Making The Breaks
By Larry Carlson
The members of Staind now realize that rock and roll careers— much like
life itself— can be part of an endless cycle, So many bands get
caught up in the process of touring, then recording, then touring,
then recording— a much-needed cycle of renewal that is the
musical equivalent, of a bountiful spring following a harsh winter. So
with all that in mind, vocalist. Aaron Lewis, guitarist Mike Mushok,
bassist Johnny April and drummer Jon Wyscoki had little intention of
mocking that time-honored process when they titled their latest
release Break The Cycle. For these Springfield, MA-based rockers, their title clearly referred more
to the dismantling of some of the groups internal processes and a
cleansing their musical procedures than to the destruction of rock and
We started with a first album called Tormented and followed with
one called Dysfunction," Lewis said. "By titling this
one Break The Cycle we were indicating that we were finally a
little more at peace with ourselves and our music. There is still a
great deal of passion housed within what we do, and we're still as
devoted to the band as we've ever been. But I think at least some of
our questions have been answered in terms of what we're doing. That
confidence is very evident in these songs and they've given us the
chance to start in a fresh direction in some ways while maintaining
many of the qualities that the fans seemed to like about us."
Like them, indeed! With their 1999 release, Dysfunction, having now sold nearly two million copies world-wide, and Break The Cyclefast-approaching the platinum sales plateau, it would seem that Staind have hit upon a magical musical formula for continually entertaining the rock and roll masses. In fact, many industry pundits have proclaimed that the band's angst-filled sound— as well as Lewis' shaved-head look— have helped provide shape and substance to the entire New Metal scene. Both in the studio and along the tour trail (where they've performed with the likes of Sevendust, Korn and Monster Magnet as well as their mentors Limp Bizkit), this special quartet has continually displayed an inherent feel for the rock form that few other contemporary bands can match. While some groups prance and preen in their attempts to win over a loyal and dedicated following, Staind have quickly learned to simply deliver their musical messages from their heart and from their soul.
“We learned very quickly that you can’t fool anyone,” Lewis said with a weak smile. “But then, we never wanted to fool anyone. We’ve always stayed true to our own musical beliefs. We’ve never tried to copy other bands or make blatant attempts to fit in. We’ve been lucky in that we came along at a time when music was looking for some direction, and bands like ours were seized upon as being somewhat different. Now a lot of bands seem to be at least trying to tap into the same musical vein. Thankfully, I think we’ve managed to stay one step ahead of everyone else.”
Perhaps one GIANT step would be a more appropriate means of measuring the distance that now separates Staind from the majority of their hard rocking compatriots. Maybe it is the group's ability to effortlessly shift gears from full-throttle metallic roar to plaintive, introspective purr— without losing an ounce of their rock and roll credibility— that marks them as a band that has now truly come-of-age. Unlike their past efforts, this time around Staind aren't afraid to reveal a slightly softer side of their artistic spectrum, offering songs of hope and love right along-side to anger and futility. It is this dual-sided musical personality— one honed recording studio as they struggled to complete Break The Cycle- that most pleases the ever-demanding members of Staind.
"We only took a week off from when we finished our last tour to when we began recording this album," Mushok said. "Perhaps it would have been smart to take some time off and really work on the new songs and rehearse them. When you’re touring you’re so focused on that evening's set that you really don't have time to work on new music— at least not as a band. But I had so many ideas running through my head that I knew t wanted to get into the studio as soon as we could. That placed a lot of pressure on all of us— especially on Aaron who had the lyrical responsibilities fall on his shoulders. For the first few weeks we wondered if we hadn’t acted in haste. But as soon as things started to come together, we knew we had made the right decision.”
With the positive critical reaction to their latest album offering now pouring in, and demand for their touring time reaching fevered proportions, the Staind patrol realize that they now perhaps stand at the summit of their career. Can things possibly get any better in terms of support from their fans and the media? Can the group possibly hope to climb even higher in the hearts and minds of their followers? Where does a band go from “up”? All these questions and more have recently flooded the band’s collective consciousness, with the only apparent answers being that there still remain many distant peaks for this talented unit to climb.
“The last album and tour were about winning people over,” Mushok said. “This one is about consolidating who and what we are as a band and revealing more of ourselves as artists. I think we’ve accomplished that. It’s always scary to see how fans will react to something new. They know you so well from a certain album. That’s what they want. When you expand your sound— even a little— you always run the risk of alienating at least a few of them. Hopefully we’ve pleased a lot more than we’ve turned off.”
It would seem as if Mushok and his bandmates have little reason for concern. With the single It’s Been Awhile already serving to expand Staind’s fan base, and other songs like Can’t Believe and Waste cementing the group’s well-deserved reputation as one of the heaviest groups on earth, it would seem as if 2001 is shaping up to be the best time of this band's six year career. But as far as Lewis is concerned, everything that Staind accomplishes from here on in is merely a bonus to the thrill-ride he's already received.
"This has already gone much farther than T ever could have imagined," he said. "I'm enjoying every second of it. What's better than being able to make music with your friends and then have so many people all over the world enjoy it with you?"
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