1. Hi Sean thanks for taking the time for this interview. Why don’t you introduce everyone to Last Rites? How did this band start?
Last Rites is currently a one man metal band/project/enigma. Basically, I do all of my own stunts. I hate putting genres or labels on what type of music that I produce, but I will say that I write my music to be both intelligent and contemplative. Genre-wise, I tend to hover around the thrash metal area with some excursions into death metal and doom metal.
Last Rites began as a musical outlet for me and as an offering of my talents to God which He has given me. While I was discerning whether to go into recording music, I decided to let God take me just one step at a time to guide me with this project. Little by little, God provided the tools so that I could go record music. And then Last Rites was born around the middle of 2008.
2. Is there any significance to the name of the band?
The name of the band is central to the message that I want to portray in my music. First off, Last Rites is the common name for the sacrament (or rite) known as “the healing of the sick” (based on James 5:13-15). This ritual used to only be performed for those preparing to die. It is somewhat of a last chance to receive Jesus before they die.
How that fits in with the band name is that I want to share the news of Christ’s love and mercy. Take for instance the thief who died on the cross with Jesus. This soul, by all other accounts, would have been condemned to hell. But with the last hours of life, he accepted Jesus and, after his death, was taken to paradise (See Luke 23:39-43). No matter how late in life anyone is, God is so merciful to those who seek him.
3. Who are your influences both musically and lyrically?
Lyrically, I often look to the Bible, writings of the Saints, and other books and works about living the Christian life. I also look at the interior conversations that I have had and what I see happening in the world. For example, I paraphrased the lyrics for “Lorica” on my “Dark Night of the Soul” from “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” which is a traditional Irish prayer attributed to St. Patrick. Another example, “Within the Fire of Your Soul” broaches the subject of the atrocity of abortion which weighs heavy on my heart. Lyrics are the real central part of my work and what makes what I do Christian metal.
Musically, in a word, I’m eclectic. The music that has influenced me personally the most is classical music. I studied music in college and was utterly fascinated with composers of the late 1800s and early 1900s. However, JS Bach will always remain my hero – the greatest composer that ever lived and a truly devout Christian.
But my sound is probably most heavily and easily discernibly influenced from Metallica and Megadeth. Also I pull thoughts and ideas from earlier bands like Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin. Lately, I have been on a doom kick and you might tell some My Silent Wake influence as well.
4. What is the mission of Last Rites?
With Last Rites, I aim to spread the word of God’s mercy and love; that it is never too late to return to Him or get to know Him more profoundly.
5. Your first release “Extreme Unction” was released in 2009 but why the free release on this ep?
My thoughts were that I didn’t want to charge for it since I was just getting started. It is easier to check out a band if you can have some free music. My goal is not to make a ton of money but to make my music accessible to folks. And even now, I try to keep costs as low as possible to make the music affordable for folks, and I still offer free music.
6. That ep was a very bold up in your face Thrash album. Could you share with us a bit about the lyrical content of it?
Virtual flesh talks about the problems and evils of pornography. Having seen these problems firsthand, I felt called to write a song about these problems. It destroys the dignity as God’s children that we as humans have.
Degradation of Humanity speaks further of the issues of how society has degraded us as humans. Society has often relegated babies as a choice rather than actual people and the elderly as a drain on our resources rather than the wisdom and legacy that they hold.
Anima Christi translated means “Soul of Christ”. This is a prayer written by St. Ignatius of Loyola and is very beautiful.
St. Patrick’s Day Jam was released after the first release of the EP/Demo. Lyrically, I took part of the St. Patrick’s breastplate and put it to music. Well, actually I did the music and then fit lyrics into it. Funny thing is that the song was written, recorded, and mixed on 3/17/09.
7. In 2010 you released “Dark Night Of The Soul” How was this album different from the ep?
Basically it was longer. No, but really, the album is more progressive and broadened my artistic horizons to play with different song structures, different scales, and different vocalizations. In a way it was an experiment, but I kept everything within a thrash metal soup of sorts, so to speak.
8. Not many know this but that was released by Nokternal Hemizphear how did you get hooked up with them for that album?
Technically, NH and I had a distribution agreement. So, it wasn’t technically an NH release. Think along the lines of Apostisy and Krig. They both are not NH releases but were distributed by NH.
Jason over at NH and I are good friends and he offered to work on the distribution of the album. I have been a customer for a long time and we had gotten to know each other a little better over the years. When I told him that I was working on a full length release, He offered to get the CD out there for me.
9. That album has a lot of very good songs but could you share with us what the songs “The Exorcism” and “Song From A Child” are about?
Ah…a very insightful question. There is an interesting link between these two that I think few may have caught, so we will see if I can answer this:
“The Exorcism” is the story of a soul that is possessed and then, through the length of the song, is released from bondage of the devil. Much of the imagery I use in the lyrics is from Fr. Gabriele Amorth’s “An Exorcist Tells His Story”. Fr. Amorth was the chief exorcist of Rome and wrote about some of the experiences that he saw and was told to him by those that were possessed. To be possessed is very dark and far removed from the world. Beauty is perverted into sheer ugliness. However, slowly the light of Christ comes into the soul to release them from the bondage of the devil. I describe the best that I can what it would be like: bound, helpless, and only having God to call upon.
In the story that I wrote, the possessed person feels as though he is chained inside of a cave. He sees all of the beauty of the world perverted into an ugly mess. Helpless to act and be free. However, a memory comes back to him of a melody of his childhood. This memory helps him to remember the faint faith of his youth. He then “tries” calling out to Jesus for him to be freed. Slowly a light grows and warms the coldness of the cave. This is the warmness of Jesus’ love (and if you can catch the slowly fading-in synth, that is the musical depiction of this light). Eventually, the light is so bright, blinding, and burning to the skin. The guy then struggles against these bonds and breaks free. I also put into the lyrics about the blood and water from the side of Christ. This is to depict Christ washing and reclaiming this soul for Himself. This is direct reference to the blood and water from the side of Christ when the spear was driven into Jesus after He died on the Cross and a reference to the Divine Mercy of God.
Now…The Song From a Child is a rendition of the melody that the guy who was possessed heard. Obviously, this is Amazing Grace played on bass. Personally, I grew up in a Christian home, but not overtly devout. But the one thing that I heard a lot of was hymns, and I picked this to be the one song that I would hear if I was ever in that spot.
10. How have the sales of that album done and have you had a lot of feedback on it?
Meh. Sales have been decent (could be happier, Lord! J ) but not bad. Feedback has been kind of mixed. Most folks that talk to me are quite impressed with it. But I have had my fair share of naysayers. But I feel rather positive about the response.
11. Well you have a new ep coming soon titled “I Am Dismas” and the musical direction has changed somewhat. What is the reason for that change and what are some of the new elements that you are bringing into this album?
The musical direction is somewhat different, but I would not say this is where I am going from now on. In fact once everything is finished up, we will have four unique pieces of metal music. I have a thrash song on there (“Victory’s Assured”), an I-don’t-know-what-to-call-it song that is based off of one of the longest words in the English language (Floccinaucinihilipilification), a Ludwig van Beethoven cover (Pathetique) and a slower heavy song (I am Dismas).
Real quick, you know the thief that died on the cross mentioned earlier. Early texts gave him a name of Dismas (whether it really is or not, don’t know – but he needs a name rather than “some dude”). With this album, I have borrowed something from someone to finish it; none of these songs are 100% original. So effectively, on an album bearing the name of “Dismas” I have “stolen” (with permission and legal right of course) for each song J. When it comes out, I’ll see if you can see what was borrowed.
12. Will this also be release on Nokternal Hemizphear?
No. This will be a rather low key release being digital only. However, if there is enough demand, I have some bonus tracks that I can put on for a physical release. In that case, if Jason wants to do it, I would be up for it. We will find out when we get to that point.
13. I am very intrigued by the title track “I Am Dismas” what inspired this song?
This has an interesting story to it. Late last year, I had already written and recorded all the music for an unnamed song. At this point I was not even thinking of doing an EP, I just wanted to make some music. So, one morning, I asked God what it should be about. I opened the Bible, put my finger down, and there was the story of the crucifixion. The overriding musical motive for the song I did was an ascending A minor scale. Then it made sense! The main musical motive is the sound of that soul rising to heaven; of Dismas being with Christ in paradise.
So then lyrically, I wrote the song from Dismas’ perspective. I tried to perceive what the crucifixion would be like for Dismas. He died after Jesus, so he had two broken legs and darkness was coming in. I imagined that it would be quite cold as he waited for death to claim him. To be honest, sounds like a hellish way to live your last hours. So the song is telling the last little bit of his story.
14. So are there any future plans for another full length album in the future?
Definitely are! I feel like I always have an album’s worth of material behind me. It may be 2012, it may be 2013, don’t know. I also have several concurrent projects going on so we will see when. But you know, if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. So at very least, in God’s timing, if it is His will, there will be another full-length Last Rites album.
15. Well Thank you again Sean for you time do you have any final words for the fans?
Well thanks Larry for this interview and just want to thank everyone for listening not only to my music but to all Christian music and supporting Christian artist. It’s kind of difficult to put your faith out there sometimes, but thanks for the support and please pray for all Christian artists so if your listening to a song you know it might be good to say a little prayer for them we all need that help.
Interviewed by Larry Versaw