There is an infection spreading across this neon soaked landscape, covering it in a darkwave sludge that is oozing straight out of the sewer, and this #SynthPlague has completely consumed Watermelon Banzai today with the release of Unholy Rat King‘s “Wine Into Blood.”
It’s raw, it’s gritty, and although it’s coming was foretold in the unholy scriptures (a wonderfully written blog that explains it’s backstory), ultimately nothing could have prepared you for the auditory assault that would ensue upon its outbreak.
The first track, “Fallen from the Pure of Faith,” is like a psychedelic signal of impending doom. It pulsates, fluctuates, inching ever so closer towards its next victim; the darkness attempts to envelop your brain. It tries to completely take hold in “Proselytized,” and though you try to resist, in the end you can feel the #SynthPlague being to cloud your mind and every thought.
As you enter “The Sacristy,” you feel the sounds of the old world are quickly drowned out, replaced by the haunting melodies of your new reality; you are now officially one with the #SynthPlague. As the newly crowned “Harbinger,” yourself now a plaguebearer, you feel the desire, privilege, and honor to convert more to the cause of the Unholy Rat King; no matter the cost to your own soul.
And it ultimately comes to that because, try as hard as you might, your attempts at forceful persuasion are met with equal force that overwhelm you; you’ve become a “Supplicant Sacrifice” as you hear the church bells ring in time with your last dying breaths. As your soul spirals through the darkness, taking a “Shortcut Through Hell,” that familiar pulsating sound of uneasiness returns… followed by something all too reminiscent of chiptunes? Was it all just a game?
Perhaps you better play it all over again to make sure… but not before pressing start on the remix to one of Unholy Rat King’s earlier songs, “Activation Sequence,” masterfully crafted by FacexHugger. Overall, this is an infectious release from the Unholy Rat King, who has put together an impressive collection of dark and heavy synth work. This might be his first extended sermon, but the hymns contained within still hit you hard and leave a lasting impression, showing that the King of Rats knows how to put you under his spell.
If you have yet to pick this release up, I suggest that you do so now, for these is no escaping the #SynthPlague! I enjoyed this release so much myself that, not only did I preorder the album, but I also asked his Unholiness to sit down with me for an interview of which he so graciously accepted below…
Watermelon Banzai: On the lead up to the release of your album you created a blog which had posts detailing it’s backstory, so I’m curious: which came first, the music or the story? Or did they go hand-in-hand? What was the creative process like in in bringing them together? How did you create the Unholy Rat King persona?
Unholy Rat King: Honestly the first few songs were just that; they were something to see if I could make music and get people listening to it. It wasn’t until “Activation Sequence” that I started forming the idea in my head that I wanted to build a story for my EP and tie in my first few songs. So I took the idea for the EP and brought that to my first 3 singles.
As for the persona, it started as just wanting a name that was different than what other people were doing. I like dark synth, thought “Rat King” was a creepy sounding name, and it is a real thing where rats become connected by the tail. I found it weird and kind of disgusting.
I wanted “Rat King,” but it was already a rap collective. I know! I’ll add the word “Unholy,” that’s dark synth! “Wine into Blood” is really the building of the story that I want to go along with the name.
Watermelon Banzai: Who is the man behind the rat? What’s your backstory? Have you ever eaten Ratatouille?
Unholy Rat King: I am a 30 something desk jockey who has been an avid music fan and did some heavy metal bands back in high school. I’ve also been in the military for the past 8 years and that takes up a bit of my time as well. I have been married to my awesome wife of 10 years and just adopted a new puppy. Making music has been my new creative hobby and something I will keep up as long as I can. I have had Ratatouille, but it was in a military MRE so I don’t know if that counts, haha!
Watermelon Banzai: How did you get involved in the synthwave scene? Are there any fellow acts or artists that you recommend or were an influence? If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be, and why?
Unholy Rat King: Well, I mostly listened to heavy metal and started spreading out into EDM/Dubstep, Chiptunes, and Spotify recommended Perturbator. I was like, “what is this glorious business?”, and then I found out there was a whole scene! I jumped in with both feet.
I started searching out synthwave, coming across Vampire Step-Dad and Hexenkraft, and they began recommending other music to me. That was when I knew this was for me and something that I wanted to try for myself. It is hard to pick just one influence or recommendation because when I hear synthwave I’m like, “Yeah, that’s the business, I like it,” I don’t dislike much if any of the music I am hearing nowadays.
I have a super cool remix from FacexHugger on the “Wine into Blood” EP, which was super cool for me since I really dig his music. I would love to collaborate with anyone that would be interested in doing so. I feel like this scene likes to have fun and I’ve made some cool internet friends that I would love to meet and work with someday.
Watermelon Banzai: What kind of music do you enjoy outside of synthwave? Any recommendations or influences?
Unholy Rat King: Like I said it’s mostly metal. I have been listening to metal as long as I can remember. Like at the age of five when I ruined my dad’s Black Sabbath, “We Sold Our Soul for Rock and Roll,” tape because I kept playing back “Iron Man” so many times. I like everything from death metal to tough guy hardcore. I am trying to be more eclectic and take influences from other places. I really enjoy movie soundtracks.
I think deep down that is where my love of synthwave came from was old action/sci-fi/horror films. For me influences are bands that use odd sounds like Entheos, Black Tongue, Arsonists Get All the Girls, and Horse the Band. If you can’t tell from my music, I love oddly disturbing sounds, haha.
Watermelon Banzai: What kind of equipment do you use to create your music? Is there any that you have your eye on that you’d like to utilize in the future? Are you self taught or were you instructed?
Unholy Rat King: Right now I am all in the box software synths and a 25 key Alesis MIDI. Definitely have my eye on a bigger MIDI. I thought 25 keys would be enough, since I have no piano skills, but I am trying to actually play parts of my songs and that makes it difficult. I also need to upgrade my DAW, I got a limited version of Ableton with my MIDI controller and it only allows 8 tracks which just isn’t enough. I would love to incorporate modular synthesizers in the future. I have no experience with them but I love the way they sound and try to emulate them a bit in my music.
I am mostly self taught. I played saxophone in middle and high school, and wish I had kept up with it now that synthwave artists are hard up for sax players, haha! Like I said, I did do a few metal bands as well but I did vocals, so mostly lyric writing, and I think that is where my need for the blog came in with the storytelling. So I have a small musical background from a while ago but what I am doing now is mostly Greek to me.
Watermelon Banzai: For some ungodly reason the Unholy Rat King has been exiled from his Kingdom, stranded on a deserted island, and can only bring a lifetime supply of one type of cheese. What kind of cheese is that and why is it the best cheese in the world?
Unholy Rat King: Haha, this is the best question ever! I like gouda, especially a smoked gouda. There is just something about it when it hits your tastebuds that I don’t think I could live without. I get gouda on anything when it is offered.
Watermelon Banzai: Even though your album just dropped, what’s next for the Unholy Rat King as he infests the land with his unique #synthplague, and the listeners become converts to his Kingdom?
Unholy Rat King: Yes, #synthplague! I want to make a longer album. I really want to keep progressing, learning, and pushing the boundaries of synthwave. I feel I have come a long way since I started and may either re-record my first few songs with the skills I have now or just leave them for people to see where I have come from. I am eyeing a few covers I want to do for fun and hopefully some more collaborations in the future. Possibly a live show if I can figure that whole beast out.
Watermelon Banzai: What is inside your perfect burrito? Also, what toppings go on your perfect pizza?
Unholy Rat King: So the perfect burrito I would say is a local place which has one called the “Rasputin.” Good occult name. It is everything on their menu smushed into two tortillas. I’ve eaten it twice and won a sticker each time, haha! Pizza is my go to food. I love pizza so much I have a pizza tattoo! I blame the Ninja Turtles. Favorite toppings are bacon, blue cheese, asparagus, and tomatoes. Again, local place that did this and I was blown away!