Sean Dowdell, the drummer for Chester Bennington's pre-LINKIN PARK band GREY DAZE, has opened up about his late friend's mental state before his tragic death more than three years ago. The singer's passing was ruled a suicide soon after his body was found in July 2017 at his home in Palos Verdes Estates, California.
Bennington had been candid about mental-health battles in numerous interviews over the years, saying he grappled with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse.
"We talked about some of those issues he had several times, of course," Sean said in a new interview with Finland's Kaaos TV (see video below). "First of all, he was a very happy person most of the time. And that's the way, I think, depression works — the person that you see outwardly 99 percent of the time are high on life and [in] good spirits and are fun to be around and they're laughing all the time. Guys like [actor and comedian] Robin Williams and [American chef and TV personality] Anthony Bourdain, they had this amazing personality, outward personality, and Chester was very similar that way. He had this brighter-than-the-sun-type attitude when he was around you. The pain he was feeling he didn't outwardly share. I saw it several times, of course, throughout life, but it was not something that stuck around for long periods of time."
Dowdell went on to say that Bennington was very sensitive to criticism from LINKIN PARK's fanbase, something that was amplified in the months leading up to his death.
"I'm gonna say a few things here. It may not be very popular, but it's the truth," Sean said. "And not that I wanna bring the LINKIN PARK guys into the conversation, but I think they would agree with this. When they did the 'One More Light' album [which came out in May 2017, just two months before Chester's death], it wasn't received the way they thought it was gonna be received, or at least the way Chester thought it was gonna be received, and he got a lot of negativity from fans, and it really bothered him. And we talked about that a lot. He would just be so bummed out and he would blast people on Twitter, and he would get upset. And I would tell him: 'Dude, don't let these people bring you down. It's not worth it. The music is good, man. Don't worry about this kind of crap.'
"For those guys, they worked so hard on putting those records together, and they're so used to having these accolades and this adulation from their fanbase," he continued. "And then when they put out an album like 'One More Light', and still 95 percent of the people like the music. But it's that five percent of people that just [complain], and they spend so much time — these losers in their basement, I like to call 'em — where all they have is just time to sit there and write on a keyboard about what a loser you are. It's, like, what have you done with your life?
"I don't understand what makes somebody be a fan of Chester's, and you love everything he did, or most everything he did, and then he does a song that you don't like, that you feel like you have to badmouth him or tell him he sucks and all this kind of crap," Sean added. "And that stuff really weighed on him. So I think that really contributed to part of his head spot. He had some sexual abuse as a child, and that always weighed on him, and that kind of culminated into this thought process where Chester never felt good enough or never felt appreciated or never felt like he was worth it. He had this emptiness inside that I don't think he could really explain to a lot of people. I got to know this side of him quite well. He could have a thousand people, after a show, wanting to meet him and tell him how great he is and how much he touched their life in a profoundly emotionally positive way, gave them an outlet for their own pain and their own distress, and internally, Chester would not hear that. He would say, 'Thank you,' and he would still feel like he wasn't enough. We'd have this conversation, and he'd be, like, 'I just don't feel like I'm smart enough. I don't feel like I'm good enough.' And I'd go, 'Chester, you are such a good person. Forget the singing. I don't care about you as a singer; I care about you as a human being. I don't care that you are a great singer. I care that you are such a good person.' He was one of the best friends you could ever have."
GREY DAZE's "Amends" album was released in June. The LP contains updated versions of older songs in the group's catalog featuring newly recorded instrumentals accompanying the late Bennington's original vocal takes.
LINKIN PARK headlined an all-star tribute concert for Bennington in October 2017 in Los Angeles but has not announced any future plans for recording or touring.
Photo credit: Tom Preston