Antihero Magazine photojournalist Scott Martin spoke with vocalist Sol Bales of Des Moines, Iowa’s metal alchemists, Green Death.
ANTIHERO: Define the band name Green Death?
Sol Bales: There’s no really good meaning. It was just on a list of names when we came up with band names that I had, from a long list of names. It was more of a tribute kind of to Type O Negative in a way, because it has green and death. You think black, so green and black.
ANTIHERO: Can you tell me a little bit about how the band was formed?
Sol Bales: The band was formed by me, our former guitar player Eric, and our current rhythm guitar player Mark “Sparky” Reinking. We formed it in 2012 after our last band kind of ended and then we were a three piece at first and then we just started to add players as the years, we just started out trying to get songs together and put something out with just the three of us and then ended up finally trying to get a live band together and then Green Death became what it is today after about a year and a half.
ANTIHERO: Where does your sound derive from?
Sol Bales: Lots of different genres. We’re all big fans of different music, so a lot of thrash and a lot of death metal. I’m a big doom metal fan, so we’re certain to get more into the doom kind of sound as well, and trying to dabble in pretty much any genre. We don’t really have limitations because we’re all big fans of just different music and all across the board as far as thrash bands go, from Metallica and Megadeath and doom bands and old Black Sabbath, Paradise Lost, Type O Negative, into just straightforward heavy metal bands, as well. And rock bands. So, we’re kind of just all over the place.
ANTIHERO: Describe the songwriting process?
Sol Bales: A lot of the songs are written by me starting out with just either riff ideas or lyrical ideas, whether it be a vocal idea and I try to bring a lot of the riffs in the practices and then we’ll piece together songs as the other members contribute ideas as far as composition goes, what verse is, how many verses, how many choruses, things like that.
There are times when I’ll bring in a full song, but a lot of times it’s just kind of parts and I have a general idea of a structure, but I really don’t care too much just as long as the main point of the song gets across. So, I try to open that up to everybody else to try to add their parts, whether it be a drum idea from our drummer now and what the bass player wants to play and stuff like that. And obviously it has to follow the song, but I have a general idea of what the song will be, I just want to bring it in and have everybody contribute parts equally.
ANTIHERO: Do you feel it is important to step out of your comfort zone when it comes to writing songs?
Sol Bales: Yeah, definitely. Lately I’ve been trying to do alternate tunings just because I think you get stuck in a specific tuning on your guitar. For us, a lot of the stuff is in Drop C, so I’m trying to tune to like a Drop B Flat or a standard C tuning, or just some alternate tunings to get some ideas going and not get stuck in the same routine, because I feel like a lot of the times when I sit down at a guitar, the intervals that I’m used to playing with my hands, it’s just become too comfortable. So, if I change the tuning up, then those intervals change quite a bit and I have to figure out a new way to play something or it’ll just give me new ideas from a different perspective on a different tuning, so I definitely think it’s good to get out of your comfort zone. Start with a vocal idea instead of guitar parts or start with the guitar part instead of vocals and do vocals later. I mean, all of that helps. Keeping it fresh is always good.
ANTIHERO: Can you tell me, what was the deciding factor that you chose to sign with Dave Ellefson’s label EMP?
Sol Bales: Well, we had put out two EPs, a full-length album, and then another full-length album within the span of about three years. So, the last independent album we released was Manufacturing Evil. Then we did a tour or two, then we got invited to play on Knotfest 2015.
So, we played that show and we were kind of looking, and we were always sending our stuff out to labels. Not getting a ton of responses back. So, at the time, I believe we were talking to a couple of labels, though, and after we played Knotfest, we met Tom backstage and he let us know he was working with David Ellefson, working for him on the label. And obviously we’re all huge fans of David Ellefon and Megadeath, so we were interested right away and gave him our stuff, and he sent it to Dave, and Dave called us I think two days after we got back from tour to talk to us about joining the label and it was a pretty easy decision at that time, us being huge fans of Megadeath and just having Dave’s name associated with the band. We thought that was a good step forward for us from putting everything out independently to getting on EMP and having a solid name like David Ellefson associated with our band.
ANTIHERO: Do you know of any other bands that are with EMP?
Sol Bales: Yeah. There’s quite a few bands. Dead By Wednesday, Dollskin, Doyle just recently. Yeah, there’s a lot of bands. Hell Stars on EMP Underground, I believe. So, they’ve got a side label that does more extreme or different genres on the EMP Underground. I’m not sure exactly what all the genres they cover on the Underground portion of the label is, but I know there’s a lot of bands on EMP.
ANTIHERO: Can you tell me a little bit about your latest release, Pure Torture, as in where was it recorded? Who produced and mixed it? And the biggest challenges you encountered during the recording process?
Sol Bales: Yeah. Pure Torture was all recorded here in Des Moines, Iowa. Every one of our releases has been recorded here with Griffin Landa. He’s an engineer locally in Des Moines. He’s also the bassist for the Acacia Strain. So, he has a recording studio called The Establishment Recording here in Des Moines, and we produced it with him. Obviously, David Ellefson’s the executive producer of the EP, but as far as the actual nitty gritty working and doing the production and mixing and all that stuff, that was Griffin and the band.
So, I would say the biggest challenge, there wasn’t a whole lot of challenges on Pure Torture. It was more just trying to get something new out in the world, because it had been quite a bit since we had released, we released Manufacturing Evil, I don’t know, in 2015 I believe it was. And then it was re-released in 2016 with nothing really new on the album, EMP had just wanted to re-release it, so we changed up some stuff on there and David Vincent from Morbid Angel did some guest vocals for us on one of the tracks to make it at least somewhat new, at least one of the tracks. But it had been about two years since we put anything new out, so we knew we needed to get something out to just prove that we’re still going forward, we’re still moving our sound forward as well. We just wanted to get at least an EP out and we chose the first three songs that we had in a finished form for that EP and what we thought was the strongest for that EP.
ANTIHERO: So, are you going to be releasing a full-length any time soon?
Sol Bales: Yeah. The plan is to be releasing a full-length in 2018.
ANTIHERO: And Pure Torture, was that the first album you actually released with EMP besides Manufacturing Evil?
Sol Bales: Yeah. Pure Torture‘s the first EP of original tunes that was released on EMP as Manufacturing Evil was released before independently and then it was pulled off the shelf and re-released with EMP. So, this is the first original recording that we have with EMP. Not first original, I should say first batch of songs that are new with EMP.
ANTIHERO: When it comes to songwriting, what subjects inspire your songwriting?
Sol Bales: I’m a big fan of horror, horror movies, so a lot of horror movies inspire me. I read a lot of H.P. Lovecraft. All my tattoos are based on H.P. Lovecraft. So, a lot of Lovecraft inspiration is going on. Some religious stuff gets pulled in there occasionally. It’s the, I’d say it’s probably the standard fare you come across in any metal band. You try to pull in at least something different, talk about something new. So, it’s either based in horror or religion or that kind of stuff. It just depends on the song. It depends on the sound. Usually I try to get a sound going or a vibe on the song and then from there I usually come up with at least one or two words and then that leads me to come up with a whole theme or I’ll base my lyrics around those two lyrics ideas.
ANTIHERO: Coming on to that point, what is your favorite horror movie of all time?
Sol Bales: Phantasm.
ANTIHERO: Now that the album’s been released on June 2nd, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
Sol Bales: The rest of the year, we’ve got some regional stuff going on. We’re hopefully going to be doing a tour here late summer, early fall. And then we’re going to just try to get on as many shows as possible, maybe do a couple of tours this fall. At least out to the west coast and hopefully the east coast, as well. So, we’ll see what we can get ourselves on. And then we’re writing, obviously, for the full album still.
ANTIHERO: In your opinion, not genre specific, what is the greatest song ever written?
Sol Bales: Oh, man. That’s a tough one. The greatest song ever written. Not even the greatest band, huh? Man. That is such a tough question. There are so many good songs. Definitely one of my favorites is Black Sabbath, just the song “Black Sabbath” by Black Sabbath is one of my favorite songs. And obviously it started a lot of what we have, what we get for heavy metal today. I think that song started most of it. But oh man, if I had to pick another probably one of the best songs ever written, it’s got to be something by Metallica, I would say “Battery” or “Master of Puppets”. Anything off Master of Puppets is probably one of the best songs ever written. Perfect for heavy metal. Genre defying, though, I don’t know. There’s too many songs, I think. There’s too many songs to pick a favorite song of all time. Yeah, that’s a tough question. There’s so many. Usually you have so many bands and so many different genres that you’re a fan of, to pick a favorite song of all time? It’s hard for me to even pick a favorite band of all time, let alone a song of all time.
ANTIHERO: Greatest frontman living or dead and why?
Sol Bales: Greatest frontman? Let’s see. Well, one of my personal favorites is Ronnie James Dio. Obviously, I draw a lot of inspiration vocally from Ronnie, but Dio to me was like the quintessential front man. He was just everything you wanted, everything I would want to sound like as a front man and had a commanding presence onstage and had that mystery going. I think he’s one of the best. There’s a lot of good front men, though. Bon Scott was such a good front man when he was fronting AC/DC. Henry Rollins, for me, is one of the best front man, for punk and The Rollins Band. He was just so intense. I don’t know. I have a lot of different influences when it comes to front men and where I draw inspiration from.
ANTIHERO: The ultimate concert, ultimate show, what would it be? What bands would be part of it?
Sol Bales: Yeah, if I could put the ultimate festival on, I would probably have Metallica or Black Sabbath headlining, and then I would have Paradise Lost on there for sure. One of my favorite bands from, let’s see, Carcass is another one of my favorites. Kind of an eclectic mix here. Let’s see, Megadeath would probably be in there, too. At least those four bands for sure. Or five bands. What are we at now, five? Yeah, I’d say those five bands would probably make a killer concert.
ANTIHERO: Is there anything else you would like to add that I didn’t cover or anything?
Sol Bales: Just that the new EP is out now. It’s on iTunes, it’s on all the digital outlets. You can order it through Best Buy or Amazon in the CD form or on the EMP’s website. And then hopefully we’ll be getting to some more cities here for the rest of the year. And then look forward to new music from us in 2018.