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FALLEN MARTYR Interview w/ vocalist: Ryan Rawlings (Mar '12)

Hello, here Rico aka Officer Nice, from the MTI Webzine. I have some questions for you, hope you’ll enjoy them. FALLEN MARTYR is a new band so let’s start this interview very traditional by asking to introduce the band, the members and a short historic overview.  

J. Ryan Rawlings: Gabriel Luis (Guitar) and Doug Albers (Bass) started the band about eight years ago while still in high school in Germantown, Maryland. In 2007, after I (J. Ryan Rawlings, Vocals) graduated from Musician's Institute in Hollywood, California, I moved back home to Maryland and joined up with them. Jake Ford (Drums) joined a couple of years later when we released our first EP and Joe Martin (Guitar) joined within the past six months. Our sound has evolved dramatically over the years and we hope to keep evolving and sounding fresh with each new album.  

Q: I discovered Fallen Martyr on the Keep It True Festival because the CD “Shadows” was for sale on the official merchandise stand, next to the CD of Mystic Force. What’s the connection with Mystic Force?

A: Keith Menser from Mystic Force is the CEO of our record label. We signed to Siegen Records around the same time Keith was trying to put a band together so that Mystic Force could play KIT. So Gabriel and I ended up being a part of the new Mystic Force lineup. It was all timing.


Q: I heard Fallen Martyr before on the Internet, with songs of one of both EP’s. Can you tell us more about these EP’s?

A: They're essentially the same EP. The only difference is that the reissue has a different cover and has two preproduction demos of songs that are on "SHADOWS". The EP is called "The Six Roots Of True Will" and it kind of sets up the story and introduces some of the characters that would appear on "SHADOWS".


Q: Fallen Martyr is a very difficult band to label. What does it mean to you and what’s the ultimate goal for the band?

A: I agree with that statement and I take it as a compliment. I don't want for our music to be easily pinned down. I could throw a lot of words around to try to describe us, but that can be tricky. In a perfect world, I could just say, "this is our band, listen to it and tell me what you think," but it doesn't work that way in reality. People want to know what genre it is, or what other bands it sounds like, what have we achieved, or how many likes do we have on facebook. And that's human nature, I get it, I'm the same way a lot of times. So I'll say we're Extreme Progressive Metal. But what I was getting at before is people's perception of what is "progressive" or "extreme" or even "metal" is always different, so my assessment may be valid to some people and not to others. All I can do is try to project MY perception on people and hope it connects with them.


Q: Did you read our review at our website? Did you agree or disagree?

A: I was really happy with the review, and so were the other guys. First, we were excited that you gave it a favorable review, and second, because of the songs you highlighted. When we write, we just do what WE want to do, what WE want to hear in a metal song. But I know for me personally, once a song is done and I listen back, I often wonder if it's what other people will want to hear and if it's something they'll enjoy. So to hear you mention some of the stranger tracks on "SHADOWS" was a relief and also very exhilarating. And third, to be mentioned alongside Dream Theater and Queensryche was flattering.

Q: One of the things I wrote in the review is that Progressive bands needs to take care not exaggerating the skills, keeping the red line in every song. What’s your meaning about it?

A: To me, one of the most interesting figures in recent popular culture was Andy Kaufman. He changed the way people view comedy. He changed the way comedians view comedy. And he did it by not setting boundaries for his art. That's something that interests me to no end. It's something that liberates me as an artist and a performer. It gives me something to aspire to. I'm not saying Fallen Martyr is going to change music but we lose the capacity to do so if we put ourselves in box. And at the same time, I think it's something a lot of people respect. People aren't stupid, they can tell the difference between truth and fiction. They recognize the difference between someone doing this for the reward or the accolades and someone doing what's in their soul. I'm sure at some point we'll pull the reigns back, but it won't be to compromise our vision.


Q: I also wrote that Fallen Martyr is such a band that owns the possibility to write a masterpiece in the future, an album that will be written in gold letters in the book of Heavy Metal. What’s your point of view about it and what will Fallen Martyr need to make it happen?

A: Well, I really appreciate you saying that, and I hope you're right! Obviously we'll need more exposure to make that happen but we're just getting started. I think as long as we keep improving and keep evolving we'll get to a place where that may be possible.


Q: Fallen Martyr is an American band, nowadays one of the most difficult scenes to maintain success. What are the possibilities for Fallen Martyr to break through?

A: The recording industry is really in trouble right now. I don't think that's really news to anyone. They haven't figured out how they move forward. A lot of young, savvy bands and artist have found success with a DIY approach and through social media. But because of that, the music market has become over-saturated. So, yeah, to breakthrough and maintain success is difficult right now. But I honestly think the way to break through is the same as it's always been: it's a mix of knowing people who can help you, luck, and perseverance.

Q: Fallen Martyr contains fantastic musicians. Besides Mystic Force, are they active in other bands?

A: Thanks, I take a lot of pride being surrounded by such talented guys. And I think we all have a mutual respect for each other's talents, which is a big reason why this band works. We all know our role, and we don't overstep into someone else's role. Another reason why it works is besides Mystic Force, this is our main focus. We may do little projects for fun, but nothing that takes away from Fallen Martyr.


Q: Let’s talk about “Shadows”. First to say is that this album contains a very beautiful, dark front cover. What can you tell us about it?

A: I'm really happy with the way the cover art turned out. It was done by Felipe Machado Franco, a Columbian artist who has done work with Blind Guardian, Iced Earth, and Rhapsody Of Fire, among many others. I basically told him the concept I had and we went back and forth a couple of times to flesh out the details but he really ran with it and made it better than i could have imagined.


Q: Gabriel Luis told me this is a concept album, tell us more about it? What inspired you?

A: Like I said before, it's kind of a continuation of the story on "The Six Roots" EP. I don't like giving away too many details about the story because it can be taken different ways. Depending on the day, some of the lyrics mean different things even to me. I will say that the title, "SHADOWS", comes from the writing of Carl Jung, the psychologist. He said that the shadow aspect of a person is made up of all their insecurities and weaknesses and the more a person tries to force it down inside, the blacker and more powerful it becomes. My story is about a person of great power and influence, a messianic character.  If someone is so good and righteous and holy and pure, doesn't it stand to reason that their shadow would be the most evil and malevolent and malicious and wicked? What might happen if the shadow aspect of that type of person is released onto the world and what happens when the line between reality and insanity in their mind starts to blur.


Q: I can tell you I adore that dark atmosphere in this album. How did you create it and how important is it to support the arrangements?

A: Well darkness is a big part of the lyrics, I mean, the album is called "SHADOWS". So going into writing this album, we all had an understanding about the type of atmosphere we wanted to create with the music. Lyrically, nothing is an accident. Every word and phrase has a purpose and I'm really proud of the way the music and lyrics match. Quite frankly, it's a small miracle to me that the album turned out the way it did. It's a testament to the collaborative writing style we've adopted over the years, and also to the camaraderie and lack of ego in this band.


Q: The music goes fast, goes slow, shredding guitars, contains a wide bunch of vocals, passages that are totally out of the blue… What can you tell us about the song writing?

A: We all listen to all sorts of different music, not just metal. My vocal influences range from Otis Redding to Ihsahn. At this point, Gabriel writes most of the music and I write all the lyrics, and we've learned how to blend our styles so they come together sounding cohesive. When it comes to the other guys, once the basic song is written they all put their own stamp on the bass or drums or guitar and thats what gives it the push that makes it a Fallen Martyr song.


Q: How about live concerts?

A: One of my main goals has always been for the live show to reflect the music. So we've been gradually trying to make the live shows more and more theatrical. Another conscience decision we've made is to have less talking during our sets, just an unrelenting sonic assault until the end. Just as with our music, I'd like our live show to keep improving and evolving. I want to be the type of band people want to go see every time because they know they're going to have a memorable experience.


Q: What are the future plans and what's the ultimate goal?

A: Just to keep writing, keep expanding, keep gaining fans, keep playing. I like to dream big so, ultimately, I think the goal is to be considered in the upper echelon of not only progressive metal, but metal music in general. But we'll take it one day at a time.



Q: How can fans purchase this album and the EP's?

A: The EP is available on iTunes or through the band for hard copies. you can message us on facebook, As for "SHADOWS", it officially comes out May 29th and more details about distribution are coming soon! Keep updated through our facebook or at Siegen Records' facebook.


Q: Any last words?

A: I want to thank you for exposing our music to new people and I hope anyone who reads this will check us out with an open mind.







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