An interview with 3 Doors Down at the Hammersmith Apollo
Before going onstage at the legendary Hammersmith Apollo, guitarist Chris Henderson of American rock band 3 Doors Down spent some time with us talking about their new release, influences and favourite crowds.
Last July you released a new album. What kind of feelings or emotions did it involve? Was it something planned or did it come out naturally?
Yeah, it was really natural and organic. People wonder why we don’t change; it’s our fifth record in the studio and they wonder why we didn’t change! Well, we didn’t because there is nothing for us to change into. It really didn’t make any sense for us to try to make something different from what we already do.
If you had to describe your music in a word, or a quote by someone else, what would it be?
Honest rock’n’roll, I’d say. Who said that?… Well, fans said it, and it comes from us as well. We don’t write about anything other than what happens to us. Here without you, When I’m gone and songs like that come from us being on our own. We talk about being away from our families, travelling and all of that stuff, and that is where the music comes from. It’s not just melody and lyrics; we actually look for a connection.
You have been playing for almost a decade. First, how did the 3 Doors Down project start?
It started in 1995. Todd and I were in a country band in Mississippi. It’s really funny actually: that band broke up because the guy who was singing for us wanted to become a country music solo star. He quit the band and went on his own, and now he works for the railroad. Todd started playing with Matt and Brad, and 3 Doors Down formed from that band; I eventually started to play with them. That’s how it worked!
Do you think your music has changed or evolved since you started?
I think it has grown. We are now better at writing songs, as we kind of know the rules and the harmonies; we know pretty much what our core fans are gonna like. And I wish I knew what the rest of the world likes, because we have been trying to figure that out, and it’s hard! We know what our fans like and we know what we like, so it has grown in that sense.
What do you think about the changes in the music scene over the last decade?
Oh f***! It’s totally different! Well, I don’t know about over here so much, but in America, it’s kind of… the flavour of the moment, that is what America is all about! I am sure it’s similar here, but it seems like we have grown grass roots and we haven’t done that much here. Whereas in the US, we can just take a plane and play a live gig wherever we want! That is the difference between the two places I guess. But in terms of the music scene… America has changed so much. Downloads started and a lot of bands have had to cancel their tours; they aren’t able to tour because they have no money, record labels do not support them anymore because they haven’t got any records to sell: people steal them! That is the change that I have noticed and it reeeaaally sucks!
I don’t mind downloading legally, but people should recognise that someone is making a living by selling their art, and it’s extremely hard. It takes a lifetime to get to that point, and to think of someone stealing it… well, it sucks, doesn’t it?
Is there any band that you would like to tour with?
We have toured with so many bands and this is a question I have been asked a million times! And the funny thing is that all the bands that we wanted to tour with, we actually toured with eventually. I wouldn’t mind doing a tour with Mötley Crüe, to see what happens; you know, that Eighties stuff!
What is the band that influenced you the most?
Lynyrd Skynyrd. If you listen to our music, you’ll hear something like them. They have influenced us through their performing, their music, everything.
Which is your favourite record of the albums you have released?
The Better Life (2000) is probably my favourite, because it just meant so many things to us, it opened so many doors. At the time it was just fear, the fear of the unknown, and it was so exciting; every day was a new experience and it was like that for a long time. I love the others as well: there is also probably some better work in the other records but there’s not the same emotion and the same romance of being in band.
What was your first thought when you were told you were going to tour in Europe?
It was really exciting, because it was a sort of a goal: touring in Europe meant that we were doing really well in the US. The first time we came to Europe, I think we were here only for a couple of weeks. The first place we went to was Amsterdam and it was all partying. But I do not remember much of the first tour because I was too focused on not doing so much s*** that I wouldn’t enjoy it! I didn’t experience everything, I didn’t meet anybody; it was just like living in a little bus in Europe instead of living in a little bus in the US.
What is your favourite record in general?
The one I got the most enjoyment from in my life is Appetite for Destruction by Guns’n’Roses.
Do you remember which is the best gig you’ve ever played?
Oh, I don’t know. Every tour has better shows and not-so-good shows, but I think probably the best would be the live gig we did in Germany in 2008. We were closing Rock am Ring and Rock im Park festival and we thought that it was the most dangerous part to be in; you know, by that time people are tired of music, it had been raining for five days, we had to close down the festival… We figured that either no-one would show up or, if people were there, they just wouldn’t care, but, actually, there were ten thousand people standing there! They all stayed, they cheered and went nuts; it was fantastic!
Do you find different appreciation or different audiences according to where you tour?
Yeah, we do. For example, there are different things that different crowds do, like in Finland they wave their hands, and that’s weird! Every member of the crowd would put their hand in the air and then shake it; they do that in Scandinavia too. In America they just wanna fight, get drunk and that sort of thing, but over there they really listen. Well, they go crazy and they crowd-surf and all of that stuff, but they really listen to the show. In the UK and Germany, especially, they hang on every word you say, probably trying to understand, I guess! But it’s cool because, in those cases, there’s definitely a connection between the band and the crowd, and I do kind of feel it more here than in America because people seem really keen on listening to the music!
Have you got any advice for young, emerging bands?
All I’d say is to get a van and go round and play, tour; don’t rely on Twitter and Facebook – you don’t get real fans that way, because people are gonna like you and stick around until the next new thing comes along. You get fans with live music, going out and meeting people. That’s what I would recommend. Do not think you are gonna put on a song on iTunes and you’re gonna become famous because it doesn’t f***ing work that way. You have to go work for it!
Photos: Chiara Ceccaioni