April 17, 2015 Interview – C.J. Pierce of Drowning Pool
On August 14, 2002 tragedy struck the Dallas, Texas based band Drowning Pool when lead vocalist Dave Williams passed away at young age of thirty. Rising to the top of the Hard Rock world with their 2001 debut studio album Sinner, the record went platinum only six weeks after its release. Tis accomplishment followed by Williams’ death a year later left the band with a ton of uncertainty. Recollecting and finding strength in one another, the surviving members of Drowning Pool battled on and found a solid position in the world of Rock-n-Roll, going on to release four more studio albums over the course of a decade. The road has clearly not been easy for this band of brothers after sustaining Williams’ death and going through two vocalists before settling in with Jason Moreno, plus the regular trials of life on the road. There is a silver lining to every tale told, and Drowning Pool’s resilience has paid off because of their undying love to perform that has built them a dedicated following. Recently, we sat down with founding guitarist C.J. Pierce for a closer look at the years gone by in Drowning Pool, their dedication to touring, plans for a new album, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – Drowning Pool has been going strong for almost two decades now. Since 2001’s major label debut, Sinner, the band has developed into one of the mainstays in the Hard Rock scene, releasing four more albums since. Through the ups and downs, what has the ride been like to this point?
C.J. Pierce – It has been one of the most extreme roller-coaster rides of our lives. We never knew what was part of the package when we got into it. It has been quite the ride, but at the end of the day, we are still here and rocking it. We are still having fun, still love playing music, and that is what it is all about.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly has been a crazy ride. Now, we all know that in 2002, tragically, Dave Williams passed away. Considering the recent success of the band at the time, loss of a good friend, and bandmate, did you think Drowning Pool was going to survive this awful turn of events?
C.J. Pierce – I think with any band out there, their dream is to get signed and get your music out there. We had all that, then shortly thereafter we lost Dave Williams to a heart condition at thirty years old. It keeps us going, we were all great friends with Dave, we all knew how he loved music, and how passionate he was about it. We were all friends since high school. We just love music, it just keeps you going. If you lose a family member or a friend, you do not just hang it all up. We just delved right into it and worked even harder. I am glad we did, we are in a really good place right now. I am glad we stuck it out.
CrypticRock.com – The band certainly did survive, and Dave Williams would be extremely proud. Since Dave’s passing, there has seemed to be a revolving door of vocalists from Jason Jones, to Ryan McCombs, to, now, Jason Moreno. Has it been difficult for yourself and the rest of Drowning Pool to sustain the vocalist changes, and do you think there is stability with Jason Moreno on vocals now?
C.J. Pierce – Yes, I look back now and Jason has been nothing but awesome. He has respect for Dave Williams and the band, he works really hard on all the songs on each record we ever made. He always wants to rehearse and always gives one-hundred and ten percent. I look at all the changes we made from then until now, it has definitely been frustrating. It was just a search to find the right guy to fit talent-wise, but first mentally. You have to be like a band of brothers. Jason is someone we have known a long time. He came up on the local scene in Dallas, he knew Dave Williams. It took a while to make that big circle to get to him. Now we are here, it kind of wipes away all the past frustrations and aggravation it took to get here. Sometimes you have to go through hard times and bad times in life to get to that point. Again, I am glad we stuck it out, and now we are here with Jason.
CrypticRock.com – Well Jason certainly has fit in rather nicely with Drowning Pool. The nucleus of the band has remained the same since the beginning, so it is great you found the vocalist the band needs. The band’s 2013 Resilience was his first with the band and really allowed him to shine. With that said, are you preparing any new material for Drowning Pool, and if so, how is the process going?
C.J. Pierce – Yes, we have four songs written. After touring and playing the Sinner record in its entirety, we are going to go start recording the next batch of songs. I think the big thing is what record do we want to make next. We have so much material, we will just put together all our favorite songs that we want to record for the next CD. Also, something else that has been really cool, by natural evolution of writing music, with us focusing on playing Sinner in its entirety, a lot of that has leaked into the writing process. Therefore, now more than ever, we have a lot of stuff that flashes back to that sound. Also, Jason has his own unique sound and style that he brings something new to the table. You always want to put new music out there moving forward, but we definitely stay true to our core sound.
CrypticRock.com – That is exciting to hear. Considering this is going to be a second studio record with Jason on vocals, do you feel there is a new level of comfort going into recording new material.
C.J. Pierce – Yes, I think it goes both ways. He has been with us over three years now. Jason has covered everything, he knows every song on every record. He knows our foundation and core sound. We are all comfortable together writing songs. Even if we are not in a group together, it is so easy now a days to pop an idea down, to send it over to someone else, they put their magic on it, and send it back to you. As I said earlier, we just have so much material, and the thing is, what kind of record do we want it to sound like? The next step is putting it down and getting it out to our fans. We are trying to roll with the new times, we do not want to wait two or three years anymore to put a record out. I do not think society is set up like that anymore. We want to start getting music out there at a faster pace, we are definitely looking to do that.
CrypticRock.com – Fans will be extremely excited to hear the new material. Now, in 2014 you celebrated the thirteenth anniversary of Sinner. The record certainly has stood the test of time. Take us back to when that record broke and everything started to look up for Drowning Pool, what was that time like?
C.J. Pierce – Let us go a half step back behind that. We got together with Dave; we were just happy to go play bars, get free food, cold beers, and a room having fun. There was no pressure, we were writing songs, writing what we feel, and not trying to please anyone, but you always hope you get a record deal. When it all happened, I think anytime in any band’s career it is a great ride. Everything was brand new. Lucky for us, we are eternally grateful that people still play it and want to hear it. I never knew thirteen years ago, but you always hope you would be here. It all came super fast. We are still rocking now!
CrypticRock.com – It is great that the band is still going strong all these years later. The band just completed a tour with Adrenaline Mob and Full Devil Jacket. This is a pretty exciting line-up. How excited were you for this tour?
C.J. Pierce – I was really excited. We know guys in both bands. That is another thing I love about playing music, it is not just about Drowning Pool putting on our own show, but we love looking at a Rock show every night. Then we get to hang out at the bar, hang with the bands, and chill. It is a win-win for everyone.
CrypticRock.com – Right, if you have a good rapport with the bands you are touring with, one can imagine it is a great experience.
C.J. Pierce – Yes, always. You always have a good run, even if it is a band we never met before. We have toured with Sevendust on and off, so we have known them since 1999. It is kind of like a family and friends vibe.
CrypticRock.com – That is great to hear. Now during this particular tour tragic struck when Adrenaline Mob’s AJ Pero passed away March 20th. How difficult was it for the tour to carry on?
C.J. Pierce – That’s probably more of a question for Adrenaline Mob than me, but I can say we really feel for those guy, especially AJ Pero’s family. Obviously, we know what it’s like to lose a friend and band member on tour. I did have the honor and privilege of meeting AJ Pero. One of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He was complaining of his left arm hurting a few days before and Adrenaline Mob had already called for a fill in drummer before AJ’s passing. We had no idea though that it was a sign he was having heart trouble. Again, our thoughts and prayers go out to AJ’s friends and family.
As far the tour was concerned; I believe most of us musicians still live by the “show must go on” code. It is only out of respect that Adrenaline Mod and the tour as a whole kept going. We had an amazing show dedicated to AJ Pero at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ. Of course, every show after that was dedicated to AJ. We’ve also teamed up with the American Heart Association and we’ve started an Indiegogo campaign to help raise $13,000 towards Heart research. Anyone donating $30 or more gets a one of a kind Dave Williams commemorative t-shirt.
CrypticRock.com – That is a very worthy cause. Let us hope people donate what they can to help research. Drowning Pool has certainly stayed true to touring through the years, playing everything from small clubs to the big stage of Ozzfest. What is the key for the band staying healthy while on the road?
C.J. Pierce – That does not always happen, but we try (laughs). Just remember to get a bottle of water in there. We come out here to put on a show and put 110% into it. You get healthy when you get home, but you need to have that balance. You can go on the road, eat the crappy food, do not get any sleep, but as long as you catch up on it when you get home. We are out here to play shows and have a good time.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, being on the road is certainly not a regular life style. You have different schedules where you do not get much sleep. So one can imagine it has to be difficult sometimes.
C.J. Pierce – Yes, it is a total beat-down. It is also exciting to get up there. You cannot wait for the doors at 7 PM. Like you said, whether it is a small club or twenty thousand people, something crazy always happens, it is always a good vibe, and always a good time.
CrypticRock.com – Right, and the band is doing it for the love of music. You seem extremely passionate about music. What are some of your musical influences?
C.J. Pierce – That constantly changes throughout life. When I was younger, I had Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, that is what I had in the household with my dad. Then coming up ’80s, it was Metallica. I am always looking for new bands and new stuff. I always listen to Pantera every day, always. At the same time, there is all the new stuff. I try to be influenced by anything and everything.
CrypticRock.com – It is good to be open about music. Sometimes music fans corner themselves into a particular genre of music, where as musicians, for the most part, are very open about what they listen to.
C.J. Pierce – Yes, my heart has always been in Metal and Rock-n-Roll, but a good song is a good song. I think that comes as you get older. Especially from the point of view when you are trying to write new songs. So yes, I do listen to it all.
CrypticRock.com – That is essential. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror films. If you are a fan of Horror films, what are some of your favorite Horror films?
C.J. Pierce – The original The Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead II (1987) are always great. I saw the remake, we saw that together. We always have band outings. I think we were over in Europe when we saw that. I thought it came out great. I know all of us have different scary movies we pick from. Evil Dead has always been one of my favorite though.
CrypticRock.com – Evil Dead is certainly a classic. You look at ’80s Horror, they really seemed to do a great job of combining Horror and Comedy together well.
C.J. Pierce – You are right, they always had some sort of comedy about them. Nowadays, the stuff is very graphic and brutal the way they shoot it. Maybe it is just me, but I like stuff that is a little more tongue-in-cheek humor. I like stuff that can be gruesome, but funny at the same time. More recently, I liked The Woman in Black (2012), it had a good storyline.