BY.SESSIONS: Randy Rulz
Memories can haunt or serve as a refuge to take shelter and reminisce, and Randy Rulz walks this tightrope. His subdued, bare bones approach to lo-fi indie music casts a limbo that is shrouded in melancholic and romantic reflections. While also serving as the lead lyricist and vocalist for the OKC sludge metal band Chat Pile, along with his acting role in the upcoming film Tenkiller, Randy’s fingerprints keep finding themselves on a variety of interesting and exciting projects based in Oklahoma.
Your lyrics can be quite personal in some of your songs, and they make your music all the more heartfelt and moving. How does the feeling of writing and recording differ from performing for you? Does it ever feel vulnerable or difficult to perform live?
Yeah, sometimes it can. I obviously get a bit more personal with the Randy Rulz stuff than in Chat Pile, but it’s still fun to perform; the songs usually get better the more I play them anyway. Not to say I never put any of myself into Chat Pile, but my solo stuff isn't "scary man" music I hope!
Who are some of your biggest influences as a songwriter?
I love lots of music so that’s really hard to say. There's so many things that can make a song great, but I will say I am drawn to sadder stuff, especially if that tone can exist inside of a not sad sounding song. Mark Mulcahy from Miracle Legion and Polaris can really take you there. Michael Stipe obviously has some of that same juice, so does Tracyanne Campbell from Camera Obscura. I am also a huge fan of Liz Phair, Billy Bragg, Tracy Chapman, Randy Newman, Beth Orton and Julie Doiron, whose Heart and Crime is perhaps the biggest influence on my record Playtime. (Oh, also Cat Power, lol ok I need to stop).
Your latest album, 'I think we’re alone now', came out three years ago around Halloween, and the cover art features a photo of you gently cradling a pumpkin. What are some of your favorite aspects of this time of year? Does it hold any special significance to you?
You know, I was trying to get this online friend to shoot the cover initially. She had done some portraits of her friends dressed as clowns and that's sort of what I wanted to do. The pumpkin thing was a last minute idea, and the photo was taken by a friend of mine who isn't really a photographer (but did a great job!) If I had to pick a holiday, I'm really more into Christmas, but hey, who doesn't love fall colors, Halloween, pumpkins, etc?
During our session, you said you’d be attending a viewing of Halloween Ends later that evening. What are your biggest takeaways from this latest addition to the franchise? Should we all go see it?
Halloween Ends was really something else. It threw the other parts of the trilogy into perspective in a way I have rarely seen a third part do. The second part was so off the rails (and truly, they did not make a sequel to that movie, this is something else), it seemed like they had completely lost the plot. Ends revealed the inherent silliness of Green's whole cycle, which is maybe not what we wanted but definitely what we got. It felt like an insult during Halloween Kills to a lot of people, but the sheer audacity of where he was willing to go next has seemingly garnered more respect and certainly has from me. It's obviously not even close to perfect, but Green (along with cowriter Danny McBride) really managed to encapsulate themes from nearly every other installment of the series, including Part III, the Thorn trilogy, Resurrection and the Zombies. Perhaps we will look back at this new trilogy as one of the most clear examples of what horror is doing today in the mainstream, which is cobbling movies together nakedly from parts of other, better movies. Either way, recommended.
The lyrics to Chat Pile’s song “Pamela” heavily reference Friday the 13th – are there any favorite movies of yours that you could see working their way into a Randy Rulz song?
I wrote a song “Pet Sematary” a long time ago on an old EP, but I have been thinking about re-recording it. I'd say yes to that question, but I've got nothing planned. If something moves me, it will happen.
Is your writing process different for Randy Rulz and Chat Pile? Is there any overlap in terms of your lyrics, song ideas, or writing process?
For Chat Pile, I mostly write the melodies and words over completed music. I also don't play any instruments in the band. With my solo stuff, it's all me, so it usually begins with a progression I like or something; rarely the words first, but there's always exceptions. Maybe a phrase sticks in my head and starts it up, but usually it's just playing guitar, which I love to do.
A movie that you acted in and that Chat Pile scored, Tenkiller, premieres on November 18th. Will this be your debut as an actor? Are there any parallels you can draw between acting and performing music, or are they both in their own separate worlds?
Yes, this will be my debut in a feature length movie. I made a couple of shorts some years back (check out Your Nightmare Is My Fantasy on youtube lol), but this was strictly acting. I did improvise most of my lines (I'm not sure my character had many written lines to begin with). I'm actually acting in the same people's new movie, too. I love it, it's the easiest job in the world and I'll definitely be accepting any and all offers that come my way in the future!
Listen to the full BY.SESSIONS: Randy Rulz above!
Music: Randy Rulz of Chat Pile
Director of photography and Interview: Will Hardwick
Audio Engineer: Griff Stafford