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INTERVIEW: Roy Mayorga – Stone Sour

Formed out of some of metal and punk’s most successful artists, STONE SOUR are close to the release of their sixth studio album, Hydrograd. To get to know the album a little better, we had a chat with drummer Roy Mayorga about Hydrograd, touring mishaps including the time he nearly killed SLAYER, his rather incredible music history, and what STONE SOUR might have in the works on this upcoming tour.

Hydrograd’s coming out at the end of the month. How are you feeling about it?

Roy: Excited, man. I’m really excited for it to come out. I mean, we’ve been like, we’ve been living with these songs for a good year and a half, especially in the last few months of living with the fully mixed record, so I’m really excited for everyone to hear it. Yeah, excited.

Sweet. How do you think people are going to react to it?

Roy: I don’t know, we’ll find out! [laughs]

You’ve probably been asked this a lot already, but where did the name for it come from?

Roy: The name, actually that was from Corey [Taylor]. Corey, you might have heard, he’s explained it all, he was in an airport somewhere in either Russia or Poland, all out of it, jet-lagged. He wasn’t exactly all there and just trying to find the gate to his plane, and he got to this gate, it was the wrong gate, but it also had the word Hydrograd on the gate. But it turns out that’s not exactly the word he saw, so he basically misread the word but liked the sound of what he thought he saw so he just held onto that name, and I guess that’s what made him call the record [Hydrograd]. [laughs] It’s a bizarre story, but it’s the truth.

It is! I was expecting some meaningful story behind the name, but that works!

Roy: Well, I’m giving you the really shitty story because I wasn’t there when it happened [laughs], it’s more of a personal thing that happened to him [Corey]. He explains it more, like, using some sort of weird momentarily alternate universe kind of thing because he wasn’t exactly all there mentally from the time difference and whatnot, you know, being kind of out of it and hallucinating and seeing things that weren’t really there, you know what I mean? So, I guess that’s where it came from! Sorry, that’s all I know [laughs]!

So, what’s the motivation behind the album? STONE SOUR have got quite a few different sounding tracks in there, some quite aggressive, some quite emotional. What were you going after when you were creating it?

Roy: We weren’t really going after anything. We just got together and played and came up with these songs, and let the currents flow where they may kind of thing. We never really walk into a room and say “Okay, today we’re going to write this kind of song, write that kind of song”, it just came out of us naturally. Also, having two new writers in the band with us definitely added a different dynamic in the approach and style and stuff, you know? So, there’s that. We also played live together as a band coming up with new songs, which is something we’ve never done before either. So, that brought a whole new dynamic and made the individual explore the more improvisational side of writing and kind of helps you come up with a different way, instead of just like writing everything out as it is and then “Let’s learn this”. We had some songs like that, but a lot of it was jamming, too. That’s how we approached it in the recording studio as well, we recorded live as a band and did several takes until it sounded right from start to finish, no part-by-part or cut-and-paste, we did it old school style, the whole way. From the beginning of writing to recording, we didn’t even use a click track. The only time we used a click track was for me for a reference for a good 4-8 bars and then the engineer would cut it off and I’d take the band from there, so the band would follow me. Yeah, it was a pretty natural process how we came up with this record. I’m pretty proud of that.

You should be! I’ve given it a listen and it sounds so tight. Do you feel this more natural way of going about creating music and coming together to form the music you’re making is what you’ll carry on doing?

Roy: It depends, you know? Every situation is different. For us, this situation really works. I believe this is a better way, in a way, but this is the way a lot of the records were written and made that we grew up on, you know? From the 60s, 70s, 80s, all those records were made this way, they weren’t cut to a grid and cut-and-pasted, and digitised and vocals being flown from this verse to that verse, or kick drums and snare drums being moved left or right on the grid to make it perfect, you know? There’s a lot of imperfections on the record, sometimes the tempos are a little bit faster than some in a song and that’s fine, it’s human. I personally feel this is the way records should be made. Keep the mistakes, keep the weird inconsistencies, you know? It’s human.

It’s part of what makes it more appealing. Of course, you want to make it sound polished and tight.

Roy: You’ve got to be able to play that. You can’t have a computer make you do that, you know? That’s a lie, you know?

Definitely. You can hear a lot of different elements in this record. Some of the tracks are gritty, some have a punk vibe, and then Taipei Person sounds quite thrash-y, SLAYER and TESTAMENT vibes in there.

Roy: [laughs] That’s what you hear?! That’s cool! Well, you have three people in the band who definitely come from a punk background, me included. That’s just who we are, that’s just how it comes out when we play. We don’t try to play that way, it’s just how we play. And if that’s how it is, that’s great. I’m glad it came off that way. That’s awesome. You can’t hide it! [laughs]

So, how have your new writers in STONE SOUR helped develop the record?

Roy: Well, Christian was definitely the biggest spark of all. He came in with a bunch of sketches and a bunch of ready-made tunes, and of course we refined them. He ended up being the cook after a while. I would show him riffs or send him riffs through email or whatever, or we’d get together and show him riffs, and he’d come back to me with full songs from one riff. Johny [Chow], same thing, he’d have a couple of riffs and I’d have a couple of riffs, and he would stick them together and come up with some really great stuff. You know, Corey brought in some stuff, Josh brought in some stuff, but most of it was Christian. He brought in a lot, like a lot. It was the kick in the ass this band really needed, I mean, it really pushed us to a whole other level, I think. I think it brought the best out of everyone. Everyone brought the best out of each other on this record, for sure. I think that’s the best way to sum it up. Especially when we got into the recording studio, us being in a room together and feeding off each other’s vibes really brought out a lot in everybody, it was great. It really was. A really great experience. Probably the best experience I’ve had in a studio in a very, very long time, I have to say.

That’s awesome, you need that. That’s really great to hear.

Roy: We just laughed the whole time. We busted each other’s balls, it was great! [laughs]

That sort of comradery in your band is needed. As much as you’re there to create music, you’ve got a little family going there.

Roy: Exactly. If you don’t have that, then there’s no point. That’s how I look at it. I mean, coming from a punk background, every band I’ve ever been in has always had that comradery, that brotherhood, sisterhood, whatever, you know? We were always tight, we’re a gang, you know what I mean? And that definitely transcends into this as well.

What are some of your favourite songs from the record?

Roy: My favourite, Somebody Stole My Eyes, that’s probably the fastest, thrashier one on the album. Along the lines of Gone Sovereign fast, that’s like the second to last song. I really love Whiplash Pants, that’s a really good one, it’s about…actually I’m not going to give away the lyric meaning on that, I’ll let you guys check it out, it’s pretty funny! I think we can all relate to that. Knievel Has Landed, really love that one. I really enjoy playing Taipei Personality, we’re actually going to start to play that today and see how that goes. It’s the first time we’ll play it since the recording so we’re going to jam that as soon as we get on our gear. What else? Oh, Song #3, I love playing that one. That’s a fun one to play live, especially for drums, it’s just a good driving basher, you know?

I can get that. Not a drummer myself, but you can definitely get that feeling from it.

Roy: Live, it’s actually a hair faster I think. [laughs] Just a little bit! All songs live are a little bit faster, that’s just natural, you know what I mean? We’re hoping to record a live record from this run. Just the way the band sounds right now, and the way things are going, I think it’d be a really good thing, you know? To have like a merge of all catalogues on one record but played with the current line up, and with the intensity of what the band sounds like now, you know what I mean? I think that’ll definitely come out sometime.

Where would you like to do it?

Roy: I don’t know. I mean, we don’t have anything to record with now. I guess once we get more established on the road, we haven’t even started the tour yet. Once we get towards the middle of the tour, when the band gets more seasoned, maybe we’ll talk about bringing a multi-track rig with us and start recording stuff, and then just pick and choose. It could be anywhere. It could be a show in England, it could be somewhere in Japan, Australia, who knows? Just got to pick a show and hope for the best.

Definitely. Speaking of touring, you’re off soon and hitting the UK towards winter.

Roy: Fuck yeah, awesome. Brixton Academy I think we’re playing. Legendary place. My punk rock dream would be to play the 100 Club one of these days. That needs to happen. I’d love to play there, just to say I did. Too bad Marquee isn’t around, that’d be another good place to play, unfortunately it’s gone. But you have the 100 Club, so that’s good!

You might be able to tick it off your bucket list!

Roy: Oh yeah, that’s definitely a bucket list place, for sure. I know it’s a really small place or whatever, but it’s cool, it’s a great place. It’s got history.

You guys play a lot of huge venues and everything, but I can imagine the smaller venues are intense and more personal.

Roy: Way more personal. Everyone’s in your face, no barricades, no security, everyone is just sweaty and gross and happy! [laughs]

The best kind of gig, right?

Roy: [laughs] Proper gig.

You get in such a mess but it’s brilliant.

Roy: Yeah man, I remember those days. Squatter days.

Obviously, when STONE SOUR tour they’re quite extensive and wear down on you a bit. What do you do while you’re touring to recharge and get going again?

Roy: Usually my day consists of having a nice cup of coffee, have some breakfast, and hopefully, wherever I’m at there’s places to walk to, it’s like a walking kind of town I’m in. Sometimes we’re out in the middle of nowhere where there’s nowhere to walk to, but I like to go for long walks, I like to explore wherever I’m at, you know? That’s my preparation. Keep the juices moving in your body, go sound check and then kick some ass a few hours from there.

What would you say your best touring memories have been so far? Or the best thing that’s happened on tour?

Roy:  Wow, best thing that’s happened on tour? That’s hard man, you’re trying to make me remember 25 years! God damn dude, it’s too early in the morning [laughs]! I’m going to remember stuff while taking a shower like “Oh yeah, there’s that time!” [laughs]. Okay, I can talk about the time I almost killed SLAYER by accident.

What?

Roy: You ready to hear this one?

Yeah, yeah!

Roy: Okay, alright. I was on tour, this was years ago, like 2002, I was on tour playing drums with SOULFLY at the time, and we were opening up for SLAYER. We had a day off in Vancouver, I was with Kerry King, Jeff Hanneman, Dave Lombardo, Tom Araya, some of the crew, everybody in SOULFLY, not Max, he stayed back, SOULFLY’s crew. We ended up at an absinthe bar, and it’s one of those bars where there’s nowhere to stand, there’s a couple of sit-down tables but the rest of them were, like, round tables that you stand at. I ordered a round of absinthe for everybody, there must have been like 7, maybe 8, 9 shots. So, I had the bright idea of lighting my shot, lighting everyone’s shot actually, so we lit the shots. I went to raise my glass and cheers everyone, and as I said cheers, that hot, fiery liquid went right down my hand, and my hand went on fire, and I dropped the glass and the whole entire table went on fire with everybody’s drink. I’m like, trying to put myself out and put the table out, and I can see everyone from SOULFLY and SLAYER kind of take one step back, and it was needle, needle-dropping quiet. All I hear is Kerry King going “What a fucking idiot!” [laughs]. The room erupts laughing while there’s third degree burns all over my hands, like “you’re a fucking idiot!”, that’s all I kept hearing, “you’re a fucking idiot” for the whole tour. So, I got the “You’re a Fucking Idiot” Tour! [laughs] So there you go.

That’s amazing.

Roy: I still tell him, “I’m really sorry about that, man”, “It’s okay, you’re still a fucking idiot” [laughs]!

I bet they don’t let it go.

Roy: Oh, he’ll never let that go. Ever. [laughs] That was such a great tour. Y2K Tour, that’s what it was. Amazing tour. So, there you go, there’s my one moment.

Got to admit, I was not expecting that! I was expecting playing a festival for the first time or something, but that’s even better [laughs].

Roy: [laughs] Oh, okay! You want to hear my first festival? My first festival, I was in a band called SHELTER, 1996, I played at Dynamo, opened up for VENOM. That was my first festival, that, to me, was amazing. I’d never got to see VENOM in my life, and it was the original three of VENOM. They opened up with Countess Bathory, I’ll never forget that.

You’ve lived a life!

Roy: Oh, and we toured with SEX PISTOLS when we got back together for that same tour for a week in Germany. I’ve done a lot of shit, dude! I’ve got a lot of shit. [laughs] I’ve got too many weird ones.

We’d need an hour for that, I think!

Roy: I’ve got to write a book, because I’ve got a lot of stupid things that happened to me on tour. Tours, many tours. From the punk rock days, to now. A lot of stupid shit.

I believe you! [laughs]

Roy: Seen some great stuff, seen some weird stuff. I’ve seen some really strange things. That’s a whole other conversation, don’t even get me started. This coffee’s starting to kick in, by the way! [laughs] Okay. Back on topic!

So, you’ve been STONE SOUR’s drummer since 2006. How do you feel you’ve developed as a musician in your time with them?

Roy: I’ve definitely developed a lot more. I mean, they definitely gave me a challenge, man. They made me a better drummer I think, you know? Just, every day I listen to different bands, I listen to different drummers, it helps me progress as a drummer. The songs that they write, and give to me to play to, helps me progress as a drummer. I mean, evolution man. You can always get better and better and better. Always practice, always learn, you know? I’m always learning. Always learning something new. Whether it’s foot techniques, or stick technique, or approaching how I’m hitting or approaching how I’m playing to one’s music and not stepping over people’s vocals or leads. Just getting that stuff down, you know what I mean? That kind of thing. That’s always a constant progression.

Especially now that you’re so tight with these people now as well. That’s only going to help.

Roy: Yeah! I mean, the chemistry there, we just push each other you know? It’s great. And being on these kind of tours, we’re on tour with KORN and THE PRETTY RECKLESS, this new tour, I’m really looking forward to watching all those drummers play. Ray, I fucking love Ray, you know, he’s a really good bud of mine, it’s going to be great to watch him every day. That’s going to be a good inspiration. And the drummer from THE PRETTY RECKLESS is pretty awesome as well, so we’re going to have a great time on this tour. I look forward to that when I got on tour, to watch other bands, other drummers, and get inspired, you know what I mean?

Yeah! You can all watch each other and take inspiration from each other!

Roy: Exactly, man.

So, how long have you been playing drums for?

Roy: Since 6. So, you’re talking about 40 years now [laughs]! Yeah, a long time. I didn’t start touring and playing shows until I was about 15, 16. That’s when I started doing that more. So, between 6 and 16, I was figuring myself out and then I got the band at about 15, 16. Still figuring myself out these days [laughs].

It’s a constant work in progress!

Roy: That’s it, man. Life’s a progress.

I’ve only started learning drums, and I’m 20.

Roy: Oh, you’ve got a long way to go, bud! [laughs] At 20, I actually did my first European run when I was 20, and that was with NAUSEA. And we played punk festivals back then. A little dangerous back then. Still is, but it was back then though for sure. It was great. For me to come to Europe for the first time, there’s no other feeling like it, you know? It was great. I still get that feeling when I come over, excited, like “Wow, I’m over here again, it’s great!”. It’s a second home at this point.

So, is there any other avenue you would like to go down with STONE SOUR? Anywhere you’d like to play that you haven’t already?

Roy: I’ve never done all of Russia. I’ve never played in South Africa, I’d love to play there. I’d love to do China, and Thailand, those kind of places, Singapore. Never been in any of those places, so those are places I’d definitely love to go to. We’ve played Japan a bunch of times in the past 10 years, but we’ve never played like Korea, or any surrounding Asian countries, you know? I don’t know why, I guess it’s a promoter thing, you have to be invited I guess, I don’t know. Maybe this time we will, who knows?

It could happen! Next stop, 100 Club!

Roy: Oh yeah, I’m pushing for The 100 Club, for sure. I want that picture of the band from the front, that classic 100 Club picture, like every band from the late 70s playing there, I want that so bad. The same kind of picture you see in the adverts, or SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES from back then, or those kinds of bands.

Even today, that’s a true milestone of accomplishment.

Roy: It is, man. It’s iconic, that place. It’s very important.

Timeless. So, touring aside, what’s next for you guys and you yourself?

Roy: What’s next? We’ve got the KORN tour like I was talking about before, we’re going to start that tomorrow. We’re actually going to have our rehearsal today and then start the tour tomorrow, we’re going to do four weeks with them in the summer. Then, after that we’re going to go to Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and another headlining American tour after that, couple scattered dates in Mexico and South America, and then we come to you guys! November, December. That’s it. I don’t know what we have after that, next year’s a little bit dark to us, but we know we have a shitload of things coming up. Can’t really talk about them because nothing’s really in stone yet, but you know. I’m sure it is, but I just can’t talk about it yet. We’ll be out for a while.

Sounds like a busy year. Going to be good as long as you don’t go to another absinthe bar and set people on fire!

Roy: [laughs] None of that!

Hydrograd is set for release on June 30th via Roadrunner Records.

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