Music is a form of magic that connects us together. There are rhythms that send your body into movements that you can’t control; regardless of your health, ailments or age. There are melodies that roll off the tongues of thousands; regardless of the languages they speak or the color of their skin. There are harmonies that send chills up your spine and make you feel things that resonate with others and at that moment you realize that you aren’t so alone. Both instrumental and lyrical content can mirror your thoughts, feelings, and self-expression. It gives us a chance to travel deeper into someone’s mind, heart and soul. It can create a language to convey messages that aren’t easily spoken with words alone. And sometimes music can even give people a second chance to speak when they are no longer able to.
On July 20th, 2017 the music community received the shocking news that a beloved musician, singer, and songwriter took his life at his home in California. Chester Bennington was 41 years old, a husband, a father, a friend, a family member and an inspiration to many. At the time, Bennington had recently parted ways from performing with Stone Temple Pilots, a band that he had looked up to from a very young age and had stated in multiple interviews that being in that band was his lifelong dream. He was refocusing his attention on Linkin Park, the nu-metal band that has won multiple music-related awards, two Grammy awards, and has sold over fifty million albums worldwide. He had also announced that he would be reconnecting with the band that started his entire music career, Grey Daze.
Bennington was born on March 20th 1976 in Phoenix, Arizona. His mother Susan Eubanks recalls him growing up with the drive to join a band and the dream to grow up and become a “rockstar.” During his early teenage years, he dealt with bullying at school and was troubled with his own insecurities. But at 15 years old he auditioned for a local band launched by drummer Sean Dowdell. After an audition that heavily impressed Dowdell, Bennington was finally getting his shot at chasing his dream. However, he had to overcome the hardest task at hand – convincing Bennington’s father Lee Bennington to let him join the band. After the promises of Bennington completing his homework before practicing and ensuring that Dowdell would “take care of him,” he was officially selected as the lead singer. The original music project had fallen through, but Grey Daze arose 6 months later and took Phoenix by storm. The band was said to have packed music clubs and caught the attention of many music lovers in the area. One, in particular, Mace Beyers, who eventually became an integral part of the band.
Originally living in Los Angeles and stage managing at the Whisky a Go Go and The Roxy Theatre, Beyers was invited by promoters and hired to relocate to Tempe, Arizona and be the production manager of The Electric Ballroom. On Friday and Saturday nights after the headlining bands would play and leave, Grey Daze would stay to play covers and go through their music. Beyers would stay late to run the music with them, and over time they became friends. Beyers reminisces, “ I would watch them play. I watched Chester and I was just blown away at how much talent he had”. It was no surprise that when the band parted ways with their bassist and asked Beyers if he knew anyone that could audition that he replied with, “Uh…yeah…me!” He had heard them play live but was intrigued to hear more off of their record. When he heard the song Sometimes, he said that he instantly knew that it was a hit song and that Bennington would go far as a lead singer. So, he auditioned, landed the gig and prepared to change his life yet again. “I always picked music,” Beyers recalls. “I came out to Arizona. I had a great job, had an apartment, had a new car – things were going on. And every time I got in a rock band I would lose everything,” he laughs. “But I just thought ‘I don’t care, I’m joining this band’.”
Beyers describes himself as the older one in the band, Dowdell as the leader and Bennington as the one who was born to sing. Jason Barnes, the guitarist at the time, left for personal reasons and another new member of the band stepped in. His name was Robert “Bobby” Benish and when he started playing guitar for the band it all started to really come together. “That’s when it really felt like a rock band,” Beyers remembers. “I love Chester to death as a human, but our relationship was more on the musical side. For me, it was our connection playing on stage together. That was my favorite thing to do with Chester, Sean, and Bobby.” The connection of the band members and the music that they created began to sell out local venues in the area. After the independent debut of their album Wake Me in 1994, they began to build a true following. In 1996, they played alongside the likes of Bush and No Doubt. And in 1997 they released no sun today. But in 1998 the band parted ways and the Grey Daze music started to fade, but not because fans had let it. Bennington went on to audition for a band called Xero, which eventually became Linkin Park. “Because there was a demand after Chester had broken out as a singer and frontman in Linkin Park, there was a demand for our music to be re-released back then,” Beyers explains. “The labels shut that down, so we kept it on a smaller scale because the people still wanted it.”
Fast forward to nearly twenty years later and Dowdell gets a call from Bennington about reuniting the band. Over the years, the two of them kept their connection strong and had become business partners in the popular tattoo brand Club Tattoo, which continues to grow on a global basis today. It was during this call that Bennington suggested that they throw a Club Tattoo Anniversary party and have Grey Daze perform at it. The show had been announced and rehearsals were set to begin in July of 2017. The band began talking about re-recording their early music and releasing it for their fans. But those rehearsals never came. And the album was never re-recorded by Chester. But the love that his band, his family and his music community held in their hearts for him has finally made that dream a reality. On June 26th, 2020 Grey Daze will be releasing their album Amends, via Lomo Vista Recordings. A dedicated team of producers, musicians, and artists came together to make it happen. The music has been re-recorded by Dowdell, Beyers and Cristin Davis, a guitarist and close friend of Bennington. The vocal tracks were taken from recordings done in the early days of the band and re-mastered in the studio in a way that Bennington would have wanted them to be. And although hearing the voice of someone you love once they have passed can be a hard thing to do it was crucial for the healing of the band members, family members, and fans.
“As much as Sean wanted to finish what we started with Chester, I did as well. I understood why it was eating at him,” Beyers expresses. “At that point, it was a matter of how do we do it? We were financing it ourselves. We just wanted to get it out and we wanted to do it right. We had no idea that it would turn into what it has turned into.” The dedicated commitment of Tom Whalley, producer Jay Baumgardner, and many other talented musicians brought the album to life. Deciding who would contribute to this project was done with thought and emotion, rather than popularity or money. It had to be someone that Bennington really admired, was influenced by, or had a genuine connection with. “For instance, we brought Head (Brian Welch, Korn guitarist) and Munky (James Shaffer, Korn guitarist) in to listen to the tracks,” Beyers shares. “I can tear up right now picturing it. It was just so heavy for them. And that’s the connection that we wanted, but it happened so organically.” Members of Korn, P.O.D., Helmet, Dead by Sunrise and Chester’s son Jaime Bennington all made contributions to the album. “It was another way of being close to him again, after the fact,” Beyers assures. “The coolest thing about this was, for the most part, all of these musicians, producers and everybody who was a part of this put their ego aside because we were all working towards the same goal – to somehow create the magic that was equal to the magic in Chester’s vocal tracks that he laid 20 years ago. That wasn’t easy.” In the studio, the constant thought of what Bennington would think, or say was in everyone’s hearts and minds. “If it did not work with his vocals, it did not go. It had nothing to do with guitar solos, this or that about the music. We would hear mixes, mixes, and mixes, but we would just know when it was right. It just had to have the magic.” Beyers believes that the producers were some of the most integral parts of the album creation. “They had their vision, we have our vision and you compromise together to do what’s best for the record. And that’s why the egos were left outside of the studio. It was just an emotional, inspirational and positive force once we started getting it done.”
As you can imagine, hearing the full album for the first time is bittersweet and heartbreaking all at the same time. “Music is a very personal thing,” Beyers explains. “There are numerous songs in there that I can hardly get through. Shouting out and Morei sky – I can hardly get through.” For Beyers, it hits even harder, because months prior to losing Bennington he had lost both of his parents. It is hard for him not to connect that finished music to the great losses in his life. But he believes that it was part of the healing process, if not the entire thing. “The record got me out of a big depression. I have lost numerous friends and family to suicide. I’ve lost 10-12 people in the past three years and this album connects that to me. It’s kind of a trigger for when I listen to some of those songs. I get so emotional. That’s why we called it Amends, for so many different reasons.”
The hopes that Amends amplifies Bennington’s words forever seems to be the main goal of the album. But everyone involved has their own personal connection and dream for where it goes. “First, I would love to see Chester get some more recognition,” Beyers hopes. “In the end, I hope it shines the light on Chester and even more people. That people get hope from his vocals, that he gets more fans and it just kind of adds to his legacy. I hope that the legacy just gets bigger and more clarified about where he came from.” On the track Morei Sky, Bennington sings, “If I had a second chance, I’d make amends, only to find myself losing in the end.” And now he finally has, his second chance.
The album will be available on June 26, 2020. You can pre-order the album here:
You can watch the documentary here:
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