DATE OF INTERVIEW:
12th November 2009
METAL DISCOVERY: Fine, how you doing?
TIM KING: Hey man, how you doing?
(Tim King on new album 'Picture Perfect')
"All we cared about was getting back to what we were as a band and writing, and caring one hundred per cent about the music - not what kind of music we were writing; not what the trends were; not what the record label said; not anything. We got almost back to our youth through doing it."
Soil - uncredited promo shot, 2009
Photograph supplied by, and used with permission from, Mike Exley at M.E.P.R.
Interview by Mark Holmes
Signing with AFM Records in Europe earlier this year, Soil's new album 'Picture Perfect', released in October, has divided fans and press alike with their 'back to roots' approach in the songwriting, swaying more towards a classic hard rock/metal sound than on any previous release. However, they are almost certain to gain many new fans with this shift in compositional direction, and a main stage appearance as special surprise guests at the inaugural Sonisphere festival over here in the UK this August introduced their music to many thousands of people who had perhaps not previously encountered the band. Back on these shores this November supporting Shinedown along with a handful of their own headline shows on off days, I arranged to speak with the band on the phone prior to their gig in Margate, the final stop-off in the UK before venturing over to mainland Europe. Bassist Tim King answers my questions...
TK: Oh great.
MD: Is this your first time in Margate?
TK: Actually, it is our first time in Margate. We’ve done pretty much everywhere else you can imagine in the UK but Margate’s our first time.
MD: Have you been out and about to explore Margate at all?
TK: I went and walked up and down the beach a little bit this morning. Beautiful little town. It’s kinda like a little harbour town or something.
MD: I’m guessing it’s probably quite cold there on the coast.
TK: Not as cold as it was then but it is quite chilly!
MD: It’s the last date of the tour in the UK tonight I understand.
TK: Yeah, last date of the UK tour. We booked some headline shows in between our dates with Shinedown and tonight’s the last one of those, then we’re off on a ferry tonight to Paris, France, and then we’re trekking through Europe for the next ten days.
MD: How has this current stint in the UK been for you?
TK: Amazing. Every show’s been either packed or sold out and a lot of them were upgraded. The combination of Shinedown and Soil really hit home to the UK crowd which was great.
MD: Were your own headline shows upgraded too or just some of the Shinedown ones?
TK: For the headline shows we just booked little one-offs, but those have all been either packed or sold out as well. The Shinedown ones have all been upgraded, like in Manchester and some other places. Pretty exciting.
MD: How’s it been on the road with the guys from Shinedown?
TK: Oh, it’s been great. We’ve toured with them in the States before and they’re really good friends of ours, so it’s nice to see some familiar faces and be able to talk to people everyday that you know, and you’ve known for a long time, and get along with. It makes it a little bit easier being in a different country.
MD: How much beer has been drunk on the tour?
TK: Er…quite a bit! The beer over here’s a little bit stronger so it’s effected everybody a little bit faster!
MD: Do you have any funny, random beer drinking stories?
TK: Not really. Our UK crew’s taken down quite a few of ‘em. They seem to be the big time drinkers of the bunch! They’ve been fucking it all up! [laughs]
MD: You mentioned you’re off to mainland Europe tomorrow for the remainder of the tour - how is Soil’s popularity over there compared to the UK, and are there any particular countries you look forward to returning to?
TK: The UK’s always been the best for us overseas. It’s most definitely our biggest market. The UK’s shown us a lot of love. In recent years, Germany’s actually gotten quite popular. We’ve always done quite well in Austria in the body of Europe. Germany was always one of those countries that took a little extra work and we finally, after years of going to Rock am Ring and Rock im Park, doing support shows and headline shows, it’s finally got into the German crowd and they’ve taken to us. So that’s going to be exciting to go back there now we’ve actually made some headway over there. The UK’s been our top market, but we’ve always done well in the body of Europe.
MD: You seem to only have one off day, after the Amsterdam show. Is that a city you like spending time in?
TK: Yeah, Amsterdam’s always fun. It’s definitely different from anything we have remotely in the States. We like to call it the ‘Triple X Disneyland’ because you can pretty much do anything over there and it’s all accepted. For us to go over there, it’s kinda fun to just walk around and see it because, even though we’ve been there ten to fifteen times over the years, it’s still an eye popper when you go over there! [laughs]
MD: Definitely, yeah, there‘s still a novelty factor to it! Do you have any favourite haunts in Amsterdam, or do you just kind of wander around?
TK: Yeah, we just kinda walk around. It is a beautiful city. We always try to take a little boat tour, the canal tour or whatever, that’s always fun. But it’s probably a little too cold to do that this time!
MD: ‘Picture Perfect’ is your first release on AFM Records in Europe - how did that deal come about and how has your experience been with the label so far?
TK: Well, basically, we used to be with BMG and then once we parted ways with them we signed to a label called DRT that was distributed over here in Europe through Soulfood Distribution. DRT went out of business in the States and Soulfood did such a nice job on it last time we signed a deal direct with them and their in-house label was AFM…and they’ve been amazing. It’s such a breath of fresh air to have a team and a label behind you that knows what they’re doing and understands the European and UK market, and really sinks their teeth into it and makes you a priority. So it’s been a great label to be on. They’ve shown us a lot of love and we’ve got a great team surrounding us so we’re really excited this time around.
MD: Reviews I’ve read for ‘Picture Perfect’ seem to have been quite mixed. What kind of relationship do you have with your reviews, and do you ever take anything constructive out of the negative ones to maybe try and build on for future albums?
TK: Yeah, we didn’t write this album to be your average, everyday Soil record that kind of laid the pattern and the groundwork for what we’ve done before. We kind of went out on a limb with some of the songs and the material on there. It definitely has the Soil sound and it’s got the things that people have grown to love over the years but we also took it one step further and, almost in a way, went back to our classic rock roots…Aerosmith and Zeppelin…
MD: Yeah, you can hear a lot of that in there, definitely.
TK: You know, every time you do something a little bit different it’s gonna be hard for some people to digest at first and get into. You’re gonna have to sit and either think about it a little bit or have some time on it and that’s why the reviews have been so mixed. Some people listen to it and are completely blown away and love it. Other people who are very used to the standard Soil formula might take a little bit of time to get used to it. The Soil formula’s still there, it’s just we decided to add some extra things and try some new things this time round, more so than we ever have on a previous record.
MD: I think it works really well personally, and generally from the ones I’ve read that are positive it seems to be people that didn’t particularly like Soil much before. So it seems that progression has worked well for some.
TK: Yeah, we’ve always had our critics and the people that probably gave it a mixed review this time probably didn’t like the last three records! [laughs] Our main gauge is what the fans think and just the overall reaction on how people enjoy our music. If a writer, or publicist, or reviewer likes the band, I think it’s showing that they actually like the new record. If you didn’t like the band before, maybe you’ll like the new record and, if you don’t, then everyone’s got their own tastes. That’s the beauty of music.
MD: Of course, yeah, it’s very subjective. The new album cover is rather eye-catching and is entirely different from all the other releases - whose idea was that, and what’s it supposed to represent…beyond a semi-naked pretty girl?!
TK: [laughs] Well, we definitely got tired with the same old same old logos because it was like every album we put out was the logo on the front cover and you can only get creative for putting your logo on the cover for so long. This time, we wanted to take a concept and, actually, the picture was derived from a Norman Rockwell painting way back when of a little girl staring in the mirror with a picture of an older woman wishing that she could be that older woman and grow up, and leave her youth behind. What we did was we kinda played off that concept with the two covers, with the little girl on the back cover wishing that she’s older and grown up, and the girl on the front cover is crying holding a picture of herself when she was younger, wishing she could go back to simpler times and, having lived life and seen how cruel and heartless the world can be, it’s just wishing you could go back when you’re young and all you have to worry about was the toys and your homework and things like that. It’s kind of almost representative in a way of how we are as musicians. When you start off, all you care about is being on MTTV, and making albums, and selling records, and things like that, and being a rock star. When you get it, you kind of look back at those earlier times when you didn’t realise it was a business and how cutthroat it could be, and tough and hard it is, and relationships and yourself, and all that other stuff. It’s indicative of going back to where all you had to worry about was writing music. What we did on this record was we spent almost two years writing and recording it, and forgot about the business. We didn’t care what label signed it; we didn’t care about anything. All we cared about was getting back to what we were as a band and writing, and caring one hundred per cent about the music - not what kind of music we were writing; not what the trends were; not what the record label said; not anything. We got almost back to our youth through doing it.
MD: It’s like a regression to innocence I guess, or early, more innocent days.