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Article off of ALLMUSIC.COM

Meet the band that proves you don't need stardom and glamour to be a real success.
By Jon Wiederhorn

Sometimes all is not what it seems, or so the members of Creed would have you believe. Take the band's name -- an obvious religious reference, and a vehicle through which vocalist Scott Stapp spreads his voluble gospel, right ? Wrong. The moniker is actually short for Maddox Creed, the name of a street that the bassist's former group used to practice on. And while Stapp did, indeed, have a religious upbringing, Creed is no grunge rock Stryper. In fact, the members won't say much about their personal beliefs. And when it comes to musical influences, they're miffed that anyone would even compare them to the onslaught of heavy guitar bands that emerged from Seattle in the early '90s. Not that such comparisons are unjustified. Stapp sure sounds a lot like Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, and many of Creed's songs bristle with dense, buzzing guitars in the vein of Alice in Chains -- but again, all ain't what it appears to be. Guitarist Mark Tremonti was weaned on Metallica and Death Angel, and still prefers Motorhead to Mudhoney. And Stapp, the band says, just happens to possess the same vocal range as Vedder. Given the band's innate perversity, it's only natural that Creed has risen to the top of the Billboard chart with hardly a mention in most alternative rock periodicals or on MTV. Of course, unknown bands don't just score four #1 singles and rack up a quadruple platinum debut album, let alone craft a follow-up that remains in the Billboard #1 album slot for two weeks, without some sort of heavy promotion. But Creed's support has been largely of the grassroots variety. The band has toured heavily, signed autographs, shaken hands, kissed babies. And the fans have responded fervently, constructing glorious Web sites and requesting Creed's ditties on radio stations across the country. All of which indicates Creed is as organic as Phish or Widespread Panic, even though its music would induce most Furthur Fest participants to flee in fright, leaving their lit bongs behind. In person, the members of Creed actually have a lot more in common with modern hippie rockers than with alternative angstoids. They don't brood or pose, and they're more interested in playing Frisbee or tossing a football than they are in scoring coke or scamming groupies. Yet they've become hugely successful without the lure of being compelling or tragic media figures. In a recent backstage interview in New York before a sold-out club show, Mark Tremonti discussed the band's rootsy appeal, emotional metallic melodies, spiritual message, and aversion to rock and roll revelry and cliche.

Make Mine Metal

Many people were surprised that Human Clay debuted at #1 on Billboard and remained there the following week.
We've always been kind of underestimated. We thought that the only real competition that week was going to be Garth Brooks, but we knew he was doing his side project [Chris Gaines], so we knew we weren't going up against a country Garth Brooks album. We would have been destroyed. But we were pretty confident that all our fans bought the first record [My Own Prison] and realized that it wasn't a couple songs on the radio, with the rest of the album being fillers. So we knew they'd want to get the new one as soon as it came out.

You've been called a grunge-inspired band, but you have a much more metallic crunch than those groups.
I just grew up on metal and Metallica and all that stuff. I'd hate the music of Creed to be compared to Pearl Jam and all that Seattle stuff. Their guitar players were more bluesy rock, and I'm definitely more of a Metallica/Slayer guy. I grew up on that stuff. Those are my favorite things to listen to. But when I wrote music, I never wrote "Angel of Death" or nothin' like that.

Yet the comparisons to Seattle bands -- especially Pearl Jam -- persist.
Scott's vocals have sort of the same sound as Eddie Vedder. He's just born like that. I could understand if we wrote a song that sounds like Pearl Jam's "Black" or "Alive." But there's not one melody in our records that resembles any of theirs one bit. If you're stealing songs, you're a rip-off, but if you sound like somebody because you sing in the same timbre, it's not a rip-off.

Many of today's hard rock bands, including Filter and Korn, are somewhat dismayed when they're compared to metal bands.
Not me, man. I think it's awesome. It's funny. When we first started out, I was a super metal-head, writing songs that sounded like Death Angel. They were super heavy, and everyone would rag on me for the riffs I was doing. But now they push for it. I've burned it into their heads, and everybody likes the metal riffs now, whereas back in the old days they were like, "Man, what the hell are you doing?"

Songwriting & the Role of Radio

Your music combines sing-along melodies with heavy metal crunch in a way tha t doesn't sacrifice either. How do you go about melding those disparate elements?
When we write, me and Scott do it separately at first. I have to be completely alone to write anything because you gotta sound stupid when you're by yourself -- because I always sing in falsetto when I'm writing. So I'll write stuff that could stand on its own apart from Scott's stuff, and he'll write stuff that could stand on its own apart from my stuff. His lyrics could be read as a kind of poem of sorts. He likes to write like Bono did or Jim Morrison, where it's like poetry. So when it comes to the melody part, Scott and I create a good balance for each other. I'm the heavy guy and Scott's the more Bono kind of guy. Even though I was a big metal-head and like to write heavy music, I love melodies. I think those are the most important part of a song. That's what you listen to when you hear a song.

How would you describe your songwriting approach?
We've always just done our own thing. We wrote the first album for ourselves, not for the radio or anybody else, and our fans seemed to like that, so we took the same approach on the second album. When we first set out, we never wanted to tour with other bands. We just did our own little headlining tours until our fan base grew, and it seemed to work really well for us. We've always been the dark horses running by ourselves, doing our own little thing. When we first came out, no one was playing hard rock music. Now, programmers have changed. They've seen the success of bands like us and Days of the New.

Really? You think Days of the New was pivotal in getting hard rock back on the radio?
I think us and them really broke rock back into radio. And now they've changed their formats to even much harder than we are. There's a really good variety. You got your metal/rap stuff and a lot of other rock bands out there. I couldn't be happier.

How much of your support is due to the radio?
It all comes down to the listeners calling and requesting, and because of that, everyone started playing us. I'm sure when Nirvana came out, the requests went through the roof and they started playing that style of music, just like what's happened with us and Days.

Lyrics & Life Issues

What is it about your sound that fans respond to?
It's something we really haven't done on purpose, but when we play, we're real in tune with the crowds. It's like a big journey. You come into the show, we start out rocking, and people just get all rowdy at first. But by the end of the show, it's kind of an uplifting thing. I think people leave happy. So it's kind of like you went on a 90-minute journey with the band and we feel real close to our fans. It's more like a storytelling type of show instead of just live music.

Do people relate to your sincerity or down-to-earth vibe?
Yeah, but also when we came out, there wasn't anything that was heavy and serious. There was stuff like Third Eye Blind and Marcy Playground, and people wanted something a little darker and deeper. People can connect with serious issues. Even now, there still aren't too many serious bands. There are a lot of great rock bands out there, but not too many bands that talk about real things.

In other words, it's not all about sex, drugs, and rock and roll?
No way. Each song's got a different message. Our music doesn't have one universal theme. It's just storytelling. Each song's got a story. Each song came from an inspiration moment of feeling deep about something.

What kind of issues are you confronting lyrically?
On the new record, there are issues of abuse, rape, dealing with your inner demons. There are also issues of growing old, losing your grasp on your youth. Then you've got your uplifting issues too. It's not just one big down, melancholic album. "Higher" is an uplifting song. It's about chasing your dreams. Each song has its own thing.

You mentioned abuse, rape, inner demons. Are these things members of the band have confronted?
Yes and no. Not everything we sing is about us. We also sing about things we hear about or read about or see.

Illusions of Faith

Are there issues of faith involved with Creed's music?
Yeah, spirituality -- finding one's own faith.

Are you a religious band?
No, as a band we're all different. But Scott's the main lyricist, and he grew up in a real religious family, and his parents made him study the Bible and learn religion through and through, so that's always been his reference point lyrically. He's very good at using symbolism through religious pieces in the Bible. I think a lot of people might have thought we're religious just because he's done it in such an intelligent way that somebody who's well-read of the Bible will say, "If he knows that verse, he's gotta be a Christian."

Well, you are called Creed.
Yeah, but we didn't even choose the name until six or seven months of being a band. I could go and be all spiritual about our name, but Brian [bassist Brian Marshall] was in a band called Maddox Creed, and he said, "How about Creed?" And we said, "Cool." It was the name of the street they practiced on. And it was a pretty strong single word that we thought DJs would like.

So your name doesn't have any deep spirituality attached to it?
Everything that's happened to us has happened pretty much for a reason in kind of a hocus-pocus, fate kind of way. Creed is one of those things. It means a belief or a following. And "creed" is a think-for-yourself, find-your-own-beliefs, try-to-live-a-good-life kind of word. At first it was kind of an idea, and it developed into a pretty good name for us.

Still Just Regular Guys

A lot of people said you're just a garage rock group that could be playing at the corner bar.
We've been called "everyguy rock," meaning we're just like your next-door neighbors who had a band. We really don't go out of our way to promote a certain image. We don't even go out of our way to put on a show.

Are you like a hard-rock Hootie and the Blowfish?
No way. They have nothing to do with anything we've ever done. Hootie and the Blowfish was a nice little happy folky college band that I feel sorry for because the critics threw them to the dogs. They were a bunch of nice guys that went out and played happy music to their college friends, got a big record deal, and every little punk critic jumped all over them. I don't think all these people would talk so badly about other people if they really knew them personally. It's easy to chop somebody when you think they've got it all. But I always felt sorry for Hootie because they seemed like your average nice-guy kind of people, who everywhere they looked somebody said they sucked, when they weren't trying to impress anybody in the first place.

How did you all hook up?
Me and Scott actually went to high school together. Then, I went to Florida State for college, and I hooked up with the other guys while I was there. We were auditioning for a drummer, and every week they had all kinds of guitar players and drummers come over there and jam, and Scott had worked with this guy, and he wasn't very good. Then everyone went out for a smoke break, and Scott Phillips, the drummer now, was actually playing guitar, just messing around. I got on the drums and started playing "Love Rears Its Ugly Head" by Living Colour. And he got on there and started playing with me. He's a huge Living Colour fan so he knew it backwards and forwards. And I was like, "Scott, dude, this is the guy we want right here!" At that point, he had only been playing drums a couple years, and now he's phenomenal. Brian, our bass player, was in another band. They were a local cover band. We heard they were breaking up, so we gave him a call and he joined us. They were kind of like our rival band. They were the band fighting for slots in the local bar.

Problems with Fame

The press has never been terribly friendly to you.
No, and we don't want to be press-friendly. We know once Rolling Stone reviews an album and says it's good, it sucks. They want to be hip and cool, and like all that shit that sucks, but a lot of writers who review records for magazines are jealous musicians that could never make it. I'm just so fed up with it. And now that I know how it hurts to see an article where somebody listens to the first song and writes it off or says, "All they're trying to be is a Seattle band," now I have sympathy for anyone who gets slammed by the press. So when I read an article on, say, the new Harrison Ford movie saying, "That movie sucks, don't go see it," I'm like, "Screw you! They spent years putting their hearts and souls into working on a movie, and then you sit there and just belittle it in two sentences. Why don't you do it in an intelligent way and read into it, and then give it a good criticism?" But people are just too quick to look at the surface of something and write it off.

You're not too fond of critics, huh?
I would have broken a lot of rock critics' necks if it was legal. But you know, we haven't really gotten that much press, so we really haven't gotten that much negative criticism. I mean, I don't even know if Spin knows we're a band. But where it counts, we get the good reviews -- in the guitar magazines and the drum magazines and the industry magazines like Pollstar, Album Network. And that's all we care about.

Have you been able to take advantage of the perks that multi-platinum stardom affords?
Yeah, and we've gotten to do it in hush-hush ways. I got a new house, I've got cars, I've got my money invested for my future. But the good thing about it is we haven't been plastered everywhere, so we can still walk around in peace.

Doesn't success go to your head, even a little bit?
I think it would go to your head if you were constantly on MTV and on the cover of Rolling Stone. But we've always been a band like Phish or Widespread Panic who just have their fans come to their shows and always buy their records. I like it like that because I hate doing videos. I hate doing photo shoots and dressing up in something I'd never wear. That all ruins the integrity of music.

What's the strangest reaction you've gotten from a fan?
Our fans are a lot more courteous than your average fans. They seem very intelligent, and they'll write us very intelligent letters, not just, "You fuckin' rock!" They really dig into everything. Fans have made sculptures of us, paintings of us. We played at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, and somebody brought this real big metal sculpture that was really futuristic and medieval looking.

Many hard rock bands act like kids in candy stores, taking advantage of all the hedonistic pleasures stardom provides. It doesn't really seem like you're from that world.
It's funny, we'll sit backstage and watch a football game before we go on. Then we'll go on and while we're playing, we'll be looking at each other rocking out. We're our rock hero personas onstage. And then we step offstage and sit back and be normal again. We always kind of joke, "I wonder what the fans out there think it's like after a rock and roll show -- if there's parties and all kinds of shit." We'll be sitting around maybe having a beer just watching the end of the football game or talking to a couple of friends. It's pretty normal, you know? I don't think we could go out and party like you would think just because we play the kind of music we play.

That removes you from the whole rock business cliche.
Yeah, but bands have done that shit for years, and they've ended up dying, catching AIDS, or having a cocaine addiction. I'd rather just have a clear head. I've got a girlfriend who I love, and I feel like my life is pretty fulfilled right now. And I've got my health. What more could I want?