FLOOD: Polarizing and Pulverizing
Like many of you fellow middle aged metalheads, I discovered metal young and I’ve listened long and loud for decades. New and older metal bands appeal to me, but I can’t deny that there are some bands that were so good, their music so meaningful, that it left an indelible imprint in my brain, and those songs are irrevocably linked to times and places in my life, emotions that come back with a roar when evoked. These classics, and the musicians who created them have become old friends to me, and probably for you, as well. I’d like to introduce you to a new band FLOOD, made up of some old friends: Guy Ritter, Gary Lenaire, and Erik Mendez of the classic Tourniquet era: rounded out by the talented Anna Sentina (YouTube) and David Husvik (Extol/ Azusa).
Many of our fans last heard Guy, Gary, and Erik play together on Pathogenic. Please tell us about Echo Hollow, Cripple Need Cane, 2050 and any other post-Tourniquet musical pursuits.
Guy and I formed Echo Hollow in 1996. The music was decidedly different from our earlier stuff. It was more Rock-Metal than Thrash. We were very busy in those days raising children and really didn’t have a lot of time to develop and record songs. There were some good songs there, however such as “Through the Veil,” “Diet of Worms,” “Thursday,” “1973,” and “ADHD.” “Superficial Intelligence” is a tune Guy and I like a lot.
Cripple Need Cane was a band I formed in Los Angeles around 2002. The band was very mainstream Rock/Metal with a lot of vocals. We did one record and then disbanded due to interpersonal reasons. During that time, I began to implement a lot of new gear in my rig. I was using multi-effectors and other machines that offered some cool signal processing.
Working with Roland / BOSS in those days, I composed and recorded many songs that can be heard in various products such as the Roland VS-2480 and BOSS Micro BR. I also produced hundreds of tone patches and audio files for various effectors such as the BOSS GT-8, GT-10, GT-100, JS-8, JS10, Roland VG-99 and GR-55. I had the pleasure of performing in many videos with really talented players including Steve Stevens.
Around 2005 I had a dinner party at my home in Los Angeles and invited Guy, Victor, and Erik. It was a great evening. We laughed and shared old band stories, catching up with one another. That night we discussed a possible reunion. In the following weeks, Erik, Victor and I started jamming in my recording studio. We played with various drummers and took a casual approach—we just wanted to jam! We stopped playing around 2006 without doing any final recordings. 2050 yielded two songs: “In Remission” and “Darfur” and those songs were recorded for the FLOOD debut record. I am so happy that those songs were finished properly. “Darfur” is perhaps the most intense vocal performance I have ever done.
I have released a couple of solo records in recent years. Symphonic Liberties was released in January 2020 on digital and CD. That was a wonderful experience for me. I recorded Metal, Rock, and Classical music for the album. You can hear my Classical influences that drove some of those songs in the 90s. The Classical pieces allowed me to perform on many beautiful instruments. I utilized the Fishman MIDI Guitar System for some of those performances. I recently composed “The Rose of Sharon” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_X0YC8N_iw) in honor of my late mother, Sharon.
You guys reunited very quietly. Few people were aware of FLOOD until Polarized was ready to drop. How did you start working together again, and why all the secrecy leading up to the album?
During a trip to Italy and Greece in the summer of 2019, I was capturing video and photo content in anticipation for my next solo record. You can see those videos and photos on some of the videos for Symphonic Liberties. It was on that trip that I began thinking about a reunion project. I spoke with all the early band members and discussed it. Then, in early 2020 the pandemic happened. I was at home writing and recording new material for the reunion project and it soon hit me, “this is not a reunion, this is a new band with a new sound!” I called Guy and we talked for quite a while that day. I explained to him what was happening with me and the songs that were emerging from those experiences. Guy and I formed FLOOD in September 2020. As far as secrecy leading up to the album, I was actively talking about it on my social media channels but people really started hearing about it on January 1, 2022 when we released Polarized.
Anna and David (of the mighty Extol!) fill out the bass and drums in the band quite nicely. How did you come to work with both of them?
I have worked on many projects with Anna. She was featured in some of the music videos I produced. She’s a great bassist and a great person. During that time, I wasn’t actively recording music and Anna encouraged me to start making music again.
David was highly suggested by many fans on social media, so we reached out to him. We recorded “Stop the Bleeding” with him, and we knew he was the one! We continued recording from there. David is a very genuine and cool person. His drumming is really inspiring.
Victor Macias played on the most recent Deliverance record. Was he considered to play with you guys, or have you been in touch with him?
Victor is our brother; he’s family and we love him. We asked him to join us on this project and though it didn’t happen, perhaps he can do a guest appearance on the next record, if Anna is cool with that! 🙂
Tourniquet was one of a very few Christian bands who were groundbreaking in metal, and not just following (years behind) what the mainstream was doing. Your new music clearly has all the distinctive hallmarks of those first 3 Tourniquet albums (except perhaps Guy’s falsetto screams), yet sounds refreshingly modern. Was there a conscious effort on the band’s part to reach forward or reach into the past when making the record?
Actually, there are falsetto vocals on three of the FLOOD songs, but I tried to do it in a way that didn’t sound dated. “Stop the Bleeding” was a song title I came up with on the same day that I came up with the band name Tourniquet. It seemed so obvious and appropriate, but I never finished a song for it. We thought it would be cool to do a FLOOD song “Stop the bleeding.” For the Polarized record, I don’t think we tried to copy the past, and a few times last year we threw out song ideas or parts that sounded dated. Gary and I have been doing this together since 1985, so I guess it could be easy to slip into old styles that are comfortable. Most known musicians have some kind of signature to their sound, whether good or bad. When Michael McDonald sang backups on several Steely Dan songs, Toto, Christopher Cross, and Kenny Loggins, I doubt they asked him to sound different. Even if they had, he probably wouldn’t have been able to pull it off. When you hear the first snare hit and first guitar note to any Van Halen song you say immediately, “That’s Van Halen!” All that said, I think it’s hard to move too far away from the sound that you enjoy or that you have done in the past. Fast forward to FLOOD…hmmmm, maybe I hear a few things in “War in the Sky,” “Free Loading Larceny” and “Stop the Bleeding,” but this is an 11-song album. There are eight other songs that I don’t really hear the old influences. Now someone listening to the debut FLOOD album might think different.
It’s obvious to the listeners that Gary and Erik have been woodshedding. There is some fantastic axework, including several instrumentals- all of it quite technical and breath taking. How were the songs written? Guitars first, and then lyrics or vice versa?
Thank you for those really gracious comments. Erik and I have always had a great chemistry. As I said earlier, “Darfur” and “In Remission” were written years before. When David tracked the drums for “Darfur” the song was truly realized as I intended it. David just crushed that performance. For the other tracks I wrote for the FLOOD record, I utilized a more refined approach. Percussion is the backbone, base, feel, and vibe for many of my Metal songs. I write guitars with percussion and melody in mind. I am a riff writer. I sometimes have a lyrical premise in mind, but those specific words usually start flowing once I can truly feel the rhythm and hear the melody of the song. While walking on Grace Bay beach in Turks and Caicos last summer, I wrote an entire song in about 60 minutes – it will likely be featured on the next FLOOD record.
There is a lot of back and forth between Gary and me. He may listen to my rough guitar tracks and change them up. And when I sing vocal parts for songs that Gary writes, I sometimes change up the melody, or timing or the enunciation. That back and forth is really what makes the songs evolve way beyond the basic song idea. I will send a track to Gary and say, “Check this out.” Gary responds back with something like, “Well that is totally unexpected, but it’s cool!” At the end of “My Last Ride,” Gary played the end of the song different than I had written it. So, I couldn’t sing exactly what I was planning. So, I just sang “Now It’s too late.” Now it seems meant to be. For the songs I write, I typically come up with the vocal melody of the verse or chorus first and go from there. I am usually walking or hiking when I come up with my ideas. Often I stay away from specific words when developing the vocal hook so that the melody isn’t constrained by any words or vowels. I may kind of mumble a bunch of nonsense. Then I might listen back to that idea on my iPhone and say for instance, “Hey, it sounds like I am saying a gateway to my mind… maybe I should say that.” I also try to think up the basic ideas for the guitars and drums when I am writing as I walk. Once I feel like I have the intro, verse and chorus, I then lay down a rough demo with the Intro, Verse 1, Bridge (if applicable) and Chorus. I lay down a click and then play a live drum track as I hum the song to myself. After that I put down a rough guitar track and some vocals. I might repeat that process two to three times until I find the right tempo and key for the song. Half of these rough demos end up on the heap pile. When I feel I really like one of the ideas, I send it to Gary, and he sends it back with better guitars and I sing another rough vocal track. At this stage is when we can really hear if the idea is going to work or not. Many times, in the process of writing a song, I get to the point whereas I am laying down rough tracks, I stumble upon a better intro or verse, so I replace those parts. By replacing those sections, it may trigger a different melody for the chorus! By the time a song is done, it might be completely different from the original idea. But in the long run, the original idea did something to get the wheels turning. One thing I always tell young musicians is that the key to writing good songs is knowing when to throw away entire songs or parts of songs.
I‘m torn. Our Christian walk is rarely a straight line. Sometimes we walk, sometimes we crawl. Sometimes it’s one step forward and two steps back. On one hand, I’d like to let Gary’s lyrics on “Design” and “War in the Sky” speak for themselves as his statement of faith. However, as Gary publicly renounced his faith some years ago, fans are not going to give me a pass without asking what transpired to bring him back into the fold? (Whether or not he chooses to answer, we’re glad to have him back.)
Thank you, that you’re glad means a lot to me. Your words, “statement of faith” are directly applicable.
God inspired me to rejoin the fold, by faith.
In the late 1990s, in addition to working as Commandant for a Military Department at-risk youth program, I was also the volunteer Chaplain. I also taught two other Bible studies each week at various churches. I was attending Bible college and studying history, exegesis, theology, and the origins of scripture. I was incredibly happy with a wife and two young sons. I was being blessed in many ways, serving God and His community.
In 1999, a series of events sent me down a path of doubt. Those events were traumatic, and I began to question everything, including my faith in God. Over the next few years, I became hardened and angry about some of the things I went through. “Why would God let those things happen to me?” I asked. For years I walked without faith. I eventually thought that faith in God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit was not necessary to live in harmony with God, or the universe.
In June 2020, I lost my cat who was very close to me. He was my dear friend, family. The pandemic was happening, and I could tell my life was changing. Then in 2021, both my parents died within 90-days of each other. Those events didn’t impact me the way the events in 1999 did. Instead, I started to reconsider faith, something I never thought I would ever do again. It seemed impossible to me. I now know that many people were praying for me, and those prayers were answered.
During my years outside of faith I wrote down some thoughts. Back in those days if you read or heard anything I was stating about faith and God, please know that I was not looking in the right direction concerning God. I wasn’t listening to God either, an act of rebellion. Those writings were my way of dealing with what I was going through and trying to justify my path. I was wrong about faith because I wasn’t looking to God by faith. In my error, I was looking to humans: Human evidence, human history, human writings, human scholars, human science…all of those things that humans do can be very beneficial. However, concerning faith, only God authors that in us. When we try to “prove” God’s existence through earthly / human methods, we will not be able to find God there. I looked for that proof using non-faith methods and was not able to find it. Hidden are the things of God from this world. God reveals Himself to His people and by faith His people recognize, know, and serve Him. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Hebrews 11:1-3
People can make really clever arguments for God’s non-existence using worldly methods. Without faith we are blind and cannot see God. This fact is utterly amazing, and the evil in this world influences people to believe the human devices that point to no…or inconclusive “proof” of God. That is precisely why many people lose faith during their scholarly pursuit of God. The lack of “evidence” seems so clear, so right; it is extremely compelling. It appears to them on many pages that it is simply humans that have created the God narrative and the writings about God throughout history. It is so compelling that they are often driven to agnosticism or atheism. Their focus becomes more about love for themselves (self-centered and / or selfish) and less about their love for God and others. During my years outside of faith I thought that sincere believers could lose faith because of what they find when they study church history and the early formation of scripture, and I was partially right, some people do lose faith in that quest. That is because they are looking to earthly evidence for God rather than seeking God by faith. Only God can grant faith in us to see Him and to escape this world and the evil that is in it. This humbling fact should build compassion in us to pray for and help those around us. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
When we look with our human eyes at the things of this world, we are not looking to God by faith. The words I am saying now are said by faith, and not by the world. All of us on the path must listen to God, by faith alone. Our God given conscience checks everything about us and the information we are pondering. Even religious information can be deceiving, especially information that wasn’t given or received by faith. “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Cor 5:7
“My Last Ride” takes you on an emotional ride, especially once you realize what the lyrics are talking about. We’ve always known Ted Kirkpatrick as the animal rights activist. Guy, is this something close to your heart as well? Have you seen any progress on this issue since the “Ark of Suffering” video all those years ago?
Animals have always been close to my heart. I have owned dogs, cats, chickens, horses, bullfrogs, and turtles. Gary and I were the only band members who had animals living with us during the first three Tourniquet albums. I had an Airedale named Maxxers and Gary had a huge Golden Retriever the size of a pony named Chopper. Maxxers was actually filmed live on the stage during the “Ark of Suffering” video, but we never used that footage in the MTV video. I just found the old master tape so I may be transferring it soon. I have never tried to watch that tape because it would be too emotional. She was like my best friend from age 12 to when she passed away when I turned 26. I am looking forward to seeing it in the near future. During the early Tourniquet days, I also became close with a barn owl named Wesley that my girlfriend at that time, a biologist, had raised as an abandoned baby chick. I never discussed it back then because of his safety. After Wesley passed away, she wrote a New York Times best-selling book about what she learned about owls, by living with one. She mentions my relationship with Wesley in the 90’s and also mentions the band Tourniquet several times. For reference, the book is called Wesley the Owl by Stacey O’Brien.
“Ark of Suffering” was a song that was more about how movies, circuses, cosmetic companies, and testing labs were abusing animals. Yes, I think there has been great progress in that area thanks to countless regulations and of course social media has helped as well. Yet, for every two victories won each year for animal rights, there seems to be one more new atrocity exposed. “My Last Ride”, however, is more about what happens in the home. It’s about the abrupt breakup of a dog and his master. The song drives home this overlooked atrocity by allowing the dog to sing this song from his own desperate point of view. I came up with the song idea one night as I drove home from work listening to the radio. There was a report that during Covid in 2020, many people were buying or adopting animals as they were stranded at home and feeling a bit lonely. These pets offered great comfort during this scary time. And as people started going back to work in 2021, there was an all-time high of animal drop-offs at shelters. By the end of 2021, the shelters were at full capacity. We were finishing the FLOOD album right as I heard of this. Frantic to bring light to this epidemic, I called Gary and said, “we need to do a song about what is happening at the shelters.” Even though the album was already at 10 songs, we rushed back to the studio one more time and the song just barely made the album.
With so many artists using their platform to espouse leftist ideology, it’s encouraging to see conservative values shine in “Freeloading Larceny.” How has living in Cali affected your personal freedoms these last couple years?
I lived in California for 27 years. As a young musician I worked in the legal field, giving me close insight into the Los Angeles criminal, civil, municipal, probate, federal, and family law court systems. I went on to work for the Department of Defense / Military Department. I don’t speak lightly about law, society, and civil rights. In recent years the United States and other countries have experienced some movements that threaten the very core of ethics and freedom; those groups advocate violence and wrongdoing in the name of good and progress. We see those ideologies as evil, of course, because they are evil. Freedom fades when we lose our courage to stand up and say no to that evil, regardless of our political or religious affiliation. Decent, civil, hard-working, family members are the majority in numbers. We must stand together and not cower to political and ideological evil. Let us not be polarized by the culture war. While we reject lawless evil, it is also important to really listen to people that have different views. Remember, we persuade people to God by living in his image, by faith. As we listen and converse with our neighbors, we are in position to persuade people to consider God. “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.” 2 Cor 5:11
Has the covid era permanently killed off the normal means of touring for bands?
Touring was crushed because of the pandemic. When was the last time you were really thankful to see a live show? Our generation has been enjoying nonstop live music for our entire lives. Growing up we were conditioned to think that concerts were a never-ending market we could enjoy at any time. Then COVID struck and everyone, except essential workers, stayed home. No more shows. That is how frail this world is, it can change overnight. Wars, natural disasters, and other events can change the course in an instant. I feel for my friends on the touring circuit who were negatively impacted by COVID. At the same time, I study history, and it’s fascinating to see the massive reset in activities and the acceleration of E-commerce, both in music and other industries. As for normal means of touring, we will find out. I think this world changed a lot in the last two years and in some ways it may never return to its previous normal.
I’m told Polarized is selling well, so clearly the fans are quite interested in FLOOD. What’s next for you guys?
We are very thankful for the folks who purchased and are enjoying the FLOOD record. Like us, maybe get a 2nd copy and give it to someone who perhaps doesn’t know God. I have given the CD to a number of my friends. That’s what this is all about, right? The next step for FLOOD is the 2nd record. We are already recording it! Live shows can happen when (if) the pandemic stuff goes away.
Psycho Surgery is my all-time favorite metal album. Congratulations on making music that stands the test of time and still speaks to metal fans today. For whoever wants to answer- what is the song or album you are most proud of creating as an artist?
I am very thankful for all the music I have been a part of. I once wrote a song for my sister’s wedding 20 years ago and performed it at the ceremony. There are no recordings of that song, but I remember it was a touching ballad. Years ago, Guy and I wrote and recorded a Christmas song. I can’t find a recording of that one either. Both of those are examples of songs that were done simply out of love, love for God, people, and music. I wrote the solo record title track, “No Time Now” (https://youtube.com/watch?v=OOLMOfEH-18). That song touches me as it reminds us to love today and not wait for a tomorrow that may never be. “Forever in a Second” is another tune I’m thankful for (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sg6AKAQu6b4). The last lines show the hope we have in God:
Twilight has fallen on you
The sun will shine once more
Beyond the horizon dwells forever
In my opinion, FLOOD Polarized is hands down the best record I have ever been a part of. It celebrates sounds from the past, speaks to present-day issues while fearlessly rips into the future. It is also the most personally meaningful record I have ever done. Working with Guy and the other band members is a very special thing.
This is a tough question. They all have great memories. I would have to say Polarized. If you would have asked me last year during the production of FLOOD, I might have answered differently. Just being honest. Putting together an album can be an emotional journey. One day I was loving a song and the next day I was ripping out the bridge or the chorus and we dropped many songs from the album altogether. For example, the keyboard part I played at the beginning of “My Last Ride” was muted for a while and then we put it back during the final mix. Your mind plays tricks on you when you work on a project like this. They say an album is never done until you run out of time or money! We knew we had to stop the changes so that we could get the album out by the end of the year. It’s a relief once you move out of the recording and into mixing because you are rebooting your mind into listening mode. I remember sitting in my car doing a car test with all 11 songs for the first time, and I was texting Gary and saying wow, it feels like an album now. Where did all this come from? To answer your question, I think I like the FLOOD album the best because of the variety of the styles. If you heard “My Last Ride”, “Darfur”, “In Remission” and “The Order of Melchizedek” at a backyard BBQ, all spread out with 40 other songs, and not played all in a row, and had never heard FLOOD before, I don’t think that you would connect the dots that these four songs were all from the same band. Yeah, I think that’s why I like this album.
Gary & Guy:
Thank you, Heaven’s Metal, for giving us the opportunity to do this interview.
God bless and Godspeed on all your future musical endeavors, guys. It’s been a pleasure
1 thought on “FLOOD: Polarizing and Pulverizing”
Great interview! Very informative. This is the first time Gary has given a detailed account of where he stands now with God.
I was one of the people at the CMR asking for this interview to happen. Thanks you!
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