GREY DAZE, the '90s-era band helmed by Chester Bennington and featuring drummer Sean Dowdell, bass player Mace Beyers and guitarist Cristin Davis, give fans an early listen to their as-yet-untitled Loma Vista Recordings debut album with the release of the single "What's In the Eye".
Before he sang, screamed, and serenaded audiences of millions throughout his storied career in LINKIN PARK and a host of other projects, Chester cut his teeth in GREY DAZE. The mid-'90s band released a pair of albums ("Wake Me" and "No Sun Today") but unsurprisingly the young Phoenix-based band was lacking the expertise and financial resources to fulfill their vision. In 2017, Chester announced a GREY DAZE reunion which would see the band members, now with those previously lacking resources, re-working and re-recording a collection of songs from those early releases. The resulting music represents an important, yet unheard chapter — the origin story of one of modern rock's most recognizable voices, and also a full circle moment among friends.
Prior to his untimely passing, Chester personally announced a 2017 GREY DAZE reunion on social media. As he never got the chance to launch the reunion himself, his bandmates, friends, family, and various collaborators stepped up to give the music the second chance it deserved, finishing what the late singer started.
"Over the years we'd become more knowledgeable, more experienced, and had more resources, so we decided to pick a selection of songs from our previously released albums and re-record them the way they deserved to have been treated back in the '90s when we initially wrote and released them," explained the band in an open letter posted to their social media channels in December. "By February 2017 we started recording and in June, Chester and Sean announced the reunion, with a live performance planned for that fall. Unfortunately, as we all know, that never happened."
Originally recorded in 1993 and 1996, "What's In The Eye" was re-written and modernized by GREY DAZE under the guidance of producers Chris Traynor (BUSH, HELMET, ORANGE 9MM), Kyle Hoffman and Jay Baumgardner. Using Chester's original vocals, the song showcases that, even at the age of 17, Chester was already "delivering intense, almost physically palpable emotion" (New York Times). "What's In The Eye" was written lyrically in different phases by both Sean and Chester collaboratively. The song focuses on a friend's premature death in a car accident and trying to understand the loss, relaying an emotional intensity that every listener will not only understand, but instantly connect with. The beauty of Chester's gifts were that he made others able to understand and cope with their own emotional pain, simply by listening to Chester's vocal expression.
"As a teenager, when these recordings were done, he had this incredible raw and somewhat undeveloped voice that had an incredible tone. He had this ability to sing great rock melodies punctuated by that unmistakable guttural scream. Chester's voice had a personality that made you a believer," said Loma Vista Recordings founder and president Tom Whalley. "Listening to the new versions of these tracks, I think it represents everything that the band members and the family told me that Chester wanted to achieve with re-recording this body of work."
Additional details about the album will be revealed in the coming weeks. A series of letters about the project and passion behind its release were posted on various social media channels in December. Aside from his GREY DAZE bandmates, Chester's widow, Talinda Bennington, his mother, Susan Eubanks, and his son Jamie Bennington, shared their thoughts about the forthcoming release.
Open letter from Talinda Bennington (Chester's widow):
"One of Chester's greatest gifts was music. The only thing he took more pride in was being a father to his children. Given how much he cared, he wanted fans to hear everything he did, and his musical journey started with GREY DAZE.
"In February 2017, Chester and his bandmates began re-recording their music for a planned re-release of the band's early music and by June, he announced that GREY DAZE was reuniting and would be playing a 20th-anniversary reunion show that fall. He was so enthusiastic about doing this, and he was eager to play rock music with messages that he knew would be meaningful to fans. It also meant a lot to him to be working with his GREY DAZE bandmates, Sean Dowdell (with whom he had a very special friendship, and was a business partner in Club Tattoo), along with Mace Beyers, and Cristin Davis. He'd known them more than half of his life.
"When Chester passed away, GREY DAZE's reunion seemed like an afterthought to everyone involved; they were suffering, I was suffering, and there were way too many emotions to work through before we could even think about what would happen to that project. Once the clouds lifted a bit, once we could focus on what Chester would want us to do, we looked for a way to continue what Chester was working on — the things he was proud of and wanted to share with his fans. The GREY DAZE project is one of the ways we can continue to tell Chester's story and connect with his fans.
"Through our foundation, 320, I endeavor every day making sure Chester's legacy shines a light for positive change. For us, releasing a new GREY DAZE album will shine a light on where my husband started and hopefully give his fans a better understanding of his art and a more full picture of his journey through this incredible music."
Open letter from Susan Eubanks (Chester's mom):
"It's hard for me to remember a time when Chester didn't tell me he was going to be a rock star. He had discovered music at a very young age, and I can even recall the first time I saw him sing: a two-year-old mimicking the songs to 'Grease!'; he loved to sing Olivia Newton John's!
"Music was a constant for him. He was always listening to bands, but it was when he was 13 that he began to tell me that he was going to be a singer. He was trying out for local bands, playing with friends, and doing what normal teenage boys do when they dream about becoming a 'rock star.' I was encouraging, but obviously wanted him to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground and focused on his education.
"At 15, he came home with his slightly older friend, who seemed immensely older to me in comparison to Chester, Sean Dowdell. I laugh now when I think that Sean was a mere 17 at the time. Sean was forming a local band that was in need of a singer, and Chester was eager to fill that role. That band would become GREY DAZE. As any parent would be, I was reluctant to have my 15-year-old son going to clubs but I cautiously gave my permission once I saw how Sean treated Chester, not just as a new bandmate, but as a protective older brother. Over the past 25 years, Sean has become a part of our family.
"Missing Chester is now a part of my daily life but of course, grief comes in waves, so most of the time I try to remember the joy he brought to me, and the happiness his music brought to so many people. It was in that mindset that I gave Sean my blessing to continue the work he and Chester had begun on reimagining the GREY DAZE music. A year later, Sean very proudly played me the results of his, Mace, and Cristin's work, allowing me to be one of the first people to hear it. When that voice rang out, I remembered the teenage Chester and Sean and thought of how remarkable they would have found all of this. I am grateful that because of Sean's efforts Chester's fans have the opportunity to hear his music again."
Open letter from Jamie Bennington (Chester's son):
"To be honest, I didn't know that GREY DAZE was coming back. My dad was the type to keep his work private if it wasn't finished, so I never heard about his reunion with Sean Dowdell and Mace Beyers to revitalize his first ever rock band. All that I knew was that my dad was looking, once again, to reinvent himself as an artist. Something that was far from unusual considering he was, and always will be, one of the most amoebic vocal talents to ever live. With that being said, to say that getting a call from Sean nearly two years after his death concerning an album they had been working on together in secret was a surprise is an understatement.
"Sean asked me to come down and record some backup vocals at NRG. I said yes. Of course, I said yes. And what an experience it was. In a lot of ways, I got to meet the teenage version of my father. I got to reconnect with my own childhood friends. And I got to pilgrimage to the very place that LINKIN PARK got their start. Most importantly, though, I got to work on one of the last things my dad ever made. Something I had so many questions about, like: How were they going to continue to work on an album when the lead vocalist was no longer in the picture?
"I had been told that there were no plans to bring in another vocalist to replace my dad on the album, but I didn't understand at the time what that actually meant. It was only when I stepped into the studio that I saw the magic being performed. And by magic, I mean magic. Sean Dowdell, Esjay Jones, and Lucas D'Angelo are miracle workers who not only had massive holes to fill in the production of album but had rather limited means of filling them. But they did it. They did it with only masters of old GREY DAZE recordings and the goodwill of friends and family.
"Thank you so much for having me and congratulations on accomplishing the impossible."
Open letter from GREY DAZE:
"We met Chester when he was a scrappy 15-year-old and we were 'seasoned' 17-year-olds. We've been friends, bandmates, and in Sean's case, business partners (via Club Tattoo), ever since. We were present for the highs, and witness to the lows. Chester was the heart and soul of GREY DAZE. It was his enthusiasm, lyrical prowess and emotional integrity that propelled us to record and release two albums and a demo and it was with great pride that we watched the magic we knew was in him shared with the world.
"Reuniting GREY DAZE was something that we'd been kicking around for years, but because of work and family commitments, we hadn't had a chance to turn the idea into reality until early 2017. Over the years we'd become more knowledgeable, more experienced, and had more resources, so we decided to pick a selection of songs from our previously released albums and re-record them the way they deserved to have been treated back in the '90s when we initially wrote and released them. By February 2017 we started recording and in June, Chester and Sean announced the reunion, with a live performance planned for that fall. Unfortunately, as we all know, that never happened.
"When Talinda, Chester's widow, and his parents, gave us their blessing to move forward with the project, we did so with the utmost care, making sure to honor his legacy as well as handle the music we had written together with the utmost care. We all wanted to fulfill Chester's dream of people hearing GREY DAZE music as he always envisioned it. We also wanted to make sure we had the proper steward for this.
"We reached out to Tom Whalley, the person who had been the head of Warner Bros. Records for the first nine years of LINKIN PARK's existence and someone who knew Chester well, with hopes he'd be interested in doing this release via his Loma Vista Recordings. Executive producer Jay Baumgardner and Tom helped us to see our vision through, re-recording the music but keeping Chester's vocals intact. The fact that we got to re-track and rewrite the music around his vocals was an amazing experience. This is what our good friend wanted. He wanted the music to feel fresh and relevant, so people who knew his music but not his original band, could relate to it. That's what we've tried to do with this GREY DAZE record now.
"We cannot wait for his fans and the world to hear this new album, we hope we made him, and you, proud."
Among the guest musicians set to appear on the recordings are Chester's 23-year-old son Jaime Bennington, KORN's Brian "Head" Welch and James "Munky" Shaffer, P.O.D.'s Marcos Curiel, BUSH's Chris Traynor, as well as Ryan Shuck, Chester's bandmate in DEAD BY SUNRISE. The resulting album will be released via Loma Vista Recordings.
In a new interview with Kerrang!, GREY DAZE drummer Sean Dowdell spoke about how the band formed in the first place and his first impressions of the frontman.
"He and I had a connection in writing music together," Sean said. "We loved to write lyrics because we both have a talent to express emotional intent. I just got him on that level. I could tell what he was trying to convey and I could help shape it. He was a genius in the ability to express his emotions into metaphor."
Regarding what fans can expect from GREY DAZE's forthcoming album, Sean said: "There is a depth in the lyrics on this record. Chester sings every word like he believes every single emotion attached. It's bittersweet for me. There's that big, obvious looming thing that he's not here to share this with me. But I'm very proud in how we curated this music. We took almost three years to make this record after he passed. I think he'd be quite proud of what we did."
In a 2001 interview with Revolver magazine, Chester described GREY DAZE's musical style as "early-'90s -style rock. It wasn't pop rock, it wasn't heavy metal. It was in between grunge and good rock. We didn't know what we were doing. We were just writing songs and singing. It was a four-piece band. Some of our songs were more rock. Others were more, I don't know, alternative? I've always been into punk and classic rock. The first few years of being a musician, it was all cover band stuff, and we'd throw in a few originals. The last band I was in, I was in it for almost eight years. We made two albums, and tried really hard."
He added: "I definitely know why it didn't go anywhere: We all wanted to make it, but we all wanted to make it for different reasons. It wasn't all about making good songs, where anything else that comes from that is a fringe benefit."
Bennington was found dead in his Los Angeles-area home in July 2017 after hanging himself.
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