SHINEDOWN – “Each One Of Us Probably Had A Nervous Breakdown”

May 17, 2012, 2 years ago

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By Aaron Small “It’s a pleasure to be in this band, it’s really nice to see it grow over the past ten years. It’s been a long journey, a lot of hard work,” confesses SHINEDOWN drummer Barry Kerch. And that work has definitely paid off. Shinedown’s last album The Sound Of Madness (released in 2008), debuted at #8 on the Billboard 200 and spent an astonishing 120 consecutive weeks on the chart, making rock music history with each of its six singles reaching #1 on the airplay rankings. Their newest effort, Amaryllis, was issued at the end of March, entering the Billboard 200 at #4, selling 106,000 copies in its first week of release.
The Amaryllis album cover (pictured above) is quite striking, but quite unusual as the band name and album title are in such tiny font they’re almost hidden. “It was done by a guy at Atlantic, David J. Harrigan III. We really wanted something different, so we told him to take a listen to the songs and try to incorporate different pieces. We wanted a cover that was like when we grew up and looked at actual records. You’d sit there and listen to the album and look at the art and find stuff in it. We wanted to create something like that for the fans, that’s really where the concept came from; incorporating the songs into the artwork so that you can really pick things out.” Prior to the release of this album, it’s a fair assumption that many people were unfamiliar with the flower named Amaryllis. “Really it becomes what the band is all about - a beautiful flower that comes out of a desolate area,” reveals Barry. “There’s an overall sense on this record of overcoming and rising up and being a strong person, and that’s exactly what this band is. We’ve risen up; we’re the strongest we’ve ever been at this point. It’s really all-encompassing for where we are right now in our career.” The first single from Amaryllis was a song called ‘Bully’. Mainstream media is giving bullying extensive amounts of coverage; it seems to be a huge problem spiralling out of control. Was there a specific event that prompted Shinedown to write a song called ‘Bully’? “There wasn’t, but I think we’ve all witnessed it in our lives. It’s definitely more in the news; it’s a hot ticket item right now. But I think that also exists because of the social media outlets – Facebook and Twitter, things like that. Really the song wasn’t about one specific occasion, just bullying in general. You can’t let yourself get bullied in life; you have to stand up for yourself and have a sense of pride in yourself and don’t take it anymore. It’s for anybody of any age group, whether you’re a kid being bullied around, or even in your work place being bullied by your boss; it’s universal, it’s for everyone.” Universality is one aspect of what makes Shinedown songs so great; they contain a message anyone, anywhere can apply to their own lot in life. “Yeah, it’s kind of intentional. We write honestly and from the heart, and it comes through in the songs; that’s why people can relate to them. We’re not writing about trite things or hey, this song’s about strippers or whatever else. We write about actual things going on in our lives. It’s definitely part of who we are.”
Cursing is nothing new in rock n’ roll, but for Shinedown it is. To hear vocalist Brent Smith swear in ‘Nowhere Kids’ was surprising; the line goes: ‘If they wanna take our picture tell ‘em I don’t give a fuck!’ That’s the first time in four albums Brent has used profanity in his lyrics. “It shocked me too,” admits Barry. “We cuss like sailors out here on the road, but Brent’s grandmother would slap him every time. It surprised me that he put it on the record, but it was what he was feeling at the time, what he had to get off his chest. He doesn’t cuss just to cuss; he doesn’t want to put it in songs just to put it in songs. That’s why you haven’t heard it on Shinedown records. For some reason this time he had to get it out, so he did.” Brent’s been quoted as saying. “This album is a game changer for our band.” And Barry feels the same way. “Yeah, we’re on our fourth record, we’ve had a ten year career. Right now I think we’ve written the best record for Shinedown to date, and we’re in the best headspace we’ve ever been. We’re clear, we’re focused, we’re healthy, we’re happy, and we still get along. I think this album is going to take us all over the world; the whole idea is to grow. We want to have a career like AEROSMITH or THE ROLLING STONES where it’s lifelong, so we push ourselves hard. I think this record will help us achieve those goals.” When it came to album production, Shinedown once again enlisted Rob Cavallo - who is most famous for signing and producing GREEN DAY - he also helmed the previous Shinedown album, The Sound Of Madness. When comparing the two sessions Barry says, “The Sound Of Madness was Brent and myself; it was just the two of us. We didn’t have a band; we’d lost our bass player and our guitar player, so it was very stressful in a whole different way. With this record we had a full band, we had these songs; Eric Bass – bassist)’s contributing, Zakk (Myers – guitarist)’s contributing and writing. It was the first time we’d been in the studio with them; it was a whole different pressure. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves as musicians. Rob’s different too now, he’s the head of Warner so he’s ten times busier than he was back then (in 2008). There was a lot of us looking at each other making sure we were all focused, going ‘this is what we’re doing.’ We micro-managed the crap out of everything, we put everything under a microscope. I think each one of us probably had a nervous breakdown at some point making the record. But that’s how you make great music.” Four months’ worth of studio time was required to complete Amaryllis. The end result features a 27-piece orchestra, a ten-piece horn section and a children’s choir. Yet when Shinedown goes on tour, it’s four guys on stage. To transfer those songs from the album to the live setting requires the band to “use tracks, you have to. I’ve always played along with a click to ensure the song’s consistent,” states Barry. “People want to hear these songs and thank God we have modern technology to do that. 90% of the bands out there nowadays do it.”
Shinedown has a song on The Avengers soundtrack called ‘I’m Alive’. That movie has exploded, breaking box office records by grossing over $1 billion – and counting – worldwide. Barry shares the origin of that track. “It was left over from the Amaryllis sessions. They were looking for a song and we had a couple. They liked that one so we went in the studio and re-tracked it, added some stuff and changed the arrangement a little bit for the soundtrack; but it was definitely an idea already in place.” New territory was charted with Shinedown’s eBook, For Your Sake: Inside The Making Of Amaryllis. “It’s an experiment; we’re one of the first bands to do it. Our label brought it to us and we didn’t really understand it. Then they showed us a demo of how it would work with the technology; we thought it was really cool. It’s kind of a behind the scenes of the making of Amaryllis with pictures and stuff, it’s all interactive. I love it. I don’t need to read it cause I know the story, I’m part of the story,” chuckles Barry. “But I’d like to see it with some of my favourite bands.” Upcoming in August and September, Shinedown will be headlining the third annual Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Fest. “We’re really excited! We’re playing with some great names: GODSMACK, STAIND, PAPA ROACH, these are all friends of ours and bands we’ve opened up for, so it’s humbling to be in the headline spot, but it’s also very exciting.” Prior to that, Shinedown is “actually coming through Canada in July. We are going to be doing some headlining dates up there. I’m not sure exactly where cause I haven’t been given the routing yet, but I’m sure we’re going to be coming through the Toronto area. We’re definitely making an effort on this record to visit other countries that we don’t visit often enough, Canada being one of those, along with Australia. That’s really a mission on this record, especially heading into next year, doing a lot more internationally.”

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