Barry Kerch (drums)
If you hang with Blast on a regular basis, you know it’s normally classic rock headquarters around here and, let’s face it, it’s tough to measure up to the standards set by the major players of the 70s and, of course, the 80’s, but occasionally, a newer band (by definition, anything after ’95) comes along that just blows us out of the water. We would have to put Shinedown way at the top of that list and, if you’ve ever seen these guys live, you already know what we’re talking about.
We caught them a couple of years back, opening for Godsmack and, truth be told, they stole the night, so we were pretty pumped when we heard that they were returning to the New England area as headliners. But, this time, we wanted more than just the show...we wanted the story. So our associate journalist, Kimberlee, caught up with drummer Barry Kerch to chat about Shinedown’s new line-up, the success of ‘The Sound Of Madness’, his thoughts on myspace and more. Read on….
Blast: Hey Barry, so Shinedown is back…this time with some new people and two original band members—lots of changes.
Barry Kerch: Yeah, that happens.
B: Was it a happy situation?
BK: No, well actually it was at two different times. With the bass player , Brad, it was really unfortunate, but he and our singer just didn’t get along anymore, and there were a lot of issues. So that happened about six months after we lost Jason. He had a lot of chemical dependencies. We definitely wish them both the best; it’s like a divorce, you know, but Brad’s doing great. He’s got a couple of bands going that are doing well.
B: That’s tough. The lifestyle must make it hard, too. Makes a lot of people do things they wouldn’t normally do.
BK: Yeah, definitely; it turns some into totally different people.
B: More power to you guys for keeping it together. So many bands have just crumbled under that stuff.
BK: That’s the last thing that Brent and I would let happen. We’d never let this band just go away. It’s got a life of it’s own and we owe it to the fans, too. Our fans have always been there for us.
B: Yeah, your fans are great. We caught you guys two years ago up in NH with Godsmack and you guys just took over. That had to be a good feeling.
BK: Thanks, yeah that was a cool tour. They’re good friends of ours, so it was a very amicable tour. I think the hardest thing as an opener though was not being able to play as long as we like. It was like forty-five minutes. It was great, though, they took very good care of us. But we definitely like headlining more so we can play longer.
B: Well, it’s nice to see you back out, I bet the crowds are going crazy.
BK: Yeah, we’ve been very lucky. I think it has a lot to do with the songs and the subject matter that people can relate to. It’s a big point for us to put on the best show possible.
B: So things are working out well with the new band members?
BK: Amazing! I think all the bugs are worked out now. Things are going more smoothly and everyone’s more comfortable with the shows. It’s good for us, too, because they’re all friends of ours. Zach used to fill in and play rhythm guitar for us, so he’s actually been with us for about three years. Eric, the new bass player has a studio in Charleston and we did some of this latest record there, and we were just fast friends, so that was a transition and Nick, who was from Silvertide toured with us for about three years with them, so it was just a phone call. We didn’t have a big cattle call. We auditioned a couple of other people just to do it and see, but we knew instinctively who wanted in this band so we called them and they were just like ‘yeah, I’ll get on the next flight’, It was pretty easy and it’s fun again. It’s a happy, healthy environment now. The worst thing we have on the bus now is beer, and it’s a lot easier.
B: That’s great, nice to have all your friends out with you.
BK: Well yeah, that’s it. This is Shinedown now, this is the band. These are our guys!!
B: It’s really a great line-up, and nice from our side to see everyone come together. I think everyone was kind of like, hmmm, if this works…
BK: It does work, and the shows are better than any we’ve ever done. Not to discount the other guys, because we did put on some great shows with them and we gave our all every time, but it’s a night and day difference compared to now. We’ve got great background vocals, and some really talented guys.
B: In the ‘Devour’ video, it’s interesting because Brent did that little clip about showing the band as a single unit and a family, which is great where it all just kind of came together and everyone was so solid so fast.
BK: It’s absolutely a family thing. Maybe it’s ‘cause we’re from the south or something, but we really treat not only the band, but our crew as family. We ride together, we eat together, we go out on days off together, and everybody hangs out. It is a family environment and we want to keep it that way. As soon as you start losing sight of that, I think things get ugly and just go bad. I’d never want to treat the crew like they’re second class, because they work harder than all of us in the band, and you don’t see it on the outside, but it’s there.
B: That’s awesome. Right now you’re doing mostly club shows. Will you be heading into primary venues in the near future?
BK: We’d love to, and we’re trying to do that. We’ve been going for almost eighteen months, so we have to start over. Booking’s been a little spotty because it really wasn’t a full tour with Blackstone Cherry or Theory Of A Dead Man. So it’s not like we could let everyone know months in advance that we were going to do a nationwide tour with this band and three weeks with another band. Right now we’re just going out and playing to these markets and trying to get where we need to be to keep album sales going. But we’ll be out with Buck Cherry which should be a great tour. Then from there, we’re going to Europe for a month and then back to the States. We’re going to keep touring and hopefully the places will get bigger and bigger.
B: It’s tough with the economy right now, too, with everyone struggling.
BK: Yeah, you think about it, though, and if kids want to go to a rock show, they’re still going to go to mom’s purse and grab the twenty bucks to do it.
B: True, they’ll never give up the stuff they love. How are the CD sales doing?
BK: CD sales are going great. First time we debuted in the top ten, which is awesome, and they’ve pretty much stayed consistent with the single and record sales as a whole. When ‘Us And Them’ came out until now, the market’s down 30%, so you try to keep it going, but yeah, right now the sales are pretty good. Especially since the first single is such a heavy tune and it’s a sad track. It’s not gonna translate to the moms and dads that buy albums at Wal Mart and all the radio stations. Maybe when we can come back with the second single, which will probably be ‘If You Only Knew’ or ‘Second Chance’, that’ll be more a wide mass appeal and bring more people to the record. Right now everybody’s extremely happy with it’s success, though.
B: Yeah, it’s a great album. Heavy songs and love songs; something for everyone.
BK: Yeah, we definitely pulled from some different places this time.
B: Anything on it that’s particularly personal for you.
BK: Oh yeah, the whole album’s personal for me. It’s really hard to say this is my favorite song, or that one sticks out for me, because I know where it all came from. I know what they all mean more deeply than anyone else. Brent writes the lyrics and they’re about what’s going on around the same time. So it’s very introspective and very well related to what we’ve been through in the past four years. Some of it’s pretty dark stuff, and some of it’s pretty scary stuff. You know, about his fiancée and the fact that they have a six-month old child now, and what he went through at the time she was pregnant; we’ve never written a love song before and never planned to. But then some of the darker stuff deals with the issues we were going through with the band members and Brent’s own personal issues, like finally getting sober himself, so it was definitely a tough one to make.
B: On your website there are several charities related to autism. Where does your interest in that come from?
BK: My wife works with autistic children. She’s behavior analyst and she’s been doing that a good eight or nine years. When I’m home I’ll spend time with her kids and it’s just something that touches close and I know a lot more about it now because of her and what she’s taught me. It’s an epidemic right now and to give back a little bit is the least we can do.
B: I have a four year-old autistic son and you’re right, it’s just becoming huge. It’s a great thing to be involved in.
BK: Yeah, it’s unbelievable, and couple of those charities are based out of Jacksonville, FL, and that’s where we’re from.
B: Ok, tell us about the class you took through Berklee, right?
BK: Yeah, I did do that. Actually, I’ve done and will do it again hopefully. I took a break from it while I was making the record and back on the road, so I would be clouded with that while I was doing something else. I just took a couple, some music theory courses, then I took a programming course. It’s just kind of a hobby for me, to learn something new. I’m not doing it for any specific purpose, I have a great career, but for me being a drummer, I’ve devoted my whole life to percussion in general and try to learn everything I can about it. To get into the melodic world, it’s very different for me, but it’s what I’m trying to get into. My main focus is still to play drums, but just to know how these ideas are put together and where they’re coming from, and also in the studio environment, because it’s changing so much and so rapidly every day with all the new programs and everything. So just to keep on top of that a little bit.
B: Well good for you, I’m surprised you had the time. So was this like a pass/fail thing? Did actually grade you on your work?
BK: Well you can take it for credit or for non-credit, I took it for credit, I got straight A’s, haha.
B: Good for you, again, sounds like fun.
BK: Yeah it was.
B: So the next single, have you decided yet?
BK: Yeah, I think it’ll be ‘If You Only Knew’ or ‘Second Chance’. A lot of people are leaning more towards ‘Second Chance’. We play both in the set and kind of watch the reaction from the crowd. I think it appeals more to the 18+ aged crowds.
B: You guys have a bunch of stuff out online, too.
BK: Yeah, we try to keep on top of that as much as possible. The other guys are very good at the myspace thing; I refuse to do it, but that what I have them for.
B: Yeah, I noticed that you don’t have a myspace account.
BK: I won’t do it. I don’t want that many friends, because they’re not really my friends. I have my good friends that I keep really close to me, but I’d rather just call them.
B: Yeah, I feel the same. Great for mass media, not the way for personal relationships. People spend hours on there, too.
BK: Yeah, those guys, they wake up in the morning and the first thing they do is go and check that. I just don’t have that kind of patience.
B: Anything you would go back and change, re-record, do differently?
BK: Well you know, years from now you look back at a record and there are some things you would change because you’ve grown as a musician, so there are things you could do a lot better or do differently, but as of now, no I’m really proud of the work.
B: First time I ever heard you guys was on Playstation, MLB, how did that come about?
BK: They actually approached us. I have no idea why, they just felt like the song fit. We’ve been on a few different video games. Everybody asks that, it’s great though. It’s more marketing and press for us. It’s cool.
B: Yeah, business-wise it’s genius. Anything else you can tell us about the future of Shinedown?
BK: Hmmm, tour, tour, tour some more.
B: When are you going to make another video with all this time on the road?
BK: I don’t know. ‘Devour’ got at least another month on the radio, but I’m sure they’ll fit another one in there.
B: And how long is the European tour?
BK: The month of October, goes through November 2nd.
B: Did you guys just do a festival, too?
BK: Yeah, we did Rock n’ Rage, that was cool. Six thousand kids, can’t beat that!
B: Yeah, no kidding! Rock n’ roll life’s pretty tough sometimes, though, huh? The ‘glamourous life’?
BK: Yeah, nothing glamourous about it. Living out of a suitcase all the time.
B: How does your wife handle it all?
BK: The best she can; she comes out and visits when we’re in nearby cities. I’ve been doing this for years, though. It’s just all part of it.
B: Well Barry, thanks so much for your time.
BK: Thank you, are you guys staying for the show?
B: Absolutely, wouldn’t miss it!
BK: Ok, see you out there, stop by for a beer after.
B: Ok, thanks.
So that’s the deal with Barry and Shinedown. We’re looking forward to more shows when these guys hit US roads again with Buckcherry late this fall and winter. We’ll keep you posted on those dates as we get them. Back with more soon…Thanks for hanging with us!!