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Interview: Eric Bass – Shinedown

Shinedown brought their mammoth touring cycle for current album ATTENTION ATTENTION to a conclusion with a string of European dates as special guests of Alter Bridge. When the tour bus parked up in Glasgow we grabbed a chat with bassist and ATTENTION ATTENTION’s producer Eric Bass, subjects discussed included the album itself, the lengthy touring cycle and the toll that it takes, as well as Eric’s honest take on his daily struggle with mental health issues.

 

ShinedownAm I correct in thinking that this tour cycle must be hitting about 230 shows so far?

Yes about that amount, it’s been a lot! Not as much as we’ve done before though, we did quite a bit on the ‘Sound Of Madness’ tour, we actually got into the 400’s on that tour! There was a six month period where we didn’t go home. We read somewhere that there was another band who entered the Guinness Book of Records for the most shows on an album cycle, and we had them by about 80 or 90 shows..someone suggested contacting Guinness but we thought that would be grandstanding!

So no-one gave them a call then?!

No but maybe we should! We do have a record of us doing all those shows. But I was also 12 years younger or something like that so that was a lot easier!

How are you feeling now with this cycle coming to its conclusion, you must be exhausted?!

No we’re actually feeling really good all things considered, it does feel like the end of the cycle. We weren’t going to be on this tour, we were going to be home, but Mark Tremonti called us and asked us if we would think about doing this tour with them, and we talked about it, made it work, and here we are. It’s always good to have humbling experiences because it keeps you hungry as a band, it doesn’t allow your ego to get too big. This is the first opening slot that we’ve done this entire cycle, and you’re looking out every night and there is a sea of Alter Bridge shirts. It’s like a whole new audience as a lot of these people have never seen us play, and we always see that as a great opportunity to expand our fan base and hopefully bring some of those people back with us the next time. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it hurts a bit right now, but that’s because a bit of tiredness is creeping in. We’re not tired onstage though, I’ll tell you that! The spaces in-between though are a little painful!

As painful as opening for Iron Maiden?! I know people that are massive Iron Maiden fans who went to multiple dates on that tour, they began by not leaving the bar while you guys were on, then it was “maybe a few songs”, then it was “I’ll stay for 30 minutes”….but by the end of the tour they were fists in the air during ‘Sound Of Madness’!

And that’s really fulfilling to hear man, we saw a lot of that on the tour. The first few shows were in Antwerp, and I remember hearing all these horror stories about opening for Maiden and what it’s like. Henry Rollins very famously said that the support band are “just something that is between Iron Maiden and their fans” and that stuck with us. We previously opened for Kiss also, and we thought that we won those fans over too. After those two Antwerp shows we played Germany, and German crowds are tremendously harsh anyway. So to have a German Iron Maiden crowd! But after the third song or so, you could see them starting to jump up and down, putting their hands in the air. For us, the biggest compliment was Nicko, whose warm up room was near ours, every day he’d come over and say “Hey lads! How are we doing today! Good to see you”. He took the time to say, and I would assume that he really meant it, “We’ve never seen an Iron Maiden crowd react this way to an opening band”…..and that felt really special, really great. And by the way, those gentlemen were very gracious to us. There’s a reason that the bands opening for us are treated very well, we’ve always been that way, but it’s because that we’ve had such good treatment by bands like Iron Maiden and Kiss. They are great stewards of the way that bands should treat younger bands, they were both so respectful of us and made sure that we were taking care of every day, and that’s a great lesson to see from established bands like those.

ShinedownATTENTION ATTENTION has been out since 2018 now, as the album’s producer, do you go back and revisit it? Or once it’s done, then it’s done?

I did at first, because I had spent so much time with it, and you want to make sure that it’s good. Even after it was released I was going back and listening to it, even though you know in your heart that it’s everything that you had one way or another. But I’ve put it to bed now, and haven’t listened to it in a long time, and I’ve probably heard it more times than anybody on this earth! I’m definitely proud of it man, but I also know the danger of going back, as a creator you can’t hang onto those things. If you hang onto it, then it will affect what you do next. I tell you what…it’s the only record that we’ve ever made where there are two things on it that I’d ever change, and they are mix things…

Something which, chances are, no-one else would notice…

Yes, nobody else would notice them, just a couple of moments…I’m not going to dig into it again just in case I find anymore!

It’s a dark album, it’s a heavy album…not heavy as in Black Metal heavy..but heavy subject matter wise, but there’s also a lot of hope and encouragement on it?

That’s great, that’s what we wanted..

Given how close you were to the album, were you the only person that really could have produced it?

I think so yes, Brent won’t give himself credit but he also produced a lot of it. He and I were in there everyday and we were the only ones that could have birthed that thing. I’m glad you said about it being heavy, that’s a point that we make all the time, I try to drive that point home all the time, especially with fans of “Heavy” music. Heavy doesn’t always have to mean screaming guitars and aggressive vocals, there are heavy songs that carry weight, and that’s what I mean by “heavy”. We said that ‘ATTENTION ATTENTION’ might be our heaviest record, and before it came out we tried to drive home the fact that didn’t mean it was a “metal” album, it meant it was “weighty”.

And yeah, it was very personal, I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think that I knew what the record wanted to be. There was never any trepidation about making it. There were some songs that wouldn’t go quietly..”special” was one, ‘BLACK SOUL’ was another, but you end up getting them in the end. ‘HUMAN RADIO’! Ooooph! That one nearly didn’t make it on the record! It almost didn’t get finished…

ShinedownKeep you up at night?

It didn’t keep me up at night, it did keep me stewing in the studio though! That song actually came together on Thanksgiving Day 2017, everyone else was gone, except for Hoogie, my tech, and he’s Canadian…so I was like..”well you don’t have to go home for Thanksgiving!”..

Just go to Tim Hortons instead!

Yeah right! Go get some Timbits instead! But I showed Hoogie how to use pro-tools, it was the B section of the song that was causing problems, the chant part, and that section had been about five different things, and none of them had worked. I realised that I had only tried it on guitar so I tried it on the piano, turned the drums on, showed Hoogie a few things on pro-tools, and within three passes through, I had the progression and the melodies and ended up with something that I thought was really great. Actually, I had two options, so when Brent came back, I presented both to him and we both agreed that the one that made it onto the record was more triumphant. I stuck with it, so in that respect, had we went into it with any other producer, then that song wouldn’t even be on the record.

On your social media accounts, you’ve been really forthcoming and honest about your mental health issues, on a tour this size how do you look after yourself, both physically and mentally?

Sometimes you don’t, y’know? I think I posted something a few days ago..and here’s the thing, and by all means print this…I never put those things out there thinking…oh poor me..feel sorry for me. I feel like if I am going through something like that, or having a moment like that, and I can articulate, because there are plenty of other moments when I can’t articulate…where I’m like..”I wish that I could just pull this thing out of my head”….but when I post things…..it’s from a place of…well this is where I am right now, and I can put it into words right now and I want it to help people. I want people to take something from it, which is….you’re not alone, you’re not the only one going through this, and that’s what it’s really about when I post, and that’s why I don’t over-post. There is a vast amount of healing when you feel like you are helping other people who are dealing with something that you are also dealing with, when I do read back through the comments and someone has said – ”I really needed to hear this today”, then that counts for something.

I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason..here I am..I have the best job in the world, I’ve got a wife that I’ve been with for 25 years, I don’t want for anything, by societies standards I’m rich and successful, but that stuff doesn’t matter. Well the marriage matters obviously! But depression and anxiety doesn’t discriminate…

ShinedownThe black dog doesn’t care who it bites..

Winston Churchill right..it will follow you wherever you go, and you just have to find a way to deal with it, I’ve heard stories of people waking up one day and it’s gone, and I hope and pray for that, not just for myself but for others, maybe one day you turn around and it’s way behind you..but you still have to respect it. Getting back to ATTENTION ATTENTION, that’s what the song ‘BRILLIANT’ is about, it’s the fact that you’ve been through this and you’ve managed to pull yourself to the point where you’re brilliant and you feel great, but you still have to respect that thing which put you there in the first place. If you don’t respect it, it’s going to come grab you when you least expect it. I’m so fortunate for the days when I wake up and I’m like…man I feel great today, I feel creative…and not one of those days go by when I don’t thank God…and that’s respecting it. To be harsh about it, when Brent and I talk, he’ll say that his addictions want to kill him, you know? If I were built another way, my depression could have its way with me, and I have to understand that and respect it.

I would implore others to talk, to a therapist…great…it can be a little clinical…I’ve done it, they are there to listen to you but when that clock runs down then they shut you off. And that’s one of the reasons that I don’t like professional therapy that much, if you can find a peer, a parent, someone who will listen to you until you are done talking…then that’s what you need. If you can find someone going through what you are going through, and talk to each other, then there is something very special that happens when you talk to each other and Brent is my proof of that. I’ve helped him through his addiction, and he helps himself every day like I do, but we are there for each other, if you can help lift each other up, then it’s one of the best forms of therapy that I’ve ever had. Even in meet and greets, we have fans that talk to us about it, and when you hear them say that your music, or your words have helped them, then I can’t help but have some sort of dopamine release or whatever, and I feel better for it. So if you can find someone to help, and they in turn help you, then I implore you to do it. For myself it’s the ultimate form of healing.

Now, as far as me taking care of myself on tour..man…lately…I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t really been taking care of myself the way that I probably should. It’s been pretty rough, when I am on top of it, I am taking care of myself, I’m doing a lot of work, exercise helps me a lot, and being creative helps me a lot. I’ve been working on some books..

Yeah?..

Yeah, and I’ve been working on music for one of the books, and that has been hugely helpful. What’s happened to me, is something in my brain has stifled my creativity, not a writer’s block, I have all of it up here (points to head)…I just can’t get it out…and that’s been depressing. So when that’s your therapy, when your art is your therapy, what are you going to do when that’s not there? Look man, it’s a constant chess game of trying to figure out what the next thing going to help you is, and I’ve been doing a tonne of research on stuff, I’m always reading and I think that I’ve found a couple of things that I’m going to work on when I get home, things that are hopefully going to help me out and even searching for those things has made me feel better.

I never discount the fact that I can talk to any of the guys in my band, I’ll talk to Brent and he’ll listen to me even though it’s the same things that I’ve said a thousand times!

ShinedownJust by speaking up, you will undoubtedly help because there are people out there who will be afraid to talk to a therapist , or even a schoolteacher, but if they see you posting something or even someone like Billie Eilish…

Yep right…

…Then they can identify better, and might just resonate more than if it was coming from a professional. For instance, I have two teenage sons, the prime “catchment area” for future mental health issues, and I find myself always watching out for potential warning signs…

For myself, I just woke up one day and it dawned on me that I had some sort of depression/anxiety. It was sort of the same thing as you mentioned about your sons, when I was a young child there were never any issues, then it kind of came on and I noticed it one day and I was like…wow..I’m super-dark!

As we go into the new decade, what would you like to see change? Let’s face it, it’s going to get worse with the US presidential elections looming!

Oh man! What would I like to change?….Get off of Twitter! We are so much more human when we just talk to one another, and there are no politics that are worth screaming at each other over. It’s hard not to get into politics! I’m a massive libertarian, I wish the government would just stay out of my life, and stay out of your life, and everybody’s life. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t causes worth fighting for, but while you are fighting for those causes, then keep your humanity about you please. That’s a big thing in the United States, and I wouldn’t want to see that happening in the UK…

ShinedownIt already has..

Here’s a good example of what I’m meaning. I was watching something earlier, and it was about Trump and Clinton. Someone was talking and they had said that he ran a business, and his Dad voted for Trump, and a friend was like…”your Dad voted for Trump..and you still speak to him?!” Well, what’s wrong with that? Why shouldn’t we have some sort of open discourse? I enjoy that, finding people that I don’t agree with politically and try to have an intelligent conversation with them, try and get them over to your way of thinking…intelligently…rather than just screaming at them. And from what I’ve seen from London over the past few days, things have not been good right? Lots of protest and people screaming in the streets, and that gets no-one anywhere…but that just comes with age! What’s the saying…and this is a broad stroke that I’m about to paint here! But if you’re young and you’re not a liberal, and if you’re old and not conservative then there is something wrong with you! Sometimes I think it’s just an age thing, and not knowing how to deal with certain things…

I fall under the…”Just leave me alone” category!

Yeah me too! I think people are more centric than they admit! I feel if you are bought and sold on just one person, then you are doing it wrong. There are no politicians, ladies and gentlemen, who haven’t done something unsavoury, none of them are, well no-one in general is, infallible. Boris Johnson has been in politics for years right, he will have done some unsavoury things in his past, as will have Jeremy Corbyn, nobody wins. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve read more into the individual, more into their ideology, what I agree with them on, what I don’t agree with them on. We live in a world where everyone is put into boxes, and those boxes are divided into sides…so if you believe this on the right then you can’t believe that on the left. And vice-versa.

What about causes that you feel strongly about?

That’s tough….actually I do have one. Believe it or not, but I’m intrigued by it right now, and that is the psychedelic treatment for depression. I’ve started to do some research into it, I’ve never done psychedelics ever, but it has me thinking about it. It’s such a dirty word, I mean, I come from a conservative family, military family, say psychedelics …and it would mean drugs and hippies. But there have been studies into the use of them, and certain treatments have cured people,  because it’s such a profound experience. I would push way more research into that, and by all accounts you can’t overdose on that stuff. I would push for that, and others like cancer research, I mean, look at what they’ve done with AIDS research. That’s what really matters, the rest of it is just politics talking, let’s support the people that are trying to take care of us. I do know that with mental health, whatever it is that we are doing…is not working. There is no money to be made in a cure.

 

After a well deserved break, Shinedown resume touring duties in April 2020 when they kick off their ‘Deep Dive’ tour in America, find a full list of all tour dates – here. 

Interview – Dave

Live images – Rob Wilkins

 

 

 

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