Heavy Planet recently conducted an interview with THE SKULL, the new band formed by two original members of Chicago doom legends TROUBLE — vocalist Eric Wagner and drummer Jeff “Oly” Olson — alongside the band’s longtime bassist, Ron Holzner. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Heavy Planet: Eric, I think back when you left TROUBLE in 2008, it was more or less that you were tired of the touring life, is that correct?
Eric Wagner: Well, at that point… I was a little sick of it. I was sick of doing the same old songs every night. And I just wanted to write. I had a bunch of songs I’d been working on on my own and I just kind of wanted to chill and work on those and put together my own thing, just to grow. Making records and writing songs is really my favorite part about being in a band, and at that point I really didn’t see that that was gonna happen, and I just wanted to do my own thing for awhile. And I did that [with BLACKFINGER] and now it’s over and [that record] is coming out and it’s time to do something else. And I’m having a blast with THE SKULL. It’s been a lot of fun putting this together and the response we’ve been getting… people are excited about it and so am I.
Heavy Planet: What are your relationships like with [TROUBLE guitarists] Bruce [Franklin] and Rick [Wartell] today?
Eric Wagner: We’re cool. I talk to Bruce a little bit more than Rick, probably. I grew up with Bruce in Aurora here. We played in a band before we joined TROUBLE. So I know him well… I mean, I know both of them real well… but I do speak to Bruce more often. And, you know, we talk about what’s going on with each other’s lives here and there. But we’re friendly, it’s not like we hate each other or anything like that.
Jeff “Oly” Olson: I did some interviews with them when TROUBLE did 70,000 Tons of Metal and I had asked questions like, “Are we still a family?” And I think Rick wanted to do something that was his version [of TROUBLE] and I think a lot of us weren’t ready to do that. But it’s just the way history goes. I think that this [new] version is something that Bruce kind of wanted to work on with Rick as well and then what you get is a type of TROUBLE that the guitar players wrote. Remember the KISS solo records that were kind of cool? Like Ace‘s album was fucking awesome. I think it’s sort of like that in a way. I think there’s band drama behind the scenes a little bit, but I don’t think it’s as radical as bands that really fight each other and embarrass each other in public, in magazines and interviews. I don’t think it’s that bad. And I just think it’s creativity, people wanting to do things their own way and differently. And our fingers are all crossed at a huge reunion… almost like the JETHRO TULL reunion or the YES reunion. You know on those DVDs where there’s like 20 people at a banquet and they’re all talking about the different albums? [Laughs]
Ron Holzner: Bruce has jammed with my band EARTHEN GRAVE a bunch of times. He’s best friends with our guitar player. And he’s jammed with Eric [in BLACKFINGER] and he and I have jammed with Eric. So we’re all still really close, we’re still family. TROUBLE is still a family and we’re just kind of like the other brother who is going off and starting his own thing. [Laughs] So we’re all good that way and I understand what they’re doing. It’s still TROUBLE and they want to do a record and they’ve got one of my best friends singing for them now… Kyle Thomas [EXHORDER]. They just want to continue what they’re doing, so as far as the relationship goes, I still talk to Bruce and have no problem. The other guy… it’s whatever. [Laughs] That’s all I can say about that.
Heavy Planet: Was there ever any thought of you guys trying to reunite with Bruce and Rick?
Eric Wagner: No not really. They’re doing their thing. They’re working on a new record and that’s what they want to do and that’s cool… and I’m cool with that and we just wanted to do our thing and get a couple of guys that fit in nice and just go out and do those old songs. It’s been a long time and I think the doom thing is kind of happening right now and it’s just been a lot of fun. I can’t wait until we start rehearsing those songs again; it’s been a long time since we got to do those.
Jeff “Oly” Olson: They [Bruce and Rick] have a project… TROUBLE has a project that they need to finish and show the fans. So they’re still honing that project. They want it to be the quality and level that they want and we want to get on with a 30-year anniversary here and get the ball rolling and start getting ourselves in shape for the celebration of 30 years of TROUBLE‘s music and Eric‘s lyrics. The different types of drumming, the different types of bass playing and parts and double leads and those things. And then our project… THE SKULL‘s new TROUBLE sound… will be coming out. And then there should hopefully be a giant collision of all the guys again… I hope. That’s my hope… a bygones-will-be-bygones collision some day for fans, for people that like TROUBLE. I don’t know how many there actually are out there, but we have a lot of friends and fans that love our history and the different types of TROUBLE… the rock and roll TROUBLE, the super-heavy, old metal TROUBLE… you know, almost IRON MAIDEN/MERCYFUL FATE like… and then the slow, doomy, grungy TROUBLE. The progression of TROUBLE… there were so many variations.
Ron Holzner: I had a reunion set up, two different shows with the original band. [One at] Kuma’s [Corner], a good burger joint here in Chicago, it’s a metal burger joint that was gonna pay us good money to reform and [another at] Roadburn [festival in Holland]. And basically, those guys [Bruce and Rick] pulled out. So, like I said, I tried twice already and Rick pulled the plug on both of them. I can understand his reasonings; no ill will towards him about that at all. It’s just that, we’re not getting any younger…and the thing is, we really are more in tune with what the fans want…and they want to hear the old stuff. And why not?! You know, we all have our other bands…and we’re doing well. My record is coming out April 28, as a matter of fact… the EARTHEN GRAVE record. So this is kind of like… let’s just do this for fun, no other weird reasons or anything. Let’s go out and play some of the old tunes and have fun. But the door is open. We asked Bruce, right before we started this… “Would you like to be a part of it?” And he’d like to finish the [TROUBLE] record and I can totally understand that. Whenever those two guys want to join up with the three of us, we’re ready. Actually, we’re gonna be more ready because we’re gonna know all the songs. [Laughs] If they want to do it, it’s gonna be an easy transition.
Read the entire interview from Heavy Planet.