When Grey Daze (Chester Bennington’s first band) announced they were creating a record with Chester’s original vocal recordings, many people have been in two minds. Would it do him justice? Would fans approve? Over the past couple of months, with the singles released it’s become very clear that this project has been put together very carefully and in a respectful way that honours Chester Bennington‘s memory and legacy.
Wall of Sound was very excited to be able to talk with Chester’s friend and Grey Daze bandmate, Sean Dowdell, to find out how they put Amends together, working with Chester’s son Jamie Bennington, and what happens with the band after it’s out.
Hi Sean, how’s your day going?
It’s going great. How are you doing today, Ebony?
I’m going so well, thank you! And it’s a pleasure to be able to talk to you about your album Amends which is now coming out June 26. It’s been years in the making, how was it when you realised you had to push it back a couple of months?
Quite honestly, I was fine with it. I don’t want to be selfish in a moment with what the world is going through right now, and neither did the rest of the band. The only downside was that I think that the music might have been a little bit healing and helped people in the time that they’re going through. So, that was the only downside for us is that we wanted to be able to give them that emotional outlet during these hard times. But as far as us personally, we’re fine with pushing the album back. No one wants to throw a party in the middle of a hurricane.
And as I said before, it has been years in the making, how are you feeling about its upcoming release?
The biggest thing for me about the completion of the record is that we did it right. I was never in a hurry to get it done, but it was more about getting it done right. And once we finally felt like we got to that point, and I don’t want to come off arrogant by saying this, but I feel like we created a masterpiece with this record and it felt very good to us that we accomplished that. Whether or not it’s received that way is a different story, but we felt very good about getting it done and getting it done correctly.
For those of us who aren’t musicians, can you talk us through making an album with only recordings of Chester’s vocals? How does that even work?
So, we had all the tracks for the masters of the original songs and instead of going back and just rerecording the same song, we had this idea early on that we’d strip everything down to just his vocals and then we would rewrite everything around his vocal track. And some of the songs kept their initial integrity as far as the initial sound, like the songs ‘What’s In The Eye’ and ‘Sometimes’ sound almost like the original, they’re very similar, but there are other songs like ‘Sickness’ or ‘Soul Song’ that take on an entirely different sound. They’re much more modernised and that was the trick; we didn’t want the music to sound dated at all, we wanted to make sure that everything we did was relevant and his fans would actually be able to digest it in a way that made sense in today’s music world.
And some of these vocal recordings go way back, what’s the oldest recording of Chester’s you’ve used?
I believe there are three songs on the album that were done back in 1994 when he was 18 years old.
Do you find that maybe they carry a different quality because he was so young, or it still carries the same weight?
I wouldn’t use the word quality, different tone or sound maybe. They do sound, if you really listen, they sound a little bit different to maybe the ones he did three years later in ’97 when he was 21. So he was a little more mature. But on those early tracks sound great.
Was there a song was the most difficult either emotionally or technically for you all?
You know it’s crazy, one of the songs ‘Sometimes’ which is one of my favourite songs on the record and it sounds the most like the original, right – that was the hardest one to get correct cause we had a couple little parts as we were working on it that we just could not get them to feel right, and Tom kept making us go back in the studio until we finally got it right. That was probably the most difficult song but as far as writing, ‘Morei Sky’ was the most challenging song to reinvent. Cristin had to completely re-imagine the guitar part that really wasn’t in the first one and it really took on a different life. It was really great to work with him on that song, it took a long time and it was just beautiful. It came out really different and I think fans are really going to like that track.
Quite a few musicians helped out on this album, Head and Munky from Korn, Paige Hamilton from Helmet, and Jasen Rauch from Breaking Benjamin to name a few. Did you chase anyone down or were they approaching you to be involved and pay their respects?
Oh hell no, we didn’t chase anyone down, that’s not my scene at all. Head and I are friends back from 2004, and Head and Munky came in and they just wanted to pay their respects to Chester, they loved Chester and they just wanted a way to say thank you for the things that he did in the world as a human being and a musician. And then everyone else was either a close friend of Chester’s or people that Chester was influenced by that he would have wanted to play with, or people that were really influenced by Chester that wanted to play with him and show their respect. Marcos Curiel from P.O.D, he was very close with Chester, so that was just a friendship that would easily connect the dots. Same with Paige Hamilton from Helmet. Chris Traynor from Bush was not friends with Chester, but Bush was a big influence on us in the early days and Chris came in and worked with us on four different songs, writing on the most amount of tracks then anybody and he became almost like a fifth band member and just did a great job. We brought in a vocalist that Chester loved, LP, he had never met her but absolutely loved her voice. I remember him freaking out about a song she did called ‘Lost On You’ in 2016. So when we were looking for a female vocalist we brought it up to our mutual friend and he reached out and she said yes right away because she was a big Chester fan.
That’s really how it all came about, you know, every single person we had do a guest spot on the record made sense in a way that there was a connection to Chester. And it wasn’t about stacking rock stars’ names on the record; we had a few people asking to play on the record that are big names that we told them no cause it just didn’t feel right.
And when did you know you wanted Chester’s son, Jamie Bennington, to feature on the record?
So, that one hit me like a lightning bolt. We happened to be sitting at NRG in our second or third session working on some songs and I remember standing by the console and something just literally hit me in the chest, it said ‘get Chester’s kids to come in here and sing on this record’, because Chester never got to record a song with any of his kids. As crazy as that is, he never got to do that. So when that idea hit me I pitched it to the rest of the band, I’m like ‘you guys this is the way that we can give back to Chester’. And we all felt really good about ourselves once we brought Jamie in. He sings backing vocals on a track called ‘Soul Song’ and just does an amazing job. His dad would’ve been pretty proud of him.
This has been such a big part of your life, how did you balance personal life and everything when putting Amends together?
It was very difficult to be honest, but I have great people in my company. I own a company called Club Tattoo, Chester and I were business partners in that up until the time he passed away. And I’m very successful with it, Club Tattoo does very well so it allowed me to take the time that I needed to go out to LA, work on the record and do it properly
You’ve put a lot of time, thought and energy into putting this album together, what happens after it’s out?
Oh man, that’s a loaded question isn’t it! So I guess the underlying tones of that question is are we going to get another singer and the answer is absolutely not. We spent the last almost three years of our lives trying to complete a record with Chester, for Chester, by Chester and it would feel very disingenuous for us to go ‘okay well now that we’re finished here’s a new singer’. That’s not something that interests any of us in the band. We do and we would like to do some sort of tribute performance around the world somewhere, somehow and sometime where we bring in guest singers and they can sing in a tribute fashion for Chester, that would be interesting for us. And then we have enough material to do one more, if not two more records. So we’ll see how this is received by fans and if it’s received well then we’ll do another record.
I think without a doubt that fans are going to go wild for Amends. Sean, it’s been a pleasure talking to you, thank you so much for your time.
You’re so welcome. Thanks for having me, I appreciate it.
Interview by Ebony Story
Pre-Order Amends here
Grey Daze – Amends tracklisting
3. What’s In The Eye
4. The Syndrome
5. In Time
6. Just Like Heroine
8. Soul Song
9. Morei Sky
10. She Shines
11. Shouting Out