Interview: Staind – Aaron Lewis

Celebrating the release of their self-titled seventh studio album, Staind rolled into the UK to kick off their first UK tour in two years and I had the opportunity to sit down with frontman and guitarist Aaron Lewis. Read on as we discuss Staind returning to their roots, the ups and downs while making ‘Staind’, the industry and how upcoming bands have a hard job if they sign a record deal. We also talk about prioritising career and family life, his solo material and also what the future holds for Staind.

Song: Not Again

EspyRock: Congratulations on the new album. Were you relieved when it was met with such a positive response considering all of the troubles that came with putting this album out?

Aaron Lewis: I’m delighted people liked it. I was kind of surprised at how well it sold because of everything that happens these days with downloading and shit, but we were right up there on the Billboard chart and I think we broke the top 100 here so the album has done really well.

We all talk about how downloading affects sales and how it then affects your career but it is rarely addressed at a more personal level. Have you or do you still need to make sacrifices today because of what is happening or does the fact that you are still able to sell a good amount records allow you some breathing room compared to other artists?

Well record sales make the machine go around and within the machine, nothing is free. It costs us a lot of money to go make the record but that’s when we also make our money. We get a little piece of money up front to go and make the record and what’s left over is what we get as an advance; that’s really the only money we will ever see from the record and sales. The machine will not be able to work without record sales funding the labels who then help us by contributing to the costs of recording. Nothing is free, we have to spend our money effectively to make this album but people are not prepared to purchase the album and attain it. They don’t care about the money, blood, sweat and tears that were invested into the process. The kids these days just don’t understand the market and how it works. The biggest sacrifice I’ve had to make over the years is how much time I can spend with my family. I need to work constantly now and if I don’t then how can I support them. It annoys me that I have to leave my family so much now and with everything that happened during this album, I think the fact we went back to a heavy and aggressive sound really helped me just get rid of a lot of that anger.

How it did feel to go back and unleash again and really give it all of that aggression?

It goes very well with the solo stuff that I’ve put out which is country and the complete polar opposite of this. They work very well together because on one side I can express the feelings that I did on this record but then on the other side, I can take a step back and tell stories. I need the two different ways of expressing myself, these two avenues that let me unleash all of the creativity within me. This record was completely inspired by what we were going through.

I think a lot of people who don’t know the story that lead to this album might be a bit surprised with how heavy it is compared to the last album because it does hit you right away.

Yeah and instead of allowing all of that anger and frustration get in my way, I took it and used it to my advantage by using it to fuel everything that I was doing.

The two styles gives you an outlet for expression as you said but as you have been focussing more on your solo work, do you still feel the same passion for hard rock?

Honestly, I think I have even more passion now than I ever did before because I have that second outlet. Staind can now go back to being that heavy band it always was. Things didn’t get blurred in between the lines of whether we were a heavy band or not a heavy band until I started bringing songs to the table like ‘Outside’, ‘It’s Been A While’, ‘So Far Away’, ‘Everything Changes’, ‘Epiphany’, ‘Zoe Jane’ and ‘Tangled Up In You’. These are all songs that I brought and the band then put their finishing touches onto them, the stuff that I can’t do, but I wrote those songs on an acoustic guitar just like I did with my solo record. The only difference was that instead of taking it to the band which always blurred the lines, I took it to Nashville and had the best session musicians in Nashville play on it instead of my band.

How well does that process of working songs on an acoustic guitar work for you first?

To the extent that in the studio, even on the last record and this record, we sat down and broke the songs completely down to an acoustic guitar song and played them in an acoustic manner and sometimes that is all it takes to click melodies for me. Once you have simplified it and brought the song down to its basic core then you can analyse it in a lot more detail.

How do the other guys work off that, can they build the song in the same way you do or do they have to wait until you have found what it needs and then piece it back together?

Well usually at this point they have already tracked their parts and it is just me who is waiting to come in and record my vocals and add a little something. Once they have everything done then that’s when I come in and start to take it apart brick by brick and work out what I need to do. I’ll write the melodies with my acoustic guitar and then apply them to the actual song.

Do you think this album would have not been so heavy if everything that occurred in the studio had not happened? I know you have said that ‘The Illusion Of Progress’ was meant to be a heavy album but in the end it just went another way.

That was my thought process going in [to ‘The Illusion Of Progress’] but we just couldn’t ignore the songs that were coming out and being brought to the table. It wasn’t our heaviest but it was our most experimental as we had all of these vintage amps and vintage guitars and lots of different layering, I mean we had a gospel choir [laughs]. I think we just changed our thinking and we wanted to have something that was nothing like the record before it.

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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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