Ever since he was asked nine months ago to step down from his band, Chiodos, CRAIG OWENS has essentially been in a media blackout. Regardless of the numerous Twitter and Facebook updates in which Owens has been slowly but surely letting us know he’s very much alive and still (somewhere) in the music business, there are still a lot of questions that the fans, the media and his critics have felt have been left unanswered. Though the big, long story of what officially led up to his departure from the band continues to be evaded publicly by both Owens and his former band (as a whole, though individual commentary has been spit out by several members of Chiodos with venom via Twitter and Facebook messages during the past few months), the curtain is now quickly being brought back on the status of Owens’ new band, its members and what the “Craig Owens Sound” will be now that he’s signed to Warner Bros./Decaydance Records.
So, your fans have one major question right off the bat: How are you doing? All we keep seeing on your Twitter is how you’re running off to play basketball nearly every day.
Spending time on the basketball court has really been a great way for me to keep in shape while off the road. It’s a great way to stay happy and healthy, if you find running to be tedious. I’ve been showing Nick [Martin, guitarist] and Aaron [Stern, drummer] a bunch of moves. Getting them involved in a new sport has been very rewarding and amazing. Actually, Nick and I just returned from the basketball court a few miles away from my place here in [Rochester Hills, Michigan]. They’re getting pretty good! As for me, I really am doing well. I feel not only healthier, but happier than I’ve been in quite some time now. I’ve been filling my days during my time off with nonstop writing, basketball, quality time with family and friends and an occasional sushi trip in between writing sessions.
How is the writing coming along? You teased fans with a snippet of a song in one of your online video updates recently. Which song was that? Can you talk about it a bit?
Writing is coming along great. We’re up to around 30 tracks now, and hope to go in [into the studio] with around 15 to 30 more on top of that. All of that is even before pre-production. So we’ll end up spending a ton of time writing even more songs with [producer] John Feldmann when we head out to begin the process, hopefully in mid- July. Due to the amount of projects I’ve been involved with in the past, I’ve been able to write in quite a number of different ways. Aaron, Nick and I continue to explore our musical tastes and talents and further push one another to write in different ways—all while staying as on top of our game. As for the song clips in the videos, we tried to include some of our favorite parts of a few different songs. I believe we’ve played clips from about five or six songs at this point. One that I specifically remember using in the first studio update was a song with the pet name “Run, Run, Run.”
I’m not sure if that’ll be the actual title of the track in the end, though. This is the first song we demoed out with Feldmann for this band. It’s one of the favorites among our entire team, and I have a lot of faith that it’ll make the record. The song, as most of them are, are some of the most lyrically heavy tracks I’ve been involved with. This writing session has been more personally therapeutic than any other album I’ve done because of the amount of life-changing experiences and adventures I’ve been through this past year.
In decades past, for an artist to sign to a major label, even it's a cooler-for-effect subdivision was seen as a cash-in career move, but today that's no longer the case. You've always been a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of artist, recording songs and releasing them within days in some cases. Is there anything that you're fearful of by signing to a major label, with all of its levels of management and approvals needing to go through just to get a poster design approved?
To be honest, the jump to a major label has always been something that I've been fearful of. My hand was literally shaking as I was signing the contract. Although, the lines have blurred quite a lot between major labels, and the DIY as of recent, there are still obvious positives and negatives to both. The particularly significant part of this deal, the part that really got me hooked, was in the involvement and opportunity to work with Decaydance. I admire not only the other artists involved, but the way that it was run almost like a “major DIY.” My personal goal, as it is for most artists, is to have my music be heard by as many people as possible and to spread the message, bring the rock back, and help push us out of this “disco” era that we've been forced back into via our economy.
You know your fans are already wondering if the first Craig Owens project on Decaydance is going to be anything like your Chiodos material…
Well, the answer to this question is a pretty difficult one to sum up. I would say, yes. I was a big part of the writing for Chiodos, and this is a band that will be leaning towards my darker, heavier side as a lyricist, musician, and performer. The result of different personalities coming together is one of the key elements to the sound that was created in Chiodos, and it is the same for this. Nick, Aaron and I all have different personalities, talents, and preferences- so this will obviously be a different culmination, however, still in the same vein, with a few similarities here and there within the music. So, like I said, the answer is: Yes, with a twist. Something that has been focused more on this record, as opposed to the past, are the structures, and our main focus is on really letting the melodies shine through, as opposed to cluttering the song. I would consider parts of this to be heavier than anything I have ever done, while at the same time being much more artistic, and pop sensible in certain areas of the music.
So, are you saying that some of your Chiodos material was cluttered?
I wouldn't say that the past music was necessarily cluttered in a negative way. The music was just a bit harder for me to personally find my place within. In the songs that are now being written, our goal is to keep the vocals at the forefront of the songs, and then build around them. However, to be honest, we've actively taken so many various approaches while writing this new album to truly push and test ourselves to create the best music possible. I would say it all depends on the song and the specific situation.
You’ve done some recording sessions with Feldmann in the recent past, including with the unreleased last Chiodos demo, “Thermacare“ that leaked. How is he different than Casey Bates, who has produced some of your most notable work to date?
John and I have formed a very close friendship during the past year or so. He's personally helped me overcome the toughest of situations that I’ve recently encountered, and was the first person I called after I was notified by Chiodos management that I was let go from the band. John is someone I’ve have always admired, being a huge fan of his production work and as a singer/songwriter. I’m a huge fan of [Feldmann’s band] Goldfinger, and most importantly, he’s one of the most intelligent, strong-willed and talented people I’ve had the pleasure of befriending. John and I are on the same wavelength almost all of the time while writing songs together. As many artists learn, this is a huge help. He’s become an integral part of the songwriting process this time around. He can make any musical vision and not only bring it to life, but in a way that you never imagined before. He’s much more hands-on and deeper into the music and lyrics than, say, a Casey Bates is. Casey has a much more laid-back demeanor while in the studio, and is one of my favorite producers. He’s a close friend who I not only admire, but trust as well when it comes to the music-making process.
So is the band lineup complete? Where are you with this process? Have you been looking for a particular type of musician?
Actually, the band lineup is not fully complete yet. It's not that we’ve been announcing as we go, but we’re simply focused more on the writing of this album. We have a very short list of individuals we’ve been speaking with throughout this. They’re all amazing choices, and we’ve made a few very close friends through this entire process. We can't wait until the time comes to finalize the positions. For now though, Nick, Aaron, Feldmann and I have done most of the writing to date. Also, the band member process hasn't been the reason for the seemingly “slow” progress of the entire situation. As I’ve stated before, starting from scratch is a very time-consuming and long process. While waiting on the confirmation of moving to a new record label, finding new band members, writing new songs and creating an identity for this new band, I’ve been able to take some much-needed time off after almost a decade of a nonstop, on-the-go lifestyle. This time has been spent with my close family and friends fixing various aspects of my life, and preparing myself for the future and the things that it may bring.
Do you feel like you didn’t take enough time to take a break and breathe in the past?
I absolutely didn’t take enough time to breathe in the past. My No. 1 passion in life is music, so any moment I'm not playing it, writing it, or somehow filling my days with it, I feel as if something is missing. This almost yearlong break has shown me both the positives and negatives of taking a step back from music and spending the time to make myself both physically and mentally healthy. I’m prepared for reaching the goals that I’ve now created for myself in the near and not-so-near future.
So that leads to this: What's the No. 1 positive and No. 1 negative thing from taking a step back from music?
Well, let's start with the negatives just to get it out of the way. I miss playing live—not just the actual action of playing live, but the atmosphere and the amazing people supporting what it is that you love and work so hard for. [I miss] the therapy involved with screaming out your favorite lyrics to a room full of people who seem to understand. [I also miss] the traveling. I could really go on forever… The positives of taking a break from the hectic life that comes with music is something that I hadn't experienced or realized existed until this past year occurred. I had heard rumors that taking a break would settle you down mentally, emotionally and help with your physical health. But I had little to no experience with that. To be completely honest, this past year has not only been one the best decisions I’ve made in my career, but I truly believe I know myself now better than ever before.
Obvious question but we have to ask it: What’s the name of your band going to be?
Unfortunately, I have to elude this one. There are a few really solid ideas being thrown around. But anytime I’m asked or pressed by someone to make a decision, I simply say, “Let's focus on the music first. Then after some time, we’ll try to sum up all of the hard work, time and love that we’ve put into this with a title.”
Next obvious question: When can fans expect to hear new music?
This is also a question I simply don’t have an answer for yet. We plan on beginning to record the album mid-July in Los Angeles, and with the way the music industry works, you have to go through a few stages after that before the songs are 100 percent ready for the world to hear. We do have around 30 demos lying around our iTunes accounts though, so maybe we’ll be able to share some of the tracks before too long. Obviously, we’d love to share the songs with everyone sooner rather than later. Sitting on something like the music we’ve created isn't an easy thing at all.
Anything else you want to say to the world?
I’d like to say that I’m just absolutely thankful and couldn't be happier to be surrounded by the team of individuals I’m currently surrounded by. I don't believe these people get enough credit for the amazing things that they do—including keeping me happy and healthy. So I just wanna say thank you to Nick Martin, Aaron Stern, J.D. and Rob at Crush Management, John Feldmann, Pete Wentz, a rad dude named Scott and my super-cool lawyer Eric Greenspan. Thanks a ton for believing in me day in and day out, and thanks to all of you for giving me the chance to continue to follow my dreams and reach the goals I never thought to be possible. That sounded like I just accepted an award, huh? [Laughs.] alt