Interview with ANGER AS ART (Old School Thrash Metal/ USA. Members: Rob Alaniz/ Drums + Vocals, Eric Bryan/ Vocals + Bass, Steve Gaines/ Vocals + Guitar + Keys/ Dan Oliverio/ Guitar + Vocals)
by Petra M. Jansen
Hello Steve! Nice to talk to you today, I am very pleased. Tell me a bit about the existence of the band and the band’s history. How did you find together and did you have any lineup changes since your beginning in 2004?
Hello to you also. Short story, the band began in 2004 while I was on tour with another band that broke up on the road. So I was stranded in a hotel in Cleveland Ohio, and decided to record a handful of songs as a ‘last hurrah’, and stop doing music. After releasing the recording, there was demand for concerts, so I put a band together, and that was Anger As Art. We have had a few lineup changes, but the lineup has been pretty steady since about 2009.
Which ups and downs have you experienced in these long years and what is the most difficult to assert themselves over many years in this tough music business?
Realizing how much is not in your control. You can do all of the proper planning and preparation, and something totally unrelated can occur, and it causes you to change everything. And regardless of your stature, it happens. You begin to appreciate every accomplishment when you are aware of the odds against you. Aside from that, the usual – people who are not trustworthy, missed deadlines, etc.
You operate with your current biography more or less an understatement. Is that a curious-making marketing trick, pure self-confidence or do you actually no longer need to explain anything?
Haha actually it was by design. I look at many bios from bands, and they all overstate their importance, or waste too many words not making a point. I actually drafted that bio a few years back, and we only update it minimally whenever we have a new release. I think it is important to respect the reader’s attention span, and try to make the point in as few words possible. Most who read it by profession have probably just seen another 10 or 12 bios, and are exhausted… we just wanted to get right to the point. So, to answer – it’s a little bit of all 3 of those.
ANGER AS ART played two major world tours and various gigs with established bands like TESTAMENT, OVERKILL, DESTRUCTION, DEATH ANGEL, EXODUS, SAXON, KATATONIA, TANKARD and many others. How was that? Were there any other´s worth mentioning collaborations?
Some were exciting and inspiring. Others may have been a bit more tedious. But all were good experiences. You learn very quickly how to treat other bands on a bill – and simply put, just get out of their way and let them work. One recent experience that we enjoyed was playing in San Juan, Puerto Rico with Raven. The Gallagher brothers are 2 of the most genuinely nice people I have ever met… and we shared some serious laughter with them. But, the most important thing are not the other bands, it is the people you perform for. It is so important to remember that they are why you do this – and to give them a great experience.
You play classic old school thrash metal and some of your band members are strongly rooted in. Which bands inspired you in your musical career?
That is a hard question to answer – it is uniquely personal. It really is about whichever band reached into your soul. And it may not even be a band, but anyone who created something (art, literature) that spoke to you. So, there are many. Speaking for myself, I discovered Judas Priest back in 1978 when Stained Class was their current album, and have been a fan ever since. But there are so many more inspirations, I do not even know where to begin.
What does it mean for you when Thrash Metal is regarded as a cultural expression? Finally Thrash Metal is unique musical culture!
You could ask the same thing of a Blues or Jazz fan. I recall a time before thrash (see my Priest reference above) when I was always drawn to hyper-aggressive faster music. And I sought it out. For me it was just discovering bands that maybe had a song or 2 like that… and then to find that other bands and entire groups of people were doing and looking for the same? It was very much a feeling of ‘I am not alone’.
Please define your current slogan “ANGER is beautiful!” Does it mean that you create the music that people need when they are pissed off and want to lose their aggression?
That slogan is actually about 10 years old – but it still applies. And yes, your description is very close. We are very much based on that release of aggression. And we would much rather have people release that energy with us, than doing something else that could be detrimental. Also, there was something of a comedy factor. Saying ‘everyone is angry, and anger is beautiful’ would make sense to a fan of our music, but it would cause others to talk and wonder ‘who are these guys, and who do they think they are’? And, dare I say it – it still works. We are talking about it right now.
To what extent/ how far are the American and the European music market today and earlier differences for you (referring to the development of Thrash Metal / Heavy Metal)?
It’s like you can imagine. In America, metal is not taken as seriously as it is in Europe. And I salute you for that. Back in the 80’s, you had media and Government actually standing against metal music (think of the PMRC), whereas now it is ‘tolerated’, but regarded as a joke. It’s frustrating, but not worth wasting energy on. As such, we reach beyond the US to other countries. There is a growing fan base in Europe. But also, we are paying close attention to other parts of the world that others may not… and turning a spark into a fire. I will not mention those locations, though. There are too many bands who follow directly in our footsteps – meaning that wherever we go first, they follow in the exact same places exactly one year later. So, let’s keep them in suspense… ha ha!
What do you think are the weaknesses in the music business? The former promotion and support of bands is now apparently no longer in focus, right?
It has always been that way. There are very few promoters who do it for the love of it. For them it is all about business. They could care less about who they book, but rather how many tickets they will sell. And I cannot blame them – why would you invest money in order to lose it? I have seen promoters with big hearts and the best of intentions go out of business after 2 or 3 years and have mountains of debt that they can never repay.
Now, the fact remains about the business – it is right now the best for the fan, because they are no longer being sold crap, but they actually pick what they want. They have, for the most part, rendered record companies useless. And, for someone who has been screwed over by many of them I have a hard time feeling bad about it. BUT – we have been with OSM Records for more than 10 years. It is a small label, but honest and sincere in what they do. I know their investments in us and other artists, and what generates that investment. Anger As Art actually steers business towards the label that we could take ourselves – simply because of the relationship we have with them. My point, I would love to see how OSM would have been during the glory days of the 80’s – and how far the reach may have gone. At the end of the day, the business now resides almost entirely on the internet – and the only real human aspect is live concerts. If you still create and perform metal music now, it is solely because you love it. And we do.
How do you find the Scandinavian development and support of musicians and bands with the financial support of music and culture in general? Why are they apparently able to create then realize something that does not work in other countries?
Because the citizens are taxed in order to pay for it. One friend from one of the more legendary Scandinavian metal bands relocated to Los Angeles and wanted to start a new band here – until he realized that there were no government sanctioned programs. That was the first I had heard about anything like that, and it was shocking. Now, culturally who knows why it appeals so broadly? Is society oppressive, and this is an escape from it? I do not know. I am not sure that I can give a good answer to that question – but would certainly like to hear a discussion on it.
Your new album “Ad Mortem Festinamus” (Latin translation: We hurry into death) was published on March 11, 2016 via Old School Metal Records. How satisfied are you with the current resonance?
I am. And it reflects in sales too. This record has really ‘jumped out of the box’ and sold itself. We wanted to be 100% us, but not get ‘typecast’ by the community, and I believe we did that. We have always covered a lot of different genres in metal… and we further confused those who sought to put us in a box. If this was the last album I ever do, I can die happy.
Your new song “Praise Of The Fire Head” could be mentioned as one of the tops in music history. That´s an excellent song, really great, and it already appeals extremely well in the sharing of your new poetry video here in Germany. Hardcore topic! Well, tell me something about the contents of the lyrics please. I’ve heard other songs that perceive a strong social criticism respect, is that correct?
Not necessarily. The music came first, along with the melody. Eric Bryan wrote the lyrics based on the mood set by the music. The story it tells is one of disappointment – as if someone put faith into an idea that either failed, or ended up being something less than was hoped for. And you end up idolizing a failed idea. I don’t know if that makes sense, but that is the idea. Nothing really socially critical, other than perhaps beware of that which you profess to follow. The lyric video was created by me – and I wanted to give that image of mankind’s best intention ultimately becoming mankind destroying himself – and we were there to record it on film.
I’m interested in whether you are of the opinion that the social, societal and current difficult political situations should find expression in music and if so, why? There are also pure fun bands that just want to make music for the people. Does this make sense? Where is your personal ambition?
I have very strong personal beliefs, opinions, and ambitions. That said, my beliefs may not be those of my bandmates, or the person hearing the music. So I make a serious effort to address the cause and effect of what I (or anyone else) may believe. There are bands like U2, or Rage Against The Machine – who put their personal beliefs before the music. That turns me off entirely. I am listening for escapism or entertainment. I try to tap into emotions shared amongst a large group of people – specifically anger – and let them draw their own conclusions. Once you are painted into a corner, you can never recover. I hope that makes sense.
Who writes the lyrics and composes your songs?
We all have a hand in it – but to this point I have been the majority writer of both. Not by demand, but simply because I have a larger output than the other members. I see that changing. I see a day when an Anger As Art album is released, and I will not have written a single note or word!
How many albums or releases did you have in all these years?
5 albums so far. We have not even begun to tour yet in support of Ad Mortem Festinamus, but already have enough ideas for #6.
For the new ANGER AS ART album, the CD Release show was in California just in April. If the band maybe goes on tour soon, can we expect you guys hopefully in Europe (Germany)?
The short answer is yes – if it can be funded properly. This usually requires a large festival to anchor the cost and budget, and then plan dates around it. We are working on it… but cannot take a financial loss without a proper return on investment. Not many people like to discuss the financial end of touring… but it is a reality. Especially for bands at our level.
In which other projects are some band members possibly also integrated?
We have all been active in numerous side projects over the years. But speaking for myself, I have really curtailed all external activity outside of Anger As Art. Our drummer Rob Alaniz works with many different bands and projects… a look at his profile online will link you to all of them.
Which are your dream festivals and where would you like to play?
I think everyone dreams of WACKEN… but there are so many. I love Open Air festivals. There is nothing like them. Too many in Germany alone to mention… but I would also like to go to parts of the world where metal is hard to find, and bring our music to them. South America is high priority. Also, Japan, Iceland, Latin America. To go where everyone else goes is rewarding, but rarely has the long term benefits that obscure locations do.
What plans does the band have, actual, in the near future, and what are your next goals?
Right now, we are getting plans together to spend time touring in 2017. It’s sort of a cycle for us at this level. We spend a year planning, then a year playing. There are some personal, family related hurdles going on at the moment as well… but those only stoke the fires, and help us prepare, and write new music. There will be an effort before the year 2016 is out to do some live recording, and see if we have anything worthy of releasing.
At the very least, which message has ANGER AS ART for the people out there? Just a short sentence please.
Considering this interview came from Germany, it was a real personal treat for me to talk about Anger As Art, and not some projects that I had been involved with decades earlier. This is where we live now. Anger is easily the most consistently brutal old school metal band out there right now. If you discover us in our 13th year of existence, we welcome you as if you were here since year one!
Thank you for this interesting interview. We wish the band continued success and look forward too, if ANGER AS ART does get the experience Germany, live. Metal on, guys!
Likewise. Thank you for the time!
© Petra M. Jansen
Link Reverbnation: https://www.reverbnation.com/angerasart
Link No Clean Singing´s album stream: http://www.nocleansinging.com/2016/03/04/an-ncs-album-premiere-anger-as-art-ad-mortem-festinamus/
Link Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/angerasart/
Link Twitter: https://twitter.com/angerasart1
Link Label: http://www.osmrecords.net/bands/Anger_As_Art/anger_as_art.htm
Link Encyclopaedia Metallum: http://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Anger_as_Art/26608
Link New Song YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VOwax8g6ZQ