» Josh Rand - Stone Sour
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Interview conducted April 29 2017
Interview published June 11 2017

"I really love the fact that nobody can predict what we're going to do."

Stone Sour puts out a new record, Hydrograd, on June 30th and Metal Covenant hooked up with one of the band's guitarists, Josh Rand, when parts of the band were in Stockholm for a couple of days of promotional work in late April/early May. Josh has been a vital piece of the band over all its records and more than anything does he like to speak about the diversity in the music from the beginning up until now.

"There's a sense of pride of being able to record it live."

Tobbe: In what way does your new album continue the path of Stone Sour's previous records?

Josh: I think it continues just with the diversity of the record itself. And, you know, we've always been a very diverse band since the very beginning, going all the way back to the first album [Self titled] in 2002 with Get Inside being like this heavy track and also having Bother on the same record.

I just feel like every album is just another progression of us expanding ourselves musically. I mean, that's why we wanna do it. We love music and we wanna always constantly push ourselves to try to, I don't wanna say reinvent ourselves, but I would say more of expanding our musical knowledge than reinventing.

Tobbe: So is it important to you that each record has its own identity and is able to stand on its own, but yet being firmly attached to the Stone Sour catalogue?

Josh: Um, it's crazy, 'cause I don't think any of us really put a thought into it like that. You know, we just try to record the best songs that we possibly can in that moment and each record is its own separate journey of where we are at that moment in time.

You know, whether it's being a young, green band, like on the first record, that gets thrown into the studio kind of not knowing what was going to happen, or the excitement with Come What(ever) May [2006] of recording in Dave Grohl's studio [Studio 606], or recording in a legendary place like Blackbird on Audio Secrecy [2010]. So everyone of them has its own, like, journey and its place in our history, I guess.

Tobbe: The fans can never be sure of what they will get when they get their hands on a new album.

Josh: That's what makes it great! I really love the fact that nobody can predict what we're going to do. I love when you can't, because one minute we kind of establish ourselves where we can be this rock band and have metal elements and everybody is gonna expect a ballad, but then all of a sudden it's like "Well, here you go." and I guarantee nobody expected us to do a country song on this record. [Laughs] But it just felt right for us to do it, you know. It wasn't forced and we didn't sit down and "Hey! We're gonna write a…". It's just how it came together and that's what serves the song best, you know.

Tobbe: But how much are you guys talking about development in the music from one record to another. I mean, you've got to discuss that somehow before just going into a country song and record it.

Josh: I mean, I don't think, as I said, I don't sit down and I don't believe anybody else does, about creating a song and say "Hey! We're gonna do a country song.", 'cause in the demo stages it wasn't like that. And really the story behind St. Marie, that's the song we're talking about, is that the core of the song was put down and I was supposed to do the guitar solo on it, but we messed around for a couple of days with it, and I really struggled on it 'cause every time I would play something I just didn't like what I was playing to it, to be quite honest.

I mentioned to our producer [Jay Ruston], I was like "Man! It would be really cool… I hear slide guitar.". Slide guitar is very difficult for anybody that doesn't know it. It's its own style of playing. I mean, it's like playing stuff like flamenco or classical; it's completely different. I was like "It would be cool to have somebody like Derek Trucks play on it.", you know what I mean? That's what I hear. You know, that type of, I guess, country California like The Eagles. And Jay was like "Well, I don't know anybody that plays a slide guitar, but I know a pedal steel player." and it kind of just grew from there and then he wrote his parts throughout the whole song and it sounded so good that I was like "I'm not gonna force a guitar solo basically to just have the guitar solo. It needs to be the pedal steel.". So that's what we did. It was really trying to make each song its own thing.

We don't ever go in and say "It needs to be a country song. It needs to be a heavy song. It needs to be a…", you know. We're all open-minded. We love a wider range in musical styles and that's really what makes Stone Sour to Stone Sour; the fact that we love so many different styles and we're very diverse. And to be that diverse you also have to kind of be selfish in the fact that we kind of really write for ourselves and at the same time not be afraid to fail, because when you step out of the box you just never know how people are gonna react.

Luckily for us we did it right out of the gate, so it's like it isn't that surprising and I really do think a lot of our fans are excited about what will be the curveball 'cause on every album there's always like that one song that you don't expect, you know. On this album I think you get a couple, to be honest. I think When The Fever Broke at the very end is a whole new world for the band and it was about creating a soundscape. I compare it to Pink Floyd, not musically, but just that approach of letting things breathe and just creating an atmosphere for the vocals to sit on.

Tobbe: Most bands kind of stay inside, like, a specific frame of music, so how far could Stone Sour actually go beyond that frame and enter new landscapes?

Josh: I think it can go as far as we wanna push it, you know. I mean, if you would have asked me four years ago if we had written a country song, I would have said "Probably", 'cause believe it or not Taciturn off of House Of Gold & Bones Part 1 [2012] had a country vibe and we got away from it. And I wish in some ways we didn't; it's a great song the way that it is, but there's also a different vibe with it. But I think we can do whatever we want.

And now, it's crazy, the bigger that the band gets the more freedom you get and we're in a very unique situation, you know with Corey [Taylor] flipping back and forth between the two bands [Stone Sour and Slipknot]. And it also allows us to have time to write and really put the stuff together the best that we possibly can. I think a lot of bands, you know, basically re-record the same record and it's not that they don't have the ability to write different stuff, but unfortunately with the way that the industry is you're kind of forced to almost have to tour now non-stop. So you're out playing and then the cycle is: take a couple of weeks off, go in the studio and put something together.

Tobbe: You know, it's been over four years since your last real studio album, with your own songs, was out, but isn't it hard to write for an album that at that point won't be out in years?

Josh: I don't think so and I don't ever force creativity. So everything that I bring into the band just comes naturally to me. I might go months without writing an idea, period. And then all of a sudden I might go through a two-week span, like I did with Audio Secrecy, where I wrote like three songs and I was just in the zone, you know. And the fact that we just do what we do and we don't follow a trend it doesn't, I think, affect us, if that makes any sense. Since we're not a band that's watching every other band, and what they're doing and doing the same thing, we've kind of always just done what we do, which is trying to do the best songs we possibly can.

Tobbe: And with being diverse, is that also an attempt to stay one step ahead of all the other bands out there and attract even more fans than you already do?

Josh: I think the idea of why we're diverse is because all of us come from such different backgrounds and somehow when you put all of us together we respect one another and we respect all these different styles of music. That's what makes us diverse; it's really about the song. We're not a band that is painted into a corner where we always have to be that, you know. That's what makes us us and I don't think there's very many other bands that can do what we do.

Tobbe: When you're starting to write for a record or as you approach songwriting and as the process is going forward, do you guys take, like, a quick peek at your previous work in order to find out what people like and what you actually like about your music?

Josh: Honestly, no. As crazy as that sounds; really, a couple of months ago… [pondering] maybe it was right before we went in, so maybe my answer is yes. …was the first time that I listened to Audio Secrecy from start to finish since the album came out. For me it's like: we record a record that we write and we go through the process of the mixing and mastering and the promo and once it comes out then the focus becomes on the live show and then once the cycle is over I kind of just switch gears and then it's onto whatever is going to be next, you know. And that's how it's been for me with every album.

Tobbe: It's very different between artists, because some artists actually listen to their old stuff.

Josh: Um, I like moving forward… [Laughs]

Tobbe: Backwards is good sometimes too.

Josh: Yeah, it is when, you know, you've had a career for 35 years and everybody wants you to go back to have you where you were in the beginning. [Laughs] But the reality is that you listen to it so much in putting it together in pre-production, to the recording, to rehearsing it, and you go through all these different cycles and really, by the time you're done with it, I mean, you've heard it so much.

Obviously I go back and listen to stuff here and there, but it's more of a reference, like if I'm working on something you can go "Is it similar to what I did then?", than to actually just listen to it. Yeah, it might seem weird to some people, but I don't know, I just always think "Moving ahead", you know.

Tobbe: But then you go out on the touring cycle and you have to play the songs and the old songs too, so.

Josh: But we're switching stuff up, so that's the beauty of being able to do it for as long as we have 'cause now we're gonna add some old stuff that either 1) We've never played, or 2) Stuff that we haven't played in years, so. I mean, obviously we haven't played in years to begin with, so it's like really a long time since we played some of these songs, so. And obviously with the new stuff, that makes it fun, since the way we recorded it was live.

So we know that it's gonna translate well 'cause that's the way it was recorded, so that in itself is exciting and, as I said, the fact that we're gonna do a bunch of older stuff that we either haven't played or it's been years since we played it.

Tobbe: And how much will you play from the new record live?

Josh: It will be a progression. We're gonna go out this summer with Korn, but the album won't be out until, like, midway through the tour, so we don't wanna weigh down, plus we're direct support to them, so it's not like it's our show. So Fabuless and Song #3 will be the only songs and then slowly as we go through… Really, Europe's gonna be, you know, the tour where everybody gets a lot of the new record, 'cause we won't be back over here until November/December and in that way people will have time to live with the record.

Because the thing we learned in the past was: you know, you come out with a bunch of new stuff, and especially if that record's not out, and people don't know how to react to it and we feed off the audience, so if we got everybody just, like, looking at each other… And it's not saying that the song is bad or anything, but it's just that you're gonna go with what you're familiar with and been able to live with. So by the time we get to Europe, in the fall, I mean, the set will be a lot different than it will be in the U.S. in the beginning.

Tobbe: With today's computerized technology and all the recording techniques that's different from when you first started out, is being a skilled songwriter even more important now than just being great at playing your instrument?

Josh: Yeah. Honestly I think so. I mean, it's hard to write a great song. You can be an all right player and with technology and the right people they can make it way better than what the actual performance was, but you still can't cheat with a good song. I mean, either you can write it or you can't, so.

Tobbe: So which side is Stone Sour on? No, just kidding.

Josh: [Laughs] We're writing great songs. I mean, we've proved, you know, we're a great band and I'm not afraid to say that, by the way that we recorded it. I mean, technically that's the second time that we've done that. When we did the first album it was live too. And that was on tape. That wasn't even in Pro Tools, but that went to 2 inch tape. There's a sense of pride of being able to record it live.

Also we just wanted to capture just how good of a band we are. We felt like we hadn't done that. We did record it live, as I said, on the first album, but the problem on the first album was we were just starting, you know what I'm saying? We didn't have the knowledge that we have now, so we were so excited, and we were excited about this one too, but now it was just a different energy and the recording process, believe it or not, was painless and we recorded 19 songs, counting the intro, in 30 days. I mean, it was no joke. But we had fun doing it and that's why we went back with it and, you know, you hear it.

Tobbe: But how did that idea come about? I mean, someone must have mentioned it first, like "Let's play this live instead of doing it the traditional way.".

Josh: I did in rehearsal. Really, for me, it all started back when we did the two cover EPs. So the idea was: as we came off the last tour we were asked to record a cover of Metal Church's The Dark for the Fear Clinic soundtrack [2014]. On that tour we played five cover songs that had like kind of influenced each one of us and then I suggested, I was like "Hey! We've just been playing these. We should record them while they're fresh with everybody, so we'll just have them." and that became Meanwhile In Burbank… [April 2015].

We just basically knocked it out within a couple of days, you know, because we had already played them and we played them live. And then we had so much fun doing that and we were like "Okay. Let's do another one." and so we did… Um… what the hell is the other one? I can't even remember. There's so many Burbank ideas. Wait a minute, what is the second one? Straight Outta Burbank… [November 2015]. 'Cause the third one was gonna be called No Sleep Until Burbank…, which isn't coming out.

Tobbe: Which are all hip hop titles.

Josh: Yeah. [Laughs] It's so awesome. So yeah, you know, and we recorded that live and another main factor when doing those covers is sonically we wanted to try to recapture the original. Some people complained about us not making it our own and other… You know, you can't win that. If you make it your own, they're pissed off that it's not like the original and if you make it like the original, they're pissed of that you didn't make it your own.

But the main idea when we were doing that was to get everybody listening to different stuff, 'cause those cover EPs are very diverse themselves and got [The] Rolling Stones to Bad Brains to Slayer and Kiss and everything in between and then plus getting those tones in recording live, and then it kind of just carried over. When we were in rehearsal in Mates right before we went in for the record I was just like "Let's just record it live." and I kind of just threw it out there as almost a joke and then everybody's like "Yeah!" and everybody bought into it and the next thing you know we're doing it live, you know. It was definitely the right decision.

As I said, the main thing was we wanted to capture just the live atmosphere of being a band. It goes from us each being a great band, but also speaking highly of Roy [Mayorga]. I mean, you gotta have a great drummer. If you don't have a great drummer then you're not recording the way we did. It's just that simple.

Tobbe: Is everything you write for a new album completely fresh or do you have, like, riffs and things stuffed somewhere and you pick from it when you're about to enter a songwriting process?

Josh: Some stuff is just not ready when you write it, so then it does get shelved. I know on this record, Corey had written Song #3, like, 7 or 8 years ago and it's just taken this long to refine it and to be in the right place for us to play it, you know. On the last record for me, on [House Of Gold & Bones] Part 2 [2013], the main heavy riff in the song Sadist I've had forever. It could actually be on the first Stone Sour record. I just had to figure out all the in between bits and, once again, I don't force anything and it's gotta just flow.

Tobbe: What would you personally like to achieve on this whole record cycle?

Josh: For me I just want to get to different territories. You know, there's a lot of territories that we haven't been able to get to and for a band that's been around as long as we have, that's my main goal, just to get to take it as far as we possibly can and hopefully get to some of the places where we know that there's a fanbase, but unfortunately sometimes scheduling and other things come in and that make it so you can't do that.

Tobbe: And for how long will this touring cycle continue? I actually don't wanna mention Corey's activities with Slipknot, but you know how it is.

Josh: You know, right now the plan is to at least go until the end of next summer. Success is a thing that should be thrown in the mix too. We wanna do the summer festivals over here in Europe, but it all depends on the success of the album. That's the reality of it. If the album does extremely well and people wanna see it, then who knows? Maybe we go, you know, a little bit longer than initially projected. That really all rides on that.

Tobbe: When you're in the studio, do you have, like, still the energy to always become a better guitar player or has that train already left the station and you're quite satisfied with how good you are already?

Josh: No, actually I've taken online courses from Berklee since 2009 and that's always to expand. I think the difference is over the years I've gone from wanting to be so precise and fast to now more of "I just wanna write a great song.". That's changed for me, as it's literally now more of the song structure than guitar acrobatics.

Tobbe: So if you're recording live, how much do you have to go back and fill in stuff afterwards?

Josh: Well, I mean, we did the ear candy. You know, some of the layering, obviously the guitar solos. You know, we just wanted that initial rhythm section to have a pulse.

Tobbe: Do you actually think that the everyday fan will recognize the difference between recording an album live and doing it the traditional way with, like, one at a time?

Josh: I do, so I just think you feel it. And the fact that, not only does it sound like there's an energy to it, but just the sonics of it. You know, that's Roy's real drum kit; it's not drum sample. We've been bringing in people and people are always like "That snare drum sounds amazing." and it's like "Yeah. You know why? 'Cause it's a real fucking snare drum.", you know. It hasn't been run through a bunch of shit and somebody was spewing drum replacer over it. That's his real drum kit. Like it used to be, it's crazy. It's like "Yeah, we're recording this record... like they used to make records.", you know, and it's all about the energy and the sonics of it.

Tobbe: So what will Stone Sour be mostly remembered for one day, in a far future, when the band doesn't exist anymore?

Josh: I hope for the diversity, honestly. I really do. Of us really just pushing each other as much as we could to keep growing. Hopefully that's what younger bands take from us. They don't necessarily need to take anything stylistically. You know, with us going in we've always talked about all of these classic bands that we love and it's not like we sound like Led Zeppelin or The Beatles, but we try to embrace the spirit which they had when they made those records, which was "Let's push everything and constantly grow.".

I mean, if you look at The Beatles in 8 years of what they accomplished and how much musically they changed, it's really honestly mind-blowing. It's like from when they first started out and it's, you know, Love Me Do, and then it's like "Okay. Now we're gonna end with Let It Be or The Long And Winding Road." and I mean, it's just so epic. And everything in between. They were in a, I think, competition with themselves to always top what they've previously done without worrying, like "Hey! This might have a backlash.".

And same with Zeppelin. I mean, Zeppelin were constantly growing. I look at how diverse, like, album 4 is. I mean, it's like a Greatest Hits basically anyway. It's like every song is a single, but when you really break it down it's like "Holy shit!". I mean, it's pretty diverse, and that's what I hope that, like, fans of us take. Or younger people starting out, you don't have to conform to one style of music. If you enjoy all of it, then do it 'cause it gets very boring playing the same stuff over and over again.

Tobbe: And there's always a new generation coming and they don't necessarily have to look at the 70's band or the 60's band and they can look at Stone Sour nowadays.

Josh: Yeah, hopefully. I mean, it's crazy, you know, you always make fun of being like your parents, like "I remember back when…" and now all of a sudden it's like we became the older statesmen. It's like "What happened?". But to me, nothing would make me more ecstatic than somebody saying "Hey, you know, Stone Sour inspired us and they pushed stuff.". Even though we're not a punk rock band we really have that punk rock mentality, like "Fuck you! We're gonna do whatever we want.". We don't need to say it. We just do it.

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