Some hours before the TROUBLE show in Lombard, IL, METAL KAOZ got the unique opportunity to sit down with Rick Wartell, Bruce Franklin and Kyle Thomas and get a hearty scoop of how the music-writing gears are moving and what is on their touring calendar. From the first minutes, we felt the great chemistry of this lineup, so now we are super excited to get to you the news regarding new TROUBLE music since 2014. Read on!
Hello guys and welcome to METAL KAOZ again! So, what is this live event that’s about to start in a few hours today? Is this a one thing or it’s like a teaser for more live shows?
Rick: It’s a teaser, basically. We’re gonna keep playing. We’re working to put together a big tour in Europe. We want to tour Europe during the summer of 2018 but we wanna make sure or try to have a new product out by then, have an album done to promote the tour with.
And, when you say summer, does this include the summer festivals in Europe?
Rick: That’s exactly what includes, yes.
So, you’re talking about the summer festivals – not doing a headlining tour.
Rick: That’s correct. Well, we’ll do some headlining shows in between festivals, obviously that’s how you have to do it, but that’s the game-plan right now.
They love you in Europe, right?
Rick: Ehm, sometimes yes, sometimes no (laughs) - it depends.
I mean, central Europe - come on!
Rick: Yeah, we do well there and the festivals are usually over there.
Kyle: Especially in Germany.
You, Kyle, are staying in New Orleans, so how tough or difficult is to rehearse when it’s needed?
Kyle: We don’t (laughs). Basically, a lot of it is muscle memory; I listen to it in my headphones over and over again just to refresh but I perform like every weekend, I’m playing shows so I’m always in singing form, so it’s really just a matter of knowing the songs and if they’re tight, we’ve played together enough to know that we’ve just get up in there and do it. As long as they’re rehearsing, I can come in and it’s kind of like karaoke but different.
Rick: We’ve doing it this way for like a long time actually. We barely rehearse with Kyle. Once in a while if we are lucky and he is in town, we’ll rehearse at that same time, but not often.
And it goes the same way when you’re about to write an album?
Kyle: That’s the beauty of this era of technology; they can send me files in an email within minutes of writing it whereas 20 years ago it wasn’t so easy. You can record ideas on the phone and send them to somebody in a text message.
Rick: The entire last record, we sent him the complete songs without lyrics and he sent back lyrics and we said, for the most part “that’s what we’re looking for”.
Kyle: From the time I joined the band officially till the time the album was released and on the market, I haven’t seen him [pointing at Rick] since 1999.
Rick: And I’m actually never seen him in a recording studio so that’s technology for (laughs).
Kyle: Literally, the first show we did on that tour was when we got together to go fly out.
Hopefully, you hadn’t changed that much, so he did recognize you, right (laughs)?
Kyle: Yeah, still tall and ugly (laughs).
So, now, you kinda led me to the next question; what is the update on the new TROUBLE album?
Rick: Right now, we’re still on the writing process; judging by where we are and what I’m hearing… how do you describe a TROUBLE record? I don’t really know. We just write a bunch of riffs and if we like them, we put them together into songs. I mean, I can’t say it sounds like new stuff and I can’t say sounds like old stuff – just sounds like TROUBLE to me. But the thing I’m most impressed about with what we’re doing with the new stuff is I think it gave Kyle one more step into what TROUBLE really is whereas with the first record I think he knew more about what TROUBLE was for the most people out there, but now he’s been in the band and we sent him songs and he sends them back and it’s like “oh my god, I couldn’t picture something better for the riff than what he just did”. It’s more at home now as far as the writing goes.
So, you’re basically saying that after you’ve performed live with Kyle, now he feels more comfortable.
Rick: He’s part of the band now more than he was when he wrote the first set of lyrics.
Kyle: Those songs are also written before I was invited to join. This time we all writing songs with me as the singer - it’s kind of like before but now it’s like “ok, can you do something with these pieces of music?”
Rick: Exactly. Now, it’s our music.
I understand that you can’t say anything about the music; you cannot compare stuff, you’re an artist, but really, honestly, does the name TROUBLE put any boundaries in your writing?
Rick: Hell yeah! Without a doubt there are boundaries when you’re writing a TROUBLE record because, like you said, we all are artists and we have other projects, we write music not just based on TROUBLE. But when you’re writing a TROUBLE record, there are standards, I would say, more than boundaries that you have to like [interrupting himself] You wouldn’t believe how many songs I’ve thrown into the garbage because I went “it’s not good enough for TROUBLE”. It doesn’t have that TROUBLE vibe happening, and you have to know it’s a TROUBLE song when you hear it. And I can write for other bands, and these guys write great material too, but there is a standard and a sound and a TROUBLE vibe that you have to have for each TROUBLE song. And it’s like why we write like we’ve always writing for records; we pick and choose what we think it’s gonna fit together best as a collage of songs.
Kyle: Plus a Thrash part or a Jazz part or Funk that probably wouldn’t fit.
Rick: We keep trying though (laughs).
Well, as I like to say, the artist can do whatever he likes as far as creativity goes. But do you feel trapped in a way by that?
Rick: No, not at all because I have outlets with other bands. And it’s not like TROUBLE has to do a certain riff; if you look at the progression of TROUBLE throughout the years we don’t play the same thing over and over again. I mean, we went from the first two records to “Run To The Light” which was completely different and continues to be different, I think, in my opinion. But there is a certain way it has to sound to be TROUBLE in my head. Like Bruce wrote with SUPERSHINE - that doesn’t sound like TROUBLE to me, I wrote for WET ANIMAL - that doesn’t sound TROUBLE at all. It’s more Rock-y, you can use more chords that normally wouldn’t use with TROUBLE. With TROUBLE, there are certain things you expect a song to do and I don’t feel trapped by that at all. I’m trying to enhance it still.
What we say is that sometimes the fans kind of expect things from a band and it builds a kind of pressure to the musician.
Rick: Yeah, but that’s for bands who make million dollars, not for bands like us (laughs). I don’t think we’ve ever written for fans; I think we’ve always written for us and hold ourselves to very high standards and I think this has worked for us. If we weren’t happy with what we’re doing and being 100% satisfied, we wouldn’t have put it out. This is probably one of the reasons that it takes us so long to put out records not that we’re sitting and writing the whole time, you know. It’s got to be the right time, right vibe, the right mood, you know.
So, now that you mentioned the time, how long have you been working on the new material?
Bruce: Well, like Rick was just saying, not all the time but probably basically within the last year or so – at least, demoing songs, part time. Because, we all work jobs, so it isn’t like old days where that was all we did.
Rick: We all have lives, and families and we’re not kids anymore.
Yeah, and the market has changed, right?
Rick: The market is completely different; I mean, now you’re talking finances which is, you know, a whole another ball game – that, I don’t really care about, one way or another. I mean, if that was what we’re doing for, we wouldn’t be doing it at this point, you know. There is more to it than that.
Bruce: I haven’t ever said “I need to write a song like this” and then sit and try to write. I just write stuff whenever it comes out, comes out and most of the times it works and occasionally it’s like “not quite good” so throw it away but we just write stuff and it’s not like “we need that kind of song, so let’s write that kind of song”.
Rick: Right, but there is a standard too; I mean, we don’t bring half ass songs to the band. We bring complete, full, well-written songs that are impressive – you know what I mean? If I bring a song to the band and everybody’s looks at it and goes “yeah, it’s just ok”, then I know I didn’t do my job. That’s how I look at it. And the same goes with all of these guys. It doesn’t happen often because I think we all hold ourselves to really high standards and this is what kinda I was trying to get into.
Could you give us a number of how many songs you’ve written right now?
Rick: Where we are at? 80 or 90 (laughs)? We’re up around I think a dozen or so, something like that. 13 maybe. But they’re not all completed yet.
Bruce: We have five of them being demoed except one where we’re still working on vocals on that one.
Kyle: There are maybe 3 at this point that I’ve actually going in and done a full song and there are a couple of others where I have some ideas or are completely finished just waiting to go.
Rick: I think we’re still at that period where – at least in my head – we’re still writing more material. Because we have some songs and we’re like “those are good but can we do better? What else we’ve got?”
Kyle: And that’s the beauty of doing the demos first because you can kind of cherry-pick what works and if it doesn’t work and doesn’t make everybody excited, then let’s try something else.
So, we’re talking about completely new material – nothing from “The Distortion Field” sessions?
Rick: No, all brand new.
Rick: There may be some old riffs there floating around at the back of our brains but never recorded.
Now, let’s go a bit back; it’s almost 30 years from the release of “Run To The Light”.
Rick: Yeah, we just passed the 30-year mark.
So, what is the first thing that comes to mind, without thinking much, during those sessions?
Rick: Drunk (laughs), very, very drunk engineer.
Bruce: [interrupting] that’s what I was expecting you to say - the engineer, not the band.
Rick: No, not us; it was the engineer who was drunk through the whole thing – we had to call in a replacement, it was a hard recording. It was very difficult because we had a guy at the helm, who really didn’t give us what we’re looking for and we had to come in and salvage the record with Jim Faraci – we had to bring in a new guy just to salvage what we had recorded at that point. The production is not the greatest – I think some of the songs are amazing but they never got the proper production they deserved. It was frustrating, in my opinion, when I’m thinking of that era.
Bruce: I’d add to that, also I think we were experimenting too and we didn’t know, like there is some stuff where we didn’t know exactly what we were doing, but we were experimenting.
Rick: [interrupting] But that stuff doesn’t bother me as much as the production. I don’t mind experimenting - I think it’s cool.
Bruce: Yeah, the production is bad, yeah.
Have you ever thought of playing this entire thing live to celebrate the occasion?
Rick: Not really. We haven’t really thought about this with any of our albums. I mean, maybe once or twice we talked about doing the entire first record or doing the entire “The Skull”, but that’s a really big effort (laughs). I don’t think we’re up for it right now.
Bruce: Plus, that’s not a favorite fan album either. Speaking about the first six records, when there were real record sales, you know, keeping tallies of what’s sold, that was the least selling record of our first six records.
Rick: It did take some critical acclaim for being different and being experimental – a lot of people dug that about it, but, man, it’s the production! It’s like Michael Schenker once said about the production of the “Force It” record, he hates the production, but I love it! It was almost like if they made that too clean it wouldn’t be as good as it was, but this is a little bit different because it’s so personal. I try to look at it on both sides but...
Kyle: We sure loved it back home, I can promise you that!
Well, the beauty is in the ear of the beholder, I guess.
Rick: Exactly! But, we go back to the standards that we talked about.
Yeah, but if you ask a TROUBLE fan about his/hers favourite albums, the first four albums are gonna be definitely on the favourites list – it’s hard to pick one!
Rick: Usually, yeah.
Since you think that this is a bad production, have you ever considered of re-recording stuff?
Rick: Actually, I brought that up a few years ago about re-recording that entire record with Kyle singing but I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do, to be perfectly honest with you, to tamper with history like that. It’s kind of like “it is what it is” and we have Kyle now to do new stuff. So, why go back and mess around with history? It is what it is, leave it be. It’s a little strange thing to do, something like that. I think we would be tampering with something we shouldn’t tampering with – that’s all.
Kyle: Like a Ouija board.
I totally agree.
Rick: You know what? We could do enough live stuff perhaps where you’re gonna hear Kyle sing some of those songs and some of other records and that would be a whole new thing. But to go back and re-record an entire record, I think it’s a little self-indulgent, a little strange.
What about US? You said about going to Europe in summer 2018, but when should we expect you here in the States?
Rick: I think that something is gonna happen with CROWBAR. We were talking to them about doing some dates together, around October / November possibly. Nothing is definite yet, so it depends where we’d be with recording and writing. I think it’s more important to get this done right now, at this point.
Kyle: I think that’s where we’re aiming for and I’m really excited about it for a lot of reasons because most people know I was a fan before but now that has kind of died down a bit because we’ve all got to know each other and lived together on the road.
Rick: We’re bros, now (laughs)!
Kyle: Now, it’s just business as usual and I think everybody kind of wants to get out and make the best album that we can make which goes for the same as you go for any album and record it, but I think right now, everybody is on the same page wanting to jump in and make a top-flight album.
Rick: We’re kind of on a mission, right now, yeah!
And a bonus question: are there any plans to do a 7’’ or an EP in the future?
Rick: We’re not there yet; we don’t have any plans to do anything right now other than write and record. We don’t even have a record company right now.
You don’t have a record label right now?
Rick: No, we don’t want one right now. We want to record it and then shop it and see who’s gonna support it the most. I think that’s a big part of it. We don’t have a label at this point and it’s by our own decision.
I can understand that; nowadays everybody’s doing single-album deals and stuff like that.
Rick: We’re gonna record this thing and see how it goes. I mean, we may even put it out ourselves, I don’t know. We may get a distributor for it – I can get a deal with a distributor as easy as getting a record deal. We may just sell it through our website, I don’t know. The thing that’s the most important right now is just get it done and make it great, and then we’ll see where we’ll go from there.
Thank you very much guys for your time, guys!
Bruce: We’d like to thank you and METAL KAOZ for the support throughout all these years. Really appreciate it!