With the recent announcement of their 2012 album Blood becoming Certified Gold in the U.S. on May 10th and the release of their sixth studio album Ritual set to be released July 21st, Maria Brink (lead singer), Chris Howorth (lead guitarist), Randy Weitzel (rhythm guitarist), Travis Johnson (bass guitar) and newest member Kent Diimell (drums) from In This Moment have kicked off their Half God, Half Devil Tour. Already receiving rave reviews on the album’s first two singles titled Oh Lord and Roots are a glimpse into a darker, raw innervation of probably their best album yet.
In This Moment is known for their elaborate burlesque style stage shows, heavy sound and Brink’s fearless lyrics and with each album, the band always likes to take each album to the next level. When we sat down with lead guitarist and co-founder Chris Howorth about the inspiration behind Ritual and what makes it different from the other albums they have made. Howorth said “it’s kind of our thing. Each time we do an album it is based on what we are feeling at that exact time and doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the albums we put out before. The music will generally have the same feelings of our other albums and you can definitely tell it is us but this one has a distinctive feel stylistically and obviously it is the same thing with Maria singing, but there is a much more bluesy tone while being a little heavier than the Black Widow album. It is a little more rough and a little more raw which is a variance of what you have heard previously from In This Moment” Howorth concludes.
Ritual features several cover songs including a classic from Phil Collins. When selecting a cover song, “It is never an easy decision but In The Air Tonight is a great song and it hasn’t really been covered before so that was a major factor in why we chose that particular song. We went through so many and kept circling back to it because we felt that we could do something divergent with it and Maria felt the song and we took a shot at it. It’s the kind of thing where you always want to a song that has the best shot at success and of course is a song that you love. It was important that we did the song as good or better than the original and brought it justice which is always the goal.” Howorth has really enjoyed collaborating with Kevin Churko who has produced several of their albums including Ritual and working with Rob Halford of Judas Priest’s band for the track Black Wedding and claims this will be his new favorite song to play live. “That was how I taught myself to play guitar was by doing covers. By listening to 80’s rock bands like KISS, Ratt, Motley Crue among others. One of the first songs I learned was Metallica’s Seek And Destroy and from there I kept learning” Howorth says.
The music industry is so full of bands that never make it past their first album, and then there are bands that remain a strong part of the scene for decades. In This Moment surely is one of the elite whose fan base just continues to grow. After all, they began their career in their own right and built the foundation from the ground up on their own. In 2005, when Howorth and Brink met through mutual friends and decided to begin writing songs together, they quickly determined that they wanted to go in a different direction musically and that is when In This Moment was officially born. Howorth tells us “we started as a band but didn’t have a distinct identity yet so we were trying to do whatever we could to get out there and once we got into the scene doing albums we were on our third record and everything sounded the same. A couple of the band members from the original group had quit, so once that happened, we were in a position of realizing we weren’t really growing and started questioning if we really wanted to do this. It was at that point that Maria and I rallied and made the choice to keep going. Let’s do what we always wanted to do without worrying what anyone is going to think and that led to our Blood album which was more unique and successful than our previous albums Beautiful Tragedy, The Dream and A Star Crossed Wasteland and it also encouraged us to revise the way we looked, and then Maria began coming up with new ideas for the stage show to include theatrics. It was almost like we truly evolved as a band from that point on. Still the same band but we stopped caring about what people would think and re-launched the way we wanted to” Howorth recalls.
It was after the Blood album was released and they started touring that In This Moment became excited about all of the fans singing their lyrics during the shows. “The fans have always been with us but that was when things really shifted and we had a song called The Blood Legion and from that point on we started referring to our fans as The Blood Legion and that is what they started calling themselves” Howorth says. “Maria came up with the idea of ‘become the show’ and we started seeing fans at the shows dressed up and we will scan the crowd and offer special passes to the most extravagant costume and the more I think about it, it has become like a Rocky Horror Picture Show and the fans love it. We love that they feel like they are getting ready for the show and part of the show. It’s awesome to see.”
Because In This Moment created their career via DIY (“do it yourself”) and with a straight line of communication with their fans prior to their first record deal, that loyalty is a remnant of how strong of an impact they have made since day one. Howorth goes into detail about how Myspace played a vital role. “It was crazy. It really was DIY and it was back when Myspace started having bands on there with tons of followers so we were adding people like crazy and we realized that people were getting noticed by the music industry from the songs they posted and their music pages so we took that very seriously. I remember every night after work I would go home and spend hours adding new friends manually or any way that I could which included going to other band’s pages and adding people. It became a big platform and eventually we were approached by Century Media Records because of our online presence. I mostly remember being in the studio recording our first album and we had just hit 100,000 friends on Myspace and I decided not to add anyone else for the rest of my life. It was the pinnacle of success and then Myspace went away but here we still are.” Howorth goes on to describe how they booked their own tours because they didn’t have an agent and it seemed like the industry took note and they offered to help them and apparently it did. “The whole thing was like a dream” Howorth expresses. “Our goal was to get signed by Century Media and then get picked up by a major label which seemed extremely far fetched at the time but we loved our time with Century Media. They were truly amazing and they gave us complete creative freedom to do whatever we wanted which was great. When Atlantic came into the picture we were still in talks with Century Media and it was a hard decision. But, we couldn’t ignore that Atlantic had such a huge worldwide team and Century didn’t and we were ready to go to the next level so we just went for it. It was even cooler because a lot of my favorite bands I grew up listening to were on Atlantic. It was just time to take the chance and see how much bigger we could become.”
Known for their bigger than life theatrical stage shows, Howorth credits Brink as the mastermind behind it all. “Maria has talked about writing songs to a theme before but my idea was to write a song and then build a set around each song. Make the music video and then bring the video to life on stage. As we are in the studio recording these songs, it is happening. As soon as we play something or something stimulates her, Maria will come up with a new idea of how we can portray the song on stage and through music video. I just let her express her ideas and we do our best to make it work and for the most part it does but sometimes it doesn’t and we move on. We take each song and make the lights move and everything everyone does is in direct works with a specific song.”
The rewarding yet grueling life of touring can take its’ toll. In 2016, Howorth was diagnosed with acute arthritis and we asked him to go into detail on his experience with recovering from taking opiates and his and how he copes now without them when the pain re-occurs. “Rock and metal bands have this need to prove themselves as headbangers and prove how hard they can rock. Who is better, stronger faster and so on. You’re constantly trying to go crazy during every show especially when you’re just starting out. For example, Avenged Sevenfold. When they first started, they would come out rockin’ hard and going crazy on stage nearly breaking their necks headbanging to every song and now they have established themselves and don’t have anything to prove. Now, they incorporate more stage effects and that is usually how it works. Once you have proven you can truly rock, then you can back off a bit on showing off. That is exactly what I did and it evoked a lot of pain and I chose to mask that pain with opiates. It actually got to the point where I had to plan out the tour and count out how many pills I could bring with me to get through it and it return it ended up costing me thousands of dollars and I would become sick and even if I didn’t take them and chose to bear the pain I would still get sick. Once I ultimately decided to quit taking opiates is when I discovered just how much I had destroyed my neck. For so long I didn’t realize what I was doing because I couldn’t decipher the magnitude of the pain because of the medication. By overcompensating, my back, neck and shoulders have suffered and even now I can barely turn my head” Howorth confesses. “Now, I get massages and stretching every day. I am definitely not head banging like I used to. I had to re-learn how to do it and I know other musicians sustain injuries too and it is really about learning to listen to your body and decide what is good and what is not.” Howorth goes on to saying that because of the theatrics during their shows now and how much is going on it has taken some of the focus of off him so he doesn’t feel as though people are questioning why he isn’t head banging as hard if at all when he is up there.
Maria Brink has fought through the barriers of a male dominated genre and is consistently voted a fan favorite and one of the best and sexiest female front women in metal. We asked Howorth what it is like to work with her and was he ever worried that people would consider her a solo artist and consider him and the other guys her back-up band. Howorth replied “in the beginning it was a learning process. Luckily, Century had bands like Lacuna Coil and others who were female fronted and they asked us if we would be okay with Maria getting more attention and some of the past members have not been receptive to the idea but the guys now are totally accepting of it and I had come to the conclusion of why am I feeling this way and realizing the bigger of a star Maria becomes, the bigger the band as a whole will be. We hold her up, she is our star. She is absolutely amazing and at the end of the day we want the best album cover and the best show. I certainly don’t want to be the center of attention on an album cover, that isn’t going to sell records. I don’t need validation to tell me I am in the band and she is incredible and we want her to get all of the attention because she deserves it and she is what sells and in return we all reap the benefits of success.”
The Blood album was the turning point for In This Moment, and even five years later it continues to open more doors for them. “We didn’t even have a manager at the time and when we started writing the music and playing it for people we immediately found a new manager and everything blossomed. We went from 400-500 people at our shows to thousands of people. I wouldn’t say we made it because I thought we made it the day we got signed but five years later it is finally paying off. Being able to make a living doing what we love and growing as time goes on is what make it worthwhile.”
So far, 2017 is shaping up to be another turning point for In This Moment. One that is surely going to be suspenseful, entertaining and satisfy every fan’s thirst for more and as the interview comes to a close, Howorth is excited for everyone to hear the new album and says “this is our best album to date and we have done a lot of new things to bring even more theatrics and we look forward to seeing our fans on tour and drawing in more.” It is safe to say that the In This Moment and their Blood Legion may have been around for a while but they are on the cusp of reaching even higher.
In This Moment is currently on tour. Please check their website for dates, venues and tickets.