When Sounds magazine previewed the 1989 Heavier Than Heaven tour, featuring Sub Pop labelmates Tad and Nirvana, it was Tad Doyle’s band – rather than Kurt Cobain’s group – who went on the cover. Though the success of Nevermind soon reversed that pecking order, Tad remained one of the Pacific Northwest’s most compelling and powerful acts. The larger-than-life frontman has kept a low profile since ’89, but that’s set to change with Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth. “I have no choice but to make music,” he insists. “Sometimes that’s a joy, but sometimes it’s real painful.”
The Brothers released a split single in 2009, but your album’s only emerging now. What took you so long?
My songwriting moves at a glacial pace. Changing drummers twice slowed things down too, and life can get in the way. But we’re ready now. I wanted this band to be heavy, spiritual and meaningful, and I saw no reason to rush.
Your song titles help convey the elemental nature of the band’s music, but what was your original vision?
A lot of the music deals in immense, monolithic imagery – mountain ranges and glaciers, the infinite depth of oceans and the expanse of space – so we wanted a sound to match. You can pretty much guess what Lava will sound like, right?
Tad were originally viewed as Sub Pop’s Next Big Thing. Does that seem like a lifetime ago?
It does. I had a different mindset then: I was much younger and a bit more wild, but I remember it being a fun time. I feel like we beat the odds: how many bands got to do what we did? When the band ended, it was a difficult time: unfavourable circumstances, and I had battles with drugs and alcohol. But I recovered from those shenanigans, and I feel my life now is better than I imagined back then.
You fronted Soundgarden for one Seattle show in 2009, ahead of the band’s reunion. That must have been fun.
It really was. Soundgarden were always really good to Tad. I remember once when we supported them on a big US tour in 1994, I broke my guitar at a show in Denver. Two days later in New York they asked me onto their bus and handed me a new one – a 1962 Les Paul – saying, ‘That’s yours now.’ They’re good people and those were good times. Our drummer Dave [French] is actually Soundgarden’s bass tech now.
There’s a lot of nostalgia around grunge now, but you seem disinterested in joining in.
I try to live in the present rather than dwelling in the past – it’s important to keep moving forward. I mean, I’m proud of what I’ve done in the past, I have fond recollections of our recording sessions, and I hope a lot more people will come to discover Tad’s music, but I’m here, right now.
You’re a rock music lifer. What lessons has this business taught you?
Trust your heart and go with what you know. If the fire is there, smoke will rise.
Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth is out now via Neurot Recordings.