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In Full Bloom: An Interview with Shinedown
An Interview with Barry Kerch (Drums)
by Mike Newdeck


 

For More On Shinedown Visit:
www.Shinedown.com



Amaryllis track by track Kerch’s translation

Adrenaline

It’s self-explanatory; it’s about that fight and just going for it. Pumping yourself up and strapping yourself in for the ride of your life.

Bully

It’s about standing up for yourself. Lots of musicians in bands have been bullied perhaps because they’re weirdos. Lots of people get bullied in the work place when their boss is bullying them, kids get bullied at school. It’s a universal anthem about standing up for yourself. It doesn’t condone violence but when it comes down to it if you’re being bullied then knock that guy out.

Amaryllis

It’s about the rebirth of this band, Brent’s meaning might differ slightly in that it contains the thoughts about his girlfriend who helped him through a difficult time but those two things kind of happened at the same time and it really encompasses the band.

Unity

It’s about all becoming one not only as a band but as people with fans and everyone without exception. Everyone should stick together. It’s peace love and happiness without being stupid hippies.

Enemies

For me it triggers all the memories that I have in my life of people that have sort of become my enemies. I remember them. I think Brent probably had someone specific in mind when he wrote this song, someone from his past. They are cordial to each other now, but his baby’s mother and Brent were evil to each other. Also some people didn’t believe in this band so it’s a big middle finger to them.

I’m Not Alright

It’s autobiographical about Brent saying hey, I’m really not alright, I’m a bit crazy but I’m alright with it

Nowhere Kids

It’s about modern technology and kids getting lost in it. They don’t go out and play anymore, you don’t see them running around parks anymore. They’re just tapping on their consoles all day long. But hey we’re as guilty, although we’re stuck on a bus, but kids should get off and walk, get out and see something. Kids often seem lost in this fake world. People on Facebook aren’t really your friends; I’ve got proper friends and I don’t need a Facebook account.

Miracle in Me

That’s about Brent’s child.

I'll Follow You

Really it’s a love song pure and simple. I’ll do whatever it takes; I’ll follow you anywhere and everywhere.

For My Sake

This is about a guy that used to work with us and we really looked up to him but he changed; changed who he was, changed his whole outlook on life. We respected him and then he had a midlife crisis at the drop of a dime and became a different person and we had to let him go.

My Name (Wearing Me Out)

It’s about someone in Brent’s life who really wore him down. We don’t like cussing on records, although we all cuss like sailors it makes Brent’s grandma angry. The profanity works well with the song and I can really relate to that.

Through the Ghost

It’s about looking through the haze and getting things clear and again it’s autobiographical from Brent. He couldn’t see things clearly from the haze of booze, pills or whatever but now he’s come through all that. It’s a very orchestral song with no guitar and no drums, I didn’t play the kettle drums on it and we actually sample them. I could have done it because I have played them before but it’s fairly tough to play timpani. We could have hired someone to play it, but it would have been difficult to keep it in tune and we didn’t have the time. We did the same with the upright chimes; it would have taken too long for us to do them and it would’ve cost too much. We would never have got the correct overtones and there would have been far too many variables.

For the uninitiated Shinedown has sold over six million records spread across their three previous albums. The last album The Sound Of Madness shifted over one million copies (Platinum) and spawned the hit singles ‘Second Chance’ and ‘If You Only Knew’, the former going platinum and becoming the band’s most successful single to date. In the UK the band remain something of a cult and although The Sound Of Madness saw the bands popularity rise they still remain something of an unknown quantity on this side of the pond. That’s all about to change with the new album Amaryllis and a Roadrunner taking up the reigns to push the band into new territory and raise their profile. 2012 is set fair for the band. Mike Newdeck caught up with founding member and drummer Barry Kerch to talk about the new album, the new band and religion. Confused? Then read on.

Interviews are usually carried out in some dimly lit room allocated by someone who perhaps doesn’t appreciate the finer points of talking to the members of a rock band. So it is with some delight that I am invited aboard the Shinedown tour bus to conduct the interview. Despite the fact that the interview is interrupted on several occasions by the road crew I am afforded as long as I like to conduct it; almost unheard of these days where time is at a premium and the tour manager usually tries to move you on after five minutes.

Kerch has no airs and graces, is welcoming and clearly has a wicked sense of humor and it isn’t too long before we settle down for a relaxed chat about all things Shinedown. Beer is offered and gratefully accepted and the leather tour bus seats provide a comfortable reminder that Shinedown is up there in the big league.

The tour has been going far too quickly for Kerch’s liking, a sure sign that the band is not only comfortable with touring but enjoys it. Birmingham is the last night of the UK tour and Kerch is in high spirits as we relax with a drink on the band tour bus.

“It’s never the last night,” he barks. “Just the last leg before we return. We played Glasgow last night, that was awesome and it’s pretty much the same show tonight. It’ll be a pretty good mix of songs from all of our albums, we always do that. It’s hard to pick the songs but we do it hoping to play the ones that people really want to hear. They’ll be songs from all of our albums, although it might be a bit Sound of Madness heavy as that was our most popular record over here. It was really the album that broke us through although having said that they’ll be three new songs.”

 

Kerch prefers that the band stick to a set list rather than throw in a few different songs from gig to gig.

“Well we like to keep a flow that really works,” he explains. “very occasionally we switch one song for another, but it’d be a similar type of song. That way we know where we’re all heading with the songs and there’s no confusion; it works better for the crowd and for us and at the end of the day it’s a show.”

So there’s no underlying urge to throw six new songs into the show?

“I never get bored with the songs,” Kerch admits. “But I really would like to play all night although the rest of the band would probably blow their voices after a while. It’s down to the time factor as well, you’ve only got a certain amount of time to play and of course there’s a curfew so you have to make sure that everyone is happy. I mean I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve played ‘45’ or ‘Fly from the Inside’ but I still enjoy playing them every single night.”

His admission regarding playing all night seems to bring him into direct conflict with the curfew situation imposed on many gig venues in the UK.

“In the States we go on later and can pretty much play as long as we want.” Kerch explains. “Typically we will play for two hours after a nine o clock start but over here it’s an earlier start, play for an hour half and finish at ten. There’s a whole club scene going on afterwards and we have to make way for it. Having said that sometimes it works especially if you’re tired from getting up early and doing interviews all day, you just want to go to bed.”

Kerch, along with vocalist Brent Smith remain the only two original members left in Shinedown and this seems rather like a marriage. As with all marriages and indeed relationships, there are the bad times and the good times. How have Kerch and Smith stuck together for so long?

“Well for starters I’m a pretty solid stable person,” Kerch offers. “I’m basically the rock of this band and I’ve been able to deal with all the craziness that’s gone on over the years. I help and have helped keep him somewhat sane. He’s the best he’s ever been right now, but he’ll admit, and he’s been quite open about it, that he’s battled with massive addictions; both drugs and alcohol. In fact he’s only really got away from the alcohol in this past year. A great many people can’t handle that and they can’t just sit there and watch and cope with someone they love doing that to themselves. Brent has his heart in the right place and he’s a great person and he’d return the favour anytime if he had to. However, I’m not that type of person, I’ve got a stable rather than an addictive personality and I don’t do drugs or drink so I could support him.”


Photo Credit: James Minchin

I ask Kerch how wise it is to keep crates of Stella Artois in the tour bus knowing that a recovering alcoholic lives there when the band is on tour.

“Well under normal circumstances perhaps it wouldn’t be good,” he explains. “but Brent is one of those people who once he decides to do something he sticks to it, he’s all or nothing. Right now he’s on a serious health kick, I keep him working out every day and we work out together, he eats healthy food; chicken, vegetables water and coffee and that’s it….everyday! In fact the coffee is his only addiction now. The workouts are done in the venues, we don’t have a gym on the bus and we do a lot of cardio work usually with a DVD box set called Insanity and that really is insane. He’s lost a lot of weight. He looked in the mirror one day and just said, “Hey! I can’t be a front-man and look like this”. Some people even called him Meatloaf and that stung his soul, but he weighed 210 pounds and all he was doing was eating and drinking with no exercise. He woke up one day and decided that was it. His girlfriend is a bit of a health nut and she really helped him out. The other thing that’s helped is that he’s finally bought his own place after living for years in hotel rooms. He’s finally got a place of his own and I think he really has thought “Oh fuck I’m in my mid-thirties; I’d better get my shit together.”

There has been a steady evolution in Brent Smiths voice, with an undoubted feeling that the new relaxed attitude has improved it.

“Absolutely,” the drummer agrees. “he can breathe now for a start and he can move around the stage now and he doesn’t just stand there trying to make it through a set. Not only that but it’s improved him as a person and as a result Shinedown is the strongest that it’s ever been in ten years. He’s stopped doing the dumb things, got his crap together and he’s the strongest he’s ever been. I guess you wake up one day and think, hey I’m tired of feeling bad anymore; everyone goes through that to varying degrees.”

‘The Sound of Madness’ and the new album ‘Amaryllis’ show an elevation in songwriting quality in comparison to the earlier albums Kerch explains. 

“Everything just works when Brent is firing properly,” he enthuses. “he’s the principle songwriter and he really drives the whole process. He writes ninety-five percent of the lyrics, comes up with most of the melodies and then he writes with Eric or Zach or even outside songwriters when he feels that it’s the time for it. For instance Dave Basset, who came in for the last record really became like the fifth Beatle for us and Brent works really well with him. However the combinations can very between all those people. Dave was a co-writer on the Sound of Madness, although he’s a talented engineer and producer. But we used Rob Cavalla again on ‘Amaryllis’ because he’s just phenomenal.

Kerch himself becomes involved in the latter stages of the song-writing.

“I get the demos passed to me.” the drummer offers. “I don’t play a melodic instrument but I’ll add by bit and add what I think but then they might want me to play it slightly differently  but generally I’ve got complete freedom to play how I want to fit the song. I play for the song and not for myself; I’m not going to play like Neil Part, because, great as he is, it really doesn’t work for what we do. It would just sound dumb to overplay, it would ruin the song and that’s what it’s about, the song. If there’s too much going on it detracts from the song and it’s frustrating to listen to, so you’ve got to let go of your ego and play for the song.”

 

With minimal input in the songwriting process, Kerch seems unfazed by the isolation.

“Hell I’d like to do a side project” he barks “but Shinedown is the number one priority and it keeps us all so busy. I mean we’re sometimes touring three years at a time and then we’re back into the studio so quite where I’d find time for a solo project I don’t know? I’ve also got a family to fit in somewhere. The songwriting thing has never really bothered me in the band; I mean I’ve never gone to the guys with a song and said hey what about doing this. I’ve written parts and come up with ideas and that’s cool because there’s a great system in place that works really well so why change it. I’m learning guitar and enjoying it but I’m nowhere near the caliber of these guys. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” 

Things don’t look good, Kerch isn’t really involved with the songwriting and as a drummer he remains at the back of the stage. It doesn’t really bother him that he’s perhaps living in the shadows of his band colleagues? 

“Absolutely not.” he continues. “I’m really the number two and I deal with a lot of the business side of this band, the touring, t shirt designs, band direction and all those things. I might not be involved in the songwriting but I’m pivotal in the functioning of Shinedown. We function as a unit, knowing our places and there’s really no need to put myself forward when people better equipped have got it all covered. I know my role and I’m completely comfortable with it.” 

The Sound of Madness is Shinedown’s biggest selling album to date and the band has sold over six million albums to date, whilst ‘Second Chance’ provided the band with their biggest selling single. No pressure then with the follow up ‘Amaryllis’.

“Well we’d never make The Sound of Madness part two, never!” the drummer and founder member of the band quickly points out. “We never did it with ‘Leave a Whisper’ or ‘Us and Them’; it’s got to be different. ‘The Sound of Madness’ was four years ago, our head space was different, the ideas were different and I’d hope we’ve become better musicians and songwriters since then. You grow not only as people but as musicians too. When I went home, I’d take lessons because you can always get better, why not? I mean I do it for a living so why not hone your skills. Zac did the same; Eric went home and worked on production and engineering for other bands. Some of those bands were very alternative and it’s given him new ideas and perspectives that he can bring back to the band. When you do a new album these fresh ideas meant that each record will never be the same as the last one. Of course there’s pressure to do better.”

Kerch agrees that there’s always pressure to repeat the success of past glories.

“Really there’s a pressure to do better than that.” he muses, “Sound of Madness got us here but we’ve got to go to the next level and be even bigger, better and above it in every way. This band wants to continue to grow. Look at U2 or Aerosmith, they’ve built careers, they’re still doing it to this day and that’s where we want to be. Let’s face it Joshua Tree sounds nothing like the newer stuff, but it still sounds like U2 and that’s what we want to do; move with the times. At the time when U2 changed some people hated it but now looking back, they’re fucking geniuses.” 

So what about record label pressure, is that a factor for Shinedown?

“Not really,” Kerch continues. “they’re pretty understanding with the time we need to do an album and sometimes I don’t know how we get away with it. I think it’s because Brent is such a smooth talker and he gets away with murder. He’s such a genuine guy but he gets his way not just sometimes but every time. The guy is always right. I’ll tell you, he’ll come up with a crazy idea and people will say, that’s mad, why are you doing that? Yet when it comes to fruition, you just think, damn he was right again. He’s had a grand vision and it’s got us to where we are today so we’ll just keep it going. Even the label sees that. At the start there were changes at the record label and we had to get people at the label to believe in us. It was a nightmare; we even thought we’d get dropped at one time but now they’re all on board. Of course the record label has their input, they have to it’s a business. The A &R guy has his input, they’re supposed to it’s a relationship that we have with them. On the other hand we wrote thirty three songs for this record and we know which ones are going on it. It went from thirty three to twenty one and then seventeen that we actually recorded in the studio down to the final twelve chosen to make the record. A couple of songs were left off that were great songs but they didn’t really flow with the record.”


Photo Credit: James Minchin

In the best traditions of the music industry these unreleased songs will no doubt find their way onto the predictable deluxe versions of the albums. Kerch thinks not.

“No way, we don’t like doing that.” he readily admits shaking his Rastafarian style mane that remains bound by a band. “We hate doing that, it’s a label thing and we feel like we’re cheating the fans. Labels have to make income though and it’s a business so I can see that but we’ve fought not to do it. Look these are the twelve songs and there’s a reason that the other songs didn’t make it. If you could just download the extra songs then fine but sometimes you have to buy the whole album to get them. In some markets such as Wal-Mart or ITunes they say well we’re only releasing this if we get a bonus track, it really makes you wonder who’s the boss, who’s the musician? At the end of the day it’s a business.”

Kerch commends the fact that the album contains twelve songs specifically written for ‘Amaryllis’ and not a bunch of leftovers.

“Brent has a big rule.” he explains. “There’s no rehashing and I’ll tell you it’s an obsession. When we were writing this record he would stop and say, no that’s no good I’ve used that lyric before so we can’t use it again. He’s a mental genius. When we were tracking drums he asked me what I’d just played and I told him that I’d played a flam. He said that I couldn’t play it. Telling a drummer not to play a flam is like telling a guitarist not to play a C, but I went along with it and while I was playing it he asked me how Dave Grohl would play it. I told him that Grohl plays flams all over the place. Anyway we did it without flams and in fact we did a few songs without them and it worked so guess what? he was right again. When he gets something in his headspace he won’t let go.”

A major part of the Shinedown sound, particularly on the new record and its predecessor was the use of strings something that apparently wasn’t down to Brent Smith.  

“It started really with our producer Rob Cavallo.” Kerch remembers. “He thought that one of the songs was missing something, he didn’t know what for a while and then he shouted ‘fuck! I know, it needs strings’ and then it was strings on this song, that song the other song. On other songs it was horns, or a synthesizer on others. We had a thirty seven piece orchestra on this record and one song had a fifteen piece horn section. Why? well because why not. It worked, it’s fun and it’s experimental.”

In recent years modern rock has found favor with orchestral backing through band like Skillet, and more recently Theory of a Deadman. 

“Well it makes everything more epic” he surmises “we’re an arena rock band and it fills it out, especially with there only being four of us on stage. We’re certainly not hiring another guitar player. You write a good song and make it even better by adding something to it.”

There’s a feeling that adding everything including the kitchen sink to a song could ultimately make it seem contrived and pompous rather than epic. 

“Well sure that can happen,” Kerch continues. “and some songs did sound like that after the recording. What happens then is that you kind of take up the slack in the mastering and mixing process. We re-mastered the whole thing so many times it was unbelievable. Sometimes you’d listen to a song and think, hey that’s too much, or that’s not enough. We had to get it just right and all the while the label are saying hey guys we really have to get this thing finished and out there. On other occasions we micromanaged the sound too much and had to go back to the drawing board with it, some songs sounded louder than others and that’s no good; the record has to sound fluid. It’s a hell of a process to make a record these days; it isn’t like the Beatles when they made a record every year. People want to hear a record that’s up to date with a crisp sound and we couldn’t do a back to basics record, it would sound garbage.” 

Four years since the last album, it’s easy, perhaps, to see why the label would have pushed the band to get the album completed.

“All the pushing has taken place in the last couple of months” the drummer contradicts. “There’s a release date and printing and shipping have to be organized well in advance so we couldn’t continue to spend more time on recording because we wouldn’t have made the schedule for release. The real reason it’s taken so long is that we were touring for most of that time with over four hundred shows touring for three straight years. We have to do it, simply to get everywhere and of course make money. We don’t make money on the record, but we make money touring, it’s what pays the bills but we love it.”

Producer Rob Cavallo, who was recently anointed head of Warner Music, was once again in the chair to produce ‘Amaryllis’ despite Kerch’s insistence that the band never make the same record twice.

“Sure we entertained the idea,” the drummer recalls. “but when you look at the success of the last record and the great sound that we got on it we just thought we’d go with the same team and it worked. We were a little hesitant because obviously Rob’s role has completely changed from the last record. He’s the head of Warner and that means he’s a lot busier than he was before. When we were in the studio he would get pulled in different directions and it was a little frustrating at first. The six foot tall geeky account guy was pretty hard to pin down anyway and this didn’t really help. But he’s a genius with a fifteen year old kid trapped in that body and as a result he’s all over the place. One day he’s talking to Shania Twain then Stevie Nicks and then us about a song. To be honest that could all happen in ten minutes sometimes but we tried to keep him focused; it was like having a puppy dog. However when he is focused it really amazing what he can do for a record and those initial reluctances disappeared and it worked out fine. We wanted Rob and if we want it we can get it now because we’ve got a bit more clout. That’s not to say we won’t use someone different on the next record.”

‘Amaryllis’ conjures up a whole host of possible meanings behind the title of the new album. Kerch has his interpretation.

“Well it’s obviously one of the songs on the new album” he laughs “but there’s some truth in the notion that it’s about the rebirth of the band and how strong we are now. Also there’s a type of Amaryllis that grows in the African desert and it grows out of nothing and that sort of encompasses who we are. Add that to the fact that Brent has reinvented himself and actually he’s perhaps the whole reason …he’s the Amaryllis.” 

As with any band it’s par for the course to compare one album with another and inevitably ‘Amaryllis’ will be held up alongside its predecessor and either heralded as either an improvement or a step backwards. Kerch prefers to look at it as the former whilst highlighting the differences.

“I don’t know which mix you’ve heard” he gesticulates, “but songs like Adrenaline, Enemies and Nowhere Kids are way up there probably the heaviest that we’ve been”

Due to Atlantic being super protective with album advances the UK press was only furnished with streaming “computer only playable” album advances. Mp3 format over tiny computer monitors has never really been conducive to the thunder of hard rock music. Although one thing is clear, even from this tinny format, Brent Smith sings within himself rather than hyper-extending is voice as he perhaps did on The Sound of Madness. 

“He’s finally found his voice.” Kerch explains. “He’s comfortable with where he is and therefore where his voice is, although he certainly didn’t hold back on this new record, he really pushed himself especially on the high notes. But because he’s in a better place now he could find notes again that previously were inaccessible perhaps because he takes care of his voice.”

Shinedown’s music appears stable at present and certainly those who worshipped at the altar of the ‘The Sound of Madness’ will not be disappointed by what’s on offer on ‘Amaryllis’. In short Shinedown weren’t going to surprise their fans with the new record.

“Well to start with there’s never a massive conscious effort to go in any direction,” the drummer explains, leaning back in the plush leather chairs of the bands tour bus. “It just kind of happens and we just try to create a great record. We write one song at a time and move on gradually; there’s no huge concept, story or direction really. Shinedown is about great songs, melody and hell, let’s be honest it’s built around Brent’s voice and his great lyrics really touch a lot of people. We have to support them as a band and as a songwriters, there’s no formula, but we’ve got to make sure that a song is catchy and of course concise. Ten minute epics aren’t for us or the fans, if we did that they’d hit the next button on the CD player.”

 

Progression often goes unnoticed from album to album but the band has clearly progressed since 2003’s ‘Leave a Whisper’. 

“Well it’s really a different band now isn’t it?” the drummer continues, trying to remember back that far. “There’s different musicians, different levels of musicianship, and that’s not to disrespect what the other guys did for the band early on. But really you’d hope that over ten years you would’ve honed your craft and improved not only your songwriting but also your musicianship. We’ve got a better team now and we’ve learnt from our mistakes. The first time you go into a studio is different form the fifth time you go in; you know what works best and what doesn’t work so you improve as a band album from album.” 

Disruptions to a band’s make up and structure often go unnoticed and when members leave, depending on their roles, it can be a smooth transition however sometimes it can be detrimental.

“It was difficult at the time.” Kerch admits with limited regret. “It really wasn’t a lot of fun when we had to let the original members go. It was forced upon us and it really wasn’t easy, it was like a divorce. We had to let them go for a number of reasons, drug abuse, musical differences there were many reasons. In the end if we hadn’t have done it Shinedown wouldn’t be here and in this capacity. Everyone gets on better and there’s a clarity that we haven’t had before.” 

The most recent members in the fold, Zac Myers (guitar) and the aptly named Eric Bass (bass) seemed to have added a new dimension to the sound and vision of the bands, Kerch agrees.

“Well Eric is multi-talented, he plays keyboards as well, and sometimes live although not on this tour due to truck space, but we tried piano on the last record and although Rob Cavallo played it we realized that it gave us something extra and now one of our own can handle it so we can do these songs live. Also the keyboard sound has come into the music more purely because of Eric, ‘I’ll Follow You Down’ from the new album is very keyboard heavy and that was Eric’s idea; Eric’s riff. Some of the other material has a session guy play on it and he’s played on the last two records. He’s like a synth nerd really, Eric’s more of a piano player so it doesn’t get involved in the synth stuff.”

Surely a band must survive by getting radio airplay, which ultimately drives record sales; it’s not all about artistic integrity. Kerch agrees

“You want to be played on the radio it’s as simple as that.” he chirps as yet another unwanted visitor enters the bus noisily. “It’s a career and this is the business side of things so that’s got to happen. We’ll still sound like Shinedown when we’re in radio friendly mode Brent’s voice sees to that, but there really isn’t a conscious effort to write a number one single we just try and write good songs and the way we are ensures it is good for radio as well. Hopefully the new record will sell but ultimately that’s up to the fans and what they like at this time. It should do well because I think it’s a better record and also people are starving for good rock music out there because it hasn’t been that great in the last few years. If you watch the Grammy’s you think, oh really? Is this the best we have to offer? There are bands out there but it’s a recognition thing isn’t it. Some stuff that’s adored sounds pretty poor to me and I’ll tell you our tastes are pretty varied and we’re unimpressed.”

Shinedown is categorically not a Christian band, although it really isn’t difficult to understand the confusion when you listen to some of the song lyrics. Kerch appreciates this. 

“Well Brent is a Christian.” he barks proudly. “He was brought up as a southern Baptist kid in Knoxville so it’s bound to be in him. He believes in God and the bible but that doesn’t really encompass the band. I’m not a Christian although I believe in something. I was brought up as a Catholic so I’ve got respect for that and respect for my family but it didn’t really suit me although I still know my right from my wrong. I’m also fascinated in world religion and I’ve got a degree in anthropology so I find it fascinating how close religions are to each other, Islam isn’t really that far removed from Christianity and so on. Let’s face it there isn’t really some bearded dude up in the sky and no one knows who or what it is. Zac’s a Christian and Eric is very much like me.”

So perhaps people can stop getting all hot under the collar at the connotations of ‘Miracle in Me’?


The new book from Shinedown, For Your Sake: Inside the Making of Shinedown's Amaryllis is available on iTunes for fans to check out on iPads and other compatible devices.

“It’s really about Brent’s Son.” the drummer reveals. “It’s about his son being born and the miracle that saved his life. I can relate to that because my daughters a year old now. It’s my favorite song on the album.”

Success has really hit Shinedown after The Sound of Madness was released but it has been a climb to get there Kerch explains how they achieved it.

“It’s lots of hard work really.” he admits. “There’s no magic formula and you just never say no to anything. So you want us to play your Barmitzer?....fine! You want us to do an interview and it takes three hours? Fine…whatever! We’re humble folk who will never say never or never say no. When I’m on stage I’m the nasty rock star and after that I’m Mr. nice guy. In fact we all are and we like to keep it that way. If anyone steps out of that then we’re all here to get it back on track. The fact that we all grew up in the south has a lot to do with it; there’s a sense of family and if I ever got too big for my bridges then she’d slap the taste out of my mouth. Eric and I are also from military families, so you kind of get taught respect from early on. Ok I don’t have the accent from the south but Brent does, he’s more of a Black Stone Cherry sound-alike, but to varying degrees that southern influence comes out. Ok we’re not a bunch of southern dumb rednecks and we don’t wave around rebel flags or anything like that but it’s where we grew up.”

Shinedown is currently signed to Atlantic in the United States and they have recently signed to Roadrunner in the UK for ‘Amaryllis’. The basis of this surely evolved from the fact that Atlantic didn’t really know how to release the previous album ‘The Sound of Madness’ or indeed how to promote it properly. This ultimately resulted in confusion regarding a release date and a failure to capitalize and build on the band’s slightly unexpected rise in popularity.

“Well the two labels are under the same umbrella.” Kerch offers in his own imitable relaxed style. “But Atlantic really didn’t know what to do with us whereas Roadrunner does. Atlantic is geared up for other genres of music and we kind of confused them. They didn’t have access to interviews and magazines that Roadrunner has; they knew the places where we had to be presented and promoted. Also Atlantic didn’t have the know-how to book shows because they didn’t have the reach or that rock base anymore. Roadrunner is a way better fit for us and rock music in general, it’s the same with Halestorm they’re on the same mix of labels as we are.”

Indeed Roadrunner seems to have the monopoly on promoting American modern rock from the other side of the pond.

“Well they’re all under the Warner umbrella aren’t they?” the drummer continues. “and they all answer to Rob Cavallo at the top. However each label has its own team on each side of the Atlantic but they don’t necessarily do the same things. They work differently because everything is different; radio is completely different over here, magazine outlets are completely different, venues are completely different and how it’s all run is completely different. It’s not better or worse, just different. There are more venues here that cater for different tastes all in the same week. In America if it’s a rock festival then it’s a rock festival, if there’s a hip hop club then it’s a hip hop club only and nothing else and so on. Over here you get a three stage festival with Katie Perry playing alongside someone like us, but not in the States.” 

Radio is limited in the UK, with only a few national stations. Rock music, particularly commercial modern hard rock, if you exclude Nickelback, barely gets heard over the airwaves and that isn’t about to change.

“I haven’t really listened to radio over here.” Kerch admits. “I usually listen to the iPod when I can, but in the States radio has become an amalgamation and airplay seems to be done on surveys and lists of what people are listening to and then only those bands get played. You don’t get directed toward any new music anymore because no one wants to take a risk. My brother is a DJ at an active rock station, but they don’t really play any active rock, it’s all classic nineties rock ala Stone Temple Pilots with the occasional new rock track thrown in. He gets told what to play from a playlist and if he deviates then he’s out of a job.”

With the album ‘Amaryllis’ recently released 2012 looks like being a successful yet very long year for Shinedown while they tour and promote the album.

“This small tour is just the start.” Kerch explains looking forward to the year ahead.“We’ll be back in the States for a promo run; you know acoustic sessions at radio stations that kind of thing. I’ll have a rest because they don’t need the drummer and then it’s TV shows like Jimmy Kimmel then there’s the album release party. After that we tour for a few months and then we’re back over here for the festivals Download and all the others plus of course our own dates and then maybe some European festivals. We’ll probably be on the road for three years again and you’ll be sick of us.”

Kerch describes ‘Amaryllis’ as the kind of record that you can’t get into on the first listen and it reveals it’s beauty after five or six plays. Judging an album after playing its predecessor over and over again was always going to be difficult but it would appear that ‘Amaryllis’-which symbolizes pride, determination and radiant beauty- will be even more successful.  2012 looks to be turning into a blooming good year for the band. 

-MD

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