'Till Death: LJ's Story'
Sevendust is an American heavy metal band from Atlanta, Georgia. Formed in 1994 by bassist Vince Hornsby, drummer Morgan Rose and guitarist John Connolly.
After their first demo, lead vocalist Lajon Witherspoon and guitarist Clint Lowery joined the group. Following a few name changes, the members settled on the name Sevendust and released their self-titled debut album on April 15, 1997.
The self-titled album eventually earned gold certification. And now, since formation, Sevendust have released nine studio albums, earning additional charting success and gold sales certifications.
Their ninth studio album, entitled Black Out The Sun has just been released. And also just released was the video for 'Decay,' which made its debut on FUSE's website and is also airing on Xbox LIVE.
I recently sat down with lead singer Lajon 'LJ' Witherspoon, and knowing the band has been together now for 20 years, through good times and bad, I wondered what he attributed that to? "Well, the reason this band got together in the first place was because we liked each other and we just wanted to do music. So ultimately, at the end of the day, that's what we still do. We're just a bunch of dudes, brothers that grew up together that still enjoy doing music. And I feel like that first time we hit that note in the rehearsal room when we finally got together, that for whatever reason in my heart I felt like it was destiny that we continue. And that we had to do this. And that's why I think we continue to go on."
"Because, God knows, all those beautiful people we've met over the years that have grown up with us, that have kept us alive in this industry, that's what it's all about. And we still have a lot more to do. That first guy who was at the show with his girlfriend, he was my age, and I just turned forty. Now this guy's coming out with his wife, their kids and now their kids are dating! So it's like a family affair that we started," he laughs.
So, basically, you'd like to emulate The Rolling Stones and still be doing this in another 30 years time? "Oh definitely. The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead. All that kind of stuff. When I look out over the crowds you see the generations and the gaps coming through it. And everybody understanding. So yeah, that's beautiful. And I'd love to have a career like The Rolling Stones."
Being that you have been with the band since it was formed back in 1997, even back in the '90s it was rare for a band to have their debut album self-titled! But, all these years later, can you reveal if that album actually had another title, perhaps? "No, I think it was always going to be that. Because we were so new that was us. And that's what we wanted the world to know. Just some guys from Atlanta, GA that couldn't believe they got a record deal and were getting ready to tour the world for the first time. Yeah, that was us."
And, just to clear something up, being that there is also an insecticide out there commonly called 'Sevin dust,' I was wondering if that was where the band originally got its own version of its name from? "Yeah, here in Georgia it's actually spelt Sevin dust, but everybody in the country always call it Seven dust. Vinnie just brought a can of it in one day to rehearsal. We were talking over a few names for the band, because we couldn't use the name Crawlspace. And he said 'Why don't we just call it Sevendust?' So, we were like heck yeah, let's just call it Sevendust. And that's how we started the band," he laughs.
Funnily enough, there is also a MAC computer virus discovered back in 1998 called 'SevenDust,' with the D capitalized! Originally referred to as 666, did you know about this one? "No way. That's weird. Really. I'm gonna have to look that up. Wow, that's crazy. I can't wait to tell some of the guys!"
In 2008 you came in at #35 on the Top 100 Metal Vocalists of All Time list! In the five years since then ... "Start over, which number was it?"
#35 "Ok, but yeah, let me tell you something funny. I don't claim that I was #35, because the first time I got voted it was #66. So it's an ongoing joke for me," he gently laughs. "My old drum tech who works for Lady Gaga, and who is working for Garbage now, he said 'Woodstock '99' if you turn that upside down you've got 66'," he again laughs. "It's just so funny but I do have that magazine where they voted me #35. But in another article I said 'No, I'm still #66!' But what's incredible is to be on a chart, or in a bracket with people like that, man. I still look at myself as a country boy that loves to sing. And I've been so blessed to do it, so that's very cool. It's very cool to just be on something like that."
So, who would you put at #1 on the Top 100 Metal Vocalists of All Time list? "Let me see ... my boy Corey's probably sitting up there real good. Corey Taylor from Stone Sour and Slipknot. I really admire what he's been doing. But there's so many cats up there. Aaron Lewis from Staind, looks what he's doing. I love that band Dorje. They're from overseas and they're the baddest dudes in the world right now."
Your ninth album is entitled Black Out The Sun, so I'm wondering (aside from it being a track) why that particular title was chosen? "I've just undertaken a big move and a life change and moved my family to Overland Park, KS. But, for whatever reason, and after riding one of my motorcycles from Atlanta to Kansas, for 'Black Out The Sun' I had a dream that just kept resonating inside my head. And I just had this melody that stayed with me until we started going into the studio. And for whatever reason I just felt very strong with it."
"Clint's father passed away, and Black Out The Sun ended up us writing about his father and his death. But for whatever reason it all fit perfectly with what was going on in our lives; when it was time to record this album. It was just something that had stuck with me a few months before we started writing the album. It was just a song written around this vision that I'd had. And it turned out really incredible. And we didn't really do it on purpose at all."
With regard the cover art, do you guys flesh it out for an artist, or at this stage are you yourself as surprised by what it will be as we are? "We had a guy work on this album as a projected project. And as an artist he was really good. And we just decided for Black Out The Sun why don't we just do a blacked out sun? Like an eclipse. He then came back with two ideas and one was just what we wanted. It fit the picture of the dream that I had that went around it perfectly."
Some of the song titles on the new album are very dark, such as 'Till Death,' 'Dead Roses' and both 'Decay' and 'Murder Bar.' Has there always been this, shall we call it dark passenger following you around musically? "Yeah, that's awesome the way you said that! I don't know, but the vibes are just dark. Think about it like this: we're in the studio in Bethlehem, New Jersey and across the street was the Murder Bar. It looked like an old haunted house. And the first night we were there Wolfie Van Halen was in the car with us. And I asked him one day what that place across the street was that seemed to have a beer sign on it."
"And Wolfie said that George, the owner of the studio had said whatever you guys do don't go in there you'll get murdered! So I said OK, let's go over there tonight and see what's going on," he laughs. "So we ended up calling that place the murder bar. But the regulars, the people were so nice. So incredibly nice to us. I mean, we used to hang out in the studio from 12 noon to 12 midnight every day, with the only day off being Saturday. And so whenever we went to the murder bar there was a group of people we would hang out with every single time. It was just an incredible bar and wonderful to hang out in that bar, with that community."
And yet the darkness still crept into that track! "It was a dark song, yes because we were pretty much in a dark studio every day. And everything that's going on in our lives, as we've been getting older everything's not happy as it was before. When we were kids we built this band and we toured the world. We didn't have wives, we didn't have kids. Our parents were young. We didn't think about our grandparents passing away, like they've done in the last year. So I think there's a darker side to our lives period. From everything we've seen over the course of our life growing up as a band together."
That's quite a sad statement also! "Yeah, it's sad. But you know what, if you look at it truthfully it's just life, right? We all deal with it. We're just able to put it all up there on this canvas and put it out there. And unless someone's asking you about it, me telling you as I'm talking to you now, it makes sense to me as I'm saying it. But, in truth, it's not something that I ever really think about a lot, you know. Sometimes, I'm like 'Wow, that's really going on, but I'm dealing with it.' But everyone's dealing with it."
But not everybody writes songs about it! "Yes Sir, you're absolutely right. But I can't go in there and write a song about something that's not happening. I have to write about what's real and what's going on in my life. And what's going on around me. To everybody. The guy next door to me even. It's just so crazy the hands that we get dealt in life. You know what I say, I say as I've gotten older life’s obstacles have become more obscure, but it won't deter me because I will always keep my faith and know that it will get better in time."
Black Out The Sun is your first new material in three years. Why the gap? "Oh man, we needed it. We needed to get away. We had to go down different avenues. We needed to build our families back up, because Sevendust was definitely a working machine that had not stopped. So it was time to take a break. And I think that break definitely made better for the heart growing fonder. We love each other, but we needed to get away. And when we came back together we would just write every day and jam a different song. And we wrote that album in 30 days, and that's a fact."
What else can you tell us about this new album that might surprise your fans? Something from behind the scenes, perhaps? "I'll tell you something that was amazing to me. Anthrax singer Joey Belladonna came into the studio. And to me that is such a compliment that Joey Belladonna comes out and hangs out at a Sevendust show if he's off. He'll be there at noon and hang out with us all day long until after the show. Anyway, he shows up to the studio and, of course, we invite him in," he laughs.
"And we were probably about halfway through the album. So, he sits down in the studio and we let him hear a few tracks. And 'Cold as War' came on ... and we actually have video of this ... but when that song had ended he looks up at me and you read his mouth and he says 'I have chills over my whole body,' as there's tears running down from his eyes. He then tells us we've got something here with the album."
Check that moment out here in this YouTube video clip!
"And that to me was a special moment right there, because when you're working, of course it's gonna be close to being your new baby, and all that stuff. But to hear it from a fellow gentleman that I look up to and admire, and someone I consider to be a cool rock star, that was a special moment."
"But every day was pretty much special at that place, Architekt Studio. It was not just the studio, but they had a school connected in the lobby. So there was always this music going on from all these little guys and girls. Running through and looking at us saying 'You guys are really doing it!' But I'm looking at them and I'm saying, 'No, you're doing it'," he laughs. "So yeah there was a really cool energy amongst the whole building the whole time. We'd go up to the little School of Rock and hang out with the little kids and they would look at us as if we were these rock stars. But ultimately, in my eyes, those kids are the rock stars. When you start it that young and you truly have a passion, and your parents are behind you, and you have a community that is backing your music, well, it was a good vibe all around."
You have your own Wikipedia page - did you create it yourself, perhaps? "Not at all. I'm gonna go check it out though, now that you've mentioned it. It's so weird we're talking about it now, but somebody said something about my Wikipedia page the other, but I told them the same thing. I'm not looking at it or updating it or anything. I'm kinda late on the boat with all that stuff."
"But I just recently did find something that I like in social media. I finally got a Twitter and a Facebook page. So, now I kinda deal with it, but I like Instagram. I'm a photographer. Well, that's what I call myself. But I do consider myself a photographer. A picture says a thousand words. So I go out when I reach each town and I go find old stuff and I take a picture. And then I explain what's going on and its fun. So, if I don't go to the gym, I'll go out and take a picture. I mean, we have to do so many shows in a row. So far it's 11 days and 10 shows. So it's been rough."
And what are all those new social media accounts for our readers and your fans to check out? "Oh yeah, I'm @LJspoon on Instagram, @LJspoon on Twitter, and LajonWitherspoon on Facebook. And you know, that's a big thing for me. I've only just now recently stopped calling everything Atari," he laughs. "I'm old school though," he gently continues laughing.
That raises a good question though - social media and all that goes with it today has, perhaps, taken the fun out of recording an album and marketing it. Have you found any real changes to the way you guys do things recently? "You know, that's such an awesome question. I love the symmetry. Yeah, with this new album the nostalgia of those kids going out and buying this new album, for whatever reason we could not believe that this album didn't leak out. A few days before we got so many emails telling us they could get it online right now, but guess what, we're waiting in line to get it. We're going to the stores."
"And then it was proven when we got the charts back for the first week and it had sold 20,000 or 30,000 something; or whatever they said. So to me it proved there's a certain little amount of people that still believe in buying the album and doing it the way they used to do it. So yeah, I still believe in the days of the old school things. But either way I definitely keep my finger on the pulse as much as I can. So I still believe in the old things, and the old ways, if we can get around it sometimes."
It's been talked about for a few years that you were going to do a solo music project - has that come any closer to fruition recently? "Yeah, I've got my hands on some stuff that I'm gonna look at. I actually just worked with a band Earthside from Connecticut. They tried to get me to fly to Sweden, but we'd just spent 30 days in the studio. But I still took on the project, just from my own studio. And so I just did my first score with them along with the Moscow Orchestra. And this thing here is a ten minute long monster and it's incredible. And it's really outside of my box, I've never worked on something so hard and so beautiful at the same time."
"I've also got a couple of guys I want to jam with, and a couple of brains I want to pick. And not just do Sevendust music, but LJ music. Well, Sevendust is LJ music, but you know what I mean. I just want to extent my range and not be afraid if I want to do a country song. If I want to tap dance and spit in a damn spittoon and record it, you're gonna listen to it," he loudly laughs.
Finally, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, we here at ExclusiveMagazine.com love penguins ... do you yourself have any love for them, perhaps?! "I love penguins, and I think they're the cutest little things in the world. And always growing up as a kid, and not being able to go to the zoo in Nashville, TN, the closest thing that I was to a penguin; until I was able to get out of there, was Chilly Willy! The cartoon from Woody Woodpecker," he laughs. "That was my favorite penguin in the world. But now growing up and being able to take my kids to the zoo and the Aquariums, those guys are incredible when you watch the shows and how they migrate and their whole little living situations. It's pretty much incredible to me. And they're beautiful as well."
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
So, if you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Sevendust's brand new CD, just answer this easy question about the band: Which song from Sevendust appeared in a 'Saw' movie - and which album did it come from and which numbered-'Saw' was it?! [All answers needed!!]
Send us your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these wonderful AUTOGRAPHED CDs! Just send us an email here before August 1st with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: SEVENDUST SIGNED CDs to: firstname.lastname@example.org
LJ on Twitter
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@LJspoon on Instagram
Check out SEVENDUST at any of the following stops. Fans should check their local ticket outlets for purchase info:
With Lacuna Coil and Candlelight Red:
Wed 3/27 El Cajon, CA Sycuan Casino
With Coal Chamber, Lacuna Coil and Candlelight Red:
Thu 4/11 Ft. Wayne, IN Piere’s
Fri 4/12 Detroit, MI Harpo’s
Sat 4/13 Pittsburgh, PA Altar Bar
Sun 4/14 Hartford, CT Webster Theater
Tue 4/16 Worcester, MA The Palladium
Wed 4/17 New York, NY Best Buy Theater
Thu 4/18 Philadelphia, PA Electric Factory
Fri 4/19 Hampton Beach, NH Hampton Beach Casino
Sat 4/20 Asbury Park, NJ The Stone Pony
Mon 4/22 Baltimore, MD Rams Head Live!
Tue 4/23 Charlotte, NC The Fillmore Charlotte
Wed 4/24 Atlanta, GA Tabernacle
Fri 4/26 Houston, TX Warehouse Live
Sat 4/27 Corpus Christi, TX Concrete Street Amphitheater
Sun 4/28 Dallas, TX The Palladium Ballroom
* Tue 4/30 Monroe, LA Live Oaks Bar and Ballroom
Wed 5/1 Huntsville, AL Sammy T’s
Fri 5/3 Virginia Beach, VA Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach
Sat 5/4 North Myrtle Beach, SC House of Blues (with Seether)
Sat 5/11 Kansas City, MO RockFest
** Mon 5/13 Rapid City, SD Rushmore Plaza Civic Ctr
** Tue 5/14 Bismarck, ND Civic Center Exhibit Hall
* Wed 5/15 Duluth, MN Clyde Iron Works
* Fri 5/17 Grand Rapids, MI The Orbit Room
Sat 5/18 Springfield, IL Boondocks
Sun 5/19 Columbus, OH Rock on the Range
* Wed 5/22 Baton Rouge, LA The Varsity Theatre
* Thu 5/23 Columbus, GA Front Porch Of The South
* Fri 5/24 Jacksonville, FL The Roc Bar
Sat 5/25 Niceville, FL Mullett Festival Grounds (Blazefest with HellYeah,
Saving Abel, Pop Evil, Eye Empire)
* Sun 5/26 St. Petersburg, FL State Theatre
Mon 5/27 Ft. Lauderdale, FL Culture Room
Thu 7/18 Peoria, IL Heart of Illinois Fair
Fri 7/19 Oshkosh, WI Ford Festival Park/Rock USA (w/ Megadeth & Godsmack)
* Shows with Pop Evil
** Shows with Pop Evil and In This Moment