All Break ups can hurt. Band break ups can really hurt. Some breakups can be met with a shrug, some can hit you hard and some can hit you completely out of the blue. On 19th April 2017, progressive punks Coliseum quietly released a statement on their Facebook page announcing their split after a 12 year career which saw the band play over a 1,000 shows and release 5 albums ranging from the bruising hardcore of their debut through to their most realized final 2 albums, the almighty Sister Faith and the post-punk influenced Anxiety’s Kiss. For those who have followed the band over the years it came as a complete shock. Nevertheless, to soften the blow, the aforementioned statement also announced the arrival of frontman Ryan Patterson’s new solo vehicle, Fotocrime. Dying Scene spoke to Ryan about the split, why the time was right to try something new and about the challenges of creating music as a solo artist.
Despite the continued romanticism, making a success of a band relies on a mixture of good will, good fortune and ceaseless endeavor. 3 principles that undoubtedly defined the career of Coliseum, as Patterson explains,“With a band like Coliseum, that was a band that worked really really hard for a really long time and accomplished an unbelievable amount of stuff but a lot of it was through sheer force of will. That and the support of people like record labels who believed in us and invested a lot of money where we weren’t going to be their most popular band.”
With so much effort and resolve required it becomes easier to understand the band’s reasons for calling it quits. In the end it was a sober realization of where they found themselves as a band at the end of the touring cycle for Anxiety’s Kiss, as Patterson explains, “It was pragmatic. It was a pragmatic decision that we made after a lot of thought and I think it was bouncing around in the back of my head for a little bit and once we all started talking about it it just seemed like the best route for all of us and for the band.”
For Patterson, the band had achieved everything that they wanted to do, “We had done more than we could ever hoped to and my only goal in Coliseum was, when I started, was to tour a lot and to craft some legacy and we absolutely did both of those things. We played over 1,000 shows in 4 continents. We put out a lot of music. Most of which I am extremely proud of. Some of which I think is absolutely great for us.” states Patterson emphatically before continuing:
“Certainly we felt with Sister Faith and Anxiety’s Kiss we accomplished what, I think, the band was always leading up to and absolutely what I wanted to do with that band. We just thought ‘where do we go from here?’” We’ve kind of done all of this. We accomplished goals. Sister Faith and Anxiety’s Kiss were really on top of each other in terms of how quickly we wrote and recorded them. I think that’s it, we’re all happy with each other and we’re all happy creatively; let’s not push it to a point where we are not happy creatively and don’t like each other.”
Coupled with the collective acknowledgement of their accomplishments was the recognition that the band weren’t overly eager to work on new music, “For one thing, we didn’t all have a burning desire to work on new material at the time and that kind of seemed to become evident.” Rather than take a break Patterson realized that the most natural thing to do was to call a halt to the band that had become the dominant force in his life for such a long time, as he explains, “We probably could have taken a few years off but with Coliseum I was never really able to slow down. I was always wanting to move forward and I needed time away to clear my head and manage some things in my perception of music and in life. In 12 years I had never had a time in my life when something was not scheduled in terms of a tour or travel or writing or recording and it was kind of time to have a break from that and it was always a kind of uphill struggle.We never kind of broke through so there was a lot of work.”
Naturally, the question asked by fans of the band is whether there is any chance of the band getting back together. While it isn’t something that is going to happen anytime soon, Patterson is keen not to rule it out completely, “The door is shut but it’s not locked. We’re all still close. We’re all still in touch and proud of what we did and I kind of see Coliseum as a living breathing thing that was a part of my life and it still is. It’s still there and there are things that will still happen with it. There’s music that we haven’t released that I’m sure will come out one day. There’s just nothing new happening although there might be one day.”
All told it was not an easy decision to reach but ultimately Patterson is confident that it is the right one for him in the long run, “I never thought I’d say this but it is nice to put an end to something. To close a book. I thought it would be what I would do forever. That Coliseum was always me and my mind. It was difficult to let that go but it’s nice to have it be a thing that ended in a good way.”
While one door closes, another opens and Patterson has announced his intentions with the release of the phenomenal Fotocrime EP featuring the darkly warped, post-punk epic “Always Hell”. A song that acts as the perfect bridge between the sound of Anxiety’s Kiss and Patterson’s new material under the Fotocrime moniker, “The more post-punk vibe kind of continued because that is what I am most into and feels right. When we were done with everything I felt that that song (“Always Hell”) in particular was a good transition from Coliseum to Fotocrime. I don’t think it is wholly indicative of every sound Fotocrime has made. I don’t think it is exactly what the album material I have finished sounds like but it does kind of set the tone and it’s more of a guitar rock song so ties in with Coliseum so it works well in that way. I think it was a good step.”
While that song might sound like a natural progression, it took a long time for Patterson to achieve what he wanted with the new material, “This is not exactly the sound I started off trying to make. When I started, I was trying to make this music that would become Fotocrime and it just wasn’t working. It was pleasing to the ear and the songs were cool but my voice wasn’t where I wanted it to be,” Patterson reveals, “I threw out a bunch of material I wrote immediately after Coliseum did our last tour. Even before we made the decision to stop I started writing things with the idea that it would be my own thing. It just didn’t work.” Naturally, his approach to writing differed tremendously from working with a band mainly due to the absence of one particular instrument, “The nature of having a drum machine and programmed drums is so different from playing with a real drummer and that alone creates a completely different vibe and sound.”
Understandably, the process of creating music alone rather than as part of a band wasn’t an easy transition, “It was a challenge, for sure to make it feel like something that sounded right and fit the bill while still having the vibe that I wanted.” Notably, synthesizers feature more prominently in the Fotocrime material, and despite becoming more a part of Coliseum’s sound on Anxiety’s Kiss, as Patterson points out, understanding how to get the best from them proved to be the biggest test, “The synthesizer stuff was slowly entering Coliseum songs here and there but to do it a lot more was a challenge and certainly synthesizers are entirely their own thing and you’re kind of learning how they work. You have to learn how to work mechanically before you can make them work musically and that’s a challenge” explains Patterson, “Sometimes you get something and I’m so overwhelmed by it that I don’t know how to make music out of it and you have to learn the basics of getting that machine to make musical sounds. So it’s really exciting and it’s challenging and it’s fun in a way that is unique in a different way to the guitar.”
With the EP acting as the perfect appetizer for more material, when exactly listeners can enjoy the main dish is a little more uncertain, “We are trying to take things as it comes. After the release of the EP we are going to start approaching labels. It could be later this year, it could be next year. We might release it ourselves. It’s kind of entirely unknown at this moment. Getting the EP out first was the goal.” That said, Patterson reveals that the album is in the can and good to go, “It’s done. It’s completely finished and I’m very proud of it and excited about it. I think that inherently it’s the strongest stuff that I’ve done. It is exciting to have new sounds and to share Fotocrime with the world.” With that in mind, it’s clear that some break ups can be for the best after all.