Sevendust Drummer Reflects On Being Ripped Off By His Label
Hard rock mainstays Sevendust have seemingly withdrawn from more Australian tours than they’ve actually successfully completed, a reputation which doesn’t elude drummer/backing vocalist Morgan Rose. The previous occasion was pulling out shortly prior to Soundwave 2014 amid a public dispute with promoter AJ Maddah (note – this interview took place prior to the festival’s recent collapse). The Atlanta-based outfit will be back on Antipodean shores in March; their first tour here in six years. “I told somebody yesterday that the only way we’re not going is if somebody’s dead, so we’ll be there,” the tub-thumper says of their upcoming jaunt. He also feels the band were misrepresented by the Soundwave controversy and ensuing press coverage. “I can’t really point the finger at anybody, all I can say is that we didn’t cancel. I’ll just leave it at that.”
The band members could officially be Grammy-winning musicians by the time you return to Australia next year (they are nominees in the “Best Metal Performance” category for the track “Thank You”, from latest album Kill The Flaw). That announcement must have caught you off-guard, being your first nomination and all.
Oh yeah, it definitely surprised us. We’ve put out so many records, we’ve been around for so long and we’ve never been nominated and really were never acknowledged on that side of the industry in our career. So it’s been an interesting year. The record being received so well, and we had some acknowledgement from Apple, and that was pretty amazing. That floored us. For them to acknowledge us was amazing. And we never really thought about the Grammys at all, never considered that we would be up for anything like that. So we’re extremely grateful and very humbled.
It’s like the band is an overnight sensation after 20 years.
[Laughs] Yeah. I don’t know, we’ll see. We’ll see what happens. I’m pretty blown away that we were acknowledged at all and nominated, so if we win that thing it’ll be crazy. But just to be acknowledged is pretty awesome.
It’s been some time since Sevendust’s previous visit to Australia. Is there any likelihood of acoustic material being incorporated into these shows?
I talked to my manager today about it… I mentioned that we’re going to be doing a headline run over here in April. We were talking about what we were going to do, what type of production, all that stuff that goes into getting ready to headline. This was like a month ago, I said, ‘Do you think we should incorporate any of the acoustic stuff into the headline show?’ And pretty much everybody was like, ‘No, we don’t need to do that because we did an acoustic tour over here’. Then I started thinking about it today and I was like, ‘Yeah, we did it over here, but we didn’t do it over there’. So I told my manager today, I was like, ‘We need to prepare for the longest set that we’ve ever done in our career, and we probably need to incorporate some of the acoustic stuff into the Australian tour, because we didn’t do an acoustic tour over there’, and he agreed. So the plan is definitely to put on the longest and probably most diverse show that we’ve ever done in our career.
Do you feel that the acoustic excursions have prolonged Sevendust’s career, or created some avenues that perhaps wouldn’t have been available to you otherwise?
Well, when we did it, we were one of the first heavy bands to really do acoustic stuff. I guess you could consider MTV Unplugged with Nirvana, Alice in Chains and stuff like that, but I think we were a little bit more metal back then than those bands were. I remember when we first did it people were like, ‘Whoa, this is crazy’. But we have always been a diverse band – we just were. I don’t even really know how the acoustic thing started with us. We used to write songs on the acoustic, so we knew that it could be translated. We would start screwing around a little bit and sometimes the songs would sound a little funny because it was kind of ridiculous to be doing like “Rumble Fish” and stuff like that acoustically. But we realised we really could do any of it, with the exception of the screaming stuff which would sound a little hokey. As far as prolonging, it’s definitely a lot easier on the body and I could do that stuff until, whenever – I could do it forever. But there’s some gratification out of it. I mean, it’s under the microscope. If anybody’s doing anything, you can hear it. You can hear all the words real clean, you can hear the harmonies, you can hear if somebody’s off, you can hear if there’s a bum note, or if I screw up somewhere back there. So to be able to pull that off, and we did a tour with it and it was received really well. I think the acoustic thing is just something we need to do, because we’re diverse like that.
“Whenever they would go and meet with somebody, if they mentioned the name ‘Sevendust’, that was on our tab too. If they flew to LA to meet with somebody, anything to do with the label, and they said, ‘You know, Sevendust would be cool for this’. It was like, ‘Cool, write it off, Sevendust’. The flight, the hotel, everything. We probably paid every salary in the place.”
During Sevendust’s early years you were among that last gasp generation of artists whereby records still sold in hefty numbers. I was talking to Mikey Doling from Snot recently and he remarked how they initially existed during the end of that era whereby labels would still spend exorbitant amounts of money on videos, would take bands out for drinks and to lavish parties, and clothing companies would provide numerous free items. That free-wheeling ethos has been all but completely eroded. How do you recall that time compared to now?
I have a pretty funny answer to that. Mikey obviously is like a blood brother to us; we love Snot, grew up with them and started together. They’re probably the closest band we ever had in our career. And I remember us together being with our record labels, seeing which one of them was going to buy the tab, and how much money they would spend on us. [We’d be] going out to dinner where it would be the band, some of our crew guys, the entire staff at the label. There would be 20 people from the label alone, and the bill would come and it would be five figures – it could be ten grand, it could be $15,000 for a dinner.
The funny thing is we didn’t tell them, our A&R guy would come out to see us sometimes, and we’d be like, ‘Yeah, he’s taking us to dinner tonight’. We’d sold a lot of records and we haven’t made any money. It was like, ‘You guys made millions, so we’re going to get some dinners out of this shit at least’. The funny thing is, when it was all over with, and we looked at why we owed money, we were like, ‘How are we owing money by the way?’ They had their own distribution, so they were getting full dollar for every record that we sold. If we sold a million records, they’re getting close to making eight million dollars off of that, and I’m thinking, ‘How much does it cost for you guys to promote us? It definitely ain’t no eight million’. Somehow we’re a million in debt to the label and I was like, ‘How the hell is this happening?’
But when it was all said and done, we realised that those dinners that they were taking us out for, that was all on our tab. And whenever they would go and meet with somebody, if they mentioned the name “Sevendust”, that was on our tab too. If they flew to LA to meet with somebody, anything to do with the label, and they said, ‘You know, Sevendust would be cool for this’. It was like, ‘Cool, write it off, Sevendust’. The flight, the hotel, everything. So it’s like, basically we became the band that, for a particular time, would be able to help the label completely function. We probably paid every salary in the place. So everybody got paid there except for us. That’s what I remember about that time. I remember feeling like it was, ‘Yeah babe, yeah babe, everybody loves you’, and being able to pretty much act like a fool and get away with it. Then at the end of the day when nobody wanted to spend money and we owed money, I looked at the bill and I went, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know we had [spent] this much money. There’s like over $600,000 in dinners on this thing’. I think we probably would have said, ‘We’ll go ahead and get our own dinner’, and not invited the entire staff to come out here and eat if we would have known they were going to put it on our tab. I remember thinking they were so awesome to do what they were doing [laughs].
The business hardships and financial mishandling Sevendust have encountered has been well-documented. Do you hope other bands can learn from your experiences?
Yeah, obviously I don’t wish anything bad on anyone. I hope that the younger bands, I mean unfortunately the amount of money that comes through the pipeline is not the way it used to be either. You can still make plenty of money in the music industry, but as far as the way that it’s being made now, it kind of excludes a lot of the label, and I wouldn’t say management, but it excludes a lot of the label interference. Our big thing was we made money on tour, and our label didn’t get any of that. Whatever we made at a concert and off of merchandise, that was what we made and that’s the way it is now. That’s the way it’s always been for us. The difference is, when we sell 100,000 records as opposed to selling 900,000 records, we make great money off 100,000 records when we made nothing off selling a million. We’ve surrounded ourselves with some really good people and I’ve said that before, but I really believe it. I think we’re in a good state of mind to be able to pay attention to our business. And people really care about the band right now, so it’s worked out really good for us after really having a tough time of it for a long time.
Sevendust Tour Dates
Fri Mar 11th – The Studio, Auckland, NZ (18+)
Sun Mar 13th – Capitol, Perth (18+)
Mon Mar 14th – The Gov, Adelaide (18+)
Wed Mar 16th – The Coolangatta Hotel, Gold Coast (18+)
Thu Mar 17th – Eatons Hill, Brisbane (AA)
Fri Mar 18th – 170 Russell, Melbourne (18+)
Sat Mar 19th – The Metro Theatre, Sydney (AA)