By Brian M. Howle
As a music writer, nothing burns my butt more than seeing some fluff piece or hit piece, where the personal agenda is so blatant that even a blind man could see it.
Well, if you’re a writer with the same outlook – prepare to be burned – but, in a good way.
Because ever so often, there are bands that come along who are just good in every known interpretation of the word, in the application of it to all aspects of their being. As musicians, as performers, as professionals, and most importantly, as people.
So if you’re like me, you’ll want to make sure to get your tickets early for this one, as Collective Soul returns to the stage at House Of Blues Myrtle Beach at 4640 Highway 17 S., North Myrtle Beach, S.C., on May 13.
Hailing from Stockbridge, Georgia, founder and creative tour de force Ed Roland (lead vocals, keyboards, rhythm guitar) fronts a unique group of guys who have found that magic elixir of charisma, talent, and damn good music that will stand on its own regardless of your place in the space-time continuum. Along with brother Dean Roland (rhythm guitar), Joel Kosche (lead guitar, backing vocals), Will Turpin (bass guitar, backing vocals), and Johnny Rabb (percussion), he leads a well-tuned musical machine that cranks out massive amounts of positive energy and killer tunes.
One thing about being at a Collective Soul concert that I really enjoy, is hearing the inevitable comment of “Man, I forgot they did this one, too!” over and over again during the course of the show. They aren’t just prolific, kids; their content is chock full of quality tunes, with thoughtful, insightful lyrics and some of the bestest killer hooks to ever grace a master tape.
From the breakout hits “Shine” and “Breathe”, to the MTV monster “The World I Know,” “December,” “Gel,” “Better Now,” “Hollywood,” “You” and “Understanding;” their body of work is impressive in anyone’s book.
Even better this time around, the show will feature the entire playlist from their album, Dosage, along with selected Collective Soul classics – following in the genre of shows by Queensrÿche, Alice Cooper and others where selected albums are featured for the show’s setlist.
Dosage’s “Tremble For My Beloved” found Collective Soul on the soundtrack to one of the hottest movies of 2008 – Twilight. “We heard through the grapevine that Stephanie Meyer was a fan of Collective Soul’s music and lyrics,” says Ed. “Expanding to tweens opened up a whole new audience for the band.”
In preparation for Collective Soul’s 2012 Summer Tour, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joel Kosche, lead guitarist, and finding out what’s been cookin’ with the boys from Stockbridge. For band info, visit www.collectivesoul.com ; and visit Joel and check out his solo work at www.joelkosche.com .
A Few Quality Minutes With Joel Kosche, Lead Guitarist
Howle: So, tell me Joel; where did you grow up, what part of the country?
Kosche: Oh, I grew up in a cluster of small towns about 20-30 minutes south of Atlanta; Jonesboro, Stockbridge and that area.
Howle: What got you into music from the beginning?
Kosche: Elvis Presley had an impact on me as a little kid, you know, the really cool guy and the way he held his guitar and all that stuff.
Then when I got into my pre-teens, my older brother had some guitars laying around, he tried it but never really got into it that much. Then one day a friend of his came over and he knew how to play, picked one up and re-strung it and played a real chord on it – and it was like magic to me. So I started trying to pick up how to play, got some instructional books, you know, those Mel Bay self-teaching books … so I never took guitar lessons from an instructor, I’m pretty much self-taught. So I started playing when I was about 13-14 years old with some buddies of mine who were on the same quest, and got into my first band shortly after that.
Howle: Do you remember what your first guitar was? What make?
Kosche: Oh, just some Japanese guitar you’d get at Sears, nothing special, you know.
Howle: Yep, I learned on a Sears Silvertone that the school’s band director had stashed in the instrument room and then I pestered my parents into my own guitar, a Tesca Del Ray with a 3-watt amp.
Kosche: Well, mine wasn’t even that cool, just some off-brand guitar. My brother had a (Gibson) SG-shaped guitar, they paid like $10 for this Japanese knock-off and that’s what we began to learn on in our quest to rule the world!
Howle: Now, how does one go from playing in local garage bands in Georgia to being a guitar tech for big name guitarists in international touring bands?
Kosche: Well, my dad was a mechanic so that’s where I got my curiosity for how things work. I was always hacking away on them, you know, changing pickups, learning how to fix them and stuff. And I’m a pretty handy guy, so I started building some and also building amps, and spent more time learning how to do that.
Then I had a mutual friend of a mutual friend who knew someone in Collective Soul around ‘96 or ‘97 when they were in the studio working on the Disciplined Breakdown album; my buddy was working with them as an engineer in the studio they were using. I was working with my dad at a paint & body shop as my day job, and doing the band thing at nights; and I said, “Look man, let me know if they need a guitar tech” ‘cause I wanted to get out of the body business and more into the music thing.
So that got me an introduction and I started working with CS as their guitar tech when they started touring to support Disciplined Breakdown. But the touring sorta took me away from my band, you know, so I started staying home and just working with them when they were back recording new material. Then I got a gig working as guitar tech for Steve Winwood for awhile …
Howle: Oh, that had to be very cool, a real treat and extremely interesting, as well as very informative.
Kosche: Oh, it was, it was a major deal to working with those guys and hey … Steve Winwood, you know? (Laughs)
Howle: Well, yeah, I guess so! Now, at the time, how did you go from being an accomplished guitar tech to becoming lead guitarist in one of the most popular bands of the ‘90s?
Kosche: Well, the whole point was that I was fronting my band at the time, and I thought, man, just let me get my foot in the door somehow … and then the opportunity came up, and it just sorta worked out. Then I got to see how the touring side worked, ‘cause being the local band, I just didn’t really know how it was touring up to that point.
But yeah, after working with them in the studio, they all knew me and we worked really well together. Then they were on tour in Australia, I think, when the opening came about and I think they were kinda desperate and they called and asked if I was available. I had to pull it together and find a rig that would be worthy of being on the road and learn all the parts and stuff – and that wasn’t all that hard because I had been working with them on stuff in the studio; so I took like a week and a half and learned all the songs and did my first show with them in Brisbane, Australia.
Howle: Wow … a real storybook scenario there – a great little sidebar to your resumé!
So tell me, what’s your writing process like? I know you also have solo projects you control besides working with CS … any similarities, differences?
Kosche: Well, there’s a major difference there, honestly! (Both laugh)
Ed (Roland) has definitely got strong creative views on the Collective Soul material …
Howle: (Laughs) Oh, when I interviewed Ed a few years ago, I was complimenting him on how polite, accommodating and forthcoming he was, and he laughed and said, “Well, if you were ever around my bandmates when we’re writing material or in the studio, you’d see a different animal and probably get a slightly different perspective on that opinion!” He was very honest and forward about it, though.
Kosche: Well, bottom line is – Collective Soul is his band, and my view has always been that my job is to help him complete his vision, to help flesh it out. So you offer your thoughts and opinions and all that, and it’s filtered because it’s his vehicle.
But it takes form in all ways … might be an acoustic guitar riff, or typically at sound checks, we’ll be jamming and something comes up, or even in the studio, it’s constantly evolving.
So I just try to add ideas to his song and what I offer in my style to it, and he then takes that an says “OK, I like that” or however it shakes out. But really, the collaborative angle is a fairly new thing; on the Collective Soul album (2009, also known as Rabbit), one of the songs was really one where we all equally contributed to the finished product, as song called “You.” Dean started a riff, and then I sorta came in with chord progression; and then Will came in from the other room and said, “What’s that?” and joined in, and then Ed started singing melodies and counter melodies.
So it came about very organically, and that was really nice and felt great accomplishing it all that way.
Howle: Isn’t it great when a song comes together like that, when everyone works together and just seem to be on the same page from the git-go?
Kosche: Oh yeah, really, it came together in like 10 minutes, and it’s one of my favorite songs because of the way it came about … and I think it’s really the start of a good thing. I hope more of that stuff can happen.
As far as for my albums, well, I’m the writer, producer, performer, engineer, everything … it’s all in my control. I mean, on all the other projects I have to compromise and stuff – when it’s mine, I don’t compromise; I do it exactly the way I want to do it.
Howle: Well, allow me to tell you something here – besides your abilities as a guitarist, I’m sure those guys took into consideration all of what you just conveyed to me about your philosophy on the band concept. Because I’ve known many, many musicians whose abilities were stellar, but who didn’t share that common goal approach within the structure of a group … and I know how much that speaks to your character as a person. So, good for them, and good for you!
Kosche: Oh, thank you!
Howle: Now, how long does it take you guys to produce an album in the studio?
Kosche: That depends, it changes and depends on the project. Sometimes we’ll do a record in a proper studio, where you have a set budget and you know how much time you’re alloted to get it done; and then like on the last record … Ed has a nice little house on a pretty little lake up in South Carolina, and he put a studio in there. So when we come back on the weekends from touring we go there, and it’s a much more relaxed pace … we don’t have to do things quick, so we take more time on them. But, there’s not any set formula for us to record, really.
Howle: Yeah, I figured there might be more of the home studio kind of approach, since the technology has changed so much to allow that kind of thing where everyone can work at home on stuff first.
Kosche: Oh yeah, on the last two records, I did a lot from my home studio. Well, not so much the last record, but the one before, Afterwords, I did a lot of stuff from my studio. Ed would be up in Atlanta working on it, producing and stuff, and he’d say, “Hey, I need some background vocals on this one,” and I’d email it to him and he’d say, “Great, that works great, now I need some guitar stuff” and we’d send it back and forth like that, which is really enjoyable
The technology is really great … it’s affordable, and it’s convenient, and maybe you’re limited to 24 tracks but you work around that and get it done. But it is nice to be able to work like that.
Howle: Oh yeah, it really is … but then again, there’s nothing quite like hearing that playback on that high-speed, 2-inch wide master tape, is there? (Both laugh)
Kosche: Well, yeah, it really is impressive.
Howle: So how long does this current tour run?
Kosche: We start in May and I think we wrap up the North American part of it in late July, I believe, up in Canada.
Howle: Fair enough … so, in the big picture, what’s in the future for Collective Soul, and for yourself?
Kosche: Hey, looking forward to coming up there, and this time around we’re featuring one of my favorite CS albums, Dosage, from start to finish. We’ve never done that before; it’s sorta the new thing to do, performing it in its entirety. Of course, we’ll still do some of the other hits, but we’re looking forward to it.
And after the tour wraps a the end of the summer, we’ll probably start recording again on the next project.
Howle: Well, thanks for your time, Joel, and know that there’s a strong Collective Soul base here in Myrtle Beach … so we’ll be looking forward to seeing all of you May 13.
Kosche: Alright, man, and thank you very much. We’ll see you then!
So there you have it, kids. Get geared to hear Dosage in full album content, along with the great Collective Soul classics you’ve come to know and love as much as I do. And while there are some groups who more or less just show up, play what you want to hear and then pack it up for the next venue, these guys genuinely appreciate the support of their faithful followers, and always make new converts at every show. Save the “woe is me” ‘tude for some loser band, because Collective Soul will leave you with a smile on your face – and renewed faith in our, well, collective souls.
Be sure to catch this great show as Collective Soul fires up Dosage at House Of Blues Myrtle Beach on May 13. For info call 843-272-3000; for tickets visit www.livenation.com or www.houseofblues.com .
This article was also published at www.myrtlebeachalternatives.com .