Last month, prior to our short holiday break for AltWire, I had the chance to interview Stone Sour‘s own Josh Rand on the band’s recent covers EP Straight Outta Burbank, and to get the scoop on their upcoming studio record which they intend and hope to have out by 2017.
During our interview, Josh and I touched on a variety of topics, including the band’s writing and recording process, Josh’s start in music, and the details about an unfortunate theft of his gear that occurred late last year.
Read on for the details!
AW: What was the thought process going into doing a collection of three cover EPs? What brought this idea about?
Josh Rand / Stone Sour: Honestly we’ve kicked around the idea of doing covers since the beginning of the band. So about fifteen years ago. But this last time we were out touring in the US, we thought it would be fun to play some covers for ourselves and for the fans. We played five different songs and at the end of that tour, we approached to play a cover of ‘The Dark’ [by Metal Church] for Fear Clinic. We flew out there to do that, and I mentioned to the guys while we were out there that we should record the five songs we just played because they were so fresh in everybody’s head so we could just bang them out. Let’s just get in a room just play them so we have them, and that’s what we did and that ended up being Meanwhile In Burbank. As we were recording those we had so much fun doing them that we kicked around the idea of doing some more covers and making them a bit more personal to each person in regards to the song selection. The idea around the covers for us was to have fun and kind of get back to where we were 10-15 years ago when we were starting up. [To cover] each individual person’s bands that inspired them to pick up an instrument and to get us playing. All of us live throughout the US. There’s no central hub for Stone Sour.
With Corey’s obligations to Slipknot, we kind of want to still stay active. We want to make sure that all of us still get together throughout the year here and there and the cover EPs were the perfect thing for it. Yes, we are still writing for the next record, and in fact, I just uploaded music to one of the servers that we use. As of now, we have fifteen songs for the next Stone Sour record.
AW: Wow that’s awesome! Now, the titles of all the EPs refer to Burbank in some way or another. What is the story behind Burbank featuring in the titles?
Josh Rand / Stone Sour: Well Roy lives there and that’s where we recorded it at. He has a little home studio and we kicked around many ideas of putting ‘Burbank’ into classic titles of other records and having fun with it. That’s really all it comes down to. Roy lives there and that’s where the stuff was recorded.
AW: What was your favorite track to work on from Straight Outta Burbank?
Josh Rand / Stone Sour: My favorite was Slayer’s ‘Seasons in the Abyss’. It’s one of my top five songs by anybody and it was really fun to play. My most challenging on the other hand was Gimme Shelter. It really pushed my abilities as a player because Keith is such a different player than I am. His style is blues, with its feel, its vibe, and this and that whereas I learned guitar as a metal player. All of my heroes are guitarists like Yngwie Malmsteen and Paul Gilbert and stuff that is very syncopated, articulate, and has a totally different style of playing. The roots of my style of playing all come from classical music in a roundabout way, whereas he is blues-based so it’s a totally different thing. It took me two days to record all the guitar parts because I didn’t realize that he was practically playing a guitar solo throughout the entire song till I really dissected it. I had heard the song a million times, but then I really focused in and I thought ‘wow he’s playing throughout the entire song’ and it’s not just rhythm guitar it’s actual lead guitar. So that was really fun to be able to do that because it really pushed me as a player and I did my best to stay true to what he recorded. I’m sure it’s not 100% but it definitely was fun to do.
AW: Speaking of your roots, I understand that you learned bass at 15, and now have a professional certificate in guitar from Berklee College of Music and are currently pursuing a master’s certificate. What got you into rock music?
Josh Rand / Stone Sour: Music for me has always been an outlet ever since I was born and there are photos my parents have of me wearing a KISS shirt at the age of 3. I went to see KISS perform Dynasty at the age of 5 so they are a huge influence but at the same time everything my parents listened to, for the most part, I loved as well. Whether it was Led Zeppelin or Billy Joel, Elton John. Actually wanting to play guitar I think came from Motley Crue, but what really hammered it home was Metallica. Growing up Jason Newstead was a huge influence on me and that’s why I started out on bass. Between him and Cliff Burton both.
The reason why I switched to guitar was because I ended up becoming a better guitar player than most of the guitarists I knew and due to a songwriting standpoint. I still write a lot of stuff on bass, but I also like to write riffs and it’s a lot easier writing riffs on guitar than it is on bass.
AW: Definitely get what you’re saying there. I play a bit of bass myself, and it’s definitely a bit of a challenge to write original parts that are interesting underneath the lead guitar parts. Going back to the recording of the EP, given that many of these tracks on the EP are classic rock, was there any real vintage equipment used in the recording of these covers?
Josh Rand / Stone Sour: Yeah! That was one of the things that I really wanted to hammer home when we made the decision to do this. When we did the first EP Meanwhile In Burbank we basically got in a room and knocked these things out in two days, along with ‘In The Dark’ and ‘In The Dark’ took almost a full day by itself. Once we made the decision of doing more songs, I really wanted to try to stay true to what they had for equipment when they were recording these. A song like ‘Gimme Shelter’ was a perfect example, I couldn’t use my standard Stone Sour sound or my basic guitar tones and sounds on that song. It would sound horrible. There’s just too much gain and they weren’t using EMG Active Pickups or really any of that stuff. So we made a conscious effort to try to stay true to what they used.
From the guitar standpoint, I had a couple of vintage Fenders or Gibsons and we used that stuff and we used different amps whether it was an 800 or a Fender practice amp. We tried to dial in as close as possible to the original sound but at the same time, we still wanted to keep the integrity of what Stone Sour is as well and serve these songs up the best that we could.
AW: To achieve that ‘standard Stone Sour’ sound you’re referring to is there any favorite gear that you use in studio and on tour?
Josh Rand / Stone Sour: For me, and my endorsers are going to kill me for this, I have a guitar that I’ve owned since Come Whatever May which was when I first moved to LA (so going on ten years now) that I bought basically just to be a practice guitar in my hotel room. It’s an LTD Truckster that’s grey. We arrived in LA to record at 606 and I bought this guitar just to practice at the townhouse. I brought it in just to jam on it because I wanted to hear it. It’s honestly the cheapest guitar that I own and it smokes everything. It’s on every Stone Sour record since Come Whatever May and it’s pretty much my main rhythm guitar. The funny story with this guitar is that it has the Les Paul shape if you’re familiar with guitars and it’s very uncomfortable for me to play and I have to stand up to play it. When I recorded House of Gold and Bones (1 and 2) all the rhythm guitar parts were done with that guitar. I had to basically stand up the entire session for all those songs. Because the way it sits for me, it actually goes in under my ribcage if I sit down with it. It sucks but it sounds amazing. That to me is the most valuable studio piece that I own.
AW: Traditionally what is the songwriting and recording process like in Stone Sour, how did the process deviate from the norm when doing these covers instead of stone sour’s own tracks?
Josh Rand / Stone Sour: The process for us writing original material is that each person writes individually then we bring it in as a collective. We go through the arrangement of it and see if that needs to be changed, or the key. Once it comes time for all of us to say we’re ready and it’s time to get going on this, then all of us get together and we’ll re-record the initial demos that each individual person has recorded. For instance, I’ll use EZDrummer for all of my drum tracks when I’m writing a song by myself. I’ll send that session over to Roy and Roy will write his drum parts to that session and send it back to me. I’ll then re-record my guitar to fit the vibe of the drums because then suddenly it’s not so ‘mechanical’ like it is with a drum machine. We just kind of build it and if stuff needs to be changed, then that’s what we do. With the covers, it was pretty much all live because those songs have already been written. We already had the arrangement, and we wanted to stay true to everything as much as we possibly could. It’s a completely different thing and I’m hoping we get to do more of what we did there with the covers with the next Stone Sour record.
We did that on the first record (the self-titled) where we went in and we recorded it live. A lot of people probably don’t even realize that, but we cut that record in less than a month, taking off the weekends. We were this green band that basically had never recorded, and we got in one big room with dividers and Corey was in the vocal booth and we just played every song until we got the path that we wanted for each track. Hopefully, we can get back to that because as times went on then it became individual passes, takes, and building master tracks, and that process kind of loses what rock and roll is all about to some degree. That’s what we’re looking forward to on this next record, just trying to go in there and capture a moment and not necessarily just build a song with Pro Tools.
AW: For the next EP, No Sleep til Burbank – have you already recorded the tracks, or if not, do you have an idea of some of the tracks you want to do? Any idea of when this EP will be coming?
Josh Rand / Stone Sour: Well we’re actually on the fence about releasing a third EP. Really the only person left to record is myself on one track, and that’s just the lead guitar. The rhythm guitar parts are already done. We discussed it and obviously, Corey had made the suggestion of basically a trilogy with the three EPs, but we’re on the fence of actually releasing a third one at this point. Because we’re close enough now to where the main focus will be on the next proper Stone Sour record. But those songs for the most part are already all recorded, and we’re just going to find different ways of releasing them whether it maybe be a soundtrack or video game, or even bonus tracks on the next record. They’ll definitely see the light of day. I’m not 100% going to say that we will not release No Sleep Til Burbank but at this point, it’s kind of up in the air.
AW: Lets switch gears for a second. Recently you played the star-spangled banner for the Atlanta Falcons how was that experience?
Josh Rand / Stone Sour: The experience was amazing but the trip for me honestly was a complete nightmare. I live in Iowa so it’s like a sixteen-hour drive to Atlanta, it was over the holidays so I went with my family and on the way down I said: “okay on our way down we’ll stop and we’ll hit Memphis”. So we stayed in Memphis and the next day I wanted to go to Sun Studios because it’s this legendary place. So in the middle of the day, we go to take our tour, I go in to get tickets and we’re there for about ten minutes. We come back out and both of my vehicles had been broken into and everything had been taken. At that moment I didn’t know whether to come back to Iowa or to push on through. So I decided to push on through, and I got to Atlanta and basically went to Guitar Center and grabbed a practice amp, grabbed a guitar off the wall and the next day I played in front of basically one of the biggest crowds that I’ve ever played in front of. With a 600 dollar, Ibanez and a 400 Orange 112 combo, and I punk rocked it. It honestly was a blur. I hadn’t slept for about a day to two days. It was cool, but I’m also at the same time bummed because I didn’t get to take in the experience and I had tried to do this since 2009. Not to mention all the stuff that I lost that I’ll never see again more than likely.
AW: I’m really sorry to hear that.
Josh Rand / Stone Sour: Thanks man. Well one of the things that I lost, and since you play guitar yourself you might know it, is I lost a Fractal. And that’s a big piece in the investigation because there’s only one place in the US that sells them so they’re kind of made to order. So whoever got it is going to have a hard time moving it.
AW: And then hopefully if they do try to move it, they’ll get caught and you’ll possibly be able to recover the piece.
Josh Rand / Stone Sour: Well the other crazy thing is, and this is what is so frustrating is that the police tell me it happens at least once a week there and the owner refuses to adjust the cameras or put in more cameras and this has been going on for they said at least a year and a half. They said that ‘unless we have an officer here, somebody’s car gets broken into’. And to me I was just thinking, if this keeps happening, at one point is he considered negligent, you know what I’m saying? It was just so frustrating but at that point, I was just trying to take care of everybody because they got into my car without breaking anything. There’s technology out there that intercepts a key fob when you lock it, that takes the code, and then they can use that code to get into it. So my car was spotless. But they actually punched out my daughter’s window. And that’s another thing, it’s a holiday weekend. I’m ten hours from home and six hours from the destination I needed to be at. So we actually wrapped the driver’s side window and drove six hours to Atlanta and then drove sixteen hours back without a window basically. Just with plastic and duct tape on the way back to Iowa, so they could actually put the glass back in the car. Nobody was available in Atlanta over the weekend, and nobody could do it for a couple of days so I felt “I’m not sitting down here so they can put a window in”.
It’s just still insane to me. I can’t believe how quickly they emptied us out, I mean they took my luggage, they took everything. My daughter is an artist and she lost her art portfolio that she had worked on for seven months that was this year’s final for her. But she took it because of the long drive. So yeah it was a nightmare, but I don’t know. I have mixed feelings about it all. I wish I could’ve enjoyed it more because it really was an honor.
AW: I’m sorry to hear about what you went through. That’s a real bummer. Let’s try to get your mind off of that and talk about something that’ll excite you! With the new album, do you have an ETA as to when it’ll be out and what can we expect from the upcoming record?
Josh Rand / Stone Sour: I think all of 2016 will be in preparation for that record. The reality is that Corey has his obligations with Slipknot through parts of next year, and as I’ve told some people before it makes no sense for Stone Sour to record and release anything if we can’t go out and support it. Our main focus next year will be putting that record together to the best that we possibly can. There definitely will be different directions for us on that record, and I can already hear it in the demos. The record itself will probably be delivered realistically in 2017, with the full tour cycle afterward. We really want to get everywhere. There are many places that we haven’t been to at all and many places that we haven’t been to in a really long time. A lot of Asia we have not done. Russia as well. We played Moscow but we haven’t played any of the other cities over there so we’d like to do that. As far as places we haven’t been to in a long time, we haven’t done a proper Canadian tour since Come Whatever May so not in ten years, as far as going across Canada. We have a ton of fans up there that are dying for us to do that, so it’s definitely on our list of places to get back up to. We’re going to play everywhere that we possibly can and hopefully we can go to a lot of new places that we haven’t been able to in the past.