My buddies Steve and Mike have done some touring with Shai Hulud over the years, which is actually how they met and came to form their current (sick) project called Hollow Earth. At some point along the way they met Tom while touring with Hulud, and eventually recruited him to play with Earth for a while.
Anyway, they were super stoked when they first told me that he was gonna join the band, and true to form, when I met him I found him to be a truly awesome dude. He’s since had to step out of Hollow Earth and move back to Long Island, but we’ve kept up on social media and whatnot so I was pumped a few weeks ago when he said he had self-recorded and was self-releasing some new songs he’d been working on under the moniker Servant.
As always, I wanted to know more about the project, as well as get to know Tom a little better. So yeah, all hail the DIY spirit!
So the first time I met you, you literally stepped out of the van while touring with Shai Hulud, and having not practiced with them even one time, played a show on bass with Hollow Earth, proceeded to play your last show with Hulud, quit on the spot and then joined Hollow Earth, leaving for tour with them the very next day. That was probably one of the most epic and ballsy things I've ever seen anyone do, haha. So two questions....number one, did you have any sort of formal musical training as a kid, and if not, how did you develop the ability to just learn music by ear?
You make me sound way more badass than I am for sure haha. I started playing guitar when I was 9 and took about a year of lessons from a friend of my dad's. I never really took it seriously until I started playing in bands. I really decided to try and actually learn what I was doing when I was playing in the band The World We Knew and would sit for hours practicing and writing songs. That was also around the time I started to learn about recording which helped me out massively.
Number two, you obviously just do not give a fuck! How did you come to develop that sense of confidence and that feeling of just doing whatever you want and rolling with it?
I never thought of myself as a confident person but reading your question back I guess it would appear I am?! I suppose I just really stopped caring what other people thought. I spent a lot of time worrying about how my actions would be perceived by others (and I still do), but instead of sitting around and being miserable in certain situations, I just did what I felt would be better for myself and my own well -being. Playing with Hollow Earth was the best decision I could have made at that time.
Also, I guess I do feel more comfortable playing music than doing anything else.
So talk about your time in The World We Knew. I seem to remember that band being fairly active for a good number of years. What were the highlights of that project and what lessons did you draw from it that you applied later when you were jamming with Hulud and Earth?
My time in The World We Knew isn't easy to sum up. I joined the band playing guitar when I was 19 and we rushed right into trying to tour and play out as much as much as possible and I worked on trying to come up with as much material as possible and recording mostly DIY. Me and everyone else at the time had different ideas of how we should go about things and it severed some good friendships I had. I went on to play in a few other bands on the Island and worked and went to school.
Flash forward about eight years and bands to playing a show with none other than Shai Hulud! I reconnected with Frank who sang for the band. He soon got in touch with me about playing bass for them for their upcoming tours. It was very weird at first playing bass in a band that I helped start out with all different members but it was a fun experience. I had a different role where I was just playing someone else's songs for a change and it was a very welcome change of pace. I definitely picked up some good experience being out with them and every band I played with in between.
How did you wind up getting involved with Shai Hulud? What aspects of that experience lined up with what you were expecting, and what things were different (for better or for worse)?
My tenure with Hulud came about the same way presumably as most; friend-of-friend mentioned they needed someone. I had become friends with people who sang for the band in the past, one being Mike Moynihan, and they were in circles of friends close to me at the time. I got a text from a friend saying Hulud was looking for a singer. I went home, recorded me yelling over instrumentals and e-mailed them in. I got a response from Fletcher saying it reminded him of Integrity and I laughed and assumed that was that.
About a month later Fox messaged me on Facebook saying he knows I sent a vocal tryout, but also knew I played guitar and that they were in more need of a guitarist at the time. I drove down to Jersey and barely hacked through “Profound Hatred Of Man” with him and went home thinking "well that was awful." The next thing I know he's calling me telling me I need to send him scans of my passport because I'm going on a tour that Metallica is headlining.
I thought this was honestly some inside fucked-up joke being played on me and then a few days later I see the line-up for Soundwave announced with Metallica headlining and Shai Hulud being just announced. For the next few weeks I drove out to Jersey and learned as many songs as I could and now you and several other people know me as "that other guy who played guitar after Tony."
I really didn't know what to expect from playing with Hulud. I was always a fan and had seen them play packed-out shows and some lackluster shows, but every time I had a blast. In retrospect, all I can say is no matter what, Matt Fox will always pull something together and keep Hulud going.
Touring with Hulud overall was one of the best experiences I've had. I saw places I honestly never thought I'd have the chance to see and I got to meet some really good people. Not to mention connect with friends and family of mine all over the world. Hulud introduced me to people that I consider some of my favorite friends that I still talk to almost every day. There were ups and downs through it all but overall it was an unreal experience and I'm grateful it was offered to me even if it was out of desperation, haha.
I know towards the ends of your time in Hollow Earth the responsibilities of adulthood sort of started catching up with you which brought you back home to Long Island. Talk to us about that transition out of tour mode and the process of starting your new project Servant.
The end of my time touring with Tha Earf was kind of abrupt; it wasn't something that was set like "okay, this is my last tour with these dudes" or "this is my last show playing with them". Life just happened and that was that. Transitioning back to the "civilian life" wasn't and still isn't easy sometimes. I have a steady job now working at a record store which isn't glamorous but it pays the bills and then some. I have a house where I live with my girlfriend and we're slowly fixing it up. It's a big difference from the impulsiveness I've grown accustomed to!
Going from ending a tour with absolutely no money and a one-way plane ticket to start another tour to now; I actually have money set aside and I don't owe anyone anything. It's like a major shock. I miss touring; waking up somewhere different every day and seeing what dumb stuff me and the boys would get into that day, seeing old friends from home who moved elsewhere, and most of all EATING. I wouldn't give up anything I have now but I do hope to get back to it at some point. I'll be a part time punk, weekend warrior or something!
As for Servant, in between tours with Holla, I just started writing some heavier songs and figured I'd try and get friends here on the Island to play some shows here and there. I wrote about five and then after being back home for good, I wrote about fifteen more. I decided I had enough material to work with and reached out to some friends about playing, had a few practices, and even tracked some vocals with other people, but as it does, life got in the way. People got busy, changed jobs, etc. and after sitting on these songs for over a year, I just decided to record vocals myself, mixed it, and sent it to Audiosiege to have it mastered by Brad Boatright. Instead of just releasing it online for free like I've done with other projects, I went through and actually got some 45’s pressed!
Damn, that's so tight! I noticed the first one is a lathe, where did you get it done?
The first one I got done by VinylOnDemand. Check them out at www.vinylondemand.com. They do super small runs with no minimum. It's pricey but if you only want like 10 copies of something, it's worth it. Quality wise, it sounds just like a pressed record.
I think for a lot of music nerds like us, there’s this idea that working at a record store is sort of a dream job. Is it awesome or like any job do you find it feeling like a grind?
Working at a record store is definitely a cool gig but there is far more work than one would realize. I figured I'd ring up customers and post a few social media updates and that would be that. The store I work at is one of the bigger independent's on the East Coast so we have a lot of crazy promotions and in-store events where bands come and play or do signings, etc. which is always interesting when the tour/band life overlaps with my work.
We've had bands like Counterparts and Stray From The Path play in the store as well as people like Frank Turner and New Found Glory (Hulud brotherhood 4Lyfe). Being an independent store, we only have 4 employees but still maintain a retail storefront as well as an online presence through marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Discogs, and our own webstore. It's very fast-paced and quite the opposite of what most people would believe. Picture Jim Breuer's character in Half-Baked, it's the exact opposite of that.
Now that the two records are out physically, are you planning on recruiting some of the people you originally started writing with to play some shows, or are the records the end game for now?
Now that there's some music out there, the goal is to get a couple of schmucks together to make some loud noise in front of people. Ideally, I would like to just play guitar but we'll see what happens. I still have another 15+ songs already written for this project so I'd like to head into a studio and do an LP within the next year. I really haven't set any expectations for this project; it's something I just wanted to do, so I'm doing it, haha.
Man, I love that you're just going for it! Have you always had that sort of DIY gumption or has it been borne more out of necessity since you've been home?
I've always tried to do everything I can on my own. I just hate relying on other people and if something goes wrong, I'm responsible for it. With this project, I didn't feel like I could go to a label or friend and say "Hey, here's this thing I'm doing but it's not REALLY a band but I want you to put it out anyway." Tying back to my job at the record store, they run a small label from the storefront as well which deals with vinyl reissues and licensing stuff so I picked their brains, got a few contacts, and went from there. I had a local guy from the Island cut a lacquer for me; Alex Abrash of AA Mastering and he put in a word at Gotta Groove and that was that. It was cool because it's not music he normally worked with but he was really excited about it!
While I guess this wasn't entirely out of necessity because I just wanted to do it on my own, I don't think anyone would be sinking money into a "band" that hasn't played a show and has no plans of touring, haha. Hopefully that will change soon and maybe I can convince someone to hook me up with a studio to track some loud ass, mean songs for said LP.
For that LP, are you thinking of self-recording again or would you prefer to have someone else engineer it? And do you foresee doing it all solo again or would you wait to record until you have a full (or at least partial) band in place this time around?
If I get impatient enough, I will probably self-record again, but I'd have someone else mix the next time around. I already have everything tracked musically! I would like to head into a studio and I'd probably just bring a drummer. It would be a nice change of pace to just focus on playing.
Talk a little bit about the lyrical focus of the material, particularly of the songs on the two 7 inches....
Lyrically it's pretty straightforward. I'm not very good at being cryptic with the exception of maybe the last song, haha.
I'm just saying the same things that have been said before. I've got nothing new or profound to say, just reiterations. Everything I ever could've wanted to sing about has been done by Propagandhi or Burn.
cynic, outcast, your claim
sincere in hate of the light
serving a reminder of what you’ll never have
cast yourself outside
writhing in a sorrow
writhing in a fear
of being welcome
of being loved
coward, caitiff, your truth
burn down the bridges you’ve been building
falling into despair
you will fall
cast yourself outside
you’ve cast aside
any hope of finding more
in sorrow, you’ll die alone
you will fall
- - - - -
this world was not made to serve man
with the rising tide and skies of ash
Mother Nature will expel human existence
we’ve ushered in our own demise
Earth be no bridled beast
we have yet to learn
we’re no masters
- - - - -
Son Of Civilization
I am a bastard son
a son of civilization
with a blind thirst
we trudge on and on
trying to hold the reins that harness the Earth
to grow, to breed, to die at our will
asserting man’s rightful place as ruler of the globe
shaping her face to our liking
with disregard of a sustainable future
- - - - -
From The Dark
never left the shackles of sadness
left one cell for another
the walls change but never the confinement
pleasing all before the self
it’s what I’m made to do
lowered deeper in an internal hell
with a smile, I’ll be burning
I blame you for what you’ve given me
you brought your solace
you brought a light
it ripped me from the dark