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Interview: Drowning Pool

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"You can never have too much metal in your diet," laughs Drowning Pool guitarist C.J. Pierce.

Ain't it the truth…

Even though he may be cranking some Pantera or Slipknot right now, C.J.'s fretwork on Drowning Pool, the band's fourth offering, is nothing short of pure rock 'n' roll bliss. The band's self-titled disc—their second consecutive album with singer Ryan McCombs—is the perfect comeback record, mixing anthemic arena-ready hard rock bombast with an intriguing acoustic sensitivity that makes for an epic journey.

Those musical hills and valleys mirror the band's journey since they burst on the scene with their multi-platinum debut Sinner in 2001. After the tragic loss of original vocalist Dave Williams in 2002 and a split with his successor in 2004, Drowning Pool have been on quite the ride. With Ryan McCombs on the mic now for his second record in a row, Drowning Pool are stronger than ever before and it shows on every track of Drowning Pool (Due out April 27 via Eleven Seven Records). From the crunching fist-pumping of "Let the Sin Begin" to the pensive Southern soul on "Alcohol Blind," this is Drowning Pool at their most versatile and vital. Plus, first single "Feel Like I Do" is the band's second consecutive top 5 active rock hit following "37 Stitches."

Guitarist C.J. Pierce sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about Drowning Pool and so much more…

What does this album mean to you?

Each song individually definitely has a strong meaning for me. We've all been in the band for so long, and we all communicate really well. I think these songs are better than anything that we've written before. They actually come even easier now, which is great.

It sounds like Ryan is really locked in with you guys—this being his second consecutive record.

Yeah, he's locked in with us, and we pushed him out of his comfort zone a bit here. I'm really proud of him on this record, man. He sings on it like he's never sung before, and he's also got a lot of heavy moments. We truly pushed him from both directions. It's nice to see him grow and how fast this all happened. He'd come in at noon, and I'd see him there at midnight, singing his ass off for twelve hours. I'm like, "What the fuck? You know?" It's incredible

He's a part of the family now…

Five years now…so he's actually been singing with us longer than anybody else has. We all have solid ground, we all know each other really well and, honestly, we get along better than we've ever gotten along before. We're all having fun with it.

Is your musical dynamic with Ryan really flourishing more than ever?

Yeah, that's important. When he joined the band, I said, "We're either going to be Jimmy Page and Robert Plant or we're going to be George Lynch and Don Dokken. We're either going to love each other or hate each other, dude. Which one do you want to?" [Laughs] With the songwriting process, I always start out by writing exactly what I feel. From there, I bring it to everybody. I always keep in mind what would open up the door for Ryan so he could really shine and I also keep in mind what Mike and Stevie enjoy. I have everybody's interest in mind when I'm writing a song. It opens up and everybody puts their two cents it in. And thus you have a Drowning Pool song.

"Feel Like I Do" is such a great anthem. Is that one of your favorite songs?

It's funny how that happened. When I first came up with the riff, we were on tour, and I really didn't think it was a song that would make the record. It's a fun song, it had a cool like groove to it, but I was like, "Is this Drowning Pool or what is this?" Whenever we played it, everybody was in a good mood. From there, for whatever crazy reason, it moved to the front seat. It was one of the first tracks that we recorded in the studio and the first one that the label jumped on. So, with that being said, we set the bar really high where everything else that we did afterwards had to beat it. Since that was the first one, everything after that had to beat it. If you like "Feel Like I Do," you're going to love the rest of this record.

"Let the Sin Begin" is one of my favorites. What's the story behind that cut?

It's a fan song; it's a people song. We all go through good times and bad times. We all feel like shit or we all have a great day. It's an anthem. It's a rock song that just includes fans as part of it. That's the whole idea about it. We all have those days, and we all feel it together.

However, "Alcohol Blind" is the most powerful song you've ever done…

I'm so glad you said that! I fucking love that song. The words are very personal. This song has such a cool vibe to it. We never had anything that deep so I think it took Ryan a bit to get used to it. Musically, it's really awesome because that song really takes me to a personal place. Back in 2002 when we were touring, before Dave [William, original Drowning Pool vocalist] passed away, we had a day off in Atlanta. Dave had found Zakk Wylde's Book of Shadows CD, and there’s a lot of great music on that record. So, musically, I was influenced by Book of Shadows and that vibe with the acoustic guitar. It takes me there, but lyrically this song is about alcohol. It’s about being in love with alcohol. Some people have issues with it ---- whatever. We played that song at a place called Duke's in Dallas when we were still working on it, and the vibe in the room was so awesome. When we went in the studio, I think it turned out to be better than the demos. It's something so left field for Ryan that it took him a minute to get used to it. It's out of his comfort zone, but he sounds great. I love that song.

In terms of the song's theme, you could have that kind of debilitating love with anything. It could be a person that it’s about. You fall into whatever you’re into and you go blind by it.

Right, exactly. He did start writing about a relationship and then we put a twist on the lyrics where it was about alcohol, but really it could be about whatever you want it to be. It's open enough to where it could be about a relationship—blinded by love or blinded by alcohol or anything.

It's some of your best playing.

I busted out this slide guitar on it. I sat down in a room for a whole day with the slide guitar and everybody was sitting in the other room. I know they could hear it through the walls and it must have sounded like I was killing fucking whales or something [Laughs]. It was a fun song.

It shows that you can do any kind of song.

Yeah, it does broaden the style. We haven't done anything that soft with an acoustic ever which makes me happy. But we still have other songs on there like "All About Me," which is a straight-up Drowning Pool rock song.

You guys have always stuck with it through everything. Do you feel like you're stronger than ever?

It's been a rollercoaster ride. I think you get a lot out of it sticking together instead of saying, "Fuck it," and throwing in the towel. It would be easier to say that, and again, either we love music or we’re gluttons for punishment [Laughs]. It’s one or the other but, yeah sticking together and knowing each other this long and this well has definitely been an advantage music-wise. We all love music and we all work really hard on it together. So, I really hope everybody enjoys the record. There’s a story behind every song and every song was thought out.

When you were in the studio, was there a definitive moment for you that you knew that everything was coming together?

"Alcohol Blind" was the last song we recorded. Actually on the very last day we were there, and then we sat back to listen to everything, I think that day it really hit me like, "Click." I felt like we did something really good.

Well think about OZZfest in 2001—most of those bands that you were on the second stage with are gone. That's a real testament to how meaningful you guys are.

Longevity is definitely a part of it. When you’re around long enough and you keep tugging away at it. This is real music, this is something I can get behind, this is a band that I can listen to and know is for real. I hope that fans get that out of it. But yeah, man, it has been quite the long rollercoaster ride. At the end of the day, we all love music and we all get along like brothers do. One minute we're fighting, the next minute we're hugging it out.

It's amazing that you're still writing.

Hopefully, I get to do this forever. I want to put out a lot of records and I want each one to have its own thing. I have a clear cut idea in mind of what I want to do next and where we want to go.

I’d love to see you guys do an acoustic record at some point.

Alice in Chains definitely opened the door for rock bands to do that. I'd love to do a couple of songs we have now acoustic, but I have a handful of acoustic songs written anyway that I think would work for Ryan. But that’s one of the things where me and him would really have to sit down and get it going together and then bring everything else in it. I'm hoping that happens, and I think that would be great. I think we're kind in a position where we could do that. I want to put out a little more metal shit though too, man. I can't lie. I'm a Slipknot fan. I'm a Mudvayne fan. I'm into heavy stuff too. Drowning Pool has always been a hard rock band, but I think for the next record we will bust out a little bit more metal.

—Rick Florino


I'm a sinner, look at all these people in front of me
Look at all these people in front of me
Look at all these people in front of me
Look at all these people in front of me, now

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