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3 Doors Down ..10/25/01
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vocalist Brad Arnold, guitarist Matt Roberts and bassist Todd Harrell, guitarist Chris Henderson drummer Richard Liles

Seemingly overnight, five boys from Mississippi broke onto the music scene and proceeded to break both hearts and records in no time flat. The band, 3 Doors Down, became the first debut act in the history of the charts to be number one at modern rock, active rock, album rock, and heritage rock simultaneously (with their debut single "Kryptonite"). They have since released their latest single, "Loser," which is currently catching up to "Kryptonite" on the charts. Hailing from the small town of Escatawpa, MS, near Biloxi, 3 Doors Down forged their way to a major-label contract with popular live shows and the reputation of a single song. "Kryptonite," generated unprecedented buzz at local radio station WCPR in Biloxi, helping make them hometown favorites and enabling them to draw relatively large crowds to their local live shows, which consequently, helped them extend their range beyond Mississippi and the deep south to internationally famous clubs like New York's CBGB's. Originally a trio consisting of vocalist and drummer Brad Arnold, guitarist Matt Roberts and bassist Todd Harrell, the band soon added guitarist Chris Henderson and retained a studio drummer so that Arnold could come forward and sing live. The CBGB's show brought them to the attention of Republic Records, a subsidiary of Universal, who issued the band's major label debut, The Better Life, in early 2000 . I had a chance to interview the band at one of thier stops playing for a popular radio station in Sacramento 98Rock.

INTERVIEW

Q: So when you started 3 Doors Down, was it your intention from the beginning to play straight up Rock n Roll ?
A: It's kind of what happened. Our roots man is rock and roll, so I guess that's why it comes they way it did. We grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bad Company, Black Sabbath. That's what we grew up with and I guess that's got to be a part of it you know.
Q: So, it wasn't too difficult to decide which style to play?
A: I think there's really only one. We didn't really even think about it. It's kind of what happens, you know.
Q: What do you think about a lot of the special effects that bands use now?
A: Like with vocals and things like that?
Q: Yeah.
A: It sucks. I think that a band's not a band if they're not playing their own shit. You know what I'm saying? That's just my personal opinion.
Q: It's synthetic and enhancing whatever.
A: Well sometimes it makes for a good show you know, like lighting effects. Other player: I'm not talking about light, I'm talking about audio. Pure audio.
Q: Do you use any special effects, with your Guitar?
A: I personally don't use any effects on my guitar at all. It's plugged right into my amp. I got a Paul Reed Smith and a single rectifier made to boogie pushed in a Marshall cabinet.
Q: Now, have you always been comfortable with good equipment ?
A: We play with what we could get man. We have had years scratching, pawn shops, you know. $200 guitar. You try to soup it up with a $100 pick up. Doesn't work out all the time.
Q: I understand you played with Alex Lifeson the guitar player from Rush? How did that come about?
A: Our people, various people, and Alex has been trying to get into the producing side of the business, you know, and we had some songs that we wanted some B Tracks, to our album and when we went down there and worked with Alex to become other than a B Track that we're just going to hang on to them and maybe the next record we'll put them on the record.
Q: Sounds like real fun.
A: It's just how we got hooked up him, is just our people knowing some people and Alex producing. It's been good. Every time we are in Toronto or something come out, he comes out and sees us. Even at our CD release party, he comes out and plays with us. And he actually did two guitar tracks on the B side. The coolest thing I ever really did, because I did an acoustic set with him and it was me on one side of the mike and him on the other playing the same thing at the same time, doubling it in one track. And that was like a pinnacle of idolizing him. It was a milestone in my life.
Q: Have you been able to jam with anybody else yet?
A: We haven't really had time. Alex is about it.
Q: Are you able to write any songs on the road?
A: Yeah. We're writing, but we're not rushing it though man. We still feel like we got a lot to work on this album, cut some singles and then try to get out and work. Probably work on the next album into early winter of next year and then probably come out with an album by Christmas.
Q: I understand that's pretty standard that when you make an album you got to work the road for a while to push it?
A: We're definitely not going to wait 2 to 3 years before we release another one. We're going try put one out next year. But right now, we're always writing, but we're not really concentrating on that now. We're just enjoying this right now and having a good time.
Q: Was "Kryptonite" the first one that made the big hit for you ?
A: Kryptonite was the one that got our foot in the door. Yeah. That song did real good for us.
Q: How did that come about - with your fans and radio station pushing it? A: There was a lot of times played in bars, we'd drive together (?), we went and did the album, and Kryptonite that a track that Oz did. It did real good. And needless to say, it got the record deal and it went to number one on the radio station and that brought the interest in record companies. Sold a couple million records off that one thing.
Q: Now being with Universal, that's a top notch record company.
A: They are a power now. They went behind us all the way. I can't complain about the support we've had.
Q: Do you find playing on Television different than live?
A: Oh yeah. It's a totally different atmosphere when you're playing on TV man. It's like a studio audience isn't your audience. You know what I mean? You're playing for a lot more people through the airwaves and stuff, but nobodies are in their jamming. For a rock band like us, we go off the crowd. We get our energy from the crowd. It's a little different. It's like a sound check is more like it.
Q: With Brad coming up front doing the vocals, instead of drums ,has that changed anything?
A: I think Brad took to that real good. We just sat Brad out front and he did the drums. We used to walk around Brad and he used to drum and sing. Also, the record company just felt like it was a good move to put Brad out front and he is becoming a hell of a front man now.
Q: The drummer you have now, did he audition?
A: No, he's just a guy from back home and we probably could have gone and gotten some shit hot drummer if we wanted to, but we just went for one of our own boys. He played in a different band back home and he's from the same school as us. We felt like that that was right. Go back and get somebody that was in the same boat with us and that we are all experiencing this shit for the first time together. I am sure we could have gotten a band drummer. We put it together fast, like two weeks and we were on the road and touring.
Q: You guys work really work together tight. I saw your show at the SF Fillmore a month ago, and it was a great show.
A: That was a good show. You're in for something at the end of the night, we're going to samples and stuff. During our headline tour right now, we're doing five new songs.
Q: How many songs do you have altogether?
A: We have probably 20. We have enough for another record now.
Q: . Is there any other songs that should have been a single?
A: I think "Life of My Own"
Q: Are you touring all over now?
A: We're touring all over. We've been busy. We've been on the road since February.
Q: Have you done Europe yet?
A: Yeah. We just did Europe and we're going back on 24th. Amsterdam, Germany, and back to Vegas and that Austria. We go over for a week, come back for one day, and then back again.
Q: When you guys started out in the beginning you played covers, were they influences of the sound you have now?
A: I don't know. We just played them because that's what we're going with at the time. No, I don't personally hear any of those influences in our originals. Maybe some of Metallica. We didn't want to be so technical. If I had to go and look back and say what bands that I drew when I was writing the material for Regular Man (?), I'm thinking like AC/DC, you can hear some of that straight ahead rock like in Better Rock(?). It just kind of felt good. And also, in Not Enough, there is a Rush lick (?). A little Alice in Chains and some Black Sabbath.
Q: I think what's beautiful about you guys and the reason I think that you're taking off, is that your sound is clean, straightforward, I can hear actually the lyrics.
A: The lyrics for some songs are just words on paper is all that means. Our albums are about a lot of things. Whether you're good or bad and all things in life, like talking about the country, whatever it dishes out. We're not going to turn around and take it straight on (hard to hear). Watching my own about being straight and living and doing what you want to do.
Q: Is the song "Loser" supposed to be about someone on drugs?
A: "Loser" is about a rough train. We weren't actually trying to call them a Loser, but cigarettes, drugs ___ for a while. We write songs about what we feel and that song is about ways you might see the world and the way people look at you. And I think everybody at one in point in their life might relate to that. You know?
Q: That's what I like. You've got real wholesome straightforward songs. They say it real easily.
A: And life ain't easy. And that shits out there. Drugs and drink. Like smack. That's an anti-drug. We're talking about throwing your life away.
Q: Especially with the career you're in now, it's right there in your face to. A: It really is man.
Q: Now, is Mississippi is where it started?
A: Yeah.
Q: Did they have a good music scene their?
A: Not really man. But I'll tell you, we've watched it grow so fast. Casinos are bringing a lot to the area. I think a lot of people ______
Q: Was blues mainly the deal back there?
A: Yeah, pretty much that and country. We stuck to the rock and roll side. You know, it's something we did. I think it's really __ country.
Q: I think you hit it at the right time. I think a lot of music fans are getting a little distraught over all the loud music that Limp Bizkit, Korn type's put out. A: I love that kind of music. I think people are tired of the angry rock. I like it. I'm a big listener and fan of Korn. But I think it's time for rock and roll.
Q: I'm not trying to downgrade anybody, but the stations are so full of that. You come along and it's fresh and clean and not every word has the f and s word in it.
A: Different bands have different things, but we're all out here trying to do the same thing. We're all out here trying to make a career, make it music - because this is a cut throat business. It's a hard core business and anybody who's trying to do it, my hat's off to them.
Q: That's good advice. There's been a few bands that I've interviewed that started out just like you guys right from the beginning on a radio station. Even Godsmack - a radio station played their song. Then Dynamite Hack in Houston. They had a harder time, because that was more of a university town, and when they would get heckled by everybody. It's really fantastic when a radio station takes your song. Now did you have a real clean CD at the time?
A: We spent $800 on that recording. I'm thinking $9,000 or $10,000 grand worth of recording.
Q: When they did the sound mixing for you, did that make a big difference in the quality?
A: We actually mixed it one time after it was done and didn't like it. We didn't personally like it. There were a few things we wanted to change. We went back and mixed it again totally. That was mixed the first time.
Q: When you have the expertise, there are little things that you can probably hear?
A: Oh man. That person who sits in front of that soundboard and mixes your record makes all the difference.
Thank you for your Musical insights-

By Randy Cohen

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