New Free Download of The Afters "Well Done (Acoustic)" - get it here
Fallstar's Chris Ratzlaff
by Jon Fisher
Contributor on 2013-06-19 15:08:32
Contributor Jon Fisher talks with Fallstar's Chris Ratzlaff about switching labels, touring plans, and new album "Backdraft"

I know you guys were on Come & Live originally and I’ve seen some of your posts that you still have a relationship with them, but could you just walk me through the change of label to FaceDown and the reasons for the change?

Well we just didn’t feel like we were in a place as a band and Come & Live was in a place as a ministry to really, I don’t know, to make the whole “pay what you feel” thing work. A lot of the bands that are successful with Come & Live have a huge fan base for a long time and have been established bands or they’re like worship bands and they’re really easy to bring into a church and for a church to support them. With heavier music, I don’t think we’re quite there as a genre to be recognized as worship and that sort of thing. It’s harder for older generations to catch that too. As far as Come & Live as a ministry I don’t think they were quite ready to help us get where we need to get.

I mean we gave away 16,000 records, maybe more than that, and a lot of those were for donations but we never saw any of those donations. So I don’t think their donation structure was up to par yet. We just came to the realization that you do need a label. Everyone was going DIY for a while there and it was very popular and labels seemed to be a thing of the past. But you really do need people supporting you and able to support you financially. That’s like number one, and you need to have a good record. So when we did our record with Come & Live we had a $500 donation from an anonymous donor, someone we knew from back home, and we pretty much funded the rest of the record. We really didn’t get to reap any of the benefits from it which I totally understand. I’m not saying they’re really crappy or that we got stiffed. It was just so new and no one really knew how it was going to work or what was going to happen. We said we need a label, and so we shopped this record to a lot of different labels who had a lot of interest. We knew that we couldn’t release another record unless we were signed.

I saw your explanation of “Shallow Believer” on YouTube and I like that you guys went ahead and explained what that meant. Another one of my favorites is “El Rey”. What inspired you to write the song “El Rey” on the new album?

Musically I really analyze BPMs (beats per minute) for music. So there are a couple of songs that I have in my iTunes that I would just love and I wanted to write a song that was more bouncy. A lot of my songs are faster, like 160 BPM, more rock style. I picked something at 128 BPMs and I found a BPM that was consistent with a lot of these songs where I like the feel of those. That’s why musically its like that, I just really liked that BPM of 128, so I wanted to write a song in there. Lyrically, I don’t know, I was just frustrated with the way the world works and I’ve been learning a lot of things about our government or what we’re doing the earth and stuff. So I cite a bunch of things that really bother me during the song, stuff that bothers me. It’s like, wow, our world is crazy.

The chorus says this is all that I know and God is all that I can rely upon and Jesus is the only thing that’s consistent that can keep me grounded through everything that’s happening in the world. We’re actually posting our song explanation for that song either tonight or tomorrow. We’re trying to do one of those song explanations for every one of our songs. I just edited “El Rey” and “Eclipse” and I’m editing “Malbec Blood” tomorrow and then trying to get the rest of the songs out. Its been awhile since the CD has been out, about a month maybe, and we’re just trying to get as much information out there as fast as possible.

CMADDICT: It’s very much appreciated. I certainly gravitate to the music itself but I also like to know what the message is about.

Yeah, it’s something that I wish all my favorite bands would do. Sometimes you run across a lyric that’s kind of vague and you’re like “What is he talking about?” So we want people to have that opportunity that we wish our favorite bands would have done.

I kind of old-school and grew up with vinyl and I always liked the cover art that bands would put on their albums. I really like the cover photo for “Backdraft”. Could you give a little background on that?

Yeah, I saw that photo in my head and I wanted to create that. We got a bunch of masks and some duffel bags that looked cool, looked like a heist. We recreated that photo with one of our friends from Portland. The reason the album’s called “Backdraft” is because that’s the breaking point of a fire where there’s no return, where oxygen comes in and just makes the thing blaze all the more. So we were thinking that maybe socially and spiritually maybe people can be coming to a point where there’s no going back and it’s kind of unstoppable. In the cover photo they’re not stealing anything. It’s supposed to be really vague, but just an illustration of people coming to a point where there’s no return, like either spiritually or socially. It is a really cool photo.

Amazon - iTunes

The other thing that I liked with the new album is the video for “Drags, Drugs and Bones”. Where was that video shot?

Gosh, it was shot in Oregon, but it was shot everywhere. We shot at the cliff at Oregon City and there’s a beach over there. That’s like a two hour drive for us out there, and then we drove out to the Columbia Gorge where there’s all those cliffs over the Columbia River which were super awesome. Where else did we go? We to my wife’s parent’s house, she lives out in the country and we went in the woods over there. A bunch of the live shots were done in Oregon City. We wanted to find all the beautiful places within a three-hour drive of us. We ended up getting perfect days for it in the middle of February, and it usually rains until June over here. It was pretty lucky. Oregon is amazing.

You touched on this a little bit in an early answer, about the heavier music in the Christian genre and getting airplay. This is really a two-part question: do you think it’s easier for metal bands or heavier bands in Christian music to reach out through secular radio stations and venues to kids outside of Christ, and the flip side of that question is, do you think heavier music is not as accepted within Christian music?

Ideally with Fallstar as a band we’d like to be on secular tours with bands that aren’t necessarily Christian bands. We’ve done all-Christian band tours and that’s cool too. But I think it’s really cool for Christian bands to be paired up with even satanic bands so kids can have a chance to see the contrast in lifestyles and beliefs. They can see side-by-side. We’ve been on shows with satanic bands that are bands that preach a lot of hate, and it’s really cool because kids are able to see the power and strength that joy has. We’re not angry or anything when we play.

So from our experience and from talking to people afterwards they can see how powerful joy is. We know it, and the Lord is definitely your strength. There’s a lot of anger out there but we’ve seen joy just cut through atmospheres and really disarm people. It really opens up people to be honest with their own minds and to think clearly and ultimately we believe for the Holy Spirit to penetrate into their hearts and minds while they’re being entertained by this music. I think it’s awesome, and I think it’s extremely effective if a band is collaborating with the Holy Spirit and if they’re walking with Jesus. Touring with these other negative bands, people are able to see the joy that Jesus can bring, and it’s so clear. It’s like night and day when you watch that happen.

We’ve been made fun of and not persecuted, you know I don’t believe that I’ve ever been persecuted, like our house has never been burned down or none of my family’s been killed for our beliefs. But we definitely get a lot of crap thrown at us at shows sometimes. After that if we’re honest and we let the Holy Spirit just guide our performance and what we say on stage then everybody shuts up. By the second to last or the last song, it’s crazy, like I don’t even think we deserve that kind of respect but we’re always given that kind of respect. People who were yelling “F-you guys” or “F-God” by the end of the show are telling us “Man I really respect what you did”. And we’re not out here for respect but we are able to see that people’s hearts can be changed if the Gospel is presented accurately and with joy.

So I think its awesome for bands to be on secular tours for that reason, but I won’t downplay any Christian bands that just like to stick in the Christian circuit. It’s really easy to get complacent and everybody thinks you’re awesome and everybody’s like “Ahh, keep doing what you’re doing!”. Some of these guys get big heads. But a lot of guys that do stick in the Christian music scene are doing awesome things and they’re able to exhort the church. And a lot of their shows are a ministry because we have kids bringing their friends that aren’t Christians to these shows and they’re able to see how the body worships together and how the body is supposed to treat each other. I would not downplay that at all, but for us, we want to stick in the secular scenes with all the other bands. A lot of our ministry is with the other bands that we tour with, and they’re able to see how we live. By the end of the tour they’ll be praying with us, and be asking to pray with us before the show. I think God has some people in the church and some people outside of the church. I don’t know why, but it’s cool.

CMADDICT: And then the flip side of that, do you perceive any kind of grief or negativity from people within the church or within Christian music as far as the heavy music?

We don’t get chastised, but I do think there is a certain level of ignorance. People for the most part now, I don’t think it was this way ten years ago, but for the most part it’s understood that heavy music can be Christian or glorifying to God. But I think a lot of times it’s misunderstood, the power of heavy music for Christ. For the most part, we run into people not knowing that God is just as alive and working in this genre of music as in worship music or pop or folk music. We’ve seen crazy stuff done in the middle of shows. It’s the Holy Spirit working. It’s a matter of educating people that God doesn’t stick to one certain style or God doesn’t stay with one certain type of people. He is just alive and moving. So people will realize that, and it’s already starting to happen.

We feel accepted but we just don’t feel a lot of times supported or people understand what we’re doing. Which is why it is refreshing to be on Facedown family because those guys have been doing it for years and they have a huge support system. We felt really embraced by that once we got into that family. We feel really supported and people are asking how we’re doing all the time. So it’s really awesome. That would be something that changes and it is changing right now. Yeah, there’s definitely some differences being in a heavy band.

It seems like the Northwest is generating a lot more really good Christian heavy bands. Maybe that’s my perception, but do you have any explanation for why that might be?

I don’t know (laughing). Gosh, I don’t know. I have no idea, I mean I hope that it something that continues and it’s something that God’s building up. I don’t know why. For the longest time it seemed very dry and there was no one coming out of there. We were having a hard time finding people to tour with from over here. For a long time there was no one doing heavy music out here and so, I don’t know, I’m happy for it. I don’t know why, but I think it’s super cool. The more bands trying to do it and tour, the better.

As far as tours, what are your plans, and I gotta ask this, when are you guys coming to the East coast?

Yeah, everybody asks us about the East coast and we’ve never been there. I don’t know, hopefully this year. We’re really trying to get that in the works. We haven’t got our tour set. We are supposed to hear back within a week or so. All I know is that we’re leaving at the beginning of August and probably won’t come back home till like December. We’ll be home for very limited amounts of time in between. I’m really hoping to get out there. Our buddies, Those Who Fear, are from Pennsylvania. It would be cool to get out there with them, but I don’t know. We’ll be touring a lot, so I imagine we’ll be out there, but I’m not sure.

What are your inspirations musically?

Well, as far as being a front man and a singer, the two guys that I love the most are Adam Lazzara from Taking Back Sunday and then Bert McCracken from The Used. Those guys are awesome. As far as musically, the bands that I feel play the biggest part in how I write guitars and structure songs would be the first five songs off of “Thrillseeker” from August Burns Red and the band Beloved on Solid State records. They’re out a while ago. They were huge in how I structure heavy music, and then Senses Fail. They were huge for me. Those three bands musically and then as far as how I sing and stuff it’s Burt and Adam. I love those bands.

As far as a ministry or outreach what are you guys really passionate about?

We’ve got a lot of different things that we love. Me and my wife and Cody our drummer have been to Africa a lot and working with an orphanage there. As far as me and Tiffany, we want to eventually die in Africa, just one day go over there and never come back and just work in an orphanage. So we’re pretty passionate about that and we’re going again in February. We love the kids over there and we love Africa and we love what God’s doing over there.

Also, we’re very interested in social justice and just a lot of what’s going on in the world like spreading awareness. Trying to see the kingdom of God come to earth so there’s some beliefs like once the church and all people help bring about the kingdom of God on earth, then that will be heaven and God will come. I don’t know if that’s how it will work or not, but if it is I’m hoping that it can be possible and I’m hoping that things can get better instead of getting worse. So I’m pretty passionate about what’s going on globally, with our environment and how we conduct our daily lives, like where we’re buying our food and where we’re buying our clothes. We’re accountable to what we know so if we know our clothes are being made in an unjust way then we better do something about it. Stop buying clothes while you’re making that decision.

Even politically, I know our salvation as a planet isn’t going to come through politics and there won’t be one man that helps bring it about because if that was the case I’m sure Jesus would have been a political figure. I do believe that change is possible through the church that way, so I’m really passionate about a lot of that kind of stuff. I’m passionate about art and teaching that to kids and trying to get that worked into their life so that it’s routine and not forget that. A lot of kids become non-artistic by the time they’re 13 or something. So I want to help them keep that as part of their lives, and keep that outlet and expression.

I imagine our role as a band as we on and on, will just involve straight up preaching. We have visions where we’ll be a band but we’ll just be talking to people and somewhere along the way music will be less of a role. I don’t know. I hope not, Music might be not less of a role, but that speaking will be more of a role. So we’ll still be a band but there will be something along the lines of preaching or evangelism or serving in some bigger way than just being a band. We’re already seeing little bits of that.
See all interviews

Copyright 2015 All Rights Reserved