Selling the Ashes: Progressing from the Studio to the Stage

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Selling the Ashes is a solo project of local Utah musician Jordan Ruiz. Growing up in Holladay and enjoying the underground nightlife of Area 51, the now-defunct Confetti’s and Sanctuary, Ruiz was inspired and intrigued by the experimental, emotionally driven music of Nine Inch Nails, Stabbing Westward and Gravity Kills.

After the recent release of Ruiz’s third album, Derivative, on Sept. 17, I was invited to an underground CD release party for the album, which included a performance from Selling the Ashes. This was a special date, because exactly 10 years ago, Selling the Ashes’ first album, Devoid, was released. I was there at that release and show, but at that time, it was just Ruiz. 

Now, Ruiz has constructed a full live band and will be opening for PIG, who will perform at the Dark Arts Festival at Area 51 on Sept. 28. Meeting at Ruiz’s home studio and walking among the multitudes of electronic equipment and wall of guitars, I sat down with Ruiz to get some insight into what inspired a studio act to start performing live. 

“It’s true, I’ve written and produced all of the music on my own for all of STA’s albums,” says Ruiz. “I’ve always had an interest in performing it live, but finding live band members is very difficult. Over the years, I’d occasionally find one or two people interested, but it never really worked out. It wasn’t until last December, when Jeffrey [Eldredge (live vocals)] and Autumn [Rogers (lead guitar)] approached me with the idea of starting a live band that it all really came together. Soon after, I asked Steve (bass and guitar) to join us, and now we’ve got a nearly complete band. We could still use a drummer, though.”

Ruiz continues to explain how the band is separate from the recording and creating of the music. “I enjoy writing music alone, and I’m probably too much of a control freak to be any good at collaboration on music,” he says, making note of the other live band members’ music-writing projects. Rogers writes some music on her own, performs some solo gigs and is also a live band member of IMPXVIII. Eldredge—creator of the Eldredge tie knot—also writes music in solo. 

Selling the Ashes’ new album, Derivative, is going to be released in three parts: Ruiz conceptualized this album as a three-act play or movie. The concept of releasing the album in three parts was also one of strategy for an ever-changing world of media.

“Originally, Derivative was going to be a double album. My favorite album is Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile, and I’ve always wanted to create something that large and meaningful in scope,” says Ruiz. “The reality, though, is that double albums aren’t really a thing anymore, because physical albums aren’t a thing. I also think that the average music listener’s attention span has shortened, and that people listen to the music they like in short bursts and in playlists. So, with that in mind, I figured I’m more likely to have people listen to all of Derivative if it is broken down into smaller, more digestible chunks, rather than one giant release. That said, when all three pieces are done, I’d like to put together a complete vinyl set.”

Ruiz also mentions that printing CDs doesn’t make as much sense as it used to. “Even at live shows, having download cards is becoming more common than CDs, it seems,” he says. I would have to agree: I have seen this growing trend of limiting the amount of physical copies, due to an ever-changing and increasingly prevalent digital medium.

Even as times change and moments are forever altered by circumstance, the local Salt Lake City industrial scene is thriving with new and old acts. These acts work as a community and give new life to a genre that found its footing in the 1970s. Times are changing, methods are changing, and as we enter this new era, local bands are coming together to support one another. I asked Ruiz if there is a certain type of camaraderie with these other local acts. “Yes, but there really aren’t too many local acts in the same genre,” says Ruiz. “The ones I’ve met are very welcoming to others.” As a lifelong fan of Area 51 and the underground Salt Lake City scene, it is not hard to see how and why, from the salts of Salt Lake, Selling the Ashes found its foundation.