I have recently had the pleasure of interview with Wedge (John Wardlaw) of Anti-M (www.anti-m.com). Their latest cd 'Damage' has been described as a little like Depeche Mode crossed with Evanescence. Read on.....
Not many people here in the UK would have heard of you, although if I had my way that will change. Tell me a little about yourselves, and how did you arrive at the name Anti-M?
I co founded the band with Mark Rumer. We were both Keyboard players but he knew more about recording and midi and I was more into lyrics and songs. Mark liked bands like Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and Eno while I was more into progressive rock like Yes, Rush, Pink Floyd and the Who. We started writing songs that were either space music or songs that were funny. Ruston Slager was yet another keyboardist I had known since I was about 10 years old. He had a David Bowie like voice and was a good song writer. Ruston and I wrote most of the material on the first album, NO WAVES IN HELL, which reflected our sense of humour. In fact the first album was supposed to be our only album, a one off "joke" project. Our friend Steve Weber played most of the guitars on the album as well as on our second album POSITIVELY NEGATIVE. POS NEG as we'll call it now was a more serious album. Mark was less involved so Ruston and I did most of it using guest musicians to fill in the gaps where guitar, bass or other instruments were needed. Guitar legend Ronnie Montrose, who has played with Van Morrison, Edgar Winter, Gamma and his own band Montrose was a guest musician on our second album as well which really helped us get some exposure. POS NEG is hard to classify, just like NO WAVES was but people still say we sound a bit like Depeche Mode and Peter Murphy plus Ruston still sings like David Bowie. It was a very retro 80's sounding album.
When we decided to start work on DAMAGE I had been listening to Godsmack and Disturbed when a friend gave me the first Evanescence album. Not long after that I discovered Lacuna Coil. I knew we couldn't do music like this as we were so Ruston and I asked Barbara Moseley, who had guested on our last album, to join the band on Bass and Vocals and Jon Moseley (her husband and hard rock guitarist) to join as our full time guitarist. The Damage recording sessions evolved from there with Derek Poultney coming in at the end on drums and drum programming. So Anti-M is now a 5 piece with Mark and Steve no longer involved.
Mark actually came up with the band name. We had just finished writing some of our first songs and we realized we needed a name. The Wizard of Oz was on the TV and Mark suggested Auntie M but spelled Anti-M. We laughed about it so much that we had to use it. In fact we almost called the first album TOTO GOES TO HELL.
Have any members of the band been involved with any other musical projects, that you would care to perhaps let us here at Ravenheart Music in on?
Barbara and Jon were in several bands that played live here in Southern California and Barbara has recorded a lot of songs. I am hoping to convince her to release a cd of that material on CDBABY.COM.
Ruston has done three solo projects but the most recent, REMNANTS IN PARADISE is the only one available on CD. Its mostly Piano and Strings with Ruston singing. It's a bit folky but I think the singing with the piano reminds me a bit of the UK band CAMEL.I am currently working on a solo project of cover songs that will include songs by Depeche Mode, Xymox, Lacuna Coil, Pink Floyd, the Fixx and Chris Isaak. Kind of an odd mix but I like a lot of music.
Your epic CD 'Damage' is a tasty morsel of laid back rock. I am amazed that Anti-M are unsigned! Can you tell me more about the songs on the record?
I wrote most of the lyrics on the album and had kind of a theme of the emotional damage we can all go through in life mostly from relationships. Luckily the songs that Barbara, Ruston and Jon wrote really fit the them well.
The opening song, DREAMING IN METAPHOR, is an instrumental inspired from a trip I took to Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia. I make a small attempt at playing the didgeridoo on that song. It is a mix of eastern music themes bridged with hard rock bits. LET U IN is a great pop rock song by Barbara. Its dark lyrics, eerie keyboards and tricky guitar rhythms really work well together.
DAMAGE is our hard rock track. I think it is the closest we come to sounding like Lacuna Coil or Within Temptation. The song is about a girl who hates her life doing the same thing every day but she dreams of a life with heroes and villains. Barbara sings the verses and I sing the chorus bits using a vocoder of sorts on my voice. It was the first song Barbara and I wrote together.
DEEP is the showcase song for Barbara's voice. This is really a beautiful song with sad lyrics about having to say goodbye but holding on to a memory. It could have been called THE STORY IN YOUR EYES but the Moody Blues have too good of a song with that title. Ruston had written this little piano bit. I changed the piano to layers of synths and built up some drum loops. Then Barb and I put on the vocal melody. When someone asked my how I came up with the lyrics I joked that I was channeling Tori Amos and that almost became the name of the song.
RAGE was the second song to be written on the album. It is also the first Anti-m song ever to have been written from a jam session. Ruston and I were just jamming on two keyboard to a loop in the back ground. The original demo was 9 minutes long. We trimmed that down and let Jon have a go on the solos and then Barb and I worked out the melody. So it is a band song. It's also one of the few songs where I get to play guitar. I play the power chords in the bridge and the slide at the end.
LITTLE THINGS is another pop rock song by Barbara. It was intended to be a rock song, then an acoustic song, then a piano song and the final version was more electronic. We plan to release a single with all the versions on it some time in the near future.
From here on out the musical styles of the band really get tossed about. BEAUTIFUL BABE is more like Depeche Mode, very electronic pop while WAIT A WHILE is just a piano ballad. ROSE OF LOVE is more of a Techno club dance track while SHIVER is very much an electronic goth song, very dark. The last two songs, SIXTH EXTINCTION and NO KILL I (a star trek reference for those who know the original series) are our progressive rock closers. Written for our last album but not completed until we finished them up during the Damage sessions. INCINERATION is more of a Rush meets Joe Satriani meets Ronnie Montrose rock and roll soundtrack bit. I could see it doing well in a surfing or racing movie. The album is a real mix of styles, I could go on for ever but I think you get the point.
I do hear influences of Within Temptation, The Gathering and even Pink Floyd in your music. That is no bad thing. Was it intended?, or was that the way it just turned out?
IT'S ALL INSIDE was definitely pushed in the direction of Pink Floyd. When Ruston and I heard Jon's demo we felt if was Floydish and we added keys and bass to match the sound. I guess it's a bit like Bowie sings Floyd, which he recently did on a David Gilmour DVD. Bowie sang Comfortably Numb with Dave. Oops, sorry this is supposed to be about Anti-M, not Pink Floyd. Hmmmmmmm where was I. Ah yes, the Gathering. DAMAGE IN THE DREAM was written when I was listening to Nighttime Birds almost daily so I'm sure their style influenced the feel of that song. Lacuna
Coil was an influence as well as Evanescence and Nightwish but I didn't discover Within Temptation until we reached the mixing phase. They didn't become popular in the states until THE HEART OF EVERYTHING came out.
INTO THE RAIN is actually influenced by Chris Isaak and Godsmack, if you are familiar with both and you listen to the "mellow" Godsmack songs you can hear it. ROSE OF LOVE was actually inspired by King Crimson, the opening loop mainly. Finally, Depeche Mode is always an influence as well . Martin Gore actually lives here in Santa Barbara now and Mode has recorded and mixed parts of two of their latest albums where we mixed Positively Negative. Just an odd note, Mode was talking to the studio we were mixing in for an upcoming recording session. I guess that means there's a Mode album on the way.
Do you have any fave songs on this album? and by and large how would you yourself describe your sound?
By far RAGE is my favorite song on the album. If the album had never been finished the sessions would have been worth it just to have recorded RAGE. We feel Rage is to Anti-M as Kashmir is to Led Zep. DAMAGE and DEEP are also personal favorites. Oh and SHIVER, even though it is so short.
Our music has been hard to describe in the past. Such a mix of styles with no focused direction. However, I think with Jon and Barbara in the band that we will stay in this female fronted melodic goth rock genre for a while. Don't expect the keyboards to go away though.
Bearing in mind your cd is independently produced, was the recording process simple or did it give you any major headaches of any description?
Recording sessions were usually short. Just a few hours each. I would lay down say drum loops and chords. I would then email that to the band. Jon would then come over and lay down guitar tracks for a few hours. Barb would come by on another day and do demo vocals which would be replaced at a later point with a final take. Sadly the whole band was almost never in same room at the same time. All the drums were added last. That was the hardest part as they were usually done Sunday night until late.
Mixing was a whole different issue. Our recording engineer, Mark Casselman, would prefer to be our producer, which is what I consider myself. So mixing to a long time with a lot of pushing to get the exact sound I wanted. Mark is a great engineer and a good producer but we have a different vision of what the band should sound like. With that said I would use Mark again for any future project. He knows his way around Pro Tools and all the various plug ins. In the end the album sounded great and we are happy with the cd.
Are there plans to record a follow up album?
Yes. I want the band to do a covers album but that may end up a solo project. Either way there should be another album someday.
I know you are an independent act, but would there be any plans to tour in due course, if you were able get the tour machinery in place?
Absolutely. Anti-M has always been a studio band but that isn't by choice. The time and money just were not there to pull off the live show. Plus it is easier now that the band isn't a trio of keyboardists anymore. Jon, Barbara, Derek and Ruston have all played live before, I'm the only novice.
Being an unsigned band and obviously with all the headaches of trying to get a deal, is the mood in the your camp generally upbeat?
A label would be great but if we get a hit right now then we keep all the money. And while our music isn't about the money it would give us the power to keep recording and tour. At the same time I would sign a decent contract.
CDBABY has made things easier for the indie artist. Because of them we are on iTunes world wide, Rhapsody, emusic and you can get the cds from CDBABY as well. We are also on Amazon.com (sadly only the USA store) and that is where we sell most of the cds.
We are doing a triple A radio promotion across 165 stations here in the USA from Oct. Through the end of the year. Is it doesn't generate some sales then our mood as a band might not be so good.
The female fronted rock/metal scene here in the UK could be stronger although it is ok. What are your expectations of the rock/metal scene as a whole in Europe and indeed in the USA?
I think bands like Evanescence in the USA opened up a whole new approach to women in rock here. I saw Amy Lee and Christina Scabbia (Of Lacuna Coil) together on the cover of Rolling Stone. The headline was something about the sexy women of rock. Considering Rolling Stone is usually more interested with the likes of Cheryl Crow or who is running for president this was a pleasant surprise. I was also surprised when I discovered several friends (men in their 40's no less) owned albums by Within Temptation and Nightwish. I'm sure it was their kids who turned them on to them. So in the USA that is a breath of fresh air from the American Idol, Hannah Montana, Britney Spears style of music that seems to dominate the air waves here. I just hope the cd doesn't die to the download. I approve of downloads but I still buy Cds.
I would hope that in the UK and Europe that the success of Within Temptation, Lacuna Coil, The Gathering and Nightwish would help the genre to expand and grow. I don't think any of us want copy cats but new music is always a good thing as long as someone likes it.
Musically and spiritually who/what are your inspirations, and what sort of music do you listen too when you are chilling out?
I can't say that I am a religious person but music brings out so many feelings in me that I think any music that makes me "feel" is an inspiration. Sometimes uplifting sometimes dark and angry. I'm always looking for new music.
As I mentioned, I grew up on progressive rock so Yes and Genesis are always there but not as much as they used to be. While I was writing my responses to this interview I was listening to Porcupine Tree. Lately I've been playing Chasing the Ghost by Collide, kind of electronic trance stuff. I've been watching the music videos for Ice Queen and The Howling by Within Temptation. I love Songs of Faith and Devotion by Depeche Mode. I have to admit I have all the Duran Duran albums too. Marillion continues to put our good melodic moody rock as well. I even listen to a bit of Timbaland. But I have to admit I am often pulled back to some of the classic concept albums of decades gone by. I recommend anyone looking to expand their musical mind to check out the following classics: GENESIS - THE LAMB LIES DOWN ON BROADWAY / PINK FLOYD - THE WALL / YES - TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS / THE WHO - QUADROPHENIA / MARILLION - CLUTCHING AT STRAWS
And would be your plans for the future?
To continue to write and record and hopefully take this show on the road.
Well good luck in all what you do, and we at Ravenheart wish you all the very best with 'Damage'. Finally is there anything that you would like to say to anybody across the world via this website?
I hope that people will give our music a listen and judge us on what they hear. I also hope that my fellow musicians around the world will continue to write new kinds of music to shape the music of the future.
John "Wedge" Wardlaw
Dave Smith (Sep 26, 2008)