Published Jan 01, 2006"There always has been a struggle making music like Sons Of Otis. When I first put the band together in 1992, all I could think was Everyone is going to hate this.' I thought it was too heavy, had too much distortion, but it's what was in my heart," says Sons of Otis guitarist Ken Baluke. Together now nearly a decade, the road has been rockier for the Toronto psychedelic blues trio than Baluke and bassist Frank Seargent would ever have anticipated. Never-ending record label shenanigans and personnel problems behind the drum kit have dogged the band for the past half-decade.
Their problems seemed solved initially when they released 1999's Templeball on Californian vanity label Mans Ruin, run by poster artist Frank Kozik. At first, the pairing seemed made in heaven Otis were the envy of Canadian heavy bands for their association with the burgeoning stoner rock label, but given time the partnership between band and label soured when the band became victim to what Baluke now refers to as "bare faced lying."
"It's not too hard to figure out what happened over there," says a very candid Baluke. "Mans Ruin just spread themselves too thin. Kozik told us he only had a handful of bands who were continually selling records and that we were one of them. He promised us a lot of simple things would happen, like getting posters made for our records, and they never did. We never actually got around to signing our contract, thankfully. Kozik wouldn't pay us our owed royalties, but he was willing to send us money to record the next record. How can you pay us to record and not pay our royalties?"
With Mans Ruin's financial future uncertain, Templeball's fate remains unknown. For now, their label hopes lie with NYC-based Music Cartel (home to like-minded acts like Electric Wizard and Orange Goblin), who this month are releasing Songs For Worship.
Their revolving drum kit problems also seem to have been solved. Rather than rely on a drum machine, as they did on Templeball, long-time friend and Shallow, North Dakota drummer Tony Jacome sat in for the recording, but was unwilling to commit full-time. But as they have done so many times before with 13 different drummers Baluke and Seargent have persevered, adding Ryan Aubin as a full-time member. "It's just ridiculous how we had this really bad luck with [drummers]," Baluke says. "Ryan has been a godsend. He hits so hard it's ridiculous. He's just what we've always needed."