Chester Bennington’s Voice Lives Again: Interview with Sean Dowdell of Grey Daze

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Interview with Sean Dowdell of Grey Daze (Chester Bennington’s pre-Linkin Park Band)

Chester Bennington was loved by Millions, but for those that knew him well, like Sean Dowdell, it went deeper than that.

Chester was longing to reconnect with his first band and create more music. He left us before he could, way too soon.

Sean Dowdell, his protector, business partner and friend made sure that his voice would live again.

He stripped out Chester’s voice from the old recordings of Grey Daze but felt that his voice needed fresh arrangements.

He began to assemble the team that would use Chester’s voice as the foundation for new, more modern songs.

Along the way, many talented friends, and even family helped give birth to a new life: The Amends Album by Grey Daze.

For more information, go to Grey Daze Website

See all the videos on YouTube

Listen to the album here

Watch or read the interview with Sean Dowdell as we discuss Chester’s legacy, the effects of suicide, those that helped make this a reality and the true intentions behind this project.

Watch the Interview

Montreal Rocks:  Grey Daze is a band that, unfortunately, has had a lot of tragedy.  We have a member dying of cancer, internal fights and a suicide…but I want to focus on the positive.  This new album is all about reconciliation, giving new life to an amazing voice we lost, and honoring the life of a beloved musician.

What emotions did you and the band feel when you first played that album, in its completed state?

Sean Dowdell:  Wow…in a completed state.  I’m going to back up a little bit.  When we started, the emotional roller coaster ran the gamut of sadness to love to pain to excitement.  It was all those things.  As we wrapped up, I remember very specifically as we sat in the control room at NRG Recording Studios, listening to all the tracks we had just finished, to make sure we didn’t miss anything.  That was the first time we listened to everything.  

I just had an overwhelming sense of pride and love.  I could feel Chester in the room.  I knew everyone else in the room felt the same way I did.  We all felt an immense overwhelming sensation of love.  It’s hard to describe because I haven’t had that too many times in my life, that way.  That specific moment I remember very well.

MR:  I would assume it was like closing a chapter.  A feeling of satisfaction.

SD:  Yes.  It was definitely a feeling of accomplishment for sure: “I can’t believe we got this finished.”  There were so many hurdles to get there, you know?  

We weren’t even finished!  That was just the recording part of it.  We then had another year and a half of work to do.  But, at the time, it felt like we had finished.  That sense of pride, accomplishment and love that everyone was feeling was really a great moment.   

MR:  We know this was a project revived because of a phone call from Chester, a reunion gig for Club Tattoo and new stuff was in the works.  Chester was craving this, to continue with you guys.

Then…July 2017…everything changed.

I had a friend who committed suicide.  Decades later, almost 30 years, I’m still processing the feelings, those emotions and especially the guilt.  I was the one who talked him off the ledge, so many times.  I go on vacation for two weeks, come back and he’s gone.  It shows up in subconscious ways, guilt being the big one.   

Has this new album helped you heal, and if so, in what way?

SD:  Randal, first off, let me say I’m sorry for the loss of your friend.  Even if it’s a long time ago, I still know those scars are there.  The thing about suicide…if you lose someone in a car accident or cancer, you understand the reason why.  When you lose someone to suicide, you don’t.  That big question mark that hangs over that part of your life…forever.  Unless you get a note or something like that, but even then…

Losing him the way that we did, I can 100% emphasize and understand the guilt comment that you were saying.  I continually ask myself: “What could I have done to prevent this?”  

The answer is nothing.  The conscious, philosophical, logical side of me understand that the psychology involved in what happened knows there is nothing I could have done as Sean.  But that is still in my mind, every day: “What could I have done to prevent this?”

I don’t know how to get past that.  It’s one of those things that is always there.  Sounds like you are too, with your friend.  It’s something I think about all the time and it breaks my heart to think that Chester thought so little of himself and valued himself so little that he felt there was no other way out, no other way to rebound from those feelings.  It breaks my heart.  

Chester Bennington (1976 – 2017)

MR:  You bring up something interesting.  Many people think they know someone, especially an artist that writes with so much honesty, but in reality…only those close to that person REALLY know who they are.  

Who was the real Chester…the one only someone close like you would know?

SD:  He was one of the most compassionate and kind people I have ever met in my life.  I have never seen him start a fight.  I have never once saw him start an argument.  I always saw him trying to help other people.  We are in a grocery store and someone drops something 30 feet from us, he would run over and try to help them pick it up.  If someone was broke down on the side of the road, he would want to pull over and help them.  

He was helping strangers all the time.  He was very philanthropic.  Not because he had money and wanted to give it away.  That wasn’t the case at all.  I know a lot of rich people that don’t help other people.  

He genuinely wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. 

He genuinely understood other people’s pain, especially when it came to children.  He really resonated with the youth.  He always wanted to do something impactful to help children in a meaningful way.  

He was just a very kind and generous human being.  He was full of love.

Who was he internally?  He was somebody who didn’t think he was deserving of love.  That is the tragedy in the Chester Bennington story.  He never felt like he was good enough and deserved love.  

That is something I still have a problem processing about him, because he was so special to so many people.  I’m not talking about because he could sing.  I didn’t look at him as this big singer.  He was just my friend.  He was special because of the way he treated other people and treated me.  He was just a kind, gentle soul that just wanted to be loved.

“He (Chester Bennington) was just a kind, gentle sould that just wanted to be loved.” – Sean Dowdell

MR:  Little brother.

SD:  Yeah.  He was my little brother.  That is absolutely true.

MR:  To hear his voice again, is chilling.  What has been the response from the fans so far to this project?

SD:  Overwhelmingly, 99.9% of them absolutely, love what we’ve done.  They are getting an emotional connection back with someone they thought they would never get again.  I think that is a gift from Grey Daze to the fans of Chester.  That’s the way it has been received.  

They are getting closure, for those that maybe didn’t get closure with his loss.  

They are just getting a moment with someone they never thought they would get again.  

That is very special.  I don’t think we anticipated that response.  

That’s been the overwhelming feedback we’ve been getting.

There are a couple of people out there that think we are trying to grab money.  If they knew how little money there is in the music industry, they would just laugh.  

I’ve spent $100,000 on this project myself, so I’m not going to be making money.  Even if I did, it’s such a small amount that it’s not going to change my life.  I’m a very successful entrepreneur.  

I actually spent a ton of time, energy and money making this project right…doing it for the right reasons…making sure our intentions were on the level at all times.  

We made this about Chester, and I think that was a very honorable project.  Hopefully, history will record it that way.

MR:  If you would have done this for the money, it would have come out 2 years ago, quickly completed, not done with care…just out the door…get some money in the bank.  

The fact that you spent 3 years…3 years is a long time to work on something.  I can definitely tell that it’s true.

SD:  The bottom line is that we had much larger numbers coming from other record labels that we said no to, because they didn’t understand the project, from the integrity side, that we were coming from.  They wanted to exploit it.

The only guy that understood what we were trying to do was Tom Whalley.  “We are not going to exploit this.  We are going to do this for the right reason, making sure the original intention is kept in place.  If it’s successful, it’s because of that, no in spite of that.”  

He understood it from the moment:  GO.  We got a lot less money from him, then two bigger labels that all they were offering was money.  That’s the last thing we were trying to go for.  

That’s why we went with Loma Vista.  Tom Whalley absolutely understood the project and how important it was to do it, and curate it the right way. 

MR:  You had some pretty big guests on the album…from Korn, LP, Bush to Breaking Benjamin.  The list goes on and on.  Which guest did you most enjoy playing with personally?

SD:  I’m not going to answer that, you are going to get me in trouble!  <laughs>

I actually enjoyed every single one of them, for different reasons.  I’ll go down that list for you.

I did not know LP personally, but when I met her in the studio, if felt like she was one of the most genuine, honest, down to earth people that I’ve met in a long time.  

It was a joy working with her because I remember how much Chester loved her voice.  For me, it was about being able to connect the dots.  I knew Chester would have loved to work with her.

Working with Munkey and Head (both from Korn).  Those guys are just incredibly patient, and they showed up so professional.  Those guys are so super famous, they didn’t need the headache of this project.  This was a lot of work for those guys, but they showed up so prepared, and they contributed so much to the writing process that it was just a joy to work with those guys.  It was a dream of mine to work with those guys.  

Chester would have loved it, because he loved those guys, and they loved him.  

Chris Traynor I didn’t know, from Bush.  I ended up working the most with him out of everybody.  He was incredibly forthcoming and such a big contributor to the writing process with us.  He wrote 4 of the songs.  He became a close friend of mine through this whole project.  

Page Hamilton (Helmet).  I didn’t know him, but I knew Chester was really close friends with him.

Marcos Curiel of P.O.D.  He was close friends with Chester.  Never got to record a song with him, so we included him on this record.  He was just very kind, very quiet.  I didn’t get to know him very well, but I know that once again, we were able to connect those dots.  

Marcos was so incredibly respectful to the project.  

Every person really brought something unique to the project that I’m very grateful to be involved in.

MR:  Probably the most special guest was Chester’s own son, Jaime.

SD:  I’ve known Jaime since he was born, obviously.  It hit me, one day when we were in the studio:  Chester never got to record with his kids.  This is something we can give back to Chester as a gift.  How often can you give something to someone who has passed.  Almost never!

Wow…this is something we can do for him.  How cool is that.  Let’s do that.

I reached out to all the kids.  I reached out to Talinda.  I made the offer for Lily, Lila and Tyler to come in.  She just thought they were too young.

I understood and respected that decision.  I reached out to Draven and Samantha.  At first, Draven really wanted to be involved, but as time went on, he was just a little bit apprehensive and uncomfortable with it, which is fine.  

Then, I reached out to Jaime.  As soon as Jaime understood what we were doing: “I’m in.  I get it.”  

I think he realized that at his age, this was kind of a once in a lifetime thing.  This isn’t going to keep coming around.  If he wanted the chance to actually sing with his father, this was the time to do it.

MR:  It’s now or never. 

SD:  He did a great job.  He sang backing vocals for a song called Soul Song.  His dad would have been so proud of him, he did a really good job.  

MR:  We even see him in the video.  

I want to say that you’ve given a voice to someone who left us way too early.  You are allowing fans to discover a softer side to Chester, in the way he is singing on this album, and you get to honor him with this project.

We know there might be more.  There are more songs, so we never know.  

The last question is more for you. 

I know that tattoos are a big part of your life, and for Chester.  It’s something you both shared with the tattoo shop.  If you could only keep one tattoo…which would it be and why?

SD:  I have a matching tattoo with my wife that is a love magic Celtic rune.  That is something I share with my wife, so if I could only keep one, that would be the one.  

My favorite tattoo artistically is a picture of Guanyin, the goddess of compassion and mercy on my forearm.  I look at that when I’m feeling like a jerk.  I remind myself to be compassionate and understand what other people are going through with their struggles and be a better person…try to help them instead of hurting them.  

All my tattoos mean something, but to answer your question, it would the love magic rune on my back.         

MR:  You mention something interesting, having a reminder, something that speaks to you when you are feeling down.  To wrap this all up, and the tragedy that we’ve had.  I’m glad you made this project.  If anyone has those feelings of being depressed or down, maybe this is an album they can go to, to remind themselves that life is beautiful, and life does go on.  There is an end to pain…eventually.   Take it day by day, sometimes hour by hour or even minute by minute…but keep going.  

There is one line you have previously mentioned and I’m going to end with this.  The theme of the album was from Morei Sky:

“If I had a second chance, I’d make amends” – Chester Bennington (Grey Daze)

This really sums up the project, so thank-you so much for your time.

Interview: Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and MasterMind Facilitator with a passion for live music.  You can follow him on InstagramTwitter and YouTube. His Podcast RockStar Today helps musicians quit their days jobs. 

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