Trouble - Oly And Bruce Interview

By Elric on 10:35 AM 08 May 2007

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Mark Fields of recently conducted an interview with Trouble co-founders Bruce Franklin (guitar) and Jeff "Oly" Olson (drums).Trouble are set to release their long-awaited full-length return, "Simple Mind Condition".

GASPetc: Up front, just forgive me for any gushing that may go on here. It's been a little over two decades of emotional buildup that've culminated tonight...

OLY/BRUCE: (laughter)

GASPetc: I suppose some folks might be curious as to what transpired between the initial splintering in the mid/late nineties, the sporadic live activity that happened a while after that, and how it came about that you decided to reunite and record a new album?

B: I can tell you exactly what happened. Trouble...we were broke up. We did a number of one-off shows like you said with a different singer. It wasn't really "back together," it was just a couple of one-off things that people requested and we had a friend of ours sing; but we were, for all intents and purposes, broke up. This friend of ours from Chicago who has a radio show and promotes concerts...every year he has a birthday party at this club and he lines up bands to play. He asked us how much money it would cost him to get all the Trouble guys back together to play a show, and...(to Oly) were you in Aurora then?

O: No, I was in Massachusetts. I flew out.

GASPetc: Did you name a ridiculous price so that he wouldn't bite?

O/B: (laughter)

B: Not really! But we didn't play a whole show, either. We played about as many songs as we played tonight. We said, "OK." We just thought it would be fun like a one-time thing, and we played like 8 songs or something. It was basically all the original band - well, it's hard to say what's "all original", but - [Oly] played drums, Ron Holzner played bass - he'd been with the band since "Run To The Light". We did the show and we all had such a great time, we actually started thinking that maybe we could do this again. So being asked to do that one show led to us getting back together.

GASPetc: But by that time you had other things going on in your individual lives. (to Bruce) You had the Supershine project and (to Oly) you've got ties to Berklee (School of Music, in Boston); what freed you up to be able to commit to touring and recording?

B: There hasn't been touring, really, until right now.

O: We take small leaves of absence from life.

B: All we've done, so far, is probably not more than two weeks at a time; and it's not easy. I've got a job; Oly teaches.

O: I teach music, and so my partner substitutes for me all that she can. I have a substitute, so that gives me time. And I have another job, and they're a family company. They're like, "Go ahead! Get out there!" and I can always go back to that. So I'm really lucky in that way.

B: It's hard for me, too. I have two jobs. They have to get someone to cover for me at one job, and I have to find someone to cover for me at the other job. One is an independent contractor and one is my own business, so for my own business I have to find someone to work for me. We made it happen for at least two weeks, right now.

GASPetc: (to Bruce) There was talk of another Supershine album in the future; is that something that might happen at Supershinesome point? Have you and Doug (Pinnick, of King's X) talked about that?

B: I would almost venture to say that it's probable. We've definitely talked about doing it; we've written songs together that're done...probably about two thirds of an album. It's just a matter of when and who it's gonna be released with.

GASPetc: How did that work the last time? (to Oly) You played drums on half the tracks on the album, didn't you?

O: Yeah. Bruce flew to Houston from Chicago; I flew from New England...

B: Doug has his own recording stuff. He actually had his own studio at that point; now he does everything out of his house, which is just as good. Since he had everything, we went down there to record.

GASPetc: I know that for "Simple Mind Condition" you've resurrected some material that was recorded in previous sessions, but as for the newer songs on the album, can you offer some insight into the writing process? Did the ideas come quickly, or was there a lot of rust to work off the gears?

B: It was very spread out. There were a few songs, like you say, that are kind of old songs...

O: Everybody brought in tunes...and then we all...(laughs) we actually voted this time. The voting was really a new process. And it was a weird process.

GASPetc: You had that many songs to choose from?

O: We had a lot of tunes...

B: ...More than an album's worth, anyway.

O: A lot of tunes got axed.

B: [Oly] brought in a couple of songs; our new bass player Chuck brought in a couple of songs, which was kind of different than what we've had before.

GASPetc: (to Oly) In terms of practice sessions, how did it work out that work out with you being tied to New England?

O: I come out just a little early. Back to that previous question! When [Bruce] gets two weeks off from his work, I have to take about a month, because I'll come in a little ahead of the schedule, "pre-pro" it, and then his two weeks picks up there.

GASPetc: (to Oly) I think it was on your live DVD that I learned about you and Chuck getting together a lot to work things out...

O: Yeah, Chuck and I warm up every day - sometimes twice a day - and it's pretty cool. There's no guitars; there's no vocals, and it's pretty intense! You have to know where you are, so sometimes I shout counts or sing Eric's parts or something. It's cool.

GASPetc: Vince Wojno was again the guy you recorded with for the new album...

B: I guess you could say he co-produced it. I would say, for the most part, that we did; but he engineered it and I guess co-produced it.

GASPetc: It's been a while since you first announced the release of the Unplugged EP. Why the long wait?

O: Ugh...

GASPetc: Is there any simple answer to that?

O: HA! HA! No! (more laughter)

GASPetc: I'm just eager to get my hands on any new Trouble stuff, being a Trouble geek.

B: Well, the original plan was to put that out before we ever had a new record. When we started dealing in our talks with our record company, they wanted to buy that from us, too. So we said, "OK." Then our idea was, "Well, we'll make a full-length one"; but we only had, like, 6 songs - which wasn't full-length - done. And they said, "Well, that's OK. We don't want to put that out until after your new record, anyway." So that's why it kind of got shelved. Supposedly we're gonna work on that this summer, sometime.

GASPetc: Back to the writing process again, is there any typical way that a Trouble song comes into being? Does Eric bring lyrics to the table and the band work from that? Does he bring a finished tune home and work lyrics from scratch or maybe pull lyrics that match the song's mood from an existing notebook of his ideas, and work out melodies from there?

B: I'd say about 85% of the time we give him a completed tune and he writes something to it.

O: There is more than one way that the band writes. In the older days, we would "chicken pick." We'd sit on a couch with no amplification but just electric guitars, and we'd present riffs and phrases that someone already had. Like if Bruce had a tune - or Ian Brown, the old bass player, had a tune - we'd sit and learn the riffs and parts; and then we'd jump on the amps - that was one way. And then sometimes, we'd all be behind the amps and we would fire it raw from the stage; and Barry wrote that way, as well, on a couple of tunes from Manic Frustration, right? You guys just started playing a beat...

B: On "'Scuse Me" yeah.

O: Yeah, "'Scuse Me" was written that way, where the beat is started; "Bastards Will Pay"...I just started playing this fast beat and they kind of just started 'chunkitta-chunkitta', and then what happened was we grabbed sections of it and then it went back to the couch...

B: Yeah, we've done it all those ways, but those ways that he's saying right now are few and far between.

O: Right; those are the old techniques.

B: Most of the time somebody has a song he brings in.

O: Now it's different, yeah. And when I bring in a recording, most of the time it's on piano and drums or sequencers or whatever...

B: Speaking of that, there's a song on the new album that's VERY different sounding for Trouble. There's lots of keyboards, and no guitars really even 'til halfway through the song.

O: There's brass on this album. There's French horn; there's trumpet...but it's not -

GASPetc: I'm excited to hear it! At this point, I kind of trust you guys to come up with something that's gonna be good, you know what I mean? With your track guys are 7-for-7. And even on Run To The Light...I didn't like the production too much; for you, it seemed kind of watered-down...

B: Too much effects.

GASPetc: ...but the tunes themselves, I think, hold up really well! Especially on the Stockholm DVD, where you did the title track, and the hair on my arms stood up and I thought, "Wow! I can't believe how powerful this is!" After your first two albums, which laid a really solid foundation, what made you decide to go in the more polished direction you went next? Did Metal Blade push for that?

B: No. It wasn't even really planned that way. First of all, we recorded that album in Chicago; and it was the first album we recorded in Chicago. We ended up using this engineer that was doing a lot of the 80's commercial metal type bands with lots of reverb; and he ended up mixing it, and I guess we just let him do it and maybe we should've stuck our nose in more. [Oly] wasn't there for that, but...I don't think it's a favorite album of anybody's, to tell you the truth.

O: Run To The Light?!

B: Yeah.

O: No! Wrong! It's my favorite Trouble album! I always say that and it's not fair, and these guys always harp on the sound - it was recorded in Chicago, blah blah; they didn't like it, and stuff; but I don't listen to the sound of the pieces, I listen to the what the music is! I like "Born In A Prison", "Misery," yeah...

B: I do have basic tracks that we rough mixed and it does sound much, much better, with like really crunchy guitars and not all that delay...

O: "Peace Of Mind", "The Beginning"...that's my favorite Trouble album! I don't know why he would say that! (to Bruce) Don't you know that's my favorite?! I've told you!

B: Well, it might be YOURS...

O: (laughter)

GASPetc: Well, the guy on your website who rated your albums (Martin Popoff) gave it higher marks than he gave to The Skull...

B: But usually, universally, Trouble fans will say that's our weakest record.

GASPetc: It's not a BAD record; I just think the production kind of steals some power from the music.

O: We played a lot of that live. I've played "The Beginning" live; I've played "Misery I"; I've played "Born In A Prison" live...and that SLAMMED, man. That was HEAVY. If we were to play that..."Run To The Light" - I got to use a tympani in that! I didn't get to play "Peace Of Mind" live, and I didn't get to play "Tuesday" or "Borrowed Time." And those three are probably my three favorites, too! But, that album; there's something about it. It's just heavy! It's metal, and it's really good; and it's a transition of what happened into the Rubin days.

B: THAT'S what it was. We started to experiment on that album. In some ways we lost direction, but in other ways it helped us get to where we wanted to go, you know? Like he said, it was a transitional record.

GASPetc: I was pleasantly shocked when I first heard the self-titled album. Man, "The Wolf" came on and I was flipping out (hums the rhythm riff during the bridge/solo section of the song), and then the rest of the album was just as mind-blowing. And I thought, "Somebody's finally captured what I think these guys deserved to get across! Rick Rubin is a really good producer! He did a really good job with these guys!"

B: We had good engineers and good studios for that record, which has a lot to do with it. We were in the best studios in L.A., and...I don't want to take away from Rick Rubin being a good producer - because obviously his track record has proven out that he is, you know - but he was NOT THERE for 80% of the record. We recorded our own guitars - he was never even there. We recorded our own guitars, our own solos, our own bass...

O: We recorded the Hammond organ parts...

B: [Oly] never even MET him! Oly flew in, played the organ on the record, and never even met Rick Rubin! Rick Rubin was there for the drums...

GASPetc: Fantastic. And now we know the true story...

B: I communicated in the mix with Rick every day; but if he wanted to do something, then he did it, you know?

O: I have a mix of that record where he added a baby cry in "Misery," in the doom part.

B: Well, WE told him...

GASPetc: ..."No freaking way. Take that out!"

B: Exactly.

GASPetc: I can't imagine that working. I wonder what possessed him to do that?

B: It was irritating and annoying.

GASPetc: Well, thanks for asserting yourselves before it got immortalized that way.

O: It was pretty funny. I wish I had it here so you could hear it.

GASPetc: Do multitrack masters still exist for Run To The Light so that we might hear a mix of it more to your liking, or will it otherwise be given some kind of special reissue treatment in due time like the first two albums?

B: We don't own them. Metal Blade owns them, so it's in Brian Slagel's hands. That's the one record he still owns, and of course Rick Rubin owns the two on Def American.

GASPetc: What's the fate of those? They're are sought after, but no one can seem to get hands on them.

B: They're sought after by US, too. Our record company would love to buy those records from him. They've contacted him about doing it, and...I don't know.

GASPetc: Doom has exploded since you checked out in the nineties, and you're perhaps more appreciated now than you were when you were around the first time...

O: This music may still be on the rise. We're seeing it right now and don't know when it's cresting. It may still be relatively weak compared to where it's going. The New York Times reviewed a Sunn O))) show and in this article, it's great! It's got a history of doom, in a way; but it also has this other tier that talks about Steppenwolf, Blue Cheer, and Sabbath...kind of showing historically kind of what's maybe happened to music. But they split thrash and "headstrong" metal into categories. Thrash went one way, and the put Metallica there; and then they go, like, "But another set of music with the likes of Trouble..." in this Sunn O))) article, because they're trying to bring it up to how this form of music evolved because now it's this long, sustained sounds, samples, droning guitar; it's this slow-motion stuff and light show by just two guys. So it's this art form that evolved from something and the article describes these two tiers of heavy metal music: one was groove-oriented; one was thrash, and that turned into death metal and grindcore...and these categories pop's the New York Times talking about metal! And the Chicago Tribune had an article called "'Heady' Metal" on how metal is 'smarter' now. I don't know if that's true...

GASPetc: I read a recent article at that said that heavy music is preferred by a lot of kids in gifted and accelerated programs. I guess, unfortunately, that might mean simply Slipknot and not much beyond that particular style, which happens to come with its own set of trappings.

O: Yeah, there's a lot of weird concepts in art!

GASPetc: So, looking forward with Trouble, do you just take things one day at a time? Have you sat down and discussed anything beyond this album and tour?

B: Not really. As far as we can see, there's nothing happening past that at the moment. Like you say, it's a day at a time.

O: I've been working for like, a thousand years on trying to do something; so I've finally started writing songs by myself. I have a thing called Retrograve and right now I've got four tunes that I'm ready to throw like on Tundra Trash. Music seems to be turning free; and where you earn a dollar on it is in merch. I don't know what's happening right now with music. It's very strange as far as making a living at it with your art. I don't know if that's negative or positive, but I think the industry's changing, so I don't know how Retrograve is gonna come out. The old way is you go and you try to get signed on a record label, and you put it out, you know?

GASPetc: Now you can do everything yourself.

O: Yeah, now we can just put it on MySpace. It's changed a lot!

GASPetc: Some kids download everything, legally or illegally; but no matter what, it does take money to go into a studio to record.

O: Stores are closing because of it. Look at Tower Records.

B: "Success" in sales is so much less units than it used to be. I mean, what they'll call a success now would've been a stiff 15 years ago.

O: Whenever change occurs, if you get on board with that, it could be interesting. I've been wanting to put out a heavy form of music. The reason I chose that is because that's who I am as a person who's on recordings. It's really heavy and low-tuned.

GASPetc: Do any bands, inspired by your work years ago, in turn inspire you these days? You guys have been around long enough, and your body of work has had enough impact, that it kind of begs the question.

O: That's a great question.

B: I don't mind listening to some of them, but I wouldn't say they inspire me like in changing what I do...

GASPetc: So you still reach back to those albums you grew up loving as opposed to anything that's come after you? Does any new music speak to you?

B: Oh, there's stuff that I like, yeah! I'm just saying I don't know if they'd influence what I'd do, just because I like them, you know?

GASPetc: Your "influences" are pretty well in place by now.

B: Yeah, they're in concrete, you know?

O: Bruce likes all the organ bands, too...Night Sun...

B: Deep Purple is right up there...if not my favorite, then right up there, and similar type bands. I like Atomic Rooster...I was talking to this guy and I said, "I'm looking for Atomic Rooster's first album on CD." And he goes, "Oh, but the good one is..." And I said, "Well, I've got that one; I want the first album." He said, "But there's no guitar on the first album." I said, "I don't CARE!" That dude is one of my favorite keyboard players, man! That's heavy, man!

O: But for me, see that question is different for him. For me, yeah! I did this later in life, but I started listening to everything I possibly can. And it's an impossibility for me to play, like, a Gene Hoglan blast...

GASPetc: He's a phenomenal player.

O: He has the fastest feet I've ever seen in my life, and yet the strangest grooves. It's just amazing! So that influences me to study my feet a little more, as far as a drummer goes in a single instrument situation. And then there's Brann Dailor from Mastodon; I've been warming up to one of my favorite grooves he does. That man's a major influence to me, Brann Dailor. That dude is just an amazing drummer, man, and he's so fun to study!

GASPetc: Gene Hoglan is working on an instructional DVD...

O: Oh good! So am I!

GASPetc: When can we expect it?

O: Within the next year. I've shot 40 angles of all the rudiments and stuff that I'm doing. I've just gotta get the professional studio edges. I've done home camera shots that are close-ups on digital camera so they look OK. And that guy Bobby Jarzombek who plays for Halford is another current influence on me. On Resurrection and Crucible...that dude is phe-NOM-enal!!

GASPetc: There's some great stuff on those discs.

O: There's certain death metal and things like that that've influenced me, and some prog...and there's always the big names who're just great players. So a lot totally re-influences me.

B: One band that me and him both like: Type O Negative.

(After Type O Negative got brought up, things kind of derailed onto a few tangents and we never got back on track before they needed to split...Doom on!!)

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