"I’m trying not to lose that romance ever again" - Walter Delgado
Last month Rotting Out released 'Ronin' via Pure Noise Records, their first full-length record in seven years.
Though a ferocious and frantic example of hardcore punk on the surface, if you dig a little deeper you will find some heartbreaking and, at times, harrowing, storytelling straight from the pen of frontman Walter Delgado.
From falling out of love with everything and falling in with the wrong crowds, and subsequently spending 18 months in prison on a charge of transporting an estimated 700 pounds of marijuana despite being devotedly straight edge, to the band's legendary return at the 2018 edition of Sound And Fury, it's been five years of ebbs and flows for Walter.
Now he's leaving no stone unturned when it comes to creating his art and not letting anything, even himself, get in the way of him speaking his truth.
We caught up with him to talk about what the record means to him and how hardcore kept him going when all seemed lost...
How does it feel having a full-length out in the world after such a long time?
Says Walter Delgado: "For me, I was just so stoked to create something after so long. [It's about] being able to put my thoughts, and everything that’s been building up for the last five years, down and put forward a really good effort that’s fun but really emotional on my part."
Where did that emotion come from?
"I think that when we actually decided to do a full-length record, I personally decided to no longer just scratch the surface of the things that I’ve held onto internally or neglected altogether. No matter how it makes me feel, it felt like the right time to put it all out there. I was tired of carrying it. I’m still tired of carrying it most days. Though it’s given me a bit of a sense of release and let off a little bit of that pressure and tension.
"I promised myself not to shy away from the topics that I didn’t like looking at. There are a couple of songs on here that are a lot more personal than the other songs. Everything is personal, but there are some topics that are way more tragic. I promised myself that I would get those parts out of me the most. So when I wrote the record, it was a case of me being as vulnerable as I could get."
Were there points over the last five years where you thought you would never get to do that?
"I think in 2015 I was too burnt, and that’s on all levels. That’s emotionally, physically, mentally and even spiritually. I was drained and exhausted, not just in the band but also within my personal life, my family and my mental health. Relationships, friendships, business, I didn’t know how to tend to any of those things accordingly. I’ve always had a problem with finding this balance. It’s always been a do-or-die kind of thing. That took a really heavy toll on me.
"At that point I didn’t think I could ever come back and write a record like this or even come back to playing with the band at all. I was far too depressed and tired for there to be any other possibility."
It’s difficult to imagine what it must be like when hardcore, the thing that has given you so much over the years, starts to feel stale and something you don’t recognise anymore…
"You don’t ever know when it happened. You just know that it happened. You don’t know if it was inch-by-inch or show-by-show or if it was a specific event that lingered within you. You just don’t know. For me, it wasn’t just the shows. It was everything outside that was affecting me as well and stopping me from enjoying all of the things that I had romanticised and enjoyed.
"When we started playing shows again, I remember having this swell of excitement. I didn’t care about money or if we fuck up or sound good. I was just excited to play. If you watch the video from our set at Sound and Fury 2018, you can see my excitement and how much I was enjoying the atmosphere again. I was full of so much joy during that set and I made sure that I savoured it. I took it all in and just went for it. I’m much older now and my body fucking hurts more than it used to, but in the moment I treated it like I was 17 years old. It left a huge impact on my attitude. I’m trying not to lose that romance ever again."
What part did hardcore play during your time in prison then?
"My co-dependent whilst I was in there was also involved in hardcore. We would walk around the yard and talk about some of our favourite shows and all of the little details about them that were engrained in our heads. Things like a certain kid stagediving or a certain song where the whole room ignited. We would even talk about the first time we ever moshed to a band or when we had the courage to stage dive or be physically involved at a show."
What did having someone there that you could discuss this side of your life with mean to you?
"It gave me a purpose. We would argue and debate about records and bands and songs. Those conversations took us out of our environment for that hour and a half. We would forget where we were for a split second and they gave us something to look forward to. It fuelled our eagerness to write and create again.
"The prison even had its own little music room, but you could only go into it for an hour every two weeks. You weren’t allowed in it unless you paid the right people. Luckily there were a couple of other people in the prison who knew about hardcore, so we got hold of some really shitty instruments and we would do Terror and Hatebreed covers in those hours we had. We just had fun again. Those things were what we had to look forward to. I would use my time as a measurement. I would think ‘We have 16 more practices until I get out. How many songs can we learn in that time?'
"In a situation such as prison, it’s so easy to feel sorry for yourself and sit in your misery and gloom. I knew that I had to drag my ass outside and get some sun and remember the things that I loved doing.”
What is it that about your relationship with hardcore that has kept you inspired throughout you life?
"It reminds me how beautiful it was to find something like it. A lot of people who go to shows may not even get that feeling. I’d say that every two years, 80% of the people who get into hardcore then leave. That’s completely ok, but then you have the other 20% of people like me who are still in bands and still stick around because it spoke to them on a level like there was nothing else. There was no turning away. You were in debt to it almost. You pay that debt for the rest of your life by writing music and trying to give back because at one point in your life it gave you so much that you don’t know how to repay it any other way. Some people will say ‘That’s corny, I just want to mosh’ but there’s a good chance that in two years they won’t be here because that wasn’t enough to get them to fall in love with something like this.”
When hardcore transcends just heaviness and becomes something much more poignant and polarising, that’s when you know you are in it for life…
"For me, the reason I grabbed on to this and fought so fucking hard is because I had nothing else to look forward to. I didn’t want to go home and be with my family because it was too aggressive and violent there. I didn’t really have a lot of friends and the friends that I had I didn’t really connect with. I lived in a fantasy world of movies and comic books, but those things weren’t real. Hardcore was the thing that was genuine. Hardcore was the only thing that made me actually feel anything. It’s the thing that gave me hope, even just for that one night at a show. That was enough for me to latch onto and ask ‘When’s the next show? What do I need to sell to get there? What do I need to do to go and buy that CD?’ I know that there were other kids out there who were like me and I’m sure that process repeats itself. There’s always a batch of kids who come here out of sheer desperation looking for something and some of them do find it."
So in terms of Rotting Out, how has the purpose of the band changed for you between the start and end of the last decade?
"I always told myself that I should never sing about things that I wasn’t involved in, that I didn’t grow up in or about things outside of my reach. I told myself to write about what I’ve experienced and what I know. Just say it as it as and how it feels. A lot of the songs I’ve written are really angry and emotional and that’s the way it has to be. All of things I have written about have actually happened to me and are true. Some people can connect to some or all of it and some people may not be able to connect to any of it. I’ve never been here to reach the masses. My intention has always been to share my experiences and talk about the things that people don’t really want to talk about.
"All I can do is tell you about where I have come from and how that’s made me feel, and that’s what I’ve done with this record. Though I feel like this one is different because the other ones [‘11's ‘Street Prowl’ and '13's The Wrong Way’] were angry about everyone else and the things around me. This record is about me being upset with myself. I was looking a little bit more internally and analysing the way that I look at myself, even if it’s not a good way to look at myself. I was still acknowledging that’s how I see myself. Does that have to change? Maybe. But I think this record needed that."
With everything that the last few years has held, how far do you look forward? With the way you fell out of hardcore and found your way back in again, is it a case of keeping going until you can’t go any further so that can't happen again?
"Yeah, that’s kind of the rule now. I’m trying to make sure that everybody is on board in the same way as me within the band, so that the ebb and flow is right. That also transcends into the shows. With every show I play now, I try to play it like it’s my last. I try to give as much of myself, and as much as my body can take, because for all I know that could be it. Do I want to live with the fact that at my last show I half-assed it or I only just did enough? I’ve never liked that idea. I think that’s when it starts to feel like work. I want people to always know that the things I’m saying are things that I believe 100%."
You can pick up 'Ronin' from our mates over at EMP right HERE