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Soilent Green
soilent green
July 26, 1999

Every now and then, a new city rises up as a hotbed of heavy metal. When most people think of New Orleans, they think Cajun, Mardi Gras, Ricky Williams or voodoo. Metal isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But be it the Bay Area, Seattle, or Gothenburg, from time-to-time the musicians who live in an area band together to form a "scene", supporting each other and helping new layers of acts get discovered. The mid-to-late nineties have seen a virtual explosion of extreme acts from the Louisiana underground. To what extent is this the product of a interconnected scene? The Metal Update recently explored this phenomenon with Soilent Green frontman Ben Falgoust. One week prior to the band's performance at the Milwaukee Metalfest, and two weeks before the band kicked off their U.S. road stint as part of Relapse Records' Contamination Tour, Ben sat down with us to talk New Orleans, the music business, and the future of Soilent Green

Metal Update: As a preliminary matter, even though I know you didn't name the band, I have to ask - have you seen the movie "Soilent Green"? It's one of my all-time favorites.

BF: Sure. The drummer basically came up with the name. I mean, we all dig the movie. I'd like to see maybe a remake of it. All these movies people are remaking nowadays . . . but it was just a name the drummer came up with when the band was first started, before I was in it.

MU: How did you get involved with the band?

BF: I used to sing with a band called Paralysis around the time when Soilent Green got started. And I used to kinda roadie for them, when they would go out of town - playin' Texas, here and there, within an eight hour radius of Louisiana. After a while, they had bass player problems, and they got rid of their bass player, adding Scott Williams into the band. And later on they had vocalist problems, and they came to me for that.

MU: The New Orleans scene seems rather tight-knit. Has it always been that way?

BF: Yeah, pretty much. Everybody pretty much revolves around each other and they all kinda play together.

MU: How long has that vibe been there?

BF: Its always been like that. Ever since I was young and into the scene. There were a lot of people and they usually play in other bands here and there, and they all kinda intertwined as a big family.

MU: You're from New Orleans?

BF: Yes.

MU: What's the Anselmo connection?

BF: Anselmo was originally in a band out here. Like on the first Pantera album. I don't know how much you know about that.

MU: There was a different vocalist before him.

BF: Yeah, there was a different vocalist and then he joined Pantera. But they were still kinda that power metal kinda thing. Well, he used to play in a band here that was kinda in the same vein, and they were called Razor White. He was asked to go sing for Pantera, and he left and went there. And then, you know, they took their steps and changed into what they are now. And then he moved back here when Pantera got bigger, when each of them started making some bucks. So he came back here, and he got a house.

MU: It's pretty cool that the guy didn't forget his roots.

BF: It's definitely cool. 'Cause I think it has kinda helped the New Orleans scene that he's from here, you know? Something like that always has to happen. Just like the Bay Area, out in San Francisco all that whole area, all those bands that come out of there. Every so often it gets big, and all these bands come out. Especially back like when Metallica and Exodus and those bands got started. Now it's like Machine Head and that whole squad comin' out of there now. And New Orleans has always had it, but never has been acknowledged for it until now.

MU: Who are the big bands on the New Orleans scene?

BF: Like, right now?

MU: Yeah.

BF: The big bands are like Crowbar, Eyehategod, who is now kinda slightly defunct, although they're trying to work something out. Acid Bath, who is now broken up too, but evolved into a band called Goatwhore. And then another band called Agents of Oblivion.

MU: You guys might be the current leaders of the New Orleans metal scene.

BF: Yeah, there's us. And then there's an up and coming band from Lake Charles, LA, which is three hours west of here, called Choke. And there's a band from around that area called Dead Man Circus. So, even within the state of Louisiana, especially not just New Orleans, there's a lot of great bands starting to pop up. There's also a good death metal act out of Baton Rouge, which is an hour west from here, called Suture. And a band that moved here from Mississippi called Abuse - they're real good. And they're up on the go right now.

MU: You guys all go out and hang together? Everybody checks out each other' s gigs?

BF: Pretty much. We come across each other during an evening, or whatever.

MU: Is there a New Orleans sound?

BF: I think sometimes there is a New Orleans sound, but I think a lot of people in this city strive to be different from each other. So, the music - you can tell a little bit of the New Orleans thing, but mostly the bands try to be different from each other. So everybody manages to sound different. Like Soilent Green and Crowbar for instance. There's no comparison.

MU: Except maybe the emphasis on the down and dirty groove.

BF: The groove. But that's, like, a southern thing. It's not necessarily a New Orleans thing. I think it's just a whole southern thing. There's a lot of southern bands, not just metal-wise, but jazz and blues or whatever, that have that groove, that feel. It's more of a soulful thing.

MU: What, is there something in the water below the Mason-Dixon line?

BF: I guess. I can't say it's from being down here, 'cause shit - look at John Fogerty and CCR, they were out of California, back in the day. But they had that feel big-time.

MU: How do you describe the Soilent Green sound? Some people call it grindcore, some call it crust-core, some call it just metal. Some people say you sound like Pantera, some hear Black Sabbath. Most don't know what to call you.

BF: Well, we can't determine it either. We already had this discussion within the band on the road. We've come to the conclusion where, you know, we've talked to people and we tell them, "well, we just like to put together everything that we are all influenced by."

MU: Are you a metal band?

BF: Partly, yeah. I consider it metal. I consider it metal, I consider it hardcore, I consider it grindcore. I consider it every kind of extreme-metal style possible.

MU: What do you personally listen to?

BF: I listen to everything from John Fogerty and CCR to Queen, I love Queen. And I listen to Dillinger Escape Plan, Isis, Cave-in, Converge, old-Napalm Death, old-Morbid Angel. I'm really into that old grind stuff like Carcass and all that stuff.

MU: What do you think of the new breed of death metal bands, say the bands from Sweden, or the Norwegian black metal scene?

BF: I like some of the black metal stuff. Not all of it. 'Cause I'm into like, I'm hip to the old, classic stuff, like Celtic Frost and Bathory. That's, like, big-time roots for me and shit. But there's some of the newer bands that I think are, like, overly drastic. I'm really into like Emperor, Darkthrone, Satyricon - a few of them to name. But then there's some that . . . I don't know. There's just some that catch me and some that don't.

MU: You keep up with the worldwide metal scene pretty well?

BF: To a point . . . as best I can. I work a job. I work forty hours a week.

MU: What do you do?

BF: I work in a kitchen.

MU: Good food?

BF: It's alright, I guess. It's just your basic restaurant. Like, you know, you see when you go around. Chili's Bar and Grill.

MU: You're on the road a lot. Especially recently.

BF: Yeah, recently. I mean, we hadn't been on the road in a long time, but we made it a goal to go on the road as much as we could this summer.

MU: You have been playing with a lot of Relapse bands. How do you like your label?

BF: They're good. Real good. And not only to us, but to all their bands. They take pride in everything they put out and everything they do and they put support behind everything they're involved with.

sewn mouth secrets

MU: Is their a common thread behind all those acts? Is there a Relapse sound?

BF: As far as common threads running through . . .

MU: Matt Jacobson likes them? (laughs)

BF: (laughs) It has to be that, really, that the people at the label like them. I mean - give or take - they do a lot of different things there.

MU: How big do you think a band like Soilent Green can get?

BF: Actually, anything is possible. Like that thing in Rolling Stone that we had. We would never conceive that something like that would happen.

MU: How did you guys come to be included in that article?

BF: It was just like, I guess, a sporadic chance of luck.

MU: Did somebody from Relapse go after that?

BF: No, not really. I think it was somebody from Rolling Stone that contacted them.

MU: Did you care? Did you think it was bullshit?

BF: Some people take those things and let it boost their inner self. I'm kind of a person who downs my inner . . . possibilities. Whenever there's something like that I beat myself down so I can work harder.

MU: You don't let yourself fantasize about being a rock star, then? You just do what you do?

BF: Right. I don't have time to fantasize, I'm too busy playin' and workin'.

MU: Did you check out any of the Woodstock '99 stuff this past weekend?

BF: Actually, I only heard it on the radio at work.

MU: Could you imagine a scenario where there would ever be a spot for Soilent Green on something like that?

BF: It's possible, it's possible. I do think metal is back on the rise. I mean, some people might not like what I'm about to say, but I think Korn and some bands like that kinda have a part in that. And even though I've read interviews where Korn denounced that they had metal or they were metal, that 's bullshit. Someone in the band was absolutely involved in metal in the past.

MU: Their touring roots were in metal.

BF: I can understand the rap mix, it's a whole new breed right there. But it's still a metal breed. It's got rap in it, or whatever, but it's still got a part of metal. I think kids are starting to kind of plunge toward metal now. They want that energy. It's like a whole new generation out there growin' up right now.

MU: So you think if Korn and Limp Bizkit are out there topping the charts right now, it somehow may trickle down and help a band like Soilent Green?

BF: It's possible, it's possible. I mean, I don't think we can ever go as far as them because of the extremities we take ourselves into. But I think we can get to decent level.

MU: Let's talk about your music. Obviously, there's a juxtaposition between the fast crazy shit and the slow, "swampy" grooves. Is the essence of the band about one of these styles over the other, or is it just the whole package?

BF: It's a whole package deal.

MU: I know when I see Soilent Green live, myself, I'm just waiting for that slow riff to kick in . . .

BF: Oh definitely. I think sometimes, too, we seem to jump the gun a bit. We start to lose people. Because we go into a riff like that, but not too long, and then we blow into something totally different.

MU: Do you think that will ever change?

BF: It's a possibility. Because we do have to think about different people who are listening to our stuff sometimes, not just ourselves. Because, as ourselves, we'll be like "that's too many times playing that part," and then we'll go into another part.

MU: Are you psyched to play the Milwaukee Metalfest?

BF: Yeah, I dig it. We played it last year and it went over real well. The only problem was, there was a couple of times the power went out on us. But other than that . . .

MU: It's kinda hard to keep the energy flowing with the power going out.

BF: Kinda hard to keep the energy. But the crowd was totally into it, no matter what.

MU: Have you followed the progress regarding the problems the Metalfest promoters have had securing a venue over the last couple weeks?

BF: Yeah, I've been kinda keeping up with it as much as I could.

MU: Did you ever think maybe it wasn't gonna happen?

BF: Actually, it wasn't even on our mind. We just thought, if something happens, then we're still doing this Relapse tour, and so on. We can't change anything.

MU: Are you gonna spend time hanging out there this weekend, checking out the other bands?

BF: Oh yeah, definitely, definitely.

MU: Are you in decent touch with Phil Anselmo?

BF: A lot of people think Anselmo was involved with the record or sang backups on the record. He was no way involved with 'Sewn Mouth Secrets' whatsoever, be it vocally, as a producer, or whatever. Or anything. He's on the thanks list because there was a period of time . . . we were basically like the black sheep of New Orleans. The shit we were doing was totally obscurer than everybody else. So, like, we didn't really get a lot of hype around here because we were so obscure. But Phil really dug our stuff. And there was a period of time where we had a practice room broken into, and a lot of our stuff stolen. So we were in transition in trying to get a new practice room. He had a basement part of his house - not really a basement, but a two level part to his house. In the bottom level he had a little studio where he practices, and does a few side bands and stuff like that. He let us use that for a while. And there were other points where he kinda helped us out. So I felt a thanks was needed for taking an interest in us, for helping us out in any way he could. But there was no - because people were saying he sang on . . . and no, he hasn't sung on any of the album. He's not really involved with it in any way. But he is thanked for the things he's done, as far as helping us in crucial times.

MU: Tell us about this Relapse tour, there's like art and stuff besides music, right?

BF: The art stuff is gonna be at the New York show, at CBGB's. There's gonna be like art stuff by Eric Turner from Hydrahead records, and Paul Booth and a bunch of other people. And on the big stage at CBGB's there gonna be like us, Today is the Day, Dillinger Escape Plan, Exhumed, Morgion, Nasum, a whole bunch of Relapse acts. For the whole U.S., it's us, Today is the Day, Morgion, and Exhumed. And for the first ten dates, Nasum is added to the tour, and along the way, like when we hit Colorado, Cephalic Carnage is added. And in California, Benumb is gonna open up the show.

MU: What about that thing you did at CBGB's a couple of weeks back?

BF: The Loud as Fuck Festival?

MU: Yeah, tell us about that.

BF: It was incredible, it was awesome. It was kind of weird, at first, 'cause we were headlining it. And we just still don't feel like we're a headlining band. We feel we have a long way to go.

MU: You're a humble guy, aren't you Ben?

BF: The music industry is tough. And I'll say this straight up: the music industry is bullshit.

MU: But yet you don't seem bitter.

BF: What's there to be bitter about?

MU: And you're having fun?

BF: Yeah.

MU: You think the industry is bullshit, but you still don't rule out the possibility of commercial success for Soilent Green.

BF: Yeah, we got a chance, but the reason why I say it is bullshit is because you see so many bands out there that honestly ain't worth a fuck and don't have musicianship worth a fuck. So many other bands I see deserve so much more, because of their musicianship and their skills, but don't get anything. Because of the art and the soul of it . . . I mean, there's bands that are more deserving than us, we just happen to be in a lucky position, I guess. But, there's so many people who work so hard at this shit and write such awesome music, then there's others who are totally fly-by-night motherfuckers who write the easiest lopped-out shit, and come out millionaires.

MU: But those bullshit acts don't last in the long run, do they? Can't people ultimately see through them?

BF: It doesn't last, but it makes it hard sometimes for the people that are extreme acts.

MU: I guess there's only so much attention and dollars to go around.

BF: Exactly. I mean, all that money, what are you going to do with all of it? Even if Soilent Green doesn't get big, I'll still be happy with what I' ve done with Soilent Green.

MU: So anyway, you didn't feel you deserved to headline the Loud as Fuck festival.

BF: We just didn't feel like we were at that level yet. But we did anyway, and we were still kinda shaky about doing it. We didn't feel comfortable. And then, too, usually the headliner, when you play New York City, goes on at like 1 a.m. or something.

MU: I was at that gig. You didn't go on until like 2:30 a.m.

BF: Yeah. It got pushed back. And sometimes people seem to leave when it gets late. But, as it turns out, people seemed to stay. The place was packed when we went on, and it was an awesome response. It kind of blew us all away. It was our fourth time playing New York and our third time playing CBGB's.

MU: The show was on the internet, right?

BF: Yeah, I believe it was.

MU: Are you online?

BF: Not as of right now. I'm broke.

MU: Does anyone in the band have involvement with the web.

BF: Our drummer has a little involvement, 'cause every now and then at his girlfriend's house he plays with it. Every now and then, I'll go see my sister and she has a computer. I'm trying to get one, but the funds just aren't there yet. I'm hoping to get one by November, 'cause I know I really need one.

MU: Does Soilent Green have an official webpage?

BF: Actually, we have something up, it's just not finished yet. You can log onto it now, and as things are added to it, you can see the progression. It 's

MU: What kind of presence do you guys have in Europe?

BF: Terrorizer ranked the top forty albums of '98, and we were ranked number 18.

MU: Have you ever done any touring over there?

BF: No, we haven't been over there. I know 'Sewn Mouth Secrets' just came out over in Japan at the beginning of July.

MU: How is the album selling?

BF: The last I heard, it sells about 200 per week. Which is pretty good, I guess. I don't know too much about that. I guess 200 a week is cool.

MU: More than none.

BF: Yeah, 200 more.

MU: What does the immediate future hold for Soilent Green?

BF: As of now, we're gonna be on the road for August and the first week of September for the Contamination tour. That's gonna run the whole U.S. pretty much. Then we'll come back home, and we're probably gonna stay home and work on new material. We have four new songs for a new album. We want to get into the studio by the end of January 2000.

MU: How does the new music compare to what we heard on 'Sewn Mouth Secrets'?

BF: The same intensity, just maybe a bit more skill.

MU: What do you mean, more skill?

BF: Like, I guess, a little more thought put into it. I mean, a lot of thought was put in before, but as we go along we get a lot more thought into every single thing we do.

MU: Are the new songs fast, slow, . . .

BF: The same mixed up, disoriented fuckin' kick-ass type stuff. Adding a lot more blues-y type stuff. We think that really does well. We want it recorded by the end of January 2000. Now, we ain't gonna promise that, 'cause if a big tour pops up, we'll jump on that. But we promised that we wouldn't go out unless it was something bigger.

MU: What would be big enough for you guys to take?

BF: Like, maybe, if S.O.D. brought us out.

MU: Are you talking to those guys about doing something?

BF: Every now and then we talk to Danny Lilker, he's a good friend of ours. We used to go on the road with Brutal Truth every now and then. Or even, like if Pantera puts a new album out, maybe Phillip might bring us out.

MU: You've toured with Pantera before, right?

BF: We did like, seven dates. Through Texas, Florida and Mississippi.

MU: How killer would it be doing a full U.S. tour opening for those guys?

BF: Oh, that would be incredible.

MU: Do you think Soilent Green translates to the big arena environment?

BF: The big arenas are cool, and the shows we did do with them, the people got into it, but I like the clubs. 'Cause I like the closeness. I like the more personal thing with the people. You can feel the energy more. Not even like an auditorium place, but smaller. CBGB's. Venues like that. I really dig stuff like that. I mean that's me speaking. I can't speak for the rest of them.

MU: So a new record should come out in the first half of the year?

BF: Yeah, possibly like twelve, thirteen tunes.

MU: Anything else to tell the fans as they get ready to come out and see you on the Contamination tour?

BF: If you're scared to come up and talk to us, don't be. Just come talk to us, we'll talk to anybody, we're really friendly. We'll hang out with anybody, it doesn't matter. The road is a pretty lonely-assed trip. When you meet people here and there, it's pretty good. Say hello to everybody, not just us, but the whole damn tour.

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Interview: Eric German []
Editor: Brant Wintersteen []
Photography: Brant Wintersteen
Webmaster: WAR []
Update Support: Laura German

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