Controlled Chaos: A Conversation With Morgan Rose of Sevendust

Sitting still is not something that Sevendust drummer Morgan Rose does well — or does, period.

Besides being a founding member of the Grammy-nominated Sevendust machine that has churned out 13 albums since forming in 1994, Rose has also made appearances on Tommy Lee’s Methods of Mayhem project, gone behind the production board a handful of times, and even developed his own clothing line, “Alien Freak Wear.” And that’s just the short version. The man just doesn’t stop.

All that’s good, but as 2019 rolled into 2020, there was one box Rose’s resume did not include: a solo album. As fate would have it, just three months into 2020, a lethal pandemic via the novel Coronavirus brought the world to its knees and gave Rose something he normally didn’t have: time. Months later, that elusive career box was filled.

A brand new solo E.P., “Controlled Chaos,” (Rise Records) was released in November, giving the agile Rose yet another mark in a long list of career accomplishments.

The six-song delivery isn’t what Sevendust fans may expect from Rose — and that’s just the way he wants it.

ListenIowa caught up with Rose recently to discuss the album, the art of songwriting, and life in a pandemic.

How have you been the last nine months?
I think the first few weeks, I was like, “This isn’t a big deal. It’ll be over in a few days.” Then it ended up that they shut us down out here in California for three weeks, so then we knew it was definitely going to last a month. Then it became that the world is shutting down. The first part of that was definitely (filled with) anxiety. Nothing was going on except everyone calling each other and asking what they’d heard. Then when it became apparent we weren’t going to go anywhere for awhile, I decided to do a solo record.

So “Controlled Chaos” was born out the pandemic.
Oh yeah. No question.

Did you have any thoughts prior to that about doing a solo album?
It was like pillow talk, you know? I’d talk to Clint and a few people. I thought it would be cool to do one day, but it’s a whole lot of responsibility. I didn’t want to be a front man, and I didn’t want it to be a drum record. Or I didn’t want it to be the thing that I call mine but everybody else writes it and I just drum on it.

With your background, it would seem that you’re certainly qualified and capable.
I do a lot of lyric writing and melodies. I knew I could do it, but I didn’t know about writing 10 or 12 songs. That’s a lot of time. So everything lined up in the sense that Clint (Lowery, his Sevendust bandmate) ended up having some extra material that he thought I’d be interested in, and I was able to take that and exploit it and write vocals and drums and some piano stuff.

What was the timeline of “Controlled Chaos,” start to finish?
I got to California on March 6, and I was suppose to leave on the 9th, but I didn’t leave for two months. I tracked the first song, “Clarity,” at the end of April, with no expectations. The idea was that I was going to go ahead and do the song and maybe release it on my website or something. I wasn’t even thinking about Rise Records (Sevendust’s label), but my manager said to at least let them hear it. I flew back to Atlanta on May 6, and then two days after I got home, my manager called and said, “Congratulations. You have a record deal.” I was like, “Huh? OK, well, I guess I need four more songs.” Over the next few weeks, I put together four more songs, and had three more that Clint had. But there was this piece of music where I had this vision that I wanted to do something with it without drums and dig into it lyrically. Finish out the record with this particular idea. It was a heavy statement for me and super personal. The idea was all there, I was just having a hard time following the phrasing on it. I was doing some work with Andrew Groves from Arcane Roots, so I told him, “Hey, I’ve got this piano piece that me and Clint have been screwing around with. Can you make heads or tails out of this and maybe simplify it so I can find a place to maybe fit this idea?” “Exhale” came out of that.

It sounds like this truly did come together in a sort of “controlled chaos” fashion.
Yeah, it was kind of an overnight thing. One minute I was going to do a song, and within a week-and-a-half, I’m doing an E.P. and I’ve got a record deal. Then you’ve gotta go through photo shoots, then put the things together and write the songs, then a video. It wasn’t about just writing some music and leaving. There’s usually four other guys that I’m usually able to bounce the work off of.

When you did get to the studio, you recorded all the six songs in less than 10 days.
Clint sent the guitar parts over, then I went into the studio with my girlfriend and played all the drums and sang it. It was really easy, other than me losing my voice early and having to call up Lajon (Witherspoon, Sevendust bandmate) and Clint and figuring out how to go about getting my voice back. They talked to me, and got me through it. It was actually an easy record.

You checked a lot boxes on the E.P. by varying the styles of music.
Things just kind of fell into place on their own. With this, I had the luxury of talking to Clint before he sent everything. He was asking me what kind of vibe I was looking for. I just told him that I didn’t want it to be this predominantly heavy thing. That’s what’s expected, not to mention that Sevendust had a record coming out, and I didn’t want to compete with my own band. But I’m not really competing with them anyway. None of us are touring, and I don’t plan on touring (on the solo album).

You seem to have a strong sense of melody in your DNA. Where did that come from?
I really don’t know. We were heavy into music in my household. I think I learned it over the years through writing songs. It’s so funny that things that seemed to matter so much back then, don’t matter now. I remember being told that since I was the drummer, I wasn’t going to make any of the money unless I wrote. That shouldn’t be the driving force to get you to get involved. It should be, “I want to write because I have something to say. Or I want to learn how to convey this.” I wanted to be taken seriously because I have something to say. I’ve learned from everyone I’ve written with, and it’s been a long trip.

Do you have more songs in the can for another solo release later?
I probably will put together another solo thing. I don’t know when. It was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun. If everybody would like to hear some more of it, I’ll give it to them. I have plenty.

In an interview recently, Wolfgang Van Halen he mentioned that you two are friends. Have you heard his new single, “Distance”?
Oh, my God, yeah. I’m very close with Wolf and the Van Halen family. That has affected me maybe more than anyone. We (Sevendust) are friends with the Van Halen family. Wolfie played drums on Clint’s solo record. We’re very close with them. Wolfie is one of the greatest musicians I’ve come in contact with, and we’ve known him since he was a baby. We’re beyond proud of him. He absolutely just crushed with his record. I haven’t even heard to whole thing, but this song was a beautiful tribute to his dad.

What’s been the reaction to the new Sevendust album (“Blood & Stone”) that came out in October?
Yeah, it just goes to figure that the record comes out, it’s the highest charting record we’ve ever had, and we can’t go out and tour it. That’s like Sevendust Law. Not Murphy’s Law. We have the highest charting record of our career and what are we going to do? Not tour it. We will, no matter what, even if it’s two, three or five years from now. That will be the record we tour first. It’s kind of a bummer to say the least. But we’ve been sitting on that album for at least a year, and we didn’t want to get to the point where it was just a lost record. We love it, so it was like, “You know what? I think the people would like some new music, even if it’s only for a brief moment.” Peoples’ attention span isn’t what it used to be, but in our minds, even if it’s just for a few weeks where they get it, take some time to get through it and then find something else, at least it’s something new and cool. We really care about the people who support our band. It was cool to see them enjoy it and to see their reaction.

And you have a live event on Jan. 8 in which you guys are playing “Animosity” front to back.
Yeah, I’m terrified of that. (Laughs) Some of those songs we’ve never played live. How the hell is that going to sound when we’ve never played it? (Laughs)

Last question: You filled in for Tommy Lee of Motley Crue for a few dates on their Cruefest years ago. What was your favorite Crue song to play?
Oh, my God. (Laughs) Probably “Home Sweet Home” because I got to sit back and enjoy what was going on around me. It was fun to play some of those songs for sure, but I was so rattled in my mind. I was like, “I can’t believe this shit’s happening. (Laughs) I don’t even know what the hell I’m playing up here.” But when it came time for “Home Sweet Home,” I had a little bit of time to sit up there, look and around and think, “Man, this is crazy!”

“Controlled Chaos” track listing:
01. Intro
02. The Answer
03. Faster Man
04. Clarity
05. Come Alive
06. Exhale