Having released ‘The Distorted Field‘ via FRW Records earlier this year, the revamped version of the legendary Chicago doom metallers, Trouble, evidently still has a lot to offer and do not seem to be slowing down anything any time soon (apart from the music itself, that is).The album was an excellent testament to the eclectic yet inter-related sounds Trouble has dabbled in over the span of its prolific career, being a blend of the traditional doom metal sound of their early career, with the psychedelic rock and stoner metal influences being very evident in the jammy mood of the album at large. Sometimes described as ‘Judas Priest-gone-doom‘, the influence of Trouble on the large realm of doom, stoner and sludge metal is undeniably large as one of the cornerstone bands of its genre, and their ability to put out a fresh sounding album amidst a slew of Black Sabbath Mk I sonic worshipers in the recently burgeoning retro-metal scene is certainly commendable.
Metal Wani correspondent/writer Achintya Venkatesh had the opportunity to interview their legendary guitarist and founding member Rick Wartell, and discussed a variety of facets of the band including the nature of their latest album, line-up changes, their experimentation with a more up-beat stoner and psychedelic sound in the latter half of their early career and their position as one of the cornerstone bands of doom metal, among other things. Select excerpts from the chat follow below —
Achintya: Trouble released ‘The Distortion Field‘ earlier this year, which I think was a fantastic album. What exactly does the name of the album mean?
Rick: Well, I think we believe that when you’re standing in front of the Trouble amplifiers on stage, you’re surrounded by a distortion field, so to me, the title kinda represents the tone of the guitars when you’re standing in front of them.
Achintya: From a personal perspective, I think that ‘The Distortion Field’ sits somewhere between the traditional doom metal of your early career and the psychedelic and stoner metal experimentations of the band’s later era. Would you agree with this?
Rick: I would agree with that to a point. When I think about that, we do have a lot of doom in us when we write, and we do have a lot of psychedelia when we write. It’s just a natural progression that the band is going through, you know, we don’t particularly try to write a certain way. It’s a process when we’re writing music is, when we hear something that we like, we’ll work on that particular riff or tone or something, and um, I think there’s a little bit of both in us, still. This is just how it’s coming out in this point in our career. So, I would agree, it’s a cross between both at this time.
Achintya: Absolutely. The feel of the songs is very organic in itself, so it has a very jammy feel to it. Which brings me to my next question – some of the songs (on ‘The Distortion Field’) have a very fun and jammy feel to them, giving off an almost stoner rock vibe. Did any newer stoner/doom bands have any influence in the stylistic shift to a more upbeat type of music after the ‘Run to the Light’ album, or even on the latest album perhaps?
Rick: No, I don’t think we take influences from anyone at this point. Like I said, when we start writing songs, we’ll put a tape recorder on and basically just start jamming and if we hear something really cool we’ll just say “wow, let’s keep that, let’s keep that”. It’s just a matter of what riffs come out of us, from within. The influences that affect us are still the early influences, that we were listening to 20 years ago, like this time as well.
Achintya: I think that definitely shows. The Trouble sound is wholly original for the most part. So, Kyle Thomas’ vocals have brought in this very refreshing dynamic to the band. While we all know that he played a few live gigs with the band in the 90’s, what specifically compelled the band to choose him as the full time vocalist
Rick: Well actually, in the 90’s, I think we really would’ve liked to use him as our full time vocalist at that time, but the band in general just needed a nice, long break, and we were pretty tired of touring and doing what we were doing at that particular time. So when we did decide to get back together, Eric was available and we thought “let’s give this a whirl again and see what happens”. But you’re absolutely right, Kyle really does breathes in a breath of fresh air into the band. He’s got energy, he’s got charisma, he’s a phenomenal singer – it’s a pleasure working with him.
Achintya: Absolutely. Speaking about the themes of the album, I think the themes on the latest album are more socially relevant and moreover more personal than ever before, as compared to the say, some of the more Christian and the other more abstract themes employed by the band in the past. Did Eric Wagner’s departure also change the thematic direction of the band, and did you and Bruce contribute to the lyrics in any way across the band’s career?
Rick: I think when Eric left, he was writing ninety percent of the lyrics at that time, so I would have to say yes – it’s a departure for us regarding lyrical content with Kyle coming in and writing about his own personal experiences now. Also, he understands Trouble and what the band is about, so he was able to use his personal experiences and describe in his lyrics as a Trouble member. Kyle pretty much wrote everything on the record, except Bruce wrote the lyrics on one song, I think that’s it. But everything else is Kyle, yeah.
Achintya: We all know that Trouble was marketed as ‘White Metal’ by Metal Blade Records during the release of your debut album. Do you think we’ll ever see the Biblical and religious themes feature in Trouble’s future material, or will this always be something that’s restricted to the early era of Trouble?
Rick: You know, I believe that Kyle has questions about religion, life and death himself and if he wants to pose those in a song then that’s entirely up to him. But I think that the fact that we were dubbed a white-metal band and that followed us around for many, many years – I don’t see that happening any time soon, because we’ve been trying to get rid of that title for many years. I don’t think it’s very accurate, to be honest with you.
Achintya: Absolutely, I think Trouble’s music is far deeper than just the themes. Were you guys ever aware that your early releases would go on to be cornerstones of an entire sub-genre (i.e doom metal), and that what you were doing was quite unique and groundbreaking?
Rick: Well, I don’t think we realized it at the time and I certainly don’t think that’s the case now. I think the bands that broke this ground were the bands that inspired us – Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Lucifer’s Friend. There were plenty of bands doing this already. I think maybe we got credit for bringing it closer to the forefront of the music, but I don’t think we were the creators of it, we just elaborated on it. That’s basically the truth. You can go back all the way to the beginning, so yeah, it’s always been there.
The rest of the chat can be streamed at the YouTube link posted above.
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