INTERVIEW: Lair of the Minotaur
A relentless metal band whose old school influences run the gauntlet
By: Mike SOS
Lair of the Minotaur is a relentless metal band whose old school influences run the gauntlet from Celtic Frost to Slayer. Playing with the passion and conviction like it was 1983 all over again, the molten trio's blistering debut on Southern Lord, Carnage, has been unleashed for all metal mongers to pine over. When speaking to guitarist and singer Steven Rathbone via email, we touched upon his metal upbringing, as well as his plans for LOTM's worldwide takeover.
Mike SOS (for In Music We Trust): How did LOTM form?
Steven (from Lair of the Minotaur): In early 2003, my other band, 7000 Dying Rats decided to not play live any more. This gave me some time to pursue LOTM, which is an idea I had for a long time. Pelican played 7000's last show and little did I know that my old friend Larry was their drummer. We started talking at the show, and I told him about LOTM soon after that. Donald James had played guitar in 7000 and so I asked him to play bass. The line up was set and the evil commenced.
Mike SOS: When did you discover metal music?
Steven: My older brother had all the old KISS albums, so I grew up listening to them. The first album I ever bought was KISS Alive II. I was probably 6 years old and I bought it with money my aunt gave me for my birthday. Then a friend of mine turned me on to Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Venom, Dio, etc. I used to think that "Iron Man" was the most evil song ever. Then I got into Slayer, Celtic Frost, Kreator, etc. I've always loved metal. And horror movies.
Mike SOS: How has growing up in Chicago influenced your music?
Steven: Well, I actually grew up in Detroit. I've lived in Chicago for about 8 years now. I think the biggest influence Detroit had on me was the attitude. There is definitely an attitude in Detroit that you don't get anywhere else I've been. It's hard to explain. Anyone who has grown up around that area will tell you the same thing.
Mike SOS: What was the easiest song to record? Toughest?
Steven: Most of the songs we're recorded in either 1 or 2 takes. My vocals went very quickly. We recorded the first 6 songs in November 2003. Then the other 2 we're recorded in June 2004. The day before we we're scheduled to record the 2 tracks, we we're on our way to Indianapolis to play the Templars of Doom fest. And our transmission took a shit on us about an hour outside of Chicago. We ended up having to miss the show, stay the night in 'who know's where' Indiana and pay A LOT for a new trans. There wasn't much to do while we waited for them to fix our ride. So we just sat outside the transmission shop on the grass, talking all day. There was a cool breeze so we didn't notice the sun beating down on us. Anyways, by the end of the day, we all had brutal sunburns. We looked like lobsters. We had to drive back to Chicago and record that night in much pain. So I'd say that was the toughest. But we survived--until the skin cancer sets in.
Mike SOS: Greek mythology plays a huge part in your lyrics. How did this interest come about?
Steven: I've always been interested in it. I used to play Dungeons & Dragons as a kid. 'Clash of the Titans' is one of my all time favorite movies. There's a lot of evil shit in those stories. I think there's enough bands writing songs about Satan and serial killers.
Mike SOS: How did you hook up w/ Larry, the drummer from Pelican?
Steven: I've known Larry for a while. We used to work at a Whole Foods Market together. We would always talk metal and shit. When I saw him at 7000's last show, I didn't know he was Pelican's drummer. I had heard good things about them, but hadn't heard them at that point. I was surprised to see him. I didn't know he played drums either. Anyways, I was really blown away by them and I knew he liked Slayer, so he was the first person I asked to play drums.
Mike SOS: What bands influenced the sound of the band?
Steven: Celtic Frost, Slayer, Venom, Carcass, Entombed, Sabbath.
Mike SOS: What's your top 5 metal albums of all time?
Slayer -- Reign in Blood / Hell Awaits (close tie)
Celtic Frost -- Morbid Tales
Carcass -- Symphonies of Sickness
S.O.D. -- Speak English or Die
Morbid Angel -- Blessed are the Sick
Mike SOS: When I'm not playing, I'm...?
Steven: I do web graphic design/ photography for a big museum in Chicago. I also do freelance composing for TV commercials. You've probably heard my music if you watch TV. I've done spots for Bally's Total Fitness, General Motors, Super-Nintendo, etc. It pays the bills. And I watch a lot of horror movies.
Mike SOS: What are some of your current favorite metal bands?
Steven: Newer bands? Usurper, Cianide, High on Fire--
Mike SOS: What was your most memorable show and why? (either playing or attending)
Steven: Probably would have to be the last night of Zoots in Detroit. It was a popular little place for shows in the mid-'90s. 7000 Dying Rats and Anal Cunt played their last show. I've never seen so much destruction in my life. There was a point while we we're playing that I looked out and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was just pure mayhem. I don't think there was a piece of furniture left unbroken. The night ended with the owner on top of the bar with a gun, screaming at everyone to get out or he'll shoot them.
Mike SOS: What's on tap for LOTM? Tour, another CD, video, etc.?
Steven: We're planning to tour as much as we can. I've already got about 7 of the songs for the next record written. It's fucking brutal shit. We definitely don't let up on the onslaught of CARNAGE. As far as a video goes--I'm not sure. I would never want to do a video where we lip sync. It would either be a live vid or maybe something animated.
Mike SOS: How do you feel about the current state of metal music?
Steven: In a weird way, the songs on CARNAGE are a reaction to the current state of metal music. I wasn't really hearing the kind of metal I wanted to hear. So I wanted to make something pure. Not metalcore. Not hardcore. Not stoner rock. Not death-metal. Not doom. Not grind. And sure as hell not nu-metal. FUCKING METAL! Something for the headbangers.
Mike SOS: What's you advice to aspiring musicians?
Steven: Learn carpentry or something: there's too many bands already (just kidding).