Let’s start by getting the obvious out of the way: An anniversary celebration for an album that is twenty-one years old seems a little, well, off. Specifically, by about 12 months. But, hey, when you’re living through a pandemic, things don’t always happen right on schedule.
Which is why Sevendust is currently out on tour saluting their third album, 2001’s Animosity, which came out, yes, 21 years ago. “We did originally plan on doing it last year,” singer Lajon Witherspoon tells Metal Edge. “But I think the fact that we had to postpone it makes it even a little more special. Because everybody's wanting it even more now. It’s like, ‘Let's do this!’ ”
Regardless of whether it’s happening right on schedule, the fact is that the Animosity tour is a celebration well worth having, as the record, from the grinding opener, “T.O.A.B.,” through the anthemic hit single, “Praise,” to the emotionally bare closer “Angel’s Son,” a tribute to Snot singer Lynn Strait, who had died in a car crash in 1998, is a standout effort not only in Sevendust’s 25-year career, but the entire 21st century metal canon.
There’s so many songs on the record that affect me,” Witherspoon says. “ ‘Shine.’ ‘Praise.’ ‘Angel’s Son.’ So many songs are important stamps on our lives, and in my life, especially . So the album's very important. And I think the people, the family, everyone out there, they understand the emotion behind those songs, too. They feel them. It's an emotional rollercoaster of a lot of memories for people when they come out and see the Animosity tour, if that makes sense.”
As the second leg of the Animosity tour gets underway, Witherspoon sat down with Metal Edge to talk about some of those memories – from recording and partying near Disney World to sweating it out on the Locobazooka festival – as well as what’s coming up for Sevendust.
How’s the tour going so far?
Lajon Witherspoon: Oh, it's great. The first leg was incredible. I didn't know what to expect, and it was very overwhelming. So I’m looking forward to doing the second leg, and maybe even a third. I didn't realize that the album had gravitated to people’s hearts so much.
Why do you think that is?
Witherspoon: Well, for us in the band, at that age we were supposed to be in college. But we weren’t – we were on the road. So our sororities and our fraternities were all these people we were growing up with. And I feel like that was something that we were all going through at the same time – that angst, those songs. So I think for all us it just brings us back to that time in our lives where there were a lot of ups and downs, but a lot good times and a lot of carefree times, too.
You did a lot of touring around Animosity when it was first released. You went out with Drowning Pool and Fuel, and you headlined the first Locobazooka festival tour with Filter, Gravity Kills, Nonpoint, Mushroomhead and other acts. Which was definitely a product of that specific time…
Witherspoon: Yes. That was a fun tour. We were so young, and man, we were playing tarmacs and just crazy places. It was summertime, it was hot, it was just sweaty – a hundred degrees. I couldn't believe we were out there doing that stuff, man. But the people came to see it. I remember a couple of times walking off the side of the stage and feeling like you were gonna pass out. It was just crazy. But guess what? That's what it's all about. That's why I feel like we're still a band, you know? You have a lot of people out there are members of a group, but we're a band. We went through it all and we're still here today. I'm very proud of that. And Locobazooka was one of those tours that was a hard tour. But we had a great time. We were kids and we just out there trying to make a name for ourselves.
There were so many new metal bands coming out in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. When you look back on it, does it feel like a really distinct moment in time for heavy, guitar-based rock?
Witherspoon: Oh, yeah. It felt like it was a little movement going on. The bands were all in it together and there was never any problems for us. We had a good time out on tours with everybody, doing the Ozzfest and things like that. And we're still around. I thank the Lord we're still hanging in there.
Were there any bands Sevendust were particularly tight with back then?
Witherspoon: Funny enough, believe it or not, I remember Creed taking us out and it just being an amazing time for us, even though some of the people were like, ‘Oh my god, what are these guys doing opening up for Creed?’ But those guys were our brothers and they took us out. And on the Ozzfest, all those people were great, from the Limp Bizkit camp, to having Snot out there on the road with us, to seeing Tool every day. I mean, you’ve gotta be kidding me! It was a pleasure to be out there with all those acts.
When you're up onstage playing these Animosity songs today, what is the primary thing that goes through your head?
Witherspoon: Probably all the crazy things that were going on while we were doing the album. We recorded down in Florida, and imagine this: you’re living in this brand-new, beautiful condo in MetroWest in Orlando, right by Disneyland or Disney World or whatever it is. And all of a sudden, Sevendust moves in! [laughs]
Probably not the neighbors you’re expecting.
Witherspoon: It might’ve been a nightmare for a couple of people, having a rock ‘n’ roll band recording an album living next to you. But man, it was a good time for us!
If I had been one of your neighbors in Orlando, what would have been the thing I would have least enjoyed about having Sevendust living next to me?
Witherspoon: Well, you wouldn’t have had a problem with me. The first place we lived in, it was me and the drum tech, Norm, and I was a clean freak, so there wasn't anything that you wouldn’t have liked about us. Now, maybe at the other house, you might have not liked some partying that was going on…
So it’s your band mates that would've been the bad neighbors.
Witherspoon: Not necessarily bad, but… you know what? I'm lying. [laughs] We did all move into this one condo complex by the Thirsty Whale [sports bar]. It was great – we’d write at the studio, then walk over there and have dinner and have drinks. But this one time, somebody, maybe one of our techs, got drunk and there was a fight. Cops were called and all that. And then that same tech got the cops called on him because he was drunk one night and had a girl that he met and he was doing things that he shouldn't have been doing. Then there was another night, some of the guys went to a wrestling match and came back to the condo and maybe thought they were the wrestlers in our apartment. I remember the dining room table got broken…
That's always the best finishing move. You’ve gotta put somebody through a table.
Witherspoon: Yeah, well, that was back in the day and we were young. [laughs] But I wasn't a party to that. I was… well, I was actually filming it! But, you know, no one got hurt so it’s all good. We’re all still here, safe and alive.
After you finish up the Animosity tour, what’s in the cards for Sevendust? Is there new music in the works?
Witherspoon: There's new music in the works every second. [Guitarist] John Connolly will actually be flying out to me and we'll go to our farmhouse. It’s a beautiful property and it’s great for inspiration. We record there, and we'll do some writing for Sevendust, like me and [guitarist] Clint [Lowery] did not too long ago. Then the whole band will come down to the farmhouse and we'll do a writing session together, too. So it's really exciting.
Clearly this Animosity tour, as well as Sevendust’s continued success, demonstrates the longevity of your music. What do you think is the key to that?
Witherspoon: I think it's because we've grown up together, the band and the fans, and it's a part of us. It's in our DNA, almost. And if anything, it’s going to come back even more now to kick everybody's ass. Because we’ve been shut down because of this crazy world that we live in. But now we’re ready to do again. It's time. And I feel very blessed that we're having the opportunity to come back into some type of normalcy… before it gets crazy again!