Interview with Coliseum Singer and Guitarist Ryan Patterson

Monday, August 12: 3 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Coliseum band (l-r): Kayhan Vaziri (bass), Carter Wilson (drums), Ryan Patterson (vocals/guitar)

After a decade of delivering their own riff-heavy brand of metallic rock harkening back to the punk, hardcore and post-hardcore sounds of their predecessors, Coliseum – vocalist and guitarist Ryan Patterson, bassist Kayhan Vaziri and drummer Carter Wilson – will perform live at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Summer in the City concert on August 14, 2013. 

The group recently released their fourth full-length, Sister Faith, a 13-track blast of galvanized melodies at the collision point between punk and noise-rock. "Though punk rock may have been the template (and paradigms do shift), songwriting and emotional content have become Coliseum's focus," noted John Baizley of metal contemporaries Baroness. "And to that end, they have gracefully transitioned from the unrelenting anger, rage and rawness of youth to a more thought-provoking, yet no-less-powerful or insightful sound that is entirely their own."

The Rock Hall caught up with Ryan Patterson of Coliseum to talk rock and roll – everyone from Tom Petty, Run DMC, Les Paul and Bad Brains to the Beatles, the Who, Sex Pistols and Public Enemy.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: What artists did you listen to when you were growing up and what about them appealed to you? Were you influenced by any Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees?

Ryan Patterson: My Dad is a huge fan of 60s rock and saw many of the greats in the flesh, so our house was full of LPs from the Beatles, Zeppelin, the Doors, Hendrix, the Who, and just about any other rock related music from the 50s through the 80s. To say that the Beatles are in my DNA is an understatement.

RH: Where did the punk/hardcore influence come from?

RP: The music that blew my mind and turned me into a musician was punk, and its various influences and offshoots. So I’m happy that the Stooges, the Ramones, the Clash and the Sex Pistols have all been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Obviously most of the artists inducted have been influential to me in some way, but Pink Floyd, Public Enemy, Tom Waits, Van Morrison and Leonard Cohen also all have special places in my heart. Of course, I must also mention Leo Fender and Les Paul for pioneering the guitars and amps that I hold so dear and channel our riffs. [pictured below, clockwise: 1977 Sex Pistols concert poster; DMC eyeglass frames and Adidas sneakers circa 1985; Who drumhead circa 1967]

Exhibits in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio

RH: Given all those influences, what was the first record/CD you ever bought and do you still listen to it?

RP: My first favorite band was Huey Lewis And The News. I had all their LPs as well as the Back To The Future soundtrack with the essential “Power Of Love.” I don’t think that I purchased those myself though – they were my parents’ records. The first music I purchased with my own money was Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever cassette. Other very memorable early records I owned were Run DMC’s Raising Hell LP, which my aunt gave me for Christmas in 1986 or 1987, and the first compact discs I had were Bad Brains’ Rock For Lights and the Pixies Trompe Le Monde, given to me by an uncle for Christmas in the early 90s. I have a very cool musical family. I listen to all of this music to this day, although Bad Brains and Pixies are probably more indicative of my tastes going into adulthood.

RH: Speaking of adulthood, what do you remember about playing your first gig – how old were you, where was it, when was it, how’d it go, the crowd?

RP: I was 15. It was 1992 at an outdoor festival in my hometown of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, called the “Heartland Festival.” It was a small but supportive crowd under a tent in the August summer heat. My band Synapsis played a bunch of our own songs as well as a handful of covers-of-covers, including the Lemonheads’ version of “Luka” [originally by Suzanne Vega] and Dinosaur Jr’s version of “Just Like Heaven” [originally by the Cure]. It was fun and memorable and it set me off on a long road that I still follow to this day.

RH: Coliseum released Sister Faith this April, the group's fourth album. Which recording of yours would you say is your favorite and why?

RP: Sister Faith is my favorite. Your newest record is always your favorite, but I also feel like it’s the album I’ve been wanting to make my entire life. It’s definitely our most accomplished and assured work thus far.

RH: Your music has been categorized into a number of genres, but how would you describe it? What song would you tell them to listen to first and why?

RP: I usually say “punk rock” or “loud guitar rock.” If someone knows a bit more about our world of music, I might mention post-punk and 90s alternative, as well as 80s post-hardcore and various other sub-genres. If I had to recommend one song right now, it would be either “Black Magic Punks” or “Late Night Trains,” both songs are energetic tunes with a dark vibe and lots of melodic qualities. They seem to sum up Coliseum in 2013 as well as anything could.

RH: Thinking about the live experience in advance of your concert this week at the Rock Hall, do you have a favorite concert? One by someone else? And one by you?

RP: I’m bad at ranking memories... I’ve seen life changing performances by Fugazi, Swans, the New Pornographers, Spoon, Kerosene 454, Jawbox, Neurosis and so many others. Each are special in their own way. The same goes for our own shows. There have been so many highlights that it’s hard to choose. Recently we headlined a small outdoor festival in Berlin that had such a wonderful fun and happy vibe. It turned out so much better than we expected, and it really moved me how unified the band and audience felt that night. It was certainly my most recent favorite show that we’ve played.



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