2001 was a while ago, as many of you can remember. Most of you will at least know of Soil, who’s monster hit Halo is continuously looped at metal clubs all over the country. I caught up with original vocalist Ryan McCombs and guitarist Adam Zadel on the Scars 10th Anniversary tour.
So, I climb on to the bus, and off we go!
Adam’s trying to make a small corner of the bus slightly suitable to conduct an interview. Ryan’s outside smoking. “There’s not even really very specific stuff we ask for. We all drink Jager…Ryan likes rum, and of course there’s beer!”
” I think there’s a bunch of the Puddle guys upstairs makin’ noise!”
How did you end up doing this tour, marking your breakthrough album? “We started thinking about this, maybe…3 months ago? It was a bit of a coincidence I guess. Just took that long to start talkin’ again! Contact did cease [after Ryan left] for a little while, but we reconnected. It’s been a few years.”
“We’re about a week in, so this is the fifth or sixth show…[looks at schedule] somehow along the way I forgot to read…” I’m apparently beaten to the punch about the inevitable reissue, as there’s already one out. “There’s a digital reissue featuring a track that no one’s heard before, called Damage Do You Want It, and there’s a bunch of all the B-Side stuff. It’s available on iTunes right now…download only I think”.
In a true nostalgia trip fashion from my formative years, veterans Puddle of Mudd are joining Soil on a dual headline caper around the country. “We kinda met ’em here and there doing bigger shows, but this is the first time we’ve been on tour together.” As I walked round, I did notice there was only one bus. “Yeah”, says Ryan. “There’s about ten of us, but including crew I think there’s about eighteen altogether”. Cosy. “Those guys are great, to have all these different personalities on a bus, you couldn’t ask for a better bunch of guys. There’s been no problems at all.” Despite the obvious camaraderie, it’s a little surprising that the tour wasn’t a prospective funded lads’ holiday. “Well, they had their agent, we had ours…and we were like ‘what should we do?’. They said ‘we’re available’ and so we put two and two together. They’ve not been here since 2002…I think they did do Download, but that was their first major show over here in a while.”
As we turn on to absence on these shores, it’s been a while for Soil too. “I think it was 2004?” And they turned up late for Download. As they laugh off the embarrassment while no doubt planning to remove my head from my shoulders we continue; “Yeah, thanks for reminding us of that! The Drowning Pool guys let us play a song though! We came back in 2006 for True Self” Adam corrects me as I forget the name of the album and Ryan steals my notes. “Don’t use paper, notes are for women!”
“Anyway, we came over a couple of times [with A.J Cavalier]. We did a headline tour, we did Download…twice? We did a Shinedown tour too, so that was a lot of fun”.
Scars made waves when it was released, on the now infamous date of September 11th, 2001. “We’d been at it so long, by that point, with other bands…we were just happy we got to that point where we can actually make a record” explains Ryan. “The fact that it did as well as it did was a very pleasant surprise.”
“When you get into that level, you meet people who give you all that spiel, butter you up and blow smoke up your ass, they say that the world’s gonna be yours. You try to maintain a somewhat realistic outlook” says Adam. “Even once you get a record deal, the chances are pretty slim you’re going to do well. It’s pretty unlikely you’re gonna go anyway…but it was amazing. It was like winning the lottery after winning the lottery, y’know?”
“We always had our sights on doing international stuff. We didn’t want to be one of these bands that just stayed in America or whatever. When we heard how well it was going over here, it didn’t happen at the same time as in the US, but when we heard and we’d always had plans to come over here we were like ‘when do we get on a plane!’. We came over quite a bit I think.”
“Well, there was that and there was the fish and chips” Ryan’s voice comes from outside. “And kebabs. You can’t get them in the US, it’s just not treated the same way. It’s like coming to England and getting a Tex Mex variety pack…not quite in the US.”
It appears that Ryan is a little bit of a sightseer, having explored the fair city of York during the day. “This was the first chance in all of my travels that I actually got a chance to go out and have a look around…yeah, that church, the Minster [Ryan and Adam become the first two Americans to not call York’s giant cathedral the Minister]…and the old castle walls. For guys like us, we don’t have history like that. The oldest building you see is like a hundred and five years old and slated to be knocked down. Especially a place like this”.
Back the music, Ryan agrees with me that Re.de.fine was a much stronger record and Adam takes his stand against nu-metal; “We were unfairly, very unfairly lumped in with that at the time. All the bands that came out with us at that time…we all got put in that category. It was an era thing, and it was the most popular music and if you sounded any bit like it….if you had a heavy guitar you were a nu-metal band. We weren’t trying to accomplish that, we set out to be a heavy rock band, to draw out the influences of the classic bands that we liked. There’s some albums out from Oppressor [Adam’s previous death metal band] but it’s pretty obscure and it’d be quite hard to track that stuff down nowadays…there’s a Facebook page with four or five fans, there’s a couple of MP3s…other than that I wouldn’t even know where to begin with that stuff!”
After Ryan left, it’s not unfair to say that towards the end of the last decade Soil dropped off the radar a little bit in the UK, despite a strong album with a new singer. “We had a record deal and all that, but it wasn’t the same…it wasn’t the same proportion to whatever it was we had with RCA. We love being here and had a great time being here so we suppose that coming back would be enough…but you have…”
“You have to have some promotion” Ryan cuts in. “You have to have people working songs, and we never really had a club hit over here or anything like that.”
“It was similar in the States” Adam continues. “The hardest battle of any band is trying to replace your frontman, especially one who actually had something…it’s not like we’re a progressive jazz band, the band was based around that big voice, y’know.”
Now, this is where it gets interesting. Officially, Soil don’t have a singer. But here they are with Ryan McCombs, the original vocalist on tour. “We’re taking it day by day” replies Ryan, who at this point is still standing in while the band find a replacement. “We’re having a lot of fun with it…and the idea to do something together came about before AJ [left]…knowing at that point it wouldn’t be a permanent change, but just something we wanted to do. But when this came about, it worked out schedule wise. But, we’re having a lot of fun, taking it day by day. We’ve thrown a couple of ideas around, talked about going into the studio, doing tours elsewhere. The main goal up to this point was to do this, to come over here where we got our first jump start and do the closest thing that we can do in regards to the original lineup. As soon as you say something, it’s like it’s going to happen!”
“We’re not playing the entire album tonight” chimes in Adam, as the conversation moves away from the possible future to the present, and tonight’s show. “The majority of the material comes from Scars, and a few songs from Re.de.fine. We’d planned to do some songs from Throttle Junkies, but we thought seeing as it’s being pushed as the anniversary show we’d stick more Scars in there than songs that very few people would know about”.
As if time itself had predicted that our conversation had looped back the present, a man with dreadlocks called Luke calls an end to proceedings, and I leave Ryan and Adam; two blokes who are still happy just to be making music and playing shows.
Soil and Puddle of Mudd toured together in late 2011, the reissue of Scars is available now via Download.