Interviews

Published on April 10th, 2006 | by Hans Fruck

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Scott Stapp Interview

Scott Stapp tells Hans Fruck that there’s no such thing as Rock ‘n’ Roll 101.

Former Creed front man Scott Stapp is renowned for the power of his singing voice. And on the line from his home in South Beach, Florida, he speaks with preacherly eloquence – a slow, cadenced delivery, interspersed with “brother” and “man”. He has, it appears, a flair for anything oral.

Stapp is enthused at the prospect of heading Down Under this month to play shows in Sydney and Melbourne. “[Australian] fans and I have the exact same connection as home … And I’ve always said that I want to go to places where people want to hear me.”

Although accustomed to playing stadiums in his days with Creed, Stapp has “loved” the smaller-venue experience and the chance it’s given him to “reconnect in a room in front of 2500 people”. In fact, Stapp says he tried to infuse his solo album, The Great Divide, with a “live feel”, declaring that sonic “imperfection was less important than feeling”.

He’s relishing going solo, Stapp says, because “you can be yourself. There’s less compromises.” He sees his debut solo record and his tour as a means of “introducing” himself to the world, although given that Creed sold 33 million records, it’s more a case of re-introducing himself.

As for his former bandmates, he describes them as “friends”, though it’s hard not to sense lingering acrimony when he flatly states “Creed will never get back together”.

This is quite a concession coming from the man who says “I did and took whatever I needed to, to try and keep the band together”. During his time in Creed, Stapp says he battled a litany of ailments, including being diagnosed with nodules on his vocal chords, pneumonia, and two tumours: “They thought that I had lymphoma”. And when Stapp was involved in a car accident – “I got hit by a car doing 60mph when I was parked, and messed up my back and my neck” – the first segment of a big US tour was cancelled. (There’s some controversy over just how serious the accident was.)

These health issues, and the pressure to keep performing, Stapp says, led to him taking drugs, including an anti-inflammatory called Prednisone. This drug and alcohol addiction, in turn, resulted in increasingly bizarre behaviour – one famously unhinged performance in Chicago resulted in fans filing a lawsuit.

But eventually Stapp pulled back from the brink. “I’m a grown man. I can say, ‘You know what? I’m not gonna do this.’ OK? I’m gonna take care of myself, because I need to be alive for my son, because there’s a risk here. And I remember that I wanted this band to stay together so bad I said ‘Ah, who cares if I don’t live to be past 50?’ I can’t believe that those words came out of my mouth. I was 25 years old, but I can’t believe those words came out of my mouth.

These aren’t the only scars Stapp carries. At the height of their success, Creed were widely derided as copyists surfing the last ripples of the Seattle sound. Even now, Stapp’s hurt by this: “No, listen, that hurt me, man. That wasn’t my rock ‘n’ roll dream. Let me be honest with you, dude. You know, you think you’re gonna be loved by everybody. That’s just the bottom-line truth.”

Looking back, he realises the band made a bad situation worse: “You know, part of the chip that was on the band’s shoulder was ‘The press hates us, and we’ve gotta have this chip’, and we came off as a bunch of pretentious a-holes, man – to some people. And you know what? We deserved what we got. But we were young and naive, and we didn’t know. I mean, there’s no guidebook on Rock ‘n’ Roll 101. I mean, we were trying to do what we thought was best. And we thought, you know, that just acting like tough guys, like we didn’t care… and handle it that way – and you know, just act pretentious in an interview. I mean, what’s up with that, man?”

A constant source of angst among the band members was Creed being identified as Christian rock, a label that frustrated his bandmates and disconcerted Stapp: “Why does it have to be ‘Christian rock’? Why can’t it just be ’rock’?”

He does admit, though, that when he was struggling with his health and addiction, he turned to his faith: “Dude, when you’re on your back, the only thing you can do is look up. And you’ve got one foot that’s ready to go down to Hell, and you’re gonna cry out to God. I don’t care who you are. Even Nietzsche said, ‘No man dies an atheist’.”

On The Great Divide songs like Justify anatomize what Stapp describes as his “double life”. “I’m being completely honest in that song, saying I’ve lived a life of deceit. I surrounded myself with worldly things … That’s confession. And you know what? I haven’t reached enlightenment because of my success.

“At the end of the day, being happy and waking up with a skip in your step, and being happy and not having all these worries – that’s where I wanna be, brother. I wanna be in the sublime 24/7.”

He may be older and wiser now, but youthful indiscretions sometimes take years to detonate, as Stapp recently discovered when a sex tape of him and Kid Rock swapping notes with groupies surfaced on the internet. Stapp’s unabashed by the tape, though reluctant to go into specifics: “I can’t really talk a lot about that because of the litigation and lawsuit”.

At the time, Stapp says, he was living out the rock cliché. “After my first divorce, I went reeling a little bit, and I kinda wanted to experience the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. I thought it was what I was supposed to do. I thought, hey man, this is what my idols did, right? And this is how I was thinking. I was young, you know, 24, 25. And, you know, I did what I did.”

He’s aghast that anyone would suspect him of releasing the tape – which he says was stolen from his safe by an employee – to boost his album sales or profile. “Do you think that I’d put that out about myself? My God, man.”

Stapp is full of good intentions, yet acknowledges the “dichotomy” of his life. “My goal”, he says, “and part of my growth and my journey is to try to see if my actions can match my words.” Yet he and controversy seem to share a fatal attraction. On the day he married a second time, Stapp was arrested for public drunkenness while trying to board a flight to Hawaii en route to his honeymoon. ”I’m not telling you”, he says, “that you’re not gonna read in the paper … that I got busted at an airport drinking again. I don’t know what’s gonna happen in six months. But I know where my heart is.

“But that doesn’t mean I’m a perfect person, brother. I got my battles just like everybody else. I just share mine with the world. The only thing that keeps me going, man, is because, deep down inside, I’m gonna win. I don’t wanna lose. That’s what gets me through life. I look at life as ‘Hey, this is not gonna beat me’. I’m gonna enjoy it, and you know what? It’s been half and half. And it may even have been less enjoyment than the other.

“But you know, damn it, I’m gonna get it. I’m gonna get it.

Scott Stapp plays the Forum, April 22. The Great Divide is released through Sony/BMG

Read the interview transcript here.


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