Metal Heroes: Trouble
Five Indian metal artists tell us about their biggest heroes, who shaped their music. We track down these iconic artists for their stories
Srikanth Panaman, guitarist of Bengaluru stoner/doom band Bevar Sea on how doom metallers Trouble influenced his approach to the genre.
How did you get into Trouble’s music?Â
Probably in the early-2000s. Memory is a little hazy, but I think a lot of good music was discovered through the siteÂ bnrmetal.comÂ back in the day. I was admittedly a little late to the party with this band, but when I heard them first, I was hooked immediately.Â
What is it about them that makes them your heroes?
I like metal, but Seventies heavy rock is where my roots are, and Trouble have the same approach. Great doom and gloom vibe, brilliant riffing, one of the best guitar duos in business, and with Eric Wagner, one of the most trademark voices in metal. If you look at BevarSea’s influences, Trouble is one of the few with the two guitar set up, and they’re partly why we are too. Black Sabbath might be the granddaddies of doom, but Trouble is one of its parents.
Which particular album or particular bunch of Trouble songs do you consider your favorite? And what do you think of Trouble’s last two releases, and their upcomingÂ The Distortion Field?
Their first two are the heaviest, meanest and the best, but when they got a little more Beatles-like in the Nineties they were still great. You can say that they went from being a doom/heavy metal band to a more stoner-friendly band. Plastic Green Head had a few great songs, and Simple Mind Condition which was their most recent album and the last one with Wagner on vocals was pretty damn good as well. I still spin them regularly. I don’t think they’ve put out a bad album yet. About their upcoming album, I’m really glad that Kory Clarke is out of the band, and even though I’ll miss Wagner’s singing big time, Kyle Thomas is an interesting choice. I’m a big fan of Exhorder, and I liked the Floodgate material as well, but what I really enjoyed was the Alabama Thunderpussy album Open Fire, with him on vocals. That was some balls out heavy rock! I’ll be checking out the new Trouble for sure!
How has Trouble influenced Bevar Sea’s music?
Trouble showed us that we can show off our influences proudly, yet arriving at our own sound. Our two guitar arrangement like I explained earlier, the way we try to keep the riffs catchy and keep things melodic, our shameless old fashioned approach are all partly Trouble’s influence on us. We just hope to keep improving and some day be as good as them.
Have you ever had the chance to interact or meet with Rick and Bruce, or any other members of Trouble?
I can’t say that I have, and in the past ten years or so, their activity has also been rather sporadic, and they’ve rarely been touring and been in the limelight. There’s now a band called The Skull with ex-members playing Trouble songs as well. So it’s not the same following Trouble at the moment, but it’ll still be cool to meet them and have my albums signed one day!
The doom band’s guitarists Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell on how they found their musical direction.
It’s not too contentious to credit bands like Black Sabbath for inventing not just metal. But doom as a genre, but American band Trouble has the old school doom metal tradition going since 1979, a decade after Sabbath and Judas Priest had already set the tone for metal, gaining much mainstream success in the UK and overseas. The commercial aspect of it didn’t interest Trouble, though. Albums such as Psalm 9, Run To the Light and The Skull feature an odd mix of spiritual lyrics by then-vocalist Eric Wagner set to thick riffs and drumming.
What kind of metal did you want to play, starting out in 1979?
Bruce Franklin: We wanted to play the heaviest stuff from the beginning. In 1979, in the USA, heavy rock was dying. There was still Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. A few other bands like Scorpions, Thin Lizzy, UFO were around, but weren’t as heavy. A lot of the cool bands that we grew up on had disappeared or faded to making more commercial music. We wanted to play a combination of our favorite stuff, even though its popularity was declining. By 1980 in the USA, there was an underground movement getting hip to the expansion happening across the water. That provided an audience for us that grew through the next few years.
What made you bring psychedelic rock and heavy metal together?
Rick Wartell: We were fans of psychedelic music to begin with. It just seemed natural to incorporate it into our sound.
BF: Yeah, we liked psychedelic rock, like The Doors, The Beatles, Iron Butterfly and Captain Beyond. We also really liked Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper and Seventies-era Judas Priest. Eventually, we tried to incorporate some of those psychedelic influences into our heavy guitar riff rock that we so loved. This is a major point that set us apart from other metal bands of the day. It just comes down to doing the kind of music that we loved.
Speaking of bands that you influenced, there’s one question a lot of Trouble fans still want to know the answer to – is it true Metallica checked out your backline rig to get a similar guitar tone?
BF: It is true that James Hetfield looked at our onstage guitar amps in 1984 when we played in San Francisco. Anything beyond that fact is just speculation.
Trouble has managed to survive hiatuses and lineup changes. I know you have KyleÂ (Thomas, vocalist) who’s come back, but would you ever want to ask Eric to get back on stage with you for a one-off or more?
BF: You never know what the future holds. Right now we have a new record with our new singer Kyle Thomas who is going to turn some heads. This type of a reunion is not in the plans for the near future.
RW: I have learned in this life to “Never say never,” but as Bruce said, we are focused on working with Kyle and recording the new album with him was a great experience. So we are looking forward to getting the record out and playing some shows.
What keeps you guys going?
RW: Music is big part of who we are. As a musician, that doesn’t ever go away and you can’t really separate yourself from it, unless you make a choice to do so. We have never measured our success based on its commercial appeal. We write and play what’s within us and what we like, and in doing so, we’ve stayed true to who we are and we still love what we do.
BF: Well, for me, music is my life. I like to think in terms of a next album, whether it is Trouble or a solo type thing like Supershine. Speaking for myself, I think that there is plenty of music left in me to write. As for performing live, I love that too. I don’t feel that I have lost anything in my playing yet. Maybe in five or 10 years, I won’t be at the top of my game as a musician, but right now I feel like I’ve written some really good riffs and songs. I am sure that I can deliver in a live setting as well as I ever have done also. As for people leaving the band, the guitar riffs and sound has always been the signature of Trouble. That is still there today.
Tell me a bit about the two-guitar approach that Trouble has.
BF: I think that our two-guitar approach was very much patterned after Judas Priest. To a lesser degree, Thin Lizzy and Alice Cooper Group. Yes, we had already had our direction and sound before we ever even heard anything from Iron Maiden. They were not an influence at all. Sometimes in our rhythm guitar approach, it was like two (Black Sabbath guitarist) Tony Iommis playing at the same time. Heaviness in our guitar sound was always a priority and tuning down was definitely learnt from Sabbath.
RW: Exactly. We wanted the heavy sound of Sabbath with the one-two punch of Priest.
What’s the word on your new album that was once called The Dark Riff ? Is it as heavy and doom as the name sounds?
BF: The name of the new record is The Distortion Field. It has moments of heavy doom and also some uptempo crunch songs. A little psychedelic flavor here and there and some of the famous heavy groove riffs we are known for. Also, I might add, some really powerful vocals that are adding dimension to the music.
We interviewed you because of your importance to the handful of doom metal bands in India, who cited you both as their heroes. In turn, they would like to ask you who your heroes in music were?
RW: Well, it’s always cool to hear that we had an influence on someone else’s music.
Mine would be UFO, Sabbath, Montrose, Uhria Heep, Deep Purple, Lucifer’s Friend”¦
BF: My musical heroes were Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, Seventies-era Judas Priest. These are the bands that formed my outlook on music and also taught me to play guitar. Guitar players specifically were Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi, Robin Trower, and later Uli Roth (Scorpions/Electric Sun), Tipton/Downing and David Gilmour. I always really loved Ozzy, Alice Cooper and Ian Gillan as singers.
Also, why are they your heroes?
RW: This was the music we listened to and that led us to who we are musically.
BF: None of them are really heroes. They are favorite musical artists who influenced and taught me about music. As an adult, especially after meeting a couple of “heroes”, I learned that they are all just people with a skill. They can’t live up to being a “hero.”
Which of their albums did you really enjoy?
BF: The most influential and also favorite albums for me were, Black Sabbath’s Black
Sabbath and Master of Reality, Deep Purple’s Made In Japan and Who Do We Think We Are, Alice Cooper’s Killer and School’s Out, Led Zeppelin I V (US FM radio has ruined this album for me), Judas Priest’s Sad Wings of Destiny, Arthur Brown’s Crazy World of Arthur Brown, The Doors’s Strange Days. I could go on…
RW: Way too many to list.
Did you ever get to meet your heroes and tour with them?
RW: Met some. Have never toured with any of them.
BF: As Rick said, we’ve met a few and have played some festivals with some, but never toured together or made friends.
This story appeared in the June 2013 issue of ROLLING STONE India.