19 April 2007
Words by Simon Milburn
Stone Sour is an interesting musical beast. Not in what they do as such, but in their actually history. It wasn't until the booming success of Slipknot that anyone outside of the band's home base, Des Moines (Iowa, U.S.A.), had even heard of Stone Sour. For many, it was a case of “the vocalist from Slipknot's new band and he's actually singing stuff”. Stone Sour first appeared with their self titled album in 2002, and since that time, drummer Joel Ekman departed to be replaced by ex-Soulfly drummer Roy Mayorga along side vocalist Corey Taylor, guitarists Jim Root (also of Slipknot fame) and Josh Rand, and bassist Shawn Economaki. During that time, more about the band's past has since been revealed. It's widely known now that vocalist Corey Taylor was a part of Stone Sour before he joined Slipknot. But there is much, much more to Stone Sour's past, just as there is much more of their musical personality revealed on their most recent album, Come What(Ever) May, which was released last year.
A major driving force behind “getting the band back together”, as they say in the classics, was guitarist Josh Rand. “Actually, I met Corey through Shawn and we met through mutual friends. It was a long time ago. I think we were like 15 or 16... something like that, and that's how we met - just through friends trying to do a band, y'know?” begins the guitarist. I caught up with Rand to discuss his enthusiasm for their first ever Australian tour, writing and recording Come What(Ever) May, dealing with the extended down time between albums, how the band was resurrected, and the history between himself and Taylor.
“He was playing drums at the time and I was playing bass guitar. I'd just started. I was horrible. Not that I'm much better now as a guitar player, y'know,” jokes the guitarist as he continues.
Rand's history with Taylor starts as many other young bands start up - jamming on cover songs as a means of learning their chosen instruments.
“Yeah actually before Stone Sour...even Stone Sour from '92 through '96, we played in a band called Criminal Mischief together, and had like one original song and played covers. We did Enter Sandman (by Metallica)... I don't even know...Ugly Kid Joe... it was kind of bad, but y'know, that's where we were. That's how we learned how to play.”
From cover songs of metal and rock songs from the day, the group formed, but it wasn't exactly in line with where Rand was heading musically at that point in time.
“We did Criminal Mischief, and then in '92, Corey with Joel formed Stone Sour and from '92 to '96 was the original line-up, well not necessarily line-up because they went through like 14 guitar players. At the time, I still talked to Shawn and Corey and me and Corey were still doing stuff, and Stone Sour for me, for some reason, didn't fit in at that time. I think a lot of it is that I'm a metal head, and at that time, grunge had pretty much taken over the U.S. music industry and I really am not a fan of that scene. As everybody is yelling 'Pearl Jam!', I'm like, 'Pearl Jam? What are you talking about? It's all about this band from Texas called Pantera!' So I think that was the main reason why I had trouble finding people to jam with. Everybody wanted to follow the grunge thing.”
From Rand's perspective, that is exactly what Stone Sour was doing in their formative years. When Tayloy joined Slipknot, Rand began assembling material that he would present to Taylor when the time was right.
“Yeah, Stone Sour existed and I think it had more of an alternative sound back then. In '96, Corey left and did Slipknot. Then 2000 came around and I went to a Slipknot show in Des Moines (Iowa, U.S.A.) and I told Corey, 'I got all this material. You should check it out,' that I had been writing because we hadn't talked for a couple of years because of some personal issues between the two of us. Actually, it was kinda weird because it was actually a middle person that made it so that we didn't talk, but that's a whole other story. I played him the songs and he was like, 'I'm in!' and we did Get Inside and Idle Hands out of that first batch of tunes. Over the course of 2000 and 2001, we just demoed all this stuff and it wasn't to release it. Actually it was just us doing what we had always had done and we recorded it for ourselves. Then in 2001, Monte Connor, the A&R guy for Roadrunner in America, liked several of the songs and said that we should actually record this and put this out. So Stone Sour was somewhat reassembled because everybody was friends and had known each other and it just seemed right.”
This was the last thing that Rand expected, but when opportunity knocks, Rand made sure he answered.
“Yeah. At first, it happened so quick. For myself, I had really never even played with anybody. I mean, I'm so grateful and thankful that I was given this opportunity. I mean, even the first live show that Stone Sour did, the recreation of Stone Sour or whatever, a couple of years ago right before we went in to record the record, well that was the first show I'd ever done live. I'd never played live. I'd always been a woodshed type player. I love to record and create. Now it's kind of flipped around where I love to play live, and after recording this last record, don't get me wrong I love to record and write, but, we were put through the ringer on this last record which I had never been through. I had never had somebody sit there and look at me and go, 'Oh, OK. I need you to play this again,' or 'Ok, now play it again but you're a little bit out of tune.' Just the rigors of it all,” laughs the guitarist. “On the first record, we were in total control, and this time we knew that we needed to bring somebody in, so we did that, which was great because it totally took all of us to another level. Now, I've totally side tracked the question,” Rand apologises.
But it's a welcome side track, because much of the band's focus since their inception has revolved around vocalist Corey Taylor and guitarist Jim Root because of their involvement Slipknot - the band that made them household names amongst the ranks of metal fans worldwide. For this interviewer, it's interesting to hear Rand's take on things as a fresh perspective.
“For me, this ride for Stone Sour started in January of 2000 and for me, I haven't stopped, even when Slipknot is around. I was writing stuff for this record when they did Subliminal (2004's Volume 3: The Subliminal Verses). A lot of material was written that I did at home, 30-30/150 and 1st Person, and a bunch of stuff that we didn't even record, so for me, it's twenty-four seven.”
Whilst Taylor and Root find themselves in a constant cycle of write, record and tour alternating between two bands, Rand, as well as bassist Shawn Economaki and drummer Roy Mayorga, find themselves in a slightly different situation. When Stone Sour isn't recording or touring, Rand's downtime between albums is extended as that is when Taylor and Root return to Slipknot for a cycle. It's a somewhat unique situation that Rand has to deal with.
“As far as the future holds for us, I can't answer that. This last time around, I mean, there's an upside and a downside to it. One. Does it suck? Yeah. I'm gonna be honest with you. At times, I'm just like, you miss it. You miss the routine. That's the downside of it. The upside of it is we had basically had two and a half years to put this record together. Would this record be as strong as it is if we would've just been in this same routine of touring, having a month off, go record the record and have X amount of time to do it? I guarantee you no. That record would never be where it is right now. As far as quality, I think we've matured, we've grown as individuals, we've branched out and we're more open minded. I think all in all, the break, as I said, there's an upside and a downside to it, and now that it's over and we're back into the routine, we're having the benefits of an album that, as far as I'm concerned, was two and a half years in the process of making.”
With the album out and the band touring in to all parts of the globe, they are well and truly on the upside of things right now.
“Yeah. For me personally, I went through the downside, now the album is out, it's being received very well. So, from now on, it's the upside at least until the end of this tour cycle. Then we'll see where it goes, y'know? I might branch off this time. Last time, I was asked if I would be interested in doing several other things and I said 'No'. My focus was on Stone Sour and at this point, it still is. But y'know, after this cycle, maybe I will branch off and do something else. It's hard to answer right now. My focus is on this, so we'll see.”
Given the band's unique situation and that this album was two and a half years in the making, no doubt the writing process was also unique as well, and to a degree it was, especially when the band came together to jam on the material for the first time.
“It's basically just myself, and this time around, Jim and Corey. We all write individually. I have my own studio. Jim has his own studio, Shawn has a studio. We just write our songs. Then, over the course of basically Slipknot touring, the demos were passed around so everybody was familiar with what everybody else was writing. It was really creepy because we had all this material and we had all this time to kind of prep it, but then when it came time to put it together, Jim and Corey basically got off the road, and it was like, “Ok, you guys have got like a month and a half to rehearse and then you're going into the studio.” We had all these songs but we hadn't played them as a group, and they all go to a new level, or a different level, once you bring it in as a group y'know? It's totally different having Joel or Roy play drums than me programming a drum machine. It's crazy. As I said, we had all this time to write it but really only a month to rehearse it, figure out what we were gonna use as material and rehearse it, and then go record it.”
That sort of compressed time frame makes for a frantic month and a bit for the group, which certainly limited the amount of time they had to rework the material should changes be on the cards.
“Really the only songs that had a massive overhaul, actually there's only one song that had a really massive overhaul in the studio and that's the title track. It initially was called Dramacist, and it completely changed. There's certain riffs that were on the demo that are on what is the album track, but overall, the whole vibe of it and all the lyrics' changed. That was the most extreme one, but then, a song like Hell And Consequences is exactly like I demoed it, or even 30/30-150, or 1st Person or Reborn. I'm a really stubborn person when it comes to having their stuff messed with. Nick (Raskulinecz, producer, Foo Fighters, Velvet Revolver, Shadows Fall) kind of gave up after I pretty much told him off. I was open minded enough to at least hear out the ideas, but several of the songs, I made it clear that they weren't gonna be changed at all. Like I said, like Hell And Consequences. The day we stepped in to do pre-production in the studio, I just told him, 'Y'know, I've been working on this song and I've got it exactly how I want it, for the last two years. I don't want anything to change.'”
There's been a lot of water under the bridge in the time between Stone Sour's debut effort and their most recent slab titled Come What(Ever) May. To me, the difference between the album's was obvious with their most recent showing a stronger degree of consistency and overall being a far superior album, and Rand agrees.
“Oh it's night and day! I think the first album, and it's great - I mean we had success with the first album, and for me, it was a dream come true, and I don't think any of us thought that it would be what it is. I mean, when me and Corey first got together on what would be that first record, we did it for ourselves. I think the inconsistency that you hear is a band that, for one, is being rushed because it really all happened over night, and I don't know necessarily that we were a band at that time. I mean, so much of that stuff was written with a drum machine and everything that it didn't get a gel, y'know what I'm saying? It kinda just stuck to the demo form and it never expanded when everybody else came in to the project, and just being rushed, and not having the guidance that we had on the new record of having Nick Raskulinecz saying, 'Man, you need to play this again!' We were in total control of the first record, for better of for worse, and this time, as I said, I think we're a more mature band, I think we're more open minded than what we were on the first record, and going into this, the one goal that we had was we wanted to do the best stuff, the best songs, that we had. I don't think you can put us in any genre. I think you would have a really hard time because we're all five different individuals, and we all respect one another as people, as musicians, and at the end of the day, we believe that there's great songs whether they're heavy or not, and that's what we put out.”
Since then, it's been a busy time for Stone Sour with the band touring Europe and the U.S.A. and also making their first trip to Japan not long after the album's release, and they are about to make the long overdue inaugural trip to Australian shores as well.
“I had two things that broke my heart the last time that we went out and toured. We didn't get to go to Australia and we didn't get to go to Japan. They were the two places I wanted to go. We were hoping to come down for the Big Day Out, but that didn't happen.”
But with the excitement of finally making it down under, Rand is unsure of what to expect from Australian audiences.
“I don't know, because I've never been there. I think I'm gonna be taken back like when I arrived into Tokyo. I was like, 'Wow!' For me, it was amazing. So until I get down there, I can't judge it. I'm only going by what I've seen on TV or what I've seen in an article, but I'm definitely looking forward to coming down. Last time, we got cut short as far as we're concerned and we didn't get to come to Australia or Japan. I know that some of the fans felt that, like 'Well, you guys went to Europe twice and you kinda left us out!' Believe me - by any means, it wasn't the band's fault. The band wanted to, but it was other obligations that involve people.”
Partially fishing for more information, I shrug it off to Rand as just one of those things.
“Well,” he begins. “You can read into it,” he laughs heartily. “But this time around, it's gonna be different.”
Stone Sour play the following dates on their Australian tour: May 11, Metro City, Perth; May 13, The Palace, Melbourne; May 15, The Enmore Theatre, Sydney; May 17, The Arena, Brisbane. Stone Sour's latest album, Come What(Ever) May, is out now on Roadrunner Records through Warner Music Australia.