Thursday, August 6, 2009

Jim Connolly: Small Man, Big Riff

Around October last year I exchanged a bunch of emails with a bearded riffer known to the world as Jim Connolly, guitarist in Soul Control and an expert in the field of the full body headbang. I'll admit that some of these questions are a little outdated by now, as Soul Control is about to unleash "Cycles", their first proper full length album and the band has put out numerous 7" singles since we conducted this interview. They've also changed drummers. However, I do still think this will make for a good read. Jim's quite the entertainer. As you'll notice, there's no pictures to go along with this, simply because I can't quite figure out how to work this Mac. So it's back to basics for now, a blog for people that still know how to read. Please do go see Soul Control on tour and enjoy reading.

Soul Control recently played with the legendary Boston Devilcore act Overcast... How was that?

Overcast was great. Set was a little too long, about 14 songs but with a lot of breaks, but that's how their shows always were back in the day. I went to 5 of the 6 reunions they did in '05 as well. They still sound sick live, so heavy yet not downtuned at all. I accidentally headbutted someone during a full body headbang, had quite a bruise the next day. Have you picked up the CD they just out out? It's called "Reborn To Kill Again" and its just re-recordings of old songs but they sound really good.

Two fun facts about Overcast: 1) the first time Jim Connolly ever moshed was to Overcast at the release party for the split they did with Arise and 2) although they went by the moniker "Boston Devilcore" none of the members were actually from Boston, they were all from Milford, a suburb of Worcester about 40 minutes from Boston. This has become a tradition carried on by many "Boston Hardcore" bands of today. Cough have heartandshipwreck cough. Haha.

Describe how you exactly you "moshed" to Overcast in your first ever moshing experience. How hard were you?

It more than likely looked super lame. I think there was a lot of arm flailing and maybe a kick or two. Def not hard. I think the only time I moshed “hard” was at the Madball show in CT right after Freddy got out of jail. He came out in a prison jumpsuit…THAT is hard.

Growing up around Boston and going to shows there in the early 90's you must have seen a ton of cool shows. Please share with me some of your favourite shows and tell me what your favourite bands to see were at the time and why.

Favorite shows? My 2nd show ever was Madball at the historic Club Babyhead in Providence in 1994, that show changed my life. I’d say Agnostic Front, 454 Big Block and 25 ta Life at the Mid East in Boston in 96, one of the scariest shows I was ever at. Earth Crisis, Downset, Vision of Disorder and Bane at the Gym in Clinton. I’ll go on record and say I HATE Earth Crisis, they just happened to be on the show unfortunately. Any Bane show, especially at the space. Biohazard at the tiny Espresso Bar in Worcester. The last Trouble show at the Greek hall in Cambridge. I got to see Aaron Bedard's old band Backbone when they played a reunion show with Dive. That was actually the show where Dalbec ended up asking him if he was interested in singing for his new hardcore band. So many shows.

As far as bands, pretty much any listed in those shows. V.O.D. I’d go see whenever they came close. Any of the NYHC bands that would play somewhat close by, Madball, S.O.I.A., H2O, No Redeeming Social Value. If In Effect Zine wrote about them, I’d get into them and go see them. Local bands I’d always go see: Bane, Blood For Blood, Reach The Sky, Get High, Cave In, Cast Iron Hike…the list goes on and on.

Fast forwarding to today, what are some of your favourite bands to full body headbang to? I know Torche is one of them, please elaborate.

Torche for sure. Theres actually a funny vid on youtube of me at a Torche show at CBGB’s. Here it is: http://www. youtube. com/watch?v=hix_0WULjRw, I have no idea who that other dude is. At one point I fall down. There’s an awesome band from Providence called The Body, you have no choice but to headbang, it’s so loud you fall to your knees anyway. Also, I really love OM. One of the best sets I’ve seen was OM in a warehouse in Queens. I’ll actually be seeing Om this week when they open for Dinosaur Jr, I know this makes you jealous. Bands I haven’t seen but headbang to in spirit are Electric Wizard, Iron Monkey and of course Sleep.

I've never been to Worcester, pretty much all I know about the place is that Bane is from there, the Palladium is there and Jim Connolly is from there as well. What's Worcester like?

I think you have to be from Worcester to love Worcester. Its really big but there’s not much to do. The one thing Worcester has though is the best pizza in the world in my opinion. Not just one specific place, pretty much all pizza in Worcester is great. In the mid 90’s Worcester had two of the greatest spots for shows, The Space and the Espresso Bar. Local shows seemingly every night, touring bands always came through, it was a truly great time. After those clubs got shut down the Worcester hardcore scene kind of got shut down with it. It's starting to rise from the ashes though thanks to a new group of awesome younger kids starting bands and doing shows. I’ve been in Providence for 6 years now, but I’ll always be a Worcester kid.

You love Bane and I'm sure Bane loves you (how could they not?), since I'm quite the Baniac myself and I would love to hear your top 3 Bane releases.

This is hard because it’s one of those lists that can change from day to day depending on my mindset. Today I’ll say:

1) Free to Think, Free to Be 7”. Superhero is THE Bane song for me. Way before Can We Start Again, Superhero was the sing along. Check this video from one of the best shows I’ve been to, Back to School Jam 1999. Worcester Palladium, Upstairs, Biggest singalong I’ve ever heard. http://www. youtube. com/watch?v=1v1gr0-yM1A

2) It All Comes Down To This. Of the 3 LP’s, this is my favorite. The production is horrible and they’ll tell you the same thing. I can get past that though and these are some of my favorite songs they’ve ever done. Struck Down By Me has the best Bane mosh part. Live sets during this time were frenzied, emotional and very experimental. Sets would typical end in noisy “jams” that would mainly showcase how insane a drummer Nick was. I have a lot of shows from that time on DVD that a friend transferred from VHS for me, I’ll let you borrow them sometime. It’s a shame that only Can We and What Makes Us are pretty much the only 2 songs for this record that still get played live.

3) OK, this is one isn’t really #3 but I just want to give it some love. The Bane side of the split with Adamantium. They never really went over too well live and didn’t last very long in the set. I think kids just didn’t want anything to do with an Adamantium 7” haha. You wrote this song for me is such a good song and it led to a pretty decent shirt/hoodie design. “and you wonder why I’m so obsessed with guns…”

Prior to Soul Control you were in What Feeds The Fire, a band that at the time was well known but didn't seem to do all that much... Would you agree? Why was that? Did you guys release anything other than "Set Me Free"?

Yea I agree with that. The original lineup lasted less then a year, then the lineup I was part of lasted just about a year, so it was a pretty short lived band. They did one 2 week tour before the mass quitting of members and then our lineup did 2 tours and a lot of weekends. Set Me Free was just the demo and 4 new songs, all recorded by the og lineup. After everyone quit Sean and Mark went in and recorded a song for a Martyr Records comp 7”, Sean played guitars, drums and sang and Mark played bass. The final lineup wrote an LP but only got as far as demoing drum tracks.

What happened to What Feeds The Fire? I know you guys did that one big tour (with Hatebreed and Evergreen Terrace, right?), did the band just implode after that?

The big tour was with Hatebreed, Poison The Well and Bane. It was a month long and it went surprisingly well. After that we did a bunch of weekends with Champion amongst others. That summer we did Posi Numbers, 4:20 Fest and Hellfest which all went very very well. We were rising quickly and we were ready to write a record. Then the implosion started. Hatebreed was now on a major and touring non stop and we figured Jamey would be too busy to put out the record. Deathwish was a new label and wanted to put out the record. There was a meeting with us, Jamey and Jake on Hatebreed’s tourbus which ended with Jamey agreeing that we should join DW rather than end up “on Victory or Trustkill or something.” Leaving Stillborn as a label also meant we lost Jamey as our booking agent. The shows got HORRIBLE. The fighting began. We were doing all these shows and weekends and losing a ton of money. Rich and Myself started quitting on a weekly basis. We got offered a west coast tour with the Cro-Mags but a week before it started there were still no venues so we cancelled off it. Then I quit my marketing job for the “How’s Your Edge Tour” with Impact (became Stand & Fight), The First Step and appearances by Count Me Out and other edge bands. It was supposed to be like 10 days long, most shows got cancelled, I think we played 3 shows. Lost more money. So we decided to stop doing shows for a bit and finish the record, which we did. We wrote an 11 song album I think. We went to demo it with Larry from The Dedication and we recorded all the drums but when we tried to overdub guitars we realized the songs were all way too fast so we had to scrap the night work and reschedule. The next week we played a horrible CT show and Rich had enough and quit for real. We all talked til 3 am, once again convinced him to stay by agreeing to a 2 month hiatus and we’d all talk again after xmas. During that hiatus Sean started playing drums in a new band which ended up becoming Verse after he switched from drums to vocals. I called him after xmas to see if we were going to continue WFTF as planned and he said no, he wanted to Verse and that was it. We did a last show about a year later after all the fighting had stopped at a benefit for Steve Neale. People will tell you it was crazy, but I think it sucked. So does Sean. Bad way to end the band, ah well.

Did your time in What Feeds The Fire influence the way you wanted to handle Soul Control? It seems like Soul Control got to be a well known and respected band in a short amount of time, with your demo being incredibly well received and "Involution" following shortly after... How did all that come together?

Not really, because SC wasn’t supposed to be a “real” band. We were just friends messing around in my basement for fun. After we wrote Dive we got kind of stoked and decided to do a demo and MAYBE play a couple shows. We ended up playing Dive during a Verse set, we had no other songs written yet and Earth Tones had only been playing bass for I’d say 2 hours. Then we wrote some more songs and did the demo and like you said it was well received, which was totally unexpected. Literally a day after we put the songs on myspace we were getting calls from labels. I think we agreed to sign to Rivalry about 5-6 days after we had made physical demos. Once we signed we knew we were going to be doing a lot more than we planned so we just threw caution to the wind and rode the wave. There wasn’t much planning or handling that needed to be done. We got offered the Have Heart tour, said yes. Verse tour? Sure. Hey want to come to Europe with Blacklisted and Shipwreck? Yea, lets do it. It was a crazy first year to say the least.

It still blows my mind that Anthony (original Soul Control drummer) was in Temperance for a while. Did you ever see Temperance with him on drums? How long have you actually known Anthony and Earth Tones? How did you meet?

No, I never saw him play with Temperance. I can’t stand Temperance but I think you had to be from Rhode Island or Europe to have liked them haha. I met Triple-OG Anthony at our first practice for WFTF. So I’ve known him for about 7 years now. After WFTF and before Soul Control we still played music together and remained real close, mainly because of poker. Earth Tones and I met about 3 years ago, it’s really weird that we hadn’t met before that because he has been close with some of my friends, like Triple-O, since like 1994. I’ve known his brother Adam for 6-7 years but I somehow (thankfully?) avoided knowing Earth Tones. We met when he came to film a show my band before Soul Control was playing and we hung out a bit that night. Then randomly he started showing up at my place and now we’re in a band together. Basically he’s in my life out of necessity. I’m half joking.

When Matt decided to quit the band, breaking up must've occured to you, or did that thought not occur to you at all? What made you decide to carry on and take the risk?

Breaking up was the first thought we all had and I think we did actually break up for a few days. Matt really wanted us to keep going, he loved and still loves Soul Control, it’s the band he had always wanted to do but he just couldn’t do it anymore. So me, Tones and Triple-O went out for pancakes and had a long discussion and decided to keep going. Then after 2 weeks we couldn’t think of a new guy so we almost broke up again and then had another meeting on a bench next to a river and decided to keep looking. At this point only a handful of people knew Matt had quit even though he had quit almost a month prior. I finally told Sean Murphy and instantly he was like “Yo, you should get my boy Rory.” I met him, gave him a CD and he texted me a few days later and said he was down to give it a go. We set up a jam, he did “On Survival” once and that was it, he was in. He actually put words to a new song that first time we ever played together, instant chemistry. We dropped the song though haha. We scrapped pretty much a whole LP worth of music.

Concerning that new song "Flux" you guys have been playing for a while now... That riff is so fucking hard, I imagine you locking yourself in your basement with only the Burn "New Morality" recordings and your guitar for a week, growing a huge beard and resurfacing again while full body headbanging to the sound of that song playing in your head. Is that how it went?


That series of 4 one song 7" records is a nifty idea. What are the benefits of doing things this way as opposed to let's say a new 4 song 7" or 12"? The first one is due out soon, what can you tell me about the song on that one?

Well, we’re not on Rivalry anymore so we were like OK, let's do something that we wanna do, cuz we can literally do anything. I had been talking to Rory about doing a series of 1 song singles for a while and then when we were on tour with Lie And Wait (awesome band, by the way) their drummer Josh Huskin came up with the idea to make all the covers form one bigger picture. So blame him haha. The benefits are just that it makes US happy, its what we wanted to do so we did it. We picked the labels, they’ve been awesome and are doing a great job, everyone’s stoked. We’ll put out another normal 7” before the winter tour.
“Playing Coward” is the first one to come out, it can be ordered now. Its selling faster than expected which is surprising, we didn’t think people would buy into the idea and that they’d sell more on tour, but I guess not. As of right now, it’s my favorite song we have. I like quiet guitar intros that escalate in volume, so I did one of those. Its got a cool bounce/groove part that I dig too. I like all the new songs, now I guess I gotta hope that others like them to?

Will all those songs be vinyl exclusives or will some of them appear on the new album next year?

Vinyl exclusives. Whatever we do from now on will have new stuff only. We’ll continue with our formula of not releasing any 2 records that sound the same.

Soul Control is one of the few newer bands that seems do well with young kids and old heads alike, it is especially interesting to see how you guys get asked to play Snapcase, Unbroken, Overcast, Disembodied etc. reunion shows... Why do you think that is, besides your old age?

Well, the Snapcase/Anti-Matter Show was all because of Rob Fish. 108 has been real cool to us from the beginning and Rob really went to bat for us to get us on that show. Norm decided to add 1 more band to the lineup and Rob told him to check us out. He liked it a lot and called me and asked us to play. After the 2 shows Norm said a lot of cool things about us like how even though we’re a modern band we capture the spirit and vibe of “that” time, stuff like that. It’s all in the blog on the Anti-Matter myspace. Old heads, and I mean that as a positive term, seem to dig us for that reason, at least that’s what we hear the most, that we manage to capture that time/sound/vibe and they like it. Same thing with the Burning Fight release show in April, we were asked for those reasons. We might not have been a band in the mid 90’s but that’s the time when we all were most active in the scene and I guess it still shines through when we play. We’re not faking it, this is what comes out of us, it’s real and I think people can tell.

If the 16 year old Jim C. would meet the 30 year old Jim C. do you think they'd become friends?

Yea probably, we’d both be into Madball and that’s a good way to start a friendship.

You have a pretty awesome stage thing going, I dig the bouncing while spinning around move... What are some of your favourite guitarists to watch live?

I’m not really into super active guitarists actually but I do love watching dudes shred. Like Cedric. Dude shreds. When those bends hit in the breakdown of Forked Tongues and he kind of leans back with the bend…that is sweet. Juan Montoya and Steve Brooks from Torche. They know exactly how heavy they are and they are stoked about it. Obviously J. Mascis. Saw him last night, stood about 4 feet from his amps, needless to say I couldn’t hear very well this morning.

Soul Control has a huge full U.S. tour planned for next year, among other tours, a new album etc. How hard is it to keep living that kind of band lifestyle while you are at an age where most have long giving up on hardcore? What keeps you inspired to do you what you do?

Basically, I don’t want to grow up just yet. So I’ll tour and work lame retail jobs in between just to avoid getting a real job. I have a marketing degree that I’ve been wasting since 2000, I could go get a decent job if I wanted to, but it’s not time for that. All I can really focus on is music right now, I gotta get it out of my system before I settle down. Luckily I have cheap rent and very VERY understanding girlfriend.

You were supposed to tour Europe again last August but that got cancelled, when do you expect to be back over? What are some of your fondest memories of that first European tour you did with Blacklisted and Shipwreck?

We plan on coming back to Europe next summer with a certain Belgian Devilcore Act called Rise And Fall, maybe you’ve heard of them. See what I did there? Now it has to happen, once it’s on the internet it’s real.

Fond memories include: sitting in that club on the 18 hour ferry to Finland watching Dubs kick game to 16 year old Russian girls, walking around in Prague which was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, Dance party after the show in Warsaw, pulling up to the Lintfabriek and seeing that massive crowd outside, being woken up at 4am by George who needed to tell the room that a certain member of one of the bands on the tour that wasn’t Blacklisted or Soul Control was upstairs making out with a dude. I really wish I didn’t let the money situation bring me down so much, I got pretty depressed at times but looking back, that was a great tour.

Ride - "Nowhere". Briefly explain why this is your favourite record ever.

I’ve been thinking about this question for days and I can’t come up with anything brief so I’ll just sum it up in one sentence: It is a perfect record.

Brief side story, I saw Mark Gardner do a solo show in Boston in 2005 and it was a tiny crowd due to Dinosaur Jr playing down the street. Mark bummed a cigarette off my girlfriend and we talked for a few minutes. Then he dedicated Dreams Burn Down (my fav Ride song) to me, which was probably the coolest thing happened in my life thus far.

Thanks Jim!
No problem. See you on that tour, I’ll help you get into OM.