There’s nothing quite as exciting as the comeback – seeing someone with dreams, watching them decline, and then getting that second chance.
Scott Stapp’s career has been nothing short of the proverbial roller coaster ride, from a hard-earned, yet meteoric rise to international fame with his 1990’s multi-platinum rock band, Creed, to his much covered, very public bout with prescription drugs and alcohol, fueling a profound paranoia brought on by an undiagnosed condition of bipolar syndrome, Stapp had gone from being on top of the rock charts and on top of the world to being locked away in his own virtual prison.
After harnessing and banishing his demons, and with the constant, steadfast support and grace of his wife, Jaclyn, and his children, Stapp has emerged stronger and much wiser, and in the process earning a second chance at fronting a major rock band again.
Since his reemergence, Stapp has fought long and hard to get himself back into fighting shape, ready to sing again and front that new band — a band made up of some extraordinary musicians in their own right, featuring Disturbed’s bassist, John Moyer, ex-Guns ‘N Roses guitarist, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, and the twin Votta brothers, Vince (drums) and Jon (guitar) rounding out the group.
Stapp has risen to the occasion to write and perform songs that, in my opinion are some of the best of his career for his debut with Art of Anarchy and the release of “The Madness,” their first album with Stapp fronting the band.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Stapp while the band was on the road in Detroit, Michigan with just a few shows of the new tour under their belt, after the album’s release on March 24th. We talked about how the tour was going and the reception the fans were giving him and the new music, the personal chemistry of the band and their creative writing process.
Brian McKinny: Well, let’s just get right to it because I know you’ve got to run out to do your sound check for tonight’s show. So, how’s the tour going? I know you’ve just started off and have done just a few shows, but how are the crowds, and how are they responding to the new music?
Scott Stapp: The tour’s going great, man! I mean, we’re getting a great response from the fans, and it’s cool that the record’s only been out two weeks and the fans at the shows are already singing the songs, so the whole thing has been very positive.
McKinny: When were you first approached about joining the band, and what was that conversation like?
Stapp: They reached out to me, after Scott Weiland kind of parted ways with the band — they never really materialized and never toured —shortly after that, my agent got the word to me. When I found out that John Moyer from Disturbed, and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal from Guns ‘N Roses were in the band, you know, it definitely sparked my interest and curiosity with those two talented musicians in the band, I thought, “Hey, let me take a meeting.”
So then they flew down to meet with me, the Votta brothers who founded the band, and Bumblefoot. And we just got to know each other over dinner, talked music and just had a very positive “first date” if you will… And then the next day we decided to get into a room and jam to see if there’s any creative chemistry. It wasn’t long before it was pretty obvious that we definitely had some creative chemistry and it just seemed like at that point, “Hey man, let’s do this — It’ll be fun!” And so the band was born.
McKinny: So what was the creative process like with you guys? Who took the lead on writing lyrics, melodies, music arrangement, etc?
Stapp: Well, it was a collaborative effort, but we all have our lanes, you know. The band left the lyric and vocal melody writing to me, but as far as the music, the entire band, including myself was involved in the music writing process. I mean, we really did it “old school.” We holed up in a basement for two or three weeks and just hammered out ideas, chased them down every rabbit hole of an idea that anyone had until we kind of found our sound and our identity. We actually discovered ourselves after two or three days of brainstorming ideas and throwing out riffs, free styling “The Madness,” and once we wrote that song, everything else came pretty quick.
McKinny: So, The Madness was the first song you wrote together with the band?
Stapp: Of course, we had chased down some other ideas, but they never really manifested, so yes, The Madness was the first song that actually went from idea to song in one day.
McKinny: Where was the new album recorded, and who produced it?
Stapp: Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal produced the record. He has a studio, and this band is a really collaborative effort, so he (Thal) was the engineer and producer, but we all — every member of the band had input in the producing process, but Ron took the lead there.
McKinny: What kind of expectations did you have when you came on board, or were there any expectations at all going into things?
Stapp: Well, there really weren’t any expectations except to write good music and be proud of what we create, and be proud of the record. And from that standpoint, so far all my expectations have been met. So after all that, it’s just let’s see what happens and how things play out, see how the fans respond, get out on tour and try to make some fans, and then just take it from there.
McKinny: I want to switch gears here for a second to address more of the business side of things with the band and ask you how your sales and marketing are going so far.
Stapp: Well, we’ve got a record deal —we’re not an independent project. We’re signed with Sony/Century Media, and internationally I believe it’s Sony Red. You know, so far it’s been good. So good that the first week Best Buy sold out of all our CDs and had to do a re-order, so that was promising a good indicator that there’s some interest out there. But you know, we’re still a baby band and we’re just getting off the ground, of course. You know, myself, Moyer, and Bumblefoot have fans that follow us from our other previous bands and come out, and I think that they were quick to come out and get the record to see what it was all about, and they’ve been coming to the shows and it’s been good so far, but we definitely have a long way to go to build this thing into what we want it to be.
McKinny: What are your favorite songs from the new album?
Stapp: Oh man, well there’s quite a few. You know, I really couldn’t pin it down to one, there’s quite a few — The Madness, of course — (Echo of a) Scream, A Light in Me, Changed Man, Somber, Dancing with the Devil… I’m pretty much digging all of them.
McKinny: Since this band is a conglomeration of musicians from other very successful bands, are you guys playing songs from each of your previous bands — Creed, Guns ‘N Roses, or Disturbed on this tour?
Stapp: No, we’re not. We’re just doing Art of Anarchy stuff. We decided to focus on the new music to get the songs out there to create some new fans for ourselves.
McKinny: What’s different, besides the people involved, between Art of Anarchy and Creed? How do they compare and contrast?
Stapp: Well, every band is different, has its own unique identity, and hopefully they’re shooting for their own sound. Creed has its sound and identity and its scenario that made it work, and Art of Anarchy has its own. They’re really two different entities, and I’m proud of both.
McKinny: I know you’re probably tired of talking about it — your prior issues with alcohol, prescription drugs, and being diagnosed with and coming to terms with your bipolar disorder diagnosis — but what advice would you give people who may be dealing with similar issues that are coming up in the music business?
Stapp: Just to get help. Don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone and let them know that you think things are getting out of hand. And if your friends and family and people that you trust come to you and tell you, “Hey man, we’re worried about you because things are getting out of hand,” listen to them because they care and they love you. And don’t feel any shame or any guilt if you’ve gotten into something and it’s gotten hold of you because it happens to millions and millions of people in this country and around the world. There is hope, and there is a way out — you just have to be willing to accept that help, and again, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
McKinny: How does it help you by being surrounded by musicians in the band who are clean, and how do you keep yourself clean and centered and keep a routine of personal physical and mental health?
Stapp: Well, it’s definitely a positive, you know? It’s definitely positive to surround yourself with people who are like-minded, respect the path that you’re on, and live a clean life as well. I’m definitely having a good, positive environment, and that definitely helps in my recovery.
McKinny: What’s next for this band? I know you just released this new album, but any band that has the aspirations that I’m sure you guys have is always looking forward. So, what do you see yourselves doing in the next six months or year?
Stapp: We’re just looking to tour on this record and making fans along the way, spreading the word on Art of Anarchy and our new record, promoting the album. We just shot a new music video for our next single, “Echo of a Scream” and so we’re just doing everything that we can do to promote the band, get the word out there and turn people on to the music, and then see where it takes us.
McKinny: How have the bands been that are supporting the tour?
Stapp: Oh, they’ve been great, man! We’ve had Through the Fire out with us the last couple of shows — they’re great guys, great sound, and a great band. It’s been fun playing with them.
McKinny: How long is the tour going on?
Stapp: This particular leg of the tour ended on April 30th at a radio festival in South Carolina, and a show in Las Vegas on the 29th, “Rock into Spring” where we headlined at the M Resort to conclude this leg of the tour.
McKinny: What will you do between this leg of the tour and the next?
Stapp: Actually, I’ll be going out with my solo band in May and June, and doing an acoustic tour to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Creed’s “My Own Prison,” where I’ll be playing a collection of Creed hits as well as my solo songs. So I’m doing that, and then we plan on resuming this tour (with Art of Anarchy) in July, so everyone stay tuned to Art of Anarchy’s social media feeds and the website for new dates to come!
McKinny: Has it really been twenty years since the release of My Own Prison?
Stapp: Yeah, can you believe it, man?!
McKinny: No! Man that makes me feel old!
Stapp: I know, bro!
McKinny: So that’s going to be acoustic?
Stapp: Yeah, that’s going to be acoustic in May and June, so for anyone that’s interested, just go to http://scottstapp.com and get your tickets there.
Scott Stapp: http://www.scottstapp.com