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New Jersey band Troll Teeth would like you to buy their new album, and go see them play live. Founder member Jim explains to Mike why these would be good things to do.

Interview with Troll Teeth.
"Troll Teeth have been around longer than you might expect, having spent the first few years of their career under the name Sluagh. 'Boiled Alive', the first album actually recorded under the new name, was added to their Doom/Stoner discography earlier this year. It's a record that takes itself seriously, but not too seriously, much like Troll Teeth themselves - so it seemed like the ideal moment to have a chat with band founder, bassist/vocalist Jim Eccles and hear the story in his own words..."

In the hot seat today, Troll Teeth's James William Eccles.

Hello Jim, and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for Doom-Metal.com. Could we start with a formal introduction to our readers: who you are and where you're from?

Well I'm Jim from Troll Teeth, I play bass and sing. Frank is the guitarist and Kyle is the drummer. We're from South Jersey, just outside Philadelphia. We don't consider ourselves a Philly band. We consider ourselves a New Jersey band. If you are from the area, you'd understand why.

I've been following you guys for a while now, and it's been a somewhat convoluted journey! So, to break it down a little, what was the original story with Sluagh - what got you guys together in the first place?

Well Sluagh was basically the finished product in a long journey of Craigslist hookups and "I know a guy who knows a guy". It was just the three of us early on and we had a lot of fun early on but life throws stuff at you so I've had a hell of a time replacing folks who left to do other stuff and in one case change the goddamn name of the band because someone trademarked it out from under us.

Did you have any particular vision or direction for the band when you started out, or was it more like a case of "let's just see what happens"?

We started with no real vision other than having fun. The origin of everything was a punk band we had called "No Sex Appeal" in high school and after several years it evolved into the doom stuff we play today. Even today, the most important goal is having fun, the second goal is making good music.

Troll Teeth full line-up: Frank Hall (Guitar), Kyle Applebaum (Drums), James William Eccles (Bass/Vocals).

What were your main influences in those early years? Have they changed at all subsequently?

The original lineup of Ben, Will, and myself had influences all over the map but we were so raw it didn't really matter. We were just jamming. Ben is by far the best musician out of the three of us but Will and I were just button mashing basically trying to figure out what the hell we were doing.

Frank and Kyle listen to more modern music than I do. I listen to a lot of more old stuff. Now a days, it sounds weird, I'm listening to a lot of musicals. "Fiddler on the Roof", "Cabaret", "Jesus Christ Superstar", "Chicago", etc. I think they do a lot of weird stuff musically and lyrically.

You had a number of line-up changes during that period, and put out a number of releases in various forms. How did those all overlap and work out, in terms of where the band was, and who was in it at the time?

Well a lot of people don't know the first album was recorded with session guys. My original guitarist moved and my drummer left to do his own band (The Blue Void) so I used the guys from Draugrstone to fill everything out so it's really not what it could have been.

This past album was written and recorded by the same people so I think that's the biggest upgrade. Chemistry and continuity. I didn't have to teach songs to anyone or leave any songs out. Everything from start to finish was the same three people.

You did a fair few shows as well - how important is playing live to you, compared to recording or releasing music?

It's the truest version of us. I like to say we're either the most professional unprofessional band or the most unprofessional professional band. We aren't ever happy with the finished product in studio versions because you do lose some of the chemistry but live shows are the best way to get our music because we're music fans too. We have shows in part to see bands and mosh for free. I think I just gave away out secret plan to see music shows without paying.

The original Sluagh line-up: Will Simon (Drums) and Ben Dallackiesa (Guitars) with Jim.

And what are your best and worst live experiences to date? Any especially amusing anecdotes to share there?

Best - our last show. We played in this guys basement in Philadelphia and people were stacked on top of each other. It was probably 50 people but the size made it seem like 500.

Worst - I can go on for days about horrible gigs...so I will

1. I Am The Trireme is a band full off jerks and played our first album release show. I was having a good time moshing to this punk band but they were like offended by everything like people having fun and people playing music better than their music. Their lead singer also put his hands down his pants a lot.
2. One show in Wildwood we played at a place that was a pizza joint with a 90w PA system and were yelled at by the promoter because he doesn't book bands where you can't hear the lyrics. Not our fault you have a glorified karaoke system for bands with 1000w rigs.
3. We played a show in Atlantic City with just the bartender and just as we finished playing a large group of people came in with a bachelor party and we were forced to play the whole set over again. They did not enjoy us but we did get a good pay day.
4. We did a show in Philadelphia where the person who booked us asked us to pay $100 after our set. He said something about a production fee but it wasn't something brought up before. We said "sure" and left so he is probably still hunting us down.
5. We had a show where we opened up for a bunch of straight edge hardcore bands and nearly had to fight like 200 people because we had beer and the unmitigated gall to offer them some. That was a weird night in general.

So, around 2016, there was the name change to Troll Teeth. What happened there, as far as the Sluagh moniker was concerned?

Some group of dudes in West Virginia trademarked it. We thought it was trademark proof because who would want a name so complex to spell and pronounce. But, we were wrong. Somebody else thought it was good so legally they bought it, but I feel like we own it still because our music is better.

Why 'Troll Teeth'? Who came up with that one, and does it have any particular significance?

I forget. I think it was a mutual thing but I could be wrong. All I know is we wanted to avoid having any 'Witch' in the name because Jesus Christ does every god damn band have witch in their name.

It's not a name we thought would have meaning but we tend to be trolls so it fits.We're basically just the comment section come to life.

Did you make any changes to the band direction or philosophy at that point, or just carry straight on as Sluagh-with-a-different-logo?

Well before it was us just slamming away on instruments. Kyle and Frank come from technical metal stuff so the songs and sound evolved but I keep things slow and simple because I still think that should be the essence of the band. Something you hear coming out of someone's garage.

Have things settled down now, in general? Or is the Troll Teeth camp still prone to living in interesting times?

We're pretty much set (as soon as I type this, I know I will get a text saying one of my band mates is dead and the other is in rehab). We all live near one another and have compatible schedules. We are good friends too, that's the biggest thing to me. People can get better at playing an instrument but you can't always learn to like someone.

How did you put together your second full-length, 'Boiled Alive'? Was there a set process and composer for each track, or did they all evolve more naturally?

Well the arrangements and lyrics are always my final say because I have to sing and play so it comes down to what I can physically do. The riffs and stuff are always community based. One of us starts playing and we just figure it out that way. I'm not a Nazi about ideas, especially when Frank and Kyle tend to know what will fit best in a song. We tend to build off things than scrap stuff altogether. There are riffs on this past album we've been sitting on for three years because we just wanted to take our time and get it right.

That came out on January 1st - how has it been received? Have you shifted many copies?

Totally expect our gold album by June and to play the Grammys. We only printed 200 cds because a lot of folks buy just the digital version off band camp. It basically cost $1000 to produce it, by the end of the year if we're lucky we'll break even...like if good people reading this interview go purchase their own copy.

Maybe more importantly, how do you feel about it? What do you see as the most significant improvements over 'Unwanted & Worthless'?

Could it have been better? yea. Could some parts have been tighter? yea. But it's perfect the way it is. Nothing is ever going to be truly perfect, at some point you have to leave your art the way it is and move on to the next thing, especially on a budget. I think the biggest improvement is just we took our time, wrote the songs as a group, and performed as a group. No changes in the line up mid recording process.

We've reviewed it: I always like to take feedback on what we write, so is there any comment you'd like to make on that?

Regardless of the review, positive or negative, I always get a kick reading them. You add a lot of information about the bands which is always nice. Makes us feel like superstars...that, ya'kno, still play in basements. I don't mean to sound like an asshole (arsehole because you're British) but the best review of the album was this dude who asks you to supply a recipe that someone listening would eat with the album. The way he wrote it and us being smartasses with a human flesh southwest nuclear stew made us pretty happy. He was into us not taking it THAT seriously.

Editor's note: Recipe and review are available here.

At one point, with 'Unwanted & Worthless', you had a CD deal with Exalted Woe Records. What happened with that, since the reissued CD of it under the Troll Teeth name as well as 'Boiled Alive' are both self-released? Any prospect of another label backing you?

Well Sam who mastered the album had her band Ennoa or how ever it's spelled on that label and got them to get us on board. It just wasn't a good fit because the metal bands they have are much more gutteral and sludgeier. We appreciated the effort from them but it was a square peg in a round hole.

Back in Sluagh's 'Unwanted & Worthless' day.

Whatever did happen to my 'proper' copy of 'Unwanted & Worthless', by the way? I'm sort of teasing there, but I guess perhaps it's an example of how difficult it is to juggle being a self-promoted indie band, with trying to get a deal sorted, and still deal with all the rest of life? Or, possibly, something simpler like you just forgot...?!

Blame the government. That cranky old lady prime minister that looks like a turtle probably took it mid transit because it promoted fun. Can't have British folks having fun. Keep calm and carry on.

It is hard shipping out cds because we all have full time jobs. You get done working and switch into your PJs and say "oh god damn it, I forgot to go to the post office." Not to mention the cost of everything.

You're somewhat self-deprecating, with tags like nosexappealband, and a number of variations on 'we suck' whenever anyone says anything vaguely nice about the band. What would it take for you to think or say that you're leaving suckiness behind...?

Well I'm just tired of people who take this stuff too seriously. If you get into music to make money or be a guitar god, you're in it for the wrong reasons. I come from a punk background. We are close friends and make fun of each other and everything. We're never going to be on the cover of a magazine talking about how great we are because that's not us. Crank out some riffs at a loud volume to drunk people who are going to forget our band name anyway. That's pretty much our destiny.

So, what's next? Anything good in the immediate pipeline, either in the studio or on the road?

We're always looking at long weekends to go on tour, Like in July we're playing a four show tour through New England in places like Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

In the long term, we're working on the next album which is going to be a double album. It's going to be set in space and called, "Goes Nowhere, Does Nothing".

Troll Teeth's 'Boiled Alive' days.

And in the longer term, do you have any particular vision for where you'd like to take the band? Any idea how would you like it to be spoken of, looking back from sometime in the future?

Basically as long as I'm alive, the band will exist in some way. If we can get to a point where we can break even and play some nice venues in exotic places, I'd be happy with that. We don't need to be Metallica big. I get a lot of enjoyment out of people who don't know us, see us, and say, "I had no idea you were going to sound that good and I had no idea I was going to have that much fun."

That's it for my questions, many thanks for your time in answering them. Do you have any last words you'd like to add?

A lot of our success comes from word of mouth and social media. If you stumble across our music, please share it with anyone who will listen and follow us on Facebook and Bandcamp to see when and where we're playing.

Click HERE to discuss this interview on the doom-metal forum.

Visit the Troll Teeth bandpage.

Interviewed on 2018-03-11 by Mike Liassides.
Aesthetic Death
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