[Photos by Cindy Clark]
Slaves are making good on Jonny Craig's promise to push on with “I'd Rather See Your Star Explode,” exclusively premiering today on AltPress. It's the band's first new single following a sudden breakup last April, one that was reversed by Craig and bassist Colin Vieira only one month later. We sat down with Craig about the music video (directed by Artery President Shan Dan Horan), their upcoming album release, his guru producer, their past and present lineup and life outside the Internet.
This video for “I'd Rather See Your Star Explode” appears to be autobiographical. Can you tell us the backstory?
The basis of it is I'm getting wheeled in, I'm unconscious, I wake up and come to, the next thing you know, I'm being interrogated. It goes back and forth between this girl and a guy, and the girl's really not even there, it's just more of a metaphor. I don't want to give too much of it away. The sentence from the single is from a book.
All the videos that we've done so far are usually the live shots. Just a band playing, rocking out—empty room, warehouse-type shit that everyone [does]. We love the videos, don't get me wrong. We obviously wouldn't put them out if we didn't like them, but we wanted to do something a little different. Let's have some acting in this video, and just make it a little more enjoyable to watch.
There's no doubt that chorus hook is going to get the crowd up with you. Is that a direction the other songs are following? Music that you can share with more people?
I believe so. The chorus is just going to make the crowd a little more responsive. It's not necessarily that we sat down and said, “Hey, let's write all these songs so kids can sing them,” but they're definitely more, not straightforward, but definitely more to the point. More enjoyable to listen to than ranting or holding notes and belting, you know?
The lyrics in the chorus are pretty self-aware. Do you think you're difficult to be in a band with?
Oh, come on. You already know the answer to that. [Laughs.] I am, and I think it's just because I'm a very extreme personality. I don't hide anything, so it's not like everyone doesn't already know I'm kind of an asshole sometimes. And I'm working on that. When I started the band with Alex [Lyman, former guitarist], it was going so well; our personalities were so much alike that they clashed together so hard. He just started taking over this role of everyone hating him and I'm sitting back here like, “Alright cool, I don't really have to do much anymore.” [Laughs.]
Once they were all like, “We're leaving. We're done,” me and Colin [Vieira, bass] were like, “Let's take this time to put this thing back together, and let's do it the way we want to do it.” That way we don't have to worry about dealing with people that don't like us, or we don't like them or that aren't on the same page as us musically. I am a difficult person to work with.
Did Slaves ever break up in your head?
No. When Alex posted all that stuff, me and Colin were just like, “You know what? We're gonna let him have it. He's gonna go through his thing where he posts that he hates us, the band is done, that everyone had a good time, thank you so much.” We knew we were going to continue on, but we said, “Let's worry about that later. Let everyone think we broke up. That way, when we come back, we can come back stronger and we can really make a different impact on what we were doing.” We want it to be different. We don't want it to sound like Alex is in the band anymore or Tai [Wright, former drummer] is in the band anymore. We want it to sound like a whole new band, new project, new world.
Are the ex-members dead to you?
[Laughs.] No, no, no. Not at all. Like I said, we didn't really have any bad blood, it's just… you spend every day with a person. It's like having a girlfriend: I got fuckin' five girlfriends and each one has a different problems with me or I have a different problem with them. It becomes a little much sometimes, and you have to step back and reflect. It helped a lot more than it was negative. I love all those dudes, and they know that. They just didn't want to tour anymore; I think they were over it and all the drama.
Can you introduce the rest of the Slaves lineup for 2017 and going forward?
It's me, Colin Vieira on bass and Weston Richmond on guitar, he's still in the band. That's it, at the moment. We're not looking for any new members or holding try-outs. I'm sure eventually the other members will come together as we find them and become comfortable.
In the meantime, you'll just bring in friends or hires for tour?
Yep, exactly. We had Matt Marquez from Heartist do the drums on the album, so we talked to him about [touring]. Right now, we're gonna keep it simple.
What's planned this year besides an album release in the spring?
There's a U.K./Europe tour that's coming up. That's about all I can really say for now.
Yeah, but with this album, you're committed to touring the crap out of it?
Oh yeah, that's all we wanna do. As soon as we get our team together, we're just gonna hit it so hard. We want to be touring until the beginning of next year, you know? We want to be touring the entire year on this album. That's how good I feel the album is, that we'll be able to spend this entire time on the road.
I remember when Alex Lyman trashed your label. But here you are releasing your third album on Artery. How did you feel about that outburst?
The simplest way to say it without talking shit or being rude is that Alex just kind of did whatever he wanted. That's another reason he isn't in the band anymore. No one wants to put up with that. I know that, from a perspective. [Laughs.] Let me tell you, you be in two bands and do whatever you want, it's not gonna fly with four or five other people. So, when he had the little outburst and bitched about everything, it was just childish. It didn't need to happen.
From a professional standpoint, you need to act like an adult and just figure it out. You can't just blast someone because things aren't going your way. I'm starting to learn these things myself. I'm not just bagging on him, because I've obviously had a hard time myself growing up and just humbling myself. I get it. I get why he was upset, and you get angry in that moment like, “Fuck this, fuck everyone, I don't care and everyone needs to know!”
It got worked out because I took the high road. I went back to Artery and apologized. I mended the relationship that was there so that we could move forward with them. Shan [Dan Horan, Artery president] and Eric [Rushing, Artery CEO] have been extremely supportive in finding us what we need, team-wise, and also helping us push this album to reach more people and grow as a band.
You sort of have a little bromance going on with producer Erik Ron, am I right?
[Laughs.] Oh, man. What can I say about that dude that hasn't already been said by every single person that he works with? When I started with Erik, I was in fear, like, “Man, this isn't going to work out well. I don't work well with others.” In all reality, he's changed my life. It was the most amazing experience I've ever had, because I was able to just be myself. We would sit before I wrote a song, and we would have an hour conversation about something, and that's what the song would be about. Me and him just clicked on so many levels. That's obviously his job; he does that with everyone.
To me, he's the best person I've ever worked with. This is the best album I've ever done. I owe him a lot, man. He really changed my life. He gave me a motivation that I just kind of lost for a while. I was talking to Mod Sun and he was like, “Dude, you're not even flexing on anyone anymore. You used to flex all over the fuckin' place.” That kind of clicked for me, and Erik and I talked about that and he was like, “You're going to flex all over this album.” And we did, man. I threw down hard.
“With this album, I feel like I have the chance to be the person I was supposed to be the entire time.”
You feel like you're back on this album more than ever?
I do, I do. I love the first album because it was like, “Cool, a jump start, Jonny's back in a band.” Second album, everything was happening internally in the band, and it kind of sucked, and during that time we gotta go record. I wasn't happy with what I had done for the second album. I know it doesn't sound bad or anything—it sounds great. I just wasn't happy myself. I didn't feel like I put enough of my heart and soul into it.
On this album, I was like, “The first thing that needs to be done is I need to let go of every single thing and just work on this album.” I gave my phone to Sinjin [Ayat, tour manager], and I didn't have a phone for a month. I used my iPad to write, and me and Erik just worked day in, day out. We knocked this shit out of the park, man.
This is a new year for me, and this is a new chance for me to prove to all the people who walked away from me and Slaves: “You know what? He can do it. He can stay clean. He can have a good time while doing it.” I'm just happy to still be here. I think honestly, that's what they wanna see too. I feel like I was able to let go for the first time in a long time, and not to get too deep or personal, but Erik gave me a new confidence. I held onto the shame so long of the whole MacBook thing and all the negative stuff, that I just started to give up on myself. Then I was just like, “Fake it, fake it ’til you make it.” With this album, I feel like I have the chance to be the person I was supposed to be the entire time.
“If someone talks shit to me on the internet, why do I have to be the bigger person? Why can't I just be like “blow me” and block that person?“
How would you explain the difference between Twitter Jonny and Real Life Jonny, aside from going by “DADDY” on there?
[Laughs.] Band dudes and other bands in the scene, especially, have this image of me that I'm this asshole, jackass, piece of shit, stuck-up person. Then they meet me, they talk to me, and they're just like, “You know what? I thought the complete opposite of you.” And that's cool, too. I get it. People read my Twitter and they're like, “I hate you, dude. I love your music but your personality sucks. Blah blah blah.” Like, come on. You gotta lighten the fuck up. I'm not sitting here like, “Aw yeah. Fuck hoes, fuck bitches!” I'm not saying that shit in real life. I'm not talking down on women. Take Fronz from Attila, for example. He doesn't act like that in real life, and he knows that. It's like a persona, it's tight and it works. Then you meet him in real life and he's not like that. He's the nicest, most laid-back, chill dude.
I just wanna be myself. If someone talks shit to me on the internet, why do I have to be the bigger person? Why can't I just be like “blow me” and block that person? I just want to be myself sometimes, and it comes out that way. Why do I have to be the nice guy? Why can't I just be myself? I love my music. I enjoy what I do. I love my fucking fans more than anything.
An old bio of yours said “fuck everything but music.” That still the truth?
Of course, man. That and “money over bitches.” [Laughs.]
I know it's crude, but that's just what it means. Music before my family. Music before my relationships. Music has saved my life, and I just want everyone to know that. When you look at me, that's what I want you to think of. That dude doesn't care about anything except music, and once I've achieved that, I can work on everything else. I don't know if that's wrong.
“When I came back, I realized when I started not caring about singing anymore, that's when it clicked that I had a problem.”
I don't think so. I don't think some people realize you love singing more than anything.
I don't love anything else, man. And you know what? I got lost for a while, and it sucked because that kind of helped me when I was doing the drugs and stuff. When I came back, I realized when I started not caring about singing anymore, that's when it clicked that I had a problem. It was always first for me in my life. I didn't want to do anything but sing. Things started getting weird where I didn't really care. It's great now, because I'm finally back to the point where I want to practice, I want to fuckin' be singing 24/7. [Laughs.]
I'm glad that it's still number one in my life, and I hope it stays that way forever. ALT