Soil. Liberty Lies and Sons of Texas plus interview
For a Monday night, the Engine Rooms in Southampton had fast become packed for Soil. Liberty Lies and Sons of Texas had managed to build a massive atmosphere in the room – thanks to the electrifying performance of the latter band especially – and the punters were impatiently awaiting the main act, noughties rockers Soil.
Having interviewed the vocalist Ryan McCombs earlier in the day, I was intrigued to see what the live show was like, and why UK audiences can not get enough of this band. I grew up to the sounds of Soil, Linkin Park, Alien Ant Farm and CKY, so this night is quite a blast from the past for me. Considering I was ten when Soil first came about, it was prime time for me when Scars debuted in 2001, and I was at secondary school discovering my true passion for rock and metal music, having grown up with Black Sabbath and Yes.
Soil get introduced onto stage with a medley of well known rock acts like Rob Zombie and the crowd goes wild. I am occupied for the first few songs Wide Open, The Hate Song and Need To Feel as I am taking some photos, but I can tell the band are already kicking ass, delivering the songs with power and finesse.
Ryan thunders across the stage like a bat of hell, and is a real joy to watch in action and photograph. He is also a real talent at interacting with the crowd, batting down hecklers and disarming banter with ease – no doubt learned after almost twenty years on the road in one form or another.
The band pile through the decent mix of songs from their repertoire with infinite energy, Ryan screaming his way through the vocals – even on the songs that the band wrote during his break from them – which of course he has something to say about, like Lesser Man and Give it Up. He says the songs have nothing to do with him, but he will sing them anyway – much to the crowd’s approval and relief.
The final few songs of the set get played from their hugely successful album Scars and the crowd erupt in another massive cheer, welcoming Unreal with a raucous row. The band thunder through the song, keeping it true to form whilst also delighting the audience. The finale is the legendary Halo, which rips through the room and tears the audience apart as they all start moshing ferociously, and Ryan even heads out into the crowd at this point, starting to mosh with them as he sings.
Their encore song is Black Betty played to an already half-empty room after people have thought they have finished for the night, however it is thoroughly well received by all still present and is a spectacular finale to the night.
I really enjoyed watching Soil play tonight at one of my favourite venues in the South, filling the whole room with insurmountable energy all night – though I did feel three opening acts were a little too much, meaning Soil did not come on stage until almost 10pm. However all three bands were extremely enjoyable to watch, Sons of Texas being my personal favourites with their blues-influenced groove rock.
All in all, a night well spent in the company of four very good, very talented rock bands and I hope they have a great rest of the tour.
Interview with Ryan McCombs, vocalist of Soil – by Niki Flynn
Before Soil’s gig at the Engine Rooms in Southampton, I caught up with their vocalist Ryan McCombs on the tour bus to chat about his affinity for the UK and kebabs, being on the road with Soil and the 20th Anniversary plans, with a healthy dollop of good old British banter.
I have to say, many thanks to Ryan McCombs for being so patient with me on my debut interview and I really enjoyed the time to chat with you, and thank you to Simon the TM and Mike at AFM Records for the opportunity.
So this the debut date for your latest UK tour, you’ve been on the road for a couple of weeks now. You were last here in 2015, what does it feel like to be back again?
Ryan: Honestly, and this isn’t just me talking bullshit because I’m in the UK. As soon as I leave, I’m ready to come back. I’ve said for a long time, that when I retire someday I want it to be in York, England.
R; Yeah. I love it over here. I actually took a picture that I’m gonna post on social media here in a little bit, it’s just little simple things like – I was walking by the car dealership here around the corner, and in the States when they have the car, and they have something open on the car it’s always the hood. And then here I’ve noticed, it’s always the trunk or the boot. And, I’m kinda a rear end guy myself so I’m like, see I love England!
York is just a beautiful place.
R: It is, I’ve gotten to walk around it a little bit, but just enough to know that I want to see more. So I’m looking forward to the last week of this tour, we’re spending in York and Chester and, which are two cities. I heard there were, like, some Roman ruins around Chester area so I wanna check that out.
Well you know, one of my questions was actually going to be where your favourite part of the UK was, but I think you’ve pretty much answered that!
R: Well that is, I love anything with history which is, when you come from the States you don’t have. Any history is something like 200 plus years, and our history books only teach us that 200 and something years. You get like one year of world history in US schools, and the rest of it is what’s happened since Thanksgiving [laughs].
Yeah I get that. I guess we have the Tudors and the Victorians and stuff.
R: Yeah right, so I’ve always been fascinated with world history, so going anywhere, being able to travel is one of the greatest things with this job. And being able to come over here, and this is like 20 something times we’ve been in the UK.
Yeah I had noticed you’ve been here a fair few times [laugh].
So I guess it feels like a bit of a second home to you here then?
R: It is, and it’s always like I said, I feel like it is more of a home because I’m more interested in the boots than the hoods. [laughs]
Exactly! It’s a rear end kind of place!
R: They’re more interested in the rear end then they are the engine, I feel with it.
We are! It’s all about what you get with the load space!
Well I was going to ask what kind of reception do you tend to get in the UK but I’m guessing you get a pretty damn good one considering how many times you’ve been back.
R: You know, it has been that way for us from day one. I mean, our very first show here was a sold out show in London at the…[trying to recall the name of the venue]
Would it be at the Astoria?
R: Well, nah, that’s where we played at from that point on until the Astoria wasn’t there any more, but that very first time over here was mainly just for press, we were here for four or five days, only one show and the rest of the other days were all press and photo shoots. And our crew was here, for like four, five days’ paid vacation basically. They had one day to work on that show day and then the rest of the time, we would come back to the hotel and, we’d be gone all day doing press from the time we woke up to the time we wanted to go to bed, doing press and photo shoots; and we would get back to the hotel and all of our techs would be down in the lobby of the hotel getting drunk, with pictures of them, you know like “this is me at the London Dungeons, and me at Parliament, me at Big Ben”. You guys suck, we ain’t seen shit!
They were rubbing it in! Well hopefully you’ve had a chance to see them now?
R: Really not. no. There was one time, we have a hotel on the other side of Hyde Park, from Parliament, and I walked there “oh just right across the park.” And right across the park in the UK is like completely different from right across the park in the US, so I started walking, and like seven hours later I’m still walking. It felt like that cos I’m from the States, and still walking, and I got to the other end of Hyde Park and I look down the street and I saw there was still a way down there, and I realised my lazy ass would never make it back if I walked down there, so I turned, I looked at it for a little bit from way down, blocks away, and just turned around and started walking back to the hotel. I’ll never make it.
You still saw it I guess! [laughs] Well hopefully you do get a chance, like London Dungeons and the London Eye.
R: I hope so, London Dungeons is something Adam and I definitely want to do this time, just breaking away from the venue for a little bit, get in a taxi and check it out.
I definitely recommend it, I’ve been there a couple of times – it’s really creepy and really cool.
So I’ve heard you’re the last minute addition to the Hard Rock Hell festival, how do you feel about that? You must be pretty stoked about it.
R: The only other time, I think we’ve played there one other time. I think. Done too many shows in my life…
I guess it probably all runs into one?
R: Regretfully so. We’re so blessed to do this for a living but at the same time, usually when we’re on tour, we do six on, one off, six on, one off, and every day you’re in a different city, so they run in.
But I do know, the one time that I remember we definitely played there, we had a blast, so I’m looking forward to it. I think that was the only time, but regardless the one time I remember, we had a really good time there. So looking forward to it.
So UK food, what do you think about it?
R: It’s one of the things I love! It’s funny ‘cos the things that I like are the things that people from here are just like “yeah maybe if it’s 2am and you’re pissed”.
R: Exactly! It’s my thing, chicken kebab. I could eat a chicken kebab every day and just be, happy. Smokey bacon Walkers crisps. It used to be, until we started getting it in the States more readily, but Colman’s mustard. We didn’t get that in the States until the past five, six years, except for like speciality stores. So I wasn’t familiar with it until I started coming over here, so it’s the mustard, it was the kebabs, back then even the donners, or the doners, I’m not sure. One of the guys with us on the crew, our crew is all English apart except from one of them whose Scottish. It wasn’t the Scottish guys, but one of the other guys kept calling it do-ner, and that was like ‘are you sure that’s right? You just trying to make me sound like an idiot?’ right now.
Yeah I think he was having you on!
R: Right. I love them, and everyone says to me ‘that’s like a drunk food’ and I’m like ‘no man I love them’.
Yeah historically it is like you go out drinking, you get a doner kebab – or fried chicken.
R: See, I’m always like back home though, one of my favourite restaurants is a place called White Castle which is a chain, and everyone back home is like ‘that’s awful’, and I like it. They’re like ‘Maybe if it 3am and you’re drunk then yeah!’
They do the little burgers don’t they? They’re so good.
R: The little steamed burger. Most people dislike them greatly, but I’m addicted.
So the band has been through a few line up changes since you got together in 1997, and of course you left temporarily then came back, after I believe a break due to family?
R: That was the public excuse. No I left just to get away from music, I was burned out. And, I was burned out on music, I was burned out on the industry, I was burned out on the band, I was burned out just in general. On music, period. And for me it was just time to go home and be with my family. Nine or ten months after I left Soil, is when I got the call to join Drowning Pool, and I was starting to get the itch again about that same time, so just it worked out.
It sounds like it, and it meant you managed to get a decent rest.
R: Yeah, turns out I have a seven year itch with everything that I do. I was married for seven years, the relationship before my marriage was seven years, I was with Soil for seven years, Drowning Pool for seven years. I think I’m on my fifth year back with Soil now, Tim was asking me so what you gonna do in two years? And I was like, I don’t know, we’ll see!
Maybe time for another break perhaps?
R: At this age, it’s probably just retirement. I’ll be looking at York real estate at that point in time! [laughs]
I wanted to ask you what is your favourite tour moment over the years, and of course you toured with Puddle of Mudd too. Do you happen to have a stand-out tour moment that’s ever happened?
R: There’s been a bunch, but I think early on, one of my favourite is the helping me be OK with who I was, because I was married for the first 7 years of my career, and it was funny because there were, they more prevalent back in the day, but there was websites run by sorry, no better way to put it, but they were places that groupies would visit and stuff, and write about their conquests and all this crap. And I loved it because whenever, and different bands would always have, each band would all have their own section, where people would chime in on it and I always loved it, because time and time again, if they may say this or that about somebody, but then they would get to me and be like ‘don’t bother, unless you want to hear about his wife and kids’. And that meant a lot to me, that’s who I was. This is my job. That was my family.
So, getting back to my point, though for me one of the biggest moments early on was walking onto Zakk Wylde’s bus, and we didn’t really know him – now it’s like Brother Z, but back then it was my first time meeting him or anything, and this maybe sacrilegious, but I wasn’t a big Ozzy fan, until Zakk started playing with him. It was Zakk’s guitar playing that actually made me listen to Ozzy, because I was listening to Zakk’s guitar playing. [laughs] So meeting him was the only person that I had that ‘holy shit’ moment, I walked onto his bus, and I remember the first thing I saw was there was two pictures on his counter in his front lounge of his bus – one was his wife and kids, and one was his dogs. And I thought ‘you know what, he’s been doing it as long as he has and that is still first and foremost in his life’. That was our first big tour, so that was an early moment of ‘alright I can do this’.
Is there anyone you would ever really like to tour with, anyone you could think of – living or dead – if you could bring them back for one tour, who would that be?
R: I don’t wanna to go with anybody I don’t know, cos I would hate… One of my first things, was Alice in Chains was that first band that for me, was ‘my band’; it wasn’t someone telling me this what was cool, it was the first band I came across and was like ‘I like that band’. I got that band ‘cos I like it not because my friend thinks it’s cool or whatever, and so, but at the same time I’ve had those moments where I’ve met people that I thought highly of, and they really disappointed me as far as people they were. I would hate that to have that experience, with like Layne Staley, ‘cos to me Layne Staley is, he’s up there, he’s in a room by himself – well not by himself, but he’s in a room with very few people. When it comes to vocal ability, lyrical writing, So… I had a couple of moments where I just wish I had stayed in my hotel room, you know those types of things, and I wouldn’t want that to be one of them.
So in terms of touring, there’s so many guys out there that I’ve had such a good time with. The bands I tend to listen to nowadays, are bands that I’ve shared the road with, that were good people. And I enjoyed their company and became friends with.
That makes sense, I suppose you’re not going to listen to band that you don’t like or have had bad experiences with, cos you’d think of all the bad memories.
R: Yeah exactly, like ‘oh he was a prick’!
I would like, OK, I’ve made this a very long answer, but not just because I consider him a great guy from the times we’ve gotten to share around each other, but I would love to spend some time on the road with Stone Sour, and that’s just as a fanboy. I think Corey, buddy, whatever, you know, he’s always a super good guy to run into on the road, but beyond that, at the end of the day I’m really just as a singer songwriter, I’m in awe of that guy’s talents, to me when it comes to lyric writing and the ability to cover a gamete of range and styles of music, he, he leaves me in, in awe sometimes. I would like to sit back and watch him night after night, and just be like ‘damn you…wish I could do that…’. So if I had to pick one right now, it would be Stone Sour.
Nice choice, great band. Do you all get on well when you’re on tour? What is the camaraderie like now?
R: So much better now. Back in the early days, my first run in the band, we worried about everything. Back then we worried about everything. And so much of it, you can’t do anything about. But back then when it’s new to you, you’ve been controlling the music side of your life, you’ve been controlling all the time up until the point you get signed. Then all of a sudden there’s these suits and ties in New York and LA, telling you what to do and when to do it, how to do it. And for the first time, you feel like the reins have been taken out of your hands, and it’s frustrating, and you take it out on each other. And the frustrations, it wears on ya. And back then too, we spent 11 and a half months out of the year on the road.
That’s such a long time.
R: It was, it was so brutal.
That is tough, and you had your wife and kids back then too?
R: Yeah yeah. When you look at the touring cycle for Scars, we were out solid for the first 13 months, and in that 13 months, if you added the two days here or the one day there, it was 2 weeks, 14 days out of that 13 months I was actually home. So when you’re looking at the same faces all the time, and you were wishing you were home, see that was a big thing for me, I was the only one that was married and with kids, so and I didn’t drink back then. We laugh now, cos now I drink, and we’ve laughed now – ‘boy if you had drink back then, we would have never broken up!’ [laughs] I was the one sober guy on the bus, I was the one family guy on the bus, but beyond that I think we all did in a way, we all took our frustrations out on each other, cos nowadays; we know that just certain things, there’s no point worrying about it, you can’t do anything about it. So we tend to just more enjoy the fact that next year is gonna be 20th anniversary. The fact that there people out there that still buy our music, and support the band and have allowed to do this for 20 years professionally, it’s amazing. It’s a privilege and it’s a blessing, so we have a little bit more easier time laughing at the bad stuff nowadays, because we’re sitting on a tour bus in the middle of England, and we’re just two guys from Chicago, one guy from Arizona and Flat Billy from Indiana over here, I mean I never thought. I still remember flying into London for the first time and seeing the lights below me, getting a little teary eyed, going ‘How the fuck did I get here?’. So the fact we’re still allowed to do this, we get along a lot easier now because we just enjoy it.
Ok, so final question as I believe Simon is telling me we’re out of time, what I would like to know is I have heard you’re working on a new album?
Yes. Is that correct?
R: We are definitely working on something for the 20th anniversary next year. It won’t be by the end of this year, plus with next year being the 20th anniversary we wanted to do something that along with planning to hit the States and back here in Europe for full tours, and you know, don’t know, 20 years that might be it. At least we’re looking to do one more thing at least, I’m not saying only one more thing but at least one more thing.
That would be cool, it will be interesting to see what you come up with.
R: Yeah, if we’re all still alive!
Well hopefully you still will be, it’s only next year! [laughs] Thank you for your time Ryan, it’s been a pleasure.
R: Well yeah let’s hope! [laughs] Thank you.