My interview with Drowning Pool bassist Stevie Benton was set for Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. EST. The time-zone conversion to Tokyo is Greenwich Mean Time, plus nine hours. Or, in layman’s terms, 5 a.m. Friday morning.

So I make the call to the Los Angeles-based music promotions firm Total Assault LLC, whose clients include Korn, Madonna and Drowning Pool, to name but a few. Total Assault informs me that the interview time has been bumped to 5:30 a.m. and that I need to call Tenth Street Entertainment in New York. Bleary-eyed, I put on a pot of coffee.

Two cups of coffee later, I call New York.

“Tenth Street Entertainment, this is (receptionist). How may I direct your call?”

“Hi, this is Chris Fowler calling from Stars and Stripes in Japan, is (management) there?”

“Chris, are you there?”

“I’m here, Stevie. Can you hear me?”

While I sit at my computer just south of Tokyo, Benton has just pulled his car over at a truck stop in Idaho. Around him truck drivers in blue jeans and flannels fill up on diesel and black coffee. To them, Benton was just another guy talking on a cell phone. Just another guy making a pit stop on his way to somewhere.

Q: Stevie, tell me a little bit about what is going on with the band right now. A: Right now we are doing a little five-week run getting everything shaped up for the when the record hits on July 24th. We’re also trying to put together another USO tour through the Persian Gulf.

Q: From a ‘news you can use’ standpoint, what’s the best cure for a hangover? A: (without hesitation) Pedialyte and DC Powder [an over-the- counter aspirin-like product]. Nothing works better.

Q: Stevie, is there anything you want to say to the troops? A: I think they are doing the most important thing in the world. I hope most people realize that if they weren’t doing the job that they do, most of us wouldn’t be free to anything that we want to. If it weren’t for the men and women in the service, there is no way in hell that I could be in Drowning Pool — to be in a rock band. I hope the troops know just how important their jobs are, and I hope that helps get them through the day.

Q: Tell me about your last USO in the Gulf. A: It was so eye-opening. It was humbling, and I can’t even begin to describe the experience we had being over there. It was really an awesome opportunity. We knew that the military had really latched onto the song “Bodies,” so after our tour we wanted to write a song that was directly for the troops. “Bodies” was about being in a mosh pit, and it is great that the military uses it for whatever they want. But we really wanted to give them something more direct — no subtlety at all — this song is just for you, it is about you and here it is.

Q: Tell me about the free downloads. A: When the idea came around to make the song available for the troops to download for free, we were really thankful to our management for allowing that to happen. I know a lot of labels wouldn’t ever do that sort of thing — our former label wouldn’t have giving away anything for free. So even before we signed with our new label, they knew we had this history with the military and the USO, so they were cool with letting us put the song out there.

Q: Very cool. So speaking of the military, if you were the president, what would you do differently in Iraq? A: Man, I wish I knew. But I do know one thing. I would try to fund the war as it should be. And there certainly wouldn’t be any of that crap what happened at Walter Reed. I can’t believe soldiers are returning and are not able to get their benefits. That’s just outrageous. I can’t understand how crap like that is allowed to go on. It just boggles my mind.

Q: With all the ups and downs the band has been through over the years, what can you say to the troops about perseverance and sticking it out? A: I can’t compare anything that I’ve been through to a servicemember that has been stationed in the desert for 15 months. That’s got to be unbelievably grueling. I don’t know if I’d be able to get through that. But I think for the men and women who are serving, one day they will be able to look back on their service. And they will be really proud of what they’ve accomplished and that they stuck through it.

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