The past few years have been a tumultuous time for rock four-piece Fuel
. Drummer Kevin Miller
was dismissed from the band in 2004 and not long after in 2006, long time singer Brett Scallions
also split from the band. Scallions would eventually resurface this year fronting Riders On The Storm
. Not one to allow obstacles to stand in their way, the band soldiered on through the crisis before finally securing a brand new line-up which came in the form of new singer Toryn Green
and powerhouse drummer, Tommy Stewart
, formerly of Godsmack.
Together with the group's founding guitarist Carl Bell and bassist Jeff Abercrombie, Fuel entered the studio to record their brand new effort titled Angels And Devils
. Having had already sold over 3.5 million albums in the U.S. alone, and with a trio of top 5 singles in the form of Shimmer, Innocent and Hemorrhage (In My Hands) under their belt, Fuel are now back with a mighty vengeance and ready to continue on from where they last left off.
Recently Joe Matera
caught up with Fuel's main man Carl Bell to discuss the new album, working with a new singer and his love for Les Paul guitars.
Ultimate-Guitar: You recorded this record with Scott Humphrey over in Los Angeles?
Yeah we went with Scott because he's done everything from Rob Zombie to Motley Crue. And he also this great studio where you can just walk in and everything is miked, the drums are miked, the bass and guitars are miked. You don't have to do anything. And because we had Tommy Lee come in and play on 'Wasted Time' and also had Josh Freese come in play drums too, it was a really cool and great experience.
When I first heard the track I Should Have Told You, I was surprised by some of the similarities musically it shares with your hit Shimmer.
It kind of feels a little like that I guess as I've heard some people say exactly the same thing too. I guess it does have a couple similar chords - maybe - but I really don't know. It's interesting now that I've had a few people mention that same fact. But from here it doesn't have so much in common but I guess if there is more than one person saying it then it must have some relationship to it.
Would it be correct for me to assume that with the album's title it's kind of referencing the band's recent struggles with lineup changes and whatnot?
|"We're really stoked for what's ahead for us now."|
Yeah there was a lot of stuff going on and I guess it kind of reflects on the good and the bad of a changing situation. And a lot of the stuff has changed for the band. But we're really stoked for what's ahead for us now. I think we have a good enough if not better lineup as far as being able to do what we want it to do than we've ever had before. And in all due respect, to the other guys as well because without a doubt we wouldn't be here today without them. But we're really excited about a whole new chapter in the band's progression.
In Fuel's early days the band faced similar uphill struggles. Do you think having already gone through those similar experiences early on, helped strengthen the resolve towards getting past all the then current obstacles?
I don't think you ever get exactly used to it. I guess ideally for me it is about having four guys going over the wall together if you know what I mean. I'd rather have it that way. But bands are hard in trying to keep four guys going in the same direction and keeping it all together, it's definitely not an easy task. So I think we've done pretty well for about ten years now.
It's been four years since your last studio album Natural Selection, since then the industry and musical climate has changed immensely, do you think that with this album you've got to prove yourself all over again?
I think you've got to prove yourself again with every record. Every time you come out with something new, you've got to roll something out that people are going to be receptive to. I think it's a big challenge with every record and I think even more so now with the way CD sales have slumped and with there being a lot more music out there. So you've really got to have something that is exceptional and will cut through, and above, all the other stuff that is out there.
Listening to the album, your new vocalist Toryn Green has an amazing versatile vocal range. This must have inspired you in the approach you took with the songs?
Yeah that's what's really cool about him. We can do a lot more stuff than we were used to in the past and we can even pick up other songs from other artists and maybe mess around with them within a live situation. When we went in to do this record we also had to raise a few keys to get the songs in his vocal range and to arrange them was really good for him too. So having Toryn and his vocals in Fuel is really refreshing for me.
Were the songs already written and demoed before Toryn had come onboard?
|"I think you've got to prove yourself again with every record."|
Yeah, I originally had the whole thing together. I usually go in with full demos and a lot of the stuff even from my demos makes it onto the records. Before going into the studio I've got to have a solid idea that the songs are there. I've never really done a record without a producer of a record, who was helping me produce it, saying, 'man you really spend a lot of time on your demos
' I have to know what I've got before I go in there. So before Toryn joined I had it all together, most of it was written and composed and just needed a guy to come sing them.
How do you think this album differs from the production of the band's previous albums?
It was different from our other records because the thing with Scott Humphrey is that he has drums miked at all times, setup, miked and ready to go. So say you're at the end of the record and you're recording something and you suddenly think, 'you know what man, it should have been done this way
'. Well you can go back in and do it because the mikes are setup there waiting for you to do it. And it is the same thing with the bass and guitars. You know you would think that all the studios would be setup in the same way that Scott his setup. You would think you had the ability to go back and add a guitar track and pull out the same sound without too much trouble. And that precisely what you can do with Scott. Most studios, as soon as you do the drums they will tear down the drums. As soon as you do the bass, they with rip the whole bass rig apart. So with Scott's setup, that alone adds a different level of what you can do with as far as the record goes and as far as production style goes.
When it comes to guitars you are a passionate player of Les Pauls?
Yeah, Gibson Les Pauls are what I've always loved and played and nothing sounds like a Les Paul for me. In my hands a Les Paul works well. Other guys may be able to play other guitars and make them sound good, but it's all in your fingers anyway. The Les Paul I used for this record is a 1980 Standard. I have a few of them and mostly like to have EMGs in them; in the neck and bridge position. I think they really work well and sound great that way.
Moving on to amps, what did you use for the album?
From out of the guitar, I went into an assortment of different amps that were again, all miked up everything from Mesa-Boogie Triple Rectifiers to a Diezel to Marshall amps. And the way we had them setup was we'd have them all going at the same time and plugged in and we'd just blend each amps sound into the way we wanted it to sound. It was really interesting to have that all come together that way.
And effect pedals?
|"Nothing sounds like a Les Paul for me."|
As for effects, there is everything from a Line 6 POD to [Prescription Electronics] Experience pedals to Wah pedals. You name it, we had. And sometimes we just threw a pile of pedals on the floor and just hooked up to all of them and tried to get a sound that we liked. It was pretty much a free for all in throwing a guitar sound together.
When it comes to playing live, you have a fairly complex rig?
Yeah, I've got a GCX Guitar Audio Switcher that switches everything in and out of a line analog. So any kind of analog pedals that I have, that aren't MIDI pedals or aren't MIDI capable, I can switch in and out of. And in the rig I've also got an Experience pedal, a Dunlop pedal and an original Whammy pedal but one of the first digital ones that were made as I think the digital one tracks better than an analog one as far as a whammy pedal goes. So that one button will switch my amps, switch my pedals and change the whole sound. So I'm doing a lot of tap dancing when I play onstage (laughs). It's a pretty involved rig with a lot of MIDI stuff in there too.
When it comes the band playing live, will Toryn be playing any rhythm guitar?
He just does the vocal thing. He does play a little bit of guitar but not a lot but he just feels more comfortable doing the vocal thing. I think it's better to let him do his thing where he will shine.
Which do you prefer, the live environment or the confines of the studio?
I think I have a healthy respect for both though I probably would lean a little more to the live situation. I see some producers who just roll from making one record to the next record in the studio but I think what's really important for me is the change of phase. One, where you're going through the touring phase, and you come out of that and go onto the writing phase. Then you come out of the writing phase and go into the studio phase and then repeat it all over again. And that for me is really refreshing. I don't think I could just stay locked up in a studio like some other producers do who just roll from one record to the next. I think that would make me completely insane. So for me I like to go through the different phases.
The has always been a general perception especially in the wake of Brett Scallions' departure that Fuel is basically Carl Bell?
|"I think we've done pretty well for about ten years now."|
For me it's whatever. You can't help what people think anyway and it's a waste of time to even try to. Anybody that does know about our situation knows that I've written almost everything, the lyrics and the music and handle a majority of what's going down. But that doesn't mean I can do it by myself either. I like to have guys around me that can help as well and that I can help them as well. But I can't change what people think anyhow and don't really worry about it that much.
With DVDs now part of many band's product scheduling, can we expect to have one from Fuel in the not too distant future?
Well while we're performing at the massive Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota we're planning on filming a live DVD of that performance. There is also some footage of us taken in the studio as well and though I'm not sure if that's going to actually work out, it could possibly be something that could also end up on the DVD. So hopefully in the very near future we'll have something out for the fans.
2007 Joe Matera