THE SKULL, featuring original TROUBLE vocalist Eric Wagner alongside longtime TROUBLE bassist Ron Holzner, has been steamrolling right along ever since their inception at Wisconsin's ‘Days Of The Doomed Fest’ back in 2011. With two riff-laden, immense albums in the form of 2014’s “For Those Which Are Asleep” and 2018’s “The Endless Road Turns Dark” under their belt, THE SKULL has consistently toured with everyone from SAINT VITUS to CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, graced the stages of such monumental fests as ‘Psycho Vegas’ and ‘Roadburn’, and has generally kept a high profile presence on US soil as well as Europe. In short, THE SKULL get shit done!
In just a few short weeks, The Skull will once again venture across the pond for yet another headlining slot at Germany’s prestigious ‘Hammer Of Doom Fest’. But before they leave, the lucky fans of Milwaukee, WI will be able to experience a very unique “warm up” show that hasn’t been done before. THE SKULL will perform two full sets: one covering instant Doom classics from The Skull, and the other celebrating 40 years of TROUBLE. You can bet your ass you are in for one hell of a heavy evening if you’re lucky to live in or near the beer capital of the nation.
I recently had the opportunity to bend the ear of both Eric and Ron for a bit, and here is what transpired...
THE SKULL play Walker’s Point Music Hall in Milwaukee, WI on Saturday, November 09th, 2019. If you haven’t already secured your ticket for this soon to be historic show, you can do so now by visiting www.DaysOfTheDoomed.com.
Big thanks to Eric Wagner and Ron Holzner for letting me shoot the breeze with them. See you all in Milwaukee.
2019 has been a busy year for THE SKULL. Major tours with ORANGE GOBLIN and just recently with CORROSION OF CONFORMITY. That said, what are some of the major differences you experience on the road now as opposed to the '80s / '90s?
Eric Wagner (EW): There are so many bands touring these days, and people just can't afford to go to all of them, so they have to pick and choose. So, unless you're part of a good package, it's almost impossible to make money because there's no such thing as actual tour support anymore. Bands are totally on their own. It’s sad to say, but sometimes you're lucky to get water...
Ron Holzner (RH): Yeah, everything from gas to hotels, rental vans, trailers... It’s way more expensive touring these days. The clubs don’t give the bands shit any more. We are spending money out of pocket for almost everything. It’s very seldom we ever get fed by the clubs/promoters anymore. One thing has stayed the same - the pay at the end of the night. This is the last year of doing any extended touring for me! It’s unfortunate, but it’s just not fuckin’ worth it these days.
That seems to be the sentiment of many touring bands these days, especially in the US. There are good clubs and promoters, but they seem to be quite outnumbered by the bad ones. So, while we are on the subject of touring, are there any pre-show rituals that have stuck with you over the years? Shots? Naps? Green tea and weed?
EW: Well, a “couple, 2, tree bourbons” don't hurt none (laughs). But in the end, green tea and weed is really all I’ll ever need...
RH: I will have 2 Budweisers and a Jack and Coke, preferably, but at those pretentious hippy beer clubs that do not have Bud, I will hopefully get a Heineken, or have to choke down some shit that tastes like they washed their feet in it (laughs)!
You'll be heading over to Europe in November to once again play the tremendous ‘Hammer Of Doom’ festival. It's pretty common knowledge that heavy music has never gone out of style across the pond, and fans are just as hungry and loyal as ever. What's your take on that?
RH: Europe is like visiting an old friend. Warm and inviting, great food, good beer. It’s all about good music and good times. A simple recipe!
EW: I love going over there! Yes, they still love the music and are very appreciative that you came to play for them. The club owners treat you like you are their guests, and when you get in after a long drive, they have drinks and a nice meal. And the beer in the cooler is never empty.
Bottomless coolers are never a bad thing. Speaking of Europe, you'll be doing a very special warm up show in Milwaukee on 11/9 before you leave. This show will feature two complete sets: one by THE SKULL, and one celebrating 40 years of TROUBLE. How the hell do you decide what to play with so much incredible material to choose from for each band? Any surprises we should look forward to? “The Wish”? Hint... hint...
EW: Choosing songs for setlists is a game that we just can't win because everyone likes a different song that they would like to hear. All we can do is pick songs that we think makes us put on the best show we can. Typically there are no complaints, and the fans are just happy we played some of their favorites.
RH: Well... We like to pick songs that we like playing as well as song requests that we have heard on tour. We are doing 1 or 2 that Eric and I have not played since our TROUBLE days. We are still working on the setlist today, as a matter of fact! Ha!!! It changes a lot. “The Wish”, Ha!!! Eventually I hope.
Guess I’ll just have to wait and see! Whether you like the term or not, THE SKULL is definitely an integral part of the Doom scene. Do you feel this scene is thriving right now, or over-saturated?
RH: Doom scene... Uh, I don’t know. I don’t listen to much Doom, truthfully. There’s a lot of good bands and shitty bands in every genre.
EW: To be honest with you, I have no idea. I'm usually busy writing or something when I’m home, and when I do listen to music, it's usually other kinds. It’s good to get away sometimes. But if I were to guess, I’d have to say both are true...