After enduring a laundry list of hardships, Drowning Pool
is hoping that 2009 might just be their year. Following the tiring job of finding a new frontman after the death of Dave Williams
and personality conflicts with Jason Jones
, the arrival of vocalist Ryan McCombs
in 2005 did signal a positive new beginning. But change can often bring new troubles, and Drowning Pool
found that reproving itself to be a viable metal band was only one obstacle to overcome. You just have to say "2007
" to send chills up guitarist C.J. Pierce
's spine. After all, that was the year when he and his bandmates' gear was stolen not once, but two times in the course of a few months.
To top it all off, Drowning Pool
's 3rd studio album Full Circle
did not always receive radio support due to some who misinterpreted the message behind the single "Soldiers
." A song that was written to be more of a morale booster rather than a pro-war anthem, "Soldiers
" was snubbed by enough radio stations last year to leave the members of Drowning Pool
discouraged and disheartened.
When Ultimate-Guitar had an opportunity to chat with Pierce
recently, the guitarist told us that at long last his band is gaining momentum. After finishing a grueling tour schedule in support of Full Circle
, Drowning Pool
is set to release Loudest Common Denominator
, a CD/DVD offering that will feature 11 tracks from a recent San Diego tour date, as well as 2 new acoustic studio recordings. And if you happen to enjoy the lighter side of Drowning Pool
that you hear on the CD, you're in luck. Pierce
said that although he had not picked up an acoustic for many years, he is no longer opposed to exploring the unplugged side of Drowning Pool
on future releases.
UG: It sounds like you've had a fairly hectic year with activities involving the album Full Circle. I read that you played 300 shows in support of that particular record.
Over the last 3 years the record came out and Ryan joined the band, and we really started playing shows about a month and a half later. Then we got to sit down with a bunch of new songs, playing and writing in between. We stopped to record Full Circle, and then toured right after. It was good, though. I'm not going to complain!
Fans will get a taste of that tour with your latest live CD/DVD release Loudest Common Denominator. Besides the 2 acoustic tracks, did you set out to make it a pretty straightforward live record?
We honestly went into it thinking we would never use anything live. We didn't want to put the red light on and be all intimidated. We set up at a couple shows, played at House of Blues in San Diego and we also played at the Whisky in L.A. At that time, we talked about doing a live record and we wanted to do a live record. It was kind of like, Let's go ahead and tape it and not think about it. Let's just put on a good rock show like we always do. We had thought it probably wouldn't come at all. I mean, we weren't going to use it. So that kind of took the pressure off.
Once we got the tracks back and listened to them, they came out really great. I was surprised. We were all very happy with how the live shows sound. We wanted to keep it raw. It is raw. Live records from Nine Inch Nails to Marilyn Manson are not really live records. A lot of it is overdubbed. A ton of it is overdubbed. There are pros and cons to that. I think a lot of people nowadays, their ears are used to production and used to that. So our first thought was, Well, I might have to go back and put another guitar track on it. After we mixed it down a little bit, we decided, Fuck it. We're going to keep it real and raw.
The only thing we did do, which I think is kind of cool with our live record, is we had a lot of microphones in the crowd. So we definitely brought that up, where you feel like you're in the crowd. So that's cool. That was fun that we got the crowd really into it.
Were the acoustic tracks (37 Stitches and Shame) recorded live as well?
"We didn't want to put the red light on and be all intimidated."
Those were done in the studio. We had played around with 37 Stitches and with Shame. When we had some time off and were actually rehearsing for our tour at our buddy's house. We recorded those acoustic and had fun with it because he had a studio in his house. We had recorded Shame and 37 Stitches without the intention of ever really doing anything with them. Shame is completely different than the original song. It's nothing like it, which is fun. It kind of has the rock acoustic vibe like bands have done in the past. Everybody references Alice In Chains because they're one of the most noted for doing acoustic stuff. I really liked the way it shaped up, and for 37 we went back and did a little touch up on it from the original recording. I kind of went back and did a little bit more stuff, and then I think Ryan re-sang it.
Could those tracks possibly foreshadow an unplugged tour down the line?
You know, I had never thought about it. When it comes down to acoustic and when I started playing music I got a guitar when I was 11 and started playing at church I played the hell out of the acoustic when I was younger. I had no intention of going back to it and touching it. We were just a rock band when we started. It was just a natural progression. I was at a buddy's house and pulled out the acoustic for the first time in many, many years, and it had a cool vibe to it. So now the 37 Stitches acoustic version is actually getting some airplay and we're getting a big reaction from it. It would be fun to do an acoustic record. I know that a handful of bands have done it in the past, and I guess maybe we're just coming around to that evolution as well. It seems to work well with our music. Sometimes it's a trainwreck! So we've talked about it, but right now we're focused on our 4th record. Maybe next time we'll do some brand new songs that are full-on acoustic, and then maybe do a few older ones as well. That would be awesome. I would love to hear that.
In writing the follow-up to Full Circle, have you stuck with the same songwriting process that you've always had?
It seems like every single writing process of every record is completely different for us, besides the obvious fact that we have now Ryan. That's one thing that's nice now. Working with Ryan and writing a record with him, all of us gel really well together. I know his strong points and his weak points, so for this record he made my job a little easier. Just writing the way that I write, I'll have in the back of my head that if I play it this way, it would probably work better for Ryan than if I did it this way. Whereas with all the other records, unfortunately Dave passed away and then the next record we had personality conflicts.
For the past couple of months of touring, in the back of the bus I've been writing. I wanted to come into it prepared. I wanted to have a lot of stuff on my plate. All of us kind of bring our own little vibe in. We have more material now than we've ever had. I don't know if that comes with time or just the advantage of having the same singer do a 2nd record. We have a ton of stuff right now. We only just started writing the last week of January, and we're already up to like 14 raw songs. We're doing 8-hour days. We don't punch a clock. It's rock n' roll and you kind of come in a little bit later, but we put a lot of hours in there.
I understand that a lot of your equipment was stolen not too long ago. Is that true?
Yeah! Last year was horrible for us! I think when any band gets any kind of new member, you kind of have to reprove yourself to your fans and to the business. I think now we have solid ground, but coming out with Ryan in the beginning I think a lot of people were like, Oh, what's going on with this band? We went out on tour and had a great tour. It was kind of starting over again, which was tough. Then in the middle of that a couple days before Thanksgiving somebody broke into our rehearsal space and stole the gear that we had left over that we didn't take on tour with us. We had a PA system and all that stuff stolen. Then for the Christmas break, we had put things into a storage unit. Then over Christmas break someone broke into our storage unit!
Wow, that's horrible!
Yeah! A lot of people think, Well, you're a rock band and you've got a lot of money all the time. It doesn't work like that. If you're Nickelback or you're somebody doing arena tours, you're making good money. We're just getting back up again and working the clubs. Yeah, it wasn't easy to get all that stuff.
Were any of your prized possessions stolen?
"It seems like every single writing process of every record is completely different for us."
We had just gotten off the road from Christmas break, so everything was in there. It's tough. It might just be some kind of storage case for a guitar, but some of that stuff had been to Japan and Europe. Some of the stuff that was stolen had gone to Iraq with us when we played for the troops. It's got sentimental value. It's not just taking your gear it's taking a part of your life.
So we got that stolen and we were supposed to go on tour 3 weeks later. Thank goodness we have great people who endorse us. Kustom Amps, they sent me out cabinets and heads. DigiTech sent me out a whole new rig and pedalboard. So they took care of us, and I really do appreciate it. I'm forever thankful to Kustom and DigiTech. We lost about $40,000 worth when it comes down to the microphones. Our bass player lost all his basses and all his rigs. I had some guitars at my house, so thank goodness I had those at home with me.
I feel like for the first time we have momentum. It feels like we've been kicked in the teeth so many times from the start. Right after 9/11 happened, Dave passed away. Then it was up and down with Jason. I guess life is a roller coaster ride, but now we're working on the next record and have a lot of good things coming.
Your song Soldiers must have been a turning point for the band, between your communication with the troops and actually performing in Iraq. Do you still receive feedback about that experience?
It was a pro and con situation, to be honest with you. The pro side, of course, was that our whole mission was just supporting our troops when they come home. We just want to make sure we don't have a situation like Vietnam, where the troops come home and they don't get any mental healthcare. It's not like we're marching down the streets with flags and stuff. We don't really consider ourselves a full-on political band. We just have friends and family in the armed forces, and we just want them to be treated right when they come home. It's very simple. We wanted to go over and support the troops not support a war. Nobody's for war. We wanted everyone to come home.
We had a lot of radio stations and a lot of people who don't want to touch you because they think you're political. Everybody is so on the fence about war. Once you mention it, all of the sudden you get blackballed. We're just supporting family. We're not like, Have guns blazing and go shoot things up. We took a negative hit with it. It turns off a lot of these younger fans, who don't understand that you might have a mother or father over there. An uncle or somebody is always involved. We're just trying to support them.
On the last album you had an opportunity to work with DJ Ashba and Nikki Sixx. Do you think there will be another collaboration on the upcoming record?
That happened after we were done with the record. We went in and worked on 2 songs, but we only ended up using the song Reason I'm Alive. It was great! We had talked about working with them a long time ago, back when Dave was still with us. We used to go out and play Shout At The Devil sometimes. It got back to him, so we kind of made friends with him a long time ago. So it was a great opportunity being on the same management and same label. DJ is a great, great songwriter. They're a great team. I think the Sixx: AM record is awesome. I heard they're working on a new one, and I can't wait to hear it. It's a little intimidating at times as well because Nikki Sixx wrote a shitload of awesome rock music.
Considering that Drowning Pool's songwriting evolves from record to record, will that carry over the studio sessions? Do you intend to take a new approach in that sense?
"We have more material now than we've ever had."
Yeah. You learn as you go. I figure at this point, between demoing songs and recording songs, we'd love to produce the record ourselves this time around. We definitely want to bring somebody in that has that outside ear. We have a few people in mind. We haven't gone down the producer path, but in the next few weeks we'll probably pick somebody out. We'll get that all laid out, and hopefully we'll be in the studio recording in April and be done by May. Then we'll be out on the road again by June. That's kind of what we're tentatively looking at. That gives us a lot of time to write. Even though we have a few songs now and have enough to do the record, we like to overwrite. Sometimes when you lay songs down, they don't come across as strong.
Also, I wouldn't mind doing a few shows in between. That's one of the advantages we had on Full Circle. All the songs got played live before we chose what we wanted to put on the record. You kind of have to give it the live test.
That is definitely a gutsy move because a lot of artists can get somewhat defensive.
I gave up a long time ago! I remember having a freak-out session. We had a guy from our management company who called me up 3 months before Full Circle came out, and he said it's out all over the place. I don't think I ever used the F-word so many times in one day in my life! I just realized that's the way it is. We work really hard, and it costs a lot of money to make this kind of record. It takes a lot of time and effort. But with today's generation, if they can get anything for free, they'll get it for free. I'm just happy that they listen to it and that they come out to the show and hang out with us. That's more important than anything.
I recall in our last interview that you said every year you enjoy checking out the NAMM Convention. Were you able to go and try out some new gear?
No, my father had to have a kidney removed. I had made plans to go. He's doing great, but I needed to spend time with him. Thank God we have two of them, right? Ever since 2001, I've gone every year except for this year and one other year. I took advantage of it a few years ago, playing on every single amp and guitar I could find! That's what led me to Kustom. For what I'm doing, they just had the best-sounding head for me. I plug right into it, and it's ready to go.
Are you also still playing Washburn guitars?
No, I've been playing B.C. Rich guitars. I had my custom Vs made with Washburn, but people change hands in the office. I was always trying to do my part for them. I'm like, Hey, we're going to be on TV in front of millions of people with a cabinet that says Randall on it or something like that. Then here I am playing on stuff that wasn't my rig and it wasn't stuff that I was supporting. I got frustrated with them. So now I'm moving forward.
So it sounds like we can expect a tour in the summer.
Yeah, definitely. Hopefully we'll be out by the end of May or June. We want to get on some summer tours. We've got a rehearsal studio where they also have a recording studio inside, so it's kind of cool. It's very convenient. So we'll work on 3 or 4 songs, demo them, and then we'll work on a couple more. It's really a helpful tool. With any luck, we'll be out by June. That's our game plan!
Interview by Amy Kelly