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Solace

Solace: qua stijl, alfabetische rangschikking en zelfs fonetische uitspraak ligt de band vlakbij de muzikanten van Solarized en Solstice. Muzikaal minder glitter'n'glamour-metal als Solarized, maar wel stukken sneller dan Solstice. Maar waar Solstice te doom is voor stonerfans en Solarized te stoner voor doomers, daar krijgt Solace waarschijnlijk alle handen op elkaar. Een lekker gruizige sound van melodieuze, zeker niet per definitie langzame, doomy heavy metal dat zwaar leunt op de muzikale nalatenschap van de heren Iommi, Osbourne, Butler en Ward. Onlangs verscheen hun 2de CD, het zeer aangename '13', en naar aanleiding daarvan kroop ik in m'n toetsenbord om gitarist en oprichter Tommy Southard enige vragen te stellen over de (voor)geschiedenis van zijn band.

Door: Evil Dr. Smith | Archiveer onder

So, thanks for your album! I really enjoyed your second album, filled with gritty Black Sabbathian groovy grave-crunching crushers. It was the first time I got in contact with your band Solace, but it wasn't the first time I heard music from you and Rob. I have Godspeed's sole album and I can remember your co-operation with Bruce Dickinson on the Black Sabbath tribute 'Nativity In Black Vol.1'. So maybe we can start of with some quick questions about the past, just to get Solace in some historical perspective?

Sure thing.

I thought Godspeed was just a one-day-fly. And well, obviously, it kinda was. Just one album and that was the history of Godspeed. So, not a very well chosen bandname, I'm afraid… But how came that you managed to release this at a major-label like Atlantic – debuting on a major, not bad! – and why there was never a second album?

Godspeed just happened to be at the right time and place. There was a lot of activity in the local scene back then. A few of the labels took note and we just happened to be having a good run live back then. Atlantic signed us from our live show. They gave us a demo deal, they liked the demo enough to go a head and do a record. There was never a second record because basically we self-destructed. The whole thing was a whirlwind. We were only a band for about 6 months before we were signed making a record and touring with Black Sabbath. We were young and dumb. (A bit dumber than we are now) And we self-destructed. And too tell the truth I am glad we did. If we had stayed together there would be no Solace now. And Solace, at least in my eyes is a far better band.

One of the curious things about Godspeed was that they had 2 bass players. Why this rather odd line up? Just one bass-player couldn't make the sound heavy enough?

At the time we were actually looking for another guitar player but could not find one. We got a tape from this guy that did sound at a bar we would play regularly. It was some pretty cool stuff, but the catch was he was a bass player. We liked his ideas and we knew he could play and contribute so we thought what the hell, let's try it. At first we only had him come up on stage and play one song at the end of the set. It was a long song with a lot of room for improvising and jamming and it seemed to work, so we asked to him to join full time. So it was really just an accident. Thing is I really liked the sound of two bass players live but I don't think it really carried over very well to the record. I liked enough that I have a side band now called Robot Dicks that has two bass players!

The songs on that album were credited to the whole band, but despite David Blanche's more “grungy-like' vocals, the sound is already in the vein of Solace's present sound, only a bit “lighter” and faster maybe. So I assume you (Tommy and Rob) were in fact the main composers on that album?

Godspeed would have actually sounded a lot more like Solace if we had a great singer like we do now. Dave came from a more punk background than a metal – Black Sabbath background and that altered our sound a lot. We were basically writing the same kind of riffs that we play now back that but changed our style a little to fit Dave's vocal approach better; We all wrote for the record but primarily it was myself. I did a lot of the arranging as well. But everyone was apart of it. [/b]

BTW: Is that you Tommy, who got that really cool dragon-tattoo on his chest, I can see inside the booklet from Godspeed's album?

HAHA! Nope, that's Rob!

After the split-up of Godspeed you spend some time in Sugartooth. I don't know this band: can you tell me some about it? I understand it the end of the story wasn't that happy…

Godspeed toured with Sugartooth while we were on Atlantic. I thought they were a great band. Very Sabbath, Led Zeppelin. A really good Heavy Rock band. So when Godspeed broke up and they called and asked me to join, I was very excited. I moved across the country 3,000 miles from home and was told this and that and it never really worked out. Which is a shame because the record that they put out after I left is a disappointment. It was not heavy like the songs we were writing and I think they bowed down to the record company. I still think there first record is great, and that Mark has a great and unique voice.

When Sugartooth lost his tooth you tried it with Godspeed-bassplayer Chris Kosnik again in the formation Slap Rocket. Can you tell me something about that period and was that a rehearsing-stadium or did you release also some material with Slap Rocket?

I left Sugartooth and came back home and did not miss a beat. I joined Slap Rocket while I was still in California. We recorded some stuff and even had a track on what some would call the first “stoner rock” comp called 'Burn one up'. Some of the other stuff is going to come out this year on Meteorcity.

After Slap Rocket you tried it again with the other Godspeed-bassplayer: Rob Hultz. How did that happen? Did you still have contact with each other during the mid-nineties?

Rob and I have been friends since the 80's and we will always be friends. He is like a brother to me. That's not to say we don't have our disagreements, but even brothers dislike each other once in a while right?

So you reunited, found a singer (Jason) and a drummer and named the band Solace. Any hidden thoughts behind this band name?

Basically we used the name because we found our Solace with our music.

In 1999, you released a split-album with Solarized. Quite confusing: Solace and Solarized, both on the same recordlabel and playing both doomy, groovy metal. When I received '13' last month, for a moment I thought it was the follow-up from the album “Driven”, but… I was confusing the discography from Solarized with yours. (Sorry!) Now I know Solarizeds sound is a bit different - more Monster Magnet-a-like - but does this mix-up happen more? Or is it just silly me?

Haha! I guess that could happen, but I have not heard that before.

Back in 2000 you released your full-length 'Further'. For I do not know this album, can you tell me something of the sound/recording of it, compared with your new album? And are you still satisfied with this album, or are there things you would have done differently, looking back on it?

There are always things that after a record comes out you might want to try and do a bit differently. Even on '13' there are things that if we had more time and money that I would do again or differently, but overall I am very happy with both records. I love them both. 'Further' is along the same lines as '13'. Maybe a bit more doom laden then '13'. '13' seems a bit more aggressive. But if you like '13' I'm sure you will like 'Further' too.

And now there is – finally – your second album '13'. The time that bands release one album every year is a long way behind us, even releasing every 2 years is not a common thing anymore. But what took YOU so long to record this album? Or can I expect now a monologue from you about the difficulties of raising a family (and sure I'll believe you!) ;-)

Well that is true. My family did play a part in the delay but there were other factors as well. We lost our drummer and could not find a replacement and there was other internal strife in the band that played a part. Even though it took so long we are very happy with the end result.

Logically, we can find on this album 13 songs. But they're not all new. On the contrary! I found 4 songs that where also released on your demo, back in ca. 1997: 'In The Oven', 'Sled Heavy', 'King Alcohol' and the bonus-track 'Shit Kisser'. Are those the same songs, or did you re-arrange those tunes? And why did you chose for re(re)cording those songs, since they're already quite some years old. Too good to be left on a demo?

That was our thought. The demo was only distributed in very limited numbers and only by the band itself. After listening to those songs and knowing that not many people might have heard them we decided to use them again. Some were totally re recorded others left as is.

There's one other song you also released before: 'Try' can also be found on your split with Solarized. For me it's the highlight of your new album – I fucking love this tune! – but what was the idea of putting this song on this album as well? And is it the same version?

No it's a different version. Once again, the split with Solarized was a pretty limited release and we knew that when we recorded that song there was an alternate version with distorted vocals. Since we had a different version and not that many people would have heard the song we decided to use the new version. I think since 'Further' came out and now '13' that the new fans that would never had a chance to hear some of those songs can now do so.

band image


And then we have also 2 cover songs. I can understand Pentagram's 'Forever My Queen', but nevertheless, can you tell me why exactly this song?

There were days when we would tour years ago that the only song we would listen to on long road trips was Forever My Queen. We just love this song so much that we would just play it and rewind it and play it again and again and again. We used to play it all the time live so it was only natural that we record it for the record.

The other cover was quite surprising (and good as well!): 'With Time', one of the slowest songs from the HC-legends Agnostic Front! How did you come up with that idea? Bringing back some childhood memories?

No doubt. Agnostic Front for both Rob And myself were a bit inspiration. Being from New Jersey and being into hardcore bands back in the 80's we would always be at CBGB for the Sunday matinees and get to see all these great bands from all over the world. The first real show I ever played in my life was opening up a show for Agnostic Front; this was way back I like 1983 or so.

So, in the end we have only 6 new (?) songs. In a time-period of almost 3 years that's not very much, my dear mister Tommy the housefather…;-)

That's just the way it worked out. It's not like we don't have more original stuff. As a matter of fact the next record is already written musically and it looks like all new material, maybe one cover song, which I won't reveal yet. There were even a few other songs that were left off of '13' that we recorded that were new that we might use somewhere down the line.

I understand your vocalist Jason is a bit vague about his lyrics. He doesn't print the lyrics on the booklet on purpose and it seemed even a mystery for you what he's singing about. But you're the main person who writes the music, so aren't you curious what he's singing about? I mean: You're the one who writes and plays the music.

It is a strange situation but I've learned to just let Jason do his thing and we will do ours. Those things he writes about a very personal to him and I respect that. The bottom line is even though it may be a mystery as to what he is singing about exactly the end result is always something amazing. He is a great singer and a great lyricist. He finds the obscure and makes it work for what we do.

On this album you have drummer John Proveaux who's beating the skins. Well….tell me, is he still in the band, or is in the meantime the drum kit been changed from drummer-butts already 3 times or so….?

It's been more than 3 drummers, I think were up to about 7 or 8 at this point. But yeah, John is our drummer.

And is Mad Lee, the harmonica-player, a full new member of the band? Please say yes, 'cause his part in for instance 'Loving Sickness/Burning Fuel' sounds awesome! More of this next time, please!!! Who's he and is he a big Blues Traveler-fan?

Well as much as I'd love to have someone play harmonica with us live it would not make much sense to have someone join the band just to play on one song. But I've known Mad Lee for years from the local scene here and maybe in the future we can persuade him to play some more with us.

You don't make a secret of it: you're a huuuuuge Black Sabbath fan. And on this album it's also very obvious. At the end of the album there's a short 'Paranoid'-riff and the song 'In The Oven' contains halfway (1'55”) a slow part that reminds of, if I'm right, Sab's 'Hand Of Doom'. Even the very first opening-riff on the first track 'Loving Sickness/Burning Fuel' sounds from a Black Sabbath-song, which I cannot relate immediately. Can you tell me which song…(hehehe)? Anyway, is Black Sabbath the reason for you to pick up a guitar? Or let's ask it differently: what was your motivation to make music?

Hey man, your good! You're telling all my secrets! You are the first one to have heard the paranoid riff. It is so low in the mix that you almost have to know it's coming to hear it! And yep, we put the hand of doom part in the middle of “In the Oven” just to see if anyone would notice. A few have, but not many. The opening riff on 'Loving sickness' is actually not Sabbath related but there is a riff in there that is. And to find out which one is, just read the lyrics to your Sabbath songs and you will find it if you look hard enough. Sabbath and Hendrix were the reason I started playing guitar but my motivation for continuing to play comes from within. I play because I have to. It's inside of me. I'm not happy if I'm not creating music.

BTW: Have you heard about the Estonian classical ensemble Rondellus? They covered on their album 'Sabbatum' a dozen Black Sabbath-songs in a mediaeval, Gregorian/a cappella style with mediaeval instruments and sung these tunes in Latin!

I have heard about them but I have yet to hear this. It is on my list of thing to get for sure. I heard it was great and that Bill Ward himself gave it thumbs up. If Bill likes it I'm sure it's amazing. I think Bill Ward Rules and his album Ward One is awesome and underrated!

You spoke with our colleagues from Hellride Music about touring. Even about plans getting overseas. So, is there any newer news yet? Howzabout smokin' a beer and drinkin' some weed here in Amsterdam?

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH YES!!! Maybe someday soon!!! I would love to! Maybe in the summer?

If so: how do you organise this with your kids? Will they travelling with you when you're on the road?

No, they will be staying home with Mom!

You have also another musical outlet, called Robot Dicks. It's almost the same band as Godspeed. Also 2 bass-players, and with you, Rob and drummer Tim Schoenleber 3 ex-Godspeed members. Just for fun or any serious plans?

It was just for fun at first. We did a song for the scene killer comp under the name Rot Gut. But since we have been playing together a lot now we are all really starting to like what we are doing. And now it a full time band. We just recruited Big Tim Cronin from the Ribeye Brother/Monster Magnet/Gallery of Mites fame as our singer, so things are really taking shape for us. From what I gather Meteorcity is going to be doing a second welcome to Meteorcity comp. And we will contribute a track for the comp.

So, after Godspeeds break-up, you played with all the bandmembers again, except for the singer David Blanche. Do you still have contact with him and do you know what he's doing now?

I've talked to him a few times. There was even talk about a Godspeed reunion, but it never panned out. I know he has a good job these days and a family as well. I don't know if he is doing anything musically though.

Semi-last question: what's your favorite Black Sabbath-album and song?

Man that's' impossible! That is like asking me which child I like better. You love them equally but for different reasons.

And what are the 3 last albums you bought? And was this on vinyl or CD?

I only buy on vinyl if I can help it. The last 3 records I bought were:

Johnny Cash: American IV - The man comes around
Tank: Filth Hounds
The Obsessed: S/T

To wrap it up: Did I forget anything to ask?

No man, I think you covered it all! Anyone who would like to get in touch can email me at:

Solacetom@aol.com
Or snail mail:
Tommy Southard
22 Cathedral Dr.
Lakewood, NJ 08701
USA

Thanks!!!

Well, that's about it. Thanks in advance for taking some time to read this questions and maybe I'll see you on the road with bands like Cathedral, Bongzilla and…????

Abdullah and Goatsnake!!!!! Thanks so much for the very good interview. This was one of the better ones I have done and you really knew your stuff! Now go get 'FURTHER'!!! Cheers!

Tommy

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