Here is an exclusive interview given by Keith Smith and Adam von Buhler for the blog. Enjoy!
1) Your last album, Life in the Underground, was
released a few months ago, so what's new about it? Has the album
been well received? (I hope so) Are you totally satisfied by your
KEITH: I think that, as a band, we finally found our groove with this album. In my opinion, it's the closest we've come, album-wise, to what we set out to do when we first got together.
ADAM: What's new about the album? Well, I agree with Keith that this one is unusually cohesive as a full album experience.
But satisfied by our work? I don't know what that would feel like! After every album is done, my very first thought is, "NEXT!" Right after I've finished an album, I have zero objectivity and I'm seeing it upside-down and backwards. I'm always already thinking about the next one, as a chance to apply whatever lessons I just learned. I'm kind of obsessive/compulsive that way.
2) Some songs are particularly fun and shifted, for
example "Hello Kitty". Do you have any anecdotes from the
ADAM: I like the way you phrased that, "shifted". I'm gonna use that!
KEITH: "Hello Kitty" was originally a song I'd
written years ago when I lived in San Francisco. I mentioned it to
Adam, and he liked the idea of the song, so I wrote down all the
lyrics and he created a whole new song around my original vocal
melody. The guy works serious magic, man
3) The cover art by RAQMO is really beautiful and different than the previous albums covers, why do you choose this cover?
KEITH: The cover is actually a drawing of a character from a comic book I'm developing. Her name is Blood on the Snow. The song with that title is about her, and the album title "Life in the Underground" is inspired by her as well. RAQMO was the initial concept artist for the comic. Adam and I both liked the image, so it became the cover.
ADAM: We're very sad that RAQMO just moved back to Japan; we will miss her, and now we're looking for our next cover artist. We have never skimped on artwork and I'm very proud of that. It's a big part of the Anarchy Club identity.
I love the striking impact of this cover image, and it was
obvious that it had to stand alone, with no title text or anything
else getting in the way. And it's cool how it references the song
("left for dead, with eyes of red").
4) How is the composing of the songs? Is it a mutual work? or Is it Adam who automatically takes care of the instrumental part and Keith who writes lyrics?
KEITH: Typically, it's collaborative, initially. We sit in the attic, working out beats and cool guitar riffs together. After we have a skeleton, I write the lyrics and lay down a rough vocal. Then Adam works his magic and brings it to life, and we tighten up the arrangement and I record final vocals. Then we add all the fun stuff, like cannons, car crashes and gunfire and such. Occasionally one of us will come to the table with a basic idea, but it's always the two of us that put the pieces together.
ADAM: During the writing phase, 90% of the time, we pass a guitar back and forth until a song appears. It typically goes something like this:
(one of us holding guitar)
"Hey, what if we did a riff that went like this?"
(intense guitar noise)
"That's cool! But what if we tweaked it like this?"
(guitar changes hands)
(more intense guitar noise)
"yeah! And then it could go in a totally different direction like this!"
(guitar changes hands again)
(thunder roars, flames appear from guitar; eyes begin to glow red)
Rinse and repeat.
Then we usually think about the anchor beat and groove. Sometimes, I'll bust out some beats, and try lots of variations until I find one that gets us both nodding our heads. Or sometimes, Keith will human beat box something that's in his imagination, and I'll match it in the computer and we'll capture the beat that way. I use whatever tools feel right for the song, whether it's sitting behind a drum kit, spinning some loops, or programming -- it's all butter to me.
The secret sauce of Anarchy Club is that we try to play guitar behind the beat as much as possible. But don't tell anybody.
After we have the basic song concept in a good place, I take it and run with it. I spend whatever spare hours I can find each day to turn it all into what you hear on an Anarchy Club album.
Keith likes to have the main outline of a song ready to go when he starts writing lyrics and singing, so he usually does that about midway through the process. He's easy to record because he knows his way around a microphone after years of practice.
I do guitar solos last. Those are like little mountains for me to climb. I'd never thought of myself as a big shredder, but Keith used some kind of kung fu mind magic to persuade me to do it. Honestly, it really stresses me out -- to come up with the guitar solo on "Get Clean", I took time off from work and barricaded myself in my apartment for three days straight.
Most importantly, every single song goes through the "Anarchy Club filter" without exception. That means we both hyper-analyze and critique every tiny detail up until and including the very final mixing and mastering. There are many, many sessions of the two of us horse-trading suggestions back and forth. Regardless of how a song started, in the end, it's a pure Anarchy Club production.
5) What song are you the most proud of?
KEITH: On any given day I have a different favorite song of ours. I couldn't answer that question fairly.
ADAM: My answer might surprise people. I think "Through Windows Clear" came out really solid, I think that's one of the rare songs in which everything just works, top to bottom. When I hear it, I think, "wow, did I make that?"
6) By the way, why did you call the band « Anarchy Club
» ? Does it have a special meaning for you?
KEITH: Adam and I grew up in the American punk rock scene. It shaped us musically, politically, and was instrumental in making us who we are. As we got older, we watched the scene as we knew it fall apart, and become homogenized as it was watered down and adopted by American pop culture. What had once been a cool underground network of like-minded kids with lots of questions looking for something real became a brainwashed "Anarchy Club".
The good news is that there's a new punk underground growing in the States these days. I've been to a few shows in dirty basements recently that show me there's hope for the future of real punk in America.
And while a lot of our music doesn't fit the classic punk/hardcore sound, the ideology and spirit can be found in almost every song we write.
ADAM: What he said.
7) What bands influenced you the most?
KEITH: Motörhead, the first two Misfits albums, The Bad Brains, Queens of the Stone Age, Black Sabbath (Ozzy era), Ministry (the heavy years), the Deftones, Serge Gainsbourg, Damian Marley... and seventies pop music.
ADAM: When I think of Anarchy Club in particular, I know these albums have been important inspiration: Killing Joke's self-titled 2003 album (it has a neon clown on the cover and Dave Grohl on drums), Treasure by Cocteau Twins, and anything by Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel. But when we drive somewhere, it can get weird. For example, much of 2011 was spent putting "I Am The Best" by 2NE1 on repeat.
8) The Misfits cover, Skulls, was wonderful! The song is very somber but your version is really amazing. Will you make other songs in this way, I mean acoustic songs?
KEITH: I'm sure it will come up at some point. When it comes to covers, we're more interested in taking them someplace different than they were initially intended to go... Except for "Orgasmatron". We stuck pretty close to the script with that.
ADAM: Keith's vocal on "Skulls" never fails to
bring a tear to my eye... A tear of blood, of course.
I'm always looking for different flavors. I'd hate it if our stuff was all the same, sonically. So yeah, acoustic is one way to mess with our approach.
9) When and how did you start making music?
KEITH: Music has been a part of my life for longer than I can remember. I played my first gig when I was four.
As far as the band goes, Adam and I have been friends FOREVER, and have always been sneaking away from our other bands to do side projects. Then one day we realized we liked what we were doing more than the other stuff, and started Anarchy Club.
ADAM: When I was about nine years old, my
parents brought a child-sized guitar back from a trip to Mexico. I
remember thinking, "what IS this thing?" But then I found that I
couldn't put it down. I think the guitar had been enchanted with
unholy blood. Or maybe I was just a really obsessive kid.
10) Do you remember the first album you listened to?
KEITH: Again, I grew up with music around me all the time. My mother played all kinds of cool stuff when I was a kid, and I was the type who asked for albums as well as toys for Christmas. But I do remember the first album I ever bought with my own money. It was "Destroyer" by Kiss.
ADAM: I used to sneak stuff out of my mother's
record collection when I was a wee one. For whatever reason, she
had tons of Halloween and sound effects stuff on vinyl, and I used
to TRIP OUT on it.
11) What do you think about current music?
ADAM: I think exactly one thought: AUTO-TUNE. If you're using it, please take your noise somewhere else. As a special effect now and then, I can understand. But it's so commonplace in contemporary music, they're using it as a default on singers who already have fantastic natural voices. I am not with this trend, no sir. My ears can identify it every time, no matter how subtly it's applied. It makes my hair stand on end.
KEITH: I think there's a lot of really great
music coming out these days. Unfortunately, the market is
overflowing with mediocre second-rate bands to a point that a lot
of great stuff is just getting lost in the crowd of boring
12) What were the last albums you listened to? And what are your current favourites?
KEITH: Dethklok's "Dethalbum II", and "Bangarang" by Skrillex. My current favorites on heavy rotation would be the first Gorillaz album, The Sonics "Here Are The Sonics", and "Glitter" by Gary Glitter. But to be fair, I listen to all kinds of music, all the time, so this list could change tomorrow.
ADAM: I'm going through three phases simultaneously: old-skool punk, j-pop, and first-wave rockabilly. "Machine Gun Etiquette", Namie Amuro, the first Clash album, Dead Boys, Buddy Holly, Utada's "Heart Station" and "Ultra Blue", Guitar Wolf, The Cramps. In the car, I've always got the first two Pretenders albums and the first B-52's album, of which I never tire.
But ask me again in a week and it'll be a completely different
13) Do you know some french bands?
KEITH: Daft Punk, Serge Gainsbourg, Plastic Bertrand... I like some old French garage rock, too. Mostly the female based stuff... And I had a BRIEF phase when I was hanging out in Paris in the mid-nineties where I was really digging Supreme NTM
ADAM: There are some AIR albums that I will
always love, particularly Talkie Walkie. I like Yelle, Gojira, and
14) I know you like asian cinema, what are your favorite movies?
KEITH: Too many to count. Currently, I'd have to say "Wuxia", starring Donnie Yen, and "Reign of Assassins", starring Michelle Yeoh. As far as all time favorites, "Fist of Fury", "Once Upon a Time in China", and "Ip Man" all make the list.
ADAM: Watching the kung fu movies that Keith
brings over is about 35% of the Anarchy Club experience for me. And
my lady is from Korea, so I enjoy watching the horrifically
intense, ultra-violent revenge films that country churns out.
Watching a tooth-extraction via hammer claw is always a lovely way
to relax and unwind...
15) What's the best book you've ever read?
KEITH: Fiction- "Fight Club," though "Clockwork Orange" bent my brain when I was a kid.
Non-Fiction- "Tao Te Ching" and "The Art of War". Those two books changed my life, and how I look at the world.
ADAM: "Dhalgren" by Samuel R. Delany. I feel
like it's not a book. It's an actual place I can visit. I've read
it about a dozen times. In terms of newer stuff, one that really
stands out is "The Windup Girl". I read constantly, because I need
a lot of stimulation.
16) Have you ever thought to make a video for one of your songs? A short movie with martial arts for example, it would be really nice!
KEITH: HELL YEAH!!! We talk about it all the time. Serious Kung Fu anime muscle car rock -n- roll daydreams made real!!! But videos cost money, and we don't have a lot of that, so...
ADAM: You put a guitar in my hands, I know exactly what to do. You put a video camera in front of me, and my mind goes blank. If we ever do a video, that's something where I'd just sit back and let Keith drive it! We've talked about doing one, but it's just fantasy so far. We can't get our hands on the kind of budget we'd need.
17) Both of you have played in other bands before Anarchy Club : C-60 for Keith and Splashdown for Adam. Can you tell us a little more on your experiences with those bands?
KEITH: C-60 (also known as Cobalt 60... and we owned the name before the European band, but that's a long story) was a heavy rock band I was in during the early 90's and again in the early 00's. We opened for Rage Against the Machine, Linkin Park, Run DMC, N.E.R.D., Kiss, Limp Bizkit, Buckcherry, Poison, Good Charlotte... The list goes on. We went on some tours, and even got on a few TV shows, but never broke really big. It eventually began to collapse on itself around the same time Anarchy Club was starting to come together.
ADAM: I'm super proud of my work with Splashdown, culminating in the "Blueshift" album. Being signed to Capitol Records was the best time and the worst time of my life, simultaneously. I learned some important lessons dealing with record company people and the music industry, and Anarchy Club is the answer to those issues for me. Lesson one: NOTHING is worth surrendering even ONE MILLIMETER of control for. NOTHING. Your situation has to be pure; you can't consciously be trying to write hits, or contort yourself to please businesspeople thinking of commercial product. The "music biz" is no place for an idealist.
Anarchy Club puts the music before thoughts of success, and not
the other way around. Anarchy Club is pure and true to itself, and
I'd like to think that's the reason you're interested enough to be
reading this interview right now.
18) What is your best remembrance of your musician's careers?
ADAM: I only look forward. I'm probably the least nostalgic person you could ever meet. I think the best remembrance is still ahead.
KEITH: I can't talk about it... I might get
Aside from the confidential stuff, I'd say our show for the first PAX East game conference was awesome! Bryn from Bang Camaro was playing live with us then, and the show was sold out. There were two guys from England who'd flown to the States just to see us play that show. That blew me away, and I was extremely honored by that. The whole audience seemed to know all the words to all of our songs, and we were in the zone that night!
I'd have to also say the time Harmonix sent me to Germany to promote the Beatles game and Rock Band 2 at Gamescom was a magical experience. I was swarmed by a serious army of Anarchy Club fans the entire time I was there. My co-workers got pissed off because there were times they had to take me off the floor because I was drawing attention away from the Rock Band 2 booths. I had no idea we were that popular outside the States at the time. It was SO big, in fact, that the grand finale of the Rock Band 2 exhibit was a packed performance where a band of top German RB players, who were HUGE Anarchy Club fans, got onstage with me and we played a short set of Anarchy Club songs with me singing! There was a big crowd, and they knew the words! Teenage girls were screaming! It freaked me out, but in a good way!
19) Can you give us some informations concerning your next productions (single/EP/album)?
KEITH: All hell will break loose... It's gonna be fiendish...
ADAM: We want to make this next one kind of a surprise. I can only tell you that we're already deep into making it, and it will be an album with exactly 13 songs, no more, no less. We're super inspired for this one. Timing should be early next year.
20) To conclude, can you say some words in french?
KEITH: Merci pour le chat rasé
ADAM: Nous vous aimons tous, en particulier les mères!
Thank you, Keith and Adam, for this interview. I hope Anarchy Club will last a very long time yet. You are real artists, you don't make music for money but because you like it, and this is a great thing.