Ground up in the machines
Tim King from Soil talks Paranormal Activity, Haunted Studios, Ebola, and Michael Jackson. You see the theme: Halloween special. Oh, and a little about the latest album and tour…
HMA: Talk us through the title of your latest album, ‘Whole’, as it seems like a play on words.
Tim: Yeah it’s a total play on words. In fact, Ryan came up with it. Ryan was on an aeroplane and he saw an advertisement of this bullet-hole in the page of the magazine with blood dripping out of it, and we all thought it was a really cool concept. And he was like ‘Instead of calling it ‘Hole’, why don’t we call it ‘Whole’?’ As in, the band’s whole again, with Ryan coming back.
HMA: So the album artwork, as it was a, I don’t want to use the term, but as it was a ‘stolen’ idea, did you contact the artist that did the ad in the paper and use them?
TK: No. I mean we made it so our idea was completely different than what Ryan actually saw. It was just like one of those little small things that kinda triggers an idea and then we all hopped on it and discussed it together. We had Travis Smith do the artwork. He’s famous for doing a lot of the Century Media bands and a lot of creative things. And the cool thing about him is he doesn’t just use graphics; he uses actual photos. He either takes the photos, or gets rights to the photos, and then blends them together. If you look at our cover it’s an actual hole in a piece of paper that was taken from a photograph, rather than like being computer generated. So that was one thing about him that was like really neat. And when we go with someone like him, because he doesn’t do many rock bands, it didn’t look like your typical rock ‘n’ roll type thing. We wanted to go with somebody that could go a little metal or more obscure.
HMA: What made you choose white as the main album colour? Metal albums obviously tending to have a darker theme…
Tim: We just wanted to make a statement with the bullet-hole right through there dripping blood and we just figured that it would stand out when you’re looking at a store shelf or a magazine or anywhere. You just see it and go, ‘What is that; what’s going on here?’ ya know?
HMA: One of the tracks on this album is The Hate Song. I know there’s a story behind it.
TK: How we wrote this record is, it was me, Adam and Ryan, together. And what we would do is, we would sit in a room and I and Adam would come up with some riffs and put them together and Ryan would get vocal ideas. And then Adam would program a drum machine to it, and that’s how some of the songs were written. Others were written by me and Adam sitting together and putting some riffs together and then Adam would throw a drum machine loop on it and we’d send it to Ryan. Then there were one or two songs where Adam had just this complete idea of his own that he sent and then there‘s another where I sent an acoustic riff and it spawned this whole thing around it.
And then the other part of the writing process is when we’re doing some shows we had a drummer that was playing with us and we just jammed together live as a band. Well, during one of those sessions Adam was playing the beginning of The Hate Song – that da na na na part; the little beginning riff. And Ryan goes ‘Hey!’ and Adams like ‘Oh Sorry, I was just like messing around’ and then Ryan was like ‘No no no, I’ve got a really weird idea. Keep playing man. It’s actually something that just sparked an idea.’ So Adam kept playing that annoying little sound and then we kinda homed in on it and built the song around it. It started off as ‘Oh Sorry, I was just noodling around the type of thing’ and it spawned an entire song and a single too.
HMA: Do you annoy each other playing riffs often?
TK: Oh we’re always annoying each other but usually it’s a lot more than just playing a couple of riffs!
HMA: This is quite a long tour you guys seem to be on. You’ve done the States, and Europe and now the UK…
Tim: Yeah, I mean the tour for this actual record has been going for almost 13 months. We’ve taken a couple of little really tiny breaks here and there. The most notable one was we went for eleven months straight non-stop and then we took the summer off for a couple months before we came back over here… We really wanted to refresh and recharge the batteries. But yeah we hit literally every single possible nook and cranny of the entire United States; we covered the entire United States.
HMA: Is there any reason for playing loads of smaller venues rather than just maybe a couple larger venues on fewer dates… Is it the same out in the States or is it larger venues out there?
TK: Well it’s different all the time. It just depends. Like, we played larger venues when it was Skindred and us on the tour that we just did in January or February over here. It was an amazing tour for both bands. We played big rooms on that. This one we’re on now has some big ones some smaller ones just depending… In Australia at the Soundwave festival, we played in front of 25000 people that night. And then in the States, it’s all different too cos we went out with a band called All That Remains, that are quite big in the States, and we were playing to 1000, 2000 people, and then we play some festivals.
HMA: Do you have plans for Halloween or are you playing that night?
TK: Yeah, we’re playing in Reading on Halloween I believe (For our readers – it’s pronounced REDing).
HMA: Would you play an acoustic set in the UK?
Tim: We’ve done it for radio stations in the States and stuff. We did play a full acoustic set on the Jaeger stage at Download 2012. I don’t know; there’s really not been, or we haven’t seen any real demand for it though. What we’re actually thinking of maybe doing at some point is doing an electric set, like a half of an electric set and then break down and do the rest of an acoustic set or vice versa, or break down in the middle and do a couple acoustic songs… but ya know it might be something for the future. Our songs have that more cutting heavier edge that is a little bit harder to transpose to an acoustic type thing. So, some of them work, some of them are like ‘meh’!
Over here we have such a rabid and great fanbase, very energetic, that we just like to go with the amps cranked!
HMA: So do you ever do stuff for a Halloween show, or is it just a show?
TK: Well, I mean for us over here, it will be just a normal show. But in the United States, Halloween is such a big deal and people make such a production out of it… Ya know we’ve done Halloween shows with Mushroomhead and bands like that, where we’ve all dressed up in character. We haven’t actually played on Halloween in quite some time so that’ll be the first time in a while, but ya know since it’s not that big of a deal here, I mean I wouldn’t even call it a holiday…
HMA: We still do it but yeah it’s obviously not as big as it is out in the States.
Tim: So hopefully some people will dress up and we’ll see some cool costumes. We probably won’t be partaking.
HMA: You should!!
Tim: I didn’t bring my Michael Myers costume with me….
HMA: So sticking with the Halloween theme… What Halloween food do you particularly like?
TK: Ya know what I really do love doing is baking pumpkin seeds at home. When you carve the pumpkin and then you pull all the guts out (HMA: Visions of torturing screaming pumpkins!) and then you bake the seeds with a bunch of salt. That’s probably my favourite.
HMA: Halloween costumes – you said Michael Myers?
TK: Yeah, costumes are a couple of different things. Because of my hair, if I don’t flat-iron it (‘use straighteners’, for British readers) or do anything to it, it kinda gets a little wavy. If I put on that and some aviator glasses, I tend to look a bit like Michael Jackson. So I’ve gone as Michael Jackson a couple of years and that’s always one that people freak out about.
HMA: For Halloween music, would you ever consider writing, as Soil, a Halloween track and doing a whole zombie-type or horror-type video? Like Michael Jackson with Thriller – obviously the biggest selling track ever.
TK: Yeah it was huge… Being like a horror fan, fanatic, I would love to do something like that. Even if it wasn’t just for Halloween; just a music video that was based on like maybe a mini horror film or something like that. I always thought that would be awesome, ya know?
HMA: Do you have any favourite Halloween/Horror themed music or bands?
TK: Yeah I mean to be honest I guess it’s not really music per se, but right before we left for this tour Rob Zombies Halloween House came to Chicago where we’re from. And me and Adam and a bunch of our friends, we all went to it and saw it, and it was really cool, but the wait to get in was over 2.5 hours. So the wait was horrible. But all the different things he had set up were amazing. Probably one of the best Haunted Houses I’ve ever been to.
But usually when we’re home and during Halloween or if we’re on the road and I have access to a TV or whatever is I love it how all the TV channels have the whole week of Halloween-type movies that are leading up to it. Ya know when they play the ‘Halloween’ (movie) series or the ‘Friday 13ths’, or the ‘Childs Play’… ya know the horror film festivals. So it’s kinda my favourite time of the year.
HMA: What’s your favourite horror movie?
TK: My favourite series is the ‘Halloween’ series. From the old ones to the Rob Zombie remakes. Probably my favourite ever would have to be ‘The Hills have Eyes’ remake – it’s just not right! It’s just, it’s a creeper.
HMA: Obviously you’ve had to travel through all the airports and stuff – keeping with the Halloween Zombie/Resident Evil-theme with the whole Ebola scare at the moment – has anything changed? We don’t seem as freaked out here in the UK and Europe as people in the US seem to be, based on the news reports we see…
TK: Everybody’s been scared to death of it… but no, nothing’s really changed. A few of the guys were like freaking out that it was going to become an epidemic and all that. Both my sister and my girlfriend are nurses and I’m a germ-freak and hypochondriac, so I’ve been freaking out about it myself. They all said they were taking great measures to contain it so it shouldn’t be that much of a worry but, I don’t know – there’s still, when we’re playing in front of hundreds and thousands of people and shaking all those peoples hands, you don’t know who’s been where or done what so, we try to wash our hands and, I don’t know… if it’s gonna happen it’s gonna happen I guess. Let’s just hope nobody gets it, or that if anybody does get it they can contain it.
HMA: What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you – the scariest situation you’ve ever been in?
TK: We recorded in a studio on the Re.Defined record that was haunted. It had some weird things going on. And we’d hear these weird sounds. I was sleeping one night and I felt somebody breathing over me and I thought it was like our producer or something and I opened my eyes and they weren’t there and it was freezing cold and I heard these footsteps slide away and stuff. So, we all experienced some weird stuff there. The studio used to be an old leather tanning shop, so a few people have been ground up in the machines and have died in there and stuff so…
HMA: Has anyone looked into the history of it? In those Haunted House type of programs?
Tim: No, in fact, that studio’s not even there now (Groove Masters). It’s somewhere else.
HMA: In terms of horror artists, is there any particular artist, or piece of art or sculpture, or anything that you particularly associate with this time of year, that you really like?
TK: Yeah in fact, me and Adam again, going back because we’ve been playing together so long, we had a death metal band called Oppressor that did fairly well in the early and late nineties, and I always used to love the cover art for it… I like Wes Benscoter www.wesbenscoter.com and Vincent Locke www.vincelocke.com – he did all the cannibal corpse covers… so those kinda death metal artists. And Dan Seagrave www.danseagrave.com, he was another one of the era. And SV Bell, he was somebody from Canada who did all of our Oppressor cover art and he was real twisted and weird www.blackflag.tv. So those are probably my tops for sure.
See Soil on tour in the UK with Hed.P.E. and American Head Charge until the beginning of November.
Interview by Sable – Copyright 2014 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.