Being a Cleveland native, I am not only proud of the diverse metal scene in Cleveland but I also often find myself frustrated by how often Cleveland metal is overlooked. Bands like Embalmer, Blood of Christ, Decrepit, Soulless, and Ringworm all hail from Cleveland and help to mold the unique tone of Ohio metal. Matt Sorg found himself at the center of the Cleveland metal movement long ago, and has been a part of numerous bands, including Blood of Christ, Soulless, Decrepit, Ringworm, and the recent project, Shed the Skin. I spoke with Matt about the future of Ringworm, the new album, and Shed the Skin. Here’s what he had to say.
Underworld- First of all, how are you?
Matt Sorg- I’m good. Thanks.
Underworld- Ringworm just did a split with Early Graves that’s set to be released in April. What was it like working with the guys in Early Graves?
Matt Sorg- Our manager set up that split for us. We didn’t have any contact with Early Graves. We recorded our tracks here at Bad Back Studios with Dave Johnson and then sent them out to Joel Grind for the mastering.
We recorded four songs, two originals and two covers. One original and our cover of Motorhead’s Iron Fist are coming out on the Early Graves split and the other original and a cover of Venom’s Poison are coming out on a split with a new band called Brain Tentacles. They’re a really heavy experimental band that has Aaron Dallison (Keelhaul) on bass, Bruce Lamont (Yakuza) on saxophone and Dave Witte (Municipal Waste) on drums. That one is coming out soon on A389 Records.
Underworld- The single was heavy as hell! Were you pretty happy with the outcome of the split?
Matt Sorg- Yeah, both splits came out really good. We also just finished mixing a new full length record at Spider Studios with Ben Schigel that just got sent out to be mastered and James is finishing up the artwork now. That will be out on Relapse hopefully in the fall of this year
Underworld- That’s great! So, being in a hardcore/thrash band, what are your thoughts on the division that’s developed within the genres? Are you a fan of some of the newer bands that are incorporating hardcore elements into their sound?
Matt Sorg- I don’t listen to much newer music so I’m really not the best guy to answer this. I’m old. Haha. I like Thin Lizzy, Discharge, Voivod and Motorhead.
Underworld- Fair enough. Is Ringworm currently on tour or planning a tour?
Matt Sorg- We go out for a month long US tour with Unearth starting on March 18.
Underworld- Ringworm has been playing shows and touring for years so you must have a ton of stories. What’s the funniest thing that happened to you guys during a show or on tour?
Matt Sorg- There are a lot of good ones over the years. In 2001 on the Birth Is Pain US tour, we played a show in Savannah Georgia. James and I got really hammered. James puked on the bar and we were just obnoxious and we got in the van and left to drive and find a hotel. Dora was driving the van and Frank was in the front passenger seat. I passed out on the floor behind Frank and James passed out in one of the van seats. Dora hit a bump, I woke up and immediately puked on the pillow that I was using. Frank turned around and said “did you puke?” I said no because I didn’t want Chris to know I puked in his van but Frank said “bullshit. I can smell it.”
Anyway, I pushed the pillow aside and passed out again. When they found a hotel, they couldn’t get either of us to wake up and so they left us in the van. It was mid summer in the south and so it was crazy hot! It had to be like 95 degrees when the sun came up. I woke up and somehow James and I had switched spots in the night and I was in his seat and he was on the floor with his head in the pillow that I had puked in.
The smell in the van was just whiskey, sweat and vomit and I woke him up and he lifted his head up and his hair was caked with my puke. We were totally sweaty and dehydrated. We both felt like death and had no idea what room the other guys were in or anything but the scene was ridiculous. As shitty as we felt, we couldn’t help but laugh.
We’ve been lucky enough to tour with some of our favorite bands like Voivod, Napalm Death, Agnostic Front, Mindshare, Eyehategod, Macabre and a bunch of others that we’ve made friends with. We’ve had a lot of good times on the road and there’s still more to come.
Underworld- Haha! Great story! Anyway, I’d like to talk about your other project, Shed the Skin, for a moment. How did everything get started with that?
Matt Sorg- October of 2012 marked the 15th year anniversary of our friend Tom Rojack’s death and Duane Morris wanted to put together a memorial show at the Jigsaw on the date. Since I had been in Blood of Christ with Tom, Duane asked me to help him put together a Blood of Christ tribute set where he would do the Tom role of guitar and vocals.
I asked Ed Stephens who had been in Civil Disobedience with Tom back in the day and Kyle Severn who we’d all known since back in the early 90’s when he was in a band with Aaron Dallison called Escalation Anger to fill out the lineup.
BOC also used to use some keyboards here and there so we got my friend Brian Boston who played the keys in FROM THE DEPTHS to play also. We rehearsed a few times and then the show was just fucking killer and a few weeks after that, Kyle got a hold of me and said how much fun he’d had playing those old songs with us and he thought it would be a good idea to write some new material in that same BOC vein and start a new band. Since it all started as a tribute to Tom, I thought we should name the band after one of the BLOOD OF CHRIST songs so we ended up calling it SHED THE SKIN
Underworld- The demo is fantastic! So heavy! Was it your intention to recreate that old school, Cleveland sound, or did it just sort of happen organically?
Matt Sorg- It definitely was intentional. We set out to kind of recreate that BOC vibe. I had been in BOC, Decrepit, From The Depths and Dead of Night before joining Ringworm and playing that BLOOD OF CHRIST set at Tom’s show really made me miss playing that old death metal style that I spent so many years playing in my 20’s.
This band is a way for me and all of us to relive that era. Obviously, Kyle still plays death metal with INCANTATION but for me it’s a return to my roots and for him, it’s a different style of playing than what he does in Incantation.
Underworld- What happened with Duane Morris? How did you guys end up working with Ash Thomas, your current vocalist?
Matt Sorg- When Kyle said we should start a band, I originally thought we would just keep the lineup from the BOC tribute set and that’s what we set out to do but we recorded the music for the 7” sometime in early 2013 and it sat for a really long time waiting for Duane to lay down the vocals.
After months and months of waiting, Kyle and I decided that if we wanted to move forward with this, we would have to find someone else to do the vocals. I think Duane just had too much on his plate. He’s gonna come up on stage with us to sing a couple BOC songs at the Hells Headbash.
We knew Ash for a really long time and Kyle asked him if he was interested and he was so we sent him the tracks and he sent us back the two songs with vocals within just a few days. We were really happy with what he did so I asked him to put a guitar solo in the song Rebirth Through Brimstone and he did and then we sent the tracks to Dan Swano to mix and master it.
Underworld- I was incredibly excited to hear that Shed the Skin was just confirmed to play Hells Headbash III. Does this mean that new Shed the Skin material is underway?
Matt Sorg- Yes, we have a full length record that’s being pressed right now. It was also recorded at Bad Back Studios with Dave Johnson and Dan Swano did the mixing and mastering again.
James (HF) Bulloch did the album cover art and layout and it looks fucking amazing! We wanted James’ art on the 7” and the LP because he did the BLOOD OF CHRIST artwork that we used for the I.N.R.I. 7” cover and the art for our 93 demo and since this band started as a tribute and sort of a continuation of that, we really wanted his art for these records.
There are 12 songs on the record, one of which is an old BLOOD OF CHRIST tune called Innermost Sanctuary that Tom and I wrote together in 1993 that never got recorded until now. I remembered how to play the song all these years later and I also remembered the title but we didn’t have the lyrics anymore so we had Chuck Sherwood from Incantation write new lyrics for it that fit the song title.
Chuck wrote all the SHED THE SKIN lyrics for us. Back in the BOC days, Tom used to just fake the lyrics right up until we were in the studio recording the songs and then he’d sit down and jot down some stuff from the Satanic Bible and fill in the lyrics that he’d been faking up until then so it probably never actually had finished lyrics anyway until now. The record is called Harrowing Faith and will be out this summer on Hells Headbangers.
Underworld- Any other exciting plans for the future of the band?
Matt Sorg- We hope to play some more festival gigs and maybe a few shows here and there when RINGWORM and IINCANTATION’s schedules allow time for it.
On top of the two Ringworm split 7” EP’s and the SHED THE SKIN and RINGWORM LP’s that are about to be released.
Hells Headbangers is also putting out a deluxe gate-fold vinyl version of the first FROM THE DEPTHS release. It was originally two demos released on one CD by Duane’s Dismal Records label in 1996.
I started that band with Jim Konya who went by the stage name Malcolm Judas Anthony in FTD. Both of the demos that Jim sang on were on the original CD and now for the first time are being released on vinyl. Jim already worked on the layout with Hells Headbangers before he died.
This was a record he had been talking about and working towards releasing now for many years. I really wish it would have come out while he was here to see it but I know he’d be happy that it’s finally getting released. It’s set to be released on Jim’s birthday, April 21st. They should be available at the Jim tribute show on April 23rd at The Agora.
Be sure to check out Shed the Skin’s new EP, entitled Rebirth Through Brimstone on Bandcamp. You can buy merchandise through Hells Headbangers. Ringworm’s newest split is available for streaming on YouTube. You can also stream Ringworm’s material on Bandcamp on merchandise through the band’s label, Relapse Records.