Lords of Metal
Arrow Lords of Metal

Sevendust- interview met Lajon Witherspoon (vocals)

Lajon Witherspoon: “Music is meant as medicine, and I think it is time to give these folks their medicine again. I see things in our music as a collage on canvas from this point in our lives.”
Sevendust is an American hard rock/alternative rock band with nearly thirty years of experience. They were founded in 1994 and sold millions of albums. Now they are signed by Napalm Records for their 14th studio album ‘Truth Killer’ and we were eager to find out what was going on in the Sevendust camp! We had a very debonair conversation with singer Lajon Witherspoon and it was heart-warming to hear all his future challenges now that they are signed by an European label. Here you can read our long distance chat between EU and USA.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 7 augustus 2023

Wow Lajon, the fourteenth album is ‘Truth Killer’ in the meantime. That is a lot of activity!
Yeah I am so excited about the release of the album and not only that, we also signed with a new label Napalm Records and we see already many things happening, not only doing videos and different things that we haven’t done in years, like talking to you and doing press overseas. I am pretty sure they are going to bring us back over there to tour in Europe.

That would be great! In 2021 you released the former album ‘Blood And Stones’. Of course you could not tour because the pandemic was raging the planet, but was it a big success? Only in the US or also in Europe?
I don’t know how big the success was, because it was a very weird time. We wanted to make sure that we put music out during that time, because we felt like people needed it, you know? We did not want to hold the album and wait until the pandemic was over, but it definitely affected the flow, the natural way that the album would have been accepted if we would be able to tour for the album too. I think it would have been a lot bigger, but I was very happy with the success of some songs. They are great songs, we are still playing them, but I am just so happy to be able to be back out, to go out on the road is some kind of normal setting, being in front of people. That is what we need to be doing. Music is meant as medicine, and I think it is time to give these folks their medicine again.

In that respect, the song ‘Holy Water’ made me wonder: are you a spiritual person, maybe even a religious person?
Yes of course! Very. Not the kind of preaching things, but definitely… something that we do every night before going on stage is that we pray together as a band in a circle. We all come from those backgrounds. Everyone went to church, growing up as kids, you know. Maybe not so much now, but it is definitely something as faith. I don’t care what you believe in, believe in something.

I can understand, because I was brought up as a catholic and these rituals sometimes moved me as a kid. They had a kind of otherworldly magic…
Absolutely. It is funny. ‘Holy Waters’ is definitely something that reminds us all of something we grew up with. I mean, I don’t do it anymore, but I remember me and my brother, we had to pray ‘now lay me down asleep beside the bed, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake’. We grew up doing that type of things as kids. So there is definitely a spiritual element in the album for sure.

You feel that. There is also a kind of contemplative atmosphere in the lyrics, they are deep-draught…
Yes, I think we can only write about things that we have gone through during our lives, and let me say that I don’t feel like that pandemic put a damn on everything, so when we went writing this album, we had all that energy and we wanted to put it in the songs. I see things in our music as a collage on canvas and we are able to play these songs. There are so many different kinds of things and that is what we are able to do, just make this wonderful collage of music that we want to free to let out at this point in our lives and in our career. We have new opportunities these days. I think that is obvious with the first single ‘I Might Let The Devil Win’. We never would have thought that we would release such a melodic song, but to me, it is one of our heaviest songs.

But the last track ‘Fence’ is ultimately heavy musically…
Well, that is old school Sevendust! Me and John (Connolly – guitar – Vera) were in the studio at the last day still working on that song and we had to put it on the album, because it was so familiar to the beginning days of Sevendust and that is something which is important to keep that vibe. Everybody seems to love it and it is great. I am so proud that we were able to do that.

I was always intrigued by the band name Sevendust. It makes me think of Stardust. Do you still remember how you came to that name?
Yeah but I like your version better than what the name really came from, but let me tell you. So we were in the middle of signing a record deal, years ago, and we could not use the name that we had. So we had to come up with a name and my bass player came in and we live in Georgia. This is the South, it is a country town and he bought a can of Stevendust and Stevendust is a pesticide that you put on vegetables. We called it Sevendust and we were thinking: ‘why not name the band Sevendust’? That was that, but anyways, I felt like seven is a heavenly and a good looking number and we are all created from dust. People say I smoked too much weed and it might be manifested through that (laughs).

So you are living now in Georgia, not in Atlanta?
I live in Kansas. I have been in KC for the last thirteen years. I don’t live in Georgia. There’s only two people from the band who live in Georgia right now.

So you are spread…
Yeah we’re an American band…

That reminds me of Grand Funk Railroad…
Yeah (laughs)

Another song we should talk about is ‘Superficial Drug’, because that should deal with social media and I am not a fan of it, I even don’t have a proper iPhone… So I am eager to hear what you think about that…
Oh wow! Let me tell you what. I still call with landline phone, so I am very old school with the social media thing. The only thing I do on social media is Instagram and it is more for the band and for my family. It is definitely a successful way for artists, but also on the political side, people behind their keyboards is a complete failure. I don’t get along with all that kind of stuff, at fifty years old I don’t have time for that, you know… I realized in the last couple of years during the pandemic, there’s a lot of people that I don’t have to talk to again. I don’t know, I think I just learned a lot. I felt like I learned a lot over the last few years with the pandemic. Not only by being a better father, but also being able to be present in my family’s life. That is something good you can’t take away from me anymore, because before I was always on the road and daddy’s missing all the details. Not being there the first day at school or picking them up for this and that. So that is something that I have taken and really goes to my heart and I also feel like going back to the album, that helped us write this album while being home with our kids and doing something different from the normal pandemic sense.

Indeed, it felt strange. The only occasions I come out is travelling or going to concerts and both were blown away…
Yeah it was very scary. I didn’t know what to do. I remember sometimes sitting here at the house and I was wondering: ‘Am I still a singer?’ What was going to happen? We did not know. The last group that was going to be allowed to be back in the scene, were the artists and bands with their audiences, because that scene is the most contagious of them all if you think about it.

You have sold so many records. Did you ever buy odd things, luxury things or did you spend the money very cautiously, like investing in the farm you have I suppose?
The farmhouse is left to me by family. Let me tell you something that happened. We just started remodelling it and music had to be written here, because we wanted to be together as a group of close friends again. Grandma played music, that’s what they wanted us to end up doing anyway. When I brought the band in, it was probably one of the coolest experiences for this band, because everything… the drums, the bass, the guitars and everything is set up in grandma’s bedroom. And we are jamming. It is Sevendust. Jamming in grandma’s bedroom. It was so surreal. And then when it was time to track the bass lines, we took everything to the front side and I remember this one night the sun was going down, it was so beautiful. 300 acres out there and I remember walking into the front of the house and looking at Vinny and all you could see was popping him up and down. He was sitting on the edge of a bed and Clint was sitting behind the computer and a desk and I was thinking: “we are recording an album”. You just can’t take that. It was like being a kid, it was so surreal. We had a magical feel while jamming and that energy was able to be caught on the album, because we woke up in the morning, ate breakfast and started a morning jam. It was so much fun and excited. We just took that energy to Elvis’ place in Florida, we had a big match with indoor pool and living in the house was an incredible place. It was a great time.

Indeed, Elvis Baskette as producer… I always link that name of the producer to Alter Bridge, where you toured with recently…
Yes these are our buddies, our friends and Elvis also worked with mister Myles Kennedy and several other bands like WVH Mammoth and he’s been around with us for a while. If we find somebody good and it works together, it is a team that works and we are happy with it. We got a lot of work done and he doesn’t come in like other producers, telling you how to sound like and what you have to do, he sits back and let us do our thing. He always says: ‘It is Sevendust, do what you do, I am just coming here to polish it.’ (laughs)

Yes, because this time you did more things yourself, like the electronic elements…
Oh yeah we stepped outside the box, more electronics, but it was so much fun. With that time off, we just felt like ‘what are we going to do?’ We had so much time to work on things. I think we were able to put all those aspects into this ‘Truth Killer’ album. And the label was so cool with us, you know. They just let us do what we have been doing for so long. It is just a perfect working relationship and I am so excited about the new adventures that we are going to experience with Napalm Records.

And I think they can do more for you in Europe, being focused on that area…
Absolutely, they are focused on that. When we were signing the deal, they were making sure that we are going to be back over there in Europe. That was a very important thing for us  to sign too.

One of my favourite songs is ‘Leave Hell Behind’.
Oh wow. I have to listen to it again. Let me tell you what I do. After we record the album, I don’t listen to it again until it comes out. The reason I do that, is because I don’t – it is so funny, when we just went out on this last tour, we had the song ‘Quicksand’. We all looked at each other and said ‘we haven’t played that song since we recorded it.” and we had to be ready to go on tour in two days, so we played it twice and we put it in the set. We were ready. – but, what I do is that I remove myself from it until the day that the album comes out, because I want to relive it again. Even though I love it and I love the album, I just want to make it fresh to me again. I will listen twice to the whole album next week, because we have two listening party’s, but it makes it fresh for me to do it that way. It makes me relive the moment and not be tired of it.

A lot of discipline that you are able to do that…
Even with the videos, we got to do three videos, I was like ‘damned, I will hear the songs’ (laughs) That is another thing. Napalm made us do already four videos and there’s three live videos that are coming out. We had a great time. The very first video we did not want to be in the video and luckily enough, we found this guy who did an animation video that turned out to be one of the coolest videos we have done in a long time. Then Napalm said: ‘hey guys, we want you guys to do three live videos’, so all of a sudden we were doing these videos and you know they turned out great and the director wasn’t that type of director that had you in there at 8 o’clock in the morning until 2 o’clock in the morning, so we were able to get the footage that we needed, made it special and had a good time doing it too, so it has been a good relationship with Napalm Records thus far.

Yes they are very friendly. I have been to their office in Berlin several times and I love it…
You have been to their office in Berlin too? What’s it like? It seems everyone has been there! I just talked to an Italian gentleman and he had been to their office last month. We once made a video and we played in Berlin with Skunk Anansie. Years ago we did a music video for the song ‘Linkin Creek’ in Berlin and we were also in Berlin on the TRL back in the days in Berlin on MTV. I remember I had such a good time (imitates German language). I can’t wait to get there and I am a foodie, so you know what? I hope we can meet when we get overseas, your energy is so great!

Social media