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Interview: John Connolly (SEVENDUST)

Levi: I know there's been a bit of awful activities going on in the world at the moment and because of those activities, a few bands like Lamb of God and Five Finger Death Punch have had to cancel some dates. I'm just wondering, are all your tours secure? Are you still going to go through with the shows and whatnot?

John: Well, everything that we've got going on in the immediate future is all state side anyway. We've got a Dallas New Year's show and then we've got another show on the 28th. Other than that, the next thing we have on the schedule is you guys in March. We should be fine with everything that we've got right now. God forbid anything terrible happens between now and then, which I'm sure it will, but it's one of those tough things. It's like I totally understand why they made the call that they did. I don't blame them for making that call. A buddy of mine, Mark Tremonti just went over there and of course my wife asked me how I felt about it. I said, "Look it's a decision that every person has to make on their own. A different set of circumstances and all that stuff."

On one side, I absolutely don't want to live in fear and let the terrorists dictate how we go about doing our business and stuff like that. If you've had a direct threat or anything like that, it's just like you know what? At this point in time, take it seriously. Life is not worth a show, having a good time and stuff like that. At the same time it's that fine line that you've got to tow because you can't let them make the calls on this for much longer than they already have. It's such a sad scenario. It's a crazy state of the world that we live in these days.

Levi: In other news, you do have a new album out. It's been out for about a month now. It's called, Kill the Flaw. I'm just wondering, how have the crowds been reacting to the new material so far?

John: Great. We've only been able to really do two new songs, so once again, Australia is going to get the advantage of getting more new material before anyone else hears it. Hopefully, we'll be able to get another at least two or three songs into the set by the time we do the headline run. We're really looking forward to that. The Australian run will be the first run that we're actually doing nothing but headline show for the entire run.

We've done a couple of headliners, just filling dates and stuff like that, like on the Godsmack run. We haven't done a proper run of actual headline shows. That will be the kick off. Australia will be officially our beginning of the headline sequence.

Levi: Yeah. I'm really looking forward to it because I've seen you guys before. I always seem to catch your festivals, which is a lot of fun. I'd rather see you guys doing a full hour and a half or whatever.

John: Right, exactly. That's the whole negative thing. If there's anything negative at all about doing any of those festivals, Soundwave and stuff like that, is just the length of time for the amount of money that people actually have to spend on the tickets. A lot of the fans get to see some of the other bands, so they don't care. There's a lot of fans that are like, I'm only really going there to see a couple of bands and it's a pretty steep ticket price to pay for, like you said, a 30 or a 40 minute set, something like that.

For us, it's going to be awesome to be able to get in there and do a full 90 minute. Do a full headline show and really play a lot of songs that I think a lot of fans may not expect to be hearing. We just don't get there often enough, so we need to make this one count.

Levi: Yeah. I remember the last time I saw you guys. You did a bit of a mash up covers part of the show where you did Walk and Master of Puppets.

John: Yeah, yeah we sure did.

Levi: I'm not sure if I'm right or not, but back in the day, did you perform Walk with Dimebag Darrell or am I just making that up?

John: We did it one time. We were actually on tour with a band, Vinnie Paul and Dimebag had a little side project that they had out of Texas called, Gasoline. They had another band that actually I believe had one or two of the members of that band that we were playing out on tour with and they just showed up one day literally. We were in Texas. I think we had three or four days in Texas and they literally followed us around. They were off, so they just hopped in a bus and literally went from town to town just like we did, but just hanging out.

The last night that we actually had on that run with their band was in Dallas, so we got Dime up on stage, tuned him up, put him in through my rig, and I've actually got some pictures in my studio. It was actually a pretty surreal experience. Such great dudes you know?

Levi: Yeah, that would be killer. I was a bit young when Pantera was still playing, so I never got the chance to see him live, but I did meet Vinnie Paul not long ago. He's a really nice guy. I was just wondering, when was the first time you met that crew? Did you hit it off?

John: Oh, well I lived in Dallas from '99 up until right around 2001. I lived there for a few years. That's when we did most of our hanging. It was all in that first record. We toured so many shows on our first Sevendust record here in the States. We were hard to get away from. At first, we couldn't get a tour. Then we couldn't get off of tour. It was crazy. It's like on the beginning of the cycle you beg and plead for any show that you can get on.

Then at the end of it, it was like okay got the Limp Bizkit offer, then you got the Megadeth offer, then you got the Ozz offer. Now you have a big headline offer. It was like, holey moley. We felt we were going home because the last six to eight months was just a whirlwind. That's when those guys started hanging out with us because we were just really making our name and getting around.

That was back in the day where we'd played Dallas eight times on an album. I think we played New York probably 12 times, 14 times, something ridiculous like that. Yeah, pretty much from the very beginning, they were such a hugely influential band for us. Me living in Dallas added that extra step. It was no-brainer.

Levi: Call it Nu Metal or Alternative Metal, whatever they call it, but it was just such a big movement at the time. What was that period like for you guys?

John: It was weird because I think we were more related because we played loud guitars. We had a black singer, so everyone thought that we were a rap metal band, so we fit into the Nu Metal category pretty easy on the surface. It was funny because it was like on the one hand to tie in the whole Pantera influence, they were one of the few bands that could get away with still playing guitar solos through the 90s and in the beginning of the 2000s.

Guitar solos had become so out of style, but Dime was still ripping away. It was weird because the Metallica's and the Pantera's was what I was a little bit more in tune with. When we came out and no one wanted to play guitar solos anymore. I was in a weird spot. It was like it was cool that it focused on the music because I think guitar solos for the sake of guitar solos are stupid. If it adds something to the song, then it certainly needs to be there.

It was a weird rule because with Korn and Limp Bizkit and all these bands getting a lot of hype and a lot of love, it was like the guitar solo just, it went on the bench for awhile, which was cool. I was the guy who was always sneaking out there to see what Dimebag was doing next door when Soundgarden was playing all their one finger chords and I'm over there watching Pantera and watching them play Domination or Cowboys from Hell or something.

It was an interesting time to be a part of, but it was a frustrating time because we had never ... I totally understand why people call us Nu Metal. We never really were Nu Metal. Our influences weren't that ... Most of our influences guitar wise were guys that can play, really play. I don't mean that in a disrespectful way. I mean, if you're trying to compare somebody like me to a guy or someone like Dimebag, that's the reference that I'm making.

Nu metal, I loved it. I really did. As much as I was a big Pantera, Metallica fan. When Korn first came out, it was just different. It was a breath of fresh air for me. I was like, okay this doesn't sound like the last five Pantera records. Limp Bizkit was the same thing. Then after five or eight years, all of a sudden that starts to get watered down and then you've got a second and a third version of every one of those bands.

It's funny because some of the bands actually ... I guess Disturbed was considered Nu Metal and Disturbed went on a hiatus and came back and they didn't lose any momentum or any speed. It's funny because you look at a band like Disturbed and you say, okay well they're Nu Metal. Then you go, okay well what is Five Finger Death Punch? Well, they're not Nu Metal. It's the same kind of music. It's the same kind of fans. They like guitar solos. They like loud and heavy music.

Those two bands could tour together easily, but a lot of people say that Five Finger is Metal and Disturbed is Nu Metal. I don't know where we are. I'm just happy that we have some kind of a label at this point in our career. If they're calling us something, I'm pretty happy about it.

Levi: It felt like after awhile like towards the late 2000s, Nu Metal wasn't as cool as it used to be. Was there ever a point where you guys are like, oh we want to get away from this sound?

John: I think the whole time because we didn't really ... I understood what Nu Metal was and I got the fact that if you didn't tune to standard that you were going to get lumped in. From a musical standpoint. I was like, all right maybe you're new metal. We just did our own thing through all of it. I don't think we really ever sat down and said, "Okay we want to make a Pantera record or we want to make a Metallica record or we want to make a Korn record or we want to make an Alice in Chains record or something like that."

We never specifically said, "This is our direction." We're one of those weird bands. When we sit down to make a record, I know a lot of bands probably have the big war room meeting where they talk about inspiration and influences and where they want to record and how they want to record. For us, it's more of one of those things where we just let the music come to us. We don't try to force soft songs, acoustic songs, anything like that. It's just the nature of how we make music.

For us, it wasn't super frustrating because at first being called new metal wasn't a bad thing. Then being called Nu Metal was a really bad thing. Now being called Nu Metal is a cool thing because all these old Nu Metal bands are coming back around, so I'm like it's fine.

Check the YouTube link for the full interview...

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