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Heavy Metal Veterans Sevendust Mature

September 25, 2003

OLD BRIDGE, N.J. (AP)_ Even in the world of heavy metal, Sevendust rocks hard.

At a recent live show the ground vibrated, even in the back of the venue. Basslines were so thick they felt physical. By the end of first song, the five band members were covered in sweat and the room felt ten degrees hotter.

Sevendust rocked so hard, in fact, that two minutes into their first song at the sprawling Birch Hill Nite Club in Old Bridge, N.J., they blew a fuse _ leaving crowd-surfing fans shouting for more and the backstage crew scrambling to get the juice back on.

Such bumps are par for the course for a band that’s gone through its share of managers, drug problems, record labels and even bankruptcy _ despite having three gold albums. Now comes album number four, ``Seasons,″ at a time when the group is going through changes both as musicians and as men.

They have a new producer and have cleaned up their acts. Two band members, Lajon Witherspoon and Morgan Rose, have small children. And the band has even started to play some acoustic shows.

``Everytime we do a record somebody says they’re rooting for us,″ said Rose, the drummer said. ``It’s flattering people respect us like that and it’s also funny that everyone’s aware of the bad business moves and the bad dealings that we’ve had.″ In the past, the band has had to deal with seemingly endless touring that left them exhausted as well as unreliable managers that at times didn’t have their best interests in mind.

One of the biggest changes for the band is living without their families while on the road. Rose described leaving his 4-year-old daughter to go on tour as ``brutal.″ Sevendust tours about 250 days a year, stopping in the Atlanta area about twice during that time, which isn’t exactly conducive to child rearing.

``People always say, ‘You’re living a dream,’ and we are living a dream. We’re blessed to be able to do what we do and to have done it for this long,″ Rose said. ``But my daughter learned how to walk, learned how to eat, learned how to do everything without me there.″

Not that they haven’t spent any time with their families _ ``Seasons″ was recorded in their hometown of Atlanta, which gave the guys a year of domesticity. Past albums had been recorded in Florida and on a farm in Massachusetts. Being home, however, seemed to help the creative juices more than self-imposed seclusion.

The band is also quick to point out that this is the first albums that they’ve done sober.

``We’ve learned moderation over the years. A lot of people in the band stopped drinking or doing whatever their vice may have been at the time when we were Motley Crue-ing it up,″ Lajon said. ``That goes along with ‘Seasons.’ Just growing up.″

Sevendust recruited producer Butch Walker, an old friend from Atlanta who put together their demos nearly 10 years ago, to produce the new album. ``The guys came in sober and the record came out a lot less sloppy,″ he said. ``There’s just a lot more emotion on this album.″

Lajon said the band will always stay true to their heavy metal roots, but now they’re willing to experiment with different forms. Last summer, they even did several all-acoustic shows.

``You can listen to the heaviest stuff around all day long but at the end of the day, you’re not always that mad,″ Lajon said. ``Some of our friends are always sad and they sing about sad things. I say sing one happy song when things are going good in your life. It’s not always terrible.″

Singer and guitarist Mike Mushok of Stained, which toured with Sevendust n 1999, said the band is one of the hardest-working groups he knows, often playing seven, eight or nine days straight without a break.

``They’re a band that deserves a lot more attention than they get,″ said Mushok. ``They write great songs and they put on an amazing live show.″

Mushok said he wasn’t sure why Sevendust wasn’t as recognizable outside of heavy-metal circles as some bands that have opened for them, such as Incubus and Limp Bizkit. ``I equate success to be like a solar eclipse,″ he said. ``Everything has to be in line in order for things to happen.

While the band waits for their stars to align, Rose remembers their early days back in Atlanta, especially their first show together when they were slated to perform in a packed club on a Friday night.

The group had been together for barely a week and knew only two songs, which they played twice for the eager crowd. They laugh about it now, but it shows that even in their early days, Sevendust knew how to take a bad situation and turn it into something good.

``There was no chance that we weren’t going to succeed with this band,″ Rose said. ``We looked at each other and thought, ’This is what I am going to die trying with.‴

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