Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Interview with Chester at Aquarian

Sandra from R&CFansi posted this interview with Chester at Aquarian.

The record is so well rounded; you really get something new from it with each listen. The sense of darkness and deep disappear is immediately striking, but there’s also the pure rock elements, the anger, a few great love songs, and acceptance. What contributed to that, were the songs written over a long stretch of time and so you had all these emotions to draw from?

The record was written over a long period of time, because when we started the record it was late 2005 or mid-2005, so I started writing it then and we worked till end of the year. Then I started working on Minutes To Midnight. So I took the next three years off basically from working on the record [Out Of Ashes]. After that, I started picking it back up again after we finished touring for Minutes To Midnight.

I had a bunch of new songs, I wrote other new songs in the process of recording with Howard Benson. So there are phases of writing in different periods over the last four years. A lot had happened in that time, you can imagine, a lot of things have happened to yourself in four years, so there’s plenty of stuff to draw from. Some of these songs are about when I met my wife and fell in love with her. That’s where the love songs come from. At the same time, I was having tough times in the middle of a long, drawn out divorce that was draining and pretty much put me on a downward spiral just because it was so…there was so much going on during that period of time, that you get songs like ‘My Suffering’ and ‘Condemned,’ and the heavier, darker stuff was all derived from the phases of that experiences. But yeah, there was a lot going on.

Yeah, because an outsider looking in on you could say, ‘Oh, Chester is in Linkin Park, and he has Club Tattoo, his life must be a dream.’ So the depths of despair on the record are shocking.

My life is a dream, but unfortunately, I am an asshole sometimes. I can be very selfish or my perspectives can be off, but there were a lot of really stressful things that happening over that period of time. Like waking up one day and having a lot of money and a big house, and a year later, not having a single dime and living in a seven square foot apartment in Santa Monica. That can make you go, ‘Okay, none of this stuff is actually going to be here for very long.’ That freaked me out, and that spun me into a place of like drinking every day. Kind of like, ‘How did this happen? All I did was not want to be married anymore and now, I have nothing.’

It was kind of crazy, but the thing that kept me going through the whole process was that I did fall in love again. I did find myself, because I knew that I had a lot to live for. Like you were saying, I do have this really blessed life. I do have Linkin Park, I do have Club Tattoo, I have a beautiful wife and a beautiful family, and all this great stuff. I put too much focus on the materialist things in life like money and houses. Yeah, families, everybody has got one and some suck, I kind of have a mixture of both, but I really consciously understand how much value I had placed on things that didn’t really matter. It was pretty tough and that’s what the record was inspired from. It was a combination of all those things.

Hence the title?

Right (laughs). I torched the life I had and started a new one.

How did you meet up with the guys in the band?

Well, Ryan, Amir and myself have been friends for ten years or maybe more. We met when Orgy was on its second record, Vapor Transmission, we [Linkin Park] were recording Hybrid Theory. We were working in studio called NRG, and there are multiple studios that bands can work in, and Ryan heard me screaming some parts I was working on for the record. He came walking down the hall and was like, ‘Who are you? And what are you doing here?’

He was very funny, and I told him who I was and honestly, like an hour later, we were best friends. We’ve spoken at least once a week since then. So when I was writing songs, after Meteora was finished, Ryan had heard me play some of these songs, and he kind of gave me the push to convince Linkin Park that they weren’t Linkin Park songs, which obviously they aren’t or do something else with them. I thought about that, he didn’t say, ‘with me,’ he said, ‘with them.’ It was going to be my solo album, and I was going to do pretty much everything that I could with the exception of play drums, and it very quickly turned into Ryan and Amir asking if they could manipulate the song structures or maybe playing things a little different. I just gave them full reign, ‘You guys can do whatever you want to the songs.’ That’s kind of how it started, and I knew the rest of the guys in the band from them being in Julien-K. The other half of the band, they are engineers or producers, so they are all working behind the scenes, most of them and we came together through friendship.

A few years ago, on a Family Values tour you did a duet with Scott Weiland and you easily went toe to toe with him. I realized that you weren’t only a great vocalist, but you’re a great singer. That’s really evident on this record, because you can really hear your range.

In Linkin Park, the thought process is like me and Mike share half percent of everything, so if I am doing stuff that only I could do in the band, then it kind of restricts us. No one else in Linkin Park is a vocalist, so we can’t do three part harmonies or anything like that.

Whereas in Dead By Sunrise, I have Ryan, I have Brandon, Elias, and they have all been singers in other bands before, so I have a pretty good arsenal who can do three part harmonies with me. Also this is probably the real truth, Howard Benson is just like, ‘I don’t give a fuck. This is your record, so we are just going to do it. People want to hear you sing.’ So he really kind of pushed the envelope in a lot of ways. It wasn’t just singing a harmony to a part, it was singing a harmony and then doing harmonies to harmonies which separate sections that cross in different ways and layering those. It was very complicated—it was the most layering I have ever done on any record. I think that it’s something that will really set it part from sounding like a Linkin Park record.

What was the song selection process like? For instance, ‘Morning After,’ which is also a great song isn’t not on the record?

That was done, because I already released ‘Morning After’ on the Underworld soundtrack. I felt that if I put that on the record, it would kind of be cheating. So we basically took some songs that didn’t quite make the cut, and we’re reissuing, because the version that is on Underworld II is kind of a remix, it has some guitars taken out, and a more danceable beat to kind of fit the mode of the soundtrack a little more. This is more of a direct, straight rock version, and I believe that is actually going to be on the record if you get it as an import from Japan or some parts of Europe. So if people want that on the Dead By Sunrise record, [there’s] that, and we did a cover of the Misfits’ ‘20 Eyes’ like as extras.

Why that song in particular?

Well, I actually started playing that song when I was in a cover band called Bucket of Winnies for a little while. I play it with Bucket of Winnies and Camp Freddy sometimes, it’s just fun to go play with a bunch of guys and play cover songs. So we started playing ‘20 Eyes,’ we recorded it and we really liked it. There’s nothing we’ll ever be able to do with it, so we thought that this was kind of good way of letting people have it.

You’re playing the MTV Halloween gala, is that the launch of a huge tour?

We’ve actually kind of gone back and fourth a little bit on how we wanted to approach touring. I was thinking festivals, maybe a couple of touring bands, and then I felt like I don’t want to do that. Maybe next year after the band has been around for awhile we could do that, but I really want to go play for people. Have their faces really close and loud and sweaty and right in people’s faces, and have them see the band in that way at first. I really want to build fans in a more grassroots way, not just because I’m in Linkin Park [and] the other guys have been in Orgy that we deserve to go play these amazing tours. I think we really need to earn our place. The goal is to go out and get people to fall in love with the band the old fashioned way.

Are you especially eager to do that, because it seems with Linkin Park, you guys just skyrocketed to the top?

I just feel like it’s the right thing to do. I feel like I don’t want to take Linkin Park fans for granted, and I know that the other guys don’t want to take Orgy fans for granted. I feel like hopefully, they will like this music that we’re doing, but those are fans of those respective bands, and we can’t just like leech off that.

It really feels like the right thing to do, and I actually if there is anyone else in the band who put in a little more time before things took off for Linkin Park, I have been doing this since I was fourteen. I made my first record when I was 16-years-old. I was in a band [Grey Daze] for seven years before I was in Linkin Park. We played with hundreds of national acts, and by the time we were finished and broke up, we were drawing anywhere from 1000-2000 people every one to two weeks.

That’s a pretty big deal for a band that’s never going to go anywhere. That was frustrating to me, so I feel like I have paid my dues. I don’t feel like I need to go out there and prove that, but I do think that it’s important not to just be like, ‘Oh, I am in my famous band, I can go play arenas,’ that’s ridiculous. ‘Or I deserve to have this great support slot just because I am Chester.’ It doesn’t make much sense to me.

Getting to the actual songs on the record, ‘Fire’ sounds like an open letter to someone who has passed.

That song took a few different lyrical changes. It started out one way that was really like a sad story using interesting metaphors and that’s where the name ‘Fire’ came from. The lyric that inspired the title was, ‘There’s a fire in our hearts that’s the reason why the tears keep falling, to put out the fires that our hearts are starting.’ That’s where it came from, [but] the melodies didn’t quite seem to fit. So I started over, and kind of just ran with that, and went with a more spiritual path of getting through the tougher times.
Some people may look at that song and just say, ‘Oh he must have wrote that about someone who passed on.’ Or, ‘Wow that’s really sad.’ Or some people may see it as a spiritual thing, looking up at the heavens, and you know that there is something greater than yourself that’s with you all the time. This is probably one of those songs that is written with a Linkin Park sort of a touch, because it’s more open in general.

Songs like ‘Condemned’ and songs like ‘Inside of Me’ are pretty straightforward—there is no question as to what those songs are about. This one the fact that it can be seen in so many different ways is what makes it special, and I think that’s what going to give it the ability to connect with people in a much deeper way then perhaps other songs on the record. Oh, and by the way, ‘Give Me Your Name,’ I wrote that song for my wife for our wedding.

That’s my favorite song on the record.

That’s my favorite song on the record as well. That one and ‘In The Darkness,’ those are my two favorite songs. Those are both written with love about the relationship I have with my beautiful wife. So I wrote that for her, and we danced to that at our wedding.

How did you meet?

We met through a friend, and we never actually crossed paths. Ryan was friends with her for many years. Almost for as long as I have [been friends with him], and we had known of each other for the same amount of time, but I have never met her for some reason. If she was at a party, I didn’t make it. We had never met and eventually, after I had split up with my ex-wife, we met at a party.
We hit it off right away, like instantly. Ever since we met—I think it was like four or five days before we’d see each other again, and we have been together ever since. I think she moved in with me about a week-and-half after I met her. We met, and that was it.

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