© Mike Savoia
Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Many know guitarist Michael Wilton for his primary role in the band Queensryche where he has resided since their inception back in the eighties. However I was very surprised to recently discover that he had also been part of another band which had an on/off existence over the years.
Formed over a decade ago in Seattle, Washington, “Soulbender” is comprised of Queensrÿche guitarist Michael Wilton, vocalist Nick Pollock (My Sister’s Machine), guitarist Dave Groves (ex-Tin Pan/Fallen Angel) and drummer Wes Hallam (ex-Assault/Fallen Angel). SOULBENDER II contains four all new songs (Turn Anger up, Shoal, Slave To Reality, Seraphim) as well as the ten original tracks (remastered) from the first album (Fix Me, Clockwork and Compass, Rabbit Hole, The American Dream, Samsara, Prime Time, Shoot Poem, This Ocean, Hunger, Three Towers). Michael Wilton describes Soulbender as “a very progressive, hard rock band with very intense musicians and a couple of the members are prodigies”. Official release date for Soulbender is September 30, 2014. I was fortunate to be able to discuss this re-release along with some other subjects with the man himself recently.
Thanks Michael for taking some time out of your busy schedule to chat to Myglobalmind today. Firstly if I could take you back to the origins of Soulbender. How did the band form and what did it offer to you personally and musically that Queensryche did not?
Michael”Basically I had some time off with my friends in Seattle and Vancouver Canada and I started jamming with these guys. We got some songs written and we named the band as “Soulbender.”The singer Nick Pollock who is in My Sisters Machine and Tanks of Zahn, he did the artwork for the scull and everything else. It was a good project and we put it out in 2004 but it was self-released for just internet and word of mouth. After ten years I was approached by Rat Pack Records and they wanted to put out an Ep of old Soulbender songs that were never finished so I got together with the guys and called them. They were good with it but then Joe came back and said “actually let me re release the Cd, we will remaster it and put four new tunes on it. That is kind of what has happened and yes it is ten years later. I guess we are not on a great time schedule.”
I have read a few previous interviews in which you have stated that you have been close to finishing another Soulbender album.?
Michael”Right, there are lots of unfinished demo songs on a Soulbender hard drive. Those are always waiting there ideas ready to be spawned , finished and built. Yeah we do have lots of songs pending. These four songs were picked because they were originally for the first cd so it is kind of a continuation of that Cd.”
The four added songs were originally written for that album then?
Michael”Yes but they were in their infancy and form. They were just a couple of parts to each song so they needed to be built. They are fully-charged ,injected with Soulbender furore. So far everybody that have heard the first two-love it.”
I have to agree, they sound great. I was listening to them earlier just before I called you. Will this primarily be just a recorded release by Soulbender? Or are there plans to take the material out on the road and perform it live?
Michael”We did this more as just some friends getting together to get the music out because so many people want to hear music from Soulbender. We haven’t even discussed anything as far as touring. I wouldn’t hold my breath because everybody is a little older now and have their own lives going on. It would have to be just the right circumstances in the stars.”
You also seem to be eternally on tour with Queensryche anyway, so I guess its all about finding the time to do it?
Michael”Yes, everybody has their day job including me so you know I am quite busy right now as well.”
You have also branched out in another industry with the creation of your own ale also?
Michael”Yes, my friend “Whip Ale” is an American pale ale that I invented back in oddly 2004. Its just kind of a Pacific North West craft brew. We are slowly just expanding a little bit each year and eventually we hope to get it to your continent. So you can all taste American Pale ale that is actually quite good.”
I actually spoke to you last year when we did a pre-show interview in Dublin.
Michael”That’s right, that was actually a fun show, I remember that. The Dublin audience was so supportive of Queensryche that was great. We didn’t have much time unfortunately but I remember that interview.”
Since that interview, there has been some closure legally with regard to the resolution of the band name. Just wondered if things panned out as you had hoped from that situation?
Michael”Yeah, it was mutual obviously and we are just happy that we have moved it on and Queensryche is doing great right now. It is kind of a rebirth of the band and its a lot of hard work. We are enjoying it and we are having so much fun doing it that the new chemistry is great. The song-writing is really back to the way that it was on the first six albums of Queensryche.”
Just following on that theme. Is song-writing something that Queensryche reserve solely for the recording studio, or do you also write while on the road?
Michael”Well it depends, inspiration happens when it happens. If we are on the road we have our mobile Pro Tools recording systems so usually that will capture an idea. As you get older these things get lost and they dont come back. When we are home really focus on writing in our project and professional studios. Aptly I am here in September in Seattle Washington and I am actually taking a break from writing music all day here in Seattle for the new Queensryche record.”
That anticipates my next question perfectly as I was going to enquire how the ideas for that were progressing? Fans are always demanding and seeking new material.
Michael”Well the songwriting is progressing quite well, we have fifteen ideas right now and we are still writing. We are looking to get into the studio sometime in the fall here, and hopefully have a new Queensryche album probably April or May. First quarter of 2015 and that will be followed by 2015 Queensryche world tour.”
How do you manage to juggle all your schedules without going insane? I suppose its true for all musicians that you wonder how they seem to preserve the work-home balance?
Michael”Well these days you have to multi-task and its not like the eighties anymore where you just had a record contact and they did everything for you. There is so many facets with the media and the internet-there is all these different rules or lack of rules. You really have to keep yourself busy to keep in the press and in the limelight. There is so much competition these days obviously because of file-sharing and things like that hurt the cd industry. More people are touring so its more about keeping yourself visible basically. Everybody is touring so you have to do it creatively and make sure that people want to see you. The buyers want you to come to play their towns. We are on a good path right now and that is all happening. I have got to tell you”Yeah”this is the busiest that I have been in a long time. We are enjoying it and its its like this endless cycle of when we are done touring we come home and we write songs. We get the whole process going, get the management and record label involved. Get a producer and then get this whole machine going again.We love what we do, we are musicians first and foremost and we love writing music, and playing and performing live. We will just keep doing this until people dont want to hear us anymore.”
Do you ever take a break from and step back from music?
Michael”Yeah, I have to do that because otherwise I would lose my mind. I have got friends, our ex guitar player Chris De Garmo we hang out a lot and we golf. Go to dinner ocassionally and I have got mutual musician friends that I just hang out with and do stuff with my family. You have to balance it otherwise you just become a hermit in a woodshed and you never get to see the light anymore because there is so much to do.”
What about new music and new bands?
Michael”Its so hard to keep track of new ones because I am kind of old school and I listen to the radio. I listen to the album orientated and what is current on there and that is basically how I get my information on new bands to check out. There are so many great new bands out there and you have really got to microscope the internet to find out who they are, what’s their names and how can I buy their music.”
Just to finish off the Soulbender album is released end of September in Europe.Will you have to go out and promote it again when that happens? Or will you be recording with Queensryche at that time?
Michael”Yes I think that we are all going to be busy. I have to say that we are getting quite a few offers to play live and I just don’t know if that’s going to happen. Soulbender is just a bunch of friends and we jam together and we write some toons. That’s kind of what we do. Getting a whole tour together is a lot of work and its hard to do. I dont know. Its an open-ended situation and we will keep it that way. I’m not closing the door completely on it …”
As a musician you create music in order to perform it live before an audience?
Michael”Yeah and Soulbender is the songs are basically written in kind of a jamming way. We just jam together until the song appears it is a bit more organic so live -yeah the times that Soulbender has played live it has been great. As of right now we don’t know exactly what our next steps are going to be.”
Did you ever record any songs with Ripper Owens while you worked with him?
Michael”Ammm we did some demos, and I have a few demos with Tim on them but I think he got really busy. I think he opened a restaurant and so it fell by the wayside. As did Soulbender.We have a bunch of songs together and I have recorded guitar solos and songs on his records as well.We do have a cool relationship. Running a restaurant is very time-consuming and I understand that he has got to be busy as hell doing that. Yeah my door is always open,with Ripper I would love to do an album or a project with him.”
He is actually playing Belfast tomorrow night, so I will have a chat and pass on your number.
Michael(laughs)he has got my number.
That’s great Whip thanks for chatting again to me. Good luck with Soulbender, the new Queensryche material and also sorting the distribution of your Whip Ale to Europe. Hopefully I will get to see the band live back on this side of the pond very soon.
Michael”Yeah, that’s definitely what we want to do.We want to get back to Ireland, cheers Mark bye.”