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Interview: Craig Owens on Rejoining Chiodos, Acting and Idols

Chiodos

Chiodos is currently out on the road on their “Devil’s Dance Tour” along with Emarosa, Hands Like Houses and Our Last Night. Frontman Craig Owens was kind enough to sit down with Digital Diversion in San Francisco during the precious down-time between a fan VIP acoustic performance/meet and greet and the show to cover a lot of ground including rejoining Chiodos, life on the road and how musicians make good actors.

You have been on the tour for about a month now; are there any highlights so far?

Craig Owens: Technically the Devils Dance Tour has only been about a month, but we’ve been on the road pretty consistently since February. Four days ago was my first day home since February. Since February we have done Japan, London twice, and then Canada and then most of the States now. So, we have about two weeks left on this tour and it’s just been amazing … overwhelming.

What’s the craziest city for Chiodos?

Craig Owens: Tokyo is pretty nuts. We played Punkspring and it was like 10,000 Japanese chanting our name in between songs and it was just rowdy. Usually the Japanese are very quiet in between songs because they wait to listen out of respect. There is a lot US Army out there and U.S. soldiers that are stationed [there] and they were just out there chanting our name and then everybody did. It was pretty cool.

How do you spend your downtime when you are on the road?

Craig Owens: Well my manager really likes to make it so I don’t have any of that. [laughing]

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Craig Owens: Both. Good, as in a good problem to have. Bad, as in sometimes I get a little worn thin and I feel like I can’t deliver the way that I want to sometimes. But it’s okay, I am learning to readjust. This is really my first set of heavy touring, aside from Warped Tour, in three or four years. I mean probably since that show [referring to D.R.U.G.S. in San Francisco] really, that tour was probably the last tour that I did outside of Warped.

So, I grab my guitar often and learn covers, write songs, and just play. I read a lot and I spend a lot of time calling loved ones. Typically that’s it. I like to, workout and things that will … anything that’s for myself. It’s important to do at least one thing for yourself each day, so whether it’s eating healthy, or being active or reaching out to someone that you love or miss, or writing a song for yourself, or learning a cover for fun, or reading a book.

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What’s the last cover that you learned?

Craig Owens: The last cover I learned was “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen.

Why that one?

Craig Owens: In preparation for this record [Devil] I would listen to the accapella tracks that are just his [Freddy Mercury] vocal takes and I would listen to it on the way to the studio just to push myself. I was just kind of hard on myself actually because I don’t know if I can ever achieve such greatness, but it motivated me. Queen’s always been one of my favorite bands and it’s always a song that I loved and kind of was drawn to so, I figured why not.

Are you going to play it tonight?

Craig Owens: No, that probably wouldn’t be a good move. [laughing] I don’t have it down yet.

What’s the one item that you couldn’t live without while touring?

Craig Owens: Oh, my gosh, that’s a tough one. Couldn’t live without … I know where my comfort zone lies on certain things, but “live”? … Probably my telephone, I would probably go crazy.

Keeping in touch with the loved ones, like you said…

Craig Owens: Yeah I would probably go crazy.

You rejoined the band about two years ago and, as you mentioned, probably the last big tour you did, aside from Warped, was with D.R.U.G.S. How did your reentry into Chiodos come about?

Craig Owens: It started out as a joke. The D.R.U.G.S. thing was getting rocky because of some internal issues. I wasn’t in the best position to lead at the time and I decided to make a band full of leaders. So, anybody that’s been in that position understands that you really have to be on your game in order to lead leaders. So, it was a bit rocky at the time and I had gotten new management … a lot of management problems with the D.R.U.G.S. camp which is a lot what eventually led to us splitting up because without me being able to lead and without good management, there was no one to believe in really so the guys got lost, I think. So, at that point I got a new manager separate/aside from the D.R.U.G.S. manager because we couldn’t agree on one and she asked me as a joke if I could make one record what would it be … any record I wanted. And I jokingly said, oh the next Chiodos record but it’s not going to happen. As a result of that she reached out to them and setup a meeting for Brad and I and we just met and we decided to play some shows together. The shows went swimmingly and here we are.

Obviously there was a reason you left Chiodos at the time. The shows went well but at some point in time did you have to address those reasons?

Craig Owens: Oh yeah, we address them all the time because they are ongoing. Anybody that’s been in a relationship and had problems knows that it’s not one conversation that fixes it. One conversation and then consistently avoiding and calling out bad habits when they reoccur. So we communicate now, we didn’t communicate in the past. It was pretty much a couple of people said what they think and everybody else kind of went with it but then didn’t really necessarily agree with it, but weren’t able to voice their opinions whether it would be the people that were communicating or were confrontational or abrasive or whether or not they just needed to step up. A little bit of both I believe.

So lack of communication is the reason that we split up and the communication is there now. The communication is better than it’s ever been, I think. It doesn’t mean that it’s all like perfect and rainbows and puppy dogs, but we get along now … we get along well and we respect one another and ultimately, we all want to make music together which is the number one thing that we really have to keep intact.

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You mentioned that the record that you wanted to make was the next Chiodos record. That [Devil] came out on April 1st. How was the writing process for that different than previous records?

Craig Owens: I got a lot of confidence after I did the project D.R.U.G.S. It started with John Feldmann and I … what happened was I wanted John Feldmann to do the next Chiodos record and the label and management were like, “no way.”

And why was that?

Craig Owens: Money I think. And I was like well, “I don’t care. Bone Palace did well, I want to do this with Feldmann.” I think that was also partially a part of the split too [from Chiodos], because I couldn’t get along with them. We weren’t on the same vision. So Feldmann and I started writing this D.R.U.G.S. record and a lot of the way that he writes is on acoustic guitars … he grabs an acoustic and we just go for it and then later on we build it. Any good song can be a good song on acoustic as well. That’s kind of the mentality. As a result of that, I got a lot of confidence because I had done that in the past, but it only showed through a little bit here and there. So, I brought that to the table this time. I knew how to focus structures, I brought a harder work ethic than I ever had before because in D.R.U.G.S. I had to make it happen. I brought a lot of confidence and a lot of structure and we combined that with our old way of working and added in the communication so everybody got to touch the ball, so to speak. We actually did preproduction because we had time to do it instead of our management keeping us on such a tight tour schedule that the art takes a second chair to it. So a combination of all of those led to the writing in this record and that’s how it’s different.

So the process of going through D.R.U.G.S. made you able to work more effectively with the guys here in Chiodos?

Craig Owens: Yeah absolutely. It’s just like when you date someone else after being with someone for a while. You have new perspective and you have other experiences that you can bring to that new relationship. Then if you get back with that person, you know exactly what went wrong because you have that perspective. It doesn’t mean you don’t fall into old habits, but as long as someone keeps you check…

You have mentioned in previous interviews that the song “Duct Tape” actually goes back to the “Bone Palace” sessions. Are there any other songs that pulled from that material?

Craig Owens: Oh gosh … I am going to have to think about that. Possibly. That would be a question for Pat, probably. Pat stepped up and wrote way more … I mean he wrote a lot in the Chiodos Brothers days, but then when Chiodos came and Jason came into the band, he kind of took a backseat … went back on the back burner. This time he really stepped up, so I wouldn’t doubt if some of those riffs come from that. I wouldn’t doubt that at all. Actually I am probably going to ask him after this.

Do you guys keep everything; just hit the record button when you play?

Craig Owens: Yeah we keep everything but life happens. I probably have it on a hard drive somewhere, but I haven’t gone through those for so long.

We were talking about your meet and greet earlier and the long line out front of Slim’s, which I think underscores the fact that you guys have a very passionate fan base. What’s the craziest thing a fan has ever given to you?

Craig Owens: Oh my gosh … headaches, stress. [laughing] Crazy fan experiences … I used to live in Michigan … I live in Malibu, California now … but I lived in Michigan for a decade just outside of Detroit. I grew up in Flint, Michigan but then moved to Detroit for a decade. While living in Detroit, things were kind of the blowing up for the band, so to speak … the rise to our success. In that time I would have people show up at 2 a.m. ringing my door bell, tweeting at me telling me to open it. People would leave me notes on my car or one time I came out to my balcony having coffee in the morning, I looked down and there were four tires that said “we love Craigery Owens” just blocking my car in. There have been quite a few experiences.

Wow okay, not since you moved to Malibu?

Craig Owens: No, because I think it’s a bit more common out there and people aren’t looking for me. So it’s nice I can breathe.

You actually recently had an acting role in the movie K-11. Is that part of being in LA and do you think that you will do more [acting]?

Craig Owens: I will do more. I don’t know if it’s a part being in LA, but it can be a part of being in LA. It’s more so part of being in LA than say Michigan. That came about on a whim. Actually my friend who I saw a couple of days ago came up to me at show a few years ago and said, “I want you to be in a movie,” and I said, [laughing] “sure, sure I’ll talk to you about it,” because I didn’t believe her. It turned out that she was one of the bigger casting agents in Hollywood and it was all real and I went into meet the producer … who I now actually live with in Malibu, which is crazy … and it just worked out really well. It was an amazing experience. Growing up, I wanted to be on Broadway. That’s what I wanted to do and once I realized that I had to play by other people’s rules, it wasn’t for me.

So, when I started writing my own music I was like “oh, I could be in control” and I won’t feel like I have be someone that I am not in order to win these roles and make my art, roles aside. But I love acting. It gives me a chance to tap into different parts of me and emotions and I think it helps round me out as a human being. It’s just a form of art that I really admire, that I grew up loving.

When I write songs, I write from the heart. I try to do brain-to-pen as often as I can … sometimes I get distracted … but often it’s a vision. Often I try and paint a picture with my words, a picture that I see in my head, a scene that I see in my head, typically ten seconds long, and I try and describe every which way that I can and that’s typically how I write. I think movies basically raised me, so it plays a big part in my life and art and yeah, I am really looking forward to doing a lot more.

I always felt that musicians make really good actors because of what you just described … the performing aspect that extends very naturally into acting.

Craig Owens: It depends on what it is that you created for yourself as an artist, like when you go out and play songs and stuff. You basically relive and you have to emote the necessary requirements based on what it is that was lyrically relevant at that moment. So I am basically acting every night because I am reliving moments that I don’t necessarily feel quite the same way, but I have a feeling about them. I have a feeling that I can relate to in my life now that I apply, you know what I mean. And that’s acting. That’s all acting is, it is … you choose the spot, like a choice, and it may not be exactly what it is that the role is, but the emotion is the same and then you go out there and sing it as if it is. It’s pretty similar.

I can definitely see it, especially as you have described it. [Referring to musicians that also act] Watching it you wonder if it is real or is it an act …

Craig Owens: I know! I think that fans struggle with that all the time. I know I am a fan of music first and foremost, that’s why I am here, and sometimes I struggle with looking up to my favorite band saying, is it real or is it an act. I struggle with that too. I think the answer is “both” … sometimes it’s an act and sometimes it is real. I think it’s just different, I don’t know different moods, different days. I don’t know … it depends on what it is that you have created for them.
You know what I mean?

Yeah. You’ve got your own personal view of what they are like …

Craig Owens: Totally.

… and then you meet them and then, does it match or not.

Craig Owens: Exactly, I know. And that’s why I won’t meet my idols … I refuse to meet my idols. The last thing I want to do is meet Bob Dylan and just be bummed, you know. I’ve just heard so many bad stories, the last thing I want to do is go in expecting this or that and have him not live up to the rockstar version of him that I have in my head.

What if you ran into him [Bob Dylan] backstage or a show, would you go up and say, hi or …

Craig Owens: I don’t think I would go up and say hi. If I was in a room with him and it would be socially rude to not saying hello, then sure. But I would avoid it at all cost. I have had some pretty negative experiences with that growing up in this music scene and I think a lot of it had to do with me being the up-and-comer and them being on their way out, but it turned me off quite a bit from wanting to meet people that I look up to in the music scene specifically. As far as sports stars or actors or those kind of people, that would be easier for me, but I would still try and avoid it probably.

What’s the best thing about being in Chiodos for you?

Craig Owens: Making music with my friends … I just like making music with my friends. People always talk about how many projects I do and it really comes down to the bare bones of it all. Each project I do is me walking into a room full of my friends and then us making music together. Then the labels brand it and put it out and do all that and, sure it goes through us, but it isn’t like we name it before we make our music.

It really just comes down to making music with my friends. I love it. The creative process is my favorite part I think. It’s on the back burner in rock music and it really bums me out because touring is how people live and it’s unfortunate because I think that, while it’s beneficial for artists to make money … to be enabled to continue to make art … it’s hurting music I believe. And that bums me out. You know it really comes down to just making music with my friends and this time around it’s different because our management for example … talking about what we were just talking about … we refused to pop out a record super quick because that’s what happened before. That’s why we were so miserable and I think that’s part of the reason bands aren’t consistent as well; because they don’t have time to even process what it is they just experienced. And we are talking about young 20 year old kids that don’t understand what they are going through and they don’t have a fair chance at enjoying it, blossoming into the artist they could be or even into themselves. And then they wake up one day and look back and say “what the hell,” if they make it that far. A lot of time they won’t even look back, they just become jaded and move on.

 

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