Music Interviews

Interview: Soil

“You’re gonna be my only rock band for now. You’re going to be a priority, and I want to break this band.”

These were the words spoken by industry legend Clive Davis – the man who first signed Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin and Bruce Springsteen – to Soil when he signed them to his J Records label back in 2001.

Alas, in the last six months Soil parted company with J, following disappointing sales of their Redefine album.
To compound their misery, vocalist Ryan McCombs left shortly afterwards citing “family reasons”.

As Soil embark on their next chapter with new vocalist AJ Cavalier, musicOMH caught up with guitarist Shaun Glass and bassist Tim King to try and dissect why things haven’t worked out as expected.

There was a time when people must have thought that Soil were one of the luckiest bands alive. After all, having a radio programmer (Pat Lynch of Orlando rock station WJRR) decide that he likes a song on one of your demos (Halo), stick it on heavy rotation, and so cause a major record label bidding war that culminates in Clive Davis signing you alongside the likes of Alicia Keys, is the embodiment of rock fantasy. As Tim King puts it:

“It was kinda really neat to watch!”

However, the seeds of the misfortune that seems to follow Soil around like a bad smell were already there in the year 2 BC (two years Before Clive), as Tim points out:

“Halo exploded in a way but we had an album out before that on an independent label and that label went out of business.”

“Halo exploded in a way but we had an album out before that on an independent label and that label went out of business.”
– Soil bassist Tim King on how the band’s run of bad luck started way back in 1999.

In fact, that was two months after 1999’s Throttle Junkies was released, leading to the album divebombing without a trace. 2001’s Scars album did solidly, shifting around a quarter of a million copies in the US. However, given that it contained their “hit” Halo, a song that Shaun Glass describes as “… totally Soil – it’s heavy, it’s got groove, it’s got a biggy, hooky chorus…”, one might have expected it to fare better. That is, until you realise that it was released on… September 11, 2001.

And the bad breaks didn’t end there. In June 2004, shortly after the release of their follow-up Redefine, Soil were due to play a set to over 60,000 people at the UK’s Download Festival. It didn’t happen. Tim explains why:

“Our tour bus broke down – the transmission broke down – so we were only able to go 40 miles per hour the entire way… It took us 18 hours to get to the gig and then we pulled up right as Monster Magnet was going on, so unfortunately we missed out on it. We were able to play a song the next day – our buddies Drowning Pool cut one of their songs and invited us up to play Halo, which was amazing.”

“Yeah, I mean we were really, really disappointed,” adds Shaun.

“Our tour bus broke down… It took us 18 hours to get to the gig… so unfortunately we missed out on it.”
– Soil’s bad luck continues at the UK’s 2004 Download Festival.

The festival no-show was not exactly the optimum way to start promotion for Redefine. Nevertheless, for an album that many observers tipped would take Soil into the big-time, its sales – less than one-third of Scars – are more than a little disappointing and were, presumably, instrumental in the severing of relationship with J Records.

So what is the cause? One accusation that has been consistently levelled at Soil is that they pay an overly overt homage to ’90s Seattlites Alice In Chains. Shaun acknowledges the influence but insists it is no more than that:

“We’re not gonna deny that we like Alice In Chains but I don’t think we’re a band like Days Of The New that try to rip them off.”

Tim is adamant that Soil’s music takes in a wider spectrum of components:

“A lot of influences shine through in our music. You can hear Metallica, you can hear Black Sabbath, you can hear AC/DC…”

Shaun adds: “We like classics like Mötley Crüe and Judas Priest but we all listen to so much different stuff. I listen to Björk…”

“Yeah, on the bus we’ll have a Björk CD playing and then we’ll pop on Morbid Angel!” interjects Tim.

“We’re not gonna deny that we like Alice In Chains but I don’t think we’re a band like Days Of The New that try to rip them off.”
– Guitarist Shaun Glass defends the band against accusations of plagiarism.

This leads on to another possible reason for Redefine failing to set the world alight. For, whilst many of its riffs are heavier than those Scars, the choruses are, if anything, more melodic, something that may have alienated Soil’s “traditional heavy metal” fanbase? Again, Shaun defends Redefine’s sound:

“Yeah, stuff like Something Real and Redefine is heavy and melodic. At the time of writing this album, that’s the mood the band was in, you know. We don’t always want to rip your head off – we like melodies and we’re not ashamed of it. We listen to so many different types of music that for us to have an album that’s 55 minutes’ pure heaviness would just not be honest to ourselves. We like heavy music but we like melodic stuff and that’s the sound of Soil.”

Nevertheless, with new vocalist AJ Cavalier having cut his teeth with bruisers Diesel Machine (alongside Damageplan‘s Pat Lachman), fans will be expecting the new Soil to up the heaviosity back towards the levels heard on Throttle Junkies. One thing’s for sure – the band aren’t worried, as Tim’s parting shot demonstrates:

“It’s been the story of our lives – it always takes time with us for some reason… But it’s not over yet!”

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More on Soil
Interview: Soil
Soil – Redefine
Soil @ Garage, London