SoulMotor: A Personal Interview
Interview with Sanctuary Recording artists Soul Motor: "Revolution Wheel"
By Mike Romcoe
The spirit of Heavy Metal is alive and kicking ass in Sacramento, CA! The artistic edge and aggressive melodic metal sound of SoulMotor's hot new release "Revolution Wheel" takes you on a journey through vocalist Darin Wood's disturbing story of rebellion against the conformity of the modern world. Bassist Brian Wheat's grooving, melodic bass lines keep you headbanging throughout the journey, while Guitarist Tommy McClendon's screaming guitar leads quench your thirst for metal along the way.
"Revolution Wheel," was released April 9, 2002 by Sanctuary Records. It is a musical departure from the softer metal stylings of SoulMotor's self-titled debut record of 1999, with hit song "Guardian Angel." Instead of using a commercial studio as they did on their first record, SoulMotor chose to purchase their own recording equipment to create "Revolution Wheel." This gave the band more time and artistic freedom to create this fresh new metal masterpiece.
"We almost changed the whole name of the band, just because we felt it was so different than the first [record] we really tried to make Revolution Wheel something a little extra special, more than just another rock record," explains Wood.
"Revolution Wheel" has a high-tech, futuristic sound due to the experimental keyboard techniques of Wheat and McClendon, the unique guitar sounds of McClendon, and the layered vocal distortions of Wood. Their music is the perfect compliment for Woods' story of a new machine anguishing against the constraints of the old world regime. Guitarist Tommy McClendon's technical mastery and innovative guitar work is impressive and exciting. McClendon wails out ass kicking leads on SoulMotor's debut cut "Long Live the New Machine" as well as on "Scream Baby Scream," "Right Between the Eyes," "and "Radio Doomsday," the last cut on the new CD. And if that weren't enough the blow your socks off, Wood puts icing on the masterpiece by personally designing the comic book-like CD booklet which colorfully illustrates his songs.
SoulMotor's "Revolution Wheel" breathes an exciting new perspective into metal music, while providing us with the crunching, ominous, headbanging music we crave. I caught up with frontman Wood, as follows.
UnRated: How did you, Brian and Tommy hook up?
Darin Wood: "I have known Brian for a really long time. Both of us happen to be from the same neighborhood, South Sacramento. When I met him he was playing clubs, and it was like 'oh, hey, I'm from South Sac, too!' we knew we wanted a real monster of a guitar player, that could approach things imaginatively. And he said 'I know this guy Tom he's perfect for this gig.' And then Tommy came up and has been with us ever since."
UR: Your press release says that "egos are a zero factor in SoulMotor." How true is that?
DW: "It's an odd mix of characters, me, Tom and Brian. Everyone is really conscious about stepping on the other guy's toes. I would never go in and tell Tom what to play on the guitar, and conversely he doesn't tell me what to sing. There is not a lot of bickering about that stuff like there is normally in bands. To have guys that are accepting of what you do and have the respect for you to have the confidence that it will be good, that's a real motivator for me."
UR: Who writes the melodies and who writes the lyrics?
DW: "I would come in with a set of lyrics and then try to figure out how to sing it. Brian has a tremendous ear as a producer, and Tom would suggest things as well. I would get to writing about some pretty really wild stuff, and Brian's job was always to reel it back in, to say 'okay look, you need to tone that down, it's a little too crazy'. Also, it wouldn't have gotten done if the guys hadn't said, 'lets do this; we have the confidence in you otherwise I would have shelved it and said 'oh, this is too crazy, no one's going to go for it'. Having those behind you so much makes you want to do it motivation, you know."
UR: Drummer Tony Luccketta is listed separately from the rest of the band members on the CD booklet. You don't have a permanent drummer? Are you looking for one?
DW: "We'll have to get someone for shows coming up real soon, and possibly a keyboard player as well, to handle some of the extra sounds on the record, because there is a lot of stuff going on, and I don't know if at that point if we'll get a permanent guy, or just hire someone. It's a pretty tight group, the three of us. Someone would have to have a whole lot on the ball to be able to break into the click."
UR: Your CD says the booklet was designed and illustrated by you. Where did you get your artistic skills?
DW: "When I'm not doing music I do graphic design it's kind of my day gig outside of music.
UR: Your music has a high tech feel and your record has been described as futuristic, science fiction. Is that what you were going for?
DW: "Originally we were going for a futuristic theme for the record I was submitting cover designs for the record and nothing was working. Then I had a conversation with someone at the record label, and we talked about the title being 'Revolution Wheel,' and he mentioned soviet propaganda art, and how it was used by them during their revolution. Being a graphic designer, I had always been really interested in that kind of thing, it is essentially advertising art for ideas; they're not selling a product, they're selling an idea of a revolution. That gave the whole thing a consistent theme, down to the color palettes I chose to use, and made it more of a human story than a science fiction one."
UR: It sounds like the band gives you lots of creative freedom.
DW: Yeah they gave me a lot of space to play around with things, it's really nice. I've never been in a band where I've had as much freedom as I have playing with these guys.
UR: Your songs talk of an "old machine" that is taking away our freedom and individuality, forcing us to conform to its system to make us easier to control. Are you referring to the government? parents? the media? the public school system?
DW: "I like to let people make up their own minds and draw their own conclusions from my lyrics. If you talk about a machine, a state machine or a God machine or whatever, that could be a lot of things to a lot of people. It could be the government, it could be parents anything that's trying to make the individual conform to a mold."
UR: Who is the "Blue Lotus Throne?"
DW: "Blue Lotus Throne is one of the first songs that was written. It's kind of like the vehicle of escape and freedom for the guy in the story. It symbolizes him being able to get away from everything the get away vehicle so to speak."
UR: What are your touring and recording plans?
DW: The first thing we'll have coming up is radio festivals during the summer. We've talked about doing something in Santa Rosa out here. We'll get some radio play at some stations. We did a bunch of dates with Def Leppard as well. But unless we get offered a real legitiment tour supporting someone that makes sense for the band to do, we probably just stick to the radio festivals and stuff. We've started working on songs already for another record. The way that we set it up by spending the recording budget on buying our own gear instead going into some studio, now it's real easy, we essentially can make a record with no money."
UR: Do you have any plans to create a music video?
DW: "On the first record we shot a video on our own out here in Sacramento, and we finished it right around the time that the Columbine thing happened, and the video was a little bit violent, and then everybody at the label got scared and said, 'we can put this out, it's too violent. So we ended up shooting another video with some guys out in Jersey. I have a pretty good background working in film, and in the visual arts."
Contributing writer Michelle Mussatto