Stone Sour: 'In The Studio We Were A Fine-Tuned Machine'

artist: Stone Sour date: 12/17/2010 category: interviews
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Stone Sour: 'In The Studio We Were A Fine-Tuned Machine'
Audio Secrecy, Stone Sour's third album, mixes stone guitar cold riffs from Josh Rand and Jim Root with dark and shadowy vocals from Corey Taylor. That combination has scored bigtime with the band's fans: the album debuted in the Top 10 internationally on Billboard's 200 and the album was a No. 1 pick on the iTunes Rock Album Chart. Say You'll Haunt Me, the first single from the album, similarly broke into the Top 10 on Billboard's charts and a multitude of countries such as Germany, England, and Austria all embraced this newest release. Guitarist Josh Rand is justifiably proud of Audio Secrecy. It marks the second time the band has gone into the studio with producer Nick Raskulinecz [he twiddled knobs on Come What(ever) May] and the outcome is a greatly expanded palette of sounds and styles. Rand spoke about the record, his guitars, and his secret fantasy about always wanting to be a hair metal musician. That's not exactly true but he does dig those players and here you can read about it. UG: Audio Secrecy is Stone Sour's third album and it's truly reflected in the cohesion of the songs and the performances. The band was really on the same page for this one. Josh Rand: Yeah, we're on our third record so obviously we're getting more and more comfortable with one another and what another brings to the band. We're just evolving as a band and people. Part of that comfort factor was going for more of a live performance? You and Jim Root actually recorded the guitar parts at the same time? That's not an easy thing to do. Yeah, we actually tracked together for all the basic rhythm stuff which was really cool. It was something that Nick [Raskulinecz], the producer, always wanted to do but he felt it would take something special for two guys to be able to do it. And I think he thought me and Jim could do it so we thought it would be cool to try. It was more about capturing a vibe between the two of us and the drum take than us playing to a grid. That's what happens pretty much when you go in and record individually; then you have to match that person and then it becomes more of everything just being lined up to the Pro Tools grid. So it's a lot looser, the way that we recorded, and I think it makes it breathe a lot more. It's not pinpoint perfect; it just feels right instead of being completely dialed into being perfect on a grid. Had you fine-tuned any of these songs live before recording them? Or did you learn your parts in pre-production and rehearsals? No, we never played any of em live; it was just pre-production and writing and rehearsals as you touched on there. We did a lot of it in pre-production though it lasted forever. The pre-production/writing process for this lasted forever; it was really long it seemed like. So we definitely were a fine-tuned machine when we actually did stuff in the studio. How do the guitar parts get worked out between you and Jim Root? I play more of pretty much the main guitar on everything and Jim plays the noodle guitar. When we recorded all the basic rhythms, we sat at the board with Nick facing each other and just went for it. So Jim plays more of the noodle guitar and I play the basic rhythm.

"I play more of pretty much the main guitar on everything and Jim plays the noodle guitar."

Does it get as specific as working out different voicings of a chord? You play something low on the neck and Jim will augment that with something higher up? Umm, we kinda just do what we do. He's gonna do all that ear candy stuff and it's really not, What part are you gonna play? We really don't do that; we kinda just know what our roles are and we just do it. I guess there's really no massive plan on any of the stuff where we need to know who is gonna do what. The only song that was like that was Digital and it was the guitar breakdown in the middle because it was like, OK, what harmony are you gonna play? Which one do you wanna take: the low one or the high one? We just had to discuss who was gonna play what. Are you trying to push each other guitar-wise in a healthy way? Umm, I think it is from the aspect of trying to create the best song possible. Because even from a songwriting point of view, we write so different from one another. Actually we all do that so it's all different. And then from a solo point of view, we play a lot different from one another. Both of us come from the school of shred and even though I can play a lot of that stuff really I'm a fan of making stuff sing. My top favorite solos of all time are really simple stuff like Kiss Detroit Rock City, Motley Crue Home Sweet Home and stuff that can be sung and stick with you and take you to a different place. Make a statement within the song and not necessarily just be shred for the sake of shredding. It seems to be like the popular thing these last couple years. There's very few guys that are up and coming that I think that can play from a technical standpoint and still be tasteful. Like right now everything's My fingers can go that fast; check it out. If we're hearing a lyrical solo on the album, is that you? Could be. Say You'll Haunt Me from the Audio Secrecy album has been receiving some attention. It features that twin guitar attack in the solo. Jim ended up writing that track and we just basically hammered it out in pre-production. The arrangement that's pretty much there is what he had initially written. And the lyrics that Corey wrote are actually about his wife. Hesitate is one of the songs from the album that features acoustic guitars. Typically are the acoustic guitars being played by you? Well actually on that song and several songs, Corey actually played guitar on and on that track that's one of the ones that he plays on; all three of us are playing guitar on that one. He played the basic, the main track on that song; I'm playing one distorted track and Jim is playing a distorted track. I'm playing 12-string electric on that track. There are so many guitars on that song [laughs], I'm trying to think. I mean I did like three or four guitar takes on that song because there's a clean guitar; there's a 12-string electric; I did an acoustic and then the dirty guitar. Corey did clean guitar; dirty guitar. And Jim did I don't know what Jim did [laughs.] There's a lot of guitars going on in that song. If you take this song as an example, are you and Jim out there doing basic guitar tracks live and then overdubbing the various instruments later? Well we basically, when we were doing pre-production, we were recording too while we were doing that. So we would have those takes from what we were recording during the day and then Jim and myself would work on solos and the ear candy or noodling guitars. We kinda had to write those over the course of the entire process from the beginning of January til when we were done in May. So it wasn't like all of a sudden, OK, I've gotta put something there; what are we gonna put there? Now sometimes that happens moreso with Jim than myself cause I like to sit and write everything out. Whatever I've played on the record, I like to play live. Note for note where he's more of an improve type player. The Audio Secrecy record does have this darker sound to it and obviously a lot of these songs are very heavy. Do you think that your fans are looking for even heavier stuff because Corey and Jim do play in Slipknot and maybe they're expecting that kind of material? They might expect it but sorry to disappoint them but we write for ourselves and we've always done that. We're a completely different band. What we're doing is what we want to do. If you want to listen to heavy stuff then listen to Slipknot. You know what I'm saying? If it was exactly like Slipknot then there would be no point in having Stone Sour at all. It's two different things. What's happening on Imperfect? Corey actually plays the acoustic on that track and that's the track that he brought in. Jim does one of the noodle guitars, the harmonics, and then I actually played the solo and we'll call it the David Gilmour bends in the chorus. Is that how you describe that guitar part? That's how we described it after we recorded it or actually Nick did. Which is kind of crazy because I respect Pink Floyd but I don't listen to them at all. So it's kind of weird. Do you think that a song like Imperfect is the next step forward from a song like Through Glass or Sillyworld? All of those songs have acoustic foundations and bear some slight similarities. I think you can make the comparison of Imperfect being more like Bother. They're really not that much different except you have a little bit more guitars than just the one guitar. So instead of Corey just being by himself, it's with Jim and myself also playing. I would think it's more like that. I think there are several songs on this album that are a progression from the last record.

"Not everything in the world is bad and I think that this record reflects that. It shows the positive of stuff and not just the negative."

What songs specifically? Well, I think Threadbare is pretty epic. It goes through a lot of peaks and valleys. I think Dying was a big step forward not only musically but from a vocal standpoint. Go back and listen to Corey's lyrics and this is the same person that 10 years said that he'd slit your throat [referring to the track, Kill Everybody from the Stone Sour debut album.] For him, I mean, it was the truth. I think people are gonna be surprised by it. But once again that was 10 years ago and we've changed as people and you can only kill so many people. Not everything in the world is bad and I think that this record reflects that. It shows the positive of stuff and not just the negative. Most metal bands feed on that image of death and turmoil and things going wrong. Pretty much every rock band puts out a record and it's all negative. Life sucks and everybody can die. At some point enough's enough. There's only enough room in the world for one Staind [laughs.] Does Nylon has a slight Zeppelin feel to it? That's interesting too because Roy [Mayorga; drums] actually wrote that song. Once again I don't listen to that much Led Zeppelin but that's his favorite band so I could see that how that might have a Zep vibe to it. Is it more demanding of you as a guitarist to pull of the slower tracks that are built around cleaner guitars and acoustics than the big rock songs? A lot of guitarists talk about how you can sometimes hide behind all the distorted and fuzzed out guitar tones. Whereas when you're dealing with a more naked track like Miracles, for example, that you really have to focus on the playing and the timing of the part. I was excited actually to do a lot of the clean guitar cause of just trying to go after and capture that certain sound. My distorted sound is pretty much exactly what I use live. I mean it is but it's not the exact same guitar. I mean I use the same models and pickups and stuff but it's just not that same guitar. When we went to do all these clean guitars, I thought it was fine because there was more experimenting with the clean stuff than the dirty sounds. As far as from a playing standpoint, you know, you're still playing regardless whether it's dirty or not. I think some of the hardest stuff for me to play definitely wasn't any of the clean stuff on this record. The most difficult stuff was some of the dirty stuff but as I said we got to pretty much hammer that out because we did pre-production that seemed like it took half a year. So a lot of that was worked out before we got in there. Do you think any of these guitar parts will be more difficult to pull off live? I'll be interested when it comes time to play these songs live coming from cutting my teeth in metal. Plus always usually for the most part always being heavy how my body language will be playing it live. I'm just used to just slamming and all that. Well, you're not gonna be slamming to Miracles [laughs.] What are some of the guitars and amps you used on the album? Well my main guitar was a PRS Custom 24-fret with EMGs in it: an 81 in the bridge and a 60 in the neck. My amp is a Hughes and Kettner TriAmp. My clean guitars were a PRS hollowbody and a PRS electric 12-string. The acoustic that I played I believe was a Martin D-42. And that's pretty much it. Those were my main guitars. I played a couple other PRS's for like the ear candy/noodling guitars because I'm endorsed by them so like I have a couple more semi-hollow models with P-90s in them. I pretty much stuck to just a couple guitars cause for me I wanted everything to be as consistent as possible. I didn't change up very much. Once we got the tones, I was like, OK, that's gonna be my clean sound for the entire record. That's gonna be the dirty sound for the entire record.

"The lyrics that Corey wrote on Say You'll Haunt Me are actually about his wife."

Do you think you're more able creatively to express yourself as a guitarist in Stone Sour? When you have an idea or hear an idea, do the guitar ideas flow more easily? Well, definitely. I think I've finally found my actual sound which I've been looking for forever since I started. So I think the statement of using the same exact stuff live that I recorded the record with and nothing being changed pretty much tells me that I've found what works for me from guitar to pickups to strings to the amp to what works with my hands. Which is the real key. I think so much of the tone comes from your hands so that combination just works good for my hands. Yeah, I think I finally have that sound. And then from the writing process and being three records in and being more comfortable with what is expected and what is needed. And not, Oh, this is cool like on the first record and you're just kind of blown away by the whole experience. Now it's like, OK, this is what needs to be done. And, uh, just goin' for it. Can you describe what that Josh Rand guitar sound is? It's very bitey. It's got almost an 80s bark to it. It's more a hair metal than nu-metal type sound. You mentioned Kiss earlier but were you a fan of the hair metal bands? Motley Crue and Mick Mars? Well, Mick's tone is huge and once again you've just gotta figure out what works for you. I can go play James Hetfield's rig and it's not gonna sound like him at all. So much tone comes from your hands and people just don't realize that. Stevie Ray Vaughan is another perfect example; his whole sound is his hands. There's not very many people that are gonna bend a step-and-a-half on strings sized .013. What about the other side of the spectrum with more modern bands like Tool and A Perfect Circle. Do they do anything for you? Nah, I pretty much listen to the stuff that I grew up on; there's not very many newer bands that I listen to. Next year Stone Sour plays at the Soundwave Festival in Australia with both newer and older bands. You'll be performing alongside everyone from Iron Maiden and Slayer to 30 Seconds to Mars and Primus. Any feelings about that? We'll play with whoever. I mean it's cool. Almost all those bands that are gonna be on that, we've already played with over the years in Europe on the festivals. I mean we've done tons of shows with Iron Maiden; our booking agent is the same as theirs. I always love seeing those guys because it's pretty amazing the show that they put on at their age. I'll be honest. And Bruce is so high energy and he sounds just as good as he did 20 years ago. It just blows me away. Is Audio Secrecy a significant step forward from Come What(ever) May? Yeah, we're definitely proud of this record. We didn't put out the same record so that makes me happy. Interview by Steven Rosen Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2010
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