On the first day of the 20th Anniversary Celebration of SEVENDUST’S debut album I had a chance to sit down with guitarist/vocalist John Connolly. And for those of you not in the know, he has another band PROJECTED, whose sophomore double album Ignite My Insanity will release on July 21 via Rat Pak Records. Comprised of SEVENDUST bassist Vinnie Hornsby, ALTER BRIDGE/CREED drummer Scott Phillips and TREMONTI guitarist Eric “E-Rock” Friedman, it’s been five long years since the first PROJECTED release, due to everyone being so busy. But the wait is over, my friends. So grab a seat and join us:
Amps: We have a mutual friend in common, a Mr. Adam Boston, who now writes for A&GS.
John: Oh, cool!! He’s a really good guy, man.
Amps: Indeed he is. So…how is everything going?
John: Really good. We’re about to do these five 20th Anniversary shows for SEVENDUST. It’s kind of insane to think about that, but it should be a lot of fun. Two decades, wow. We kick off tonight in Baltimore.
Amps: I’ll be seeing you in two days here in Philly. I am so pumped, man! I’ve been a huge SEVENDUST fan since the beginning but could never see you live until 2004. And since then I pretty much haven’t missed a tour. Making a setlist must be tough, huh?
John: Aside from these shows a normal setlist is tough, for sure. Lately we’ve been trying to put ones in that fans have been asking for and mix it up. But we’ve got somewhere in the neighborhood of 150-160 songs with B-sides. And we get in arguments saying, “Remember that B-side was from this record” and someone else goes, “No it’s not!” I don’t even know anymore (laughs).
Amps: Something about Trees Dallas seems to bring out the best in you guys. I’ve sen you there twice.
John: That’s a great place and we love playing there. We played there way, way back in the day, and once they reopened we fell in love with it all over again. Clint (Barlow, owner) is a buddy of ours. And to see his other place, The Bomb Factory, doing so well, it’s great to see Deep Ellum back again, you know?
Amps: Talking about PROJECTED, it’s been five years since the last record. So, what? You feel the need to come back and hit us over the head with 21 songs on Ignite My Insanity?
John: (Laughs) well, we figured it was the least we could do for making everyone wait so long. It wasn’t intentional to wait five years. We’ve actually been working on this one for the better part of two. But all of our schedules, between ALTER BRIDGE, SEVENDUST, and TREMONTI, it’s really hard to pinpoint time to work together. The good thing is that this record was written before we even went into the studio, so that was a first. On the first one I didn’t have a lot of the vocal melodies and lyrics done before we went in.
Scott Phillips was playing drums to actual vocals this time, so he didn’t have to guess where to put fills and stuff. It made things settle a bit. But yeah, it’s been five years. It’s crazy that it took this long.
Amps: So were most of the songs done by sending files to each other?
John: The beauty of it was everyone kind of got their feet wet with demo versions of the songs. Scott and myself went up to New Jersey where I’ve done the last three SEVENDUST records and we just knocked it out. I played scratch guitar and he knocked out the drum tracks in seven days. And then I hammered out all the rhythm guitars. But we had done our homework, so we got in, went to work, and got out. Then we packed up the drives and relocated to my house. And that’s when I started putting vocals on everything. I kind of work by myself there because it’s on my own schedule and efficient for me. I’ve got my home, not-quite-professional studio, but it seems to do the trick. E-Rock came in and laid down most of his guitar stuff while I was home, then I went back out on tour, and Vinnie tracked most of his stuff in Canada (laughs). This is the first record we’ve done not only in different states, but different countries as well. The beauty of what you can do with Pro-Tools and portable drives is crazy.
Amps: With everyone’s hectic schedules will you get a chance to play some PROJECTED dates?
John: Definitely, but just not sure when. An that’s only because the SEVENDUST and ALTER BRIDGE schedules go really far into this year. Those guys in ALTER BRIDGE are doing some UK shows with a full orchestra for a DVD and we’re going into recording mode. But we’re gonna try to find something for sure. As soon as we finish these anniversary shows I’m gonna go home and pinpoint schedules. If I had to guess I’d say realistically in early 2018. We didn’t make a second record just to make it. We have every intention of taking it out on tour. We had a blast when we did it, so we wanna share it.
Amps: I know you do some singing in SEVENDUST, but I didn’t know you sing like THAT!!
John: (Laughs) well thank you, I didn’t know either! It’s one thing when you sing backup to arguably one of the greatest rock and roll singers ever in Lajon Witherspoon. He’s such a monster and a natural talent. Sometimes it irritates me because he doesn’t have to work on it, he’s just natural. Guys like me have to go in there and work on it over and over till we figure out what works and what doesn’t. The first PROJECTED album was me trying to find my way and gain some confidence. I think I was a lot more confident this time around. The first record was a big question mark: “Are people gonna like this? Are they gonna hate it? Am I gonna hate it?” I always have an issue with the sound of my own voice, so getting to a place where I don’t hate it is kinda cool. It’s always a work in progress.
Amps: What do you want the listener to take away from this 21-song extravaganza?
John: It’s a journey. I don’t ever sit down and say, “I’m gonna make a concept record.” Those tend to come to you, not the other way around. When we did Alpha back in 2006, we realized it was a concept record, because it was about someone battling the voice in their head. Sometimes the voice is a good thing, and sometimes it’s a bad thing.
Ironically enough Ignite My Insanity is almost Part II of that. Only this time there are more voices, sometimes five. It’s all the things that can set you off. It’s about being able to come to terms with thinking that we might all be going a little crazy. Some days are good, some days a re bad. This record was written in a couple of different directions, and the lyrics can flip. In “Reload” the first verse is the voice speaking to the character, and the second is the opposite. Depending on your perspective it could flip at any time. This is something that I think many of us deal with. It’s a journey into the mind of someone who thinks they may be losing it.
Amps: What would you like to say to all the fans of PROJECTED and SEVENDUST out there?
John: Just thanks so much for everything. I mean, 20 years plus going with SEVENDUST, and now five years plus with PROJECTED, there has been so much love and support along the way. If you’d asked me 22, 23 years ago when we started, if I thought we’d be having this conversation right now, I’d be lying if I said, “Yes.” The chances of making it in the music industry are slim. And the opportunity to have one band survive for that long and then have a side project get as much love as this has gotten, it’s truly humbling. So thanks from the bottom of my heart.
SEVENDUST and PROJECTED. Two bands led by one of the nicest guys in rock and metal, and all-around class act in John Connolly. I was at the Philly show last week, and never have I seen a band as grateful for all the love they get from the SEVENDUST family. And I just know those same people will love Ignite My Insanity. Be sure to pick it up on July 21, strap yourself in, and get ready for one helluva ride, folks! Here’s a taste…