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Craig Owens

Craig Owens: Return of the king

“I created this crazy schedule where I was going to do every single album in my catalogue on live stream…”

If you’re a fan of Craig Owens, or one of his many projects, be it Chiodos, badXchannels or Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows (D.R.U.G.S.), you’re no doubt aware of his hyperactive workflow.

You’ve also no doubt noticed his absence in the horde of alternative musicians to have flooded our feeds with pandemic-themed creative outings.

But six odd months into the pandemic, when he would hop on the phone with Blunt Magazine, Owens explains his decision to hold off. “I recognised that it was a long, long-term commitment that we had lining up and I pulled myself back.”

Far from twiddling his thumbs, Owens spent the time sharpening his spear. “I started studying classical piano remotely through Zoom…” Impressive though that may be, it was his other iso-project that’s of particular concern to fans:

“…I’ve been working on the new D.R.U.G.S. album”

Talk of a new record from his progressive post-hardcore outfit entered the atmosphere at the beginning of 2020. The band first appeared on their self-titled debut in 2011 and almost as quickly seemed to vanish. As Owens explains, plans to return full focus to D.R.U.G.S were taking shape towards the end of 2019.

“I made the decision pre-quarantine and what led me to it was the songwriting. I feel like badXchannels really helped me understand a lot of my songwriting, and take a step back and really look at my catalogue in rock leading up to there.”

Based in the world of electronica, badXchannels largely kept Owens busy in recent years. Unbeknownst to him at the time, it’s this journey away from rock that ultimately guided him back to it. “I literally feel like I forgot even how my own voice sounded.”

“It was a head trip leading into it. To start writing D.R.U.G.S. again was like, ‘Okay. I know exactly what to do. I know exactly what this needs to sound like, what kind of record it needs to be.’ And until you have that epiphany as an artist, you’re kind of just chasing other people’s vision or a past vision, and I would never just phone in a project ever, because I want to leave a legacy.”

When pressed on the industry side of the album, Owens is a man of few words. A release date? “It won’t be until next year, for sure.” Other musicians joining him? “I’ll slowly trickle it out.” Any specifics at all? “I don’t want to say anything quite yet.”

Owens also suggests not to get too distracted by the D.R.U.G.S satellite single, ‘King I Am’, released in March of this year. “I just dropped the first demo that I had worked on…That won’t be on the record, I don’t think.”

After all, it’s the crafting of songs and the storytelling that’s exciting him at the moment, and via process of osmosis, us too.

“The first part was more like visualisation,” he says of the new album process. “The vision is what the album is.”

“It’s great songs that are very communicative, fast, and kind of almost… I don’t want to say theatrical, but just the D.R.U.G.S. sound. It’s dark, has a little bit of that interesting quirk to it. It moves. It slaps. It’s super catchy and it’s just really good songwriting.”

“I just think there’s a lot of open space to be worked as far as the sound design goes. I think there’s massive holes and overcrowding in certain areas of songwriting…because I really try to fill these voids that I hear musically, that I think are missing. I love making the music that I want to hear and that’s kind of the secret to what it is that I do.”

“When this album comes out, I am going to make sure that it’s a classic. I have to. I have to for myself.”

Owens does also confirm that restriction roll-backs going to plan, D.R.U.G.S will be on Australian soil in 2021. “I recognise that we had some amazing shows as D.R.U.G.S. in Australia and I’m really looking forward to getting back and really being able to kill it.”

Owens’ love affair with Australia can be traced right back to the start of his career with Chiodos. In fact, this year marks 15 years of the group’s cult-classic debut All’s Well That Ends Well.

“It’s really crazy when you try and think about it,” Owens says of the album’s anniversary. “It was my first full length. So, even just me as a human being and as an artist outside of Chiodos, it was a milestone.

“I feel thankful and kind of almost vindicated in a lot of the experimentation that went into the progressive style of our ideal Chiodos, originally. I just feel really proud to have created something that has kind of lasted the test of time.”

There’s a stark contrast between the confident and affirmed Owens of today, and the rising star of 2005. Thinking back on the All’s Well sessions, Owens recalls proof of that.

“There were moments of just massive self-doubt, as in, we’re finally at the level where we’re going to be releasing albums next to our peers, alongside our peers, and are we good enough? Do we know what we’re doing? Is this good? I felt that in the studio, for sure.”

If given the opportunity to go back, Owens is adamant he wouldn’t have changed a thing. “I would also say, ‘Don’t worry about Baby as much,'” he admits of the album’s fan-favourite single ‘Baby, You Wouldn’t Last A Minute On The Creek’, which almost didn’t make the cut.

“We were just very progressive back then. We always saw it as movements, and emotion, and energy, and communicating a message, and we very rarely thought of them as songs. ‘Baby’ felt adolescent in its simplicity to us, as progressive-minded rock musicians that were so young. Super young.”

So, if he could get one message through the folds of time to his former self, 15 years ago, what would he say?

“I would say: ‘People are going to like it.’ So, chill out.”