Back in May, Cliché spoke with Craig Owens, Matt Goddard and Thomas Erak of Chiodos to discuss the band’s 4th studio album, Devil. Recently, we were able to catch up with Craig Owens on Chiodos’ Crowd Surf America Tour with Blessthefall. Craig opened up about the gripping concepts that went into Devil as well as being under the watchful eye of the public and press. In this personal interview, Cliché’s Heather Glock spoke with Craig on how reception of new material can alter a person, upcoming big changes for Chiodos, as well as how important it is to have faith.
Devil is very personal for Chiodos, as it reflects on life choices that you regret, and/or learned from. It’s one thing to reunite, and add a new member, but this record was about opening up completely, and learning to work together. With Devil being complex, abstract, and personal, what was it like harnessing these sounds and emotions while building something new from the ground up?
Well it didn’t really feel new to us, because most of us had made music together before. The way that we went about it was so different that it had a new feeling to it, but it’s kind of like when you get your old car detailed and washed and it feels new but you know it’s kind of did the same thing…not that this is an old beat up car anything! It’s the best comparison that came to my mind right now. We weren’t really trying to reinvent ourselves; we weren’t trying to reinvent anything all. What we wanted to do was make strong structured songs. I would say mentally, we really aimed for was basically the structures of the songs, because before Chiodos was pretty much all over the place and so that’s really the only thing we meant to be focused on. I guess you can say that is one of the pluses and negatives about the record.
Thomas Erak looked like he thoroughly enjoyed himself at the last night of The Devil’s Dance Tour, by interacting with the crowd, making gestures during certain parts of songs, etc. He looked as though he has been in the band for years, rather than becoming a recent member of the Chiodos family. How has the touring experience been with him?
Thomas always feels most comfortable on stage in front of people… that’s just Thomas. He may tell you different, but his outgoing personality comes out at that point. That’s just when he comes out of his shell -not that he is ever in one too much- he really comes out, you know even more so in the studio or anything like that. I think he was, for a lack for a better word, intimidated when he first came into the band and not because of our musical abilities, because obviously he is amazing in what he does, but because of what had already been done and he didn’t want to mess anything up, so I think he is getting more comfortable now. We are already talking about writing for a new record, so I think that now that he is more comfortable, and with there being a few changes coming up, it will be really really good for him and he can become a real solid part of the band. He hasn’t always been that comfortable and it’s not always that comfortable, but the moment we step on stage, it’s like eight times that of ten he’ll show up that comfortable and the other two, well, everyone has those days where you just don’t want to be on stage but you have to be.
Can we expect more of his personal touch on the next record?
I hope so. I couldn’t beat it out of him anymore than I did. I think when you’re young like Thomas was when he was in the fall of Troy, I think you have a lot to prove, and I think that you have a lot to show and I think that since then, people have really held them up to that ideal and I think that in ways he’s resented it. It’s because he’s been defined by it, and in ways, we’ve tried to allow him to embrace it, and realize all the positivity that it has around it. That being said, I think that knowing what he is capable of, and what he is capable of knowing what I really have to do this time [for the next record], because I knew Thomas, but until you tour with someone as often as we have, you don’t really know every little quip. I was the leader, and I knew I had to be that, in which he does in the studio, but I didn’t know exactly how in getting exactly what was necessary out of him. So, not that it’s a manipulative thing by any means, but that is part of it you know installing the confidence in him to feel like he can step up and do that you know? So, I think I know what to do this time around to get him out of his shell a little bit more, and it probably won’t be that awesome or that comfortable for either of us, but I think it’ll be show on the next record. You’ll see.
In the song “Duct Tape,” you described that you are held together by either fear or faith. Mitch Albom’s Phone Calls From Heaven was an inspiration for “Under Your Halo.” Faith is the central theme in this novel, as well as this theme appearing in both “Duct Tape” and “Under Your Halo.” What do you have faith in that holds you together?
I think a lot of it, for me personally, is because I am a spiritual person. I’m not necessarily religious, but I do pray every night before I play and when I pray, I pray for things like the courage and confidence to impact someone in a positive way. I would say that my ultimate thing is more like the karma and the good of humanity. I think that’s what really holds me together. There is wishful thinking, optimism, because you start getting pessimistic and it reflects on every aspect of life, it’s like a mirror that you walk around with or however it is you choose to see things. It is kind of like what I’ve been living off of the past couple of years. After I got sober a few years ago, that’s really what I wrote a lot of, and that’s what this record is about; questioning my faith and questioning myself, things like that. I just tried to bleed onto the paper the best I could. I cut myself over scars already, and because I feel like I’ve had to cut myself so much to get onto the paper, I was just reopening these wounds to see how much blood is left and how much I can get out. A lot of it is just a reflection of my life and I think in that song in particular, it’s about not wanting to be who it is that I was, and wanting to be born someone else. I think everyone wakes up one day and says, “oh I wish I was something else”, and I think that happens often actually. I mean those are my thoughts, and I think I have an amazing life. I think a lot of the record is about a faith and I think it is a necessary thing for someone to continue to do what we do. You have to have faith in order to move forward. I think it was Richard Marx that said, “you’ve got to have faith”…or maybe I’m just making Limp Bizkit references.
Most of your literary influences are no longer amongst the living. So, when Mitch Albom tweeted positively at the band about “Under Your Halo,” how was that experience?
It was amazing. I mean this is the guy who wrote books that I grew up with, such as Tuesdays with Morrie. That’s crazy to me; I mean who didn’t read that book? That work came from his mind, and you know in the early days of this before the public broke me, I fancied myself as a writer, I really loved writing and I was obsessed with that, and then the public pretty much broke me of it, and now I’m pretty jaded when it comes to writing. Even when I write my journal, I question everything I write at this point, so to be recognized and positively reinforced by someone I look up to in those moments, it’s really cool and it’s overwhelming.
With all the literature that you read, and compose into your own works, can we wait hopefully that one day, you may scribe your own novel?
Not right now, like I said I’m jaded. The public has destroyed my love for a lot of art to be honest. Pretty much in general, and that’s just me being honest. Even music… it’s hard for me to listen to some music now, because I can’t separate the things that are said from it and how I listen to it. Even with writing. You know what? I think people can hear it in Devil. I think that when I went away to write the D.R.U.G.S record, the way that it was kind of self-hyped up and then there was the way that I had to write it, and what they expected of me, had changed my perspective and I brought that back into this band, and I think it hurt this band a little bit. I am really proud of Devil, and I love it and I think what we did was great for what it is, but it made me grow up too fast, and it made me take it too seriously and it made me even hone in and try too hard even. Now that having all of this success, and all of the records, and even Devil has been received well, it’s still…I feel very jaded as an artist at this point, so writing would take…I guess I would have to separate myself for years to regain my love for it to be honest, and more importantly my love will come first and then my confidence would follow soon after and that’s typically the way things work, so at this point I’m pretty f—ing jaded.
On The Devil’s Dance Tour, there was this tremor that ran through the venue when you played “There Are No Penguins in Alaska.” Obviously, playing older songs means something to the fans, but what does it mean for you?
Its fun and we love it. However, I would like to close a set without playing “Baby You Wouldn’t Last a Minute on the Creek.” That would be nice to not have to play that, just like Mick Jagger probably doesn’t want to play the hits that he has to play and not a comparison that we are even in the same league as the Rolling Stones. Plus, it’s just that it’s kind of a good way to look at it you know, it’s hard, we didn’t know what we were doing when we first started and we liked what we did. We have played a lot of cool shows. I mean, were playing four to five times in Michigan in week and we wrote to play live and we didn’t realize that we would have such a massive mark in that whole genre, and what we would become and to be accepted in it. I think most musicians feel that way when they first start. From when we started doing it, to now it is just completely different you know? Now, we love it and we love playing the old stuff and we love feeling that tremor that you spoke of, being, we notice it, but we want to feel that tremor within other songs that are newer as well. It’s a little defeating at times, and it makes you question if you are doing something wrong, but at the same time you’re grateful for it so it’s a bit of a double-edged sword.