Scott Stapp loves God but isn't a Christian, divorced his wife but still lives with her and is America's biggest rock star but is hated by the press. We have a mere 30 minutes to get to know CREED's singer
Aaron Wilkes, Creed's man-mountain of a tour manager, has some bad news. He's just met us at the production gate of Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky, a faceless, concrete hockey shed on the outskirts of this unremarkable city.
The deal is this: we've come out here to spend the day with what is, without doubt, America's most successful rock band of the year, Creed. We've come out here to do a fly-on-the-wall/life-on-the-road piece on this, the penultimate date of the group's year-long tour in support of their second album, "Human Clay. To do this we're going to hang out with the band, get some photos, get some quotes, get the story, bring it home. It'll be great
Only it isn't, cos nobody's told Aaron Wilkes or Creed any of this. A nice man but not one who's gonna get knocked off course by a good-cop, bad-cop routine from England, Wilkes comes lumbering out of the backstage area with a list of what we can do and a list of what we can't do. And one of these lists is a lot longer than the others.
Turns out that I can do an interview with Scott Stapp, the band's singer, for half an hour - reduced down from an hour - and snapper Wolliscroft can do some live shots but no photo session. For a transatlantic flight and a three-page feature this is not a result. The band are set to do a meet-and-greet in a few minutes - can we shoot that? No we can't. Can we just go up to the meet-and-greet and check it out? Wilkes looks at me for a moment as if puzzling something out. "Sure," he says, with his head cocked to one side.
Nothing this big happens by accident. Creed are America's most successful rock band right now, and that's not a statement that's open for discussion. You might have thought that honor would go to Limp Bizkit. You'd be wrong. Ditto Marilyn Manson, Slipknot or The Offspring. As for the Deftones, they're not even on the radar. Creed have sold eight million copies of "Human Clay", and their most recent single, the ubiquitous "With Arms Wide Open", was in the US singles chart for half a year before finally nestling itself onto the Number One spot 27 weeks after its' release. That's not a sleep hit. That's a coma.
This current tour plays in venues of between 10 and 20,000 capacity and sells out in most towns (although, strangely, not tonight in Kentucky). The logistics of such a tour are mind-busting. Creed have a road crew of 25 people, excluding local hands, band and management. The tour travels around in seven monster trucks and four buses carting around serious hardware in the form of a state of the art MDAS PA system and an XL4 mixing desk. The production, even in arenas, costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. Next summer Creed plant to move their show into the stadiums of their strongest "markets" - that's a word they use a lot by the way, "markets" - places like Soldier Field in Chicago and Tiger Stadium in Detroit.
But first we have a meet-and-greet to see. The event takes place in a stiflingly luxurious banqueting room upstairs at the Freedom Hall. It's here that I first learn something fundamental about Creed: the meet-and-greet is not for fans of the band - as I'd been naïve enough to assume - but for people within the music industry who have been loyal to the cause in the past year. That means radio guys, media guys, TV guys, movers and shakers.
Creed are nothing if not radio and industry friendly. Men with pony tails, gray suits, baseball caps and radio station hockey shirts mill around drinking free beer and talking about - and I'm not making this up - Hall and Oates. And into this step Creed - that's Stapp, drummer Scott Phillips and virtuoso guitarist Mark Tremonti - looking both at home and at ease. They pose for snapshot photos, they shake hands, they sign autographs. The three of them are given Louisville Slugger baseball bats as souvenirs of their visit to the town. They look pleased. After 15 minutes of chatting and smiling, Scott Stapp makes his excuses and leaves. "I have this interview to do," he explains. He's talking about us.
"You can't plan for this level of success."
Okay, perhaps plan was not the right word. Did you aspire to this level of success?
"Aspire to?" Stapp repeats the word and then sits quiet for a moment to see if it's a good fit. "I think anybody who gets in a band wants it to go as far as it can possibly go. They want their music to get out to as many people that are into it and want to hear it. So I think that everyone would aspire to going as far as they can go."
We're sitting in Creed's dressing room which is actually a locker room for a sport team that plays at the arena, the Louisville Jaguars ice hockey team. Not that you'd know it today as the place is made into a little home away from home for the band. Sofas are placed around a coffee table in the middle of the room, a giant TV screen plays the CNN news channel and candles flicker around us.
Scott Stapp sits on one of the sofas, chewing tobacco and talking quietly. Some of the questions he answers, some he doesn't. Every so often he'll duck his mouth into a plastic cup and squirt out a mouthful of tobacco juice.
Spending half an hour with someone is not really to know what they're like, more what they're like to be interviewed. Stapp, for his part, is polite but impersonal. I'm not sure in the whole time I talked to him that he looks me in the eye once. Every question is answered in a tone and expression of grave-faced solemnity. I've not idea what it would take to make Scott Stapp laugh.
Much has been made of Creed's Christian credentials. Stapp for his part does little to dispel this notion: "I believe in God, although I'm not sure I believe in Christianity." He says, and makes no apologies for the numerous Biblical references scattered throughout the lyrics of Creed songs. Stapp is also strong on the "moral framework" that envelops his band.
The singer was born 27 years ago to Steve and Linda Stapp. His father, now a dentist in Orlando, was and is "a very outspoken Christian person" and Stapp was raised in a household of Pentecostal austerity. Rock'n'roll was frowned on - to say the least - and he ran foul of his parents for listening to, of all things, a Def Leppard record. It begs the question what Stapp's parents think of what he's doing now.
"They're very proud, they say" is the response. Stapp lets that "they say" hang in the air just long enough for it to sound ever so slightly menacing. "It's a weird situation for me because in the beginning, when we were struggling and I had made a commitment to doing this, my father wasn't supportive at all. He was urging me to stay in school, saying that this was never going to work out, that this wasn't a good career move for me. I now have to deal with the fact of whether my parents might just be proud of me because of the attention that's been given to them through me. You know, their son's doing so well now and how that looks on them"
Do you think they feel that you have been vindicated by your success?
"Probably," he shrugs. "If I wasn't successful, then this would be an evil lifestyle that I'm leading."
On October 21, 1998, Scott Stapp himself became a father. His son Jagger Michael Stapp, "Jagger means one who carries a message and Michael means sent by God; and I feel that my son was sent by God to me," he explains, was born to his then-wife, Hillary. The pair, who were married in Las Vegas when he was 24 and she just 19, have since split, although they both continue to live in Stapp's house in Orlando raising their child together.
Wouldn't it have been more in accordance with Stapp's moral and Christian framework if the couple had stayed together?
"Oh, of course," agrees the singer.
Do you mind me asking why you didn't then?
"Oh there are so, so many reasons," he says. "All of them are personal and none of them I'm going to share with you. Relationships don't always work out. The center of it was that Hillary had a hard time dealing with my life, my success. She had a harder time dealing with it than I did. But we're still friends; we'll stay friends forever. It's just a different type of relationship now. It works a lot better."
Creed were recently on the front cover of US magazine "Spin". A letter in the following edition had this to say: "Hey, it's great to see Stryper back on the cover of Spin. What happened to their yellow jump suits?"
Credibility and respect are problems for Creed. I ask Stapp if he's aware of the fact that many in the UK think of his band as a second-rate Pearl Jam?
Second-rate Pearl Jam is vicious," he says. "That's an attack, it's something mean. We don't sound anything like Pearl Jam. The music is completely different, the lyrics are completely different. I just think people like to make comparisons. What people don't realize is that the press have really hurt me, man. I take this band so seriously, it's my whole life."
Could you give an example?
"I don't mind someone not liking the band or not like the music," he says, "but when I read something that's a vicious attack on me or the music, it's like, "What did I do to deserve that?" It's almost like you have a personal vendetta. I understand a bad review or you not liking us but you don't know me, you don't hang out with me, you don't know what type of person I am. You don't know all of the things I'm doing outside of the band with my success to help people, because that's the type of person I am. You're just ripping my throat out and that hurts."
One of the things Stapp is doing outside of the band is the With Arms Wide Open Foundation, a charity he set up six months ago to help America's poor, huddled masses. This is something Stapp says he has always wanted to do if he ever came into money, whether as a doctor, a lawyer, or as the singer in America's biggest rock band. The singer says he knows what it's like to be poor, to be without food, water or electricity. The WAWO Foundation will help poor families get apartments, give aid to single parents, help with college scholarships and even children's music education.
All worthwhile stuff for sure, even if it's difficult to shake the sour odor of ego-led philanthropy and gesture charity that pervades Stapp's descriptions of the venture. The cash is welcome, for sure, but the sentiment somehow less so. Stapp describes this a pure cynicism, but on a couple of fronts he is a hard man to pin down. Like on how much money - and charity is all about money - he's looking to plough into the WAWO Foundation.
"Next year it will be a lot," he says
"Well, next year I'll probably be working with the foundation three days a week."
Yes, but how much dollar money is going into this thing?
Stapp sounds tired: "We've raised close to a million dollars.I'll get letters from 14-year-old fans who send us $3, half their allowance, because they just want to help. And that makes me feel so good. It's so good to know that there are people out there that do have a vision to help people in need."
"But," he continues, "it started with me taking the first step. By giving some money and setting it up."
How much was your initial donation?
That's private," is the reply. Then Stapp relents. "It was enough to hire a full time person to run it, get some furniture and get it started. Next year I'm looking to give up five percent of my earnings to the foundation."
Could you tell us how much that is?
I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't ask.
"Well it's pretty easy to figure out."
"Well" he says, "it's a lot."
And with that, Scott Stapp is gone. He shakes my hand, says he has to attend to some band business, sits down at a laptop computer and waits for us to leave his space. I get the feeling that I've left no impression whatsoever on the man and were I ever to meet him again he certainly wouldn't recognize me. Just before we say goodbye, Scott Stapp gives a long-term view of what he and Creed are doing with their music and their money.
"I want to make a difference with what I'm doing," he says. "I want to leave something tangible behind when all this is done. I want to have made people's lives better with the With Arms Wide Open Foundation and I want to have left people some great music to remember us by. And I think I'm in a position to do both of those things."
Boy, "stand by your man" sure does seem to be the motto of many a Creed fan!
So Scott Stapp got more than a few supportive slaps on the back recently, when Virginmega.com was bombarded with letters from avid Creed fans defending the frontman against one of our writer's not-so-friendly views of the band. Though you certainly won't find me standing at the forefront of a "Praise Creed!" rally anytime soon, let alone at the forefront of one of their concerts, a recent chat with a legendary rock guitarist shed some positive light on the ensemble that I can't simply brush aside. It's been tugging away at me, in fact, so I feel compelled to share it with you to see how the experiences and opinions of one Robby Krieger of The Doors (yes, The Doors) may alter or enhance your own views on, well, Creed.
Could Creed be the best in today's rock breed? Does Stapp emanate that same effective aura once possessed by the late, great Jim Morrison? Though I don't bustle around town with a "Need Creed" button tacked on my jacket, my respect for Krieger forced me to take another look at a band I've never really taken seriously.
As I listened in awe to the guitarist of one of the most celebrated rock outfits of the '60s rehash his feelings over old Doors music, his latest Doors label and reissues, his friend and revered former frontman in Morrison and The Doors' evolution since, I hardly anticipated a comparison to Creed anywhere in the conversation. But alas, the moment to mention in this issue of The Big Lindowski came when Krieger softly stated, "I think Scott Stapp believes in what he's doing and I think he reminds me a lot of Jim." Whatcha talkin' 'bout Willis?
Okay, let's get some background in there. Krieger joined Creed onstage for 1999's version of Woodstock and has since collaborated with the band live and in the studio. Creed covered "Riders on the Storm" on Stoned Immaculate Collection, the much talked about Doors cover album. Before you get too impressed, however, you should know that Smash Mouth also performed on that tribute collection released earlier this year.
Back to Krieger's comments on Creed, the guitarist continued to relate Stapp to Morrison, "Well, he had a similar upbringing. His parents were kind of intense and he's able to bring that into his music and make it work."
Of Stapp's delivery of Morrison's lines on Stoned Immaculate, Krieger said, "He's not trying to be Jim Morrison or anything like that, even though his voice did sound an awful lot like Jim's in the first verse of the song - that was scary."
Would he be willing to work with the group again? "Yes, definitely. In fact, they played here in LA and I sat in with them a couple of different times."
On playing Woodstock with Creed, Krieger remembered, "Before we went on Scott Stapp was telling me, 'Man, when you go out there the place is gonna go crazy, it's gonna be the highlight of the evening!' and I thought, 'No, come on. These people don't know about The Doors that much.' But he was right and when I went out there the whole place went nuts."
Nothing to be surprised about Robby, doors will always be open for you. As for Creed, well, to each his own.
Creed Worldwide: Let's kick this off! What were some of your favorite bands growing up?
Scott Stapp: Def Leppard, U2, Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd. Scott Phillips: Guns 'N' Roses, pretty much all the other ones Scott said. Metallica, Morbid Angel, Death Angel, Dwight Yoakum, Ted Nugent, KISS, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Run DMC, Beastie Boys, Ice T, NWA, Anthrax, The Eagles, Bad Company, Cream, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Molly Hatchet, Deep Purple. Those bands were from all of us, we all like the same music.
CWW88alicia: My one question is why do you do what you do? I mean, why do you write and play such great music? Why do you love music?
Mark Tremonti: We do what we do because we love it. Personally, since I was 5 or 6 years old I wanted a guitar for Christmas and I didn't get one till I was 11. It's always been a childhood dream of mine. Scott Stapp: We'd be doing this no matter what; it's what we do. It's our passion. It's whether we were personally successful or world known. We'd still be in Scott's basement, trying to scrape up money. We'd probably be doing this till we were 80 years old. Another thing is, for me personally once I found my path in life and realized this is what I wanted to do in life, I was so disappointed with what was on radio. And I thought that if I got on radio, I'd have something to say. Something with meaning and passion and feeling, songs that mean something. Scott Phillips: Music has always been a part of my life and I knew that at some point in my life I'd be involved in it. When I was playing in a polka club on 8th street-- Scott Stapp: He just likes to beat on things - drums. Scott Phillips: The whole polka thing…that was a joke!
CWWskimray82: Who is the guy on the motorcycle on the BC CD?
Mark Tremonti: It's a friend of ours named Pierre, and my brother was good friends with him and he designed the CD and thought it would be clever to put Pierre's father on the motorcycle. He looked like the symbol for blue collar. Back in the day when we released our first CD we had a label called Blue Collar Records so that guy on the motorcycle looked pretty much like the symbol for Blue Collar Records, he was like a blue collar guy.
CWWskimray82: When will Mark be getting his tattoo?
Mark Tremonti: Never. Scott Stapp: The guy won't let someone draw his blood. He's afraid of needles, and shots. He's phobic. That's all right, he won't have anything to regret when he's fifty like, "why did I do this to my body?" James Hetfield doesn't have any tattoos; don't think so.
Creed Worldwide: Your music touches such a wide range of fans; do you feel that you have more responsibility as artists whose music appeals such a wide audience?
Scott Stapp: If you care about more than just yourself in this world then you will feel the responsibility, be responsible, realize the impact that your words and music will have on people's lives. If you're going to do anything in this world then it might as well be positive.
CWWerin28: As the Webmaster of www.marktremonti.org, I want to know how you guys feel when someone makes a Web site for you. Creeped out? Flattered?
Mark Tremonti: Flattered! It's cool. Scott Stapp: He's the cute one!
CWWskimray82: Lady Mercury would like to know if you guys come up with melodies/riffs first or lyrics first?
Scott Stapp: It changes all the time, there's no set way we do things. Sometimes music, sometimes lyrics. It's wherever the music takes us and however we tap into it at that moment.
CWWerin28: What bands are you guys feeling right now? (Doesn't have to be new bands.)
Scott Stapp: An unsigned band out of LA called The Color Green is pretty much my favorite right now. Their stuff might be online somewhere. This was the first thing that's come along that I've heard in a long while that wasn't just screaming and noise, it was well put together songs and lyrics, and also Darius Rucker has a solo project he's working on, and I'm really vibing on the stuff right now. Mark Tremonti: I've been getting into Stevie Ray Vaughn right now.
CWWrobert43: I love the Doors covers that you guys do; should we expect to see any more songs/bands that you guys would like to cover?
Scott Stapp: Yes, you will. And it's a secret. We'll surprise our fans with some of the new covers if you come to the live show
CWWlaurie51: First of all, I wanted to say thank you for doing this for us! I am really happy to be a part of this. I also entered this contest over 1,600 times. That's a lot of stamps and postcards, but well worth it, because I'm here and I'm also very happy for the girl from Texas who won the chance to meet you. She's one lucky person!
Scott Stapp: Thank you very much, that's awesome! We can't appreciate our fans more. They've been so good to us and so diehard and loyal. They're why we are where we are, and to hear things like that it blows us away sometimes.
CWWteresa78: You guys put your all into every song you perform live; I was just wondering what's your favorite to perform?
Mark Tremonti: I think it changes on any given night. [Thinking] It could be any song on any given night. It depends on what type of mood we're in. On one night the heavier songs could mean more to me depending on what's going on in my life. Depending on what's going on behind the scenes.
CWWskimray82: What do you think about your website, www.creed.com, and the Web keepers that are constantly updated and moderating your site?
Scott Stapp: I think it's amazing and I think they're doing an amazing job. Personally I think it's first class and top notch. So, we feel fortunate to have a record company that's gotten behind it and put so much energy into it. It's grown and blossomed. It's cool and we're really proud of that.
CWWsharon47: What are your favorite vacation spots?
Mark Tremonti: Home, always on vacation. We tour so much so when we're home it feels like vacation. Scott Stapp: I like Hawaii, Maui, personally; and basically all the islands in Hawaii. I love to go there to soothe my mind.
Scott Phillips: Hilton Head, South Carolina, Arizona and anywhere in Florida.
CWWkatie05: Mark, I'm a huge Metallica fan, too. What is your take on the bands musical "change" after the black album? (What's your favorite album? Master of Puppets?)
Mark Tremonti: Yeah! Master of Puppets is my favorite record. With the band's musical change since the beginning of Creed, I've pretty much separated myself from all the new music coming out. The only music I get a chance to absorb is the bands that we tour with right now. I haven't really been keeping up with any new music except the bands we've been touring with because we've been so busy. I'm sure anything that Metallica does is still top notch.
CWWteresa78: You've won so many awards this past year; which meant the most to you and why?
Scott Stapp: I think for me the VH1 awards meant the most to me because they were voted on by the fans. There were no politics involved. There were no record company polls involved, no under- the-table payola going on. It was strictly voted on by our fans and our fans showed up and stepped up to the plate and hit a grand slam. It made us feel so good that our fans put us there. It wasn't so much the award but how it was determined that made it so special.
CWWsharon47: How did you guys handle going from the 1st studio recording/tour with everything new to the large scale of Human Clay tour? What was the best and worst of it?
Scott Stapp: We always expected…we wanted to play stadiums, arenas every night. That was all part of our rock and roll dream. It couldn't happen any faster. Mark Tremonti: We never jumped from one thing to another. It was always a gradual increase and working bigger and bigger. Scott Stapp: It didn't happen overnight. If we played in five, we were going to headline our own show, and build this one step at a time. We did pay our dues and the fact that where we are where we are today, we're living our dream, the American dream, the human dream. The best was the interaction with the fans and that adrenalin rush when you hear the crowd roar and when they're singing your songs, I don't think there's a better feeling than that. It's a high that you can only experience, and I think the audience feels it too. The worst part about touring is being away from your friends and family and living out of a suitcase, going from hotel to hotel. Get out on tour right now, but we've got to finish a record right now. We're home trying to finish a record.
CWWsharon47: How do I get MOP video and is the official video going to be released?
Scott Stapp: We don't know, we don't know if our videos are going to be released to the public yet. Eventually they are, on DVD, everything we've filmed and behind the scenes and studio. It would have everything on there.
CWWmaria63: Where would you like to see yourselves in 10 or 20 years?
Scott Stapp: Career artists that are still making music, a staple in the music world like Metallica is, like Aerosmith is, like Led Zeppelin is. We all have other interests and we'll probably jump on individually now and then, but in referring to Creed that's where we'd like to see them. I want to do some acting, and I think Scott Phillips wants to play on the senior tour and Mark Tremonti wants to be a master ping-pong player and magician.
CWWteresa78: Creed's definitely the best live band I've ever seen, what was the best live show you've attended?
Scott Stapp: Tool. Mark Tremonti: My favorite was Metallica on their Justice For All Tour. Scott Phillips: I'd have to say Lollapalooza in '92.
CWWjovanna19: I just wanted to make a comment, I just want to let you guys know that regardless of the crap out there, keep your heads up. Because for every person that talks smack, there are 500 willing to have your back. Keep Rockin'!
Scott Stapp: Thanks! Thanks, we know you're there and we appreciate it.
CWWlaurie51: How is little Jagger doing, Stappster? He's such a beautiful little boy! And I really admire you for being such a great daddy to him. The world needs more of that going on! - Creed Crazy N Stapp Struck on the BB.
Scott Stapp: Jagger's doing awesome. He's 2 1/2, he's growing like a weed and he's eating me out of house and home. I love it and wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. He's here with me during this webcast.
CWWamanda24: Do you guys ever just sit back and think, "Oh man, look what we've become?" Can you believe you have affected so many people's lives?
Scott Stapp: From the entire band - We definitely sometimes sit in awe at everything that's happened to us. It's that sensation of 'pinch me' am I dreaming kind of thing. Affecting people's lives, we just write from our heart and if people can feel that it just makes it that much better. Jagger: Hi! (he's looking for drumsticks and can't stick around and talk longer) Peace out, dude!
CWWjohn: So what can you guys tell us about the 3rd album?
Scott Stapp: From a lyrical standpoint it is dark, much like "My Own Prison." Musically the harder songs are harder, the epic songs are more epic, it's extreme highs and extreme lows. It's everything we've done so far turned up times ten but also we're progressing and trying some different things.
CWWbrent91: Do y'all remember playing in 5 Point Music Hall in Birmingham, Alabama in 1997?
Scott Stapp: Yes we do! That was an awesome show, with the Virgos Merlot, (though they were actually The Divine in 1997.) That was an awesome show; roll tide, roll! Go 'Bama!
CWWteresa78: You really seem to be thinking these questions through thoroughly, thanks for giving us your honesty and being genuine with your fans. I've been to other band chats like this and they pretty much acted like it was a joke and that they didn't care to be there. It's nice to know that you guys are as great as we imagined you to be.
Scott Stapp: We're just being ourselves. We appreciate it and it's sad you've been in other situations with other bands. This is just the way we are and will always be that way.
CWWjovanna19: About the crest, is it an Aztec Compass? I heard that somewhere. Also, how do you really feel when you see fans with it permanently inked on them? (tattoos) I recently got mine.
Scott Stapp: Crest, actually, until--we don't want to give away the secret to that, and we're going to let it keep going. It's not an Aztec compass but for now we'll keep it to ourselves and give fans bits and pieces. When we see it permanently inked on, seeing that crest and Creed on your body. I have Creed on my body, and it's not necessarily saying you believe that the band is so great - but you're inking on your body a forever reminder of Creed - something you believe in. You may have gotten the idea initially from hearing our music and being in Creed, but I think at the end of the day it's not about the band, it's about permanently inking on your body a reminder of something you truly believe in, something personal within.
CWWbilly11: What would be your advice for up and coming bands?
Mark Tremonti: Find a good manager that you trust. Scott Stapp: Basically, if you write good songs you'll make it, if you write bad music you'll fail. Put your heart and soul into it. You will be found. It's a small world we live in.
CWWteresa78: Where were you when you heard your first song on the radio?
Scott Stapp: We were in Mark's living room with a bunch of girls trying to impress them and right before our song came on the radio the DJ said, "This is Creed, a local band, and they're probably sitting around having a bunch of beers with a bunch of girls trying to impress them" and he was exactly right, that's where we were.
CWWteresa78: What was your favorite venue to play on tour? Do you prefer indoor or outdoor venues?
Mark Tremonti: Outdoors is great during the summer, but obviously in the winter it's good to be indoors. It's good to have a change up.
CWWsharon47: What is the best gift you've ever received from a fan?
Mark Tremonti: Usually they'll give us really cool art. I have them hanging on my bedroom wall. Scott Stapp: I have 2 paintings actually in my office, sent to me by a fan, that are just amazing. I'll treasure them forever. I got in touch with the guy and gave him a lifetime Creed all-access pass. I write about -- a lot of people may not know this -- I probably write personally 15-20 letters to fans a month, I try to sign everything a fan sends me to sign as long as it's got a return envelope with a stamp. I try to respond, whether they send me something cool or not. I try what I can handle.
CWWstephanie29: What inspires you when you write? Do you like a certain atmosphere when you are brainstorming??
Scott Stapp: The night, we write better at nighttime. A real mood-lighting ambience is very important to us. We are a very nocturnal writing band.
CWWamanda24: Do you guys ever regret becoming what you are? Do you get tired of show after show? Being in the spot light?
Scott Stapp: I will never regret who I am. We will never regret who we are. We're human beings as well. Part of being who we are has taken away some of our privacy, and some of the things we used to do have turned into a big hassle, making arrangements, etc. The good far outweighs the bad. At the end of the day there are really no regrets.
CWWamanda24: What's the worst/most embarrassing thing you have done in front of fans at a show?
Scott Stapp: Our former bass player was behind me and I think he fell down and I didn't know he fell down and I was walking around thinking I was cool and I fell over him in front of all the fans. At the AMAs the back of my pants completely ripped out so I couldn't turn in any direction, I think 40 million people watch that show and I didn't want to let them know I wasn't wearing any underwear.
CWWteresa78: We've all heard about a few clueless bands who are jealous of your success, but what bands are you guys friends with and really support?
Scott Stapp: There's a lot of them, Seven Dust, 3 Doors Down, The Virgos Merlot, The Color Green, Oleander, Finger Eleven, Our Lady Peace, Tea Party, Kid Rock, Fuel, Van Halen and Metallica, Collective Soul, those guys are cool. Travis Meeks of Days of the New.
Creed Worldwide: Thanks so much for being with us today, guys. Any final thoughts to leave with your fans before you go?
Scott Stapp: We're working hard on the greatest album of our lives and can't wait to get out on tour to see you guys. And thanks for going out to the store and spending your hard earned money on our music.
Creed Worldwide: Is this the end? Unfortunately, our intimate chat with Creed has come to an end. We really want to thank Scott, Mark, and Scott for taking the time to chat with your most dedicated fans![/size]
May 7, 2001
Joel Mark is A&R at MCA, California, USA. He used to work for the independent label Wind-Up Records in New York, where he was responsible for signing and developing the US No.1 Creed, the best selling rock band in the world this year. For this, Joel has been awarded Top 10 at the "World Top 20 A&R Chart" at HitQuarters.
HitQ: What was your first contact with the music business and how did it come about?
"I was so into music, so I just called every label in the city to see if I could get an internship for the summer. I did eventually get one day a week at a blues label in Chicago called Alligator Records, and I remember on my first day there, they showed me around every department, and asked me to choose which one I would like to work in. I said A&R, that sounded like the best, because you get to work with bands and go to shows, and the person said, "Don’t do it, everyone wants to do A&R and you’ll never make it". In the end they didn’t give it to me, but I did get to work with the President of the company, and he was brilliant. I was 17 or 18, inexperienced, and that guy really kicked my ass into shape. And that led to where I am now, although it did take me 10 years after that to get an A&R job. But I did it ! I also knew that I wasn't that great a musician, although I did get signed to a small independent label with my band, we put out a record and we toured. The label eventually got taken over and grew pretty big, and they dropped a lot of the bands. We didn't like the direction it was taking, and, when they fired our A&R person, I went in to have a meeting with them, and ended up getting hired to do A&R there! That label went on become Wind Up."
HitQ: What kind of qualities did you have to display to be appointed as an A&R for the first time?
"Knowledge of music and of working in a studio. When I got the job at Wind Up, I was in four different bands, playing all sorts of different music, and I was also running my own small booking agency. So I knew about all the bands that were touring in the country, and I knew the label, because, as I said, we were on it, so I wasn’t a complete stranger. I think they also liked my easy-going personality, and the fact that I was a music fanatic - most days I would choose to buy records over eating !"
HitQ: Please describe what an A&R does that no one else in the music business does.
"Helps the band make their records. And they understand the music better than anyone else, hopefully they come from a musical background. Sometimes they’re just very intuitive people, but I prefer it if they are musicians themselves. An A&R should be able to explain to a band what their strong points are, and what they are lacking. Then either direct them to people who can help them with their weaknesses, or offer advice on how to overcome them."
HitQ: How do you find new talent?
"Most music I've worked with has come in from lawyers or managers. I spend a lot of time searching otherwise, on the Internet and radio, record stores, magazines. I think it's just like when you're a kid, and you're always looking for the newest, best thing. But most of what I have ended up signing has come from lawyers and managers."
HitQ: What are you currently working on and how and with what were you approached by these acts?
"I started this job at MCA just three weeks ago, so I don't actually have any bands that I'm working on, which is a little strange for me. At Wind Up, I had 9 bands. So right now I'm just looking for things, and I've found a couple that I'm interested in, in fact I heard something just this morning. The manager who sent me it has been sending me stuff every other month for 2 or 3 years, and I've never liked any of it, even though the quality was always pretty good, so I was always wishing that I would like it more than I did. But there was just one thing in his latest package that blew me away! So hopefully it will work out."
HitQ: How did you go about signing Creed?
"Bill McGathy, who is a big radio promoter in New York, was the person who brought us Creed. Mark Fisher, who works with Bill, had heard them, they were doing really well on local radio - in fact they were "most requested" in two cities - so he sent them over to us at Wind Up. At that time, we signed acts by committee, four people had to agree, the President, the two owners and me. We all heard it and were really excited. We got the tape on a Wednesday, went to see them play on Friday, and signed them the week after. The record was almost finished, it was already on the radio, and it just had to be mixed, so it was perfect for us as a brand new label with no releases. They were just incredible, it was almost as if they just could not write a bad chorus, and every song was about something interesting, whether or not you agreed with their politics. When I heard their first song, I was in my car, and I thought the radio had come on by mistake - it was that good !"
HitQ: How savvy were Creed about the music business when you met them, such as finding their way to the right persons?
"They weren't really that savvy, but then they didn't really need to be. They had got a manager by then, though. They seemed to follow my theory, which is that if you're doing something great, things will just work for you.
They couldn't get gigs in their hometown, because no one wanted rock bands, so they set up their own shows at family restaurants, and got all their friends to hand out fliers. So people would come to these ridiculous restaurants with ferns and brass fittings to watch them play. But they wanted to get a real show at a club, so they told the guy, "you know, we can get 200 people in, we've being doing that down at TGI Fridays". He told them that they needed to make a tape, and directed them to a guy who made incredible recordings, who had released a record in the 80s and then had just gone on to record all the local bands.
Together they recorded "My Own Prison", which went on to become their first single. They handed that to the guy and the club, who said, "Shit, this is great! I'll give you a gig, I'll manage you and help you to finish making this record!" So after that, every time they got some money from a show, they would continue to work on the record. Eventually, when the record was finished, they passed it on to a friend at the local radio station, who played it, and it became the most requested song. From there, it got passed on to another local radio station in another town, where it also became the most requested song. 6 months later, they were on the radio everywhere in America. I think they were just doing something that people wanted to hear, so they really didn't need to know who the right people in the business were, because people in the business were looking for something and found it in Creed."
HitQ: In what way did you influence the two albums "My Own Prison" and "Human Clay"?
"My biggest influence was on the mixing. Particularly with the second album, a lot of the record happened during the mixing. There were many, many tracks, and we used ProTools, so a lot of the work was done in the mixing. I helped them to concentrate on the most important songs, and just generally made suggestions. I was just basically another voice in the studio, and they trusted me."
HitQ: When did you move from Wind-Up in New York to MCA in California?
"I think the West Coast is a lot more creative. It just feels more musical out here, perhaps because life is easier here, so you can concentrate more on music. New York has become really expensive and "Wall Street", it's just hard to get anything done. Many people say New York has a real vibe about it, energy, but, to me, it's negative energy. Everyone is so burnt-out by the time the evening comes, that no one can be bothered to go and see a band play, whereas here people are just in a better mood, and more open to things, and I think that reflects on the music. I wouldn't necessarily advise a band to move to the west coast, but I would suggest living in a small town where the rent is cheap, so you don't have to work as much and you can direct all your efforts to the music. Also in a big city, it's much harder to get shows and get on the radio."
HitQ: How many songs do you receive from unsigned acts per week?
"About 20 submissions a week, which is quite manageable, so I listen to everything. If I've heard about something and I've asked for it, I'll tear that package as soon as it comes to me. Then secondly, the submissions that have come from people whose taste I trust. Thirdly, I'll listen to the stuff that comes from people who I don't care much for. And fourth, the things that came addressed to someone else, but for some reason or other were put in my office anyway."
HitQ: Do you still accept unsolicited material? If not, what made you change your mind from the time when you did?
"No, neither here nor at Wind Up, mainly for legal reasons and not time constraints. You can't trust people. I think at Wind Up we would send a letter saying we couldn't accept the submission, and here at MCA, because there is a bit more money for postage, we send the submissions back. I've been listening to demos since I was about 18, because I owned a booking agency, and 99.9% of them are worthless. Which is really sad, because I was once one of those unsolicited demos, and I know how band the band that I was in was!"
HitQ: Do you consider unsigned bands to have a good general knowledge on how to approach the business?
"In general, I think that they don't. My understanding stems from being in a band myself, and I think most bands just have too much drive to get a record deal and be a rock star. They should focus on writing songs, make them better and better, and play as many shows as you can. Once you're doing something that is incredible, people will come to you. Getting signed, although it's incredibly difficult, is really nothing. This label probably puts out 20 rock bands a year, Atlantic and Columbia each put out another 100, Epic puts out another 50, and Interscope probably another 50 - let's just say there are 1000 rock bands that get major label releases in this country every year, and maybe 10 go gold, 2 go platinum, so your chances are 2 in a thousand of making it, once you're signed, so getting signed is nothing. If you focus on that, then you're really missing the point. Stop complaining - if you're not getting anywhere, then it's probably because no one likes you, or you're not that good. Listen to people and work on your weaknesses."
HitQ: Can you offer some words of advice to unsigned artists, with regards to submitting material?
"The most common mistake is not having great material - that plagues almost everyone. Once you get past that, then anything you do is fine, it doesn't matter how you send it in. Of course if the songs are really well recorded, that helps, and always put your best song first. Also, send as few songs as possible, although, having said that, the tape we got from Creed had 10 songs on it ! There are no real rules, as long as your material is good. It's also extremely important, but not essential, that the submission comes from a reputable source, which doesn't necessarily mean a manager or a lawyer, but just someone that people like dealing with."
HitQ: Do you work exclusively with rock?
"Yes. To me, rock is incredibly broad. That's the music that I love and the music that I understand. I couldn't work with a genre that I didn't understand, even if I liked it, because I would not be able to suggest ways to make it better or more commercial."
HitQ: Do you follow what other A&Rs are doing at other record companies?
"Not generally. I'm just really busy, and I don't really care, I won't get stressed out because some record label signed something that I said no to. I do care in terms of what producers and studios they're using, what new ProTools plug-ins they've got. If I go to clubs, and there are people there who don't work in the industry, that gets me excited, and the Internet I use constantly, actively seeking bands, and also to get more information about bands that I'm interested in, to see how they present themselves, and what people are writing about them. I do that every day, and I wouldn't do this job without it."
HitQ: Would you work with acts from outside of USA?
"I'd love to. At Wind Up I did. I would prefer it if they weren't signed everywhere but the US, because that makes it more difficult, because the label can't make as much money."
HitQ: When you sign a band, how are you involved with the choice of producer? What do you look for in a producer?
"Of course, their track records are important, but only in the sense of how the records that they've done sound and feel, not in terms of the commercial success that they've had. You have to look for a producer who can bring what the band or artist are lacking. I'm incredibly involved in that, it's one of the most important parts of the job."
HitQ: What are some of the differences in how a record would be made and marketed for a rock act, like Creed, in comparison to a pop act like Backstreet Boys?
"In rock, the band have their own songs, and their own identity, whereas pop bands generally don't, so you have to find songs. I'd quite like to do a project like that at some point, I think it could be lots of fun. Those pop things are really difficult and really expensive. With a rock band, you can make an amazing record for 100,000-200,000$, which is still an incredible amount of money, whereas for a pop band, you're going to spend a million bucks to make the record, and then a million to launch every single. With rock, you can launch a single for 250,000$. So the process is completely different. For a pop band, you have to hire musicians, and with a rock band it's all there."
HitQ: Do you believe that anyone can be successful in the music business through hard work or is it the talent that you possess that decides early on?
"Well, of course it's a lot of work, but not necessarily hard, because if you're into it it's fun. Talent is clearly important, and luck. I've had a lot of luck, but then I've also put in 100+ hours of work per week for years, but it never really seemed like work."
HitQ: What do you see yourself doing in 5-10 years? Do you think you will still be an A&R?
"Probably. I never really look that far ahead. If I can't do this, then I'd love to produce records, put together my own studio, and if I can't produce successful bands, do demos for local bands. Ideally, I'd like to do both A&R and production at the same time."
HitQ: What are your favorite records of this year?
"Neil Young's new album, "Silver And Gold", The Drowners new album, also new releases by Sigur Ros, an Icelandic band, and Finger Eleven."
A Public Service Announcement...of sorts! The band become Honorary Orange County Deputy Sheriffs
They joked as they walked out of the Orange County Sheriff's Department, Who is Crockett and who's Tubbs?" But the band knew that the ceremony was of a more serious nature. Sheriff Kevin Berry invited the three band members and management to the Department to show his gratitude for their assistance.
"You gentlemen don't know how much this means to the Department and the people that will be watching these." The Sheriff explained to the band. Your music will make these instructional videos that much more credible and familiar to them."
The band contributed their time and musical resources to a variety of instructional and training videos for the Sheriff's Office. They spent the afternoon with Sheriff Berry discussing their local backgrounds, and their desire to help the force in whatever ways necessary.
"How about going out on some stings with you," joked Stapp during the meeting.
"I'll take you guys out with me during one of our week-end sweeps," the Sheriff acknowledged.
"Can I bring one of my guns?" Stapp laughed.
Just be careful if you're attempting to scalp a Creed ticket on tour this year. Deputy Sheriff Stapp may be looking over your shoulder!
Creed Reach Legion Directly With Online Pager Nearly 100,000 fans have downloaded flashing band icon providing access to 'My Sacrifice.'
By Jon Wiederhorn
Creed's members are so in touch with their fans, the band has given them a direct line. No, they're not handing out their personal cell-phone numbers. On October 10, however, they posted a downloadable Creed Pager on their Web site (and VH1.com), enabling Creed loyalists first access to band music and news.
Those loyalists have lit up the Netwaves. The Creed pager was downloaded 20,000 times its first day online, and band product manager Sid Schwartz said he expects more than 100,000 fans to procure the pager its first week up. Many loaded the item to hear "My Sacrifice," which debuted through the site (see "Creed Postpone Festival, Release New Single Online").
"When we put 'Higher' online, we had 250,000 downloads in a month," Schwartz said. "We're on track to far exceed that with 'My Sacrifice.'"
The pager consists of a brown Creed symbol on the icon bar at the bottom of fans' computer screens. The icon blinks when the band posts new information; when fans click on it, they're transported to the exclusive material.
Creed's pager can link to the user's favorite radio station or retail outlet, allowing information and advertising to be customized from one region to another. Radio stations can also use the pagers to conduct promotional contests.
"We're entering a new age of cross-channel marketing when it will become more common for artists to maintain relationships with consumers no matter where they are or what they're doing," said Aram Sinnreich, a senior analyst for Jupiter Media Metrix.
Aside from the "My Sacrifice" download, Creed's pager offers fans video of vocalist Scott Stapp getting a tattoo and the group playing softball. The pager will also provide footage of Creed in the studio for their upcoming Weathered, which comes out November 20.
During the coming week, the band will offer a video tour of guitarist Mark Tremonti's guitar collection. The band plans to post a new song approximately every week until the record is released.
"The pager makes for a novel way of delivering music. As opposed to going to the artist's site to find out if the music's up yet, we'll come to you," Schwartz said.
The pager will remain active at least until the end of November, and the video content may be compiled for a future DVD release, Schwartz said.