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Art of Anarchy’s Scott Stapp: ‘I Do Believe There Is a Journey’ in ‘The Madness’ Album [Interview]

Liz Ramanand, Loudwire
Liz Ramanand, Loudwire

Art of Anarchy‘s path has been an interesting one. The band recorded an album with the late Scott Weiland on vocals, but the singer balked at supporting it in favor of focusing on his solo work. Their need for a new vocalist led to the addition of Creed frontman Scott Stapp and the fit has seemingly been a perfect one. The group’s new album, The Madness, arrives on March 24 and the title track has garnered rave reviews.

Loudwire recently had a chance to chat with Stapp about joining the band and what made it the right fit, how the recording process provided new challenges and had him elaborate on the very personal nature of some of the album’s key songs. Check out our chat with Art of Anarchy’s Scott Stapp below:

When you have a bunch of guys from different acts coming together, especially guys that have had some success, there’s no guarantee it’s going to work. What were you looking for going into this project? Obviously they had all worked together on one album before you came into the band. What did you hope to get out of doing this?

Well, I think the number one thing that we were looking for or that I was looking for was just chemistry and also, just to work with good guys who wanted to focus on music and create something unique and special. You know, one thing that was real important to me, being in recovery, I wanted to be careful what kind of environment I was getting into. That was important for me. I just came to find out that three of the four guys in the band have never had a drop to drink or done a drug and that the band as a whole is not about that and was just focused on the music and creativity so that really helped with my final decision.

Coming into this band, can you take me through the process a little bit? How much of you coming into the band was an open slate and how much of it was “We’ve got some music and let’s see how you sound on this”?

It was very organic, you know, it was all written organically from scratch from the time we all got together in John Votta’s basement. We just did it, I guess the old fashioned way. We got together and just started free styling ideas and jamming and we’d grip onto ideas and see where that would take us and just began the creation process there. That’s how the majority of the record was written. There was a couple of songs that I had previously demoed that I had just laying around and probably be used on my next solo record and I played them for the guys and they really loved the songs and so we went ahead and added those to the record, but eight out of the 10 songs were just written from scratch as a band man, the old fashioned way.

You talked about coming into the band and the relationships that you formed. I had read that you were loving what Bumblefoot is giving in terms of being a producer. Can you talk about the relationship with Bumblefoot and John Moyer and how’s that’s developed since you joined?

Well, I’ll tell you man, everyone in the band is so down to earth and real and humble and Bumblefoot is all of that and more. Just a very genuine good-hearted guy and extremely talented. I mean not only is he just a virtuoso on guitar, but he’s a really talented producer and engineer. I think that really helped the process. As we were writing, and then began demoing, you know, where we could kind of create and build songs in the studio as we were writing them. He just brings so much to the table. He’s one of the most talented musicians I have ever worked with and more.

And John, what can I say, he’s a fun loving guy, good guy, again very down to earth and real and everyone is just so easy to get along with and unpretentious, and that really just made the whole scenario very welcoming and very conducive to creativity, and experimenting, and trying new things and the Votta brothers are the same way. Good guys, all hard working guys, and just solely focused on the music and the song, specifically. Me and Bumblefoot really gelled in the studio working together throughout the whole process, and I definitely learned from him, and I think he would say the same for me. So it was a very positive experience.

You’ve been very open about your past struggles and I know some of that informs what we hear on the Madness album. How much discussion was there with the band about how much of yourself you were going be revealing and what you wanted to do in terms of the lyrics on this album?

The band was really cool, man, and they really left the content and the lyrical direction up to me. They gave me that freedom and just let me share and open up and share whatever was in my heart man and you know they were supportive of the direction I was going lyrically and what I was talking about. Anytime I needed to bounce something off the guys to kind of get some affirmation, like hey man you hear this, you like where I am going with this? They were very positive and very encouraging and just let me be me. I really appreciate that about them.

This was kind of a different process for you, so it required you to take a little bit of a leap of faith and challenge yourself. It’s a little different working process. Can you talk about how the music pushed you vocally, maybe in a new direction?

Yeah, you know, I don’t know if you can hear what I’m talking about after hearing the record but I did go in some different directions vocally. Definitely tried a little variations stylistically even pitch and key wise. I think the music really pushed me to go in that direction, so I just embraced it and looked at as an opportunity to do something new and different than I had ever done before. One of things that made this process so unique and different than anything I have ever done before is you got four other guys are involved in every song, in the creation process.

So it was a healthy dialogue and everyone had their opinions and at the end of the day we all wanted what was best for the song and so we got to that point. But it was definitely a unique experience having four other guys so passionate about the songs during the creation process. It really in the end made each song the best that it could be and also injected each band member’s different influences and stylistics approach into every song. I think you can hear that cause we can go from something very melodic, to something very metal in heartbeat, on this record. I think that’s a reflection of the various backgrounds of each band member and their identity.

Getting into the music, “The Madness,” the title track has been out there for a little while now. Can you talk about where that came about in the process of putting this record together and maybe a little bit of info on where that song comes from?

You know it was well publicized and documented what happened, the crisis in my personal life three years ago. This record was an opportunity for me to kind of process all of that, going from that place in my life to where I am today. So it was a great outlet for me to express those experiences and that journey from that place and the madness in itself. That’s the single and is really kind of diving into that crisis head on, really kind of painting a picture of where my mind was during that low point in my life. Then also having a epiphany so to speak of what was separating me from peace and freedom that I so desperately wanted in my life and that’s where the term the madness came in.

Because the madness was separating me and that applies to a couple different things in my life, that applies to the madness alcohol and addiction can bring to life, specifically my life, as well the madness caused by depression and my struggle with that over the years. I think what makes it so relatable outside of those specific issues is anything that separates us as human beings from love and peace and freedom and joy and happiness is madness in itself. I think It can also have a more general meaning but that specifically is where that song came from for me.

Listening to this record, “Changed Man” is a great song, but can you talk a little bit about the family response on that? I’m assuming that was for your wife — if you want to talk about the soul-baring of that track.

Man, that song lyrically came two years before I even met the guys in Art of Anarchy. It was something I didn’t even write down. It was basically, when the music was written for that song, and I got inspired. Basically I was recalling a conversation and dialogue that I had with my wife after the crisis we had three years ago, getting to a point where she had almost had enough and had gotten to the place where she felt she may have had enough. It was just me, just breaking my soul after I had gotten to the other side and finally felt like I was in a place where my demons weren’t controlling me. I knew the steps I had to take to stay in sobriety and stay in recovery.

Once I had gotten to that point, where at least I had the knowledge. It’s always up to me on whether I’m gonna make that decision every day, and that’s why I live one day at a time like I say in that song. It’s really just my heart to my wife — just fessing up and owning up to hey man, I know what I put you through but I love you and I hope that you can see after these last two years the work that I’ve put into changing my life. I hope that you can see me as this new person that I’m becoming and want to be. I kind of classify that as a changed man. So, it’s a love song man, but based on real life events. That’s three years ago, virtually the whole world saw transpire in front of their eyes.

I know singles are a tricky thing but for me “A Thousand Degrees” has to be something you guys put out there at some point. That sounds just like a hit in the making. If you want to talk about that and where that comes from.

That song in particular is really just a very critical and real observation of a person that I used to be and that I will always have in me if I choose to go back and leave my recovery. It’s just a song that is reflecting on all the things and damage that I’ve done in certain areas in my life, while I was drinking and drugging. I describe myself with that person in mind, not the person that I am today but with that person who’s out of control and abusing alcohol and what that person is and who that person is. So it’s a very reflective song on a part of my path that I hope forever stays behind me. I don’t ever want to be that person again, man. I fight everyday to make sure that I’m never going back to be that person again.

“Afterburn,” I’ve seen you talk a few times about how much you love that track. So, tell me about why that song stands out to you so much.

That is basically just me talking about and characterizing as afterburn. Those memories and things in your past that you can’t change but still haunt you. It’s a song, really, talking about the battles that you have in your mind even though you may be on the right path now, you still look back and you see things in your life that you wish you could have done differently had you been where you are now. And how those things can haunt you and forever. I call that living in the afterburn because those things are just firmly imprinted and burned into my mind, man. That’s something that I have to live with. I think there’s a little bit — one of the themes in this record is that reflecting on things that I regret but there’s also a theme of moving forward and a new beginning and a new life. But all of it came out of going through the madness.

While it will be exciting for you guys to release the album, on a deeper level, this has to be therapeutic to get this off your chest both on record and playing these songs for audiences.

Yeah man, yeah. Absolutely. Everything came together at a time where this record did become a very therapeutic process for me. Looking back at all the records I’ve ever done, they’ve always had that element in them. But this one in particular was very therapeutic for me. I’m really glad to have had the opportunity to express myself and get this out there and then move forward. I’m very proud of this record, I’m proud of what we did. Man, as a band just getting together and hardly knowing each other and really learning and getting to know each other during the process of creation. It was a very unique experience.

From what I’ve seen and read, it seems like a very collaborative process. I’ve heard you refer to is as the “king of the garage days” of starting over again and building songs up. Let’s discuss that and on going from the garage to now seeing how this is gonna translate live. I know you’ve played the one show, but, how much are you looking forward to getting out there and continuing to build this in the live setting?

I love playing live, man. I’m really looking forward to getting out there, doing these shows and playing these songs live and connecting to the fans and just doing what I love. These songs have a lot of energy and I do believe there is a journey in this record and a story and it’s gonna be fun to get on stage with these guys and live with these songs every night and just connect with people one person at a time, make some fans. I’m excited about the future.

Our thanks to Art of Anarchy’s Scott Stapp for the interview. As stated ‘The Madness’ album arrives on March 24 via Century Media and you can pick it up via Amazon and iTunes. And having played their first live show last fall, Art of Anarchy will hit the road for extended touring beginning April 3 in Amityville, N.Y. See their scheduled dates here.

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