Interview with Chris Howorth – In This Moment
Interview and Photography by Graham Hilling
Prior to their last gig of their first UK headline tour in London, Metal Rules caught up with lead guitarist and band co-founder Chris Howorth to talk about life, music, touring and what’s next for In This Moment….
Nice to meet you!
Nice to meet you too Graham!
First obvious question, how has the tour been going?
It’s really been amazing, we were like kind of nervous to come over here and headline for the first time, we didn’t really know what to expect, we’ve been over here on support slots but this was the first time headlining and we were scared.
The agents and manager were telling us it would be good, and they were right, it’s amazing! It’s the most fun we’ve ever had in Europe and the UK and the shows are packed with fans that know the words to the songs and they’re dressing up like Maria…
Loads of the gigs have sold out…
Yeah, it’s incredible.
This is a nice venue too (The Koko, London)
Yeah, I couldn’t believe it when we were sound checking how rad the venue is and there’s a line outside, it’s amazing and we’re really grateful.
Big queue outside….
We’re surprised and grateful and excited to come back again….
Do you prefer big venues or small venues?
Well, we’ve played a lot of small venues, that’s what we’ve played mostly in our career and now we’re finally getting into the medium sized venues and we like the bigger venues for where we are at right now, just because our show is taking up a lot of room so a small venue means a not very cool setup for us.
Talking about big shows, I guess it is difficult to bring a big show over here but what can we expect tonight?
Well, we brought everything we could bring! [laughs] and it’s a lot! I think you know, expectations are really high and we wanted to bring exactly what we have in the States, for everybody over here too and we were trying to figure out a way but it’s not possible, with the shipping costs and the venue sizes.
So we had to figure out a way to bring over that same show but smoosh it down a little bit. And we’ve done it! It’s something that nobody over here has seen and it will be awesome because the next time we come back, we’ll be able to bring back more and keep it updated and interesting. Same thing in the States, you know, we’ve kind of developed each tour since we started doing it.
Turning attention to the latest album, Black Widow. On loads of the songs, Maria sounds like she has all kinds of genuine emotion going on, I just wondered if it was difficult to record it?
Well, everything she does, she has to be connected to it somehow…
I think you can hear that…
Yeah, you can, I think that is why people connect with her so much and then fans hear what she is saying bacause she is singing about her life and things she has gone through. I think the most emotional part of the record was a song where there’s an emotional breakdown on it and it wasn’t even something she knew was happening. Our producer recorded it and later on he put it in….
Which one was that?
It’s a little clip before the last song where she kind of breaks down, it’s like where everyone is saying the most hateful things that someone has said to them in their lives….
Into the Darkness….
All of the band members, each person went in, not knowing what the others were going to say but the goal was to say the most hateful or worst thing anyone said to you. So we all said our things and Maria went in for the first time, never having heard any of it and was trying to give her response or rebuff for each thing…
Recorded straight off like that?
Yeah, straight off. So that’s what got her upset you know.
She sounds really upset…
Yeah, she really is…when we did it, we were all kind of “That’s horrible, man!, I don’t really want to do that again!” and we heard it the first time….that’s SO bad! I don’t want to hear it again – I skip it everytime!
Yeah, I know what you mean, it is difficult to listen to…
It is…It proves the point, everything is real with her….
What about playing some of the material that’s really emotional live?
Playing live? You can tell…..she does a song called “Into the Light during the set and it’s a really emotional song about death and you can always catch someone choking back some emotion….
A little while back you switched labels, from Century Media to Atlantic. How’s that all going?
It’s going great. You know, we love Century Media, we have a long history with them and they’re still our boys over there. We just needed to see how far we could push it and the machinery behind Atlantic, they’re connections and contacts…they’re a lot bigger and we wanted to take that shot, that’s where we wanted to go. They came to the table with a great offer and they’ve been great to us, they’ve helped us get to places that we’ve never been before, like this tour…
You’ve worked with Kevin Churko on the last few albums, I wondered how important he was to you as a band?
He is super, duper engrained now. We had a connection with him instantly, the first song we ever did with him, we went and met with him just to see how it would go and record a song. We recorded “Forever” and the album version is no different from the first demo we did with him.
Amazing chemistry and from then on, we wanted to use him for every album but when “Blood” happened, that’s when a bunch of our band members quit who’d been with us for a long time, big turmoil, our manger dropped us who’d been with us since the beginning too, so we were kind of alone and wondering what we were going to do and Kevin was one of the big rallying guys, saying “you guys can do this, and we can do this”.
We weren’t getting a lot of attention from managers and things and Kevin had us come in the studio without having to pay any money and record “Blood” and another song to show everybody what we were doing and that kind of kicked open so many doors for us – we got this great manager, you know, bigger than the one we had before and everything started happening. It was kind of like, that was him (Kevin) feeling like he was a part of it too and he writes with us too, everything.
Since the first time we recorded with him he was a co-writer with us. On Blood it was basically Maria, me and him all doing all the writing, just the three of us and something magical happened with “Blood” too, it’s our most successful album and it’s helped us over here too. Everyone knows all the words to that here and he felt all of the success, he felt it just like we did, like proud of it and that. So “Black Widow”, going into that, it’s the same thing, you know, he feels the same passion like: “we’ve got to top “Blood”, we got to make it better, we’re on Atlantic now”, he’s a part of the band, for sure.
Is he here with you guys on tour? Does he do your live sound?
No, he doesn’t come with us on tour, he’s producing, he’s working and everything but like, if we have a question about anything or we need something for the show we can call him up and he’ll help us.
Boring question, favourite songs to play live?
Favourite songs right now, I think “Sick Like Me”…I always like playing “Whore” – I like the songs nowadays where the people are reacting and singing with, so “Whore”, “Blood”, “Sick Like Me”,”Adrenalize”….
Is there anyone you’d like to work with that you haven’t worked with yet?
As far as musicians?
Yeah man!! [laughs!]. Rob Halford, we’re open to anyone cool! Bruce Dickinson, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley…
There’s a few out there [laughs]
All my heroes man!
“Sex Metal Barbie” – talk me through that one….
Alright, that was like Maria had the idea of let’s use a hip hop kind of feel and create a big heavy song around it, so it had to have a bit of a groove and when she started of the lyrical content… you know, she doesn’t really read the comments on blabbermouth and facebook and stuff but I’m kind of the guy that is always knows what is going on and monitoring it and everything although I’ve kind of stop doing that lately.
I was reading it’s all about sex, it’s all about tits, it’s always about sex and everyone saying we don’t have any substance, it’s all about sex and Maria this and Maria that and she’s a metal Barbie, we saw that, we saw we’re sex metal and all this stuff. So we kind of took that and used it in making a song.
So, OK, she’s a sex metal barbie, and we flipped it around. She actually went through the comments, found some things people were continuously saying and addressed these in the lyrics and it’s a kind of “fuck you” to all the people who were talking shit. In turn it creates a lot of shit talking because it is such a dramatic song. When we first had it done, I knew it was going to be one of the ones that people were going to be really passionate about, both the haters and fans….
If it gets a reaction, you’re doing something right, for sure…
Future plans, we are finishing up here today, and then we’re going back to the States, we’re shooting a video for “Sex Metal Barbie” and then we’re going on tour in the States for April and May, doing a festival run and some headline dates. Then we’re looking at plans for the Summer in the States and come back over here, possibly in the Fall but it’s all still being worked out. But we’re going to be touring in support of Black Widow all through year and into the next year (2016).
When’s the next recording planned?
We haven’t even planned it yet, we’re going to finish out this year and start next year, see where we’re at and that will determine whether or not we keep touring…
That’s a fair bit of touring…..
At the end of it, if things are still on the rise, we might just keep going for a little longer.
You enjoy touring?
Yeah, I do, I really do, I love it. In the beginning, when you first start doing it, it’s amazing because you’ve never done it before and then after you’ve done that for a few years you realise that this is actually pretty tough [laughs].
You know, we’re broke all the time, we’re playing, we’re loading our own stuff, it’s really hard work, you know. Fortunately, with the growth of the band after “Blood”, we’ve got to headline more, it’s becoming a little bit more comfortable and fun because the shows are great, we have a crew helping us, setting stuff up that’s amazing, things sound better and just work better because everybody is more professional and so it’s really becoming fun.
Like, this tour is a great example, you know, everytime we’ve been here before it’s been a real grind, this time it’s been one great show after another. Great food, great venues, everything has been good.
How do you guys write?
It’s changed over the years, in the beginning, you know, we had some songs written that we worked together on and the whole band was writing in a room trying to come up with songs and stuff.
Sometimes you get people pulling in different directions?
Totally, a lot of stress and battling going on. For the next few albums it was me and Blake (Bunzel) would sit and write stuff on guitar and bring it to Maria and she would put lyrics to it. We did a lot of songs at home and then go into the studio with Kevin and he’d help us re-arrange the demos and then we’d record them like a regular band, drums first etc.
With “Blood” it was a totally different thing where it was just the three of us, so we did one song at a time and built each song from the base up whether it was a riff, or a vocal idea, something to start with and build the song around it. It’s a really awesome way to do it because you can just focus on this one song, get it built up to where it is sounding good. Get something decent. That’s how we did “Black Widow” too so that’s kind of the new thing now, there’s no advanced thought aside from a cool riff or maybe an idea for something and then we bring it in and toss it around and see what happens….
Do you write while you’re on the road?
Not really, we have in the past but we’re at the point now where there’s a lot going on on tour so we might as well focus on what we’re doing out here and then, you know, if there’s ideas, we’ll jot them down or Maria will sing in to her phone or whatever but after we finish touring we’ll spend a couple of months tryng to get ideas together and stuff and then just go in and, kind of, let it happen. It’s always good when you don’t have a lot of pre-conceived ideas, you go in and things just pop out.
Cool, that’s me done!
CH: Alright dude, awesome. Thank you very much man!