The New Black
Being the type of person who prides himself on ‘finishing what he starts’, it was important for me to conclude SYL in a way that a) made sense to the legacy of the vision, b) was aware enough of the pitfalls of ‘Alien’ and ‘City’ to avoid them emotionally, and c) was ok with the fans.
We got offered the opportunity to do Ozzfest 2006 as well as Download and a few other higher profile gigs. I remember talking with the head of Century Media about the last record of our contract prior to those offers, and being afraid (yet again) to do it, but the Ozzfest thing in particular struck me as inspiring because I could use the fact that we were becoming ‘popular’ as a catalyst to make a statement about the irony of the whole thing. From ‘Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing’ selling nothing , and not being able to get arrested for years while fuming and spitting vitriol, as soon as the effects of that emotional drama ended up taking hold, we began to get visible. So I decided to make ‘The New Black’ lyrics almost a parody of the whole situation, and the irony of SYL doing the Ozzfest was fuel for a kind of ‘commercial’ SYL album that was disgusted by the success of something I had come to realize was toxic to me. The whole sense that by continuing to have these moral and existential crosses publicly, while self-destruction was an underline seemed sick and profoundly ugly.
So lyrically, The New Black was all kind of sing along metal songs about ‘the biggest band in the world’ and the implications of what sort of vibrations you choose to throw into the environment, and how the come back to resonate with your world. The result was an odd, sort of eerie album that was sparse production (Mixed by Mike Fraser) and a very uneasy feel. A ‘skin of the teeth’ feeling that qualified for all the objectives I had originally planned for, plus gave us some good songs for Ozzfest (You Suck etc…)
It was a tumultuous time internally as well… although I thought I had been clear with the band and label about this being the last album I ever did for SYL, I kind of think they thought I was just being overdramatic and was ‘crying wolf’ again. (understandable, as I was prone to that) When the label came and offered us a renewal of the contract and I reminded everybody that I was ‘out’, the shit kind of hit the fan. Byron had been playing with Fear Factory, and I think kind of threw his hands up about the whole deal. He had invested a ton of time and effort into managing the band with Mike and Jeff (Outerloop) and when it became clear that I was serious, everybody just kind of gave up.
As a result, the Ozzfest was a rather horrible experience for us all, and the day of the last Ozzfest show, I shaved my ‘beard’ and left for good. I think it’s a shame in the sense that when you get a bunch of people together, all working for their livelihood on music, they can’t be expected to see the underlying drama that inherently came with the process for the main person with the original vision.
By me making a decision that I knew was for the benefit of my mental health, I had to leave casualties behind and that was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make as a musician and person. The bottom line is that I remember being on stage at Download in 2006, (a great show…) and I looked out over the audience and remember thinking ‘You can have this if you want… but your world will resonate with it forever’ …and at that moment I knew I was done.
It was dark at the time, and in order for me to continue, I would have to continually mine the vein that was unhealthy for me, so I made the decision to end it. It’s been almost 7 years, and I don’t regret my decision. However, the loss of relationship with those guys on some degree has been hard. On a side note: Gene absolutely played staggeringly well on this record and there are times when ‘The New Black’ is what I consider among my favourite SYL releases.