Rock n’ Roll endurance
This year it’s going to mark the 20th anniversary of Soil. These four Chicago metallers have been dominating the alternative music world for years and they have been back in full force since the original line up reunited in 2011, with original singer Ryan McCombs. Their comeback album ‘Whole’ (2013, Pavement Music) had all the elements that made us all fall in love with Soil. The very good news is that the band has no intention of stopping any time soon, in fact, they are writing new material and they are on tour. We sat down with lead singer Ryan McCombs to understand more about the story and origins of the band, to discuss the new album, which means to be independent in the music industry and the future.
HMA: It has been nearly 4 years since your latest album ‘Whole’ (2013) do you have any new material, are you writing a new album?
Ryan McCombs: Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the band; actually, we’re that old. They kept us around for 20 years. We’ve been writing … we started writing about a month before we left for this run and so we will have something out next year for the 20th anniversary.
HMA: What musical direction will the new album take, will it be another classic Soil like ‘Scars’ ‘Redefine’ and ‘Whole’?
RM: It’ll be us definitely, we can’t do anything different. I mean, we just write the way we write and there’s no point changing a formula that works.
HMA: How does it feel to be back in Soil again, was it a smooth transition coming back to the band?
RM: It’s a lot better now than it was then. Back then there’s so much that you can’t do anything about when you’re talking about labels, managers, and everybody involved that you really just go crazy worrying about what everyone else is doing and you live together on a bus, so you start taking it out on each other all the time. Nowadays we’re older, we’ve been there done that, and so we just know not to sweat the stuff you can’t control. Just worry about what you can navigate through and we concentrate more on just laughing and having a good time now. We were always pretty lame as far as the party goes. Even back in my original run of the band, I didn’t drink at all, but they all did. There’s never been a drug thing with the band, but now, now that I drink, we laugh about the fact that if I had of been drinking back then we probably would have never broken up.
HMA: Does it feel like a rebirth musically for you and the band that you are back?
RM: I don’t know. I didn’t really pay much attention. I don’t mean that to sound bad, I didn’t listen; I didn’t hear any of the Soil stuff when I wasn’t with the band. I haven’t heard any of the Drowning Pool stuff, I just don’t. I don’t listen to a lot of music period, so I don’t necessarily seek it out. It’s not, like, thrown in my face. I’m not really sure what was going on. I know that when we first got together, that’s kind of what the guys were saying, that they felt rejuvenated, they felt good playing these songs the way with the members that wrote them, really. Adam was always the main song writer musically, and I always wrote all the lyrics, so just having that combination back together again. They were having fun. I think we’re all having fun again.
HMA: Besides music, what kind of art inspires you?
RM: For me, lyrics just come from waking up. Waking up, going through your day. I’ve never sat down and said I’m going to write a song about this, or that. It’s always, once I hear some music, just whatever’s going on in the old head at the time just kind of comes out. It’s not a set goal; I’ve always respected guys like Metallica and Iron Maiden. They wrote about points in time. They wrote about books that they’ve read. Iron Maiden was big on writing about historical stuff and I’ve never been able to do that. I can’t, I have so many notebooks of stuff that I’ve written that have never made it into songs, because at the end of the day when I hear some music, I write whatever’s in my mind right there and then, so I’ve got all these notebooks!
HMA: How did you get into metal, what made you decide to be a musician?
RM: There are pictures of me in a diaper air drumming or air guitaring.
HMA: Which are your personal musical influences?
RM: Well my dad and my brother … it’s funny because my mom was a school teacher and my dad was kind of the head guy at the factory that everybody around the community where I grew up, they worked at, so I was known as Mike and Susie’s boy. They were the picture perfect, they were the great parents, and they were the picture perfect, church every Sunday, bible study Tuesday, Thursday. They were the 70s TV family. The funny thing is, what nobody knew at the time was once the front door closed, my dad had … they were hidden because of my mom’s furniture … but in my living room there were huge speakers hidden behind the furniture in the corners of each room, so when the doors closed and the house was sealed off from the rest of the world, on came on the Aerosmith and the AC/DC. My mom was a musician. She had would play the piano and stuff. Dad couldn’t play anything; he pushed the play on the tape deck or whatever really well. So there was always music going on. My brother was five years older than me, there was AC/DC, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead, and then my brother who got it, who listened to rock and metal and he was a product of definitely the 80s. Through him, I found my love of Motley Crue and the bands of that era. It wasn’t until probably Alice in Chains, that is probably that first band that I was at that right age to where that was my band, you know? It wasn’t necessarily an influence because of what my brother was listening to and what my dad was listening to, but that was the first band that I grabbed a hold of. I think it was really because of the lyrics Layne could have been singing about an empty tin can laying on the sidewalk, but at the same time, I felt like he was singing about my life and I loved the way that he wrote.
HMA: The album ‘Whole’ was partly founded by Pledge Music. Why did you make that choice in the first place, was that a choice so you could be completely independent?
RM: Exactly to be independent. That was something we were all on the same page with. When the guys talked to me about doing the tenth anniversary of Scars, coming over to the UK and doing that, what was that, 2011? We did it, and we ended up having too much fun. So it was like, okay, how about doing another record? We were both throwing stuff around and we both realized that we were all on the same page and If we did another record, we wanted to control everything about it. We wanted to have a say on who was working press, who was doing marketing. We wanted to get the people that over the years that we’ve been together that we enjoyed working with. We wanted to bring them in on the project. In order to do that we needed the financial backing. At least some assistance from somewhere. With the Pledge it basically financed the bare bones recording aspect of the whole thing and the fans stepped up and took care of a big aspect of it.
HMA: Is that something you would do again for upcoming records?
RM: I don’t think we’re going to. We’re not going with a label and we’re definitely going to keep the people involved that we did with the whole; we just got other means at this point too. That way we don’t have to bug the people to give us a job to do, more than what we already do. I want to say the Pledge was just the album, but Tim would know better, he handles more the business side of thing, Adam handles the travel side of things and I handle all the social media stuff. That way we keep a lot of hands out of the cookie jar if we can’t handle stuff in the house. With us, we’re lucky enough that we’ve gotten to the point to where touring wise we can make a living at it. It’s not only paying for our self but we’re also able to walk away and pay bills with it.
HMA: After so many years in a band which you can say have been the highlights for Soil and what have you learned?
RM: There’s been so many. I always had the goal to do this for a living. I remember talking years and years ago after we made it, we were talking to a friend back home and he was one of my old high school buddies. We were talking and he was like, you kicked me out of the band three times. I was like, yeah, I’m sorry. I was a jerk, he goes, for the rest of us, you know, the band was something that we just did. For you, it was, you knew what you wanted. For the rest of us, it was fun. Soil was in Chicago. It was five hours away. I was in two bands back home at the time. It was Monday’s, Wednesday’s, and Friday’s with one band, Tuesday’s and Thursdays with the other and this was after work, doing that. After rehearsal on Friday night, I would drive to Chicago five hours, rehearse Saturday Sunday with Soil and then drive back five hours to start the work week again. It’s been 20 years that the band’s been together. The goal was always there to do it and to get the chance to do it was one thing. That was amazing, just to get the opportunity. Still to this day, and it’s not because I’m sitting here, to this day one of my biggest … still, I get … was the first time I remember flying over the UK and looking out my window of the aeroplane and seeing the lights of London. It was night time, and I got choked up. The old pain water came out of my eyes, I was like how does a kid from Indiana come from Dunkirk Indiana where there are one stop light and two cop cars the entire time I’m getting ready to land in London England and play a show. That’s a great feeling, I was like -….what the hell!
HMA: What’s next for Soil, will you keep touring in the new year or will you concentrate on the new material?
RM: We’re going to do some shows here and there in the States, just basically pay some bills type shows. With the release of the 20th-anniversary album, we will be doing a full US run as well as UK, Europe, and wherever they’ll let us come to. But with you, I will see you back in LA at the Whiskey I hope!
Interview by Manuela Mattera – Copyright 2017 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.