The question meets the deafening silence and blank stares normally reserved for the Final Jeopardy question at an old folks home. It's hard to get anything serious out of Injected when they're all together, one-liners and inside jokes fly with abandon. What I have been able to glean from them in our conversation is that Injected has grown up together in the same small town outside of Atlanta, has played together for the better part of the last decade, and been each other's best friends throughout. Together they have faced the usual industry challenges along with personal and spiritual conflicts, which ultimately have helped sustain their musical and creative output since the band's inception.
With hummable debut disc Burn It Black, Grady and his Injected mates, guitarist Jade Lemons, bassist Steve Slovisky and drummer Chris Wojtal, breathe tuneful life into the current rock scene. The group's massive sound, an adrenaline rush of guitars, surging rhythms and melodies filled with butcher-sized hooks, captures the thrill of heavy rock at its best.
"I've heard people say there's a 'Seattle sound' to our music and I can understand where they're coming from," says Grady. "I grew up on song-oriented groups like the Beatles and the Beach Boys, then later discovered the heaviness and power of bands like Soundgarden and Nirvana. I like the combination of both, with the most important thing being the songs and melodies. Everything has to serve the song. I remember seeing Nirvana on MTV for the first time and thinking, "Wow, these guys are heavy as shit and have great songs. I also liked the fact that they didn't have to dress up," he smirks. "I wasn't into the glam thing and didn't want to be in a band where I'd have to wear cowboy boots and spandex."
Fashion faux-pas aside, Grady has no fear of being out of style: in the midst of popular punk-pop movement of the '90s, he decided to "do something unfashionable and start a metal band." "I called Chris and Steve, both of whom I knew from high school, and told them I wanted to demo a few songs. It didn't start out as anything serious, but after practicing for a few months and recording, we really liked it and started doing shows. Jade Lemons was another friend from the local Atlanta scene, so we asked him to join after deciding a second guitarist was needed to fill out the sound."
Injected spent the next few years honing their craft, building a buzz, and playing any hole-in-the-wall that would have them. Every dime earned was spent on pressing demo copies, which were then given away during their packed-house performances. "Playing around Atlanta has been great," says Jade. "Since it doesn't have the music industry presence of New York or Los Angeles, the pressure to be the next greatest thing isn't so high. As a result, the scene is very eclectic because a lot of bands are content to just be themselves. It's definitely helped us to stay focused."
Though they claim there's no place like home, Injected admit they were definitely inspired by last year's trip to Bearsville Studios in New York's Catskills Mountains, where they recorded Burn It Black's basic tracks. "I'll never forget that experience," says Jade. "That place has such an amazing history. The Band Robertson recorded there; it's where Jeff Buckley recorded Grace and Metallica did And Justice For All, it was incredible." Adds Grady, "I remember driving to the studio and being excited at the possibility of everything. As we got closer, we came upon this amazing little ski chalet-looking house on the side of the mountain and I thought, 'God, whoever lives here is the luckiest bastard in the world.' When we found out that was where we'd be staying, we were so happy we got drunk and ran around naked in the woods for three hours."
Produced by Butch Walker (Marvelous 3) and mixed by Rich Costey (Rage Against The Machine, Fiona Apple, Jurassic Five), Burn It Black is tightly packed and filler-free. "Butch really helped us to tighten the songs," says Grady. "He came up to us one night after a show and said he really dug the band. So I called him afterward and asked if he'd like to produce the record. He came down and did a terrific job. He's a pop guy and I'm a metal guy and we each pulled in opposite directions. We knew we'd wind up landing somewhere in the middle and it turned out great."
The amp-taxing disc hits the ground running with "When She Comes," a master blast of jagged guitars and propulsive rhythms served up with a wink and a leer (laughs Grady,"The title says it all."). The molar-loosening shot of title track "Burn It Black" and lead single "Faithless" follow, each a blend of sweaty garage band workouts and thick, sprawling melodies (think Burt Bacharach meets Black Sabbath).
Then there's "Only Hurts Awhile" (about alcohol addiction) and "Misfortune" (about being paralyzed by depression) both of which blend creamy middles with crunchy air-guitar-worthy exteriors. According to the vocalist, he wrote the two songs as gifts for friends struggling through turbulent times. "I'm pretty well-adjusted and need lots of screwed-up friends," he jokes. "That way I can say, 'Okay, tell me more about this problem of yours, I need to write a new song.'"
With "Bullet," Grady takes an unflinching look at the rash of recent school shootings. "What did you sell your soul for?" he screams. "Was it a gun and a bullet and a chance at revenge/You got props from the boys on the block/A cross to bear that never ends/What did you sink so low for?"
"I wrote the song after reading an article about violence in schools and the thug mentality a lot of young kids are trying to adopt. The whole thing is so ridiculous. These kids all have the same insecurities and the same problems at home; there's no reason for them to hate or want to kill each other. And even worse, they don't think about the repercussions of their actions."
Without skipping a beat, he quickly adds, "You want to get back at someone who treated you badly in school? Show up at your high school reunion driving a Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL, that's revenge."
After years of dues paying, nobody understands the concept of last laughs better than Grady. "There was a point where all the labels were interested in the band," he recalls. "But because we were different, no one knew what to do with us. It made me crazy. I didn't know why things weren't happening and I began to over-analyze everything. Luckily we stuck to our guns and did our own thing and here we are. You have to remember that at the end of the day, it's not about making your band the heaviest, or the most rebellious, or having a token bald guy in your group. It's about art, and making something that will last long after you're dead."