Star Scene: John Connoly

Connoly at Soundwave, 2011. Click to see the full gallery

John Connoly’s scene is, in order – music, fish and then spending a lot of time with the family. He explains “My scene here at home is spending time with family. Playing guitar, writing music. I’m a studio rat. I’m the guy who even when I’m not in the studio, we’re on the road touring, I’m usually working on a side project. Playing guitar. It’s kinda like what I do is a hobby. Even if I couldn’t do this for a living I’d still have a guitar and just want to go and plug in and just jam. But I’m also a fish hobbyist too. I collect and breed South and Central American cichlids. We have about 25,000 gallons at our house. We have some very very large fish and very very large tanks. That’s kind my scene as well. ”

I suggest that that sounds like a really good life.  “It’s cool! My daughter brings friends into the house and says Welcome to Sea World. Dad’ll be performing at 4…” [laughs]

Sevendust are heading back for their 4th trip to Australia, this time for a headline tour. Connoly says “it’s been crazy how long it’s been. We’ve been trying to get there, between all the weird Soundwave stuff going on and everything. It’s going to be nice to get there and actually do the whole headline thing too, which we’re really really excited about.”

Their latest album, Kill the Flaw, was released in October 2015. I asked about the meaning behind the name. ”

Its kinda one of those things that symbolises us, kinda purging – out with the old, in with the new. Kinda that historical thing, getting rid of any of the bad things in your life. You know. Whatever you find your flaw to be – a person, could be a business or a company, or just a frame of thought. It’s one of those metaphorical, time to move on, Time to get the monkey off your back. You know. Push forward.”

Connoly at Soundwave, 2011. Click to see the full gallery.

“In a lot of ways it was funny too, because that song was written way before it was ever considered as the album title. Sometimes album titles come right out of the gate. With Blackout the Sun I think we had the album title before we even had the song. but with this one for some reason we had the whole record finished and we were finished mixing and we still didn’t have a name. It was really weird. Every name that was suggested was thrown out, it was just too cheesy, didn’t have enough meaning, or two guys liked it, three guys didn’t. So we struggled with the name for the longest time you know. And then we finally did the old “tried and true”, not that we want to take a sing title and make it the name, but you know, we started looking through all the songs. Every time we threw one up we’d be like “I’m not sure, I’m not sure, I’m not sure” but every time we’d get to Kill the Flaw we’d get up there and we all kinda stopped and there’d be a moment of silence and we’d be like ok, well I don’t hate that one. Especially considering it had so much meaning to us. We’d been spending most of the second half of our career fixing business things, whether it be ex-managers, labels, all that stuff. So for us it had a little bit more of a metaphorical thing all together. And things that we’d all been through together It’s kind of like a one way marriage and we’re all affected by any of those decisions that happen within the band. We’re all connected that way too.”

[pullquote]After 20 years, we’ve been through a lot together. We’ve been through the ups and downs with labels, managers, but we still care about each other deeply. We’re brothers and that’ s the end of it. [/pullquote] The band has been together for over 20 years, with pretty much the same lineup the whole time (guitarist Clint Lowery left for a couple of years, but returned in 2008). This is quite unusual. Connoly responds “Somebody mentioned that about a year ago. Clint left for a little bit, but came back. You’re the same five guys that started this thing. And we’re like, eh, it’s not that unusual is it? And then we started doing the math and going, wait a minute. [laughs] There’s not many bands that actually have all five original members. It’s just a blessing. It’s one of those things that there was an undeniably chemistry when we got these five guys in the room together for the first rehearsal. I remember the first time we went through rehersal all together we knew that there was something special there. We didn’t know what it was gonna mean to other people, hindsight’s 20/20, but I can tell you from that point looking forward we were just happy to be in something that was so exciting to us. We didn’t know if we were going to have one fan, three fans, no fans, or millions of fans, but there was just something so undeniable about the chemistry of those 5 bodies that were making music in the room.”

“After 20 years, we’ve been through a lot together. We’ve been through the ups and downs with labels, managers, but we still care about each other deeply. We’re brothers and that’ s the end of it. We fight like brothers, but we also come back to family like brothers.”

That really comes across on stage, they way you work together as a band… “I’m glad that it does because it’s something that I think a lot of people have always said. As much as they love our records they’re like, there’s just something different, some kind of magic energy or a spark that happens live. It’s the rehearsal room thing, like I said, I didn’t know what it was, but still to this day when we get up there and we’re all fired up all together, all on the same page it still makes the hair on your arms stand up after 20 years. So I guess I’m pretty thankful for that.”

Connoly tells me about his guitars. “Most of what I’ve been playing lately is a signature Explorer style guitar called a Z. That’s the actual shape name. And being that my initials are JC, it’s a JCZ. We’re actually releasing it at NAMM this year. I’ve been playing it for about 4 years. I’ve also been dabbling with the ML shape, which is one that is more associated with Dimebag Darryl. Those two are kinda my two go-to’s. ”

If Sevendust’s music was a food it would be “some kind of Italian dish, probably, seeing that it’s my favourite. Something with pasta and meat sauce and cheese.”

After the Australia/New Zealand tour Sevendust are heading back to the states for some festivals. “We have all these Spring festivals that are very Soundwave-like. But they’ll happen over a 2-3 day weekend. There’s one called Rock on the Range. Then we have Fort Rock, Welcome to Rockville, Carolina Rebellion. They’re all put on by one promoter and it’s not like they travel all together, but a lot of these shows will see a lot of the same bands. It would almost be like if you were running multiple Soundwaves all together. We’ll see Disturb for 5 or 6 of the shows, then we’ll see another slew of bands  – Hail Storm and Hellyeah I think are on another 5 or  6 shows. They’re cool shows because  they’re about as big as a Soundwave so it’s an enormous 1-2 day – I think Rock on the Range and Rebellion are 3 days this year. Once we’ve finished that we start the headline tour in the states. They’re not happy that we’re taking off to do a headline tour of New Zealand and Australia, I can tell you that right now. But they always get us, so they can wait [laughs].”

He chats about the difference in touring between Australian and the US. In America you can drive between gigs, in Australia it’s not so easy. “It’s always a bit of a challenge, but the cool thing about how we travel with Soundwave is you’re not just travelling with your band and crew, you’re travelling with 10 other bands and crews that you’ve been hanging out with for days on end, so for us, even though going in and out of airports may be not the normal thing like we tour here in the states it is kind of a lot of fun for us. The music community is a pretty close knit group. We know somebody who works for just about every band. And we know somebody in just about every band at this point of our careers. There’s a lot of hang time with your friends. You know, you could be sitting there with Zakk Wylde and Slash, sitting on a plane, getting ready to go to the next gig or whatever. It’s kind of a surreal experience when you look around and you go – wow – there’s a hundred musicians in this plane ride.”

Sevendust at Soundwave, 2011. Click to see the full gallery.

I ask John about songwriting, and if there’s a song he wishes he’d written. “You know this is going to sound weird. I’m a huge Metallica fan. Huge Pantera fan. So any of those songs are going to be obvious choices, but I’ll be honest with you – the first time I heard Adele’s Hello I was absolutely floored. I heard it and I was like wow, that is such a beautiful piece of music. Her delivery and her performance on that thing is just amazing. I think there’s a reason that song tends to resonate with so many people. It broke so many records. It’s just such an amazingly well written and put together performance. So, yeah, currently I’d have to look at that song and say, yep, that’s one that I listen to and go wow. ”

“Good music is good music. I’m not a big country fan, I’m not a big hip hop or rap fan, but I’ve heard songs in both those genres that I go wow, all right, that’s pretty amazing. For me, I don’t think Adele can do any wrong. She’s like half opera singer, half Janis Joplin, trapped in this body that doesn’t want to tour. She just announced that she’s doing 12 dates in the United States next years, so everyone’s getting really excited about that. ”

He explains how they handle the songwriting duties in Sevendust. “It’s kind of like a committee. Were one of those weird bands who almost have to remind each other who wrote what along the ways. A lot of times Clint will finish my ideas and I’ll finish his ideas. So sometimes a song – like Black is a good example – that was the first song that I ever wrote, but a lot of people assume that Clint wrote it because he does the intro riff. And that was the last thing that we put on that song, So, sometimes it’s hard to tell.”

“A song like denial I’ll start, but Clint wrote that one. So it’s very confusing for a lot of our fans. They’re like, man, we can’t tell who wrote what. And I’m like, you know what? We know who did, but we’re just thankful we wrote them together. We kind of work by committee. We all contribute lyrically. And we all contribute musically. Lejon might do the simplest thing, you know, start beating a little rhythm or something like that and all of a sudden it’s like, oh that’s kinda cool, and three hours later you’re down some weird road you had no idea you were ever going to go down. You never know where that spark or that inspiration is going to come from. ”

We’re really pleased that Sevendust are heading back to Australia. Connoly is too. “It’s been too long. We can’t really say sorry enough for the way everything went wrong with Soundwave. We take full responsibility for it, for sure. For us, our goal was to get back there as soon as possible. As much as it bummed us out to not be part of Soundwave on so many different levels at least this time we’ll get to do our full live show, to full 90 minute set. We’ll obviously have more control over the show. We’re really looking forward to getting in there and doing it for real. We want the proper Sevendust experience. ”

Catch Sevendust on their tour down under.

Sevendust Australian & NZ tour Dates:

Fri March 11th – The Studio (Auckland)

Sun March 13th – Capitol (Perth)

Mon March 14th – The Gov (Adelaide)

Wed March 16th – Coolangatta Hotel (Gold Coast)

Thur March 17th – Eatons Hill (Brisbane)

Fri March 18th – 170 Russell (Melbourne) 

Sat March 19th – Metro (Sydney)

About Mandy Hall 937 Articles
Mandy is a music photographer & writer. She runs Mandy Hall Media, which includes Photography, Social Media marketing, PR & Graphic Design for the music industry. She is also a web developer - she created and supports this website.