‘We’re rocking harder now’

Creed, one of America’s most successful hard-rock bands, is already working on a new album post their much publicised reunion

By (The New York Times)

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Published: Sat 29 Aug 2009, 10:44 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 11:14 PM

THE CREED REUNION rumours were swirling even before the band members began talking about such a thing late last year.

After all the drama and bitter recriminations of the group’s split in 2004, all it took was a phone call for singer Scott Stapp and guitarist Mark Tremonti to start putting things back together.

“I think Mark and I just got to the point where we were tired of people talking for us,” the 35-year-old Stapp says, speaking by telephone from a Nashville recording studio where the band is at work on a new album. “Not communicating was part of the reason we were in this situation.”

Stapp, who was in Orlando, Fla., to sing the national anthem at the Champs Sports Bowl in late December, called Tremonti’s management to tell them that he wanted to get together with Mark and touch base.

“We had a couple phone calls,” he recalls, “and I was at the Hard Rock and he came over and we had our guitars and it was really positive. We just caught up with our families and talked and just hung out like we used to. We had sent Christmas cards and had a small level of communication, but we were both actively working on things and building families as well as growing as artists and other things – spiritually, mentally, as men.

Cemented shortly afterward with a jam at Stapp’s house in Boca Raton, Fla., the Creed reunion marks the return of one of America’s most successful hard-rock bands, a quartet – also including drummer Scott Phillips and bassist Brian Marshall – that enjoyed phenomenal success in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Formed by Stapp and high-school classmate Tremonti in 1995, the band sold 35 million records worldwide and was the first group to score seven consecutive No. 1 rock-radio singles. With Arms Wide Open (2001) won a Grammy Award as Best Rock Song.

However, success “did things to us,” Stapp concedes.

Born Anthony Scott Flippen in Florida and raised in a strict Pentecostal household where his father, a minister and dentist, banned rock ’n’ roll, Stapp had left home when he was 17. Spirituality remained a central element for him, however, and the searching nature of his lyrics led many to label Creed a Christian band – much to the dismay of his bandmates.

“I think I was screwing up their plans for sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll,” Stapp says. “They did not understand why this was happening in their rock-’n’-roll career. It was a constant thread of resentment that ran through the band until we broke up.”

There were other issues. Marshall was booted in late 2000. Stapp struggled with substance addiction, and by the release of the album Weathered (2001) had been rendered increasingly erratic by a combination of throat nodules, pneumonia and anxiety attacks. At the final show of the tour to promote Weathered, in Chicago in 2002, Stapp was so intoxicated by a mix of alcohol and the painkiller Oxycontin that he slurred some lyrics, forgot others, sang while lying on his back and left the stage prematurely.

The group started making a fourth album in early 2004, but broke up acrimoniously before getting anywhere.

“Personal differences outweighed our progress in the band,” says the 35-year-old Tremonti, who with Marshall and Phillips formed a new group, Alter Bridge. “I don’t want to point any fingers. People just had different views.”

Stapp similarly wants to avoid rehashing old fights.

“When you are successful and the (number of) people around you start growing,” he says, “sometimes there’s a communication breakdown.”

In hindsight, however, he thinks it was a mistake for Creed to formally announce a split, rather than simply allowing the band members to spend some time apart.

“We needed a break,” he explains. “We had some tough times, and things were breaking down physically and in other areas. It wasn’t so much ‘I don’t want to hang out with you anymore’ or ‘I don’t like you anymore,’ but sometimes you’re so close to what’s going on that you can’t really see it. That’s what happened to us.”

While his bandmates focused on Alter Bridge, Stapp launched a solo career that included a song on the soundtrack for The Passion of the Christ (2004) and a solo album, The Great Divide (2005). The period was also marked by some marital discord and a number of other controversies, however, including a 2005 bar brawl with members of the band 311, a drunken appearance on Spike TV, a 2006 arrest for public drunkenness in Los Angeles the day after his wedding to his second wife, former Miss New York Jacklyn Nesheiwat, and the release of a 1999 video showing Stapp and Kid Rock engaging in sexual acts with four women on a tour bus.

Stapp lumps all of these episodes together as “bonehead mistakes (that) I wish I could have back. I never claimed to be anything but a normal guy who makes mistakes like everybody else.”

It was apparent, however, that Stapp was in a crisis that he had to resolve before he could move forward with his life, creative and otherwise.

“I think what drove me crazy was that I had not found any resolution in my life, spiritually,” says Stapp, who credits his family, including a child from each of his two marriages, for helping him finally achieve a level of peace. “It’s a different day for me now, because that inner struggle ... is over. There’s no more of that. I’m not so conflicted spiritually and as a human being.”

Stapp even shaved off his trademark long hair as a gesture of apology and reconciliation to his family and to anyone else he might have alienated with his behaviour during the past decade.

“I just felt like a burden was off me,” the singer explains. “When I’m with someone from the past or the present now, even though they might have some preconceived ideas, they’re no longer seeing the person they pictured in their mind prior to seeing me again. It’s given me a chance to say ‘Sorry’ and right any wrongs that I did during that time and have a fresh start.”

When Creed came together again, Stapp says, “it was so easy for us to walk in and just give each other a hug and at the same time say, ‘Man, forgive me if I’ve done anything to hurt you ...’ To be able to talk about our wives and our children and have that common bond of family as our foundation, and to see how each of us were as fathers and husbands, I think it allowed the trust level to move a little faster.

“And we’re all humbled by ... just the fact that people are still interested in us.”

The band members could simply have set out on what was likely to be a lucrative tour, but instead they immediately decided to set to work on a new album, Full Circle. The title track came up during Creed’s first session playing together again, while songs such as Don’t Give Up, Slow Suicide and A Thousand Faces were written during subsequent sessions.

The new songs feature “a lot of reflection,” Stapp says, but he’s quick to add that they aren’t necessarily as serious as that might suggest.

“It’s not a hopeless, complaining record,” he says. “It’s telling stories, but it’s also rocking out, man. We’re rocking harder now, with some of the songs, than we ever have. It’s from a different place and a different type of reflection and a different level of maturity, but we’re a rock band, so there’s still that brashness.

“There’s a confidence and a swagger that I think we only feel collectively,” he adds. “Our music is fresh and still very connected to who we are and the sound we have, but it’s also taken a natural evolution.”

Creed’s reunion hasn’t put a stop to the group members’ other projects. Stapp still plans to finish his second solo album, and Alter Bridge is planning to bring out a live album this fall and a new studio set in 2010.

All consider Creed to be back in business, however, and the guitarist says that the band is better than ever.

“We’re all better performers and entertainers now,” Stapp says, “and real confident in the songs. We’re getting a second chance to make a first impression, and we’re excited about it and feel really honoured and blessed to have that in our lives.”

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