Stone Sour's latest album, House of Gold & Bones Part 1, comes out on Monday; it's the first half of a two-part epic that tells the story of a man at the crossroads of his life. We got guitarist Josh Rand and frontman Corey Taylor on the phone in separate interviews to talk about the genesis of the album, the writing process and recording sessions, and much more. Our interview with Corey will run on Monday - and now, here's Josh!
What was the genesis of this album? Did Corey just come to you and say, "This is what we're doing next"? What was your initial response?
Well, really, it all started last year. In October, I went over to his house and he played me a couple of songs he had written on or had put together, and he explained the whole concept or story of doing this concept record. And I immediately was excited, because I felt like from a musical standpoint it would allow us to do whatever we wanted. Not that we haven’t done that in the past, but I really felt like it could really open some doors musically. And how we write as a band is, all of us contribute from the music side of things, and he’s always written the lyrics. So the biggest thing for me was, I wanted us to be a lot more aggressive than Audio Secrecy. Can we go in that direction? And he was like yeah, let’s do it all. And that was when I really started giving him the stuff I had written on, later on in the year, like December. I flew down to Jacksonville, and Jim [Root] just jams, that’s how he writes, so it’s usually me that’ll sit down and go through all the stuff he records, 'cause he’s very much an improv player. And I started pulling a couple of ideas from that, and Roy [Mayorga] started submitting stuff, and we got together in January in Des Moines and just started putting everything together.
Was everybody in the band on board from the beginning, or did some people take some convincing?
We were all on board. Our approach, when I look back on it basically a year later, it was almost a '70s vibe, where we wanted to be more experimental for ourselves and grow as musicians, and tell a story and have it be more than just "Here’s our 10 best songs." And in my opinion, a band doesn’t even do that anymore, it’s like, "Here’s the song we’re gonna push on radio, and eight to nine filler tracks." So our approach was, we wanted to make sure everything got the same amount of love. Going into it, we had no idea what would be the singles. Credit [producer] Dave Bottrill for that, 'cause he came in and he’s like, “We’re gonna do it as a big piece of art, and it’s gonna be this big thing from start to finish, and if there’s songs in there they wanna take to radio, then so be it.” But he really helped also with the musical landscape of the record.
You're not seen as a concept album kind of band; were you worried that some fans might hear that phrase and think, "Yeah, maybe I'll check you guys out again on the next one"?
I don’t think so, because I still think it’s us. We never said that we would be Genesis or Dream Theater or Yes or any of those types of bands. We’re not a prog band. We said, we’re going to adopt the ideas of those stories and stuff, but it’s still going to be a Stone Sour record, where you can still pull those individual songs. We just wanted to offer something more - in a world where it’s all about singles, we just wanted to do something different. We’ve always evolved from record to record, if you listen to our entire catalog. It was another way of challenging ourselves and making it interesting and fun for us to make. When we did Audio Secrecy, a lot of people feel like the difference between that and Come What(ever) May is that we mellowed out. Well, going into Audio Secrecy, our whole goal was not to make Come What(ever) May again. Which we didn’t, for better or for worse, depending on who you talk to. And that was the same mindset going into this, except for now we have this story and musically it felt like the handcuffs had been taken off a little bit. From a heavier approach – we had gotten away from that over the last 10 years, so it was kinda cool to bring that aspect back into the band.
Are the lyrics 100 percent Corey, or do other people contribute lines or ideas? And what's your creative partnership like generally?
First off, he always does all the lyrics. One of us might go, “Hey, what about this line?” Every once in a while, I’ll say “This line bugs me.” Or “What if you said this?” But overall he’s the guy that does the lyrics and on this record, he’s the guy who wrote the short story, so… How we work is, musically, I’ll write down how I think the song should be or a structure, and when I get it to where I’m happy then I give it to him, and he’ll either tell me to rewrite certain parts, or switch stuff around, or he’ll just write lyrics to it as it is. We’ve had songs in the past where I’ve sent him music, he’s written lyrics, and that’s how the song is, and there’s other times where it’s like “What if you change this?” or “What if you change this riff?” So that’s how we write. And then bringing in the other two, like I said, with Jim, he does so much improv and records that way that it’s usually helping him build those songs, whether it’s me going through that same process, or Corey. “Absolute Zero” is a perfect example of that. In 2008, I went down to Florida for like a week and I ended up hearing this riff on one of Jim’s hard drives, and I was like, “This riff is the shit.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out anything to build around it, and when we went to do Audio Secrecy it just kind of got shelved. Well, that riff ends up being the main riff for “Absolute Zero.” And that song is literally a collaboration of one of Jim’s riffs, one of Corey’s riffs, and one of mine, and I kinda built that song.
Are there any riffs or melodies from Part 1 that reappear on Part 2, to tie things together?
Yeah, there are. There’s a couple of themes. The bridge for “Absolute Zero” will reappear on Part 2 as a pre-chorus to one of the songs, and then there’s a couple of melody themes that go in and out on Part 2 that are on Part 1.
The sessions were pretty fast - you recorded two albums in the time it would normally take to do one. Did you get everything how you wanted it, or do you wish you could make just one more overdub, even if it's something only you'll ever notice?
That’s an interesting question, because we were so focused on doing this record – once again, I’ll go back to Audio Secrecy, where we all got together in January and we lived in this big house and it took us six months to record that record. This was a little bit different, where we had a deadline because [Corey and Jim] had to go tour with Slipknot and really we kinda did pre-production as we recorded, and I think the freshness of it really helped the record. Could you want more time? I’m sure every artist would say they’d love to have more time, but then you can end up overproducing it and you kind of lose the magic, in my mind. One thing we also wanted to strive for with this is, we feel like we’re a great live band, and we’ve had these great, produced, polished records, but we didn’t have the energy we felt like live. We wanted the rawness back, almost like the first record, and if you spend a lot of time in there you start second-guessing yourself instead of just going off of your initial decision on things. So us having more time – I think honestly it would have been damaging, looking back at it. I think what made this record what it is that everybody came together, everybody was super-focused, there was a newness and an excitement, and none of the songs were beat to death before we got to record ‘em.
You're heading out on the road soon...how many songs are you going to be performing live?
It all depends which market. It’s gonna rotate. I’m gonna say ballpark, at this point, five. As I said, it all depends where we’re at. In South America, we’re gonna do four. But when we get to Europe, there’s been talk of doing five, possibly six. And by the time we get to the US next year, who knows where we’ll be with it. I’d be leaning more toward five or six by then.
Stone Sour's House of Gold & Bones Part 1 will be available everywhere October 22 - pre-order your copy now from the Roadrunner webstore!