The Road to Hell + An interview with Serpentine Path

The Bone Reader had words with Ryan Lipynsky, vocalist, lyricist and co-creator of Serpentine Path.  Their debut release for Relapse Records has not simply blurred the line between death, doom – it has totally obliterated it and opened a door to the darkest corners of the imagination.  Walk now with us.

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TBR:  There’s quite a distinct and consistent sound throughout Serpentine Path.  Take us through the early stages and the sorts of things you guys discussed regarding the vision for Serpentine Path.

Ryan Lipynsky: I think when we first got together a big part of our focus to do something different from Unearthly Trance and Ramesses for that matter. For me, it was a matter of challenging myself to focus on doing something different vocally. Early on we messed around with some different tempos but there was always an idea of working in a strong “death metal” influence mixed with doom in the band. Not in the literal sense of “death metal”, but just in the idea that it would have a macabre vibe. We wanted to be the polar opposite of all that weak crap that’s out there.

TBR:  The end result with Serpentine Path is quite hypnotic.  The word that comes to my mind is “primordial” in the sense that you guys really stripped things right down to the bone and were very deliberate in keeping it on a tight leash and not allowing it to evolve too far.

Ryan Lipynsky: You are very much correct in that we wanted keep the band in a certain framework of sound and approach. Unearthly Trance was a very much “no holds barred” approach to doom and extreme metal. Whatever came to us, we went with. This band is a bit more methodical and deliberate. There is focus on control and being primal. It is basically distilling our common influences into a singular monolithic force.

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TBR:  Was there any challenge in maintaining that sort of intense stylistic focus as you guys were writing and rehearsing the songs?

Ryan Lipynsky: I don’t think there was much of challenge. It all came together very naturally and easily. Tim had many songs written so there was no shortage of material. My personal goal was to come up with lyrics that fit the mood of the music. But it was not really a challenge, just a typical task for a vocalist. Once we recorded the first 2 songs for our debut EP, we had a solid framework for the future of the band that we could develop on.

I think Darren and Jay’s past experience being a rhythm section in UT for over a decade makes creating that hypnotic “trance” vibe just second nature to them. I think the tightness and playing allows for a smooth listening experience in term of drawing in the listener in a hypnotic way. The vibe may be sinister but the flow is very natural and engulfing to me.

TBR:  Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind some of the lyrics on the album?  Were they a key focal point throughout the writing or do they more fit into the background in the overall scheme of things?

Ryan Lipynsky: Certain song inspirations would be the instinctual primal nature of man, the mysterious forces of the universe and the planetary cycle of life and death.  The lyrics were something I worked on as the guys worked on the music. I worked in the vocals after most of the music was written and arranged by the guys. They did have some concepts and titles (eg. “Bats Amongst Heathens” and “Crotalus Horridus Horridus”) that I took inspiration from and worked with as a starting point. The lyrics are meant to be as a reflection of the sounds. Very much a verbal reaction to the feeling I got from the music. I think they fit in the background but are there if the listener chooses to dig deeper into the layout and read along. Serpentine Path is very much a riff and guitar focused band first and foremost.

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TBR:  Ryan both sang and played guitar in Unearthly Trance.  Can you tell us about how you guys came to the decision to have Tim take on all of the duties with playing and have Ryan focus strictly on vocals?

Ryan Lipynsky: As I mentioned previously, we were very focused on the idea of making the band something different than UT. At the time UT was still together as a band and I thought it would be cool to try out a different role in a band as just a vocalist. In all of my previous/current bands I played guitar (or bass) and sang. I think we all had such respect for Tim as a player and writer that there was no real need for me to do both.

TBR:  Did Tim write all of the guitar parts or was there any collaboration between the two of you?

Ryan Lipynsky: Tim basically wrote all of the music and the guys arranged it at the rehearsal spot. I didn’t write any riffs or music, just lyrics.

TBR:  In terms of the recording process, can you tell us a bit about how it all went down in the studio?  Did you have to put in a lot of time and take great pains to dial in the sound that you got or was it more of a “rock hard and GTFO” kind of session?

Ryan Lipynsky: We recorded the album on our own with our bassist Jay Newman at the helm. The environment was very relaxed and we were all able to take our time and not be rushed like in typical studio situations under the gun. It was ultimately up to us when the record was done and how exactly it was all going to sound. Jay did a great job recording and mixing the album. It was also only the second time we were able to record an album all on our own. The first time would be with the final Unearthly Trance album “V”.

TBR:  The word is that things started you guys met up on the first tour that Unearthly Trance did with Electric Wizard back in 2002.  It was quite a while back for both bands…  Do any of you guys have any particular memories of something that happened on that tour that brought you together?

Ryan Lipynsky: I have lots of memories and some that I’ve forgotten. First off, we were all stuck in a tour bus for a month never staying at a single hotel. Almost the whole time, if we weren’t at a gig or truck stop, we were on the bus. It also happened to be (the 80’s band) Ratt’s old tour bus and there was a sign in front that could say: “Show us your tits”!  Haha!

Our bus driver was Walt from Rotting Corpse and our tour manager was John Perez also of Rotting Corpse and Solitude Aeturnus. Three bands (Sons of Otis were also on that tour) were on the bus smoking insane amounts of green and drinking non-fucking-stop. It was a very insane time and the amount of stories could take up an entire interview but most won’t be revealed for certain reasons! Hahaha!

We made good friends with all the guys and we hit it off with Tim in particular. We had lots of common interests and Tim really dug UT. He even joked back then that he wanted to do a project with us one day in the future…

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TBR:  It was announced a short while back that Stephen Flam who plays guitar for Winter has also joined the band.  How did that come about?  Was it something that was kindling in the background for awhile or was it a totally spontaneous thing after the album was recorded?

Ryan Lipynsky: Jay had become friendly working with Winter for some of their reunion shows with gear. We also became friendly with the guys through a mutual friend from Long Island Ron Grimaldi. I think Unearthly Trance recording a Winter tribute 7” with Volition possibly got the attention of the guys a few years back when we sent them some copies. Once Stephen heard Serpentine Path he actually asked us if we were interested in having him play second guitar. It made perfect sense to say yes of course!

Stephen Flam: I was a SIR with Jay getting some gear together for a Winter gig and Jay had played me the Serpentine Path album. I liked the very direct and focused approach. Jay had mentioned that a second guitar player was something they where thinking of adding to SP. At that point I said I would be interested. In the first rehearsal things seemed pretty natural. As the rehearsals followed I could envision writing new material.

TBR:  Can you talk about how the addition of Stephen changes the sound?

Ryan Lipynsky: To put it simply, it sounds killer! I think the real change will be working on the new material, which we recently have begun to do. Stephen is a great player and just expands the sound and texture the band has. Its just a bigger nastier beast then before! Stephen has a slightly deeper tone than Tim’s so they compliment each other perfectly.

Tim and Stephen have very similar taste in riffs so they really work perfectly together. There are subtle differences in how they play the songs on the album together live and in rehearsal with two guitar parts. For instance, they might use different voicing’s for the notes and Tim did some overdubbed “lead” type parts on the album that Stephen can now help bring to life rather than Tim being the only guitarist.

TBR:  It was great to hear early on that both Rameses and Unearthly Trance are both alive and well and of course, Winter is back, madder and badder than ever.  I assume that that this is still the case, correct?

Stephen Flam: Winter has started working on a new album. Tony Pinisi our original keyboard player who played on “Into Darkness” will be joining us again after 23 years.

Ryan Lipynsky: Sorry to break it to you but Unearthly Trance broke up mid-2012.  I am also active in my other band The Howling Wind as well as few other projects. Tim no longer plays in Ramesses.

TBR:  Did Tim  have to relocate from the UK to come and work on this album?  In other words, are you a New Yorker now or are you still kind of back and forth between the two?

Ryan Lipynsky: Tim said that he is here permanently (in New Jersey) and that he won’t be going back and forth between the two places.

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TBR:  Any sort of NYC hazing rituals that you put Tim through during his early days in the city? 

Ryan Lipynsky: No, no hazing rituals. We were just happy to see him again and get him into the city to have a jam. It was all good vibes from the beginning. It wasn’t like Tim joined our established band. Rather, we started a new project so we were all working with a clean slate.

TBR:  I don’t want to look too far ahead but you’ve stated previously that “we’re already brewing up potential ideas for the next album”.  Don’t worry – we’ll stay tuned – but if you’re someone who’s into what’s going on with the first album, it’s a pretty exciting thing to hear.

Without giving things away completely, can you give us any hints about what you had in mind when you said that and the sort of direction that things might take in the future?  If nothing else, do you guys see things going more towards maintaining focus and digging deeper with what you have already or possibly widening the scope of vision a bit and doing some different things?
 
Ryan Lipynsky: I think the scope will be widened but we wont stray to far from the path…  The new material will be a natural progression with some added depth. We are only in the very early stages of demoing ideas and the guys coordinating guitar parts to start jamming on.
TBR:  Tell the people about your upcoming tour dates.  Hopefully some Canadian dates as well?
Ryan Lipynsky: No tour dates planned at the moment. We are being very selective in the shows we play. Time will tell…  UT never played Canada so it would be nice to make there one day!

TBR:  Anything else to add before signing off?

Ryan Lipynsky: Thanks for the interview!
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The self-titled debut release by Serpentine Path is OUT NOW on Relapse Records

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SERPENTINE PATH on Bandcamp