Interview: Morgan Rose / Sevendust

17.06.2011


It started with a small slip. When I called Aaron – Sevendust tour manager to confirm my arrival date for the interview, it turned out that he did not know anything about the interview. Something had to have wrong on the management’s end – team tour line, but Aaron was very cool and arranged the interview in a few minutes calling me back and confirming, that the conversation would be possible. After that it was funny (“what’s your portal name again? Rock Opera?”) and interesting, especially with considerable stature Aaron talked about his previous visit to Poland. He was then with Marylin Manson’s bodyguard during the infamous gig in Warsaw 2001. As it turns out, the organizers, in order to avoid problems related with planned gig boycotting by catholic-related groups and media-hyped controversy, offered Manson considerable amount of money for him to resign from playing..Athough interesting, this story is for another occasion. Let’s return to Sevendust and Morgan, who also turned out to be a very positive guy. After a very friendly greeting from the drummer we sat in band’s bus and talked on the follwing topics:

RockOko: Hi Morgan, great to finally see you in Poland. It‘s your first time here so let me start with question whether you’ve heard anything about the country before coming here, I mean on a music note. Heavy bands seem to like the Polish crowd, has anything slipped by your ears regarding that?

Morgan: Oh yeah, I’ve heard it’s the best. I’m totally anticipainting mayheim. I’m anticipating it being the highlight of our trip, so the Polish folks have a lot to live up to, because the reputation proceeds itself. Even the other night Alter Bridge played a festival here [Ursynalia Festival in Warsaw] and when we met them a few days ago at Rock Im Park festival in Germany they were saying how totally surprised they were and that they couldn’t belive how unbelievable it was, so I’m very excited.

RockOko: Great to hear that, thank you. „Cold New Day“ – your latest album, I think it does stand out in your discography. I’m sure for you every album is special, but this one is really something else. It falls into the vibe of „Animosity“, which to me is the essence of Sevendust, so tell me if you had different/better response to this album comparing to your other latest works?

Morgan: It’s definitely been the best received record we’ve had since either “Animosity” or “Seasons”.

RockOko: You think the return of Clint to the band had its inpact on it?

Morgan: For sure, yeah, a lot to do, no doubt about it. We all write, but his input into the writing it’s that piece of the pie that has to be there. We were able to kind of get by without him, but it wasn’t the same band. It was a good band, it just wasn’t Sevendust in its full form.

RockOko: Yeah, your albums without him were ok, but they seemed to lack a little of the special element, that this one does.

Morgan: Yeah, I agree, 100%. I think the next record will be even better.

RockOko: You gonna build on “Cold New Day” ?

Morgan: Absolutely. We had some turmoil that was going on in personal stuff, that stopped it from being everybody involved in full, so now that everybody’s got their feet on the ground I think that the next record will be even stronger.

RockOko: Let me ask you now about one of most characteristic elements of your music – the melodies. Was it your idea form the start to incorporate so much melody into your songs or did it naturally come out in the process when working with Lajon’s vocal abilities?

Morgan: It was there right from the start. When I put the band together me, John and Vinnie had been writing some songs together and when we met Lajon I was telling them how cool it’d be to have that guy’s voice over this music.

RockOko: Wasn’t he in some soul project at that time?

Morgan: It was like a rock, r’n’bish thing, but they were rock. Lajon was very much into like Sam Cook and all that stuff, he’s into that, that’s his thing. We were friends, we played in different bands, but at the same shows. So when I saw him I could see he’s agressive and we wanted to be agressive band, but we wanted a singer that wasn’t all barking. We thought we can cover that barking stuff for him and let him be what he wants to be. It was a great match right away. I remember one day Corey from Living Color and Angelo from Fishbone walking into our rehearsal room before we ever had a deal and Angelo said: you guys are the mixture between Fishbone and Pantera:

RockOko: Wow.

Morgan: I was like: dude, that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard in my life! That made me feel, like we’re doing something good.

RockOko: I know you have your own label, 7Bros. Tell us a little how it‘s working. I read, that you’d like to not only promote bands, but also teach them how to operate between business and music, how is it going?

Morgan: Well we’ve made many, many bad business decisions, which has kept us from here. Most of it was not our fault, but we make our own decisions. You make a bad decision with a bad man, you’re stuck with that and gotta live with it. We try to preach, and that’s about the only thing we do preaching, keep an eye who you’re working with, because everybody comes into the door saying that the can make it all work for you. Keep an eye on your finances and keep on eye on what‘s going on, becasue if you get out here [on tour] you tend to just care about playing the show. You don’t care about what’s going on and there is a lot of money that’s funelling through. So when you get done and you realize you don’t have any money you go: wait a minute, I made 750 000 dollars on this run and you just gave me 5 grand, how does that work? Our label was just something to facilitate us to be able to do our own thing. For a brief moment we wanted to siign some bands but then we realized, that we work so much and we tour so much that we wouldn‘t have time to give them 110% of our attention, so it turned more into an avenue to facilitate our records. It‘s signed under the umbrella of Warner.

RockOko: With the internet turning the music business upside down and basically equalling everybody, how would you evalute the significance of record labels in todays industry? Are they actually needed?

Morgan: There’s certian things that are needed and certain things that are really not. The days of needing a record label to push you on MTV and stuff like that, well it’s not the same as it used to be. I’m sure they still have the pull to do that, but MTV doesn’t play any vidoes any more anyway.

RockOko: Yeah, MTV is not a music television any more.

Morgan: Yes, and the people don’t watch MTV for the music any more. The days of being on TRL [Total Request Live] and being a huge sucess if you got on there are over. And in our genre of music it’s been over for a while. Even the biggest bands, the Disturbeds and the Korns , they don’t get played on MTV so its over. But there’s certain things that do count. You can do it without a record company, but sometimes they hire highest qualified people at particular job, like for instance a publicist. We need this. I need you here. I need you to talk about us, whether it’s good or bad, I need you to talk about the band because nobody knows the band. Without having that history, because we didn’t come to Poland, we didn‘t do enough touring in Europe, I told our management: whatever you do, we have to to talk as many people as we can. We have to say thank you for waiting and we really have been wanting to come here. We haven’t said forget Europe, we don’t care about Europe, we just weren’t able to come. Finacially we could not come. We didn’t care about making any money, we just couldn‘t loose the money, ’cause we have kids. We’re not rich. Contrary to what people think, we’re not multimilionaires. We’ve been ripped off so many times, that we had to spend a lot of money to be able to keep doing this. This trip alone is costing us 70 000 dollars of our own money, that we each put in equally.

RockOko: It‘s not the first time I hear, that a band puts out their own money to either tour or record an album. I think many people don’t realize, how the reality of music busniess looks from the inside these days. Seems they don’t realize how things have changed.

Morgan: They don‘t get it.

RockOko: There still seems to be this type of thinking towards the bands and how good they’re supposingly doing, as it was during the “MTV era”.

Morgan: In those times the record label would pay the money. The first time that we went to Europe it was in 1999 or 2000, we did Download and like 2 other shows but that was very short trip, like a week. But the first time when we came over for a proper tour after that, the record label gave us tour support. They wanted us to break over, so they gave us money. It wasn’t much, for instance there was no bus, but it was just enough so we could survive.

RockOko: What did you travel with?

Morgan: Like a sprinter-van. Back then we didn’t have kids, we didn’t have houses, we didn’t have all these things that we we had to pay for. That’s the thing, that everyboyd has to understand, that at the end of the day that’s the only part that is a job. This is not a job. Anybody who wants to say this is hard work to be doing interviews, playing music – that’s not a job. Being away form your familny, having to deal with the business side of it, seeing inhumane acts that people in this busniess perfom a lot – that’s work.

RockOko: Travelling.

Morgan: Yes, travelling, being in a hot bus, getting no sleep. That’s work, but the actual essence of what pepole see is not work.

RockOko: Let me get back to the trouble you had around 2006, after releasing “Next”. Much can be read about it, but tell me, how did you actually manage to stand on your feet again after that?

Morgan: We had no real support. The only real support, that we had was from the people. This is the reason, why we care about the people that support the band so much, because a lot of these bands they get a gig and forget, that the people made them big. We never, ever forgot that. There are days when I dont feel like doing “meet and greet”. It’s not that I don’t want to meet the people, it’s that I’m sick. So I dont want get anybody sick and I gotta play and I don’t want to play like shit so I wanna get some rest. Yet you do it and you do it with a smile, because at the end of the day every hand that I’m shaking there, pays for everything that I’ve got. This shirt, shorts, they pay for all of it. I haven’t had a job since we got signed in 1997. Everything I have, my children, I wouldn’t have met the women if it wasn‘t for the people. So everything has been built off the people and when the bands don’t respect that, I don’t like the bands. I’ve been notorious for cutting off my relations with bands, that don’t appreciate the people.

RockOko: Any names (smiles)?

Morgan: Maybe I’ll be keep that silent (smiles). There are few. But I have a very tight relationship with people who support the band.

RockOko: That is very cool and it really is important to the people. Just before talking to you I saw these two young guys, who just got their tickets signed by David from Disturbed and they were so excited and pumped up by meeting him, that their hands were all shaking. So you know, they will remember this short moment for a long, long time.

Morgan: Absolutely. We’re not special, we’re not. We fell into a trade, that can affect people. They admire it, but I always say and I’ve said before – I refuse to call anybody a fan. It’s demeaning to me to say you’re a fan of mine, that sounds like I’m above you, and I’m not. I’m below. I’m the one, that looks up to you for spending your hard-earned money to come and see the band, to buy a t-shirt, to buy the ticket. Sometimes when I meet people waiting for us to come out after the show I go: man, you gotta be kidding me, you’re here, you’re still here. You’re waiting outside the dressing room and its raining. I’m like come in here, I wanna give him a hug and tell him thank you. It’s very important to us, very.

RockOko: When you make records, go on tour, on every occasion like that you must see a lot of faces, meet a lot of new people. With such a flow of people in your life, when would you say the actual friendship starts? What makes the difference between people you just randomly meet and people, that become closer to you?

Morgan: It’s the same as with you or anybody else. We meet a lot of people and they have a chance to be very close with us right away, because we care, that they care. We’ll basically put people on the guestlist all the time. We’ll give them whatever they want, we’ll give them money if they need to get to another city, we’ll do anything we can for anybody. Usually they’re very cool, but sometimes people don’t understand and they can get a little bit weird and that’s when we realize, that’s not a real friend. It‘s just somebody who takes advantage and we won’t be taken advantage of.

RockOko: It’s a thin line, isn’t it?

Morgan: Very thin. We are very open, more open than any other band that I know. We wear our hearts on our sleeves to everybody. You’ll see how Lajon talks to the people tonight. He will probably cry on the stage, because this is the first time we ever been here and if we get a response, it will effect him, me, it will effect everybody. For us it’s like.. (Morgan pauses for a moment) We’re in Poland, man, we’re in Poland. We’re from Atlanta, Georgia and we were just a bunch of little kids that said lets play in a band together and all of the sudden there are people responding to us in fuckin’ Poland! You know what I mean? Lajon cried last night in Hamburg. We’re a very emotional band and very appreciative. If you took everybody in that place and put them right there at the end of the show, we’d meet everyone of them, no doubt about it. Until the bus driver says if we don’t leave right now we won’t make it to the next show.

RockOko: You’re famous for some epic touring schedules. I came across some incredible numbers regarding that and if you allow, I’d like to confirm them, as they’re almost unbelievable. Is that true, that after “Home” you played just in New York 13 times?

Morgan: Yeah, we did New York 13 times on one album cycle. We started out playing in front of 75 people and when we got done we were headlining a place that held 3500 people.

RockOko: Amazing. Then on the same run after “Home” you spent 39 consecutive months on the tour?

Morgan: Actually it was 39 out of 42, yeah.

RockOko: That is incredible, but you don’t tour that much these days, do you?

Morgan: Actually this has been the hardest we’ve toured since the second record. We even looked at each other and laughed about it: how did this happen? (laughs) And you know why? It’s because of us demanding that we try to break another territories. We said we have to go Europe, we have to go to Australia. Normally now it would have been our off time. We’ve taken all the times that used to be off times and put Europe and Australia in their place. We are here now, then we’ll go home for like 10 days, then we’re doing 2 weeks tour in the Sates and go straight from there to Australia for 2 weeks. Then we come back home for 2 and half weeks then we go out for 6 weeks in the States again.

RockOko: How do feel about that? It‘s been some time since such schedule, the body changes and you’re a drummer, a very intense one.

Morgan: It‘s not easy. I’m waiting for a day when I can‘t do it, when I simply have to stop for a minute. It’s wearing on me. I never get blisters and look what I got last night. (Morgan is showing me some really nasty blister on his hands).

RockOko: That looks painful. To cheer you up – this one is especially for you, with slight reference to the movie “Matrix”. Tell me, which pill exactly did you take to become such an incredible drummer?

Morgan: (laughs) I don’t think there is anything special about me.

RockOko: There is, I call tell you what: the way you break the rhtym without loosing it as well as the density and intensity of your play. They are quite unique.

Morgan: Thank you, I aprreciate it. Well, my whole thing became orthodox over my personality. A few people, that were very important influences on me always said to me: Always remember, that the people out there wanna be where youre at, they want to be on the stage. So no matter what you do, just be real, be real to what you wanna do. I wanted to play hard, I wanted to play visual. I wanted to be able to be bombastic, ’cause that was my personality. Screaming and everything is part of it, the energy that I feel when I’m playing does that. It does become a routine sometimes. In all honesty, some of the things that I do visually are almost part of dancing, its almost part of the beat. For example when we are rehearsing and I don’t feel like that I forget how to do that, because I’m not doing the visual thing, because I dont feel like it. I was alwys terrible at doing music videos, cause I could never act. They were telling me “do the robot thing“ or something, but I didn’t know how to do that, it was always weird. So that’s my reallness, the fluent side of me that comes from just doing that. I see other kids that try to be visual and it really doesn’t look very cool sometimes, because it’s so contrived. It’s as if they saw somebody do it, or they might have seen me do it and they do the same trick but it looks really square and it doesn’t look fluent.

RockOko: I think it’s most natural when you don’t really control it, when it just flows. When it’s not like that, sometimes you can see it’s prepared.

Morgan: And I don’t like that. That to me is worse than not doing anything.

RockOko: Let me ask you now about your shows for the troops. You played for American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, other heavy bands like Godsmack or Distured also went over there. Is heavy music particulary popular amont the military crowd? How did it all come out?

Morgan: We put our name in the hat and said we would like to go support them. On the side, we had Polish pilots there, that would fly us from base to base and they were absolutely out of their fucking minds.

RockOko: You mean like Polish origin American citizens?

Morgan: No, they were from Poland, from your troops. They were awesome, very very cool. They know how to fly a military aircraft, I can tell you that, so they wanted to make us sick.

RockOko: (laughs) Really? Where was that?

Morgan: I can’t remember if that was in Iraq, I think that was in Afghanistan. They were so cool and we flew with them twice and both times they tried to get us to throw up on that plane and almost did it, almost (laughs). So we just put our name in the hat and we wanted to show our support, not support for the war but just for people who are there. From what I was told from high-ranked people who brought us over there, the officials showed the list of bands to the troops and they said „we want Sevendust“, so it was their choice. I think the age demographic fits into our mold.

RockOko: 20 something?

Morgan: Early 20s, yeah. They were very agressive, but in a very respectful way. There was lots of pitting, a lot of crowd surfing, a lot of jumping up and down. They are not allowed to go anywhere without the weapon, so I’m playing and see guys being crowd surfed by the dozens over this crowd in uniform with a machine gun in hand.

RockOko: No shit?!

Morgan: Oh yeah. I was like: this is a tough crowd, right here (laughs).

RockOko: That must have looked incredible.

Morgan: Yeah, it was awesome looking.

RockOko: You have 8 albums out now and on average there are 12-15 songs on each, which overall gives way to over 90 officially released songs, right? I guess the average setlist will have, well depending whether it’s festival or headlining show, around 10-15 songs. Tell me, what happenes to those songs, that you don’t play that often during live shows?

Morgan: They basically go into the grave.

RockOko: Do you ever practice them?

Morgan: No, never. We’re a strange band. We very rarely practice at all. I don’t think this is something to be proud of by any means, but when we came here to do Rock Am Park in Germany 3 days ago, I was sitting in the dressing room and Jonathan from Korn came in and we had just seen him like 3 weeks ago. That was our last show before we came to Europe and he asked me how I was feeling and I said: „I‘m ok, but you know, I haven’t touched the drum sticks since I saw you“ and he went „Huh?!“ (laughs). He asked: „None?“ so I picked one stick up and said: „This is the first time I’ve touched the stick since I saw you at the other show we did in America 3 weeks ago“.

RockOko: And then you get to play in front of 40/50 000 people, right. Were you nervous?

Morgan: I wasn’t nervous at all. That’s how the band is.

RockOko: So you‘re confident in a good way, that you know you can do it.

Morgan: Yeah, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I’m sure that if I practiced it would be better. Like last night, we played a few songs that we haven’t played in a while and we didn’t even check them at soundcheck. We just went up there and played them. He told me before, that’s my drum tech Pooch (a few mintues earlier Pooch went into the bus, came to our table, sat on the opposite end and just rested his head on the table without saying a word. Morgan didn’t see anything, I didn’t say anything, so we just kept talking while Pooch was laying there with his forehad on the table. Yes, it was funny), he said „Man, how do you remember some of the stuff, we pull out a song and you just play it. How?“ Even songs that haven‘t been played in a long time.

Pooch (already from above table): Over a year.

RockOko: That is long.

Morgan: Yeah, never practised it, just played it. There are certain songs I would definitely not know how to play, but its werid. So a lot of the songs just go to the grave, they will never get played again.

RockOko: So how many do you have in regular circulation?

Morgan: I’d say 20, 25. When we play a headline show at home we’ll get at most, around 18 songs. That makes it tough, you’re doing 18 songs, you got 8 records, it‘s little more than 2 songs per record and we don’t even do that. We’d do 3 or 4 for off 1 recod and 1 song off another. Sometimes it’s not even 1 song off a record. I think we haven’t played anything of “Hope and Sorrow” in a long time, like that record is gone away.

RockOko: How about tonight?

Morgan: Here its very interesting, we almost don’t know what to play.

RockOko: How do you choose when you play somewhere for the first time?

Morgan: We heard that our first 3 or 4 records you can get here and then last 3 or 4 records you can’t get here. So on one side, you should play the songs, that people know. Yet on the other side, you have situations like last night in Germany, where we we did half of the new stuff and half of the old stuff. People knew all the words to the new stuff, like “Forever Dead”, but they didn’t know “Black” that well, which is off our first record, which was pretty big over there. I didn’t know why and they only thing I can think of, is that people who like the first records have grown up and probably have forgoten us, because we didn’t come. Without being in people‘s presence they forget. Tonight they gave us 40 minutes, so I’d think the setlist would be Splinter, Black, Driven, Praise, Strong Arm Broken, Pieces, Face To Faces and there is one more, either Crucified or Forever Dead (it was actually Rumble Fish).

RockOko: I was hoping you’d mention “Shine”.

Morgan: Oh man, a lot of people have been mentioning that. We haven’t played that in a long time.

Pooch (still half asleep): 2 or 3 years now.

RockOko: Too bad. The opening riff is nothing but a killer.

Morgan: A lot of people mention that song. I think it needs to get back in.

RockOko: I certainly hope it does. Thank you for your time, Morgan.

Morgan: Thank you.

Interviewer: Krzysztof (Chris) Bienkiewicz

So, seems for now we can only enjoy the album version:

 

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  1. Wojtek

    %A %B %e%q, %Y o godz. %I:%M %p

    Bardzo fajny wywiad, muza mi się też podoba. Odwalacie kawał dobrej roboty w RockOko.
    Pozdrawiam

     
  2. Relacja – Koncert Sevendust | RockOko

    %A %B %e%q, %Y o godz. %I:%M %p

    […] zostańmy na chwilę przy jego panie i władcy: rzeczonym Morganie Rose. Poza sceną, podczas wywiadu – przemiły, wesoły i spokojny człowiek. Na scenie – przepięknie niebezpieczne zwierzę. To, […]

     
 

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