Stone Sour's fourth studio album, House of Gold & Bones Part 1, is available everywhere today (Part 2 will be released in spring 2013). It's an epic concept album that had its genesis in a short story by frontman Corey Taylor, the first half of which is included in the album package. Now, concept albums can be a challenge for bands and fans alike. If you allow yourself to go over the edge, you wind up with something like Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman's Journey to the Center of the Earth, with cheesy narration and sound effects and songs that just aren't up to snuff. Fortunately, Stone Sour aren't that kind of band - you won't hear any dialogue or narration on this album. Instead, it's a collection of kick-ass hard rock songs, verging on metal at times, that fill in the story from the perspectives of the various characters.
We talked to Taylor about how the record came together, from writing the story and the songs to pitching it to the other bandmembers to working with producer David Bottrill to crank out two records in the time most bands would take to make one...read the whole story now!
How did this project start? Did you write the story first, and the album after, or vice versa?
To be honest, the album and the story were kinda symbiotic. I’d had the idea for a while, but just in a very general sense. It wasn’t until last year that I started sketching it out and looking at a beginning, middle and end. And that, honestly, as I was writing these ideas down, that kind of got me writing music in my head. So they kinda fed each other. And once I demoed all these songs, it really got me thinking about the story a little stronger, and really writing the story, almost cuing off the music and vice versa. So I really don’t think I could have done one without the other. It was a very weird, almost serendipitous situation to be in.
Were the other guys in the band into it right away, or did they take some convincing?
No, they were pretty into it, man, and that’s the cool thing about this band. They weren’t hesitant at all, they were quietly very into it, and then really took that energy and excitement and put it toward the recording. Instead of getting overly stoked about it, they were just like, “This is a great idea, let’s just get right to it.” I think the more I explained the story to them, the more they got into it, and the more I explained the grand scope of what I wanted to do with the short story and the comics and the artwork and everything, that just made it even better for them. They could really see that this was a huge project to embark on, and they really rose to the challenge.
Stone Sour's not a "concept album" kind of band in a lot of people's minds - were you worried you'd alienate some fans with a move like this?
Honestly, I’m not worried about it. By doing this, we’re not saying that for the rest of our career we’re gonna make nothing but concept albums. For me, it was the excitement of just capitalizing on all the creativity and doing something that could really tie everything together under one umbrella project and give something special to the fans. But I would only be worried about it if the songs weren’t there, and the songs are so clearly there. At the end of the day, it’s not like we wrote the music specifically to tell this story. They go hand in hand. So to me, that wasn’t just the best challenge about it, but the best payoff, knowing that we had all this great music and we were going to be able to tell this great story in those kind of confines and really excel at it. Trust me, if I didn’t think our fans could take it, I wouldn’t have done it. But we have really intelligent, passionate fans that follow us, and I think they’re really gonna dig this.
How do you and Josh Rand work as a creative team?
You know, the great thing about me and Josh is we have this almost unspoken language between the two of us. We’ve been writing songs together for...20 years might be a low number. We’ve been writing together since we were kids. We’ve gotten to a point where we don’t hurt each other’s feelings, and sometimes that’s a danger when it comes to songwriting partnerships. I’ve definitely worked with people in the past where you kind of have to tiptoe around their feelings when it comes to a piece of work. And honestly, I can be like that if I’m too close to a piece of music that I’ve written. But me and Josh, there’s something really special about the way we work together. We have our own language when it comes to talking about certain parts and understanding what the other person’s talking about, and when we approach music, there’s such a lack of ego there, because we both know that we want the same thing. When he sends me some music, and I start to cut it up and arrange it and suggest changes, he’s on it. And when he suggests to me that maybe I’m going in a weird direction lyrically, I listen, because there’s a respect there that’s really mutual and very open. It’s not about me, me, me – it’s about what we can do to make this music incredible.
These two records were recorded really fast - were you happy with everything, or do you wish you had time for one more overdub, even if it's something only you can hear?
No, no. I was really happy with the way everything came out. My only disappointment was, I had some people I wanted to come in and sing backups on some stuff, and unfortunately they couldn’t because their schedules didn’t allow for it. So I ended up doing it myself, and trying to do it as well as they would have. But listening to it, I’ve never been more pleased with an album. I’ve come close. When Slipknot did All Hope Is Gone, I was really happy about everything I’d done on there, but even listening to that, there was some stuff I wish I’d done differently. With this, I didn’t leave anything on the table. We had enough time to try everything and really take it where we needed to go, but restrain ourselves at the same time. You know, sometimes you can get overdub crazy, and it takes away the live feel. So we really wanted to make sure that everything we did had that creative, amazing feeling, but still had that urgency you get from a live band. Very rarely do we get to capture that on an album, but I think we really did with this one.
You're a different lyricist with Stone Sour than you are with Slipknot, and this album seems like a real progression for you as a writer. How does it feel on your end?
Thank you. I appreciate that, and I agree. I really feel like I’m starting to come into my own, which honestly, is fairly ironic, seeing as the body of work I’ve amassed over the years is pretty impressive so far. But I really feel like I’m starting to find my words, is the only way to say it – to find my mouth, I guess. Having this story that kind of oversaw everything really allowed me to work from a narrative point of view. Everything I’ve written before was either about someone else, or I was kind of shooting through my own prism, and in this case, not only was I writing about these different characters that were completely made up – it was fun being able to find these different personalities in the narrative and really being able to show the other side of these people with the lyrics and whatnot. So I was able to balance what I usually do, which is go for the perfect line or whatever, and be able to tell a completely different side of the story with the lyrics. Cause I didn’t want to follow the story completely. I wanted to give that internal dialogue side of everything, so you had like a third dimension to what was going on in the story.
How was it working with David Bottrill? It was your first time working with him as a producer - how was he different from guys you've used in the past?
The great thing with Dave is that his approach is very different from the people I’ve worked with with both bands. He really came in and offered a great balance of letting the artist do what he does, but at the same time being the boss, the management that you need. He allowed us to explore all these different ideas that were coming to our minds, musically and lyrically, but at the same time, he had a sense of what he wanted to hear and he was completely unbiased about saying it, and that was refreshing. It felt like a collaboration more than a production. Working with him, I was able to bounce ideas off him, I was able to get upset about ideas that I thought would work and maybe nobody else did. He was able to keep a clear eye on the prize. He was also able to develop a schedule that would allow us to do everything we wanted to do. He understood right out of the gate that we wanted to do this massive project, so he wasn’t under any illusion that this was going to be one album. He knew this was basically two projects in one, and he was able to put together a schedule that allowed us to do it to the best of our ability, and we did. We actually came in under the time that we had allotted, which gave us time to have him take the project up to Canada and get the strings done and really get some of the more – not orchestrated, but synthetic bits that Roy [Mayorga] added. So it was fun to see this all come together and know that we were doing it in a very kind of structured way.
From a lyrical perspective, what kind of links are there between Part 1 and Part 2? Do melodies or phrases recur?
Yeah, there’s a handful of themes that rear their head on Part 2, and that’s gonna be exciting to see the reaction from fans when they hear that stuff – like “Oh, that’s this from there.” Cause we really wanted it to be – not continuous, but very linear, and have things come back. So there’s a handful of musical elements that come back but in completely different ways, in different keys and whatnot. There’s vocal melodies and vocal lines that come back, like the two “Travelers,” there’s a moment that comes back on Part 2 that’s really cool, like the comma before the end of the sentence. And it was cool having all of that, and knowing we were going to be telling this story and having these themes recur. But at the same time, there are musical bits that are completely autonomous in Part 2 that recur as well. So you do have a feeling that this is a story, that this is something that’s gonna keep you moving and keep you interested in the music.
Stone Sour's House of Gold & Bones Part 1 is available everywhere now - grab a copy from the Roadrunner webstore!