It’s every tech’s dream. But for Joel Kosche the reality of his situation can’t help but keep him smiling. As the tech for Collective Soul, Joel toured on a rigorous schedule, keeping guitarist Ross Childress rig in working order. And when Ross exited the band, the lead guitar slot went to Joel. Wow, those are some dues that really paid off.
As Collective Soul’s official guitarist for the last four years, Joel joins singer Ed Roland, Ed’s brother Dean on guitar, Will Turpin on bass and Shane Evans on drums. A multi-platinum act with 19 different singles that have hit the Billboard charts, Collective Soul’s gritty, heart-felt vocals, driving guitars and well-crafted songs have earned them a legion of fans. Now Joel is on tour with the band in support of their hit release, Youth. We took some time to talk to him about his role with the band, his preference for the VOX AC30 Custom Classic, and more. Read on.
So, how did you become a guitar tech?
My dad is a mechanic, so I guess I got that skill from him. When I learned to play guitar, I started building them, tinkering with them, and then in 1996 I hooked up with Collective Soul through a mutual friend. At the time I was painting cars and motorcycles, and I thought, ‘man, I need to get closer to the music.’ If I could go on the road, I figured it would be a great learning experience.
Tech work is pretty grueling.
Yeah it is. You’re the first one in and the last to leave.
Were you able to work on your own projects while on tour?
No, that became a problem. I worked on a record, went on tour for a year, and realized that I was getting nothing done. So I stopped going on the road and just worked with the band in the studio. And then four years ago, they fired their guitar player and called me up. I was very familiar with the songs and how they were recorded.
So you’re nice to your tech now, right?
I am very nice to him. His name is Eric Baldauf. We baby him. I’m in there working right beside him most of the time.
I heard mention of an amp you worked on called a Sugarfuzz amp. What’s the story with that?
Ed (Roland) had bought some old AC30s from the ‘60s. I did some mods to his amps, like a master volume and then I built this amp from scratch. Ed wanted to be involved. He said that he would take care of buying all the materials I needed. I heard about his production company name and I thought what a great name for an amp. We used it a lot on the record. There’s about four or five of them lying around, and they’re based on the AC30. It’s interesting because the new AC30 Custom Classic amps incorporate a lot of the things that I was tinkering around with anyway, like the master volume, the effects loop and the switchable cathode resistor on the power tubes.
You’ve been using VOX for a while now?
Yeah, I’m very familiar with the AC30s. Since Ed bought those old ones, we’ve used them so much in the studio. But it was kind of weird taking vintage amps out on the road, so we were really excited to hear about the new line. It’s almost like they read my mind with the new improvements. I’m really enjoying the new AC30 Custom Classics, they’re everything I’d hope they’d be.
I heard you’re a big Brian May fan. Is that how the VOX connection came about?
Yeah. I was a big Queen fan and of course, in the ‘80s, you couldn’t escape the guitar player craze. And to me, Brian May was one of the most unique sounding guys. His tone, you instantly know it’s him. I’ve always been attracted to very unique guitar tones. And everybody knows what he’s using, a VOX AC30, treble booster, and his homemade guitar.
I know you checked out the VOX VBM-1 Brian May Special amp. What do you think?
Uh huh, I actually used that amp on a few recordings. It’s definitely a great, great recording tool. I did a record with the lead singer from Kansas, Steve Walsh, and I used that Brian May amp on several songs.
I also heard that you’re a big Freddy Mercury fan. You sing too, right? Can you sing like him?
Well, if I could sing like him, I would tell everyone to kiss my ass. I would have my own thing going on. (laughs) What a showman!
Speaking of showmen, I noticed that the band thanked Vern Yip in the Youth credits. Are you Trading Spaces fans?
This is all coming from Ed. Vern actually helped Ed decorate his house. I think this was before Trading Spaces. Then he got a show and I think he has started to work on Ed’s townhouse.
Talk to me about your recent acoustic release, From the Ground Up. How did that come about?
That came from Ed and I doing radio promotions. The thing is, we did a lot of shows, including early morning ones. I can’t remember which ones were good and which ones were like, “Oh, it’s 6:00 in the morning, and I feel for Ed trying to sing that early in the morning. I mean, all I have to do is play guitar.” Anyway, Ed was in the studio trying to lay down some demos one day and called the guys up to record them acoustically, like the radio thing, with some Beatles twists and turns. And we finished it in one day. I was kind of freaked out, because this was the shortest time that Collective Soul has ever been in the studio. We usually labor over songs, but this one for sure was one day, first take, done.
That’s how they used to do it in the old days, right?
Yeah, it’s kind of liberating actually. It is what it is and hopefully people will get it.
You’re on the road now. How long will this stint last?
At least till the end of the year. At some point we’ll probably start pre-production for the next record next year some time. We’ve got another single coming out soon, too. We’re doing this all ourselves. It’s an independent release on our own label.
How come you went in that direction?
Well, Collective Soul was on Atlantic records for the longest time, and with this record we were looking at all the options, whether or not to sign with a major again. The thing is, they all have the same mentality that we feel is outdated at this point, especially with a band like us. We’ve earned the right to own our own music, and we’ve assembled a management team that was very keen on the idea of doing it ourselves. It will probably be a tough road, but hopefully more rewarding. Collective Soul is a brand name and people know who we are.
I feel very optimistic about this whole part of the music business. I think it’s still weird for new bands, because I see how much money it takes to get things going. With a brand new band, they have to have some capital behind them. You know, we have that brand name; we can tour, put some money away and invest it into our business. I think bands in similar situations should really think about it, hire good people who know the industry.
Keep up with what’s happening with Joel and Collective Soul at http://www.collectivesoul.com/
By Laura Whitmore
Photo by: Jerry Gallegos