“That’s what I’m doing. I’m too far gone to do anything else, so I’m going to stick with it,” muses Billy Rymer of THOUGHT CRIMES. We tiptoe towards the end of our conversation and just hit him with a healthy dose of existentialism by asking him to reflect on his nearly two decades in the music industry. Admittedly, we’ve made some headway here, but that’s where Rymer seems to encapsulate something that was very clear throughout our Zoom call: this is a man who was made to do this.
Rymer join us in his element, calling from a studio where he works hard with punk rappers HO99O9 a few days before a highly anticipated appearance at Reading and Leeds Festival. Of course, heis no stranger to these sacred places, having already appeared there with the group with which he is surely best known for having worked in DILLINGER’S ESCAPE PLANbut we have to keep ourselves from straying too far because we’re not here to talk about DILLINGER, HO99O9or even many other phenomenal bands with whom Rymer has made a name for himself as one of the most respected drummers on our scene. We are here to talk about THOUGHT CRIMES.
Founded by Rymer and a host of old friends in 2019 the band finally released their debut album Altered pasts — a record they had pretty much completed even before COVID-19 began shutting down the world. Although it might be long overdue, especially considering how quickly they managed to launch their debut EP. Press Night, he certainly manages to make up for lost time. A raunchy and often impressive chaotic hardcore record, its caustic savagery and dark themes seem somewhat at odds with a process that Rymer described as “just me hanging out with my friends making music. It’s like an after-school activity. I consider it the same as going bowling with your friends or something.
As flippant — cheerful even — as he makes it sound, there’s certainly still a lot of anger in the music. THOUGHT CRIMES Manufacture. A lot comes from Rymer himself, who in this project plays a much more hands-on role as songwriter and guitarist, while taking care of synths, programming and drums, of course. When asked where the urgency and fury we hear on the record comes from, he explains. “It depends on the day. It depends on how you feel. It’s very emotional, and I feel like a lot of extreme emotions can dictate how I approach the writing process. I find that when I’m in a good mood, I can actually write angrier music, because it’s more fun, if I’m really frustrated or angry, I’m not as productive – it’s just going to hinder progress.
Of course, that’s not all Rymer That is. It is very quick to point out that THOUGHT CRIMES would not work without a central element of collaboration, of opening himself and his ideas to the scrutiny of his bandmates. “I can only take it to a certain point. And where I have my limits is where my collaborators can elevate and complete the arrangements and the songs. For example, with brian [Sullivan, guitar] and me, it will always have a lead melody that makes everything cohesive – something I never would have thought of… It’s the same with grinding wheel [Pepa, vocals]and Russian [Savaresa, guitar]who wrote two songs entirely on guitar.
“It’s not like I wanted this to be a solo venture,” he continues. “I want it to be collaborative. I prefer it that way. And even now there is new material where Cody [Hosza, bass] is the songwriter and I’m just lucky because my best friends are all musical geniuses in their own right. That’s what this group is. It’s personal. Everyone here is really close, it’s like this inner circle of friendship where you feel safe, you can be vulnerable. You can go out of your way and know you’re okay.
However, knowing when to walk away from an idea is just as important. Rymer “gig” details of random parts littered with Dropbox folders that may never see the light of day. “It’s just a question of whether it no longer inspires you and if it no longer serves a song and if the context does not make sense”, he proposes. “The easy part is creating chaos and going fast and doing accents and blastbeats. It is very good. But those parts don’t matter if you don’t have the anchor or a hook or a melody or something to hang on to and have that contrast.
It’s all part and parcel of a refining process that, at least in Altered pasts‘ casing – produced solid gold. Whether it’s a DILLINGER-esque neck-wrecker, something more ethereal and melodic, or the quiet rarity of a piece like Hai Un Accendino, Rymer and co. have a collection of songs in their hands that should see them sink deeper and deeper into their own niche – and may it continue for a long time. “I just want to keep doing it,” he concludes. “I don’t expect overnight success, but I would like to see the group grow. I just like making music with my friends and there’s nothing like being in the studio where you feed off your collaborators.
Altered Pasts is available now through Pure Noise Records.
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