Last updated: 09/05/2011 12:00:00 PM
In late 1994 Vinnie Hornsby and Morgan Rose were playing in a band called Snake Nation. At one of their gigs they were supported by fellow locals Body & Soul, an R&B band fronted by Lajon. Vinnie and Morgan were subsequently blown away by Lajon's range and intensity and the immediate feeling was that if they ever hooked up with this guy the results would be amazing. So Vinnie and Morgan -- the best musicians of their kind in town -- decided to do the only thing they could do. They stole Lajon, the best singer in town, grabbed guitarists John Connolly (who at the time was playing drums for the band Peacedog) and Lee Banks, dubbed themselves Rumblefish and prepared to rock.
When it came time to find representation, Morgan and Vinnie called on an old friend, Jay Jay French, the original manager of Snake Nation and guitarist for the seemingly forever-dormant Twisted Sister. Jay Jay, now a devoted family man with a new baby girl, was enjoying a hiatus from rock 'n roll and wanted no part of it. The band, now using the name Crawlspace, persisted and persisted but to no avail, so they took drastic measures. They announced a trip to New York City and that they'd better receive some help when they got there, or else. Jay Jay broke down and helped out by booking them some gigs in January 1995, the most unusual being at famed folk club the Bitter End.
Needless to say the regulars at the Bitter End were not amused and everyone literally walked out of the venue to escape the sonic assault. Hearing the commotion through closed doors from across the street, a booker from the Rock Ridge Saloon (who ironically had refused to book them earlier in the week) came running over and booked them for the next night. As exciting as all this was, their trip to New York wasn't without mishaps. The band was nabbed in a drunk driving dragnet trying to return to their hotel in New Jersey and Lee Banks spent 72 hours in the tombs on a DWI charge, which was eventually dropped. Welcome to the Big Apple.
The New York trip showed not only the explosive potential of the band but also that they needed guidance. Being a twenty-year veteran of the business Jay Jay decided to take them under his wing and delicately balance a family life with a return to Rock. The band was simply just too good to say no to.
In August 1995 Jay Jay produced the band's first demos in a storage closet of an Atlanta nightclub called The Wrec Room. August in Atlanta in a black-painted non-air conditioned room lined with sheet metal was an experience that none of them will ever forget. The room temperature pushed as high as 121 degrees, which may explain why the songs are so incendiary. The band started gigging hard and long to the point where their local rep was becoming the stuff of legends. The exhaustive schedule took its toll on Lee Banks, who opted out of Crawlspace in November of 1995 to be replaced by Clint Lowery formally of the North Carolina band Still Rain. Over the next months with a solidified line up, the band grew closer, tighter and heavier. So the story goes, the timing of Crawlspace couldn't possibly be any better. Playing a music industry bash in Atlanta, the band caught the eyes of some representatives from TVT Records.
At the time, the representatives were looking for a strip club when they walked in the wrong door the rest is history. According to drummer Morgan Rose, "The whole thing was a total flipped out situation. It got down to the point where we weren't going to play the show because the place wasn't adequate. We knew about the bad sound there and I just kept pushing everyone else to do this one. The show was terrible. I walked off unhappy and guitarist John (Connolly) was in the dressing room punching holes in the wall. About this time, Sudi (TVT Records Representative) walked up and said 'you guys are great. Give me a demo tape.' We forgot about that night and couldn't imagine that anyone would think of us playing more than average on that night. It turns out that the demo tape had no contact info on it so Sudi found himself calling the club the next day to find out how to get in touch with Sevendust. Within a month, Crawlspace was talking with the A & R Department & Steve Gottlieb, President of TVT Records. The b
and was signed two weeks later in June 1996.
Crawlspace took themselves, their gear and their influences (which range from Black Sabbath to Missing Persons) into Atlanta's Triclops Studios on July 5, 1996 for three weeks of intensive recording. In the producer's chair was not only Jay Jay French but also Twisted Sister bassist Mark Mendoza. With Jay Jay's feel for the crunching guitar riff and Mendoza knowing the importance of a powerhouse rhythm section, the material promised to be heavy from the get-go. As a matter of fact, the earlier songs that were recorded were going down really quick. As the band went along they realized that they were ahead of schedule and started experimenting. They drove the production crew crazy because they went through a few weeks of pre-production and had it all down. Then, the band got to the studios and started changing things around by enhancing the songs.
The fire the band took to the studio was further fueled by events surrounding that year's Summer Olympics that were taking place as close as right down the street. From a knuckleheaded bank robbery right in the middle of the passing Presidential motorcade to the explosion of TWA Flight 800 (in particular affecting Jay Jay who was flying back and forth between New York and Atlanta during the sessions.) The event with the most impact was unquestionably the terror bombing at Olympic Park where the band was scheduled to perform the next day. Needless to say these events pushed the emotional energy to an unimaginable level that can be felt on scathing tracks like "Prayer", "Too Close To Hate" and "Terminator."
The band's first public appearance on record was with the grinding track "My Ruin" on the Mortal Kombat: More Kombat disc which exposed them to a quarter of a million fans of heavy music. Soon after the band were forced to change their name when a group on the West Coast claimed ownership of the tag Crawlspace noting that they had a few albums out already and that there was no possible way they could buy the name. There was little time left to find a name and the band struggled to find a new handle. Bassist Vinnie (Hornsby) is credited with coming up with the name Sevendust after looking through his grandmother's garage and finding a can of a plant pesticide known as "sevindust". Since then, the name has stuck.
The debut album SEVENDUST hit stores on April 15, 1997. According to guitarist John Connolly, "I remember, the first week, we sold about 300 records. I took us weeks and weeks to even sell a thousand copies." At first, the debut CD was slow-starter at retail sales. Through constant touring and devoted support form the band's label, TVT Records, Sevendust began to make a name for themselves.
Looking to boost public awareness of the band, TVT Records President Steve Gottlieb came up with the idea of buying airtime for a live concert on major national television networks such as Fox and UPN. At this point, "Live and Loud" was born. "Live and Loud" was a half-hour concert special of Sevendust that was aired throughout the U.S. In addition to television exposure, radio stations across America used the simulcast audio from the televised concert to broadcast the show over the radio airwaves, a move that gave Sevendust exposure all across America. For a band that had not sold a lot of albums, it was a balsy move for TVT Records. It was a move that paid off in the end.
After the broadcast of "Live and Loud" shook the television and airwaves, Sevendust changed forever. SEVENDUST debuted ahead of new records from the Rollins Band and Queensryche on the metal charts. The disc became the #1 most added disc across-the-board. The debut album soon made its way into the #1 spot on the charts and remained at #1 for twelve straight weeks! Needless to say the band was now a hot commodity and the tour offers began rolling in.
A brief stint on the R.O.A.R. tour with vets The Nixons gave Sevendust the opportunity to play in front of a more mainstream crowd. While a new batch of fans were being gobbled up on this stint, big time rock radio came calling, thanks in part to the slow fold of alternative rock and the quick resurgence of heavy rock. The first single "Black," still a phenomenon after five months on the metal charts, was finally getting its due at commercial active rock and alternative rock stations. The band's slow burn had finally made a discernible welt on the music world.
The tell-tale sign of Sevendust's deep impact came In November 1997 when they were picked by New York City's top rock station WXRK (or K-ROCK, known best as the flagship station of The Howard Stern Show) to perform as part of a three-act showcase designed to represent a new direction of format that the station was heading in.
All of these factors, combined with TVT Record's pay-for play tactics helped the band catapult into success that had never been imagined before. On May 19, 1999, SEVENDUST was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for selling over 500,000 copies of the CD. According to drummer Morgan Rose, "It was pretty wild because I found out that we went gold the same day that I found out my wife (Bassist Rayna Foss Rose of Coal Chamber) and I were having a baby girl. I thought, today is a good day!"
Unfortunately, by the time SEVENDUST went gold, the band was at work on their second album, Home and was unable to attend their own gold record party in New York. After touring for two years straight in support of SEVENDUST, the band felt it was time to record the follow up album. However this time, they didn't record in Atlanta. Agreeing that the distractions of home would be too overwhelming for the band, they packed their bags and moved to Longview Studios in central Massachusetts around March, 1999. According to guitarist Clint Lowery, "We were at Longview Studios which is just a beautiful place; farmland, in a barn, out in the middle of nowhere Massachusetts."
Toby Wright (KoRn, Alice in Chains) was signed on to help produce Home. According to drummer Morgan Rose, recording in Massachusetts with Producer Toby Wright "厀as great. The recording process was kind of tedious and it got to us pretty hard. We would do one song at a time. We would get to the point where I would play the drums one day and then I would help produce the record and wouldn't play the drums for another three days. If I got into a good feeling where I felt like I could bang out a lot of songs, I wasn't able to do it. Our producer, Toby Wright would make us do one song at a time. As for the seclusion factor, it worked real well. We got really angry but it was a great place. It's always killer to be in Massachusetts. In terms of how Toby ran things, he would basically let us go in there and do whatever we wanted to do. However, he was brutally honest with us; he didn't care how we felt when it came to his opinion. It was pretty intense but he pushed us - individually and as a band, to the next lev
With Wright on board, speculation involving Sevendust sounding somewhat like KoRn began floating around the music industry. However, vocalist Lajon Witherspoon feels otherwise. "I don't care what you fucking say, you can listen to our CD and listen to a KoRn CD - they sound nothing alike. I mean, you have heavy riffs; the same genre of music, maybe - but the two styles of music are completely different."
Sevendust experimented with some new sounds on Home. Drummer Morgan Rose added an electronic sampler and a few Roland V-Drums to his set. The sounds can be heard in "Denial" and "Waffle" The band also decided to bring in some guest musicians. Skin from Skunk Anansie added some vocals to the song "Licking Cream". At first, the band was skeptical of bringing in big stars to help their records sell because it seemed trendy at the time. They felt that it was like jumping on the bandwagon. However, after Skin came in and took control of the recording process, the band knew that they had a perfect match. Sevendust also brought in lead singer Chino Moreno of the Deftones to sing on the track "Bender".
Even with Toby Wright producing the album, Sevendust felt they needed someone else to finalize the sound of Home. Enter Andy Wallace (Nirvana, Helmet, Rage Against the Machine) and his skillful mixing skills. "We saw his name on CD's for years and we'd been admirers of his work, so there was definitely a nervous energy on that first day", says guitarist John Connolly.
Before the August 24th release of Home, Sevendust went back to touring, this time hitting the festival circuit on the Van's Warped Tour. Sevendust also managed to work in a last second appearance at Woodstock '99. According to MTV, "Sevendust delivered one of Woodstock '99's breakthrough performances."
Home was released on August 17, 1999, a little over two years since the release of their debut album SEVENDUST. The band went out on another tour, this time headlining their own national tour. One year later, Home has sold more than 450,000 copies and was certified Gold by the RIAA on May 18, 2000.