Stone Sour har tagit ett uppehåll sedan 2020 och deras gitarrist Josh Rand har länge hintat om ett soloprojekt. Med skönsjungande och mångfacetterade sångerskan Cassandra Carson har de i och med The L.I.F.E. Project skapat en ny musikalisk lekplats där de med metal som grund experimenterat fritt. De släppte deras debut-EP i början av Juli 2021 och har nyligen varit i studion för inspelning av material till uppföljaren. Jag ringde upp Josh för ett tag sedan där vi diskuterade hur han teamade upp med Cassandra, hur experimentering med ljud kan leda till låtar, lite om hans besök till Cliff Burton-stenen när han var i Sverige samt hans Metallica-samlande.
Hey Josh, how are you doing?
Hey, what’s going on?
OK, so L.I.F.E. project, great songs and the voice of Cassandra is versatile as well. Great power.
Awesome, thank you.
So delicate and always beautiful.
Yeah, she’s pretty amazing. I was really excited to discover her and then have her sign on to be a part of this.
How did you first meet her?
I was put in contact by Stone Sour’s and our guy Dave Rath at Roadrunner Records. He’s like ”I know you’re looking for a female vocalist and I know you want somebody in the Midwest. It’s like there’s this girl that’s in Missouri. You should check out!”. And so I did. Then I reached out to her and the rest is history.
Was the chemistry instant, or how did you get that touch and feel thing musically?
Well, we did some covers. That’s what we kind of started out on just to see how we would gel and they went over really well. Then the first song that we attempted original was The Nothingness. And once we finished that, it was like it came. It was pretty obvious that she was the right person for the project.
What covers did you do?
We did Blondie – Call Me, Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song, INXS – Never Tear Us Apart and Van Halen – When It’s Love. But like I said, it was more of us just testing the waters to see how we would work with one another than anything else, but we might go ahead and just put those out just for the hell of it. This might be fun to do.
It sounds like a good mix of covers to get that feeling and to get to know each other musically as well.
Exactly, because we’re definitely inspired by different stuff and our roots. I’m obviously into a lot of the classic metal and thrash metal and stuff. That’s really where my heart is and she kind of comes from more of a hair metal influence of the 80s and then some 90s stuff too. But I think with that being said, I think that’s what makes it kind of cool is because she’s like discovering all this stuff that I listen to and grew up on so she doesn’t have like this way or certain style that she needs to sing because it’s all fresh to her. She sings the way that she sings and then to have this rippy guitar stuff you know. I think it’s pretty cool what we got going on and I’m excited about where we’ll be going because, you know, we’re just getting our feet wet at this point.
It it’s kind of when you try to get a melody figured out, and if you’re doing some common progression like C G D chords, yeah, but it fits the melody and melody is key, right? So it doesn’t have to be tied to any set of chords that you’re used to it as well.
That leads me to the question on what music is right for the L.I.F.E. Project and/or Stone Sour. For example, are there actually any specific boundaries for the composition, or is your idea regarding what music fits what singer what actually decides what ends up with what band? I know that you’re kind of on hold for Stone Sour, but still.
I just tried to write the best songs in whatever I’m inspired by. At that point, I really haven’t thought about whether or not I would hold anything back for Stone Sour. I’m sure if there was something like super just heavy that needed that growl vocal, obviously then I would hold that back for Cory [Taylor] but for now I’m just trying to just go with whatever like I said that I would whatever is inspiring me at this moment and I feel like I kind of took a step back to what why I started playing guitar on this stuff where it’s like I kind of got away from it in Stone Sour, especially for Hydrograd. And just bring back a lot more guitar riffs because that’s the stuff I love. I mean, why I started playing guitar was to play guitar riffs.
Yeah, the press material mentioned “breaking ground and exploring new sounds”. How do you go about to explore and discover new sounds? What is your path?
Well, it it’s several things like with guitar I mean, there’s so much gear that comes out like every week. It’s like there’s 10 new pedals that come out and new amplifiers. As a guitar player you’re always searching for the tone or your tone. It’s a never-ending search for all of us. I don’t think anybody really said “It’s 100%! Hey, this is it and I’m never trying anything else new ever again!”. And the biggest key with the L.I.F.E. Project for me was playing keyboards and piano. I’m not that great at it, you know, but having all these different sounds available at your fingertips – it’s just crazy to me. That’s really where I drew a lot of inspiration and creativity came from just me messing around on my keyboard.
Speaking for myself, when I get a new pedal it’s the presets that gets to me, which is kind of where I get some new ideas when I go through those. I guess that’s where you’re coming from as well?
Yeah, that’s why I have like this ridiculous pedal collection. Tuning is another thing that also can change up. Somebody had asked me about tuning and I was like “You know, between Stone Sour and the L.I.F.E. Project I think now I’m up to 9 different tunings!” so it’s just crazy to me. I was just like “Man. No wonder why my guitar techs hate me so much!”, haha.
Did you ever look into like having a pedal where you can just shift the tuning with the pedal instead of shifting guitars, or is that not an option live?
It’s not an option. I know they make stuff like that, but it’s just not up to par with the sound quality.
I was thinking live though. Tracking – that’s another thing.
Yeah, I know some people have tried to do that and it’s just like “Nah, I’d rather do it like this. It’s just not the same.“
I know the real thing is always real. You were recording at home and recorded most of the things yourself, right?
I didn’t do everything I had. Luckily I had a couple friends that are engineers. I mean one person, that now we have become friends with, I hired to engineer me. It’s different when I’m at home by myself and I’m tracking an idea, but when I’m really trying to lay down the final track, I’d rather just play guitar or bass, keyboards, whatever. And that’s my focus, so I had a couple people help me, but for the most part everything was recorded at my house on this initial EP, which is really interesting. Something people might find interesting is – it kind of was the demo and then I just decided at some point I was just like “Man, I just can’t hold on to these songs any longer. I just gotta put them out!”. My initial plan was to actually have a full band and it will still be hopefully by the end of the year, now that you know everyone getting vaccinated in the States and stuff’s opening back up . So – yeah, that’s how it originally started. On this production or on this EP it’s pretty much me doing everything.
I feel that’s a it’s an EP with 5 songs but that you have a lot of lot of material, more than enough for an LP.
Well, exactly. Technically we had 13 songs at this point. I just felt like these five were ready to go and at least just get this process of just letting people hear this because everybody had heard that “Oh, he might actually do something outside of Stone Sour.” Finally, after two decades and the first year went by and I didn’t do anything. I had a lot of stuff going on in my personal life that I was dealing with so then we got into the second year and I’m like “OK!” and started rolling with it and then finally that’s why I said “I just had to put the EP out ’cause it’s like I’ve been talking about this for like two years now and nobody’s been served one note!”. But yeah, that’s the goal is hopefully another EP or a full length first quarter next year along with some touring, hopefully.
I saw one year back that you were reporting that you had written your fastest song for so far. Is that for this project as well?
Yeah, actually it is. It’s this A World On Fire. I wouldn’t say it is the fastest song that I’ve released or recorded and put out. I might have something else. Obviously I’d never put it out. But yeah, I mean, that’s just where I’m kind of headed at this point. Like I said, I just do whatever I feel.
I also saw that you traded for a 7 string from Korn that you used on Ignite. How did you get to that trade of that guitar?
Well, we’ve just done so much touring with Korn throughout our career and we built relationships with those guys and I collect signature model guitars and one thing led to another talking to Munky. I had I told him I’ve never owned a 7 string or played one. It’s intimidating to me because it’s like – I can’t. I haven’t even mastered a 6 string, so adding an extra string is just crazy to me. We just started talking and then we just decided to trade one day. Just out of the blue. It’s like I’ll give you one of my stage guitars for one of yours and that’s what we did. And then when I got home after the Stone Sour cycle that was the first guitar that I pulled out to start working on stuff. I just thought “Hey, this is just so different!”. And then I ended up writing the music for Ignite.
When you went from six strings to seven, how was it when you started out? Did you get the flow directly or was it like you had some threshold that you needed to get over before you kind of got it going?
For me the biggest thing was the neck with getting used to that. But what I thought was cool about it I do in Ignite. It’s not like I’m by any means like a master 7 string guitar player. In fact, everybody probably say “Hey you could have played that on a 6 string!” in which they might be right, but I what I thought was cool is when I did the key change for the pre chorus. The way that I play it, I don’t know if I would have been able to play it on just a detuned 6 string. So that’s what it inspired. That’s kind of what was cool to me. It opened up this other different world where you do have that extra low note and it just gave me more possibilities than if I just detuned a six string.
That must be one of the parts that you kind of lead you to get that guitar as well, because it opens a new inspiration world for you as well.
Absolutely! Like we touched on with the pedals. How you might come across gold. Yeah, and it just opens up this world and you just run with it and you might write a song. Well, the same thing happened with the seven string. Like I don’t see myself switching to a 7 string anytime soon. In fact, that’s the only song that I I’ve used that on at this point, but you know, it was fun to create that song and I don’t think I would have ever tuned a 6 string down because I actually left it exactly like Munky had it set up. So it was in Korn-tuning so it wasn’t your traditional D through E. No, I guess B through D. That’s what it would be.
If you look at it going forward, I’m not sure whether Cassandra has been contributing into writing and so on. It’s all you, right?
Right now, musically, yes.
Do you see her contributing with some melodies and lyrics and songs and riffs and stuff like that?
Melodywise it’s all her for the most part. Very few times have I stepped in and said, hey let’s try this and same with lyrics – I’m really dumb. I just think whoever your singer is should write the melodies and the lyrics. It’s just they have a relationship and then with the words and the melody, they’re the ones that have to perform it. And I just think the conviction is stronger when they’re when it’s actually the singer’s words versus another writer.
I’m kind of a guitar player too but not at your level obviously, but sometimes I see young guys like in the 5th grade and they’re fiddling around with some stuff and it sounds like amazing. It’s kind of something that is not following the rules. I know you have been studying some music as well and can you feel that while a lot of theory helps that it sometimes can block the discovery of new parts, since sometimes the path is already made in a way?
No, I 100% agree, in fact I feel like theory can hinder your creativity if you know it. Yeah, I actually went through that for a while when I was younger where it was just like “Oh it has to be this because this is what it says that it has to be!” versus just going with whatever sounds natural and what feels right to that person. There’s a fine balance there. You know, being schooled versus not being, I mean for me going back was more of just trying to get outside of any box that I imagine when I try to study different stuff or learn different stuff, which I still do. That’s what it’s for. It’s just for personal growth. Like I said, I haven’t mastered the six string. So it’s like you can always improve. Also the style of music that I grew up on and that was the other reason why I went back to doing classes. All that stuff was like Blues, jazz, classic rock improv. I wasn’t taking any like Hard Rock and metal courses, it was all other stuff so.
About influences, I know that you started out on bass and Cliff Burton was one of your influences and I saw that you visited the memorial stone in Sweden, which is really cool because I’m part of that association that put up the stone.
Oh, that’s awesome. Ah, that’s really cool. I was glad that I was able to actually have time to finally get down there to see that. You know how it is on tour, it’s just like a different city every day and it’s just like timing fell just right. And I mean it was like a 6 hour trip, actually it was longer than that, it was like a full day to get down there, see it and then get back. But I was just like “If I don’t do it now I’m gonna regret it. I’m actually off and I can do it!” – so I had to do it. And I’m glad that I did.
I know that you are also a vinyl collector and you are into Metallica collecting. So what is your Metallica collecting like these days?
Really, the main things that I’m looking for I’ve found that I just can’t justify spending on them. I believe in 2010, 2008 they did an exclusive with Vinyl Matters, so they did these color box sets.
OK, so you’re looking for the white ones, yeah?
Yeah. So what I need? I actually have all of them except that I need Load and Reload and there was actually somebody on eBay that had it and he just sold Load like a couple of days ago. But yeah, it’s basically those and then a friend of mine got me into collecting bootlegs. I hadn’t been collecting bootlegs. He’s the reason why it happened as he got a massive collection that he had bought. He owns a record store here and he was like “I know you don’t do bootlegs, but I have a lot of your favorite bands, so you might want to come in!” so he got me started. He like pulled me in and now it’s like “Now I’m collecting bootlegs!” haha, because I ended up like picking up 20 some Pearl Jam records that came in in this collection. I’m looking for whatever I don’t already have and I have a lot. I mean, I’ve been collecting for a long time, I think. I tell people the easiest way for me to gauge my Metallica collection is I have I believe 21 different official pressings of Creeping Death. But that just tells you where I’m at. I think really I think I have all the colored ones, it’s just there’s a couple I am missing – I think I need a couple of South America pressings. That’s all I really need to have all the official ones. Like I said, I hadn’t really done bootlegs until recently and then even then it’s the live stuff.
Do you listen to them as well?
Uhm, I usually listen to him just to make sure they’re in good condition and then they get archived.
How do you discover new music? Do you find a band and get into it and go through their entire discography or how do you do it?
That’s pretty much how I do it. I’ll discover something that I like and then I just go back and listen to everything. Right now because I’m home and I, you know, drive around town. I’m listening to this Sirius Satellite radio show – Liquid metal – and then the newest band that I’ve discovered is Spiritbox that I dig, but yeah, that’s pretty much how I do it.
It seems like you have a positive energy. I know people making interviews and market their stuff try to be open, but you are kind of positive approaching as well. So is that purposely approaching everything by applying the right mental tuning like a presence of mind and state of mind?
Yeah, absolutely. This was one of the things of me earlier saying I was working on myself and personal stuff. It’s very easy to get caught up in all the negativity in the world that we live in and I just… I don’t know. I just hit a breaking point with it. It was just like wearing me out so I started talking to a therapist went to the doctor. And it’s just basically just changing my thought process at this point. It’s your choice whether or not you’re happy or miserable at the end of the day. So I’ve really tried to work on it and I will continue to work on it whether the glass is half full instead of half empty if that makes any sense.
You know, if you’re filling it up, it’s half full. If you’re drinking it, it’s half empty, so it kind of matters how you look at things.
Uh, so looking at the future release for the L.I.F.E. Project, is the music going to be similar to that of what we’ve already heard or is it going to be more diverse?
It’s definitely more diverse right now than what these five songs are. If we were to take the remaining 7 but I’ll continue to write or both of us will, so it’s really hard to put up where we’ll be at on the next EP or full length. I just don’t like to put boundaries on us because I don’t want to say one thing and then we’re still possibly a year away from that coming out, so it’s like a lot of stuff can change so I don’t like giving up or saying what it’s going to sound like until let I’ll let the listener listen to it, you know?
Really nice talking to you. Thank you so much Josh.
Yeah, thank you. Have a good one.
SKRIBENT: Tony Asplund (email@example.com)
INTERVJU: Josh Rand (L.I.F.E. Project, Stone Sour)
AKTUELL MED: The L.I.F.E. Project deput EP tidigare i år, nya inspelningar på G
SKIVBOLAG: Nuclear Blast