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Interview with Mark Tremonti of Creed

Published on 09-30-1999
Published at NYRock.com (View Original Article)

Through a mix of hard rock and spirituality, Creed have created a winning combination. With lyrics that question our values, morals, and life’s meaning, Creed’s music goes straight to the hearts and souls of their fans. The members – Scott Stapp (vocals), Mark Tremonti (guitars), Brian Marshall (bass) and Scott Phillips (drums) – formed in Tallahassee, Florida in 1995 and released their debut album My Own Prison in 1997. Creed went on to become one of the most successful bands of 1998, with a collection of singles that dominated the charts. In September 1999, the band released Human Clay. The album is consistent in tone with the debut, not because Creed believes in formula, but because creating rock that reaches within is what they like to do and what they do best.

NYROCK:
I've heard that you don't like to be labeled a "grunge" band....

MARK:
I think we're really a rock 'n' roll band and not grunge. Grunge are bands like Nirvana and Mudhoney. You know bands with some sort of punk attitude. That's something we don't have.

NYROCK:
And yet many critics compare your sound to Pearl Jam....

MARK:
I don't think Pearl Jam or Soundgarden are grunge. I've heard the accusation – if you can call it an accusation – plenty of times that we sound like Pearl Jam, but I don't think so. I think that's just something the music press makes up to label us a bit better. I think it's a bit unfair to label almost every alternative band out there as grunge. As a guitarist my main concern is that I really don't want to be labeled as a grunge guitarist, because I don't know a single, good grunge guitarist.

NYROCK:
Another label that seems to stick to you is "Christian rock."

MARK:
It's really hard to get rid of the labels. Even on our webpage we explain that we're not a Christian band. A lot of people got the misconception because Scott uses a lot of biblical references and idioms. He grew up reading the bible and having religion forced down his throat. Of course he uses religious imagery in his lyrics. Isn't it normal to use what you know best if you're trying to express yourself? But our first album, My Own Prison dealt with different themes. Human Clay has a far more universal scope; it's less introspective, worldlier.

NYROCK:
Biblical references, I imagine, can be misleading.

MARK:
Take the term "crown of thorns," for example. It sounds very biblical, but Scott doesn't mean Jesus wearing a crown of thorns; he describes domestic abuse of women and their injuries. That's not very religious, is it? It is something that concerns everybody, or should concern everybody.

NYROCK:
Do you think your fans relate more to your music or your lyrics?

MARK:
A lot of fans came up and told us how touched they were when they heard a certain song. They discussed the lyrics with us and they interpreted them in their own way – just like I did when I was young.

NYROCK:
Did it shock you – to be on the other side?

MARK:
Some scenes were almost unbelievable and I'm glad that I was there to witness them. Kids with drug problems, kids who were depressed and thought about suicide told me that they listened to "What's This Life For" and it gave them new courage. That's probably the best thing about being in this band, the fact that we know our music can change something.

NYROCK:
So you're trying to spread a message?

MARK:
I don't think it's our job to spread a message or to preach. We're not much different from the people who listen to our music. We even look like them. We don't have all the answers. So why should we pretend we have them? We wrote the lyrics because they meant something to us and, of course, it's a great bonus if they help somebody else. But we don't want to influence the way people think, or force our opinions and thoughts on them.

NYROCK:
What would you say is the main difference between My Own Prison and Human Clay?

MARK:
We really didn't change our style. The main difference between My Own Prison and Human Clay is that we wrote My Own Prison mostly at home, while the songs for Human Clay were mainly written while we were on the road.

NYROCK:
It must be incredibly difficult to write an album to follow up a multi-million-selling debut. I can't imagine the pressure.

MARK:
We weren't worried about the sales, but we were a bit anxious. I think our main worry was to record another great album, but I think we managed. We all feel that Human Clay is much better than My Own Prison, and My Own Prison is really not a bad album at all. But we had time to grow as a band and we had a bigger budget than the $ 6,000 we had to record My Own Prison. In the end, we just thought, "Right, let's finish the recording, get the album out and go out on the road again. Whatever happens, happens."

NYROCK:
Did you work with the same producer again since you wanted to achieve the same sound as on My Own Prison?

MARK:
We had John – John Kurzweg – as our producer again because he did a terrific job with the first album. We all think that he did a great job on the second album and, well, our evolution seems to have been a successful one.

NYROCK:
You guys seemed to have adjusted to the fame rather well. How do you manage to get along with all the touring and recording?

MARK:
We're like four brothers. Our management consists of friends. Most of the people on our label are friends, and it's a far better and easier way to work. I can't imagine what it would be like if it would be all just business. We can fight one minute and get along a moment later. Nobody takes anything wrong and we all understand and know each other.

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