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INTERVIEW: JOHN CONNOLLY of PROJECTED – June 2017

According to a recent press release: “Coming on the heels of the recently released EPK and album announcement, Projected returns with the video for the debut single “Reload.” The song comes from the band’s sophomore double-length release, Ignite My Insanity, scheduled for release on July 21st via Rat Pak Records. The two-disc collection is now available for pre-order in various configurations at http://www.ratpakrecords.com/Projected as well as digitally via iTunes. Fans who pre-order the album via iTunes will receive an instant download of “Reload” with two subsequent downloads scheduled prior to the full-album release. Ignite My Insanity is the long awaited follow-up to the 2012 self-released debut album, Human from the band comprised of Sevendust guitarist John Connolly, Alter Bridge/Creed drummer Scott Phillips, Sevendust bassist Vinnie Hornsby and Tremonti guitarist Eric “E-ROCK” Friedman.”  As John Connolly prepared for the launch of Sevendust’s 20th Anniversary tour, we were able to grab a little of his time to discuss the new release that has been five years in the making… after a few technical issues, John and I had another great conversation!!

Toddstar: Hey John, thank you so much for taking time out for us. It’s been a while.

John: Absolutely, how’ve you been?

Toddstar: Good, yourself.

John: Really good. Firing up these anniversary shows for Sevendust’s 20th Anniversary.

Toddstar: I know, it’s insane. That’s awesome, but let’s talk Projected. This disc, luckily I got to hear it and I love this thing top to bottom, all 21 songs.

John: Thank you man. It was really a gift back to the people that have stuck by us for as long as they have. I mean it wasn’t intended to take five years in the making, but trying to thread the needle between all the schedules is kind of nuts because when Mark Tremonti’s not in Tremonti mode, he’s in Alter Bridge mode but unfortunately I got a guy in both of his bands in this project so there’s always a finessing of the schedules to try to figure out what works and who’s available when.

Toddstar: You mean you can’t push Mark around. I know you guys have been friends a long time.

John: Yeah, I mean I try. Poor E-ROCK [Eric Friedman] when he was doing the first Projected record, it’s no joke. He was doing Tremonti rehearsals because they were getting ready to shoot the DVD that they did, where they basically played the entire first album live top to bottom. He was rehearsing that during the morning and then he would come over afternoons and evenings and he was singing and doing guitar, so he was literally around the clock between Projected and Tremonti for about two weeks.

Toddstar: Well that’s better than being an unemployed musician.

John: For sure, there is no doubt about that.

Toddstar: Well let’s talk about this album for a little bit. What about this disc did you guys throw in there that a fan might not catch the first or second time through? Are there any nuggets in there?

John: A lot of people didn’t know it was coming. Well of course because we kept it a secret. They didn’t realize it was going to be a double disk, you know obviously. A lot of people didn’t realize it was going to be a concept record. And thirdly, a lot of people don’t and probably wouldn’t realize that not only is it a concept record, but it actually ties to the only concept record Sevendust ever did and that was Alpha. This is basically Alpha Part II and III. If it makes any sense. The voice that the main character in Alpha was dealing with. Well this was manifested into multiple voices. At this point the person is questioning their sanity and being able to work through it because at any given point in time one of the multiple voices could be talking to him and trying to convince him to certain things, but I think everyone’s got the voice in their head, it’s just a matter of how far you let it take your life sometimes for the better, sometimes it’s for the worst. But it wasn’t something like we sat down and said we were going to make a concept record. They just come to you. It’s the weirdest thing in the world. We did it with Alpha and we did it with this one. And ironically enough, “Ten Years Gone” is called “Ten Years Gone” because it was actually from the Alpha session. It was one of the songs that fell through the cracks. It was a piece of music that was sitting on the hard drive from that album and I stumbled across it and I was like, “Why didn’t we ever do anything with this?”. I wrote on it and the first chorus was the worst. I mean, literally I almost deleted the entire file. And I wrote another chorus on it and E-ROCK was like, “This is my favorite song on the record.” And I was like, “I had a feeling someone was going to say that.” But there is just a lot of things that tie in to the Sevendust world.  Originally we had about 16 songs. And from 16, you want to try to cut it down to around 12-ish or something like that. Every time I was trying to pull a song, someone would freak out, “Oh that’s my favorite, you can’t get rid of that one.” Okay well I would try to pull this one and “Oh I love that one, don’t get rid that one.” You know, after a month of that, I said, “You know what, it’s going to be easier to push to a full double album than it is going to be to cut any of these songs.” Because there was always someone who is going to be upset if one of the songs was missing. And I thought they all really belonged together. So that’s what we did, we just said we’ll just push through. Let’s see what number we end up at and 21 – which felt nice and comfortable.

Toddstar: I’d agree they do all fit together and it’s a very cohesive album. Even just from disc one to disc two, unfortunately you can’t throw all 21 songs on one CD because it would definitely play through.

John: And that was the other thing too, disc one is Ignite and disc two is My Insanity. There was talk at one point in time about actually separating the records, kind of like doing what Tremonti did with Cauterize and Dust. Because all those songs were written together in one batch as well and he chose to split them. We discussed it and we said, “You know what it’s been five years, let’s just, let’s give them as much bang for the buck as possible.” You know what I mean, let’s go ahead and make it a double record and do it. Just because touring is something that we want to do, but we are realistic. No one is going to quit their day job, so to speak. And we have to work around those schedules, so we figured … look let’s reward the fans, let’s not split it up and try to make this thing last forever. Let’s just – boom – drop it all at once and just see what happens. Because it’s not the popular thing to do now-a-days most people are suggesting, “Oh you know, you only need one or two songs at a time” to go out and tour, release EP’s. People want smaller doses of music. But there is something cool about opening up a big thing that has a ton of art in it. I mean, this thing has a twenty-four page art book. It’s pretty deep as far as that part of it went. So it was important that the music would go just as deep. But it all belongs together, it was all pretty much written other than “Ten Years Gone,” which like I said the one link, the one outlier on the record. Everything else was written during a pretty short period of time, so it all seemed like it fit together.

Toddstar: Well you hit on a couple things, there is something that you mentioned that bands don’t do anymore. One, they certainly don’t do two CDs and you really don’t hear about a concept album anymore – everything is so disposable in one or two tracks, like you mentioned. You guys – you, Vinny, Scott, Eric – and myself, we all come from an era where you wanted that piece of plastic in your hand. Whether it was 12 inches, big, and black or whether it was five inches across and it’s a silver CD. You wanted that. You want that artwork, like you said. Was that something when you guys set out to do this, that was part of the concept? Where you were going to make it a whole multimedia package and not just a bunch of tracks for the fans?

John: Absolutely. I mean, the physical was always something that was built into the equation. I mean, we are realistic. We know a lot of people are going to buy digital copies and I’m totally down with that. Because I have, I’ve probably got 25,000 songs digital at all times. Just because I like to have a mix of music, especially out on tour. I like to be able to go and have everything that I want and I don’t want to have to carry it around records or disks or something like that. But there is something cool about the tangible products though. I remember being a kid opening up KISS’ Alive II. Just the experience of opening that thing up and seeing the inside picture, the flames, and pulling out the inserts. And having a poster in there and tattoos and all kinds of other stuff. It was like, I mean it was just overload. So we just said, “We miss that.” You know, I miss the fact that a lot of people just stick it on their phone and there is nothing physical attached to it. So we just said, “No let’s take the art out as far as we can go like we did the music.” And let’s just make it something that’s not normal today, something a little a-typical.

Toddstar: Sure. You mentioned a song like “Ten Years Gone,” it’s been mulling around forever and ever. Two sides of the coin, John. What was the easiest and the hardest track to finish out of this group of songs?

John: This group of songs… the easiest was probably either “Ignite” or “Reload,” which ironically are the two anchors and the two songs open both the discs. They just came together really, really easily for some reason or another. And they are both very, very different types of songs, but there was just no struggle at all with those. A couple of the other ones, “Call Me the Devil” was a little bit of a trip, only because I loved the music and I just couldn’t get a lyric that was really just knocking me out. So I sent that one over to Mark [Tremonti] and of course 20 minutes after I sent it to him, he sent me back what is on the record. So that’s what I sang and I love writing with him because he loves just taking the lyric part of it. You know, he is known as a guitar player, but he is a really, really skilled melody and lyric. So that was a little bit of a trick. But probably the toughest one might have been “Ten Years Gone,” only because the original chorus was not so much different from the chorus that is there. But it was just all in the wrong order and we knew that it was because all the notes were the same. It was just the phrasing and the delivery of it that, and lyrically it said some cool stuff and so it for me I was kind of torn because I’m saying what I want to say, but I’m not hearing what I want to hear. And I knew that was going to be an important song because that was the connection back to Alpha. So that was probably the most difficult, but it was also the most surprising by the way it comes out. Because we knew it was a good song, but we didn’t know it was going to be one of those songs that people are going to listen to and say that’s one of our favorites on the record. And we have heard that quite a bit, so I mean everything happens for a reason and I am glad we put the time in on that one.

Toddstar: Certainly. Like you said you hear from people that’s my favorite on the record. I struggled to find one that is a least favorite. There is usually that one or two tracks on a CD or a record, where you are like, “Oh we can skip that one.” I have yet to find it on this one.

John: Well that’s cool. The other cool thing about this record is there’s like there’s a lot of different favorites among all the different people that we play it for. So being that it’s not going to be like a single driven band and we’re going to put half a million dollars behind one song and try to run it up the radio flagpole. It’s kind of cool to have that diversity between what people are hearing. People have told me, they love having “Above,” “Ten Years Gone,” and “Call Me the Devil,” and “Upside Down,” and “Inside the Sun.” That was one that I didn’t really think that much of at all and everyone started to gravitate towards that song for some reason. It’s cool that it’s all over the map. For me, that’s like the ultimate goal, so to be able to make a record where everyone really gets into it.

Toddstar: You talk about projects inside projects and day jobs and what have not. What’s it about a band, I mean let’s be honest, this is a band. You’ve got essentially three CD’s because you have the debut and now this double CD. What’s it about this group of guys that makes it feel right?

John: Just the fact that we did things without really thinking about it too much. We don’t overthink, I mean even with the re-writes. It was like, when I say it’s a struggle, it’s minor in comparison to, I don’t even want to say a band like Sevendust. But Sevendust is more, has more cooks in the kitchen, if that makes any sense. There is always someone who is going to be able to throw something down at any given point in time, whether it be lyrics, melodies, or parts. But with Projected it’s a different animal because these guys let me take the ball and run with it. They trust me lyrically and vocally to be able to get this all pulled together. I frame the house and they finish it, if that makes any sense. But it also works both ways. Like E-ROCK was funny, he goes, “You know, you don’t tell me ‘no’ too much.” He’d throw a guitar part out and I’d love it. I would tell him, “I’m big on it, if your gut reaction was to play that, then that’s probably, even if it’s not exactly what it should be, it should be something that lives in that world.” Because I like making art without thinking. I love to get in there and I love to work on the songs for forever and a day, if that’s the goal. But there is something about music that if it’s good, it’s good. If it’s not, it’s not. With this band, it’s a lot more organic. A lot more, let’s just run it down, let’s run it up the flagpole, make it sound good, and then we’ll see what happens. It comes a little easier in Projected, just the work flow and the way we interact with one another.

Toddstar: I guess what I like about this is, this is a gut album. I mean, it just comes at you and it just flows naturally. And it’s that instinctual rock feel that’s just woven through the tracks. That’s what drew me to it and kept me interested as I listened through it.

John: That was kind of the goal too. In Sevendust, there is a lot of programming and a lot of extra stuff that we kind of through into the mix and it always been a part of Sevendust. But for me, I wanted to strip it down again. Let’s get away from the sequencing and the programming and stuff like that. Let’s give this more of its own identity. And its own identity, honestly, was just it needed to be something that had less stuff going on. Just the band. I wanted to be band where we could hop up on anybody’s stage, grab guitars that were at least tuned to the key that we were in, and be able to play. I don’t have to have a specific amp to do this, Flip doesn’t have to have specific drums. We don’t need any bells and whistles. We can just get up there and do it. And that’s, that was kind of the whole vibe on the feel and the sound and how we chose to put it together.

Toddstar: That speaks to you guys as individual musicians as well as being a quote, unquote team.

John: Well, yeah. I mean, it’s always a guess when you are trying to put something together for the first time.

And with more technical difficulties (sound dropped out of the transcription recording) the last couple minutes of pleasantries drifted off, but John was ready to go finish up soundcheck for the first Sevendust show that evening and I was off to listen to the 2CD Projected disc once again…

PROJECTED LINKS:

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

IGNITE MY INSANITY – ITUNES

INTERVIEW: JOHN CONNOLLY of PROJECTED - June 2017

Filed Under: Interviews

About the Author: ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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