» Barry Kerch - Shinedown
« back

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.

You 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 studio together?

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 [2003] 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 life experiences.

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.

On 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 us.

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… not saying 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.

You 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 of everybody.

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]

Tobbe: 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 [2012] and Threat To Survival [2015] 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.

And 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...". [Laughs]

You know, I think the second record [Us And Them [2005]] 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 [2008] 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.

Threat 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]

Tobbe: 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…", …not 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.

Related links: