Interview: Drowning Pool’s CJ Pierce And Jasen Moreno Reflect On The Band’s Legacy, Talk About The New LP, And Look Ahead To The Future

GID: Recently, you guys dropped the new single “Choke,” which is heavy hitting, but in some ways, not what you’d expect from Drowning Pool. It’s got a lot of melody to it – something you can easily sing along to and it’s got this great anthemic hook. What inspired the direction of this song?

C.J.: Another one Jasen and I did together. Musically it was fun. There’s some core foundation stuff like the mindset I was in when we made music for the Sinner record. Maybe it’s got a more modern-day sound to it. We’re not an electronic band or anything like that but I like to put little sounds and stuff in. There’s a lot of background stuff going on in there. I love that kind of stuff and this song had more of that. Jasen sings the pre-chorus. You can tell them about the lyrics man. I know where they come from.

JM: I like to be vague. I try not to push specific agendas on listeners, so I leave it vague enough for you to decide what you want it to be about. I know that’s kind of a lame explanation, but it is what it is. To me, it’s just therapy. I was very pissed and frustrated with the industry. That’s just what came out at the time. Choke on it.

C.J.: Yeah, we have some people we thought were in our corner. I’m not gonna get specific, but we dedicate our lives to music and to playing and putting on a show. We put everything into it and then some people around you who are supposed to be in your corner just lose faith in you, but we’re still here. We’re gonna do this forever, so choke on your words. For anybody that’s talking shit on you stick to your guns. You do what you love. And if someone doesn’t have your back then choke on it. We’re here. Talk shit on me, choke on your words because I’m still on stage playing and you go do your thing.

GID: To speak to Jasen’s point, I do appreciate it when the whole story isn’t revealed. Sometimes it’s disappointing to learn what a song is actually about because you’ve connected with it in a certain way and it can feel like a letdown to learn it’s not actually how you were picturing it. It’s still good to have some of that mystery, especially in this era where it feels like you have to be on 24/7 due to social media.

C.J.: You gotta keep a little mystery in it, yeah.

JM: Art is subjective, right? I mean make of it what you will.

C.J.: For the song, you’ll have a use for it in your daily life. So, use it wherever you need it at.

GID: One song that stuck out to me was “Everything But You.” It’s an interesting moment on the record because prior to that everything is coming at you fast, hard, and heavy and it’s a lot of adrenaline that pumps you up. Then we have this moment where things slow down, become more mellow, and even a bit more somber. How did this song come about?

JM: That’s me confronting depression and feelings of inadequacy and anger. When I wrote that it was from the heart. If anything, it’s honest. That’s my struggles with mental health and thoughts of mortality and confronting your mortality and feeling like you’re being buried alive.

C.J.: Dude I love the delivery on that one. When he first presented that idea of “I hate everyone/I hate everything” I was like oh my god J where you going? He goes “Hate everyone but you” and I was like oh man, give me a hug! (Laughs)

JM: It’s like when someone is being an ass and lashing out. You could conceive that as a cry for help. I think that is a fair representation of that song.

C.J.: See I’m already taking it as my own interpretation. That’s J telling me how much he loves me. (Laughs) It’s exactly what you said it’s intense. It’s just as intense if not more so than other songs. It doesn’t have to be full metal in your face and double bass and all that kind of stuff. Everything on this record is from the heart. It’s very serious. It’s life situations and it’s intense so it makes sense. It feels right being on the record.

JM: I dig that it’s a departure because that’s how it feels sometimes. This life. My head still spins. I dig that it is so different, and it is polarizing in a weird kind of way. It’s impactful.

C.J.: Musically, metal fans might think we’re just coming at you in your face punching you with guitars and stuff, but it doesn’t have to be like that to come at you hard. Musically it just fits the delivery and the melody. It’s one of my favorites. I can’t wait to play that one.

GID: It can be heavy and hard but in a different way.

C.J.: For the old-school fans the only thing I can say it’s like “Tearaway.” It’s not the same thing, it’s not the same era, our band has evolved since then, but it’s in that vein if you will.

JM: Little factoid [drummer] Mike [Luce] challenged me to write another “Tearaway” and that’s what happened. I forgot about that.

C.J.: It has that vibe. We’re still Drowning Pool. I can’t wait for them to hear that song because personal friends and family that have heard the record – I’ve gotten nothing but 100% response on that. It’s a good one.

GID: Let’s get into the legacy of Drowning Pool. There’s been some lineup changes throughout the years, but Jansen gets the honor of making three albums with the band. Jansen, what’s it like helping to carry the band’s legacy now versus when you first joined the band? Were you apprehensive at all about joining this established band that had such a legacy behind it?

JM: It’s been a mind job really. We’re all from Dallas, so we weren’t strangers. I was in the scene, so we knew of each other. We did shows, Drowning Pool when they were local and my band [Suicide Hook] when they were local. So, I’m new but I’m not necessarily new.

C.J.: We’ve known each other since 1999, so for a long time.

JM: The ride has been just a flood of emotions. I’m gonna be brutally honest and I don’t mean any disrespect, but they were our competition. They were a headlining band, and I was in a headlining band. They sold out clubs and we sold out clubs. We were aiming for the same goal, and we cut our teeth on the same stages and the same sounds, but at the end of the day, it was competition. They got signed, we didn’t. I was very envious. But they were super cool and always very gracious. Never really got the ego thing, which was refreshing so I learned a lot watching them throughout the years. Never in a million years did I ever think I would be singing for Drowning Pool. That’s not to say I didn’t want to it’s just they made it. I didn’t make it, so for a while, I was still plugging away.

I toured opening for Drowning Pool. I even paid C.J. to record my other band. It’s always been this incestuous thing. So, when I got the heads up that they holding auditions for a singer I thought yeah, I’d give it a shot. I never thought I’d get it. I have such a different sounding voice than the last singer Ryan [McCombs]. They had a lot of success with him. I tried to make it, and then wouldn’t you know I got the gig and that’s where the pressure comes in. I realized oh shit I got this, these dudes tour the world, this is a big deal. It was crushing man, the pressure of it to honor Dave’s legacy and not ruin someone’s favorite band and to somehow find myself in all of that. As I said my head is still spinning. It’s crazy. It’s just a wild wild wild ride. One of the first shows we did we were playing a festival with 50,000 people with Motley Crue and Tesla. The month before I was in a local band, a weekend warrior kind of thing. What were they thinking to hire me? They must’ve been terrified.

C.J.: What have we done??

JM: It’s just been a wild ride for all of us. It’s been crazy.

C.J.: It’s been crazy dude. There’s never a dull moment in Drowning Pool. It’s been awesome. I’m so glad that at the core we’re all passionate dudes. We love music. We’re here doing it now. There’s no denying that and it comes through in the music. As far as getting Jasen, we knew him well. He’s one of the best singers and he’s got such a wide range of voices. I know his voice is different. We could’ve gotten somebody that sounded just like Dave, looked like Dave. We didn’t want to go down that path. We love him and respect him and his music. We still play it live out of respect. We did the Desensitized record with Gong, and he had a strong voice, it just wasn’t the right fit. We had a great run with Ryan. He’s got his own unique sound and he brought some great stuff to the table. It’s just Jasen – it’s like the feeling we had when we were with Dave. This is who we are. We’re tighter than we’ve ever been, closer than we’ve ever been and we’re all very serious about writing great songs and putting on great shows. Here we are doing it, man.

Thanks for hanging in there J cause I know it couldn’t have been easy for you, especially in the beginning because Mike, Stevie, and myself, we’re all like brothers and sometimes we fight like brothers. That must’ve been pretty wild to come into a family of three guys. The way we used to deal with frustration – it’s funny how we’d get down to hatebreed-type stuff and just beat the crap out of each other. Now it’s like let’s sit down and talk about this for a minute. I’ll get up and hit you later, but let’s talk about it and it’ll be alright. So, we have matured and evolved, and communication is better than ever. Jasen’s really good with how he speaks his mind. I see nothing but great things coming from this. We made it through the pandemic. It’s been tough for a lot of bands out there. A lot of bands aren’t there anymore. A lot of stuff has happened, but we’re coming out of that cloud and getting back on it and keep going up and up for everyone.

GID: You guys have been making, writing, and performing music for the past 20 years. And with how you’re consistently putting out new music, it’s clear there is no intention of becoming a legacy act. When you’re in a band for so long, how do you keep things fresh and exciting in a way that won’t alienate your audience?

C.J.: I think like Jasen said earlier we write from personal experience, from the heart. New stuff just keeps coming up every day. That’s so much influence right there. I’m so excited about touring because I get off stage and have that adrenaline; you have that rock show feeling. I come up with more ideas on the road, hanging out with friends, being at the show, being in that mind frame, being live, and getting a lot of raw real sound. This record’s coming out and we’re gonna rock on this and you’re gonna rock out to it. It’s fun for me because during the pandemic I went dark. I didn’t write. I barely touched my guitar because I went to negative land and I’m out of that now, which is great. I’m looking forward to what we do next as a band. You know we had a bunch of ideas that didn’t get to the last record. A lot of them were great ideas. Some of them may be better than the stuff on the new record. That’s how we keep it new and fresh and moving forward, evolving and writing.

JM: The trick is to get a new singer every once in a while.

C.J.: We’re already past that seven-year window! (Laughs)

JM: Time’s ticking man. Gotta keep it fresh, right?

C.J.: Nah this is it, third time’s the charm. This is who we are. It’s us and Jasen. Hope ya’ll like it and if you don’t, just listen a couple more times I promise you’re gonna like it.

JM: Keep trying if you don’t like it.

C.J.: Just listen again! You’re gonna love it. Got a lot of good lyrics on there, so I gotta give hats off to him. And even Mike brings some stuff to the table. Stevie’s got some great stuff. I’m more the in-your-face kind of stuff and I love that Jasen and Stevie have more subtleties. They don’t give away what we’re saying right away, but it all works depending on what song it is. That’s the magic that works in our band.

JM: It does help to keep it fresh that there’s a band full of writers and no one is restricted from writing. It’s truly an open canvas. It’s all fair game. Drummers write lyrics and vocal parts, and riffs. Singers write guitar parts and guitarists write vocals and drum parts. All the lines are blurred. Steve writes great lyrics and great hooks. We all write. We all share the workload and I think it helps keep things fresh because you’re just bouncing ideas off each other constantly.

GID: Though you guys have found so much success throughout the years, you’ll always be known for “Bodies.” It’s not only beloved by longtime fans, but it’s finding new life with new rock fans and Drowning Pool fans. What’s it like to see this song live on well after its release?

C.J.: It was a whole other world when that came out and the fact that the song is still known is stunning. I just went to Five Finger Death Punch and Megadeth tour the other night. I have an 18-month-old daughter and in between songs a friend of ours Kelly DJs between bands and she puts “Bodies” on, and my daughter starts jamming and rocking out. It’s cool. The younger generation comes up like I just heard this song “Bodies,” like it’s brand new to them. I know bands get weird about what they’re known for, but I’m just blown away that “Bodies” has gone on as long as it has. I’m grateful and thankful. It’s a fun song to play. I love playing it every night. People go crazy. I’m glad it’s still here and people still want to use it for video games and in shows and movies. But we have a lot of new stuff that you’re gonna love!

GID: How has your relationship with the song changed over the years? Was there ever a period where you grew weary of its popularity?

C.J.: No, there’s never been one moment. I sit around my house and play different versions. Sometimes I’ll do a reggae version, or I have this mandolin version I did. It’s just a fun song. I like playing it. People like listening to it. I sit around playing the new stuff and it’s all intense and great but there’s never been any point where it was anything like that. I can’t wait to play the song. Everybody goes nuts. I’m glad that everyone knows that one. It’s been in your face the most with TV and radio but there’s so much more to this band. We’ve evolved especially with the last few records we’ve done with Jasen. If you like “Bodies” you’re gonna like stuff on the new record. As a musician, I will say I feel like we have songs that are written better than that, but it doesn’t take away the fun of the song.

GID: To wrap up, the album drops in September, and you guys hit the road a bit before that. What’s next for Drowning Pool?

C.J.: It’s been a minute since we’ve got to do all the great stuff that’s been happening this summer. If I’m not playing [shows] I’m going to them. I’m really looking forward to us getting out there and performing for everybody. You’re gonna hear “Bodies,” you’re gonna hear the old stuff, but you’re gonna hear a lot of great new songs. We want to put that big show on. I’m all about the big show. I want to bring that intensity on stage and see everybody again. Every time you tour, you make more friends and extended family and that’s the way to see everybody. Looking forward to hanging out with our friends and family again. Hopefully, all next year we’ll be hitting a lot of great shows, a lot of festivals, and more tours.

JM: Hopefully, we get nominated for and win a Grammy.

C.J.: That would be nice! I like where you’re going J!

JM: That’s what’s next!

C.J.: The Grammys are hanging in there and still bringing metal! Next year, goes to Drowning Pool.

JM: It’s out there now. Manifest it.

Strike A Nerve comes out on September 30th. Pre-order the album here. Drowning Pool will head out on their North American tour with special guests Throughfire, Kurt Deimer, and Black Satallite starting September 26th. For dates and tickets, visit their website.

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Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Illinois Entertainer. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Creeper, and Green Day.

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