INTERVIEW: Clint Lowery (SEVENDUST)
From an emerging band in the Deep South of America in the 90s to one of the most enduring alternative metal acts of a generation, American hard rockers Sevendust have simultaneously influenced and defied what it means to be a nu-metal band in an increasingly difficult industry to conquer.
Launching into 2019 with a career spanning decades, a dozen albums and a Grammy nomination, there's an undeniable lust for innovation and genuine connection to the fans, both old and new, from the Atlanta quintet - whether dishing up new material or demolishing live shows, it's hard to question the ongoing verve and endearing success Sevendust continues to command. And before the group touch down in Australia for a national tour next month (their first since 2016), we grabbed axe-slinger Clint Lowery to talk longevity, influences and why he's keen for that long plane trip Down Under. Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Hi Clint! Where am I speaking to you today?
CLINT LOWERY: I am actually in St. Louis, Missouri today, this is my home!
TIANA: Amazing, well I'm speaking to you from Sydney so we're slightly on opposite sides of the world, but awesome to be speaking to you nonetheless! No doubt it's a very busy time for yourself and Sevendust right now, and obviously we get to have you guys in Australia next month...despite the long plane trip, how excited are you to head back here?
CLINT: You know what? I'm not even upset about the plane trip! I have two kids who are constantly keeping me on my toes, so I'd like to sit down for a little while (laughs). That's gonna be good! I love Australia, I'm excited about it. We had a great time last time we were there, really great response, really good connection. I love the humour! There's a lot of people over there that just have this amazing sense of humour, and I just love hanging out with them. There's some great things about going over there, so we're completely excited about it.
TIANA: And is there anything you're looking forward to doing over here, apart from these shows, that perhaps you didn't get to do last time?
CLINT: I'm a big CrossFit enthusiast, and there's a bunch of amazing gyms there. I just love connecting with that community over there, so I'm gonna try my best to visit some of those places, and places I've actually seen before. Overall, I'll just try to connect with some of my friends over there, and just really see places and see things I didn't get a chance to see. It's really hard because the time change is so difficult, and it's hard to get the rest. But, you know, I just loved it last time, it was just such an amazing thing and just seeing more of everything is the goal!
TIANA: On that note, it's been a couple of years now since you were here last...obviously a lot has happened in between, we've even had a new album from you guys. But what can Australian fans expect from a 2019 Sevendust live set, are there any surprises up your sleeves this time round?
CLINT: We're gonna look at what we did last time, and we're gonna look at obviously playing songs off the new record. And try to put together something that will give the people that saw us last time something fresh, but at the same time we want to make sure we cover all the records as much as we can. So we'll just look at what we did last time and just make an adjustment to that. But nothing...we don't have dragons poppin' out or a huge production, we're just like a band who gets onstage and throws down. So there's won't be any surprises, but there will definitely be some very excited people on that stage!
SEVENDUST ONSTAGE IN BRISBANE, 2016//pic by Bec Reid, Life Music Media
TIANA: Well, I think that excitement will be equally matched by the crowd! And you guys are headed back here off the back of releasing 'All I See Is War' last year, and it wasn't just a killer album, it was also Sevendust's twelfth studio album, which is an incredible milestone for any band. For me personally, I feel like it was a bit of an organic extension to your back catalogue... but was the journey from inception to release a well-oiled machine, given how many times you guys have been through this process?
CLINT: Overall, the process for us has been different every record, and just even, like you said, making twelve records is a huge milestone. We fall in love and fall out of love with this process a lot, it's one of those things that happens just naturally. And we're on this musical, creative high right now, especially working with a different producer and changing up that dynamic. So there's a new energy to everything we're doing right now, and I think we're just in disbelief we're even around this long! There's a special thing that's happening, we're trying to purposefully not tour too much so we really enjoy it like when we were young.
TIANA: Sevendust are no strangers to life on the road and performing, and you have had such a lengthy career particularly with that side of things. Is it an impossible question to ask if there's a particular standout moment from all those years on the road and kicking ass onstage? Whether it was a memorable live show or a crazy tour story that still stands out?
CLINT: There's a few things that have value that I measure differently...for best live shows, we've had some really amazing experiences, we did Woodstock, we've played a lot of festivals. There's one that means a lot to us, in terms of the honour, of playing for military troops over in Afghanistan and Iraq. Being nominated for a Grammy, it wasn't a live show or anything, but that experience, going together as a band and being recognised. Even though we didn't win, it was still a really cool thing for us. There's different things that have happened that make us go "this is pretty incredible!", especially coming from where we all came from.
SEVENDUST HIT THE GRAMMYS RED CARPET IN 2016//pic by Valerie Macon, AFP/Getty Images
TIANA: Jumping back in time slightly, on that note...looking back to the 90s, you guys are poised to release your self-titled debut...would you have ever believed over two decades later you'd be up to twelve albums, a Grammy nomination, fans all over the world...did you ever think this longevity would be a reality?
CLINT: Absolutely not! We even joked around about it a lot in the beginning, the lifespan of bands in the 90s and the late 80s...bands would have two or three records, and that was a pretty sizeable career, you know? So to be doing this, at this stage of the game? It's beyond any expectation we had coming into this. And we don't take it lightly. If we're playing a show and it's a packed house, we are always talking about "man, can you believe there's people still coming to these shows??". They believe in what we're saying and doing, and it's not something that we go and say 'yeah, we deserve this!". It's always "man, we're pulled it off one more time!". (laughs) "Can't believe we're actually fooling these people!".
TIANA: I like the humility, but no doubt there's a huge amount of method to all of it. And with that humility there's clearly a lot of respect coming back to you guys, people are still hanging out to buy your stuff and hear your stuff...it's absolutely incredible.
CLINT: Yeah, I mean I say that. But we do put a lot of work into the music. I love writing and trying to keep people interested, and that's been a huge challenge. And again, it's just something I really enjoy doing. So I know where our value is, it's that we truly care about what we're doing, we're not up there just phoning it in.
TIANA: Given the changes in the industry you would've experienced as a band since those really early days are pretty mind-blowing...social media, streaming, general recording technology and so forth...but from your perspective, what has changed the least in the time Sevendust has been alive and kicking?
CLINT: The most important thing hasn't changed, and that is the fact that...well, people consume our music differently now, they stream it, there's different access points to it. But people come to shows, they walk up to a will call, they buy tickets, they buy tickets online and they come to a show. And then they buy merchandise! And then they respond to the music and they let us know what they like and what they don't like. So that direct band-to-fan connection hasn't changed. I think some of the streaming thing is cool because it allows the music to be easily accessible. For new bands I don't like it because there was a need, selling records was another stream of revenue that helped keep the label paid and all those different things. But at the end of the day the thing that hasn't changed is what's always been the most important thing to us in the first place, and that's just people coming to our shows, and that's the only thing that is pure and is untainted and hasn't had the shift to make us not enjoy this.
SEVENDUST PLAYING A HOMETOWN SHOW IN EARLY 2019//pic by Brian Heinemann
TIANA: Well I daresay some people will be rocking some pretty vintage Sevendust t-shirts when you head out here, so it'll be awesome to see them topping up on some new ones too. Given you are so heavily linked to rock, metal and beyond, I'm intrigued to quickly delve into the artists you grew up listening to...was it always these heavier waters, or did you have a bit more of an eclectic musical awakening when you were younger?
CLINT: My mum and dad were musicians, there was all types of music - from Jimi Hendrix and Zeppelin, and then it became the 80s hair band things. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest...and then the Alice In Chains and Soundgarden bands, Pantera came and really changed. Korn affected us, Nine Inch Nails...I loved a lot of 80s new wave bands that don't get a lot of credit. Obviously, Nine Inch Nails are one of my biggest influences, a lot of people know that...but I just am fascinated by Peter Gabriel and bands like Depeche Mode and some of those late 80s kind of pop bands. I thought those were pretty cool, and I look back at my career and I listen to the songs and I was heavily influenced by a lot of things that were completely outside of metal and rock.
TIANA: It's so nice to be able to hear and have those influences, it always ends up leading to something more interesting and engaging. If you listen to the same thing all the time, it all ends up sounding the same!
CLINT: Yeah! That's the only thing I don't wanna do, and there's a lot of bands in the heavy community that have one dimension to what they do. And it's great for a second, but it doesn't feel fulfilling to me. It's like "oh, ok cool, you can scream". But where's the melody, where's the textures, where's the layers, where's the ups and downs and dips and valleys? As a listener, that's what I want on everything.
CLINT LOWERY//pic by Lina Glasir
TIANA: Well no doubt you're giving us that and then some when you head out here. But to wrap things up so I don't keep you here all day...Sevendust have started 2019 off with a huge bang, and no doubt heaps of fun to come with your Aussie shows...but beyond this next run, is there anything you can reveal about what's next for the band?
CLINT: We're gonna start working on a new record pretty soon! We're already starting the process a little bit, and I'm gonna do a solo record in June. And then we're gonna continue touring, and then we're gonna record another Sevendust record in the fall with Elvis (Michael "Elvis" Baskette - producer), the same guy who did the last record, and we're super excited about that. It's gonna be quite different to any other record we've done, just from the initial tracks that are floating around. I think it's time for a change, and hopefully everyone will be willing to go...we're not gonna change completely, but we're gonna push the envelope a little bit and try to evolve. Not follow trends, just evolve.
TIANA: Well we love being kept on our toes, so I can't wait for the next step. But for now, can't wait to see you out here next month!
CLINT: I can't wait! Sydney, is that right?
TIANA: Sydney, yes! I'll have to bust out an old-school Sevendust shirt!
CLINT: (laughs) I love it.
TIANA: Can't wait! Thanks so much Clint, have a great day!
CLINT: Alright, see you soon!
SEVENDUST WILL BE HITTING DOWN UNDER STARTING APRIL 25TH, COURTESY OF MJR PRESENTS & THE FACTION. FOR TICKET INFO HEAD HERE. FOR ALL THINGS SEVENDUST, HEAD HERE.
BY TIANA SPETER