Sevendust Drummer Discusses Rock Star Uproar Tour, The Band's Eighth and Ninth Albums, Record Labels, and Lobsters
Sevendust has been at the grind for many years. Their latest release, “Cold Day Memory” (reviewed here,) sees the band at a high point in their fifteen-year career. The band is currently on the Rock Star Uproar tour with tour mates Avenged Sevenfold, Three Days Grace, Seether, Bullet For My Valentine, Black Tide, and others, making their way across the Northeast US for the month of September.
Drummer Morgan Rose touches base with MetalUnderground.com to reveal that the band’s ninth album is in the works. He also discusses the last record, the changing roles of record labels, and gives some insight to the life and times of one of the most successful metal bands to come out of the 1990s. The interview with Rose, who has been named by several publications as one of the top 100 drummers of all time, is below.
Frank Serafine (Progressivity_In_All): Morgan “Zonecrusher”/”King of Chicago”/Drummer-of-the-Year Rose. It’s good to hear from you today. Last night, you guys played Buffalo, NY, and tonight you’re playing Hartford, CT. How has the Rock Star Uproar tour been going?
Morgan Rose: It’s been great. We really didn’t know what to expect, because we were offered to play early on the main stage or headline the second stage. We were nervous about both of them. We were like, “Okay, we could play the second stage, but are we going to be competing with the main stage?” They said, “No, your stage ends and then that one starts,” so that answered that. Then I was like, “Okay, everyone’s going to be trying to get in there, and we could be far away from the stage.” We didn’t know how it was going to work.
We’ve been at festivals where there’s two separate stages, and sometimes the secondary stage gets the shaft a little bit. It’s worked out perfect. It’s packed every day. Thousands of kids out there every day. And the cool thing is that there’s a lot of Avenged Sevenfold fans out here and we did a two-week run with them earlier this year, but there’s a big chunk of Avenged Sevenfold fans out there who don’t know who we are. It’s pretty cool to pull them over to our style a little bit, and get them to support us.
FS: Are you guys cool with playing that stage after 15 years of a band?
MR: If we would have known a few of the things that we know now, we probably would’ve gone to the main stage, and it probably wouldn’t have been as good for us as far as the shows went, because they’re predominantly in amphitheaters. I know from a history of playing amphitheaters that if you play early in there, the seats are reserved, so there’s going to be scattered people in there. Then all of a sudden, you’re playing for a packed crowd. They can’t really move around and they can’t really pit or do anything like that. It kind of has a weird vibe for the band that we are, that gets into reacting with the people that are semi-close to us and being able to watch them react.
It’s kind of a letdown when you play in front of that crowd. I know that the accommodations over there are monumentally better than they are over here. (laughs) If you want it flat out, just for openers, they shit on a toilet that’s connected to the ground. We shit on one that’s got a big blue box around it that travels all over the place. There’s no dressing rooms over here and there’s no private area. We live in the bus, and that’s cool. We’re not complaining by any means. We’re happy to be here and be able to play a nice slot on this tour, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. It’s an awesome tour – one of the best we’ve been on.
FS: You’re definitely right. Having seen your show, I can say that being in the crowd at a Sevendust show is not a spectator sport. Going to the album, what has the reaction been to Cold Day Memory versus the other albums?
MR: It’s definitely the most consistent response I’ve gotten. We’ve done records where it kind of gets a little drastic in the opinions, but this one’s been consistent. A lot of people say it’s their favorite record we’ve ever done. A lot of people say it’s their favorite record since Animosity. Some people say it reminds them of Animosity. The response I’m getting from people over the last year and a half has been it’s either their favorite record or favorite since Animosity. It’s been well-received and we’ve been happy about that.
FS: What sort of things inspire some of the songs that you wrote this time around?
MR: I’m always one that’s always going through some sort of turmoil. I’ve never been known to make the best decisions in life. I was going through a divorce and having my family split up. Having Clint [Lowery, guitarist] back in the band and writing was an asset because I was able to lean on him and he was able to use some of what I was going through as inspiration for some of the things that he was writing.
I was available, emotionally, to be able to write and to go through the lyrical process. Once I was healed enough over what had gone on with me, when we were in the studio, I was able to put my two cents in. The record got to be more of a band-oriented record. I’m usually somebody that likes to walk in and kind of bulldoze my ideas through the room. I didn’t have the strength to do it on this one and I think it worked out for the best, really.
FS: I watched the “Making Of” DVD that came with Cold Day Memory. You guys clearly had a ton of fun in [producer] Johnny K’s loft studio. John [Connelly, guitarist] said there were a couple of unreleased songs that might trump older Sevendust songs. Are there any plans to release these songs?
MR: Yeah, I think that we’ll probably end up releasing everything we’ve ever done at some point. We’ve got a handful of B-sides. When we were with our first record company, TVT, there was no hiding anything from them. They would use up everything we had and make all the money they could off of that and just keep it. In the position we’re in now, we’re able to hold back some songs and use them for other things.
I just listened to a song I emailed to a friend of mine the other day from the writing sessions for Cold Day Memory and I was like, “I like that song better than half of the songs on the record, and I love ALL of the songs on the record.” We were cutting songs off the record that I thought were unbelievable. We’ve got a big chunk of those. We’ve already started writing on the next record a little bit. We’re going to be really firing on that really hard pretty soon, so it’s a good time right now.
FS: You guys have your own record label, 7Bros Records. How do you see the role of record labels changing, from your experience in working with them over 15 years?
MR: Well, it’s kind of a pseudo-record deal. We’re in a partnership with ILG under Warner [Bros], so we have the means over there to use a lot of different tools. We can use their radio department. The man over there that brought us into there is really high up at Warner now, so we have a lot of assets over there. The record industry, in itself, is really twisted around.
If we had this record deal, which of course they didn’t do these record deals back then, but, if we had this record deal for us back when we started, I would be a multi-multi-multi-MULTI-multi-millionaire. It’s a deal that really works well for everybody. It’s a semi to little risk for the people that we’re in a partnership with and we can make money. Not millions and millions, but we can make enough money to sit there and go, “Wow, man, you know, we sold 150,000 records and made a big chunk of change as opposed to selling 4 million records and not making one dollar.”
As far as keeping it rolling, a lot of it is out of our hands other than decision-making. We have meetings with the people over there and we decide what we want to spend the money on and what songs we want to push. It’s very similar to a record contract that we had before, except the people that we deal with are cool and ultimately we can make the final decision. Nobody can bully us around. It’s a good partnership, and it’s something that’s been nice for a few records and we’re looking forward to doing another one under these circumstances.
FS: For your live show, what’s your favorite song to play?
MR: Usually, it’s whatever the last song of the night is! (laughs) I mean, by the time we get half way through, I’m looking around the room, going, “Okay, I’ve gotta figure out how I’m going to get through the rest of this show here.” My favorite, these days, is “The End Is Coming.”
FS: You guys are kind of like gurus after all the years. Do you have any tips for new bands about being on stage, endurance, or any techniques to be aware of?
MR: I never was one to try to give any advice. The only advice I ever gave people that were starting bands was try to like everybody that you’re in a band with before you really get going. Because if you get lucky enough to get to the point where we’re at, if you don’t like each other, it will never make it. You have to really like each other and have enough chemistry as people together. That’s what makes us the band that we are and I believe that we’re one of the best live bands, entertainment-wise, because we never had developed rehearsals, we’ve never had bombs, we’ve never had fights, we’ve never had anything like that.
The chemistry that comes from the personal side of it is what makes that happen. It’s not really easy to hate each other and go up there and do it. There are a lot of bands that do do that, but they’ve established themselves by the time they get to that point. Make sure you like each other before you get going. Because, god forbid, you get a record deal and money starts getting involved, if you don’t like each other… You know… It’s happened to many.
The other thing, as far as the stage stuff goes… We don’t choreograph anything. We don’t talk about what we do. We barely even notice what the other ones are doing because this is what we feel like doing. The amount of damage that we’ve done to our bodies out here is unbelievable.
We should not be able to what we’re doing up there right now, but there’s that mental cortisone shot that happens where you can be in pain or exhausted, and either the lights go up or you hit the stage and it’s like I can’t not play the way that I play. I feel a lot of people try to emulate the way that other people do things and it looks so contrived and so weird that I don’t think it’s them at all. I think they saw somebody and went, “Ooh, I like how that goes, I’m going to do that!”
There’s a natural thing that happens with playing live. I never like bands that sat there and looked at each other and all jumped up at the same time. I never got into that whole choreographing energy. I always got into individuals that would do their thing up there. Be yourself! Try not to top somebody so well that you’re going to end up getting backlash for it.
FS: Another pitfall is that a lot of people want to find out what kind of gear someone’s using for those ends, too, so they could have “that” sound. It goes without saying that it mostly comes from playing, not the gear, but having said that, what kind of gear are you using right now with your drum kit?
MR: I’ve been using Pearl for years now. The companies that I deal with now, I don’t know if it’s a coincidence because I’ve been doing it for so long or why it is, but I have zero complaints about everyone that I deal with. It’s amazing how well I get treated and I’m humbled by the fact that I get whatever I want. Basically, I look at my drum tech and go, “Okay, you want to get another drum set?” He goes, “Yeah, I think it’s time to get another drum set,” and we just get another drum set. We order what we want and bam! It’s there.
I could ask him right now, but I go through hundreds of sticks a week. We just get sticks by the cases. Drum heads – we barely even talk to the people. We have an email thing and we type in what we want and it gets sent to an address and it’s done. Cymbals? We’ve gone through hundreds and thousands of them. Zildjian, Pearl, Mater, and Evans are just the greatest companies. I can’t believe that I’m lucky enough to be with all of those companies. The people who work at those companies are amazing and I have a personal relationship with them. I’ve been blessed and real lucky.
FS: Speaking of going through replacements, what is the craziest stage story you can remember right now?
MR: We played in Wisconsin somewhere. I think it was Wisconsin or Minnesota. I want to say it was Lacrosse, Wisconsin, and the crowd got so out of control that the crowd broke through the barricade and got crushed underneath the stage. The stage actually started to collapse while we were jamming! We had to get out of there. The cops ended up saying, “We’re going to have to end up cancelling the show,” but we thought we might be able to get a few more songs out of this because the crowd could get a little out of control and we didn’t want to deal with it. We went up and played a few more songs and they said it’s going to go, so you guys have to get out of here, but that’s one of the cooler ones – nobody got hurt.
I like when it’s a little unsafe, but when everybody ends up okay.
FS: It gets your adrenaline running. Now, you guys did “Falcons On Top” for the Atlanta Falcons football team. How did that come about and are you guys doing any more things for the Falcons?
MR: I think they’re using that song again this year, so at least we don’t have to come up with another song or video for that. I’m a Buccaneer fan. I don’t hate the Falcons, but I’m a Buccaneer fan. It was kind of cool to do it, though. We were on the fence, about “Is this going to be something that tests our integrity?” And then we stopped and were like, “Wait a minute. You know, when we were kids, if somebody said you could perform the theme song for your hometown football team, would you do it?” Of course you would do it!
Anybody that wanted to knock it, I told them to fuckin’ beat it. I think we’ve earned some respect, so if we want to have some fun and not be so serious… People k now our personality. We take our music and our writing very seriously, but there’s nothing wrong having a good time and doing something that was fun for a change without any extra emotional torture to do it, you know?
FS: Right! For this tour, what has been your favorite hobby while waiting? Like it was said on the “Making of Cold Day Memory” DVD, it’s almost like there’s twenty-two hours of waiting for that one hour of magic.
MR: This thing has been the best ever. I was really concerned when we were getting ready to start this thing because we play at 4:45 every day. So I was like, “This is gonna be bad.” We don’t party like we used to party. We don’t drink a whole lot like that. We don’t do drugs or anything. That used to be our boredom help, and when you don’t do that… I was kind of nervous. I could end up throwing myself into too much social drinking out here because there’s a lot of bands and I know everybody out here.
I don’t know what happened, but we have a grill out here. We have a guy that takes care of all this VIP stuff for us that is amazing. Anytime that we want to go to a sporting event, we go. We have these VIP things every day that are awesome. We’ll sit there and have ten, fifteen, or twenty people back here with the grill. Music is going and we’re cooking out on the grill. Today, we’ve got Sunday football, about thirty-five people coming back here after the show. We’ve got seventy lobsters being brought in. We’re going to watch football, hang out with folks, and eat a bunch of lobsters! It’s pretty awesome.
FS: True! I know this is kind of out of left field, but it’s a big thing affecting the music industry. What are your thoughts on internet piracy?
MR: I mean, that’s been going on for a long time. Again, back in the day, I could care less. I remember flying the flag for piracy and saying, “I don’t give a shit,” because I wasn’t getting paid off of records, anyway. Now, there’s nothing I can do about it. I can be as politically correct about it as I want to, because there’s nothing I’m going to do that’s going to change it. People are going to steal music. They’re going to get it for free and it’s going to cost us. There’s nothing I can do about it.
The days of the rock star are almost over. That part doesn’t bother me too much, because I could care less about popularity in that form, but the days of the rock star are almost over. The mystique is gone. The days of going into your local record store and getting an album, investing your ten bucks into a record, the band coming to town one time, going to that show, seeing them and this opening band that you’ve never heard of, buying a t-shirt or two, and investing the money in the ticket and saying “I’m part of this army now. I’ve got a ticket, the t-shirt, the CD, and I saw the live concert. I love this band!”
That’s how I grew up. That’s what I wanted to be involved in. Nowadays, it’s so crazy that you’ve got people coming up and going, “I love your music, but what’s that song?” They’ll say a lyric out of it, and I’ll say, “Oh yeah, that’s Face to Face.” They’re like, “Yeah, man, I love that song. I don’t know the names, I just know the numbers.” They’ll come up and say, “I didn’t know you did that song.” There’s no identifying anybody anymore because the rock star’s gone. For the popularity, the selfishness, and the ego style of it, I could care less, but it’s kind of exciting to have the mystique of people wanting to do what you do for that reason.
It’s pretty interesting. Piracy has done a lot to hurt that.
FS: Judging by the crowds that you’ve been bringing in on these last few tours, I’d say the days of Sevendust are far from over.
MR: We talked about it the other day. I don’t see us going away any time soon.
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