Interview with Ryan McCombs (SOiL), Dublin, February 14th 2018

One of my favorite moments touring, being from the US, was my first time being in Ireland and waking up early enough that the bus was still traveling, and...

Interview: Alan Daly

Pics: © Olga Kuzmenko Photography




Alan: Welcome back to Dublin

Ryan: It’s been a while!

Alan: It’s been a while for SOiL and it’s been even longer for you.

Ryan: I don’t know if I came here with Drowning Pool or not. I think I did but I’m not positive.

Alan: I gather you’re based in the UK yourself now. I know the rest of the band aren’t based there, but does your own relocation mean that you might have more incentive to play on this side of the Atlantic more often?

Ryan: I just moved over last December. I’d love if that was the case. We’ll see. I have no idea because it’s all new. We’re kind of getting the feel for how it’s going to work in every aspect right now.

Alan: You have acknowledged that SOiL has a huge UK fanbase. I believe that you also have a big Irish fanbase, but you haven’t come to Ireland often, so that is a big disappointment.

Ryan: It’s disappointing to us as well. It’s always been a stickler for us because we hear it, and we feel it first hand because we get a lot of people questioning why that’s the case. It’s not on our part. It’s just the simple logistics of shows becoming available that make it financially feasible to load the bus up on the ferry and do all that.

Alan: I’m guessing, that on a show-for-show comparison, it’s probably a lot more expensive for you guys to come to Dublin for one show than to do five or six shows on mainland UK?

Ryan: Without question. I wouldn’t mind coming over here and breaking even. Just to come over. One of my favorite moments touring, being from the US, was my first time being in Ireland and waking up early enough that the bus was still traveling, and seeing the countryside. Probably 90% of the people in the United States claim to have Irish heritage. But “McCombs”!

Alan: It’s either Irish or Scottish!

Ryan: It’s both actually. Both sides of my family have roots in Scottish and Irish. So for me, it was neat to finally be here and see the things that we only see in the movies, like the countryside and stone fences. I couldn’t go out there, I was just watching it pass by through a bus window, but still.

Alan: Will you have any time off in Dublin this time?

Ryan: We had yesterday off, so me and Jay, our sound guy, and Ryan from Local H and TG our drummer went out and gathered a lot of photos of a lot of chapels.

Alan: Did you visit the Phil Lynott statue?

Ryan: Yes, we did. We went into that rock bar [Bruxelles of Harry Street]. That’s where we finished our night off actually. We had a really good time yesterday. But to get back to your point, it’s never been a choice of ours not to come to Ireland. It’s one of my highlights. It’s just the logistics aspect has kept us from here.

Alan: Looking through some of your previous interviews, you mentioned a seven-year itch that you get. I can’t help but notice that’s it’s been seven years since you rejoined SOiL. Should we be nervous?

Ryan: Has it? I think officially it was 2012, so I think we’re still ok. I notice that nobody else has mentioned that to me yet.

Alan: And you’re getting into the band management side of the industry now yourself?

Ryan: For lack of a better title, yeah. After you’ve spent twenty years in the music industry… I’ve been associated with some great managers, some really good people in that field, and I’ve also been associated with the ones that some of the horror stories are written about, so when I was doing my business cards, my wife was like “What do we put on this? Band Management?” And I was like “ugh”. I’ve signed one band so far and I’m meeting another in Glasgow and another that I’m waiting to meet when I get home. The talent that I’m getting faced with over here is amazing.

Alan: There’s a lot of really great unsigned talent in Ireland too.

Ryan: I would love for them to get in touch. MusicHouse No37 is the name to find me on Facebook or Gmail. But I haven’t received much of anything from Ireland. So that would be great. I don’t see any boundaries, so I’d love to hear what’s going on over here.

Alan: I also saw in some interviews from the end of 2016, you said that you had been writing new material as a follow up to Whole. We know that since then you released Scream which was mostly old material. What happened to the new material that was being written back then?

Ryan: I don’t know! We go through little phases of interest in writing. More so probably on this tour. We’re five years removed from Whole. Finally, there’s been more talk on this tour, the bug to get into the studio and get stuff thrown out is stronger now that it’s ever been for everybody. Scream is what it was. For us, it was a way to tip our hat to the people that have kept us around for twenty years.

Alan: Was there a contractual obligation to release an album at the time that pushed you to release what was effectively a best-of album?

Ryan: No, there wasn’t. When we did Whole, we hadn’t done anything together, new-music-wise, in years. One of the things that made us realize we were going to do it was when we were on the same page. We wanted to do an album and we wanted to keep control of it. We knew we wanted to work with Pavement Entertainment in their territories and Riot and AFM. We knew who we wanted to work with. We knew even the people within those teams that we wanted to work with. So we were able to hand-pick the team. There was no contractual obligation, there was no-one that there was a contract with. It was something that we just did. It’s one of those things, you sit there one day and you go “Man, we’ve been here for twenty fucking years. Huh.” And someone came up with the idea of doing a twenty-year anniversary album. But at the same time, we wanted to do something just a little different.

Alan: I can see why fans might be a little disappointed by a “best of” album, even though there were some interesting b-side recordings and a new cover. But nowadays, people can get their hands on old songs on the internet or via the back-catalog. So I think fans get more excited hearing that their favorite bands are working on brand new material.

Ryan: That was the big reason why we dove into Tim’s vault with that album. Things that you’re not going to hear unless you break into Tim’s house. You know, the tracks from Dimebag’s place and stuff like that. But I understand what you’re saying. It excites me, because as much as I’ve been getting in with the MusicHouse No37 stuff recently, and hearing the material that these people have been sending me… There’s some good stuff out there, which gets me going. I love MusicHouse because I see the hunger and desire in these kids’ eyes and I remember it, and I want it. Today’s industry is fucked up. It was hard enough back when I started. The odds of becoming lucky twenty years ago were stacked against you. Let alone what it is for these bands nowadays. And I don’t know what is available, but I know I’m staying up at night trying to figure out ways to make it happen for them. So it has reinvigorated me. My point being is that I’m thinking more about doing more of my own SOiL stuff now as well because I’m hearing stuff that’s being sent in and that bug is being fed again and that desire to get out there and be a part of the scene. It’s feeding the love that I had twenty years ago when I started.

Alan: I’m sure fans will be really happy to hear that because in one of your older interviews you seemed to say that you don’t feel like you need or want to write any more new music.

Ryan: I’ve been through those phases. Absolutely. That’s part of the curse or blessing of being kept around for so long. You have those days, no matter what you do for a living, sometimes you wake up and think “I don’t want to do this anymore”. Maybe you just want to be at home in your bed that day.

Alan: As you’ve said, you were one of the lucky ones, when your band was really successful in the early 200’s when the nü-metal genre was big, and metal, in general, was more popular than it had been in the 90’s. Of the bands in that era, some of them fell off the radar and didn’t make it through, what ones would you have liked to continue on and still be active?

Ryan: Straight away, my head goes to the couple that is still around, because they’re still around. We were blessed enough to be in the Chicago scene when it happened. There was Disturbed, us, Five Pointe O, From Zero. It was such a healthy scene. I’d love to have seen some of those guys still be around. What made that scene was so healthy was that we all worked well together. We weren’t worried about what the Jones’s were doing. We were trying to help the Jones’s get there with us. And that’s the way every band was in that scene during that time. So I’d love to see some more of those old Chicago scene bands still out there doing it because there were some extremely talented people in those bands. I’ve always said I’ve definitely shared the stage with more talented people than myself, I just got lucky.

Alan: What’s the most die-hard thing a SOiL fan has ever done, that you are aware of?

Ryan: You see some of the tattoos sometimes. I remember seeing some girl who had song lyrics written from just under her arm, all the way down to her ankle in these vines. It was really a beautiful tattoo.

Alan: Do you remember what song it was?

Ryan: I don’t.

Alan: It was a SOiL song though?

Ryan: It was a song that I had written [laughs]. I’m not positive. That’s the reason I’m not saying for sure. But my point is when you see these tattoos, whether it’s the band name or a song or an album title or lyrics… There are some great songwriters out there like Maiden or Metallica who can take a book that was read and write a song about it. And I’ve never been able to do that. I hate that I can’t do that. I’ve never been much of a reader is my number one problem with that.

Alan: Sometimes, lyrics just need to be catchy and to-the-point.

Ryan: I can only write about what I’ve experienced and I try to write about it in a vague enough manner that hopefully, people can relate to it no matter who they are. One of the first bands I listened to that I thought really touched base with my life was Alice In Chains. But honestly, Layne may have been singing about an empty pop can, but the way he worded it and the way he described that empty pop can, I felt like “he’s talking about my life”. So I’ve always tried to be vague. I’m not comparing myself to that. I hold what he and Jerry did in great regard. But when somebody gets a tattoo of a band, you think “that’s forever”. Or at least until the laser surgery. That’s pretty extreme in my head.

Alan: I mentioned the classic era of nü-metal in the early 2000’s, and ‘Halo’ is one of those anthems of the time that so many people know.

Ryan: It’s that song that we HAVE to play. I had a break at least. Adam and Tim didn’t!

Alan: What would you consider to be an iconic song or anthem from those times?

Ryan: ‘Redefine’. ‘Unreal’ is definitely a fun song live.

Alan: What about songs from other bands of that era?

Ryan: Oddly enough, there were the bands that I grew up with and then all of a sudden when we got lucky, I was so concentrated on SOiL that the rest of the world kind of became silent to me because I was so concerned with what we were doing.

Alan: Even from your teens? What song is iconic for you?

Ryan: ‘And Justice For All’, ‘Master of Puppets’, ‘Whiplash’, ‘Skulls’ by Misfits. There were so many tracks that throughout the day that you always seemed to find the time to stick that *cassette tape* into the deck and give a listen. Alice In Chains was huge to me personally. Of course ‘Man in the Box’ was the song that everybody was introduced to AIC by, but they wrote albums and albums of great songs.

Alan: What would be your favorite album artwork of all time?

Ryan: Aerosmith’s Done With Mirrors? Maybe one of the dumbest ideas for an album cover ever. Their greatest hits album with that iconic red and white image. Pink Floyd always kind of had their thing. When you saw something from Pink Floyd you knew it was from them. You didn’t have to see their name on it. The imagery that you would see almost made you know what you’re looking at, which is unique. When I say that out loud, it makes me think they had something there, when you see a piece of imagery and you know what band it is without seeing their name.

Alan: Tell us the highlight of your career to date.

Ryan: There are two moments or aspects of my life that come to mind. Number 1 for me, coming from a very small town in Indiana in the middle of America, was that moment where we were flying into England, getting ready to land. For me, it was my first time being out of the United States. Not too long before that, I had just flown for the first time. But getting ready to land at London Heathrow and realizing that this small farm-town kid was coming to London England to do a rock show. I was moved by that. I grew up listening to the Stones and for me, having my music, which I loved to do, lead me to do something so cool as coming to a foreign country to play. The other thing would be all the USO [United Service Organizations] stuff I got to do with Drowning Pool. Whether it was in Iraq or Kuwait or South Korea or Guantanamo Bay or any of that stuff. We did a lot of USO and MWR [Morale, Welfare, and Recreation] shows. Getting to meet people and play for people from military services from all over the world, and seeing them all out there. And you can tell by looking at them in the crowd, they’re not necessarily rock fans or metal fans, but for that hour out there in the middle of the desert, or whatever, everyone was a fan of what you were doing, because for a moment they were back home at a show, instead of being in a war zone. So it had nothing to do with being for or against war, but it had to do with seeing these people, that just for a moment, they weren’t where they were.

Alan: We’re out of time, but maybe you can tell SOiL fans what’s coming up in the future?

Ryan: We’re finishing up this tour and then we’ve got a lot of festivals for this Summer. Back in the states, though. And hopefully, the communication will continue on this tour about getting some more stuff written. And not just written, but actually recorded this time and get it out there.

Alan: Well that will definitely make your fans happy, myself included.

Ryan: I appreciate it. Thanks for your time today.

Alan: Thank you!


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