Feature Image Credit: Zenae D. Zukowski
Interview : By Robert Cavuoto
Projected is back with their most ambitious musical endeavor to date; a double CD filled with 21 tracks of hard rocking riffs due out on July 21st via Rat Pak Records called, Ignite My Insanity. The band is comprised of John Connolly of Sevendust on guitar and vocals, Vinnie Hornsby of Sevendust on bass, Scott Phillips of Alter Bridge/Creed on drums and Eric “E-Rock” Friedman of Tremonti on guitar. This double CD may have taken five years to create but it is worth the wait as the band continues to build upon the sound the band established with their debut CD, Human, in 2012. Their first single “Reload” is a frenetic composition that showcases the musicianship of these accomplished performers. Ignite My Insanity is currently available for pre-order in various configurations at http://www.ratpakrecords.com/Projected.
I sat down with John Connolly to chat about this musical masterpiece and the challenges the band faced along the way to deliver it to the fans.
Robert Cavuoto: The CD is rich in tonal texture which brings out the emotion of each song but I think your voice is the cohesive unit that ties all the songs nicely together.
John Connolly: Thank you. You spend your whole life trying to find your voice. Back when Sevendust started before Lajon joined I was going to be the singer in the band but I just wasn’t ready. To be honest with you, coming from being a drummer, songwriter, and guitar player; I didn’t have the confidence to be the singer. On the first Projected record, I still had a little bit of that mindset even though I have been out on tour with Sevendust for 15 years singing back–up to one of the best rock n roll singers ever. It’s different when you have to step out front and realize you don’t have anybody to hide behind; everyone is looking at me! [laughing]. I’m not a guy with super range like Myles Kennedy, so what do I have to offer vocally that I’ll enjoy listening to? You always hate the sound of your own voice but you get to point where it doesn’t bother you so much and you can’t avoid it. I think on the first record it was a test or experiment to see if it would work. On Ignite my Insanity I knew it would work, I just needed to be more confident. That was the biggest thing. It has to be something I enjoy listening to and where it doesn’t sound phoned in. It’s still a daunting thing to get out then and be the front person.
Robert Cavuoto: When writing songs for Projected do you tailor them differently knowing that you have to sing and play guitar vs. when Lajon is singing?
John Connolly: The funny thing is I tend to forget about that until it’s too late [laughing]. Then I realize I have to play and sing together. How am I going to do this? In the studio, I build all the guitar parts, track vocals, mix, and master. At that point, I usually go, “Oh wow, I have to do both of these things at the same time.” I have to remind myself it’s do-able it’s just a matter of how many times I have to practice it to get it to a comfortable place. It’s definitely something I try to think about now. For the next record, anything I sing I have to be wearing my guitar while I’m singing [laughing].
Robert Cavuoto: With everyone in Projected committed to active bands, the writing and recording process must have been a challenge?
John Connolly: It was all about trying to find the holes in the schedules. The writing part was not that difficult, in the Projected world, these guys just let me do my thing to a point. They don’t interject too much until it comes a time when we start tracking. On the first record, Scott was playing drums and I only had four songs written so I really didn’t know what it would sound like. With this record, everything was finished before we tracked so we knew vocally what the main ideas were going to be. We tweaked things as we went along and E-Rock added a lot of cool stuff on the back end. It was convenient for me even though I was on tour with Sevendust as we had breaks in our schedule. Vinnie tracked all his parts in Canada while out on tour as well. Alter Bridge was on a break so it was easy to call up Scott to get to together to hammer out some music. E-Rock spent about a week and a half with me in October and then did a lot of the vocal tracking in his house after the fact. So the record was written over a few years and recorded in two different counties in three different states. That’s the way we make music nowadays. [laughing]
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me about the decision to make Ignite my Insanity a double CD?
John Connolly: We were 15 or 16 songs in and I had every intention to trimming it back to 11. Every time I went to pull out a song someone would say, “You can’t remove that one!” After a couple of weeks of that, it was easier to push up the number of songs on CD then to peel it back because they all belong together. It’s tough to cut songs from a concept record and find homes for them. We wanted to see if we could get to 20 songs but ended up with 21. It just felt right. With side projects, the business model is not based on what normally happens in the music business. People will tell you that you have to release one or two songs at a time or make an EP. I miss Pink Floyd’s The Wall, I miss Kiss Alive II, and I miss the experience of the art, the audio, and being slightly overwhelmed by the amount of stuff on record. You will have people that just want to hear “Reload” or “Ignite” and that’s cool. But for the people who grew up listening to music like I did and may be overwhelmed, I tell them to take it one song at a time and imagine they were all released separately [laughing].
Robert Cavuoto: When writing songs how do you determine what you will keep for Sevendust and what you will use for Projected?
John Connolly: I realize that it’s all the same yet different. The programming and Lajon’s voice make it a Sevendust song. If I sing a song that has structure and leans to my vocal style it will always end up sounding like Projected. If I commit to the vocal that’s where I usually step over the line from what could be a Sevendust song to what will be a Projected song. I don’t sing anything like Lajon. I’m a realist and glad people like what I’m doing but I can’t do what he does. He is born that way. Some of us actually have to work at developing our voice and sound. I think that is the biggest difference if I’m singing it will have a Projected vibe.
Robert Cavuoto: My favorite song is “Only.” The line “God hates the Lonely” really sticks with me. What can you tell me about its creation?
John Connolly: At one point that song was going to be the opener but there was just something about “Reload” that worked better. It’s a song asking God why aren’t you paying attention to me. Why am I not your focus? Why is everyone else your focus? It’s a selfish song in some ways. I know people feel that way sometimes. That’s the whole feel of the record, anything that will ignite your insanity. It can be loneliness or depression. There are a few moments of light on the record as well. The song really begs the question; God where are you? You know you believe in him but you just can’t figure out where he is and why he has forgotten about you.
Robert Cavuoto: How does the concept of the CD tie into the artwork?
John Connolly: Finding the artwork was a weird process. I was planning to use some photography as I had taken a bunch of photos on the Canadian tour and had it all laid out. I didn’t want to spend a ton of money. Joe at Rat Pak Record suggested an artist, Jean-Michel, from Brazil. He has done some amazing stuff and it wasn’t expensive. Not to mention he was a cool artist and really easy to work with. There is a 24-page art book that comes with the CD in the tri-fold case and the cover was the only piece Jean didn’t draw specifically for the record. I remember seeing that piece in his portfolio and loving it. I thought it was perfect as it said everything I’m was trying to say with this record. It clearly about losing your mind –it is Ignite my Insanity. It spoke to me. He offered to do other cover options but I told him that I don’t think he was going to beat this one. It just had to be that one! The entire presentation of this record is really over the top.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me about your friendship and musical connection with Vinnie, also the importance of his playing in Sevendust and this new CD?
Robert Cavuoto: Is a tour to promote the CD possible with everyone’s schedule?
John Connolly: We are going to try our best as there may be an opportunity late this year or early next year. Alter Bridge’s schedule is a little crazy but Sevendust is a little more open as we will be writing and recording. There will be a two or three month period that I may be able to pull out of for a little bit. Tremonti is looking to get fired back up and we will try to do a tour with them. We are such good friend and share a guitar player. Even it is for five or ten shows we will look for an opportunity. It only makes sense to get out there and play it live.
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