Made Of Scars
09 August 2006
Words by Justin Donnelly
In much the same way that they first introduced themselves onto the scene during a break in what seemed to be Slipknot's never-ending recording/touring itinerary (Which over a four year period produced both 1999's Slipknot and 2001's Iowa), Des Moines based group Stone Sour have once again seized the opportunity to return after a four year hiatus during Slipknot's downtime (Following 2004's Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses and 2005's live album 9.0 Live) to emerge with their highly anticipated sophomore effort Come What(ever) May.
Rather than simply reproduce a carbon copy of their self-titled debut, Stone Sour (Who currently comprise of Slipknot vocalist Corey Taylor and guitarist Jim Root, guitarist Josh Rand, bassist Shawn Economaki (Slipknot's stage manager) and ex-Medication/Soulfly drummer Roy Mayorga) have proven that the lengthy time between releases hasn't been due to a lack of ideas, as Come What(ever) May dares to take the diversity of sounds shown on their debut, and expand them further than previously thought possible for the band.
Prior to the release of Come What(ever) May, I caught up with guitarist Jim Root at home busy packing bags for another return to the road to talk about the group's change of drummers, guest musicians, the dreaded 'whatever' term and the group's small amount of apprehension surrounding the potential reactions from fans to the new album.
“The album is pretty close to us, and we're all a little bit concerned about it being a departure from what people may know us as with our debut. I wouldn't say that I'm really nervous about the album, because we've been hearing a lot of good things from outside sources from those who have already heard it, such as yourself. I think it's more a case that we don't want to jinx it. We don't want to expect too much out of this album. We're just going to see how it goes. We don't want to put any expectations on it. If it does as well as our debut did then that's all we can really hope for. You do something, and you hope that it shows you growing as both a musician and as a songwriter. If you spend too much time worrying what the rest of the world thinks about it, then you'll eventually drive yourselves nuts. So at the end of the day, we're happy with it. If we have a gold album in the U.S. (Which is the same level of sales that the band's debut enjoyed), and we're able to tour the world on it, then that will be a success in my book.”
One of the big changes to Stone Sour's approach to Come What(ever) May over their debut is the extremities of styles on offer, with everything from hard and heavy rock numbers (30/30-150, Hell & Consequences, Made Of Scars, Your God, 1st Person and Reborn) at complete opposites to the other half of the album (Such as laid back Through Glass, the acoustic Sillyworld, the darker pairing of Socio and Cardiff and the piano based Zzyxz Rd.).
“I guess that diversity just kind of happened as a result of the way that we write. All of us are kind of separated by force in a way with Stone Sour. Taylor and I have to do the Slipknot thing, while the other guys tend to do their own things away from us as well. So with all of us writing for the band, having different influences, different styles in writing and having different approaches in the way we write, all that stuff put together ends up giving us the results that we have when we do an album. Without speaking for the others in the band, it's that real diversity on this album that I'm personally kind of worried about. You never know how people are going to take or accept that. At the end of the day, I think that's what sort of defines us as a band, the fact that we're all able to have our own voice in the end. I think that's what also makes this thing work. We're all open to each other's ideas, and none of us ever shoot down anyone's idea. If anyone has an idea, we'll work on it no matter what. We'll then funnel all the ideas down to which ones we like the best, and which ones we have the most time to work on. You hear about a lot of bands that split because of musical differences or things like that. I think our musical difference in a way is what kind of defines us and keeps us together.”
Now with a second album under their belts, the band are hoping that most will now see Stone Sour as a band in their own, rather than simply a Slipknot side project.
“I guess I'm hoping that people may see us as a proper band rather than a side project with this album. When you put as much into making an album as we do, you don't really look at Stone Sour as a side project in any way! (Laughs) I guess that's something that gets branded on it by other people. I mean, Taylor and I were doing Stone Sour well before we were doing Slipknot, so in a way, to us it's always been the case of there being two very different bands. Maybe that's the perception people have had in the past, and hopefully that perception will be put to rest with this album. I don't know if that will happen, but I'm hoping! (Laughs) We'll see.”
Apart from a change of sound, Stone Sour have also had a member change as well, with ex-Medication/Soulfly drummer Roy Mayorga taking over from Joel Ekman, who left the group two weeks into the recording sessions for Come What(ever) May.
“Ekman was having some problems at home at the time. His son was terminally ill, and he just passed away not too long ago. So between that, and the kind of pressure that we were experiencing in the studio meant that we decided to end our relationship as band mates at that point. The split was amicable, but at the same time not if you know what I mean. Every time you do something like that, it's hard. There are a lot of emotions involved. It was definitely very tough, but at the same time, he's got some things in his life that are far more important than going out and playing rock star. I think everything kind of happens for a reason, and in this case it introduced us to Mayorga. Mayorga came in to help Ekman out when he was having some troubles in the studio, and everything had a real vibe and was happening so well. After Mayorga helped us out, he left to go out on tour with Sepultura, while we finished doing the album. Ekman went home, and we basically left without a drummer for a while. We were kind of scared because we didn't know what the future of the band was going to be. It's not like you can go out and tour without a drummer! (Laughs) We didn't want to have this constant revolving door of drummers from this point on. This band has been pretty much a kind of family unit since we started, and we wanted to keep it that way. It's like a brotherhood. We got along with Mayorga so well in that short time we worked with him, so we kind of took a chance and asked him while he was out on tour with Sepultura, 'Hey? Do you want to be a part of this? You recorded on the album, so you're a part of it that way. Let's just take it a step further.' He took a few days to think about it. In that time, we were sweating our asses off wondering what the hell he was going to say! (Laughs) He came back and said that he was in. He's a little monster behind the kit, and we're so glad to have him as a member of the band! (Laughs)”
Apart from Mayorga, Come What(ever) May also features a couple of other notable guest appearances, with the first being ex-Amen/Godsmack drummer Shannon Larkin on 30/30-150.
“When we were without a drummer, we had Larkin come in. Taylor and I were very familiar with Larkin's work because we toured with him when he was in Amen with Casey Chaos. He's probably one of my favourite drummers in the rock and roll world right now. It just worked out perfectly that he was in town at the time that we needed him to record. So he's actually playing drums on the opening cut. It may be something some people miss because both him and Mayorga have similar styles, but that's actually him playing on that track.”
The other is former The Wallflowers pianist/keyboardist Rami Jaffee on Zzyxz Rd.
“Zzyxz Rd. is a song that Taylor wrote on a Casio keyboard. I mean all of us dabble in other instruments, but none of us are actually proficient at something like keyboards. So our producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Velvet Revolver) thought he knew someone who could help give us a real grand piano sound to the track, and he brought in Jaffee. He came in to do the piano work, and he was just on fire. It was incredible.”
Ever since receiving the album, the one thing that has totally mystified me is the title, or to be more specific, just why is the title Come What(ever) May is broken up with brackets as such. While Root himself isn't entirely sure exactly why that is the case, he does offer a plausible theory as to the reason why.
“I really don't know why that is. That's more of a Taylor thing. I think it's more of a way of getting away from that word whatever. I mean we get a lot of shit as American's for that whole whatever word. But at the same time, it's very much whatever does come, whatever may happen or however this turns out. It's more or less a mystery. I think it's to put a bit of an emphasis on the word whatever. No matter what happens, we're going to continue doing what we do. We've been thrown a few curveballs, and it's really hard to figure out what direction to take. But luckily fate has kind of, for better or worse, been good to us, and things tend to work out in the end, henceforth the title.”
Another intriguing aspect to the album is the associated artwork, which was provided by legendary artist Hugh Syme.
“We took everything on this album to another level, including the recording process and the song writing process. So we wanted to do something a little more special when it came to the artwork. We initially had three ideas in regards to artists actually. One was to have Shawn 'Clown' Crahan from Slipknot come in and help us do the artwork, because we really like his artwork. He has a very good eye for things. The other two were Storm Thorgerson (Who's previous credits include Pink Floyd, Dream Theater and Led Zeppelin) or Hugh Syme. It turns out that we decided to not use Crahan because he was busy doing other stuff, and we also get to use a lot of his artwork with Slipknot. So that eliminated him! (Laughs) Thorgerson was then unavailable at the time, so it basically boiled down to Syme. When you think of all the album covers he's done in his time, including the Rush and Megadeth covers, he's an obvious choice. He really creates dramatic pieces. I really like the 'Left Unsaid' aspect of his pieces. He's very good at bringing that sort of still life realism to you. That's the other thing too. We didn't think anything through on the first album. We didn't think the recording process through, or the cover artwork for that matter. We were pretty much making decisions on the spot. This time we wanted something that tied in with the name of the album. We kind of wanted a theme, and take the artwork to another level along with the songs and the lyrics. It just seemed like a natural progression to kind of go in the opposite direction of the first album.”
As mentioned earlier, I caught Root in the process of packing his bags prior to heading out on the road again with Korn and Deftones on the Family Values Tour, which begins hot off the heels of the band's recently completed European tour.
“Oh man! The shows on the European tour were excellent, and a lot of fun. It was quite hot in Europe, so we weren't used to that, but it was all pretty cool! (Laughs) It was crazy. We've had a couple of weeks off since that tour, so I'm just getting ready for the Family Values Tour, and then we'll be busy rehearsing. That tour begins next week, and runs for around two months up until the end of September. After that finishes up, we have two or three tours in our sights and lined up ready to go. If all goes well, we hope to stay out on the road for at least another twelve to fifteen months. That's if the world doesn't explode in the meantime! (Laughs) I would really like to get to a lot of the places that we weren't able to get to before, including Australia. We never got a chance to tour there on the first album. Of course, we're trying to shoot for the Big Day Out festival. I don't know if that will happen or not. I've always wanted to play that with Stone Sour. We were lucky and got to do that with Slipknot. That was the first time that we have ever done the Big Day Out tour. It seems like its just natural that one of the places that we would really like to go is also one of the most expensive places to get to! (Laughs) So we really have to plan things carefully if we want to make it down to Australia. We're trying to put all our ducks in a row, and make sure that its going to be feasible for us to come down there to play. Having said that, we'll be down there, whether it's with the Big Day Out tour or not.”
Stone Sour's latest album, Come What(ever) May, is out now on Roadrunner Records. For more information on Stone Sour, check out www.stonesour.com.