3 Doors Down

Interview: 3 Doors Down – Chris Henderson

Since forming in 1995, 3 Doors Down have sold more than 16 million albums worldwide, played sold-out arena tours, and garnered numerous song-writing and industry awards. The first time most of us heard the Mississippi quintet was ‘Kryptonite,’ the ubiquitous 1999 single from their debut album, ‘The Better Life.’ Since then, 3 Doors Down have released three more records and have become one of the most commercially successful rock bands in the US.

3 Doors Down recently announced that their much-anticipated fifth studio album, ‘Time of My Life,’ will be hitting stores on 18th July. Recorded in Los Angeles with Grammy-nominated producer Howard Benson (Flyleaf, Three Days Grace), the 12 track collection will deliver more of the anthemic radio tracks we’ve come to expect from the combo.

‘When You Were Young’ debuted at #1 on the iTunes Rock singles chart and is currently climbing the Active Rock, Mainstream Rock, and Alternative charts. The video was directed in Nashville by Ryan Smith (Eminem, Duran Duran) which you can view below.

Last month the band rolled into Glasgow and while here I had the opportunity to sit down with guitarist Chris Henderson to talk about their brand new album ‘Time Of My Life’ and a lot more including his struggle during Hurricane Katrina which destroyed everything he owned.

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EspyRock: Hey how you doing man?

Chris Henderson: Good, yourself?

Great man. How has the tour been going so far coming from Europe?

It’s been going good; this is the last leg of it as we’re going Glasgow, London, Birmingham, Netherlands and then back to the [United] States.

You hit a few festivals during this tour didn’t you?

Yeah we did Rock am Ring and Rock im Park and then we did Nova Rock in Austria.

How were they, pretty good?

Fuck yeah dude [laughs]. German festivals are just so goddamn big it’s like [makes explosion noise] and everything just runs fucking smooth, you know Germans! So it was just a lot of fun, everything worked, the sound was great was for us and the crowd were wild, they knew every word to word song so it was really cool.

You glad to be back in the UK again then especially, from what I was told, that the tour is sold out.

We’ve had some of the best shows, in this bands career, some of the best shows we’ve played have been in the UK and here in Scotland.

3 Doors Down Glasgow 17.06.11

3 Doors Down Glasgow 17.06.11

I think the last time I saw the band here it was, I think it was 2005, with Jon Nicolson and I think Waltham were the main support to you on that tour and then that sold well so it’s continually moving up to bigger venues.

Was that the college?

No it’s a normal venue, just the one floor, kind of maybe the size or around the size of the main standing lower floor in here forgetting the ledges and things.

I know we played a college here a few years back.

I think that was in 2004, the QMU, part of Glasgow University, well I’m sure it was 2004.

I honestly can’t remember but I know the last time we came it was here we played.

Bands always say how different the crowds are from back in the [United] States to here in the UK or Europe, do you think there is much of a difference?

Man the crowds in the UK and the US are totally different to me. The fans in the USA want to hear the songs they know from the radio and they don’t give a fuck about anything else, they don’t really care about your new record. The fans want to hear the new stuff but the crowd doesn’t want to hear it but over here it’s different. You coming to the show tonight?

Yeah I’ll be here

Alright, well we’ll be playing five new songs tonight and when we play this set in America we lose the crowd immediately because the first song we play is a new song but it’s a rocking track but we just lose them but over here we don’t. By the end of the set we usually have them, I don’t want to jinx it but over here in the UK they just love it which is awesome.

Must be in a way hard and annoying to see people just not get into it in the same way as you know others will, sort of leaving you wondering if you’re doing something wrong.

Yeah but what can you do man, just need to wait until we have them.

Let’s talk about the album ‘Time Of My Life’. I’ve heard it a few times now and by definition it’s a classic 3 Doors Down album, in that sort of way you would say ‘Black Ice’ was a classic AC/DC album as it still has that 3 Doors Down sound with the mix between the rock songs and the ballads but obviously there are going to be differences for each release so what do you think is different about this one?

Differences, yeah there are small differences with the album. I think the polished stuff is more polished on this one and the rock stuff is a lot more rock but still kind of polished do you know what I mean? But that is because of the way it was recorded and put together by the producer Howard Benson. The way he does shit man is real polished and smooth, not over produced but just done fucking properly so when you hear these rocking tracks they still come out kind of smooth.

What was the decision to go with Howard Benson? Previously you worked with Johnny K on the last two albums so was the switch something you needed?

Well Johnny K, love him, great producer and great guy but one of the things we, as a band, didn’t like about the records was the way that we recorded them and the way they ended up being mixed and they came out wasn’t the same. The recordings were changed during the mixing and mastering you know and they came out polished and sounded great don’t get me wrong but eh…

Taking a bit of the raw edge off them as he had bit too much of a hand on them.

Yeah, we wanted them to be more raw and to be able to capture that and capture the emotion and the feeling. He did on a couple of tracks but there are some other parts. There are some really cool rock tracks on those records that no-one really knows about because they just got lost and we don’t want that to ever happen again.

Do you think that Howard nailed that then?

Oh yeah and if you’ve heard any of his stuff like that Three Days Grace, what’s that one song, oh fuck, starts with an acoustic guitar [starts to sing the tune], something like that riff but there is a string buzz in there when you’re listening to it and that string buzz is one of the coolest parts of the fucking song and they didn’t go in there and fix that they just left it. I talked to Howard on the phone and I asked him specifically about that to see what he had to say and he told me “it was cool, why fucking fix it, even though it was a mistake, it was cool and we thought it evaluated the song” and I was like, this is the guy [for us]!

3 Doors Down Chris HendersonAs he was coming in with that sort of style of producing did you do anything different to maybe give the rock parts that little more rock or just do what you always do?

No, I just let those guys do their job. My job as the guitar player in the band is to keep my ears open to suggestions and play the songs the way they were meant to be played and the producers job is to capture my recordings, to capture my playing and get it down on the CD as best as he possibly can with some emotion if possible and some feeling and it’s hard to do. So if I’m there telling him how to do shit, it’s not going to work, so I just show up and play and I listen to what they have to say, then we can feel each other out and I can make suggestions as they make suggestions and it starts to become a team and that’s how we do it.

Talking of changes to the process with Howard now coming in, I read in an interview with Brad [Arnold] that some of the songs were also co-written. Have you always written songs by yourself without outside help and how different is that having someone else input on the lyrical content which would also affect the music side of things?

Yes always and this time we used a co-writer on three or four songs and it was different man, we wrote with like five or six different people and we’ve never done that before so we said “we want to try write with you, whoever you are, listen to our past catalogue and bring your songs and ideas to us.” We didn’t have a lot of time so they would bring these songs in and we would get together, put them together and work them out and a couple of them, two in particular, sounded like 3 Doors Down songs recycled and that’s ok. ‘When You’re Young’ is one of those.

You mentioned that you didn’t have a lot time so was that a label thing or what?

Just money. It’s so expensive to make records and we’re in LA, we were only meant to be there for a month and we ended up there for six months. You know a $100,000 record will cost $2 million if you’re not careful and you have to pay that money back you know and with people downloading and stealing there’s no fucking chance in hell you’re going to pay it back.

What are your views on that point of the internet?

Downloading?

Yeah and everything that sort of comes with it social networking and digital distribution.

You know it’s a good tool, it’s a good way to get your music out there and blah blah blah blah but at the end of the fucking day if a painter paints a painting and someone walks in and goes “hey that’s fucking nice, I’m going to take it”, that’s what happens when people download music they fucking steal. Eventually it gets so bad that the record companies, and everyone says that are the record companies are the devil and that blah blah blah, you know what, they just do what they do, they are responsible for a lot of the biggest records in the world but those people are now losing their jobs, all of them, from the CEO to the guy who sweeps the floor, every mother fucker in the business is out, they’re getting fired, getting canned or shit canned.

Now bands like us, 3 Doors Down, because we’ll be able to do what we’re doing forever and we’ll be able to tour forever, are going to survive that, we’re going to make it but there are a lot of guys who run around in vans who aren’t going to fucking make it. They don’t have a chance in hell, their careers are over before it even starts because of people stealing music and that’s the way the fucking world is. It’s no-one’s fault, it’s like you can’t point your finger at someone and be like that’s bad bad bad, well you can but if they don’t give a fuck, sitting in the privacy of their own home then it’s not stealing to them as there it is, it’s available online, no-one’s going to know. It fucking sucks.

I covered this topic, well the internet in general to the industry and the affect it has and really it was the same response, while there are the positives of being able to do certain things, it still sucks because it ruins so many lives.

It fucking sucks man; so many people have lost their jobs, their homes and their fucking cars because of that shit. I own a recording studio Nashville, Tennessee and there are more recording studios per capita in Nashville than there is anywhere else in the world and so now they’re all for sale, all fucking failing and these people who made livings recording music are now hustling. I have a little crappy little room that sounds great and I love it but I have to fight to keep the price down because even record labels who send bands to me to get recorded are fucking nickel and diming me because they don’t have any money. It’s hard for me to even keep my studio open, I’ve had to let four people go and this is a studio that works constantly so we’re always making money but we just don’t make the money that we used to; we can barely stay afloat, barely and it’s a shithole, just a little room.

I was going to follow on and ask how the changes of downloading had affected your life personally but that answers that right there.

Yeah man it isn’t good.

Naturally if your studio is like you say then it doesn’t make it the ideal recording environment for 3 Doors Down so what made you go to LA as this is the first album the band had done there.

Yeah at first man LA is just so mild, have you ever been to LA?

Nope.

Well LA is so just so mild, the weather is beautiful, the sun is always out with people just always wearing shorts and running, jogging or biking and eating goddamn trail mix and Sushi and all these things [laughs], it’s just low impact but if we record back in Nashville it’s fucking cold, it’s hot, it’s raining, it’s snowing.

Basically sounds like you’re recording in Scotland.

[Laughs] There you go but in LA when you wake up it’s the same day it was yesterday! I have to say it was pretty nice.

So was it refreshing to have all those changes with the co-writing, Howard and LA to kind of make it feel fresh, feel a little new because it was all different.

Oh it wasn’t new again [laughs] been doing this a long time but it was nice man, it was nice. Coming out of the studio they had this little sitting area and you could just walk out there and sit and be like “wow, life’s good.” I can think of way worse jobs but it was really nice.

3 Doors Down Chris HendersonThere is one song I want to ask you about from the recording process and that is ‘Believer’.

Sure.

The first time I heard the album I didn’t fully dedicate my time to it like I usually do because of other things but as soon as that came on it, don’t know how to explain it, almost like a head turner you know, soon as I heard it I just thought “what the fuck is this, this is awesome!” it just has such a groove to it.

[Laughs] That song dude, I was messing with that guitar riff in my studio and it almost didn’t happen. If you listen to all of our records there is always a left turn, there is always a song, which usually would have been ‘She Is Love’ which you will have heard, but that would have normally been the left turn, that kind of track or a song without a chorus or something. When I was doing that riff, it was just the guitar part I did at first, and then I programmed the drums and played the bass and I kind of just left it without any words. Then I started to listen to it with my buddy who was in the studio with me and he was like “what the fuck is that? That is awesome” and I was just like “it’s just this thing I’ve been working on” because I was recording music for, what do you call them, like ESPN and they have that bit of rock n’ roll in the background, and I was just putting ideas down on CD but when I did that I thought I need to let Brad hear that. So I let him hear it and he was fucking like “ok we’re going to write this song” so the band got together and we put it together as a band, played it for Howard and he was like “that has got to be on the record”. If you listen to it, it’s punk, its punk rock but polished riffy metal punk.

Yeah that groove and flow throughout the song is what you expect from more of a classic punk track.

Yeah exactly it’s just [sings a beat].

I would challenge anyone to listen to the song, even people who are not fans of 3 Doors Down, and see if they can keep their head still throughout it as you don’t even know a lot of the time you’re going with it then you think “fuck yes!”

[Laughs] We’re playing that tonight, it’s one of the new ones.

I will go home happy then, well happier now having the opportunity to hear it live.

There you go [laughs]. We’re also, yeah I’ll spoil it we’re doing a little Judas Priest part in the middle.

Is that a cover in the middle of the set or part of the song do you mean?

Just a section. We are playing ‘Believer’ then we stop, start playing Judas Priest, start playing ‘Believer’ again, you’ll see.

[Laughs] Have you done that at shows already? I can only imagine fans trying to get into the new song that they haven’t heard then thinking “what the fuck is Judas Priest doing in there”, that is even if they notice.

[Laughs] Yeah we’ve done it at a few shows already and we’ll do it tonight, it’s pretty fun actually.

So how you going to do it?

We’ll play the Judas Priest music and Brad will sing the ‘Believer’ words, then he will switch to the Judas Priest words and back to ‘Believer’ again.

Yeah so many people are just going to be thinking “what the fuck?” [laughs]

[Laughs] Yeah, it’s pretty cool man. The Germans fucking loathe it; the Germans fucking shit their pants.

[Laughs] When you told me about the process there for ‘Believer’, do you write a lot of the songs or do all the members more or less write full songs to bring to the table as I obviously didn’t know you played the bass and you said you programmed the drums up for it.

Yeah, well we all do. Like Matt [Roberts] brings things to the table like riffs and songs, even whole songs without words, he’ll bring them. Then Brad will sit and write words and we’ll hum melodies to each other and kind of write altogether as a band. Of course some people write a little bit more of whatever song than others but it doesn’t matter because we just always put everything together and my riffs are their riffs and their riffs are my riffs, it’s always a band effort so it’s pretty cool.

Just another fall on point from what you said about ‘Believer’ and that was the ESPN thing. Of course you were writing some little ideas for things like that but a lot of 3 Doors Down songs have been featured on shows like that, also recently on WWE so how good does it feel to know that they want your music and they are broadcasting it to millions of people, the WWE especially which is to millions worldwide every week?

It’s a brand man, we’re not as big as other brand bands you know there are [Led] Zeppelin and Def Leppard, they are big branded bands, U2, but we’re getting there, we just need to keep doing it, keep doing it and hopefully one day, we’ll see. If it doesn’t happen then fuck it, I’m happy the way we are.

Jumping back to the songs on the album, we already know the meaning behind the first single ‘When You’re Young’ as Brad has been questioned on it many times but the one that hasn’t been touched on, well not that I could see, was ‘Every Time You Go’. What can you tell us about that song?

‘Every Time You Go’ is basically, well it says “Every time you go you take a part of me” and that’s kind of the meaning of the whole song, the gist of it, you know the I hate it when you go, I miss you when you’re gone. You know it’s kind of the same things we’ve always been talking about and it has worked for us in the past but the song is so fucking catchy. Tonight you’ll see we are filming the video with iPhones, like the music video, well we’re going to try because there is no slate or nothing so we’re going to try put it together the best we can [laughs]. So our crew will come out while we’re playing that song with iPhones and start filming the crowd and the guitar parts, drums and all that shit then we’re just going to edit it, put it into whatever program, chop it up, put it to the music and see what happens man. [Laughs]

You know members of the crew will be begging you to stop moving so they can focus on you to stop it being thing blurry dot.

[Laughs] I know, it’s going to be hell but funny.

Music Video: Every Time You Go

One of the main questions I wanted to ask you and it covers all the albums you have released. Every album since your debut ‘The Better Life’ has either went gold or platinum so do you feel pressured or does the label pressure you into trying to meet that expectation?

Yeah and with downloading there is no way to sell so eventually we’re not going to go platinum. We’ve sold fifteen million records and I think probably without downloading we would have sold close to twenty five [million records], probably cost us ten million records, that’s what I think. So yeah there is a lot of pressure as the label still looks at that, “well you sold ten million on this one, then you sold four million, then you sold two million, then one million” now what? So here we go man, the record comes out in only one month.

It would be pretty easy to say that you also believe the only way to make money now is touring?

It’s the only way, the only fucking way; downloading has killed it. We make a little money on publishing and like sponsorships and merchandise if people buy our t-shirts but touring, on the fucking road, playing shows, that’s how you fucking do it like it or not. We love touring and we do a lot of fucking shows and we’re here now and the record was supposed to be out.

Yeah that is one of the questions I wanted to ask you about was the big delay.

Foo Fighters.

[Laughs] Simple and very understandable answer. No matter how big 3 Doors Down are, Foo Fighters do have some considerable edge.

[Laughs] That’s what I think anyway. When we heard the new Foo Fighters record was coming out we all thought “well that’s just wait a little bit, let’s just let that come and do what it’s going to do then we’ll come out behind that.” Hopefully you know Ricky Martin or someone like Lady Gaga won’t release a new record because acts like that man, fuck, they still sell some records you know and that’s good. But yeah that’s why we delayed it and this tour was already booked so we’re like ah fuck it, let’s just go, see some people, play some shows, get warmed back up for Europe again as we’re coming back in February.

3 Doors Down Band PhotoSo will that be a good proper headline tour throughout the Europe and UK?

Yeah a proper tour and hopefully, hopefully I don’t jinx it, we’re trying to come back with Seether which would be fucking great!

They actually announced on Twitter they were in the process of working on some UK tour dates so now we know what is going on.

Hopefully, hopefully. We’re negotiating to try make it work and they’re a big band so it’s hard to get a big band to come to the table as they want to do their own thing.

Would be a massive tour and you may need somewhere a little bigger than here as the demand for Seether is pretty big over here so if you can sell out this venue then it will be packed. If that doesn’t work out then you mentioned Three Days Grace earlier on, a band with a massive UK presence but need the right tour to bring them over to the UK and Europe but with Seether that will be a great gig.

Seether are great live too.

Yet to see them perform.

You’ll enjoy it.

Now you’ve been involved in this business for a long time and you’ve seen it change dramatically, so if you look at your career now, with all of the knowledge you have gained over the years and you could go back in time and give yourself some advice, what would you go back and tell yourself?

Fuck man, if I go back to the start?

Yeah, let’s say for talking sake when the first 3 Doors Down album came out.

I would, fuck, so many things dude, fuck. I would tell myself to play guitar every day, that’s number one, just make sure I’m professional you know what I mean because there were months there that I was learning how to play the guitar live so I would tell myself I need to work on that before I go out there and get embarrassed.

I would tell myself not to ever ever ever do any drugs at all. Period, not even fucking around.

I had no idea you went through that phase.

Yeah, it was bad. I don’t do it anymore, it was years ago but I would tell myself not to do that as it almost ruined my career, my life, my family, everything. Well it did ruin my family but that would be another thing. I would also tell myself man, not to get fucking married [laughs], that shits expensive man! I got two beautiful children out of the deal but that’s the three things I would say [laughs].

The last thing I wanted to touch on before we finish up is The Better Life Foundation. When I was preparing for this interview today I noticed one of the recent figures for the money that the foundation has rose which was $3 million.

Yeah we have.

When you spoke about being a big brand band and you mentioned a few bands like U2, obviously Bono dedicates a lot of his time to helping those in need but do you wish more bands with the status of 3 Doors Down, who have a big fan base would use their popularity for something more than just selling cups and t-shirts?

Yeah I know it’s fucked up! It’s a really cool thing to do for our fans, the way we do it, if people buy a foundation ticket then they basically get to spend the weekend with us. We do it at a hotel/casino, so we’re in the casino for fucking five days, we’re right there eating in the restaurants, on the floor and all the people who come to the shows are welcome to stay the whole weekend with us at the place. The shows are all access, they’re not allowed in the dressing room but the people who see the shows are allowed into the bars and all the places we go so it’s just like hanging out. We usually sell them out really small, like 2000-2500 people and we have a silent auction with all of our friends and bands donating shit the whole year long and we sell all of that. I don’t know man, it’s been really fucking cool, it’s almost like a party, it’s like not even making an effort and we’re raising millions of fucking dollars and we’re even fucking trying, It’s so easy and I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do it. Doesn’t make any sense to me and I look forward to that show ever year, it’s four good fun days of partying and having a good old time playing music and fucking riding motorcycles, it’s great.

3 Doors Down The Better Life FoundationI know the foundation was a big help during Hurricane Katrina which actually affected yourself.

Yeah, I lost everything, all my guitars, my recording studio, my cars, baby cribs, beds, knives, forks, glasses, everything. I mean I had thirteen feet of water in my house, so you know less than double this ceiling, full of salt water with fuel oil in it because of the refineries. So there was fuel oil, salt, all of the pollution, dead bodies because of the graveyard up the street, they all fucking floated up in my yard and oh, it was a fucking nightmare. I was married, had two children, one small child and I went from, well it was me and my wife, my two little girls and my two stepsons were living in a caravan about the size of this room for almost a year while they rebuilt my house. Just to watch all that devastation man; I got a tattoo because of it with all of the dead bodies that were floating around with all of the guitars I lost, the flood water and all that so that’s how this tattoo came about. It cost me a lot of fucking money and I was one of the lucky ones because a lot of the people down there from where I’m from especially, are dirt fucking poor, come from nothing, have nothing and then all their nothing just got washed away so now what, what the fuck are they going to do now you know, they have no job, no fucking car, they have no house, no food, nothing. I was just down there because I live in Nashville now, I had to get the fuck out of there, I wasn’t going through that shit again, fuck that! I was down there visiting a friend of mine and it still hasn’t recovered and that was six years ago! There is just no money down there.

We did everything we could for them and there was one city Waveland, Mississippi, looks like God took a fucking eraser and just wiped the city off the fucking map.

That was the city you donated the fire truck, police cars and tour bus too wasn’t it?

Yeah they lost their fire department, their police department, their city hall, their libraries, their schools. So we gave them the tour bus, the fire trucks and all that, computers and we took three semis [trucks] full of food and water over to them and that’s all we could really do so we did it and it was a fucking nightmare.

In terms of yourself now, are you back on your feet with everything back in place?

Yeah I recovered from it, obviously I still work and my jobs okay so I was able to recover from it okay but between that and our recession, a divorce, a drug addiction and all of the things that have happened to me, I’m doing fucking really well [laughs]. I’m very grateful because it could have been a lot worse.

Christ yeah, any normal person who may be working a dead end nine to five job might have just called it quits there.

Yeah no shit man but anyways, no more fucking hurricanes for me [laughs]. I did have a dream last night about a tornado, as they are over there again, I had a dream that a tornado hit my studio [laughs].

[Laughs] I hope you’re not some sort of visionary.

[Laughs] Aww I hope to fuck not man, fuck [laughs].

That’s perfect, thanks very much for your time.

[Laughs] No worries man, thanks for wanting to talk to me.

     

About Michael

Michael is the owner and creator of EspyRock. He is your general all round geek; sports fan; TV show fanatic. You can find him sharing his thoughts on his personal Twitter account. Contact Michael on Twitter or via Email.

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