Monday 2 July 2012

Interview with Andrew Elstner (TILTS & TORCHE)

Today on Sludgelord I am interviewing Andrew Elstner. Guitarist for brilliant rockers TILTS and some little known band called – TORCHE. Apparently they are a cool Sludge Rock Band. Never heard of them myself.

(Only Joking of Course. One of my fave bands who I am seeing on tour in September 2012).

Self-Titled Cover Art

Q1 – Hi Andrew. Thanks for doing this. Can you tell the viewers how you became involved with music. A brief history of bands or so you started out with.

Ah! Could be such a long and likely boring tale, but in a nutshell... I come from a musical family. Played different instruments as a kid, eventually guitar when I was 12. Did the usual Jr. High/High School rock band thing, eventually forming Riddle of Steel with bassist Jimmy Vavak and our first drummer Ken McCray (who's now in Tilts) in my early twenties.

After ten years of ROS, I was ready for a change and we'd pretty much accomplished what we wanted as a band. I taught guitar for a few years after that, then started Tilts.

And of course a bit later, I was asked to play with Torche and here we are now.

Q2 – TILTS is the band where I know your first from. Is TILTS a full-time band.

Tilts is made up of very old and very close friends of mine from St. Louis. I wish we all had more time, but the reality of work and family life for those guys, apart from me playing in Torche now too, dictates that we just get it in when we can and that's totally fine. We'd rather have it that way than none at all, y'know? 

We've got new songs in the works and of course we're currently pulling together for our drummer who's battling cancer. Ken McCray is one big, bad, tough ass mofo and he's been kicking ass so far. So, all signs point toward a positive outcome.

Q3 – Which bands/artists influence you on your music

This is gonna be long... From the early days it was/is old Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Van Halen then in High School it was Jawbox, Shellac, Kyuss/Queens, The Police. Sort of all over the place, but those were bands that when I first heard them, really made an impression on me.

Early twenties I was big into the midwest scene of sorts, (K.C., to Chicago via D.C. haha!) bands like Shiner, Dirtnap, 5ive Style, Trans Am, Fugazi... a lot of math-y stuff.

Of course now it really is a bit of everything, some obvious - Beatles, Stones, Kinks, AC/DC and some not so obvious - Steeleye Span/Martin Carthy, Bert Jansch, John Fahey.

Q4 – TILTS debut album was made possible through the Kickstarter fund. You must have been pretty excited by the response you got. People actually cared to see the debut album released. And I for one thank them for that.

Man, it was a blast and Andy Low/Robotic Empire really deserves more credit for handling it all. So cool to have that finished record in our hands!

Q5 – How has the overall reception been like to TILTS music and album. You been pleased by it.

It's been great man, really, really positive. The toughest part has been getting the word out, but we're still steadily selling records and of course interviews like this one are a big help.

Q6 – I must ask how are the other members of the band doing as you all had your own fair share of illness and injuries. Is Ken doing alright now. I hope he comes back fitter, stronger than ever. (Note for Readers – Ken has been fighting Colon Cancer since Jan 2012).

Well man, life is full of risks and sometimes some serious bullshit is just thrown at you. Ken is still continuing chemo and recent scans have proven that he's kicking ass. I mean, stage IV colon cancer is incredibly serious, but we have an equivalent amount of faith in Ken and though it's been tough for him, it's been so far so good.

Q7 – What are the future plans with TILTS. New Record coming any-time soon.

We're trying to figure out another chunk of time here real soon to where we can finish this next batch of tunes and do a string of dates. A full on US tour or even overseas would be a dream. Someday soon!

Q8 – Do you have a “proper” job or is performing with TILTS and TORCHE your main job.

I am lucky enough to say that it's all I do. If there's ever time I need some extra loot, I can bar tend or work the occasional odd job. The key is to work hard and keep your expenses low. All the rest is party time.

Q9 – Is your family supportive of your music.

Absolutely. Especially now since things are really happening, there's less concern over things like, how's this idiot gonna take care of himself? Haha.

Q10 – You have recently joined Torche how did that came about. As I am glad they are back to a 4 man band well dual guitar sound. That's what makes Torche in my opinion.

Well I'm glad you dig it. Steve contacted me shortly after their departure with Juan. We knew each other through the scene in general and specifically our connection through Robotic Empire. A couple years later, we finally found the time to jam, and that was that. I'm having a blast.

Q11 – Were you apprehensive in joining Torche and scared of the expectations as Juan Montoya was a great guitarist for them. Some big shoes to fill. Though I think you have made the role your own. As your work with Harmonicraft is amazing. I love the guitar dual aspect of Harmonicraft. I think you and Steve work brilliantly well.

Yeah, I suppose I was a little anxious about it, but I've been doing this a long time so eventually, yeah you've gotta claim your territory and make the spot your own. Since I was a huge fan before I joined, I just wanted to do the band justice. I love all of Juan's parts, so it's been easy!

Q12 – How have the fans of Torche treated you since you joined. Looks like you have been given a great welcome.

True. As far as I can tell, it's been smooth sailing man. There has to have been some folks pissed about it, not that I'd even care, but I haven seen it. It's really been great.

Q13 – Is it hard combining being a member of two brilliant rock bands. Any difficult choices or experiences that have happened because of it.

Eh... There's a lot of traveling back and forth, that's for sure! But overall, it's been positive I think. Both bands are fans of each other, so hell yeah, easy for me!

Q14 – Will TILTS ever do a European Tour. As I would love to see you guys in action.

Dude, if I have anything to say about it, we will do it. It would be such a blast!!

Q15 – Obviously you are busy touring with Torche at the moment. But how has the reception been like to TILTS on the live circuit.

It's been awesome. Our drummer is a monster and the tunes by and large, are more "party-vibe" than anything else, so it's not a hard sell. We always have a rad time.

Q16 – What is the song-writing process like in TILTS. Is it a whole band collective or individuals that write the music.

Definitely the whole band putting songs together and me writing the vocals/lyrics. There are exceptions, for example, "It Helps" is a song I had largely finished and "Super Ultra Mega" was one of Andy White's, but usually it's all four of us.

Q17 – Did you have much involvement writing the lyrics or music for Harmonicarft. Or is that strictly the other members department

It's the same with Torche but even more collaborative with the vocals. Everyone in a room, banging shit out. It's the best way for all of us to pleased.

Q18 – What the most rewarding and least rewarding aspects for you when performing with both of your great bands.

The most rewarding? Man, that is tough... But I guess the easy answer is that I get to do what I love and get paid to do it. Playing live is a fucking addiction and I'm not sure I'll ever stop.

Q19 – Lastly I must ask this one. Harmonicraft album cover. I love it. Who came up with that one. It's a totally weird but highly original album cover. What were your thoughts when you first seen it.

That work of staggering genius was done by John Santos. He's a friend of ours and a true gentleman. I really can't say enough good things about the guy. Steve threw out some very basic ideas at him, and literally within the first pencil sketch we were all hooked. We wanted something kind of wild and a-typical. I think he nailed it. Santos is a true genius and I'm not saying that lightly.

Thanks for taking the time out to answering questions. I can't wait to see you on stage in Sept 2012 when Torche come to the UK. Counting down the days as we speak.

The thanks is all mine, sincerely dude! I can't wait to head overseas. Please say hey when you see us!

Mega Thanks To Andrew for taking the time out to talk to me.  A great musician and heck of a great guy as well.

Check Out TILTS on the links below and my review earlier this year of their brilliant new album.:


Check Out Andrew's other band called TORCHE. Apparently they are a super cool band with a great following. Can't see the attraction myself like. (Only Joking Of Course!!!)