Russell, meanwhile, was on the couch, staring at a spot a few feet in front of his nose. Suddenly he came to, looked around the room, and declared, "I bet I can make you all sing." Then he slumped back down on the couch.
Tonight, Russell laughs off his pie-eyed proclamation. "I don't know what the fuck I was talking about." Shaw, however, is getting everyone to sing; now he's tearing into "Plush," the early-'90s Stone Temple Pilots hit. "I still hate that fucking band," he says, before laying down the final "Brassneck" take. It sounds just as good as all the others. Halland tells Shaw not to worry, he's got ProTools and can splice together a decent guitar track out of the ones he laid down. Shaw shrugs his approval.
There's a reason the Cardinal Sin can get along in the studio: They avoid the tense, dramatic conflicts that have become rock cliché. That's because they've done it all before. They've all been in bands that have succumbed under the weight of egos and personalities that mix, as their EP puts it, like oil and water. "In Cadillac, there were two different visions," says Hanten. "So we opted out. Now we're in a band that shares a vision."
"We take music very seriously," Shaw explains, "but we don't take ourselves seriously. It's disturbing how peaceful our tours have been."
Later, Russell pulls out his camera phone and shows me a picture he took at the Mötley Crüe show a few weeks earlier. He's about 15 feet from Nikki Sixx. Seeing the picture, I'm struck by how much the Cardinal Sin's no-ego philosophy clashes with the hair-metal gods they can't stop talking about. Russell confirms my theory. "It was a good show," he says, "but Tommy and Vince really hate each other. They don't even look at each other offstage. It's like, yeah, guys, way to be a band."
Indeed. Tommy and Vince might know something about packing stadiums, topping charts, and leading a life of sin, but the consequences are laid bare with one look at their onstage chemistry. (Or Vince's beer belly, for that matter. Or his criminal record). The Cardinal Sin's collegiality, while not the stuff of bestsellers, at least gets them through the session with smiles on their faces. It won't land them any book deals, but the amps are on, the tape is rolling, and tonight, that's all that matters.