Manafest

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Manafest is a man of many talents. Not only is he skilled on the mic when a hip-hop beat drops, he can rock with the best of them. 2014 saw Chris drop The Moment, his follow up to Fighter (which was both an album and a book). Now that a few months have passed, we chatted with the man himself about battle rapping Michael Jackson, his new music video, and so much more.

IVM: Obviously, the reason for the call is that we’re talking about your album The Moment that you released late last year. So, take a second to talk to our readers about that album and how its been received in the few months since.

Manafest: It’s been really cool. I got to work with a lot of new people. I worked with… on the artwork side, I got to work with Ryan Clark from Invisible Creature and Demon Hunter. He is a really talented man. It was great working with him and coming up with some really cool art and photography for that. So that was a lot of fun, working with someone new. I’ve always worked with my wife on the design, so that was kind of a big process.

And, then, also working with Joel Bruyere from Thousand Foot Krutch. He produced a lot of the tracks and wrote on those with me. So that was a new relationship that developed as well. I remember trying to come up with demos and him changing the sound of the record. He had a lot to play with that. And, of course I pulled in Adam Messenger who does like Magick, and Beiber, and Brown and all that. Just his work on “Edge of My Life,” which was the first single that went out, he did a really crazy lyric video for that.

I would say overall that the album has gotten a good response. It’s still pretty early. I didn’t tour as much because I had a daughter maybe a few months before the record came out. So, I didn’t tour as much. But, radio has been really into it and I just released a music video yesterday for Diamonds, so we’re still cranking away, man.

IVM: That’s awesome. This isn’t your first child, right?

Manafest: It is actually, yeah.

IVM: So, this followed up not just the Fighter album, but also the book. Do you want to take a moment to talk about that project and how they played together?

Manafest: Yeah. The book was inspired by the album obviously. Just that whole concept of Fighter. I’ve always talked about conquering fear at shows and felt like books have really changed my life. And, I’m at a point where I felt like I’ve really had some success and could give back and share some of the things I’ve learned in all the countries I’ve toured and all the books I’ve read. I felt like I could give back now and was in a place to really inspire other people in a different way.

And, I wanted to go deeper. That was the whole point of the book; to leave something with my fans as opposed to just the music. “Hey, here’s maybe answers to the questions you might have if you were hanging out with me.” So, that’s also turned into a PodCast and I’ve done some inspirational audio messages, and different things. It’s just connected with my audience in a much deeper way, which is really neat.

IVM: That’s really cool. So, how was the process of doing a book, and I guess the PodCast, different from doing an album?

Manafest: It’s different in the sense that, you know, there is no music involved. It is just words. The idea of getting a message across if it is just print/typing… you don’t worry about melody and stuff, but the words need to be stronger because there is no background music and they need to be able to stand on their own and impact people. So, this writing was a big process. And editing… and editing… and editing…

My wife did a crazy job designing it. There’s tons of photos in there and inspirational quotes and little spots for people to journal their thoughts and there’s action steps at the end of each chapter. It’s been really cool, man.

IVM: It looks really cool. You mention the artwork and you just always have a really good look to your works. So, talk to… you said Ryan and Invisible Creature was involved. What did they bring to the new album that was different from what your wife and some of the others have done before?

Manafest: My wife definitely does design, but the amount of projects that Ryan and them have done and the amount of work they’ve done is just insane. They’ve just done so much work, so they’ve really dived into it. I feel like they just ooze creativity. They’re kind of like the producer that is in the studio every day just working on new music. Which is very different from an artist that is touring, because where an artist is performing and touring, a producer is creating every day. I feel like that’s what Ryan and them are doing all the time. They’re just constantly going from project to project creating new stuff.

It’s just one of those things where you hand something off to somebody who you know is just going to crush it. It’s just cool to work with people that you know are going to take care of you. You know they’re going to fix it right. You’re in good hands when it comes to design. It’s nice to work with somebody that you know and that you love their work already. It’s like, “Oh, okay, I know I’m going to love it.”

IVM: So, coming off of the book; did that change your process in coming into the new album? How did that transition work out?

Manafest: Uh. Switching back and forth. I think we set one down and worked on the other. I didn’t work on both at the same time at all. I think I threw all of myself into the book and then when that was done threw all of myself into the album. I can multitask a little, but not that much. That would be too difficult.

IVM: We always look with each of your albums to the style that you choose. You’re a very versatile guy. You’ve got quite a bit in your toolbox there. So, since you are so adept with the rap and the rock elements. When did you know the tone and style that you were searching for with The Moment?

Manafest: I think the first song we worked on was “Paradise” and that had more of a rock flair to it. Joel kind of took it a little more hybrid/electronic and that stuff, so that gave it a little bit different sound. I’ve always been juggling both sides, or both styles, I guess, of music; Rock and hip-hop.

Right now I’m actually working on an all hip-hop record. Because it’s hard to juggle both styles. It’s like, “well whose on this record and what sort of sound is it?” The Chase was an all rock record and I did Fighter and it was just an all rock record and those were both received really really well. But, before that my records were mixed. I feel like I did that again with The Moment and I’m not sure that that always works the best. For me, in creating it, I feel like I’m split because I’m like, “what is this?”

I think I enjoy now splitting the genres and I think that’s what I’m going to do going forward.

IVM: Nice, that kind of answered one of my questions coming up about… you know, anything in the future. So you have more of a hip-hop project at this point.

Manafest: Yeah, I’m working on it right now. I’m doing a little writing today. I’m sending some files back and forth with some guys that I’m working with. It’ll be definitely a hip-hop inspired album, which I’m really excited about. I haven’t done something like this in a really long time. Since, man, maybe my first two records. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m stretching. I’ve been really enjoying it. We’re coming up with come cool songs. I’m excited to see the response.

IVM: So, a big part of hip-hop, of course, is the collaborations and the guest musicians, things like that. Anybody you have lined up or are kind of eyeing to show up on that album, then?

Manafest: We’ve sent some e-mails out. We’ve got some of the tracks done. Definitely going to have some features… other than just Trevor from TFK. Obviously we work together, still. He’s a good friend, but I’ve been reaching out to some more people, which is going to be really nice to have some other… you know, just that element, which is great about hip-hop.

IVM: You mentioned Trevor. You know I interviewed you about three years ago at this point for IVM and one of the questions I asked you was when is Trevor going to man up and put Manafest on a TFK album, instead of just the reverse. You’ve put him on more of yours and I still haven’t seen anything on their end.

Manafest: Yeah. They have their own thing. When you’re a rock band like that, it’s just a different thing. He’s just a good friend and I’m really thankful for what they do and we have a really good relationship.

IVM: Stepping back just a second, you mentioned about blending the two styles. And… he hasn’t done it for a while, but guys like a KJ-52, whenever they’ve blended genre or genre-bended… I know KJ has rebranded himself as Soul Purpose at one time… and when he did the rock/rap fusion, he went by a different band name. Have you ever considered the idea of having a dual identity with one “brand” for hip-hop and one “brand” for rock? Or is it best keeping that fusion?

Manafest: I think it’s just best keeping that fusion. I even forgot about that Soul Purpose, and there’s a good example of why because there is so much work and effort in creating a whole new brand. And, you can see, he didn’t do anything with that. He’s still on the KJ-52 thing. I thought about that… rebranding or something. That was definitely a conversation.

And, I know FM Static did it, with Trev and them. Again, but how much have they toured that or anything. It’s just sort of releasing records. You’re so split, right?

IVM: Of course you and Trevor do a lot of work. He makes an appearance again on “Diamonds” and you just released a music video for that. How has that relationship evolved as you’ve made music together and toured together, and etc.?

Manafest: I think we’ve just both grown up a lot, as far as knowing the industry more and what we want… what we’re going after. I don’t know. Obviously we’re both growing and learning more of what we want and who we are and being more stable as far as men, artist. We both have family now and have gone through some stuff… some junk… The industry isn’t always the easiest thing. One thing we always say to each other is that we’re very thankful that we’re still here and still making music and even have a career, because there are a lot of bands that just aren’t even here anymore.

IVM: Especially for the duration that you guys have both had. There’s been so many that have just come and gone. What do you think it is that has kept both of your bands and side careers in play where others have come and gone in such short times.

Manafest: Well I like to always give credit to God and believe that He’s kept us on a narrow path. And, I believe having a good team and also, trying to make the best music you can… keep the integrity right with the music. I think the reason a lot of bands fall apart is for a lack of knowledge in signing really bad record deals. Then, realizing that they can’t survive on touring alone, because when you stop touring you stop making money. The label takes it all, and it’s not very favorable for the artist to have a long-standing career.

IVM: That’s a really good insight. I’ve heard that from multiple different people. So, that kind of leads to this thought and I know that TFK has done it a couple times, and that’s doing a Kickstarter, IndieGogo, GoFundMe, or whatever… Just doing that fan funded element. Is that something that you have considered doing in the process so far?

Manafest: Yeah, we’re going to be starting… we did one for my book and we did one for the last album. For this next album we’ll do one again, but we’re not going to be working with Tooth and Nail or a record label on that one. We’ve been doing it independent as well, too. Which we’re really excited about.

IVM: I had thought I saw a funding page, but then I saw that it was released through Tooth and Nail/BEC, so I guess I thought I was wrong on that one.

Manafest: Well, they released it in the U. S. I released it everywhere else.

IVM: The video is really fun. I was watching it a little bit, earlier. There’s hundreds of shots of you flashing back and forth and it kind of creates a real frenetic energy. Talk about that for a moment. How did that come about and that vision come onto the screen?

Manafest: Honestly it was a lot of work trying to come up with an idea for this video. We were supposed to shoot part of it in Nashville with Trev and my music director was struggling with ideas and concept… and then we had an idea and we were shooting and San Diego, but we got kicked out by security right when we were about to start filming…

All kinds of stuff happened. And then, I was at a location and was trying to think and come up with an idea and that’s when I thought about all the different outfits and ideas and to shoot at a thousand different locations. Because, we’ve done more music videos, probably than any other Christian artist. We’ve done like eighteen music videos. And so, it’s just like what do we do that’s new? What do we do that’s creative? How do we come up with something, dope, you know? That was kind of hard to stretch ourselves and obviously keep in budget, too.

But, Chris did a great job editing the video and bringing it all together. I’m really happy how it turned out. I wish Trev would have been in it. But, again, it’s just kind of hard to work schedules and stuff like that, but… yeah, it’s one of my favorite videos, for sure.

IVM: It’s a lot of fun. I definitely have to give kudos to your editor, because… just keeping your head in the same spot when it flashes between… I noticed that it’s almost perfect sync every time and that can take hours of work. It’s impressive.

Manafest: Yeah, absolutely.

IVM: So, I had a thought as I was preparing for this. I was actually listening to the album at Planet Fitness yesterday and “Criminal” came on, which I think is such a good song… has such a great sound to it. And, then, I watch a lot of things like Screen Junkies on YouTube and they do this thing called “Movie Fights,” where they argue the finer points of movies, or whatever.

So I had the thought: If someone were to set “Criminal” say against “Smooth Criminal,” what do you think your talking points in the argument would be?

Manafest: Oh man… Michael Jackson, dude. How are you going to beat that, you know? How are you going to beat the music video for that, even? Michael Jackson is definitely the man, dude. I don’t think there’s even… I’d have to say no contest. He’s just so talented. I’m a big fan of his stuff. He’s definitely inspired me over the years. He did the pop version, I did the hip-hop version…

It’s one of my more outspoken tracks about Jesus and I’m glad you brought it up, because it’s not exactly a single for radio, so the only people who are going to find it are the fans who are cherry-picking it. We’ve gotten a good response off that song, so I’m hoping more people hear it.

IVM: Yeah, I think it’s a great song and a great message. You know that one and “Diamonds…” That one’s a little more outspoken, but talk about some of the spiritual allusions you have in the “Diamonds” song, as well, because it’s plain, but you also have that element of listening for what’s there…

Manafest: “Diamonds” is about overcoming addiction and struggle and letting your life shine. Not just getting caught up in the adversity. I was actually listening to something about (the book of) James today and when we’re going through something we’re to count it all as joy. Which is really hard to do when you’re going through something. Especially someone who’s trying to overcome a struggle or an addiction.

When I wrote the lyrics to the beat that Joel sent me, I was picturing the book by Brian “Head” Welch Save Me From Myself and his struggle with addiction. That’s where I kind of came up with those words “I threw myself out my own house. I couldn’t stop myself, so I just walked out.” You know, just running away from the sin.

I carved these lyrics out. Joel heard it and liked it. Then Trevor heard it and freaked out. He was like, “dude, I gotta get on this track. Let me write something. Let me write something.” And so that’s kind of how that all came together. And, it seems to be one of the fan favorites, between that and “Edge of My Life.”

IVM: That’s a great story and that brings that all together. I appreciate that. So The Moment has been out for several months. You mentioned that you didn’t do a ton of touring in support with it, but you have toured in the last couple years at least with bands like RED, Skillet, etc. How has that… sort of maintaining that joy of birthing this new project and then as you prepare towards that next one, as well?

Manafest: Yeah, I definitely am playing shows, just not as many. You know, I miss it to be honest. You want to be playing more and hearing feedback from the people. It was a different thing because it was such a part of my life, right? And this is probably the record I’ve toured the least on. It’s an adjustment, because the majority of the feedback is online and it’s not as touch-and-go as when you’re meeting people and shaking hands and really hearing people share their hearts about what the music has done and meant to them.

As an artist, I think it is important to have that feedback, because that’s who you’re making the music for is the people.

IVM: Balancing family in there is, I’m sure, not only hard but necessary. If you’re not putting the family first the touring the ministry goes away too. How do you invest back in your family to intentionally keep that balance safe?

Manafest: Exactly, that’s what it is it’s being home… it’s being around. I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all solution. As I talk to different bands and artists, I think it’s a common struggle with all of them, because you want to be home and with family, but you also want to be on the road. So, I think it’s trying to find a balance where neither are being neglected. I think it goes God first, then your family, then your business. But, at the same time you can’t take care of your family unless you’re providing for them, either. It’s a very fine-line balance. I think a lot of artists have figured that out, and I think I’m in a good swing of it right now with my family.

IVM: Speaking of touring, you and I met at a show in Moore Oklahoma. It was the K-Love show where the original venue dropped the show last minute and our church picked it up. And it was this little church that usually seats like 400 and there were like 1000 people packing out to the walls. It was kind of a surprise that the fire marshall didn’t shut us down…

Manafest: Who was playing? Who else was on the bill?

IVM: It was KJ-52 and Seven Times Down.

Manafest: Oh, it was the Air One show.

IVM: Air One, that’s right, I’m sorry I said K-Love. Because Brant Hanson was the host.

Manafest: Right, now I remember, man. Now I know what you’re talking about.

IVM: So how was it being in that little church with people packing out the door?

Manafest: Seriously, man. That’s the way you want it, just rammed out. Just get as many people as you can in there. I think it’s great when it’s like that. It feels more like a rock show, you know?

IVM: I know this is off-topic for a moment. One one my big take-aways from that was Brant Hanson. He’s retired now, but at the time he was running that show and supporting you guys and then he went out and played ultimate frisbee until like 2 A.M. with some kids. I remember from that that he had that humongous following and it was almost like he was the fourth band there. Can you talk about the influence he had on that show?

Manafest: You could tell that he definitely cared and was passionate about what he does. It’s wild that he’s not there anymore. I just remember him being a really positive guy and I didn’t even realize how much of a following he had until we went on tour. Overall, it was just really positive tour. Everyone got along really well. It was just refreshing tour. The Seven Time Down guys are just awesome. KJ is a really great guy. All I can say is that was good times.

IVM: So, we mentioned KJ before and now here again. As you look to the future and are developing this new album… are there any artists as you’ve had your career that you’d just really love to collaborate with, whenever that happens to be in the cards?

Manafest: I definitely think there’s different producers I’d like to collaborate with. Whether that’s Gavin Brown (Three Days Grace, Skillet) or there’s the guy who produces RED’s stuff (Rob Graves), I like his take and his lyrics are pretty deep. There’s just so many people that would be a lot of fun to work with. Maybe on a rap song Andy Mineo or Lecrae. Working with people that are making great music. It’s just fun to be in the studio and see what two people can come up with.

IVM: You mentioned Ryan from Demon Hunter doing the artwork and stuff. Do you think there would be a chance to work with them on the musical side and get a Demon Hunter/Manafest collaboration going on?

Manafest: On a rock record that would definitely be cool and its certainly crossed my mind. I think he’s really cool. You know I had that guy Coy from CrossFaith on “No Plan B” and people dug that. So, depending on the type of rock song I think that would be really cool. And his vocals would probably sound really good on a track together. I’d like that a lot.

IVM: You mentioned Andy Mineo and Lecrae… so, with Lecrae hitting the number one album in the country and bringing even more attention to faith-based music… do you feel like that has impacted and spread to other artists? How has that been perceived?

Manafest: I think it’s awesome man. Nominated for a Grammy in the hip-hop category is just massive. It just shows that it’s good music and… I think his latest record is his best, for sure… it shows how that dude is getting exposure and I think there’s definitely splash over… to the Reach Records guys and I think it’s about time, too. Christian rock has had this for a long time and I think it’s great that Christian hip-hop is getting this now, too. I think some people are getting tired of the content that’s in a lot of hip-hop… not all of it, but a lot of it, you know. I think it’s a breath of fresh air to a lot of people.

IVM: So, my closing question is: If there were just one or two things you could say to your fans right now, what would you want to say to them as you’re getting ready to continue promoting this album and the new video and etc.?

Manafest: I just want to say thanks to all my fans who have been supporting me and been around for the journey and I as I say with my book fighter, “a fighter is someone who never fails, never quits.” We’re all on that journey in life and wherever you’re at, every single day just keep going, keep fighting. I make music for my fans, so thanks for supporting me and music in general.

IVM: I appreciate you taking the time to chat with us. If you ev

Manafest: That means a lot man.

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