CHIODOS are currently in the studio with producer David Bottrill (Coheed And Cambria, Tool, King Crimson) recording their fourth album, their first for Razor & Tie. Frontman Craig Owens spoke with Jason Pettigrew about his headspace during the making of the currently untitled album, and how he’s feeling a lot better in his own skin these days.
How’s life in Chiodos World?
It’s awesome. It’s crazy.
You say it’s “crazy.” Did you imagine it would ever be this good?
Absolutely not. We’ve never gotten along as well as we are right now.
The time spent apart and the distance seems to have been great but you also have that personal relationship with keyboardist Bradley Bell that you really don’t have with anyone else in the band.
Yeah, Brad and I are definitely closer than I would say the other guys and I are, but it’s something that I’ve really made a point to work on, you know? While out on the road, I’m making an effort and taking interest in what other band members do.
You guys are working with producer David Bottrill, who has overseen records for King Crimson, Tool and all sorts of art-metal acts. What’s the experience been like?
The experience has been a positive one. He’s got a lot of great ideas: He’s big on structures, and he’s big on certain chord changes. He just brings a great, fresh outside perspective, but I think that the best thing he’s brought so far is his work ethic. We did the first 13 days of pre-pro, and we worked every single day since we got there—around eight-hour days—and in a positive, motivational way.
Is he pulling things out of you that you really didn’t expect to have?
I don’t necessarily know because I haven’t worked with him in the vocal booth yet. What he brings out of the guys is definitely in a positive, show-me way. I think a lot of it has to do with structures. We’re known for being random with our music and taking left turns: I think he’s trying to either bring that out or just voice his opinion. Sometimes we accept it, sometimes we don’t.
Looking back on this past summer, how did the Warped Tour experience change the band? How did you make sure that you wouldn’t fall into old, bad habits?
I think it comes down to trust. There are still hard conversations that need to be had in the band. We haven’t all sat down in a room and said, “You did this, and you did this.” We haven’t really done that, so I think that will probably need to happen, at some point—just so we can accept it and move on, you know? I think we’re just learning how to trust one another again; learning how to communicate. I think that’s what Warped Tour did. It showed everyone that we’ll all show up. We needed to know that we’d be able to live in that space and that we’d be able to have fun doing it, and that everyone would show up, play well and do the signings.
Even as far as just hanging out goes, just having conversations and communicating again. You have to rebuild a relationship after a few years. After it gets dragged through the dirt as hard as ours did, I wasn’t just ready to open-arm-hug my brothers like it was some sort of movie. It’s still a cautious experience for me.
I remember asking you at Warped if you thought this gets easier, and you said no because the band have to constantly prove to people you’re just as valid as ever. Does that situation somehow influence the making of this record?
We’ve always been good at the music thing, man. The music thing was fine. That’s the only thing that kept us together for years. Playing on stage and making records and things like that—that was fine. It’s a much more pleasant experience this time around, but we were always good at that. As far as chemistry and things like that, it all comes down to rebuilding the personal [relationships]. But we picked up right where we left off musically.
Do you feel that the band can do anything they want without anyone’s pre-conceived notion of what Chiodos are “supposed” to sound like in 2014?
Yeah, we can do anything we want. When we’re around one another in the rehearsal room, we’ve always thought, “We’re Chiodos; we can do whatever we want musically,” because we’ve been so consistently random. I think only Bone Palace Ballet was the focused idea. It was still very eclectic, but at the same time, it was all dark, and a bit heavy. On this record, you’re gonna hear anthems and you’re gonna hear the heaviest, darkest stuff we’ve ever done. It’s a well thought-out record, but if you played track two to track nine to somebody random, they’d be like, “This is the same band?” But no, we don’t stop ourselves. We make whatever sounds good to us and whatever picture we see, we try and paint it the best that we can. We never really will say, “This band needs to sound like this, otherwise; we won’t succeed.” Because first of all, success is just relative, really. It really comes down to if you don’t love it, it’s not going to work. That’s what it all comes down to—not how heavy, soft or poppy or anything like that.
Is there any conscientious concern from the band about that?
I think that’s where Dave comes in. I think that sometimes we do things that may go over people’s heads on the first or second listen. Sometimes, maybe they don’t understand—from a musical aspect—what it is that we’re doing. But I’d like to think that with this record, we’re going to deliver without alienating anyone. I don’t mean that by cutting all of the edges off, and making it so readily accessible that it turns into a pop record. We’re just more conscious of our different angular parts than we have been in the past.
So you don’t want to have any boundaries going into it, but you’re not going to go off the wall either.
Yeah. So far, we’ve chosen nine songs that are definitely being tracked, and out of those songs, I can’t see any of them being too off the wall or too pop for anyone. I just think they’re us. I think this is a much more mature, much more reeled-in Chiodos, more focused.
When fans approach you to express their appreciation for Chiodos, what are the aspects of the band people really gravitate toward?
What it comes down to is if there’s true soul to the music. I can’t control what style of music our fans like; it’s ever-changing in human beings, and that’s something else I’ve noticed. But I think the commonality from fans is they relate to the soul of what it is that we do. I think it makes them feel. As artists, that’s our job: to make people feel, and to do that through honest interpretations of our own experiences. A lot of our fans early on were thanking us because we got them into screaming music. It wasn’t because we were screaming and they just happened to like us. It was that they listened to us, they connected, then they learned to love that. I think that’s something we have that isn’t ever going away. I think it’s an honest approach in the soul of Chiodos, and it comes from all of the band members; honestly wanting to be there, honestly wanting to make the best music we can, and not really thinking too much about genres or specifications that will limit us. If it’s honest and true and the soul comes through it, then we’re okay playing that and good things will come from it. That’s a lot of the reason why I missed Chiodos—I missed the soul of it.
What’s the most poignant thing you’ve written for this record?
Oh man, that’s heavy. My writing for this record has been the most mature and honest and heavy—it’s heavy. A lot of this record has to do with faith; believing in God, believing in the devil and my battle with that. I think people are really going to hear a lot of that. That being said, there’s everything. There’s nothing on this record that isn’t powerful.
With this record, I had to take a look at myself. I had to say, “You know what? It’s time stop writing self-loathing songs, and start writing how you can help other people.” It’s a different way to write for me, but it’s been really beneficial. I’m known for such deep, dark, sad things. And while it’s still deep and dark, there’s a point where you look in the mirror and you say, “Do I wanna sing about this anymore? And can I write honestly about this anymore or am I trying to fill a role?” I’ve moved on from that past role and evolved. I believe that maturity isn’t necessarily in the sound of the record—it’s still youthful and angst-filled—but it’s got a lot less self-loathing. I take responsibility for the platform that I’ve build for myself, and I’m going to do something good with it.
So being back in this band has given you a sense of self-actualization?
It opened up the possibilities of me staying true to who I am, and helped me along that path. But I think that people will start noticing that it’s going to be a lot less of a narcissistic journey, I guess. Warped Tour was the first time we’ve toured together [in years]; it’s the first time I’ve toured in a year. I had to sit and ask myself, “Is this what I want to do? This feels really narcissistic.” I just had to find a positive way to make that work for me, and make it feel like I wasn’t just out there for myself. It took me a while to realize that I had a platform that gave me the opportunity to give me something good, and I wasn’t just building it up so I could look down and see how big it’s gotten. That actualization and realization freed me because I think that’s who I’ve been all along.
There’s a lyric in this new record, kind of a little summary of what I’m saying about that. I just wrote it before I left on Monday, so who knows if I’ll even like it in a couple weeks. But right now it says what it is that I’m trying to say: “I believed you when you called me the villain/And like the devil that was cast out and defined by sin/I believed I could be some kind of here, but I got lost/And on the way to heaven I was dragged through hell.” I think that that’s kind of what happened. I believe that I was selfish, and I believed I was a villain and inside, it never sat well. So, I felt like I was leading this double life where I felt like I was a good person, but it never rang true. A lot of people—my fans especially—were upset when I came back to Chiodos. A lot of them were happy, but a lot of them were upset because they followed me and stuck by me and they didn’t understand. I hope that they can understand through proof of seeing it that it was such a liberating, freeing thing. Because now I can actually be the person who I want to be and who I am, without trying to sound too cheesy and prolific.
But you’re no stranger to a lot of craziness.
It’s still the calm before the storm. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but it is. I’m just really thankful, really blessed and I really am grateful for it. I’ll just keep putting out that good energy and hope that it comes back and if it doesn’t then so be it. At least I can sleep at night.
You know, I’ve thought about it, right? Because I’ve been pretty quiet and I kept thinking about it. I’m in such a different place, and I almost feel kind of disconnected, in a way. Because I’m not as deep into social media and the going-ons and this and that. I’m just excited to let the record speak for itself. I know that’s cheesy, but we’ve done everything that we were supposed to do and we’ve done it in the right way, and I think that because of that, a lot of really amazing things are going to happen, and I hope people choose to be a part of that journey. alt
Source Alternative Press