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The New Hardcore Dynasty – An interview with Empire of Rats

Columbus, Ohio, seems like an unlikely place for a hardcore punk band with more fury than most East Coast muscle.  The power this band emits from their self-titled album released last fall on A389 to the uber-energetic live shows, you cannot deny their integrity.

I had a chance to talk to the band about their power, the album and what they have planned in 2014. Welcome to the new Empire!


Empire or Rats on Selective Memory

Empire of Rats (

How does a place like Columbus, Ohio breed a band like Empire of Rats? Seriously, how did the band form and what influenced the development of your sound?

I’m not really sure how the city fits into anything to do with our sound. For some reason, the Columbus scene (and Ohio’s scene in general) tend to be a bit more violent than most any place I’ve ever been. I think alot of that comes from Columbus kind of being in the middle of the major scenes in our state. It seems like People from other cities come to Columbus to work out their problems. We are only allowed to play one club in Columbus as of right now because of venue owners being sued for kids getting hurt, and multiple fights that have happened during our shows. it’s honestly not our fault, and had nothing to do with the band itself. I mean, it’s hardcore. People are gonna fight, people are gonna get hurt… The band was formed by Dustin, Chris, and myself (Zac). It really just kind of happened. We really just kinda threw all of our influences together. Every single one of us has completely different tastes musically. I think that’s why it works so well.

Tell me about the addition of Mike Lare to the band and how that came about?

Lare has been one of my best friends since he, Dustin and I played in Under One Flag together. He left Ringworm (and quit playing all music) for quite a while before joining us. I think he just got kinda bored with the day to day and was ready to do it again. He was actually our original choice when we started the band as our guitar player. The timing just wasn’t right.
How has the Midwest shaped the style of the band versus something like the East Coast hardcore scene?

Honestly, we just kinda write songs the way we want to write them without any influence in mind. But, we all grew up going to shows around here, so I think that midwest/Ohio sound just kind of comes out. Plus, everyone used to go to all of the Cold as Life shows in Detroit back in the 90’s, and we’re still pretty close with some of those guys, so I’m sure that had a major influence in shaping our music, whether we realize it or not.

What elements of hardcore music do you find important?

For me personally it’s the people. I grew up a punk rock kid with punk rock values (the old kind, not this watered down hippie shit that bands/scenes are doing now), and once I fell in with all of the HC kids around here, I knew I belonged. When I was a kid, punk rock was tough, and if you weren’t tough you got beaten up every fucking day because of punk rock. My high school was in the middle of two corn fields, and back in the early 90’s you couldn’t even have your ear pierced without getting in a fight with some redneck piece of shit at school. It still amazes me how much things have changed. So yeah, it was really the first group of people that accepted me. I didn’t fit in too well with the punk rock scene. It still remains my favorite type of music though.

With the self-titled album, what did you do to improve on the band and make this release one that made it on several Top 10 lists?

I really have no idea. haha. We just wrote shit that we liked and that was that.

One thing I like is the forwardness the album emits while keeping your feet on the ground. What does the band find as influential and how much primary source (i.e., the foundations of the hardcore scene) influence the making of this album?

We’ve always tried to be very straight forward with the style of music we write. I really can’t pin down an exact influence. Mainly, just day to day life. I don’t know what we really draw from the hardcore scene as far as influence. Most musicians don’t realize this, but almost any album/band you’ve been super into, or effected you any way in your life is going to come out in your music, whether you want it to or not.

You also have a metal slant to some of the songs., adding a sense of depth. How important was that use as a creative process for the band?

The metal influence is EXTREMELY important to us. Kurt (our lead guitar player) is actually my nephew. I had asked him to come in the studio with us to lay down some solos when we recorded the “no peace” e.p. We ended up just asking him to be in the band because his style just fit so perfectly with ours. He also plays in an amazing death metal band called ARTERIAL MIST, and every time they play a hardcore show with us they go over amazingly well, which is rare these days for a metal band to pull off. Plus, we have Mike Lare now, which is pretty much a heavy metal encyclopedia.

How did you utilize the energy with your live sound into the energy that went into the album?

We record everything except the vocals live in the studio. I think that helps keep the energy, the meaning, and the feeling in the music. Not to mention, how much time we save.

What is in store for 2014?

We’ll be booking and playing more shows, and try to work in a few long weekends also. It’s kind of difficult for us being a much older group of guys, than most of the kids playing hardcore now. Some of us are business owners, parents, etc. Playing the Brick by Brick fest in Feb. in Altoona, PA. We’ve also been working on writing a new e.p. We already have a good bit of material ready to go, and it’s way faster and more aggressive than anything we’ve done before. We hope to see all of you soon!

Andrew Duncan
Dug out from a pile of zines and hot sauce, Andrew Duncan has contributed to many publications through the years, including Chord and work with the ever so spunky Readyset...Aesthetic! He now resides deep within your membrane.

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