“We wanted to pay tribute and there were two ways to go about it: either make the songs completely our own or stay true to the originals,” says Stone Sour guitarist Josh Rand of his band’s latest Straight Outta Burbank EP.
This second installment in their covers trilogy sees the Grammy-nominated Des Moines rock quintet tackling classics by The Rolling Stones, Bad Brains, Mötley Crüe, Iron Maiden and Slayer, yielding some rather mesmerising results. The Burbank series also marks the recording debut of new guitarist Christian Martucci, who replaced Jim Root last year.
“For these covers, we decided to stay true to the arrangement and the sonics of the originals,” he continues.
“So for The Rolling Stones song Gimme Shelter, I used my 1974 Telecaster and a Fender amp. Which is not what I would normally play in Stone Sour! And in fact, my traditional sounds and settings wouldn’t translate well in that song.
“I had to sit down and learn all of Keith Richard’s parts. I didn’t realise how much he played; he’s doing licks throughout the entire song! I wanted to recreate the different guitar sounds with the equipment of today. I guess the part I enjoyed most was pulling out all these pedals and amps I don’t normally use!
“I even switched to passive pickups because the EMGs I usually use have too much gain for Maiden, Crüe and Bad Brains. We tried to get as much information as we could on what the bands themselves used on the originals – we wanted to show respect and, most importantly, have fun!”
You can most definitely hear it. Which begs the question – with the nine-legged juggernaut that is Slipknot now at the end of their 5th album cycle, could 2016 be the year we see more activity from Stone Sour – who share singer Corey Taylor with their fellow Iowans?
Josh explains that working with the busiest man in metal is something that requires a little bit of extra patience.
“Everyone needs to understand these covers are for ourselves,” he adds. “We want to get people into the bands that influenced us, almost take a step back to before Stone Sour. Because the reality is this: Corey has obligations in Slipknot. We are working on new material, but right now there’s no timeline because we couldn’t realistically support putting a record out.
“We live all over the US, really spread out; there’s no city we all call home. So why not jam and do a few covers? We’ve all been influenced by different styles. For example, I really didn’t know much about Bad Brains before this. I’m not much of a punk person, so doing that was like a whole new world to me. All in all, though, this came together pretty easy!”
Here, the guitarist gives us five tips to help readers tally up those Grammy nominations, Stone Sour-style…
Straight Outta Burbank is available at selected record stores as a coloured vinyl-only exclusive on 27 November.
Don't fight your instrument more than you need to
“Because if you do that, you’ll probably tend not to play it! The most important thing is choosing a guitar that feels comfortable to you and taking care of it. Changing the strings, adjusting the intonation and the action… because I feel a lot of beginners forget that. And that’s a tip for beginners and everyone else.
“Even with the guitars I keep in storage, I check to make sure there’s no fretboard shrinkage or whatever. I don’t want to open something I haven’t seen in a couple of years and find it’s all completely jacked!
“Take care of your instruments and they’ll take care of you. People tend to overlook this stuff when they’re starting out.”
You can absorb ideas from every style of music
“This is something I wish I could tell myself 25 years ago: be open to all styles of music! Don’t get trapped into the style you mostly play. I think there’s just good music and bad music, rather than styles.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really opened my mind to more and more styles, using new things for inspiration to help me create. It doesn’t have to always be death metal! There are a lot of amazing guitar players out there… go and find them.
“Al Di Meola, for example, has had a huge amount of influence on me. The stuff he was doing back in the 70s… I listen to it now and it’s unbelievable. I’ve been in awe about how fluid he is! There are a lot of jazz guys I’m a fan of, like Wes Montgomery.
“A lot of that understanding comes from listening to different styles of music. Because metal is very black and white in how it’s played. It’s aggressive and always on 11, rather than about dynamics and other things. Listening to different styles help you get those other little things that make the great players really great!”
Meet people and don't be afraid to ask questions
“Play with others and be open-minded. Whether it’s other guitar players or other instrumentalists, just get yourself out there. You can learn so much that way and it’s good for you. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been doing it a while, working with other people is a fun thing to do.
“When you’re jamming, working back and forth… whoever you’re playing with might suggest things you might not think of. It’s a case of being challenged sometimes, when you need to be. That’s why it’s good to play with others.
“A lot of good comes from being open-minded. If you listen to our self-titled record, which is now, like, 15 years old or something like that, and compare it to House Of Gold And Bones, our songwriting has come so far.
“We’ve made five records in that time and one thing we always talked about was never releasing the same record. We’ll help each other try anything different, even if we’re scared there might be a negative response… That’s how you write the best songs you possibly can. You might end up with a Hesitate or an Absolute Zero!”
Play what makes you happy, not what people might like
“Be yourself! I know it sounds really cliché… but you gotta follow your heart. Forget what other people might want to hear or whatever the trend is. Those that aren’t afraid to step outside of their box or comfort zones are the ones that are going to push music forward in five or 10 years.
“It’s not going to be someone following every little step in every article; it’ll be the guy that says, ‘I don’t care about any of this! This is what I hear and want to play.’ That’s who will be the next Van Halen or Hendrix.
“So don’t care about what anyone else says… even when it comes to running effects, just 'cos you might not know anyone else that does it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it! That’s an important thing as a player. Do what you think you should do!”
Practise with a metronome for at least 15 minutes a day
“I do this myself with any basic exercise. I’ll go up and down the neck using fingerings like 1234, 1243, 134, 124 as hammer-ons and pull-offs. I start around 80bpm and go up to about 120bpm.
“My main focus is literally just locking into the click – it’s not about going fast. It’s about being as clean, accurate and locked in as possible. I have no effects on my signal, just a raw, clean guitar.
“Practising is very important. But make sure to remember it’s not the only thing to do. Along with the technical aspects, you need to consider arrangement, tone and much, much more.
“Queen are the perfect example of how you can be complicated and layer stuff but still sound musical. It’s crazy how many layers and harmonies are in their songs! But you could always strip their songs down to simple chords, too.
“We learned from bands like that and implemented it into Stone Sour. We want to push through and take things further. Look at it this way: you can sit there and add all the tracks you want, but at the end of the day it takes nothing to remove them!”