Catching Up With Paul Thorstenson Of Dissolve

October 13, 2011 by Chris Grosso

Dissolve is heavy. Dissolve is brutal, and they are very, very good at what they do. My friend Steve Karp (of Yuppicide) summed up his experience of Dissolve quite nicely by saying “that band still scares the hell out of me to this day- so intense”. Any of you fortunate enough to have seen a live Dissolve show over the past twenty years know exactly what he is talking about. Even to call it a “show” isn’t quite accurate as it’s more of an experience, second only to few other live bands. While they haven’t exactly released a library of material over the years, Dissolve’s legacy to fans speaks for itself. As Paul states in the interview “Sometimes I wonder if people really care or even like us anymore but then we play a show and the way people react makes me feel really good, like there’s a real connection we’ve made with people. That’s success to me, a successful band does that” and I couldn’t agree more.

The Paul Thorstenson Interview

TIS: Good Morning Paul.

PT: Good morning man. How’s it going?

TIS: Good, good thanks.

PT: Good.

TIS: Right on. So The Indie Spiritualist has a rather eclectic readership and for those unfamiliar with Dissolve I was hoping you could give me a bit of history on the band, from its beginnings in the early 90’s through present times?

PT: Well we started in 1991 and basically just started playing shows, writing our own songs. We weren’t really that good. By the time we got to around ’93 we started getting a little bit better. We recorded a demo that actually did a lot for us because back then you could have a demo and that was kind of your album. You had a little cassette you’d dupe yourself haha. So we’d been playing shows around our area in Poughkeepsie and branched out that year and started playing in CT. People seemed to really like us in CT so we played there a lot. We hooked up with a label out there as well called Endless Fight records who put out a 7” of ours and things continued to get better. We expanded playing farther out from CT along the East Coast. Fernando from The Tune Inn in New Haven put out our Dismantle CD in ’95 and things continued to go well for a couple of more years.

We parted ways with our bass player and drummer, Avi & Keavan and got Chuck & Todd. The sound changed a bit, we started tuning lower and writing in a different style. I think around ’99 or so we were signed to MIA records who we’d met through Candiria. We recorded an album caled Caveman of the Future in 2000, which was supposed to come out that year but the label folded pretty much right after we were done recording. So we lingered on the Caveman album for another year and ended up parting ways around 2001. We started playing shows again in 2004 because Caveman had been leaked on the internet and a lot of people got a copy of it, so that sort of kept things alive for us. We played a few shows and have gotten together every couple of years since then and finally put out the Caveman CD and played a few more shows. We always say we’ll never say never when it comes to Dissolve. We always tend to get back together to do things because we’re all friends. So that brings us up to the present, 20 years later. We’re all friends and in our 40’s. It may be a little embarrassing but we’re having fun.

TIS: Cool. So besides the Caveman album, are any of your other releases still available?

PT: Well I’m pretty sure there’s some copies of Dismantle floating around. If you Google Elevator Records which is Fernando’s label, who is still kind of doing it I think, you can probably find it there. I got in touch with Fernando a few years ago because I didn’t have any copies myself so he sent me some. As for the demo, people put it up for downloads on their blogs so it’s out there if you look for it and the Caveman record is readily available too.

TIS: Nice. So I know you mentioned getting back together in ’04 and I was out there at the show in Poughkeepsie…

PT: Oh, that’s awesome.

TIS: Yeah I had a blast, but I remember you fighting tooth and nail not to play “wire” even though you eventually gave in to the crowds demand. Fast forward to 2008 and I saw you guys with Overcast here in CT and you opened with it. Have you come to terms with wire being fan favorite that you’ll probably never get away from?

PT: Haha. Well it’s funny because we really do owe a lot to that song. It was on an Endless Fight Comp which really got our name out. Back in the earlier days that was “the song” everyone wanted to hear, but just like any band who has one of “those songs” you get tired of it and think, well what about our other songs? So we’d felt that our sound had changed over the years and it didn’t fit in with the newer songs so we didn’t play it as much. It was really Overcast who got us over that. They were like c’mon, you’ve got to play wire. We played six shows with them over a couple of long weekends and they were totally dismayed that we weren’t playing it every night. So we played it as a joke at a show in Vermont that nobody really showed up at and we decided for CT that we’d open with it because we knew the place would go bonkers… and we were right.

TIS: How right you are. So besides Overcast, can you tell me some of the bands you’ve really enjoyed sharing the stage with through the years?

PT: Hmmm, we always liked playing with Candiria because they were great and good friends as well. Some other bands we were good friends and we loved playing with were Blood Has Been Shed and hmmm, that’s tough because we got to play with so many great bands. Dismay, we were good friends with them. It was a really good time for music. We were really fortunate to play with a lot of cool bands like anything from Deadguy to Napalm Death. We were able to get on some really good shows. It was really neat when we got to play some shows with Bad Brains when they first got back together with HR. Those shows are really special to me. Also getting to play with a lot of the bands I grew up listening to like Cro-Mags and Agnostic Front. That was special for me too.

TIS: Sounds awesome and that’s a stellar list of bands. So I came across a Youtube video of you doing a solo performance @The Chance. Is that something you do regularly and can you tell me about it?

PT: Yeah, I did that kind of regularly for about a year, playing sporadic shows like the one on Youtube. Then I became a Dad and didn’t really have as much time for a while but I’ve actually been kind of playing something similar to that again. I started recording with a friend of mine recently and it’s along those lines, more sound oriented, not so much instruments but electronic sounds. We have about ten songs recorded and it will probably come out at some point in some way, shape, or form. I don’t have a name for it yet but it won’t just be my name or anything.

TIS: Nice, looking forward to it. So are any of the other guys in the band doing other projects currently?

PT: Yeah, let’s see. Todd our drummer is in a band that he’s been doing since the 80’s, a speed metal band called Prime Evil. They’re back together and playing some shows, one of which is in CT in a few weeks I think. Chuck is always involved in stuff. He has a band called The Gentling with his wife and another project he’s working on that doesn’t have a name. Our guitar player Jamie is in a band called Death Echo. I haven’t heard too much of their stuff but I’m sure it’s great because he’s a great guitarist.

TIS: Cool. So can you tell me your personal take on how the “scene” differs now vs. when Dissolve first started in the early 90’s, minus the gray hair?

PT: Hahaha. Well one thing I noticed very recently, actually at the last show we played in August, was that the “Hardcore/Metal” shows are a split up scene now between the older guy shows and the younger guys shows. There’s the younger bands and the younger kids go see them and there’s the older bands and the older guys who see them. Like I noticed while we were playing that there was no one really moshing, but as I looked out I noticed everyone there was sort of old, haha. And that’s cool, it’s just sort of a new development I noticed. I kind of equated it to the 80’s when my Dad liked the new Don Henley record or Neil Young record and I was listening to Metallica and Motley Crue. There was Dad rock and the kids rock. So it’s strange to see that happen with Hardcore.

I don’t really know a lot of the newer bands. I think it’s great people are continuing to play this music but most of the newer stuff just sounds like a copy of a copy to me. It seems like the newer bands are influenced by bands that had older influences that the new guys aren’t familiar with. It’s weird. I feel like it doesn’t have a link with history anymore, it’s just this thing that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me and it makes me feel like an old man so I try to avoid it. At the same time I don’t want to come off as some kind of old curmudgeon. I believe it’s the kids music and they should have fun and that’s all fine and well, it’s just not for me. There’s plenty of old man Hardcore for me too. The Cro-Mags are coming back around so that’s cool.

TIS: Definitely. So how would you sum up 20 years of Dissolve and where the band is headed in the future?

PT: Well a lot of the bands we played with went on to bigger and better things and Dissolve was kind of the band that was left behind in a way. We weren’t nationally as popular, more regionally popular I’d say. The thing that is really nice about the band is I think we never really broke into any kind of mainstream, we never got played out to the people who liked us. My wife always tells me what she’s noticed with Dissolve, and the people who go to the shows, that it’s not necessarily us or even the music but more so what we represent, which is a time in our fans lives, their youth and that’s actually really nice, being that band for somebody. The band that maybe got them into this music or they were inspired by either the music or the lyrics in some way and I think that’s the best way to be remembered.

There’s a lot of bands I loved that weren’t popular in their day that are considered legendary these days. A band like Swiz is one of my favorites and they weren’t really that popular when they were together. I don’t know, maybe they’re not that popular now but they always meant a lot to me. If Dissolve can be somebody else’s Swiz, that makes me happy haha. As far as where we’re headed, like I said, we really have a never say never attitude towards Dissolve. I think we’ve all taken turns over the years being the guy in the band who says eh, I don’t want to do it anymore but we always seem to come back together after a while. We’ve written a few songs and there’s some riffs flying around. We’ve been talking about recording some new songs possibly next year when things slow down a bit and we get some time. So hopefully we’ll have that going in the future, hopefully. That would be nice. If we don’t, I’ll still be happy with what Dissolve’s accomplished.

TIS: Nice. And you mentioned Dissolve as sort of being left behind. I actually wanted to ask you about that as there’s a small handful of bands from the 90’s that I believe were entirely underrated. Dissolve being one of them, another being CT’s Cable, but it has just always blown my mind that bands like yours, who were obviously extremely influential to other bands in that time period ,didn’t get bigger while the bands you guys influenced did. With Cable, they know it’s largely in part to their constant on again-off again track record but what would you attribute Dissolves “left behind-ness” too?

PT: Yeah Cable is great and I hear you on that. I think part of Cables hindrances were ones we shared as well. We didn’t get out and do a lot of touring. A couple of guys in the band had good day jobs they didn’t want to give up and I’m sure now they’re glad they didn’t. I think another factor is that we never really played to any of the Hardcore sub-genres. I feel like we always had a unique style and in the Hardcore scene, unfortunately, that can work against you- the not fitting in. Say we played a show with 25 Ta Life, people had no idea what was going on. I’m not knocking them but that was a really popular sound in the 90’s and we just didn’t really fit in with that. I almost kind of feel like people started to get us later after we’d broken up. People started to look back and say you know, that band Dissolve was doing some cool shit. Like the times had to catch up with us a little bit. I think we also could have come out with more material on a consistent basis, like at least a 7” every few months or CD every year or so. We didn’t really put out a lot of material. So yeah, there’s a lot of contributing factors to why we didn’t go as far as say Killswitch Engage or Shadows Fall, you know, Brian and Mike’s stuff.

TIS: Right but what matters at the end of the day is that you’re happy with what Dissolve’s accomplished and you obviously stand behind that.

PT: Yeah, absolutely. I’m very happy with it. Now I just tend to go through my everyday life. I have a family and I have a job. Sometimes I wonder if people really care or even like us anymore but then we play a show and the way people react makes me feel really good, like there’s a real connection we’ve made with people. That’s success to me, a successful band does that.

TIS: Agreed and I know many people who’ve appreciated Dissolves music throughout the years as well as the energy filled live shows. It’s meant a lot to many people.

PT: Well thanks so much and I appreciate the kind words.

TIS: It’s all truth. So thanks for your time and I look forward to whatever the future may bring for you and Dissolve.

PT: Yeah, thank you too.

VISIT DISSOLVE HERE!

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Chris Grosso is a public speaker, writer, recovering addict, spiritual director, and author of Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spirituality (Beyond Words/Simon & Schuster) and Everything Mind: What I've Learned About Hard Knocks, Spiritual Awakening and the Mind-Blowing Truth of it All (Sounds True). He writes for ORIGIN Magazine, Huffington Post, and Mantra Yoga + Health Magazine, and has spoken and performed at Wanderlust Festival, Yoga Journal Conference, Sedona World Wisdom Days, Kripalu, Celebrate Your Life and more. Chris is passionate about his work with people who are in the process of healing or struggling with addictions of all kinds. He speaks and leads groups in detoxes, yoga studios, rehabs, youth centers, 12-step meetings, hospitals, conferences, and festivals worldwide. He is a member of the advisory board for Drugs over Dinner.
  1. vic says:

    great interview..

  2. […] The Indie Spiritualist Interviews Paul Thorstenson Of Dissolve […]