Bassist Ron Holzner is an institution. He played bass for the Chicago metal band Trouble from the 1980s to the 2000s, appearing on such classic albums Run to the Light, Manic Frustration, Plastic Green Head and the band’s self-titled album from 1990.

Trouble didn’t see a lot of commercial success, possibly because their groove-laden riffs stood in direct contrast to the Anthraxes and Slayers of the period, and then the Nirvanas and Pearl Jams. But here we are, decades later, still talking about them, so they must have done something right.

Holzner and co. must have thought they had something worthwhile on their hands too, because in 2012 he and his former Trouble bandmates Eric Wagner and Jeff Olson joined forces to form the group The Skull. While it’s tempting to assume that The Skull is just Trouble under a different name, Holzner says that there’s more to it than that. Besides, several of his former bandmates are still performing as Trouble, so there’s that.

Holzner was kind enough to answer five of The Z Review’s deeply probing questions, and as if that weren’t enough, he also provided us with a 15-song playlist, which he has dubbed “An Afternoon of Rock, R&B and Beer,” which you can find at the bottom of this page. So crack open a brewski, fire up Spotify and let his playlist provide you with the soundtrack for this probing Q&A.

TZR: When did you first start playing music and who were your earliest influences?

RH: My early teens is when I picked up an acoustic guitar with four strings on it and jammed with my guitar playing buddy. He needed a bass player and had me play his second guitar. We were too broke to buy more strings. Ha!

Bass and rhythm came pretty quick for me. My brother was a drummer and I had to hear him practicing in the basement my whole childhood. It definitely triggered something in my head. Plus all my brothers and sisters and their friends were listening to great music at the time, so whoever was babysitting me played music that would influence me my whole life. Grand Funk Railroad, Zeppelin, Steppenwolf, Sabbath, prog rock, Motown. The Jackson 5 really got me going as a kid.

As far as bass playing, Sabbath, Grand Funk, Zeppelin and definitely to a degree, anything James Jamerson played on.

TZR: What was it like playing slow, doomy music in the 1980s and 1990s with Trouble, when that kind of music was completely uncool?

RH: It is a misconception that we played slow and doomy music. Everyone was playing fast and as fast as they could. We actually had different tempos, some slow songs and slow spots, some midtempo rockers, some groovers and also quicker metal stuff.

They all had doomy overtones. Our music stood out because we were very different than everyone else. We had a different mindset about what we played and how we dressed that wasn’t “in.” We’re from Chicago and really never gave a fuck what people thought was cool or how we were supposed to fit in and do things. Ha! We still are like that. All the bands at the time thought we were cool and they dug what we were doing.

TZR: What are you working on now?

RH: Ha, actually going on vacation, finally! We just finished a West Coast tour and our new record is in the can and set for a September 7 release date. I have been getting all the prep work done for a European tour, set to start in late September through the end of October.

We just released a single song, the title track of our new record, “The Endless Road Turns Dark,” through Tee Pee Records, and also a lyric video to go along with it.

TZR: Do you feel like The Skull is really Trouble with a different name, or is the band different in some way?

RH: No. We have evolved in a way that Trouble should have. We have our own thing going on and are moving forward. We just happen to have a couple guys from Trouble doing what we do and have always done. They are a different band with the same name. [Current Trouble vocalist Kyle Thomas] is a great vocalist and a great guy, but the band is not the same. I’d rather listen to us, but I am partial.

TZR: Are there any musical genres you haven’t worked in yet that you’d like to try?

RH: I would have loved to play in a jazz fusion band or even try to play Funk and Soul.

About Author

Daniel Bukszpan is a freelance writer with over 20 years' experience. He has written for such publications as Fortune, CNBC and The Daily Beast. He is the author of “The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal,” published in 2003 by Barnes and Noble and “The Encyclopedia of New Wave,” published in 2012 by Sterling Publishing.

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