Creed's Scott Stapp on "how I used to be before the world got ahold of me."
The story of Creed (due this Saturday, May 19, at the Paramount Theatre) begins in the mid-'90s, when the band changed its name to Creed from Naked Toddler and embarked on a career marked by hard riffs, mainstream metaphors and Vedder vocals. Not too long after winning a Grammy in 2001, the act nailed itself to a cross with an explosively bad concert in 2002 and eventually disbanded a couple years later. In 2009, the guys came back to life for a national reunion tour and a new, if overtly symbolic, album titled Full Circle. Three years later, the guys are in the midst of another resurrection that involves playing their first two albums in full across the country (Denver gets Human Clay).
We spoke with Stapp about old emotions, new music and the forthcoming autobiography that restricts him from answering many of our questions (no spoilers here). Just days into reviving songs that he and his band have left unplayed for more than a decade, Stapp is earnest about the group's intentions and honest about its backstory. In 2012, as in his past lives, Stapp is distinctly spiritual.
Westword: My Own Prison turns fifteen in August. What is it like to turn back to emotions older than your children?
Scott Stapp: That's a great question, and I'm glad you asked it, because we've just been jamming the album over and over again the past few days. One of the things I've noticed personally and have heard the other guys mention is that we still connect personally with the themes and the vibes. But from the standpoint of growth and maturity over the years, we feel like we're better at what we do. I'm a better writer and singer, and Mark [Tremonti, lead guitarist] is better at shredding on the guitar. We're better at our craft. It still sounds good to us and it still rocks, it still gets us going, but a lot of it we would never create now.
What do you mean? Which material?
Sometimes when we finish playing, we smile at each other and nod and think, "Man, we would never have written that today." But we're glad we did then. One of them happened today when Mark was finishing a guitar progression and said that. It's too simple. He's grown into complexities and things he wasn't even aware of when we wrote My Own Prison. For me, one thing I noticed as we were going through the songs today is that some of the arrangements weren't as typical for the times back then. They were more creative and unique, and I was actually inspired by that.
I started to think maybe I've gotten into a set system and need to channel more of the spontaneity that I had then. And just the way I express things. I have much more command of the language than I did at that age. I have more experience and have lived through so much more than I had only seen from a young person's perspective. I feel like I would have written some rhymes and lyrics differently now. Who's to say it would be better now, though? That's a question we always have. In the meantime, we're just connecting with the spirit and the perspective very passionately now.
But you're working on a new album at the same time. Does that backward progression toward your first two albums help or hinder your creative process?
I think it helps tremendously. In going back and looking at these albums, we're being reminded. There are songs we haven't played on these albums in fifteen years. I think sometimes -- and maybe this happens in a lot of people's lives -- sometimes you can get too complicated. Without even trying, you can overdo it and make things too complex. We're getting back to the simplicity and the organic nature of where we started.
It's a good reminder, because you can realize how far away you are at that moment from the essence of the whole thing, the true beauty of the whole thing. It's going to both extremes and then finding a balance. Sometimes all you look back at is things you would do differently, especially in the art world. The guys and me would still be working on My Own Prison today if they didn't take us out of the studio.
But before things get so complicated in life and you have responsibilities, there's a purity in there you can't ever recapture again. It's part of living life. There's a purity in not knowing the negativities or the pitfalls or the struggles, all the things life can bring. I've really connected with that aspect of the lyrics I was writing and the meanings of those songs. One thing that's really great is that every time we play these songs, I remember in my mind where we were when we wrote it, what was going on and how I used to be before the world got ahold of me.
How do you split that focus? Where are you guys on the new album?
We have five out of fifteen ideas we've been bouncing around that we think are really strong. Usually what happens is that out of the remaining ten, some of those are just parts and they end up being combined with other parts to create something special. Right now, we're still searching for the musical direction and the vibe; we're still trying to connect with that. That's another reason we set up this tour, to use it intentionally as a catalyst for our creative process moving forward.
Occasionally, you can get caught up in all the minutiae and all the ruts you need a kickstart to get out of. Once you get out of that rut, you wonder, 'My God, how could I just have stayed there for years?' One thing that's important for us is to just let things go, all the good things -- the awards and the tours and the albums sales and the amazing experiences -- and the bad stuff...the breakup and the emotions and relationships we messed up. We have to leave that behind. None of that crap comes into the present. It goes into the past and it stays there.
In the meantime, though, you're writing a book about that stuff. Your autobiography, Sinner's Creed, comes out October 2. What was the hardest part to write?
You'll have to read the book. That's a great question, but it would spoil some of it. It's definitely been an emotional process. It really helped me to get closure on things and also to get the correct perspective on other things. Sometimes you're so close to something you can't see it. As you get older, you realize you had it all wrong. A lot of that has come out, but there's also been the extreme opposite of that, when you're starting to lay everything out and you realize everything was even worse than you thought it was. There's this emotional pain and this hurt.
It's a real journey through rock and roll, life and spirituality. As long as I don't go off the deep end tomorrow or do something stupid, the story is one of hope and has a resolution, a theme that rides through that is a positive one. I never realized these things about my friends and my life and my faith. In the end, the journey is a lot like a Creed album. It's all the back history, the stuff no one knew. After they read this book, people will hear Creed songs and think, "Now I finally get this one." There's drama and struggle. I have about thirty pages left on my fourth revision, and I'm still resolving it. The best way to describe it is that the Creed fans out there will read it and react just like if they heard a Creed album.
Back in Creed's earlier days, one of the industry's biggest marks of success was a VH1 Behind the Music special. Creed's came out in 2000. If you could add to that story today, where would you want it to end?
I answer that straightforward and with direct honesty in my book. I hate to be like that, but I answer that in my book and don't want to give it away. You'll have to read it.
Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.