Jan 2014 23

From Drown to SiX, Lauren Boquette is one of the underground scene’s most revered vocalists; now with Lords of Ruin, he speaks to ReGen about the thrill and enjoyment of creativity.
Lords of Ruin

 

An InterView with Lauren Boquette of Lords of Ruin, SiX, and Drown

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

Hailing from sunny California, Lauren Boquette is a man who knows how to enjoy his work. Perhaps best known to the industrial rock and metal communities for his work with seminal act Drown, having released such gems as 1994’s Hold onto the Hollow and the 1998 Kerosene EP, his voice has been a driving force in underground music for well over two decades, having appeared on Skinny Puppy’s Process, Argyle Park’s Misguided, and on the self-titled album by Videodrone. With equal parts melody and aggression, he has shared the stage with some of the metal scene’s heaviest hitters including Slipknot and Slayer, before starting the band SiX with Cypress Hill guitarist Alfunction. Since 2001, SiX has been Boquette’s primary creative outlet, releasing two albums and an EP on the band’s own 1605 Records, touring the United States, and having music featured in several independent productions and the WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 video game. Now with Lords of Ruin, Boquette continues what SiX started, presenting a vicious onslaught of bare bones, no nonsense hard rock and metal that is sure to appease the simplest and most raucous of tastes. Speaking with ReGen upon the band’s latest release of the Life is a War EP, Boquette explains his history and demonstrates an unwavering devotion to music and a pure love for the thrill of creativity, even hinting at the possibilities of what is to come.

 

Prior to Lords of Ruin, you were in a band called SiX. What can you tell us about what happened to SiX; is Lords of Ruin a continuation of what you set out to do with SiX?

Boquette: SiX was our punk rock version of ‘Let’s just put out some music and go on tour and jump in the van and see what happens.’ And that was an awesome experience, but the majority of touring that we did, which was nationwide, but as much as we did, our name was really hard to find online. It sounds crazy, but I can’t tell you how many kids would come up to us and say they were trying to find us and they couldn’t find it. They’d go on iTunes – couldn’t find it. If you didn’t type the exact name of an album title, you couldn’t find our name because it was such a simple name. So, after that frustration and the third SiX album, we were originally going to change the name at that time because of the situation that we had and we just decided, ‘What the hell, we’re going to try it with this name one more time.’ And the same thing happened. It was just impossible to find and we just got to a point where since everyone is online and everyone buys music online and people research bands online, that if you can’t be found online, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Can you imagine if Tool came out right now? They’d be really hard to find. So, the idea really was just the name change so we could be found after all the work we were doing and right around the time that that was happening, the founding member – my buddy Alfunction – who I started SiX with ended up getting a job working for Clutch full time. So I thought that since my partner in crime is leaving being in a band right now, I might as well just take this opportunity and allow the band to evolve into something new with the new guys I’m working with. So initially, it was a name change, but then it just turned into evolution and just turned into a whole new band, which was awesome.

Tell us more about the transition from one band to the other.

Boquette: I needed to find a new partner in crime, so our rhythm guitar player at that exact time decided to step up as the lead player and so then we had to get another rhythm player. Well, a buddy of ours, Travis Dunn, who is still in the band, was always in and out of SiX the whole time that we were a band. He became available to be a fulltime member and it all just kind of went from there. It was all just friends, and everyone had the same musical vision, and the people I gravitated toward were the people that I hung out with the most and people that shared in the same sense of musicality that I had. Then we met this dude named Jimmy Craig, who has a band called Motor Gun Hotel, and his style of playing… he’s a phenomenal guitar player, but his style of playing was identical with what our style was and when we brought in a new lead guitar player, he was just the perfect guy because naturally, the music that he wrote with his other band was really similar to what we were already doing. Nobody had to get to know each other musically. I think we’re all just cut from the same cloth and it became this really natural union of people that grew up listening to the same kind of music and fell in love with the same ideas in music. All of us had gone through different things with our previous bands and we shared a lot of knowledge and experience on how we wanted to do things and we just kept it as honest as we could with ourselves and keep songwriting process really easy. We literally can get together and come up with songs in our sleep and not a lot of artists can say that, you know? Whenever we’re not working on our music, we’re out hanging out, drinking, listening to music, and we all love the same stuff. There was just this natural selection of what it is that we all liked and we just went in that direction.

Lords of Ruin presents a very heavy hard rock style that, if you’ll excuse my saying so, is rather simple and straightforward. How did the band develop into this approach?

Boquette: We just kind of got to the point where we went back to all the music that we loved and everywhere we turned around us, every band was trying to be as complicated as they could be, but they weren’t writing good songs. I never found music that really resonated with the kind of music that I loved, you know. I loved AC/DC. I loved Judas Priest. I loved all these bands when I was a kid and still do. And with a lot of the newer bands that I was discovering, it was just noise to me. I was like, ‘Man, somebody just write me a good song with a good riff and a good chorus and something powerful that I can just turn up loud and drive fast and want to punch people in the face, and just that powerful energy that’s all wrapped up in a big riff,’ you know? Judas Priest can still sell out an arena anywhere in the world. Black Sabbath, AC/DC; there’s a reason why these bands are still important and I think it went back to a good riff, a strong lyric, and a simple easy-to-follow tune. We just decided, ‘Let’s get back to the bare essence of what we’re doing over here.’ Everybody’s trying to turn music into mathematics and we’d just rather write a good song, and it seems that the music that stands the test of time was sort of formulated in that world, you know? Rolling Stones, The Beatles; everybody wrote a good, simple song, and that’s actually harder than playing musical mathematics.

Your vocal style with Lords of Ruin seems even grittier and heavier than you’ve employed in the past with Drown. Did you adjust your style at all to keep with the more straightforward sound of the band?

Boquette: Well, this is just the voice that I have, so I don’t really do anything special. If I wanted to sing like Elton John, I wouldn’t know how. So, the tone and the style that I have is how I’ve been singing. If you listen to music even before Drown (if you can ever find any), that is how my voice sounds. I just sort of match with the music that I’m given to work on; parts of my voice work within that and they kind of just adapt to what I’m given. I don’t really put any special effort in vocal training. I never really have, and the times that I’ve ever questioned what I was doing, it was because the music I was working on just wasn’t working organically with my voice. Different keys and whatnot just weren’t natural for me, so that was more of a struggle than if I just do what I do; it’s just how my voice comes out. I wish I had a magical answer, but I just don’t. When I listen to Bon Scott, it sounds like Bon Scott. At least my voice, in every project I’ve been involved in, still sounds like me. It’s just me working with different musicians and writing different songs so my voice is used differently, if that makes sense. It’s never anything on purpose. Someone writes a cool riff, I have a vocal idea, and then I deliver it the way it comes out of me naturally, and if that comes out more rock or more this or more that, it’s just based on the music that I’m working with. I don’t try to do it one way or the other.

You’ve gone from the more industrial rock leanings of Drown and doing guest vocals for the likes of Argyle Park and Skinny Puppy, to the more hard rock styles of SiX and Lords of Ruin. What are your thoughts on your previous associations in industrial rock?

Boquette: That’s a good question. I fell into the world of ‘industrial rock’ by accident. When Drown was in its early stages, my guitar player Joseph Bishara started falling in love with keyboards and similar kinds of music. One day he came to me and said, ‘Hey man, what if we start putting some of this into our music?’ I never believed any band should have any boundaries. If you’re into something and this is your creative space to explore your ideas, you should be able to explore them in your band. So, at that time, we were like, ‘Yeah, man, let’s do it then.’ I was into music that had electronics in it. I loved hip-hop and it was all filled with electronics. At the time, I was in love with early Ice Cube music, and so I told him that as long as it all sounded dark and real West Coast and creepy, then I was cool with it. I didn’t like ’80s synths and keyboards and all that silly stuff. I liked more of the texturing and the darkness that came with it. And so, when that happened, our sound evolved, but it wasn’t a conscious decision to be a part of any one scene or any one particular thing. We were just exploring music and then when we got signed, Bishara was a giant Skinny Puppy fan and we were kicking around names of producers and Dave Ogilvie’s name came up. I’d just listened to a bunch of music that he had worked on and it had that darkness that I liked, so he became our producer when we made this record, which I’m extremely proud of. But we were never trying to be in an ‘industrial scene.’ When I would do interviews and stuff, people would talk to me about a lot of bands, some of which I was familiar with and some of which I didn’t care about at all because I just grew up on more metal and punk and, again, keyboards and electronics to me were more ethereal. It was more of adding to the tension; very cinematic. So, when you ask me about a particular scene, I just like good music. I like a good song. Whoever creates it, I don’t really think about one particular genre, you know? When Argyle Park hit me up, they were like, ‘Let’s make some music.’ I love creating music. I just like making music with people who are passionate, and that’s kind of it. Drown only stopped being Drown because the politics became so overwhelming that I wanted to get away from it because it had nothing to do with music. It was all about business and bullshit. I was over that part of it. I did that for a long time. I’ve had another Drown album in my head for about six years; I’ve just got to find the right time to let it out of my head. I never tried to be in any particular genre or scene, you know? When I got asked to sing on a Skinny Puppy record, I was good friends with Dave Ogilvie and I met Ogre and he was totally cool and they played music that they were working on for the Process album and I loved it. I thought it was great, so I was very honored to be a part of it. But at that same time, if I didn’t like the music, even though it was Skinny Puppy, I wouldn’t have done it. I’ve been asked to do a lot of things in my career, but I didn’t feel what certain people were doing. There’s actually a pretty well-known band that I got asked to sing for, but I wasn’t feeling what they were doing, so why would I want to be involved in something that my soul isn’t turned on by? If it makes any sense, I just create music, man. I got asked a few years ago to write lyrics to a house music song in Chicago. A friend of mine created this music and he had a vocalist that was singing on this song, but nobody could come up with words for it. He hit me up and asked if I could come up with the words. They gave me the idea that they wanted to have and I wrote the words to the song in about 20 minutes and it became some club hit. I don’t even remember the name of it, but I liked the music and I wrote what they needed and they loved it and that was that. And I never thought about it again, you know? So, yeah, it’s weird, man. I’m just a free spirit. I just create what it is I like and hope other people can dig it.
That was one thing that was always frustrating with me. When I was in Drown, it was always frustrating because people always wanted to pigeonhole us into one world and when we were on tour with White Zombie, White Zombie didn’t have electronics at that time. I just wanted to go out with bands that wanted to go out and rock and play some music. I’m friends with Adam Grossman from Screw. It would have been great to do a Drown/Screw tour. I’m still friends with Tommy Victor from Prong, and that band didn’t start off with electronics in the music. Bands just evolve and sounds get created and with Drown, people kept saying, ‘Oh, well, you don’t want to tour with that band. You should tour with industrial bands.’ I was like, for what? I want to go tour with AC/DC. I’d rather go tour with Metallica. It doesn’t matter to me. That was something that booking agencies would be like, ‘Well, we don’t have any industrial tours,’ and I’d be like, ‘Then go put me on tour with Pantera!’
I got asked recently, ‘How come you left the industrial scene?’ And I said, ‘I didn’t know I was in an industrial scene. I didn’t know I was in anything.’ I’m just over here creating music and living my life. I didn’t know I was a part of some special club. I never tried to be there. I didn’t fill out a membership card. I’m a vocalist… that’s exactly it. I didn’t leave anything. I walked outside. That’s about all I did.

You mentioned the politics and the business having a part in Drown discontinuing; as there are seemingly more avenues for artists to take control of their careers and their art, what are your thoughts on the current state of the music industry?

Boquette: My thoughts on it are create good music and get it out there any way you can get it out there. If there’s a company that wants to help you do it, awesome. If you’ve got to do it yourself, that’s awesome too. But keep music going out there. Even though I’ve been on two major labels, an independent label, and I started my own label, I’m not against or for any of it. I just want people to make music. It’s become something now where you can create some music and release it without anyone telling you when or how or what to do. That’s incredible, but it also creates a situation where anyone and their mom can put out music and, if it’s not that good, it’s just flooding the airwaves. So, it’s a catch-22, but my thought on the music business is to just create music and get it out there any way you can. If there’s a company that’s down to help you, pay attention to your contracts, get an attorney, and do it the right way. If you do decide to sign with somebody, make sure you hire someone to pay attention to the legal side of it because there are some shady people that will try to take your stuff. But again, I’m not for or against any of it. I just want people to create and create and put as much energy into creating as you can. Our legacy is the music.
I’m friends with Jack Grisham from TSOL and he’s from my neighborhood in Long Beach, and he said something to me that made perfect sense. He said they never once stopped to even think about the money; they just wanted to go out and destroy stuff. I think that’s where I come from. Yes, of course, you’ve got to keep your lights on; you go to pay your bills; you go to do your thing, but don’t create music because you want to see how much money you can make with it. At that point you’ve already poisoned your own experience. The greatest things in the world artistically probably didn’t generate that much money when they were being initially marketed. You’ve just got to create it and get it out there and don’t do any thinking, ‘Man, if I do this it’s sure going to make me a lot of money,’ because at that point there’s already poison in your system and you just need to give it up. But if you’re creating because that’s what your spirit on this earth makes you do, do that. That’s really how I look at it.

Earlier, you mentioned the West Coast. Would you say then that there is a difference in style or mentality that is somehow conveyed in the music?

Boquette: I’m standing on the beach right now talking to you, you know? I love living by the beach. That’s my world. Referring to the West Coast, it’s just that we are different, especially in underground. I don’t know what’s going on in the underground in Boston because I didn’t grow up there. If I was in a band, let’s say, from Boston, the bands in my neighborhood and the bands in my scene that I was immediately turned on to because of where I live will shape and form what I’m creating just because it’s around me, you know? I grew up in an area where my older brother was really into the old school West Coast crazy punk rock scene when it was at its craziest. My older brother was a part of that and I grew up with these bands coming by my house when I was a little kid; the guys from TSOL and all these bands would come around my house, so that rubbed off on me. That was just the influence that I felt because it was around me. If I grew up somewhere else, I wouldn’t have had these types of things going on. There wouldn’t have been this underground scene and gangster rap. There wouldn’t have been the punk rock and all the local metal that I was turned on to, because I would have lived somewhere else. So, to me, I look at it as being a West Coast artist – it’s just the things that were born here around me artistically had influence on me because I was exposed to them on an underground level. I didn’t hear it on the radio or see it on TV. I’d see it out in the clubs and I’d hear it in the streets, people handing me their demos or whatever. You’re only going to be a product of where you’re from. I think we’re lucky over here because, you know, California is the place everybody wants to go. We have perfect weather and it’s a damn good place to live, so there are a lot of tours that come through here. There are a lot of studios here. There are a lot of bands here. There’s a lot of freedom here to just create because we’re not up against snow storms and crazy weather where you’re trying to survive. You don’t have time to spend all day to spend in the studio because you’re trying to shovel snow out of your front yard. I think it’s a fortunate situation for artists to live out this way, but I’ve never lived anywhere else, so what the hell do I know?
But like you said, with say industrial music, when we were doing what we were doing, there were no other bands like that in our scene. I literally agreed to adding keyboards to our music because some other cool music that had nothing to do with electronic music was turning me on at the time. I loved gangster rap. I loved the way the tracks sounded. I loved the power in the electronic beats. I loved the melodies that were written with poems. That was more appealing to me than some crazy underground Chicago band that, at the time, I never would have known existed because I lived around all this other West Coast music. It’s crazy how genres and these things even happen because, again, it’s just what you’re exposed to. And we’re lucky that on the West Coast, we’ve been exposed to a lot of great music. There have been incredible movements in music that happened here. Of course, we’ve also got a black mark on our soul because of the Sunset Strip music scene, which was horrible, but it still was a giant scene that happened and affected the entire world. That’s crazy!

In talking about adding keyboards and synthesizers, you used the word cinematic, and Joseph Bishara has been scoring several films, as well as appearing in the film Insidious. Coming from California, have you ever thought about pursuing a career in film?

Boquette: Oh, man, I would love it. I love movies. I’ve always been in love with movies. Actually, in about ’97 or ’98, I got asked to be in a movie and then the funding for the film fell apart so they stopped the project. But they wanted me to be the leader of a prison gang in this movie and I ended up killing my own gang. It was a great story, but it ended up just not coming together. But, yeah, man, I love film. I think the fact Joe was even in Insidious was because he was doing the music for the film. And I give props to him because way back in the day, when he and I first got to know each other, probably ’87 or ’88, he told me he wanted to score films. That was something he always wanted to do, so the fact that that’s what he does… yeah, he stopped playing in bands because he wanted to do movies. I’m stoked that that’s what he does; that was his plan all along. Drown hopefully was a platform that showed the world what he could do electronically. In fact, I know we were and helped him move in that direction because it’s something he always wanted to do. Joe and I are still friends. He contributed a lot of music to the second Drown album; he just didn’t want to be in a band. Now, he’s just like a crazy craftsman that makes sounds for a living, which is pretty awesome.

Now that you have Lords of Ruin, are there any plans to tour? If so, what are the chances of incorporating music from your past bands into the show?

Boquette: I’d love to and we’re kind of in the process of doing that. I’d love to incorporate a lot of the music that I’ve created in my life into a show and tour because it’s all a part of me. There was a SiX show that we played in Detroit and the promoter was a big Drown fan so we ended up playing three Drown songs at the show for him and he was stoked. After Drown, I made a project called Famous, went out and did the Tattoo the Earth tour, but we still played a Drown song on the tour. Then we started SiX and I recorded an unreleased Drown song and put it on the second SiX album, so it’s all part of me. What it is I do is just who I am. The name on it is just kind of a nametag, but as an artist, I’m still in love with all the music I’ve ever made and I’m proud of the fact that you can put on Hold onto the Hollow right now and it doesn’t sound like it came out of 1994. It sounds just as powerful right now as it did then and that all goes back to my original point of create for the sake of creating. Don’t worry about what the hot thing of the moment is. Don’t worry about being part of a particular scene or a genre. Just create what you dig and if it means something to you and you’re doing it for the right reasons, it’ll stand the test of time and it’ll still have value 20 years later. And that’s something I’m proud of. I can go play those songs right now and it doesn’t sound like I made that music a long time ago. And that’s something I’ve been very conscious of with every band I’ve ever been in.
So, yes, I want to get Lords of Ruin on the road, but I wouldn’t be against pulling in music from anything I’ve ever done because it’s all still valid. That’s something that I don’t know if a lot of artists could do. Imagine if Mike Patton went out and did a show but played all of his crazy bands. It might not make any sense. I think even though I’ve stripped down more of where I’m at, if you went back to the early music, it’s much different than what I’m doing now. I’m never trying to scene jump or genre jump. I just create what I dig at the time with the people I’m turned on by artistically and we dig in and see what we come up with. So, yeah I want to get Lords of Ruin on the road, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t be playing music from other records and other projects I’ve done because it’s all still really important to me. I still want to make a new Drown record, but I’m not going to just throw some half-assed project together and call it Drown so I can make a couple of bucks. I refuse to do that too.

What else are you involved in besides music? We talked about your love of film, but what other artistic pursuits are you working on?

Boquette: I’m writing a book. Actually, there are two books that I want to put out. I never once stopped creating or putting stuff out. It’s kind of been madness because I started it years ago, but it’s called Learning the Hard Way. It’s just a lot of things; sort of an extension of my songwriting, really. It’s a lot of little short stories and I guess you’d call them little poems and lyrics or just random, crazy thoughts that came out of me that I didn’t attach to any music. I’m not writing a Stephen King novel. It’s just a lot of crazy thoughts and feelings of me being who I am and how I grew up and a little bit more background to the state of mind that I had then, because I’ve been writing since I can remember. I’ve just got piles and piles of notebooks and I’ve just been editing together one body of work that will sort of span this particular chunk of my life that I have all this stuff from. And then I’m going to finish that one and then I have another book which I’m calling Moments of Clarity, which is made up of random tour journals of all the tours I’ve done and the crazy situations that I’ve gotten myself in and thoughts that I had while I was on the road; just streams of consciousness that I had while I was on the road, whether it was waking up in the middle of Ohio somewhere and not knowing where I was or getting in an argument with someone in my band or whatever. It’s in all these journals of random tour life that you would never know unless you live on the road. I’m going to put a lot of that stuff together.
I just like doing stuff, you know. I come up with these crazy ideas and I find ways to do them. The first book I should have done here pretty soon, but I’ve said that for the past few years. And the second one should be a little easier since it’s just going to be tour journals that I’m going to turn into a book – just more stuff coming out of my brain because if I don’t let it out, my brain will explode.
I’d like to mention, with Lords of Ruin, there is more than just that EP. The Life is a War EP is the first time that we kind of decided to go for press and going to the radio and all that stuff, but there’s another EP called Beehive that you can get on our website and then there’s 10 songs that I took from the last SiX album and re-mastered them and rereleased them as the Lords of Ruin debut record. We didn’t make hard copies of it. You can just get it on our website, but Lords of Ruin has more music available than just the Life is a War EP. That was actually the third offering that we’ve done under the name Lords of Ruin. So, anyone that likes it, go check out the other stuff and see if you dig it.

Do you have anything you’d like to add?

Boquette: I thank you for listening and I promise I won’t let you down in the artistic world. I guarantee you that. If my name’s on it, I promise I know who I am and what I do and I’ll always deliver that. I’m never going to leave who I am as a person. Like Angus Young said, ‘I make AC/DC records for AC/DC fans.’ I know who I am and what I do and the people that dig it and why they dig it and how they dig it because it’s who I really am. There’s no bullshit behind it, so if I’m always honest with myself, I can always deliver that to the listener, whether it’s onstage or in the studio. You’ll always get my honesty in everything that I do. So, thanks for caring about it. Also, be on the lookout for a new Drown album this year!

 

Lords of Ruin Website http://www.lordsofruin.com
Lords of Ruin Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lordsofruin
Lords of Ruin Twitter https://twitter.com/lordsofruin

 

1 Comment

  1. Chad Wooley says:

    Good to hear an interview with Lauren. I haven’t seen or heard any interviews with him, ever. Looks like I’ll be buying some books in the future!

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