On February 24, JC Chasez will release his long-awaited solo venture, Schizophrenic. He’s already tasted success with artists like *NSYNC, BT and Basement Jaxx – as well as a hyped song on the Drumline soundtrack, “Blowin’ Me Up (With Her Love).” Now Chasez is taking the next step into pop superstardom. In the midst of the publicity push for the new album, he sat down to tackle the PopGurls 20 Questions.
1. The Matrix had a red and a blue pill. Alice in Wonderland offers up one pill to make you bigger and one to make you small. If you could offer a choice to people before taking their first listen to Schizophrenic, what would it be?
One pill would wake you up, excite you and pump you full of energy. [The other] pill would make you feel sexy and loved, and put you in a mood to enjoy the music.
2. We’re all familiar with the warning labels that grace much of today’s music. Early rumors said that even Schizophrenic would receive an explicit lyrics warning. In your opinion, do these labels create a stigma for the artists that receive them?
As far as I know, I’m not receiving a warning sticker for lyrics on my record Schizophrenic. I don’t know how much that sticker thing actually affects record sales considering that Eminem and 50 Cent seem to be the biggest selling artists out there.
3. On this album, you worked with a rather interesting group of people: BT, Basement Jaxx, Rodney Jerkins, Rockwilder and others. Is there some common trait – professional, musical or personal – that you look for in a collaborator? Something specific about an artist or producer that makes you want to work with them?
I just chose to work with people that I was comfortable with and had relationships with before – people that I considered my friends. I wasn’t looking for anything specific musically, I was just looking to be comfortable with my writing partners.
4. You mentioned recently that, while working on this album, you tried not to listen to other music because you wanted to avoid being influenced. Is that how you normally approach the song writing and recording process or was it different this time?
Basically, when I went to make Schizophrenic, I wanted it to be a JC record. I didn’t go around looking for suggestions and phone calls. Of course, I’ll listen to anything at any given time of any point of the day, but when I’m writing my record it’s not like I sit there with another record playing while I’m trying to write my own song – that’s ridiculous. Basically I held all my calls and didn’t take other opinions into account.
6. Critics are already saying nice things about Schizophrenic – Entertainment Weekly called you “musically adventurous” – but mainstream radio is being slow to pick up “Some Girls” across the country. Which do you think is a bigger measure of your success?
I’m delighted that music critics like it. And I get a kick out of seeing how fans at the shows really get into the different tracks on the album. But at the end of the day I’m very satisfied with the material I put out there.
Sure, I hope for commercial success. But at this point I made this record in a way where I just wanted to do it myself, my way, so I can grow as an individual and musician. So I think I’ve already been successful as far as my personal goals. Now commercially, of course, it would be nice to have a few records sold. No doubt about that.
6. What one thing have you learned through working on a solo project that you are looking forward to applying to a group effort?
One of the things that I’ve learned working on my own is to maybe not stifle too much of the creativity in the early stages. So instead of shooting down ideas early, I try to expand on those ideas to the fullest, waiting to critique it until I’ve taken it as far as [I] can possibly go.
7. You’ve said your career is like a roller coaster. Which theme park roller coaster would it be, and why?
I would say that my career would probably resemble the Islands of Adventure [theme park]. It is a well-rounded theme park, yet it takes you to the fullest. It explores the futures of technology in some aspects, and yet always stays to the classics in others. And the name sounds good!
8. You nearly brought the house down on your recent club tour when you teased the crowd with the bridge to *NSYNC’s “The Game is Over.” What made you decide to perform that particular song on your solo outing, and why only a smidgen of the song?
In “The Game is Over,” that bridge was actually my favorite thing to record as a member of *NSYNC. It just felt like such a release to scream out these things, and to me it just fit the format of my showcase when I was talking about splitting up [in the song]. After singing the ballad I just wanted to wake up the crowd up in a big way, and I just felt like I needed to get it off my chest at that point in the show.
9. You also covered Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” Your band wore doctors’ outfits which, while in keeping with the institutional theme of Schizophrenic, are also reminiscent of the costumes worn by certain members of The Revolution while on tour with Prince in the 80s. Is there a name change to an unpronounceable symbol in your future, too?
I hadn’t even remembered that the people in The Revolution wore doctors’ outfits! I just wanted to fit the Schizophrenic theme, and you know, you can’t play an instrument with a straight jacket on, so the next best thing was to be a hospital orderly, I guess. That’s why everybody wore those and they’re easy to tear off, and hey, it’s a budget thing!
Other than that, as far as me changing my name – let’s see, I think my name is “JC” because that’s my initials. I doubt I’ll have any name changes in my future, as far as I know. But hey, I’m an artist, I’m a weirdo – you never know.
10. Touring by yourself, in the intimate setting of a club, has got to be significantly different from the latest *NSYNC stadium megatour. Has there been an upside to this tour that you didn’t expect? A downside?
The upside of touring clubs is definitely the intimacy, being able to touch fans’ hands again and being able to really connect with faces in the crowd. That is always an amazing thing. There’s not much downside to playing a smaller venue other than maybe some people didn’t get in. You want to connect to everyone.
The other thing about smaller shows is that your imagination and creativity for what you want the show to be like has limits, because the limits of the space won’t permit certain things. When you have a bigger room if you have an idea about a song the sky really is the limit. You can really pull off some really cool and entertaining things.
11. What is it going to take to convince critics that your audience is no longer strictly teenaged girls? Do you think they would believe that it never was?
First of all, I’m glad there are teenage girls in the audience, and women of all ages for that matter. All of us have been teenagers. We all grow and change and dream. The fact of the matter is that I’m happy just having an audience, period, that loves my music. I’m appreciative of everybody that buys a record. It doesn’t matter if they’re short, fat, skinny, brown, black, purple, whatever it is. And if a grandma likes my track “All Day Long I Dream About Sex” – then more power to her. My music is all about good times and having fun, and I’m thankful for everybody that enjoys listening to the record. I get a kick out of connecting with people’s dreams and hopes.
As far as convincing critics, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. My opinions about some things don’t always coincide with everybody else’s opinions, that’s just part of being a critic. Sometimes I agree with them and sometimes I don’t. I’m just glad they are writing about my music.
12. Some people think you’re pretty brave, putting your true spirit out on the line with a solo album that refuses to be categorized. Who’s the bravest person you know?
Some of the greatest people that I’ve ever met in my entire life are my parents. They put it all out on the line for me, and they made sacrifices for me to do what I do. My parents had to quit their jobs, my entire family had to consolidate a lifestyle and make it fit around a child wanting to pursue a dream.
13. When you’re famous the world over, people naturally want to be close to you. What’s the one thing that tips you off, when you first meet someone, that lets you know they’re only talking to you for the fame of being associated with you?
You might not know the first time you meet somebody what kind of person they are, but at the end of the day people will always show their true colors if you give it a little time. Sooner or later, if they’re bad people with bad motives who are living only for themselves instead of for others, it becomes crystal clear. If they’re good people, you find that out over time.
14. You’re reported to be a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to your craft. Having worked numerous times now with someone like BT – 6,178 vocal edits in a single track redefines the meaning of the term “perfectionist” – do you find yourself stepping up your game a bit and being more exacting? Or do you think, dude, I would’ve stopped at three thousand?
Well, the only reason BT was doing those edits is for a specific sound he was looking for. As far as a soulfulness in singing and everything like that, I don’t believe in perfection, I believe in emotion and feeling.
As far as capturing a technique that’s a whole other deal. If it’s something technical, then I absolutely think you should push it as far as it can possibly go to have your technique perfected – and I do that.
15. Indie artists like Liz Phair have gotten roasted by both the media and fans for releasing music (and working with producers) that is deemed too trendy. How disappointing is it, as an artist, when fans don’t grow with you? Why do you think it’s so hard for them suck it up and accept that everything eventually mutates?
I don’t know what to say to that. I suppose at the end of the day that artists, if they feel like they need to grow in a direction, or if they choose certain producers, then that’s who they choose and you have to respect their choices. If the fans don’t like it that just means it wasn’t their tastes, and everyone’s entitled to their opinions. Life is all about growing, and if an artist wants to grow a certain way, then that’s the way they should grow. Maybe they get new fans. Maybe their old fans grow with them.
Sometimes people just don’t agree and that’s the just the way it is. For myself, I ended up picking the people I felt comfortable working with. And that’s why I worked with them. At the end of the day I’ll always work with people I feel comfortable with. I can’t imagine doing it any other way, due to the fact that music is such an emotional thing for me.
16. What band/musician did you find yourself unexpectedly liking?
I don’t know who I would say I unexpectedly liked, because I like everything. So it’s pretty hard to say. Although, come to think of it, I will say I’ve actually liked – I won’t say all of Marilyn Manson’s work – but a handful of Manson’s songs. Some of the covers are actually pretty good by my tastes.
17. People have studied the correlation between music and math. Do you find them to be related?
I absolutely can see where math and music coincide, but I also see that the world can essentially be broken down into math. You can take, say, something that feels emotional and you can say “Well, it’s because it hits this rhythm on this wave length,” and for every wave length you can measure the amount of the wave length – you can measure the height and depth and whatever you want. You can measure just about anything on the face of the earth, things you can see and things you can’t see, so essentially everything that ever existed someone is going to find a way to break it into math.
Don’t get me wrong here, I don’t really think that deep into math on a regular basis – again, at the end of the day, the stuff that I do, I don’t go “Wow, that’s five beats instead of four.” I just know that it felt good. I mean I can count it if I want to, I guess.
The other thing about music being related to math is that it seems that everybody has a formula to predict things, and one of the things that is wonderful about art and music is that you can’t predict everything. The one thing you look for in an artist is for them to surprise you and enlighten you, and that is one of the best things about doing this record, Schizophrenic, is I feel like I surprised a few people and expanded their horizons about my music.
18. Some girls dance with women, but why do you feel more boys don’t dance with men?
I actually disagree with the premise of this question a thousand percent. I think guys dance with each other all the time – I don’t mean they physically touch – but when you look at society there are millions and millions of examples where men dance with other men. Maybe they might not touch each other, but the classic example is of the “battle circle” where the men are dancing with each other, competing with each other. The way I view it, it is just friendly competition.
Take football or basketball players, for example. They have to play against each other, but with each other, in order for you to watch a game. Not that these guys are trying to turn anybody on, or maybe they are actually, come to think of it, maybe they are ruffling their feathers when they are doing a back flip or something. It could be something, I guess, much deeper and in their subconscious, I don’t know. But whatever, I do think guys dance with each other all the time at a certain level.
19. Rumor has it that you have may have heard
BT’s Monster score in 5.1. If so, how cool was it? Do you see
DVD-audio as an exciting format that will expand the music creating and listening experience? Or just a snazzy new toy for people to show off to their friends at dinner parties?
Yes, [I’ve heard it]. Yes, it sounds very cool. And I do see DVD as an exciting format. Will it become every day? Maybe. Maybe not. What it has done to movie-making is astounding all on its own. But as far as listening to songs on 5.1, I don’t know how many public places are going to be able to work that format into play, when you’d have to stand in different areas in the room. Maybe at home, yes. It definitely enhances the listening experience, at least from a mix standpoint.
20. If a booming, echo-y voice came to you in the middle of the night and told you that when you woke up in the morning you could have any new career of your choice – only it couldn’t be musically related – what would your new job be? Firefighter? Undercover CIA operative? Long-haul trucker?
I have absolutely no idea, because my mind has always been so hard set on being in the music business. And I feel so grateful to the fans who make it possible for me to do just that. I just can’t imagine doing anything else.
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