Since its debut release in 1997, Sevendust has been one of the most consistent bands in hard rock and metal, never releasing a subpar album and grinding it out on the road as much as anyone. On May 11, the band released “All I See is War” (Rise Records), its 12th studio record, and the touring cycle already is well underway with headlining dates and festival appearances. After a performance on May 4 at Carolina Rebellion in Concord, North Carolina, Live Metal’s Greg Maki caught up with drummer Morgan Rose and guitarist John Connolly for a quick chat about the new album.
LIVE METAL: Usually, when I do interviews, it’s a couple hours before doors open, so I never get a chance to ask you, how did you think that show went?
MORGAN ROSE: The show went surprisingly well for a matinee. It was a little weird when I woke up and I’m like, “Yeah, dudes, it’ll take me a few hours and I’ll be good.” Somebody goes, “Cool, well, we go on in an hour.” (laughs) I’m like, “OK, show’s gonna get weird.” But it was cool. The adrenaline kicked in as I hit the drum set, and I was like, “Yeah, I like this.” It was fun.
Are you gonna check out any bands the rest of the day or anything like that?
JOHN CONNOLLY: Yeah, as soon as we get all of this stuff wrapped up, I’ll probably check out Tremonti, for sure. We saw (Stone Temple Pilots) the other day, but I want to see them again. I want to see Alice in Chains; it’s probably been a year, year and a half since they were out on tour. It’s cool for us to go and check out all the shows.
A week from today (May 11), the new album comes out, “All I See is War.” Is the album title a comment on the world today?
JOHN: Pretty much. Not to get too political, but it’s just like, you go on social media, you go on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—it doesn’t matter—people are not willing to have the conversation as much as we used to. So yeah, I think it’s more of a general theme.
MORGAN: It does get really vague, because like John said, the real side of war—that’s one thing—but it’s so wide when you’re talking about it. Keyboard warriors and people being able to attack people on social media. The percentage of positive to aggressive on social media feels like it’s 80-20 max—at best. Everybody hates everybody. What the hell is going on?
JOHN: Everyone is either offended by something, or (there’s) bullying and all that stuff. I think the computer and social media is a great tool for musicians to be able to get stuff out there, but it’s a rabbit hole, man. I see people who have been friends for 30 years and they don’t speak to each other over a fight they had on Facebook—unfriended, unfollowed, blocked. I’m like, “It’s Facebook.”
I know you guys have made albums in different ways in the past. Sometimes you’ll all write separately, and then sometimes you’ve gone in there with just a few bare ideas. So how did you do it this time?
JOHN: There was a lot of ideas. We wrote for a long time. We knew we were gonna start it in October. We kind of agreed upon that in February. So we started writing. We wrote the whole time; we wrote all the way on through. So by the time we actually got it to Elvis (producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette), there were almost 60 demo ideas to go through. For him, it was a little overwhelming. For me, it was little overwhelming, too, because I didn’t know there was that many in there. But yeah, we came locked and loaded. We brought everything we could possibly think of. That’s kind of how it started, with a lot of demos—a lot.
Doing the 20th anniversary shows and playing the whole first album—did that have any influence at all on the writing this time?
MORGAN: No. When we did the first record, it was really cool. It was weird, ‘cause we did some acoustic stuff with “Time Travelers,” and we would do some of these older songs. When we play, it’s all out, so when we’re doing it acoustically, we can listen to the lyrics now. And when we write lyrics as a band, we write about what we’re going through together. So it got emotional, like, “Oh my god, man, I remember where I was when we were writing this.” After two decades of doing it, it’s like, “Oh my god, dude, that was so long ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday.”
Then when we did the first record, it was like, this is so primitive; this is when we were just kids. We had the greatest time doing it, but by the time we got done with it, it was like half of the songs were like, “Dude, if anybody brings this song into the mix again, you’re out of the band. We don’t want to play that anymore.” But it was cool. We didn’t do a tour on that, so we only did six shows, I think, total. So it was perfect. We got to go back to our roots and do that. It was just enough—just enough for us to realize you’re not 19 anymore. I’m lying about the age, but 19 sounds good. (laughs)
This is the first time in a while you worked with an outside producer. Why did you decide to do that, and what impact did Elvis have on the album?
MORGAN: We were away from each other for so long that I think we realized—we’re very close, we’re very tight, we fight like brothers, we love each other like brothers. I think that the idea was we’ll never be able to walk into a room and not have the tension go crazy. Plus, like John said, we’re talking about 60-plus songs. How do we fight over what 10 to 12 out of 60 are gonna go in? So we needed a mediator, and not only a mediator but a songwriter, a sonic masterpiece of a producer. We found the perfect guy for us. We had our tense moments in there, but when we left, it was like I don’t know if I can do another record with somebody else. He gets us.
JOHN: He’s a really good referee, too. I knew sonically it was gonna be what it was gonna be. That’s kind of what he’s made his name by, but he really digs into the songs, too. But for us, he’s a neutral guy. He’s the voice of reason. When the five of us, two are going one way and three are other way, sometimes he’s a tie-breaker, sometimes he really screws it up and now all of a sudden you’ve got 3-3. For the most part, it was refereeing the whole thing and just being a fan.
MORGAN: He’s a manipulative son of a bitch. (laughs) Like, “Yeah, man, it’s good, it’s good. Don’t worry about that. It’s good.” I’m like, OK, cool, my part’s gonna get in there, and then all of a sudden, we listen back and I’m like, “Hey, man, my spot isn’t in there.” “Hey, man, it’s all good, ‘cause we got you over here, so don’t worry about that. Hey, let’s have a drink.” I’m like, “Oh my god, you’re a manipulator! And I love it!” (laughs)
Tremonti goes on in just a few minutes, so is there anything else you’d like to say?
JOHN: I’m getting ready to go over and watch Tremonti. (laughs)
MORGAN: Thank you for everything, bud. Appreciate it.