Anon have been around the south coast for a few years now however, their recent live shows (which have been few and far between) have been going down rather well with the Joiners’ crowd. It seems punk/techno just didn’t die with the Prodigy (as another sell-out NIN tour would testify) and is actually alive and very well.
Our Pete H caught up with Mike Spall, the brains behind Southampton’s Anon, for a quick chat about all things music, political and just what makes Anon tick.
How did you come up with your band name? Was it a case of just wanting to remain anonymous or were you after something difficult to pigeonhole?
There is an element of that, but there has never been any real attempt to remain anonymous. It is more a statement of intent, that the music is far more important than the people making the music. Plus, whilst I am the main driving and creative force, it leaves the band open to all kinds of possibilities, both live and in the studio. I am not confined to having to work with the same musicians every time.
However, we do have a core band at the moment which is excellent, but it also means that not only am I free to work with a multitude of musicians, but they are also free to go off and explore their own things. It keeps it all fresh and also stops ego clashes and all the other crap that goes with being in a more traditional band set-up. I only have myself to blame if no one likes it!!
In one sentence how would you best describe your music?
Punk techno metal! At the moment anyway!
Was it a conscious decision to mix different styles and cross genres or did it come about more organically?
Absolutely deliberate, although I do find it a very organic way of writing. I have always been a great believer that there are fundamentally only twelve musical notes and everything else is a variation on that. Therefore the possibilities are limitless.
I am into a lot of different styles of music, so I want to mix it all up. Like with the song ‘Skank’, I deliberately wanted to marry ska, drum ‘n’ bass and rock and make it all sound completely normal!
The trick is, that no matter how bizarre the influences or the marriage of styles, it still has to have good hooks and have an element of accessibility – then you can get away with anything!
Who/what would you consider are your most inspiring musical influences?
Trent Reznor, Prodigy, Pink Floyd, U2 (controversial one that because most people I know hate them!!), RATM, Senser, Dub War, I could go on all day. All music can be an influence, even stuff I don’t normally listen to.
In your opinion what’s the thing that sets Anon apart from the rest?
Ha Ha! The ‘ego’ question! Because Anon has absolutely no desire to pander to trends or fashion.
I write about important things that are either considered taboo or worse still there seems to be a stigma attached to writing about political or social issues these days. It is not cool anymore! Well, bollocks to that, I’m sick to death of a billion bands writing a billion songs about absolutely fuck all! Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for that and there are plenty of bands I like that have nothing to say whatsoever, but, certainly at the moment, I have no desire to write about mundane things.
Maybe when I’m older and less bothered by the world (which is unlikely!), but there has never been any agenda with Anon. If I do one day decide to write a love song, then I will. I can’t spend my life worrying about contradicting myself. There are a lot of bands that are so scared of that, so they just regurgitate the same old crap and then wonder why people go off them.
Creatively, there are no boundaries, as long as I stick to the things I believe in, then the world is my oyster! Plus, let’s be frank, I don’t spend my life chasing the record deal and trying to be famous, so none of it is really a big concern! If more bands spent more time enjoying it and just doing it they would get a lot more out of it and ironically, they’d probably be more successful!
Knowing that some girl in Middle America who I have never met loves Anon is all the knowledge I need. As long as someone likes it, then great, everything after that is just a bonus. I will always write music whether people want to listen to it or not.
So yeah, err, selfless creativity for the sake of it, with added lyrics to shock and make people think, that is what Anon has to offer, Ha Ha!
I’m rambling now!!
So how long has Anon been going?
About three years as a writing project, but I only started taking it out as a live band since December last year. The response we have been getting has generally been very positive, although not always!! Ha Ha!
New material like ‘Skank’ and ‘Bombs’ seem to show a more angrier side to Anon compared to earlier recordings. Has the music changed along the way?
Yes and no. I mean ‘Skank’ is a very tongue-in-cheek look at drug culture based very much on personal experience. There is always a lot of sarcasm in my music, a very British thing I know. Although ‘Skank’ was actually written about two years ago.
‘Bombs’ is angry and probably the only real moment of anger on the record. The whole idea of violence and terrorism makes me so mad, although I do worry that some braindead morons will just not get it and think I am actually condoning violence! The rest of my lyrics undoubtedly have an element of anger, but like I say, it is littered with sarcasm and subtle humour. It’s not all doom and gloom, put it that way!
That said, I am very much of the opinion that if I have nothing to say, then say nothing at all. Often, my lyrics only have a few lines. I find it quite easy to get a message across in a few words, although that does make filling up a song difficult, but then repetition can be a good thing, drills the message into people’s heads!!
Live, Anon have evolved from one man and his PC to something more angsty and progressive. Would that be a fair description?
Well, I always knew that if Anon was to become a live project, it would be pointless and too much hard work to try and completely re-create it live. I would either need about ten musicians or a ridiculous amount of synths and machines. I just didn’t see the point.
All of us in the live band have more than proved we can play with a live drummer in previous projects (well, currently one of them actually is a drummer normally), so we have nothing to fear about playing with backing tracks. Certainly anyone who has seen us live will undoubtedly agree we are 100% a live band, minidisc player or not!! Although I am not ruling out introducing a live drummer at some point, we’ll see what happens. Never say never!!
It is certainly a lot heavier, although I hate the word angsty. I’m a bit old for teenage angst. It is much more observational than that. Almost taking the piss out of angst and the whole notion of anarchy.
Someone recently said we were anarchists and I was actually a bit offended. Too many people don’t realise what the word means. I’m not generally into the idea of anarchy that leads down the same road as terrorism. I just want to make people think and I like to think that there is actually quite a positive message in my lyrics. Get people to get off their lazy, TV meal asses and do something good, but I figure if you openly say those things, people just dismiss it as pretentious crap. So if the message is dressed up as anger and frustration then people react better. It’s a bit like when you fancy a girl at school and you take the mickey out of her, as long as you don’t cross the line of course, otherwise curiosity will be replaced by a smack in the face!!
So, where was the first gig you ever played and what was it like compared to today’s shows?
Well, we’ve only played four shows to date! Ask me again in a year!
Where was the best gig you ever played and why?
Well, of the four we’ve done already, definitely when we supported Amoki on their last show at The Joiners, Southampton. Save for a few people we had brought along, no one knew who we were and we had a stunned room listening in awe! Sold quite a few albums and made a few friends I think!! The energy that night was awesome!
What was your most embarrassing moment whilst playing live?
Ha Ha! Well, I wouldn’t say embarrassing, but the day after the Amoki show we played in Winchester with a load of indie and pop punk bands and we went down like a sack of potatoes! I had a terrible sore throat that came on the morning of the Joiners show, so just about got through that, but by the Saturday night I felt like shit. Did the show anyway, had no reaction from the crowd and I got really pissy and angry about it, calling them all wankers.
Not my finest moment, I crossed the line! They probably deserved it though!! 😉
So what’s your take on the current state of modern music?
There is and always will be great music out there. Like I said before, no one is really writing about anything important anymore or if they are, it is so dressed up in innuendo that no one gets it anyway. I guess I like to be blatant about it!
The only thing I have noticed is that there seems to be a lot of ‘slightly shit’ music. At the moment it is almost like if you can’t sing very well, then it is ‘cool’, but if you have a great voice, then people often dismiss it as crap! Not sure if I understand that!
Going back to your music, how do you feel about illegal downloading, shareware and the likes?
Whatever really, I have always been a stickler for buying an actual copy of an album myself, but if people want to download it then fine. It is only a problem for bands that are only in it for the money. I have no illusion that Anon is hardly likely to get played on Radio 1, so as long as people are listening and enjoy the music, then great.
I always make a lot of my music available for free. I mean, I will sell my music, nice to cover fuel and CD costs, but to charge more than a fiver for an album is daylight robbery, so if bands insist on charging over a tenner then fuck ’em, they deserve to have their music ‘stolen’!
So come on then, if you were a groupie, who’s tour bus would you try and sneak onto and why?
Hmm, I’ve always been a bit scared of meeting people whose music I love. In one moment you could meet them, find out they are a complete wanker and then have years of great musical memories seem like a complete sham!
Saying that, I guess I would have loved to have been on the ‘scene’ during the sixties!
Anything else to confess?
I don’t actually mind Coldplay!! But then like I say, I like U2, so what the fuck do I know!! Ha Ha!!
Written by Habert on