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Diggin’ in the Dirt: Jeff Kerby’s Exclusive Interview with Soil

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Friday, March 8, 2002 @ 12:50 AM

Jeff Kerby Sits Down With Soil

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The Sunshine Theatre in Albuquerque, New Mexico is hardly what anyone could call a glamorous venue, yet it still seems to attract a wide variety of metal acts. The venue is located right downtown where all those who life and time have thrown away seem to reside. On this frigid February day, Soil’s bright red tour bus sat parked on a side street right next to those owned by tour mates Static-X and Soulfly.

Although it was only 4 p.m. on the day of the show, there was already a wide assortment of disenfranchised miscreants lurking about in close proximity. One guy in particular was about forty years old and kept wondering aloud whether lead singer Ryan McCombs is mean in real life because in some pictures “he really looks scary.”

Upon entering the tour bus, I saw instantly that the atmosphere was hardly indicative of the type of debaucherous scene that the media would like for you to believe goes on at all hours day or night while a band is on the road. Unfortunately, there were no sadomasochistic orgies fueled by three different types of illegal substances or any cats getting impaled on the end of large sticks. Instead, the interior of the bus seemed quietly subdued with guitarist Shaun Glass playing some cords off to one side and bassist Tim King logged dutifully onto his laptop at a table nearby awaiting the start of our interview. The only nod to anything resembling the typical “band on the road” lifestyle was some lesbian porn playing on the television at the front of the bus.

Soil, out of Chicago, is a band that even old hard-core rockers can appreciate. Last year, the group won the coveted opening slot on last year’s Merry Mayhem Tour and at the time of this interview the band was on the road with Static X and Soulfly. Their current album, Scars has received widespread acclaim from numerous critics hungry for music conveyed minus the use of any type of inane rapping or self-gratuitous crotch grabbing. The five members of the group seem to rely on their music to make an impact rather than including trendy gimmicks into their music or stage show. Although it’s true that Soil may be stripped down and rooted primarily in the rock of the past, they just may be poised to impact the future as well.

KNAC.COM: How cool was it finding out that you were tapped for the opening slot on the Merry Mayhem tour?
TIM: Finding out that we were on that was probably one of the best moments of my life. It was definitely the biggest tour that I, or any of the rest of the band members, have ever done. First of all, you’re playing with Ozzy Osbourne…

KNAC.COM: Speaking of which, do you remember vividly when you met him?
TIM: Great story. There was this record store that had a stand at the shows every night, and the band agreed that after we played we’d go out and sign autographs for people who bought our cds at the booth. We were running late one evening for some reason, and I’m like, “C’mon guys, we gotta go,” and Roger, our tour manager, was wanting us to get going, too. I open up the door, and I’m like, “Fine, I’ll just meet you out by the elevator.” I go and pull open the door there’s Ozzy standing right in front of me with his hand out, and I just dropped dead in my tracks. Then he came in and shook all of our hands and asked how the tour was going and said it was nice to have us aboard. He also wanted to know if we needed anything. I was like, “Oh, my God,” obviously I had never met Ozzy before in my life, and Black Sabbath and his solo stuff is probably one of the reasons why Soil is here today. We were also big White Zombie fans back in the day. Just touring with groups like that. They treated us like we were part of the family and a part of the team. That really showed us what being a professional musician and professionalism is all about. Before that, we had done festival shows and gone out on small little package tours with bands that weren’t really that big. I mean, they were bigger than us at the time, but they’d do things like take our dressing rooms away or eat all the food or drink all the beer. Basically not be all that considerate.

KNAC.COM: Then, here are these guys who actually would have a reason to have an attitude, and they didn’t.
TIM: Yeah, it’s completely the opposite. It truly shows you why they are who they are and how they got to be where they’re at. They’re true professionals who treat everybody how they would like to be treated. That taught us a lot.

KNAC.COM: What did you learn from them about the importance of maintaining a consistency in your performance and giving optimum effort every night?
TIM: Hell, Ozzy played with a fractured leg until he could hardly walk on it. He’s a true musician and professional.

KNAC.COM: What was the hiatus like while he was healing? It was couple of weeks, wasn’t it?
TIM: It was like eight shows. It was pushing two weeks. Before that, we were doing a show every other day on that tour because the production was so large that we needed a day to roll into town and set it all up.

KNAC.COM: How weird was it to all of a sudden look out and realize that you are playing enormous venues to incredible amounts of people?
TIM: It was amazing. I mean, we were pretty lucky to be playing to the bigger crowds, its not like there were only five people out there when we went on. It seemed like a lot of fans came out early to see what we were all about. Just walking out there and seeing an arena even though people might be scattered all over and still filing in -- just to hear that crowd roar gave me goose bumps every night.

KNAC.COM: What’s a typical itinerary for a day on the road? What’s the routine like?
TIM: A typical day is: wake up at noon or one or a little later depending on how much we may have had to drink the night before. Roll out of bed -- halfway get dressed and find something to eat. Then we mostly just sit around until sound check and kinda get warmed up for the show. We’ll do interviews like this during the day either on the phone or in person or meet with the local radio station. After the show we just chill out a little bit -- have a few drinks, go out and meet the fans either after the show or between bands, pass out some samplers. We’re all about hanging with the people that came out. Basically just promoting the band. We’ll go out there with a stack of cd’s or some stickers and pass them out after the show. We do this basically just to remind people that they saw Soil or hopefully somebody who doesn’t have the album will maybe get the sampler and go out and buy the album later -- stuff like that. Some nights, if we have friends out, we’ll hang out on the bus, get drunk, get a little crazy. Then, it’s just a matter of going to sleep, getting up and doing it all over again. It’s a pretty straightforward routine.

KNAC.COM: Even though you guys are experiencing all of the exciting the events and situations that go along with being a band on the ascent, are there things about being at home that you miss?
TIM: To be honest with you, while I’m sitting at home, I’m thinking, ‘When are we gonna go back out?’ I have been home eight days in the past six months. I love being on the road and touring. Playing live is my favorite aspect of being in a band. Some people might like to be in the studio or things like that, but what I get off on is playing live and touring and meeting people. I feel like we’re really working when we’re out on the road as opposed to sitting at home and recording or writing where I feel kinda like we could be out there doing more. So when we’re out here it gives me the opportunity to meet the people that buy our records and play in front of them while feeling the energy from the crowd. Sometimes it’s nice to come home and do some laundry and maybe see your friends and stuff like that, but I was meant to tour, so after a couple of days I’m ready to go back out. Talk to me a year from now and see if I’d say the same thing, but right now we’re still ready to roll.

KNAC.COM: You mentioned dealing with the media earlier, what is the worst interview experience you’ve had?
TIM: I remember one completely! Me and Shawn, our guitar player, were sharing a hotel room on our day off, and I had us doing this phone interview with this California newspaper in some town -- I can’t remember where it was. The guy who was interviewing me started out going, “What’s it like being in a rock band now that rock’s dead and nobody is listening to rock music?” I said, “What are you talking about? Rock’s coming back bigger than ever right now, if anything, now is the best time to be in a rock band.” He’s like, “Really? Why do you say that?” Shawn’s kinda listening, and he’s like, “What’s this guy saying?” I kinda put my hand over the receiver and told him, “He’s saying that rock is dead.” Shawn goes, “Hang up on him.” You know, I didn’t end up hanging up on him, but I basically had to school him through Rock 101 of the year 2001. He knew nothing about our band. He knew nothing about rock. He didn’t even know who Staind, Drowning Pool or Disturbed were.

KNAC.COM: The characterization of your band is that you guys have done a really good job of taking bits and pieces of different genres and not over doing anything to the point where you get labeled. Is that a conscious decision on your part so that you don’t alienate anyone or is it just the way it came out? For example, how did you manage to integrate some old school Metallica and some elements of death metal into the mix while not allowing it to dominate your sound?
TIM: It’s actually kinda funny that you asked that because everybody wants so much to throw us in the nu-metal category, but they can’t because we do have those little bits of Black Sabbath or Aerosmith or some of the more extreme type things. It’s not really a conscious thing that we do. We just kinda write what sounds good to us and what feels good to us. If somebody comes to practice with a riff or just cranks something out off the top of their head, if it sounds cool, and we like it then we use it. It’s not like we sit around and say, “Oh, let’s write something to compete with Slipknot.” We just write what we like and luckily enough, its what the fans like. We’ve done really well with that. It’s kinda cool that we’ve each come from listening to everything from Black Sabbath, Aerosmith and Kiss to Cannibal Corpse and Napalm Death. We can even throw on a classical album by Beethoven or Bach. We’ve come from such diverse musical backgrounds, and I think that’s why a lot of people have had problems pinpointing us. It’s a good thing.

KNAC.COM: Wouldn’t you think there would be more longevity for a band who isn’t as easily characterized than there would be for one who gets clumped into the nu-metal or rap-metal categories?
TIM: Hopefully, I mean rap-metal now, I see as being on the decline. I always see bands labeled and those trends usually die out, and when that happens, the bands that are whole-heartedly associated with them tend to die out too. If you have somebody that you can’t pinpoint, they can kinda skate through and survive. A perfect example would be Aerosmith. They were just an all-time rock band. They were never a glam band or some other type of band. They just kind of maintained throughout history and were able to have a thirty-year career, so who knows if we’ll ever get to that point, but I think we’re on the right track.

KNAC.COM: Do you ever think what ten years down the road might hold for you? Or is that too far in the future to even consider?
TIM: Nowadays, it’s so hard to tell because there’s so many disposable heroes out there. A band will be popular on one record, then the next record will come out and they’ll be forgotten. At least if that’s the case with us, I can look back and say I had the time of my life. I mean, I think every one of us wants to do it for as long as we can so I think as long as we stay focused and stay true to ourselves and we maintain what Soil is all about, I think we can last. If we do, great. If we don’t, then maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. We don’t have a crystal ball to see into the future. If we did, I’d probably have a heart attack stressing about it and worrying about it.

KNAC.COM: How much do finances and promotion figure into the equation? Does it take up and inordinate amount of time? Or are you able to put most of your energy into the music?
TIM: Yeah, unfortunately that kind of stuff does take up time. Anybody who thinks being in a rock band is all about drinking, nailing hot chicks and getting onstage and playing and that’s it, is sadly mistaken.

KNAC.COM: You’re not excluding that…
TIM: No, but there’s a lot of business. A lot of decision making. Every day we’re on the phone with management or our merchandise company -- looking for new merchandise designs or trying to write a new song for this soundtrack. It’s like, what’s going on in Europe, what’s going on here? It’s such a daily thing that sometimes you know, you just want to play your bass, your guitars or your drums and not worry about this stuff. The funny thing is, when I get out on that stage, I could be so stressed with business things all day, but the minute I get out there and see those kids in the audience, it just all goes out the window. I was sick as a dog starting this tour. I had a cold, I’d sleep all day -- I’d barely get out of bed, but as soon as I hit the stage, it was like I was fine again. The energy took it all away. Just that half hour of being able to share with the people who came out to see us is worth every bit of heartache and pain you could imagine.

KNAC.COM: Has there been any fan experience -- not the hot chick syndrome or anything -- but has there been any particular person out there who has expressed a sentiment to you regarding your music that stands out? Either in person or in a letter?
TIM: There’s actually quite a few -- a couple in particular. We were in England doing some shows, and we just got back. We just did a few days because the album is just being released over there. Anyway, this girl came up to us while we were there and said that we were one of her favorite bands of all time and if we ended today, she’d still be a fan because she’d have Scars to listen to. Then she pulled down part of her pants and on her leg was our logo tattooed on her leg. That was the first Soil tattoo I’ve ever seen. Man, I saw her and got those goose bumps -- knowing that we’ve touched some person that way. To think that this fan is so into our music and so into what we’re doing that she went and had this tattooed on her leg forever really says something. Afterwards, we all hugged her and set her up with tons of posters, a shirt and all of that. She’ll never have to pay for another Soil concert again in her life. Things like that, knowing that we’ve touched a few people. We’ve had other fans write letters and say, “You’re song ‘The One” or “Your song “Need to Feel” is about my life and makes me feel like I’m not alone with these feelings that I’m having.” You know, that’s what music’s all about. When I listen to music, it was a way for me to know that other people know what I’m going through. We know what these people are going through because we’re just music fans ourselves. We’ve either been through these things or we’re going through them right now. For somebody to get that out of it and say that our band helped them through a tough time or that our band is their life -- even if it’s for a month and then they’re on to something else. Just that little time in their lives that they were able to share it and feel that from us makes everything worthwhile.

KNAC.COM: Can you remember being that much into a band yourself? Or can you recall a particular period of your life when you might have felt the same way about a band?
TIM: Oh yeah, I had so many different, songs and bands touch me like Slayer, for instance. If you’ve ever wanted to let out aggression or you had a bad day at school or work or whatever you could crank on a Slayer record and just take all that aggression and throw it right out the window. I mean, there’s been so many over the years -- so many different songs I really couldn’t pinpoint. There’ve been ones that I’ve played over a hundred times because they spoke to me…

KNAC.COM: I know, I know, ones like “Still of the Night” by Whitesnake?
TIM: …Uh, no, not that one. Well… any Poison song maybe.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, those are pretty…uh…deep. Is there any song that you’re particularly into right now?
TIM: Probably that Ozzy Osbourne song “Road to Nowhere.” It could be about so many things -- it could even be about this band Soil because we’ve worked hard and just kept getting beat down and beat down. At those times I just feel like we’re on a road to nowhere and wonder if we should call it a day. Luckily enough though we’ve kept doing it, and I think that’s actually helped us because our heads aren’t in the clouds and our feet are firmly planted on the ground. We all know that this could all end tomorrow so we have to stay one step ahead of the game at all times.

KNAC.COM: Have you stayed at it because of any particular goal you may have? Is there any event that exists which could make you think, “Yeah, we made it”?
TIM: Strictly from a Chicago standpoint, I was at the Rosemont Horizon when I was in high school. I said to myself right then and there that I’d feel like I made it if I ever played that arena. We played there on the Ozzy tour, and that was just one of those landmark goals that I had set for myself all those years ago. I got to do it -- I still don’t feel like I made it, but at least I got to do it. Maybe if we were to get a platinum album, I think I’d feel like we actually made it. You know, if we sell a million copies. Whether it would last or not would be a different story, but I would feel like I did it… for a time anyway.

KNAC.COM: They say that once you start to make it that it isn’t the people closest to you who change but the ones on the periphery of your life who are the hardest to deal with. Have you experienced a lot of that?
TIM: Unfortunately, when we come home there will be people who I haven’t spoken to in two or three years calling me up like they’re my best friend, wanting me to get them on the guest list. It’s like on the Ozzy tour the band was given ten tickets a night, and when you tell them that you can’t do it, then all of the sudden you’re the big “rock star” with the big head. You know, it’s not even a case of that, it’s just there are ten spots and five people in the band and if my mom and sister want to come to the show then there’s no room left if everybody takes their two people.

KNAC.COM: Definitely no room for someone you last talked to in the eighth grade during biology class…
TIM: It’s kind of unfortunate that it has to be that way. Some people think, “Oh, they’re getting big heads.” It’s like, when you’re at home and people want to go out, and you don’t want to, they get upset and think that it’s because I’m too big of a rock star now. They don’t understand that we’ve been having a “Saturday night” every night for three months. When you get home, you just want to relax or see your family. My philosophy is that if they’re really your friend and they are a friend that you’re gonna have ten years from now that they’re gonna understand. If they don’t, they weren’t your friend to begin with.

KNAC.COM: Do you think a lot of that stems from the perception that once a guy gets on the radio he automatically has ten million bucks, a fleet of sports cars and a mansion?
TIM: Yeah, definitely.

KNAC.COM: I’m sure that probably isn’t the case at all---
TIM: There are probably managers at McDonald’s who make more than I do right now. People all think we’re driving around in new Corvettes -- I’m still driving around in my 1996 Ford Contour, which I finally paid off. Aside from buying some new basses or some new bass gear, I really haven’t splurged on anything. Other than that, we basically just have enough to where we don’t have to work a day job -- just enough to exist to where we can do the band full time. Believe me, none of us are driving around in new cars or living in nice houses or anything. Bands like Ozzy, they have all that but that’s from years and years of record sales. We’re still building to that plateau. I mean, I wish we had all that. If it comes, great -- if it doesn’t, I’m just enjoying playing music and doing what I’m doing. I want to do it for as long as possible.

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