Stevie Benton and his fellow Dallas friends created a metal band that has gained huge support of fans and of our troops. He is the bass player for the mega-popular Drowning Pool, which has sold millions of CD’s – even in this tough market. Recently, Benton has had to find the strength of a soldier himself: in the space of a month, the band’s equipment was stolen not just once, but twice. Four of Benton’s prized basses were ripped off on this second spree. During this time, Benton was stricken with Bell’s Palsy during a show and ordered off the road for several weeks. Military Money interviewed Benton shortly before this whirlwind.
MM: Tell me about your latest projects.
Stevie Benton: We have a record coming out. We’re touring, working up a buzz. We have a song available on www.myspace.com/usoworldheadquarters , “Soliders”. It’s a song we wrote after our first USO tour. The military had been using our song, “Bodies”, for lots of training videos, and we’re very thankful. We wanted to write a song that’s more direct, for them. Our new label was nice enough to let us give it for downloads. It’s only on the USO page, but it’s impossible to limit who can download it!
MM: Who are your musical influences?
Stevie Benton: When I grew up, what was big was ‘80’s metal: Motley Crue, early Metallica, Anthrax, heavier hair-metal. Since then, I’ve been expanding my horizons, listening to the Beatles.
MM: How did you get involved with playing for the troops?
Stevie Benton: It’s funny, it’s something we felt we had to do for the military. We had been playing in San Diego and in Texas, lots of base towns. But we seemed to be limited to what we could do outside the country. We inquired about doing USO tours, but you have to know the right channels. One day, a DJ in Dallas — she had already gone through the necessary hoops to go overseas – she extended the invitation. It all fell into place. We’ve been on our third trip to the Gulf.
MM: Do you have any family members who have served in the military?
Stevie Benton: I can trace family members who have served going back to the Civil War. My dad was in Vietnam and my grandfather served in WWII. I had relatives in Korea, too.
MM: What lessons did you learn from them?
Stevie Benton: The #1 thing I learned is to have a sense of country, patriotism. Whether you support the government or not, you have to support the people. Root for your home team!
MM: Tell me about the special logistics involved when you play for the troops overseas.
Stevie Benton: One cool thing – we fly C-130’s everywhere! They have a different kind of take-off and landing in hostile areas. It completely cured me of any civilian flight anxiety. They ask you to travel as light as you can, one bag. We have scaled back equipment and crew people. Traveling to Iraq is not like driving through the Midwest! We do bring sunscreen. We try not to let the USO coddle us. They treat us really well and we feel guilty. They were constantly feeding us! They want groups to want to come over.
MM: You’ve had a band member pass away. What advice do you have for people who’ve lost a co-worker or friend?
Stevie Benton: It’s certainly difficult. I wish no one had to go through what we did. It was really, really hard. I locked myself in a room for six, eight months. But that’s not good, don’t shut yourself out. You gotta continue to live.
MM: Have you always been able to support yourself as a musician?
Stevie Benton: No, not always. We started the band in 1995. In 2000, we made a living. Before, it was the job all day and the band all night, with just a couple hours’ sleep. I had an accounting job with Southland Corp.; they own 7-11. Mike and CJ were electricians.
MM: What did you do with your first big paycheck?
Stevie Benton: We went and bought all new gear. Also, we got our band’s name tattooed on our arms.
MM: Do you have investments?
Stevie Benton: I do. I have a money market account with Morgan Stanley.
MM: Do you manage your own money?
Stevie Benton: I have a business manager. He does the band as well as me individually. We went through a few people before him, but then we got to him through a personal reference. He’s a Southern guy, like the rest of us.
MM: What special expenses do you have as a rock musician?
Stevie Benton: One thing – we have to pay employer taxes for our crew. The tour bus, traveling…gas is expensive. You are the last person to be paid. It goes first to the labor, manager, lawyer and accountant.
MM: What’s a splurge to you?
Stevie Benton: I take my girlfriend to Bob’s Steak and Chop House. That’s like $200 for a couple of steaks and a bottle of wine. I bought an English bulldog. I bought a car and a dirt bike once. I just bought a townhouse. I’ll probably be broke for the rest of my life!
MM: What do you consider a waste of money?
Stevie Benton: My girlfriend begs me to wear a watch, but I never do. It’s not me. These days, you’ve got cell phones with the time on them. A couple of years ago, someone tried to give me one as a Christmas present. I’d rather have a gift certificate to Walmart! I don’t even want a Swatch.