February 21, 2014 Interview – Emma Anzai of Sick Puppies
Sometimes in life your biggest obstacle for achieving your dreams is yourself, believe in yourself and anything is possible. Australian trio Sick Puppies are living proof that through passion and determination rock-n-roll aspirations can become a reality. With Dressed Up as Life (2007) and Tri-Polar (2009) the band obtained two consecutive albums which broke the Billboard 200 chart, helping them become one of hottest bands in hard rock over the past seven years.
In 2013, they released their highly anticipated album Connect, further solidifying themselves among others in the rock scene. Now in 2014, Sick Puppies continue to rise, finding themselves co-headlining the ‘Revolver Hottest Chicks In Hard Rock Tour’ with Lacuna Coil. Recently we sat down with founding member, bassists/vocalist Emma Anzai, for a personal look at their love for music, keys toward achieving success, being a woman in rock, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been working hard with Sick Puppies for the better part of seventeen years now. You have accomplished a great deal in recent years with the band touring around the USA and a string of successful albums. Looking back now could you ever imagined to be where you are today?
Emma Anzai – Probably not. It is most definitely never how you imagined it. We had big dreams and aspirations, but you never actually think you are going to be sitting in that position five to ten years later. It is a very humbling experience. You know how they say it takes ten thousand hours to be successful at anything professionally? I think that might be true. It all depends on the person and the profession of course. We have been doing this a long time, and I think if you do something for long enough something will come out of it. Of course we never dreamed that it would be this. We are definitely surprised.
CrypticRock.com – It is very exciting and the hard work did pay off. Yourself and Shim have known each other since high school and stuck together as musical partners all this time. Tell me a little about the dynamic you two share as songwriters?
Emma Anzai – Yes we met in high school and it was a chance meeting in a music room. I think I was a year above him so I was not taking any classes with him or anything like that. We met by chance, how it happened, we were the only kids in school that didn’t mind playing Silverchair. They were huge in Australia, it was really cool to hate them, we were the only kids who played their music at lunch time.
We were the only two like minded people. We wanted to play music and we had a passion for it. That has stuck throughout the years. We have gone through a couple of drummers. We found Marco when we headed to LA, he has been our drummer since and we are a complete unit. I think there is a certain chemistry, once you have a chemistry with someone musically it does not go away. The more years you play together the more you gel, like any situation.
CrypticRock.com – Yes you have definitely had a good chance to get to know one another as musicians. You originally started out playing guitar early on, but you moved over to bass guitar. What was the transition from guitar to bass like for you?
Emma Anzai – It was done for practical purposes. I learned basic stuff like chords on guitar at the beginning, only because there was not a bass around, I had a guitar. It wound up Shim sung and played guitar. My main thing was I wanted to be in the band, it did not matter what I played, guitar or bass, so for practical purposes I said I’ll play bass. In my naivety as a kid, I thought how hard could it be to pull strings, it is like a guitar. That is kind of how I went into it and I realized, wow there is a whole other world that is bass, it is like an augmentation of guitar and drums. You have the rhythmic aspect that you can explore and you have the melodic aspect. I really got into it after that, and I think it was meant to be.
CrypticRock.com – It has proved to be a good decision. You also made the decision as a band to leave your home in Australia and move to North America to further pursue Sick Puppies. Was it a difficult decision?
Emma Anzai – You know it really was not. The reason Shim and I bonded so quickly I think was not only because we had a mutual chemistry but also our backgrounds. We did not have a huge family, my parents weren’t in the country, they lived somewhere else. We kind of both came from disjointed backgrounds. It is hard to explain, we did not really have big families there to make it our home at the time. It was not difficult at all. The drummer we had at the time in the band quit unexpectedly, so that was when we said ok should we do this? We all decided to make the move. It was difficult getting over here because we had to work, save up money, and come over here three months at a time and then go back. There is only a three month tourist visa that you can come over on from Australia then you have to go back. We did that a couple of times to establish contacts, and establish how we were going to do it. That part was difficult, but the actual decision to do it was not.
CrypticRock.com – It is safe to say it worked out well for the band. The band’s latest album Connect (2013) is really a dynamic record. There are a lot of tracks on the album which see the band branching out in style and sound. What was the writing process like for the record?
Emma Anzai – It was much like the others. We kind of have a formula going on. We write everything acoustic, even if it is a rock song. We believe if it sounds good acoustically, when you add all the layers of electric guitar and everything it will be massive. You know how they say if you breakdown a song with all this fancy production and it is not a great sound acoustically, that is kind of a telling? We just write acoustically, we did that same thing with this album. We explored different textures. We kind of went out on a limb a little bit more on some of the tempos. One of the tracks someone likened to The Beatles, that is very complimentary obviously. We thought let’s do that kind of stuff, we never really explored that world quite so much on our other albums. We thought let’s do something different because we did not want to do the same thing over and over again. Overall it was the same, we just wrote it on acoustic guitars.
CrypticRock.com – I think it worked out excellent. This is one of the most dynamic records the band has done, and in time, it will prove to be the band’s best record to date. You recently started the ‘Revolver Hottest Chicks In Hard Rock Tour’ with Lacuna Coil, Eyes Set To Kill, and Cilver. That is an excellent mix of bands. How excited are you for this upcoming tour?
Emma Anzai – Very, this is the first time we have toured with bands that all had girls in them. It is something early on I really craved because it is a very male dominated scene; lots of crew guys, and guys in bands. It was hard to find a girl or two to talk with, there would only be one or two usually. I am pretty excited this time around there will be a lot of girls.
CrypticRock.com – It will be an excellent tour with a great mix of bands. As you said it really has been a male dominated industry, but it seems as if in recent years there are a lot more bands led by females and featuring female members such as Sick Puppies. It is really quite great to see this happening more. How do you feel about the fresh influx of female influence in rock and metal?
Emma Anzai – It feels pretty good. Early on there wasn’t that much; you had Flyleaf, Evanescence, and Paramore, but there seems to be more now. I do not know if it feels like that because we are going on tour with a bunch of bands with girls in them, but the spotlight seems to be shining a little more on it. That is great because the one thing I always hear touring and hanging out at the merch table is girls saying it is good to see other girls actually doing this. I guess they mean they never thought they could. I think that may be one thing that holds girls back, that they don’t think they can. It is good to see girls actually doing it because it will probably promote more girls to do it.
CrypticRock.com – I agree with you. I think that is exactly what is happening, you have all these bands with females a part of them like yourself, Halestorm, and Eyes Set To Kill; which is inspiring to get involved in rock music. What advice would you give to young women looking to start a music career?
Emma Anzai – Probably to give away the ideology that you cannot do it because you are a girl. I know it sounds feminist or something like that, but it is just the facts. It is like anything you do in life, if you think you cannot then you are probably right. You have to know you can, that is difficult within itself. That is the first thing, then second you have to get together with a bunch of people that you trust, like, and are good people. You have to love what you do, and then I think you can then pretty much do anything.
CrypticRock.com – That is a very good and positive outlook to have. I would like to know what some of your musical influences are?
Emma Anzai – They change over the years, but the one that always sticks is the one you grew up with. I think I would have to say Silverchair was the band that got me into music. That is another thing, the reason why Shim and I loved Silverchair so much when we were kids because they were fourteen when they started, and that was unheard of with a band touring internationally and hits on the radio. It was almost like a novelty. That inspired kids that were fifteen or even younger to pick up an instrument and start doing it. After that, then it would be probably Nirvana, Rage Against The Machine, and a little bit of Tool, but mainly Silverchair.
CrypticRock.com – What is interesting about Silverchair is they had such a great career earlier on, but they went on to make some really great music as adults as well. They really matured as musicians.
Emma Anzai – They did. They changed so dramatically between albums, it may have lost some people. That was their choice and their vision as a band. I was even shocked their last couple of albums were so different than their first two. They are still a great band.
CrypticRock.com – Totally. My last question for you is regarding films. Crypticrock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of horror films and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
Emma Anzai – I used to be more into horror films. I would not call myself a horror film buff, however; the ones I did see, I’d have to say Hostel films. They are a bit more modern I guess, but they were pretty crazy. They are the ones that shocked me the most I would say.
CrypticRock.com –Those were pretty intense and graphic films.
Emma Anzai – Yes and realistic though. I really love when it is realistic, that makes it even more scary.
CrypticRock.com – What do you think about all the CGI they use in films now a days?
Emma Anzai – In a way, there are so many sub-genres of horror films. Cabin In The Woods (2012) was really good because it was a completely different spin on it with special effects and all that. I kind of liked it because it was a whole other genre of horror films. I do not mind it.