After the departure of longtime vocalist Josey Scott, Saliva's Wayne Swinny (guitar), Dave Novotny (bass) and Paul Crosby (drums) weren't sure if they'd be able to find a suitable replacement.
Thankfully, after a month of deliberating, the search for a new frontman led them to singer Bobby Amaru, whose arrival kicked off a new chapter for the band, one that Swinny equates with hitting the lottery.
Saliva fans will get their first taste of Amaru's vocals on the band's eighth studio album, In It To Win It, which will be released September 3 via Rum Bum Records. Produced by Bobby Huff (Halestorm, Drowning Pool, Papa Roach), the album not only forges the band into new territory, but also stays true to the classic Saliva sound.
I spoke with Swinny about In It To Win It, his gear and the best advice he's ever been given as a guitarist.
GUITAR WORLD: How did you connect with Bobby Amaru?
We put the word out that we were looking, and it was Jeff Rials, one of our old lighting techs, who recommended him. Bobby brings a new energy and a different kind of vibe to the band. He's been working in the studio for about 10 years producing bands in the Jacksonville, Florida, area and is also a great writer. He's better than you would ever know just by listening to the record. He's got a lot of experience and is also a great guy.
How would you describe the sound of In It To Win It?
It rocks a lot more than the last few Saliva records and also is a little more real and raw. There were a few songs we already had completed before we went in, but we wrote a majority of the record together in Nashville before we even started tracking. It was a new experience for us [having the band all together in the studio], and everyone had input on music and lyrics.
What was it like working with Bobby Huff as producer?
It was amazing. We needed someone who would not only let us be who we are, but also be able to get the best out of us. Bobby was the perfect choice.
Let's discuss a few tracks off the album, starting with the title track, "In It To Win It."
We've always been associated with sports but never really had a song that spoke to that. So we started out with the title and wrote the lyrics around it. The music just all came out.
"Redneck Freak Show."
It kind of pokes fun at ourselves and the rock scene. Also, if you look at what's on TV now, there are dozens of reality shows (Duck Dynasty, Swamp People, Hatfields & McCoys). I'm not sure how "real" they all are, but it's crazy. Everywhere you turn on the dial, it seems there's a redneck freak show on. The song's a little autobiographical, but it's also about things that are buzzing right now.
That was a song Bobby [Amaru] had pretty much completed and brought in. As soon as we heard the demo, we knew it was a great song. It really showcases Bobby's chops as a writer.
When did you start playing guitar?
I started when I was in junior high. My best friend and I were just your typical middle school kids with nothing to do. We eventually got tired of just riding our bikes around and going fishing on the weekends. He called me up one day and said, "Hey man, let's go get some guitars!" So we went out and got guitars and immediately it was a like a whole new chapter of my life started right then and there. I started out learning the basics: Kiss, AC/DC, Ted Nugent and Led Zeppelin.
Randy Rhoads became a huge milestone for me, as were many of the shredders after him. In high school, I didn't have much a social life to speak of, so I basically just locked the door to the bedroom, cranked the stereo to 10 and would just play and learn songs. I picked a lot up by ear and it really helped propel me forward.
Did you ever take guitar lessons?
Once I had learned the basic barre chords, I took about six week’s worth of lessons. My teacher started teaching me some songs and after a while told me he couldn't teach me anything else and that I should just go home and do my own thing. It was actually the best advice I was ever given. He saw that I was doing OK and sent me out on my own. I appreciate that because I got to develop who I am as a player instead of trying to be who someone else was.
What's your gear of choice?
Right now, it's a pretty basic setup. I'm using DBZ guitars running through Diamond amps [a Hammersmith and a Heretic], along with a few basic stomp boxes.
What can fans expect from the new Saliva music?
There are a few surprises on the album, but we kept it true to the Saliva sound. Credit to Bobby [Amaru] on that. He studied our catalog and figured out who we are and what he needed to do. He brought his own flavor in but didn't try to change things too much. We're all really excited about it. There's not a single track that I don't really dig. To me, it's the best record we've ever done.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.