With his childhood sights firmly set on becoming a dragster driver, Evanescence guitarist Troy McLawhorne never thought he’d be touring the world as a member of a popular rock band. Neither did he imagine he’d have long rocker locks, look good in eyeliner, and dress in head-to-toe black. Pearl Davies spoke with McLawhorn as his band prepared for their upcoming Australian tour.
No stranger to band politics, McLawhorn was a long-standing member of Seether, a post-grunge/alternative metal band. Seether front man Shaun Morgan was dating Evanescence founding member and front woman Amy Lee and the pair re-recorded Seether’s ‘Broken’ as a duet, before Lee broke it off with Morgan in 2011, taking McLawhorn with her and writing the Evanescence hit single ‘Call Me When You’re Sober’, proclaiming it a direct hit at Morgan. According to McLawhorn, while he still has a good relationship with former Seether members, drummer Johnny Humphreys and bass player Dale Stewart, the rift with Morgan has not healed. “With me and Shaun, it seemed like everything was cool for a while,” he said. “I don’t want to talk any trash about anyone but he wasn’t happy that I left the band.”
The public stoush with Morgan was not Lee’s first such falling out. In the 15 years since Evanescence was formed, there’s been a high turnover of band members,with Lee the only original member. Ben Moody, co-founder and principle writer for Evanescence, left suddenly mid-tour when the band were promoting debut album Fallen, in 2003. Reluctant to comment on the falling-out between Lee and Moody, McLawhorn conceded, “it was kind of mutual, from what I understand from talking to Lee and the other guys. I don’t think he [Moody] was really satisfied, musically. He and Lee talked and it was a mutual feeling.”However Moody has stated that his and Lee’s friendship deteriorated “into a downward spiral of animosity, conflicting opinions, and a very volatile environment”.According to Lee, “we’d gotten to a point that if something didn't change, we wouldn't have been able to make a second record.” Perhaps the Fallen album liner notes, in which the pair stated that they were best friends, were somewhat dated by the time they went to press.
Lee has said it was almost a relief that Moody left because of the tensions created within the band.
In the face of all this artistic temperament, does Lee have the last word when it comes to the creative process? According to McLawhorn, the songwriting for last year’s self-titled album was a collaborative effort.“We all got together in the one space and just put stuff together,” he said. “I think we are all connected in such a way we all feel whether something’s good or whether it’s bad.”
Producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Velvet Revolver, Marilyn Manson, Deftones) was another collaborator on the new album, helping to build the songs and make them more cohesive. “When you’re creating, your ideas are flowing out of you and you don’talways remember exactly what you play,” said McLawhorn. “But Nick was recording it so we could always go back, listen and pick out the coolest parts and build the song that way. It was very cool.”
The video clip for ‘What You Want’, the first single off the new album, was filmed in a tiny warehouse in New York. Evanescence ran a competition for fans, and the winners took part in the making of the clip. “There would have been between 150 and 200 fans,” said McLawhorn. “It was in a little warehouse and just so hot — there was no air conditioning at all. One girl threw up on the stage because it was so hot. It really helped with the grittiness of the video! We were all so sweaty, having a lot of fun doing it, and the fans were great sticking it out with us.”Recording at Nashville’s popular Blackbird Studios was a comfortable experience for McLawhorn who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, just three hours down the road. “It was great. I’ve got a lot of friends in Nashville so it was nice to be close to home and in a place where I had some friends to visit on my days off. Nashville’s a great town — it’s a great place to hang out [and] the people at Blackbird Studios are so nice.”
Asked for his favourite song on the new album, McLawhorn nominates ‘Never Go Back’. “It’s a really cool song — I like the energy of it and the guitar riff.” The irony is, joining Evanescence is a going back for McLawhorn, who replaced former guitarist John LeCompt on the band’s The Open Door album tour, during 2007.And the inside scoop on the band’s first lady? “We’re like a family on the road — she’s like our sister. The dudes are great. We’ve had shows that have sold out. It’s all great, especially after being off the road for three or four years. It’s good to know there are still people out there wanting to hear new music from us.”
Evanescence will be touring Australia (including a Newcastle date) in March, and McLawhorn is looking forward to his return, having played here before with different bands. “I’m a sun and a surf kinda guy, I like the beach and I like the sun. I’ll feel right at home in Newcastle.”