Grey Daze, Sean Dowdell Interview – Talking Chester Bennington + ‘Amends…Stripped’

2021-02-22

Pictured: Grey Daze. Sean Dowdell of Grey Daze joins Anne Erickson to discuss the band's new album, "Amends...Stripped," new music on the way and the legacy of Chester Bennington of Linkin Park.

Grey Daze – Story by Anne Erickson, courtesy photo

Sean Dowdell of Grey Daze joins Anne Erickson to discuss “Amends…Stripped,” new music on the way and the legacy of Chester Bennington of Linkin Park in this in-depth interview

When Chester Bennington left the earth on July 20, 2017, he broke the hearts of not only his family and friends, but fans everywhere. Bennington was one of the most beloved vocalists of his era, as millions were drawn to his music and performances in Linkin Park, Dead by Sunrise, Grey Daze and all of his projects.

Before he joined what would be one of the biggest rock bands in the world, Linkin Park, Bennington was a member of Grey Daze. At the time, Bennington was just a teenager, but his raw talent was already there and is apparent in the band’s early recordings.

In honor of Bennington, Grey Daze released “Amends” last year, featuring the lost vocals of Bennington. Earlier this year, the band released “Amends…Stripped,” pairing Bennington’s vocals with acoustic backings. The band is also working on a new album featuring Bennington’s vocals that Dowdell says will probably be out “towards the end of summer.”

Sean Dowdell of Grey Daze spoke with Anne Erickson of Audio Ink Radio about the memory of Bennington, “Amends…Stripped” and Grey Daze’s in-the-works new album. Read the full interview below, and listen to the conversation via the YouTube player and Audio Ink Radio podcast on Apple Podcasts here and Spotify here.

Anne Erickson: Congratulations on all of your success with “Amends” and “Amends…Stripped.” Now that the original record has been out there a while, looking back on the whirlwind of releasing “Amends,” what stands out the most to you as your favorite aspect of getting it out there?

Sean Dowdell: The biggest thing was just completing the journey with my friend that we started. This was import to him and I before he passed and it took a while to get it up of the ground after he was gone, but once we decided to do that, it took a couple years and a lot of people involved and determination and hurdles to jump over, so just getting to the finish line and knowing we completed it for our friend was the biggest thing for me.


I really enjoy the fact “Amends…Stripped” is raw and unplugged and brings out the realness of Chester and his voice.

I always think back to the moments that I cherished when I was growing up in the music industry, and when I saw Nirvana perform the acoustic set of “MTV Unplugged,” there’s a moment in there, and I don’t even know the song that it’s in but it has this feedback through Kurt’s microphone right when he goes in to sing the chorus part, and I think of that every time I hear that song. I think of that one little feedback, and it’s a complete mess up. It’s a flub on the audio engineer’s part, but it’s there forever. It’s something they didn’t get rid of, and I always think of that imperfection, and that’s what made me think, you know what, the imperfection are okay. There’s a moment when Layne Staley, or when in Alice in Chains, forgets part of the words, and that imperfection of that performance stands out in our minds.

What do you think getting this kind of new music from Chester Bennington out there has meant to the fans who are missing Chester?

All I can do is tell you what they responded to us with, and that’s thousands of messages positivity and love and people telling us that Chester’s voice has comforted them during difficult emotional times. Some people saying that his voice and the lyrics have helped them carry on and not do acts of personal harm or commit suicide or things like that, and to me, if we can connect with fans like that, even if it’s a small number of fans, it makes everything worth what we’re doing.

What do you think it is about Chester that made him a superstar?

I think that’s an easy one for me to answer, too. The very first thing is that he’s real. He believes everything he’s singing about. It’s difficult to try to sell people when you’re not feeling the emotions that you’re singing about. Pop stars do it a lot. They phone it in. Somebody else has written the song about emotions they were feeling, and then the pop star has to kind of reinterpret it and dictate it off in a way that they can make it believable. That wasn’t Chester at all. He was literally writing about the things that were affecting him in his everyday life, and he was believable. The second thing, of course, was his talent. His ability to sing the way he was singing and screaming and soft spoken and his lyric writing and all those things contributed to making him a star. Lastly, I think the thing what made Chester ultra special was his ability to connect with the listeners. When they would hear Chester, they may be feeling a certain way, but they might not be able to describe it. As a young teenager, I couldn’t describe all the sadness and emotions that I was having at the time, but you could listen to Chester sing, and you could go, that right there. That’s exactly how I feel. What he’s singing about. They could connect to it in a way that made them feel included in what was being talked about. They felt like they were part of the song. That’s one of the things that people go, I can’t believe so many people feel like they knew him that never met him. And I said, yeah, if you think about it, they’re with him in those songs. Those songs are journeys for them, personally, and that’s what made him as big a star as he was.

What do you miss most about Chester?

His sense of humor. We had a really stupid sense of humor together. We’d joke about the dumbest things and call each other and just talk about music and life and surfing or working out. Just, everyday stuff. He was just a normal guy, and he was a good friend, and I miss that part of him, just his sense of humor. I had some of the most fun and funniest moments of my life were hanging out with that guy.

Knowing Chester like you did, were you surprised that he ended his life?

Over the years, he did struggle in several different areas, right? But, in the weeks and months leading up to his life-ending choice, I guess, is the best way I can put that, I did not sense anything. I talked to him two nights before he passed, and he was on top of the world. He was excited about starting rehearsals. He was excited about a lot of things. We were working on a new business location together. I didn’t sense anything. Now, eight or nine months before that, my wife sensed something in him, and said, “Chester’s not right. Something’s off.” And I said, “No, no, he’s just trying to go for a new look for whatever,” and she said, “No. I can see something in his eyes,” and she literally said that to me. And I just blew it off, like no, I don’t think so. And then, of course, what happened, happened. It’s easy to look back and go, oh, yeah, she saw it. But, you never truly know what’s happening in someone’s mind. Had Chester been thinking rationally, I don’t think he would have done what he did at all. I just think that’s what depression does. It removers the rational thought processes from the moment that you take that choice, and sometimes there’s somebody there to help talk you out of it or to guide you in a different way or to distract you away from it, but the way this happened, it didn’t. There was nobody else there. When that hit him at that specific moment, there was nobody else for him to lean on at the time, and that’s the most unfortunate thing, I think.

Would you ever release brand new, original music dedicated to Chester?

We dedicate every song to him. The whole reason we did this record, the “Amends” album, and “Stripped” and even the next record is because of our friend, and we don’t ever lose sight of that. That’s why you see when we do our videos and stuff, we make it Chester-centric, because we’re not delusional about having millions of fans for ourselves, and that’s not a goal of ours and we don’t are about that. It’s really to pay homage and to make his fans know that a) there’s more music out there that they haven’t heard and to get to appreciate him in a way that maybe they didn’t see before. So, everything that we’re doing is for him.

Tell me about your new music on the way with Grey Daze.

We’ll be in the studio in April and we’ll be starting to work on it. Let me rephrase that. We’ve been writing for the last eight months. We just finished writing the new record, and now we’re going in to record it.

Will the new music feature Chester’s vocals?

Of course! Grey Daze isn’t Grey Daze without Chester.

That’s great. How are you finding all of these lost vocals?

We kept it all. I used to own a recording studio, as well, so I understand. I produced records and engineered records. I understand, you don’t throw that stuff away. And then, there was another set of tapes that our original guitar player Jason Barnes had that he gave me when we started working with Chester to recapture some of these songs, so we have at least one more record.

Fans will be happy to get a new Grey Daze album.

Thank you. Well, we’ve been working hard on it, and of course it has Chester’s amazing performances, so hopefully they can connect to it and love it the way that’s it’s intended to be. That’s really our goal: to make it as good as possible. We’re going in with a producer named Shooter Jennings in April, and another producer who’s going to co-produce it named SJ Johns who helped us to a lot of the songs on the first album, so we’re excited.

Do you think Grey Daze will ever tour?

I don’t know. In order for us to do it, it would have to be done so tastefully, and I don’t want to be onstage with a cheesy hologram of Chester. That just- I don’t want to do that. So, in order for us to do it, we’d have to do some really unique video screens or something that include Chester, and maybe bring out some guest singers. How to do it right is the main issue, because we could go and play festivals now and get some money to do that, but if it’s not going to be cool and do it in a respectful way that still makes Chester look good, then I really don’t want to be part of it, and either does Maze and Kristin… I guess to that point, we just haven’t decided yet or figured out a way to do it the right way yet.

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