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Interview with Ruben Alvarez of Upon a Burning Body

Ruben Alvarez, lead guitar player for Upon a Burning Body, was kind enough to sit down to an interview (and help babysit my one and two-year old) the afternoon before their show in Pittsburgh.


ME: So, how’s the tour been going? You’ve had some sold out shows already.
Ruben: The tours been going great. Yeah, the first two show were sold out and one that was really close.

ME: Staying warm? I know it’s been pretty cold.
Ruben: This tour’s been freezing, man.


ME: You guys were just in town, right? Mid-December?
Ruben: Yeah…
ME: Who were you guys with?
Ruben: We were with, uh, who were we with last time? Whitechapel I believe.


ME: How’s this tour been different now that you’re co-headlining?
Ruben: Yeah, yeah, it’s different. Switching up every day. It’s definitely fun…it’s cool to see…especially because it’s our homies, you know what I mean? Veil of Maya are really good friends of ours and label mates and then Volumes too they’re just great added to the package.


ME: I haven’t seen, well, the only band from this tour that I’ve seen live is Gideon on the Bleeding Through farewell tour a year or so ago…
Ruben: Oh, yeah, I remember that show too, we were on that tour as well…
ME: Not here though, that would have been a great show…
Ruben: Oh, no, no we did a tour with Bleeding Through on one of their last shows.


ME: So the tour has been different then, since you are co-headlining. You’ve been able to call the shots?
Ruben: Yeah, finally man. It’s been so long since we’ve done our own headliner. The last one was, umm, Betraying the Martyrs and I, the Breather. That was like…years ago. Well, two years ago. So, yeah, this is our first time back headlining and having our own say and having our own way, so that’s been good.
ME: So, you’re headlining tonight?
Ruben: Yeah, we’re headlining tonight.


ME: Lots of good parties on this tour?
Ruben: Yeah, were a Coldcock (Whiskey) band, so they’re always hooking us up.


ME: So you guys (Danny, Ruben, Sal) have been together for ten years now, right?
Ruben: Yep, going on ten years.
ME: So, how did you guys get together?
Ruben: We were all in, what it was was we are all in local bands and basically, we kind of hit a dead end and we decided to start a new band and it was each member from different local bands and we basically created, like, this super-group. So, we created Upon a Burning Body and it kind of took off locally, then in Texas then we realized we had something, yeah…


ME: So, what about your influences?
Ruben: Me? (Iron) Maiden was my first metal band. That was it. I actually played bass first (for UABB) and Maiden was the first band that I started jammin’ and started learning and it really took me to the next level. Then I was like, what else is there? So, it’s cool, because I started right, I started with all of the old bands first, then all of the new bands later – all the newer metal later. Oh, Boston, too, I like Boston…classic rock.


ME: You’ve been playing guitar for three or four years now, right?
Ruben: Yeah, with the band, yeah, bass first for three or four as well and switched.

ME: What guitars do you play?
Ruben: Halo, Halo Guitars. They’re a new company actually and we just got with them, but they hooked us up really nicely.
ME: All custom…
Ruben: Yeah, yeah, all custom.
ME: I’ve read and seen in interviews about you guys “growing up in the hood” and how unapologetic and proud of that to get where are to do what you love to do and get out of that…
Ruben: It’s just to prove that hard work can get you where you want to go, you don’t have to have the upper hand, you don’t have to have a lot of money. It’s all it was, hard work. I was doing a summer job, an internship, paid internship and I bought our first box of (merchandise) and we just started flippin’ it from there and it took off.


ME: So, what’s the music scene like in San Antonio?
Ruben: It’s amazing. For me I think the south of Texas in general are a little bit more passionate. They don’t get it as much as the East Coast and the West Coast, there’s just so many bands and so much going on in those two places…
ME: You always hear about Austin (Texas)…
Ruben: Yeah, Austin too, but Austin is more Indie. The farther south you go, the more it gets into metal and into rock.
ME: So when you guys got together (in 2005) you put together an EP (Genocide), was that a “right of way” thing or…
Ruben: No, we had been a band for a while, we had released one previous to that, but it was just a local thing, it was free, we’d just give it away. It helped us book shows and what not.


ME: So, it was another five years before you released your first album, The World is Ours, is that when you got signed?
Ruben: Yeah, it was about our fifth or sixth year, it took a while. We’ve been going professionally for four or five years now.


ME: So, the new album, The World is My Enemy Now, you have to be pleased. What was it, number 39 on the Billboard Charts?
Ruben: Yeah, yeah…
ME: To me, it’s always a little bit surprising when “real” metal or metal that doesn’t get much airplay makes it way up the charts, something other than a Linkin Park or a Slipknot…
Ruben: Yeah, it’s heavy, definitely a heavier sound.
ME: Do you feel this album is a natural progression compared to the other two?
Ruben: Yeah, yeah. It was definitely something that was planned. We wanted to become a bigger band and we saw the opportunity to become a real metal band opposed to a core, kind of scene-y (band), you know what I mean? That’s what we want to do, we want to be a band that sticks around and that’s what it comes down to –the longevity in the metal world.


ME: You recorded the first two albums in New Jersey, but the new one was recorded in California…
Ruben: No, no, all of them were recorded in New Jersey, it’s just, uh, the same producer (Will Putney), it’s just with this third one we went to LA to work on some vocals and stuff.
ME: Yeah, with this one, it seems…well the first two were a little more…
Ruben: …heavy…
ME: Yeah…maybe raw, I don’t want to say that as a bad thing, but the new one seems a little more…tighter maybe, I don’t know…
Ruben: Yeah, it’s a lot more real. There are no themes on it, so it’s kind of just what we wanted to do.


ME: You’ve had three albums released with a total of 33 songs, but you’ve already had six guest vocalists on those albums. Is that something that you sought out or had people say, “We want to work with you guys?”
Ruben: Yeah, it’s pretty much just been friends, just asking if they wanted to be on our record and record some stuff, just hang out and record.
ME: …and Ice-T?
Ruben: Yeah, Ice-T, that came about from Mayhem (Festival), just hanging out. It’s fresh only about a month or so.


ME: So what’s coming up next? You’re on this tour until the end of January.
Ruben: Yeah, until the end of the month, then we have a bunch of radio rock fests…
ME: …Rock on the Range…
Ruben: Yeah, we got that one, the one in Florida, South by So What, and Never Say Never in Texas.


ME: You mentioned that you’re expecting a baby girl in April, how is that going to change things?
Ruben: Oh, man big time…
ME: …just make sure you keep them spread out a little further than these two if you’re having another…


ME: Anything you want to get out there or tell your fans?
Ruben: Just get out there and pick up the new record, The World is My Enemy Now, and just make sure you come check us out at one of the shows near you.
ME: Well, I think we’ve already taken up enough of your time, especially considering you’ve had to babysit my children too.
Ruben: (Laughs) No, it’s all good, man.
ME: Thanks again and I’ll see you tonight at some point.
Ruben: No problem, any time.


Check out the new album, The World is My Enemy Now and catch Upon a Burning Body on the Slow Your Troll and Know Your Role tour co-headlining with Veil of Maya through the end of the month.

About Johnny Bell

A professionally trained freelance photographer and a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in Media and Professional Communications with a concentration in Digital Media and Corporate/Community Relations along with a Film Studies minor. He's married and a father of two. Loves concert photography, Formula 1, and the Montréal Canadiens.

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