Interview conducted November 29 2018
Interview published December 13 2018
"Lacerated, off the first record, I think is a
horrible song and we all joke about it in the band that that was the worst
song we ever wrote."
Metal Covenant talked with drummer
and original member Barry Kerch of American
rockers Shinedown before the band performed live in Stockholm, Sweden
in late November.
Tobbe: Have you recently been listening
to your latest record, Attention Attention, and if so, what kind of emotions
were running through your body at that point?
Barry: It's funny you ask. I have, because getting
ready for this tour; this is our first proper headlining tour where
it's just us. Back in the States we were doing co-headlining and things,
so the sets were a little bit shorter. So we're doing a long set and
we're adding some of the new songs, so I went back and listened to the
record to kind of remember those songs that we added. I still got the
same emotions; it's just a sense of pride, really.
know, I know the backstory; I was there when it was created. It brings
back the memories of being in the studio and the good and bad times
that we had; it was mostly good. So yeah, it's surreal to think that
it's been out since May, that it's doing well, and that it's been that
long, 'cause it seems like just a blink; I mean, we just finished recording
it, you know
Yes, just good nostalgia; good feelings.
Tobbe: I think that record is a little bit
experimental and were there, like, mixed feelings when you were in the
Barry: No, I think we were a united front; we
really were all on the same page. From the get-go we really just wanted
to make a great record, like we always do. We don't wanna make the same
record twice and we realized, together, that it was kind of becoming
a story and a concept and we just went with it.
Tobbe: How far off the original sound can
a band go and still stay valid?
Barry: I don't know. It seems to be working.
Six records deep, you know. [Laughs] We don't wanna make the same record
twice; that's for sure, so. And we got to expand as musicians, you know.
We're influenced by what's going on right now, and ourselves. You know,
we're not trying to be anybody else; we're just gonna do what we do
and it seems to be working.
The fans still stick with us and some want us
to make Leave A Whisper  again. You know, those fans that were
there in the beginning. We can't do that; I was, you know, in my 20's;
I'm not anymore [Laughs], so I can't make that record. I had different
Tobbe: What can each bandmember do during
the recording process to affect the end result, really?
Barry: I think, for us, it's showing up to the
studio prepared with what you're supposed to do that day, and then being
open, and be willing to listen. That's the one thing I've learned, just
over the years in the studio environment; it's a very different thing.
And what you think and what you're playing at that moment, you might
think is really cool or is special for that song, but the producer,
or maybe the guys on the outside listening in, go "You know what?
That doesn't feel right. Try this!" and instead of combating that,
you have to actually accept that and be open to change.
the fly change; ready, "Okay, you know what? We've tried that.
Do this!" and you do that and then you listen back and you go "Damn
it! You're right. That's much cooler. Let's do that!". So yeah,
being open, listening and showing up prepared; that's hands down what
you're gonna have to do.
Tobbe: Which people, or musicians, might
influence your own personal work today?
Barry: Oh. All of them. There's always been influences,
growing up. I have my childhood influences and those affect me and still
affect my playing today, and then you have newer people. I think, being
a musician, listening to everything is most important. So I can get
inspired from a programmed hip-hop record as much as I can get inspired
by a jazz record. You know, if it's something I connect to.
As far as personal drummer influences, it's,
you know, Nicko McBrain, Steve Smith, James Brown's drummers, Stewart
Copeland, of course John Bonham; you know, all the legends. For me,
in my playing, and what I enjoy hearing out of drums specifically, is
groove players; Steve Jordan, Steve Gadd. They have all these chops,
and they can solo if they need to, but when it comes to playing the
song, they play the song.
And I get almost frustrated sometimes when I
hear a bunch of notes on the drums, 'cause then I can't hear a song,
and that's not what I want. They serve the song, you know, and I pride
myself on hopefully doing that with Shinedown as well.
My job is to support the other 3 and make the
song the best song it can be, and not a drum feature, you know. And
if there happens to be a cool feature on drums in that song, so be it,
you know, but that's not how we approach music in this band. You know,
we're not a prog/rock, you know, Rush kind of band. And there is nothing
wrong with that; for them that's what works; that's not what works for
Tobbe: You and Brent [Smith, vocals] have
been members of this band from the very beginning, so what do you remember
today of those first couple of weeks together?
Barry: It was intense. I mean, Brent is an intense
person anyway; very intense. But the young, hungry
that we're not hungry now, but you know, priorities change over time.
At that time we were just kids, and we were broke, and we were just
trying to make it, just trying to make it. And now we could say "Yeah,
we've made it.", but what's the parallel is that we still have
the same pressures; just in different ways.
still want your record to be successful, you still work just as hard
as you did back then, but you know, we were younger and dumber back
then.Brent was a different person. You know, it's no secret that he
had a lot of addictions. [Laughs] And, you know, they call me grandpa,
'cause I kind of took care of everybody and I still try to take care
It was a good time, but I think this time is
better; we're happier, we're healthier, we're actually more motivated
now than we've ever been and I think more of a unit, as a group of 4
individuals, than we've even been.
Tobbe: Was it hard back in the day to set
up some kind of long-term goal?
Barry: It's always hard, it's still hard. What
we've always striven for was to have a career and to be a U2 and Aerosmith,
you know, Stones; somebody that can be here for a long time, and 20
years later we're still accomplishing that. So that is the goal. The
goal is to keep growing and get bigger and bigger.
I mean, look at what we're doing today; we're
playing a huge room. The last time we played here, as a headliner, was
9 years ago in a small little club. That's awesome, so we've earned
it, and we've grown, and next time we wanna play the Globe next door,
you know, so. In the States we play arenas and do, you know, around
14000 people, but we wanna play the stadiums too, so we're always wanting
to get ourselves to the next level, but that only happens, we know now,
with hard work and really paying attention to everything.
Tobbe: The band had kind of early or a bit
of instant success and was that hard to deal with?
Barry: It's funny; it looks like it, from the
outside in, but it wasn't. It was a slog. Everybody told us we were
gonna fail; they said that "You're never gonna mount anything.".
We toured that first record for 3 years and at the end of that we finally
had a little bit of success. On the outside it looks like "Yeah,
it was instant.", but really, it's been a slow, slow climb.
And I think that's a good thing actually, because
it created a better work ethic in us, but also a lot of those bands
that were there 20 years ago, that had real instant success, are gone.
'Cause they got to the top right away, and then they just dropped and
disappeared; I'm glad we didn't do that. [Laughs]
Did people tell you back then, frequently, like "Hey man! Get a real
job instead of trying to be successful through music."?
Barry: Yes, including my parents. [Laughs] I
think up until the last record my mom still would ask me "So what
are you gonna do when this is all gone?" and I was like "Mom,
this is my career, this is what I do.". You know, I got a wife
and a kid; this is what I do. But it's always a fear. You know, anything
could happen, and it can shut down tomorrow, but that's with anybody's
job. You know, it includes your job tomorrow.
And I don't know what else I would do; I'm unemployable
at this point, for anything else aside from this business. You know,
my college degree is worthless at this point [Laughs], but, you know,
luckily, knock on everything, I don't have to worry about that right
now. But I don't know what I'd do; I honestly don't. I don't think about
it, because all I worry about is making this the best I can. You can't
think about the "what ifs", I guess.
Tobbe: You know, with regular people
Yeah, the world can go into a depression and maybe it doesn't matter which
kind of job you have
Barry: I would be depressed too. I mean, if this
was gone tomorrow, I'd be in a, probably, very depressive place for
a while, and my wife would wanna kill me. Between Amaryllis  and
Threat To Survival  we took almost two years off, and that just
about killed me. It really did, 'cause you miss this, and then you don't
have a purpose. And, you know, your money starts running out; that you've
saved from the last touring cycle. 'Cause when you're off touring you
don't get paid, and it does come down to money sometimes.
You have to raise a family and pay your bills
and there was a time at the end of that period where a few of us were
looking at each other, going "Better get to work or I'm gonna have
to get another job.", you know.
Tobbe: Was it easy to get that energy back
when you re-started again?
Barry: At that time it was tough. It's easier
now. We didn't really take that much of a break between the last record
and this one, even though it seems like "Oh, it was 3 years before
the next record came out."; we were touring for two and a half
of those, so. It's easier the less time you take, 'cause you have to
get your body in condition for it again, because I don't care what you
do workout-wise; being on that stage and dealing with that adrenaline
is a completely different feeling.
our show is very energetic anyway, so you have to be ready for that;
you have to be in shape for that. And the closest thing, I think, I
get, for what I do live, is boxing. Boxing is a good cardio workout,
you know, since you're hitting the bag and stuff of that nature. That's
the closest thing I can get,
without the adrenaline. [Laughs]
Tobbe: Like 90 minutes on stage and you're
moving pretty much the whole time. Or at least your limbs are moving and
your body follows the motions, so of course it's a workout.
Barry: It's absolutely a workout. I think Blondie's
drummer did a study a few years ago, like with heart rate monitors and
stuff, of the energy that a drummer expensed during a live show and
it's roughly around the same as a soccer or a football player. It's
the same, so at least it keeps me young, I guess; it keeps my heart
in shape. [Laughs]
Tobbe: If you listen to your first 5 albums,
and don't take Attention Attention into account, are there things on those
albums that you kind of wish weren't there?
Barry: Oh yeah. Yeah, there's a few. Lacerated,
off the first record, I think is a horrible song and we all joke about
it in the band that that was the worst song we ever wrote. It's not
a good song, I think. It's funny: you'll have, very rarely, but the
occasional fans, especially in those days, that would come up and "Hey,
why don't you ever play Lacerated?", - "Because it's horrible...".
You know, I think the second record [Us And Them
] was rushed. Some production value I think could be better; it
could be a cleaner record. Plus we weren't in a good place mentally
and physically as a band. I think [The] Sound Of Madness  is a
perfect record; I really do. Amaryllis is a great record too, but, you
know, it was just Brent and myself on Sound Of Madness and the other
two bandmembers [Jasin Todd, guitar, and Brad Stewart, bass] were gone,
and then we fast forward to: now we have to work with Zach [Myers, guitar]
and Eric [Bass, bass] in the studio, so it was just a different time
and it was a different feel.
was good, but like I said, we took two years off, so it was like "Let's
just get to the record!". And, you know, now with the latest record
I don't have any regrets on this one either. I think this rivals Sound
Of Madness, in my opinion.
Tobbe: Is it a strange feeling that Shinedown
is more popular than some of the bands that you probably have listened
to when you were younger?
Barry: Yeah, it's extremely strange. I still
pinch myself every day. I still get jitters before I go on stage; I
get excited. It's an amazing feeling. And sometimes when you've seen
articles or reviews or things of that nature, comparisons to some of
your idols, you know, like "Hey, they've accomplished this and
so have you.", - "Really?".
You know, back in the States, Billboard just
put out an article. We've had the most number 1 rock songs on Billboard's
charts out of any other band; we're number 1. [Research reveals
that Shinedown is currently tied for second position with Van Halen.
At 13 songs Shinedown is 1 song shy of Three Days Grace's most number
1s for mainstream rock songs.] That's mind-blowing
to me, 'cause it doesn't feel like it. It feels like we're still in
the trenches, just clawing for the top. And sometimes you get those
little pats on the back, and it feels good, and then you look at each
other and go "All right. Get back to work.".
Tobbe: Could it be so, that as a musician
you live in kind of a bubble or something and maybe don't see the outside
world the same way most people do?
Barry: Yeah, you don't. It's a very different
life out here. And, at least within our band, we try to keep each other
accountable and stay humble, "Yeah, that's great! And enjoy that
reward. Don't look at it as, like, 'Oh, it's bullshit.'", - "It's
not. You've earned something. But that's it. You earned it; not earned
the next thing, 'Get back to work!'". And I think that's what keeps
us still relevant today. You know, we don't rest on our laurels and
go "Yeah, hey, we won!". You know, "You didn't win shit;
you got to get back to work!". [Laughs]
When was the first time that you realized that you were talking to a person,
who is, like, considered a star in music and you didn't give a shit about
who he was actually?
Barry: Back in, I think it was 2004, we toured
with Van Halen, as the opening support band. It was when they did the
Sammy Hagar reunion. And meeting those guys, and I'm a huge Van Halen
fan, to meet them
You know, Eddie would come to our dressing room
and kick open the door and he'd just sit there and talk to us. That
was that first time, like "Hey, we're on
on the same level, but "These are our peers; we can have a conversation.
You were untouchable to me as a kid.".
And the same with Sammy, though they hate each
other, and they were all in separate rooms; they would all come and
talk to us at individual times. And it was cool; they were such sweethearts
and they treated us really well. So that was probably the first moment
where, you know, I should have been starstruck, and maybe internally
I was, but we were man to man on the same level.
Tobbe: When was the last time you were thinking
about throwing your drum sticks away and start a completely new life?
Barry: Um... I never have. I've thought about,
you know "God, it sure would be nice to be able to spend more time
with my family.". And that crossed your mind, but it's a fleeting
moment, because without this I wouldn't be able to support my family.
So it's a double-edged sword. Some days, I mean, this year alone, we're
gonna be home a total, I think, of 31 or 33 days, and that was sporadic.
You look at that, you go "Shit, that's tough.",
but I've got a great wife at home, who's very supportive. We went to
college together, so she's grown with me through all this. Maybe during
that break on Threat To Survival I was like "I might have to do
something else.", but I wasn't willing to throw it all away.