Nothing More has been on the success train since the release of their fifth studio album The Stories We Tell Ourselves just over a year ago on September 15, 2017. Receiving three Grammy Award nominations this year for Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song and Best Rock Album alongside The Foo Fighters and Avenged Sevenfold, Texas-based band Nothing More is on the rise. With a live show that features The Scorpion Tail, a stage prop that is 14-feet tall and weighs 400 pounds, Jonny Hawkins (lead vocals), Mark Vollelunga (guitar), Daniel Oliver (bass) and Ben Anderson (drums) have raised the bar with their classic rock meets progressive metal sound and groundbreaking stage shows.
When we sat down with drummer Ben Anderson, the first thing we had to ask about was The Scorpion Tail, a Transformers meets Mad Max style structure. Created by bassist Daniel Oliver with miscellaneous pieces of scrap metal and salvaged car and motorcycle parts it has become the most anticipated part of the show when lead singer Hawkins jumps on it to bang on the drums and sing. It is pretty unreal from an audience perspective and Anderson is just as excited about it as the fans. “It’s always fun to see people react when Jonny goes 14 feet in the air on that thing. It is probably my most favorite part of our shows” Anderson reveals. “When you see everyone’s eyes get wider and wider as they see this thing go up right in front of their face. When Daniel built it we knew we had to incorporate it into our live shows somehow. It’s like the heavy metal version of dubstep and Jonny can just jump up there and play whatever he wants and how ever he wants and it’s all in real time. When it came down to which song to use it for we went with the Skillrex cover because it goes perfectly with it.
“The tours have been really exciting for us. We brought The Scorpion Tail with us and we had about 40 minutes on stage every night so it gave us a chance to play some of our new songs. Plus, we are in the beginning stages of writing new music when we can” Anderson says about the tour. “We have played with Breaking Benjamin and Five Finger Death Punch before but this was our first time with Bad Wolves.” Nothing More is going back out on the road with Three Days Grace and Fozzy on the Outsider Tour and they will be performing at Shiprocked in 2019. It won’t be long before they are co-headlining with the bands they have once opened for.
Before joining Nothing More in 2015, Anderson was in a band called Digital Summer and the writing process was a totally different experience. “Writing with Nothing More is a very similar old-school approach where the creative part is concerned. But, now we have all of the programs and it is so difficult to have drums in a room and it is so easy to record a guitar part on your laptop. Basically, nowadays someone writes the skeleton of the song and sends it out and then everyone writes their own part and records it and sends it back. Jonny set up an entire pedal board and he likes to incorporate vocal effects and stuff like that but he recorded it all in real time. So, it is a lot of back and forth and it is a process of elimination until we find something we can all agree on” Anderson says. If they write new music out on the road it is a more personal process and relaxed according to Anderson. They just throw ideas around and some of them stick and some are not right for the next album. Nothing More is consistently creating and strengthening their sound and purpose.
While Anderson may seem to have been playing drums all his life, his first experience was actually playing the saxophone. “I was in Jazz band pretty early on and I was a pretty good saxophone player, but I might be a little biased” he jokes. “But, as soon as I started playing drums I knew what I really wanted to do. I think I just liked that I could sit down and hit something. But I started to get really good and I tried to play Jazz for a bit but that faded quickly. I enjoy listening to it but when I would play Jazz drums it just didn’t seem practical or resonate with me. I found myself playing Metallica songs in my friend’s basement or trying to write heavy songs. I didn’t really dive into it anymore though, but I do still try a little Funk and Latin when I have time to.” Anderson is a fan of all genres of music from Pantera to Mozart to Linkin Park and he has been inspired in one way or another. But, when it came to drums, Vinnie Paul is the first person that blew his mind according to Anderson. “The first time I saw Vinnie play I couldn’t comprehend what he was doing. It was insane and I had never heard anyone do double bass on drums. It was unheard of back then or at least not very common. The turning point was when my parents bought me a double pedal for Christmas” he recalls. After that, he went “all in” and began learning about other bands. “I was pretty young but I remember listening to John Bonham from Led Zeppelin and then I got more into independent clinic drummers like Josh Freeze and Jon Theodore and they became influential based on the type of song I wanted to write or play. I related mostly to Vinnie Paul though and were just mind-blowing” Anderson concludes.
Anderson attended the Phoenix Conservatory Of Music where he studied Music Engineering and put his education to “Grammy nomination worthy” use on Nothing More’s Grammy-nominated album The Stories We Tell Ourselves. We asked him if he is planning to take on that role for future albums and he said he would but not completely. “Right now we have a pretty good system going. I would have a template set up and print out recordings of what we were doing each day so we would have something to reference. I feel like, especially with the drums I was able to go through all the different takes and pick which one I wanted to use for which part of the song. I personally loved being able to have control and knowing what was going to be there. In terms of editing, I just remember that the person doing it was not a drummer or changing things to sound the way they shouldn’t sound, things like that. It’s just more time consuming” Anderson admits. “I took over most of the nitty gritty stuff and it takes a lot of time to go through each separate tracking for guitar and drums and then most of the bass was recorded through digital effects. We basically did it from home and interfaced with each other from our laptops. The most challenging part is the drums because it is hard to recreate what it really sounds like as opposed to being digitally added. Even with the good technology out there now, nothing is quite like real drums. The guitar and bass technology has gotten to be so good there is no real need to rent a studio for the day. At least that is how we feel. It is just a very creative process until we finish the song and put out an album. Johnny is the same way about his vocals as I am about my drums. He likes to be able to pick which parts to use and we also have our Manager, Will who is our “go to” guy. Even if we are pretty far along, he might recreate a different version of a part.”
Music is Universal and it is the only thing that can stimulate the entire human brain at once. It is powerful and life can’t go on without it. In your car, in the store, in your office, on the beach, in the studio, at home, when you are sad or happy, working out or want to wind down…there is nowhere that music doesn’t have a place in. Music contributes things to the world that nothing else can. Anderson tells us “music is therapeutic in the unspoken sense. It gives everyone this internal feeling when they hear a song that fits what they are going through in life or a song by their favorite band. It is a comfort zone that you can go to. I cannot think of anything more powerful. But, simply put, music can inspire a flashback or motivation. One song can make you happy and the next can make you want to cry or be aggressive or calm.
Touring seems exciting from the outside looking in and musicians are away from their families and friends for days, weeks, months and even years at a time. It can also be taxing on their bodies and it is important to find ways to improve yourself and there is no one great secret to longevity in the music business. “Surrounding yourself with the right people is key. Make sure that you’re all on the similar mindset and definitely do not be afraid of criticism and don’t be your worst critic” Anderson conveys. “A lot of people are closed off from criticism and they get upset when you say something and they have worked on the song for 20 hours. It happens to me, it happens to all of us. The best advice I can give is to work on yourself and your craft and if you truly did write the best song in the World, you won’t have to convince anyone. Just be honest with yourself and those around you and be on the same page.”
As Nothing More continues to fill up their schedule with more tour dates, having just finished their run with Breaking Benjamin, Five Finger Death Punch and Bad Wolves they will be heading back out to Canada for the Outsider Tour with Three Days Grace and Fozzy and some intermittent shows like Shiprocked 2019. After that, Anderson said they will be pumping the brakes and start working on a new album. It will be exciting to hear what they come up with and see if they can lock down that Grammy next time.