DOUBLE TROUBLE: Interviews with Jeff "Oly" Olson and Bruce Franklin

By Earthdog

Jeff Olson and Bruce Franklin need no introduction unless you been living under a rock for the last 25 years. From the work both musicians have done in Trouble and their other projects like Supershine (Franklin ) and Retro Grave ( Olson ) they are household names in the world of Doom Metal,Traditional Metal and even Psychedelic Metal. In these interviews ,you get a history of Trouble beginnings and what made them such a influence on modern metal to this day. Bruce Franklin may be considered the modern day Tony Iommi whereas Jeff Olson is one of the most under appreciated drummers that has ever walked the globe. Both men are so extremely busy that it's a miracle these interviews even happened.


WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Most people would have first heard about you in your role as drummer for Trouble but what was your musical upbringing before that?

JEFF OLSON: Well, I toured with Drum and Bugle Corps as a teenager and listened to all genres of music. My first instruments were piano, trumpet, guitar and lastly percussion. I like playing drums but I also enjoy the opportunity to play brass sometimes. For example, it was fun to play french horn for the rendition of Ride the Sky on Trouble's last record.

WC: How did Trouble get together and where did you all meet?

JO: We met through an ad that Rick placed in a newspaper, The Illinois Entertainer, back in 1979 in Chicago.

WC: I remember when i first heard Trouble in around 83,a friend had a live tape. The band sounded so fresh compared to a lot of other Metal bands that were around at the time.Did you know the band would become such a worldwide influence?

JO: We didn't jam with the intent to influence people, but we knew we were good.

WC: You left and re-joined Trouble 3 times if I remember right. What were the reasons behind all that?

JO: I left the first time to pursue an education. I first attended Biblecollege, which is where the rumor started about me leaving to become a preacher. That wasn't the case. I studied theology for a bit then I was asked to come back and work on Run To The Light playing keys, but I decided to leave once again because I was accepted to Berklee College of Music. I returned to the band after graduation when both Dennis and Barry didn't work out. I left the third time because the band was suffering from internal band and label problems so I had to choose between steady work at home or a band with a risky future.

WC: I also read somewhere that you learn piano first and then the trumpet. How did go from that to playing the drums?

JO: I started playing trumpet in drum and bugle corps, but I decided to change instruments when I heard the incredible sounds of percussion on the drum line.

WC: I also found out that you got a degree in film scoring when you graduated from Berklee in 92. Was that something you always wanted to do?

JO: I chose film scoring so that I could be equipped to write any kind of music and the degree formally trained me in arranging and composition. I didn't want to sit in a cubicle in LA, however, but rather to use those skills for a theater company that I worked for in Chicago.. that was fun and I would do it again if I was commissioned to do so.

WC: You also have done some teaching,how did that come together?

JO: Well, I made a living at it when the band wasn't on tour and I enjoyed that too. I helped my own craft as well because as I instructed people, my own skills were being developed.

WC: I know you have worked with other bands as well. What has been the highlight of those ventures?

JO: I liked meeting new people and exploring the talents of others. I'm still into doing that.

WC: The debut Retro Grave came out last year. What was the reaction like to that?

JO: It was a good reaction. I got a lot of good feedback from people during the last Trouble tour. I was selling the EP during that tour and people responded nicely to it but, on the other hand, some people are also interested in hearing Retro Grave with the new line up (the EP was a solo effort).

WC: You got some other guys in to complete the line-up.How did you meet them?

JO: I placed an ad on my website because I was curious to hear some fresh talent that might be a good fit for me. They sent in press kits and my manager narrowed down several for me to listen to. I would have liked to have jammed with others, but location was a factor for me. However, I did choose a string player from Holland (Rob Zimmermann) but the rest are from the New England area. Mike Schermuly is the youngest in the band and will bring something fresh and youthful to the group while J. Cortes is around my age and brings many years of experience to the band. I like his Peruvian background that will bring exciting bilingual vocals to the new record.

WC: Tell us about the new album that is coming out,it must be getting close to a release date.

JO: This album is a collage type album. All the songs are recorded differently in different places with different amps and instruments. If this album were a beer style, it would be a Belgian Lambic. That's because the Belgian Lambic takes a year to mature and develop all kinds of interesting character.

WC: What is the long term plans of Retro Grave? Tours on the horizon?

JO: Lots of recording and development of the band which will hopefully bring some festival opportunities for us dedicated to stoner doom and hard rock festivals. I loved playing at Roadburn this year so that festival is something that I would like to do again. Also, I had the chance to speak to some bands that I played with on the last Trouble tour like Blood of The Sun and Danava and we were already talking about jamming together with Retro Grave. So yes, I would like to do a tour, but without a label that will probably be tricky.

WC: What were your main influences in music growing up?

JO: There are far too many to mention for rock music from the 60's and 70's, but ELP, Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd are probably by biggest influences. I also like jazz and modern orchestral music.

WC: How do you see the Metal scene these days,so much has changed since the early 80's .Has it progressed in your view?

JO: Music always progresses and that makes it interesting. There was an article in the New York Times called "Heady Metal" that revealed two branches with one starting with the slower groove and psychedelic influences like Trouble and the other camp being the speed and thrash influences of Metallica and Anthrax. Then, the article went on to list the evolutions of both branches showing blast beats to drone doom. It shows that heavy metal is an art form. It's not just Rock and Roll.

WC: Thanks man for you time and i know you have a lot of fans out there so this is the kind of interview i love doing.All the best man.Cheers.



WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: I read you dropped out of college to play music. Looking back it proved to be a wise decision but how was it at the time?

BRUCE FRANKLIN: I actually never went to college,even though I had 2 different scholarship offers to Big Ten colleges. Looking back I think it was a mistake for my long term security.Although I was able to really enjoy my younger years and experience a whole lot of things and places that I probably wouldn't have if it weren't for Trouble.

WC: You always read about bands struggling in the early days,having no food to eat and so on. What was it like with Trouble in the early days?

BF: Well, when we went out to L.A. to record our first album and again to record our second album,times were challenging. I remember sleeping in Metal Blade Records office for a week because we ran out of money for a hotel room.I also remember stealing oranges from a tree in someones yard near by the office, so that we could eat. I think we made it back to Chicago with everyone of us broke and about 1/4 of a tank of gas left. We ate at a gig in San Francisco and then drove for 2 days without food because we needed all our money for gas.That's a couple of examples,but there's more...

WC: Sabbath is of course a huge influence but were there any underground bands at the time that proved to be a major inspiration?

BF: Underground bands that inspired us?Do Captain Beyond or Budgie count?Angel Witch is really the only contemporary underground band that I would say inspired us.There was an English band called Satan that I liked,but I don't think the other guys listened to them. (One of the very best NWOBHM bands!-->
WC: What was your take on tag "Christian Metal" that Trouble got? Was itsomething you approved of ?

BF: I wouldn't say that I disapproved of it, but I don't think that it was quite accurate. We were just a heavy rock band with really no agenda. Eric wrote lyrics about things that interested him and the Bible was one of them. The whole Satanic Black Metal thing was kind of ridiculous to us because these bands were all posers. 90% of those bands were just trying to create this tough mean image and we knew that they were full of shit. Besides,Sabbath had songs like After Forever,Tommorrow's Dream,Lord of This World, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,etc. and people didn't call them a christian band.

WC: Was there an era of the Trouble story you are most fond of or do you take each year as it comes?

BF: Looking back,I would have to say that the years that we were signed to Def American,which later became American Recordings, were my favorite time. We were able to experience our carreer to the fullest in those years.There was money to record in some of the best studios in L.A. and we were able to do lots of touring,while at the same time hitting our peak in popularity not just with record sales,but also among our peers. We realized that quite a few big name musicians and bands were appreciating us and taking notice. It was a very optimistic and fun time.

WC: How did Eric's decision to leave the band affect you personally?

BF: Who said that it was Eric's decision? I was conflicted because there were problems,but I personally wasn't sure that Eric leaving was the best thing for Trouble. Eric and I joined Trouble together and before that, we played in a band together. I've known him since I was 17. I'm still not used to him being out of the band.

WC: How did the Supershine band get together ?

BF: I had been writing music that I wanted to do outside of Trouble.The big question in my mind was ,who could I get to sing on it? My first choice was Doug Pinnick of Kings X because I loved his soulful, yet powerful voice. We had gotten to know each other from being fans of each others bands.I had talked to him on the phone a couple of times. So I thought that I would ask him if he would be interested. I hoped for the best,but wasn't sure at all that he would be interested. He said,"Sure" and the rest fell into place.I knew that his vocals and my riffs would be a great fit. I'm very proud of the songwriting and performances on Supershine even if there are some deficiencies in the technical recording. One of these days we'll get another record out. We've written a good portion of an album already.

WC: How do split up the time to devote to each band and is it something thats hard to do?

BF: If you have enough free time,then it isn't that hard to do. My problem now is that I have hardly any free time.

WC: What is some of your favorite Trouble tunes? Songs you really enjoy playing.

BF: I tend to like the heavier stuff, but The Misery Shows is one of my favorite songs. I also like Flowers from Plastic Green Head. I'm the one that writes stuff like Psalm 9, Revelation, Pray for the Dead, The Wish, R.I.P., Daze,The Sleeper, Strawberry Skies, Opium Eater, The Eye, Mindbender, Simple Mind Condition. 2 examples from each album to show where my musical head is at: After the Rain from the last album is another example of a song that I like because of versatility and melody.I could name the Trouble songs that I don't like,but that list wouldn't be too long.

WC: Out of all the places you have played over the years,which one has the most dedicated fans in your opinion?

BF: From early in our carreer through 2008,the most consistent dedicated fans are in Cleveland. Although in recent years,some places in Europe have been excellent. We really didn't do a tour in Europe until some time in the early 90's. We had been playing in Cleveland for 10 years already by that time.

WC: What is the future of Trouble as you see it ?

BF: Not exactly sure, but I guess that we are going to do a new record sometime this year and I think that we may do a tour and some festivals in Europe this summer.

WC: Compared to some bands that started back in the late 70's, Trouble's music still sounds fresh. I blame this on
the Sabbath influence. What are your thoughts on this?

BF: The Sabbath influence is there, along with a lot of other great bands like Deep Purple, Captain Beyond, Budgie, Pink Floyd. All bands that write not only great songs with memorable riffs,but also memorable singing melodies.

WC: .Any final words you would like to put out there?

BF: I've said plenty. Thanks to the faithful Troubleheads that keep the band alive.

Bruce Trouble's MySpace Site