At the age of 15, before finding international success and immeasurable impact with Linkin Park, Chester Bennington was in the band Grey Daze.
“As soon as he started singing, we were just blown away, like ‘when can you start?’ And he said, ‘I have to go ask my dad’” recalls Grey Daze drummer Sean Dowdell about Bennington’s first audition. Dad approved, and Chester would go on to record three albums with the band before finding his way into Linkin Park.
“Grey Daze was a point, the beginning that set him on a long journey to become a rock star,” his father Lee Bennington explains to RADIO.COM of the group that started in 1993. Chester and Sean would remain friends and eventually become business partners, as co-owners of Club Tattoo. Plans for a party to celebrate the business sparked talks of getting Grey Daze back together again, but tragedy struck with the death of Chester Bennington in 2017 before rehearsals could start.
Time stood still after the passing of Bennington, but after a few months Dowdell began conversations about honoring his life by finishing a Grey Daze album featuring Chester’s original vocals. “I said, ‘I really want to finish this album.’ We're not gonna accept mediocrity, we’re gonna do our friend proud. We’re gonna make Chester proud, and we’re gonna make sure that this is something that he would have been absolutely elated to put out.”
To honor his legacy with love, Grey Daze got to work building something new around the original tracks left from Bennington. “We reverse engineered a lot of the music,” says Dowdell in an exclusive talk with RADIO.COM. “We took all the music away, we kept the vocal track and the lyrics that was there - that was all Chester.”
WATCH MORE: Grey Daze Break Down The Making Of "Sickness"
“We kept the integrity and the intention of all of the vocals, intact from its original inception. We actually rewrote all of the music to every single song from the ground up.”
The result is Amends, a new collection of Grey Daze songs that will be released on April 10. The latest sample is “Sickness,” a song that captures the intensity and passion of the singer, with a sonic landscape rebuilt around him to make sure his voice gets the proper spotlight. Dating back to 1996, “Sickness” addresses Chester’s feeling of inadequacy and the unyielding emotions that come with it.
“It’s like an itch that can’t get scratched,” says Cristin Davis, who plays guitar on the album. “It’s like you want something and you can’t ever seem to get enough of it.”
“We had many conversations when he was alive, he just really wanted to be loved,” explains Dowdell. “I don’t think he ever really fully understood how much people loved him.”
The raw power and vulnerability of “Sickness” stands out, and to hear the other members of Grey Daze discuss it, it’s clearly made with love as an ultimate tribute to Chester.
“I think the fans are gonna have that same experience, they hear it the first time they’re gonna fall in love with Chester all over again and jump right in and hit repeat,” says Dowdell.
Beyond the music, the making of this project also was a gift to Chester, as Dowdell and company brought in collaborators that cared for him like members of Korn, and invited Bennington’s kids into the mix as well to sing alongside their father. “That was a way for us to give back to Chester,” he says. “Throughout this entire process I’ve kind of been revisiting this idea of gratitude and finding thankfulness and overall gratitude for having someone like Chester in my life in the first place. It’s easy to get caught up in the ‘why is he gone’ and feel sorry for yourself and feel sad, but the cure for that is gratitude. It’s gotten me through this entire process and given me drive.”
You can find much more about Grey Daze and this tribute to Chester Bennington in the videos above. Amends is out everywhere on April 10.