July 21, 2017 Interview – Chris Howorth of In This Moment
In recent years, there have been few Metal bands which have captured the imagination quite like In This Moment. A launch into stardom which began with their 2012 album Blood, In This Moment has their dreams unfold before their very eyes, going from a supporting band to a headlining one, from respected underground act to internationally Rock leaders. Through it all, they have yet to find compliance as they seek to raise the bar to a new height with their new album, Ritual. A different direction for the band, Ritual sees In This Moment take a bold step in a different direction while retaining the mystic and passion of their past. Recently we caught up with Lead Guitarist Chris Howorth to talk Ritual, the wild ride the band has been on since Blood, striving to challenge themselves, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – Last we spoke, In This Moment, like always, were out touring. It has been a crazy ride for the band through the years. How would you describe the point from which Blood broke big five years ago until present day?
Chris Howorth – It’s been amazing! (laughs) It’s been a really great journey. We never experienced this side of it – becoming a bigger band – that was always the goal. When we first started, getting signed, putting out an album, and going on tour was the big achievement. Once you do that, you realize that’s not all there is to this and there’s so much more. We kind of hit a stagnant point, where we got to a certain point and then we just leveled off and kind of were just moving along at the same point never growing.
Once Blood hit, the steady growth started happening and it’s still happening. That gives us the fuel we need to keep going. We still see this thing growing! That’s always the thing: no matter what bad thing happens to us, we’re like, ‘Well, we’re still doin’ good! The profile of the band is still growing and heading upwards.’ It’s been a really amazing experience to go from nothing to 300 people, to 500, to 1,000, to 2,000; from clubs to theaters; from buses and trailers to a semi-truck…things like that! It’s crazy!
CrypticRock.com – It has to be a crazy journey. Now you had mentioned following the major success of Blood the band did perhaps add a lot of stress on themselves going into Black Widow. Black Widow was really a strong record as well. Three years removed from that album’s release in 2014, how do you find the record holds up for your own personal standards?
Chris Howorth – I’m proud of it and I still feel like it holds up! It’s crazy the ebb and flow of our emotions, because that kind of dictates what the records are going to sound like. When we’re feeling very much adventurous and technology-driven on Black Widow, we kind of shifted from that to Ritual to kind of be more – still have that element – but less campiness, if you will; the authenticity of our old stuff. More furious subject matter, darker tones, feelings.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and Ritual is set for release on July 21st. This album is quite different than previous In This Moment releases. What was the process like this time around?
Chris Howorth – It was kind of a similar style, the main difference this time from before… before it was just Maria [Brink, Vocalist], Kevin [Churko, Producer] and I getting together and coming up with everything on the spot, and trying to make it happen out of thin air. Whereas with Ritual, we went in just to write together for a month; six months before we even went in to do the album we went and wrote, and then we went on tour for the whole summer.
So we wrote some stuff with Kevin then and we also, on this album, met with some outside songwriters, three or four that our record label was really pushing for us to do…just to see what happened. It was definitely a little bit more of a different process, and then we kind of crafted five or six songs in the studio, as well. So it’s kind of a mixed batch of a whole bunch of different things.
CrypticRock.com – Interesting. Ritual is certainly a very diverse album, and perhaps a little different stylistically from what fans have heard from In This Moment in the past. This has also been the longest span between album releases; you generally release a new record every two years, and this time around it has been three years. Is that perhaps because the band was touring so much that you opted to wait a little longer?
Chris Howorth – It was, and it was other outside factors that contributed to that. We had a European tour booked, a whole bunch of stuff booked, and what happened with that year… first the terrorist attacks hit and we kind of moved the tour few months later. Then I was, I had this horrible neck injury – it was an injury but it was a long-standing injury that came to a head. Because we had so much time off, everything in my neck and shoulders just kind of locked up, froze up, and I couldn’t turn my head or anything.
So we ended up having to cancel the European tour, so there’s five-six months right there, just a big block of wasted time. Then three months of recovery for my neck, trying to get to where I could play. Then we decided instead of trying to record a new album, let’s go out on tour one last time. That’s when we did the Korn, Rob Zombie summer thing, which was amazing. It was long, that tour was almost four months. We went to Japan afterwards and then after that is when we focused on this record. If we hadn’t had the tour cancellations and my injury, we would have been a little bit earlier, maybe even a year earlier. It kind of stretched everything out a lot!
CrypticRock.com – Understandable, hopefully you are better now. As mentioned earlier, this is a very diverse record with a lot of different elements coming into play, things you have not used before; it is very experimental. What was the influence to try these different things?
Chris Howorth – Our main driving-force is let’s just do it, let’s just do something different. If somebody told us we have to be something or ‘this is what you are,’ it’s like, ‘Come on, man!’ We just want to do what we like! I was very open again on this record, I was up for anything. It ended up being pretty heavy and having a substantial guitar presence compared to Black Widow, but I was open for whatever. I definitely remember telling Kevin when we went in, ‘I want this to sound different!’ I don’t want to worry about having the same kind of sound as all the other albums. It still sounds similar – Churko’s production is gigantic – but I want things to be different, just over all.
CrypticRock.com – You certainly achieved that. You also did something bold, as well: you put a cover track on the album; obviously that is Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight.” Also, you did a collaboration with Rob Halford, which is pretty cool. What led to the decision to do a cover, because In This Moment has not released a cover track on a full-length in the past for a standard edition, correct?
Chris Howorth – We had the bonus track cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” on Blood, but we haven’t really done a cover in a while and we are always thinking of covers. Obviously it’s something we all love, so on this album we said, ‘Do you want to do a cover?’ We were throwing around a lot of different ideas for songs, and one of our criteria was if we’re going to do a cover song, it has to be something that we can make better than the original, if possible sonically.
With this song, that wasn’t the case! (laughs) We kept coming back to “In The Air Tonight” and we were like, ‘No! This is a friggin’ masterpiece already!’ You can’t make this song better, it’s like one of the best songs of all-time. So we kept moving to other ideas, but… we loved the song so much and Maria really feels the energy of the song and the dark, eerie content and all that – she really loved it – so we said let’s just do it. Let’s do it, let’s take a stab at it, but let’s make it our own; let’s not have it be… let’s not try to do that big, iconic drum fill that Phil Collins does, let’s not try to copy that and do that same thing. Let’s do something different that’s our own.
I think we did a good job! (laughs) It’s way haunting, it’s dark, there’s a kind of Tribal sound, maybe. Then with the big moment at the end, we did our own version of that, which I think came out really cool. I’m excited to see what people think when they hear it! We’ve been playing it live and I think it’s going over great, but when you hear it on the record – sonically, with that production – it really does kick your teeth in when it kicks in.
CrypticRock.com – No question! As you said, it is important to make it your own, much like Marilyn Manson did with the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams.” Both renditions of the songs have a unique quality, so that is something that you guys have accomplished. Yourself and Maria have really been at the forefront of In This Moment from the start. It takes a lot for people to work together as long as you two have. How would you describe the dynamic of your working relationship?
Chris Howorth – I think it comes from mutual respect and also, over the years, we’ve kind of found our roles – what’s important and not important, picking our battles with each other. In the beginning, I might have been fighting more for guitar-playing/riffing and worrying about things that weren’t important to a good song. Maria would be fighting against some stuff like that and wanted to put in stuff that I didn’t think fit with what we were. I think as we developed along – especially when the other guys in the band quit and we did Blood – we were both so open to each other’s vibe of what we wanted to do, that we kind of supported.
I turned a corner too though that it’s not about me, it’s not about the other guys, it’s about the whole product. Maria is the tip of the spear: she’s the spark that stabs you first! We’ve gotta lift her up and make sure she shines, and if she shines, the whole band’s gonna shine. That’s kind of been the philosophy! I’m not trying to write guitar parts that step all over the vocal, I want to write a guitar part that’s going to complement the vocal and give her opportunities to sing great stuff. That’s been a huge difference and I think when that happened, she’s just been able to fly.
I support her artistic vision too: with the theatrics and the lighting. It’s very important to her all of those things. It’s not a fight: it’s a team effort now! We’re both on the same page and, if we do have a disagreement, we respect each other a lot and we can usually get through it. If we can’t, we put it to – this is a creative disagreement – and we put it to our management or Kevin Churko, the producer.
CrypticRock.com – It is a testament that you guys have been able to compromise through the years. Sometimes it is difficult for people to work together, so it is a great thing that it has worked. The band are currently in the midst of more touring this summer, playing with Motionless In White, amongst other bands. This is a really cool lineup and the band always put effort into bringing out a great lineup. Like the experimentation of Ritual, can those coming out expect something a little different from the stage show this time out?
Chris Howorth – Oh my gosh, we’ve been working on it so much, and it’s definitely updated from the last time we toured. Also – this is just very recently, in the last two weeks – [Maria’s] going through something and she’s changing. The show is still the show, it’s going to be a great show, but she’s rethinking some of her wardrobes and maybe trying to simplify a bit in certain areas. We’re trying to streamline everything as much as possible.
Trying to do what we’re doing… you haven’t really seen anybody do in Rock. For her to change her outfit every song means she has to go away for a little bit to do it, and we have these interludes and stuff. We’re really working on trying to streamline that process and make it flow better. She’s really open to it! To answer the question directly, it’s going to be a totally different show from what people have seen before! It’s still evolving: literally in the last few weeks, she’s wanting to rethink a lot of her wardrobe.
CrypticRock.com – Excellent. You guys always bring an excellent live show, and the theatrics, as you said, are something that we do not see today but would have seen in the ‘70s with someone like KISS. It is great to see that you’re bringing it back! It is been something that fans really seem to enjoy, so, that said, how do you find the fan reception at the shows? Usually the same people come out, so do they have similar reactions each time?
Chris Howorth – For the most part, our die-hard fans, you can see them from a mile away! They’re dressed up like Maria or band members. They’re super supportive, they’re always in the front row. There’s a small majority of people that really liked our old stuff and really wish we’d play that more, wish we didn’t have the theatrics. We don’t want to ignore what everybody thinks, but at the same time, social media is this cesspool trap where you start looking at comments and all of a sudden there’s all this negative in there.
My rule is… you look at the comments and yes, you’re immediately drawn to the ones that are bad. What I’ll do is I will look and say, okay, we have 200-300 comments here and out of those 300 comments, only 10 were bad. I’m not going to focus on those 10 bad ones and ignore the 290 good ones! That means we’re doing good!
There’s always going to be people that hate you. If it comes to where the bad ones are almost equal with the good ones, then you might have a problem! Then you can possibly think, ‘Maybe we should rethink something.’ Not basing everything you do off social media, but what I’m trying to say is you can’t really look at the negative comments and take them to heart. Just like on the videos, you’ll get 10,000 thumbs-up and 500 thumbs-down. Well, that means the video’s awesome and people love it, for the most part! There’s always going to be the haters that will hate no matter what.
CrypticRock.com – It is merely impossible to please everyone. If you try to, you will kill yourself (laughs). My last question for you is regarding films. In past interviews, we spoke about how CrypticRock.com is a Rock/Metal and Horror news site and we like to focus on all genres. You had previously stated that you are a fan of the Horror genre, so, I was curious if you have seen any new films in the genre that you enjoyed?
Chris Howorth – I’m the biggest Alien nerd! I will read all the little videos on YouTube, the theories behind Prometheus (2012) and Alien (1979). I was so eagerly awaiting Alien: Covenant, just watching all the theories and videos. So I am totally obsessed with that stuff, and I loved that movie so I’ll say that one: Alien: Covenant.
CrypticRock.com – Very cool. That just came out recently. Have there been any other films that you’ve seen in the Horror of Sci-Fi genres that stuck out that you’ve enjoyed?
Chris Howorth – I love most of the Sci-Fi, the Marvel movies and all that stuff. As far as Horror, I liked The Conjuring (2013). I also liked The Conjuring 2 (2016).