Their latest album titled Full Circle is a good phrase to currently describe the rock/metal band Drowning Pool. In seven years together, the group has gone through two lead singers, some very rough personal times and a record label change from a major to an indie. For most bands events such as these would in all likelihood break the group apart but not Drowning Pool. The guys have persevered and are presently as popular as ever, touring like madmen and consistently playing in front of thousands. Presently, the band is making its way across Canada in mid-June before continuing on with some more summer dates in the U.S., including some stops on the 2008 Ozzfest tour. While in preparation for the band’s heavy load of upcoming touring, we were able to catch up with the group’s lead guitarist C.J. Pierce. Here’s what C.J. had to say about all things Drowning Pool.
You guys are currently on tour in the Middle America right now. How have the shows been going so far and are you pleased?
C.J.: Yeah this year’s been great for us, most of the shows have been sold out which is awesome. You know, last year we started touring on the record before it came out and you know, for us we always start at point A, we can’t seem to get to point B, this is our third singer now and you have to constantly reprove yourself. So um, yeah we’ve seen a big growth in the fan base and the shows, some of the places we’re hitting again this year that we hit last year have been sold out so I’m very pleased.
I saw you guys are heading over to Australia in a couple of weeks to play some shows. Have you ever been over there before and if so what are the fans like in comparison to here in North America?
C.J.: Yeah we went over in 2002 and did the Big Day Out tour with Dave and it was, oh it was just amazing, to be at their big festival for the year, you know summer time for them is in January, so yeah that was a great experience. The fans over there are awesome, really cool, really laid back, um so I’m looking forward to it. The only thing with this one is we’re going to get in there and we have like shows every day and we have to take a plane to get to every show so basically, we fly in, set up, play, fly out to the next venue and play so it’s going to be an ass whipping. I figured I’ll just drink a lot of coffee and stay up for the week that we’re there and get to meet and hang out with everybody and I can sleep when I get home. It’s cool to play in places like that though, we’re doing really well over there with this new CD so it’s nice to be like “wow, we’re really big in another country” so it’s exciting.
Just to backtrack a little bit, as metal fans know, Drowning Pool suffered a great loss in 2002 when singer Dave Williams passed away. Although the band has gone on to great success since then, what was it like for you and the band around the time of Dave’s death? Did you consider pulling the plug on the band?
C.J.: Yeah, I’d like to clear this up actually, a lot of people don’t know this, Dave passed away from hypo-cardiac myopathy of the left ventricle, basically one side of your heart works harder than the other, a lot of people still don’t know that, people come up to me and they’re like “I heard this, I heard that,” all these crazy stories and um, I just like to lay the facts out you know, he had a heart condition and that’s why he passed away. If he would have been a heroin addict or something crazy like that, then we would have said yeah, he was on heroin, but he wasn’t that kind of dude. We all like to drink, he liked his Coors Light and his shots of Yager like anybody else, but yeah during that time period, it was such a dark time for us. Mike, Stevie and myself, we’ve been friends since high school, all of us, I mean even you know, Stevie knew Dave back then as well before he started singing for us so we’ve all been friends for a long time. It never came to the point where we wanted to stop playing music together, it’s just you know, how do you get back up on your feet? And for us, Drowning Pool is kind of like a last name, it was something we built together with Dave and we didn’t want to let that go and that’s why we continued with the name Drowning Pool. You know when someone in your family passes away; you don’t change your last name, it’s who you are and that’s kind of how we feel about it. It was a rough time man, it was a very dark time, for a few years after that, we were still under that dark cloud of depression, but um, everyone’s fine now, the new record’s called Full Circle because you know it feels like we’re starting over again on the right foot. We’ve been friends with Ryan since 2000 and I think he’s the right voice for this band. He’s kind of the guy we wanted in the first place but at the time he was still singing with his previous band but things ended up working out.
That actually leads into my next question. Ryan has been with the band a couple of years now…
C.J.: Yeah, another year and he’ll be like the longest singer we’ve ever had, he’s like an honourary member now. [laughs]
Yeah that’s right. What made you realize that Ryan was the right person to replace Dave and Jason?
C.J.: Well we felt like that before we had Jason, Ryan was kind of the guy we wanted because he was in one of the bands, you know we tour with a lot of bands and certain bands that you just click with and he was one of the dudes we just clicked with and we just kept in touch even though we were in different bands. And again at that time, we didn’t want to take somebody else’s singer and he was the type of guy we were looking for. I think Jason had a very good voice, I think we did a great job on that record with him, he’s just, personality wise we didn’t really know him and once you get on the bus with somebody and he’s just got this completely different outlook and upbringing than me, Mike and Stevie, it’s just two totally different worlds. And um, you know we feel like you got to be friends first before you know, write music together, you all got to get along, we all need to be buddies and because we’re buddies, we can write music together. And we just kind of have that friendship with Ryan that we didn’t have with Jason. And um, he had quit playing music for a while, Ryan was out of music for almost a year and we came to the end of the tour and then we realized that Jason wasn’t the right guy so we split ways. And then two days later, Ryan came in and we immediately started writing music and we’ve been together ever since. It was definitely the easiest writing process, this record, we all leave the egos at the door, we get in there and we hammer stuff out, if you say you don’t like a certain part, everyone’s cool with it, no one gets hurt.
Your latest record Full Circle has been out now since last summer. Now that it’s been out quite a while and you’ve had time to reflect, how you do feel about the album? Are you pleased with how things have turned out?
C.J.: Yeah I’m really pleased with it. I’m happy with the record, I think they’re all great songs, we worked really hard on it. The only thing I would have liked to have done if I was really going to kick it apart is when it was getting mixed we were over in Europe at the time so during the mixing process, we weren’t there for it, we had to like listen to it on the computer, they email it to you and you kind of judge off that. I probably would have rather liked to be in the studio when it was getting mixed rather than being in another country, but I’m not displeased with the mix, I just think you know, it would have been nice to spend more time on that and be more a part of that. But I’m happy with all the material and with the whole record, you know I like the fact that we didn’t just jump in there and do it, you know we spent a good year and a half writing and touring on the record before we even went into the studio to record it. It really was like starting over again, you know most bands on their first record, they play clubs and they’ve played all the songs live for a very long time before they’ve recorded them and then after you get signed, you go in the studio and you make a record without playing it live really. We don’t want to ever do that again, we kind of did that with Desensitized, and we went in the studio, wrote it, recorded it and then went out on the road. And some songs just like, you write them in the studio and you play them live, they don’t work the same as you planned it you know and I don’t want to have that problem with this record which we don’t, all the songs work great live.
Not only have you guys changed lead singers but you also recently changed record companies switching from Wind-Up to Eleven Seven Music. What made you sign with Eleven Seven? Are you pleased with how they’ve promoted Full Circle?
C.J.: Yeah I’m definitely happy with our management and the record company. You know, people at Wind-Up, the people that were there when we originally started aren’t there anymore and they kind of started going in a different direction with their record company and it’s not an uncommon thing for record companies to go up to their bands and tell them “you got to sound more like this or that.” And a lot of the bands in that company were coming up to us and telling us that we were getting all this (pressure) and asking if we were getting it. And Wind-Up’s never walked in the room and told us what to do or anything. We went in and did our own stuff on our first two records so here we are on the third record with the third singer and they’re starting to pull that shit, like the radio doesn’t rock as hard as it use to and this and that. And this is how I look at it; you know we write our music and our job is to write what we feel and put on a kick ass rock show, it’s their job to get the songs on the radio. So I’m not going to change my job to make their job easier because they’re sure as hell not going to change their job to make mine easier.
So you know we kind of got to that point of where this is what we sound like and if you’re not a hundred percent on board with it then you can go fuck yourself. So from that we left, we had a buddy, a local manager in town and we wanted an A-list manager, you know, third record third singer, we just wanted to have a manager that was a hundred percent behind us and smart and also a record label that was honest. They (Eleven Seven) have a game plan, they’re sticking to it, it’s working and that’s what we needed you know, that’s what you need, you need management that know what the hell they’re doing.
It was fun I think also on this record, at that time when we were writing we didn’t have management or a label, we went into the studio and paid for it ourselves, we financed our own record. Once we got Eleven Seven, you know they happened to help us out on the back end. We went in there and did what we wanted to do and they’ve taken it and taken it to the next level.
I know Full Circle wasn’t released too long ago but have you guys started to write any new songs or material for your next record?
C.J.: Yeah we have enough material to make probably two records. When we got done with that record, we had a lot of songs we hadn’t finished that we liked even better that just weren’t done. We have a handful of material that we may or may not release, but there’s a couple of songs that we’re probably still going to tackle. There’s definitely three for sure that we still play at sound check and work on and they just weren’t ready yet and we don’t want to stick something on a record half-assed. And then from there, I get up every day like I’m doing now, just write music every day so we have a ton of stuff ready for the next record. We’re on the road right now so it’s kind of hard for all four of us to sit down and really work on stuff. We might have a few sound checks that we’re fortunate to be long enough to work on stuff, usually it’s like you gotta just hurry up and get it done. As soon as we get that break and all four of us get in the rehearsal room again, we have so much stuff that I don’t think it’ll take long at all for the next record to get done. Plus I’m excited because there are some heavier songs that I wanted to do that weren’t finished yet so I’m happy there’s going to be a way heavier side that people haven’t heard from Drowning Pool. But there’s also, for whatever reason, you know there’s going to be a lighter side so there’s going to be that extreme on both ends.
Would you consider the current lineup the definitive version of Drowning Pool?
C.J.: No we like to change it up every record; you know I tell the singers not to get too comfortable. (laughs) No this is it right here you know, we say third time’s a charm, three strikes and you’re out you know, I’m not going to go through starting over again and all that other crap. You know we’re not like that, I mean like I said we’re all buddies and we all get along well and we’re all looking forward to making music together and we all enjoy doing it. So you know I’m looking forward to looking many many more records with Ryan.
What is your set-list like while on tour? Do you stick strictly to newer material written with Ryan or do you sift back to material written with Dave and Jason?
C.J.: No we mix it up you know it’s cool now having three different records and he likes to sing all the old stuff and he does a great job on it and I know of course with the old songs too you know your crowd is singing along too so it’s sort of like a group effort on it. But um, it’s nice, we mix it up, actually every couple of days we try to change it up so it’s definitely fresh. It’s good to, like I said move around some old songs and new songs so it’s about half and half, half old half new.
I guess the crowd expects to hear “Bodies” when they come to a Drowning Pool show.
C.J.: They expect to hear “Bodies” and we don’t play it anymore. [laughs] No, no, we couldn’t play a show without playing “Bodies.” We mix it up though sometimes, it’s not always the last song on there.
What does Drowning Pool have planned for the rest of the summer and the fall of 2008?
C.J.: Yeah the rest of this year I know we’re going to Australia, we’re going to Canada and then we’re going to do another tour of the States throughout the summer and then um, I’m hoping to do another big fall tour, I’d love to tour with Disturbed again, we have such a great time with those guys, it’s one of the bands we really get along with, I think it’s a good package so I’m hoping to do something with them, we’ve been talking off and on here and there. We’ll probably just tour out the rest of this year and if we’re lucky we’ll get to do the Big Day Out Tour again at the end of next year, we’ll see how these shows go coming up in Australia. But um, it’s nice to get new material out; I’m one of those people who always wants to hear something new so maybe at the end of next year we’ll have another record coming out. But who knows, if we keep selling out shows, we’ll keep touring.