After a long hiatus spanning more than a decade UK doom veterans Solstice,are finally back with a new EP. Paul Kearns, the friendly Irishman behind the mic, talk about about their long overdue return.
What brought about the decision to put Solstice on hold in 2001?
As far as I am aware, when Rich put things on ice in 2001 it was ‘cos he thought that the others in the band had lost their focus and were treating it as more of a chance to go and do a gig whilst having a party at the same time.
There’s nothing wrong with partying and in fact I have been bordering on almost becoming a master of that craft at times but it should never, ever get in the way of the music or the performance. Unfortunately some people don’t really see it that way.
Maybe if you’re a sloppy Stoner band that actually thrives playing live whilst drunk or high then…sure. Solstice’s music is not like that though and if someone in the band is fucked it’s going to affect the show in anything but a positive way.
That’s my understanding anyway about what went down with the “New Dark Age” gang.
I think they’d come to the end of the road in other ways and were drifting anyway.
How come it came back to life then now?
I believe it was primarily Andy who got Rich back into it. Again I am only going on bits and pieces of information I have picked up here and there. I think Lenny, who was playing bass when I joined also played a part but I would have to say that Andy seems to have been the one to light a fire under Walker.
I do know that Rich definitely felt that he had not said everything he thought should be said by the Solstice entity and he would have felt that he had left a lot unsaid had Solstice remained alive in name only and not been brought back after the years of silence.
How did you fill the gap of those 13 years. Were you involved in any other musical endeavours?
There were some things here and there with Solstice. A box set through Iron kodex for example.
Rich also did the Isen Torr thing which seemed to excite a lot of people but I reckon it was always Solstice people craved and similarly it was always Solstice that was his true calling.
The climate for true doom is a lot better now in any case it seems. You started out when everyone was listening to black metal by way of speaking and this style was very much marginalized. Today with festivals such as Roadburn for instance a lot has changed?
I don’t disagree with you at all. Solstice were not exactly pursuing a high fashion sound when they began. However, let’s not pronounce the lame healed and the dead arisen just yet. There was a very strong shift towards the incorporation of Doom Metal into bands sound back then in the UK. However, Solstice were one of a small number of bands to eschew Death Metal as an active element in their sound.
The environment is different now, true. Doom Metal is seemingly sitting on a polished altar these days. That’s very, very good I think. I, however, think that our various scenes today are simply drifting further and further from the pride of individuality that was once a defining trait of our underground scenes. Bands that currently sit en vougue seem to be there because everyone seems to like the same things, dislike the same scenes.
What was once a badge of honour to stand out even amongst us Heavy Metal misfits ourselves now seems to be a no, no. Shame.
Case in point being vinyl. People are only able to get such money cos everyone seems to want the same stuff on the same format. Individuality seems to be nothing more than a slogan for a tattoo or a patch for most today I feel. That’s not a good thing by the way….
Do you feel you’re picking up where ‘New Dark Age’ had ended or have lot of things changed in the meantime?
That’s kinda difficult to answer, it’s quite broad. I don’t know if it’s possible to really answer a question like that in any real succinct way considering its breadth….and especially considering the vast amount of time since “New Dark Age”…not forgetting how broad the worlds of music and movement are.
Essentially for Rich…and I’ll say the entire band….it is a case of moving on from where you left the band as far as progress goes but I would say overall it is anything but that.
In the amount of time that had passed not only had the entire landscape of music changed massively – the advent of the social medias, the almost devalued CD format, the false market value of vinyl, the number of bands to have come and gone etc.
More importantly a person’s mindset and conditions change hugely too.
Walker is the father of three children now and is also married to a hugely supportive and understanding lady, these are things that will have plunged Solstice down his priority list from back in the day for a start.
I also think that anyone, and this is obviously aimed at the masses of reunion and reformation bands popping up, who thinks that they are owed a head start now because of achievements ‘back then’ is missing the purpose of music altogether and should rethink immediately.
How did the new band come together?
I believe it all began with Andy and Lenny. Andy being the proper catalyst.
Of those unlucky enough to be stuck within spitting distance of Rich at his amp now Andy is the longest serving, followed by me, Izak and then James.
I think he needed to be coerced from his cage by Andy initially or perhaps it was the other way around.
I sought them out after they released Paul Britton.
Izak and James we sought out ourselves as we thought they could be strong additions and indeed they have proved to be more than that.
This EP is only a teaser of the full length which is to come. Could you tell us a bit more about it already?
Plan is for the next release to be another mini album actually.
“To Sol A Thane” is still planned on being the title and it’ll feature titles like “Behold, A Man Of Straw” and “White Horse Hill”.
People are not going crazy about us releasing another mini album but the fact is that I think a full length could have us waiting for years and years again. We don’t fancy that idea really.
Anyway, in this social media/mp3/music shuffle age….do many people have the attention spans for an hour of music in one go?
Hard to say but either way, for us the releasing of another mini seems most likely. Sorry full length lovers.
In the past Solstice seemed to be a breeding ground for musicians that would later move to all the big names in the UK scene: My Dying Bride, Cradle of Filth, Anathema to name a few? How come everybody kept “ stealing” your band members?
Bright lights, big city. They were all members who were brought into the Solstice line up by Rich and Chaz back in the day and I suppose they didn’t have the same dedication to the band that those two did.
Also, you gotta remember….as young guys new to the world of playing in bands that were internationally known and had followings all over Europe and elsewhere these guys were being given the chance to play all over and probably be able to make a living from music, so I can’t say it’s all that surprising that they jumped ship. When it comes down to it, most people will look past what they view as their passion musically if they can go for a second best and have an exciting lifestyle along with it. Maybe in some cases they were actually going to a band that was more to their preference…..I don’t know.
Funny how it all turns out though – Cradle always flirted with being a bit of a joke band but their first few releases had some great stuff. Musically though they have not really been up to much for a long time.
My Dying Bride are a band I used to love but these days just seem to make albums trying to be what they used to be and are unfortunately little more than a parody now.
Anathema though? There’s a band. They got so much shit for changing and whereas My Dying Bride ran with their tails between their legs and tailor made an album in their old style, Anathema stuck to their guns and have emerged to be more popular than ever doing things their own way. Definitely a band deserving of respect.
Are you following some of the interesting new doom bands from the UK. Witchsorrow especially comes to mind, for instance?
I’m always on the look out for good Doomy stuff and might take this moment to make a couple of recommendations but from my own beloved Island…..Ireland.
Mourning Beloveth released an album last year called “Formless” which is just fucking stunning. That band have matured into one of the best anywhere and that album is the best of 2013 for me.
Another is Graveyard Dirt. Not sure if they are still active but they released a mini CD in 2008 called “Shadows Of Old Ghosts” and it’s one of the greatest things I have ever heard. Their full length from a few years later is not as good in my opinion but then nothing really beats “Shadows….”.
Good luck in the World Cup.