Interview: CJ Pierce of Drowning Pool Talks “Sinner”, Reflects Drowning Pool’s Past, Present and Future


BearlySinister of NT: First of all I want to thank you for doing this interview, it is an honor. I’ve been a huge Drowning Pool fan since Sinner came out so it’s really cool to be able to speak to you. Can I have you introduce yourself to our readers?

CJ Pierce: Okay, cool! Hey, what’s up? This is CJ Pierce from Drowning Pool!

BearlySinister of NT: 11 Days ago Drowning Pool released your “Unlucky 13th” Anniversary Edition of one of my absolute favorite hard rock albums, Sinner. What led to the decision of releasing this 13 years later, rather than the typical 10th, 15th or 20th anniversary?

CJ Pierce: Y’know, a lot of things came together at once to make this happen. We’re grateful that we can get this out to our fans but um y’know, with this band it’s never been anything normal that’s happened to us, man, y’know? We don’t do stuff on 10 years or 15,  I know a lot of people put out “Best Of” records… traditionally, at 10 years, just about all bands, man. When we hit the 10 year mark, that whole subject came up with the record company and it’s not something that we wanted to do yet, especially having Jason Moreno as our current singer and we wanted to get a few more records under our belt with him before we do a “Best Of”. At the same time, we had all this old demos and unreleased material with Dave Williams on it and we’ve always wanted to do something special for Dave and he just happened to be… y’know “Unlucky 13” fan. So it just kinda came together and made sense and man, I’m happy it’s out there, y’know?

BearlySinister of NT: Looking back on it all, being that you’re one of the original 3 that started Drowning Pool, how do you feel that Drowning Pool differs from the band as it was in 2001?

CJ Pierce: Well, I mean again, I think we’re Drowning Pool evolved. We’ve gone through a lot of stuff in the past 13 years. Um… just as a band, things that happen in life that affect you and affect your music and what you write so I think the band we have is definitely more experienced musically and then lyrically, y’know, that just kinda expresses all the things you go through in life. Umm… we’re having the best time now with Jason Moreno, he’s a perfect fit for us, y’know everything we’ve gone through in the past, all the ups and downs, all the hard times in life… sometimes you have to go through all that to get to the good times again and uhh… like I said, it couldn’t be more perfect. We’re having fun, we’re playing the whole Sinner record every night which is kind of RE-influencing my writing to kinda write like I used to. Cuz as a musician, y’know, 13 years later you evolve uhh… hopefully become a better player and a better songwriter. Y’know, you can’t ever forget that core sound that you have and we still have that… especially with the new material that we’re writing for the next CD.

BearlySinister of NT: For me, and most fans of Drowning Pool that I’ve met, it’s still pretty hard to listen to Drowning Pool and think of anyone other than Dave as vocalist, of course may he Rest in Peace and Rock in Paradise. Do you feel that Dave would be happy with how the band has turned out?

CJ Pierce: Oh, 100%, y’know? I mean he was a best friend and loved music, he loved being a singer in a rock band. We all had a great relationship and the closest, bonded buddies you could have! But again, he knew Jason, we used to do shows with him back in the day so I think he would be happy that Jason’s in the band. We know that, on a personal level, I know a lot of fans don’t get that and I’ve been guilty of it myself, man. There’s been a few bands out there that have changed singers and sometimes they do cooler stuff, sometimes it’s not what you expected but umm… y’know with Jason, I mean out of anybody I’ve ever worked with… the dude warms up his voice every day, he rehearses all the time out of respect for the Drowning Pool fans and out of respect to Dave, I mean… he works really, really hard. He gives 110%! He wants to be the guy, he is the guy, so umm… and that’s another thing too. We’ve got fans who have come out and seen us with every singer or… fans that haven’t come out and seen us since Dave and once they see the live show and they hear it, every one of them has said nothing but positive things. They’ve always been like “Oh, man, this is so great! You guys sound like you did back in the day” so… it’s one of those things… you just need to get out and see it. Come out to a show and you’ll know, it’s still the Drowning Pool that you loved from day one!

BearlySinister of NT: In regards to the different vocalists, personally, I’ve found something to love about each subsequent vocalist after Dave. There’s something about Jason that just really… made my head turn. I’ve gotta ask, what’s the story? How did you guys go about picking him? I’ve actually heard… I picked up the special edition of Resilience with the DVD and he does a couple of the older songs and does sound almost like Dave reincarnate.

CJ Pierce: Yeah, he sounds closer to Dave umm… I think what happened when we decided to keep moving and look for a new singer after Dave passed away, we wanted to get Jason “Gong” Jones. We wanted someone that had an original voice. We didn’t want somebody that mimicked Dave right after we lost Dave. I’m really proud of that record, he just wasn’t the right guy for this band. So, skip ahead we wanted to still get another original sounding singer and Ryan McCombs has a very distinct, original voice and we made 2 great records together! I’m proud of those records as well but on the same situation, writing songs and playing together is one thing but living together on a tour bus and being, y’know, best friends is a whole ‘nother world. There’s just a whole lot… I’m not even gonna go into details. We went as far as we could go with Ryan, we still wish Ryan the best so umm… when it finally came down it, YET AGAIN looking for another singer, very frustrated at the time. We’ve already known Jason, Jason sings in a band called Suicide Hook and I’ve actually produced some demos for ‘em in my home studio so, y’know we’ve known Jason forever, he’s come up on the scene. So Jason sent in a demo tape, we didn’t even know he was sending an audition tape to our management umm… y’know, like many other people and they came across his and they actually called us and said “Who’s this Jason Moreno guy from Dallas?” So he legitimately got the job from auditioning, it wasn’t just like… y’know, we went and picked ‘im. As much as we were going through singers, we had a lot of great, great singers that sent in great demos but then when Jason came across it was just like a no-brainer. He’s from Dallas, he sounds closer to Dave than anybody else, y’know we’re gettin’ back to our core sound. That’s the whole idea about putting out the Sinner record again and the whole direction we’re goin’ writin’ new material for the next record.

BearlySinister of NT: Your latest album, Resilience, peaked at #6 on the US Hard Rock charts. What is your favorite song on that album and why?

CJ Pierce: Hmm.. that’s a tough one, man. I love those songs… there’s not like a favorite one. There is one… well… musically I really like “Diggin’ These Holes”. It was definitely me kind of venting some frustration lyrically and then, y’know, of course working together as a band, finishing the whole song umm… and I love the solo in it! So that’s one song that I was kinda hopin’ woulda been on the list of singles ‘cuz I think it sounded pretty close to classic Drowning Pool as well. I mean, ya gotta face it, we’re gonna sound like Drowning Pool but we’re gonna evolve as a band and try to bring new, fresh ideas to the table as well. I guess “One Finger and a Fist” kinda has that classic Drowning Pool sound as well, I mean we’re rockin’ that every night still… it’s a fun song to play. Y’know, it’s a attitude song.

BearlySinister of NT: What does the Sinner album and era of Drowning Pool mean to you and why?

CJ Pierce: Y’know, for me, I mean we worked really, really hard together for 4 years before we got signed. We always hoped we’d make it in music but at the same time, you get to that point where you’re just like “Look, we’re just playin’ out at bars on the weekend and we’re havin’ fun and as friends” and uhh.. it picked up naturally so… that whole time period to me, y’know, getting’ signed, our first record… everything was just so new and exciting about the whole business. It just kinda reflects that… it’s definitely one of the highlights in your life, y’know? You’ve always wanted to play in a professional rock band and you finally solidify that.

BearlySinister of NT: What songs on Sinner are you most excited to play on this tour that you, perhaps, have never played or haven’t played in quite some time?

CJ Pierce: Umm… y’know, “Sermon” would be the first one off the bat. It’s one of my favorite songs, it was Dave’s favorite song off of Sinner. I mean… you love ‘em all. “Bodies”, of course, “Bodies” is awesome… we play it every night but songs like that like “Mute”, “Sermon”, “All Over Me” we haven’t played those songs since Dave passed away and there’s a few more we haven’t. We’ve always played “Sinner”, “Tear Away” and “Bodies” for sure and every now and then we threw out “Reminder” or “Pity” which are kind of the mainstays but the rest of the record, y’know… we haven’t played so they’re ALL awesome to play! It does remind me of that time period and y’know… kinda feel like you hit the reset button and then hopefully smarter and wiser this time around.

BearlySinister of NT: Who or what was your biggest influence writing your parts on Sinner?

CJ Pierce: At that time? I mean… I’ve always grown up like most guitar players my age, I mean… I was all about Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, y’know those were like… AC/DC… all the classic rock in the 70s. I definitely grew up playin’ that and lovin’ it? Probably Led Zeppelin is a huge influence but y’know, in the 80s you had all these awesome metal bands that came out, I mean like Pantera… are you kiddin me?! So at the time that we were writing, I was just listening to a mix of stuff! KoRn came out, Limp Bizkit came out, y’know a lot of bands that are in our… P.O.D a lot of bands that are in our era just came out at the time and you listen to everything. I’m always influenced by all of it, really.

BearlySinister of NT: Tell us a bit about the demos and unreleased material on the “Unlucky 13th” edition.

CJ Pierce: It’s a couple different demos from different little time periods, 2 or 3 songs here, 4 songs there, y’know how you make demos so… for me, I was very fortunate to find the guy, JD Simms, that we recorded the first demo with Dave it’s called “Kill demo” so… he had to feel out the ADAT, we did that on an ADAT so I had to go out and find an ADAT machine and track down JD, he actually still had the ADAT tapes in his garage all covered in mud and spider webs so I didn’t even think it would work so… the first 5 tracks on there, I had the opportunity to save what I could and just remix it cuz y’know when you go in to make a demo, most bands don’t have time or money, you walk in and you record one take and you get out and what you get is what you get. So, I didn’t change anything up on the songs as far as like replaying or retracking stuff, as much as I just took it all in, dumped it in pro tools and cleaned it up as much as I could so you could hear more of what the song is about. Then there’s a few other tracks that were left that were just y’know, that’s what we had. But most importantly, umm… “Heroes Sleeping” was the last song we wrote with Dave Williams. We uh… we had some rehearsals right before Ozzfest 2002 at the end of June and uh, that last rehearsal right there… our sound guy recorded through the board on a cassette tape and during those 3 days of rehearsals, that’s the song that we came up with… actually, as a whole, pass as a song. So umm… I just found that tape a few months ago, I didn’t even know I still had it so it was really kind of a gem of a find to have that very last song that we wrote with Dave and it’s decent enough to where I could put it on there. I mean, it’s still raw and rough cuz it’s a live mix and it’s just one pass, one take but it’s still real cool, a great song… I mean, Layne Staley had passed away a few years before that and that was kinda on our minds and the whole song is about all of our fallen heroes, all of our favorite, past band members who aren’t with us anymore. Two and a half months later, y’know, Dave’s part of that song now.

BearlySinister of NT: My good friend John Janatsch sees quite a bit of you guys in his venues in Houston and San Leon. What is your experience like each time you hit these venues?

CJ Pierce: Y’know, you think it’d be the same but it’s just completely different every single night. Even when you go back to the same venue because at the end of the day, the crowd really kinda dictates that vibe and that mood. No matter what the PA or lights are doin’ or what we’re doin’ it’s like… you never know what you’re gonna get every night, it’s always exciting. It’s awesome, it’s always intense. I look forward to… y’know people always ask me “You like small clubs, you like the big show?” I like ‘em all, I mean we did a small show last night at a club with no barricade and people were right up on the stage, I love that! There’s also… y’know we do like a big outdoor shed where you can bring all the lights out and pyro and blow everything up so… I love it all man!

BearlySinister of NT: Looking back, is there anything that you’d go back and change about Drowning Pool?

CJ Pierce: Anything I’d go back and change? I mean… we’ve done what we’ve done, it is what it is! Y’know, I probably would’ve tried to go back and write every single song and make it sound like “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor” on every record but then I would just be like followin’ a trend and we’re more like the band that likes to bring new stuff and we have that song. I mean, bands find a formula and they stick to it. So sometimes I debate, y’know… “Should we just be a machine and stick to the formula or should we just be an organic band and write what ya feel?” We took that route. I don’t know if I would change that or not, cuz I’m happy with all of our songs… I know, also, doing the singer switch every time you do something like that it’s “one step back and two steps forward” that’s how it’s been in this career.

BearlySinister of NT: What are a couple of your fondest memories in the 18 years that you guys have been a band?

CJ Pierce: There’s just so many cool things we got to do. I mean, playin’ Wrestlemania was awesome. Umm… doin’ the Ozzfest tours were awesome, we had an opportunity to go and play for the USO and go overseas in Iraq and Kuwait for our troops is freakin’ awesome! We went to Capitol Hill and got to help Evansville, which gives our troops better mental healthcare, to do something with your music to get a bill passed is pretty huge so… things like that! All of those, I don’t know, I couldn’t really pick one… there’s been a lot of really cool shows and even the small club shows, down to 100 people that go nuts, that’s awesome… not just the big ones.

BearlySinister of NT: To me, there’s something about… I’ve been to big venue shows and I’ve been to small venue shows I, personally, like the small venue shows because you get that connection and you get that opportunity to where, if a big band is playing in a small venue, you may have a chance to meet that band and there’s a lot of bands out there that do meet and greets, things like that but usually with small venues and things like that, you’ve got bands that are hangin’ out at the bar? You can go talk to ‘em, say what’s up, take a picture, get an autograph, things like that. Whereas in a BIG venue, usually everything’s set up back behind the stage where there’s a fence or a barrier or some reason you can’t get back there unless you have certain credentials. That’s why I like the smaller venue shows because I like to have that intimate experience that you don’t really get AS MUCH as with a bigger venue show.

BearlySinister of NT: Well, you’ve kinda been talkin’ about this through the interview but I’ll go ahead and ask it anyway. Has Drowning Pool began writing for the next record and, if so, what can fans expect out of a new Drowning Pool record?

CJ Pierce: We already have upwards of 50 tunes, we have more tunes now with Jason than I think our entire back catalogue? So, the situation that we’re in right now is what kind of record do we want it to sound like? We have heavier songs, we have lighter songs, we have umm… stuff that sounds like classic Drowning Pool and we have stuff I call “Drowning Pool Evolved” which is newer stuff that we’ve written with Jason Moreno involved as well so it’s like we have so many tunes… it’s tryna pick that right group of tunes to put together for a record. That’s what we’re doin’ right now and we continue to write, y’know, this band, especially this last couple years we’ve been really well, we’re always writing music. Always… always, always, always. Not as much on this tour, um… and when I say not as much on this tour, we’re all working on songs I just stay so busy, throughout the day that… it’s like I’ll pop in and throw some riffs down here and there and then usually when I go home, I’ll put songs together. That’s full songs… I come out with a ton of ideas out here. But yeah, we have a lot of stuff, man. We always like goin’ heavier, I mean I like to throw out a lot of flash and speed, we’re playin’ the Sinner record and I have a lot of bend notes, whereas Resilience record, I have a little bit more speed goin’ on there so you just play through the song anyway, at the end of the day when it comes to guitar solos, what really just fits in the song and what you’re feelin’ at the time. So… yeah, I guess you can expect that… heavier Drowning Pool!

BearlySinister of NT: Last thing: Of course, since we’re talking about the Sinner record, we can’t end this interview without talking about “Bodies”. It’s been Drowning Pool’s biggest hit since day 1, of course it comes off the Sinner album. What do you contribute to the success of that song and how do you feel playing it 13 years later?

CJ Pierce: Man, that song is just the gift that keeps givin’! I don’t know how else to describe it, I know every time we play it, it’s SO fun to play! We just wrote that song like we write any other song, it wasn’t any special plans, it just came off as natural as it could be. Y’know, like everybody always says it has that “anthem” feel to it. It’s a good crowd song, it’s like the old school bar songs where you slam your glasses together and rock out to it… it’s umm… that’s what I get off of it every night. I love it and I look forward to playin’ it every night. I can’t wait to get to it, like everybody else and go nuts! It’s a metal song, it’s a heavy song, it’s an anthem song but it also has some kind of crazy, feel-good vibe to it. I guess that’s what kind of helped it stand 13 years, I mean we’re still makin’ new fans which is something I didn’t think about, y’know, I didn’t know 13 years ago I’d still be fortunate enough to be rockin’ out still. I always hoped so and umm… I didn’t think we’d be makin’ 5 year old kids or 10 year old sayin’ “I just heard your new song ‘Bodies’” It’s cool that they think it’s a new song, it still works and fits with the music that we’re playin’ today so that aspect’s pretty cool.

BearlySinister of NT: Well CJ, I really and truly appreciate your time, like I said it has been an honor and a pleasure. I’ve been a Drowning Pool fan for a long time so it’s awesome that this was able to happen. Is there anything else you’d like to say to your fans, our readers and the general public?

CJ Pierce: Yeah! Definitely come out and hang out with us at a show! Come see the show if you haven’t seen the show, umm… y’know have some faith in Jason Moreno, come out and see him live, he’s a great dude, he’s been our favorite to work with since Dave and we look forward to puttin’ out new music and we look forward to come play a rock show in your town! Meet me at the bar, let’s have a shot!

Pick up Resilience and Sinner: Unlucky 13th Anniversary Edition, out now and catch the guys on their Sinner tour! 

BearlySinister of New Transcendence Interviews CJ Pierce of Drowning Pool from Bear Stephens on Vimeo.