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Exploring the Brains behind the Noise

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After watching Torche wear the crowd and, what I thought, themselves out this past Friday at Zydeco in Birmingham, Alabama, I kind of thought any chance of a sit-down with any of the group would be a longshot.  I stand corrected.  Sitting down with vocalist Steve Brooks backstage immediately after the show, you’d have thought the guy had just taken a stroll around the block and not, in fact, laid waste to a small music venue and a few hundred loyal fans.  But alas.  That’s Torche.  It’s my second interview with any kind of band or musician worth mentioning, and the first thing Brooks tells me when we sit down is: “I hate interviews.”  Awesome.  I’m fucked.  But then this happened:

So why do you hate interviews in general?

Um, it just makes me think too much about what I do, you know, overanalyze?  You know, I just play in a band.  I’ve been doing it for so long, I don’t think too much about it.

How do you think you’ve evolved as far as from the Floor days to the Torche days now, and not only that but how do you think the metal genre has evolved?  What part has Torche played in that? 

I don’t think the metal genre has evolved.

Really?

Really.  I mean, I think everything that could possibly be done has been done.  Everything’s been done.  I mean, in every genre or any subgenre everything was done twenty plus years ago.  It’s just that everybody interprets it differently with different sounds and stuff.  I mean, I love like everything…the most creative period, to me, was from the 60s to the 70s and…the 80s too, man.  I mean, it’s amazing what they did back in the 60s. 

Absolutely.  With so little.

Right, yeah.  They were just so creative and there was so much happening.  I mean, that’s what inspires me, you know.  I can’t be original.  I can just take what I love and everything and just…it comes out in what we do.  I mean, I just wanna rock [laughs]. 

When I explain to other people about a live Torche show…what it’s like…I usually end up using the phrase fun metal, and I hope that doesn’t seem overly simplisitic.  You guys have fun, and I think that’s what makes you guys different than so many and gives you an edge – that ability to not take yourselves too seriously but still put out the level of music you do. 

I don’t consider us a metal band - our whole attitude and everything.  I mean, we’re not “metalheads.”  I grew up as a metalhead […], so a lot of old metal has inspired me, but it’s also a lot of things as far as [what inspires us] that’s completely out of the genre.  I think if anyone thinks of us as a metal band they’re going to be disappointed when they hear it [laughs].  Because it’s not really metal.  I just consider it hard rock.  I mean, there’s aspects of metal there – the power and everything.

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Tying into precisely that, there’s such a desire in the metal genre to make these subdivisions and subgenres when it comes to the music – probably more than any other genre or type of music.  And this push seems more visible now than ever.  Why do you think that is?

It’s just ridiculous now.  Instead of just saying it’s metal or it’s hard rock or it’s punk.  I mean, those…it’s all rock n roll.  It’s just….there’s harder, heavier bands.  More aggressive bands, but I guess if you consider yourself in one of those subgenres you’re gonna get stuck. I can’t listen to Slayer and see them doing anything than what they’re doing, and I’m sure that gets olds for them [laughs].  I mean, they’ve done just about everything they can do [laughs] I mean, I don’t think they can top what they’ve already done already. 

Going back to what you said regarding originality, what you just said regarding Slayer pretty much ties into that idea and concept, though. 

Oh yeah…I mean you have to invent an instrument or something new to be original.

Well, as a side note on inspiration and originality, does the band listen to anything while touring?  What’s the protocol there?

Well…I’m actually listening to metal right now [Laughs].

Really? [Both laugh] 

It’s a band I listened to in Junior High called Sanctuary.  And I’ve been on a Sanctuary kick lately.  But we also listen to like Deadfader in the band. Cheap Trick, Cars, Missing Persons – a lot of like 80s stuff.  I mean, just so much – a compilation of stuff.  The iPod just goes crazy.  I just hadn’t heard Sancturary in so long.  I just downloaded their two records and I’m going back in time – nostalgia [laughs].  I mean his voice on the first record, man, is like Rob Halford and Eric Wagner – it’s super powerful

[Steve does a pretty on-point interpretation of Sanctuary’s Warrel Dane’s howl here].  

I guess that’s the thing I’ve found in talking to and reading about bands that are successful or are making their own unique cut, in all aspects, is that they don’t paint themselves into a corner, genre-wise or anything.  They allow for the diversity in taste, artistically speaking, to kind of drive what they do. 

I mean, the new song…to me…I hear Missing Persons and Cars. 

I love the fact that even with the hiccup with the new song tonight, you guys just rolled with it. 

[Laughs]  That happens every night, man. 

Well, I mean, you know there aren’t too many groups that could just bounce back from it and integrate it into the atmosphere of the show without missing a beat.

You can’t take yourself serious, or it’s gonna be like that where you won’t know what to do.  I like flaws, man.  That’s, you know…shit.  I love fuckups.  Like fuckups on old records.  I love that because it’s real.  What we do is kind of racing to get through songs.  It’s a marathon  I mean, my god, we’ve done the same set for a week now, and everyone one of us is asking, “Uh, what’s the next one?”

Chaos breeds creativity?

Well, yeah.  When I look at professional bands I see them go like bam, bam, bam [snaps fingers]…they got it made.  We fuck up probably because we all live in different cities and have like one day to practice before a tour.  And we usually practice for a couple of hours.  The first show is kind of practice.

[Both laugh]

I’ll only go to that first show, then, man.

[Steve laughs]

 It’s kind of like an organic experience.

Oh absolutely.  I thought this was the best show.  I mean, we’ve been out for a week.  The energy was really great tonight. 

Speaking of which, as far as venues go, what’s a place you guys love to play?  What makes a great venue for you?

I love the Bottletree, actually.  That’s actually like my favorite place to play in the world.  I just love it – it’s so cozy.  It’s certainly the most band friendly place.  We’ve actually stayed in those Airstreams, man.  The food’s good.  Everybody’s super nice. 

I often wonder about how bands approach venues – what you see from onstage, the atmosphere.  God.  Bottletree is constantly coming up in interviews and discussions with bands, and no matter the genre of music or style of musician, they all go back to the intimacy or coziness of it. 

You know, it’s a completely different experience in Europe than it is here. 

How is it different?

Well, it’s just…they appreciate art a lot more in Europe than we do here.  It’s not as appreciated here.  I mean, it is.  It’s that the government doesn’t appreciate it as much, I guess.  Our government.  There are a lot of places in Europe where it’s a free show for everybody to come in, and the government actually pays for the bands to play.  You know, I wish that were to happen here.

How far are we from that here in America?  [Laughs]

Shit.  We’re very far.  I mean, if we’re fighting for the most ridiculous shit.  This whole country is completely backwards.  They’re so wrong about so many things.  I’m not generalizing everybody.  The right and the left are always fighting over the dumbest shit.  I think…the left is usually right.  I just think live and let live in general and people are fighting to take away basic human rights, you know?  It’s not only just this country.

Well, we get that high profile status.

Oh yeah.  It’s just some of that shit I’m like really?  Really?  You’re arguing about this?  You’re trying to fight against this?  Does this matter to you?  Does this affect your life?  No. It doesn’t.  It’s like with the whole gay marriage thing.  It doesn’t affect…I mean, somebody getting married doesn’t affect their [the people against it] life at all.  Like, I don’t care if someone gets married or not. If it makes some people happy – go for it.  With that and censoring art and everything, it just blows my mind why simple things have to be fought for.  I guess it makes good art when you’re oppressed in some way. You can actually express it through music or sculpture or whatever. 

One more question, man.  As far as where Torche is headed - I’ve been with you guys since the Floor days up to now, and I’m just curious where the band is headed sonically, musically, etc.

I think a lot of it still sounds like us.  I think we’re kind of like…no matter how different it gets for us, it’s still gonna be us.  It’s kind of like the Ramones or AC/DC.  We’re gonna do different things, but the sound stays the same.  We’re not gonna just completely change things up on the next record.  I mean, it took us a couple of records to figure out what we’re completely happy with.  I think our newest record is the best thing we’ve ever done.  And hopefully the next record will be even better than that.  We just keep growing.  We dabble in different things, but know our sound and we keep the sound.  I know  a lot of bands that start off in one place and then the next record is completely different and then the next record is completely different and so on.  It’s with the Beatles – I mean, they did so much shit, but they still sounded like the Beatles. 

Well, I lied about that being the last question. 

[Steve laughs]

What do you guys eat when you’re on the road? 

A lot of spicy stuff.  You know, the painful shits. 

[Both laugh]

 Peeing out of your asshole, etc.?

 [Both laugh]

Exactly, yeah.

Steve and I talked a little while longer after that - specifically about the necessary evil that is Waffle House and the occasional need to simply fuck yourself up.  I’d like to think that every artist and/or musician out there would be willing to talk about their bowel movements mere minutes after discussing a serious human rights issues, but I dream.  Thanks again to Steve and the rest of the Torche crew.

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2 years ago
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