By Ryan Penagos
Look hard enough at just about any walk of life, any field of study, any profession and someone there's bound to be a comic fan. Take musicians, for example. Men and women in bands, like many "regular folks," grew up reading comics and they still follow along with the adventures of their favorite heroes despite traveling the world, playing to massive crowds and rocking out all the time.
Rick from This is Hell
Case in point: Rick Jimenez. The Long Island punk rock maestro plays guitar for hardcore/metal thrashers This is Hell and sings for the even grittier Soldiers, yet still takes time to catch up on his favorite Marvel comics, including DAREDEVIL and ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN.
We caught up with Rick as he gears up to take This is Hell on tour in support of their brand new CD, "Misfortunes" (out now on Trustkill Records), to find out who his favorite Marvel characters and what it's like to crash a tour bus.
Marvel.com: First off, can you give some background on your bands—This is Hell and Soldiers—for the Marvel fans out there?
Yeah. [This is Hell] started playing in May of 2004. At that time everyone [was] in other bands that were lined up, touring and doing everything full time. We kinda just got together. We all wanted to do a straight-forward, fast, visceral hardcore band just with heavier twist. So we kind of figured at that point, "Oh, we'll just do it like a side project." We recorded a demo in June or July and we all went on tour with our respective bands that summer, and then essentially when we got back from doing summer touring with our other bands we decided to do This is Hell full time 'cause people weren't totally psyched with their band or their band was kind of falling apart or couldn't tour full time,
This is Hell
So we were like, "Yeah, let's just, y'know, let's do this." We were just the movers and shakers from each band anyway, so we kinda got everybody who was real psyched on touring and real psyched on hardcore to do This is Hell full time. We essentially went full time in October 2004, and it's just been essentially non-stop since then.
Marvel.com: Yeah. I've known [This is Hell singer] Travis for about 10 years, so it's been pretty awesome to watch you guys get bigger and bigger. It's crazy.
It's cool because we all busted our asses for close to 10 years before This is Hell even started, so at that point it was just perfect that we all finally found a set group of people that wanted to go for it. If it was easy, then it wouldn't have taken us this long to be touring full time and signing a record deal and putting out CDs on a legit label. Our name's in everyone's head just because we're always so busy.
Marvel.com: Yeah, I see you guys in "Alternative Press," MySpace and all over. Did you take the band name from the Elvis Costello song or somewhere else?
This is Hell
Y'know what, that's actually where the idea for the band name came, from Elvis Costello. Which is funny 'cause that's like the furthest from hardcore you can get your name from.
Marvel.com: He's awesome!
Yeah, man. He was cool. And a lot of people think we got the name from the Bad Religion song, but that's a coincidence.
Marvel.com: Y'know what, I wouldn't of even thought about that, and I love Bad Religion.
Yeah yeah. [People think it's from] the Bad Religion song and it's like, "No, we actually got it from Elvis Costello" and they're like "Oh. Really?" So, it's cool. And the name of the band leaks over into a lot of what we write about and what we sing about. We don't always focus on the most positive things about life. But what we try to do is just focus on the realistic things of life.
Marvel.com: Are you psyched to put out the new CD, "Misfortunes"?
This is Hell's new
I'm so psyched. I think the only time I've been this psyched about a release that I've been a part of was the last Soldiers CD. And it's cool, that's two albums in succession that I've been a part of have been probably the two albums I've been the most proud of. I've been able to express myself personally on both these albums more than I have on any other musical project I've done. Plus on top of that, the lineups of both bands are just people I'm so psyched to be playing music with.
Marvel.com: How much of the songwriting do you do for each of the bands?
It's actually quite a bit for both. I write a large amount of the music for This is Hell. Everybody has their stake, has their input, but I did a lot of the writing musically for "Misfortunes." And Johnny, our bass player, writes the majority of the lyrics and even this time around I had my hand in the lyrics, too. Which is really really cool after being so attached to the music. A lot of times I'll write the song on guitar and even though there's no lyrics, it'll already kinda be about something or have a meaning to me. It was perfect because Johnny's been my best friend since 1985. So it was just a really, really cool feeling doing this album. On this album we have two new members, but we were all on the same page as far as the generality of what we wanted to accomplish. There's more diversity in influences [now]. But we come together and we're putting those influences together and everybody's happy with every song and even though there's all these different types of ideas going on all that kind of all-over-the-placeness comes together and we have one solid ID that everyone can stand behind, everybody's proud of, everyone's happy with.
With Soldiers, I'll write some music here and there but I don't sit down with the guitar and be like, "Oh, I'm a Soldiers song." I don't play guitar in Soldiers, I sing in Soldiers. So if I come up with a riff here and there I'll be like "Hey guys, what do you think about this?" And if they want to go with it, cool, if not, y'know, whatever. Which is awesome. I think Soldiers is the first band I've been a part of where I've kind of been actually really psyched to not be a control-freak. We started in April 2006, and I really just wanted to sing in a band for a while. I had some things that I wanted to say that I wasn't exactly putting into This is Hell. I think people were a little surprised that instead of another type of This is Hell band, they got something that was like super aggressive screamy New York hardcore type of band.
With This is Hell, we're about to do our first full U.S. complete headlining tour, we're like hey, let's bring out Soldiers. So we're going to do the tour together. Which is cool, it's just more people in our band, more friends to hang out with. And sharing the band kind of cuts costs for everybody, which is always good 'cause we're all broke. [Laughs
Marvel.com: Are you going to be able to handle doing double duty like that every night?
I've done it for one tour, but not a long tour. It was a two week thing. I guess we're gonna see. I'm pretty sure I can do it. Especially because I was able to handle it fine the last tour and I was not only playing two sets a night, but two sets back-to-back. And it was December, so it was winter, and we were in the northeast the whole time. So I feel like if I could do it under those conditions it shouldn't really be a problem playing first of four and last of four, so I'll have a break. Plus we're going down south first so it'll be nice and warm, so I should be able to stay healthy. But you never know, I've never sang for front man for a band for a month straight. So I guess I might blow out my voice.
Marvel.com: Should be a pretty interesting winter for you. It's going to be awesome.
This is Hell
Yeah yeah, I'm more concerned with not crashing or flipping our van. [Laughs
Marvel.com: You've done that before?
Oh God, last April, I believe, we were touring in Canada, and we flipped the van over at around five in the morning. We had just passed through Calgary and were on our way to Edmonton, I think. It had begun snowing about a half hour earlier, so we had slowed down a little bit, but the roads were pretty clear. Once we exited Calgary, immediately we could see a line in the highway where they'd just stopped plowing. So I'm like, "Cool. These roads suck." So I'm slowing down, slowing down slowing down. At this point I'm going 20 miles an hour at most, and then I feel the van fishtail and I'm like, "Ahh, I don't know what to do, I think we're going to crash." So we spin around and we're sliding down the highway backwards, and then we just fall into a ditch and turn over. It was like, I have no idea what just happened, this was so strange.
Marvel.com: Was everybody all right?
Yeah, we were all fine. By the time we got out of the van somebody had already pulled over and called the cops. The cops came, we turned the van back over, they towed it. We were all fine, the van was still running. So we did whatever we had to do and we got the van out and we made it to the show.
Marvel.com: That sounds like a classic tour story, though.
Yeah yeah. It was cool. Y'know, we got stuck in some snow just this past tour and we had to cancel a bunch of shows. The highways were closed and we were stuck at some rest stop in Wyoming for over 24 hours. And it was terrible, we were trying to drive away from the road closures, and we had to go south. And it was just as bad south as it was north, but we figured we'd do what we could. And
Rick from This is Hell
while I was driving we ended up hitting the same exact conditions, and it just felt even worse this time. I was driving on a sheet of ice and I felt the same exact thing happen with the van. I was like "Oh my God, I don't know what to do! Guys, I'm sorry!" I swore I was going to flip the van over again, and then we just got control and I was like, "Let's just turn around, we'll wait at the rest stop for however long, I don't want to flip the van over again." So we had a close call this time. I feel like flipping the van over in snow twice in the span of one year is the worst thing ever.
Marvel.com: You should get a prize for that. All right, so let's switch gears, talk about comics. So, you're the biggest comics geek in the band?
Yeah, yeah probably. Chris who plays in Soldiers was big into comics for a little while, I'm not really sure if he is anymore. Chris from Soldiers is such an adult, he's married and he owns his house and y'know, it's so hard to own a house out in Long Island, especially before you're 30 or 35. So even though he's in Soldiers and we do our thing, he has a full time job and a wife and a house, so I don't know if he has time so much to read anymore.
Marvel.com: What about you, do you have a lot of time to read? Or do you even get a chance to read?
I f make time for a couple of things in my life. It's funny, 'cause I have the most hectic schedule ever for somebody who doesn't actually do anything. Does that make sense?
Marvel.com: [Laughs] Yeah, it does...
It's funny because about an hour ago, what I was doing was watching the new Steve Austin DVD because I'm the biggest wrestling nerd in the entire world. While that's on I have a bench in my living room, so I'm bench pressing, working out. So I'm doing those two and in between the two I'm finishing up DAREDEVIL. I don't buy comic books like the actual [single] comic books, I'll only just buy the trade paperback because I don't really have the attention span to read a 22 or 24 page book and then wait until next month. I have to get the whole story at once. Plus I try to kinda base what I buy or what I get around certain holidays where I know people will buy me stuff because I can't even afford to buy [them] anyway. It's funny 'cause those are essentially the things I do to occupy my time, I do band stuff, I hang out with my girlfriend 'cause she works a nine-to-five so our schedules are totally opposite, I watch wrestling, I work out and I read comic books.
Marvel.com: That sounds like a pretty fun time. We put up an interview with Gregory Helms, "The Hurricane," because one of our editors here is friends with him and he's a huge comic fan. What DAREDEVIL were you reading?
What I'm up to now is "The Devil Inside and Out" Vol. 1, so I just got past Foggy Nelson's funeral. I couldn't believe they killed him!
Marvel.com: Crazy, right?
& OUT Vol. 1
It's funny, 'cause I was reading that and I'm waiting for the call and I was like, "Y'know what, I need to really hurry up, because if they really didn't kill him I'm gonna want to talk about it." [Laughs
] I turn the last page and it's the beginning of his funeral, 'cause I could've swore, I think it was #82, and the last thing is Matt Murdock saying, "his heart's still beating, his heart's still beating." So I'm like, they're not going to kill him. And all of a sudden he's dead. It's like, Foggy Nelson, I can't believe it! I guess we'll see. I still got part two of this and then I've got "Hell to Pay" Vol. 1 also. So I mean, I might find out in a couple hours that he's not even dead, but as of right now, Foggy Nelson is dead to me and that's crazy.
I kind of go in and out of knowing what's going on because I don't actually buy the books, I'll just buy the paperbacks and that's kinda how I keep up. But when they restarted DAREDEVIL with Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada I was like, "Oh I've gotta pick this up" and I was into Daredevil a little but Daredevil wasn't one of my favorites. So I pick that up and I was like, this is awesome, so I got hooked on DAREDEVIL and I was like, why didn't I always love Daredevil? Daredevil's so underrated, it's unfair!
Marvel.com: That's the thing though, he's one of those characters that he's perfect in the right hands, whether it's Bendis or Brubaker or Kevin Smith was really good with him.
Yeah, I remember the mid-'90s, or even the early-'90s, aside from the "Fall From Grace" storyline Daredevil was kinda whack for a little while. I always kinda felt like Daredevil had potential. But I've always caught up with all the new DAREDEVIL stuff. I was getting the new WOLVERINE stuff for a while, but the paperbacks only went up to number three? I used to be huge into Wolverine. Like the mid-'80s through mid- to late-'90s, that was kind of like my biggest run of [collecting] comic books.
Marvel.com: What else are you really into now?
I think ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN might be my favorite comic book ever. I think I might even like that more than the first run of regular SPIDER-MAN because it's just kind of the whole point of the Ultimate books, it's familiar but different. Which is so cool. I love it, I think—oh, same thing, I just finished, I guess it was ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN Vol. 18, and finding out that Mark Bagley was leaving…
Marvel.com: Ah, that's how you found out. That's rough.
SPIDER-MAN Vol. 18:
Heartbreaking! So heartbreaking! Mark Bagley's my favorite, favorite artist in comic book history. I think when I first started reading Spider-Man McFarlane was doing it, and I always thought McFarlane was cool, but I just like Mark Bagley better.
Marel.com: Yeah man, I remember when Bagley introduced Carnage in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. That was when I was a kid and it was just awesome.
Yeah, I think that the Carnage storyline was the first storyline that really, really, really got me into comic books instead of, "Y'know, this is kind of cool, Spider-Man's kind of cool, whatever." [It actually had me] paying attention to the storyline and understanding everything. So that was what really turned me into the kid that doesn't buy lunch at school so I can go buy comic books.
Marvel.com: Alas, after Bagley wraps up his work on MIGHTY AVENGERS, he'll start working for our distinguished competition.
Y'know what's weird—did you ever watch wrestling?
Marvel.com: Oh yeah, yeah totally.
All right, the way I always viewed it, and I guess this is just the way my brain works, everything's put into a wrestling point of view. And I think even the way I judge time, in my life, is always based around significant events in wrestling… [Laughs
] But I always viewed DC as to Marvel how, not WCW, but how NWA was to WWF. DC may have been first, and may have Superman, which is the first big [hero] and everything... It's funny, 'cause in my opinion when Marvel really broke through was in '61, '62, '63, that's the same year—'63—was the same year that WWF seceded from the NWA. So that's just a weird coincidence, but y'know Superman was never really cool for me, where Spider-Man was cool to me, and Wolverine was cool to me. And kind of like Lou Thesz, who's probably like the most revered champion in NWA history, but in all actuality Lou Thesz is boring as hell.
Marvel.com: [Laughs] All right, so, jumping back to Marvel, your top 5 Marvel characters, who would you pick?
Spider-Man, Daredevil, Wolverine, I feel like those are the boring ones. Cyclops...I kind of go back and forth a bit, sometimes he's so cool, sometimes he's such a dork. So let's leave Cyclops off. Oh, Cable. I haven't read anything with Cable in it in probably 10 years.
Marvel.com: We have a new CABLE series starting real soon, and it's going to be frickin' awesome.
I always liked Cable from day one. Y'know what, NEW MUTANTS, the end of NEW MUTANTS into X-FORCE, what a good run! That was so good! Yeah, I feel like Cable was always sick.
There's always been different people that I was always into certain runs with and it would be over and I'd be like "Uh, I'm kind of over this guy." Y'know, let's go with this, and this is kind of a stupid one, and the whole reason I got into him for a while is he had that limited series… y'know, I would like Hawkeye, a little bit.
I feel like Hawkeye was very realistic, he kind of was a bit wishy-washy, but at the same time I feel like that's kind of human, especially the fact that he was always with the Avengers who were the goody-goodies.
Marvel.com: Yeah. That's what a lot of people say, that Hawkeye's the human voice in there.
Yeah, yeah, Hawkeye's kind of like the Gambit of the Avengers.
Marvel.com: [Laughs] Oh, please, dude, I'm so not a Gambit fan.
] But yeah, let's go with Hawkeye, I think Hawkeye's kind of cool. He doesn't really have any powers other than his little bow. But that '90s limited series I thought was really cool. I don't really know why I was interested in picking that up, I think because that was right after WEST COAST AVENGERS ended and they were trying FORCE WORKS.
Marvel.com: Ah, poor FORCE WORKS.
] But yeah, I always thought Hawkeye was kind of cool.
Marvel.com: That's cool. Now if you had to pick one villain that you'd pick as your favorite villain, who would it be?
Favorite villain… I think I would want to say Galactus because I think that Galactus is just humorous. I know Galactus isn't supposed to be humorous, and I would want to say him but I can't actually pick him.
Marvel.com: He's a giant dude in a purple skirt! He's awesome!
] But I think I'd probably have to go with Carnage, just because Carnage was the main villain in the first storyline that really turned my life upside down for a little while and stole a lot of money out of my life. [His] first storyline was so badass, "Maximum Carnage" was awesome and then within a year they kind of made him look like a turd.
I think it was the beginning of the "Clone Saga" when Judas Traveler came in...it was AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #28, that was the first return of Carnage after the "Maximum Carnage" thing and they just pawned him off the way in the '80s they would pawn off the Vulture. "Hey, we need someone for Spider-Man to beat this month, let's throw in the Vulture again."
But y'know, that's the nature of things and they do that in wrestling also so that's why I think I understand it so well.
Marvel.com: And now Carnage is...I dunno. Maybe floating in space after getting ripped in half by the Sentry? That seems like a good way to go out. Thanks, Rick!
Check out This is Hell's new album, "Misfortunes," available now on CD and through iTunes/Amazon from Trustkill Records. And head to www.thisishell.org to see photos, hear songs and get tour dates.