February 2014 interview by Todd Jolicoeur

Scott Stapp is getting ready to take his latest disc on the road and he wanted one man behind the drum kit: Chad Szeliga.  What can I possibly say about a man who has rocked millions on stage with Switched, Breaking Benjamin, and Black Label Society?  I can say quite a bit, but I think it's better if I just get the words from the man himself.  So with that, ladies and gentleman, I present to you, Chad Szeliga...

Todd: First of all, I'd love to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule for us, we really appreciate it.

Chad: Oh, no problem, thank you.

Todd: Well, I want to talk about you in general. But let's start with the whole reason for the phone call. Big Scott Stapp tour.

Chad: Yeah

Todd: So tell us a little bit about this. How this come about for you?

Chad: A long time ago, when I was playing for a band called Breaking Benjamin, my friend, her name is Alison, recommended me to play with Scott. And this is like 4, 5 years ago. I'm like, "No, I'm good with that." Because that's kind of, you know, he was fighting demons on the road and all that and trying to get his life back together so I was like, you know maybe one day if it happens it happens. I get a phone call from Hollywood Records, one of my good A&R guys and he's like [inaudible 00:01:39], this guy from Wind-up Records. I'm like, "OK." So he called, he's like, "Scott really has been following you for like 4 years, he loves your drumming and he likes you as a person and he wants you to give him a call about maybe a future with Scott Stapp and his solo project." I'm like, "This is weird." So I called him up, we Skyped. We had a great conversation. We had a conversation that we both agreed on, moving forward with the business. He kind of picking up the pieces where he left off and trying to build his career again and here we are today.

Todd: Very cool. It's nice to see you getting that exposure. Like you mentioned, Breaking Benjamin and you're involved now with Black Label Society, but to get something like this where, I don't want to call it more mainstream but it might be a bit more mainstream – a different fan base than what you're used being exposed to. Was that part of, what kind of dragged you in?

Chad: No, actually, a lot of people don't know it. Some people do and some people don't. I grew up on jazz and funk as drummer. Rock is not my forte believe it or not. But over the years, I've been in rock bands so I've learned to appreciate it, do my homework and try to play the best of my ability of playing rock. But once I had this opportunity, again yeah it is more mainstream.  It's not as heavy as the other bands that I've played for. And I did like that reason. But believe it or not, I'm a very spiritual person and I just felt  that God was telling me to go with this. Everyone's like, "Why don't you play in a Christian group with all this?" I'm not a big fan of that kind of stuff. Just playing in a Christian group because they're good people and this and that. If I'm told to do it, I do it. And I've never been told otherwise to do it until now in my career. I've been around a lot of negativity my whole life in this business and I'm hoping that this is a new beginning. If 2014's for me is that this will finally be my year to really shine and have my spiritual belief shine upon while I play drums. That's kind of like my goal, I thank god every day for giving me the opportunity to do what I do and if that helps others, then great. If it just helps me, then great. I basically went with the notion of I want to help Scott again because I believe in him. His new record is phenomenal.

Todd: I agree.

Chad: Speaks in volumes. And it can help a lot of people. I have nothing against Breaking Benjamin or Black Label, I enjoyed playing with all those guys too but this to me is a guy that was bigger than sliced bread at a time. Fell on his face and now he's picking up the pieces. You know a lot of people are like, "Ah, why are you playing with Scott Stapp? Why him?" And I'm like, "Why not? What's wrong with him?" Yeah, 2 wrongs don't make it right but believe that he is a good person and he had issues as anyone else. He's no different. I'm giving him  a chance as he's giving me a chance and we're going to try to do the best of our duty as musicians and try to put  on a great show and a great message. So I think that's my main focus.

Todd: You mentioned the quality of Proof of Life which came out and it's a great album. Even The Great Divide had, you know his first solo, had some great songs on it and obviously there's a whole Creed discography. How cool is it for you to go through and kind of put your own stand or your own flavor on these tracks? I mean, the singer, Scott's going to sound like Scott but you're going to get the musician, especially someone like you who brings him so many different influences in your playing. How's that coming together for you and how are you digging that kind of moment?

Chad: I'm going through the songs. I like to do, when I first get the gig, I like to try to keep it true to the structure. You know people.. that air drum, that know Creed music or know the Proof of Life or The Great Divide record, they can air drum it and then they're like, "Whoa this drummer is not even playing remotely what the record is." So I'm kind of giving credit where credit's due and paying homage to all these great drummers that have played on it. I'm just trying to build another Creed, is basically trying to get the right players. Scott and I talking about who we're going to get for the band and this and that and really giving people that aren't huge in the music industry per se, but are all great players that finally deserve recognition. My focal point for Scott, just have him perform, let me deal with the musicality and try to make this as big as Creed was at the time. I mean, rock is dying really fast. At rapid rates. We're getting caught up in techno and nothing against hip hop or anything, I like them all but it's very cookie cutter music anymore. There's not many rock bands out there. You got Shinedown and Seether and Three Days Grace. When I toured with those guys, they were like, we were like killing on stage every night with the tour. Sold out arenas but nowadays you need a big bill to even pack an arena anymore. And I'm talking like, 6 to 7 top singles. Scary.

Todd: Well let's talk about Black Label for a minute. Album's getting ready to drop. How'd the whole process go this time with Nick out and Dario in? Did it change the process on how you guys approach the whole BLS thing?

Chad: We just did a thing for Schecter, it was a Schecter Party for NAMM, and having Dario, he's such a great player. And he's basically a kid. He's 24 years old, and killing it on the guitar. I love Dario, I just met him briefly through this show and he was such a great guy. Got a Boston accent which was funny. Great guy, it's just a little bit different when you go to a high school and you're so familiar with the high school, you know? Everything's a routine. And then once you get out of that high school and you find out you got to move and you got to go to a new high school. It's like meeting all new friends again. Yeah you'll meet friends but it takes time to warm up to it and get familiar with it again. I truly miss Nick. I miss the camaraderie that Nick and I had. The little quirkiness, things we did on stage with JD, me and Nick. Not saying that Dario is not going to present that but it was different. It was absolutely different, and Dario killed it. He only had a day or so to do the stuff and prepare and he did a great job. It's just, you know, it's different like I said.

Todd: Sure. Let's talk about you for a minute Chad. All Day Drumming. ADD. How much fun was it to be able to go and put together your own drumming DVD for the Drum Channel?

Chad: Oh man it was such a blessing. For all the hard work I've put into drumming over the years, it finally paid off. Just to prove to the world, your dreams do come true if you really establish goals. As cliché as that is, it really does come to life. It was a lot of struggle, ups and downs, peaks and valleys kind of thing in my life, but I'm very fortunate and blessed to finally put out a DVD that I'm pretty proud of. It was done 3 years ago so I look back and I go, "Oh man I was terrible." I could play so much better now. But that's the human-esque in us all you know, you're always going to get better, hopefully. Looking back at it now, I could put circles around myself 3 years ago. So that you keep improving, and that's the journey I like to see as, you always keep improving. Coming up with the title, I have ADD and a lot of people have ADD and I didn't want it to be like I'm picking on or slamming people with ADD. I wanted people to feel that you're not alone, kind of thing. Where it's like, I have it and there's a lot of people that have it. It's not a curse, you know. There's lot of things we can do to better ourselves that people that do have ADD, and then I was like, "Why don't we name it All Day Drumming." The guy who designed the cover with his daughter, MAG, he designs Chuck Taylors and paints on them, it's called punkyourchucks.com. I was like, "Dude I'd be honored if you could do the album cover" and he's like, "Well why don't you name it All Day Drumming?" I was like, "Dude, that's awesome." So it's like killing 2 birds with one stone. I drum all day, that's all I think about, it's drums. But then there's another serious side of ADD on it, on top of it.

Todd: I actually like the subtitle because it kind of plays into you and your whole philosophy and your spirituality and that's, you called it drumming for the body mind and soul. Because everybody automatically assumes drumming takes a lot of physical work so there's your body, you've got to have some soul and some rhythm. But I like the fact that you wrapped it in with mind as well.

Chad: Yeah I mean everything to me, looking at a great drummer, rock or any style, I always look at, does he have passion? Is he spiritual about it? Is he preaching to people on the drums? Is he some arrogant, a-hole that thinks he's the greatest thing, or is he going to be a good role model? If he, got a great groove? Does he have finesse? A lot of people think just hitting the drums is the coolest thing on earth. But as a mature drummer, you have to have dynamics. You have to have a lot more capability and sound different than the typical drummer. That's what's going to make you different than the man, separate the men and boys because anyone can hit hard, but not many people can hit soft and make it still sound like it's hitting hard. You see what I'm saying?

Todd: Sure.

Chad: So it's all about being the maturity of a drummer, not making it sound like, oh this is a drum beat but adding something to the picture and that's kind of my focal point is, what I'm trying to establish as a drummer. I don't try to over-play to over-play. I don't go, "Oh I can't wait to be a modern drummer, and get all these free endorsements because of my drumming". I don't look at it like that. It's just, spiritually this is where it's telling me to play. Because I feel it and I love it so much. So that's kind of where I got the whole mind, body and soul.

Todd: Very cool. Looking back, who would you say was the influence in your life that made you pick up a pair of drumsticks and want to beat on something?

Chad: Well, my dad really got me into drumming at a very early age. I remember at 4 or 5 playing “In A Gadda Da Vida,” the drum solo. My father was trying to show it to me. And my dad was like my role model, my icon that I looked up to. Never took lessons, he never played professionally but had his own style. He loved Ginger Baker and he brought me up on him. And then my grandfather was a jazz musician back in the day before he went into service. Well when he was in the service, I'm sorry. And he played with like Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and I think a couple of times with Buddy Rich. So I grew up on big band with my grandfather and he became a band director over the years so I would go watch core drummers. Those two and then my grandmother gave me my first snare drum, and my grandfather's like, "You can't play a drum set or anything until you learn your rudiment." He was real strict on that. I was really blessed to have somewhat of a talented family base oriented on just a caliber of different clusters of styles of music. A range from rock and roll, my mom was going to be a flautist for the Cleveland Orchestra, but she had me so she couldn't do that. So she became a music choir director and now is a music teacher in elementary back home. It's in our blood, it's in our DNA. For sure of that. Everyone in my family somewhat played music, for short-lived or still does.

Todd: All right, cool. Very cool. Again, we mentioned these things going out on the road, and when you're getting ready to leave the house, Chad, and climb on that bus, what are the couple things you look around the room and think, I can't leave without this?

Chad: I definitely like to take my family with me but obviously you can't take them. But like my fiancée, my daughter and my son, I usually take pictures and I post them on the drums and they're always with me at all times. So I usually try to bring pictures to remind me of home. Once in a great blue moon, I'll try to bring a bible if I can read it. Sometimes I just have attention span of a walnut, so I feel terrible that you were reading a scripture and you're like, what did I just read? Sometimes I just, the technology that we have today, you can read it on your iPhone or your Google device. Usually I take a lot of pictures, as much as I can to remind me of home and how much I miss it.

Todd: Very cool. If somebody was to get hold of your iPhone, or your i-products, your iPod, going through your playlist, what on your playlist might surprise some of your fans?

Chad: Oh man, there's a lot of bebop that I listen to like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey. There's so much into that aspect but then I go from like a band called In Flames, Meshuggah, Panthera, all that kind of stuff. And then there's a group I've been really getting into called Snarky Puppy. I believe they're all like graduates from like, North Texas State and they're just killer players. It's like rock, R&B, funk, hip hop, bebop. It's like a plethora of all different styles in their music. So I've been really big in them. Another band that I really got into is a band called Karnivool from Australia. They're really good. So you'll find that in my playlist. And Steely Dan and Chicago and Earth Wind and Fire, Priest, you know it just goes on and on. Van Halen.

Todd: OK. If there's one piece of music in the history of time that you can go back and put your stamp on, whether it was playing on it, helping write it, helping to produce it, be in the room when it was recorded, what would that piece of music be?

Chad: Of what style, or just any band?

Todd: Anything. Just one thing that in your mind, you wish you could say you were a part of?

Chad: A lot of people would say The Beatles and stuff, I would probably say The Police. I would love to be a part of that. Because that's such a great trio of great players that all added something unique to that band to make pop music really grow differently.

Todd: Very cool. That's definitely a different answer than I've normally got.

Chad: Yeah. What were your other answers?

Todd: I get everything across the board from somebody who wanted “Happy Birthday” just because of the payout at the end of the day. Other had stuff where they just, it was their idol or their influence who got them in, whether it was something like Kiss, or like you saidThe Beatles, the artists who made them want to play in the first place. They'd want to be in on one of those classic albums from their ownchildhood or fan-dom.

Chad: You've got to look at it, like The Police. The Beatles and everyone else did their own thing but The Police were like almost like an Avant-garde fusion-esque kind of like brain to pop culture. The Beatles definitely did something with harmony and real simplistic music and then got into some acid and start writing some crazy stuff. But The Police were like, Every Breath You Take, going from Synchronicity to.. There were so many different styles that were going on with that kind of band. You know, Steward Copeland was more into reggae like one drop but it's actually middle eastern music that he would play where he'd put the kick drum in a weird spot or the side stick in a weird spot. That was really, hit home where I'm like, wow all those years I thought he was a punk rock drummer slash reggae drummer and now he really was more into the world music. That's what he really gravitated towards.

Todd: Alright. I agree they were kind of a pop-prog rock of their day.

Chad: Yeah they were. And sold so many records on stuff they could enjoy. It wasn't like, OK we got to play it this way because this is what the record label was at the time. It was like, "No this is what we are. We're a rock, punk." And then they got more into the, when the Synchronicity came out it was like just one song after the other. Murder By Numbers and stuff like that. It wasn't a single per se, you know, Every Breath You Take, Wrapped Around Your Finger, those songs really changed the way I drum by just the way Steward Copeland play the high hat. That's to me, changes drumming 101. I'm not about the payout. If someone's like, oh what song would you wish you wrote or something like that. That's like me saying Christmas songs. Not just “Happy Birthday.” Like “Jingle Bells” or something like that. But I do know that “Celebration” is the most recognized song. Like Kool and The Gang.

Todd: Yeah. That's true.

Chad: So if I wanted that, I'd write that song.

Todd: Right. Well I've got one more for you if you don't mind before we let you go. Chad, with everything that you've got, with all the successes you've had, with some of the failures you may have had, and chased in your life. At this point in your life, with everything looking up, what is the meaning of life to you?

Chad: I don't want to sound like Jimmy Swaggart, you know what I'm saying, but it's really finding my reason, my purpose of life as you would quote Proof of Life. What's the reason why we're on earth? To me, I looked at it as we have to pass the torch down sooner or later, no pun intended. That there's going to be another drummer out there that is going to take my job and my job is to make people feel good about themselves. Just that rock stars aren't just a bunch of pricks that cheat on wives and do cocaine and all that stuff. But we really are very blessed and fortunate to do what we do though I don't take it for granted. I practice every day. I want to pass the torch on to someone that rightly deserves it. Just try to grow stronger in faith. And lead that light and lead that example for the next person to pass it on. I just don't like rock star mentality. I don't get into the whole mindset, I don't get into we're better than anybody out there. We're equally as good. We're just on stage and you paid money to come and see us but it's no different than you working in a factory and being the top of your field at what you do. I don't look at it any different and I never wanted to be treated like a rock star, just consider myself very blessed and fortunate.

Todd: Very cool. Listen man, we really appreciate the time but actually we're more pumped to see this tour. We're pumped to see you guys, you're going to swing through, and you're going to play a show here in Flint at the Machine Shop (http://www.themachineshop.info/).

Chad: I played there a while back with a band called Switched, was my first signed band and then I believe Breaking Benjamin played there once. Don't know if I played there with Black Label?

Todd: Yeah I don't know if Black Label's been there. But I know the Flint crowd is excited. As you all know the Flint crowd are just insane up there at the Machine Shop.

Chad: Oh they're great, man. A lot of people are probably wanting to see Scott fail at this. Which is it's like Howard Stern. You hate him but then you still want to listen to him. I think everyone deep inside thinks, oh Scott's music is corny this or that, but deep inside they go, but dude I used to listen to Creed. There's not one person you can, I mean, a lot of people listen to Creed. A lot of people. Including myself. In the 1900s as I call it. 1999, in 2000 they were huge, huge. They sold 50 million records. You don't hear that today. Kind of have to give credit where credit's due man. They were good at what they do. And I'm just hoping that this new band and this whole new line up is really going to make Scott really sail again. Not take the wind out of it. But really, hopefully this tour does really well and they see a total different Scott Stapp.

Todd: That would be great. Again Chad, thank you so much for taking time out of your day for us today.  We appreciate it, and we look forward to you helping Scott Stapp relive that glory.

Chad: Yeah man. I pray every day that it does really well.

Todd: Cool. Well, we look forward to seeing you at the end of March at the Machine Shop in Flint, Chad.

Chad: Absolutely, thank you so much. God bless.

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