Staind Interview

Band Name: Staind
Interviewed: Aaron Lewis
Date: 2008-08-19

Previous Staind Interviews
The Gauntlet: You guys have called "The Illusion of Progress" your most musical release to date. What exactly does that mean?

Aaron Lewis: The diversity of the influences, the different tones. Old guitars and old amps, classic vintage tones that are really recognizable if you go back and listen to the old stuff. If you know what a Fender Strat sounds like you can listen to the old music and be like, "Oh, that's a Fender Strat." Or Telecaster, or Gibson Les Paul. They have classic, traditional tones to them that are recognizable and we use that a lot on this record.

The Gauntlet: So are you going to use all those same old instruments live as well?

Aaron: I always use all my old instruments, because they're the best sounding instruments that I have. The Goldtop that I play for a lot of the evening is a 1968 Goldtop, and the SG is a '55 SG, and the white Les Paul is the same as what Randy Rhoades used to play. It's a 1974 custom. I bring my old stuff with me. The two Strats that I have are old, and the Jazzmaster that I have is a 1962 or something like that. What's the point of leaving your best instruments at home when you're trying to impress people with the sound of your live show? That Goldtop, live or distorted just sounds that much better than any other electric guitar that I have. It's just a step above everything. It's hard to pry that guitar out of my hands in the studio.

The Gauntlet: What does the title mean? What sort of "progress" are your referring to?

Aaron: Well, that's the beauty of the title - that it's so wide open. The fact of the matter is that we were all hanging out in the kitchen of the studio shooting the shit and not getting any work done when we were supposed to be writing songs, and [producer] Johnny K walked over and was like, "What the fuck guys, are we gonna do something today, or can we just chalk it up as a wasted day?" And I was like, "Yea, it's like the illusion of progress." Instantaneously I knew that that was the perfect title of the record.

The Gauntlet: You guys haven't had a single lineup change during your entire existence as a band. How on Earth does that happen?

Aaron: Well, for the first year of Staind as a band we had a different bassist, four years or five before we got a record deal, so I would have to say that, yes, officially we still haven't changed any members.

The Gauntlet: Are you guys all best friends outside of the band?

Aaron: Not at all, not at all. Don't take that the wrong way. We all met to put the band together. We didn't know each other, we were all in different circles. That's kinda how it is still. When we go home from tour, I don't see or talk to any of those guys until it's getting close to the next thing we have to do.

The Gauntlet: Does everyone in the band bring different inflluences to the table?

Aaron: I think so. That's one thing that amazes me about this band, is the chemistry that we have when we go into the studio. We wrote this entire record in less than two weeks just starting from scratch really.

The Gauntlet: Have there ever been disagreements over the direction of the band?

Aaron: Of course. It's like being married to 3 other people aside from my wife. Of course there are arguments. There is tension and moments. Before we got a record deal, this band broke up quite a few times (laughs).

The Gauntlet: You guys were a major part of the nu metal scene back in the day. Did you hear about the kid in South Africa that dressed up as [Slipknot drummer] Joey Jordison and killed some of his classmates with a sword recently?

Aaron: No, I didn't hear about that.

The Gauntlet: Slipknot, shouldn't be blamed, wouldn't you agree?

Aaron: Absolutely. It has nothing to do with Slipknot, it has to do with the psyche of the person that did all that stuff. Slipknot's not responsible for that. Not unless in a song they said "Dress up like Joey and go and kill a bunch of people." That's like holding Marilyn Manson responsible for Columbine. Give me a break.

The Gauntlet: A few years back you had a somewhat comparable situation when a couple of your fans committed suicide…

Aaron: There's been more situations than just a couple…

The Gauntlet: Have you taken any backlash for something like that?

Aaron: No, the backlash that I've had to deal with is just not being able to deal with every letter that I've ever gotten from a fan to say "Thank you." After the first paragraph, which was the "Thank you, your music has gotten me through so much" and all that the story of their life came after the first paragraph. Carrying around all these stories, it got to be too much after awhile. I stopped reading letters, I stopped going out and seeing the fans after the show and signing autographs. I really just had to separate myself from the whole thing for awhile. It was just too much. I think the straw that broke the camel's back was a letter that I got telling me about this person's best friend who loved Staind so much. He'd never been musical in his entire life, and he went out and bought an acoustic guitar and learned "Outside." He recorded himself playing and singing the song and put it on a loop on his computer and hung himself to it. So when his parents came and found him, him singing the words to "Outside" would have been what they walked into. That was really really difficult for me. That was really what caused me to back off for awhile.

The Gauntlet: Is that still the case?

Aaron: No, I'm back to reading letters and going out and signing autographs and stuff.

The Gauntlet: What advice would you have for the Slipknot guys in terms of handling that sort of backlash?

Aaron: I don't think it should fall on their lap at all. It's not fair, that's a cop out. Why don't the parents look at their parenting and see if it was enough? It's such an unbelievable cop out for people to try to point the finger to the kid's favorite band. Why don't you point the finger at yourself and see where you let them down? That was what "Waste" was about. This mom whose son had killed himself was knocking on the door of the bus crying and wanting to ask me why her son would have killed himself. The first words to "Waste" is "Your mother came up to me and wanted answers to questions only she should know."

The Gauntlet: What are your touring plans for the album?

Aaron: We are out right now with 3 Doors Down along with doing some headlining shows when they're not playing. That's done on August 31, and then we're off for 3 days. Then we go to Europe with Nickelback. When we get back from Europe, we'll do a headlining your of the States with Seether and Papa Roach. That'll go until the end of December, and then I've got a bunch of solo shows over the holidays and through the first couple weeks of January. Then we go back to Europe again with Seether. Then another couple of weeks of solo shows, then I'm really not sure - hopefully we'll hit the rest of the world.

The Gauntlet: Is it hard to be away from your daughters for so long?

Aaron: It's the ultimate sacrifice.

The Gauntlet: Does your family ever come on tour with you?

Aaron: Sometimes. It's quite unenjoyable for my wife. For my wife to have to do everything that she would do on a normal basis with the kids in a 45 foot tube. A 6-year-old, a 3-year-old and a 10-month-old need quite a bit of stuff around them to keep them occupied and stimulated. There's just really not enough stuff on the bus to do that. So she can stay home and miss me, and I can talk to them on the phone a few times a day and do the video chat through Skype every now and again. Or she can come out on tour, have nothing that she needs, and have to deal with the fact that I'm standing right there in front of her, but I'm not available because I'm working. We've found over the years that it's just easier if she stays at home.

The Gauntlet: Are you working on your solo album?

Aaron: I haven't really started working on it yet. I've got 7 or 8 songs in the can that will be on the record, but we've been really busy finishing the Staind record, and doing all the press and promotions all the way up to today, because the record comes out today, that there just really hasn't been the time.

The Gauntlet: Have you thought about who you'd like to collaborate on it, or will you play all the instruments yourself?

Aaron: Hopefully I'll be playing all the instruments and producing it myself. The whole deal.

The Gauntlet: You've had three straight #1 albums… If the Illusion of Progress doesn't go #1 will that be a shock?

Aaron: Well, I've already written it off. You know, we're up against the Jonas Brothers. How are we supposed to compete with that? You can't. It's impossible. That's an enigma. If it happens I'll be ecstatic. If it doesn't I already knew that it wasn't gonna. If I can plead to all the parents that are reading this right now, if you can just hold off on buying your kids the Jonas Brothers record, maybe, just maybe, we'll have a chance.

The Gauntlet: Or maybe you could just go on tour with the Jonas Brothers and get their audience to like you.

Aaron: Yea, that would work… not (laughs).

The Gauntlet: What's the deal with that lawsuit with John Stainbrook? There was a rumor that you guys might have to change your name. Is that a real possibility?

Aaron: OK, you want the truth, or do you want what he has put out there?

The Gauntlet: The truth of course.

Aaron: The truth is that at the beginning of our career we bought the name from John for a good price and he was very well taken care of. Then he came back and wanted more. Then he came back again and wanted more. Then he came back AGAIN and wanted more. The last time that he came back he wanted millions of dollars because Staind was all over all of our merchandise and everything else, when the fact of the matter was that we fully purchased it from him in the beginning. Legally and binding and everything else. He is just a fucking scumbag. The deal was done in fucking '98. It was a done deal. Almost a half million dollars later in lawyer fees it's finally fixed and finished. He didn't have a leg to stand on the whole time, and it cost us a half million dollars to get this piece of shit to go away.

The Gauntlet: If you ever did change your name what would it be?

Aaron: Oh my God, I don't know. It took us weeks to come up with that name. Every practice for a couple weeks, we used to practice 4 or 5 nights a week, and every practice we all brought in a sheet of paper with a bunch of names on it. It was a democratic process and Staind was finally one that we all thought worked. I don't even know where we would begin to even try to come up with another name.

The Gauntlet: Did the name really come from the Bible, or is that just a rumor?

Aaron: No, we were just being clever. There was already a band called Stain. They had a record deal for a little while and were called Kilgore. They were Stain before they were Kilgore. And Lit - the lead singer for Lit has "Stain" tattooed across his stomach because that was the name for the band before they changed it to Lit. And do you know why they changed it? John Stainbrook. Yea, he was trying to sue them too.

The Gauntlet: Unbelievable. So this guy just goes after anyone who uses the word "stain" for anything?

Aaron: Basically. He looks for people that have used the word and goes after them. It's always nice when I go onto Wikipedia, and on there it talks about how "we sued him." Obviously because they got the info from him, they paint the picture of the big corporate guy coming in and stepping on the little guy, when the fact of the matter is what I told you.

The Gauntlet: So the moral of the story is never to trust Wikipedia?

Aaron: Well, never take it for gold.

The Gauntlet: Do you still have a relationship with Fred Durst?

Aaron: Sure.

The Gauntlet: You're still on Flip right? Are you the last band on that label?

Aaron: Umm, we could be… As far as I know it's not even an up and running label. It's just set up so that the original people that took the risk with us are still getting paid for it.