Exclusive Interview with Rich Rutter – Lead Vocalist of TOLEDO STEEL!

Based in Southampton Toledo Steel have been conquering stages across the UK and Europe since 2011 with their own style of the 80s influenced high energy heavy metal and have proved themselves to be one of the UK‘s leading forces in the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal.

With two EPs and a brand new album the band have a really decent stash of powerful material to draw from, their set-list tonight combining earlier material like the utterly unforgettable ‘City Lights’ with material from the new album like the excellent title track ‘No Quarter’ and a song that celebrates the curse of tinnitus ‘Heavy Metal Headache.’

Fast and furious, loud and heavy as hell but never less than tuneful and melodic Toledo Steel are everything you want from a truly great heavy metal band and ‘No Quarter’ is a brilliant debut album. We’d like to bring to your attention this interview with Rich Rutter – lead vocalist of TOLEDO STEEL! The following interview is taken exclusively for Rock Arena.

– Hello, Rich and welcome to Rock Arena! Tell us a bit about the history of Toledo Steel… When and how did you all get together? What inspired the sound and style of the band?

♦Rich Rutter: Hello and cheers for getting in touch! The band officially formed back in late 2011, myself and Matt Dobson (our drummer) are the only two original members from that first lineup though. We both wanted to form this kind of band for a few years prior to actually meeting each other but we didn’t have much luck finding like-minded people. This soon changed though after we put our heads together and it wasn’t long before we had our first lineup and were busy writing songs in preparation to get out there and play live.

The sound and style of the band was inspired by predominantly 70’s and 80’s rock and metal, of course, We set out to write catchy high energy songs that would translate well to the live show. This approach is still how we go about things today.

– ‘Toledo Steel’ sounds attractive as a name, I’m curious is there any special meaning behind the name?

♦Rich Rutter: Matt used to collect medieval weaponry and fence in his free time. Toledo in Spain is also where they used to forge swords for the military which were renowned for their strength. The connection to Matts interests was already there and it just seemed a perfectly fitting name for the kind of heavy metal we wanted to create.

– The band’s debut album, ’No Quarter‘’ is out now via Dissonance Productions… What’s the story behind its concept? Who’s the producer, and who writes the music and the lyrics?

♦Rich Rutter: We recorded No Quarter at a place called Mutant Lab in Southampton with Mike Taylor. He owns/runs the place and he was at the helm for the recording of drums, vocals and of course all the mixing and mastering. We tracked all the guitars in our own time with a friend who has his own recording setup. This allowed us to take as much time as we wanted to get the best result possible before re-amping the guitars in the studio. As for the album’s concept… there’s no running theme leading each song into the next. Each song is telling its own story and all the lyrics were written mostly by me, with Matt being the second biggest contributor and the others chipping in their ideas here and there.

– How do you select the titles of your songs and what are your sources of ideas? Do you think the title of the album is symbolic…?

♦Rich Rutter: Usually, with us, the lyrics and titles of the song are inspired by the feel of the music that’s being written. Sometimes there will be a chorus idea before any music is written and we’ll work from there on out but usually, it’s the music that gets the ball rolling. I personally try to incorporate my own feelings and experiences into the lyrics in some way, even if it’s just subtly. Matt came up with the album title, we felt it fitted perfectly with the hard-hitting sound of the album because the phrase “No Quarter” basically means no mercy, no surrender!

– Let’s talk about the first single and title track of the album “No Quarter”… Who wrote that song and what’s the story there?

♦Rich Rutter: Musically that song was written by Tom and Matt, I came up with the bulk of the lyrics and verse melodies. The chorus was a group effort, it’s easy to sometimes over complicate ideas at the writing stage but when we sat down together to iron out the creases, it turned out pretty much how it sounds on the album. Like I mentioned in the previous answer, “No Quarter” basically means no mercy so the lyrics are about an army storming a castle and taking no prisoners alive!

– What’s your outlook on the record industry today? Where do you see Metal Music going in the future? What’s the difference between the time of the 80’s and now?

♦Rich Rutter: There will always be a future for metal music in some form. It’s great seeing a surge in interest going for the more traditional style of rock and heavy metal. Hopefully, this can continue to rise and we start to see a more thriving scene worldwide. Most the iconic bands from yesteryear are all starting to wind it down now and even though those bands are irreplaceable, it doesn’t mean that there can’t still be younger newer bands coming through who are writing good songs and putting on exciting live shows. I can’t say too much about the difference between the 80’s and now because I didn’t witness it firsthand, I was born in December 89! I’m sure it’s very different now in good and bad ways though. Rock and Metal in the 80’s was more commercial than it is now and the internet didn’t exist either of course. These have gotta be the two biggest differences between then and now I’m sure.

– Do you think Heavy Metal bands get better with time and even solidify as a sound, that this type of music needs more time to ripe, keeping its true raw power? What do you think about downloading music online?

♦Rich Rutter: I think that any band within any genre that sticks together will no doubt improve if they work hard enough and retain their focus. There should always be a raw power and emotion within heavy metal no matter how long you’ve been doing it. Most bands tend to refine their sound as the years pass but it’s that raw energy that captures people’s attention and I think that is key to the spirit and sound of heavy metal music. My opinion on downloading music varies… you can of course pay for downloading music online or nab it for free haha. It would be great if everyone willingly paid for music but in 2018 that’s not being realistic, unfortunately. If people wanna pay for an album, they will do it regardless of whether it’s obtainable for free. At the same time, if YouTube or file sharing sites didn’t exist, how many bands would just go totally undiscovered??? Maybe even we wouldn’t be where we are at the moment if it wasn’t for the exposure you can gain from the internet via free downloads and so on.

– For each of you, which is the most insanely challenging song for you to play live? What style of music did you play before and who would you like to play with someday?

♦Rich Rutter: I think the most challenging song for us to play live would be the opening track off the album “Behold the Machine”. It’s a pretty fast paced track with not the most obvious structure. There’s a few key changes in there mid verse too and It’s around 7 minutes long. Toledo Steel is the first and only band I’ve been in but the others have played elsewhere before. Matt was in a rock covers band for a few years playing pubs etc. Tom and Josh have both played in a few originals bands here and there over the years but I don’t think they did all that much in the way of shows or recordings though.

– How would you describe a Toledo Steel live show? Who would you most like to do a tour with?

♦Rich Rutter: I would describe our live show as an energetic heavy metal attack! No matter where we are, what time we’re playing or how many people we’re playing to, we’ll always give it %110! As for what band I’d like us to tour with… a great opportunity would be a bunch of shows with a band like Saxon. A good chunk of their crowd would no doubt like what we do and it would help push us out there massively I’m sure!

– Is music your main occupation? Maybe more of your fans are interested what are the Guys doing when they’re not playing?

♦Rich Rutter: Unfortunately, music isn’t our sole way of making money and we all have fairly ordinary day jobs. Outside of work and music we’ve all got our own different hobbies and interests. Tom Potter likes to dual wield multiple pints haha that’s how he got his nickname of “Two Pints Potter”. The most important thing for us as musicians and performers is to constantly push and challenge ourselves to do better and raise the bar!

– What more can fans expect from the band and where can everyone get your music?

♦Rich Rutter: Fans of the band can expect more live shows and more albums, it’s as simple as that. We’ll soon be starting work on album number 2! Songwriting-wise, there’s ideas left over that didn’t end up on No Quarter that we might resume work on, as well as totally fresh ideas of course. We’ll be hoping to play as many shows as possible next year too, hitting places we’ve played before and totally new countries and cities as well hopefully. You can grab the new album and previous E.P’s/T Shirts and patches etc directly from our merch store – HERE! The album is also available directly from Plastichead Distribution, on Amazon, in HMV within the U.K and not forgetting on iTunes and Spotify amongst a few other places.

– Thanks for taking the time out to do this interview! Final words…?

♦Rich Rutter: I’d just like to say on behalf of the whole band, cheers to everyone that’s supported us so far! Anything from buying some merch, coming to a show or even sharing our stuff online. We really appreciate anything that helps us push forward and continue to do what we love to do so we can get out there and play live! Hopefully, we can play a show near you sometime soon!

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Interviewed by Toni Rock