Clint Lowery of Sevendust
Sevendust recently released their latest offering “Cold Day Memory,” but it’s not just the new music that fans are excited for. This album marks the return of guitarist Clint Lowery who was an integral part of the band and their writing process before he left to pursue other endeavors in 2003. His return can be felt throughout the entire album as the chemistry just seems to pick up right where they left off.
Sevendust (Lajon Witherspoon on vocals, John Connolly on guitar, Vincent Hornsby on bass & Morgan Rose on drums) continued to churn out great music while Clint took his leave but fans always missed his presence. With his return he brings back that missing intangible element of the writing process that pushed Sevendust to write what could be their best album to date. Not to say that Clint makes the band better but more that the band is better with Clint in it. Each member seems to feed off of the renewed energy being thrown back and forth.
The band has returned to their roots with an album that combines equal parts beauty with equal parts savagery. With comparisons to their earlier album and fan favorite “Animosity” the band builds on what they started and take it all to the next level combining deep textures and beautiful melodies to produce the perfect combination of a heavy, melodic, rock album.
TWRY recently caught up with Lowery to talk about his return, the new album, and their upcoming part in the Carnival of Madness Tour.
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette
Cold Day Memory is the first album that the band has released since your return. I wanted to ask you right out of the gate, how the writing and recording process was for you? Did you feel a lot of pressure since you’ve always been noted as one of the defining forces of the band’s best material?
There was absolutely a lot of pressure but it was one of those kinds of pressure that keeps you on your toes. Being gone for three records I knew that people had expectations and wanted to see what the chemistry of the original line up would be like after being apart. I had a lot of expectations myself and I still feel like I could have done better. I embraced it though, I like working under pressure because when I’m sitting around getting lazy and procrastinating it adds a little pep to my step and makes me want to dig in a little further so it was a good kind of pressure.
And continuing on that discussion, did it feel natural to be working with the band again? Were there any hiccups or was it like getting back on a bike?
It was pretty much the bike scenario. It was a little different because it was a little bit of payback for me being gone; I had to do some make up work. There would be a chorus that would need to be written and they’d sort of hand it off to me but it was cool. Those guys stuck to it after I left and I felt like I owed it to them. I felt like I needed to step it up for them.
Lajon has described your reunion as you coming “home”. I’m just wondering if you feel that way and what the time apart taught you about the band?
It was definitely like coming home and every time he says that it makes me feel really good. This is a comfort zone for us. I’m glad I had that experience outside of the band but being gone really made me appreciate what we have. With any collective group of people that you put together, you’re always going to have disagreements and in this band we have our ups and downs. My time away made me really appreciate them; I appreciated the humor, the musicianship. It’s like when you have a break up in a relationship, after awhile you only remember the good things.
You’ve said that “this record personally has been one of the most difficult, but most rewarding records I’ve ever worked on” – can you tell us more about that?
There were a few different reasons that it was difficult, I added that pressure on myself but also I couldn’t really figure out what direction we should go in. Should we do a balls out heavy record, should we go more melodic and it was really difficult just trying to find our niche again and what would be the most sincere. So I asked the fans what they’d like to hear, we have an amazing core fan base, and you can always rely on them to tell you the truth. You can have people from a business standpoint tell you what they think you should do but the fans are never wrong. Some bands will say that they do it for themselves and to make themselves happy but what makes me happy is making our fans happy. They are the heart of our livelihood. So their feedback was taken and I agreed with them – they wanted the heavy stuff to be heavy and the melodic stuff to be melodic and I think that was the most difficult part. We had to take a deep breathe and do what came naturally to us.
Speaking of the fans, a lot of them are comparing this new material to Animosity..and since that tends to be a fan favorite that’s not a bad thing, but what do you think about that comparison?
I like that comparison because that’s my favorite record. I wanted Cold Day Memory to be a hybrid of all of our records and have the spirit that we had when we first came out, that hungry vibe with the contrast of Lajon’s melodic vocals and our heavy music, and I think we accomplished that. I wanted to make a more extreme version of what we are. We wanted the heavy stuff to come right from our souls and really bring the anger and with the melodic stuff we really wanted to tug on those sensitive strings. We wanted to show what we can do with the band and our different voices.
Talking more about the heavy and melodic mix, I was reading a review of the new album that compared your sound to a “perfect mix of beauty and brutality” which really nails both sides of things, do you think that’s a good comparison?
I love that. When I hear things like that I think “damn we should have named the record that.” When people phrase it like that, that’s exactly what we were trying to do. I think we’re still evolving and we’ll do few more records that will be more on the brutal side and then maybe at the very end, when we get a little older, we’ll be more melodic but I think the cool thing is that we can branch out in both directions. The downside to that is we’re still on the fence – the people that like really heavy aren’t entirely sure about us and the people that like melodic rock sometimes think we’re too heavy, so that’s the one downfall l see to that.
I think it’s very fitting that the first song on the album starts off with a guitar instrumental by you…was that to just sort of set the tone and let people know you were back?
Yeah that’s exactly the thinking. There were many times in the control room I was thinking “Yeah Man, I’m back!!!!!!!” (haha) No no..just kidding, honestly it just worked out like that. On the first song, Splinter, I really wanted that epic and triumphant feel – the way old Judas Priest and Iron Maiden albums made me feel. The kid in me really wanted to revisit that emotion so that’s why Splinter has that gallop metal vibe to it. We’ve never really done that before, you can feel a Pantera influence on the song and that’s what we wanted to do. I love doing guitar stuff so it’s all fun.
I think one of the things that’s often noted about Sevendust is given the quality of music that you’ve put out through the band’s existence; you still kind of fly under the radar when it comes to media and press accolades. Is that something that you ever consider or get pissed off about?
I think it boils down to this, there was a lot of times in the past where my ego would take over and wonder why we didn’t get the same kind of recognition that some other bands did but then I figured, at the end of the day it’s a “popular by demand” kind of business. We know it’s an up and down business and if there’s anything I have learned it’s that you can’t take it personally, it’s just a business. There’s a lot of variables that come into play with where we are now and if anything I just appreciate that we’re still doing it. There were a lot of bands who came out of the gate and initially sold more albums than us but they’re gone now, we’re more of a slow burner. We come out and play, we have a great fan base, we can pay our bills and there’s a lot of merit in that.
A lot of people seem to be pointing out that they feel that both Lajon and Morgan have both stepped up their game on this album, I was just wondering if you as a band member/musician have noted a remarkable difference in Lajon’s vocals or Morgan’s playing?
I write a lot of the lyrics and melodies and the only thing I felt was really missing when I was gone is that Lajon didn’t get to shine that much. I know Lajon’s style and I know his strong points and I talked to him about it and wanted him to showcase his soul and he was on the same page. So when I was writing, I was trying to write to his melody style and what he was comfortable doing and it was real easy. I would write something and he’d put his Lajon flair on it and really make it awesome. For Morgan, I’d play the guitar and give him my drum idea and he totally took everything to the next level. We’re all going to do better when we have the right songs to do it with and I think that’s what we bring to the table for each other.
I think one of the cool things about Sevendust is that lyrically the contributions come from everyone in the band, how do you think that diverse range of influences contributes to the overall album?
Well, we don’t all sit down and write lyrics together but everyone writes a lot of different stuff and everyone has an influence on each song. Someone can say one small thing that could change the direction of a song so we definitely feed off of each other.
Let’s talk about a few of the songs, Strong Arm Broken is probably one of the heaviest songs I’ve heard from the band, can you tell us how that song came together?
That was actually a song called John I and it came from an idea that John had. It was the first song back that I wrote with Morgan. We fused the musical piece that John had written with the verse that Morgan and I had done and it was one of the first songs we wrote for the record. We ended up calling it John I because it was John’s idea. And after we finished that song, I was like “okay, we can do this” because I kept mind-screwing myself and questioning if I could even write anymore so it was the ice-breaker for us. Lyrically it’s about Morgan’s divorce.
Is there one song in particular that you found most rewarding when you heard the finished product?
I think it would probably be Splinter because for the longest time we didn’t have a chorus for it, it was one of the last things we did. I knew that I wanted that song to be the first on the record but the choruses we had been writing really just weren’t up to par. We wrote a few different versions but it was really rewarding to finish that one. That and Last Breath, Last Breath we tracked with Johnny K and it took from the beginning of the recording process to the end of the recording process to put together that song in the right way. When that came together we were high-fiving.
Looking back over the history of Sevendust, there have been some serious ups and downs including your departure and then your return. What do you think it is about the band that has given them that strength to persevere and stick things out?
I think it’s because we’re family. It’s a basic family dynamic – you have your problems, you get through them because you’re stuck together. You may drive each other crazy but at the end of the day you love each other. This is our livelihood and this is the way that we make a living. We’re in that place where we’ve done this so long where if we try to go do something else it would be a huge adjustment both emotionally and financially so we’re kind of institutionalized together – we can’t do anything else, this is it and we’re cool with that. It could be a lot worse so this is a blessing and our curse and we’re accepting of that.
So this summer Sevendust is part of the Carnival of Madness tour which features a handful of great rock acts (Shinedown, Puddle of Mudd), can you tell us a little bit about the tour and what you’re looking forward to?
Indegoot management basically manages all the bands on it and they’ve got a roster full of great rock acts. They had the idea to do it a long time ago and we’re happy to be a part of it. I think we’ll be one of the edgier, heavier acts on the bill and that will give fans a lot of variety. We’re going to go out there with all guns blazing and we’re going to make the bands after us really really work. It’s a lot of bang for your buck so come on out!
In closing, we recently lost a great in Ronnie James Dio, wanted to ask how you were influenced by him throughout the years and your thoughts?
I am a diehard Ronnie James Dio fan, I love that man. I had a chance to shake his hand in Europe. Growing up, I was his biggest fan and he got me through so much. I loved every guitar player that he ever played with. Dio was a part of every part of my musical school – some of the first songs I learned were Dio songs. What got me through teenage years were Dio songs, he was a huge influence on my life. I’m so sad that he’s passed. The night he died we played a few songs during our set and the whole crowd joined in. He is going to be missed but he was such a huge contribution to metal that he’s never going to die, he’s put his legacy on earth and his music and influence will live on forever.