Interview with Lajon Witherspoon of Sevendust - July 28, 2011
By Alex Young
Photo by Jeremy Adamo
When it comes to chemistry, undoubtedly Sevendust has it, particularly with guitarist Clint Lowery's return to the alternative metal band. With sixteen years career experience and eight studio albums to their credit, the band is now back to their original line-up and touring in support of their 2010 release of Cold Day Memory. Nevertheless, that sense of familiarity as a band has been met with personal changes for every member, as inevitably they've grown, matured, and their lives have morphed from that of single men, to married men with children.
Frontman Lajon Witherspoon is indeed one of those members that recently added fatherhood to his resume, and Lithium Mag was afforded the opportunity to speak to him about how the concept of responsibility has changed the band's approach to music and songwriting, their current inclusion on Rockstar's Uproar Festival, and what they plan to work on next.
Lithium - It’s been said that under normal circumstances you’re a really soft spoken, normal, approachable kind of dude as many Sevendust fans are familiar with, I’m sure. To juxtapose that, your live stage presence is an aggressive and dominant force. Are you cognizant of the fact that who you are changes on stage, or does it happen naturally?
Lajon: It something that happens naturally, definitely without a doubt. I feel that wherever I go, or what bands we’re playing with, there’s a light switch that gets turned on that I can’t control, or have no part of. When I get on stage, it’s a whole new dimension of who I am.
Lithium - Does having such a strong presence make you question which of those two people you actually are, or is it a cathartic experience to have those two different parts of your life?
Lajon: It’s cathartic. I think it’s all about being a super hero, like a rock and roll super hero when I get on stage.
Lajon: But you know what, looking at this closely right now, it looks like it’s just a part of rock n' roll and it’s a part of all of us. We’re all super heroes sometimes, and you pick it up where you can. It’s really different when you have a PA system behind your voice. I think that maybe anyone would have that feeling if they were walking around with a PA system backing up their voice. With the microphone kind of hanging out, if people were on Central Avenue they would have a presence that dominates.
Lithium - Yeah, for sure. Considering “Cold Day Memory” is the first album to have Clint (Lowery) back in the fold since 2003’s “Ashes”, was it a refreshing experience? How did having Clint back in the band change the dynamics of the band musically, personally and professionally?
Lajon: Well, you know I always knew that Clint was… we had this beautiful puzzle that we had out on tour that was missing one piece, it still sounded good and it looked good when we played it. But when Clint got back in the band we were able to complete it the way it needed to be completed. We had that magic sound; we had that harmony of us working together. It’s the seed we planted at the start. I always feel that when it’s that original lineup…we started when we were kids together so when we got back together it’s like we never missed a beat.
Lithium - The new album contains a lot of new musical elements like electronic programming on the intros to “Forever Dead” and “Splinter”. Considering the band used to be on TVT Records that put out “Pretty Hate Machine” by Nine Inch Nails.
Lajon: Yeah, definitely! We’ve always been into different sounds and electronic things. We’ve never been a band that said we can’t reach out. We’ve been a heavy band but we’ve grown up, we’ve got kids, wives, dogs, and life has changed. I think the people that have grown up with us are kind of the same and will allow us to not get pigeon hold and go out and incorporate new sounds into our sound. It’s been a pleasure for us to do that.
Lithium - That’s an excellent point, because aside from Clint being back in the band, that it really established the idea that this (“Cold Day Memory”) is not a normal Sevendust record and that Sevendust records aren’t normal to begin with.
Lajon: Exactly. We’ve always tried to go outside the box and make every record different, but there’s much more work to be done.
Lithium - What was it like working with Johnny K (producer of “Cold Day Memory”) for the first time considering he’s worked with Disturbed, 3 Doors Down, and Finger Eleven?
Lajon: All those bands have either opened up for us or we’ve played with, so it was REALLY cool. To know the guys that we’ve already known for years, and work with the guy that worked with them was like we already knew Johnny. The type of band that we are, he could kind of police what’s going on and give us an outside opinion because we’ve been producing ourselves for so long. It was great working with Johnny K, it was really easy. He’s a seasoned artist, and he saw how many years we’ve spent together in the band. To be able work with him was really cool because we’d be like, “Well let’s work with this”, and he’d be like, “Well let me show you what I’ve got!”
Lithium - As far as collaborating on the album goes, I know a lot of you guys were coming from different places with having kids, taking on new responsibilities and commitments. What were your own personal thoughts and processes on collaborating as a unit again?
Lajon: We’re always confiding in each like we always do. No one is the leader. The energy always comes within and if it’s good it’s good. Once got our line-up together again, the music made its own sound again.
Lithium - That’s awesome. How did you guys originally become involved with the Uproar festival this year?
Lajon: Oh man! We’re doing all kinds of things that we weren’t allowed… well not “weren’t allowed” to do, but never got the chance to do this year. For whatever reason, the tours we didn’t get on because we didn’t promote properly or whatever, or have the right people behind us, maybe it takes the right company, whatever it is, it’s going good for us.
Lithium - Yeah, no shit. The last time Sevendust tried to come to Canada you had border issues. What’s it like to be able to access your Canadian fan base again?
Lajon: Oh man! I cannot wait! You know it’s not all about border issues. But any time things get cancelled it’s not always about border issues or that we don’t want to play, because if the band can be there we’re going to make it happen for sure! We’ll do whatever it takes to make it work the right way, but that doesn’t always happen.
Lithium - Of the dates that you guys are playing, are there any bands that you’re really looking forward to sharing the stage with?
Lajon: Avenged Sevenfold! Man, those guys ended up being the coolest guys in the world, we went on tour with them, I love them, and we’ve got a beautiful brotherhood with them. We went on tour in Poland with them and I cannot wait to see them again. Three Days Grace, those guys are great guys, it’s going to fun for us. We look forward to it, man. Bullet for My Valentine! We love those guys. I love that band Art of Dying; I listen to that song on the radio (“Die Trying”) almost every other night in the dressing room, man. Very cool.
Lithium - What’s the best thing about touring for you personally and how do you feel about doing big festivals compared to a regular show?
Lajon: Man, I love the crowd wherever we play, whether it’s a three hundred seater to a three thousand, twenty thousand seater. Music to me is a beautiful energy that changes us, anywhere we’re allowed to play or perform is beautiful to me. As long as we can create a massive energy we can share together that’s all I care about, that’s what we’re trying to do, man.
Lithium - Do you think that fatherhood will change the way that you look at music or the way you look at the band?
Lajon: I think now that we all have kids and wives it changed our outlook on life, period. Even if I didn’t have kids and a wife, I think I would still be a different person anyway. I guess we (the band) just grew up.
Lithium - What’s around the corner for Sevendust? What can fans expect from you guys when the summer wraps up?
Lajon: We might be doing an acoustic run. I know we’re beginning to start writing more music, just do our thing. We feel VERY blessed to just do our thing and still be around. We want to thank everyone in Canada that wants to come see us. We’re going to do a long tour of Canada to thank you guys for all the support. It takes a lot of people to understand us, and we’ll bring a lot of people to make anyone else understand.
Lithium - No doubt. That’s pretty much it, but thanks so much for taking the time to chat and give a big shout-out to all the Canadian fans.
Lajon: It’s funny because not too long ago we did a tour with Finger Eleven and chilled all night long on the back of the bus and telling old stories. Everyone I’ve met from Canada has been an incredible person and has always been very true. We can’t wait to see you!
Lithium - Thanks. It’s been great to talk to you.
Lajon: You too. Take care.