One band that I’ve been following since I heard their song “Black” on WSOU back in 1994 was the mighty Sevendust. This is one band that has remained consistent throughout their career. They’ve never changed the style of their music to fit a trend. They’ve even survived the Grunge era and are still around to talk about it. Only one member (guitarist Clint Lowery) had left the band at some point, but he’s been back and the original lineup is still kicking ass after 21 years, which is a rarity in music today. Yes, the guys in Sevendust actually do like each other!

On Oct. 2, Sevendust are set to release their eleventh studio album, Kill The Flaw, through their own label, 7Bros. Records, which they recorded and produced right here in New Jersey up at Architekt Music Studios up in Butler. This is the third record that they recorded at Architekt, which is also run by their new manager, George Roskos. Does this mean Sevendust is technically a Jersey band now? Well, I got to sit down with singer Lajon “LJ” Witherspoon, who is one of my favorite metal singers of all time, to talk about the new CD, Kill The Flaw, the band’s upcoming tours with Godsmack and Breaking Benjamin and to find out if we can call Sevendust “ours” now. Here’s what he had to say:

Sevendust, to me, is one of the hardest working hard rock bands in the business. In October, you release your 11th studio record in Kill The Flaw. How do you guys manage to stay so tightly knit after all these years? I mean, you lost Clint for a few years, but the original lineup is back and you’re stronger than ever!

Sevendust is just something that I feel like we restarted this band. It was a dream of some young men that had this dream of, not necessarily of becoming rock stars, because I don’t think we’re that, we just had a dream to do music. We never thought that it would end up this many years later, still being able to do it. So, we don’t have anything to prove. It’s just something that’s in us that we can’t wait to do and that we’re excited about doing together as a group of brothers, man.

And it seems like it’s always been like that because you never hear any drama coming out of the Sevendust camp…ever!

No, the only drama we have is between each other if I get a text from one of the guys and we might be talking about somebody and we might call one guy a douchebag, but that’s probably it. (Laughs) But we all can be douchebags. You know, man, we pride ourselves in that we don’t have that drama because I feel like we’re all adults. We have families and we have kids and how fortunate are we to be able to do as being artists and tour the world and do what we love. I can never take that for granted, so I really try not to have too much drama within the organization.

I envy that! Now, a few years ago, I kept hearing that after a couple of more tours Sevendust was hanging it up, which I hoped wasn’t true, but then the concert promoter that I work for just booked you for the Food Truck and Rock Carnival here in Jersey, we have you booked on a tour with Godsmack and also on a tour with Breaking Benjamin and then Breaking Benjamin with Shinedown. Is this Sevendust going out with a bang or is it safe to say Sevendust is not going anywhere?

Well, I’m 42 years old, man! Don’t put us in the grave yet! (Laughs) I think that had a lot to do with us wanting to take a break and taking a hiatus to get back to family, man. Just get back to what us, as a band, were never able to do. This is the first time we’ve been able to take off this much time. For years, it was album, album, album and tour, tour, tour. So, I think that they kind of mixed that up because I feel like there’s still so much left for us to do, as far as Sevendust is concerned. So it’s definitely not the end or we’re definitely not going out with a bang. I think it’s just the beginning of something that I feel is only going to get bigger, while we play at least. Thank the lord for having a job!

I’ve been listening to Kill The Flaw and it is absolutely awesome! It’s everything I love about Sevendust: heavy and catchy riffs, thunderous drums and your voice! Are you happy with it? What’s your favorite track off the CD? Because I really like the lyrics on “Letters” a lot…

Oh, wow! “Letters” is one of my favorite songs and I’ll tell you what, that’s a hard question to ask, which one is my favorite, because it’s so new. With that being said and until you said “Letters,” I try to remove myself from the album, which is what I always do after we do a project or an album. I give it time to breathe to feel it again. The whole thing to me was such an experience and fun because we were able to take a break and unplug and to get that creative process within us when we went into the studio to do this album.

We went in with this live effect! There wasn’t anything really written for this album, so what we did was we set up on the live stage and everything was mic’d from guitars to drums, so we were able to record while we were rehearsing pieces of songs. Then we would go in from 12 noon until 12 midnight and during the day, we would just get up there as the band Sevendust like when we started, which we loved to do, and just jam. Things came out and that’s the way this album, Kill The Flaw, came together, man. It was just like the beginning of our career when we sat down and jammed together like a band and it’s what I think made this album flow so easily and come out with so many cool songs.

Is that why I felt there was more of a “live” energy to this album?

Absolutely! That’s how we recorded the album! We recorded everything live and of course, the guys would go back in and do their overdubs and everything with their guitars, but most of it was done from that stage in Architekt Studios.

Since you mention it, this is the third CD that you recorded up at Architekt Studios in Butler. Is it safe to say Sevendust is becoming a Jersey band?

Well, it’s safe to say that is our home base. We would get inspired there. There’s definitely not a whole lot to do in Butler, so when we go there, we are able to work. We have such a good time. The way we get down is we have something to do and we get it done. That’s our mindset. But that whole Jersey area around Butler from Chef Eric and everyone at Trackside that take care of us. It’s a really good experience for us when we get there. We always get the job done and George and those guys coming into our lives at Architekt has been such an incredible venture for us.

Do you like the freedom of self-producing your own records?

Sometimes we have in our minds that sometimes it’s cool to have someone come in and “police” the album. I like to say that…”police” it and really tell us what to do because we kind of know what to do, even though I say “police” too because we can do stuff illegally and maybe not go to jail for it. (Laughs) Only kidding! We’re on the right side of the law!

This time, we just wanted to go in and give it our all. Every once in a while, we’ll bring a producer in and see how it goes, but more than likely, we have so many that are so talented in the band and singers and players and it’s always so much fun for us to go in and pick each other’s brains as producers ourselves. It was really cool to get down that way and I’m sure in the future, we’ll bring other producers in, but for this time around, it was really fun to do it as this band that started from day one.

With five guys in the studio working on the CD, did it ever get to a point where there were just too many cooks in the kitchen or were you all basically on the same page when producing Kill The Flaw?

We’re always kind of on the same page. Every once in a while we’ll have that kind of day where somebody might bring something in they think is cool, there’s something weird about it! (Laughs) But I don’t think anyone’s ever come in where we were like, “Oh, man! Here he comes!” We’re all pretty laid back and we love to hear each other’s ideas.

If you think about it, we’ve been together so long; it’s great to be able to be in a band where everyone comes to the table with different ideas. Some of them suck, some of them don’t suck and we all know that. Some ideas, you throw at the wall and they don’t stick. It’s great to be that way. If there was ever a time like that, that gentleman would see it and take a step back for a minute, but that rarely ever happens with us.

The one thing I always loved about Sevendust is that the band never really hit mainstream, yet your fan base is a large and loyal one and I would have to say that you might even be just as successful as some of the mainstream bands that have been out there.

You know what, man. Wherever we’re at is where we are at. I think it’s incredible to still be a relevant band in this day and age, when God knows what happened to the day of CDs and whatever happened to the day of actually going out and getting a record deal and proving to yourself that you’d finally made it, but shoot that was fun! What about the days of, “Oh my God, we have our first tour bus,” but not realizing that damn, you’re paying for it, but still, those days are gone. So, I’m so happy still to be at the point that we are because a lot of the bands that we did tour with that are those “mainstream” bands are nowhere to fuckin’ be found.

In fact, many of the bands today have stated that Sevendust was their major musical influence. That has to feel good that you never had to cater to “The Man.” You have your own record label for cryin’ out loud!

Well, it did take us a long time to get to that point and we still struggle from decisions that we thought were being handled in our best interest as young men. If there’s any advice that I can give to any young man or any young woman in the music business is to be a businessman or businesswoman in this music business because you have to keep your hands on the pulse at all times. Stay creative, stay a true artist to your art and all that stuff, but make sure that you know what the hell is going on and who’s got their hands in your pockets because at the end of the day, a lot of the times, we were out there and our dream was coming true because we made it, we thought.

We had a record deal! Oh my God! Our song was on the radio and we’re out and we ain’t never gonna be home. We’ve been out for a year and at the end of the day and at the end of the tour, we got a t-shirt from a band that opened up for us or that we opened up for and a damn Chic-O-Stick and the manager from the band is saying, “See y’all next time,” with a Hummer and a camper connected to that with a Jaguar and an SUV, just pulling all his toys. So, we learned the hard way that people used us and put us out there. So if there’s any advice, I would just say be smart about your art and your craft and stay true to it.

Having one of the most recognizable voices in metal, has there ever been any thought about doing a solo record?

Absolutely, man! That’s been in the making for a while now. I look at the music business the way that I look at a chess game and I try to play it strategically. I’m trying to make sure I make the right choices and the right timing for me to do a solo project because Sevendust is my number one thing and I don’t want to take away from that at all with doing anything, but yeah, a solo project is definitely in the making. Probably after we slow down on this album, I’ll be tuning it a little bit for that and there will be some word about what’s going on with that because like I said, I’ve been behind the curtains doing some things and just having fun with it. I don’t plan on taking the world over or anything like that. I just want to have fun and do some different things outside the box, but thanks for asking, man.

Well, here’s the real question: Do you let Clint produce it?

You know what, man, that’s so funny that you ask that. I would definitely have Clint come in and do some tracks with me. That’s my bud. We always joke, I’m Black Jovi. (Laughs) It’s an inside joke. I’m a black guy, Bon Jovi, those guys, whichever guy it was that always used to play with him [Richie Sambora]. Clint was always my guy, so we called ourselves Black Jovi.

You never know what will happen. I have a bunch of guys I’d love to work with, but Clint is one of my cats that I’d love to pull in. We’re like Daryl Hall and John Oates right there. Wait! Dammit, that sucks, because I’ll be the short one. Fuck! (Laughs) Dammit!

Since we’ll be seeing a lot of Sevendust this fall, what is your favorite song to perform live?

Oh, man! Jeez! Let’s see. I like “Splinter.” There are so many! You know what, man? That’s a hard question. One night me and my wife were somewhere and one of those jukebox things came up and she said you can download it to your phone and play whatever song you want. So we get this app and I look and there are 120-something freakin’ Sevendust songs on there.

There is no way I can pick a favorite song, but you know what? Live, man, I’ll tell you what, “Face To Face” is a great live song. “Pieces” is a good live song. There are so many that I love to see when we perform it live, like “Decay” is a great live song right now. There are so many, I love so many. We try to pick the set. We want to stir them up. We know which songs to pick to stir them up, so there are so many songs that I love to counteract the crowd with.

What are you listening to these days?

Believe it or not, man, I’m a weirdo! I’m really excited because I just got that new box Echo, Alexa. She talks to you and stuff, so you wake up in the morning and say your name and tell her what radio station that you want. But I listen to a lot of old stuff. Once I start gearing back up for the tour, that’s when I start listening to, I guess my genre, if that makes sense, but lately it’s been weird because I’ve been in “Daddy”-mode, so Kids Bop has been on. As a matter of fact, I just turned my car on to pick my daughter up and that “Lava” song from that Disney movie came on. I’m like, “You gotta be kidding me.” I’m in “Daddy Zone” right now.

But I listen to everything. I’m a music lover. I listen to it all. If it’s on the radio, when I do listen to the radio, I will listen to it whether it’s jazz, classic rock, I listen to it all. I even went to a country concert. I’m from Nashville, Tennessee. I feel like anything with conviction, I’m buying it. As long as you mean it, and I feel it, I don’t have a problem with it.

Complete this statement: “If I wasn’t the lead singer of Sevendust, I would be…”

I would be working with some Tennessee walking horses on a farm, raising my kids, being with my wife and probably still jammin’, but like you said, I wouldn’t be in Sevendust, but I would still be jamming. I’d definitely be doing music somewhere, but I’ll definitely be on a farm working with some horses. That’s what I grew up doing and that’s what’s in my family. They still do that. So, yeah, that’s what I’ll be doing. I’m going to end up doing that anyway. Shit! Put a fork in me! I’m done!

 

Sevendust’s 11th studio album, Kill The Flaw, hits shelves on Oct. 2. Catch them live at The Pavilion in Scranton, PA on Sept. 18 with Breaking Benjamin, at the Food Truck and Rock Carnival at Oak Ridge Park in Clark, NJ on Sept. 19, at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, NY on Oct. 14 with Godsmack and at the Times Union Center in Albany, NY on Nov. 23 with Breaking Benjamin and Shinedown. For more on Sevendust, visit sevendust.com.

3 Responses

  1. Kevin platt

    What a fantastic interview. I am always fascinated when I get a chance to read about my favorite band! I love LJ and all the guys in 7D so much. I have been a fan since rhe beginning and it’s great to hear that it really has only just begun.

    Reply
  2. Nate Hallquist

    Great interview! Thanks for asking good questions and not just the standard “So tell me why this new album rocks…” The album is gonna rock because it’s freaking Sevendust. To you, LW, and the rest of 7dust, keep up the good work!

    Reply
  3. Yves Heinrich

    My oh my! How I enjoyed reading that interview! LJ And Sevendust really became an inspiration to me and I thank them with my heart!

    Reply

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