After selling millions of albums with Extreme Behavior and Take It To The Limit, touring the world for five years and living large, the rowdy Oklahoma boys in Hinder faced the reality of a subdued life at home. They had a new album to finish and also needed to adjust to a civilian existence after an endless party. It was more of a startling transition than they expected, but it also gave them some time to contemplate their lives and what the future may hold. The result of all that soul searching comes in the form of their latest hard rock gem, All American Nightmare.
The most striking reflection of their situation is the song "What Ya Gonna Do," which asks the question without providing a clear-cut answer. "It's not about an answer, it's about how everybody interprets it," explains singer Austin Winkler. "That song is really personal and hits home with me because we are out on the road [a lot], and partying eventually does get old. You grow up and have to deal with reality. Whenever you step on a tour bus it's a fantasy world. That song came from touring nonstop for five years and then taking eight months off and adjusting to life in general. This isn't going to last forever, and how are we going to adjust all of the damage that we've put our bodies through? I ran my liver into the ground."
"We're not stupid, we know this ride will end eventually," concurs drummer Cody Hanson, who co-produced the album with Kevin Churko. "Whenever we submitted the song to our A&R guy, he always loved it but wanted the answer. We tried to come up with ideas for it, but that isn't the point of the song. It's an open question that we don't know the answer to. It is a real and personal song to us, so we didn't really feel that we should change it."
The Hinder gang -- Winker, Hanson, bassist Mike Rodden and guitarists Joe Garvey and Mike King -- is facing a time of transition. Now in their late twenties, they are on the cusp of growing up, so to speak, and wondering how that growth spurt will change them. But they haven't gotten all serious and somber. All American Nightmare is still ripe with the bluesy, gritty hard rock that they have made their name on -- in fact, it features some of their heaviest music yet -- from the snarling title track and the incensed "Striptease" to the melodic ballad "Everybody's Wrong" and the flippant closing number "Bad Mother Fucker," a drunken song that sends up male machismo with a satirical razor's edge that will undoubtedly offend many people.
"We just got completely hammered while we were recording it," recalls Hanson. "I'm sure there are things we were saying into the mic that we hope will never come out. We really had a fun time doing it."
Hinder certainly haven't lost their bad boy edge, even as they are growing older and wiser. Many of the songs on All American Nightmare walk the line between party hearty antics and second thoughts about where their wild ride is taking them. The title track even warns, "Be careful what you wish for when you dream". The metallic "Waking Up The Devil," which Winkler says is the heaviest song the band has ever recorded, talks about the things that bring out their wild side. And "Two Sides Of Me" discusses the duality inherent in everyone.
"'Two Sides Of Me' is me to the T," declares Hinder's frontman. "I had title for a song, and we wrote that pretty quick. I can be this genuine, sweet, shy dude, and then when I hit that limit and go overboard, I can be a totally different guy. I don't care who you are, there are two sides to everybody."
"We're all really nice guys -- at least we consider ourselves to be real nice, polite people -- but at the same time at night, when shots go down and we start drinking, we also have that side," adds Hanson. "We're those guys that are all or nothing. We either don't do it or just go full steam ahead, at least that's how I like to live my life. Either put 110% into something or nothing at all."
Hanson and his bandmates certainly put an excess of blood, sweat and tears into All American Nightmare. After they had a few songs hammered out during the Take It To The Limit tour, the drummer flew out a personal friend to set up a studio in the back of their tour bus where they started doing demos and preproduction for the new album, which was finished in July 2010. The quintet ultimately wrote over 70 songs, recorded approximately 50 of them, then picked eleven for the album and two for bonus tracks.
Creating the album was a prodigious effort, one that was anchored by Hanson, who actually spent a substantial amount of time in the studio on their previous two efforts absorbing all aspects of audio production. He then built a studio in his Oklahoma City home, with Rodden, Garvey and King, in on the venture. The entire new album was recorded there, except for Winkler's vocals, which were recorded at Kevin Churko's studio in Las Vegas.
Hanson says co-producing this album was rewarding because he came up production ideas right away that stayed throughout the recording process. " Whether I get listed as a co-producer on the record or not doesn't really matter, but the fact is these were my ideas that came up early on," the drummer declares. "I enjoyed it, and it was a lot of work. A lot of times when people were partying and having fun on the road, I was in the back lounge working on music. I was also down in the studio probably from two o'clock in the afternoon to six in the morning most days during the entire recording process. It was a lot of work, but it goes back to that all or nothing attitude. I enjoy working hard. This band has always been my life. It's the most important thing to me, so I really enjoy it."
The group praise producer Kevin Churko for capturing the sound and feeling they desired. He was the right man for the job after they went through a string of choices that did not quite fit. "He knows a lot about music and has really good taste," states Hanson. "I like his style; it's aggressive and is very musical all around. I had a blast." Adds Winkler: "He believed in and got what we were trying to go for. I think once we began working with Churko the songs started to come out and come alive, and the label let us do our thing."
A lot of hard work went into making All American Nightmare, and the frustration that the band felt when seeing no-talent hacks parade across television screens inspired one of the album's gnarliest moments. The mean-spirited "Striptease" calls out all of the pop culture phonies who feed the media the sex and sizzle they crave but offer nothing but empty calories. Hanson says it was inspired by "all the little pop chicks that really don't have any talent and all of the reality TV stars that are famous for nothing. It's a shot at people we don't give a shit about, and we don't think anybody else should either. We were sitting around listening to that "TiK ToK" song [by Ke$ha], and we wondered why it was the number one pop song in the country. We just didn't get it. It was really offensive, so we got ourselves really worked up in that moment and wrote 'Striptease'."
"You can hear the true hatred in my voice at one point," Winkler says of his performance during that track. "When I'm singing 'you ain't no Madonna,' I'm seriously pissed. I'm channeling a Marilyn Manson vibe there. The kids these days are buying into all this shit and shoving rock 'n roll aside, and it's fucked up."
Hinder are determined to maintain the musical integrity and raucous lifestyle of their classic rock predecessors, even if times have changed. "Backstage is not 1987 anymore," laments Winkler. "It's like a fucking library sometimes with some bands. But it can get crazy, if you let it get out of control. We can take it there for sure. The girlfriend of one drummer in a band we toured with told him that if he went out with Hinder she would break up with him. That's one of my favorite stories. It's good to have that kind of reputation. We were backstage at a country singer's show, and we heard this guy over the radio say, ' Hinder is in the dressing room? Get my girlfriend out of there!'" Despite the bravado of that statement, Winkler has been happily married for two years.
While the rollercoaster ride that Hinder have been on continues to fly ahead at full speed, the path they have taken certainly is not something they all had expected. The new song that reflects that most is "The Life". "I think it's a really strong song, and it means a lot to me," says Winkler. "No matter to what kind of life you lead or you set out for, life is never, ever what it seems even when you achieve your goals. When we sold three million copies of Extreme Behavior, if you had to