Latest album: Colossus (Mascot)Website: www.triggerfinger.net/
Belgian rock band Triggerfinger have been powering along nicely since 1998. Their sound continues to evolve whilst appealing to fans of hard rock, stoner rock, blues, and indie rock with dashes of Americana or even the wild abandon of alternative rock that only a three piece can conjure up. Having toured both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and with several albums under their belt, the latest release of Colossus does just what it says on the tin. Loud Online caught up with front man, vocalist and guitarist Ruben Block via phone before they head off on tour in support of their latest foot stomping album.
What made you decide to use two bass guitars on Colossus including on the groove laden title track?
When you write songs, sometimes accidents happen or you stumble onto something. I guess that is what happened when I was writing the song Colossus. At first I was writing the riff fooling around on bass. I played the riffs for the verses first and then after that came the chorus riff where I’d usually double it with guitars. It has proven to be an effective way to play riffs if you just double it. Because it was kind of colossal sounding I thought maybe I should try to do it with another bass instead of a guitar and just plug it into my guitar set up with my pedals and the boosters on and see what happens. I just played it and it was amazing and I immediately thought I was onto something. In general it doesn’t matter what you play on because you can also detune a guitar and it is almost like a bass and in that region but it is still different to play it on a bass because the strings are a lot bigger with just four strings and you tend not to play that many chords or maybe smaller chords on bass. It is more compact and you leave a lot of room open so it proved to be very interesting and a cool way to approach songs. After that there were four songs that were played with the two basses.
Did your singing style change as well as a result of using two basses?
Yeah maybe because we made a couple of albums with Greg Gordon previously [All This Dancing Around and By Absence of the Sun] which we were very happy with but they were more oriented to our live sound or the live interaction we had. Now we’ve thought it might be cool to see what else we could do and keep things interesting for ourselves and make some sort of progress. We are fans of a lot of different kinds of music but it was nice that maybe with this album it comes out with a lot of different influences. It is not a style exercise like saying, ‘hey, look at this and that’, it is just that you find a cool way to give your song an identity. In that headspace I think we made something really cool.
That makes sense as does adding acoustic guitars in say ‘Afterglow’ and ‘Steady Me’ but both songs have different approaches to the instrument.
Yeah, absolutely, even when I used to make demos for the previous albums, the demos would sound a lot different to what we do afterwards when we made a band arrangement. I think that now we have stayed a little closer to the demos and some songs were even based around the demo and they were used. For instance with ‘Afterglow’, with what you hear there with the vocals, acoustic guitar and part of the keyboard parts are all a demo and that was the first time I had recorded that song. It proved to be really cool because something happened and when we were in Santa Monica [at producer Mitchell Froom’s home studio], with every song, we tried to record it live together in the studio over there but we kept our minds open and it would be cooler on the demo if we integrated it and started from there. That is what we did with ‘Afterglow’. We all felt that there was something very interesting going on in that recording. We bought the gear from a recording studio a couple of years ago and last year I had the opportunity to finish a room in the house as a rehearsal room and we then put all the gear in so I could make demos in pretty much a high quality. We have a cool little desk here and a lot of cool microphones and pre-amplifiers. I am not a good engineer at all so there are a lot of strange accidents that happen in recording and sometimes they are not usable at all whereas on other occasions they might end up being something really interesting. Maybe that is why we stuck a little more to the original vibe of the ideas that sparked the demos.
Presumably renowned producer Mitchell Froom was involved in the demos to some extent?
Ah, usually I made the demos at home and whenever I had a new song then sent it to my two colleagues Mario [Goossens – drums] and Paul [Van Bruystegem – bass] as well as to Mitchell. So, they could then comment on what they thought about it. I could also imagine that some songs might not be that suited to a Triggerfinger album, for instance, when I made the song ‘Candy Killer’, I wasn’t sure if the other were going to welcome that song because it is really different to what we did before but I really liked it and I was really happy that the other guys immediately said, ‘yeah, yeah, we’ve got to do this’ as it’s a really cool thing.
The drumbeat on that song actually reminded me of The Beastie Boys’ song ‘Sabotage’.
Oh yeah, well there you go, exactly. Oh, that’s cool.
The album also has Moogs [analogue synthesiser], chimes, percussion and many more sounds alongside the three piece band instrumentation. How are you planning on doing that live?
Well, a lot of things, even with previous albums we usually added some stuff to make them sound a little bit richer besides the main parts that were going on. We’d try a couple of main parts that would speak out and that would probably be the parts that we are going to play live or sometimes there might be two guitar parts which I can integrate into one. But with this album we took it a step further so we’re probably going to be playing most of the shows with extra musicians. The interesting thing is that sometimes it might be a guitar player trying to sound like a keyboard player and vice versa. Sometimes it will just be the three of us which is what we just did at a festival in Sweden. It is actually good to do it that way because it keeps you sharp and it keeps your intake on the music fresh throughout the tour, hopefully. We’ll have to see because the main tour starts in October in the UK after a couple of festival shows.
Are you planning on having a saxophonist on tour given that you had Steve Berlin [Los Lobos] play on three tracks on the latest album?
No, we’re not going to have a saxophone player at the moment. That might be happening in the future but the thing is with especially a baritone sax, it is really cool to combine it with guitars and the voice of a baritone is really close to the voice of a guitar so you can interchange them. On the previous album there was also saxophone on ‘And There She Was Lying in Wait’. That riff also was doubled with saxophones. We got that influence a little bit from Los Lobos and it was really cool that Steve Berlin could play the saxophone on our album because he is an inspiring guy and a really cool musician. So yeah, you use a lot of stuff in the studio, then the album is the album and then you take it on the road. It can be different there, we don’t need to replicate it exactly like it was in the studio as long as you keep the vibe of the song alive. You can give it a second life and that is what makes it interesting sometimes.
You’ve toured not just alongside Within Temptation but with the Rolling Stones. The latter being a massive global touring operation; how did you come to terms with the scale of that?
We did two shows with them – one in Hyde Park when we were on the side stage. The one in Belgium we played with them and it was because we have an English agent and he keeps his eye out whenever there are occasions for when we can be a really cool support act. So that is how that came about and that is how it goes in an ideal situation. We were grateful and happy that we could do those shows with the Stones, absolutely.
Given you’re a three piece band, do you look to other three piece bands and take any influence from them be it anyone from say Rush to Muse?There were a couple of three piece bands that might have influenced me over the years. Of course, ZZ Top was one of them. In the beginning, I really dug The Police because of the energy they had and yeah, it is something special playing in a three piece because there is nowhere to hide. It is just drums, bass, guitar and vocals. Yeah, singing and playing guitar at the same time is different when you’re just a guitarist in the band. It is another way of singing and playing together and it is an interesting energy that happens. I guess that when we started the band it was something that we felt pretty instantly. There was something really cool when the three of us got in a room and started playing even if we’d played with other great musicians before, you know. This was something big because the sum of the three of us would rise above the individual capacities of each musician and that is nice if you feel that. It is really amazing.
Indeed, a band like Cream harnessed their improvisation skills and the freedom it gave them. Is there a similar sense of that live where you
might go off on improvised tangents?
Yeah, sometimes because there are parts in the set where we can drift off and let the music fly. We’ll then look at each other when it is time to get back into the framework of the song and just carry on. It is nice if you can do that. It is nice to have the combination of the two and sometimes it is good to play a song the way it is meant to be played and keep it compact as it can be but sometimes it is nice to let it run free and drift off. One time it might work out really well and then the other time it doesn’t but that is cool, you know, that is what live music is all about.
Speaking of playing live, is there any chance of Triggerfinger coming to Australia?
We would love to come to Australia and we have to have a serious talk with our booking agent about that because the strange thing is that I think his wife is Australian. So, he visits the country very regularly for holidays. So we have to pull his ear and say, ‘it’s time that we go over to Australia’, and we are really looking forward and this is the first time that there has been so much press that we can do so now would be the perfect time to with this album to come over there and play it in the country and spend some time there.