Dear Diary – James Marinos (Ritual)

In a special piece, Ritual bassist, James Marinos, documents a week in his life after the release of the band’s excellent Enigma EP. We also asked James to muse over some of the fundamentals of being a musician.

Monday 9 May

Good morning, Monday! A day famed for its impending sense of an ill willed return to a cycle of work, early starts, commutes, a rush of deadlines all off the back of a weekend hangover. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’ve come to a new sense of affection for good old Monday. Why is that? I left my job a year and a half ago in order take control of my life, move, and start my own business, placing creativity and my family as shotgun. That’s not to say that Mondays aren’t still associated with some of the aforementioned expressions, and you can add a few more pressures to that list too. However, when you’re in the driving seat, you get to set the destination, making all personal gains and sacrifices yours to own, learn and benefit from. This is my outlook to both music and this week of diary entries, where I’ll be rendering each day of the week a lesson in the experience of being in a band. So, let’s get on with it, shall we?!

Know your music: When I was learning how to understand what was achievable with creating my own music, understanding all the options on the table was as important as the primary colours nestled in a painter’s palette. It’s not that you can’t express ideas outside of what you can see – you won’t be able to effectively without knowing the context of your building blocks. Challenge your ears, ditch the confines of what you know – or feel comfortable with – and dive into something you don’t, and give yourself a gift you didn’t know was yours!

Tuesday 10 May

With Monday’s entry yielding little of my actual day, I thought I might leap back to the start of the weekend over a celebratory beer, which was far more interesting than a Monday morning…. As they say, no good story started with a salad. Friday 6th May saw my band, Ritual, release our brand-new Enigma EP. Releasing this record has been a real ride for us personally and collectively, but it was working through these challenges as a band that actually became the very making of this record, itself. Which leads me onto my next chapter…

The Band: noun, “a thing that restrains, binds, or unites.” Not my words guys, that’s the mother fuckin dictionary, yo! If you’re a ‘band’ of two or three, but there are more people in the room, cut loose the deadweight or leave. Harsh maybe, but if being in a band is a battle, then you’ve lost the war so to speak. In almost all cases, being in a band is never smooth sailing, which is why in Ritual we’ve had a few faces come and go. I’ve come to learn that like any environment which demands communication, comradery, collective expertise, a decent treasury and hard work as being entry requirements, not everyone can always be on the same page. In Ritual I’m surrounded by some of my best and oldest friends, and we’ve worked hard on that with the pandemic pushing us outside of our comfort zones and focussing on what we can do better. Get through those bad moments and you’ll be onto something. This is of course if your goal is to advance in what is probably the most expensive hobby outside of collecting something equivalent to… erm… ornate truffles? If that’s a thing?

Wednesday 11 May

Today marks an important day for me musically, as I’m sending to press the latest release from my project, The Wolves of Avalon. The record is called Y Gododdin and is based on the short story by the same name from a thirteenth-century book of poems called the Book of Aneirin. This recording has been in the works for a very long time and will be available this Autumn on 12” coloured vinyl with guests including Tony ‘Demolition Man’ Dolan from Venom Inc, Hoest from Taake, Mike from Ritual and Thurios from Ukrainian black metallers, Drudkh, to name a few. Writing this record has been a long process… That and coordinating it alongside guests, the label, Ritual, life and of course work is a fine balancing act. Nevertheless, it’s done and here are today’s musings…

Writing: Writing in Ritual is a very different experience than writing on my own and to some of the other bands I’ve played in. We actually write for the most part by jamming together, cherry picking our best moments before structuring them into songs and refining them. Granted, doing things this way can take longer than just simply bringing ideas in each week and showcasing them to the rest of the band. However, for us it is very much about the band itself and how we work individually in it, using our individual strengths and abilities in real time to tell the most organic picture of our creative direction. Through our array of tastes, ideas, styles and influences we end up with something at the end which we could have never created otherwise, something which is truly Ritual.

Thursday 12 May

Hey fake Friday, how did this happen!? The week is getting there, and “it’s getting there” is a phrase which I’ve used endlessly when it comes to recording. So, here’s a little insight into the process!

Recording: Committing our latest record, Enigma, to ‘tape’ was a relatively straight forward process, irrespective of the fact that releasing it took an eternity! We prepared for recording thoroughly, which is definitely the key to success, especially when on studio clock money! Historically, I’ve recorded the tracks with the boys in a spilt between studios for tracking drums before finishing everything else at my home setup. However, with Enigma we threw the kitchen sink at the production and drafted in Matty Moon (Lonely the Brave, False Heads, The Grey), who not only supplied his kick ass skills but also his array of delicious outboard gear and mics. We started production at my home studio, dry-tracking the guitar and bass for re-amping. This saved a lot of time on getting the right takes and allowed us just to focus on tone/sound in the studio, especially as the luxury of this approach isn’t possible when tracking drums and vocals . The UK went into its first lockdown the day after mixing the record. Little did we know at that point that poor Matty would have several more instruments and vocals to mix… Bravo old boy!

Friday 13 May

Give yourself a pat on the back! No, not that it’s just Friday, but that you made it through my musings thus far… but wait, before you go, I have a question for you, dear reader. Did you know that most bands fail because they don’t have a real strategy for building a successful music career? That’s true by the way… which leads me onto my next step…

Marketing: How can one write music, play live, book gigs, design merch, record audio, record video and have enough business acumen to communicate that effectively under a business umbrella? I’m still learning that myself, and I think most musicians fall into this camp as these days we’re required to wear many hats in what is a truly DIY trade. Furthermore, with most musicians boasting creative minds, I think that ‘selling’ the vision can often be overlooked, or at least misunderstood. However, in camp Ritual, the long process of releasing this record has allowed us enough time to plan ahead and consider a timeline in which to promote our latest record on social and beyond as effectively as possible. We also drafted in PR guru Dan at DC Sound Attack to get the message out there for us too. Herein lies the lesson: don’t skimp on promotion because even if you’ve incubated your favourite record of all time, you may as well have not bothered if nobody knows it exists.

Saturday 14 May

Gonna keep this one short as frankly my head is a little murky to say the least after a night of drinks. Perhaps yours is too, or maybe a night of head banging has you reaching for the phonebook to schedule that appointment with the chiropractor? Well at least that’s how I feel these days after a gig… Oh yeah, you guessed it…

Gigging: Protocol for gigs is like arriving at the airport to catch a flight. Show up early, get checked in, setup for the event and then… wait. It’s a dangerous game, especially with the temptation of alcohol to help pass the time. Jeebus help you if you’re headlining! Other than the obvious one of being prepared from a schedule of rehearsals, I always recommend the following for gigs. Figure out how to get there. Plan where you will park in advance. Take a spare set of sticks, skins, strings, picks (thanks Mike!). Take ear protection. Arrange what kit will be there to share in advance. Watch the other bands. Talk to the other bands. Speak to your engineer and stage team. Talk to your audience. Warm up. Load out after you play, rather than right at the end of the night – losing gear is less likely to happen if you account for it when you take it off the stage. Oh yeah, and don’t get blind drunk before you play! Unfortunately, I’ve got every one of these wrong at some point. Don’t! Good luck!

Sunday 15 May

And breathe, it’s Sunday! This is where we part company my friends, and I hope you enjoyed the read. However, before I go there’s one last part of the musical puzzle to place…

Rehearsing: Rehearsing is our Sunday afternoon ritual, and it’s after a conversation between us that we landed on our band name for that very reason. Good job too, as the key to keeping musically tight and writing is all in the practicing for us… This Sunday however is one of the rare occasions that I’m observing a day of rest, as we cancelled this week’s rehearsal due to clashing schedules. As I sit back in my armchair and eat a slice of the cake which I’ve just baked, I sometimes wonder what it would be like not being in a band and living like a ‘normal’ person. Perhaps I’d be one of those people who do nothing on a Sunday. Maybe I’d watch TV all day or be a football fan. Perhaps I might even drive a sports car! Who knows? For me however it seems that once a musician, always a musician rings as true as the tinnitus in my ears.

Above: Ritual (Left-to-Right): Terry Knight (drums), Franco Necro (vocals), James Marinos (bass), Mike Lewin (guitar).

*** Ritual self-released their Enigma EP on 6 May 2022. You can stream the record on all good platforms. Click here to read the SBR review.