Drowning Pool: 'The Stars Aligned For Us' To Work With Ryan McCombs

CJ Pierce recently talked with UG writer Amy Kelly about the new record and how one song in particular was inspired by a recent USO tour.

Drowning Pool: 'The Stars Aligned For Us' To Work With Ryan McCombs
Things could not have gotten better for Drowning Pool a little over 5 years ago, with its single Bodies helping to boost the album Sinner into platinum status. But that success was short-lived following the death of vocalist Dave Williams (who died suddenly at the age of 30 from heart failure) in 2005. Unfortunately, replacement vocalist Jason Jones never meshed with the band, resulting in yet another frontman search. When ex-Soil frontman Ryan McCombs finally became available - someone who guitarist CJ Pierce called the band's first choice all along - the band was ready to resurrect the sound that initially connected with audiences. Now fully confident in his band's new singer - not to mention his upcoming record Full Circle on Eleven Seven Music - Pierce says that Drowning Pool has never been so prolific in its songwriting. Full Circle (released July 24) features 14 songs, one of which was co-written and produced by Nikki Sixx and DJ Ashba (Beautiful Creatures). Pierce recently talked with UG writer Amy Kelly about the new record and how one song in particular was inspired by a recent USO tour. UG: It's been about 3 years or so since you released a record, with you changing labels and losing band members during that time CJ: Oh, it goes way beyond that! Yeah, anything that has a 3-year cycle, that's too long. We just hope to do a second record with the same singer. That would be nice! How is Ryan McCombs working out? Everything is going great. Ryan's kind of been a part of the band since we got started. We played shows with his previous band before we were signed and before they were signed. So for us, it's fun because we have a family vibe again. After Dave passed away, he pretty much was our first choice. But he was still playing in his other band. We didn't want to take him out of his band and have them go through the same thing we went through, trying to find a singer and all that stuff. So we move forward with Jason Jones. Good voice, nice guy, but just personalities. I mean, Mike, Stevie, and I, we've been friends since high school and we just kind of grew up in one mind frame. He kind of grew up in another side of the country with a totally different mind frame. We kind of realized that he wasn't the right guy, so we cut our losses short. When we did, Ryan was available. The stars aligned for us to work with Ryan! It really seems like it's been a smooth transition. Did you always sense that he would be a perfect fit vocally when you heard him sing in Soil? The one thing that was pretty cool the first time we started playing with those guys was Dave instantly kind of grabbed onto them. Dave heard them a while before I did, and Dave was a fan of them out of the gate. The cool thing, during Ozzfest, was they would always play during our signings, and he would always go run up and sing a song with them. We just became buddies with all of them and I think we have similar styles of music and similar influences and upbringing is what it comes down to. Yeah, he fits right in. I'm really happy. He sings old songs great. This whole experience for us, the writing process has been like none other on the first 2 records. We've written more songs on this record than we have on our first 2 records combined. Since Ryan's been in the band, we'll pop out and play like 2 weekends in a row or we did the USO tour for the troops. We got to play all these new songs live before we even stepped into the studio to record them. A lot of bands, after they make the first record, they go into the studio and make another record. You don't really have that time. We kind of had time to develop as a band again from the ground up, playing a bunch of club shows. This song is great. This song doesn't work. Put aside. We got to do all of that.
"We hope to do a second record with the same singer."
When you go through the process of weeding out the good and bad material, does it have as much to do with the audience's reaction as it does your own gut reaction? It's definitely a combo package. I love writing music. We all love writing music together, but I think it's really the vibe of the song. You have to get the song vibe, even though on the next record we'll probably tour a bunch on the new songs before it's recorded. I think it's a great record, but there are a couple of songs that we played live that just didn't come across the same way as it does when you listen to it. I think it's definitely a factor. It's definitely been a factor on this record of what songs we went with because the fans just went apeshit! What are a few of the songs that the people have reacted the most to? We just did a little run and came back from Europe. Everybody was going around, humming one of our songs called Shame. It's got this really cool hooky little 3-chord kind of line that has this hooky melody. Everybody is walking around the other bands like singing it, I-EE-I-EEE-IIII You're like, What? That's going to be a good one. There's a song called Reborn that's really personal to us that sounds great. I busted out the acoustic on this record, which I've never done before. So you hadn't used the acoustic at all in any of the previous records? Nope. I used to play the acoustic guitar at church for many, many years, and then I put it away. I was like, I'm all about the rock and roll metal! After Dime passed away, I kind of pulled the acoustic out. During a kind of somber mood, you bust out the acoustic and it's kind of a good way to express that. I wound up writing a lot of songs in that mind frame, and then some of them transferred over. But it's a good mix. Soldiers seems like it is the defining track for the record. Was that song directly inspired from your USO tour? Yeah, we're very fortunate. The soldiers kind of picked us. With Bodies still having a lot of life to it, a song we put out like 6 years ago. That's a song that helps them just get through, to get ready for their jobs. For us, to do the USO tour, to go over there and play for the troops and play one of their favorite songs and meet all these men and women were such an inspiration. As soon as we got back, I honestly remember laying in bed that night when I got back home, jet lag like you would not believe, and I was thinking, Man, we have to have a song for these people. Because it's really not about war, and even Bodies isn't about that. I met people's moms and dads and brothers and sisters, and it's like they go over there for a year - and whether you're for war or you're against war - these people are still there and they're still family. So I definitely wanted to have a song that kind of showed some respect for that. Besides all the other stuff that's going on, it's real people. I'm a fan of a few different bands and I'm influenced by a lot of music, but I just lay there and the music came to me in a little head groove. We immediately went into the studio the next day to keep writing songs. We were all on the same page. We always kind of play off of each other, springboarding is what we call it. We springboard ideas and the song was created just like that. You bring out the acoustic briefly on that one, too. I do in the middle. That part in that song actually was something I wrote when I was like 18 or 19. I used to jam out with Mike, the drummer. We used to have these other songs and I always wanted to put this little Southern rock, kind of Mexican vibe, little guitar piece into it and then have a speech over it. I'm really excited about that being in there. We had a speech right there. We were going to use a speech from the Patton movie. It's a really cool speech that Patton says, but the people over at Fox freaked out on us and said if we even put a speech that remotely reminded them of that speech, they were going to sue the shit out of us. So we had our own speech and had Ryan do it, and they still said no. So that was a blank spot. It's just an acoustic piece, which is kind of sad. I'm still pretty angry about that because the truth is that we're trying to support people. We're not trying to rip off the Patton movie with a 5-word speech. That's some history on the song that's going to come out. When you perform it live, do you still slip in the speech? Yeah. Ryan is still going to say what he wrote. Ryan wrote a speech and put it in there. Since we asked them for permission to use Patton, they came back with you use any speech, they were going to go after you with their lawyers. We weren't going to go against a movie company.
"We've written more songs on this record than we have on our first 2 records combined."
There are a lot of bands that would probably be afraid of writing a song about the troops for fear of being associated with the Bush administration. A lot don't want to touch any of that. A lot of heavy metal bands, rock bands are like, Fuck the president. Fuck this and fuck that. It's like, Well, you can still feel like that, but at the end of the day it's still somebody's mom and dad, brother and sister that's over there. Whether you're for war or against war, you've got to support them. They get the bad rap, and those are some of the most dedicated people I've ever met in my life. I was talking to 18-year-old, 19-year-old kids, they were over there to do a good thing. They're not over there to do a bad thing. I was there and I got to see a lot of stuff, and there's a lot of good stuff going on. But you're never going to see that on the news. The news is about the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, and I won't even get into that! You mentioned that for Soldiers you already had a melody in your head for it. Does it usually happen that way when you're writing the guitar parts? We have a process that's been working for us lately. I mean, every band works different. At the end of the day, we all put our 2 cents in our songs. Monday through Friday, like everybody else that have jobs, I look music the same way. I'll write music for 8 hours a day, pick up the guitar, Monday through Friday, 8 hours a day, writing music. Generally what I do is I'll sit there and come up with a lot of ideas. I kind of keep them pretty open. It seems like whenever I do song solid and we put it in there, then I don't want it to be a CJ song, I want it to be a drum song. I'll just kind of do a basic structure with a chorus and basic drumbeats on the drum machines, then I'll present it to Mike and Stevie. Then they put their style to it. Then last but not least, Ryan comes in and we all kind of springboard ideas off of each other. I understand that Nikki Sixx and DJ Ashba helped write and produce a song. Yeah. That's a great story. We never, ever, ever wanted to ever do anything with anybody. We're surrounded by our music and pretty close-minded. Then we started with Allen Kovac, a great manager and great guy, and he was asking us how we knew Nikki Sixx, because we knew him from the past. We had done a cover of Shout At The Devil when we did Jagermeister Music Tour back in 2002. Word got out to him that we were playing it. He called us up one day out of the blue and was like, Hey, I think it's cool that you guys are playing the song. We ought to get together and do something someday. So we were telling Allen the story about Nikki throwing out the idea that we should get together one day and do something. So here we are, our record is already done and we're done recording and it's being mixed, and Allen is like, Well, Nikki Sixx is in the studio right now with DJ. What if I fly you out there for like 5 days and if something happens, we'll try and sneak a song in at the last minute. If it works, cool. If it doesn't work, either way. So we got up there and hammered out 2 songs, one of them which is definitely going to make it on the record. The other one we didn't have time to finish. But it was a great experience. I mean, meeting Nikki Sixx was awesome! He's not only an idol and a super-cool dude, but I got to write songs with him! So it was great. He and DJ had some ideas, and we had some ideas. Which song did Nikki and DJ work on? Reason I'm Alive. I'm actually in the studio right now and am going to do an acoustic version of the song as like a special bonus track. So we already have that song done and now today I'm doing an acoustic version of it. You really are going all-out with the acoustic this time around. Yeah! I didn't really think about it, looking back now. I think it broadens our sound. It's still us playing songs and we're always going to be known as a heavy band and play heavy music. It's kind of fun with the acoustic because it definitely does bring another element in it. The thing about playing on acoustic is you hear every little note. So you have to play it right! You play with a lot of different amps and guitars, but do you have a preference in working with all of those? I just went to the NAMM convention in January. I love it because they have so many toys. I made a list this time because every time I go, I want to meet up with people I haven't seen in a couple years and we end up hanging out, kicking a few drinks back. Then you don't get to try all this new stuff that comes out every year. So this year I went every single day and I had a list of what I was going to get done every day. I played on tons of guitars and amps. I've got to be honest, I played on these Kustom amps. They make like bass amps. They've been around for years, and man, that amp was smoking! It's a Kustom amp, the '72 Coupe. Oh, it's a great head. Man, it's smoking!
"After Dime passed away, I kind of pulled the acoustic out."
And you recorded with the Kustom? I've been using that one primarily. I still have my Randall heads, before I used that as well. Also I use a little bit of Mesa because Mesa just has that rock sound that you can't get past. Sometimes I blend them. But mostly that Kustom has everything in it. What pedals were you working with? I'm all about the DigiTech pedals. They have a lot of great toys! Yeah, I use the hell out of those pedals. They're great. With the additional acoustic work you've been doing, are you now a connoisseur of acoustics? I'm not a connoisseur, but I had a lot of fun with it on this one. I think it was a nice mix. I'm using Ovation acoustics, the 6-string and the 12-string. I pulled out the old 12-string, which you don't hear too much of today. Believe me, it doesn't sound like a Poison song or anything like that! I don't want to give you the wrong impression. And no offense to Poison - I love them, too! Brett Michaels is a cool dude. We just kind of filled for color and the parts that are kind of mellow. I've read that one of the tentative song titles is Texas Metal Showdown. What can we expect from that one? That song is one of the songs that didn't make the record. We were talking about that as a single. For some reason at the end of the song, like after the solo and stuff, 2 of the guys in the band still don't feel like it's something. It was like, Something's not right there. I just can't put my finger on it yet. We couldn't really figure it out. You want the song to be kickass from top to bottom. It will definitely rear its head on the next record or sometimes we do stuff like a Japanese release when they want extra songs. Now we have like 5 or 6 extra songs that didn't make it on there. We narrowed it down and it got bumped. It's a great song, though! It would be so great on this record! Do you think you might put together a DVD in the near future? We keep talking about doing one of those CDs where our CD has on the other side interactive stuff, videos, and it has DVD stuff on it as well. So I'm thinking maybe that would come out with the CD for it to have more to offer. I think that the different chains of stores that the CD's will come out, whether it's Best Buy or Target, we might put on like a bonus track. That's all being talked about and I'm hoping that happens. Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2007

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    Great interview, I really like Drowning Pool's work and have been a fan since bodies. I'm definitely going to pick up the new record. Pierce can also pull off nice solos.
    I thought that Desensitized was a great album (one w/Jason Jones), but if you can't get along, then there's no point I guess...
    Can't Wait for their new album, i have never been a massive DP fan, i like Bodies but i really like Soil and Ryan McCombs singing style. I saw them in Southampton earlier this year at the Nexus. Along with Ill Nino. it was a really good gig. My ears were bashed up after that.
    I also saw drowning pool live at the nexus in southampton xD. Ill never forget it, there my favoruite band and that was my first gig. even got to shake CJ's hand.
    there new album sound so mutch like soil to my ears. i relly loved the first 2 albums . Ryan McCombs was relly good whit soil. but i did like the first 2 singers better.
    I only have their first album (Sinner), but it freaking rocks, and I've been a fan of these guys since I saw them in my own hometown (Fairbanks, freaking Alaska... props to them for coming here), and I really look forward to this album.
    I just saw them live last week and got their new album signed by the whole band. It rocks, especially their cover of Rebel Yell.
    Sinner was a great album, but I wasn't impressed with Desensitized, and the song Soldiers didn't give me a very good first impression of this album either.
    Desensitized was ****ing amazing IMO, gets me really happy and such, and I loved Gong's vocals. But nonetheless, the new album is awesome