With over a decade of performing and releasing music, Drowning Pool has become one of the most popular metal bands to come out of the lone star state since Pantera, King’s X and Galactic Cowboys. Their angst-filled music has gone on to garner the band accolades with every release. The last three LPs debuted in the Top 5 on Billboard’s Hard Rock chart and their notable platinum debut, Sinner, was celebrated with a 13-year anniversary special edition and tour.
They’re known to regularly perform for U.S. Troops, traveling as far as the war zones of the Middle East to the outposts of Southeast Asia. They personally encouraged then-Senator Barack Obama to push through the Lane Evans Health Act, which improved healthcare for veterans. The road traveled was not without tragedy though, and the history Drowning Pool has written so far in their career, is one of rebound and strong as ever.
In August 2002, while touring with Ozzfest, the band and the world suffered a terrible loss when lead singer Dave Williams was found dead in the group’s tour bus in Manassas, Va. His cause of death; heart failure caused by undiagnosed cardiomyopathy. A search for another lead vocalist led the band down the road of revolving front men but when they offered the job to vocalist Jasen Moreno in 2012, the band so far is finally able to end the merry-go-round.
With Moreno’s arrival came a place and time for Drowning Pool to start concentrating again, on what they all came together to do: write and perform their interpretation of rock n’ roll.
Moreno was no stranger to the members of Drowning Pool, he was singing lead in a different band but they all came from the same streets and often played in the same clubs on the same night. It was a friendly rivalry as Moreno explains, in a low smooth Texas drawl. “Drowning Pool was local, and I was in a different band at the time. We all played shows together at the different clubs in the area and we all had a friendly rivalry going. I definitely knew Dave and he was a great guy. There were some nights we played the same clubs on the same night and that was very often. It was a relatively small scene so everyone knew each other. We came up at the same time and cut our teeth on the same material and going through the same stages that bands go through and we played on the same stages and to the same crowds. I think it makes sense that we have a similar approach because we were all into the same scene.”
Though Moreno and the members of Drowning Pool were friendly, he did not just walk into the job; he was put through the same procedure for auditioning just like everybody else vying for the top spot. “They had open auditions,” explains Moreno, “and I got a call stating that the spot was going to be available. If I was interested, I would need to send in some material and try to get an audition, which I did but I couldn’t tell you if I was the first choice,” Moreno breaks into laughter for a moment, and then continues, “but I made the cut. I think my history with the band had something to do with it but this was not a gift or a ‘freebee’ by any means; I had to go through the proper channels just like everyone else who was auditioning.”
When Moreno found out he would be the new frontman for Drowning Pool, he had a panic attack! He was very concerned with the responsibility that came with the band, the fans and all the history but they had all been very good friends so the transition was a bit more easy for him. They knew the chemistry between them all, was a great fit. “What makes great chemistry?” questions Moreno. “I think it’s when you’re able to be relaxed and have fun and it doesn’t feel like work; I mean obviously its work and you take it seriously but when you’re able to remember that you’re living your dream and you’re able to remember why you even got into this before all the suits and the money got involved. I think that makes great chemistry and it translates well on stage; performing live. You can have fun and not take everything so damn serious all the time.”
Stepping into the shoes of those who came before you can sometimes be a trying time but the many fans Drowning Pool has amassed accepted Moreno immediately. “I really never did feel that from the fans because it’s impossible and futile to even attempt being someone I’m not,” states Moreno. “That being said, I felt and continue to feel pressure concerning the band’s back catalog because it’s such a body of work, I want to do it justice by the fans when the come to a show. So yes, it’s immense pressure but I didn’t feel any pressure to emulate certain vocal styles or mannerisms. I just try to stay in key. Every now and then, you’ll get approached by a fan after the show, and they’re very candid, saying ‘You know, I didn’t know what to expect’ or ‘Quite frankly, I didn’t think you’d be able to do it’. However, I’m grateful that they’re even open-minded enough to show, but they want Drowning Pool to succeed, they want Drowning Pool to last. Nevertheless, you do get haters who go online and just drag you through the mud.”
The internet is a place where fans can voice their opinions in seconds. Once the “send” button is pressed, there is no hiding so you had better stand tall. Moreno feels the internet has its pluses and minuses. “I can’t speak for the guys,” says Moreno, “but I know they speak about the days before the internet. When Sinner came out, the only way to get it was to buy it at the store or at one of the shows but it is really a good and bad thing. For myself, I don’t think it is a bad thing because every little bit helps. We have videos on YouTube and people come out to the shows and you have your core fan base who are dedicated so the internet is great, it’s awesome. I think MTV or reality TV dominated everything and there was a giant scramble to get in on that but I think MTV is great with what they are doing; it is still related to music somewhat isn’t it? I mean honestly, I don’t watch a lot of TV, I’m like you—I remember MTV from the early days; you know Dire Straits, Billy Idol, INXS; it was just non-stop videos.”
MTV ruled the lives of many of us, non-stop videos all day all night, with frontmen belting out anthems of rock, so it was a surprise to hear Moreno state he never really wanted to be a lead singer. He had his heart set on being a lead guitarist. “Yeah, I actually never wanted to be a lead singer,” says Moreno. “I wanted to be a lead guitarist. I wanted to be Dave Murray from Iron Maiden, that is who I wanted to be but I never took lessons and I never envisioned myself being a full time singer. I really didn’t think much about it; it was just a part of me and I sang all the time. I have been chasing this dream for as long as I can remember. I mean obviously, when I was a very young child I wanted to be astronaut or a police officer. When I was in school I played football and I thought I’d go to college and I’ll play college ball but I didn’t have dreams of the NFL, it was always music. I always thought I would be involved with music somehow.” Moreno has had some big dreams and had he gone the route of college and football, there is no doubt; this man would be playing in the NFL.
The right choice for Moreno was and is writing and performing. With Drowning Pool, the writing process is very smooth. “Oh it’s wide open!” exclaims Moreno. “It could be someone brings in a complete song, it’s done and you just learn your part or it could be a riff and everyone pitches in from there. It could also be someone has a lyric line so it’s really wide open; it’s a free for all because I wasn’t the only one to write lyrics on this upcoming record. Stevie was very involved. CJ and Stevie have absolutely perfected the art of making anthems, which allows me to focus even more on what I bring to the songs (melody, cadence, emotion, and vibe).”
Why all the talk about writing and performing? Drowning Pool releases their newest offering on February 5, 2016, entitled, Hellelujah, via Entertainment One Music. The new LP will be the first since signing with the label earlier this summer. Only a few seconds into the album’s first single, By the Blood, it’s evident that Hellelujah is the most aggressive, ambitious, and truly definitive Drowning Pool album since Sinner, the platinum album that gave the world the Top 20 rock radio hit Tear Away, and the massively successful Bodies. With this newest release, Drowning Pool is questioning a lot. “We’re not trying to really beat people up with our views,” says Moreno, “and we’re not trying to shove anything down anyone’s throat but I think we dance around subjects; maybe we hit certain subjects full on but we’re not trying to be champions of all that and relate to popular messages. This is a record of angst; it’s a very negative record without being very specific, if that makes any sense. I’ve got some favorites off this LP like By The Blood and Drop, which is a personal song to me; it’s about my first venture into the world of music; becoming a professional in the business. We Are The Devil is a fun song.”
Music and the artists who make that music shape our world every day; but what shaped Moreno’s world? “Without a doubt, Freddy Mercury and Queen,” states Moreno. “That was a real game changer for me. I remember hearing We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions. I remember saving my allowance and buying Queen’s Greatest Hits and later on, Dave Murray and Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden. I had never heard anything like that before so definitely my biggest influences were Queen, Iron Maiden, and obviously Pantera.”
When Drowning Pool performs live, it’s a heavy show as Moreno explains, “It’s not very theatrical, I can say it’s honest; we don’t try to be something we’re not. We get up there and do our thing and we have a lot of fun and it translates well on stage; and I’m grateful for that. We smile a lot and laugh and we bring the hard rock. It’s casual but it’s intense. I have many favorite songs live and off our catalog; obviously Bodies, is going to be the one but I’m also pushin’ the guys to play King Zero—I love that song and I want to play that song real bad live. Hates is also one of my favorites and I’m crazy about Sermon.”
Moreno continues, “And my life has changed in every way possible; I went from being ‘the local guy’ playing shows only on the weekends to doing a two week run every now and then with Drowning Pool, to being ‘the guy’ and I’m doin’ it. Every day all day— so every decision I make I have to consider the music and Drowning Pool—every step I take and with every breath I take, it’s all about Drowning Pool; it’s dominated my entire existence and has changed my life in every way. I would love to do a tour with Metallica or Megadeth, The Deftones, Iron Maiden, Anthrax, yeah all those guys. I’d love to tour with Non-Point—they did a few shows with them before I came into the position that I’m in. I want to tour with all the bands I listen to and all the bands I continue to listen to. But the guys, man they’ve been in the game so long, they’ve toured with everyone—I mean they know everybody because they’ve toured with everybody.”
Since fronting and touring with Drowning Pool, Moreno has noticed a slight difference in the way fans from different parts of the globe, react to rock n’ roll. “Well, European audiences are more consistent with their enthusiasm perhaps,” says Moreno. “I wouldn’t say American audiences are jaded, but sometimes it can feel like that; maybe perhaps because we’re so saturated with the variety of acts and options that we have. But it also could be just me because before Drowning Pool, like I said, I was just playing to local audiences and I had never been out of the United States and then all of a sudden I find myself doin’ press in Paris. And wow, I don’t think my head will ever stop spinnin’ from that!”
Moreno has yet though, to travel to Asia. He’s digs Japanese metal like X-Japan. “I listen to a lot of Deftones and I listen to a lot of Japanese rock; I’m really heavily into Japanese rock; I listen to X-Japan; they’re old school.” states Moreno, who can’t wait to get to the continent of Asia. “I haven’t been there yet but man I am hoping to go! They better lock me up if we ever go because I am not comin’ back!”
Big sonic slabs of muscular power with a taste of the dark melodies of post-grunge remain Drowning Pool’s stock and trade. Their music is an unapologetic celebration of life’s joy and pain, able to maneuver quickly between defiant declarations of resistance; and when one celebrates in worship to express rejoicing, they have a word for that—and so does Drowning Pool. It’s a better replacement, Hellelujah!