Interview by Ian Savage
A little more than ten years ago, SOiL were on top of the world, surfing the nu-metal/alternative rock wave with their major label debut ‘Scars’. Any rock fan who was above the age of about twelve back then will still recall the hooklines of massive tunes like ‘Halo’ and ‘Unreal’, which fill club dancefloors to this day.
Original vocalist Ryan McCombs left the band in 2004 (and later cropped up in Drowning Pool), and SOiL released a couple of critically-acclaimed but relatively slow-selling independent label albums with A.J Cavalier behind the mic. Coinciding with the tenth anniversary of ‘Scars’, McCombs re-joined the band in 2011, and their first release with the reunited lineup, ‘WHOLE’, is due out on August 20th.
Ian Savage caught up to talk recording, touring, drummers, and hungry rats…
So, the tour started on Thursday and officially SOiL don’t have a drummer – is Mitch Gable still filling in?
Tim (bass): Mitch is our touring drummer, so yes.
Ryan (vocals): Tim, Adam and I made the decision when we decided to continue on after the anniversary of ‘Scars’ tour in 2011 that we did not want to fill the drummer position permanently. Jon was supposed to be with us just for that anniversary tour but remained for several U.S. dates. That wasn’t by design, it just worked out that way. Mitch fits in so well with us that I can’t imagine another drummer being out with us but I don’t think we will ever fill the position “permanently.” We’ve all had our “moments” with drummers.
New album ‘WHOLE’ had Will Hunt behind the traps, is there going to be a difference in ‘feel’ live?
Tim: No, Mitch learned the songs note for note. It wasn’t easy but he did. He’s a real solid player in his own right.
Ryan: Will killed it on this album. He came in and finished the drum tracks in 2 days. I had never seen anything like it before. Mitch did the drum tracks for ‘My Time’ and in that one song gave us more than enough comfort in the thought of him tracking the entire album. The only reason he didn’t was because we had already talked with and made plans with Will long before Mitch came into the fold. We have already included ‘Shine On’ into the live set and Mitch throws it down flawlessly. Mitch is a great talent that has had no trouble tackling anything and everything we have thrown at him.
The album’s been described as a return to SOiL’s classic sound, the ‘natural successor’ to breakthrough album ‘Scars’ – has the three founding members [Ryan McCombs (vocals), Tim King (bass), Adam Zadel (guitar)] being back together for the first album in nearly ten years contributed to that?
Ryan: Without question. Adam was and always has been the soul of the band. Even if someone else wrote a riff, it was Adam that built a song around it. Tim was always good for a song or two on each album as well. Not meaning to sound like a dick as I played bass for years but if you have a bass player that can contribute that much to the writing process, it’s a big positive. The Nikki Sixx’s of this world are way few and far between. I wrote about 97% of the lyrics on ‘Scars’ and ‘Redefine’ and Adam covered what I didn’t write. I love hearing that we have produced a ‘Scars’ type of album but when you consider the people involved it’s no wonder.
Tim: For sure….Ryan’s voice is the SOiL sound. That blended with the downtuned guitars and riffs.
You’ve gone independent for this release, was it notably more difficult to take full control of an album as opposed to having a label to back you up?
Tim: We are with AFM Records for the world outside of North America and Pavement Entertainment for North America. I co-own and work for Pavement so for the first time ever SOiL gets to call all its own shots.
Ryan: [It was] much more difficult but worth it. I have made a lot of people a lot of money over the years while my family has gone without. Keeping full creative control also allows us the opportunity to produce the truest SOiL album to date. No bosses looking over our shoulders dictating direction. I don’t follow directions well. I’ve always been the type that if I’m told to use the green marker I’m going to use the brown paint.
‘WHOLE’ was produced by Ulrich Wild [Pantera/Static-X/Prong producer], whose mixing style is often very uncompromising – how do the five of you get on?
Ryan: Working with Ulrich was fucking awesome. If you ever meet a guy that has a problem with Ulrich personally then your probably talking to a douche bag. One of the most low-key laid back producers I have ever been around. We didn’t auto tune dick on this album, he just simply gets the best out of an artist and makes it seem effortless.
Tim: He also did our TRUE SELF and co-produced our PICTURE PERFECT albums. He is amazing to work with. The perfect choice for the new album.
First single ‘Shine On’ is dedicated to the fans who stuck by the band over the years – do you have much contact with your listeners outside of at shows?
Ryan: I’m the band member that is the most hands on with the bands social media outlets. I also have my own personal page that I keep in contact with them through at www.facebook.com/
Tim: Yeah, we try to answer e-mails and have interaction.
By all accounts the opening show of this tour was slightly disappointing in terms of crowd attendance – was the Marion OH show a blip?
Ryan: It simply amazes me how many promoters out there think if they book a show the crowd will show up. An impossible happening if the crowd doesn’t know that there is a damn show. They do not realise that money in advertising equals more money in their pockets at the end of the day. Some real fucking idiots in this game believe me.
SOiL toured the UK with Puddle of Mudd in 2011 to reintroduce Ryan to the band – why has it taken so long to get him back onstage in the US?
Ryan: The tour in 2011 was supposed to be it. A one time occurrence. I was in my seventh year with Drowning Pool and as SOiL and my ex-wife can attest to that’s the extent of my attention. That’s when I start getting itchy for a change. (Laughs)
Seriously though, the SOiL guys gave me a holler about doing a tenth anniversary tour of the album ‘Scars’ in the UK where it is still a significant album and I had a break in the DP schedule so I agreed to do it. Upon returning back to the States I was feeling that familiar feeling of the mix of emotions between loving the opportunity that I have been given by the people that support the music I have been a part of the last 16 years and just simply being burnt out by the crooked aspects of the business. DP and I ended up parting ways about a month after I got back to the states and for awhile I just simply didn’t know if I wanted to do anything else musically.
You’re touring heavily in the US through August and September, are there any plans to bring the tour to Europe?
Tim: Yes. We are discussing plans for a full UK and European tour.
Ryan: No question. I can’t wait to get back to Europe. When we went there late last year with Fozzy we had a blast. It was my first time feeling the love and support from many of the countries there in years. Was beyond great to be back there an I constantly bug the hell out of our booking agent to get us back as soon as possible.
Have people consciously been getting into shape for touring?
Tim: I guess so. We’ve been drinking more….(laughs)
Ryan: I always say I’m going to but I never do. Me getting in shape for a tour is the same as me warming up for a show. Marlboros and Captain Morgan rum.
Is there anyone you’d love to take out on the road with you that you haven’t managed to yet?
Tim: My goal in life is to tour with Motley Crue.
Ryan: We’ve shared the road with a lot of good bands and good people. No one band stands out. All I ever concern myself with is whether the bands I’m out with consist of good people. That’s what makes for a good time out there. Would love to go back out with Skindred again as it hasn’t been since our first tour of the UK that we have shared the road with them. Nonpoint is always a good time because they’re good people that bring their ‘A’ game EVERY night.
Who’d win in a fight, Lemmy or God?
Tim: Come on! We’ve all seen “Airheads”….[both] Lemmy IS God.
Zombies or dinosaurs?
Tim: Zombies! We are all doomed.
One wolf or lots of hungry rats?
Tim: Wolf… I’m scared of rats!
Ryan: Depends on how many fucking bullets I have.