Josey Scott – Vocals
Wayne Swinny- Guitars
Chris D'abaldo – Guitars
Dave Novotny – Bass
Paul Crosby - Drums
What does it take to turn ordinary rock 'n' roll into some of the best hard music of the year? According to Saliva main man Josey Scott, it's something called "kicka--ness," a self-explanatory concept that shows up in huge amounts on his band's awesome new album, Survival of the Sickest.
"We wanted this album to leave no doubt that we're one of the best, most kick-a-- rock bands there is," says Scott, "and that we have no plans to be a 'here today-gone today' flavor of the week. We honed things this time till the edge was deadly."
"Deadly" is the perfect word to describe their new album, Saliva's follow-up to their smash Back Into Your System. With its classic heavy riffs, monstrous hooks, and searing, often unprintable lyrics, it's raucous rock that starts on a precipitous downhill and gathers momentum as it rolls. Two weeks of pre-production and another six weeks of recording and the band was essentially done, slamming out their best work to date, a bristling return to their roots and a spot-on capturing of their incredible live sound. "We're more excited than we've ever been," says the oft-quotable Scott in a proud southern accent. "This is a 12-pack of a---whoopin'."
This "12-pack" is also produced by Paul Ebersold, something that means a lot these days, not only to hungry fans of meat-and-potatoes rock, but to Saliva itself. "Paul is a Memphis native and he speaks our language," says Scott. "He's a southern man, a really straight shooter, a good guy with wife and kids." Ebersold wrote five songs with the band right out of the box, so clutch was their compatibility. "We totally hit it off musically and in the studio," Josey says, adding that the record was made in their hometown of Memphis.
Saliva and Ebersold set up shop in a rehearsal space and began to write songs that reflected their musical heritage, their vast experiences on the road, and their love of the Rock. "The whole collaboration with Paul became a really heavy, really magical happening. He's been down the dark roads so he knows the score and he was glad to nudge us in the right direction."
Scott is eager to come clean about the band's rock-star indiscretions. "On our last tour we took our eyes off the prize; we were partying too much. So we quit the dumb sh-- you run into in this business and cleaned up our act." Not that the Saliva boys suddenly turned into twelve-steppers. "Don't get me wrong," Josey laughs. "We don't regret a thing we've done in the past. We still burn and have a good time-I write about some of it on this album-but you bump your head and you learn from your mistakes. Today, what hasn't killed us makes us stronger."
According to Scott, that's precisely the idea behind the title of the new album. "It's a metaphor for life, the music industry, the mentality of 'If it bleeds it leads.'" Saliva serves as a perfect success story of that legendary Darwinian concept of survival. This is especially true of Josey and the band, who've survived many a night of dangerous behavior to become Grammy-nominated performers of the highest order. "It didn't get Motley Crue bad," he admits, "but on a scale of bands, it definitely got Poison bad."
Avoiding the lewd and crude this time out also helped Saliva focus on songwriting. Scott, who refers to himself as a "lifetime drama queen, with plenty of material to write about," looks at his ability as a gift that comes from somewhere outside of himself. "Elvis Presley once said of songwriting, 'It's not coming from me, it's coming through me. I've just got the best seat in the house."
While Scott certainly isn't comparing himself to Elvis, the songs did indeed gush forth during the Survival sessions. "Rock and Roll Revolution," the tar-and-feather tune that kicks the doors of Survival wide open, best demonstrates the band's incendiary return-to-roots approach. It also embraces the album's honesty-is-the-best-policy tone with savage lyrics punctuating throttling chord progressions. "For the first three records, we had to kiss a--, hold our tongues, and all that; on this record we were tired of it and we got a few things off our chest."
"F--- All Y'All," another thumping Saliva tune, exemplifies that same candor. "That one's about people who did us wrong or who didn't do us a solid like we had done them. We don't steal, screw people over, manipulate the numbers, or any of that. That sh-- isn't right. How can people like that rest their souls knowing that their life is a lie?"
The second single, "Razor's Edge," a southern rocker ala "Sweet Home Alabama" on steroids, came quickly. "Wayne and I were messing around in the band room and it just came out." To further capture that southern feel, Saliva asked Brad Arnold of Three Doors Down to sing on the track. "He's the Ronnie Van Zant of our time," says Josey.
Scott received help from another friend, producer Elvis Baskette, on the emotional lighter waver, "Open Eyes." "I reached further than I thought I could on that one. When I played it for Elvis, he cried and came over and hugged me; it was real genuine moment. After I listened back to it, I got to see how the lyrics played into my life and other people's lives, too. I felt like I had wings on my back after that!"
Scott and the band have come a long way since first assembling in 1995. Back then, on the outskirts of the musical mean streets of Memphis, life appeared to be a dead-end. "I'm a young southern kid that didn't come from much," says Scott. "My daddy played country gospel, dirty south hip-hop was the sound of my street, and I remember seeing lots of Motley Crue and AC/DC concerts. So I grew up with a bunch of major styles hitting me at one time."
When he found a bunch of all-star musicians in the area who shared his enthusiasm and flair, his vision for the band crystallized, first heard on the band's Island debut, Every Six Seconds (2001). Today, the monster chemistry between Scott and his band-guitarists Wayne Swinney and Chris Dabaldo, bassist Dave Novotny, and drummer Paul Crosby-has grown into something formidable. All of the band members contributed significantly to the new album, and all are in the process of coming into their own as artists in a huge way. This makes Saliva an incredible mosaic of sound and groove.
"Memphis has a lot to do with the music we make," he says. "It's got the best of R&B, rock and roll, and the blues. That gave us a musical freedom we've been unafraid to use since. Who we are now is a modified version of that." And what they sound like is a modified version of the rock masterpiece that is Survival of the Sickest.
"I'm proud of this record," he says. "It's the best we could put forward. You have to continue to search your heart and better yourself, make yourself reach and I think that's what we did."
In the end, after the grooves are analyzed and the words are absorbed, something magical indeed happened in that studio with Paul Ebersold. And considering the fact that hard rock is rebounding, Saliva may have made the perfect record at the perfect time. "A lot of the return of the rock stuff is a little campy, poking fun at itself or an era. But we don't approach rock because it's silly. We do it because it's sacred and serious and we want to give our fans their money's worth. And because it kicks a--."
--- from the official Saliva website