I recently had the good fortune of speaking with Ryan McCombs, the lead singer of Drowning Pool. We chatted at great length, not only about the band’s newest self-titled release and upcoming tour, but also about the many other things the band is involved in. You may not realize it, but the band is heavily involved in working with the USO and the troops stationed over in Iraq. McCombs spoke enthusiastically about The Wounded Warrior Project, an organization that the band has joined forces with which provides quality healthcare, (mentally and physically) to the soldiers coming back from the war in the Middle East. Here is what McCombs had to say.
How is the tour going so far?
Ryan: It is going well. We have had a couple of small runs here, we had five weeks with Sevendust and then a week or more of radio shows and some headline dates. We have had a week off and now I am sitting in New York City doing some press stuff for the release of the new record.
Now that your brand new Self-titled CD is complete how do you feel about it? Are you satisfied with the outcome?
Ryan: Very much so. I think a lot of the situations surrounding Drowning Pool are pretty evident and I think when you look at the fact that the rest of the guys for the first time in their professional career are going in to record a new release with the same singer and a strong management team behind us. With a strong label and a strong band unit that is all on the same page it created a new atmosphere that allowed us to go into the studio and concentrate on the job at hand. I think that really came out at the end of the day with the material we put in there.
What was the writing process like for this CD? Did you guys all write together? How long did it take?
Ryan: I think it all kind of starts with CJ, our guitar player. He brings the fillet mignon or the steak to the table and the others bring the vegetables and all of the other necessary ingredients then I get in there, pour on some stinking gravy all over the whole thing and screw it all up. CJ is the riff miester, he gets things started and from there we just sort of tear things apart and rebuild them. Everybody puts their piece of the puzzle into it and we wind up with the end result.
What can fans expect when they pick up a copy of the new disc?
Ryan: You know right now the overwhelming response that we are getting from it is that it is the best piece of work that Drowning Pool has released to date. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact, as I said before, that we were able to just go in and do an album with our heads clear and just focused on the album. We were focused on just enjoying what we are blessed to do. This is the strongest piece of work we have done and for me, in my career, it is my favorite volume of work that I have ever been a part of.
How quick are you in the studio? Can you usually knock things out in a couple takes?
Ryan: It took a lot longer for us on this record. We are used to spending about six weeks on a record but for this one we were in the studio for about two or two and a half months.
Are there any tracks on this disc that are personal favorites or that have good stories behind them?
Ryan: Man they all are really something else. Personally as the guy that writes about 95 percent of the lyrics I have been through a lot, we all have because life is full of ups and downs, but mine has had a lot of downs recently and this is probably the deepest, most emotionally charged album I have ever been a part of hands down, no question about it. You have an album here with songs that the old school fans are getting a hold of and saying that certain track are reminiscent of the first album. Then you have tracks that remind them of the natural progression from the last album. I love the collection of music we have on here.
Tell me a little bit about The Wounded Warrior Project and how you got involved.
Ryan: The Wounded Warrior Project is the latest in working alongside the groups that are supporting our military when they come back from doing their jobs. It is something that we have always tried to stay a part of. Ever since having gone over and played for all the troops in Iraq and Kuwait. We played there once in November 2005 and again in September 2006. Once we came back we got involved with the IAVA (Iraq Afghanistan Veterans Of America) to help promote and bring more awareness to a bill they were trying to get passed, which was providing more healthcare and paid more attention to the mental aspect of our men and women when they come back.
We had a lot of success with that and with the light shining on us right now we wanted to find other ways that we could help and that led us to getting involved with the Wounded Warriors Project and all of the good they do. They are really big on doing everything they can to improve the quality of life for our men and women when they come back mentally and physically from doing their jobs. It is a fine line we walk because we don’t want to be looked at as a war mongering band, because we are not, we don’t support war, we support the men and women over there doing their jobs. That is a fine line and we don’t want to be taken in the wrong light. But at the same time, we were there, we heard the stories we saw the jobs that were being done and it touched us in a big way. We just want to shine some of the light that comes upon us onto some of these people and these organizations that do not get enough of it. They are really working hard to help the people who come back.
What has that experience been like personally?
Ryan: It has been unbelievable. It had such an impact that I got angry when I came home. I got angry because when I came home and flipped on the TV all I saw were news programs about the “Paris Hiltons” of the world and the “Kardashians” of the world and I was just like, who cares. There are men and women from many countries over there doing their jobs and we are worried about the house wives of Timbuktu are doing this week. It is all very frustrating.
I hear you man. It is very important to find out what brand of coffee Brittany Spears had for breakfast this morning.
Ryan: Yeah. Exactly it is very frustrating. When we went over there, I don’t even think the USO knew how to deal with us because they were used to dealing with a different kind of celebrity. They wanted to get us in fifteen minutes before show time and then get us out fifteen minutes after show time but we were not about that, it was not why we were there. We had them get us into each base as close to lunchtime as we could so that we could go into the mess halls, spread out and sit with as many of the troops as we could. We wanted to hear their stories firsthand and spend an autograph, a picture or a handshake… whatever they wanted.
I think the first time we were there we broke the USO record with a two and a half hour signing after the show. The longest singing we did was six and a half hours, which is crazy because for that particular show, there was a unit that came and watched the show but had to leave on a mission. They were bummed because they had to leave and they did not think they were going to be able to get anything signed. But we did not leave until everybody was done. So when they came back from the mission we were still sitting there signing stuff and taking pictures. For any celebrity that looks at it as a just war zone, sure it is a war zone but at the end of the day you have to think about it you have the greatest security around you at all times and it is a life changing experience. If anybody out there has an opportunity to go over there and take a piece of home with them to our troops over there they definitely should do it.
I just spoke with the guys from Saving Abel the other day, they are heavily involved in playing for the troops as well and they pretty much said the same thing you just said, that it is life changing.
Ryan: We played in several coalition bases and when you look out there and you see men and women out there, some of whom don’t even speak English, it doesn’t matter if you are a rock fan or a rap fan right then and there they are all just fans of whatever is getting their minds of off of what they have to go through everyday. Words cannot do it justice, it is an amazing thing and we have been trying to get back there ever since.
What kind of roadwork do you have planned for the rest of the year?
Ryan: This weekend we start touring full steam ahead. We are known to be road dogs and we spent nearly three years supporting Full Circle. This is our payoff… the time we get to share with the fans in a live setting. This is why we do this, to spend time with the fans that allow us to. So we are going to kick that off here and I don’t know when we will get some time off because once it starts we are out there.
In a hundred years from now what will the music history books say about your band?
Ryan: I was doing an interview the other day and somebody made the comment that if the bomb ever drops there are going to be three things still here. Cockroaches, Twinkies and Drowning Pool. If you look at what Drowning Pool has been through with the loss of one singer due to an untimely death then having it out with another singer and splitting ways. Many things happen that people don’t necessarily know about as well. We have had our equipment stolen two times in the past few years but we just keep trucking ahead and doing it. We have been calling ourselves the cockroaches of rock for a long time now because whatever gets thrown at us, we always stick around.
Any closing words?
Ryan: I just want to thank you, the people that allow us to have the connection with our fans and to keep that connection up is invaluable. I appreciate the people out there who even give us the time of day and allow us to do what we do. I have been doing this now professionally for ten years and every day wake up and cannot believe it. So I just want to say a big thank you to everyone out there who allows to keep doing this.