Josh Rand has spent the last 20-odd years of his musical career as part of alt-metal favourites Stone Sour. So, when frontman Corey Taylor announced he was putting the band on hiatus to concentrate on his solo album, this gave Josh the opportunity to get stuck into his own act, The L.I.F.E Project.
Teaming up with Paralandra singer and guitarist Casandra Carson, the first fruits of this partnership can be heard on their recently released self-titled EP (read our album review here). Just prior to the release of the EP, we chatted with Josh about the project, how it came together, and why it is highly unlikely that he will ever front his own band.
Hey Josh, thanks for your time. How’s life treating you at the moment?
Josh Rand: “Good, thanks. Everything’s great.”
Good to hear. Obviously exciting times ahead with the EP finally out…
“Yeah, absolutely. It’s been a very long process to get it to this point.”
Let’s just go back to the beginning of the project then. I read an interview recently in which you said you have twelve songs written already…
“Yeah, we’re up to 13 in total now counting the five that are on the EP. It basically started two years ago. We had just come off of the Hydrograd cycle and I just started messing around, I had taken a couple of months off. We had bought a new house and I built a new studio. So, once we got into the new place in 2019, like the middle of 2019, and the studio was built, that was when I really started to dive into this project. Then, once Corey made the decision to concentrate 100 percent on his solo record, that’s when I finally decided to step out and do something for the first time outside of Stone Sour in 20 years. I just started working on the music and I knew that I wanted it to be female-fronted, so then came the search of trying to find a vocalist. Luckily for me, Dave Rath, who is Stone Sour’s A&R guy for Roadrunner introduced me to Cassandra and the rest is history.”
Given that, as you said, you’ve been in Stone Sour for 20 years, when did the first thoughts for the project start? I’m assuming the idea has been kicking around longer than the last eighteen months?
“Honestly it goes back all the way to 2008 I think where I initially kicked the idea of possibly doing something else. The thing is, for me, most people just see Corey has Slipknot and Stone Sour sits on the shelf until he’s on a break from Slipknot. To some degree that’s true but there’s still stuff that has to be done for Stone Sour even when he’s off working with Slipknot. So, usually, I handle all that stuff but, this time around it, I just felt like I needed to step out and do some other stuff. After building this new studio that helped and it just felt like the time was right, finally, to actually step out.”
I was going to ask why now? Why was now been the right time for you to dig into it?
“I think that in the sense of my musical palates change so I like all these different styles of music. So, working with Cassandra and wanting a female singer, allowed me musically to go into territory that I would never have gone to with Stone Sour. That’s really the easiest thing to say about that whole thing. Even though Stone Sour is super diverse, there’s just certain topics and certain stuff that I wouldn’t bring into that band.”
That being the case, with the 13 songs written, I’m assuming you had not considered those to be used in Stone Sour?
“I guess this is all new territory for me. I never really thought about holding songs back for one project over the other because it’s for me, it’s about just where I’m at in this current time.”
I spoke to another musician a couple of months ago who told me he just wrote and wrote songs and then the songs slotted into whatever project he was on. Is that something you do? Do you constantly write? Or would you write specifically for Stone Sour?
“You’re the first person that’s ever posed this question to me. I really have never thought about holding any songs back. I don’t see me taking any of the songs and holding them back for Stone Sour. Plus, I just don’t know when Stone Sour will reconvene. It could be a year from now. It could be five years, it might not be ever. I don’t think any of us know at this point and, with the state of the world with COVID-19 and everything else, that’s also just thrown every wrench into everybody’s world. Who knows?”
I was kind of thinking more along the lines of it when say, you’re writing would you have taken these songs to Stone Sour or do you think they were too diverse to include? Thinking back to something you said earlier about there being certain themes you wouldn’t touch on Stone Sour?
“I’m sure they would have been submitted some of them but it’s really hard to say because that’s really a hypothetical question to try and answer if they would have been suitable?”
With The L.I.F.E. Project then, at what point did it solidify from beyond being just an idea that you’ve been kicking around into something you really wanted to do?
“I knew I had a bunch of music that I was stoked on that I wanted to put out. I knew that I wanted to put it out regardless of what level that would be at. Ultimately, I got to the point where I didn’t want to wait for a record company. I know how to do all that stuff. It’s a lot of work but, I know now that I get to sit back and enjoy it. It’s the idea of just literally having 100 percent control that is liberating. So many artists really truly wish they had that and, as I said, there’s a lot of work going into it but you know, to literally have what I heard in my head and it be here and it hasn’t been compromised from what I actually wanted by anybody, whether it’s a label, a producer, you know, even a mixer, that has been awesome.”
You mentioned building your own studio, how did that let you develop the idea towards the vision you wanted?
“Well, what it allows is me to make my own schedule, and have that freedom. I like going into a big studio, don’t get me wrong. I love going into the big stuff. I wouldn’t have that but, the idea of building the studio was initially, for me, to always be able to record guitars, at my house, at an A level quality and that’s what we set out to do. When you go into making a record, you get a budget, and you have the timeline and you don’t go over budget, and blah, blah, blah.
For instance, perfect example, in this project I went back and re-recorded all the guitars and bass guitar after we started mixing because I didn’t like how the guitar sounded. I paused us in mixing and went back and re-recorded all the guitars. I have a hard time believing that any record company would ever sign off on that ever happening without a debate? So, that is the beauty of when you’re in 100 percent control, to be able to do stuff like that.
Having my own place, you know, allowed me to also do that. It’s like creativity doesn’t have a time schedule and having this studio gave me that freedom at any point. I can go downstairs at any time and work, that is amazing. I wish every artist could have that, you know because it is truly amazing and you don’t realize it until you actually get to do it.”
Taking that into consideration and the lockdown, did that give you the freedom to explore the project and expand on the sound? Or is what we’re hearing now close to your original vision?
“Well, what you hear is close to the original vision, it just took a lot longer for me to get there than what I probably would have set out to do. Really, my vision was that I didn’t want it to sound like what was currently going on in music and hard rock and metal in the production sense. I just feel like a lot of stuff sounds the same. I’m not saying the songs themselves but the production of them. It’s like it’s the same drum tones. It’s the same guitar sound. For this, I want it to sound clean, crisp, tight and punchy.
That all might sound easy until you actually set out to do it. I wanted a low end that’s super tight and punchy because I feel like a lot of stuff right now the bass just suffocates the guitars. That’s why I went back and re-recorded the guitars a billion times until it felt like what I knew I wanted for the guitar tone. I knew I wanted it to be aggressive, it just took us a little bit longer to get there than I would have liked.”
One of the things you mentioned is that, right from the offset, you wanted it to be a female-fronted project. First of all, what was the reason behind that?
“Well, there are several reasons. The first and foremost one is I’m already in a band with somebody that’s kind of good as a male vocalist. So, we’ll start with that (laughs). I contributed a ton of music over the years in Stone Sour, so you’re going to hear similarities and there’s nothing I can do about that unless I just try not to be myself. I’m not going to do that. I thought about bringing in a male vocalist, but it would be really unfair for whoever that is because I know all about comparisons.
The other thing would bring in a female vocalist which I felt musically would let me go into different territories than what I could with Stone Sour. In my mind as the writer, to have the ability to write songs, between Corey and Cassandra, considering just how talented and diverse both of them are, there’s really probably not a style of music or song I could write that I couldn’t hand over to one of them to actually sing on it. That is pretty much the reason why I went with a female vocalist.”
The project has been around for a while before Cassandra joined. What were your criteria for a vocalist other than that you wanted a female vocalist?
“I just wanted somebody that had a lot of power. A female vocalist, with warmth and power. I’m extremely lucky and privileged that she kind of just fell into my lap because of our A&R person. The next thing is personality, and can we work together. She’s influenced by tone, I’m influenced by some of the same stuff that she is, but my heart, honestly, is in metal and thrash metal and stuff like that. She comes from a more hair metal background so could these two worlds actually work together? Can I write riffs?
I feel like what we’re doing kind of falls in between the more mainstream hard rock with a female singer and the metal, female-fronted stuff. We fit in between both of them, where we have riffs and the metal stuff but then we have a vocalist that actually sings more of what a mainstream hard rock band would be. I think we have a cool thing going on and we get along great, which I think is also a huge thing.
I’m very excited about the future and where we’ll be headed because we’re only going to get better given that we really haven’t spent that much time truly together which is pretty crazy. I think we’ve literally been together maybe three, four times in person. Everything else has been FaceTime or a Skype call.”
In terms of the writing, what was your involvement in the lyrics? Did you have all that done before Cassandra, or is that something you handed over to her?
“Yeah, I handed it over to her but I helped with certain words or lines. I’ll give a suggestion but I’m a believer that the lyrics and the vocal melody really needs to come from the singer. They’re the ones that have to perform it and sing it so I think when it’s actually their words, their vocal melodies, there’s just a different connection versus handing somebody lyrics and vocal melodies. So, for the most part, I just let her run with it.”
On that note, this is a project that’s been your baby for a long time. Did you have themes in mind that you wanted to touch on in the music and the lyrics, or did you just leave that completely to Cassandra?
“I left it completely to her. I just think there’s a different connection when you’re the writer versus using somebody else’s words. Apart from the odd suggestion, for the most part. I just tried to let her do her thing.”
Did you not have any ambitions to sing yourself?
“Oh, it would be bad. Who knows though, I might be a TikTok star because everybody would think it was so terrible and terrific. I always joke around that, at some point, I am going to sing ‘Rip It Out,’ the Ace Frehley song. It’s an ongoing joke between Roy Mayorga and myself, that I would sing this so I feel like, at some point, I have to do this but it’s going to be bad.”
I guess, as you said earlier, you would have put yourself up against somebody that’s got a lot of talent…
“Exactly. So, if I can’t do backing vocals for Corey, I’m sure as hell not going to put myself out there as a frontman.”
In terms of new material have you written any? Have you written anything new with Cassandra?
“Well, we have the 13 songs that we had already started writing. Obviously, five on this EP, we’re still messing around with the other seven and I started a new track yesterday. So, technically, that’ll hopefully take us to 14 in the next week or so, at least musically on the planet. We also some covers in the very beginning to test the waters between the two of us and I think we’re going to put those out during the fall just for fun. It is nothing big. It was just for fun.
We did Blondie’s ‘Call Me,’ ‘Immigrant Song’ by Led Zeppelin, ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ by INXS… Van Halen ‘When It’s Love.’ I’ll stop there as I want there to be a few surprises.”
I’m looking forward to hearing that. Just going back to the songs and themes on the EP, for songs like “Purgatory,” and “The Nothingness,” are they coming from a dark place?
“I just write x, y. I just write what I feel. I don’t know how else to explain it, you know? It’s like, that’s what I was feeling and that’s what drew me in that day whether it’s writing, you know, the darkness of the target of “Purgatory,’ or when you can flip it over and then go, and write this piano song, they’re completely the opposite. I just go with whatever. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself when I was younger not to paint myself in a box.
Now, I like all styles of music, there’s stuff I love from tons of people, you know? I can go from Slayer to Adele, I don’t even think about it. It’s just great stuff to me. As I’ve got older, I’ve matured as a writer and that’s a huge thing. I just go with whatever I’m feeling, and I don’t sit there worry about not releasing something because the ten trolls on some social network are going to drag me through the mud. I don’t give a shit at this point. I just go with whatever I’m feeling.”
Okay, just to finish off… Now that the EP is out, what are your plans for this year?
“I’m not sure for the rest of the year. Well, I’ll try and throw out those covers just for fun just so people can hear it and we’ll start working on the next EP or a full-length for next year and then there might be touring next year. For now, there is also COVID to deal with and this new variant plus I’m dealing with some personal stuff and some physical stuff I need to do for myself to get ready to tour. My goal for this year is actually more focusing on myself and getting ready to hopefully go out next year.”
Taking that into account, from both a personal and musical point, was Corey’s decision to put Stone Sour on hold a good one for you in that it forced you to take a break and deal with those other matters?
“One hundred percent. I needed the break from Stone Sour honestly. In hindsight, I probably didn’t realize it until, you know, I had gotten to where I am today as far as working on myself and just everything. Yeah, it was definitely a thing that needed to happen, I think for the band. Obviously, I can only speak for myself, I can’t speak for the other guys, but I think it was a beneficial thing long term for the band to be put on hiatus for now and let everyone kind of go off and do their own things. The great thing is that we’ve experienced this before because of all the leapfrogging with Slipknot so, you have those big breaks and, when you come back to it, it’s fresh, it’s exciting, it’s new, whether it’s a new record or going out on tour.”
Speaking about fresh, exciting times, you’ve got the EP out, good luck with that and I’m hoping to see you in the UK because now I’m expecting to hear your backing vocals.
“(laughs) I’m hoping next year, but, as I said, I gotta take care of some stuff. Physically for myself. I’m a little banged up and, um, so I got some surgeries ahead of me for the rest of this year. Hopefully next year, we both are excited to get out and play live.”
Good luck with that Josh and thanks for your time.
“Thank you for having me. Appreciate it. Hopefully, see you soon in the UK.”