By Thomas S. Orwat Jr
Dallas, Texas based hard rockers, Drowning Pool, just released their highly anticipated, fifth studio album, “Resilience.” This aptly titled release showcases the quartet’s new lead singer Jasen Moreno, the fourth singer to join core members, C.J. Pierce (guitar), Stevie Benton (bass), Mike Luce (drums) since their 2001 debut, platinum selling release “Sinner.”
“Resilience” is an 11 track disc that brings the band back to their vintage sound and that style that they inadvertently strayed from since the untimely passing of original vocalist Dave Williams (in August 2002). The first single from the release, “One Finger and a Fist,” is an aggressive and heavy track, proving that Moreno is definitely the perfect vocalist for the band.
What follows is an exclusive interview with Drowning Pool’s bassist/songwriter – Stevie Benson. During this conversation, we discuss the adversity the band faced after the death of original lead singer Dave Williams, the new Drowning Pool release, “Resilience” and much more. Here’s what Stevie had to say.
RockMusicStar: The new Drowning Pool release, “Resilience,” was available for streaming weeks before the release date. This seems to be an increasing common practice. Did you have any reservations about doing this.
Stevie Benton: There’s nothing like dropping your pants and letting everybody check it out. But this is a record that we are really, really proud of. We wanted to get it out there as soon as possible, so everyone could check it out and tell their friends. Word of mouth is really the only solid way to sell records anymore. And people don’t really follow the radio or MTV or anything like that. It’s really the best way to get the word out. Plus, there is really no fear in leaking a record anymore because it happens with every record prior to release. When downloading first started happening, I remember being freaked out that it was leaked on the internet before its release, but in this day and age, every record is like that.
RMS: Drowning Pool has faced quite a bit of adversity over the years, but you have survived all of it.
SB: Yes, we’re like cockroaches, bro.
RMS: Yes, you are. I think that the title of the new release, “Resilience,” is really very fitting in that you have survived the death of your first singer, and then the sacking of the next two. It seems that every time we talk, we’re discussing a new lead singer in the band. So, in keeping with that tradition, let’s discuss why Ryan McCombs is no longer in Drowning Pool.
SB: Well, the last year of touring for the last record that we did together, it became very obvious to everyone that we were headed in different directions and wanting to go our separate ways. Towards the end, he was a different guy then he was when we first started, and I’m sure that he would say the same thing about us. We weren’t seeing eye to eye anymore; we weren’t hitting on all cylinders, as far as the live show, where we felt that it should be. And as far as writing new material, that was way behind where we should have been. So, instead of dragging on in misery, we felt it was best for him and band to go their separate ways. I know that we’re much happier, and I’m sure that he is as well.
RMS: It was a bit shocking hearing that Ryan was out of the band because your last record, was one of your most successful. You had your highest charting single, “Feel Like I Do.” It seemed like, at least from the outside, that things were going very well for Drowning Pool, and you were right on track to take that next step up.
SB: Well, it’s always a risk to change a singer. But, when it’s just not happening, what are you suppose to do? I think that maybe the problem with the last couple of singers that we had, was that they weren’t there from the beginning. When they joined, they still had their own direction, and it wasn’t the same direction that the three of us started with. At first, its all smiles and they are the employee of the month and really trying their best, but then at some point, it starts to fracture. And people get on a different page. And even with the success that we had with the last release, I would much rather roll the dice with a new guy, then to continue to be unhappy with the singer that we had, even if keeping that singer means having that guaranteed success. It’s strange because changing a singer is really stressful and you worry about it a lot. But once we got Jasen in the band, and made a record with him and toured, it was amazing how all the stress faded away and it was fun again to be in the band, because it hadn’t been like that in a long time. And then you start to feel bad that you allowed the other situation to drag on as long as it did.
RMS: When you bring in a new singer, do you almost feel like you have to reinvent the band to a certain degree?
SB: Definitely. After (original singer) Dave Williams passed, the one thing that we thought about was to find a vocalist with a different vocal dynamic than Dave. So it wouldn’t seem like the new guy is stepping on Dave’s toes. So, we did that with the last couple singers, they were nothing like Dave, not only vocally, but not even in the same head space. So then we stated to write songs around this new singer, because every singer has their strengths and weaknesses. And you want to of course highlight their strengths. So we really got caught up in doing that. When it ended with Ryan, one thing we know for sure, even though we received a lot of great demo’s, was that this time around, we wanted a guy that we have known for a long time. Jasen’s old band started from the same place that we did. We played every little shithole club in Dallas, TX together for years and years. He wasn’t going to be a guy that would be one way before he got the gig, and a few years later be a different person. We’ve known the guy too long for him to do a 180 on us. So, not only does Jasen have that, but the tone of his vocals, the way he approaches songwriting, and the fact that he’s from Texas, is kind of like what we had when Dave was in the band.
RMS: So, it’s a little more comfortable and natural now.
SB: Yes!!! We didn’t have to try to write a song around a guy’s vocal range or tone. Jasen’s sound is a lot like where we started. So the whole song writing process was so much better, it wasn’t drawn out and like pulling teeth. It started, and was over in a matter of weeks. And generally speaking, when something is that easy, it is usually better. When you have to really struggle and work with something, the finished product comes across as being unnatural or strained. With this record, it was so easy. So that takes so much pressure off in the studio, and we all had a great time and really love all the new songs. We really had forgotten how much fun and simple making a record can be. So, maybe this really isn’t a re-invention of Drowning Pool, but more like going back to where we started. People that really liked our first record, “Sinner” will probably dig this new record a lot. But, if you were a big fan of the two records we did with Ryan, this record may sound a little foreign to you.
RMS: I agree with you. Your last record, I felt, was a little too commercial in spots as well.
SB: Yeah, that’s probably right. With the last record, there are a lot of songs that I really like, but all some on there that I found to be really sappy. Since, I was part of the songwriting process, there were times that the lyrics really didn’t go in the direction that I wanted them to go, because typically the singer has the final say, because they have to sing them every night. A lot of the songs ended up being about Ryan’s girlfriend or him fighting with his girlfriend. For me, when I’m listening to record, I didn’t want to hear a guy talking about his girlfriend the whole fucking time. So, I understand why you think it was commercial, because it’s songs like that are always played on the radio. And I can’t fucking stand that kind of crap.
RMS: Well, I don’t think the die-hard Drowning Pool fans like songs like that either. They want songs like your new single, “One Finger, One Fist.”
SB: Absolutely right. Yep, that song could have fit well on the “Sinner” record. We really dig that song.
RMS: In 2001, when “Sinner” came out, Drowning Pool quickly climbed up the charts. You couldn’t go a day without hearing you first single, “Bodies.” Do you ever think about where the band could be if it wasn’t for Dave’s untimely passing in 2002?
SB: (pauses) …Through the years, I have thought of it a few times and it’s just fucking torturing to think that way. Dave was one of a kind. And he is never going to be replaced. I have no doubt in my mind, that had he not died suddenly, by now he would have been one of the biggest rock stars in the world and he would have been for many years. But bad things happen in life and I’m sure many people reading this have had terrible tragedies in their own life, and that have changed their life forever. But we decided not to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. Tragedy happens to everyone, its part of life. You just have to try to move on. But, it’s hard not to think about it, especially since we were all so close. But we try not to think about it, because if we did it would drive us frickin’ crazy. So, I try to move forward. And also that, Dave’s passing, probably played a role in us not tolerating a lot of bullshit with singers. Because Dave was great, so how dare someone try to come in here and take his spot and then act like how they were acting. That shit isn’t going to fly.
RMS: You have already experienced a real tragedy. So, some of the other petty issues and adversity that may derail another band, really don’t have that sort of impact on your band. It now makes a lot of sense why you don’t deal with any type of bullshit.
SB: Yeah, we see it a lot with some of the bands that we have toured with, bands that break up over stupid little shit. When you are only a few years into your career, and your singer passes away, everything else seems so insignificant. That’s a big part of the reason why we are still out here doing this and able to do it because we don’t sweat the little things.
RMS: Do have anymore unreleased material with Dave that you plan on maybe releasing in the future?
SB: There is a lot of stuff. A lot of the stuff we did have, we put on the “Sinner” DVD that we released shortly after he passed. But, we still have other shows that were videotaped. The only real recording we have is a song that was recorded on a cassette deck during rehearsal one day. I have the tape at home, but it’s really poor quality. The song is great and Dave was working on it as we played. I don’t know if we would ever be able to clean it up enough so we could release it.
RMS: Interesting. Now with your new lead singer, in what ways did Jasen contribute to the songwriting for “Resilience”?
SB: It was all a collaboration, sometimes someone would make a demo and send it to Jasen, with either no lyrics at all, or maybe a chorus idea for him to play around with. That’s really how the writing for this release started, with us e-mailing demos back and forth. And Jasen is really good about that. I could send him a demo this morning and by the evening, he would have it back to me sounding like a real song. As far as the music that he writes, because he can play anything, he’s like a one man band. He really doesn’t need the rest of us; the next Drowning Pool record may just be him. (Laughs) So, he either comes up with the idea, or he is able to really build up on an idea that we give him. Every song on the record worked it’s way out, just like that.
RMS: Drowning Pool recently finished a North American co-headling tour with Flyleaf. How did your fans react to Jasen during those first shows with him?
SB: Great. When he first joined, we had a lot of Facebook and Twitter haters on him. But, after they seen him perform, they were all blown away. So, the crowds were super receptive of him. Even the Flyleaf fans were going crazy every night. We had this Jasen Moreno mania going around. It really was pretty awesome. We really are quite different from Flyleaf, from not just a music standpoint, but also from a spiritual or religious stand point. There were a few times during the tour, Flyleaf fans were tweeting about how heavy we were, and how we were devil worshipers, and stuff like that. That shit was pretty funny to read.
RMS: That was a pretty interesting double bill, Drowning Pool and Flyleaf.
SB: It ending up working really well. We’ve known Flyleaf for quite a while, we are both from Texas and we got along really well. And even with the differences, we had a very fun tour.
RMS: Well, I’m really happy to hear that. Getting back to the haters, it’s unbelievable that people can’t even give a dude a chance. I remember reading some of the comments on Blabbermouth when it was announced that Jasen was your new singer. Some of the comments were brutal. They basically just looked at his picture and assumed that he sucked.
SB: I really don’t go on that site, I use to when we first started the band. But, some of their readers are the most hateful, shit taking people in the world. They say these awful things like “Drowning Pool you should just go and fucking kill yourselves, you ruined my life and I fucking hate you.” And I’m like chill the fuck out, dude; we are just a rock band. But some of that stuff is just really funny to read.
RMS: So now that the CD is out, what are your tour plans for spring and summer?SB: Well, we’re going to go over to Europe for a month, we have a lot dates over there. And then we are going Russia for the first time, so we are building up our tolerance by drinking a lot of vodka before we get there. (Laughs) And then we come back this summer, and we have a lot of special dates intertwined with some club shows. We will be doing a different kind of show every day. And that will keep it interesting. And we can’t wait to get out there again!
For more on Drowning Pool, please visit www.drowningpool.com
Special thanks to Gunner Sixx for setting up this interview.