(Raffaella Mezzanzanica – 8 settembre 2020)
Thinking about Chester Bennington means thinking about Linkin Park but, above all, thinking about Chester Bennington means thinking about his incredible voice, one of the most amazing voices in rock ‘n’ roll.
Not everyone knows that, before reaching stardom with Linkin Park, Chester Bennington fronted another band, Grey Daze.
It was 1992 and Sean Dowdell was looking for a singer for his new band. One day, a thin, scrawny, shy guy, arrived at the audition. He could be anything except the frontman of a band. Chester started singing Pearl Jam’s Alive and he left everybody speechless. This was the beginning of Grey Daze.
In July 2017, after a long hiatus, Chester and Sean, who had been friends since the day they met in 1992, decided it was time for Grey Daze to reunite.
They even started rehearsing together, working on new material.
Then, Chester Bennington died on July 20th, 2017. He was 41 years old. In three months, the world lost two amazing singers, songwriters, artists who helped shape and define the history of rock ‘n’ roll: Chester and Chris Cornell.
Sean Dowdell , Mace Beyers and Cristin Davis, together with Chester’s family decided to finish what they started, with the intent to make Chester proud.
The result is a new album, Amends, which was published on June 26th.
To do this they called some other “friends” who contributed with their music and voices to make this album absolutely incredible. Brian “Head” Welch and James “Munky” Shaffer (Korn), LP (Laura Pergolizzi), Chris Traynor (Bush) are among these artists, and even Jamie Bennington (Chester’s son) contributed to “Soul Song” with his voice and also directing the video.
The team of producers includes Esjay Jones, Lucas D’Angelo, Chris Traynor, Kyle Hoffmann, Alex Aldi, Cass Dillon, Pete Nappi and Lucio Rubino.
Amends is an album made out of friendship as Grey Daze is. If you listen carefully focusing on the lyrics, you will realize how heavy simple words can be and how even an apparently simple question like “Are you happy?” could cut you like a knife from deep within. But they are also empowering and in perfect combination with the music.
Even the fans had an active part in this project in many different ways and since the very beginning: from a contest inspired by the song “The Syndrome” where they were asked to choose their favorite lyrics from the song, write them down, take a video of themselves holding them up in a place they love and post. The winner received a Deluxe edition vinyl.
Grey Daze also posted a video made of fans singing and playing music from Amends.
Last but not least, the aim of this project is clearly explained in a hashtag created to remember Chester and his legacy: #ForYouChester.
Below you will find my interview to Sean Dowdell, Mace Beyers and Cristin Davis who took the time to tell me about Chester Bennington, how it was working on this album and the reasons behind the title.
Q.: Would you share some thoughts on how was Chester Bennington back in ‘90s? What did you think the first time you saw him and, above all, the first time you listened to his voice?
Sean: He was a young kid when we first met and so were all of us. The first time I met him, I thought he looked kinda nerdy and scrawny…and then he sang…and blew us away with his raw talent.
But, eventually he grew into his own comfortability and became a better and better performer and writer.
His singing capabilities got better over time through practice and performing in live shows.
Q.: As a band, you’ve always been considered as part of the “grunge” and “alternative” scene. Just let me get straight on this: I don’t like putting labels on music and artists, especially nowadays. On top of this, I strongly believe that defining an artist or a band as “alternative” could only mean one thing: he, she or the band is the “alternative” to a plain, common music environment. Music critics love to put “labels”. When they feel uncomfortable they use “alternative”, creating more new labels “alternative pop”, “alternative rock”, “alternative country”… How do YOU identify your music? What was your purpose as a band?
Sean: I think Grey Daze is at its simplest a rock band, but if I had to put a deeper label on it I think we are a “post-modern-grunge band”. The purpose of the band in the beginning was to simply have fun and write cool music. Over time we came to want to make it big and become a global act and write great songs that our fans could resonate with and connect with.
Q.: As for the creative process, how was that? Music and lyrics do perfectly resonate in all the songs. Who used to write the lyrics? And the music? There’s a reason behind this question: in every single song the lyrics seem to be extremely personal, especially in terms of feelings. I would find extremely difficult having to sing them if I were not the author. Do you know what I mean?
Mace: In my personal opinion I prefer when whoever singing the song is the one who wrote the lyrics because there is a much deeper connection.
Sean and Chester wrote the lyrics together.
Music was written together.
A lot started with the bass line on No Sun Today.
Q.: How was working on this project and how did you choose the different artists to take part into it? Was it hard considering that you had to deal with the strong legacy of such a beloved artist, deeply missed by so many people all around the world?
Cristin: Working on this album was very therapeutic to me, it felt like we needed to complete it for Chester since we started it with him. We chose artists to join us that were connected to Chester in some way, people he admired or toured with, people that would come in and understand the gravity of the project and what we were trying to accomplish. It wasn’t so much hard making the record (for me at least) as it was important. We had to get it right and we owed it to Chester and his legacy to take our time and make sure every detail was carefully considered. Chester wasn’t here to guide us so we had to view everything through the lens of would Chester be ok with this, or approve. I honestly feel we made our friend proud.
Q.: You guys and Chester have been friends since the day you formed Grey Daze and you also had plans to reform the band. How did you react when you got the news that Chester had died?
Mace: That time in my life was was rough…I had lost both parents within a few months prior to Chester’s passing. A lot of confusion emotionally.
Q.: One more question. Why did you choose “Amends” as the title of the album?
Cristin: Chester has a line in the song Morei Sky that says “If I had a second chance I’d make amends”. When we were listening to it in the studio it had such weight, I think most of us cried or teared up every time we heard it. To me that is Chester apologizing and just makes it so prophetic that it was from lyrics from 20 years earlier. So when we were first considering it we were going to call it “Making Amends” but the single word just felt like it had more impact.
All pictures courtesy of Sean Dowdell/Grey Daze