3 Doors Down has seemingly succeeded in breaking the sophomore jinx that seems to curse most bands that come from nowhere and dare to reach for the stars and find platinum success. From basement pubs to large amphitheaters these boys have sprung from obscurity like a rocket fueled slinky. The band believes in it's music and their sincerity bleeds through every sweat drenched chord. Fans might be fickle, but good rock 'n roll is true.
Livewire's Phil Bonyata got the chance to sit down with guitarist Chris Henderson backstage before a recent performance.
Livewire: Do you consider Away from the Sun an extension of The Better Life or are you moving in a new direction?
Chris: Yeah, it's a totally different direction. It's not an insanely different direction, but the first record was more all rock you know, grab the guitar and go with lyrics that had some feeling because Brad's a very gifted lyric writer. This new record was more of the music evolving, it wasn't like this is a great riff, let's write a song that fits that where as we put a lot of effort into writing this one. The Better Life kinda came to us, just one of those freaky things where we'd write a good song and then another good song and then another and another.
Livewire: It's been over two years since the last album right?
Chris: Well, we took some time off because we stayed on the road for so long that we just kinda wanted to hang around the house and do a brain dead. So, we stayed off the road for about three months and did nothing. We did this record in about five months - from start to finish.
Livewire: Does any particular song on the new album blow you away?
Chris: You know what, I usually don't listen to our records after they're recorded because I've already heard them so much. But, I actually started listening to the new one, but for whatever reason after The Better Life was done - that was it. I have not heard it since. I was at an autograph signing and they played our new one in the background and I'm like "wow" it was "The Road I'm On" and it's when that chorus kicks in my hair just flies off. I love that song.
Livewire: Are you writing a lot of new material while on the road?
Chris: We are, but we don't try to force it like "Today's Monday and we're gonna write five songs" - we don't do that. We just kick things around and on the next sound check I'll throw an idea to Matt and Matt will throw one at Brad and blah, blah, blah and vice versa. That's how we do it at soundchecks just throwing around ideas. In Puerto Rica we had some time with a guy doing something with the PA and we're just messing around and five minutes later we wrote a song and played it that night and ever since.
Livewire: Do you prefer writing music for ballads or heavy rock n' roll?
Chris: I can go either way depending on what's happening at the time. I'm a big fan of music in general, so writing is something I enjoy all the way around. I could write rap as long as I think it's good music.
Livewire: Do you pattern your guitar style after any particular guitarist?
Chris: Well, I take a lot from a lot of different people. As far as rhythms and technique - I don't think I take a technique from any one person. I listened to a lot of music growing up - I mean a lot of music, so what I did is I took 15 years just to listen to music. There's three guitar players from Lynyrd Skynyrd - Gary Rossington, Steve Gaines and Allen Collins and even the new guys. I just love the way those guys play. I always have and I always will and that's where a lot of my inspiration comes from. You can hear their style in some of my solos. I never noticed it until after I heard the record. I've read all of their books, listened to all their records and copied all of their licks through the years. How could you not love Skynyrd? I remember the day half the band died in that plane crash - I was real young.
Livewire: How old are you?
Chris: I'm 31. I'm the old timer, the rest of the guys are 22.
Livewire: Any new band coming out that lights your fire?
Chris: Uh, right now...(long pause) it's kinda hard to say because a lot of the music that comes out today sounds like music that came out last week. I'm pullin' back to my roots and listening to all of the older stuff. As far as new music now I really don't listen to too much radio and I'm playing every single day, so when I'm on tour I really don't pay much attention. I am anxious for the new Linkin Park though and excited to hear the new Tantric. I'm' a big fan of theirs. Right now what I'm listening to is some progressive stuff. Listening to the radio now or watching MTV is stuff I just don't have time to do.
Livewire: What is the state of rock 'n roll right now?
Chris: You know, honestly I feel that in this day and age right now there are too many rock bands that have went mainstream - us included. Not on purpose - it's just the way it worked out. We had our crossover smash and Nickleback had their crossover smash and Creed is everywhere. People are just like - ugghhh - "come on guys, we want something else." I don't like when bands write a record that sounds like the one they just did and they just keep doing that. It's gotta go sideways and until that happens people are going to start listening to Nelly. They want something different. Until rock 'n roll changes a little bit its done. Like umm, what's her name ...Norah Jones has some good shit there. People need that and that's what we're trying to do as a band - grow, but we have to take baby steps to grow. It's kinda tough 'cause rock n' roll is what it is. Some of the music from the Vines and the Strokes are good on record, but I hate seeing them live. I saw the Vines live and I almost threw-up. I love the record, but I thought to myself you guys gotta do something onstage. I hate to talk about other bands though.
Livewire: Does 3 Doors Down have any cliques within the band?
Chris: I'm allergic to cigarettes, so on the road I have to stay in a non-smoking environment or I get sick.
Livewire: How do you play in all of those smoke-filled clubs?
Chris: I just have to deal with it. I can't go to casinos and other places like that for long because I get all locked-up. We had to seperate the band, Brad and Matt smoke cigarettes plus our tour manager. Me and Todd and our drummer don't, so we just split the buses up and that helps. It also helps because the band is separated from each other from those long 18 hour drives, so we're not all up in each others face.
Livewire: No tour jet yet?
Chris: No, just the bus and the jets are for the Rolling Stones. No bodyguards either (laughs).
Livewire: Are there creative battles within the band or is it all just sweet harmony?
Chris: We're all good to go. Everybody writes their own parts and we don't step on each others toes. When it comes to writing we each have our roles and you're able to do whatever you want to do within your role and even without. You can step into someone else's shoes if it's ok. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. But, nine times out of ten - it is because you're not trying to take someone else's part and trying to make it your own.
Livewire: What is your role?
Chris: I'm a guitar player - that's what I do and I don't really get into lyric writing at all because Brad's so good at it. He doesn't need me to bring him down. I write my own music just for myself and it's not near as good as what he writes. I don't even pretend to be a lyric writer as far as Brad goes. He does what he does and he doesn't tell me anything about guitar. If he doesn't like the part I just do something else. It's the way it works.
Livewire: Is Brad the leader of the band?
Chris: He's the lead singer. If you think about it as each persons job or role or as the band as a train and everybody's in the main engine with each one of us with a hand on a brake. I can pull my brake and slow the train down, but I can't stop it. Brad can stop it.
Livewire: You have a new drummer?
Chris: Yeah, we have a brand new drummer with a whole different sound. His name is Daniel Adair. He's from Toronto.
Livewire: What happened to drummer Josh Freese?
Chris: He just decided he wanted to do his own thing. He now has his own band that he's the leader of. He writes the songs and he wanted to give it a shot since he was an established touring drummer. He thought it would be a good shot, so he got a deal and they're coming out. They're called Slate 44. You should be hearing of them soon - they're good.
Livewire: If you could tour with any band - who would it be?
Chris: (without hesitation) Rush. I'm a big fan of Rush. Alex Lifeson is a good friend of ours. Either Rush or Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Livewire: Being on the road is not all that romantic is it?
Chris: No, the road is like..the romantic thing about being on the road is the hour and fifteen minutes you're playing up on stage and everything leading up to that is the grueling part. The traveling, the crappy food, the crappy hotels...
Livewire: What is the wildest thing to happen to you while on tour?
Chris: We're flying from Bahrain which is off the coast of Saudi Arabia. We played a show for the troops and we're in an overloaded plane with all of our equipment and people. There were some Air Force pilots sitting in the front two rows of the plane. For whatever reason the Egyptian military will only let us use their airstrips and refuel, but nothing else. You park the plane, get your fuel and get on outta there. You only have a two minute window and once they clear you to land you have just two minutes to hit the ground. So our plane comes down for a landing and we're about 20 feet from the ground when all of a sudden the gas goes on and the plane tries to get back up and it almost doesn't. You know why we almost crashed? (laughs) There was a camel on the runway.
Livewire: Did the camel have one hump or two?
Chris: (laughing) I don't know, but I had my digital camera and I thought what a great idea it would be to get a shot of the look on my face as the plane was about to crash and to see the stress in my eyes. I got the shot and you outta see it. You wouldn't believe the look on my face!
Livewire: I'm sure Henri Cartier-Bresson is smiling right now.
Livewire: Are there a lot of groupies and drugs on the road?
Chris: No, I personally don't do anything at all. I don't even drink coffee. I don't do anything bad for me at all.
Livewire: What about groupies?
Chris: No, I'm married with three kids. The band was on the road before I was married and groupies are something you can have if you're into that. Some guys do, but not this band really we do some partying and not the groupie thing.
Livewire: Are you telling me the band is pretty clean?
Chris: Yeah, pretty much. I mean, Brad likes to drink his screwdrivers and Todd drinks beer. He used to be the wild one, but he's married now. I couldn't handle the road and partying like that - my body would just shut down. You don't get much sleep and when you do sleep it's like hungover sleep which is not good sleep.
Livewire: What was it like to play on the USS George Washington off the coast of Portugal last October?
Chris: It was a cool experience. I spent some time in the military - in the Navy as-a-matter-of-fact. It was cool to look at a ship from the outside and not have to swab the deck. I got to look at all those guys in the Navy in a different light. They're giving up their lives in some cases to protect this country. There's a lot of people that believe the military's a joke and the President is a dumbass and blah, blah, blah, but the military is definitely not a joke. Who knows about the President? Alls I know is that our military gives up everything and they're not doing it for the money - they're doing it because they love their country. Even if they went in for different reasons they're still fighting for you and me. If it wasn't for them we'd all be speaking German right now. I'm behind the military 100%.
Livewire: How many videos have you shot for the new album?
Chris: We've done two for "When I'm Gone." We did one back home with our families. My wife's in it, Brad's wife's in it and my kids are in it. You can see the video on Canadian TV. It's also on Much Music USA. What you see in the States is our second one - the Navy video. They just filmed everything we did overseas. All the live stuff is off of the George Washington.
Livewire: I heard some people cried after watching that video?
Chris: The label made the video unbeknownst to the band. They edited it and everything. After I saw it - it was like (pretends to cry) and they were like "must be a good video, because people are getting all emotional about it." So, we voted and here it is.
Livewire: So you're not afraid to cry?
Chris: I'm a big sissy! I cried when Old Yeller died.
Livewire: How is your friends and family handling your success? Is there any jealousies?
Chris: Yeah, there's a little bit of jealousy even within the family. I have a brother who's a musician and he's been trying all his life to be successful and he is successful, you know, but this was his dream as well - what I'm doing. And here I am I work in a shipyard for 40 hours a week and play my guitar in bars every weekend and I get a chance to do it for a living. There's some jealousy there, but he would never admit it. If I was in his shoes I know I would feel it in the pit of my stomach. Other guys in other bands that I grew up with and played with... those are the worst because they thought (deepens his voice) "it should have been us." Who knows how or what or why we're the lucky ones.
Livewire: Do you think you'll ever reach the multi-platinum success of The Better Life again?
Chris: This new record may not go 18,000 times platinum like the first one, but we're already one-time platinum and it's only been out since November 12th. It's on the fast track - we're still selling some records and I think we might not have the same degree of success because there is no "Kryptonite" on this record. I mean how do you do that again?
Livewire: What can you always guarantee to 3 Doors Down fans - no matter what?
Chris: What you see is what you get from this band. We don't shoot pyro and throw lasers into the crowd and we don't spit blood and we don't swing from wires. We're just five guys playing rock 'n roll, so I think honesty is the word. That's what this band is all about. We just want to play music. That's what this thing is all about.
More 3 Doors Down
Concert Review - Eagles Ballroom Feb. 7, 2003
Concert Review - Marcus Amphitheater July 6, 2001
Concert Review - Circuit City Rock Stage July 4, 2000
Interview - with bassist Todd Harrell Jan. 16, 2001