Mike Soliz is responsible for some of the most amazing vocal performances ever put to tape.  His distinctive screams became a standard by which all other Texas Metal vocalists could be judged.  Many tried to imitate his style, but very few succeeded.  In June of 2003 TexasMetalUnderground.com had the honor of conducting an interview with this Texas Metal vocal legend.  Mike not only provided us with a great interview, he sent in some amazing, never before seen photos from his personal collection.  Read below for an in-depth look at the 80's Texas Metal scene with a man who experienced it from the inside.

TMU:  At what age did you become interested in Metal and when did you first start playing musical instruments?

 

Mike Soliz:  I would have to say around 1982 or 1983. I was at a party in south Austin and a guy named Matt Janowski had just returned from England with a batch of albums. So I would have to say, the first time I became interested in Metal was when I heard Saxon's 'Wheels of steel'. Immediately followed by Iron Maiden. I started playing music in Jr. High (drums). Unless you count using my mom's coffee, sugar, and flour cans to follow along with the Santana Abraxis album, then that would be pre-school.

 

TMU:  Were drums your first instrument?  Do you play guitar also?

 

Mike Soliz:  Yes, drums were my first musical instrument.  I only wish I could play guitar!

 

TMU:   Were you in any other bands before hooking up with Jason McMaster in Fallen Angel?

 

Mike Soliz:  No

 

TMU:   Did Fallen Angel primarily play covers or did you guys have some original tunes?

 

Mike Soliz:  Fallen Angel only did covers ( Priest,Def Lep, Rush, AC/DC etc......)

 

TMU:  Do you have any old tapes of the band?

 

Mike Soliz:  As far as I know there are no tapes of practices or shows.

 

TMU:  On the website I have a picture of Fallen Angel playing in what looks like the Austin High School parking lot.  How did that gig come about?

 

Mike Soliz:  I can't remember how that gig came about. Friends in high places I guess.

 

TMU:  Did Fallen Angel ever play live at parties, in clubs, etc?

 

Mike Soliz:  Fallen Angel was starting to get some recognition around town, so we were able to get some gigs that way, mostly parties.  

TMU:  When did you discover your vocal talent?  Did you have any formal vocal training?

 

Mike Soliz:  Actually I didn't discover it, Jason did!  I was jamming in my garage with some friends and we were doing 'Metal thrashing mad' by Anthrax. I guess Jason Liked my Neil Turbin impression.

 

TMU:  How did you hook up with Militia?  Were you friends with Robert, Phil, & Tony prior to joining the band?

 

Mike Soliz:  Jason told me that I should give singing a try.  He's the one that introduced me to Militia.

 

TMU:  Where and when did the first Militia show take place and who else was on the bill?

 

Mike Soliz:   I think our first show was on July 3rd 1984 at the Ritz Theater in Austin. Watchtower headlined, Wyzard then Militia.

 

TMU:  What are some of your memories of playing with bands like SA Slayer, Wyzard, Karian, Matrix, Final Assault, Scythian Oath, Ritual, and Syrus?

 

Mike Soliz:  I think the most memorable time was when we opened for L.A. Slayer & S.A. Slayer at the Villa Fontana. I believe we were up for sound check and we had just gone thru a bit of 'Regiments Of Death'.  As soon as we stopped, a huge roar came from the crowd waiting outside. We kind of looked at each other and smiled. I also remember some people telling me they came specifically to see us.  I can remember thinking, am I in the twilight zone or what?  Both Slayers are here! Are you crazy? It was nice to know that we also had some hardcore Militia fans in San Antonio.

 

TMU:  Was The Sybling EP totally self financed?  Do you remember how much it cost to record and press?

 

Mike Soliz:  I really can't recall how much we put into the E.P. but yeah, we used our own money.

 

TMU:   Is it correct that there were only 100 copies ever pressed of the EP?  (As Iím sure you know itís become one of the rarest and most sought after Metal record in the world.  Iíve been offered $1000 for my mint copy by European collectors.)

 

Mike Soliz:  Yes, there were only 100 pressed. I think that was all we could afford to do. I even heard one was bought for $1300. Pretty spooky!

 

TMU:  I think the 'No Submission' demo was one of the coolest demos of the era.  What are your thoughts on that release?

 

Mike Soliz:  'No submission' was a different direction for us.  We were listening to a lot of Queensryche at the time and wanted write about something other than 'marching soldiers of death'I can barely listen to that demo now.  I really hate the vocals on it.  If I knew then what I know now, that demo would probably come out a million times better.  After a while I hated how wimpy it sounded.

 

TMU:  I heard a rumor years ago that you had to teach Phil Achee how to play the drum intro to the song 'No Submission'.  Any truth to that?

 

Mike Soliz:   I don't really remember.

 

TMU:  The Ritz Theater in Austin and The Cameo Theater in San Antonio are legendary venues in Texas metal history.  What are some of your memories of playing there?  Did you prefer one over the other?

 

Mike Soliz:  I remember the crowds mostly.  I always felt like those places belonged to us, the Metal bands and Metal fans. our own special club houses for people who understood what Metal was about.

 

TMU:  In your opinion, what made the Texas scene so unique?

 

Mike Soliz:   It was the camaraderie of the bands, and of course the fans.  I know whenever we weren't playing, we couldn't wait for the weekend to go see who was playing.  Whether it be in San Antonio or wherever.  I knew what it was like to be a fan of the scene as well as a musician in it,  but I think if I could sum it up from the band's point of view I'd say:  "We weren't just good friends with each other, we were big fans of each other as well".

 

TMU:   Whatís the story behind you joining Assalant?  Was Militia pretty much dead at the time you decided to join or were you unhappy with the direction in which Militiaís music was going?

 

Mike Soliz:  To make a long story short, while on the phone, I expressed my reasons for not wanting to perform the new material anymore.  I was told Militia would continue to perform those songs live weather I liked them or not.  I pretty much at that moment said "have fun doing them".  One minute later I was on the phone with Assalant guitarist Louie Beltran.  I told him "I may have found a singer for Assalant".  He asked who?  I said, "Me!  When can I audition?".   He said, "Forget about an audition, you're in!". That was pretty much it.

 

TMU:   Assalant was a relatively short-lived project.  Do you remember how long the band was around?  What caused the breakup?

 

Mike Soliz:  I think Assalant was around for about two years. The breakup happened when we couldn't find a replacement drummer when Mike Botello left.

 

TMU:  You recorded vocals for the first Oblivion Knight demo.  How did you get hooked up with those guys?  Were you ever a official member of the band or did you just supply vocals for the demo?

 

Mike Soliz:  I got a call from them and was asked if I would be interested in the  project. They said they would be coming to San Antonio to do the session and had Kenny from Syrus to play drums. Needless to say I was very interested.

 

TMU:  Did you ever play live with Oblivion Knight?

 

Mike Soliz:  I never performed live with them.

 

TMU:  Was it difficult to take over the vocal position in WatchTower after Jason left?

 

Mike Soliz:  It sure would have been had I not heard the songs for so many years.

 

TMU:  How did the fans react to the change?

 

Mike Soliz:  I think the fans took to it rather well. I guess locally it's always nice to see a familiar face in one of your favorite bands.

 

TMU:  I have always thought Alan Tecchio was not the best choice as vocalist for WatchTower and that your vocal style was a much better fit based on the Doomsday News Compilation track. How long were you in WatchTower before Tecchio entered the picture?  Do you remember how many shows you played with them?

 

Mike Soliz:   I wasn't in Tower for very long.  Maybe close to a year.  I Just did a handful of shows with them.

 

TMU:  Does any WatchTower audio or video exist with you in the band?

 

Mike Soliz:  I recently stumbled upon some four track audio we were working on. I think the songs are 'Instruments of Random Murder' and 'The Eldritch'.

 

TMU:  Did you continue to pursue music after your stint in WatchTower or were you ďburned outĒ on the whole scene at that point?

 

Mike Soliz:  I was already starting to get interested in electronic music and was experimenting with keyboards on my own. Let's just say Watchtower gave me a nudge in the pursuit of that direction when I was told my voice wasn't strong enough for Tower.

 

TMU:  I know through interviews that your musical tastes were always pretty wide ranging.  What are some of your current favorite artists?

 

Mike Soliz:  Type O Negative, Sade, Bjork, Snoop Dogg, Marilyn Manson.

TMU:  How did you get involved in music production? Was the local Hip-Hop act K.F.O. the first band you worked with as producer?

 

Mike Soliz:  Just experimenting with keyboards and sounds throughout the years.  I would have to say K.F.O. was the first real production work I had done. The other groups I had worked with were pretty much  stepping stones.  Again in this case I look back and say the "If I knew then..." phrase.

 

TMU:  What are your thoughts on the Heavy Metal scene today or the lack thereof?

 

Mike Soliz:    I don't think there is a Heavy Metal scene anymore. Heavy metal has gone underground again. You have to search for old school metal now days. These Nu-Metal  bands are all about who can do the funky start-stop chops on the guitar. The same goes for the drums. The least they could do is throw us a guitar lead every once in a while!

 

TMU:  Thanks for your time Mike!