Ruffians were formed in the Bay Area of San Francisco in 1983. However, as bands like Exodus or Forbidden have over the years become quite well-known among Thrash Metal fans, Ruffians, slightly more melodic in approach as above mentioned outfits, never made it big. Nevertheless, they featured the late and great Carl Albert (R.I.P.) on vocals and released one hell of a US Metal album, their self-titled debut from 1985.
And now they are back with a vengeance and a new album for High Roller Record entitled "Desert of Tears". With Chris Atchison (guitar), Craig Behrhorst (guitar) and Luke Bowman (drums) the current line-up does feature three original members. Quite a feat for a band going back to 1983 ... Guitarist Craig Behrhorst agrees: "It can be difficult at our age to keep original members, everyone has so much going on in their personal life. We still enjoy each others company and it's more fun playing with the same people that you grew up with. I have a lot of respect for the bands that stick it out through all the bullshit. U2 has had the same four members and manager for over 30 years. Kudos to those guys!" Musically, thank god, Ruffians bear no relation to U2. However, was being part of the Bay Area scene a blessing or a curse for them? For Craig Behrhorst there is not a shadow of a doubt that the band was an integral part of this revolutionary movement: "Of course we were a part of the Bay Area Metal scene. Ruffians first started playing in the Bay Area in 1983 and our first album came out in March of '85. We played gigs with Exodus, Death Angel, Heathen, Legacy, Laaz Rockit etc. Everyone hung out at the same clubs, same parties and sometimes even had the same girlfriend. So we were all part of the Bay Area scene, and a good one it was! I remember playing Bay Area shows with LA bands like Slayer, Armored Saint and Lizzy Borden and they all were fascinated with the camaraderie of the bands in the Bay Area. There was camaraderie between the bands in the sense that we were all from the same area and a lot of us hung out together. I was drinking in parks with Baloff listening to Scorps' "Tokyo Tapes" on a boom box before he was in Exodus or I started Ruffians. I miss his 'good, friendly, violent fun' attitude. For the record Gary Holt is one heavy fucker!"
As already mentioned, Ruffians were musically not as aggressive as say Exodus or Heathen: "Ruffians played melodic metal and always has a great singer. That's the style that came naturally to us and we didn't fuck around trying to be who were weren't. Yeah, we were left in the dust in the later part of the 80's when everyone was getting signed but that's the card that was dealt."
Ruffians never gave up the fight and as a result, they appeared live for the first time in Europe in 2004: "'Bang Your Head' was great. This was the first time Ruffians had played in Europe so it was a blast for us and our fans. I actually didn't know that many people were familiar with the band. We played the 'warm up' show the night before and opened with 'Fight for your Life' and everyone in the place was singing 'FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE'; truly incredible! Totally cool to be playing with Testament and Death Angel too. I found Pete Way and had a beer with him." In 2005 Ruffians played the "Keep it True" festival, probably also a highlight in their career. Craig Behrhorst agrees: "KIT was a great experience and highlight for the band as well. Total hard core metal heads! This was our last date of the 2005 European Tour and we a bit tired but we delivered and all had a great time. Ruffians received good reviews that night."
In 2006 Ruffians played Europe a third time in succession under the name of their last album "Desert of Tears". Craig gives us the details about the new album: "No one in the band played a lot of metal between the split of Ruffians in 1989 till 2004 so we kind of just picked up were we left off. I think "Desert of Tears" sounds like Ruffians and is similar to the original sound of the band. It definitely has an 'old school' vibe to it with updated production. We wanted to keep "Desert of Tears" pretty raw. We had more time to record which is a big difference from the first album. The first album was recorded and mixed in 24 hours." I think the production of the new album is very warm and lively. Craig shares my view: "The production is somewhat dated but I actually like some of the production of 70's and 80's albums. "Desert of Tears" is a high -fidelity recording that's raw and in your face. Nothing is too wet and hidden which I hate. It has two rhythm guitars panned hard left and hard right with everything else basically in stereo. Sometimes when you start layering too many guitar tracks the overall sound can get muddy and too distorted. There's some stuff out there with hella guitar tracks that sounds incredible but keeping it simple is our thing. It's all about the riff and vocal melody!"
The vinyl edition of the album, courtesy of High Roller Records, will have one extra track, namely "Risen". "'Risen' was an afterthought towards the end of the recording session", states Craig. "Part of the tune is an old riff of Chris' that he played with a band back in '81; so it does have a traditional metal sound. Rich laid down some nice vocals so it was decided to be on the first 500 copies of the Metal Heaven release."