Anger As Art – Steve Gaines
Interview by Arto Lehtinen
Thrash metal lives well on the West Coast and LA, where Anger As Art unleashes their thunderous terrorizing thrash metal onslaught. The four piece has undergone some line-up changes, but the mastermind of the band, Steve Gaines, still pushes his anger ahead, not giving up or showing any mercy. The fourth opus HUBRIS INC proves the band’s aggressive thrash still runs in their blood. Steve Gaines, former of Abattoir, tells us more about the upcoming album and how the band has been renewed by the current line-up.
Hello Mr Gaines, what’s up under the Californication sun ?
Hi Arto. It’s that time again… a new offering from Anger As Art. Things are great here. We have a lot of exciting offers to work on… here we go! Round #4!
NEW THRASHING ALBUM
Anger As Art got the fourth album titled HUBRIS INC., out on Old School Records, generally are you pleased with how the result on the album turned out?
We like it – of course it has been finished for nearly a year, so we have had plenty of time to listen and think ‘maybe we should have done this or that…’ But overall, it is an excellent representation of where we are musically.
You have a long studio experience working with different bands thru decades, do you view the advanced technology of nowadays may ruin the more authentic sound world and do you rather stick to the old school studio technology or do you flag for the modern day studio technology?
That really depends on what you are listening for. I know there are plenty of people who I would call ‘audiofiles’ – who wish for vinyl instead of digital, and claim they can hear a difference. I can hear it, but don’t put too much stock in it. I remember how hard we used to have to work to try to get tones, and we were never satisfied – so we settled. Now, we can go in and get about 99% of what we intended. Another thing, is you cannot discount is experience. Eventually you learn what not to do, or waste time on. One thing about the better technology is that you save so much money making records now… I understand your point. But the one thing you cannot replace is naivety. When you don’t know what you are doing, it really becomes trial and error, and a crap-shoot.
As for the album title HUBRIS INC.,, could you tell what is all about and where did you get an idea to name with that title?
Kind of a funny story. I was going through about a 2 week period where EVERYONE around me was making bad choices, doing stupid things, and it was frustrating. So, Rob Alaniz and me were talking, and I start venting about all of these people… and I said ‘sometimes I feel like I work for Hubris, Incorporated.’ Rob answered immediately “That’s the album title.” Just an observation of the arrogance and stupidity of mankind.
There is a real old tune title “Speed Kills”, originally written for Abattoir and obviously never used and released before, right?
That is correct. Let me take you back to 1984. We were still finishing ‘Vicious Attack.’ Juan Garcia had just quit, and Dan Oliverio had just replaced him. One day at rehearsal Dan starts playing that opening riff, and we wrote the song around it. We showed the song to (Abattoir guitarist) Mark Caro, and he likes it – says ‘Show it to the band.’ So later we are at rehearsal, and we start playing the song. Our Manager comes running into the rehearsal room, and says ‘What are you doing?’ “We wrote a song, and are showing it to the band.” He throws a tantrum – starts screaming ‘your job is not to write music – your job is to do ONLY WHAT I TELL YOU TO DO.’ So, the song went away. Dan joined Anger As Art in 2009. We had just finished recording Disfigure, and Dan starts playing that riff again “Hey Steve, remember this song?” So we decided to record the song… but also we wanted to have Mark Caro play the solo. So what you have is a real Abattoir song, played by all Abattoir members… except that we are all in Anger As Art. Its pretty clear that Abattoir will never work together again, so this will probably be the last thing you ever hear from “Abattoir”. It’s a fun song too.
What kind of topics influence you to write about in lyrics?
Struggle, pain, disappointment, lies, and ultimately triumph. Human emotions, but things people deal with every day. The lyrical focus has always been the same – turning Anger into Art.
Do you as well bring some political standpoints up in your lyrics?!
Politics have no place in entertainment. I think some people might be surprised to hear me say that – but there is nothing more off-putting than an entertainer telling you how to think in their songs
The album contains all in all 14 songs, you seem to be a real riff beast coming up a number of songs with thrashing catchy whipping riff, how do you usually come up and create new riffs and ideas for songs?
(Laughing) You would have to be inside my head… trying to deal with people who in many cases are too stupid to breathe… trying to function in Los Angeles. This city breeds the music in me – in fact, I find it easier to write music than lyrics – I always have. Dating back to other bands, I always had that knock against me ‘your songs don’t sound like Abattoir songs’, or whichever band I may have been with. I cannot tell you how many writers have basically yelled at me ‘If you want to write music that sounds like that, you should start your own band.’ (Laughing) Uhh… I did – its called ANGER AS ART. We are 4 records in now, and we sound like this. But, thank you for acknowledging the writing – that is all that I wish to be remembered for when it is all said and done
What kind of elements do thrash songs need to have in your opinion?
That’s a hard question to answer – thrash has to be real, and from the heart. There is a formula, but I do not know what it is. When you hear it, you know it. There are some bands that call themselves thrash, but they are not. To be honest, I do not know if we are thrash or not.
Did the recording process of the album differ from the other studio working methods of the previous albums in some way?
One thing we did differently this time was do minimal guitar tracks (1 each) instead of multiple, and to my ears, it really lets the songs breathe. And the guitars still sound huge. We talked a lot before we went in about what exactly we wanted to accomplish, so we stayed focused. Other than that – not much different.
How long did you spend the time recording and mixing in the studio and did everything go as planned?
We spent about 2 months recording, and about 2 months mixing. But keep in mind, that is not all day every day. All told, I bet we spent 20 days from beginning to end.
GUESTS ON THE ALBUM
There were a number of other guest visiting the new opus of Anger As Art titled HUBRIS INC., how did this come about?
It started with the bonus tracks on the album – Speed Kills, and Rage and Retribution. Both of those songs reach into our past, our roots, our legacy. We talked earlier about how Speed Kills came about. Rage And Retribution? I have told in the past about how Anger As Art was formed from the ashes of the band Pagan War Machine – this song was originally a Pagan War Machine song – and of course the guitarist in Pagan War Machine was Jim Durkin. So that was a no-brainer. When I originally wrote the song – I had intended for it to be a duet with Dreams Of Damnation vocalist Loana. So, fast forward – Anger As Art had long since become Betsy’s backing band in Bitch. We were on tour last year, and talking about recording our new album, and Betsy offered “if you need a female vocalist, let me know.” So a no–brainer to do it. And my brother? At the time we were recording, my brother was in Los Angeles for the NAMM show. So we worked out a time for him to come in. It was the first time my brother and I ever recorded together.
As it is known your brother Timothy Gaines plays the guitar in the legendary Christian band Stryper, has it ever it caused some kind of tension
between the relationship of the brotherhood as you played and still play the extreme death/thrash ?
Way back in the 80’s it did. And the tension went both ways… I had the Satanist wannabe’s decide to threaten my life, and the Christian wannabes telling me I was going to hell. The funny thing is that everyone assumed that because I play thrash, I believed something opposite than he did. They were wrong. I have been a Christian all my life. My father was a minister, and we had a family full of missionaries. Go back and read the words to the Abattoir song ‘Stronger Than Evil.’ I never hid it.
Well how did you manage to lure him to play on the new AAA album?
Lure… LOL. I simply said ‘Hey, do you wanna do this?’ It was a family thing – LOOOOONNG overdue.
As for Jim Durkin you have been knowing each other for ages and played together, was it a logical and obvious choice to ask Durkin to shed on Hybrid Inc?
We discussed it earlier. But it was extremely logical. He had played on the song before… a lot of time had passed since we had worked together. So we did it.
And of course the former Abattoir guitarist Mark Caro and Steve Nelson from Evildead. Apparently it was quite natural to ask them to be involved on the album?
Mark we also discussed earlier. As far as Steve Nelson goes, there was a lot more to it. As you know Rob Alaniz was the drummer for Evil Dead. At the time we recorded Hubris, ED was a functioning band. So the initial plan was to have all of the ED guys play. We originally had Juan Garcia slated to put a solo on ‘Speed Kills’ also. And Albert Gonzalez was going to do some lead guitar stuff on the song ‘This Is Why I Hate.’ But they were pressured to withdraw… and one by one they did. The only one who continued was Steve Nelson – who came in and dropped those ungodly cold screams onto the song ‘The Evil You Create’ (another song which has history – you need to read the liner notes on the CD). Without him, that song would not have been the same.
LINE-UP CHANGES AND BEING ON OLD SCHOOL METAL REC
The AAA line-up has undergone a few changes during the existence of the band, but for why have members come and gone, haven’t they been that motivated and unwilling to continue playing the thrash metal ?
It’s a bit tough to answer – because in some instances there were personal or family reasons for which I will not divulge. In other instances, people left for other opportunities, convinced that they were going to greener pastures – both have since stated they were wrong. At least one former member seemed to think that he could mold the band into something it was not (he should be easy to identify). But to anyone who has left – we have always wished them well, and continued to welcome them as extended family members. It is fair to say that I have been in contact with all of the former members in the past week. For the guys who are here now… the respect and working relationship is incredible. Our newest member (bassist Henry De La Cruz) has been here for a year now… but we all have history that dates back 25 years. We had a rehearsal last night, for example… all 4 of us are fighting the flu, had had long a long day, and we are in there just laughing our asses off with each other. As long as we have all been doing this, we are still having a great time.
Has it been an easy task to find and recruit new members to replace these ones having given up?
It is tough to see some go – but to this point we have not done the long searches and auditions for players. We do a lot of homework on prospective players. Most important is their personality… will we get along? Can we travel, be under stress, not get paid, etc? I am grateful that we have this group.
How have you managed to find suitable guys to AAA and what are the best and needed assets of the new Anger As Art members, compared to the former ones?
We ask questions – how stable are they? What is going on in their personal life? (this is a big one) Is their wife easy to get along with, or is she a pain in the ass? We also let people know that their family, their personal lives, their work schedules ALWAYS come first.
Do you view the current AAA line-up is the strongest one ever or how would you describe the current AAA line-up ?
Its easy to look at this lineup and say ‘strongest ever.’ I am always hesitant to say that though, because it puts an element of finality on these 4 people. Our previous bassist was a huge character, and we worried about filling his shoes, but we did. Like I said earlier – I am grateful for this group of guys at this time. If it all ends tomorrow, I can say this was honestly the best band I ever worked with
You have been on Old School Metal Rec since the debut album for about ten years, obviously you must have been very pleased with the down-to-earth and more underground based label than some big one?
Thanks. And coming from where you are located, it means a lot. I speak with a lot of European writers who get genuinely angry with us for not signing with a bigger label. Look, OSM is an independent label. We KNOW its not CBS, and no one is fooling themselves into thinking we are suddenly going to be rolling in money. But let me get personal – when I think of how many labels turned me down over the years, actually had a hand in me being fired from bands, allowed bad contracts to be forged, never paid me what they owed me, or put us on a shelf… and I look at my FRIEND, boss and CEO Patrick Ramseier, who has done everything for us he ever promised… I know he is a phone call, email or text away, he always replies, tells me the bad and the good news, and quite simply stands with and supports us. I want to share something with everyone reading this – the term of our contract was complete after the release of Callous And Furor in 2006. EVERYTHING we have done since with OSM has been on a handshake. Can you believe that? A handshake! Where do you find that kind of relationship? I have seen friends sign with their ‘dream’ record companies, and they are now begging for someone from that company to return their calls. It is safe to say that OSM has allowed us to become what we are, and never got in the way. Anger As Art exists today in large part because of the relationship (not the business) we have with our record company. I know that when the day comes that we go separate ways, I will have a friend for life there.
Well have so called big labels showed their interest toward Anger As Art?
We have not inquired – nor have we shown any interest in THEM! (laughing) I think honestly if we ever work outside of OSM, we will do it ourselves, and keep the vultures away.
What expectations do you have for Anger As Art when the album is officially out ? Probably touring as much as possible ?
So far, our expectations have been exceeded. We have PR campaigns going on all over the world. We are currently putting together dates for a European tour in June 2013 – culminating with an appearance at Dokkem Open Air in Holland. We just went through the Caribbean region for the first time, and the crowds were amazing. There is finally something concrete regarding going to Japan on this cycle. There are companies seeking us to do business with them. And the record has been received so well. A lot of baby steps over the last few years, and we are finally starting to see some rewards of all of that hard work. Of course, that only means we have MORE work to do.
Before concluding the interview, name the albums which have been in the heavy rotation in your stereo and tell why?
This is going to make you mad – nothing. I rarely have time to listen to new music – let alone favorites anymore. There is a lot that I like. I have become a fan of Blood Tsunami. We are friends with them, and are trying to find a way to do some dates with them in Europe. Always a fan of Dew Scented. But rare that I get time to listen to much else.
All right Steve I thank your time and passion to do the interview for Metal-Rules.Com… Ok Angry Steve, spit the words to conclude the interview…..
I won’t spit on you. (laughing) No, thanks for the time and for yet ANOTHER interview. I hope we can do this again soon after #5 or 6… Thanks Metal-Rules.
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