Interview: Sick Puppies

Just a handful of hours before they would ravage the stage, I was invited into the private confines of the tour bus for the Australian powerhouse Sick Puppies. What I encountered was not the metal powerhouse of inexhaustible energy that the band is on stage. Rather, I was presented with three young, appreciative and thoughtful musicians who are humble about their beginnings and proud of their product. We talked conversationally about music, about how they broke it big, and of course, about horror movies. So here are Shimon Moore, Emma Anzai and Mark Goodwin
First question first: “Tri-Polar” has really been a coming out party for you guys, multiple singles on the charts, did you see it going it that way when you recorded it, or did it just sort of happen?
Shim: I think we hoped that that would happen. I mean, anytime you make a record, you have your dreams and hopes, but there’s a difference between hopes and expectations. Expectations about your work is never healthy, because if any part of it doesn’t live up, then you’re going to be disappointed. But yeah, we definitely—

Mark: We probably had expectations but they didn’t tell us.

Shim: Oh, they had expectations, the label always does, but yeah, as an artist you never want to go too far down that road. So, when we wrote “You’re Going Down,” we thought, you know, this sounds like something that could be a hit. It has the hooves and it was simple, and it was really good energy, and then when we wrote “Odd One” we really believed in that one, the message and the simplicity of the chorus, we felt good every time we played it, and heard it. So we thought “well, maybe that would be a good single as well,” which was our choice for the second single actually, and it went pretty well for us.

So you had input in that process then?
Shim: Yeah, yeah. We have input in the whole process.
To that end, songs from this have been used in endorsement campaigns for video games, the Washington Capitals, the WWE. I mean, what about it makes that attractive to a sponsor? Did you ever anticipate that, or did they approach you and you were completely caught off guard?
Mark: The song talks about fighting and kicking ass, what sports team doesn’t want to use a song like that?

Shim: Yeah, it sort of just goes hand in hand. I think we just got lucky that we wrote the right song, and they were looking for that song at the time. You know, they always go to the label, they say “who’s the new band that’s coming out with something? Let us hear it,” boom, that song works, and then they cut it. We didn’t really have as much to do with that part of it, but that part of it had a lot to do with that single becoming a hit. So that was just one of those lucky moments.

I wanted to touch on the documentary “Rock Prophecies” about [legendary photographer] Robert Knight was just released on DVD [September 14th]. How did you come to be involved with Robert Knight? Did he come to you, or did you go to him?
Emma: The Robert Knight thing actually, he was one of the first people that we sort of come in with, in order to come over to the States. It was through our manager Paul, he met him at a dinner party, and he’s like “you should come over to the States and show your band around.” He did that, and he did that within a matter of days actually, just flew over here and did that. Over the past couple years, he filmed footage of us moving into the apartment for when we go over here to LA, and filmed the making of our first album “Dressed Up as Life.” Just doing vocals, stuff like that. He filmed our first tour, first shows, everything that a developing band would go through. He ended up keeping all that and when he got the film, he said “I want you guys to be in it and be the up and coming artist in it,” and put us in. I think we’re about a good fifteen minutes in there, which is pretty cool considering that there’s people like Jeff Beck and Slash. So that’s how that came about, and we’re pretty stoked.
If you could quantify it, how different would your career be without the interaction with Robert Knight?
Shim: Without the interaction it would be completely different. I mean, he opened the first set of doors for us, and that’s always the hardest thing to do because there are so many bands, so many artists, so many things happening all at once with the internet in full swing. Everyone’s paying attention to different things, so to get a few people focused on one thing at one time is very difficult, but someone of Robert’s stature who’s been around for so long, and has a reputation…that’s the important thing, if you can find or be lucky enough to start working with someone who has a reputation, it makes all the difference. I’d like to think if it wasn’t for him we still would have made it somehow, but I don’t think we could have done it in a better fashion. I mean, he’s the cream of the crop in terms of people to know and connections, and he definitely put us in very high stead.
Now, when he approached you, did you immediately have visions of grandeur, did you think “this is our chance?”
Shim: No! No, because people come to you all the time with “Oh, I’ve got a website” or “I’ve got an idea” or “I’ve got a record label” or “I’m a photographer,” or whatever. So there’s a lot of people who come up saying “I really like your band, and I’d like you to meet so-and-so.” So you wind up meeting a lot of those people. But we didn’t actually know how relevant Robert was as a photographer until—you know, you see Beyonce on the cover of a magazine, you don’t see photographers so his face wasn’t really recognizable to us. But once we started to see all of the photographs that he’d done when we went over to his place, and we’re like “Oh my God, that’s that iconic shot of Zeppelin, and Hendrix” and these shots and we realized we were in very high company. That’s when we started to go “alright, let’s just hold on for a minute and see where this takes us,” and make sure that when people are paying attention that we’re rehearsed and we’re ready and we’re the best band we can be.

So what is it that compels you to make music? Is it an emotion, or was it always just the goal?
Shim: I think it’s different for each of us.

Mark: I think it comes more from the passion for my instrument. I play drums, I love the drums, I love everything about it. The passion from that sparks wanting to make music, because that’s what you do, you play an instrument. It’s always been like that, the burning passion.

Emma: I can only start from the very, very beginning, and that was because we didn’t have anything else in our lives at the time, we were kind of outcasts in school, didn’t really have many friends, so the music was the only thing that was kind of there for us. So we poured a lot of passion and energy into it. But now, I guess these many years later different things compel us, but I think it’s the same, originally it’s that same thing it’s always going to be, that one thing and you just love it. And there’s something you get from it when you play it and you create it, and you see reactions from other people that’s just unlike anything else.

Shim: I’m pretty much on that same page. The simplest way to put it is if I didn’t do it, it would feel like something was wrong. You do it, you feel normal, if you don’t do it, you just don’t feel normal.

You were talking about the reaction you see from people to your product. Your live show contrary to a lot of heavy metal seems like it’s less about aggression and more about celebration. Is that conscious on your part, or does that just come from your joy for the music?
Shim: A bit of everything. I think that we’re luck that we have three people in a band who all have very, very different personality types. The aggression kind of comes out just from the music itself. But then the vibe that we sort of feel when we’re on stage is a little bit more…sometimes it’s cathartic, sometimes you’re genuinely pissed off and you have that energy you can let it out on stage. Mark pretty much plays the drums full speed, one hundred percent, like a steam train the whole fuckin’ set. There’s aren’t really any slow down parts, he’s just bashing the whole time, and that driving force and energy really creates the energy. But then what’s on top of it, is the lyrics of the songs and the connection with the audience and hopefully the positivity of what we’re trying to say in the songs, so then you get this kind of really interesting mesh, where people get the energy and they get really gee’d up. But it’s not just like a Pantera show where you break stuff and flip out for an hour and a half. We try to break it down a little bit and have good moments, and get them to sing the chorus, and that’s been happening a lot more over the past few months. And I think that interaction, having created that connection with the audience, is what creates that vibe, that element.

Mark: Yeah, the interaction is key. Making them feel they’re part of the show, it’s a release for them. It’s a release for us, but it’s a different kind of release for us. For them they’re coming because they’ve had a long day at work or whatever, it’s a different thing for them. It’s our job to get it out of them, and that’s the celebration that you’re talking about.

Shim: That’s what makes it feel more like a celebration than anything, when you feel connected, instead of just “I’m here and the band’s there and I’m watching them do their thing,” when you really feel like a part of it, then it becomes a celebration of whatever the song happens to be about. You can treat it as a positive experience even if the song happens to be negative at the moment.

You’ve been on an exhaustive tour schedule since the album came out, what’s next? Will there be time off, or when this is all done will it be right back into the studio for more?
Shim: We have sort of time off in October, but there’s going to be spot shows and we’re going to be doing rehearsals for the next tour that we do because “Maybe” is coming out, so “Maybe” is the third single, and it’s already doing pretty well in active and alternative, and it’s starting to get in the pop charts a little bit, so we’re going to be moving that forward. We’re probably going to be putting six months of solid energy into getting people to hear that song, and see if we can grow our audience a little more out of that. So that’s the plan for the moment, we’re trying to make our sound a little more dynamic, take a few things out, put a few things back in and get the hell back out on the road, that’s what we do. Thoughts of new records and stuff like that, it’s funny, once you hit the one year mark, everyone asks about a new record, and some bands are out on the road, and we’re not one of those bands.

Mark: We want to release six singles on this album, you know?

You’ve been all around the country and a few others, what cities have impressed you the most, or what places blew you away with the reception to the album?
Shim: So far, I think America definitely has the greatest response. You guys probably don’t even consider it, because you’ve lived here and played and seen music the whole time. But when you go to Australia, there is a different type of response, there is a little bit more of a laid back vibe, unless you’re Nickelback and you have pyrotechnics and explosions that just naturally get people crazy. It’s a little bit more difficult to reintroduce yourself to people. Whereas here, people come in with a weight already on their shoulders ready to let off with the show, and they’re prepared. It sometimes almost wouldn’t matter which bands were playing, they just want to go crazy and have a great time, and the fact that we happen to be the band there means we’re the lucky ones.

Most of America is pretty crazy, we’ve seen New York and LA and Chicago, the typical classic towns, the towns that everyone says you should go and see. But then there’s a lot of beautiful places down South, and then there’s places like Portland, Maine. You wouldn’t think “oh, you’ve got to go to Portland, Maine,” but that’s one of our favorite places to go.

You mentioned briefly Nickelback and other bands you’ve been on tour with, if you could throw together your dream tour of band X,Y, and Z, who would be on it with you?
Shim: [Thinking a minute] Could I safely say…Rage [Against the Machine], Incubus and Silverchair?

Emma: Yeah, you can safely say that.

Mark: Yeah, and Nickelback would open.

Shim: Or Muse. Problem is though, I would want to open that show.

Emma: You wouldn’t want to play after them

Shim: No one wants to play after Muse, or Rage…maybe Silverchair and Incubus because they’re not quite as heavy.

Tell me about horror movies for a second--
Mark: Did you know “You’re Going Down” is in the new Wes Craven film?

Emma: Yeah, called “My Soul to Take.” It’s in the trailer.

Mark: It’s like, the main song. It’s in the trailer and everything.

So, you guys are horror fans?
Mark: She’s a big fan. We all are kinda, yeah.

Emma: Big, big, big fans. You are, obviously. What’s your favorite?

Probably “Jaws”—
Emma: Oh! A thriller!
“Jaws,” “Suspiria,” all the old stuff by Argento, like “Opera.”
Emma: I tried to watch “Suspiria,” I don’t know what happened. I think I watched like half of it. Have you seen the movie called “Splinter?” Or “Teeth?” It’s pretty insane, actually. One of our reps is really into it, and he burned us “Suspiria,” “Teeth” and “Splinter” which is really good. I like B or C grade horrors, just so long as the production values are good enough and believable, then that’s fine by me, I don’t really care. I’m easily pleased.
So you have favorites, then?
Emma: Well, I liked “Hostel” 1 and 2, I thought that was pretty insane. Only because the concept was like, that could actually, maybe happen. It wasn’t out of this world where that’s never conceivable.

Mark: The “Saw”s were like that, too.

Shim: The “Saw”s were amazing.

Emma: I like the new ones, the new horror movies.

Shim: Is “Hostel” one of those ones where if you saw it, you would not go backpacking?

Emma: Yeah, it’s a little like that. It’s pretty—

Mark: The first one I thought was better. You thought the second one was better?

Emma: I thought the first and second, they both…like, for the first time in a horror movie, I had to, the second one, for the first time in a horror movie, I had to look away. I usually don’t have to look away, I’m pretty “okay, cool,” but I was like “oh my God, this is actually too much.” So, I kinda like that one.

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This week we discuss alchemy, camera technology, a first time guest host joins the show, and we review "As Above, So Below".  

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