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| 27 June 2022 | Reply

Photo credit: Todd Jolicoeur –
Toddstar Photography

According to a recent press release: “With society consumed by hardline opinions on opposite extremes, neither side of a conversation tends to bend an ear to the other. It sucks the oxygen out of human interaction and leaves us gasping for a healthy breath. Projected explore this social suffocation on their third full-length offering, the aptly titled Hypoxia [Rat Pak Records]. The group—which unites Sevendust’s John Connolly [vocals, guitar], Tremonti’s Eric “Erock” Friedman [guitar], Sevendust’s Vinnie Hornsby [bass], and Alter Bridge/Creed’s Scott Phillips [drums]—artfully address themes of confusion and chaos through a hard-hitting hybrid of magnetic melodies, immersive soundscapes, and intricate instrumentation. Attracting a growing fan base and earning acclaim from Loudwire and more, the band progress through the flames of change once again on these thirteen tracks.” We get signer / guitarist John on the phone to discuss new music, trolls, possible touring, and much more…

John: How are you doing brother?

Toddstar: John, how you doing man?

John: I’m doing good.

Toddstar: Good, good. I appreciate you taking time out. It’s that time of year for you guys.

John: You don’t do anything for two years and then suddenly, I got both bands firing on all cylinders. It’s pretty awesome. When it rains at tours and I will take it for sure, but yeah, it feels good to be out playing and make it and just acting like we did back in 2019.

Toddstar: Like you said, it’s good to be out there because the alternative sucks as we all know.

John: Yeah, for sure. We’re fortunate in what we do and at least if you can’t do the one thing you can do the other, because it’s like when you’re touring, you’re not really creating and writing. You’re writing all the time, but it’s just a different environment. When you’re out and you’re on the tour bus, it’s not as user friendly as going into your own little space here at the house and just unwinding. Sometimes the best songs are written by just doing what you do.

Toddstar: It’s been about five years since we were able to hook up via phone and get something out there and help spread the word about Projected.

John: Yeah, man.

Toddstar: The new album Hypoxia is coming out on June 24. What can you tell us about the album that fans of yours or the band might not grab the first or second time through?

John: It was tough to not address the elephant in the room. I’ve always said I don’t want to just sit down and make a concept record. If a concept record comes to you, then great. And that’s what happened on Ignite My Insanity. It was like everything had that theme and it was all tied into the whole theme that we had going on back on Alpha in Sevendust. It was an accident. We got there and we realized, “Oh man, this is the continuation of the story.” This time around with the pandemic, it was like, “All right, what is every musician on earth doing right now?” they’re all sitting in their little home studio and acoustic guitar watching the news going, “When are we going to get the tour again?” Music is being created like crazy but it’s tough because I’m sort of one of those writers that I sort of react to my surroundings. If you turn on the news, they’re not talking about anything good when we didn’t know what was going on with the pandemic. I said, “Look I want to address it and obviously talk about it,” because that’s sort of what we do both in Sevendust and Projected. From my personal point of view, I always write from experience. There was a lot of experience that I was like, “I don’t want to write about this.” I was like, “Oh my God, every time I turn on the news, I’m writing another ‘Is it over? Is it the zombie apocalypse?’ It’s super, super easy to get sucked into that whole negative head space. Thank God most of the music was already written. It wasn’t like everything was down and depressed and all that stuff. It was difficult not to just focus on that and only that. It took me a minute to go, “All right, let’s, let’s get through the process here and however long it takes.” It’s tough because when your songwriting, at least for me, if I try to force a song, it never comes out. If I sit down and go, “Yeah, I’m going to write the heaviest thing that I’ve ever written.” I usually write a power balled. It’s accidental… I don’t know what happens. Your wires get crossed up and you follow whatever path. On this record, I think consciously, it was just a decision to go, “All right, let’s not talk about the pandemic the whole time. Let’s actually talk about other things that are going on.” The interesting thing is the byproduct of that, was “Hypoxia” was focused on, “Okay, what’s the negative part of all of this?” Everyone’s stuck in their house, they’re all on social media. They’re trying to work from the house. They got kids going to school remotely. People just get fed up and they snap. It was crazy how it was like nobody was talking to each other anymore on social because nobody was seeing each other face to face. People started to get more edgy. It was crazy how people would just lose their minds on each other on social media. For me that was the fascinating thing because it was a perfect storm. You don’t have to see anybody. You’re not going to be traveling any anytime soon. I know how frustrated everybody was because we were all in it together. Not being able to do what you want to do, or go to shows, or just take a vacation with your family or whatever. None of that was happening. Everyone was kind of stuck in the house and it was kind of Groundhog Day. After a while, thank God I had a 15-year-old that was independent at that point, because I couldn’t imagine. See that time with kids that are young and super, super impressionable right now, and I think we’re beginning to see some of what happened; some side effects of that. The social media side effect was the most fascinating thing to me. I was like, “People are just losing their minds and they’re just cut and loose on each other.”

Toddstar: I saw a lot of that. It was so easy for people to just troll the internet and just going after musicians and bands. I thought, “Oh, you didn’t give a shit six months ago, but now all of a sudden you’re losing your mind because the album’s not coming out on time, or the tour been canceled or postponed.” When you saw that kind of stuff, did it piss you off more because you thought somebody didn’t get it or did it piss you off because you’re sitting here thinking, “I can’t release this album. I can’t go on tour.” Did it just add to your frustration, or did it piss you off on principle because somebody’s being a moron behind a keyboard?

John: I mean all of it. It’s super easy to get sucked into this thing. You don’t know how many times I’ve written two paragraphs and I go, “You know what…” I just backspace and delete the whole thing because I go, “This investment is going to cost me eight hours of my life, no matter what, and I’m never going to be able to convince them otherwise.” I remember a long time ago when Blabbermouth first came around, LJ would get pissed off because it’d be the one comment out of a thousand. There’s always the one dude who has to go and poke, right? He’s like, “How do I log on here?” And tell him, I was like, “Don’t do it, dude. That’s what they want. They’re trying to bait you into a conversation.” I was like, “Just don’t read the comments, man. Make music that makes you happy. When you meet other people that has the same effect, great.” If you sit there and you kind of dwell on the negative any kind of negative things online, I mean it can eat you up, it can spit you out, if you read too much into it. At the end of the day, everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and I am too. If you don’t like this and I do, then that’s cool. I win because I created it and you don’t have to listen to it. There’s plenty of other people that will, so we’re good. It takes a while when you’re in the pandemic because it’s so easy. “All right, well what are we going to do? Let’s do a Zoom.” We’d call our friends up on Zoom and have a happy hour, which turns into a happy three hours, which turns into 11 o’clock at night. You’re pretty tuned up and you’re ready to go off on anyone who’s going to cross you. And the whole world was doing that all at the same time. It was a fascinating thing for me. This is a direct effect of solitary confinement. This is what happens when you lock people up and you take away their freedom. It’s not even just the freedom, it’s the unknown, I think more than anything. I think that was more the concern than anything. It was like, “Well, we don’t know what’s happening here. This is a new rule book and it’s being written in front of us.” It’s super easy to get sucked in all that negative stuff, but you can’t do it, man. You really have to let it go and just accept the fact that there are people that are going to believe whatever they want to believe. There are a lot of people out there that are just doing it to get a response, to get noticed, or to get a like. I think half the people out there they’re just trolling to troll and it’s like, “All right, I get this.” They never respond. They just stir the pot. Sometimes I think “Hey, that’s actually pretty good,” because it keeps the threads going and stuff, but it is what it is. We live in that world where social media is used for however you want to use it. I know people who get on there and want to talk about politics, from sun up to sundown. That’s cool. That’s not my space. Like when I’m on Facebook, that’s not what I use it for. I either put them on mute or just scroll on by. It’s like, “I don’t have to read it.” I’ve got the TV remote and I’m like, “I don’t have to watch that show, but why am I going to watch that show I if I get upset?” It’s the same thing on Facebook.

Toddstar: Definitely. Getting to Hypoxia, I love the album. I’ve been able to dig into it for the first couple days now and I’m loving it. I love the fact that it’s like there hasn’t been five years between this and Ignite My Insanity. Other than the pandemic, how different was the process for you from songwriting to recording and to production? How different was this for you guys? You had an EPK before that, and you have the two-disc release under your belt. Was this much different for the four of you?

John: I think everything about it was different, because usually when we do Projected, it’s sort of like, “All right, where can we squeeze time in?” We’ve recorded these records over periods of months, on different hard drives. Then you get it all together and you assemble the pieces of the puzzle. Then you give it a polish and a shine and take it in, and you do the mix, and you go, “All right, what do we have? What do we need?” Sort of a disconnected experience, but it’s cool to know that we could work in that space. It’s very unconventional the way Projected had existed up until the point we went in the studio for this record. This record, the pandemic happened, three of the four of us are here in Orlando. We live here. Our producer lives here. He needed some people to get in there. We needed to get in the studio. And it was just like the pandemic was a good thing for Projected because it made things easy. We can’t go anywhere, and we all need to help each other out. Elvis [Baskette] needs to keep his studio going and we need to make a record. I thought we were going to hop in in August, and he had a cancellation on his books because people couldn’t travel. He had a lot of stuff that was coming in from outside of the United States and you couldn’t get in here. He was like, “Can you guys come in June?” And I was like, “That’s three weeks away. Yeah. We couldn’t do that.” It was like, “It’s time to get busy, but yeah, we can totally do that.” For the first time ever, I think, we went in the studio like every other band does and made a record the way every other band does. You go in, you do a little bit of pre-production. We sat down and made notes. Elvis could hear full songs, at least in the demo versions of them. Super rough version, but at least there’d be a chorus and a verse. I never want to leave him guessing and say, “Oh, what’s happening here? Oh, that’s the chorus,” the most important part of the song, but it’s not written yet. That’s silly. We got in there and we got to work. We had done so much work on the front end that when we got in the studio, it was super relaxed. We just took time with it. We had time and we had space, and nothing was stressed or rushed because we’re like, “All right, how long is this going to last?” I mean, you got to remember this was early summer 2020. How long did it take for us to get back on tour after that? I mean, it was forever. When we’re watching the news and everything, it was like, “Well we couldn’t be in a better spot. We’re all together finally. For the first time ever, face to face whole band in the studio under one roof.” I think the record sounds like that. It sounds connected. It just sounds cohesive. It sounds like we were all in one spot at one time and we all focused together. I’m not knocking what we did before. It’s a different experience when you’re not all together because everyone’s working off their instinct, gut reactions off stuff, but they’re only bouncing things off me. They’re not bouncing anything off anyone else in the band. There’s never a shortage of ideas. It can be subtle things. It could be little things; it could be an of arrangement things. It could be tempo. “I think this is too slow. Why don’t we pick up the pace?” There’s been a million times where I’ve been like, “I’m going to delete this song,” and they’re like, “No, just speed it up a little bit.” And we do, and I go, “Oh wow, that’s so much better.” I need those guys to tell me these things. I’ve almost deleted a lot of songs. People are like, “No.” I think that’s the biggest thing having the experience of all of us together, working together every day, seeing each other, hanging out at the pool eating, talking, watching the pandemic. We’re all having the same experience at the same time. Having Elvis and Jeff in the room and having them there from start to finish on the whole process was something I’d never done before. Vocally, I’ve always just steered the ship, engineered myself. Set up the mic. It’s like, “All right, this is what I’m going to sing. This is how many times am going to sing it. Sing it till I’m happy and move on.” It’s cool when you have someone in there because there’s those ideas where I go, “That’s never going to work.” He’s sitting there singing it to me. I’m going, “What? No.” And he is like, “Promise me, just try it once, and if you hate it, we’ll delete it.” I try it and I’d be like, “Wow, that’s pretty genius. Where did that come from?” That wasn’t something that I would’ve thought of. That’s the beauty of when you’re in that space, you’ve always got somebody who’s very talented to bounce whatever you’re doing. If you’re stuck, they’ll get you unstuck in about two seconds. That is what I love about that because that’s what I’ll do. I’ll spin myself out on one stupid thing and everyone’s like “Land the plane, dude. Great. This is all you got to do.” For me, it was a whole lot of sitting in the back of the room. Once I had gotten in there and loaded in my sessions and put the rhythm guitar parts down it was like, “All right, let me let everyone dig in here.” You get Flip in there with doing his thing, and you get Vinnie doing his thing, and then Erock doing his thing. And then us tag teaming, either vocals or guitar overdubs and stuff like that. We saved a lot of stuff from the demos, surprisingly enough. A lot of the bells and whistles and extra little bits. A lot of that stuff was already there. It was like, “All right, we can either redo it or we can just…” He’d listen to and be like, “Well, it’s clean and it’s what we need. Got to move on.” The whole experience was just more together because it was more together.

Photo credit: Todd Jolicoeur Toddstar Photography

Toddstar: That’s awesome. What this does for me and in my mind is this adds to the legacy of Projected because this was you and three buddies getting together and hanging out and decided to put something out in 2012. Then a few years later you put something else out and another few years later you put something else out. I know this is just a pipe dream for everybody because of your “day jobs.” Each of you has that main band. Has there ever been a realistic thought of, “Can we take this on the road?”

John: Not until this album, for a number of reasons. Number one, we’re sick and tired of not having the opportunity to do it. Well, a couple different reasons. We feel strongly about the record. Not that we don’t love what we did before, but this record is just something that we were like, “All right.” I think it’s graduated from just something that we do every now and again to something that would be a lot of fun to take out and to do some shows with. It’s just a matter of who’s going to do the double duty. The cool thing is we’re all under one management now. Tim over at Janus is super sensitive to the needs of everything because he sees the big picture. He’s been doing the shell game between Myles and Slash, and Tremonti, and Alter Bridge for quite a bit now. He’s very in tune with the working and the mechanics. Obviously for Sevendust, I’m going to be pulling double duty and Vince is pulling double duty. It’s a vocal thing. I could play guitar for six hours; I don’t know how long I can do Sevendust and Projected together for. It would be something that you just have to be mindful and divvy up some parts a little bit better. It’s just covering vocals is all it is, for me, at least. For drums, it’s a different thing. If we’re opening for Alter Bridge, I don’t ever want to do anything that puts the Alter Bridge show at risk because Flip just crushed himself. They’re Projected, but that’s something that we also talk about too. Maybe we don’t do a bunch of the metal songs. Maybe we do some of the more mid tempos. Some of the stuff that’s a little more user friendly. To be honest with you, it is probably a lot of stuff that people really want to hear anyways. It’s like guilty pleasure sometimes are the technically challenging songs. People are like, “Just play the hits, man. I think for the first time we have a legitimate shot to get out there. It might be two weeks here. It might be a week here. It might be one of those surprise shows I think for the first time since the band has been anything, we’ve got a lot of eyes and a lot of people that are looking at it and going, “All right, where’s the opportunity?” I would love to. We’re going on over a decade now, so it’s about time we get out there.

Toddstar: You mentioned Tim. He’s very attuned to the whole situation; I watched him pick up a bass and do Myles’ tour.

John: He’s on tour with Myles as we speak, working on record deals and all that stuff. He gets it. He hit me on the last album, and he goes, “Why aren’t we touring this?” And I went “Opportunity, man. You tell me which way to go.” And he goes, “Oh man. All right. We got to get this figured out.” Now that I’ve got another set of eyes on it, I think the hardest thing about me trying to find opportunity, is sometimes when you’re out there and you’re promoting the whole Sevendust thing, you’re like, you look at the schedule and it’s not for lack of opportunity. It’s just the timing of that opportunity’s been like, “No Sevendust is going to be doing something in October.” I can’t do anything then, or I have to do it with them, and we’ve already got the tour booked and I don’t want to go boot bands because I’ve got a side project that I want to put on there. I’m not going to be that guy. I think on the first album we had a very small window. On the second one, we had a bigger one, but the timing was all flipped flopped. Here’s the thing, Alter Bridge just finished their record. We’re going in the studio in July. This is the closest we’ve been to Sevendust and Alter Bridge being on the same schedule. I’m like, “Okay, if that happens, then we’re set.” There’s an opportunity. I think it would be one of those things, in all honesty, we run it up the flagpole for a little bit, see how it works, see how we react to it. Is it doable? Is it too much? Is it going to make the Sevendust show, or the Alter Bridge show sacrificed in any way? If so, we make the adjustment. That’s it. You just make the adjustment and the set. Instead of doing a 45, maybe we do a 40. One song less. I don’t know. I don’t know that math yet, because I haven’t done that much singing on stage, but I welcome the challenge.

Toddstar: If you guys do it, you just need to do a one-off show. I know myself, Kevin, and Minty would all love to find you at The Machine Shop.

John: That would be cool to just drop in and do something at The Machine Shop. I would be into doing that. No doubt. Kevin’s been so cool to us. Every show that we do there has own thing, its own vibe and we’ve been going there for so long. Stuff like that would be a good reason to do it.

Toddstar: There’s the first album, the second album, which is really like two albums, because there’s so much to it, and you’ve got this album. Looking over the three packages, which songs from this album specifically do you see just being a common thread that if Projected were to go tour, you’d have to play?

John: “Hypoxia” is an obvious one, because everyone gravitated to it. They just latched on immediately. It was like that was the one that was the weirdest song ever too, because the record was written and that was sort of, “All right, let me let my hair down, take a breath. I’m there, let’s just write one extra piece of music and see what happens.” It was one of those ones that it fell together so quickly. I threw it in the Dropbox, and I was like, “It’s kind of cool; it’s a little simple, it’s a little different.” Unanimously, when the guys pulled it out of the box, they were like, “It’s got to be the first single. It’s got to be the first single.” Elvis has a book where he has notes for each song. He’ll have ‘maybe extend the verse, different thing in the bridge, really like the chorus, probably do something over the top.’ He’ll jot some things down, and when he got to the page for “Hypoxia,” he flipped it over and I saw one word and I was like, “Oh great.” He started laughing. He goes, “You know what the word is?” And I was like, “No.” And he goes, “Wow.” I told him “Well the whole band is telling me I’m a dumb ass.” He goes, “Well, I agree with them. That’s your first thing.” I think “Stain” is going to be one that’s going to stick around too. The surprising thing about that one is that was the oldest piece of music, but as much positive reaction as we got out of “Hypoxia,” people are jumping on “Stain” even harder, which was interesting. It’s a little bit left to center for us. It’s not that straight down the pipe type of Projected stuff, but I think it’s an avenue that’s super accessible for us. It’s a lot of fun to play. That song’s a lot of fun to play. “The Thing That’s Real” is also another one. I think it grinds. It’s going to stick. It’s going to be one of those “Hello and watch it burn.” I don’t know. It’s one of those things that you sort of have to get in the room and you sort of have to get the vibe and see because there’s been a lot of times, at least in Sevendust, we’re like, “Oh we’re going to do this,” and it just doesn’t work for whatever reason. We’ve had songs in our career that nobody got. When we first came out with “Dead Set,” we played it, and nobody got it. The whole audience just stood there, and I went, “How do you not feel this groove? I don’t understand what is happening right now.” Then 15 years later we throw it in the set and it’s like a staple. Everyone is dying for the song. I was like, “Were we playing it wrong or something?” I think that’s going to be the fun thing about this journey, is there’s a handful of favorites off all the records. I think it would be cool to be able to at least get around to all of them, run them up the flagpole and then throw them out in front of the audience and see what happens.

Toddstar: I’m with you with the ones you’ve named, but I find myself going back to the one-two punch of “Scars” and “My Addiction.” Those two songs strung together are just perfect.

John: Nice. “Scars” is one of my favorite standalone pieces of music. It was an older piece of music, and it was something that surprisingly, we thought it might work in the Sevendust world, but it didn’t translate. There was something that was happening, because like I didn’t change a whole lot other than me saying it as opposed to Lajon singing. I had sung the original demo, because I submitted to the guys and they were like, “Oh man, that sounds like Projected, don’t it?” Well, it sort of does. I appreciate that. We tried it, but it was like, “It sounds way better with you on it.” Never in a million years, will I ever take the compliment because I’m nowhere close to the singer that LJ is, but it was just a cool piece of music that really worked. It was the first one on the record that I sang. That was my warmup tune. I always asked, “What do you want to sing first?” It was like, “Scars.” I was like, “All right, cool.” That was our warmup. That was like, “Let’s get everything dialed in and get really, really tweaked out…” I expected very little out of that one just because it had been around. Once you’ve heard something a couple hundred times, you’re like, “Okay, I’m over it, sort of.” I’m ready to at least see if it was going to evolve or going to blossom. That was one of the ones that I think when there was so much expectation off a handful of songs and that wasn’t one of them. When I get to that song on the record, I’m like, “All right, wait a minute.” Going into “My Addiction,” that was another one that, I won’t lie, I struggled with that one. That almost got deleted. That was like it’s on its way out. I was kicking it out the door and I went, “Ah, you know what, let me shoot this over to Mark Tremonti, see if he has anything.” And he sent me back 15 minutes after I sent it to him. He’s singing over the top of it; I can hear it. And I was like, “Oh, okay, cool.” We hashed some words out and I threw it in there and a month later we were in the studio singing it. Not that I didn’t expect much out of it, but it was like, “All right. Any of those songs…” I mean, he did the same thing with “Watch It Burn.” I was kicking that one off the record too. He saved it. I was like, “All right, well Mark’s really good at this.” Erock was like, “Dude, it’s my favorite song on the record. I can’t believe you would even think about deleting that.” I’m like, “I don’t know, man.” Thank God I don’t delete and run it by the guys before I do it, because I’d be throwing away all this amazing music.

Toddstar: I’m glad, because again, there’s something about “My Addiction.” There’s something about the melody in it. It screams to me. I dig a lot to it.

John: That’s awesome. So very cool.

Toddstar: John, I appreciate the time. I know you got tons of shit going on. You got an album coming out, like you said. You guys are getting ready to hit the studio soon. I appreciate you carving just a little bit of time out of your day for me.

John: Absolutely man, we appreciate it.

Toddstar: I can’t wait to see what the world thinks when this hits the masses next Friday.

John: Me too, man. It’s been a long time coming. Super looking forward to it.

Toddstar: Awesome. John, we’ll talk to you soon.

John: All right man. Thanks brother.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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