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Shinedown on New Album ‘Planet Zero’: ‘This One Tried to Kill Me a Couple Times’

| January 26, 2022

Early during the pandemic, Shinedown‘s Eric Bass began referring to the United States as “planet zero.”

“That was my nickname for it,” Bass, joined by frontman Brent Smith, tells Billboard via Zoom. “It seemed like there was zero intelligence, zero tolerance for anybody’s opinion, zero accountability for anything. We kinda looked at each other and were like, ‘Let’s write a song about what’s going on planet zero.’”

Today (Jan. 26), Shinedown releases that song and accompanying lyric video, with a West Coast tour kicking off tonight in San Francisco. The stomping heavy rock track gave context and focus for an entire album, also called Planet Zero, that’s coming out April 22 on Atlantic Records (pre-order here). Bass produced the 13-song set, as he did with its predecessor, 2018’s Attention Attention, helming a high-concept treatise on societal affairs during the past 22 months, including the travails of living through a pandemic, the pitfalls of social media, mental health issues, political divisiveness, partisan media and cancel culture.

“There’s a lot to unpack with the record,” Smith explains, “but ultimately this is a record about pulling the curtain back. When we started writing it was like, ‘Do we do the crystal ball method…try to write about three years from now, ’cause it’s not always gonna be like this? It’s gonna get better.’ And ultimately what happened was things just were not getting better and things were getting even more divisive. We’ve always been an honest band, so it was impossible not to write about what we saw going on…these narratives that are being pushed and are just dividing us. We feel like it’s really dangerous.”

Bass adds that Planet Zero and its title track are “a glimpse into the future if we continue with the way we’re treating each other. This record is a warning, in a lot of ways, to everyone. It’s not a record for the right, it’s not a record for the left…for Black, white, Asian, Hispanic. It’s a record for all of us. There are a lot of really inspiring songs, a lot of songs with a lot of humanity in them, but it’s a glimpse into a potential future and it’s a warning that if we don’t start to view everything through a human lens…we could be headed for a really, really bad place.”

Shinedown — which also includes guitarist Zach Myers and drummer Barry Kerch — recorded Planet Zero throughout the pandemic, mostly in Bass’ newly built Big Animal Studio in the band’s homebase of South Carolina. It employs interludes from a dystopian, A.I.-like character named Cyren as a narrator to guide listeners through the set and knit the themes together as the group roars through tracks such as “No Sleep Tonight,” “The Saints of Violence and Innuendo,” “America Burning” and “A Symptom of Being Human.”

The bar is set high, of course. Planet Zero‘s six predecessors have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide and all gone gold or better — double platinum in the case of 2008’s The Sound of Madness. Its past four releases have debuted in the top 10 of the Billboard 200, and Shinedown has the most No. 1s on Billboard‘s Mainstream Rock Songs chart with 16 chart-topping singles, the most of any act in the chart’s 40-year history. Attention Attention, meanwhile, was accompanied by a companion film, directed by Bill Yukich, visualizing the album’s exploration of mental health issues.

“I do like to get uncomfortable,” explains Bass, who also engineered and mixed the album. “I always want to hear something different, sonically. I have to have a goal on every record. I like to have an endpoint I’m trying to meet. If I achieve it, who knows, but I’m always looking for something different.” Smith elaborates that Bass “didn’t want to do what he calls ‘band in a can,’” which led to some different sonic approaches on Planet Zero, whether it was a “dry” presentation of the vocals or a distinct lack of reverb throughout the album.

“We’re known for making these big, cinematic records,” Smith notes. “This time around we pushed everything to the front for the listeners, not layering so many things or having a lot of effects or cues or things of that nature. Instead of taking a guitar track and stick it, like, 12 times to make it bigger, it was more like finding a great sound and turning the amp up as loud as it can go. It changes the sound of the record. It makes it meaner, raw.”

Getting to that point was not easy, however — especially for Bass, who Smith says “did not sleep for a year” during the process.

“This one tried to kill me a couple of times,” Bass acknowledges. “There was a lot of self-doubt, a lot of wondering if I should mix it or not, that type of thing. I had a lot of disdain for it the whole time I was making it. But in the end I think that’s what gives it its edge. There’s a lot of my anger about this record in the record. I’m not mad at it now. I’m really proud of it, but in a very real way this record was made with a lot of blood, sweat and tears.”

Shinedown, ‘Planet Zero’

Shinedown will be filming a music video for “Planet Zero” later this week in Los Angeles with director Charles De Meyer, who’s also on board to helm a video for another track. The group is planning what Smith calls “probably the most ambitious marketing campaign we’ve ever put together for a record,” and Bass adds that there’s some discussion about bringing the Cyren character to life in some manner. Shinedown is also looking at a full year of touring, with dates currently announced through early August in North America and Europe — where the quartet will play festivals and open two shows for Iron Maiden.

Shinedown did play dates during 2021, while Smith and Myers toured as a duo last year and in 2020 to promote a pair of EPs. But the full quartet is more than ready for its global return.

“Everybody’s excited as hell about these (upcoming) shows,” Smith says. “We know how to tour, even in the midst of Covid. It’s a little different, yeah, but what doesn’t change is the energy and what you’re there for to do for people. I’m always terrified before I go on stage, and I would worry if I wasn’t nervous ’cause that lets me know I’m alive. But once you step foot on the stage, the mechanism takes over and the muscle memory ignites. We’re just ready to go, man.”

The Planet Zero track list:
1. 2184
2. No Sleep Tonight
3. Planet Zero
4. Welcome
5. Dysfunctional You
6. Dead Don’t Die
7. Standardized Experiences
8. America Burning
9. Do Not Panic
10. A Symptom Of Being Human
11. Hope
12. A More Utopian Future
13. Clueless And Dramatic
14. Sure Is Fun
15. Daylight
16. This Is A Warning
17. The Saints Of Violence And Innuendo
18. Army Of The Underappreciated
19. Delete
20. What You Wanted

SHINEDOWN TOUR DATES 2022

January 26 – San Francisco, CA @ The Warfield ^
January 28 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern ^
January 29 – Valley Center, CA @ Harrah’s Resort Southern California ^
January 30 – Phoenix, AZ @ Arizona Federal Theatre ^
February 1 – Denver, CO @ Mission Ballroom ^
February 2 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex ^
February 4 – Las Vegas, NV @ The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas ^
February 5 – Reno, NV @ Grand Sierra Resort & Casino ^
February 7 – Seattle, WA @ Moore Theatre ^
February 8 – Portland, OR @ Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall ^
April 1 – Spokane, WA @ Spokane Arena #
April 2 – Boise, ID @ ExtraMile Arena #
April 4 – Billings, MT @ First Interstate Arena #
April 6 – Fargo, ND @ FARGODOME #
April 8 – Green Bay, WI @ Resch Center #
April 9 – Peoria, IL @ Peoria Civic Center #
April 11 – Sioux Falls, SD @ Denny Sanford Premier Center #
April 12 – Des Moines, IA @ Wells Fargo Arena #
April 14 – Toledo, OH @ Huntington Center #
April 15 – Hershey, PA @ GIANT Center #
April 16 – Uncasville, CT @ Mohegan Sun #
April 18 – Portland, ME @ Cross Insurance Arena #
April 20 – Baltimore, MD @ Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena #
April 22 – Charleston, WV @ Charleston Coliseum #
April 23 – Columbus, OH @ Schottenstein Center #
April 24 – Grand Rapids, MI @ Van Andel Arena #
April 26 – Evansville, IN @ Ford Center #
April 28 – Wichita, KS @ INTRUST Bank Arena #
April 29 – Little Rock, AR @ Simmons Bank Arena #
April 30 – Birmingham, AL @ Legacy Arena #
May 3 – Greensboro, NC @ Greensboro Coliseum #
May 4 – Nashville, TN @ Bridgestone Arena #
May 6 – Greenville, SC @ Bon Secours Wellness Arena #
May 7 – Knoxville, TN @ Thompson-Boling Arena #
May 21 – Daytona Beach, FL @ Welcome To Rockville
June 3 – Nuremberg, Germany @ Rock im Park
June 5 – Nuremberg, Germany @ Rock am Ring
June 7 – Budapest, Hungary @ Groupama Aréna +
June 9 – Hamburg, Germany @ edel-optics.de Arena
June 11 – Donington, UK @ Download Festival
June 13 – Belfast, UK @ Ormeau Park +
June 16 – Utrecht, Netherlands @ Tivoli Vredenburg
June 17 – Clisson, France @ Hellfest
June 18 – Dessel, Belgium @ Graspop Metal Meeting
July 14 – Madison, WI @ The Sylvee ^
July 19 – Quebec, QC @ Centre Videotron *^
July 20 – Montreal, QC @ L’Olympia *^
July 22 – Toronto, ON @ History *^
July 23 – Windsor, ON @ The Colosseum at Caesars Windsor *^
July 26 – Winnipeg, MB @ Burton Cummings Theatre *^
July 27 – Moose Jaw, SK @ Mosaic Place *^
July 29 – Saskatoon, SK @ TCU Place *^
July 30 – Calgary, AB @ Grey Eagle Resort & Casino *^
July 31 – Edmonton, AB @ Convention Centre *^
August 2 – Penticton, BC @ South Okanagan Event Centre *^
August 3 – Abbotsford, BC @ Abbotsford Centre *^
KEY:
* with Pop Evil
^ with Ayron Jones
# with The Pretty Reckless and DIAMANTE
+ with Iron Maiden

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