Collective SoulCollective Soul is pumped and primed to celebrate their 25th anniversary in 2019 in all-out style, but they’re really just gearing up for the long haul.

Ever since the barn-burning rock band from Stockbridge, Georgia burst onto the national scene with the runaway success of their multi-platinum 1993 debut Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid and its ensuing mega-smash hits like “Shine” and “Breathe,” they’ve been on an upward trajectory.

As part of the 25th anniversary celebrations, E Roland (vocals, guitar), Dean Roland (rhythm guitar), Jesse Triplett (lead guitar, background vocals), Will Turpin (bass, background vocals) and Johnny Rabb (drums, background vocals), are on tour with Canadian stops at Caesars Windsor on June 27 and Roxodus Music Festival in Edenvale, Ontario on July 11.

We had a few moments with Johnny to chat about the tour, new album and his unique brand and style of drumsticks.

You guys are rolling into your 25th anniversary with a new album and a new tour. Most bands at that quarter-century mark don’t try to keep current anymore. But here you guys are with a new album and tour.
We definitely think it’s important to keep expressing what we’re living for, I mean Ed’s on fire with writing, and the whole band has never been in a better spot. I believe if you’re not living you’re dying. We’re not just going to sit back and hang, so we enjoy it and we have a good time. We try to keep true to how they began and I’m 8 years in with the band. With the 25th anniversary, we felt it was very important to make new music and keep reaching out to our fans.

Collective Soul keeps growing and developing with every album. You’re not, trying to pretend to be a new hybrid of some type of music, but you keep growing and developing.
Yes, absolutely. We just did “See What You Started by Continuing” a few years ago, and now “Blood” is coming out June 21st, and it’s a great collection of things that have happened within our are lives – real stories, real kinds of losses, real triumphs and real things that have gone down. It’s a lot of meaning for me on this new record coming up, and we’re out on the road now supporting that record. We’re excited about the release of it. We do think it’s extremely important to keep cataloging,and keep track of what we’ve done in life and there’s no end in sight for us.

Observation of Thought seems like a very personal and emotional song, more so than some of the others the album. Ed is usually the main writer, but do you have any connection or feelings with that song?
I absolutely have connections to that song, specifically. Ed wrote that song. When he writes them, he brings his songs to the band for input. He writes it all, even though all of us have the ability to write, but Ed’s got a magic when he does it. Look at how many hits he’s penned. I also write songs, but I personally never had a hit. Please don’t get me wrong, what I’m saying is that everyone does their job in this band, Dean’s got his band Magnets & Ghosts, Jesse has records, I’ve got records out, Will of course with his solo, but Ed is the songwriter for the band. That being said, Observation of Thought has a very personal meaning for me. I didn’t know it would, but my mom had passed away while on tour last October and that song is my personal observation. The band was absolutely amazing with their support for me and my family during that time and I don’t mind sharing my personal experience.

Everyone in the band has had very personal losses last year as well, so to me, every time that song is played or I hear it, it’s a big deal to me. We actually open with that during the set too. Because I found out about my mom just a few minutes before a meet and greet – and it was a devastating thing – that song reminds me that we just don’t know when things are going to happen, and we can all get through this. I’m not even dissecting the song and saying this is what the song means, but to me, the sound of the song and the lyrics have a certain special meaning for me. That song is a huge one for me. I do love it, for sure.

I can’t even imagine what is involved in designing something like a drum stick. Is that a complex process?
It is a complex process and I will tell you that our first thing was trial and error and unfortunately a lot of money spent that I didn’t have. I was young and to make a long story short, I had a partner at the time who was a lumber manufacturer who had endless resources and I didn’t realize how much money was being spent to make what they call a knife to make the stick. The whole process was like yeah, this one feels good, let’s draw this out. So we draw a stick. At first, some of our sticks were literally just trial and error, which isn’t how you shouldn’t really do that.

It’s about $2,000 per stick to make up a prototype, so the answer is yes, there’s a balance and weight. I associate it with a golfer that might like a certain height of his club or even a hockey player to his hockey sticks – there are obviously heights and widths and curves. It’s the same thing with the drumstick; you have something that feels good to your hands. I could be different from my friends from Queensrÿche or to that of Tommy Lee from Mötley Crüe – they’re usually a pretty big stick. Steven Perkins may have a different stick from me and I know Gin Blossoms’ Scott has a different one. So there’s all these different diameter’s and lengths – it’s really nerdy, and it’s fun, very fun.

What do your sticks offer that others don’t?
We were one of the first companies to offer the same size stick, what would be the same diameter, so that’s a standard stick. But, we were the first to offer a different taper at the end and then different tips on the same stick. This is literally back in 1999. So it goes back quite a ways. We did get copied very quickly by the other big guys. That’s fine. But we were the first to kind of do that. Our standard length is a 1/4 inch longer than the other companies, so it added a different feel to it. Then we patented a stick called the Rhythm Saw, it has these ridges in it and you could do like DJ type effects and different scraping sounds and stuff like that. That really was a challenge for me when I invented it. There was a lot of sticks being thrown against the wall because I was like, this is so stupid, it doesn’t work, but then I was forced to learn my own invention and it really does work. I strive to make my own sounds so that’s one signature stick that’s all me – the Rhythm Saw.


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