The immeasurable void in the rock-space since the loss of the late, great Chester Bennington still reverberates nearly five years since his untimely passing. The much-celebrated vocalist of global touring giants Linkin Park was many things to many listeners the world over, but perhaps above all, he was passionate about music.
That passion has been harnessed by his former band-mates in Grey Daze, Bennington‘s pre-Linkin Park project that the late vocalist planned on resurrecting in the months prior to his death.
Now, in the second full-length album of remastered Grey Daze material since 2020, the band (Sean Dowdell, Mace Beyers and Cristin Davis) toast their fallen friend with The Phoenix (available June 17th through Loma Vista), a ten-track collection featuring special guests Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction, Filter frontman Richard Patrick, and Chester’s own daughters Lily and Lila Bennington, very special guests on the track “Hole”.
Dowdell sat down with Metal Injection for an emotional dive through the history of Grey Daze and his longtime friendship with Chester, whether or not the band would perform live again, the cruel reality of modern internet trolls, Grey Daze‘s ugly battle with Warner Brothers over the history of the band once Chester joined Linkin Park, and much more!
The word that’s been used (to describe this record) is a celebration, a celebration of Chester, the music and the band. I believe the tone just feels more hopeful. It feels like a celebration of his life and legacy in music, whereas maybe in Amends you were still somewhat going through the motions and processing this loss. Working through this, working with his family, and with the different collaborators, for yourselves as a band, it must have had a different feeling?
Yeah. Amends I think we were still in shock and processing the loss of Chester. This album, you know, several years later and I think we just moved on to a different stage of grief at this point and starting to find a lot more gratitude and happiness. And the reflective times we’re having of Chester now are a lot more fun and a lot more laughs, a lot more good times in the studio this time around than the last time. And just about halfway through the project we started feeling like, Wow, this feels a lot happier of a scenario than the last one. And we all took notice and we kind of started framing the project as a celebration of him as it unfolded.
This was something prior to his passing that he was working towards and that he wanted (continuing Grey Daze). I know the family is in great support of and is proud of this project and this was something he was excited for. So the fact that we now have two records of new material is an incredible testament to a really cool period of his career that may be largely undiscovered to some of Chester’s fans.
Yeah. I mean, if you’re a fan of Chester, I would assume that you would enjoy what we did with the music. I liked every project that he ever did. Everything from, of course, Linkin Park to Dead by Sunrise and even Bucket of Weenies and Kings of Chaos and Camp Freddy and all that stuff. I was a big fan of my friend in that way, so I was always trying to be supportive no matter what he was doing, whether it’s Stone Temple Pilots or Linkin Park or Dead by Sunrise.
So I think if you are a true fan of Chester you’ll appreciate the music and the songs that we’ve recreated after his passing. But yeah, it was something that we were working on with Chester while he was alive. It was his idea to get the band back together in the first place on a phone call that he and I had back in 2016, and just kind of seeing this to the finish line, you know?
A lot of early Linkin Park was quite heavy, but in comparison to some of the later albums this is really a return to form. His vocal performances on a lot of these songs you can tell he’s going balls to the wall. This is heavy 90s-era Chester Bennington. I think fans of that era of early Linkin Park will be really into this.
Well, we hope so. I think that people, fans, sometimes lose sight of what it means to be in a band and be a musician. You expect musicians to keep writing the same thing over and over like a trained monkey. And I think in Chester‘s defense and Linkin Park‘s defense, their last album, they took a departure from what they had been doing and they were trying to reinvent and recreate who they were as a band.
And Chester was proud of that last album. And I know it hurt his feelings when some of the fans didn’t support him. You know, he and I talked at length about that. And it really got him down for some time with some of these so-called fans, these keyboard warriors, just telling him how much they sucked and all this and that because they didn’t like the new stuff. I never understood why people feel the need to be such assholes online. You know, I don’t get it.
Mike Tyson has such a great quote. It’s like, this new age and new generation has this protection of being able to be assholes without getting punched in the mouth. I grew up and you ran your mouth and you said something stupid or you were trying to incite anger or something in somebody, you had to deal with the consequences of getting punched in the mouth. That’s how I grew up. So when I see these little bastards in their basements, you know, living with their parents and saying this or that and not even about me, I see them do it about other things or other people, it’s like wow man, you’ve never gotten your ass kicked. You’ve never had to deal with the consequences of being a shitty human being. I hold no punches back, man.
When people attack us I’ll go right at them, because I don’t play that game. I grew up, I said something foolish and I got popped. So that’s just how I deal with things. Right or wrong, that’s how I deal with things. And it doesn’t mean you have to like somebody, what somebody is doing. But why be an asshole about it? That’s something I don’t understand.
Some of these kids think they’re famous because they’ve got 100,000 followers on Instagram. No one gives a shit. That’s not reality. We don’t live in the metaverse. That stuff is all fake, you know what I mean? If you got a half a million followers and you think you’re famous because of that, try going to a city you’ve never been to and see how many people actually show up to shake your hand and hear what you have to say. And my guess is in most cases, there’ll be zero.
I just don’t understand the need for people to live this fake life online and be mean to other human beings that they don’t know just because there’s no consequences for them. I think parents could be doing a better job making your kids have a little bit more compassion and empathy for others.
I feel like so many fans of heavy music in any form are so protective of it that when bands branch out and try anything different, whether it be with synths, ballads, you name it, they’re so protective of it and wear it on their sleeves and literally buy the t shirt, that they get angry. But now it’s like we have this new generation, as you say, Internet trolls, keyboard warriors, whatever the fuck we want to call it. Before you’d have your fanzines or you would write an angry letter to Kerrang!, but now it’s just relentless in-your-face harassment.
Yeah, and so I guess my point of all that was I saw how Chester got treated on the last Linkin Park record and it really bummed him out. And we get some of that negativity, but honestly I didn’t mean to go down the rabbit hole. But for us, instead of the five assholes on the YouTube comments, we try to concentrate on the 10,000 people that love what we’re doing and focus our energy on their positivity and their appreciation for what we’re trying to do.
I don’t worry about the dickhead in Germany who’s living with his parents talking shit online. I worry about the 10,000 people that are saying how much the music means to them and focus our energy and our response is more towards those people who are appreciative of what we’re doing.
With Amends and now The Phoenix, you’ve had some pretty fantastic collaborators. Obviously Chester’s network of friends, admirers and people who’d known him and loved him reaches pretty far. You had Dave Navarro, Richard Patrick and most importantly his daughters on a song. It’s cool to have musicians and friends and people who were collaborators and friends on the album, but getting the family involved is an incredible thing that goes far beyond music.
Well, thank you. You know for us, we missed our friend. And I think you have such limitations as to how you can try to give something back to your friends who’ve passed. And this is one way that we came up with that we thought we could give something back to Chester and let him know how much he meant to us. And quite honestly, it’s giving back to the family, too. You know, in five or ten years when those girls get a little bit older, they’re going to realize what a special moment that was for them to be able to sing on a track with their dad.
And that’s as simple as it is. It’s meaningful to us. It’s meaningful to the family. And I think I can say with almost 100% certainty that it’s meaningful to Chester and he’s looking down on us, and he was with us the entire process of writing the record and recording the record. And he knows what he meant to us as a friend. And more importantly, it’s something that we can try to give back to him. And we felt like it was very special and it meant something to us as well, you know?
Now with Amends and The Phoenix in the rear view, how far did that catalog of things you were working on stretch in terms of would there or wouldn’t there be anything left for the future? Is this kind of the end of that catalog that you guys had been absorbing and going through? Or is there anything else in the tank?
So we have a two album deal with Loma Vista. That’s up after this album. I think we’re going to go on our own after this. We have 18 more tracks, 18 more songs with Chester‘s vocals on them. I’m not sure what we’re going to do yet. I need a break for a minute. I’ve been working my butt off to get all this music done and out.
Man, it’s really such a loaded question. I think for the immediate future, probably towards the end of the summer, we’ll go back in and record another five song EP or another acoustic EP like we did with Amends…Stripped. We thought that was a really fun way to do the songs, and we have some really cool acoustic performances from Chester that we’d like to tap into. So that was first on the list. But then, like I said, we have 18 more tracks that are unreleased that we could potentially do another full length or two if we wanted to. So we’ll see what happens.
I’d imagine this is something, I don’t want to say you need to get away from, but recording albums in and of itself is taxing. But this must have an emotional weight that probably wouldn’t exist if you’re working on a standard project.
People don’t realize that he passed almost five years ago now next month … it feels shorter than that to me, actually. When I look at it, it feels like he just passed last year to me. Maybe two years, I guess, at this point. But it’s been almost five years. And I’ve been immersed in some shape or form of Chester‘s passing since the day he passed for five straight years. So you know, I could use a break for a minute.
Has there been some catharsis in a strange way? Has this process kind of helped with the healing?
It absolutely has. It’s forced me to deal with it. I don’t deal with emotions real well. So having to deal with the loss of my friend has certainly to me been a blessing, quite honestly, because I probably would not have dealt with it and just packed it down. But getting to talk about him in itself is cathartic for me.
Listening to him, you know, there’s so much stuff on all these tapes that I’ve had to go through. Live performance, us hanging out in the studio, us hanging out at rehearsal where I get to actually monitor his and I conversations and the band’s conversations, interactions with Mace and Bobby and even Jason and Jonathan and Cristin. Just watching and listening back to some of that stuff. Some of that stuff will never be released. But it’s been helpful for me to go back and re-experience that stuff as an observer and just watch our relationship from the sidelines. It’s kind of a cool thing to do. It just goes back and it reminds you how special the guy was, what a great relationship we had.
Has there been any conversation or any thought of maybe doing some sort of performance of this with guest vocalists?
Yeah, we get that question every single day for the last four years. So there’s two parts to this question. Would we want to do something live? Yes, but it would have to be done in a way that was a tribute fashion that would be about Chester, where we brought in maybe some guest vocalists to sing along with Chester‘s vocal tracks. We would want to do it in a tribute fashion.
We’re not interested as a band to replace Chester. That just does nothing for us. You know, we’re all very successful humans in other aspects of our life, so we’re not chasing trying to be rock stars and live off this because there’s such little money generated from this. So this is a passion project for us. And replacing Chester would feel a little disingenuous and it would be against the entire reason we decided to finish the music in the first place.
I’m 100% not going to be on stage with a hologram of Chester. That just doesn’t interest me at all. So it would have to be done in a tribute fashion. We’d love to do something like that that’s meaningful that would be about him. But we’re not going to be replacing him in trying to move forward. And by the way, for the bands that have lost singers that do try to do that stuff, you know, Dio comes to mind, more power to them if that’s what they want to do. And if they feel that’s in the best interest of the project, by all means, do that. But for us, it’s not. This was more of a friendship project and trying to get the music out there.
You know, there’s so much backstory to this where our history was absolutely wiped out by Warner Brothers when Linkin Park blew up. I mean, they just basically erased us from the map and they’re trying to change their story now, which is bullshit. I watched some interesting comments come back across from the Warner Brothers camp where like, ‘oh, we never did know’…bullshit.
They absolutely went after the band, erased everything about us from everywhere. They took our stuff off iTunes. They took our literal CDs out of stores. They canceled and threatened legal action to our distribution channels. They fucked the band. So for me to be able to say that publicly now is absolutely 100% the truth.
And Chester‘s band management had a lot to do with it at times. They talked him into that this was the best course for Linkin Park for the time. And that’s not a diss on the guys in Linkin Park, but it’s the fucking truth. And the management at the time did push him to erase the history of the band and get everything off because they felt like it was a competing product. And when he tried to do other things they did the exact same thing to him. They never wanted anything to compete with the Linkin Park project, which I understand from a business point of view.
I get it. That was their daily bread maker and they didn’t want him doing side projects. So when he did these side projects, they’d give him a tip of the cap and a nod ‘hey yeah, yeah, that’s great. We support you!’ But they never fucking did. Everything he did outside of Linkin Park they tried to make sure that he got back to the mothership as quickly as humanly possible and get him off of that stuff. That’s the truth. You may not like it, but it’s the fucking truth.
Wouldn’t you think there would be a cross-pollination of fans? You could get all those Grey Daze fans and maybe someone who wasn’t really a Linkin Park fan and discovered the Grey Daze discography and then goes on to become a Linkin Park fan. One would feed into the other.
There’s a couple different ways of thinking about it. From the Linkin Park camp I understand that 100% because they were so big, anything that was taking away from that was costing the machine, that big machine, time and money. So I get it. Whatever he was spending time on, Grey Daze or Dead by Sunrise or Stone Temple Pilots or whatever he was doing, wasn’t making the Linkin Park camp or machine money. Once again, that’s not an insult. That’s just the facts.
So I get it from that side of the fence, but his passions lied in many places, not just one. And he always felt like they didn’t support him. Management, label and stuff didn’t support his aspirations to want to do multiple things. So when you look at it like this point of view, like oh they could cross-pollinate fans, when he’s playing in these side bands and let’s say he’s out on a tour and he’s touring to 2,000 seat venues and he’s doing well selling those out or whatever. But if you just put the shoe on the other foot and say, well, he could be playing live with Linkin Park and they’re selling out a 25,000 seat venue. So they’re constantly looking at it as a loss rather than a gain of the new 2,000 fans like, well, he could be playing to 25,000 fans. You see what I’m saying?
I get it from the business side of it, but from his passion side of it, it really hurt him. And I’ve got many, many text messages and emails going back and forth on this very subject we’re talking about. He’s feeling pinned down and feeling like he can’t do what he wants and feeling like he needs another avenue to express himself creatively. And he feels like they kind of stifle his creative wants and passions. And I’ve got many of those conversations. And it’s unfortunate because the conversations that are out there have completely tried to rewrite the history of the truth, and it sucks.
If nothing else, looking back on all of this, this project and there’s so many emotions swirling around it. But what a great gift to give back to Chester’s fans. One of the most unique frontmen ever and he had such a varied catalog and did so many great things. And maybe there’s someone who was just a casual Linkin Park fan who will find this, find Amends, and they will discover another wrinkle of this incredible musician.
Thank you. And we get those comments a lot. If you just go to the YouTube stuff and see so many people ‘oh I didn’t know about this project. This is great’, which is awesome to read. I love the fact that people are discovering this for the first time. You know, he has such a broad catalog of stuff that I think it’s not an either or conversation. You can appreciate everything he did in Linkin Park, and can still appreciate the stuff he did in Stone Temple Pilots.
I hope at some point the guys in Linkin Park release all the songs that they have with him. I don’t know if they’re able to do that, but being a fan of my friend, I think the world should hear everything that’s out there. There’s a full Stone Temple Pilots album out there. There’s five Grey Daze songs that Chester wrote just prior to his death that the world will never get to hear. I don’t have access to those songs, but they’re there. And those guys have all that material. So I’m hoping the world gets to hear it because there’s some really great stuff that never got released.
Look, we’re of no delusions as to why people are interested in this. We think we did a great job musically on this. But these are Chester‘s fans, and we’re not blind to that fact. And that’s okay, by the way. We’re here to curate these tracks so his fans do get a chance to hear. There’s nothing wrong with that. So you know, I’m a fairly confident individual. I don’t need the ego stroke and I don’t need it to be about me or Mace or Cristin. None of us care about that shit. We just want the music out there so that people can hear it. We think we did a great job on it and it was great to work with all the people on the record. I think we curated it in a way that’s going to be meaningful and impactful to the listener.
Grey Daze‘s The Phoenix is available worldwide June 17th. Visit their official website for more information!