Since the dawn of the 00’s, there’ve been few bands who seem to have had the continuing success of Iowa five-piece Stone Sour. Having produced some genuine modern classics since the release of their self-titled debut in 2002, including the beloved Come What(ever) May in 2006, the band have once again returned to ignite the rock world this year with the their sixth studio album Hydrograd. We spoke to guitarist Josh Rand to get more of an insight into the record, touring the world and what it’s like to have been so successful in the music industry for so long.
You guys are just getting to the end of a US tour with Steel Panther and Cherry Bombs – how’s that all been so far?
JR: I mean, most of the shows so far have been pretty much sold-out and y’know, for us it was just a different run to what we’ve done in the past having Steel Panther and having the Cherry Bombs, it’s such a different opening act than what we’ve had in the past, and that’s why we wanted it. We wanted people to have fun and just have a good time, and not make it necessarily so serious, y’know? Especially with the craziness and everything in the world right now, we wanted people to be able to come see us and just kinda unplug.
As you say, with this being such a different bill for yourselves to put on, have you found it’s attracted a different type of crowd to what you’d usually play to?
JR: Uh, I don’t feel like that, I feel like really it’s still the Stone Sour crowd. If anything, I mean, obviously if you’ve seen Steel Panther and stuff, they’re pretty over the top but it’s just fun. And we’re such good friends with the guys in Steel Panther it was more just us doing the tour we wanted to do instead of a tour where just all the logistics make sense, if you get what I mean. Because it’s kind-of been a work in progress to make this tour happen for a very long time, I mean. And then to finally be able to do it and to have it make sense and tie both bands, having them in our newest video and us in their newest video, it was just fun y’know?
Obviously, this tour’s been in support of the band’s newest album ‘Hydrograd’ – how have fans been reacting to the new material you’ve played at the shows so far?
JR: Oh, great. We play a lot of the new stuff, but the album for us has been huge. I mean, in today’s world it’s hard to compare the numbers, especially when you go back a decade and whatever, but as far as what people think of it and how they’re reacting to it, to me, it’s pretty much as big as Come What(ever) May was, even though as I say, it’s hard to compare with all the downloads and everything it’s difficult to compare those numbers especially since there’s such a gap between those records. But the thing is, and I think this is the biggest thing – number-wise and literally in physical CD sales and even in digital we had absolutely no drop-off since House of Gold and Bones. So that’s a four year span and our sales stayed exactly the same, and there’s nobody else that can pretty much say that in any style of music. And that’s the thing that surprised everyone in the band, the record company, all across the board. Nobody could believe that our numbers stayed consistently the same with no drop-offs, and in an industry that has drop-offs every year. So that in itself tells you the reaction I think from our fans based on this new record, and a lot of new fans
Do you think the fact those numbers have been so consistent for so long really speaks to how dedicated your fanbase is?
JR: Oh, absolutely. And the fact that, y’know, we’ve been able to do this. I mean this is technically our fifteenth year of doing this. And on top of it, the situation we’re in of having members in different bands, and that other band being arguably one of the biggest metal bands on the planet. So y’know, to consistently be able to maintain where we’re at and have the numbers as they are; and then you tie into that, I think that tells you the loyalty of our fanbase. It’s just to me, there are times where I sit there and I’m like, I can’t think of any other situation that’s even close to ours. You know, it’s different for somebody in a band to do a different project, or maybe two albums, but we’re on our sixth without even counting the EPs. And for the band to be as big as it’s ever been is crazy to me. I mean, the closest band I can think of to us in that regard is A Perfect Circle – not musically obviously, but in terms of the situation and having a member in two, or in Maynard’s case three, bands and all the other stuff he does. But they’ve been able to maintain that level of consistency forever, it’s just unheard of. It’s hard enough for new bands just to be able to do that from one album to the next. So but yeah, we feel very fortunate to have the fanbase we’ve got, but I think that also comes from us just being honest with ourselves and in making the records that we want to make. I think there’s an honesty in what we do, and I think people relate to that and you can hear that. It’s not us being told what record to make, you know what I’m saying? We’re pretty much at this point in control of everything and we pretty much always have been. But you know, it’s an honest record and that’s why we keep evolving, that’s another thing why our fanbase stays consistent and stuff I think. Because they grow with us, as we grow and transition from one album to the next, they do too. As Corey’s lyrical content changes; in Stone Sour it’s kind of where he’s at in his life when we’re writing those records, so I think there’s that relationship with the listener lyrically where they can relate more to it and it’s not just where we were fifteen years ago.
You mentioned before about the band obviously now being six records deep into your career – how do you go about deciding things like setlists now, given the depth of that back catalogue?
JR: Well, we’ve been changing it up actually. And that’s the great thing about having that much of a catalogue to pick from. You know, obviously you have your staples that we’ll play at every show, whether it’s 30/30-150 or Through Glass and things like that, and then everything else is built around those. But we’ve been playing some old stuff that we haven’t played in quite a long time. I mean, we’ve been playing stuff off the first record that we haven’t even played for anywhere from six to ten years. And then plus the new stuff that we’ve been bouncing around, we just try to find that natural balance and then on each tour throw in a couple of different songs on rotation, and that’s what keeps it fresh. And like, we’ve also started playing Hesitate which we only played briefly back in 2010 and it’s like one of our most requested songs by everybody and we’ve not played it. So we’re excited about bringing that out at least around the world because we know a lot of people have been asking us to play that song for a long time. In fact, I don’t think we’ve even played that song in Europe – I think it only got played in the US live, yeah. And that was all the way back in Audio Secrecy when it came out, and it was briefly.
Plus, now you’ve got all the new stuff as well. Of those new Hydrograd songs you’ve aired live so far, have there been any that’ve stood out as the most enjoyable to play for you?
JR: Oh, I think it really depends on the evening and the crowd, to be quite honest. You know, I enjoy playing all of them; right now I think the most fun for me is Fabuless – it’s just everyone’s into it and there’s just that energy. Some songs just translate live better than others and that doesn’t mean the rest of them don’t do well, there’s just an energy with that song when we play it live. And it’s like 30/30-150, that would be the next one I’d probably say is that way where there’s just an energy and a bounce to it when it’s played live.
Hydrograd’s been out now for about 4 months – how have you found the overall reaction to be so far?
JR: Great – like I said, to me, it’s a lot of people feel like this is the most mature, diverse record we’ve ever done and the overall response has just been amazing. And the fact that how it was created, it just goes back to what I was saying earlier about it being honest. I mean, we all sat in a room live and just jammed those songs out. And we did it with no tension – like, everybody makes it like the studio is this massive, hard, stressful environment, and we completely did the opposite. Not one time was anybody upset, like literally all of us were focused on making each song the best that it could be. And we laughed so hard, it was like being a baby band, being teenagers and jamming in the basement for the first time. That was the energy we had making that record and I think that you hear that and it translates and that’s why people react to the record in the positive way that they have.
You mentioned the diversity of the material on Hydrograd – was that something always kind-of intended, or was it more an organic result of the studio process?
JR: Well it comes through naturally. I mean, we’ve always been pretty diverse – like even if you go back to the first record and the first two singles we dropped were Get Inside and Bother, they’re about as different from each other as they could possibly be. It’s just that as we grow as musicians, as humans, we constantly are pushing what’s exciting for us. For us, we never wanna write the same record. I mean, obviously there’s a sound to us that’ll be on every record because that’s who we are, but we’ve charted into some different territories that we haven’t in the past y’know? Whether it’s the almost-country vibe of St. Marie, or the Pink Floyd-ish or David Bowie of When the Fever Broke at the end of the record. It’s just who we are – we don’t put much of thought into it, we just go with what we feel are the best songs at the end of the day as fans of music. And we’re lucky that since the beginning because we did the first record the way that we did, with songs that’re very different from each other, it’s allowed us to not get painted into a corner where everybody expects or already knows what the album’s gonna sound like before it’s even out.
This is the band’s first studio album to feature Christian Martucci on lead guitar, and the first of original material that Johnny Chow plays bass on – what did those guys bring to the overall creative process on Hydrograd?
JR: I mean, we did the two covers records which really helped to break the ice, and I feel like set the groundwork for how we would record Hydrograd because we recorded those basically live in Roy’s studio and we had a lot of fun with it and just blasted it out. But yeah, this is the first time of having those guys on an actual real Stone Sour record, not counting EPs. And they bring a different energy into the band that’s very positive, I feel.
Going into the writing for the album, did you have any goals in mind personally with regards to the songwriting or your own playing etc?
JR: Well, for me, it was all about trying to make sure we hadn’t already recorded the riffs anywhere previously, making sure the riffs were different, and also I really wanted to try and do something where; in the past I’ve always written a lot more of the riffier guitar stuff throughout the entire catalogue, so I wanted to try and do something really different and I think I really achieved that with When the Fever Broke – it’s completely not guitar-driven at all, even though there’s a shit-ton of guitars on it, y’know? And just really trying to focus on the sonics of it, you make stuff as big-sounding and organic as possible.
I’ve read that there were something like 3 songs written for the album that didn’t make the final cut, is that accurate to say?
JR: Well, technically I think it was four, but one of those we ended up putting on as the extra track for Japan (Burn One Turn One) along with our cover of Unchained by Van Halen. And like, we’ve still got more cover songs that’ll be No Sleep ‘Til Burbank, we’re still holding onto those. Like, we’ve released a couple – we did Unchained and then for Metal Hammer we did Bombtrack by Rage Against The Machine, but we still have a couple more songs that we haven’t put out, along with the other three originals.
Can you see yourselves releasing those original tracks at any point in the future as an EP, for example?
JR: I mean, that’s what I want to do, but I’m just, y’know, one piece in the game. So I mean, obviously it’s gotta go through the band and the record company and stuff, but I really wanted us to do an EP, and as I’m sure you’re aware or will be aware, we’re gonna be back in the summer for all of the festivals so it would be amazing to put the EP out before heading into those and maybe adding one of those songs to the live set for that run.
You’re also coming back over to Europe in November now, and the UK in December with The Pretty Reckless for some shows – is it exciting to finally be coming back to these shores?
JR: Well yeah, I mean we haven’t been there, we haven’t come over to Europe yet. And all the shows for the most part are sold out already – I mean, we’re expecting everything on that whole entire tour to be sold out. So, again to talk about the gap, and in this case and us doing a proper tour, it’s been five years since we’ve actually toured Europe properly. Yeah, we came over in 2013 but that was just the summer festivals, that’s not our shows, so to actually have the proper Stone Sour show, we’re excited. How could you not be excited when you’re playing all these venues and they’re all sold out? It’s amazing, and especially considering what the journey’s been for us over the last five years. So to come all the way back and have that type of reception, it’s amazing to me.
How would you compare the US Stone Sour crowds to those in Europe these days?
JR: Honestly I don’t know. I mean, I don’t like to put any crowd against any because I appreciate them all and y’know, in some places rules are much stricter than others in terms of what they’re allowed to do. The US is much tighter on everything and they have no problem with throwing you out of the concert whether you’ve paid for the ticket or not. They’re not too fond of the crowdsurfing and if you get a little too crazy in the pit, I mean, I’ve watched it multiple times over the last couple of months. Whereas places in Europe will usually let that slide, y’know? So that all said, I appreciate all of the crowds, I’m not gonna say one’s better or anything like that because in order for us to do this it takes fans from all around the world to support it – that’s just the truth.
What’s coming up for you and the band after this current run of touring’s wrapped up – any concrete plans you can talk about?
JR: I’d say we’ll be touring, as of right now tentatively, all the way until the end of next year. Right now it’s looking like the November of next year. I mean, we plan to do a proper Canadian tour, which we haven’t done in eleven years, we have South America, we’ll have possibly Russia – we’ve never done a full, proper Russian tour either, only ever Moscow. And there’s other territories we’re talking about doing that we haven’t gone into yet. And then we’ll have another run in the US in the Summer, so we’re going to be busy.
Lastly, is there any message you’d like to give to the readers of Rock Sins who might be Stone Sour fans?
JR: I mean, obviously I speak on behalf of the entire band when I say we’re excited to come back. We appreciate all of the support over the years, through good and bad, and we’re just excited – I mean, we’re in the UK for two weeks or something like that, so once again that just speaks for the volume of how people are responding to the new record and wanting to see the band. And y’know, I think it’s been an amazing ride so far, it’s crazy to be where we’re at now this long into it, like we touched on, with all the different aspects that are different from our situation than pretty much anyone else’s. So it’s a testament to our fans and their loyalty and to our hard work and the music, so we’re just grateful.
As Josh touched upon in the interview, Stone Sour return to the UK for a huge tour at the end of 2017, where they will be supported by The Pretty Reckless. Details of the dates can be found below:
Wed 29th – Birmingham – Barclaycard Arena
Thu 30th – Leeds – First Direct Arena
Fri 1st – Brighton – Brighton Centre
Mon 4th – London – O2 Brixton Academy
Tue 5th – Cardiff – Motorpoint Arena
Wed 6th – London – O2 Brixton Academy (second show added due to demand)
Fri 8th – Glasgow – SSE Hydro
Remaining tickets for the Stone Sour tour can be purchased from Ticketmaster right here. Prices start at around the £35 mark plus fees and postage. Stay tuned to Rock Sins for the latest news on Stone Sour as and when we have any more!