'Told You So - The Stevie Benton Story'
Drowning Pool is an American heavy metal band from Dallas, Texas. Since its formation in 1996, the band has consisted of guitarist C.J. Pierce, bassist Stevie Benton and drummer Mike Luce, as well as a revolving cast of vocalists.
After the release of their debut album, Sinner, original vocalist Dave Williams was sadly found dead on August 14th, 2002 from heart disease. Jason Jones, who replaced Williams in 2003, recorded one album, Desensitized, but left in 2005 due to musical differences. Ryan McCombs of Chicago based rock band SOiL later replaced Jones and released two albums, Full Circle and Drowning Pool. However, McCombs left the band in 2011 to rejoin SOiL. So, Jasen Moreno was announced as Ryan McCombs' replacement in 2012.
Resilience is the bands fifth album and their first with vocalist Moreno. Featuring the radio singles 'In Memory Of...' and 'Saturday Night,' the bands motto of We are. We always have been. We always will be, still stands loud and proud today.
Chatting recently with bassist Stevie Benton, I first wondered, being that he had been with the band since it was formed back in 1996 (thus he'd seen a lot of sadness, a lot of changes within the band), what it was about the band that still persevered today? "I'd say pure stubbornness. We're the cockroaches of metal," he laughs. "We just don't die. We've been friends with a lot of bands through the years that don't exist any more and it seems, a lot of times, that they broke up over small things. And I think because we had such a terrible thing happen to us so early on that everything else has since seemed small in comparison. And easy to deal with, in comparison to Dave's death. I mean, that's the worse thing that could ever have happened to us. And it happened so early. One of the first lessons we learnt in the music business was that you just can't sweat the small stuff. So I think that's a big part of why we are still able to stick together and make records."
Indeed, most of those changes have been lead singers re: the late Dave Williams, Jason Jones, and Ryan McCombs. Now you have a new lead singer in Jasen Moreno. Are there times you shake your head at this revolving door of lead vocals? "Certainly does. If it was up to me Dave would have always been the singer of the band. We would never have replaced him. He was one of a kind. The one thing that we have strived for since then is a certain level of the right vibe. We've made a few records with various singers in the past and at some point it just fell apart. Because they weren't there in the beginning. The original dream that we all had. Yeah, because they weren't there eventually they start to go their own separate ways. And instead of just riding it out with this singer, it always seemed like the better choice to try again to get it right. I'd rather keep trying to get it right then just sit there and make records with someone that made me unhappy and miserable at times. It's better to try then just go with the status quo."
And so what is it going to take for Drowning Pool to finally lock Moreno down as lead singer for the years to come? Is it going to be a case of the same old story or will we see longevity this time? "I'm 100% convinced that there will be longevity. Our entire process in choosing Jason was different then it had been previously after Dave passed. We purposely, a couple of times, went for singers that were kinda from a different frame of mind. And had a different vocal tone. 'Cause we didn't want anyone sounding like Dave or be too close to what we did with Dave. So we found ourselves going with people from different musical perspectives than the rest of us."
"But in both those cases it was also someone we did not know that well personally. So over the time they were in the band you would see a personality shift between the face they showed to get the gig and then their true colors would start to show later. And that made things difficult for both sides."
"But this time we decided we were going to get a new singer even though we had received a lot of really good demos from a lot of really good singers. But our number one priority was to go with a guy we knew personally and had known for a long time and knew very well. And Jasen and his band had started the same scene at the same time as us and we'd done shows together over the years. So we knew the guy really well and knew he was a great singer and a great front man."
"But we also knew after the 15 years of knowing him there was not going to be some surprise one day from him. You can't hide something like that for 15 years. So, that's pretty much what got Jasen in the door. And then we just made sure he could write a record with us. And once we had that we just knew it was all upside for the guy. And me personally, I just don't want to go through it again. We're like the only band out there that not only has to complete with other bands like ourselves, we have to compete with former incarnations of our own band. So, now that we feel like we've really got the right guy, the perfect guy, I can never change again."
The aptly-named Resilience is the bands fifth album, so what does this album represent to you personally? "What we were really searching for was one word that really summed up where we are now. It was about us going forward and about the entire history of the band. We really thought that word really described not only what we've been through but where we're going. It just felt, making this record, so much more natural than anything we've done in a long time."
Some of the song titles on the new album are very dark, such as 'Die For Nothing,' 'One Finger and a Fist,' 'Life of Misery' and 'Bleed With You.' Has there always been this, shall we call it dark passenger following you around musically? "You know, I think so," he laughs."I don't know man, life is hard. There's a lot of good times, but 90% of the time I'd say I'm a miserable human being. Not in a malicious kind of way. I'm just naturally unhappy and kinda melancholy. And I think a lot of us in the band are like that. So that's kinda what comes out between us when writing a song. I know, myself, I can start out writing a song with a certain direction in mind. But no matter what that direction is, somehow it always turns a little dark. No matter what I do. I want it to be natural so you can't fake it. I mean, we can't be up there singing life is great, and everything is happy, and everything will work out. That's just not the way any of us see it. So, of course the songs are a little dark at times. But in a fun way, you know," he laughs again. "We're fun guys. We can be funny!"
OK, so what do you like to do away from the band that's fun - that isn't so dark, isn't so depressingly bleak?! "OK, well I'm a huge sports fan. So I love sporting events. I'm a huge, huge fan of the Dallas Cowboys. Growing up, being in a rock band that was my secondary, my fall back job. I really wanted to play for the Cowboys. And when that dream fell apart then I started playing rock music."
What else can you tell us about this new album that might surprise your fans? Some behind the scenes tidbit to do with one of the songs, perhaps? "The song on the record called 'Understand,' was written because I fell asleep one Saturday night and must of rolled over on the remote control. And I woke up the next morning and there was a Televangelist on TV. Just ranting and raving. I just woke up and it caught me so off guard, because this guys is screaming about Hell and damnation the whole time. The phone number with the Visa logo flashing and call now and save your ass from Hell and all this. So, if you listen to the song, maybe you can get that out of the lyrics, maybe you can't. But that's where the whole idea came from. It was just one of those songs you kinda write in a day, because it just happens. It was just another of those days where my day started off really bad - and that's what you get!"
Looking at the artwork for Resilience, the arm coming out of the lake, what's that all about? "If you want to know, really, even though we're all musicians we're also all the least talented artists that you can imagine! Like, none of us can draw anything more than a stick figure," he laughs. "So, what we did was we got on the phone with David Jackson [who did the artwork] and we talked a lot about these vague ideas and concepts, and what the record was about. And what this song and that song meant. And he was like, ok gotcha. And then a week later he sent us that picture and we're like, Ok yeah, there ya go. Thanx dude, you nailed it," he laughs.
Your song 'Bodies' has sadly, even recently, again been misinterpreted by the press every time something bad happens in this country. A song created around the havoc of a mosh pit, how frustrating is it to keep having to stand up for your song each time? "You know, it really is. The first time this happened was 9/11 and we were all in shock. So people were overreacting everywhere. So that one I kinda understood. But now every time somebody goes crazy and you look at their Facebook page and they happen to have the video for 'Bodies' on there it becomes a big deal again. The song didn't make these people crazy. I'm sorry they liked it, or whatever. But yes, it does get very frustrating at times."
"There are still times when people will have the nerve and come up and say things like 'Man, sorry about your lead singer that died from choking on his own vomit'! When that happens you're just like how many times do I have to tell them the right story to change this fiction that people somehow get into their heads. Just because Dave was a rock star that passed away. It just makes you want to pull your hair out or beat the shit out of somebody."
"It really makes me angry when it happens in person, but I've learnt to pretty much ignore the online postings about it. People send us Facebook messages asking why is 'Bodies' about murdering people. Or why was Dave on drugs. Just ridiculous questions. Even after ten years of interviews and explaining what happened and what the song is about. It still just doesn't reach people. So I just don't know what to do at this point. People will still believe what they want to believe. I guess the facts and the truth really don't matter."
You have been diagnosed with Bell's Palsy, a neurological disorder that makes attention to light and sound difficult. Is that true and if so, wow, are you in the wrong profession?! "Yeah, when it first hit it was freaky! I thought I was having a stroke on stage. It was a show in Wisconsin and it was really hot, sweaty and I felt a change in my face. And my tech goes 'Are you alright?' And I was like yeah, I'm fine. What are you talking about? And then I started to feel weird and one side of my face went paralyzed. So I was like call an ambulance, I'm having a stroke here. So not knowing what it was was the scariest part, you know. But once I found out what it was they prescribed this steroid to settle everything down. And so I've been fine ever since."
You're the only Drowning Pool band member with his own Wikipedia page - did you create it yourself, perhaps? "No, ... wow, that's bizarre! It's probably some spiteful old girlfriend talking shit about me! I'm just a bass player. I didn't think anyone cared about the bass players," he laughs.
The bands motto's is: 'We are. We always have been. We always will be' - so what does that mean to you personally today? "It means everything. It's such a big part of why we continued after Dave passed. Dave had coined the phrase. Early on we had this dark intro. This weird music was playing that had samples and stuff and then Dave's voice came on and said that. And that's how the show started. We always will be is a big factor why we kept going after Dave's death. We could have easily all joined other bands, or just changed the name, but that would have closed the book on Dave's whole life. His dream, everything he ever wanted. And that just seemed so wrong. And we didn't want to do that to him or his family. We just want to keep the dream gong as long as we can. And to this day we still get to talk about him a lot and we're still asked about him in interviews. And it helps us kinda keep his memory alive. And so because of that we're always gonna think we made the right decision. It's been the band motto forever and that will never change either."
In a few years it will be the 10th Anniversary of Drowning Pool. Have you guys had any forethought about what plans you might like to put together for that occasion? "No, because it makes me feel old," he laughs. "I try to ignore any birthday or anniversary or anything like that. It's just another day. But in all honesty we do kinda congratulate ourselves a little bit for being able to stick it out this long. Considering in this day and age of music where people come and go pretty fast. We are amazed we're still able to get out there and play shows and make records and people are still into it. We're very thankful."
That actually raises a good question: What have you found to be the greatest change in making records for you guys since 2006? "I'll tell you the biggest difference is the demo process. Getting ready to go in and make a record. We'd used to have to go into a studio to make a demo; a quality demo to really represent our song. But now I can do that in a room in my house. Right there on my computer. So there's no more rolling into your local studios and making a high quality demo. Everything goes straight from the home demo process to full blown making the record. It kinda cut out that entire middle man, if you will. I'm sure there's a lot of local studios across the country that probably go out of business more and more. I mean, if you’re a huge, all-encompassing studio you're fine, but if you're not pretty much everything else you can do at home."
Finally, being that we like to throw you guys a journalistic curve ball once in a while, we ask this same question of everyone though - we here at Exclusive Magazine love Penguins! Do you also have any love for them or a funny story, perhaps? "Man, that is a tough question ... oh, I do recall as a child going to the Dallas Zoo or Aquarium and having a great time, enjoying ever moment, checking all the animals out. Until you get to the end. And the end is this live habitat for penguins. And it was the worst building that I had ever come across in my life! Because it was this weird mixture of smells of fish and shit! And like stagnant water. And I just remember being so disgusted and it ended up ruining my entire trip to the zoo!"
"So, I guess I don't have a lot of love for penguins! Although 'Happy Feet' is a cute movie and I saw 'March of the Penguins' too. I mean, they seem like nice enough animals in both of those shows. But, no, my own direct contact with them was pretty disgusting," he laughs, one last time.
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
'Resilience' CD Purchase Link
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