Creed's popularity has not come without a cost along with showers of adoration have come inner-band turmoil, the occasional back-stabbing and plenty of unprovoked insults.
The most publicized of these came in June 2000 at the Dysfunctional Family Picnic concert in New York, when Fred Durst took a few verbal jabs at Creed singer Scott Stapp. Moments after Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland dove into the opening salvo of "Break Stuff," Durst called Stapp an egomaniac and said, "He's a f---in' punk, and he's backstage right now acting like he's Michael Jackson." Durst capped his barrage by suggesting the crowd get pillows and blankets for Creed's sleep-inducing set.
"Our success has come relatively quickly," drummer Scott Phillips said recently, "and a lot of people resent us for that. Human Clay went way above and beyond what we all expected it would do, and a lot of people tried to knock us down because we were on top at that point. We were like, 'We've never done anything to you guys. Why are you doing this to us?' "
Contributing to Creed's frustration was former bassist Brian Marshall, who was fired from the band in 2000 after making disparaging remarks about Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder. He was replaced on tour by Virgos Merlot's Brett Hestla. But while Hestla will likely play with the band again on its tour in January, guitarist Mark Tremonti played all the bass parts on Creed's new record, Weathered, due November 20.
The title of the album is a reference to the storm the band has weathered since the release of Human Clay and the dedication with which it has returned.
"We lived through a weathering process," Phillips said. "You get knocked down, so you get back up again and keep going. All that stuff really came out of the blue, and I feel like we've handled ourselves well by not retaliating in a negative way, but in a positive way. And if people want to say stuff, they'll say stuff, and there's nothing we can do about that. We just gotta go out and do what we do."
On Weathered, what Creed do is what they've always done, only this time the band has developed its sound so that the heavy parts are more visceral and the softer parts more tender.
"It covers a greater spectrum of sounds," Phillips said. "The heaviest song is called 'Bullets,' and the softest song is 'Lullaby,' and the tracks in between go from hard, headbanging, crazy-type fast songs all the way down to real melodic guitar-and-vocal ballads."
The album also features some special guests, but not the kind that normally pop up on superstar rock records. Faith Hill was originally going to sing backup on the delicate "Don't Stop Dancing," but when she had to back out because she was pregnant, Stapp asked his sister Amy to fill in along with the Tallahassee Boys' Choir.
"She's got a hell of a voice," Phillips said. "Scott just decided to keep it in the family, and it came out great."
Another special guest is Cherokee Indian archivist and vocalist Bo Taylor, who chants on the surging anthem "Who's Got My Back?"
"That one could have been a two-minute song or a 20-minute song, depending on how we were feeling when we were playing it," Phillips said. "It has kind of an eerie feel, sort of Zeppelin-ish. Scott thought it might be a pretty cool idea to bring in some type of an Indian rhythm or an actual person to come in and sing. Stapp is part Cherokee, and I know he's proud of that."
Unlike Human Clay, which was largely written on the road, many of the songs on Weathered were penned by Stapp and Tremonti between February and March 2001, though plenty of the riffs came from Tremonti's soundcheck jams on tour. Creed started recording the album in June and finished up last month (see "Creed Postpone Festival, Release New Single Online").
Considering that Hestla toured with Creed for a large part of last year, some might find it odd that he didn't play on Weathered. While it's true he's planning to focus his efforts on Virgos Merlot when their next album comes out in February or March, his absence from the Creed disc has more to do with the band's newly discovered insularity. Since Marshall's departure, Stapp, Tremonti and Phillips have become closer than ever, and they're reluctant to invite someone new into the fold full-time.
"Right now it doesn't look like we'll ever have a permanent bassist join the band again," Phillips said. "The three of us went through so much after Brian left, so I think everyone's a little hesitant to bring in a new permanent member."
Despite the inevitable expectations that fans, critics and the band's label are likely to have, Philips said the group isn't losing any sleep worrying whether Weathered will match the success of Human Clay.
"Whatever happens, happens," he said. "I'm comfortable with the way the album sounds and the quality of the songs that are on there. Scott and Mark are an amazing writing team, so it's pretty easy to sit back and feel confident about the new stuff. Even if it only sells a single copy, I think we'll all be totally proud of it."