BRIAN PATTON OF SOILENT GREEN AND EYEHATEGOD: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
“Man, do I feel sorry for you,” Brian Patton tells me as he chain smokes his way through what must be at least his seventh cigarette in the last hour. “You gotta transcribe this with my accent!” He’s referring to the Nawlins drawl which gives Patton and his Soilent Green bandmates – vocalist Ben Falgoust (also of Goatwhore), drummer Tommy Buckley (also of Crowbar), and bassist Scott Crochet (also of Hostile Apostle) – the easygoing air of southern gentlemen. It’s a little off putting, actually, considering that a) these dudes make some fucking furious death/grind/sludge and b) have endured about as much hardship as a band possibly could, including line-up changes, label changes, murder/suicides, and, of course, the wretched effects of Hurrican Katrina on their native turf.
But the band seems unphased, and with good reason: they have an awesome new album, Inevitable Collapse in the Presence of Conviction, coming out on their new label, Metal Blade, on April 15; and just twenty four hours prior, they completed shooting performance footage for the video of their new single, “Antioxidant,” with director David Brodsky (it’s that clip above, and you should definitely watch it at least twice – it’s arguably Brodsky’s best work to date).
I was lucky enough to fulfill every fan’s wet dream of having dinner with the band the night after the shoot; afterwards, Patton let me grab a few minutes to pick his brain about the new album, producer Erik Rutan, the state of metal today, the influence of non-metal music on Soilent Green’s work, and more. Read the full transcript after the jump.
So first thing’s first: obviously you guys have a new album coming out, Inevitable Collapse in the Presence of Conviction. What can you tell us about it?
Well, it’s our first record in about three years, and it’s pretty much our most clear-headed record I would guess in quite a few years. You know, a lot of the drama and stuff that’s been going on in our lives kind of settled down, so we were actually able to go in the practice room and actually have a really good time writing and playing this time, so hopefully it comes through in the music. We’re really proud of this record, actually.
So what is the writing process like for you guys?
Well, I usually write about 90% of the riffs, bring ’em in, work ’em out with Tommy [Buckley], and we just sit around and ping-pong and try to put ’em together, and then Ben [Falgoust] comes in and does the vocals once we get it all together.
When you’re doing a new album, do you guys have a vision of it going in? Do you sit down and say, for example, “We’d like to go a little more in this direction?”
Um, it’s a natural process, we don’t really sit down and think about what we’re doing when it comes to that. I mean, the songs that we wrote, especially on this record, were written over like a two year period of time, so, they all do kind of have their own kind of voice, so… Y’know, when we go in we just do our thing, whatever comes out natural, we don’t try to do anything in particular as far as an entire concept or anything like that goes. We try to make every song its own thing, and when we went in it was just a smooth, really pleasant process. We just like to play good music, so… whatever comes out comes out.
So how do you feel that the band has evolved over the years?
Well, we’ve evolved in a lot of ways, man, just personally, y’know? It’s to the point now where we’ve really come to the realization that we just wanna play music to play music, and not really worry about all of the other stuff. ‘Cause once you start worrying about all the other stuff, you set yourself up for disappointment. And we’ve been disappointed in a lot of ways with our careers. Every time we try to come out with a new record, it seemed like we could never really get on our feet, and it kind of just stripped everything away from us at one point. Y’know, after the hurricane [Katrina] hit, it was like basically “Well, what else could happen to us?” And we weren’t really working well with our record label, and all of that [combined] together, it just really brought us back to our roots the way we were just in a room jamming and playing music to play music. So it humbled us for sure.
So you mentioned the label… Now you guys are on Metal Blade.
And that’s working out?
It’s working out great! I mean, they’re really enthusiastic about us, and it’s good feeling to have, because we haven’t really had that in awhile. A lot of the people in the [Metal Blade] office were fans of our band before we even got with them, and they were really enthusiastic about us way before we were even with them, so it’s nice to have that feeling when you call them, people there, they’re on your side. Truly on your side. And we feel that they are.
So that actually brings me to one of the questions I wanted to ask you, which is that you guys have been doing this for awhile, and it seems like more and more you hear people talking about what a huge influence you were on them…
Really? Well, that’s nice to hear.
How do you feel when you hear a band say something like?
Oh, to be honest with you, that’s amazing… I mean, when somebody compliments you, that’s nice. We like to play music and get a reaction. We’re a live band. So when somebody takes what we do and actually applies it to their writing process or what they’re doing, I mean, it’s an honor.
It’s the same thing with Eyehategod. There’s a lot of bands that use them as an influence as well, and it’s an honor. It really is. As long as it’s not a blatant and complete rip-off, if they just use it as an influence and appreciate what we do, that’s one of the sole reasons we do this music. I mean, we could always just lock ourselves in a room and do this for ourselves – when we’re writing, that’s usually what we do – but it’s nice to throw it out at people and give back. Music is about exchanging and receiving, and if we’re getting a real reception back, it’s awesome. I mean, fuck, I hope to influence the whole fuckin’ world! [Laughs]
Are there any young bands out there knocking your socks off? What do you listen to these days?
Me, personally, man, I’m one of those types of people that – and unfortunately, I’ve probably been missing out on a lot of good stuff out there – but I’ve just been kind of digressing actually into the past and the history of music, I’ve been listening to a lot of old ’40s and ’50s R&B and jazz, a lot of old blues, all the way up to the ’70s. Y’know, it seems like metal, for me, has been planned out to a certain extent with a lot of bands, and what they’re doing I’ve already heard. So I’d rather listen to a Bathory record instead of half the black metal bands out there, I’d rather listen to Celtic Frost or Carnivore, when it comes to metal anyway. And as I mentioned to you earlier, Butthole Surfers are one of my favorite bands of all time.
Those are bands that were doing something true and unique, something that has a unique voice. And it’s just kind of hard to come across that with a lot of the newer bands that have been coming out these days. So I’ve been sticking to, as far as metal goes, the stuff I grew up listening to, and everything else is just everything but metal.
So do you think that helps you find your own unique voice?
It totally does. We’ve always had non-metal influences as far as I’m concerned… I mean, there’s a country track, kind of a bluegrass song that we put on the record, that we did as an intro on one of the tunes. And we’ve done jazz parts in the past, we’re doing a straight-forward blues part coming up soon. We always try to incorporate other stuff… and we always try to incorporate some of those other styles into metal. Some of our riffs are just heavied-out blues riffs or heavied-out jazz riffs and everything else that we like to listen to just brought into this style of music. ‘Cause a lot of people, y’know, they think of metal, and they think that it’s gotta be double-basses, blast at all times, and without the hooks and the flavor, it tends to get a little old. We have a short attention span [laughs], so, we’re big fans of like “Well, if you don’t like what we’re doing on this riff, you might like the next riff.”
Now, Erik Rutan produced this record…
Yeah, he did!
…and you’ve worked with him before…
Yeah, we worked with him on Confrontation, our last record.
So is he the taskmaster that he says he is? When we interviewed him, he even referred to himself as a “drill sergeant.”
[Laughs] Actually, we said something about that earlier today! It seems like every interview we do, I’ve gotten the same question, and I can’t… as much as Erik would like to bill himself as a “drill sergeant,” he was the fucking easiest guy to work with! [Laughs] I mean, he is a perfectionist, and he will call you out if you’re doing something or if something’s not right, he’s just not gonna let it fly – but you’re paying him for that job, y’know what I mean? So as long as you go into the studio and you’ve got it together – you’ve got good equipment, you’ve got good tones, your instruments are in key, you’re playing well and you’re on top of your stuff – it’s the most pleasurable experience in the world. And we try to stay on top of our game.
It’s actually kind of funny, ’cause we actually go on the coattails of his records all the time. The last time we recorded, he had just finished the Hate Eternal record he had done then [I, Monarch], and same with this time. And he actually referred to us as like his valium after that, ’cause I think it’s so stressful doing his own record because it’s his own record so obviously there’s a lot of pressure of him. And for us, it’s just like he walks in and it’s easy and smooth, and we’re, according to him, one of the easiest bands that he’s worked with. So he’s not the hard nose… he just does his job and he does it right. He’s had to tighten our bolts a couple of times, but that’s what he’s supposed to do.
Now, again, when you’ve been doing this for such a long time, and with multiple bands, do you ever feel burnt out?
I mean, I can’t lie, man, there have actually been times when it’s crossed my mind, like “What the hell am I doing with my life?” But to be honest with you, I wouldn’t know what the hell else to do. Really, I play music, and I have fun doing it. And I did electrical work for a few years, quite a few years, about fifteen, twenty, years, and it’s just fuckin’… I mean, we still all have to work to survive, we don’t really get by on what we’re doing, and if you ask me, that’s what makes a true band. It’s knowing that a band wants to play hard enough to go through all the crap to do it and still survives. And we’ve had our shares of ups and downs, but, y’know, we enjoy what we do, and, really, we’ve been doing it for so long that it’s part our blood now.
So you guys did a video shoot yesterday…
Yeah! For “Antioxidant,” which is the fourth song on our record.
What can you tell us about it?
Well, we shot actually at a wild, abandoned town in upstate New York, and the band in a school, in an old auditorium, and it’s gonna be pretty crazy, man. We have a very surreal visual thing, hence our [album] artwork usually’s not your standard metal artwork, which we’ve got a lot of flack from before in the past, and still to this day. So it’s gonna be cool, man, it’s gonna be our best video yet… But we’re gonna make it really as messy as possible, I want it to cause seizures with strokes and all kind of crap [laughs]. I mean, as far as I’m concerned, I wanna do a straight-up porno! [laughs] So we’ll see how it comes out, but we wanna try and push the envelope as far as we can.
So like how involved are you guys in that video making process? Do you just tell David Brodsky “This is what we wanna do,” does he just tell you what to do, or is it more of a collaborative thing?
It’s a collaborative thing. I try to make everything we do collaborative – the same thing with the artwork and everything. It’s nice when… Brodsky’s really open minded, he saw the artwork and he got his ideas and we went back and forth a little bit and we just came up with the concept. As far as the narrative, we’re still getting that worked out right now, it’s not being shot ’til next week, so I can’t really comment on that. But, y’know, we’re hoping that this thing will look like a big mess of David Lynch’s nightmare [laughs].
So what’s next for you guys? You’re hitting the road pretty soon, right?
Yeah, we’re going out with Hate Eternal in April, then we’re going out with Death Angel immediately after that, and then in the works there might be a tour with Obituary and Dying Fetus right after that. So we’re hoping to stay busy man, as much as possible.
Cool. Any parting words?
Buy our shit! [laughs] Comes see us live, ’cause we’re a live band and we like to pride ourselves on that, so if you like what we do on our CD, come see us live ’cause it’s usually even better.
Visit Soilent Green on MySpace. Inevitable Breakdown in the Presence of Conviction comes out April 15 on Metal Blade.