Eric Bass: 'It's a story about not being afraid to fail. Failure is after all the greatest teacher'
- Henry Northmore
- 5 September 2018
Florida rockers Shinedown tell us of their battle with drink, drugs and depression as they return with their darkest, heaviest and most personal material
Anyone who had written off Florida's Shinedown obviously hasn't heard new record Attention Attention. Their sixth album is their darkest and most personal work to date, a loose concept album that confronts their past mistakes and breakdowns. 'In our minds, it's actually more of a story-based record than a concept album,' explains aptly named bassist Eric Bass. 'It's an autobiographical record … about the previous two-and-a-half to three years of our lives.'
The band first formed back in 2001 but it was the big bruising title track from third album The Sound of Madness (2008) that saw them break on the international stage. A huge stomping rock monster that kicked ass, smashed down doors and ignited mosh pits. The album added power ballads and southern rock to their rock / metal / grunge hybrid sound and went on to sell over two million copies.
However, they struggled to follow its impact. And Bass is honest enough to acknowledge their problems: 'When we came off the road after touring Amaryllis , we all fell apart. Especially [frontman] Brent [Smith] and myself. Brent fell back into his drug addiction and alcoholism, and I fell off the cliff with my depression issues. I could barely get out of bed or leave the house. We had been so busy working and touring that record, that when we came home and stopped, we drove right into a brick wall.' 2015's Threat to Survival was slick and catchy but felt impersonal and disjointed. 'Threat to Survival was a little more all over the place creatively. That was simply a by-product of having several different producers and mixers on that one.'
Attention Attention is probably their most ambitious album yet. Until this point, vocalist Smith and producer Dave Bassett had been the main writers in Shinedown, but Bass had been working on ideas while on the road. He approached Smith with his writing and, while radically reworked in the studio, they formed the core of the new record.
The band drew on their demons for inspiration and catharsis. 'In essence, this record is that journey. From the insanity and chaos of rock bottom in a song like "Devil", through the healing process of one friend helping another deal with depression in a song like "Get Up", all the way to overcoming, but still being cautious, at the end of the album with a song like "Brilliant". It's a story about not being afraid to fail. Failure is after all the greatest teacher. We just had to learn that.'
Their 2017 UK tour supporting Iron Maiden across the UK was also an integral part of the story. The intensity of the shows feeding into the recording process. 'Feeling the energy of those fans night after night left a profound and lasting impression on the band and on me personally. Those audiences stayed with me throughout the making of this new record.'
They also go harder and heavier than ever to match the material. 'Attention Attention is a weighty record,' says Bass. 'If you put these songs on a sonic and emotional scale, they would weigh more than a ten-tonne hammer. They are carrying around a lot of baggage. And it sounds like it. Is this our heaviest record? I like to think so. Is it Kill 'Em All by Metallica? Absolutely not. But neither is "Summertime" by Gershwin, and if sung right, that's one of the heaviest songs I've ever heard. I guess what I'm getting at is that there are many different types of heavy. I'll say this though, there was a genuine and purposeful intent by Shinedown to deliver to our fans, and to the rock and metal community, a record that felt heavy and real. The four of us know in our hearts that we did that.'
Shinedown play O2 Academy, Glasgow, Tue 30 Oct.