Formed in 1996, 3 Doors Down practically exploded on the scene with the release of their debut single “Kryptonite” in 2000, which garnered significant airplay worldwide and propelled their debut record The Better Life to multi-platinum status both in the United States and across the globe.
Fueled by the hit singles “Loser”, “Be Like That” and “Duck and Run”, the record launched a career that as of this article has spanned five studio albums, and gave the band multiple Grammy nominations over their nearly 20-year career.
Now on the heels of their sixth studio record; Us and The Night (due March 11th in the US), 3 Doors Down are back and better than ever, with a new lineup and a new sound that Chris Henderson feels is both ‘fresh’ and ‘fun’. We recently had an opportunity to speak to Chris about the upcoming new record, as well as his extensive gear collection, and his thoughts on the debut’s 15th anniversary. Read what he had to say below!
AltWire [Ed Oswald]: Us And The Night is the first record you guys have released in almost 5 years. What was it like getting back into the studio after all that time?
Chris Henderson [3 Doors Down]: It was pretty scary man, to say the least. It’s been (like you said) five years and in that time the environment had changed, and the band had changed because we got new members and we were trying to bring those guys in who we’ve never wrote with before to write songs with us. It was a bit tricky and a bit scary.
AW: This record also marks the first time your band has recorded a studio record with Justin Biltonen, after being with Todd Harrell since 1996 and your first album with Chet Roberts on guitar. What was it like writing and recording with two new band members, and how do you feel their own unique styles have influenced the sound on this record?
Chris Henderson [3 Doors Down]: To answer the first part of your question it was awesome working with those guys. It was also nice that they hadn’t done it before, so you didn’t have two guys in the corner telling you how they do shit. You know what I mean? They weren’t over there going ‘well this is how I write because I’m a writer’ or ‘I’m a songwriter, and an artist so this is how I’m going to do things’, you know? We didn’t have that. Instead, we had them over there saying things like ‘wow this is really cool! This is really fun! I’m really enjoying this and I’m learning a lot and I really appreciate this process’. So that’s what we had. When you have that, it tends it make it brand new for all the people in the room who have been doing it for twenty years and who have become all jaded and are telling people ‘look this is how we do it’ and you’ve got the two new guys over there going ‘well that’s not how we do it, because we don’t know how we do it!’. So it enabled everyone to kind of switch back and forth and start trading information, and start gelling off of each other. There was this sort of romance between the band and the music, and if it’s all working you can feel it you know?
AW: The album title for Us And The Night was revealed back in June of last year, and originally it seemed as if the band was aiming for an early fall 2015 release. What lead to the delay in pushing it out till March of this year? Did you guys just feel the album wasn’t quite ready yet?
Chris Henderson [3 Doors Down]: Nah, it was just timing. Timing is always an issue when you realize records because you have other artists who are releasing, you have other singles that are coming out, and you have all these different things going on. It’s not just about writing it and recording it and throwing it out, it’s more about doing it smart and doing it properly and then the songs have to be ready and all that good stuff. So it was a process between us, our management and our label and just the whole team kind of working together to figure out when and where and how. So the date kept moving up and moving back and we’d forget this and that, but it’s okay. It’s meant to be the way it is, for a reason that nobody knows.
AW: What was your favorite song to work on and record during the recording process?
Chris Henderson [3 Doors Down]: Well you never know what songs are going to be hits, if they’re going to be good, or if people are going to like them. But you know what feels good to you. So there are a couple of songs on the record, but ‘Still Alive’ is one of those songs where it just makes you want to drive fast. That’s a song where you can kind of down in your bones relate to before a word is even spoken. Just with the energy of the music and the rawness of it, it’s one of those things that just makes you want to tap your foot and kind of clench your fist a little bit, and that’s a cool thing man. So I would say that ‘Still Alive’ is one of those songs that are my favorite on the record.
AW: In both the name of the album, the album art, and even the name of your first single In The Dark one thing I’ve noticed is how there seems to be a reoccurring theme about darkness or night. Was this intentional or purely coincidental, and if it was deliberate… what inspired the choice of theme?
Chris Henderson [3 Doors Down]: Well it’s a little bit of inspiration and a little bit of coincidence at the same time. So you have to separate the name of the first single ‘In the Dark’, that’s a coincidence that it would happen to be the first single. The name of the song In the Dark was because of the lyric ‘she likes to do it in the dark’, pure coincidence. But the name of the record Us And The Night is because it’s almost a snapshot of where the band has been the last five years. Just with changing members, a changing music environment, and everything. We were trying to adapt, and trying to survive and we were not even realizing it, you know? We never had a band meeting where we said ‘hey we have to try and survive’ it wasn’t that. Just by default, kind of slugging through this whole thing, with adding new people and adding new music, it felt like at times that we were in the dark. It felt like we were in a kind of closed in space, and the name of the record is us working through that and this whole record represents us getting out of it. So maybe the next record will be called “Us in the Light” [laughs]. Who knows!
“I’ve built my whole career without pedals; I’m an amp and wood guy. I’m a guy who just loves the guitar plugged into the amp…”
AW: A week after the album drops you guys are due to hit the road for a slew of dates that will take you into the beginning of August. However, it seems there are quite a few states you guys will be missing this round. Are there any plans to announce more dates in the coming months?
Chris Henderson [3 Doors Down]: Oh of course! Yeah dude! We would have already announced it if we could get the packages right. Summer touring packages are really hard to put together because everyone is getting pulled in all directions, and it’s hard to find a band to tour with because everyone is offering everyone spots. It’s like if you took 15 bands and stuck them all in a big convention room and said ‘okay all 15 of you we have to put in packages together to go tour’, then everyone starts talking and negotiating and it just gets chaotic. People double book, and weird things happen, so it just takes a while. So we’re trying to figure it out now.
AW: You guys have had a lot of places to perform at over the years, is there a certain place that is your absolute favorite venue to jam at and why?
Chris Henderson [3 Doors Down]: There’s a couple man, especially in America. There’s this place in Wisconsin called The Eagles Ballroom. The building that the venue is in is so explorable, and there’s like 5 floors of places to see. There this basement with pumps that kind of kick on and off, and there’s this really spooky pool room that had an Olympic sized swimming pool back in the 40s but now it’s graffiti’d up and it’s a really spooky place. You can go from the top to the bottom and you can spend the entire day exploring this building and never go to the same place twice, and it’s really cool. A lot of stairways that go nowhere, doors that don’t open and when they do open there’s a brick wall behind it. It’s a creepy place but I love it there because I spend the whole day just kind of seeing it again.
AW: What does your current live and studio rig consist of? What pedals, amps, and guitars do you use the most?
Chris Henderson [3 Doors Down]: I’ve built my whole career without pedals; I’m an amp and wood guy. I’m a guitar guy who just loves the guitar plugged into the amp. You might hear a little bit of an effect through Front of House that my sound guy might add that I don’t know about, but my live rig is a Kemper amp modeler. I’ve collected amps and guitars throughout my career over the years and I’ve probably got; I don’t know, maybe forty to fifty different amps that I’ve collected and well over a hundred guitars. What I’ve done is I’ve taken the Kemper into my studio, mic’d up a cabinet that I love (I have this Mills Afterburner and I love this thing), and I mic it up with my favorite mics and model the amp heads in this Kemper and that’s what I use live. So I’m basically using the EVH 5150 live for my heavy tone and my clean tone believe it or not is a Hughes & Kettner Triamp MK2 on amp one. I model both of those amps, I run two of them and I run them parallel so if one goes out, my Ket can switch it out and go right to the next one and it’s good to go.
AW: I just want to throw another question out at you real quick, I’m getting a little long in the tooth and I’ve been doing this for close to 40 years [laughs], so the next band is one I had the pleasure of seeing back in the day…what was it like being on tour with ZZ Top during the Gang of Outlaws tour?
Chris Henderson [3 Doors Down]: Haha! It was pretty cool man. It was nice to sit back and listen to all of those songs over the years that I’ve really loved, because ZZ Top was one of my favorite bands. Being from Mississippi and those guys being from Texas, the Mississippi Blues and Mississippi Rock N’ Roll and the Texas Country, Blues and Rock N’ Roll are almost interchangeable at times. You hear elements of all five or six of those genres in each other you know what I mean? So ZZ Top for me was a natural inspiration for the way that I write and the way that I play guitar and the way that I listen to music. When that tour was announced I was like ‘I can’t believe that we’re getting ready to go out with ZZ Top man!’ It was really cool. Night after night listening to how those guys play and how they do it, and man I’m a huge fan so I really appreciated that tour.
AW: Let’s switch gears for a second and talk about your charity. We had a fan submitted question sent to us and that question was: Do you think that The Better Life Foundation been a success? Is there anything specific that you wish it could’ve accomplished? What challenges do you see it overcoming in the future?
Chris Henderson [3 Doors Down]: I do think it’s a success for sure. Anytime you start a charity and it survives more than one or two years, that’s a success. Because we do a lot of good, and we’ve been able to do a lot of good. I think one of the really cool things that were able to do was after Hurricane Katrina. The city of Waveland, MS lost everything and I mean everything. They lost a hospital; they lost all of their ambulances, their fire trucks, their police cars, and their radio system of communication. The whole town was underwater and it literally looked like God had taken an eraser and just wiped them off the face of the planet. Everything was destroyed there. We were able to go into that town and buy computers, two police cars, and a firetruck, and we gave them a tour bus that they could use for their police officers and their fire department to get out of the heat. We were able to provide that kind of service to them just through what we’ve done over the years with collecting money from our fans, people who donated, and from the shows that we played and all the silent auctions, and that’s just one thing that we did man. It was really a beautiful thing and the true spirit of giving is giving without getting anything in return, and that’s what The Better Life Foundation is.
“We never realized that people would hear it [‘Kryptonite’] in The Philippines and that people would hear it Russia, we never had any idea this would even be an option…”
AW: Last year marked the 15 year anniversary of your debut The Better Life. What amazes me is just how well the album has aged in that time. It still sounds just as great today as it did when Kryptonite dropped on the scene in 2000. How would you rate that album now after all this time? Does it hold a special place in your heart and what meaning does it hold for you?
Chris Henderson [3 Doors Down]: I’m really happy with that record and I’m really proud of it for a lot of different reasons. It’s been a whirlwind. I mean you put out a record and then you put another one out so you don’t typically look back to the first ones until someone tells you, or comes up to you and kind of grabs you by the ears and says “you need to look at this record that you did! This thing is really cool!” We’ve never honestly really thought of it as something that people would appreciate like that. We just thought of it like ‘hey we’re gonna put a record together, go play some music, have some fun and drink some beers!’ It’s turned into a 20 year career and that record started it all! You can still turn on a radio twenty years later and hear ‘Kryptonite’, ‘Be Like That’, ‘Duck and Run’ and all those singles that came off that record. And now, just sitting here and thinking about it man, I’m insanely proud of it and very happy that it’s still out there.
AW: Well you should be proud, I just heard “Loser” driving around today and still had the same kickass feel as it did back then. “Kryptonite” was one of those singles where as soon as it hit the airwaves it seemed to literally just explode. Some bands release several singles and albums before making it big, but you guys scored big right out of the gate. Did you have any feeling that you had a big hit on your hands when the band recorded the song?
Chris Henderson [3 Doors Down]: No we didn’t. We had an idea that we would do well regionally because we’re from Biloxi, MS and the song was getting played in Biloxi and was exploding out of this one station called WCPR. So we had an idea that if were doing well in Biloxi, well then it would probably do well in Mobile, Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach, and down the coast. We thought that we might have some regional success, because there were some bands back in the day that we’re doing that kind of ‘regional release’ thing and we were playing with a couple of them. So that’s what we thought we would do. We never realized that people would hear it in The Philippines and that people would hear it Russia, we never had any idea this would even be an option. Our thought was ‘maybe people will hear it in Atlanta if we’re lucky’. So when they did a worldwide release on that thing and it started exploding everywhere, it was like getting thrown to the dogs. It was the most exciting time of my life and I can’t even really describe it to this day. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to sit back and put it into words how it actually felt. I can’t do it still.
AW: The year that album came out was also a huge year for rock music in general. In addition to your massive debut with The Better Life, we also saw the debut records from Linkin Park, Good Charlotte, Killswitch Engage, and Disturbed. How would you say the rock scene has changed in the last 15 years, and more importantly, how would you say you’ve changed as a band?
Chris Henderson [3 Doors Down]: Some bands have survived and some bands haven’t. The environment has changed just in the amount of stations that are still playing rock music. With those things I don’t know much about that, because I’m not in that part. I can’t really talk about what’s happened over there because I don’t exactly know. But from where I’m sitting, what I’ve seen is that fans grow up and outgrow the bands that they like a lot of times. So with some of the bands that came out back then, some of their fans just got older, and moved on to different styles of music and that’s kind of where they ended up. But bands like Disturbed, they’re still putting out great music! Have you heard the Sound of Silence, their new single? It’s incredible!
AW: I have, and I agree. Big Disturbed fan!
Chris Henderson [3 Doors Down]: Oh man me too. I’m a big Disturbed fan myself and I have been ever since the first record. I was the guy in 3 Doors Down that really loved them and I championed those guys, and they’ve become great friends of mine so it’s awesome.
AW: With the political scene the way it is, how would you feel about your songs being used by candidates running for president?
Chris Henderson [3 Doors Down]: I don’t really care one way or the other. It’s a free country right? Wasn’t it founded on the freedom to do whatever you wanted? If they want to use our music let them use it, it doesn’t mean that we’re going to vote for them or not vote for them, or any of that crap. People want to label you somehow so they can either identify with you or hate on you, and that’s all it’s really about for a lot of them. With the internet, it is what it is. A lot of people will hate you for what you say just because you said it, and for no other reason. It is what it is. So they’re free to use our music for whatever. If it furthers their agenda or helps them in anyway, then god bless them.
AW: Once the album drops on March 11th, what are you excited about for the year ahead? Anything fans should be excited about or on the lookout for?
Chris Henderson [3 Doors Down]: They should just be on the lookout for a new, streamlined 3 Doors Down. This is a different band now. It’s new, fresh, it’s fun and the music reflects that I think. I think that the tour is going to be another reflection of this. If you’ve seen us in the past it’s not going to be the same show. It’s going to be great man and we’re really looking forward to it.