Steve Tinnon, Within the Ruins‘ singer, answered some questions for me before Black Heart‘s release
Hello and first of all thank you for your time! Would you mind introducing the band and yourself for someone who doesn’t know about Within the Ruins please? What is the link between the band’s name and the music you play?
Steve Tinnon (vocals): Hey I’m Steve and I’m the new vocalist for Within The Ruins! Joe Cocchi is our guitarist, Paolo Galang plays bass, and our drummer just goes by Drummer most of the time! An old member of the band came up with the name, and honestly doesn’t have any specific meaning to any of us. It sounded cool and it stuck around haha.
Black Heart, your sixth album, is about to be released. How do you feel about this release? Maybe you already had some feedbacks?
Steve: The guys and I feel REALLY good about it. I’m very excited for people to hear this. It’s a different, and darker direction for the band and it’s something I’ve been working on with them for a while. I’m just really proud of this album, the songs, and the journey these songs represent.
Can you also tell us a bit about the link between the artwork and the album? Is there a concept behind this album?
Steve: Most of the album is about pain and anger. The past few years have been really rough for me, and I’m forever grateful to have the opportunity to express those feelings with these songs. I LOVE how the album artwork turned out. It fully captures everything I was going for with the music. The cage around his head represents feeling perpetually trapped inside your own head with your thoughts. There are a few keys dropped on the ground to show the multiple attempts of getting out of your own head. He’s trying, but nothing is working. Although he’s sitting there alone, the skulls symbolize other people who have gone through the same thing so he’s not completely by himself in his struggles. There are a couple snakes slithering through the skulls that represent the people and situations that put him in his current place. And finally, the black heart symbolizes how all of these things have changed who he is deep down. He’s still attempting to heal and better himself, but at his core he’s just a different person than he used to be. The only person we wanted to do the artwork was Cameron Gray, and he knocked it out of the park. He’s also done the covers for our albums Elite and Phenomena, so it was an easy choice to work with him again!
How does the composition process happen?
Steve: For me, it’s always with lots of Jameson or a bourbon of some kind, haha. I like to have it while I write because it keeps my creativity flowing and I really dig deep into each song that way. Joe will send over mostly finished tracks through Dropbox, and I’ll pick a night to sit down with one and put the lyrics to it. I always have pre-written subjects, lines, ideas in my notes section and I’ll lay those out and add to them when I write out a whole song. Then I bring a few of them at a time to record with Joe and the guys at the studio, and we work it all out together!
On some songs, there is some kind of vocal duality between rageous harsh vocals and soft clean vocals, how do you manage to create this collaboration between those two?
Steve: It depends on the song that Joe writes. Sometimes you can hear right away that it was meant to have a singing chorus and you just know. But sometimes it’s not always obvious, and the idea for a melody and harmonies will come last minute while we’re in the studio. And some songs just don’t need any clean singing, they’re fine with just being more aggressive. It all works out for the best!
There are two instrumental songs on Black Heart, named Eighty Sixed and Ataxia V, how did you manage to build those songs? Was it easier to build those songs than songs with vocals?
Steve: Well obviously as the vocalist, I didn’t have to write anything for those tracks. But I do think it’s great that Joe keeps the Ataxia series going on each album, and has instrumental tracks to show off his abilities. Without Joe, this band just wouldn’t be the same and I love that he’s got some songs for himself.
I remember the beginning of Within the Ruins as pure Metalcore music. Which elements marked your evolution? Do you think that you improved yourselves as musicians?
Steve: I think I can speak for all of the guys when I say that the goal is to always be challenging yourself and getting better. Things happen in life, and you can use them to sharpen your abilities and try new things! Joining this band has definitely challenged me, but I love that because it keeps me on my toes and thinking about music differently than I used to.
This year, Within the Ruins celebrates its fifteenth birthday. Do you have some words about your musical journey together? Did you ever think the band would last this long?
Steve: It’s hard for any band to say how long they plan on being together, really. Some bands do really well and their career takes them places they never thought they could go! Unfortunately, sometimes for other bands it all comes to a halt before you’re ready for it to end, and there isn’t anything you can do about it. It’s a tough industry to be in, so I would just recommend anyone trying to get anywhere with their music, just enjoy every bit of it while you can. I’ve only been in this band for a couple of years, but we’ve been friends for a long time with the guys in my old band. It’s been a pleasure to know these guys for as long as I have and to call them friends, and now band mates!
The band had many line-up changes, mainly about bassist and vocalist. Is it easy to deal with those changes as a band? How do you manage to find new bandmates?
Steve: There have been a few bassists, and a couple other guitarists, but the lineup we’ve had for almost three years now has to be the strongest the band has ever had. The previous singer, Tim, was in for a long time and that was probably the toughest change of them all. Changing vocalists can be a make or break situation for a lot of bands, but the transition couldn’t have been smoother and things have turned out great! Finding our current lineup was easy because Paolo and I’s old band, Silence The Messenger, have been friends with Within the Ruins for years, so it was basically a no-brainer.
What does inspire you to create music? It can be bands you love, or anything which is not music-related.
Steve: Being exposed to music and playing an instrument at a very young age basically instilled a passion for playing that I just couldn’t shake. A big thing for my writing is life experiences. I want to be relatable and talk about things that people feel and experience. I want to put words to those emotions for people that might not be able to do that.
Do you remember the first time you ever picked an instrument? When and how was it? Which bands helped to make you grow up as a musician?
Steve: I went to a magnet school when I was in first/second grade and had to choose an instrument in either orchestra or band, so I chose the violin! It eventually led me to playing guitar since I was already familiar with strings, and I later wanted to try vocals. I was listening to a lot of Nü Metal and Pop Punk at the time and trying to sing and play along in my parents’ basement when I was a teenager, and the passion just never stopped haha.
I know that Covid-19 fucked up a lot of things, but how does it affect your life as a musician? And what about your personal life?
Steve: It’s affected every aspect of my life, same for the guys in the band. I’m a bartender here in Texas, and we’ve had our struggles staying open so that hurts. It’s also affected how I can see a lot of my friends and family. And now we’re putting out an album without knowing when we’ll be able to tour again. Not playing or attending shows has been a huge downside to all this, because I’ve always loved the atmosphere and feeling you get from live music. All we can do is continue to be safe and hope this goes away sooner than later.
Maybe you still have plans for the future you can tell us?
Steve: My main plans are really just to get things back to normal! I want to be able to see my friends more often, take my girlfriend places, and I’d love to be able to play these new songs for everybody at some point! All of this really makes you not take for granted the way things were, and appreciate being able to live a normal life.
What was the very first Metal song you ever heard? And which one made you want to create or join a band?
Steve: The first metal song I can remember hearing was Freak On a Leash by Korn. I saw the music video on MTV at a sleepover with some friends in probably 4th or 5th grade, and I was blown away. That opened the door for everything and started my love for heavy music. The first time ever playing live music with a few friends of mine, actually stemmed from covering some Blink-182 songs and coming up with our own pop punk jams. After my first “show” I knew I needed to be on stage in front of people and the journey began.
Do you have a pre-show ritual? What can we expect of a live show with Within the Ruins?
Steve: Pre-show rituals for Within The Ruins are simple and consist of beers and shots haha. Not enough to be super drunk, but enough to loosen up and get in the mood to have some fun on stage. You can expect head bangs, fist bumps, and a solid time at any Within the Ruins show!
Except music, what are your hobbies in life? And which job would you like to do if it wasn’t musician?
Steve: Besides the band, I’m actually a pretty simple guy. I love movies, going out to eat, and all kinds of stuff, but I also love being a bartender. I get to be creative with cocktails when I’m not doing things with the band, and it’s great. I don’t plan on doing it forever, but I’ve developed a passion for it for sure, and I’m gonna stick with it for a while. It’s also an easy job to have when needing to tour haha. I’m also working on starting a company with a couple friends of mine. I can’t announce what it is yet, but I’m excited about that too! Otherwise, I love just doing “normal life” things like hanging out with my girlfriend and our friends. I enjoy having the balance of traveling and playing shows with the band, but when I’m home just staying in or hanging out with my people.
What if I ask you to compare Within the Ruins’ music with a typical american meal? Which one and why?
Steve: Haha I think I would have to say Within The Ruins is like a cheeseburger. It can be complicated like having lots of toppings, but still be simple and a sort of controlled chaos in a way, as a whole.
Maybe you have an advice for a very young band that just began their adventure?
Steve: There are SO many things to say here, but a couple big things I would advise are to be organized and have your brand/image ready to go, and be willing to work hard. Social media and streaming services have completely changed the game for bands, and in a way have made things harder than they used to be to get noticed. Just be willing to do the work that most of the bands you look up to had to do to get where they are now. It’s not an easy road by any means, but put the effort in and things can happen for you.
Last question for me, I let you create your dream line-up. Within the Ruins are opening the night, and there are three more bands! Which ones would you pick?
Steve: Oh man this is fun. For me, the lineup would have to be Within The Ruins, Behemoth, Lamb of God, and Slipknot headlines. Those bands are all filled with incredible musicians, have amazing live shows, and every night would just be insane to be part of. I would die happy getting to be on a tour like that haha.
Once again thank you for your time, final words are yours!
Steve: You’re very welcome, and thank you for letting me share some cool things with you and your audience! Our new album Black Heart is available November 27th, and when this is all over with we can’t wait to play some shows and hang out with everyone again!