In The Studio: Mayorga, Philips, and Bottrill

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In May 2011 Stone Sour was performing at a festival in Des Moines, Iowa, when, as Roy Mayorga describes it, “someone pulled a plug out of my back and everything stopped working.”

The band had just completed its set and like all good musicians, were about to hit the backstage tent for some well-earned libations and luxury. Avenged Sevenfold were hanging out, too, and the bands began to exchange war stories. But as soon as Mayorga entered the funfest area, he suddenly lost control of his legs and hit the ground, face first. His left eye wouldn’t focus, and the left side of his body was going numb.

“The guys from Avenge Sevenfold picked me up and asked, ’Roy, are you wasted?’ Then I fell down again. I took some Advil and went to sleep on the tour bus. The next morning it seemed like the bus was moving way too fast. But someone told me, ’Roy, the bus isn’t moving.’ That’s when I knew something was really wrong.”

A trip to the emergency room revealed that Roy had suffered a stroke. A combination of intense head banging, throwing his body into the music and a very low sitting position had put extreme pressure on the arteries in his neck, causing them to dislocate.

“The vertebrae in my neck pinched the artery and broke the inside wall lining and cut off the blood supply to the cerebellum which is where all your motor skills are.”

After months of recovery Mayorga could barely walk, and forget about playing the drums. He was told that if he moved too quickly he’d literally die from internal bleeding. But with plenty of rest he eventually recovered. With careful head and body management, Mayorga began tracking what would become House of Gold & Bones, Parts 1 and 2.

“When I made the demos for the records, that was my therapy,” Mayorga explains from L.A. “I approach the drums a little differently now. At first I had to really think about it when playing. But now I am back jamming again. I do move my head a little bit but not violently like I used to and now my playing is better because I don’t move as much, and I sit higher. Thank the universe. I am very grateful to still be here and able to do this.”

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Red-Light Therapy

House Of Gold & Bones, Parts 1 and 2 is a victory lap for Mayorga and Stone Sour, and not just because the drummer has returned at full force. It’s perhaps the best-sounding recording of the band’s career, and definitely the best sound Mayorga has ever achieved on record. Engineered by Mike Philips and produced by Dave Bottrill – winner of three Grammys whose credits include King Crimson, Tool, Smashing Pumpkins, and Coheed And Cambria – House Of Gold & Bones is a slam dunk of song-crafted metal crunch that defies contemporary metal production. The drum sound is punchy, sample-free, and as warm as hot honey dripping over succulent skin.

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