When David Ramsey started writing and recording music early in the pandemic, he didn’t want to leave any room for doubt as to what people could expect from the project.
As a result, Bone Knife’s pummeling, heavy metal sound informs everything from its gruesome name to the accompanying album artwork and especially Ramsey’s horror film-indebted lyrics, which draw from a lifetime of exposure to slasher films. (Ramsey said he first watched “Friday the 13th” at age 7.)
Ramsey has played in a variety of bands over his three-plus decades in music, with the lone consistent being his consistency. So, when the coronavirus hit, he couldn’t slow down, continuing to write and record songs even through the earliest months of lockdown.
“I’ve been doing this for the past 35 years nonstop. I’ve always been in at least one band, and at one time I had five going on,” said Ramsey, who will join guitarist Travis Nichols, bassist Brad Swackhammer and drummer Ben Speakman in concert at Spacebar on Friday, July 21. (This will be Speakman’s last show with Bone Knife, following which Austin Burnside will assume the role.) “The biggest thing you could do [during stay at home] was keep your mind occupied. It helped to have a task and to have a purpose and to have something I was working on. … And what else would I do anyway? If I wasn’t making music, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.”
Ramsey traced his interest in music to childhood, recalling how at age 3 he would whine to his parents about wanting to play his dad’s acoustic guitar, which the elder kept in a closet and rarely brought out. At age 7, Ramsey started putting on imaginary concerts in his basement, jamming on a fake wooden guitar. And in seventh grade, he agreed to be in his first band, though the trio never actually played any music. “We just told people we were in a band and wore leather jackets and smoked cigarettes and thought we were cool,” Ramsey said, and laughed.
Eventually, Ramsey started taking lessons at Blue Eagle Music in Athens, Ohio, joining his first band, AFA, short for Another Fucking Acronym, as a teenager. A host of punk and metal bands followed, most of which have been based in Columbus.
From the jump, the songs Ramsey wrote for Bone Knife, which take full flower on the album Death Looks Good on You, from 2023, tended toward the extremes of those early bands. The musician attributed this to the channeling of frustrations brought about by COVID realities, as well his need to differentiate from the quieter groups he was playing with at the time, including the piano-led Bella Whitt and the Fog and the math-rock band Try Not to Die.
“I was missing that volume, and I just wanted to crank up and be loud,” said Ramsey, who briefly flirted with making a punk record, drawn to the idea of reconnecting with the music he listened to while skateboarding as a kid. “And then I thought, well, Ohio is metal country, so let’s make a metal record. … I just wanted it to be loud and heavy.”
Initially started as a solo project, Ramsey decided to invite other players to join him in Bone Knife once he realized he couldn’t stop listening to demos such as “The Fire” and bloody-grinned thrasher “The Purge.”
Ramsey placed his first call to Chris “Spanky” Hughes (Salvage), inviting him to play guitar in the band. Hughes agreed and recruited Swackhammer into the fold. Then, in March 2021, Hughes died.
“And so, his last request was really for me to have Brad in the band, and to play with Brad, and so Brad has been with me the whole ride,” said Ramsey, who learned of Hughes’ death days after the fact, initially believing the musician had ghosted him when he didn’t respond to messages. “It kind of hit me one day that Brad is only in the band because Spanky told me to reach out and talk to him. And that makes it more sentimental, for sure, heavier.”