Indeed it's true, Chicago's Doom legends TROUBLE are back with a new album entitled "The Distortion Field" that is on its way. METAL KAOZ had the chance and the privilege to submit a streak of questions to the band's singer Kyle Thomas and guitarist Rick Wartell in order to get as much info as possible about the making of this album and TROUBLE's touring plans among other things. So, wear your Doom colors with pride and read below what Kyle and Rick have in store for us. Doom on!
Hello Kyle and welcome back to METAL KAOZ! Since there is a new TROUBLE album coming out this July, “The Distortion Field”, can you give us an idea how it sounds like? If you were to compare it with previous TROUBLE albums, what would your choices be?
Kyle: Hello Maria, and thanks! As a HUGE TROUBLE fan, I can say that I truly believe this is the best batch of songs since the first Def American album they recorded with Rick Rubin. There is a nice combination of TROUBLE’s past styles on “The Distortion Field”, added to a current approach. Fast paced, strong songs, slow, doomy songs, and some good grooves as well. There are even mellow moments and cool intros. I would say we have an album here that spans the entire career as far as style goes, with even some new territory being entered. I think most TROUBLE fans will be pleased.
“Simple Mind Condition” was released via Escapi Music and “The Distortion Field” is going to be released via FRW Music; is this an one-album record deal? In other words, do you have a mindset for more TROUBLE albums in a more frequent pace?
Rick: We have not signed a multiple deal with anyone at this point. I can honestly say that we have not planned past this record as of yet, in terms of writing. I wanted this to be the best recording we could make so that if it were to be our last, we could walk away with our heads up and know we left it all in the last recording. We'll just have to see how it goes.
Looking closely to the new album’s cover artwork, I noticed that you use the band’s logo from the “Manic Frustration” / “Plastic Green Head” days; so, why did you choose this?
Rick: Because it looked the best with the artwork for this release.
How long did it take you to record “The Distortion Field”? I am asking this because there was a lot of talking about this album, but no definite release date.
Rick: About two and a half years on and off. Mostly because we only did the recording on a part time basis, a drastic switch from previous TROUBLE recordings in which we recorded in much shorter time spans. It was nice to take our time and be able to go back and change sounds or riffs on a more casual basis. Really there was no reason to rush because we didn't even have a deal in place when we started the process.
Why did you choose to name the album “The Distortion Field”? Is there any hidden meaning or a connection with the album’s lyrics?
Rick: This is for the listener to figure out. We want the album to be experiential and like to leave some of the interpretation up to the individual. Listen to the meaning from within.
As a follow up to the previous question, what are the lyrics about? Reading songtitles like “Butterflies” and “Your Reflection”, I’m curious about what this album is talking about…
Kyle: The old saying “art imitates life” really is completely true here. I tend to wear my life on my sleeve in my writing, although some songs I do enjoy writing from pure fantasy. If they did a movie or book about my life and what my family has endured, especially recent events considered, it would probably be disregarded as too ridiculous. The things that have happened to me could not be scripted - they are so insane and hard to believe. However, as much as I put my heart and soul out there for all to hear and see, I firmly believe that what the lyrics “mean” are subject to interpretation by the listener. Bruce and I wrote “Sucker” together, and “One Life” is all Bruce’s lyrics. He, like me, puts a lot of his life experiences into his words. What does it mean to you? What is it saying to you, and how does it make you feel? That is what the lyrics mean, if you ask me.
Since Rick and Bruce have already written a part of the new album while Kory Clarke was in the band, did you have to change some things to fit better to your voice?
Kyle: I have no idea what he wrote. I purposely asked to have only the music sent to me, because I would never want to write to music having to try to ignore what some other singer put there themselves. I really have no desire to hear what was done before I got involved anyway, because it is irrelevant. As far as I know, the music is the way it was before I was asked to join.
What was your contribution in “The Distortion Field” besides the vocals?
Kyle: I wrote most of the lyrics, and Bruce wrote on the ones I mentioned before. Also, I arranged most of my vocals. I wasn’t there for mixing, so Bruce and Rick took some liberties with my parts when they went to some of the sessions with Bill Metoyer, but as a veteran that has co produced most of my previous recordings, they didn’t have to change much. Also, they are very open to my ideas about their songs musically. Not only am I also a musician and songwriter, but they really appreciate how much of a TROUBLE fan that I am. If I hear something that I don’t care for or sounds out of place to me, they listen to me if I tell them about it. Sometimes it makes a difference, and sometimes it doesn’t. The bottom line is we all are just trying to make the best songs and best album that we can. There are lots of guitar parts and vocal takes that never got used. It’s better to have more than you need than not enough. Don’t be shocked if on the next album some of my riffs end up there! I have plenty that would fit - believe me.
We all know your involvement in TROUBLE during the past, but how does it feel like working with Rick and Bruce while in the studio? Are there any changes the way the band is working nowadays?
Kyle: I recorded all of my parts here in New Orleans, and they did all of the music in Chicago as far as I am aware. Bruce came down for a weekend while I was tracking to help get the best takes out of me, and to track some vocals himself. I have not seen Rick in over ten years, though. The beauty of technology today is that we are able to do all of this from so far away, and literally can hear recordings the other guy did less than twenty minutes after he is finished. It is a much different era than when they recorded their early albums and I was doing EXHORDER and FLOODGATE. I’m so glad it is so easy now! They liked most of what I did from the beginning. The good thing is that they have brought out the best in me. I take great care in putting my best work out there, but especially when Bruce came to stay with me while I recorded was I able to do some of my best work yet. He really has an amazing ear, and he taught me a few things as well. Conversely, when he tracked vocals, it was I who stepped in to lend a veteran opinion and be a bit of a guide, as he was out of his comfort zone with the guitar, where he is a master. We worked well together. Rick basically just tells me in email or over the phone “That one is 100% finished.” or “I don’t dig that part - can you try something else?”. He also told me that one line in one of the songs was one of the coolest things he’d ever heard. I love writing and recording with them.
What does it mean to you listening Rick saying that you are one of the most impressive singers he has ever heard, and by far the most extraordinary singer?
Kyle: Keep in mind I have one of my influences and icons of my teen years telling everyone this! It was flattering, humbling, and exciting to me all at once. They really seem to enjoy me being on board as much as I enjoy jumping into the mix. TROUBLE is very highly regarded by musicians that are worth their salt. Jason Portera from my other band, PITTS VS. PREPS, thinks so much of them, he considers them the greatest riffing band in the world second only to BLACK SABBATH. That says a LOT. Just ask most of the biggest metal bands in the world. It’s no big secret how much METALLICA loves TROUBLE - just look at the patch on James Hetfield’s vest. The guys in DOWN ALL love TROUBLE. Hell, Jimmy Bower was the one that turned me on to them when we were a couple of young, goofy punks. Ralph Santolla has been begging me to let him hear some. Woody Weatherman and Reed Mullin from COC, Mark Morton from LAMB OF GOD, Casey Orr and Bruce Corbitt from RIGOR MORTIS / WARBEAST… man, I could go on and on. Almost everyone I know loves TROUBLE, and so many have given me a lot of support, which I am grateful for. So yes, it means a lot to me that Rick Wartell thinks so highly of me as a singer. We always got along well in a friendly way also, and I look forward to doing more than just this album with him and the rest of the guys.
Are you prepared to confront any negative criticism from some ‘fans’ who may say that TROUBLE without Eric Wagner behind the mic isn’t TROUBLE at all? Because whether we like it or not, criticism is widely spread in the internet nowadays.
Kyle: Everyone should give people that are not happy about Eric being gone a break. They are fans just like me, and have a right to feel the way that they do. All I can do is ask that they give TROUBLE without Eric Wagner a chance. If you hear it and hate it, fine. But don’t discredit it without even hearing one song. That’s unfair in my opinion. There was a time when I loved Ronnie James Dio in both DIO and RAINBOW, but not BLACK SABBATH. And do you know why? Because as a kid I read all of the negative things Ozzy Osbourne’s camp was saying about BLACK SABBATH with Dio. I can remember when I was just forming what became FLOODGATE with Kevin Thomas, my brother. I mentioned in passing to Phil Anselmo about how I loved Dio but never really got into the albums he did with BLACK SABBATH. He looked at me as if he was looking over me on a suicide watch and said in a concerned manner, “ Maybe you should give them another listen, bro.” Ronnie in SABBATH was amazing. So was Ian Gillan. It is equally amazing, just different. Tell me that DEEP PURPLE with David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes sucks and isn’t DEEP PURPLE because Ian Gillan was gone, and I’ll tell you you’re nuts. I’m not saying I’m Dio, Gillan, Coverdale or Hughes, but I am a TROUBLE fan. I’m not going to try to copy Eric vocally or lyrically, but you had better believe his reach over me was strong in making this album. He emailed me the day they fired Kory Clarke and it was announced that I was joining, and he thanked me for the nice things I said about him and TROUBLE. He also told me to “do us all proud”. Do you have any idea what that means to me? I’ve never met Eric Wagner - he’s not around TROUBLE when I am for obvious reasons - but I am a fan of his and if he is cheering me on in the spot he once stood and greatly influenced me from, then I bow my head in respect. Are some people going to hate this album because I am singing and Eric isn’t?
Yep. There will be some that just refuse to accept it. On the other hand, I think the ones that are open minded but skeptical will love it because it sounds like TROUBLE. And there will be a new legion of TROUBLE fans that have followed my career but maybe never gave TROUBLE a good listen. Hell, there will be a lot of my listeners that may hate it because it isn’t EXHORDER! I know that is true, because I got hate mail from some of my own fans before when I did FLOODGATE. I even got threatening emails a few years ago from EXHORDER fans because we went in a more groove direction away from Thrash. People are as passionate sometimes as they are diverse, and they really take a lot of this personally, and sometimes too seriously. If I don’t like something by one of my favorite bands, I simply don’t buy it. But I would never disrespect a replacement guy. The band chose him and they want him there. Nothing a fan can say or do will change that except maybe just not buying the product. I met Tommy Thayer of KISS with my son the last time they played in New Orleans. He’s the guy wearing Ace Frehely’s makeup. You know what? He played great, and sat and talked with my son as if it was the most important thing in the world to the both of them. He’s Ace in my book for that alone. I have defended him for that reason ever since. Some people may never accept me in TROUBLE or TROUBLE without Eric for that matter. The truth is, though, that Rick, Bruce and I have all discussed this, and we all feel so strongly about “The Distortion Field” that we are of the opinion that if one fan walks, we will gain three or four more. I believe it is that good, I really do. Please just give it a chance, people. If you hate it then, I will respect your opinion.
Recently we had the pleasure to watch a short video posted in TROUBLE’s official Facebook page with you singing VAN HALEN’s “Running With The Devil”; what was this all about? Did you prepare some extra tracks to appear as bonus in the new album?
Kyle: (laughs) That was David Treadway’s mischief! He had the sessions in his Pro Tools and after we tracked one night we were listening to it. Listening to David Lee Roth doing his thing with no music behind it is as hilarious as it is awesome! David then asked me, “Why don’t you record vocals to this and we’ll mute Dave?” I thought, “Hmm… track “Running With The Devil” WITH VAN HALEN? Duuuhh, SURE!”. It was all for fun, and I sang that song every weekend on Bourbon Street with the band I work with there, so it was easy for me because of that. It was just for fun, though. It has nothing to do with TROUBLE.
When should we expect the first US tour dates? Any plans to hit the European stages too?
Rick: We will do some dates in Europe this fall and follow with USA dates in the late winter starting most likely in February 2014. Check the TROUBLE website for confirmation on these and all touring dates. We’ll also post this information as we get it on our official Facebook page.
How many songs from the new album are you planning to add in the upcoming live dates? Do you have any song preferences from the new album? And what about the old ones; any song that you would like to perform live from the early TROUBLE days?
Rick: Well it's a bit early to know which new songs will fit into a live set, but if I had to guess I would say “When The Sky Comes Down”, “Hunters Of Doom”, and “Paranoia Conspiracy” would be some to consider first. As far as old TROUBLE songs, with Kyle manning the mic this opens up unlimited possibilities. We can pick and choose any of the old songs knowing he can hit all the notes. So we'll have to see how it shapes up.
That’s it, guys! Thank you so much for your time to answer METAL KAOZ questions and we hope to catch you on the road really soon! The last words are yours.
Kyle: I think I’ve said plenty, other than thanks to METAL KAOZ for taking the time and the interest for interviewing me. See you all soon, I hope!