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SOiL Interview

Interview with Ryan McCombs

By: Nina McCarthy, Senior Music Journalist

Boston Rock Radio

 

 

I had a chance to chat and share some humor with SOiL’s frontman at The Palladium in Worcester, MA while they came through on The Redneck Rebellion Tour with Saving Abel.

 See what Ryan had to say about their latest release, how he ended up back in the band, recording with Dimebag and more.

 

 

 

Current band members:

Ryan McCombs - vocals

Adam Zadel - guitar/backing vocals
Tim King - bass/back vocals

TJ Taylor - drums

 

BRR:  When I started doing my research for this interview, for some reason this bothered me that I never noticed it before, but SOiL is spelt with capital S, O, with a little i and a capital L. Where'd that come from?  

 

RM:  I don't know if there was actually anything in mind because I knew the people that came up with the logo and they're too stupid to be clever about it.  I always liked it due to the fact that it's different, the “i” being the medium. Coming from a lyricist standpoint of it, it's probably the most insignificant aspect of it, as long as people give us the time of day and allow us to do what we do, that's the important part.  Over time though, I don't know what the original meaning of it was.  I was there from the beginning and I just know that it was always a part of it.  I think, when I do, about the people involved in the original concept of the band being named, I know there wasn't enough brain power there other than just trying to be different.

 

BRR:  So no real significance. It's not too deep.  SOiL has been together for over 20 years now.  I'm glad you're back in the band, by the way!  But in 2004 you left on a short hiatus and about a year later you joined Drowning Pool, was it for about six years.?

 

RM:  Thanks. Yes, six or seven, somewhere around there.

 

BRR:  So how did you end up reuniting with SOiL?

 

RM:  Horrible mistake! I lost a bet (laughing).  I was still in Drowning Pool at the time and the guys called me and asked me if I'd be interested in doing a 10th anniversary of the album Scars tour over in the U.K.   They were going to go do it because they had promoters that “thought it would be cool, but it would be cooler if you can have more original members in there.  The three of us together is definitely the most original members you can get back together again.  So, they got ahold of me.  The guys in Drowning Pool were all great guys and all about it and said,  “Absolutely.”   We were winding down our touring cycle at the time, so it just worked.  We ended up doing it and just had way too much fun while we were doing it.  In our time off,  we wrote more stuff together and that just kind of ended up being the new album and everything kind of fell into its place.

 

BRR:  Tim and. Adam, like you said, they've been there from the very beginning.  What do you think kept them going?

 

RM:  Pure stupidity.  I know them well enough to say absolute stupidity. 

 

BRR:  I like humor in interviews, so this is good!

 

RM:  Oh, I should be joking?  We've  talked about it before.  I think that you're just lucky if you roll the dice and get to do this for a living because if that music bug bites you the way that it has bitten us and so many out there, you're either going to be successful, or successful enough to do it, or you're going to be living in your mom and dad’s basement for the rest of your life.  The bug bit them, I guess is my point.  No matter how much you hate it some days.  Going on the road there are days, I had one of those today, that you get angry at the world and everything business wise is aggravating. And so they have had plenty of those days.  There is no explanation other than that.  It's kind of a sickness. So luckily they've been blessed enough to be able to do it and to pay some bills while they're doing it.

 

BRR:  It's interesting that I interviewed Wayland this morning and they were saying that same thing; that they were either going to go do it to support themselves, that they didn't want to go home and have day jobs, that they were going to go full force.  It was all or nothing for them.  I work with local bands, so I like to hear about a band's humble beginnings, so can you just briefly tell me how SOiL started?

 

RM:  The other four members of the band were all from Chicago and three of them came from one death metal band and one of them came from another.  They were semi-successful metal bands back in the day.  They got together and wanted to do something more along the lines of what they grew up on musically.  They wanted to do something more rock.  They started looking for a singer and came across a compilation CD of unsigned bands with one of the bands I was on back then.  They got ahold of me and that was the beginning.  That was the bare bones beginning of it.  We were lucky enough to get a minor independent label right out of the gate, about 2 weeks after I joined the band.  We jumped in the studio, after two rehearsals of me joining the band, and got a demo.  A minor label, Olympic Records out of Chicago, actually ended up buying the rights to that demo and releasing it.  From there, we went to another minor independent label called MIA Records.

 

BRR:  And they went MIA?

 

RM:  They were MIA literally like the month after we released our full length.  At that point, we were damaged goods.  Bottom line, you are trying to shop to a new label with a national release and on that release is no asterisk saying the label went out business three days after they released the album.  So, all they knew was that we had a release and it did what it did, which was not really worthy of getting a second or third try.  So we were pretty close to calling it a day.  I was done and it was actually Adam who talked me into doing one more demo.  We recorded that and it ended up blowing up on a radio station in Orlando, Florida, of all places.  We signed a 30 day rider with Atlantic Records.  We waited that 30 day period out and we went from a band having their shot and not being able to do it to being able to  take our pick of what label we wanted to go with.  It was just overnight change.

 

BRR:  Is that when you connected with Clive Davis?  I know you were the first rock group signed by him.

 

RM:  Yes.  we ended up signing with Clive at J Records and the funny thing is at the time, we were getting flown out to L.A. and New York City by Warner Brothers and by Elektra, and RCA.  All these labels pretty much had a bidding war.  J Records was started by Clive when he was forced into retirement from Arista, because Arista being a German based company you weren't allowed to work after a certain age, but he was far from being done.  So he started J Records and had all the same backing he had through Arista.   It was funny though because J Records was last on our list. We had no interest in those guys.  Once we got to know all of them…. Clive put together this great team and the head of the radio stuff was from Columbia Records when Alice In Chains was at their peak.  So next thing we knew, we were signing our lives away to J Records.

 

BRR:  That team is so important.  I know the labels don't do it the same way with the whole team behind the scenes.  It looks like you made good choice at that time though.  So it really wasn't until about 2001 that you really seemed to reach that mainstream success and that was the big break pretty much with Halo.  When you mentioned Orlando, it reminded me that one of your fans on your Facebook page had a question.  I put up a post today that I like to do sometimes just saying that I'm going to interview this band and do you have any questions.  I'll take one or two.  You have a fan from Orlando named Randall Doyle. He said he was 56 years old and he's been following you for 20 years and he wants to know when you're going to come play a small club again back in Orlando?

 

RM:  I appreciate his support for all those years.  There is nothing on the books right now but we don't stay away from Orlando too terribly long, so I'm sure we'll be going down there in the next year or so. Probably next summer when it gets hot again that we head down to Florida. That makes sense.  They book us down south for the summer when it's the hottest and then book us up north when you can't get anywhere on the roads and everything's cancelled.  Booking agents are amazing.

 

BRR:  Because they don't travel. They sit in the office.  So now up to the present time in 2017,  you just released Scream: The Essentials via Pavement Entertainment and AFM records.  I've been getting a lot of stuff from Pavement recently. They seem to be really taking off.

 

 

RM:  The industry is pretty damn close to being in a flatline on the old heart monitor of the music industry and it is way more than people out there realize. The last month or so we saw one of three of the largest distribution companies close their doors and and they currently predict the other two are going to be gone by the end of 2018. That does not bode well for music.

 

BRR:  Especially with people don't  buy albums anymore.  I'm old school.  I like CDs because I do a lot of driving and I like listening in my car.  I mean I could use Bluetooth but I like to have the physical CD.

 

RM:  God bless! You know, you can't even get frustrated at people anymore.  Not just the new generation anymore, it's been generations of people. They don't remember Musicland, Sam Goody and all the record stores and CD stores where when you walked in there were racks of CDs and cassette tapes and everything.  I think their knowledge of how you buy music is you get it on the Internet. I was talking to a kid one time, a fan and he was like, “I've never left my house to buy a CD. I just go on the internet and I get the music.”  This was back when Napster was still around!  This wasn't a couple of days ago and I couldn't I couldn't reach him.  I couldn't get him to see what I was trying to say.  I said,  What does your dad do?”  His dad was an auto worker.  I said, “What if tomorrow everybody in the world, not just your town or state but everybody in the world, can go to your dad's factory and drive off the lot with the car of their choice and nobody pays a dime. How long is your dad going to have a job?”  And he was quiet and I said, “A song is a band’s widget.  It's what we make.  The label, they employ us to make this work just like any other factory or any other business out there.  If no one is buying that widget, then the employer is not making any money.  How long is the employer going to keep the employee employed if there is no money?  So if you don't go buy the widget, the employer can't keep paying the employee and the employee can't keep the lights on at all and the employee has to go find another job.  You know this falls into another discussion I was having with a kid the other day.  I said, “Name me one band that came out in the last 10 years that hit it hard and are still in the rock/metal world”  He couldn't do it.

 

BRR:  I see these bands I know and they get their royalty checks and they post it on Facebook joking because it's $13 for the year so I know what it's like.  It's sad.

 

RM:  It's a crazy business.  The only bands doing it these days are bands like us that made a name for  ourselves 20 years ago and we still get a good enough guarantee at these shows to be able to come out and tour.

 

BRR:  That is because you have your old fans and you hope they pass it down to the next generation.

 

RM:  That's what the venues are counting on.  If you made a name for yourself 20 years ago, than you got a fan base and these people will give you a job and they can count on people coming back and getting the tickets and making sure that they pay you the guarantee.  These new bands don't get the guarantees that they need and who the hell can keep their lights on or the heat on at home, while they're making $1.50 per show or just enough to put money in for gas?

 

BRR:  That's true. I don't make any money doing this.  There's some fringe benefits, but nobody's making money.

 

RM:  Right, it's across the board.  Even most music magazines are in internet form these days.

 

BRR:  Right.  Anyway, back to the new release.  What made you decide to a “best oftype album?

 

RM:  We had no original ideas. (Laughs) We'd been talking for a couple years about doing something in 2017 to commemorate the fact that people kept us around for 20 years.  It was a way to say thank you.

 

BRR:  There's not a lot of bands that have the longevity anymore.

 

RM:  We are that dumb.  We are that glutton for punishment.  We wanted to put something out there to say thanks and we wanted to do something different so we just scraped together a collection of tracks that we kept in our our back pockets over the years, like the acoustic recording at Dimebag’s house.

 

BRR:  What was it like recording there with him?

 

RM:  It was amazing.  A lot of people don't realize that Dimebag was taken from us quite awhile ago.  They don't realize the time line there, being Dime was still alive when we recorded that stuff.  We just got done doing a Damageplan, Drowning Pool, SOiL tour over in Europe and the U.K.  That's when Dime and Vinnie said that next time we are in Texas to stop by the house and the studio and we'll record some stuff.  It was awesome. It was fun and we have many great stories.  We just got to be friends.  There's not a whole lot of people in the industry like the brothers.  If bands are still around, like we are on the road now with Saving Abel, chances are these bands are still around because they're good people. Otherwise you will trash talk your way right out of the business.

 

BRR:  I just had this very conversation last week, actually with one of the guys from Flaw.  We had the whole conversation about the ego and the attitude and those are the people that are not going to go anywhere. I always say I can love your music but if you have an ego or you're just downright rude and cocky, I'm not going to give you the time of day.

 

RM:  Right.  Dime took it to a new level.  Davey, the original singer of Drowning Pool was one of these souls too.  Not only were they really good people, but they just craved for everyone else around them to be happy.  When they walked in the room, it was like it was their mission in life to make sure that everybody around them was happy and having a good time.  It was just something about them as soon as they walked in the room.  So getting to know the person who he was, going to his house and spending a few days there was priceless.  It's something you stick in your pocket and carry until you're an old man.

 

BRR:  I wish I had the opportunity to meet him.  Doro Pesch also speaks very highly of him.  She just loved him.   Now, how did you end up collaborating with Wayne Static?

 

RM:  That was after my time, after I left the band.  But when I was in the band, we had done two or three tours with Static X, so we shared a lot of road time with those guys.  Even after I left the band, I ran into Wayne over in England.  We were buds.

 

BRR:  Did the the fact that both these musicians we spoke of, Dimebag and Wayne, both having  passed have a bearing on your decision to have these songs on the album?  

 

RM:  I don't think it had an impact on deciding to have the songs on the album as much as it just made it that much more special, like even doing the cover the guys do of “Rusty Cage” by Soundgarden.  Being able to tip the hat to Dime.  It's something they had, so why not share it with the fans as well?

 

BRR:  I just have a couple of fun questions to lighten the mood after that conversation.  I'm not sure if I really want to know, but, but what does the inside of your tour bus normally smell like?

 

RM:  Foot and ass!

 

BRR:  Surprise, surprise! And what is your alcoholic drink of choice?

 

RM:  Vodka.

 

BRR:  If a fan brought you a gift. What is one gift that you would like to be given while on tour, besides clean socks?

 

RM:  Peace and happiness.

 

BRR:  That's a hard one for them to give to you!

 

RM:  I wanted to see what Jake's (Tour Manager) expression would be.  It's funny because like my U.K. fans know I love these Walker Smoky Bacon Crisps, so I'll usually get bags of these chips and stuff at shows.  I've gotten cases before, and Colman's English Mustard, because I've talked about having an appreciation for those.  You know, if someone wanted to give me a gift, one thing I really like nowadays is money.  I really don't know.  I'm reaching for straws here.  Just someone coming out to a show and giving me the time of day is pretty damn cool right there.

 

BRR:  Good answer.  I always like to ask successful musicians what advice would you have for young aspiring musicians today?

 

RM:  There's a point in time where my go to answer for this was, “Stay in school.”  And it's funny that my opinion has changed because the industry is so fucked up right now.  But it really has.  I think it's a realization just like what we started this conversation out with.  You go for it because even if you don't get where you want to go, at least you'll know when it's time that you may have to take Plan B, at least you know you ran Plan A out a far as you could.  I would hope that would ease a bit of the fire, but if it's in you, it's in you...go for it!

 

BRR:  And it has to be deep in you, I think, to really make through it.

 

RM:  Oh yeah, or else it would kick the shit right out of you.

 

BRR:  I just have one more quick question. My son and I have this joke about the song “Black Betty.”  Are you guys playing it live tonight?*

 

RM:  We do sometimes but you're probably not tonight.  We got a new drummer, TJ Taylor who has been with Tantric.  So from one night to the next we're not really sure what we're doing because we're kind of doing what feels right and what we're comfortable with.  We're not a band that rehearses a lot.  The three of us have been playing the same songs for 20 years.

 

BRR:  So you can do it in your sleep.

 

RM:  We just kind of have the mindset, have your shit together and come on, and TJ’s been awesome.

 

BRR:  Jake's giving us the eye, so I think I've taken up enough of your time.  I'll let you get ready and I'll see you out here!  Thanks for your time, Ryan!

 

 

* I ended up with the setlist from the show and “Black Betty” was supposed to be the encore. However, it was so hot in there, the band, especially Ryan looked like they were about to pass out during the last song, so the encore didn't happen.

 

A review of Scream: The Essentials by BRR can also be found here:

http://bostonrockradio.com/forum3/articles.php?article_id=70

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/SOiLmusic/

 

http://www.soiltheband.com/

 

(A special thank you to Barbara Papageorge for making this interview possible.)

 

© Boston Rock Radio 2017

 

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