Change is, say it with me, inevitable. This holds particularly true within the world of music. How many bands out there have only original members? Hell, how many have mostly original members? Vocalists, guitar players, drummers, bassists…they all come and go as time goes along. Changing circumstances, waning interests, or just personality clashes all lead to bands shifting lineups and bringing in new members. A lot of times that switch is acrimonious between band members and rough on the fanbase. With Suffocation and Ricky Myers, that is anything but the case.
Myers, who is also the drummer and co-founder of Disgorge, has been filling in live with Suffocation since the mid 2010s. In 2019, he was asked to join as a full-time member, replacing a retiring Frank Mullen, who gave Myers his blessing on the way out. For the band, the switch was an easy and natural one since Myers had more than proven his live chops doing vocals with the band on tour for years. Now, with festivals and a new headlining tour on the horizon, Myers and the band are putting the finishing touches on his first album with the group. I recently caught up with Myers over Zoom to talk about his career in music and what fans have to look forward to in the next year or so.
How long have you been into death metal and what got you into it?
Ricky: Actually, since I was a kid. It just started out with Sepultura and then from there, it went on and got heavier and heavier. I just got into more brutal shit.
Sepultura was your first extreme band?
Ricky: Well I mean Slayer would be, you know. Metallica, Slayer, and then Sepultura. Then after that I got Obituary, Deicide, shit just went from there.
How did you get into playing drums?
Ricky: Actually, that was by accident. I went over to play guitar at one of my friend’s houses and asked if I could play his drum set. I got on and I could play right away without ever playing before. I picked a drum set up after then and just never stopped.
How did you get into doing vocals?
Ricky: Actually, I would do the pre-production for some of the Disgorge stuff. I would write the lyrics and stuff like that so I came across that and then Derek (Boyer) and them heard it, from Suffocation, and asked me if they sent me a song if I would try to do a song on it.
Was Disgorge your first band or did you play in any bands prior to that one?
Ricky: That was my first band, I was 17. Basically from there, that was it. I’ve done Disgorge my whole life and just did a few things here and there with Cinerary and stuff like that and then now Suffocation.
How did Disgorge get started?
Ricky: Me, Tony Freithoffer, and Brian Ugartechea in high school just started listening to Cannibal Corpse and stuff and were like, let’s start a band. I had just started playing drums actually at the time, came up with Disgorge, found it in the dictionary when I was in school and shit, and went from there.
You just saw the name and said that sounds extreme enough?
Ricky: Yeah, to violently vomit. I was just like, “Yeah, that’s pretty brutal (laughs).”
What’s the music writing process like in Disgorge?
Ricky: It’s mostly just me and Diego. We just feed off each other. I’ll hum rhythms to him and shit like that, if I have something in my head, and he takes it from there. We just write like that.
What was it like to record that first album, Cranial Impalement?
Ricky: Nerve wracking. We were so into it though that we just wanted to get it out at the time. It was a while back. It’s a lot to try and remember that (laughs). I just remember it was special for us, for sure.
Were you happy with the debut?
Ricky: Yeah, I’m very happy with that one.
What did you learn from the process that you took to future recordings?
Ricky: Practice. You need a lot of practice in the studio. The microphone picks up everything, it doesn’t lie. We didn’t do editing or shit like that. Nowadays you can edit fucking everything but back in the day we would just do one take through and what we got was what we got.
Yeah now people record it and can spend forever dicking around with it.
Ricky: Right, yep. Doctoring, editing, dragging, and shit.
The way you guys did it probably feels like a more honest process.
Ricky: Yeah from there we were just like “If you can’t play it live, don’t play it.” That’s how we felt when we recorded it.
Did you do all the Disgorge albums that way?
Ricky: Yep, all the Disgorge we played straight through.
How do you think the band has evolved over your run?
Ricky: I think we got more intricate, more thought (out). As a band, we just grew. The more you play, the better you’re gonna get all the time and we played constantly. I just feel we got better as musicians.
What was the scene like out there when you were starting out?
Ricky: There wasn’t a lot of scene in San Diego. There was a small scene but mostly L.A. and stuff like that. We’d have to travel to go play. It seemed like everywhere else was big except for where we were at.
Was that hard starting out with a weaker local scene?
Ricky: Yeah, it was real hard. You gotta rent vans at that time and do all that shit to go travel and play…get a trailer and get all your shit there. Yeah, it was challenging for sure.
Disgorge has always had really cool covers. Who does those?
Ricky: Jon Zig from Austin, Texas, a good friend of ours. He did all the albums, actually, except for Cranial Impalement. Actually a girl did that, I can’t remember her name at the moment but Jon Zig did all the artwork after that.
Do you guys give him free reign or tell him sort of what you’re going for?
Ricky: She Lay Gutted was thought out. Consume the Forsaken we told him to run with that. We told him what to do on Parallels (of Infinite Torture), kind of intertwined with Consume inside that album.
So then how did you guys start Sarcolytic?
Ricky: Me and Jon Zig, the guy who does our artwork, he’s a vocalist and we’ve known each other for years and we thought, let’s start jamming.
Was it weird working with a different band?
Ricky: No, when I went to that band it was similar to Disgorge.
Disgorge has been on a bit of a hiatus lately. Any plans to bring it back in the future?
Ricky: Yeah, as soon as I’m done doing this album with Suffocation I’ll be able to focus more on getting with Disgorge. Me and Diego just talked so we’re talking about just doing an EP at first and doing some shows at festivals and stuff and then after that we’ll see what happens.
Is it important for you to have those different creative outlets where you have different roles?
Ricky: Yeah absolutely. Singing and playing drums are two different animals so I get two different versions of it. I get to write, I get to say what’s in my head where with Disgorge and all that stuff I just play.
What’s your lyric writing process like?
Ricky: Mostly just anything that I read and sometimes my beliefs and what I believe in.
That first Sarcolytic album was your first album away from Disgorge?
Ricky: Full-length, yeah.
Was that an adjustment or an easy switch?
Ricky: It was pretty easy, it wasn’t bad.
You guys ever talk about bringing Sarcolytic back?
Ricky: Yeah, we’ve talked about it but both bands are so busy right now. Jon Zig’s got his own band and Steven (Watkin)’s got it going and I’ve got Suffocation and Disgorge so it’s kind of hard in between there.
So how did you get involved with Suffocation? I know you did some tours filling in for them back in the day.
Ricky: Derek and them heard a song of Disgorge, pre-production, and they asked me if I could record a song for them so I said Ok. Then when they heard it they said “Would you be willing to do some shows?” so I said “Alright” and I learned their setlist and they flew me out and we practiced and that was basically how it went. From there I never stopped.
Were you a big fan beforehand?
Ricky: Oh yeah, huge fan. They’re a reason why I even started playing brutal death metal stuff. So yeah, it’s very special for me.
Were there some nerves jumping in with them, being that you were already a fan?
Ricky: Yeah, it’s weird. You see Terrance Hobbs, right across from you, one of my idols so yeah, it was nerve wracking when I first started.
How was that first show with them?
Ricky: Actually, we did a benefit for breast cancer and I had never sang live so it was very nerve wracking.
How long did it take to get more comfortable doing that?
Ricky: Years. We did a lot of touring and stuff in there and eventually you forget about it and it’s no big deal.
What was it like when they asked you to come onboard full-time?
Ricky: I was excited. I already knew that Frank (Mullen) was on his way out, and me and Frank had talked about it, and Terrance, so I knew the transition was coming, I just didn’t know when. I knew that was his last album and then he did a farewell tour so that was basically it.
It has to be nice to be on good terms with the person you’re replacing. That has to make the switch way easier on everyone.
Ricky: Yeah I mean, Frank has been totally supportive, man. He’s like a brother. We all get along, we all talk to each other. There was no thing, he wanted me to do this and it worked out perfectly.
How stoked are you for the Maryland Deathfest set coming up?
Ricky: We’re really excited. With this COVID thing that’s been going on, man, it’s been two years we’ve been shut down and we really haven’t been able to do any playing at all live and that’s what we love to do. We’ve just been focusing on the album but as far as these shows coming up, and we have a tour with Atheist coming up, we’re really excited man. It’s really exciting.
Yeah that’s a killer lineup with you guys and Atheist topping the bill. Will that be your first run back
Ricky: Yeah, we played three shows in Atlanta and stuff like that but first time touring, yeah. It’s been almost two-and-a-half years.
How excited were you to get back in front of an audience?
Ricky: So excited man. It’s something we’ve done our whole lives so you take that away from somebody, you really don’t know what to do. So now we are able to do this again, we’re excited. We’re real excited. Right now, we’re the tightest and the best we’ve been for years. These two years actually gave us time to hone in on our craft and stuff so it worked out.
How affected were you guys by the pandemic?
Ricky: We just worked on the album. We bought all our home gear and stayed at home and sent files to each other. That’s what we did and it’s worked out.
As a fan, it’s nice to have shows come back and things start to return to normal so I can’t imagine how exciting that must be for you guys.
Ricky: Just to even go to a show. You really take shit for granted and then when it’s taken from you, you realize how lucky you are. When someone takes something away from you that you love, it’s hard.
How’s the new album going?
Ricky: It’s going great, we’re working hard on it. It’s been a long process. We keep rewriting stuff and just making sure it’s good.
What’s the release plan?
Ricky: As far as I know, it’s gonna be released late this year or early 2023.
Are you writing the lyrics on this one then?
Ricky: Yeah, I’ve been writing all the lyrics. I think we have seven songs right now and I’ve written all of them.
How does it feel to be working on your first album as a Suffocation member?
Ricky: I’m really excited. I’ve been working really hard on the vocals and stuff like that but yeah I’m really excited. We all are.
Do you have a favorite album from Suffocation? Obviously besides the one you’re working on!
Ricky: Right, right (laughs). Effigy (of the Forgotten) for me. That’s the most brutal album, for me. And Pierced from Within. I’m more of the old school. The vocals were so brutal back then so I’m trying to stick with that (and do them) that way.
That first run from the band is completely untouchable.
Ricky: It really was. It changed death metal for everybody.
It’s wild to think about how influential those albums were in brutal death metal and tech death.
Ricky: Now you just see bands branching off that and doing their own thing but yeah, Suffocation are the forefathers, for sure.
How up-to-date do you stay on what’s going on in death metal?
Yeah Lorna Shore really blew up during the pandemic.
Ricky: Yeah, that EP (…And I Return to Nothingness) they released was pretty fucking sick.
There’s so much good shit that you’ll never stay on top of it all.
Ricky: Yeah you can’t. There’s so many bands that slip through the cracks that you don’t even hear that are so good. It’s crazy.
It’s a good problem to have though.
Ricky: Absolutely, I think so too.
What would you say your proudest achievement has been from your career so far?
Ricky: I don’t even think I’m there yet, man. I feel like I’ve got so much more to do right now. I am excited about this Suffocation (album). It’s probably the most work I’ve ever had to put in…writing and doing lyrics and patterns. This one I’ll be proud of but all my albums, anything I’ve ever done I’ve been proud of. As far as the proudest, this one is major for me.
How much of an adjustment was it to doing the vocal patterns for the album?
Ricky: Dude, it was real different because Suffo’s writing process is totally different than any band I’ve been in. Those guys are beyond musicians man, they’re really good. They take pride in everything they do and make sure it’s right.
Have they been pretty helpful in getting you used to their style?
Ricky: Yeah, they lead you a certain way and you start getting used to the Suffo style. Then I present them with stuff and if they like it, they like it or if not, maybe “Hey try this.” I’m definitely getting input from the guys so I can keep it the Suffo style.
What kind of goals do you have for the future?
Ricky: Really just to keep playing. Be alive and keep playing, you know. As long as I’m doing that, I’m happy. As long as I’m happy, that’s all that matters.
With the music world always changing, what’s the best way for fans to support the band
Ricky: Just come out to the shows, man. Come out and hang out. The more people you make friends with the more they want to come out and see you next time. And we’re friendly as fuck. Come out and have a few drinks.
Yeah man, it’s funny but death metal people are the nicest around.
Ricky: Yeah man. Everybody I’ve ever met in this community of death metal has been great. Everybody is down-to-earth and everybody is trying to get to the same goal: to have a good time and release good music.
It’s definitely a style where everybody is in it for the music and not to be a rockstar.
Ricky: Absolutely man. There’s no egos, we’re all the same. We just happen to be doing something that people like.
How big has that community aspect of the scene been for you?
Ricky: Oh it’s been huge. I know friends all around the world. When you go on tour, you look forward to seeing those people. They’re family basically. They’re not fans, they’re family.
Last question, do you have any interests or hobbies in your time away from making music?
Ricky: Oh shit, I don’t know! I do music nonstop it seems like, man. It’s something I love to do. If I’m not doing the album, I’m working on old songs. That really is my passion. I have no hobbies, that’s really it.
Photo at top courtesy of Ricky Myers.