Shine On: An Interview with Steve Brooks of Torche
If by come chance, you’ve never heard Torche before, one of the easiest ways to understand what it’s all about is to see a picture of them performing live and look at the sea of smiling faces. No need to think too hard about things, but let’s face it — Metal has more than enough scowling faces and corpse paint. Rick Smith (drums), Jonathan Nuñez (bass) and Steve Brooks (guitars/vox) have a knack for balancing raw energy and musical complexity with a feel-good vibe that can’t be denied. In short, these guys are the sound of the life of the party.
Steve Brooks blessed The Bone Reader with a look at their plans following the release of “Songs For Singles”.
Let the good times roll!
TBR: First off, Happy New Year! How were your Christmas holidays?
Steve: Thank you and same to you. My Holidays were pretty mellow this year. I enjoyed keeping it low key with friends and family, especially after 3 months of touring.
TBR: I don’t mean to salt an old wound — obviously you guys have recovered and moved on — but I gotta say how bummed I was to find out that the last Toronto show was canceled. Then, to hear the reason behind it made it a REAL heartbreaker. You guys were really riding a huge wave of momentum at that point and it was great to see that it didn’t slow you down too much.
Kind of a longshot but here’s hoping: Did they ever recover any of your gear catch the guy who did it?
Steve: Everyone asks that question. I can’t think of many people that I know who’ve been ripped off and recovered their gear. Nothing’s been found, unfortunately. We had to use every penny made on that tour to buy new equipment. There was also a donation account set up to help us financially and we’re all so grateful to those that were supportive. With the donations, Jon was able to buy another EGC bass, like the one that was stolen. My Les Paul Custom was ripped off, so the donations helped me buy the new white EGC guitar I’ve been playing lately.
TBR: Anyways, onwards and upwards! What are the tour plans for 2011?
Steve: Tour plans are all talk right now, so nothing’s confirmed. It’ll definitely be this Summer.
TBR: “Songs For Singles” is a pretty different animal in that most of the songs come in at around two minutes or less. Can you shed some light on the decision to make such a different album this time around? Is it kind of a “one off” project or do you see yourselves making more of a permanent departure from the standard “verse-chorus-verse-chorus” way of songwriting in the future?
Steve: We’ve got our formula of writing, but we also break many of our own rules too. If it feels right, we do it. The next record will sound like us, but it’ll be different from the last.
TBR: Since “Songs For Singles” was relatively short, do you guys have plans to record another album anytime soon?
Steve: We’re actually writing new material right now. Hopefully to start recording this Spring/Summer. I’d like to have the next record out before the end of the year.
TBR: Word is that the guys at Hydra Head rolled out that pre-release version of U.F.O. with your original vocals removed and as a joke, added the vocal tracks that David Lee Roth sang on “Running With The Devil”. Story goes that you were not aware until it was out in the wild. You must’ve been totally floored! What was your reaction?
Steve: That’s a big misunderstanding. The David Lee Roth track was done by my buddy Tony Foresta from Municipal Waste. We were talking about collaborating on the song, but it didn’t work out. So, he sent me the track with the DLR vocals ’cause I fucking worship DLR era Van Halen. I thought it was hilarious, and sent it to Mark at Hydra Head, ’cause I knew he’d get a kick out of it. The only thing I didn’t know about was that the DLR version was the one they chose to release on the comp and online. It’s fucking great!
TBR: There has also been a pretty major release from one of your past projects, Floor, fairly recently as well. For those who may not be aware of what Floor was all about, can you describe what Floor was all about and how it compares with what you’re doing with Torche? It seems like that was a pretty special time.
Steve: Floor was about 12 years of my life developing musically, personally, professionally and was the blueprint to what got me started with Torche. I did things very different when I formed Torche and it’s become a completely different beast. Reuniting with Floor for a boxset, DVD and selective shows has been beautiful. This was for everyone that missed out the first time, yet it’s better than the first time.
TBR: Let’s talk a bit about your equipment and setup. What’s your main axe these days or do you have to keep a few going to keep up with all the crazy tunings you use? That aluminum AGC you have seems pretty cool… Do you use much in the way of effects pedals? Do you use more than one amp head in your live setup?
Steve: Well, I’ve got 3 guitars right now. 2 EGC guitars and 1 First Act custom. I’d like to get another Les Paul, when I’m able to afford it. I miss my old one. I use a few different effect pedals, a clean boost, an MXR delay, MXR phaser and a few BOSS pedals depending on the song and what I use them for. I’ve always played either a Marshall JCM800 or an Orange AD140 Lead head and sometimes both with Floor and Torche. I use Orange speaker cabinets. They sound beastly, yet are so goddamn heavy to carry. They’re backbreakers on tour, especially if you have to carry them up flights of stairs.
TBR: We all agree that it’s cool to write and listen to songs about the occult, fanged creatures that suck your blood in the night, epic battles, drinking wine from the skulls of our enemies, etc. However, I think that most people find it easier to connect with a band or musician who is writing songs that in some way express something from their perspective on life and take the risk of sharing some aspects of who they really are every now and then.
While it’s not something that seems to factor in to the music that Torche makes or your image as a band, you’ve been “out” for quite awhile. Has that made the approach that fans have to you very different?
Steve: I don’t think so. My lyrics rarely make sense anymore, I like it that way. I stopped printing the lyrics too, because what other people have interpreted me singing is much more interesting than what I’m actually saying. Being gay has very little to do with the band and it shouldn’t even be an issue with how someone relates to our music. I’m “out” because that’s just what I am. I speak openly about it because I want those that can relate be OK with themselves as well. It was different for me growing up, there weren’t many musicians in heavy rock bands that were openly gay and it’s always nice to know you’re not alone.
TBR: It was a pretty big deal when Rob Halford came out years back. Personally, I was somewhat surprised that the reaction not just from fans but the Metal community was as positive and accepting overall — definitely a proud moment in the history of Rock. What were your thoughts at the time?
Steve: I thought it was brave and a very necessary thing for him to do for himself and his fans. Things were very different even 20 years ago. Before I came out in 1993, AIDS was a subject I heard most in the media regarding homosexuals and a lot of gay celebrities were dying from it. I went to school with Pedro Zamora (who was on “The Real World” on MTV). It was inspiring to see what Pedro did, yet so heartbreaking to see him lose his battle with the disease on national television. Throughout the 90’s, more celebrities were coming out and the stories weren’t as depressing as the media made “gay culture” seem. However, I didn’t know about many in the heavy music scene. Coming from South Florida, a majority of gay men/women that I would meet had absolutely no idea what I was talking about when music came up. If it wasn’t dance/house, Cher, Madonna or any of the other stereotypical “gay” mainstream acts, I’d have no common connection with them. With the internet and touring, I’ve met many people who share similar musical interests that also happen to be gay. So, knowing you’re not alone is comforting.
The 80’s is full of all sorts of guilty musical pleasures and certainly, some “learning experiences” for all of us in terms of good music and bad music. Good or bad, I owned a copy of Manowar’s “Hail To England” which to me, was pretty cool at the time (hadn’t listened to it in 20 years but surprisingly, it isn’t as bad as I feared). Once those pictures came out with them all oiled up, wearing those rabbit-fur loincloths… it was time to move on.
So to the question: Do you have any guilty musical pleasures or skeletons from the past? And what are your thoughts on Manowar, if any.
Steve: Hmmmm??? I have pleasures I’m not that guilty about. I’m a big fan of 80’s music, even some of the cheesy stuff. As for Manowar, it’s necessary for a band like them to exist. I mean, those macho guys in rabbit-fur loincloths all oiled up is pure entertainment.
TBR: Serious question: Who would you name as musical influences, past and present?
Steve: That’s like me naming every band in my record collection. I’m influenced by just about every band I like.
TBR: Every time I see pictures of you guys playing live, it looks like the party of the year. Do you guys live it up and party hard offstage as well or do you put on your bathrobe and bunny slippers and retire to the tour bus to smoke a pipe and read the newspaper after a show?
Steve: Damn, I wish we had a bus to retire to. When we’re done playing, the party is usually winding down. We need to take care of responsibilities first like packing up, loading our gear and getting some rest. We’d love to party, but the next day usually requires many hours of driving, loading and playing another show. I’ve done my share of hard partying in the past and learned my lessons from it. Some days are different, but I’m also almost 37 years old and love feeling healthy and happy when I’ve got to perform. So, I could only dream of being that guy that retires to his suite at a snazzy hotel with a bathrobe, bunny slippers, a good movie on the tube and maybe someone to snuggle with too.
Thanks and praise to our newfound friend, Jana Miller for her outstanding photographs and positive vibrations.
Torche graphic topside by Chris of Pale Horse Design