chicago, but I am very reclusive so I don't know as many as I should.”

Anything else you would like to say to the readers?

“Check out our website: as well as our facebook Anyone who supports Scythe, I will always support them.”

Words: Curt