A bold and liberating sense of artistic change marks the July 1998 arrival of Happy Pills, the awesome third Maverick Recording Co./Warner Bros. Records album from Candlebox.
"I'm ready for the world to hear this album," says singer Kevin Martin. "I couldn't be more proud of it. It's the best we've ever done, and I think the world's ready for another great rock and roll record!"
Change. It's there, wherever you look (or listen): the evolved songwriting approach evident on the album's 12 cuts, including the involving and beautiful first single, "It's Alright"; the empowering influence of new drummer Dave Krusen, whose very presence seems to have elevated the players around him; the heart-of-the-matter lyrics of the album's first track, "10,000 Horses," which defiantly applaud change as a tool of mental and emotional catharsis.
"The dominant mood going into the studio this time was excitement," says Martin, who all but lays his soul bare on the album's intimate songs. "There was more energy and excitement than we had felt in a long time. It felt like it did when we first started the band, in December of 1991."
Happy Pills was recorded in California at Metallica's famed "Studio A" in Sausalito and at Rumbo Recorders in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley, with veteran producer and engineer Ron Nevison (Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, The Who's Tommy). The album was mixed by Nevison over two weeks at the Record Plant in the heart of Hollywood.
According to the band, the secret to making a great album is simple. "Not going with the norm. Changing things just to fucking change them," declares an enthused Martin. "So that you put yourself in a different position than what you're used to. I think a lot of the problems in today's world are based on the fact that people are afraid of change. They're afraid to make it, or to seize opportunity. Take that chance, like we did. That's when the excitement starts to happen, that's when things start to unfold."
Part of the electricity in the studio was generated by Krusen-best known as the drummer on Pearl Jam's Ten album-who joined the band last year after the departure of original member Scott Mercado.
"We wanted to find a drummer who is as excited about music as we are," says Martin. "Dave was the first guy I thought of. I'd seen him play, I'd known him for many years, and I knew he was an exciting drummer.
"He came in and made everybody comfortable with their ability. He contributes in every way, as a musician and as a person. He contributed to a cohesiveness and a comfort zone that the band had always been looking for. We were so in tune with one another that when we got in the studio it just started to unfold the way it's supposed to, which we hadn't experienced since the demo tapes we made when we were a band that was three months old. The day he joined we wrote four songs with him, and that's exactly how it's supposed to be."
The band also didn't rush to make album number three before its time. Instead, the band took some time off to reflect on the whirlwind of events that began with the 1993 release of their self-titled Maverick debut, which sold more than four million copies in the U.S.
"All we thought about was the music, and one another, and the way we wanted to write songs together," says Martin. "The feelings we were getting, the communication that was happening between the band verbally and musically was just brilliant, and that's when we knew it was the right time to make the record."
While new ways of thinking and working together were clearly needed by the four members of Candlebox, they were also aware that change can be a difficult concept for some fans, even when it's in the name of progress.
"I do think Happy Pills is a lot different," Martin admits. "I think the coolest difference is the energy of the album. The beauty of the songs, the different styles that are incorporated in every one of them. There's even slide guitar on four songs, which Pete has never tried before.
"This album is who I am. This is the first time that every song has been a real representation of who I am. The only thing you can worry about is the songs, and what you're trying to portray, and what emotion you're trying to put out there. Everybody wants to write music for the people, but if you worry about that too much you'll get pigeon-holed. That's where change comes in to steer you out of that."