Something’s Burning in Texas
Today I’m very pleased to introduce to you Phil Salazar, lead singer and front man of Texas based rock band Eden Burning. With a sound reminiscent of KISS or Motley Crue, Eden Burning hits the hard chord and delivers a heavy performance. Recently I spoke with Phil about the band and their current projects. I’m very pleased to share with you, Eden Burning a classically heavy, and raw rock band.
I want to first thank Phil for this opportunity to talk with him. I wanted Phil to tell us a little bit about Eden Burning. The band formed in 2007, correct? “Yes that’s correct.” He begins, “I formed the project in 2007. The band has been in several versions since then but my drummer Doug Merritt and myself have been constant since those early days. It took a while to find the right formula; sometimes it takes several changes to find the correct mix.
It was actually in 2006 that I somehow decided I was going to start singing after being in a few local bands and getting tired of dealing with Prima Donna vocalists. It was like a wake up call and I said, screw it all, I’m doing it myself.” He says with a smile.
I asked Phil what the current band’s lineup is and if it’s the original lineup. “Myself and Doug Merritt are the original lineup, although our second guitarist Matt Steele has been in the band longer than our original guitarist.” Salazar says. “I’m not sure what ever happened to him [the original guitarist], it’s been a while since I have seen him.” Phil goes on to explain, “Matt is my songwriting partner and co-guitarist and to this day totally gets what this band is about and that’s why there has been so much longevity with us. January will mark our 10 year Anniversary that I have had Eden Burning.” He says, which is quite impressive that the band has had such dedication to their vision for this duration of time.
I wondered if there was confusion with the band’s moniker, as Eden Burning is also the name of a 90s Christian band that originated in the UK. When asked if this had caused any issues for the band, Phil says, “Yes and No. I was looking for a band name in 2006 and I was at a bookstore one day and I saw a book called Eden Burning. I liked it and jotted the name down and decided to name the band after that.
I found out later it was a romance novel.” He says. “About 2 years into the band I started getting confused with some Welch or English band with the name Eden Burning. My first reaction was son of a bitch! Now I got a problem.” He adds with laughter. “I did research and found out that the Celtic band had been disbanded for a few years so I did not bother with the name change as it literally means “Paradise On Fire” and thankfully no legalities have surfaced. With a Twitter following of over 106,000 it was hard to change after that.” Phil also adds, giving us a glimpse into the bands’ Twitter fan base. “A new band came out of San Angelo a few years back called Eden Burning and they had 6 followers [on Twitter] so I sent them a message with a cease and desist. They agreed to name change the band after seeing we had been around for almost 8 years and had a massive following online and worldwide.” This is quite impressive that Eden Burning has this following and that Phil has worked so hard to maintain their name, and their sound.
I was curious about the evolution of Eden Burning and wanted Phil to talk to me a little bit about how the band has evolved together. “The band chemistry has always worked. I do the writing; they tweak it, and add stuff if something doesn’t fit. Matt is also a songwriter and I’m anxious to let him do a few vocals on new tunes down the road. I like the KISS approach where you know, Paul is the frontman but Gene also does a good portion of songs also. It’s showmanship and it works for us. What has been crazy is the revolving bass player position. We were like Spinal Tap for a while and went through about 8 bass players. Our friend Shane Breon has been our longest bass player to date. He gets it and the trick is all 4 of us are very good friends. Friendship is the key.” And Phil stresses this fact in how connected and streamlined the band sounds in their tracks.
In relation to how the band works and creates together I wanted to ask Phil about his role as lead vocals and guitar and if this was his particular niche. “I have been playing guitar for a very long time. “Salazar said. “I am mainly a Gibson guitar player and it was fairly easy for me to sing and play guitar at the same time.” I actually really enjoy it. My first guitar
was a Sears catalog Hondo cheap ass Les Paul copy. My dear grandma bought it for me as a kid and she took me to see KISS in ’79. I was a little kid with no clue and the very next day I loaded the guitar with firecrackers and blew up the pickups because I wanted it to smoke like Ace Frehley’s guitar and what resulted was a serious butt whooping.” Phil recollects with sincerity and humor. “Of course now I own a series of real Gibson Les Paul’s. “The journey down the road of music is not one I regret. I have led a great life.” Salazar concludes reflectively.
Not only is Phil reminiscent of his love for music and how it was instilled in him, his passion can also be heard in his voice. Salazar has a strong voice that compliments the bright and heavy sound of the band. With Matt Steele also providing backing vocals, their combination of vocal ranges create a solid stage and studio sound. In 2016, Phil wants to give Steele more freedom to “step up some new songs he may want to sing.” And speaking of stage; Phil, Matt, Shane and Doug demonstrate a comfortable onstage presence that appears as relaxed as it does blended. “The balance of friends is perfect and there is literally no drama in this band at all.” There is something to be said for such positive vibes among members.
As the bands’ front man, I wanted to know what kind of pressures or responsibilities comes with the territory. “Well someone has to be the spokesman and face of the band and I guess that lands on me. I handle all areas of the band from arranging schedules, to booking shows, I handle pay agreements with venues and promoters.” Salazar begins to explain. “I handle all band social media and also do the main songwriting for the band.” It’s apparent that Phil wears many hats. “It’s a thing that doesn’t stop.” He says honestly. “It’s like swimming. If you stop, you will sink. It takes a lot to not want to throw my cell phone against a wall sometimes from all things I have to do daily to keep my music visible to the public eye but I have something to say and I want people to relate in music and share it with the world.” He shares. “I do this because it’s in my genetics. “You can’t take that out of my soul, it’s who I am and what makes me.” Phil is clearly not only passionate about music but also about the music Eden Burning produces. I wanted to take a moment to focus on Eden Burning’s live shows asking Salazar what it was like to keep up all of the vocal energy and stage presence during a setlist. “If you ever catch us live I can be a fireball onstage, running around from one end to the other.” Phil shares. “I work out a lot to stay fit. I do treadmill like 3 times a week at 5 mile Intervals in one-hour allotment. I also love swimming; it’s my happy place. Swimming in cold ass water is my favorite. It’s a jolt that just wakes up your soul. It’s hard to explain. The show sometimes is a hell of a work out in itself. I get offstage drenched in sweat at some gigs. I really don’t get tired though, I’m very used to it.” As Salazar shares with us, live gigs are both physically and mentally demanding and as an artist; he needs to find an outlet to maintain such showmanship as he puts forth.
Eden Burning is, as we’ve already learned, based out of Texas and I wondered if the band played exclusively within Texas. “We have done some road shows but not extensively.” Salazar says. “We have been all the way out to Los Angeles a few times and did get the privilege of performing at some cool world famous places like The Rainbow Bar-N-Grill and The Whisky A Go Go. I’m still waiting on the right promoter to get us to far away places. We almost had a European thing a few years back but once I saw the contract I backed out as it did not look reasonable to us to travel abroad and get screwed on pay from every angle.” Phil reveals. “My advice is read everything because if it sounds to good to be true, it usually is. “Not all that glitters is gold, make smart decisions.” He says, lending us all some very sound advice. Phil mentioned that Eden Burning has had a chance to play some high profile venues on the west coast and so I asked him about the types of venues that he likes to play. “I like all inclusive venues that carry PA and lights. It’s much easier than dragging your own stuff in because when you do that you now have to hire a light and sound guy and there goes all your money.” He says candidly. I also wanted to know about the crowds that the band attracts, whether they play to established crowds or new listeners on the regular. Phil states, “We reach worldwide mass on Twitter. It works very well. It’s not uncommon for me to get little royalty checks or pay from our accounts because someone downloaded our album from Twitter. San Antonio is home and Austin is my personal home away from home. These are my markets and happy to play both. We are starting to play more frequently in Corpus Christi as well.”
And the response that Eden Burning gets from its’ audience is positive and the sound produced is unforgettable. Drummer Doug Merritt can really smash that set. I asked Phil how he achieves such a sound from a typical kit. “I’m not sure how old Disco Beat Merritt is getting that sound.” He says with a chuckle. “He has spent a lot of time beefing up that custom Marilyn Monroe Drum Set of his. It’s a very cool looking drum set and the only one in San Antonio like it.” In addition, I wanted to talk about Salazar’s riffs that he rips out on stage and if he had a structure or if he improvised when he’s creating his style. “Most of my creative guitar writing is spontaneous. I can pick it up and play it and go whoa! What was that? Or not? I don’t do songwriting sessions where I force myself to write. If I get a song great, it was meant to happen, you can’t force creativity.” Phil shares. In regards to songwriting style, I asked what Eden Burning’s biggest influence was. “I’m a huge fan of arena rock.” He said. “I grew up on KISS, Motley Crue, The Ramones, stuff like that. I love
the sound of loud guitars through a good PA. The band contributes by arranging where needed. I usually come to them with a complete song already done, and they go yes, no, that sucks change it, or keep it. Add this etc. They are good arrangers. Shane has a gold ear for higher register stuff and variations of things to add to my power chording. Doug always points out stuff to me I may not catch like verses are too long or break this into a bridge, etc. Matt is a songwriter himself so he does his own thing and I let him do most if not all the guitar solos.”
I inquired as to whether or not the band was going into the studio anytime soon. “Not sure when yet, we just closed out the year and are winding down for holiday break November/December. We will see what the New Year brings.” He says.
Phil shared with me where the bands’ music is available for download. “Drowning, our single is on iTunes as is Hungover N High. Starry Eyes, the Motley Crue cover is on Down At The Whisky, available at Target, Barnes And Noble, Amazon and FYI stores online. Girls, Fire, Hairspray; a compilation cd, is available at all major music internet sites. Finally our debut cd, Banged Up N Dirty which I have made available for free download at the moment at our website on reverbnation.com/edenburning.
Salazar comments for me on the covers that the band does and their favorites. “We do a few crowd pampers, “Dirty Deeds” by AC/DC, “Detroit Rock City” from KISS, “Tainted Love” from Softcell, but a rocked out version of it. “Suffragette City” from David Bowie and many more.”
I specifically asked Phil about Eden Burning’s recent single “Drowning”. “Drowning was a song I had lyrics for almost two years and couldn’t make anything work. Then one day while noodling on my guitar watching TV bam! The whole thing came to me.” As Phil said, you can’t force creativity, it happens when it happens.
To say that Phil Salazar is articulate and passionate about what he does is an underestimation. He and the bands’ dedication to what they do is to be applauded. I want to extend my utmost thanks to Phil. I, for one, am happy to have given the band a listen. Salazar adds for us, “Happy Halloween and Happy Holidays to everyone reading this. It’s because of you that we do this. Without you all listening we have no audience. Thank you very much for that.”
Interviewer/Writer: Amanda Knight @Amandajill82
Photos courtesy and copyright of Eden Burning/Phil Salazar
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