Drowning Pool’s CJ Pierce Talks ‘Hellelujah’ Album, 2016 Touring + More
Drowning Pool are back this Friday (Feb. 5) with their new album Hellelujah, a strong effort that’s already yielded such standout cuts as “By the Blood,” “Hell to Pay” and “Snake Charmer.” Loudwire recently had a chance to chat with guitarist CJ Pierce about the album and we also got into discussion about what the addition of vocalist Jasen Moreno has meant to the band and touched on their upcoming dates with Audiotopsy. Check out our chat in full below.
You guys went out and did the Sinner anniversary shows. Did that have any impact on you in terms of the vibe and feel of what you’re looking for on this album?
Yeah most definitely man, during the writing process for this, once we got done recording the Resilience record and we had a little time off so we started writing more songs and then still toured on that record had a little time off between that to write. And then, like you said, we were re-releasing our lucky thirteen if you will, re-release of Sinner and after we got to do that tour, you know we came back home to finish up writing and a lot of that came through naturally man. It was awesome to go out and play that record in its entirety and kind of just brought me back to that mind frame we were in 16 years ago when we wrote that record and that kind of that core sound that we had. Songs like “By The Blood” or “Hell to Pay” totally reflect that.
I saw Jasen refer to this as the “bad attitude” record. It definitely has that vibe to it. Do you have to be in that mindset to write that style of music or does it come naturally?
No, I mean there is always something going on in the world of Drowning Pool and there is always some sort of issues going on. Going into this record we finally got everything together, we finally got the right singer we needed after all the singer switches we had gone through over the years. Jasen Moreno is our guy! He is the man and then we had to deal with the label and management issues on the last record which puts you back in another bad mood and I think some of that comes out through on this record. Also, for me, just the music industry as a whole, man you know what’s changed and in some ways for the better and ways for the worst. You kind of take hits on that as well, so that can be frustrating so a lot of that comes out. How we feel is going on at the time. It’s always something.
You mentioned the music industry changing so much and you have to keep your head on a swivel these days to stay on top of it. Can you talk about some of the experiences you had? I know some of those factor into the song “Snake Charmer” a little bit.
Yeah I think the problem with our industry is they forget. This to me, this is rock ‘n’ roll. This is the fan play and this is art. This is how we write, this is the music that we play and you know you get into it like we did in the beginning like the record label with somebody. They get behind you and our job is to put on a kick ass rock show and write kick ass rock songs try and do that and it’s their job to sell it and put it on the radio, so I’m not going to to change things in my job to make their job easier, you know what I mean. I can’t.
In the last 10 years, just label and management trying to latch onto the old way of doing things and then they start telling you hey well we have to do this or people don’t listen to that. They start telling you things because you know it’s your music and it’s like, “No I want to sing what the hell I want to sing and do what I want to do. Either you get behind me or you don’t.” So we had to deal with that situation the last time around more so than usual, so you know without using a cuss word we told them to just step off and get out of here and we are going to do our own thing and it’s exactly what we did. Honestly, all of us as a band, we have never been more on the same page than to just go in there and write songs and feel it just like everybody else. I think we have made a great record because of it just cut all of that other pressure out of your life and do what you do.
Absolutely. Can you talk a little about what Jasen has brought to the band and why he’s the right guy for Drowning Pool?
I think one of the major factors with Jasen being the right guy is the fact that we’ve known him for so long. He came up in the music scene in Dallas with us so he’s always been around. We’ve always known him and I think a big part of that is personality. I think you’ve got to be friends and get along and be on the same page before you can start writing music together and, we had that with Dave Williams, as well. I am happy with the records we have made and we should know like family like we know Jasen.
I think the other thing is he’s got a great range and style of music. It’s something we advocate. He can pretty much sing anything. He played in a bunch of cover bands and he can do any style of music. Jasen, he’s done ton of covers as well as his own unique style of singing that he brings to the table and I respect him and love every song ever written and ever made, so the guy is like dedicated. Man, he’s very passionate about music he sets us all on fire so a lot of good things have come since then.
Listening to this record, like you say, he’s got great range. He has a bit of the core sound, but I’m hearing a little sludgy almost Alice in Chains type stuff which I don’t know if I necessarily got before. How cool is it to have that range and be able to write to different styles and maybe break it out a little bit more?
Who isn’t an Alice in Chains fan? I feel like they’ve had some of the most vibey music ever out there. All of us are big fans. Until people started listening to the record and saying that, I honestly didn’t even notice it. It wasn’t an intention. But I guess there are some songs that take on that vibe. There’s a bunch of stuff we’ve written that we didn’t use, more vibey stuff. We just wanted to go with the metal record and now that we’ve been getting these comments about it I think we should put something out for sure. Hats off to them, we’re doing stuff in our own way and it does have that southern now that you put it, sludgy vibe. I love that stuff as well. Again, we’re fortunate we have a guy that can do anything it seems like. It’s awesome to have the freedom to write whatever the hell you want to write.
“By the Blood” is a song that you premiered here with us at Loudwire. I love your guitar part right there at the beginning. Let’s talk about that song coming together.
That one, musically to me it’s definitely the closest we’ve had to “Bodies” since then. It wasn’t intentional. We’ll never try and write a “Bodies” Part II or anything, but just one of those riffs to me – it’s very solid, solid foundation of Drowning Pool, if you will. I think it’s the core sound of this band and it went through a few changes during the demo process, but we kept coming back to it. We wanted it to have something about it that was definitely going to work.
I think the changes we had were just lyrically with the direction we wanted to go in. That song is kind of an underdog song. It expresses our career. Every time you get up there someone is trying to beat you down. So we’re just going to keep plugging and beating away at it and at some point, people will remember your name. You just have to stick with it and stick to your guns. That’s another song that was fun for me, man. I got to blast a lead up in it. For this record man, I got to get slashy and throw off the chops a little bit. I’ve always said I wouldn’t say hold back, but I write for the song and our previous singers were more hard rock and now we’re going down the metal path. That just allowed for that style of playing, the Slashy leads, which I love. Hope everybody else enjoys it as well, man.
Another song I’m loving is “Hell to Pay,” which fans have already had the chance to hear a little bit of that as well. Talk a little bit about that song.
That was, you always hear these stories, I’ve read a lot of them and was wondering if that was ever going to happen to me where you’re doing something in your life and you just drop everything you do and write a song. That was one of those moments for me with “Hell to Pay.” We went over to Europe and got to tour all of Russia with POD last year, awesome experience man. When we got back, there was one show we filmed. Hopefully we can put out a DVD with it. I went ahead and mixed all the live tracks and while I was in the process of mixing that. Actually I stopped what I was doing, grabbed a guitar and put that song together super fast. I wrote it right away. Jasen towards the end came in and put a few tweaks on it, his personal twist on the lyrics. We all kind of come in at the end and put our two cents on it. The main ideas is you can’t live in the past. We’re middle aged men, we’ve done a lot of crazy stuff and had a lot of great times. Instead of sitting around the house going, man that’s the best it ever was. You know what? We’re still here, we’re still going to have a great time. Looking forward to the next best time, getting past all of that, if that makes any sense. [laughs]
I love whatever that old timey record at the beginning of “We Are The Devil” is. Tell me about what that is and the idea of putting that in front of the song.
Thank God we got approval from the people who own it now. That’s a song from like, the late 1800s or early 1900s — back when they first made records and recorded them. It’s real scratchy, that’s the real deal. That song is actually “All We Are The Devil.” Stevie found that. We thought it would be fun to put a little clip of that before we went into our “We Are The Devil,” which is a real fun song to play live, by the way. I didn’t know what kind of reaction we would get, so it’s one of the songs we tried out during the recording process. We were going out on the weekends playing shows. We got to open up for Slayer in El Paso and we decided to play that song, why not? Slayer show. By the end of the song, people were singing along with it. Got the whole crowd chanting along, it was so awesome. It was killer. They got it right away.
I love following you guys on social media, I don’t know who does your account or if you guys do it individually, but there are some hilarious things you post on there. I saw the Waterboy meme of “Momma says Drowning Pool is the Devil.” Now seeing the song on the album, that’s perfect.
Perfect, right? Stevie and I run it the most. I try to stick more towards the band stuff like what’s going on with the band and Stevie does more of the funny stuff. We all put it on there. I definitely respond to people there all the time. I probably respond more than anyone else. It keeps it going, man, it’s entertaining. It’s a great way to get in touch with your fans, all the core fans are on there anyway.
I play rock and I play metal and I’ve always been told throughout my life — maybe because I live in the Bible Belt — rock music is the devil’s music or you’re going to go to hell if you have tattoos, which is just ludicrous because I think we’re all nice guys. I don’t think we’re going to go to hell because I have a tattoo or because I listen to rock music. We constantly get hit with that as well, so Stevie and I have a little fun poking fun at people who really believe that. We have a lot of sarcasm, writing songs about the devil, playing devil music. What are you gonna do? We’re not satanists, don’t read into it too far. It’s a lot of tongue and cheek.
Also, I wanted to ask about the Hellelujah album cover. I see Brian Mercer did it. Can you tell me a little bit about what you wanted to do?
Man, I couldn’t be happier with this artwork. We wanted to put out a metal record and a cover that reflects that. Brian Mercer is an A-list guy. We talked to him on the phone for a minute and man, I can’t draw a stickman straight so he was asking about ideas. I told him, just do what you do, man. We just gave him all the music and let him go to town on it. Then it came together really really fast. He just totally nailed it. That dude is, skulls is his thing. I couldn’t be happier. It looks sick. Everything is lining up, he’s a great guy. Hope to meet him. About a week conversations of skulls back and forth, bam, got a record cover. Brian Mercer tore it up.
I know February / March, tour dates coming up going out with Audiotopsy and I know you’re a big Mudvayne fan. Can you talk a little bit about what it’s going to be like to get a chance to get out and tour with those guys?
I can’t wait to see those guys. We came up on the scene the same time as Mudvayne, we’ve done tours with them back in the day. We just played a show with Hellyeah as well so I’m always seeing those guys at some point, somewhere. I’m a huge fan. The guitarist, Greg is a super talented guy. I’ve heard the music and I’m looking forward to seeing the live show. I haven’t seen them live yet, I’ll see them at our first show. You want to tour with friends and family. That’s how I look at it. Those guys are great guys. We also have Violent New Breed on there, know those guys as well. Super killer band. It’s gonna be a good time, man. Great time.
Any song in particular song or songs that you’re just – I can’t wait to see what kind of reaction this is going to get?
We’ve been going out the last few places during the recording process for this record, we were popping out doing shows on the weekends, so pretty much just about every song has got it’s show since we’ve played them live. I love them all, man.
This is one those records and the first time in this bands career, I get it, we have a big back catalog and people know us from the Sinner record and we definitely play tons of tracks off the Sinner record and tons of tracks as well. But I love the new songs and I want to play them all. I know the fans who don’t have the record and aren’t used to the songs yet. You can’t do that but we definitely are going to come out playing a handful of new songs for sure. There’s ones I know without a doubt like “Drop,” “Push,” “We Are the Devil,” those have already had great reactions, we’ll continue with those. Then we’ll always have ones we’re going to flip flop.
Every single night we play, we’ll switch stuff up anyway. I wouldn’t say like the Grateful Dead as much as a completely different setlist, but we definitely have spots where we bring songs in and out depending on the vibe of the night and what we want to do. That part to me, is amazing. Also, I’m always hanging out by the merch booth or the bar and hanging out with the fans. I love it when fans ask us to play different songs. Yes, we’ll play that song for you. And we’re able to do that now. Some of the past singers didn’t learn all of the back catalog and now that Jasen knows all that stuff, we can do whatever we want. It’s awesome.
Anything else on the horizon that you want to promote or get out to the fans?
Just come see the live show. We’ve made massive purchases of all kinds of lights and crazy stuff we want to bring to the stage. We want to put on a big crazy live show, we’re putting everything back into that. Come check out the new songs and if you haven’t seen Jasen, you gotta see him live. It’s all about the live show, man. Come hang out with us, come have a shot with us at the bar and check out the new record. Hellelujah!
Thanks to Drowning Pool’s CJ Pierce for the interview. The band’s ‘Hellelujah’ album drops Feb. 5 via eOne Music. You can pre-order the disc via Amazon and iTunes. And look for Drowning Pool hitting the road later this month in support of the disc. Dates can be found here.
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