By Mike Bax
Today, the debut album by Saint Asonia hits the stands. Adam Gontier (Three Days Grace), Mike Mushok (Staind), Corey Lowery (Dark New Day), and Rich Beddoe (Finger Eleven) have composed an album of eleven songs that touch on elements of music one might expect from the band members, along with some music that may just come as a surprise to many listeners. What shouldn’t be a surprise is that the material on Saint Asonia is an musical exploration of sounds that captures the best that Mike Mushok and Adam Gontier have to offer. While it’s ultimately their job to tote the album as the best thing they have ever done, in reality it might be exactly that, a wicked rock record born of the ashes of their respected musical ventures in Three Days Grace and Staind.
Without giving away too much, I can tell you this: there are big raw riff driven songs, lumbering rock anthems and delicate rock ballads on the Saint Asonia debut. Gontier sounds like a man finding his mojo once again, and Mike Mushok slams out some of the cleanest riffs that he’s laid down in years. Give this album its due, and play it through. By the time the last track, ‘Feeling Minesota’ is winding down, you’ll feel like you’ve just played a winning album, and want to experience what you just heard once again – the true test of a viable rock recording.
Vocalist Adam Gontier took some time last week to talk about his new band’s debut. The album is available online at the bands website, and in stores now. Saint Asonia play a Toronto debut live show at the Phoenix Concert Theatre on September 1st – TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE – It will definitely be a show you’ll want to get in on the ground floor to experience, if for no other reason than to say you saw the band in a small club during their debut tour.
Mike: I’ve been enjoying your new debut album for the past couple of days Adam. Congratulations on it. It’s a tight album.
Adam: Right on. Thank you. I appreciate that.
Mike: Would you mind giving a little context as to where your head was after you parted ways with Three Days Grace? Did you have a game plan at all, or were you just waiting to see what happened?
Adam: No. I didn’t really have much of a game plan when I left Three Days Grace. I knew I was definitely going to do something else, be that a solo record, or another band or something. I knew I was going to do that much at least. The initial plan was to take some time to myself and figure out what I really wanted to do. That was something I felt was lacking in the latter few years of being in Three Days Grace.
Mike: What was running through your head, some of your initial thoughts when you were talking on the phone with Mike Mushok (Staind), during your initial conversation?
Adam: Well, we had toured together in the past quite a bit. We toured with Staind a lot. Mike and I always knew each other, and we always got along well. We didn’t hang out a whole lot when we were on tour, but we definitely knew each other. I was always a big fan of him and he was a big fan of 3DG. So he called and asked if I wanted to do some writing with him? And I was all for it, for sure. I don’t think we really had much of a plan. Certainly we weren’t thinking of putting together a record or anything, or putting a band together. That wasn’t our initial intention. We just wanted to get together and to do some writing. So we got together, and instead of writing about three, we wrote about ten songs (laughs). It just went really well. The obvious next step was to record the songs and see what happened from there. The reaction was good all around, so the next step was to put a band together and go on tour. Yeah.
Mike: That’s got to be a good feeling, being in a room with new people and the collaboration is so fruitful. It could have gone the other way very easily, right?
Adam: Yeah, for sure. It definitely could have. I have a lot of respect for Mike. He’s got a lot of respect for me. I think we got into the studio and both pushed each other, and raised the bar in that sense. Music wise and vocal performance wise, everything is just focused towards making the best record that we could. I strongly believe this is the best record that I have ever made, for sure.
Mike: How did you settle on Rich (Beddoe) and Corey (Lowery) to work with on these songs?
Adam, Uh, when I first left Three Days Grace and started to do some solo things, Rich was a part of those sessions. He’s always been a good friend and he was always a part of stuff with me when I left. So he was part of the picture from the beginning. And then when we got in the studio and made the record, my Uncle Tom actually played bass on the record. We were looking for somebody obviously, to be IN the band and do tours and whatnot. Corey is just that guy. He’s a monster bass player and an amazing dude, and wasn’t up to anything at the time. He gladly came down and we rehearsed with him, it was pretty special. It felt like the first time we jammed was us getting to know each other. It was good.
Mike: Given how easily news flies around in this day and age on the Internet, you managed to keep the inception of Saint Asonia quite quiet. I’m impressed with that.
Adam: (laughs) It was weird because it wasn’t anything that was done intentionally. It just worked out that way. We didn’t tell anybody. It wasn’t about that. We weren’t trying to keep things quiet and make a huge deal about things when we were done. We focused on the music and now that we’re done, we’ll talk about it.
Mike: How do you all feel Rock on the Range went? That was kind of like your live debut. I imagine most of the audience didn’t have much context for your music. They wouldn’t have heard anything in advance at all when you played, right?
Adam: Yeah, exactly. They wouldn’t have heard much, if anything. It was amazing though. We went out at noon on the Saturday. We were the first band on that day. We certainly didn’t expect 10 to 15 thousand people to be there. It was good, no nerves or anything. It was more excitement than anything. We saw the crowd, grabbed our gear and said “Let’s do it”. It was fun. That’s a better spot to be in when launching a band, you know what I mean?
Mike: It’s funny, and I don’t know why this is… all you guys are seasoned musicians. You come together and make music together, and it’s almost that the expectation online is that it’s going to be substandard… this big ball of negativity that lives on the Internet. I don’t know why that’s even there. Of COURSE it’s going to be good. It’s you. And Mike. And Rich and Corey. How could it not be? Why would it be anything BUT good?
Adam: I haven’t even seen that online, I haven’t been looking much though. The reviews have been decent. People are talking about it. I feel there’s some excitement. I try not to look though – you’re right, it can be an unproductive waste of time. It’s nice to see the fan reactions; what those people are thinking. That feeling that the project might suck is likely due to other quote unquote super-groups that have not delivered. And I don’t want to refer to us a super group. We’re not. It’s just the jargon, right? Bands that have put out one record, maybe two, and done so well and then they are gone. That’s not what we’re about. This band Saint Asonia is here to stay, for sure. We’re not going away. This is my band and Mike’s band. We’re invested. That’s maybe a part of it. A lot of people maybe expect it to be a one-hit-wonder, or a one-record-wonder. But it’s not that.
Mike: Cool. ‘Waste My Time’ and ‘Leaving Minnesota’ are the songs I’m digging the most on your debut. They are the mellower tracks. I hear good vibes and mojo on both of those tracks, Adam. Which is a bit ironic, I had a pre-conceived notion that the album would be all heavy material.
Adam: Thanks. I appreciate that. Those two songs are probably my favourites. There’s a few rippin’ heavy ones I love, but those two are both really personal to me.
Mike: They both feel like timeless rock songs to me. Maybe I’m going through a bit of a renaissance in my music lately, but I’m playing a lot of old timeless rock anthems and enjoying THAT style of music. It was cool to hear these two songs on your debut, and I want to call them out for being what they are – great songs.
Adam: Awesome man. It’s nice for us to have some of that heavier stuff to go to and bang on, but also to have this beautiful music to play as well. It gives us a pretty wide variety to draw from when touring this material. I’m really proud of those tracks. Thanks.
Mike: Aside from a bit of Sirius XM, I don’t really listen to any radio anymore. I’m not even sure if ‘Rock Radio’ is even a valid term anymore. But there’s very definitely rock radio fodder on this album. Whether it finds a home on what’s available to you as a medium in that vein remains to be seen. There’s singles lying in wait on the album and that’s a pretty exciting thing.
Mike: I’m curious if there was ever any discussion between you and Mike about whether or not to even make an album. In this current climate, you could have done tiered EP releases, or gone all digital for your music release. Did you discuss that as a quad?
Adam: Yeah, for sure man. We looked at every option. In the beginning we just opted for an EP demo to start things off and that was basically for the label to hear how it went with our producer, Johnny K, in the studio. We decided we didn’t want to just put out an EP, and then a few singles and tour. We wanted to put out a solid record with good songs and not overthink it. We didn’t want it too over-produced or too shiny. We just wanted to get in and lay down what was in our hearts at the time, and we did just that. Mike just laid his stuff down, I threw my vocals in there and we had our album. Of course, a lot of thought went into the music. We just didn’t want to ‘over-think’ it that way, you know? I think that overthinking happens a lot now.
Mike: Do you think Saint Asonia will press vinyl for this debut album?
Adam: Yes, I think so. For sure. I would love to. There’s been discussions about printing vinyl, so that would be great if it comes together. Even if it’s a sort of small limited edition run of vinyl; that would be wicked.
Mike: Do you tend to keep a journal, Adam? Are you someone who is always writing, or do you find that you need some musical context before you start putting lyrics and vocals down?
Adam: Yeah, I’m always writing stuff, not necessarily in a journal. Years and years ago, I did and that helped with writing stuff. But so much has happened in my life over the last couple of years, I have no trouble writing a song now. I don’t even have to think too hard about it. (laughs) It comes pretty natural when you have things to draw from. I am always writing, be it with a guitar or just lyrics, I’m always doing something. There’s always a song to put together. That’s what I do, and I love to do it, you know?
Mike: Would you be able to pick one song off the album that came easily for you, and explain why you think it came together so organically?
Adam: Yeah. I’m going to say that ‘Waste My Time’ was that song – not necessarily the easiest song to finish, but certainly the first song that Mike and I wrote together. We sat down together and I was expecting Mike Mushok to blast me some metal riffs and he cut into this?! It was the first song musically that we played together and I instantly had a melody to go with it. From there, it was just writing some lyrics and it came together. For a lot of different reasons, and for what the song is about, it’s very close to me. And, because it was the first song that we wrote together it’s very close to me for that reason as well. ‘Waste my Time’ would be the one for sure.