INTERVIEW WITH SCOOTER WARD BY JAMESON KETCHUM
It’s been close to a decade since the world has received a new record from Florida based rockers Cold. Making their mark in the heyday of big nu metal such as Staind, Linkin Park, and Evanescence, Cold was always the dark horse, pumping out heavy anthems of tragedy and adversity, anchored by frontman Scooter Ward.
Now, with a renewed sense of purpose, tools to fight writer’s block, and the blessing of his family, Ward is poised to re-enter our psyches with The Things We Can’t Stop, a plea for understanding and discussion of the tougher topics in life. We caught Ward in Pittsburgh as the newly formed trio made its way down the East Coast, playing to rooms full of fans, young and old, as hungry for new Cold music as Ward himself.
“IT WAS A BRUTAL FEELING. THE ONE THING THAT HAD ALWAYS BEEN THERE FOR ME HAD LEFT.”
Superfiction was released eight years ago. I understand you had a long run of writer’s block? Can you talk about that and what got you through it?
Ever since I was 12-years-old I was able to sit down with pen and paper and write about things, especially when I started playing music. The lyrics I had written for the record were good, but I wanted to go a little deeper on things. I wanted to rewrite, and when I started to do that everything went away. It was a brutal feeling. The one thing that had always been there for me had left. It was pretty painful. I went into depression with it. I started researching everything. I didn’t know if I’d ever write again. “Do I have a finite amount of songs in me? Am I done?” It was a crazy thing for a few months. I started watching Nick Cave’s One More Time with Feeling. It’s this movie he made about recording a record next to where his son fell off a bridge. The movie is so emotional and well done. The cadence of his voice throughout it was really inspiring to me. I think I watched it every night when I went to bed. I watched it maybe 20 times. His desire to keep doing things when something so tragic happened just inspired me greatly. The other thing he said is that the writing muscle in your brain is something you have to work out, just like any other muscle. I started doing that for practice, it started coming back after a few weeks, and the floodgates opened and everything was okay again. I’m not going to let that happen again.
Have you read The War of Art or Big Magic?
I haven’t read them. I scan things. A lot of things I read were saying the same thing. You just gotta keep going with it. I took off for eight years. Granted, maybe some people thought that the things I was writing were good enough, but they weren’t good enough for me.
That seems to be the big debate between artists and, dare I say, regular people, should it be an endless well? Should it just be in there?
Oh yeah. Have you ever had writer’s block?
Definitely. There was a good four year period where I justified it because I had finished writing a book and I thought I needed to spend some time collecting inspiration again, as if I had gotten every single thing out of me. Then you realize you’re leaning on it too hard and there needs to be a deadline to this collecting of inspiration without producing anything.
There is something to that, too. That’s exactly what I do. I finish a record, I put a couple years into it, and when I’m done I’m like, “Now I don’t have to worry about it for another year.” Then I think if I really want to be an artist then I better just keep writing all the time. It’s something that I need to do just to keep me sane. When I was a child and in my teens and early 20s, that’s all I did was create. You get older and you have other things going on in your life, other responsibilities, etc. If it’s the one thing you need to focus on to pay your bills, you should probably entertain it more often than you do.
When you’re a teenager you’re experiencing everything for the first time. When you get older it just feels mundane.
When you’ve written for so many years you think you’ve already written about this and that. When you’re young everything is brand new.
It’s like discovering new music. It’s so hard to get excited about it.
Agreed. I found myself doing the same thing. I found myself going back to Placebo and Interpol on this record because they’re bands that inspired me in the past. Trying to find new things to inspire was kind of hard, but Interpol was coming out with new things and Placebo has always been there for me. Manchester Orchestra, too.
Manchester Orchestra is still so underrated for how big they are.
Right? It’s wild! I saw them in California with my daughter, and they were playing a cool little club. Those guys are very inspiring to me.
I still go back to Everything to Nothing often.
Yes! The saddest song I’ve ever heard in my life is “Sleeper 1972.” It’s about his dad dying, or maybe it’s not his actual dad, but that’s my funeral song. I can’t hear that song without just…the little girl standing by a wood box and the men coming to take him away, it’s fucking tragic.
Did you get into Bad Books?
Yes! Did you see them tour?
A long time ago, but that’s another one that opened up a lot of dark creative places.
So moving forward, does writer’s block feel like it can still be hanging out in the shadows, or do you now have the tools to combat it with confidence?
I’ve always thought about mind over matter. I think now that I do have the tools to keep doing it and writing, I’m hoping it never comes back. Hey man, things happen in people’s lives. I really pray it doesn’t come back.
“I DON’T HAVE TO EXPERIENCE SAD THINGS OR TRAGEDY IN MY LIFE TO WRITE SONGS, BUT IT DOES FEEL LIKE THEY SURROUND ME OFTEN.”
Really, I just want you to say we’ll get another Cold record sooner than later.
That’s another thing, I need to stop spacing these Cold records out so damn far. With a Cold record, I don’t have to experience sad things or tragedy in my life to write songs, but it does feel like they surround me often. When bad things happen I go into a shell, I go hide, and I deal with it and I start writing about it. Sometimes it takes longer than I anticipated. Sometimes I’d finish a record and get excited and tell people that it’ll be out in a month, then realize I need to rewrite half the record, so they’re gonna be mad at me. It’s that too, you have everyone depending on you to do a certain thing at a certain time. All of that bogged me down, too. It’s like the weight of the world to do this and I can’t do this. It’s been one of the most depressing things that has happened to me.
And the record is never done.
Every record, I always want to go back and do something.
You mentioned needing to go live more life in order to write. What does that look like for you? It sounds funny to say, “I need to go purposely experience life.”
With Cold and being wrapped up in Cold since 1996, I did nothing but tour and work on music. I wasn’t able to spend time with my family and I needed that in my life. There was just an empty hole in me. I needed to be with my kids, they were becoming teenagers. I wanted to go to soft ball practices and do the things that everyone gets to do. Was I a horrible parent? I want to give them a good life. I just wanted to give them everything. My sister got better, she was sick and I was with her through all of that. My kids and my wife kind of gave me their blessing to do it all again.
How’s being on stage again? Was there a learning curve again, or does it feel like home?
It felt like home again. The fan base we have is a very loyal fan base, and they’re very emotional and into the music so much. We had played many concerts before with Cold, but this tour is the craziest one. Everyone in the room is singing every line in every song. They needed it as much as we did. We are floored every night that it’s so loud. Sometimes I can’t even hear myself sing on stage.
Talk to me about covering “Run.” I understand you have a deeply personal connection to that song?
It’s a super beautiful song, period. I’m a very emo person, so when I would leave to go on tour or have to leave my family to make a record I would always listen to songs to make me a little more sad and it was always that song for me. I always sing-along to it and I sing the harmonies. I like doing harmonies in all the Cold stuff. I thought I should record it one day and do harmonies on it just to see what it was like. I didn’t want to insult them by making it something that it’s not. Other bands might say, “Well, you should make it your own.” Well, it’s not mine, it’s theirs. With the harmonies added it turned out pretty well. I’m proud of it. I hope Snow Patrol likes it a little bit.
Are they aware of it yet?
I think they just became aware of it yesterday. I’m waiting to hear back. I hope I have their blessing on it.
Snow Patrol is a bit like Manchester Orchestra where you just kind of forget about them until you hear that song and you remember how incredible they are and how underappreciated they can seem.
Yes! Exactly like Manchester.
“I JUST WANT THEM TO MAYBE ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THESE ARE THINGS THAT WE MAY TRY TO RESOLVE, BUT THERE’S REALLY NO END TO IT.”
With The Things We Can’t Stop, what would be the ideal theme or message that people would walk away with?
Oh man. It’s the things we can’t stop. Every song is one of the things. We have bullying with “Shine” and drug addiction with “Snowblind.” Regardless of what happens you’re not going to stop bullying. I just want them to maybe acknowledge that these are things that we may try to resolve, but there’s really no end to it. I know that’s a negative or nihilistic view of it, but if people understand more about bullying or suicide maybe there will be more of a dialogue about it. A great thing about our song “Shine” is that we’ve had so many parents say they heard it and it started a discussion with their kid about bullying. A lot of Cold fans have been through that in their life and now their kids are having a discussion with them because of hearing a song.
It’s cheesy, but that’s the power of music. You guys have done that for a lot of people.
I’m really thankful that we’ve been able to do that for even a few people.
How has your faith informed or inspired your creative process on this record?
I don’t know about faith. I’ve gone through different things with faith and religion throughout my life, searching for what is real and not real, God, etc. Faith comes and goes to me a lot. I’m definitely more of science guy now than I was years ago. I think the faith thing hit me during A Different Kind of Pain when my sister was sick. I needed it. I know people say, “You just go to Him when you need Him.” I don’t know if I was going to Him or just searching for something—him/her/God whatever. I believe we’re just all energy and here to give love. That’s how I want to live my life.