An Interview with Chiodos: Chasing Away All Those Demons

Chiodos are a six-piece post-hardcore band hailing from Davison, Michigan. They formed in 2001, and released their first three albums—All’s Well That Ends Well, Bone Palace Ballet and Illuminaudiothrough Equal Vision Records. Just this April, they released their fourth album, Devil, through Razor & Tie. The original lineup of the band is reunited minus Jason Hale, founding lead guitarist, who was replaced by Thomas Erak in 2012. Erak not only fills in for the departed lead guitarist position, but adds backing vocals to the sound of Chiodos as well. The band recently performed at the South By Southwest Festival, and even performed in March at the Punk Spring concert in Tokyo, Japan.

Chiodos are currently touring in support of Devil, and you can see them at Irving Plaza in NYC on May 21. I recently caught up with vocalist Craig Owens to discuss the new album, touring, and more. The transcription is below:

You do a lot of extreme singing and shouting in your music. Can you explain the vocal exercises you go through to preserve your vocal cords?

They are actually fairly simple, and it is actually common sense. Like, things that are so simple that they can be overlooked. The main things I need to do to preserve my voice and prepare are sleep, hydration, and not being sick. Other than that, I try to push myself to recreate what goes on in the studio live. I challenge myself by studying my idols and push myself to achieve my version of what it is that they do.

Who would you say your top four idols are?

Freddie Mercury, Cedric Bixler-Zavala from At The Drive-In and Mars Volta, Bob Dylan and, oddly enough, Jeff Buckley.

You have had a good number of appearances on the Warped Tour over the years. What year was the most informative for you as a road warrior?

Probably 2006. That was our first year doing it. That changed the landscape of touring for me. We had done a lot of DIY tours leading up to that. I believe we had done one or two major kind of Clear Channel/Live Nation tours. That tour really put it into perspective how difficult and trying the road can be.

For musicians fortunate enough to appear on the South By Southwest Festival more than once, what do you say those people should teach to the newcomers of the festival?

Just take a deep breath and experience all that you can and don’t let it overwhelm you, because there is a lot going on all at once. It’s exciting. Do what you want, choose a few things, and stick with it, but don’t try and do too much either (laughs). You probably won’t see all the shows or all the people that you want to see.

You just got back from performing at the Punk Spring concert in Tokyo, Japan. What type of advice would you like to impart on fellow musicians who will be heading to Japan in the near future for the first time?

I would suggest learning one or two phrases, because the Japanese fans really love when an artist can speak a little Japanese to them on stage. I learned “sawage,” and that means “make some noise.” You want to learn more things you will say on the stage rather than you would on the street.

What was your biggest fear when it came to flying to Tokyo?

I think my biggest fear in those moments that I won’t get into the country (laughs). That is not because I have any records or anything, it is due to my OCD kicking in and I am not in control of that. I am pretty used to flying at this point. We went to London a week before that. I’m always on an airplane, really. It was a fairly easy flight and the trip was amazing.

For you personally, when you had the finished product of Devil before post-production, did you find that you spent more time speaking to producer David Bottrill or mixer Josh Wilbur?

I spoke to both of them a ton, really. I basically lived with Bottrill for almost two months. Then I spent two weeks visiting Josh Wilbur almost every single day. They both became really good friends of mine as a result. I guess I probably spent more time with David Bottrill because we lived together for two months creating the record.

Do musicians generally spend more time interacting with their producer or their mixer?

I would say more their producer because a lot of the time you don’t get face to face with your mixer. I just did that because I really wanted to work as hard as I possibly could and be present when it was being mixed. Typically, musicians don’t even see their mixers.

On your song “Duct Tape,” you say, “Do you want to be born again, I can chase away all those demons.” When you were writing this, did it feel like a cathartic release or something inspiring to give you strength through hard times?

It was a combination of both. I think in a lot of those strong moments you feel a release. There is an overall feeling of things aren’t perfect right now but they are going to be, or at least better. I feel like that line in particular really sums up some of the tracks on the record. Like, “Why The Munsters Matter” and “Duct Tape” are about being outcasts, and accepting that you are an outcast. All of my great idols were outcasts. Like the people that change the world—Gandhi, Martin Luther King—I think they were all outcasts. It’s important to be that.

What was the most physically demanding song for you to sing on Devil?

I would say “Why The Munsters Matter,” because it really tests my range. There is a lot of singing on it. It goes everywhere from falsetto to soft falsetto to really aggressive high notes.

Please tell me about those hip-hop tracks you appear on with Jon Connor.

I’ve actually been on five with Jon now. I want to say only about three have been released. I was just out with him and we worked on a couple more songs together. I flew out to work with him and Dr. Dre. That was an absolutely amazing experience. We all just bonded, hung out, and wrote. I recorded a couple of tracks with them that probably should be out soon. It’s an amazing experience working with someone that comes from my hometown of Flint, Michigan, and see our lives run parallel in success from hard work. It’s proof that if I can do it, if Jon can do it, anyone can do it.

What do you have to say to fans of yours in Europe who are planning on attending your Sonisphere concert in July?

You need to get ready for a crazy time. We are really excited to be on the festival. It’s going to be our first time there. It’s going to be fun. Prepare, listen to the new album, Devil, and sing along. It’ll be a fun, head-banging time.

What advice would you give young musicians getting ready to record their first album that is to be released on a major label?

Check your motives and remember them. Think of your motives before you release the album and after you release it. Just keep that in mind, that way you can maintain happiness through whatever happens. Your first release on a major label is scary or exciting, a little bit of both. Major labels have this way of leading you to believe that you are going to be the next big thing. Not every artist wants that, not every artist does it for that, but I think it is important to remember why you make music and why you want to release a CD in the first place. That way you do not have unrealistic expectations going in, because 99 percent of the time it doesn’t work on major labels.

Any final words?

Check out Devil, just released on April 1, the new Chiodos record. Come out to a show. Come say hello. And thank you to everyone who supported us throughout the years.

Chiodos will be playing at Irving Plaza in NYC on May 21 as part of the Devil’s Dance tour, which also features Emarosa, Our Last Night and 68. Their new album, Devil, is available now through Razor & Tie. For more information, go to