BURBANK, California — After listening to hundreds of demos and auditioning six singers, Drowning Pool have chosen Jason Jones, a tattoo artist from Los Angeles, to front the band.
Jones replaces Dave Williams, who died from heart disease while touring on Ozzfest in August 2002 (see "Drowning Pool's Williams Remembered As One Of Rock's Nicest").
"I knew Jason was going to be in the band the first night he came down and auditioned with us, because that night we all went out to a strip club and got kicked out," bassist Stevie Benton recalled during a break from recording.
Drummer Mike Luce met Jones while in Los Angeles editing the Williams tribute DVD, Sinerama (see "Star-Packed DVD To Honor Late Drowning Pool Singer"). Luce was hanging out with his friend James Murray, who engineered Drowning Pool's debut, when he was introduced to Jones, who at the time was recording with former Snot guitarist Sonny Mayo's short-lived Five-O-Clock project.
Luce thought nothing of the encounter until the band came across Jones' demo months later. Jones was then invited to Texas, where he sang some older Drowning Pool songs with the band and shared lyrics for a few new compositions.
"Oddly enough, it really wasn't an intimidating feeling like I would think, because everyone was so cool," Jones recalled. "I was like, 'There's some structure things I was thinking about changing,' and they're like, 'Let's change it.' No problems."
Jones, whose ferocious singing-mixed-with-screaming style is reminiscent of James Hetfield, has some similarities to Williams, but he's no clone.
"You didn't want to be looking right at a mirror reflection of Dave every day," Luce said. "I mean, there were definitely those people that came up and wanted to do him justice and sounded dead-on, but I mean, it gave you chills and it was just kind of weird to deal with. You already think about it every day anyway, so you don't want that in your face all the time."
"The first thing that we were looking for, quite honestly, was just somebody else that's kind of on the same page," guitarist C.J. Pierce added. "It's almost like going out and finding a new best friend. ... Just looking for another jackass like the rest of us that fits in, that was the first thing."
After Williams died, the band took four months off, but there was never a question of whether Drowning Pool would continue.
"When Dave died, we lost our best friend in the world," Benton explained. "The last thing that I'd like to think is that my other best friends, I'd have to leave them, too, because we couldn't carry on together. That would just suck."
Williams' death came at a time when Drowning Pool were looking forward to the future, specifically following up Sinner, which featured the ubiquitous "Bodies."
"There's never a good time for someone to pass away, but at that time, that second Ozzfest tour we did was probably the most fun we'd had ever as a band," Benton recalled. "We were playing our best shows ever, and just the unity of the band, that was a highlight for us. And then just to have that happen was ... it was the worst possible time."
Drowning Pool thank their record label, Wind-Up, for helping them get over the tragedy. "They came down, they took care of all Dave's memorial services, took care of Dave's family," Benton said, "and then after things kind of died down a little bit, they were there to say, 'When you guys are ready to start looking for a singer, we're here. You're not dropped.' Which was nice to hear."
By then the nü-metal genre Drowning Pool were associated with had faded in popularity, and history has shown that — with a few exceptions, such as AC/DC — bands rarely have success with a new singer.
"The big difference between us and AC/DC is they'd had a number of records and an already established career and fanbase," Benton said. "We're just going off one record. Basically, the success of one song, so if you look at it that way, we really don't have that much to stand on. So we kind of look at it almost as, even though we kept the name, we're pretty much having to start completely over."
Drowning Pool plan to introduce Jones to fans via a tour of clubs the band played when it first started. The group is also releasing a song on the upcoming "Punisher" soundtrack called "Step Up," which will also be the first single from their next album, due April 20.
"When you hear that song, you'll see we're not nü-metal," Luce said.
"It's like old Mötley Crüe and Motörhead stuck together," added Jones, to his band's amusement.
Jones, it's apparent, is already right at home with "the jackasses" in Drowning Pool.
"If it doesn't go at least platinum, I'm out," he joked. "It's cool, I kept all my tattoo stuff."