Interview with Ruben Block (Triggerfinger)

 

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to chat to us here at Silver Tiger Media. Not long now before Colossus is unleashed to the unsuspecting public. We are beyond excited, first up can you describe “Colossus” to someone who’s not come across you guys before.

It’s our new, most recent album. Maybe we’re not the ones to shed an objective light on the subject because we’ve been living with the music for a long time. It’s an album recorded by a 3-piece Rock & Roll band consisting of drums, bass, guitars & vocals (for this album some songs are driven by two basses instead of bass & guitar) spiced-up with a plethora of additional organs, keyboards and weird instruments played by the wonderful Mitchell Froom and Tenor and Baritone sax by Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin. There’s hard driven riffs and more subtle atmospheres. It’s an adventurous journey.

How long have you all known each other? How did you meet?

The time was December 1998. We were playing in different bands before I asked Mario and Paul to join Triggerfinger. We were fans of each other. I first asked Mario after playing a couple of gigs with another Belgian singer who hired us both. At first we started playing with a friend of his on bass, Wladimir Geels. Unfortunately he had to quit the band for personal reasons. Around that time we wanted to record our first album. We knew Paul had a recording studio. He was mainly a guitar player at that time who played in several bands and did a lot of session work. We asked him if we could record the album at his studio and if he wanted to join the band on bass. Our goal was to play as much as we could. Wherever. So we basically played every little bar that would have us. We just wanted to explore and feel the live interaction between the three of us.

What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?

One of the biggest challenges from my point of view I think is with every new album trying to come up with good songs and challenge ourselves creatively when making new albums. Exploring territories outside of our comfort-zone. I think Colossus has been a great step in that aspect. I think we managed to open up a couple of extra doors that led to some new exiting playgrounds.

Can you explain the meaning behind the album title?

First there was the song “Colossus”. First there was the bass parts. The title and lyric came out of the music, from playing the chorus riff. It seemed the chorus didn’t really need a vocal “melody”. The shout-out seemed to work. From there I started writing around the headspace Colossus. I like the fact that the lyric can carry a lot of interpretations.

How long did this CD take to make from start to finish?

I started writing the songs and making demo’s April last year (2016). In June we flew to Santa Monica to sit down with Mitchell (Froom) to see if the vibe was right to try and make a cool album together. We connected really well. During the next three days we talked music, drank gallons of coffee, had lunches, dinners, listen to our early demo’s, tried out some additional parts and different harmonic approaches. We flew home with a very positive vibe and I carried on writing more songs, which I send to my fellow band-mates and Mitchell whenever a new demo was ready. In October we flew back to Santa Monica to record the album in Mitchell’s studio together with his engineer, David Boucher. I think we stayed 6 weeks. The album was mixed beginning 2017 by Tchad Blake in his studio in Wales UK.

And are you pleased with the outcome? (sound – production wise)

We are very pleased with the outcome. It’s become an exiting sounding eccentric collection of songs. Everyone in the process of making the album played an important part in making the album sound the way it does. It’s a real group effort from everyone involved.

Did you or the producer (Mitchell Froom) use any experimental recording techniques?

I think we always experiment in the studio to a certain extend. A lot of times it might be things we tried before… or new things.. or techniques you heard about.. or by just fooling around, not knowing what you’re doing. Sometimes something might happen, and you don’t know exactly how you got there but it sounds cool. David Boucher, the engineer, usually put the recording setup together. Before we would start recording a new song we would discuss atmosphere, sound ideas vibe etc etc and David would get to work and setup mic’s, preamps, tape-delays, wollensak recorder. Sometimes we would change something after a take. Adjust the setup a little maybe and carried on.

Are there any ‘crazy’ behind the scenes anecdotes from these sessions that you can share?

I guess if we’re in the process of recording a record and finding ourselves in that one room for the most part of the day, every day, with this gang of people I think sometimes it might look pretty crazy for an outsider stepping in… Depending when they would enter the room. The whole process has been extremely wonderful. There was absolutely no ego stress in the room from no one. Of course there where things that sometimes didn’t immediately work out but we eventually seemed to overcome all the obstacles we faced by listening to each other and trying to find a solution. When you’re working together so intensively you’re completely occupied with the music and recording and you don’t always realise whom you are working with (which on a certain level might be a good thing). There was one occasion where I was standing next to Mario (Goossens, drums) and Mitchell was pretty much lying on the floor playing a keyboard part on an old Chamberlin organ. (He had two of them stacked on each other but the one on the floor sounded better he said) I turned to Mario and said: “look, that’s the guy who produced Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney, Randy Newman, Los Lobos etc etc.. And he’s lying on the floor, playing keyboards on our album.”

I am wondering if you could tell us a bit about the tracks? (lyrical, meaning etc)

In general, I don’t believe so much in explaining lyrics. There is already so much laid out and explained and transformed into YouTube clips and picturised on social media that there’s not much left to feed our imagination. It’s nice that people can make up their own vibe, image or mindset with those lyrics. Even when I write those songs I might start with a sentence or word, start writing, get into a certain head-space and it might all shift and change at some point because I wrote another sentence that changes the whole mood or topic. I even might not know what it’s about anymore, but sometimes it doesn’t matter. It might become more interesting. I guess the most important thing is that it feels right.. or wrong.. if you want it to feel wrong.

What is your advice to anyone wanting to get into the music industry?

It depends what you want to do in the music industry? I don’t feel like I’m the one who holds the key to success in the music industry (whatever that may be or mean..?) If you want to be a musician I suggest you mainly try to have fun making music and playing. Making a living might not be obvious. I guess it involves a lot of hard work, persistence, try not to lose your sense of humour, a little luck here and there, finding qualified and trustworthy people to work with or who can represent you if needed. At this point making an album the way we did it might not pay our money back in record sales. We do it for the love of music and trying to make something worthwhile. On the other hand I also believe you can still play and write music and have a job on the side. There’s nothing wrong with that, if you can manage it all. I did it for a long time, even in the beginning when we started Triggerfinger.

How do you feel about the internet in the music business?

That whole world is still evolving, everyday, almost at the speed of light it seems. There are a couple of pros and cons I guess. Obviously you have the opportunity to reach an enormous amount of people around the world, immediately. Which is amazing. When making a record with a producer in Santa Monica, or anywhere in the world, you can easily send demo’s and lyrics to wherever they need to be. You can do your preproduction from home. Concerning streaming I don’t know where that’s gonna go. I come from a time where we bought music. You had to make a specific choice what you wanted. And you bought albums: a collection of songs usually written to sit together in a certain headspace, probably being influenced by each other in the writing process. On one hand it’s extremely cool that so much music is available on the streaming platforms. On the other hand I have experienced, for me personally, it feels like there’s too much in front of you to choose from. I do stream music, but I also still play CD’s and vinyl. With streaming kids sometimes seem to be more fans of certain playlists than artists (not always, but it’s a “phenomenon”). I think we (especially the record “labels”/streaming companies) need to be very aware that the people who deliver the content for those platforms still get payed for their work. I don’t know how the consuming of music will evolve. Some people even start questioning the relevance of the album format because kids just pick songs they like. For me it’s still relevant to make an album because the concentration that comes with working on that collection of songs benefits the individual quality… I think.. We’ll see where it goes. I’m still having truckloads of fun writing songs and making records.

Who are your influences and heroes/heroins?? (music-wise)

I think on one hand this spot might be to limited to write them all down and on the other hand I believe you don’t always know where your influences come from. And that’s a good thing. A big part of the creation process probably displays itself in the unconscious. Of course there are a lot of people you look up to, but the influences that seep through into your work might also be writers, painters, actors… or your kids.. or a wonderful little Cretan restaurant.. I think for instance Francis Bacon might have as big an influence on what I make than Iggy Pop, or Louis CK, Elvis, Jack Nicholson, PJ Harvey, Barkmarket, Tom Wolfe, Egon Schiele, Grace Jones, ZZ Top, Nudie, Dali, David Lynch, Hunter S. Thompson, James Brown, Pina Bausch, Kermit the Frog, John Berryman, Robert Palmer, the Beatles and the Stones, The Cramps, Guy Bourdin, AC/DC, Helmut Newton, George Jones, Irving Penn, Slayer, Howlin Wolf …… Or a band of young kids who play on the same festival before you, who barely can hold and/or play their instruments but manage to somehow produce a very cool sound.. or groove.. or a very bad one. And that might also influence you.

How would you describe the live music scene in Belgium starting out?

I think we started playing in a very cool environment with a lot of exiting bands playing and writing music. It challenges you to see your colleagues make great stuff. I like to feel positively jealous of other people. It raises the bar and gives you a kick in the bud. There were a lot of bars and little clubs to play, mess around and learn your craft.

What’s next for Triggerfinger?

We are just starting to play live again. Getting new songs integrated in the set. It’s great and disturbing because it turns everything upside down. Which is a good thing from time to time. Especially since for the majority of the shows we’re taking along an extra musician in the form of a guitar player who almost sounds like a keyboard or a keyboard player who sounds like a guitar.

Feel free to check what happens in and around our little world on our platforms:

www.triggerfinger.net

https://www.facebook.com/triggerfingerpage

https://www.instagram.com/triggerfingerofficial/