The Triumphant Return Of Grey Daze

Grey Daze; photo Anjella

Grey Daze; photo Anjella

Grey Daze is a band that hails back to the early nineties and was the first moment Chester Bennington brought his unique vocal style to the world. While eventually going on to Linkin Park, it was obvious Bennington always had a special place in his heart for Grey Daze, and especially his business partner/close friend Sean Dowdell. They were preparing to re-launch the band when Bennington tragically passed away. Since then, Dowdell has been toiling away to bring us Amends. It is comprised of vocals Bennington recorded with the band right before his death and is a tour de force of not only his talent, but the signature sound of Grey Daze as well.

“The band was formed around 1992,” explains Dowdell of their origins. “Chester and I were teenagers, he was 15 and I was 17. He came in for an audition through a mutual friend. He was a hundred pounds with these wire rim glasses; basically, he sang “Alive” from Pearl Jam and we knew right away he had a great voice. He went to his dad and asked permission to join the band and he gave permission and off to the races we were.

“We charted out a list of band names we liked at the time, and initially chose the name “Love Lies Bleeding”. But then someone informed us there was already a band called that; so, we went back the list and the next name Chester and I both liked was Grey Daze, Jonathan as well, and that’s what ended up sticking.”

Armed with ambition, a solid lineup, and a memorable name, the band steamrolled ahead with making their existence known. “We started writing originals and played our first show about four months after forming the group,” says Dowdell. “We put out two records in the 90’s, signed three records deals, but the band ended up breaking up in 1998. Chester and I had a bad falling out but reconciled about 2002 when we found out our bandmate Bobby Benish was diagnosed with a brain tumor and the prognosis was not good. Chester and I became business partners in something called Club Tattoo, which was our luxury tattoo studio. We opened seven locations for it in Las Vegas and Arizona.”

The reunification of Grey Daze was something both Bennington and Dowdell actively sought and fought for once they began working together again. “In 2003, we briefly tried to put the band back together and tried again in 2007 but in both instances the timing just didn’t work out,” reveals Dowdell. “In 2017, we were discussing doing another anniversary party for Club Tattoo, which Chester and I used to perform at these. He brought up the idea of putting Grey Daze back together for the event and that is how the reunion reconciled and happened.”

With Bennington fully on board and ready to commit, it was only a matter of time before Grey Daze debuted once again. “We got the other members on board and started working on three tracks in the studio once we decided we were going to work on this full-time,” describes Dowdell. “Chester was going to devote the majority of his time to once he was done with Linkin Park obligations. We set a date for mid to late 2017 for our reunion show and then we started working on music. I was in the studio working on three different tracks while Chester would be out on the road with Linkin Park; we would communicate back and forth via phone calls and emails to work out the music. We were scheduled to start rehearsals three days after Chester passed away so obviously the Grey Daze project got put on hold.”

The passing of Chester Bennington was a huge blow to Dowdell and the rest of the band. Yet there was a spirit of determination that this music, especially the singer’s vocals, that had to see the light of day. “It took me about six months to revisit the idea of completing the record and putting it out,” he recalls. “Then, I got the other members on board, Chester’s wife Talinda on board, got his mom and dad on board, and everyone gave me their blessing and we started from scratch. We stripped down all the music to just his vocals, listened over and over again, and worked from the arrangements as well as his vocal patterns. Then, we rewrote every song around his vocals and that is how we ended up with the record.”

“The amount of support we got from Chester’s friends and other musicians, some who didn’t even know him……just the outreach and support we got from other musicians was really surprising, I didn’t expect that and was a very welcome one,” Dowdell shares. “The amount of time we spent to make it right, and make it good, that didn’t surprise me but what was so special about it was that every single person involved did it for the right reasons. We did it in honor of our friend and it took two and a half years to complete it because we felt like it had to be perfect. We kept going back to the drawing board, and even have songs where we recorded three different versions and they still didn’t make the album because we felt like it wasn’t good enough. The amount of energy people put into it was the biggest surprise, it wasn’t done by myself but with everyone contributing in some shape or form.”

Of course, with this situation, there were some huge hurdles to tackle with one of the members of the band now gone. Yet a phenomenal record was still made. According to Dowdell, “I think the thing I am most proud of on the album is that we finished it, that’s first, but I am fairly confident that Chester would be very happy with how the record turned out. That was the biggest hurdle for me that we had going into this. Was this going to live up to the standards that he would have been proud of? And I think we got there.

With new music comes the question of touring behind it. “There were plans to tour when Chester was alive, we already had that in the works,” he points out. “We were getting offers all over the world to tour and he was very excited about that, as was I. As far as this project is currently concerned, there are presently no plans on touring. The only way we would entertain the idea would be to do it in a tribute fashion, where we would bring in guest singers that would sing Chester’s songs and make it about him. We don’t have any plans on touring because that would require replacing Chester and that’s just not something we want to do.”

On top of all of that, the Covid-19 pandemic hit and only threw more complication into the mix. “Originally, we were slated for an April 10th release and had to switch that date for June 26th,” laments Dowdell. “It definitely screwed up the supply chain, the distribution, all of that stuff got messed up. The people from the record company have been working from home, and still are, to get it released. We had release parties, press shows in Europe and South America, and all of those things we had planned got affected really badly. At the same time, we took a couple years to get this thing done and did it the right way, so a couple months of a delay isn’t that big of a deal.”

Dowdell isn’t about to let the virus slow him down either. “I’ve been working more than I have in a long time, to be quite honest,” he states. “I have fifteen companies, six retail tattoo/piercing studios as well. So, I dove back in with my wife doing a bunch of remodels for all of our stores while closed. I’ve also been writing a book, promoting this record, and literally have been working so much harder than I have in a very long time. So, for me, I’m actually working more now.”

As for Grey Daze, the future is still quite bright despite the complex circumstances surrounding them. “We have enough material to do one more album, if not more,” hints Dowdell. “It all depends on how this music is received…it does seem to be getting received really well. So, it looks like we will be working on the next one pretty shortly. But to hedge our bets we do want to make sure it is received well. I think that is a huge surprise for us; that we are getting another chance do another record, and that is very special.”

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