Interview: Cold's Scooter Ward Discusses 'Superfiction'

Cold may have been gone for a few years, but judging by the strong response to the band's post-reunion tour and the buzz around their new album, they were certainly not forgotten. Now, almost six years after their last album (2005's A Different Kind of Pain), Cold are back with an all new album and, seemingly, a new lease on life.

Superfiction sees the band crafting elaborate stories and endearing characters that give the album almost a three-dimensional feel. And that's exactly what they wanted.

Recently, we got the chance to catch up with Cold's Scooter Ward to talk about Superfiction, guitars and a certain web-slinging superhero.

GUITAR WORLD: When Cold broke up in 2006, was there ever a point where you thought the band would never record again?

I think in the back of our minds, we all we all thought it was just a little break. We had been touring for 11 years straight and creating records. We all had girls and kids at the time and we never got to be with them, so we needed to take a break and experience that.

In the meantime, I did the Killer and the Star solo project, which John Otto came out and played drums on. We put it out and I was trying to find a band to tour with -- and this was a more alternative band and I come from more of a metal world -- I couldn't figure it out.

Our drummer called and kind of said, "We've been off for a while, why don't we get together and do a tour with the original guys back and just go out and have fun?" So we set up a tour, the Killer and the Star opened up, and all the shows were sold out with very little promotion. It was crazy.

So all the fans kind of inspired us and told us we were still valid, so we decided to create another record.

How did the long break affect the new album?

I think when we went on tour, we were all healthier because we had grown out of our addictions and we were more focused. There was something in us that said, "Yeah, we really miss this." We had more energy, everyone was happy. It was actually kind of creepy doing a Cold record with everyone in a good place. The recording and writing actually went faster.

How long ago did you start working on the songs for Superfiction? Did it start coming together after the band got back together, or were there some songs in there that you had been working on for even longer?

There were a couple of songs on there, "Welcome 2 My World" and "Crossroads," that I had had in my arsenal for a while. I'm always creating songs and I have things I think sound good and keep on the back burner.

When we went in to create the music, it took about three weeks for the music and about a week for the lyrics, so a month for the whole record. Back in the day, it used to take us four or five months. We'd write like 40 or 50 songs to choose from, but on this record we got to about 20 and we thought we had valid material. We were ready.

How much guitar do you play on Superfiction?

I play on quite a few songs, actually; more than other records. On the first record I played guitar throughout the record, but on 13 Ways to Bleed on Stage and Year of the Spider I kind of let Terry [Balsamo] take over. On this record, I play a lot of the filler type stuff. Zach Gilbert, our new guitarist, is a phenomenon; he's crazy. He plays with so much soul, it's amazing to watch him play. He really inspired me to start playing guitar more.

What was your main guitar on the album?

Of course, we used Gibson SG's, which is a Cold staple, but Taylor made these solidbody guitars and they sent us out a couple and we fell in love with them. They have a great sound. I think they're our go-to guitars now. Those are the ones we're playing on the road. As far as strings go, we're using DR DDT strings.

What's your amp and effects set-up in the studio?

For amps we used vintage stuff, Vox and Marshall cabinets. For the new tour, we're switching to Line 6; we're going to use the Pods. We saw our buddies in Weezer do it and it sounded great, so we're going to go digital on this next world tour.

Each one of the songs on Superfiction is accompanied by a piece of artwork. How did that idea come about?

Well, you know the definition of "superfiction" is art that when you look at it actually lifts off the page and becomes three dimensional. When I heard that title, I knew that's what I wanted this record to do; I want people to be able to listen to the record and for it to come alive in their minds. I wrote these epic stories, so I want the listener to sit back and put themselves in another situation.

With Cold, previously writing more personal songs on the last couple of records, I like going back to the more imaginary, fictional times and writing these elaboriate stories. When we were doing the album artwork, I wanted certain parts of the songs illustrated. The most important parts of the songs are illustrated. When I hear those songs, those are the parts that stick out to me. It takes me to the place I want to be in when I hear the songs.

The track "What Happens Now?" is accompanied by an image of what looks like Cold's own version of Spiderman.

I wrote the song originally for Spiderman. We had a new album coming out, Spiderman had a new movie coming out so I thought why not do a song and see if we can get it on there? When were writing the song I had my whole house in Spiderman gear. I've been a fan of Marvel comics for years. I had everything Spiderman, the movie was on the big screen so when you walked in, you thought you were in a Spiderman store.

I was playing guitar and watching the movie, and instead of doing the normal superhero kind of song I wanted to change it and make it about Spiderman, or any superhero, and why they feel compelled to help everyone when it kind of forces you to lead a life of solitude. It's asking "what do you do all this for?" I picture Spiderman sitting on a ledge in New York City looking down on chaos and contemplating what he should do. What happens now?

How about "The Break," which features the illustration of the car driving off a cliff?

It's a love story, the kind of betrayal type thing where the girl cheats on the guy and he knows it. One night she says she's going home but she actually goes to her lover's house and picks him up. As they're coming home on a winding mountain road the car accidentally goes off a cliff. The bridge of the song is really the guy expressing what he really felt about the girl. Kind of a "no big deal."

You mentioned earlier that the band were in a happier place that you had been in on previous records. Do you think that's what guided the lyrics on this record away from more personal songs and more in a fictional storytelling direction?

I think the most important thing to Cold fans is the emotion, so I kind of put myself through a test. Let me see if I can create these fictional stories but give the characters such life and depth that they will feel their pain through the songs.

I think we pulled it off. The album is streaming now and the responses have been really positive. For Cold fans to feel it is exactly what I intended to do.

Years ago I was working with [producer] Ross Robinson and the first time I went up to the microphone to do vocals he came up to me and goes, "Hey man, you good?" I said I was. He goes, "You worked your whole life to do this. The most important thing is every time you approach the microphone, you have to let your filter down. When you do that, you open your heart and even if the song's not about you, you make it about you. You sing it like it happened to you. If you can pull that shit off, the world's going to open up and understand that. They'll feel that." I've kind of taken that advice on everything that we do with Cold.

At one point, this album was dubbed the "final album." Where do you stand right now on the future of Cold?

I think it's a whole new beginning. I think this is a new spark for Cold. There was never any intention of doing just this record and then calling it quits. This is what we love, this is what we do, and I think we're obligated to our fans and to ourselves to keep producing music.

The new album from Cold, Superfiction, is in stores now.

Photo Credit: David E. Jackson

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Josh Hart

Josh Hart is a former web producer and staff writer for Guitar World and Guitar Aficionado magazines (2010–2012). He has since pursued writing fiction under various pseudonyms while exploring the technical underpinnings of journalism, now serving as a senior software engineer for The Seattle Times.