Drowning Pool has seen their fair share of sorrows; their first singer passed away unexpectedly of a rare heart disorder, they’ve had irreplaceable equipment stolen – twice, and bassist Stevie Benton was stricken with Bells Palsy (a temporary nerve disorder which causes paralysis) and ordered ordered off the road for six weeks by doctors. But this band of amazing men isn’t allowing life’s ups and downs to affect their sense of humor – or their passion for what they do – make killer music.
I recently sat down with Ryan McComes (singer), Stevie Benton (bass), Mike Luce (drums) and CJ Pierce (guitar) to chat with them about their music, the road, lobbying on Capital Hill (yes, you read that right), and life in general.
Donna: Stevie and CJ, you guys live near Dallas, Mike you’re in Cleveland Ohio – how do you get together to write and record new material?
Mike: I didn’t move till the last record was in the ‘finished box’ and we knew we’d be touring. When we tour, we’re gone for a year. We’re basically rebuilding for the third time, so we knew we’d be gone longer this time, so that’s when I moved to Cleveland.
Stevie: It really hasn’t been an issue for us because we spend so much time together on the road. Other bands do maybe four weeks on, one week off, another six weeks on etc, but we’re on the road for a year; maybe a break at the holidays, maybe your birthday off if you’re lucky. The rest of the time all four of us are stuck together on a bus. We should probably try to move further apart (laughs)
Donna: Drowning Pool is a Platinum rock band, you’ve been on Jay Leno, your songs have been used for movies and sports – did you guys always want to make music?
Mike: I’ve wanted to play drums as long as I can remember – I’ve been playing since I was old enough to hold sticks actually. I’ve been lucky to be able to have my dream to perform come true in life; that doesn’t always happen.
Stevie: My parents played The Beatles at home and as far as I was concerned, it was the only music there was in the world. When I was about 14 a kid at school gave me a copy of Motley Crue ‘Shout at the Devil and that just blew me away! I remember watching one of their videos and thinking, ‘hell, I could do that!’ (Mike laughs)
Ryan: My parents said I was always air drumming or air guitaring. My dad always had music on in the house; Grateful Dead, ACDC, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith – there was always music. My mom played piano as well.
Donna: So when did you (guys) start playing professionally?
Mike: I was about 17 in this little club in New Orleans (for a cover band). I joined with Drowning Pool shortly after that.
Ryan: I’ve been with Drowning Pool since 2005.
Mike: Actually Ryan jumped on stage to sing with Drowning Pool at Ozzfest 2002. That was interesting; sort of a foreshadowing of things to come. Stevie’s first time performing was when his dad built Stevie and his brother a stage in the back yard – they performed for his brother’s birthday party. (laughs)
Stevie: I remember that!
Donna: You guys write all your own music – what inspires you lyrically or musically?
Stevie: Every day crap
Mike: People kicking dirt at us
CJ: We’ve had lots of dirt kicked at us, haven’t we?
Ryan: Frustration. People are always asking why we don’t write happy songs.
Group: Happy songs suck (laughter)
Donna: What do you guys love most about performing?
Stevie (laughing): Beating each other up
CJ: Being on stage, fans singing with us. The best is the fans.
Mike: That hour on stage makes the other 23 hours on the road worth it. Music is your art, and we get to perform music that we’ve written with people that you went to high school with, dreamt of being in a band with – and people actually show up to hear it!
Ryan: Performing is awesome. Especially when you travel to another city or country, and the fans… the fans are singing to all your words as loud as hell.
CJ: It’s more fun to come off the stage at the end and meet the fans; some don’t know who you are – that’s funny (CJ is unmistakable)
Donna: You guys played for the troops in Iraq, and lobbied Capitol Hill – tell me about it.
Stevie: In 2005-2006 we went to Iraq and played for the troops. Many of them don’t agree with the war, but they’re doing the honorable thing and living up to their obligations, and we were blown away by their dedication; we wrote ‘Soldiers’ after that trip. Doing shows for them didn’t seem like enough to help them out, so we hooked up with the IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America). They were working on the Lane-Evans Bill which would create mandatory screening for the mental health of all returning combat troops. The troops were experiencing the same issues as the Vietnam Vets did: depression, joblessness, alcohol and drug addiction, homelessness, and suicide – numbers have been dramatically increasing in the troops who come home. Currently, they’re shipped home and expected to simulate normal life, and if they have a problem they’re left to fend for themselves. The Lane-Evans Bill would be a safety net so they won’t fall through the cracks.
We also set up an online petition: thisisforthesoldiers.org and after we got about 25,000-30,00 signatures, took it to Capital Hill for the Senate Sub-Committee Hearings. We delivered copies to Hilary Clinton and Obama.
Mike: We sometimes get a bad rap and are labeled ‘war-mongers’. We didn’t go to Iraq because we’re Pro-war, we went because we’re in support of the troops who have to go instead of us. We want them home, and when they get home, we want them taken care of.
Ryan: We went to the Walter Reid Hospital and saw some of our troops; one soldier was missing everything from the waist down. The attitude of these guys is still unfaltering courage –“at least I can still hug my kids.” But then you meet some of their families and find out that the soldiers have had their pay cut by a fourth of what it was, because they ‘got injured’. That’s why we got involved.
Donna: What would you like to see happen for the band in this New Year?
Mike: No more stuff stolen!
Stevie: Sell more records!
Ryan: Less pain
Mike: A second record with the same singer
CJ: World Peace
Stevie: See the troops come home
Copyright © nightMair Creative