ORLANDO, Florida — The biggest rock band of the past decade has broken up.
After nearly 10 years together and more than 24 million albums sold, Creed have decided to put an end to their string of multiplatinum records and chart-topping singles. The choice was made months ago, when guitarist Mark Tremonti and singer Scott Stapp reconvened after a yearlong hiatus and ran into problems.
"We had gotten together two or three times and nothing happened," Tremonti explained. "We got our instruments and played, but neither of us was taking it seriously. We were just running in circles. There wasn't a vibe like on the previous records. It felt very joblike. We knew that it would take us years to get a record out."
The trouble wasn't that the collaborative couple — Tremonti was responsible for the music, Stapp for the lyrics — were clashing creatively. Personal issues, mostly between Stapp and the rest of Creed, caused an irreparable rift that ultimately led to the band's demise.
"Scott and I hadn't been close for a while," Tremonti said, "and things just weren't working out. ... None of us really argued amongst each other. It was always Scott who had the problem."
Stapp declined to be interviewed for this story.
The animosity apparently began to churn two years ago, while Creed were promoting 2001's Weathered on a tour that Tremonti and drummer Scott Phillips described as long and grueling. For starters, to preserve his voice, Stapp sat out soundchecks, which had been where the bandmembers would goof around and playfully bounce new ideas off each other. So Tremonti was forced to germinate those ideas with Phillips and touring bassist Brett Hestla, who had replaced founding member Brian Marshall in 2000, and the collaboration got under Stapp's skin.
Having to postpone several dates because of Stapp's April 2002 car accident (see "Scott Stapp Discusses Accident That Derailed Creed Tour"), and a few more shows later that year due to his bout with laryngitis, only added to tensions in the band. Meanwhile, the other bandmembers got the sense that their singer wasn't as committed as they were, and his attention seemed fractured.
"It's not fun to count on other people when they're not that focused," Tremonti said. "Scott wasn't in the mindset that we were. He wasn't as focused on the current tour. He had 800 things on his mind, and I think that distracted him from what we were doing."
Among the ventures that Stapp was exploring was a clothing line called Screamline and forays into acting.
"He definitely had his plate full, whether it was professional or personal," Phillips said. "He always had the cell phone going," the drummer added, with an eyebrow raised to relay his disgust.
Well aware that something wasn't right in the band's dynamic, Stapp, Phillips and Hestla began talking about their situation, though they didn't figure a permanent split was imminent.
"When every day just seemed to get weirder and weirder, it's natural to start discussing that with the people around you," Phillips said. "There wasn't ever a point where anyone was like, 'All right, I'm done with it.' It was more a question of what exactly is happening. What's going to happen tomorrow night? What's going to happen three months from now?"
The pinnacle of Creed's problems took place in Chicago in December 2002. Whether Stapp was inebriated or simply sick, as he had claimed, his performance was so terrible that some members of the crowd sued the band for sucking. For a band proud of its reputation for exciting and passionate performances, such a show was inexcusable. Some fans even balked at Stapp's heavy-handed Christ-like poses, which he claimed symbolized that he "had some things going on in [his] life," "kind of felt alone" and "didn't think anybody had [his] back at the time" (see "Creed Singer Defends 'Symbolic, Personal Gesture' He Made At 'Drunken' Show").
"My entire family was at that show," Tremonti said, "so I was very irritated. But I forgave Scott for it. I talked to him about it, [but he didn't] offer any kind of explanation. That's probably what bothered me the most. There was no closure on it. It was like, 'Let's keep moving on,' and I was like, 'Well, we've got to address these issues,' but we just never did."
The guitarist wasn't really much help in explaining what caused Stapp's uncharacteristic behavior that night, since their strong friendship, on which the band had been built, had deteriorated.
"We didn't really speak too much, so as for what he did on his personal time, we had no idea," Tremonti said. "We just knew that [over time] he would just slowly act a little more distant and do things that we didn't really approve of. So we really don't know what happened in Chicago, except that it was a low point in a long year."
Following the tour, the band rested for the next year, a move spurred more by Stapp than by his bandmates. According to Tremonti, Stapp's outlook for Creed entailed making an album every couple of years and then touring for only a few months. To the workaholic Tremonti this wasn't acceptable, so he figured he'd vent his creative juices in a side project.
Although the speed-metal-minded Downshifter never got off the ground (Tremonti had envisioned working with Hatebreed's Jamey Jasta and Slipknot's Joey Jordison), just the mere thought that his songwriting partner would apply his talents elsewhere bothered Stapp.
"We kept having [personal] problems, and my side project turned into 'Creed is not working,' " Tremonti said. "And to keep performing, I had to make a decision to move on."
The last time he spoke to Stapp was in February, when the two were still trying to rekindle their creative fires for the follow-up to Weathered. When collaboration and reconciliation proved futile, Tremonti introduced the idea of a world without Creed.
"We just wanted it to be fun," he said. "And it just got to the level where it was so political and there was so much drama that it just drove us crazy and you just can't ... We wanted to do this for the music, and you're not supposed to be in a rock band to be miserable or have to walk on your tiptoes around people."
Tremonti's side project took a more serious turn when he recruited Phillips and Creed's original bassist, Brian Marshall. The trio enlisted singer Myles Kennedy, formerly of the Mayfield Four, and Alter Bridge was born. Since February, the band had been working on its debut album, One Day Remains, at Tremonti's Orlando, Florida, home studio. The disc is due on August 10, with a first single, "Open Your Eyes," expected to surface later this month and a promotional tour of radio stations slated for mid-July.
"I'm more driven now than I've ever been," Tremonti said. "If you've tasted it and been there, you need to get back. Rock and roll, to me, is like a drug. I need to get out there and perform and get the music out there. That's why we've been a band for only five months and we're coming out with a record in another two."
Stapp is working on a solo album with hip-hop producer 7 Aurelius, according to a Wind-Up Records spokesperson. Before that is released, however, he'll contribute a track to an album inspired by the film "The Passion of the Christ," which the label will release August 31 (see "Creed Singer Offers Songs To Mel Gibson For 'The Passion' ").
"Creed was one of the most amazing journeys through music and friendship I am blessed to say I was a part of," the singer expressed in a statement. "I made memories I can never replace. I just want to thank the fans who supported us and became part of the Creed experience. We could not have accomplished anything without you!"
While perhaps surprising, Creed's breakup is hardly unique. Often a band formed by the best of friends can self-destruct when confronted with the pressure and blinding sheen of success.
"People in bands, at first they're high school or college buddies who just want to get out there and rock," Tremonti said. "But after it gets to a bigger level, it turns into a business where people have to make decisions about their careers, and people see things differently. You start to see your friends as somebody who might hold you back from something that you really want to do. Their opinions might not be your opinions, and a friendly disagreement might turn into a career-ending decision."
Whether you loved them or hated them, Creed had always inspired strong sentiments in anyone who heard their music. Tremonti and Phillips just want the band's contributions to be recognized.
"When Creed came out on the radio seven years ago, there was a lot of poppy radio music," Tremonti said. "I think 'My Own Prison' was the first song [in a long time] with a serious tone and a message behind it. After that, a lot of radio programmers started programming more serious-sounding rock and roll, and I think that's what I'm most proud of. Creed perhaps opened the doors for some other bands who may have had a message."
"Even if you loved us or hated us," Phillips emphasized, "remember us."
— Joe D'Angelo, with additional reporting by John Norris