I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Jim Lipucci and Wayne Richards from Soulless. The new album IN DEATH’S GRIP is now available on Auburn Records.
It has been almost six years since FOREVER DEFIANT. What has been going on since then?
Richards: We’ve been putting together songs & finishing the very long process of writing, recording & releasing the current album “In Death’s Grip” & playing the frequent metal gig. We’ve had a lineup change in the band for the first time since 2002. We are currently editing our first video, which upon completion will hopefully give the band a bit more international exposure with the amount of metal fans viewing online content these days.
Lipucci: We’ve been playing shows, drinking beer, enjoying buffets, y’know, the usual metal stuff.
How has the jump from World Chaos Records to Auburn Records been? Are World Chaos even still around?
Richards: Joining up with Auburn has been great for Soulless. Being with Auburn now we’ll have decent distribution & proper promotion in the European market as well as here in the States. Having a label so close to home makes it easier when hammering out details for band issues & just communicating in general. Bill Peters (Auburn Records Kingpin) has been a good friend of the band for a long time. We’ve had a lot of good times recently pounding beers & getting out of hand at minor league hockey games here in Cleveland. So we have a personal relationship as well as a professional one. It’s great to not have to wait multiple days to get a response to a band related inquiry as we have experienced in the past. So its been a good transition for us. I’m not aware of the current situation with World Chaos as we haven’t heard from them in years.
Lippucci: It wasn’t so much a jump as it was a slow crawl…I believe World Chaos is still around, although we haven’t heard from them in some time. I believe they may have been effected by the Godzilla related destruction that occurred in Japan a few years ago.
Your Executive Producer is listed as Bill Peters. Is that the same Bill Peters, head of Auburn and the long running Metal show Metal On Metal?
Richards: Yes that is the same Bill Peters. Bill; in addition to his excellent radio show, has put on a number of great metal shows throughout the years, has brought in some great bands & been responsible for numerous charitable events resulting in the outpouring of the metal community to benefit those less fortunate here in Cleveland. Bill has graciously included Soulless on many of these affairs & I guess the time finally came when we charmed him enough to join forces & release this album.
Lippucci: The same. He is now our cruel overlord and master.
Auburn is one of North America’s longest running and most respected underground Metal labels. How have they been treating you compared to the Japanese label?
Richards: Being an underground band, it made sense to us to get with a label that shares a longtime passion for metal & one that can bring the Soulless sound to new listeners. Bill literally knows ALL when it comes to metal music & has been doing his thing for a very long time. He has given great exposure to lesser known Cleveland area artists throughout the years & having him guide us into this new territory has certainly been gratifying for the band. Thanks to Bill & Auburn, Soulless will be performing our most massive gig this summer at Wacken Open Air Festival. Its a rare opportunity for a band like us to have, so we plan to slay.
Lippucci: Bill is awesome and things are working out well. It’s nice to be on a label that is local. It allows for more personal interactions and really helps to keep things moving smoothly. Plus they are around to help move gear when we need it.
There are at least a dozen bands, (world-wide) past and present who have called themselves Soulless. You guys have had the name for over 15 years now and 4 studio albums. Do people still confuse you with those ‘other’ bands who have no souls?
Richards: Those other bands most likely may not have heard of us just as we have not heard of them. But when you choose a band name, you can do a simple google search or check metal-archives.com to see if an established band with the name you want to use has already been taken. When we chose the name, to my knowledge; when we formed in 1997 there were no signed bands called Soulless. But if there is any confusion, we are Soulless from Cleveland, OH.
Lippucci: I’m sure they do, but we rarely hear of it. The only one that really annoys us is the Earache band that decided a couple of years ago that by adding a “the” to the name they could erase our history and usurp our moniker. Jerks.
The five of you have been a band for over a decade. What is the secret to your line-up stability?
Richards: Actually, we lost guitarist Jim Corrick last year to a woodworking addiction. But 80% of the Soulless lineup from the past decade is still intact with the addition of Cleveland guitar dynamo Matt Sorg (Ringworm/Beyond Fear). But to answer the stability question; the key is just having a passion to create good songs & enjoy playing them. If everyone in the band can focus on the same goal, you can move forward through the years building on the positives and vanquishing the negatives. We’ve had more than our fair share of bumps in the road & for some reason we’ve been able to overcome those obstacles. But at the end of the day I think a band is defined by the music it leaves behind. We all still have that fire burning in us to make great metal.
Lippucci: To be fair, only three of us have been in the band the whole time. Don’t know if there is really a secret, except that we are all amazingly charming, amicable and congenial. It also helps that we share the same moronic sense of humor and similar taste in music.
I noticed you still you still your evil-looking mascot dude. What is his name and does he/it have a story?
Richards: He’s been dubbed Al. Al was a very unique looking customer who was introduced in the Agony’s Lament artwork where he is being impaled, in chains & in a torturous sort of mustardy void.
He breaks free in the Forever Defiant artwork where Al exacts revenge & retribution on his captors.
Now on In Death’s Grip, we see he is again agonizingly detained, this time in the gears of some sort of ominous death machine. We all liked the look of theinitial character created by artist Matt Cavotta & he was able to keep Al as a recurring centerpiece in the album covers. Al’s a good sport.
Lippucci: We call him Al. He’s just some poor tortured demon who can’t seem to keep himself out of precarious predicaments.
In this day and age of download and digital formats, how important to you and Soulless is presentation and physical media, ie. CD’s?
Richards: I understand the technological changes in music and the need and convenience for newer, younger fans to be able to download their music. But growing up in a different era, as a collector I find it’s always better to be able to hold on to something tangible, to be able to look at lyrics and follow along with the music. To put the CD in with all of your others to complete the artist’s discography in your collection. Just to be able to look closely at artwork is part of the musical experience. So we definitely wanted to have a physical release for people to experience properly. But the album is also available on Itunes for people who want to go that route.
Lippucci: I find it very important, personally. I grew up listening to vinyl and was raised on the “album” concept. Singles are stupid. I want a physical product in my hands with kick ass packaging, lyrics, photos and all that other cool stuff, so that is what we make.
Switching gears to talk more about the present, tell us about the writing and recording of IN DEATH’S GRIP.
Richards: We recorded the drums at Spider Studio with Ben Schigel (who recorded The Darkening of Days & Forever Defiant ) & eventually took those tracks to Bad Back Studios where Dave Johnson (Soulless bassist) completed the engineering and mixing and shaped these songs into what I believe is our finest sounding album. I’m extremely pleased with the end result in the production and the overall tone of In Death’s Grip. We really took our time with the writing this time around, and the recording process was also a bit drawn out (hence the 5 years between records), but overall I think people will really dig this record. There’s a lot of thrash at the forefront on the album, there are really heavy doomy parts & there are fast death metal moments. I think the Soulless signature is a melodic metal element that is constant theme throughout & sort of acts as the glue that fits the different pieces together. As Soulless records go, its not as fast as our previous efforts. Perhaps a sign of our collective graceful aging (with the exception of Lippucci). There are metal areas we have not previously explored as deeply as we did this time around, but I think we successfully established some new ground in the constructing of this album.
Lippucci: Our writing process is pretty straightforward…these guys come in mostly with finished songs, we tweak them, I write some words and at some point we eventually record them. This time around was a little different, since we did most of the recording at our bass player Dave’s Bad Back Studios. It really gave us an opportunity to spend a lot of time getting things right. We’re pretty happy with the results.
Your cover of Destructor’s ‘Take Command’ is a brilliant choice. However, of all the choices in the Metal world, why that song?
Richards: Being big fans of Destructor & being brought on board to the Auburn roster, we thought it would be a cool way to honor both the band and the label. I thought Take Command was a good one off Maximum Destruction because the riffs are pretty distinguished & it has a raging thrash vibe that we applied Soulless stylings to & sort of made our own. But at the same time we haven’t veered off course from the original. Plus its the only song on the record that includes the lyric “I’m sick of your rules!” It was a blast to play & Dave Overkill was kind enough to come in and add some vocals, which really validated the whole thing for us.
Lippucci: We wanted to add some kind of bonus track, a cover or a live tune or something. Bill Peters suggested a Destructor tune, which seemed only natural. Growing up in Cleveland, I always sort of idolized those guys… they’re probably the best metal band to ever come out of this town. “Take Command’ was always a song I wanted to cover, so it was the song I suggested, and everyone seemed to think it was a great choice. We’re really happy with how it turned out and it was even cooler to get Dave Overkill in there to do some vocals.
Do you find touring even harder in this day and age? Do you plan to hop on a North American tour or even get over to Europe for festival season?
Richards: We have never been a touring band. We’ve never been on the road for more than 3 consecutive shows. Now that’s not to say we wouldn’t like to jump on a tour & open for a great band for a couple of weeks. Touring now is a difficult proposition when you have band members with limited vacation time from their jobs, mortgages and bills that need to be paid in a timely manner. Just getting offered the right opportunity is a hard thing to come by. To be a part of a tour that would make sense financially & be a worthwhile excursion for the band is the ultimate challenge. Best case scenario for us would be as an opener on 2 week jaunt. This is why it has been so difficult for Soulless to tour. But yes, we will be appearing at Wacken this year, so who knows, maybe that appearance will open other doors for us.
Lippucci: Unfortunately things like mortgages and jobs keep the band from any sustained touring. Add current gas prices to the mix and it makes things even tougher. No North American tours coming up, but the label managed to get us on this year’s Wacken Open Air Fest, which is like a dream come true.
As the primary song-writer/lyricist, where do you draw your inspiration from?
Richards: I’ve always been a huge fan hard rock & heavy metal and a lover of thrash and death metal. I love bands like Iron Maiden, AC/DC, UFO, Motorhead, Trouble, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, anything with Dio. Then you got 80s thrash like Slayer, Exodus, Voivod, Sacrifice, Razor, Sodom & Kreator. And death metal bands like Bolt Thrower, Entombed, Edge of Sanity, Desultory & At The Gates were also big influences. So writing fast thrashy songs with compelling riffs and a splash of melody is in my wheelhouse. I try to write intense, raging riffs with a melodic touch & complement here & there with some ripping dual guitar harmonies.
Lipucci: I’m mostly inspired by the misery that is my life and also the world at large. Between the viciousness we humans show each other and the corruption in our religious, social and political hierarchy, it seems I will have plenty of inspiration in the future. I also draw a bit from literature and some popular culture, along with beer and copious amounts of weed.
As the main guitarist, for all the gear-heads, tell us what kind of gear you use.
Richards: I suppose the guitar is where the main sound originates & I use a 1988 BC Rich Warlock with a DiMarzio X2N bridge pickup & Kahler tremelo bridge. 50 watt Marshall JCM800 with an old Digitech RP12 for added gain & EQ through an Avatar 4X12 cabinet with Celestion Vintage 30s. Hanes boxer briefs. 12 oz.Yuenglings.
This is a cliche question, but what does the immediate future hold in store for Soulless?
Richards: We have 4 newer songs since the In Death’s Grip release, so we may use a few of those for an upcoming EP. We’re very excited to write more new material with our old friend & new guitarist Matt Sorg. We’re going to have a video finished within the next month or so, and then we’ll play Wacken at the beginning of August. So we’re trying to stay busy, forge ahead & get Soulless into as many earholes as we can.
Lipucci: As I said earlier we have this whole WOA thing going on. We are also currently working on new material and hope to have an EP done by August. This would include a couple of new tunes and a couple of live tunes along with a cover…Hopefully a Tankard song. A few shows here and there, and then on to the next full length.