West Coast Bureau chief Keith Valcourt caught up with everyone’s favorite cubicle stalking weirdo – Creed Bratton from “The Office.” The pair met over lunch after The Office’s series finale to discuss the show, Creed’s former rock star life – as a member of legendary sixties band The Grass Roots – real life Creed vs. creepy TV Creed and what alien chicken may taste like. Somewhere in there they also spoke about Creed’s trippy new CD: “Tell Me About It.”
Rockerzine: How are you feeling about the series “The Office being over?
Creed: Everybody says it’s bittersweet. I don’t even know what words I can use to describe it. It’s like all the kids are growing up and grandpa here is saying goodbye to them. “Good luck kids. I taught them everything I know.” That’s Steve Carrell’s line. He said he taught us all he knew and then left us alone. I’m looking forward to doing another character besides Creed. Maybe playing a bad guy. Or someone who’s not as creepy and weird as Creed, although he was a wonderful character to play and I’ll forever be identified with him. At least I hope we’re moving on.
Would you have wanted the show to keep going?
I don’t know. If I had a chance to do more on the show, maybe. I wouldn’t have wanted to continue on in a limited role. Although maybe people wouldn’t have accepted more Creed. The fans did say they wanted more Creed but I don’t know. I would have loved to have had more to do on the show. I’m very lucky and happy to have been involved and do what I’ve done. I have no complaints.
Why did they use your real name as the character name?
They used the real first name of Angela, Oscar, Phyllis and myself, but they used my last name too because of The Grass Roots. On the second season there was this booze cruise where they had this deleted scene where they used The Grass Roots in the scene, that’s why.
You mentioned that the character of Creed was creepy. Did you always plan to make him so?
I came in on the pilot after working on Bernie Mac. Director Ken Kwapis and I got along really well and he said, “I’ll try to work you in.” I came in and saw all these amazingly talented young kids and I thought, “I’m gonna have to do something to get noticed.” So on the third week I hunkered down and wrote what would have happened to Creed in real life if he stayed with drugs, and when I say drugs I mean cocaine and heroin. He wasn’t really creepy, but more of a psychic character who kinda knew what people wanted. For my audition tape Jim comes towards my desk, and I toss a stapler over my shoulder at him without even looking, because I know what he wants.
In another scene for the audition tape, the character of Creed is talking about how he had a lot of women in his life; but had cleaned up his act quite a bit, except for this one woman a while back. He had been sober for like a year and she came to him, and seduced him. With a carnal glint in her eye Creed said, “Oh alright, just this once.” The scene fades with the clinking of champagne flutes. It opens where I hear sirens and it’s now daylight and I wake up at the L.A. Zoo with my dick up a wildebeest’s ass. The creator of the show Greg Daniels loved it. He howled. Because he’s really dark. It shocked a few people, but Greg loved it. He’s a got a dark sense of humor. My take on the character of Creed was much darker and creepier and weirder than the what the show went with. I created and even stranger character than NBC would have allowed.
How close to are you the real Creed to the character on “The Office?”
There is a similarity in my sense of humor. Dark things make me laugh. I tell people that if I really was like the character in real life then I would be in jail. The real me is pretty simple. I play my guitar. I write my songs. I exercise. I hang out. There are other cast members from the show that are a lot closer to their characters than I am.
Do you have a favorite episode or show moment?
Obviously the booze cruise where I got to play the guitar. Any episode where I got to sing and play. I’m happy with the season finale since I got to play and sing.
How was the wrap party/fan convention in Scranton, PA?
Ten thousand people! We had police escorts; a parade with cops and marching bands. I performed outdoors with The Scrantones. It was insane! Organized by the city and the fans, it was amazing, a once in a lifetime moment. People came from around the world. Australia. England. Austria,… People were so nice and Scranton is pretty cool. It was huge. That night we took a motorcade and went to the brand new baseball stadium where the Yankees farm team plays – I think they’re called The Ridge Riders – we get there and it’s packed. They bring us out one by one on the field and the crowd is going nuts. There is one chair left empty. The announcer says, “Hm, I wonder who this extra chair could possibly be for? Maybe it’s for.. Michael Scott?” Steve Carrell runs out onto the field and the crowd goes absolutely ballistic. Crazy. It was insane!
What was the appeal of the show and why did so many people love it?
I’d like to think it was smart. That’s what Greg Daniels set out to do, make a real smart show. It was also one of the first sitcoms without a laugh track. One of the first shows to use uncomfortable moments in the U.S. What made it popular? What do you think.
I think it was the fact that it was smart and anyone who ever worked in an office knew people like the characters on the show. They were very real and believable.
I agree about the characters. They were real and people you could relate to. No one was over the top gorgeous. They were people that you knew. Average, albeit funny, but average people in average situations. The thing I loved is that we never did any work. Phyllis’s character was asked, “When do you work?” she said, “Well sometimes we get around to it.”
Which of your fellow cast members do you think you’ll stay in touch with?
Probably Oscar. Oscar and I go hiking. Although I haven’t seen him for a while. I also hike with our DP (Director or Photography) We hit it off. I’m old. I’m not from the same generation of most of my office co-stars. They think that they have nothing in common with me. But if they hung with me they would find they do. My kids do. I’m a very youthful guy.
Let’s talk about your rock star past. What do you remember from your time in The Grass Roots ?
It was 1967. I was able to buy a nice car, and live in a nice place. The money we made, we made touring. I remember the summer of love. Women and drugs, and all the things you think about. But very innocent. Not so depraved as it is today. Groupies were like Penny Lane in “Almost Famous.” They were sweet and really believed that this movement and music could change the world. We all did. We thought we were all going to be nice, get together and love each other. Change the world.
You played on the hits “Let’s Live For Today” and “Midnight Confessions?”
I played guitar on “Let’s Live For Today” but not “Midnight Confessions.” I sang backup vocals but I didn’t play guitar on that. That song was the reason I left the group. I came back from the road and the track had already been done. I was on the “Live For Today” album and played a little on the “Leaving It All Behind” album. By the time “Lovin Things” came out they had cut all the tracks without us, the toruing band. I was like, “Hey come on man. This is bullshit.” I was upset. I got really petulant and whiny and expressed unhappiness.
The Grass Roots were always perceived as a band built around the writers?
Well no. There were the two songwriters and Steve Barri and P.F. Sloan. They cut the songs with studio musicians but never planned to tour. Steve Barri couldn’t tour. P.F. Sloan wouldn’t tour. They had a band called The Bedouins but didn’t make it. They found us. I had been in Europe with this band The Young Californians for two years. That is where I met Warren Entner. When I moved back to L.A. we formed the 13th Floor Elevators. Within one week were playing at a topless bar and we never stopped playing. Warren and I auditioned for The Grass Roots. We played And that’s where P.F. and Steve found us. We recorded “Lets Live For Today” and it was on the charts in one week. One Week! We thought, “This isn’t hard at all.” (Laughs)
Why did you leave the band?
Creative differences. The fact that they recorded the album without me with studio musicians, musicians that I truly respected. The Wrecking Crew. Hal Blaine. Glen Campbell – talents. But I told PF Sloan we were the band. If we do this, let other people record the songs for us, then we are a fake band, like The Monkees and The Partridge Family. Even though they didn’t exist yet. The frustrating part was we could play! We were playing around and making a living at it. The one thing I’m proud of is that we were the first band to put the session guys the Wrecking Crew’s names on the album. A few years ago I got invited to Nashville for the inducting of The Wrecking Crew into the musicians hall of fame. I was the MC and they told me how they appreciated us putting their names on the record. I still wanted to play so I quit the Grass Roots. It was a bad career move but a good move for an artist. Had I not quit I would be in the “where are they now?” file and we wouldn’t be talking.
Crazy stories from your rock star days?
I was hitchhiking across North Africa and got stoned out of a city. I sitting in this cafe in Algeria with friends. We didn’t have a lot of money. We were hitchhiking. These young kids came up screaming “Beatle Beatle Beatle!” because I had long hair. I was like, “Fuck Off!” All of a sudden these taller kids come over screaming “LA LA LA!” They were spitting on me as they talked. I said, “Hey the young kids were pulling my hair!” “La LA LA.” All of a sudden it escalates. I grab my sack and my guitar and I start to back away. One of them picks up a stone. I turn my back and start to running out of the town. Bam! Rock hits my shoulder. I take my guitar and cover my the back of my head with it as I’m running. Bam! Bam! Stoned. Who do you know that has been actually stoned? Jesus and Creed. Get stoned out a village. I’m not doing the John Lennon Jesus thing. I’m not. But Jesus and I do have that stoning thing in common. Very small club there.
We were in Florida in 1968. The Grass Roots were doing a tour with Cream. That was pretty amazing to see Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce and Clapton. We were scheduled to play these two shows, same night. Our agents didn’t check the small print, and our clever promoter got us contracted to play this one club, then get on a small plane, fly across the Florida pan handle and play at this other club. We said, “No we’re not. We don’t fly in small planes.” Our agent called and said, “Sorry guys. My bad. I fucked up. You got to do it.” We went back to the hotel, smoked some weed, grabbed our guitars, they had drums and amps at there. Son of a bitch we We get into this little tiny Piper Cub plane start fly across the pan handle. The pilot starts talking on the radio, “I see the amber light at south end of runway. Amber and Blue.” I say, “I’m sorry but that is a green light and the other one is yellow.” He says, “Shut up. I’m the pilot. You play the guitar and let me fly the plane!” I say, “But the light is…” He tells me to shut up. We land. Pow! Tire goes out. We skid and end up in water at night. And no kidding we see the eyes of alligators. No joke. Turns out we crashed on a military base. The soldiers came, guns a blazing. Dogs. They saw us with long hair. They arrested us. Sat in the brig. Finally let us go but we missed the gig.
What did you do in the “Lost Years” between The Grass Roots and “The Office?”
Went to Europe for a year and a half after The Grass Roots with my wife and my daughter. Ended up in Morocco, then back in L.A. I studied acting and struggled for a few years. I did a lot of little roles: “Quincy” and “M.A.S.H.”, did some plays and things like that. But stayed in classes, and I never stopped learning scenes and putting them up in class. And I was always writing songs. I was always a drama major. Was always going to be an actor. Music was something I just did.
Let’s talk about your new CD: “Tell me About It.” What the deal with the alien Chicken on the cover of the CD?
The alien chicken? I’m glad you asked, Keith. Alien chicken. We’ve seen so many album covers with people being interviewed by alien chickens. It’s a big trend. (Laughs)
Maybe this will start a trend?
Years ago when we were sitting around joking and smoking someone said, “If the aliens came down what would you wanna from them? Would you want to learn how to time travel or live forever? Learn how to be super strong or have X-ray vision? What would you ask them?” I said, “I’m curious if their chicken tastes like our chicken.” That always got a big laugh. They said, “Like alien chicken?” Imagine how exciting the lunch we just had was if it were alien chicken?
Do you worried that people may think this is a comedy album?
I can’t worry about that stuff. I can’t second guess what people are going to view me as. People know I was in the The Grass Roots. Or they think I may be dead. If they think about me at all it’s good right? Even if someone says something snarky, at least they talked about it.
This is your 6th solo CD, what was your recording process like this time out?
I think it’s my best one. Without a doubt. We cut everything on analog tape. All the basic tracks. That’s why it has that old fashioned sound. You can hear air between the tracks. No compression. Recorded with old mics. We did it right. I like old fashioned sounds.
Why is it broken down in 3 acts?
Like a play. Act one is about experimentation and drugs. Taking you to another place and breaking through the other side. Act 2 is my down periods and how rough it was in my life. In act 3 things are picking up again. It’s better to be on top. I gotta move. I always kept moving. It ends with me questioning whether or not I will settle down now. The answer is no. I’m not going to retire.
What do you want to do with your 4th act?
People have been asking me, “Why don’t you write your biography?” I don’t think I’m ready to write it yet because I’ve got more chapters to live. Even if I don’t have more I wanna believe that. My neighbor just heard the album and said,”Have you ever thought about doing a one man play?” For years I’ve wanted to do my show with my songs. It’s quip and stories like Mark Twain and Will Rogers. I get up and tell my songs then tell little stories about myself. The kids love it. I’ve done a handful of shows and it is something that is always there I can go out and do if I want to. I would like to work with some writers I really respect, punch up the jokes and framework of the show and then tour it. Really work it out then take it to Broadway eventually.
Is it brave to make an album in a time of disposable singles?
I think it’s foolhardy. I know that people are going to go to iTunes and just download songs. They might download “Chemical Wings” or “Better On Top.” Those are the singles and that is what most people are going to get. But If someone is willing to embrace the album, and the concept, and if they sit and listen to the whole thing at one time then it is a very enjoyable trip. It’s psychedelic. So yes, it’s foolhardy to make an album. But it had to be done. Will I do it again?
I don’t know. Probably. It was so much work. Oh my lord. I had no idea. It was 3 to 4 times more work than any other album I’ve done. I will have to do it again. I write all the time. Maybe next time I’ll do some singles. I have this new song we did at “The Office” convention called “Boxer In A Club.” It was risky to get up and play a song nobody new in front of all those people. But you gotta take risks.
Is that your motto? Have all the risks paid off?
Have they all paid off? (Laughs) No! I’ve taken a lot of risks and SOME of them have paid off. I can never go 20/20 hindsight and look back. I can’t say I should have done this and should have done that. Did I make mistakes? Apparently, not because here we are. People ask, “Would you do things differently if you could?” No. I wouldn’t have written the song I have it things were different. Not that telling kids to do that. Let me express that, “Kids, don’t do the things Creed has done. You may not make it through to the other side.” I see Brian Wilson around town from time to time. Some people don’t make it back.
CREED BRATTON’S CD: “Tell Me About It” is Out Now on CD, Digital and Vinyl LP.