The Chicago metal outfit formed back in 1979 and after a slew of genre-defining albums including Psalm 9 and The Skull on Metal Blade Records, as well as a self titled album in 1990 and Manic Frustration produced by Rick Rubin (yes – the Rick Rubin), the band took a short hiatus in 1996 amidst internal conflicts within the band.
They eventually reformed, and continued to tour and produce albums for close to another decade or so.
Fast-forward to 2013, and Trouble is back with some new faces including drummer Marko Lira and singer Kyle Thomas, to join the original founders Rick Wartell and Bruce Franklin.
The band’s latest release, The Distortion Field (FRW Music) showcases the band returning to their rocking metal roots with songs drenched in deep, grooving riffs, yet with a renewed vigor.
Once the band decided to head out on the road to support the new album, they knew they needed a pro bass player with top-level talent and monster chops, as well as an appreciation of their music.
Enter bassist Rob Hultz, whose pedigree includes holding down the low end for metal acts including Solace and Godspeed.
Rob joined the band last Fall prior to their short European Tour that included shows at Day of Doom Barcelona and Dutch Doom Days.
I was tapped by Trouble’s PR Director to see if I’d be interested in doing an interview with Rob and, of course, I accepted.
I had been introduced to Trouble’s music before through a friend of a friend some years ago and I can say beyond doubt that Trouble certainly brought some of the toughest metal I had ever heard and the opportunity to speak to someone of such an influential presence on doom metal seemed like an honor like none other.
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ME: People come to bass guitar for different reasons. Some people changed over from guitar, some people started on bass, other people learned the instrument just to learn the instrument. What’s the story of your musical background? How did bass guitar first enter your musical world and can you share your story of learning the instrument?
RH: I started out playing guitar, but it was so brief that I never considered myself a guitar player. I just wanted to play rock so when I saw that a local punk band with a large following needed a bass player; I tried out and got the gig. Since I could play a little guitar, bass came naturally for me, but I was just strumming a couple of notes at the time. Interestingly enough, the guitar player from that band and I grew together as musicians and over the years have just tried to keep up with each other musically.
ME: Let’s talk about joining Trouble. How did you first meet up with the Trouble band members? What was your audition like to be a part of the band?
RH: I met Marko, Kyle, and Rick while playing in other bands or just out and about in the Chicago music scene, so we knew each other somewhat. I met Bruce at my audition. It was a bit of a nerve-racking experience, as I had never played in a band where I wasn’t one of the songwriters, so it was strange to go back and learn their back catalogue, which is quite extensive. I sat in front of my record player and computer for a couple of weeks and just learned the material. I never get nervous playing but that day I was for sure as I’m a huge fan. I think it went pretty well as I wound up getting the gig – ha ha.
ME: What have some of your biggest challenges been since joining Trouble musical and otherwise? How has being a part of Trouble differed from your past projects, Solace, Godspeed, Lethal Aggression and Social Decay?
RH: I would say that there weren’t many challenges joining Trouble, as they have been extremely supportive to make my transition to the band was very smooth. But I would say that I love Trouble’s music so much that I could rehearse every day – ha ha ha. My experience of playing with Solace, Godspeed and with Tom Southard prepped me to be in a band like Trouble as we came from the same school of thought so my playing style fits. My live performance playing experience comes from bands like Social Decay, I like to move around a bit on stage.
ME: What did your routine look like for learning all of Trouble’s back logged songs?
RH: My routine looked like me and a record player, rewinding and pulling my hair out at times. I actually had a buddy come over and we played the songs together since he’s a fan too, so that made it fun.
ME: Many musicians change out gear over time and develop new tastes for different sounds and tones. How has your gear changed and evolved since starting with your first project and beginning with Trouble?
RH: Gear wise I always told myself, don’t reinvent the wheel here, just get what Geezer Butler or Jack Bruce use. So I stocked up on Sunn and Ampeg early in my career and since I started collecting gear in the 80’s, that stuff was way cheaper than now so I got lucky. But since I started to play hardcore and a more Iron Maiden-style of music, and playing with my fingers, I put some overdrive and boost to my sound. I still use vintage amps and guitars, as they just feel right to me.
ME: How would you describe your sound and your tone these days with Trouble?
RH: I went back to my roots with Trouble as they have a great mix of Sabbath doom riff but with some NWOBHM twin guitar attack, so I get to switch it up from song to song.
ME: Who were some of your earliest musical role models? Do you still draw inspiration from them?
RH: My earliest role models were the greats: Bruce, Butler, Eintwhistle, Anthony. Then I discovered Iron Maiden and Metallica, then COC and the Cro Mags, then Motorhead.
ME: How would you describe your playing style? Is there a particular bassist you’ve modeled yourself after or found yourself looking back to for inspiration and ideas?
RH: My influences are very present in my style, I finger play, so my range can go from Mike Dean to Cliff Burton, so I would consider my style a box doom riff with a shotgun attitude. Which actually fits the Trouble sound and playing style.
ME: You’re going to be embarking on a small U.S. tour soon and your first one at that this June. How has preparation for this tour been?
RH: Prepping was great for this tour as we put some new songs in the set list and rehearsals have been great. The band sounds real good and is rested and ready to go. These will be great shows as we’re very excited to get out on the road. I also jam at home to keep fresh.
ME: On a side note, I hear that you’re vintage chopper builder and have been awarded for your work this past year. How did you first start working with choppers?
RH: Thanks for asking. During the time in between Solace and Godspeed I was just in a funk creative-wise. I was restless and I needed an outlet from not playing shows. Around 1997 I picked up a cheap ‘56 Triumph that needed a lot of work so I just started tinkering with it and just fell in love with the whole process of what it takes to get a vintage motorcycle built. I then just naturally progressed from Triumphs to Harley Davidsons and actually considered retiring from bass player to just do bikes. But I soon learned my need to play rock and be on stage is something nothing else could ever replace. I feel truly blessed to have both outlets in my life and to be on top of my game right now. I work out a shop in Chicago called Bravetown and being in Trouble allows me to be able to build bikes and tour, having time for both.
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Trouble will be coming to the following cities for their summer tour:
Check out the band’s tour promo video here:
And don’t forget to connect with Rob and Trouble to get all the latest Trouble news, specials and tour announcements on Facebook
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