The sound of madness means, quite literally, the sound of life. And according to Shinedown drummer Barry Kerch, that was the driving force behind the band’s third album. When members of Shinedown, Kerch, vocalist, Brent Smith, guitar player Zach Myers and bass guitar player Eric Bass went into the studio to record their third album, what would become “The Sound of Madness,” they had a lot of inspiration to work with. They had already toured extensively in support of their first two albums, 2003’s “Leave a Whisper,” and 2005’s “Us And Them,” and gone through a slew of line up and personal changes. The result is “The Sound of Madness,” one of the most successful rock albums and songs of 2009. I talked to Kerch about the inspiration behind the album, the band’s writing process, and more.
How long have you been playing?
Barry: Drums or Shinedown?
Just drumming in general.
Barry: 27 years too long.
How did you get involved with it? Did you come from a musical family?
Barry: Honestly there’s no real musicians in my family that I knew. My grandmother said I was banging on pots and pans and the boxes at Christmas were much more interesting than the actual presents that came. So she says I was a good drummer. Her brother was a jazz drummer in Chicago, no one famous or anything like that, but she would say, ‘you are gonna be just like my brother.’ I got my first snare drum when I was 7 years old, and pretty much lessons, playing in all the school bands. I played in elementary school, junior high, high school, college for a couple of years.
Is it just something that has always come natural to you?
Barry: Uhhm, I don’t know if it was natural, I definitely took a lot of lessons but I enjoyed it.
So how did you get involved with Shinedown?
Barry: They were holding auditions nine, ten years ago now in Jacksonville, Florida I heard about the audition through my brother, who was a radio DJ down in Jacksonville. He said, ‘hey you gotta hear this guy sing.’ Actually, the song .45 on the first record was my audition piece, that’s me auditioning for the band playing it on the demo.
So you guys have had a really busy couple of years, you have been touring pretty much non stop. How do you handle being on the road for so many months at a time?
Barry: Lots and lots of alcohol. No, you’re either made for this or you’re not. A lot of people have a hard time living out of a suitcase, being on the road constantly in different cities. For us it’s just kind of what we do. You do get homesick. I miss my wife, I miss my home, I miss my dogs, I miss my kitchen, which is something I like to do outside of this is cook. You miss the simple things. But when you look at the big picture we get to see a crazy amount of cities and the people we get to meet, all over the world it kind of makes up for it. It makes you realize how lucky you are because it could be gone tomorrow you just never know. Hopefully we can be a band who has a career like U2 or Aerosmith or somebody like that but that’s very far and few between. We’re happy to be where we are at now with three records under our belt, so it’s a gift, you gotta just keep pushing forward. For all of us it’s very easy to be out here and do what we do, easy in the sense that it’s a gift but it can be difficult at times.
How does your wife feel about it, does she ever come out with you?
Barry: Every once in awhile she comes our, she’s got her own career, she works with autistic children. She’s a saint, she’s the good half of me. But really, she has a love/hate relationship with it. There’s a lot of times where she gets very angry and I don’t blame her. But also at the same time it keeps our relationship very interesting. When we’re home we actually want to hang out with each other. It’s not the nine to five, ‘honey, I’m home, what’s for dinner?’ type of thing. It’s actually a lot of fun.
That’s true, that is a very positive way to look at it. She must be a strong woman.
Barry: She is a strong woman and she could totally beat me up.
So what is “the sound of madness?”
Barry: The sound of madness is life. It’s waking up in the morning to your alarm clock, your kid crying for you, hearing the sound of the city, it’s everything. Madness isn’t necessarily a negative thing, it can be a positive thing. You know, hearing them cry for you, if you have children, is a great thing, it’s your child. So the sound of madness . . .the album is very autobiographical. Brent writes all the lyrics, but he writes based on what we’ve all experience over the last few years and what we go through and it’s a snapshot of a period of time, and it was absolute madness making this record. For better or for worse there was a lot of madness, that’s why it is “the sound of madness,” it is the sound of life.
So how does your song writing process work, you mentioned that Brent writes all the lyrics.
Barry: It’s whoever comes up with something that works. Sometimes they get the riffs, sometimes I come up with a really cool drum beat that just follows the song. I don’t play a lot of instruments so when it comes to the song writing process I don’t have a lot to do with that. A lot of times it’s just acoustic guitar and a small riff that produces a song. Ultimately you want to write a song that people are going to enjoy and that you love to play, most importantly you have to write it for yourself first.
What’s it like hearing your song on the radio for the first time, that has to be pretty amazing.
Barry: It’s still pretty special, every time. We have eleven or twelve singles off the records now that we have released and it’s still pretty special. You hear that and you’re like, ‘I can’t believe I’m on the radio.’ I dreamed about it as a kid but I still can’t believe it.
When you went into the studio to record “The Sound of Madness,” what sort of pre-set goals did you have for the album.
Barry: World domination.(laughs)
You just about have it!
Barry: We wanted to out do ourselves, you want to grow as a band and be better musicians and better song writers and make a good record. I think for us, coming off of the album “Us and Them” into “The Sound of Madness” . . . that was a very stripped down, basic record, the album was very . . . it was made quickly. It’s not like we’re not proud of our other albums, they have done great things for us. Going into “The Sound of Madness” we wanted to make it bigger than life. We wanted to make the biggest record that we possibly could and the biggest rock record that’s out. We’re a little bit competitive and we want to make sure we’re on the top. We’re all working for the same goal as all these bands, we want to come out on top and I think we have accomplished that in a lot of ways, and hopefully the next album is even bigger and different and better. You want to keep improving yourselves and getting better at what you do.