In September of 2011 Ritual Quarantine from Buffalo NY would play their first gig. In the next eight months their guitarist would be shot and paralyzed, their drummer would become a ghost to his friends and band mates, then one of their singers would die (at only 29 years old). Still, the band pushed on to play their second gig ever on July 14, 2012 (opening for Deceased). Here's a brief interview with guitarist Tony Lorenzo.
Doug Luke and Tony; 1st Ritual Quarantine gig
Sept. 2011 (photo - Brian Pattison)
GT - For those who don't immediately recognize your name, can you tell us a bit about your musical background (former bands and such)?
Tony - Just started out as a kid trying to add my own couple of riffs to the local music scene. In 2004 I started Sons Of Azrael with my best friends and somehow got a 4 album deal with Metal Blade Records, you know every kid's dream, every band's nightmare honestly. After touring with Beneath the Massacre, Vital Remains, Crematorium, Pyrexia, Unearth and God Forbid we thought we had it all figured out but due to internal conflict and drug issues with the singer I left the band. After that I joined a band called Vessel on bass guitar which was a blast but short lived. Then I started a power trio called Black Tongue which is still active and just really fun to do any time I get a chance. Then finally Ritual Quarantine in 2011 with old and new faces... it's been a wild ride!
GT - Late 2010 or early 2011 I asked Seplophile if they would be the backing band for Kam Lee at A Day of Death 2011, very soon after they learned guitarist Matt Backlas would be unable to do the show. Greg (guitar) then approached you to fill in for both the Kam Lee and Seplophile sets. Was it an easy decision to say yes to doing both?
Tony - It was as easy as breathing. Those guys are my brothers and I've known them and jammed with them for years. The only new face for me jamming wise was Sean ( bass ) but I've also known him for nearly a decade between shows and friends so yea right off the bat, just a flat out easy decision for me.
Tony playing with Seplophile at A Day of Death 2011 (photo - Maga Sanchez)
GT - How difficult was it for you to learn both the Seplophile and Kam Lee sets? At any point in the learning process did you feel any pressure knowing it would be the last time Kam would be playing Massacre tunes and you would be a part of it?
Tony - To be honest, I had not heard much about Massacre and the back story of Kam Lee so I felt no pressure. A few days of listening to the material and doing a bit of research I realized how significant it was to be a part of it and then the big picture really hit me. It became surreal very fast! Learning the Massacre stuff was very fun. The Seplophile stuff, not so much! haha. Those guys have killer, FAST as lightning riffs. So, yea it was a task, but my life in music was full of tasks so I wasn't about to shy away from giving it my very best.
GT - July 13, 2011...I picked Kam up at the airport and took him right to practice with you guys. How cool was it to break into "Dawn of Eternity" and look over to see Kam doing vocals while you played?
Tony - The whole time up to then we had been jamming along to Greg's ipod. When the real deal arrived I was kind of confused. A not so tall, Asian man walks in with basketball shorts and flip flops on!! But, he was very nice and right away I could tell this meant a great deal to him. As soon as he took the mic, I got goosebumps. He was seriously the best death metal vocalist I'd ever heard let alone worked with! Plus the record we were jamming was legendary so I felt like a little kid that day. I'm sure it's safe to say that we all did in our own little ways.
Tony and Kam at the 1st rehearsal on July 13, 2011 (photo - Brian Pattison)
GT - July 16 (A Day of Death) finally arrives with Seplophile's set early in the day. How did that set go for you? Feel good playing those songs with friends even though you knew it was a one-time thing?
Tony - That set was really fun because it was mine and Greg's second time sharing the stage that year already (the first being the Sons Of Azrael reunion in April for a cancer benefit) and it just felt right. I felt I did a good job at helping them shine as a new local powerhouse that didn't come to fuck around that day. I was happy to help.
GT - A bunch of bands played in-between the Seplophile and Kam Lee sets at A Day of Death. Did any particular band/set stand out for you?
Tony - Derketa was fucking awesome! Those gals can throw down and I really got into them that day. Then Deceased!! That was my first time hearing about them let alone seeing them! one hell of a live classic band.
Day 2 of Kam Lee rehearsals (July 14, 2011) - (photo - Brian Pattison)
GT - Finally, the moment arrives for you guys and Kam to take the stage. As promoter and the guy who asked you guys to be his backing band I felt a little bit of nerves. I knew you had all been in previous touring bands and would be professionals, but did worry about about how the old schoolers would react and even more importantly to me, how you guys would perform. My mind would put at ease nearly right away as you raced around the stage. Did you feel any nerves as the intro played?
Tony - Not at all! It was just another day at the office and I feel we showed up and destroyed it properly. To be honest, I think we sounded better than whoever's going around calling themselves Massacre right now, lol no hard feelings guys, whoever you may be.
GT - In the days immediately after A Day of Death, Greg (Seplophile) told me you had been rejuvenated and were looking to start a band. Ritual Quarantine (the band you would form) was comprised of mainly people from the punk and hardcore scenes. What made you decide to approach the people you did to fill the various roles in the band? Care to give a little info about each member (for those outside of Buffalo who may not know them or their previous/current/various bands)?
Tony - To be honest, it kind of all just fell into place. The SOA reunion got me and Derrick (drums) jamming again and we wrote a bunch of songs in like a week I think lol. Then we got in touch with Britt Wagner (bass), a super all around talented girl who's been in a crapload of other various Buffalo bands in different positions. Then Jessika Marvin and Doug Luke on vox. Those two come from somewhat legendary backgrounds so I felt the lineup at that point was rock fucking solid.
1st Ritual Quarantine gig (Sept. 24, 2011) - (photo - Brian Pattison)
GT - Ritual Quarantine seemed to get off to a fairly quick start with a facebook page up and songs posted in seemingly no time. A gig was quickly announced for September. Did you at all think you were moving too fast in scheduling a gig after being a band for such a short time?
Tony - Nope. We had all done this enough times to know how to do it right. Everything was very carefully planned. I did all the recordings and quickly Jess and Doug had lyrics. It was a very natural and seamless beginning to a project. Probably the best I had ever been a part of.
GT - Debut gig comes and RQ plays a short but great set. It impressed the hell out of me for sure. Were you happy with your set that night and the crowd's reaction to it?
Tony - I LOVED that night man. It was just perfect in every way. Short and sweet and the kids loved it. I was very ready to get this band rolling the right way!
RITUAL QUARANTINE'S FIRST GIG
GT - Seemingly right away there was talk of new songs and new recording, it appeared Ritual Quarantine was primed for a quick rise within the Buffalo music scene, when that fateful night in October changed everything. Care to say what happened in your own words?
Tony - Well, a friend and I were walking to the store which was only a few blocks from my house and we were approached by a guy with a gun and he told us to give him what we had on us and then that's when I saw the shot.. and I hit the ground immediately and the dude ran away. Needless to say life hasn't been the same since. Karma is a bitch though man and that little punk will find himself in a hole someday.
GT - I knew the moment I heard about it from Greg that I would be organizing a benefit for you, but wanted to wait several weeks to see how things went before I started planning it. Almost right away other benefits were planned, including one in Pittsburgh and one at DBGB's in Buffalo. Were you surprised at the show of support that you received from the metal community worldwide?
Tony - Of course I was. I'm a very humble person and I've never considered myself of any huge significance to the local scene but the show of support from family and friends immediately was just unbelievable and actually was how I began to cope with my injuries right away. I felt truly blessed and still do to this day there is nothing better than an entire community getting together to support one of their own. If it were anyone else instead of me, I would be on the front lines for that person!
The crowd at a Nov 2011 benefit for Tony at DBGB's (photo - Brian Pattison)
GT - Jan 7 arrives, the day of the benefit at Club Infinity, and you were able to get a brief escape from the hospital to see part of the show. How cool was it to first see a partial reunion of Tirant Sin - with Dennis John Glinski (Grave Descent), Rich Ziegler (Grave Descent), Paul Mazurkiewicz (Cannibal Corpse), Rob Barrett (Cannibal Corpse), Jim Nickles (Vile Vindiction) and for one song Cameron Verrastro?
Tony - Now keep in mind, that was my very first time out of the hospital since october so that alone was a huge shock for me. When I pulled up I was greeted so warmly and I teared up right away, then I remember I got in just in time to catch the last 4 Avulsion songs and let me tell you...THEY FUCKING KILLED! I've always loved those guys, hands down one of the best Buffalo bands. Then after a few hot wings and lots of hugs, Tirant Sin hit the stage. They blew me away... I headbanged for the first time in three months and lemme tell ya.. I definitely woke up sore the next day. I love Rob and Pauly for droppin what they had to do in order to come up and make that happen \m/
GT - After Tirant Sin's set came another reunion set that was special for old school Buffalonians and a bit more special to you since your uncle Frank was in the band...Beyond Death, with their original lineup of Frank Lombardi, Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse), Jack Owen (Cannibal Corpse, Deicide) and Darrin Pfeiffer (Goldfinger). For their set you got to be right on stage by Frank's amp. Were you as impressed as me with how great they performed? It was as if they had never broken up.
Tony - That set really showed me and reminded me why my uncle is my hero.. and how professional Alex, Jack and Darrin really are. Such a solid group of dudes who at one point carved their way to the top of the early Buffalo death metal scene. I'm forever grateful that those guys did that for me. They were the best band that night!
Tony with Beyond Death, Jan 7, 2012 (photo - Brian Pattison)
GT - With the big benefit over with, many in your position would have found it easy to slip into depression and feel bad about themselves. Instead pictures emerged of you picking up the guitar again and using a thumb pick as you could not hold a standard pick. There was also seemingly immediate talk of Ritual Quarantine beginning again once you got out of the hospital. So, as a big fan of Ritual Quarantine, I asked you to play my Deceased show that was not to occur until July. At that time did you have any doubts about your ability to play come July?
Tony - To be completely honest I almost KNEW I wouldn't be able to do it lol. I know our drummer (Derrick Sadkowski) had not been talking to the rest of the band or jamming with anyone and not even answering my calls so I knew I would inevitably have to cancel. But, my uncle and mother being very persistent made sure I picked up my guitar and tried to jam at least once a week and making sure I didn't give up on the prospect of playing because at the time I couldn't even hold a guitar let alone play it.. That's when the depression set in but I wouldn't let it win and take me over.. I refused anti-depressants and got over it with perseverance and pure will power. Now, I knew I had a goal.... July 14th!!
GT - Again things seemed to be looking well for the future of Ritual Quarantine as the months passed...you gained enough strength to use a pick, started writing new riffs and the other members seemed to be excited about picking up the pieces...but, tragedy would strike the band yet again in May when singer Douglas Luke (29) would die from a heart attack. Care to tell us a little about your reaction to hearing his death and more importantly care to tell us a little about Doug (the person/friend)?
Tony - Listen man...Doug had a rep with a lot of people. You knew to love or hate him in one way or another but no matter what you always knew there was something great about the dude. He always made sure we had our shit together and that we were getting to practice when we had to even though sometimes he would orchestrate practice and not even show up but then we'd write a sweet song so it was good/bad at times lol. The last few emails I got from him were "Hey guys we HAVE to do this show Derrick or not we need to do this". He out of everyone wanted this to happen so even though I had some doubts once tragedy struck I knew I had a goal for sure then...To play the show no matter what the cost it would be for Doug. Man, I still miss him very much to this day. He was a very great guy if you were close to him...................r.i.p.
Doug Luke at Ritual Quarantine's 1st gig (photo - Brian Pattison)
GT - Provided with another easy and legitimate excuse for Ritual Quarantine to end, you and crew did the opposite and moved forward to honor Doug. Then, in June you were finally given the odd day out of the hospital and used some of those for band practice. What was that first Ritual Quarantine practice like?
Tony - It was surreal. I couldn't believe it was actually happening. Again if it weren't for my uncle I wouldn't even be there. He played a HUGE role in getting me in there because the space is up a few flights of stairs and everyone knows stairs and wheelchairs are mortal enemies!! But, Glenn Szymanski, the great dude filling in on bass for the show and my uncle helped me get up and jam. Literally lol. But yea now Brit moved from bass to drums, Jessie was alone on vox and Glenn was rockin' the bass. Everything looked great again and all faith returned once we realized we could do the songs with that lineup!! And do them even better actually.
GT - At long last the gig arrived (July 14, 2012)...Deceased (with King on drums), Abysme, Ritual Quarantine, Seplophile and Pregnancy Scare (formerly Inerds). A nice and cool 92 outside and easily over 100 degrees inside the venue. With only a few rehearsals under your belt were you nervous about the bands performance? With the set dedicated to Doug, were you happy with the set and the crowd's reaction?
Tony - I was totally ready for it even though the songs were newly named and Britt had a hard time remembering which song was which but over all besides me being too loud since I'm at ear level with my amp now I thought it was great for such short notice and the personnel changes. The crowd really seemed to dig it but you could tell between my hurdles and Doug and given everything this band has been through it was almost kind of emotional too, but we got through it and even got to play a new song at the end which was a tribute to Doug in every way! But, yea damn it was hot! But, what a show man. Deceased killed it to end the night!
Tony at Ritual Quarantine's July 14 gig (photo - Brian Pattison)
GT - With RQ's comeback gig now under your belt, what's next for the band? When can we expect some new recordings to surface? More shows planned?
Tony - There's a bunch of practicing and writing on the horizon! I really look forward to keeping this band alive. I figure sometime in August I will start recording new stuff for the second demo. We actually have another show planned for September 8th for a local man Brian Hulin's daughter's benefit. She has medical issues so a bunch of bands are going to throw down to do the show. It's a very good cause, Brian's a great guy and so is his family and they deserve all the help they could get! Just as me and my family needed help 7 months ago...
GT - Care to add any final words of wisdom?
Tony - Brush your teeth ... Support anything local from the food you eat to the music you listen to...That's truly the best way to live. We are a community and we are living in weird times and it is always good to know that there are still goods and services provided by local merchants, artists, and bands to and for us, the people. but enough of my ranting...Thanks to Brian at Glorious Times for everything he has done for me and my family and my city. He's not going to slow down just as I plan to keep doing the same!
RITUAL QUARANTINE'S RETURN GIG
Peighton Hulin benefit flyer - SEE YOU THERE!