Art of Anarchy 2024

Interview – Jeff Scott Soto of Art of Anarchy

art of anarchy 2024

The modern Hard Rock and Metal scene has become quite compartmentalized in recent years. With offshoots of so many different sub-genres, it makes it difficult to know where to turn for hard-hitting, lively, modern Hard Rock with a Heavy Metal accent. Then you have a band like Art of Anarchy which reminds you that modern Hard Rock can be everything you are looking for and more.

A band with roots that date all the way back to 2011, unfortunately they are not as broadly known as could be due to messy situations with former vocalists. In short, they are a band that featured the late Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots as their vocalist for their 2015 self-titled album, but then recruited Scott Stapp of Creed for 2017’s The Madness. Two well-known, established names in Rock, sadly the partnerships severed… leaving Art of Anarchy left in limbo. 

However, with a new lease on matters, Art of Anarchy are back with a vengeance in 2024 following the release of Let There Be Anarchy. Their third overall studio album, it is the first to feature new Vocalist Jeff Scott Soto… and what a new teaming it is! Intense, dark, and heavy, the album hits on various levels, giving hope that Art of Anarchy’s present configuration sticks. Excited to be a part of everything, Jeff Scott Soto recently sat down to talk about his very diverse career, writing music, future plans for Art of Anarchy, plus more.

Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in Rock and Metal music for quite a few decades now. Lending your voice to a lot of projects through the years, you have worked with a lot of different people. Just to name a few, you have sung for Yngwie Malmsteen, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and Journey. Building a really fantastic resume, how would you describe this incredible journey you have been on in music to this point?

Jeff Scott Soto – I released my last solo album in 2022 and titled the album based on exactly that question. When somebody says, “How would you describe yourself as an artist?” Or, “How would you describe your career?” Basically, the album’s called Complicated… because that’s what it is. It’s a complicated answer; because you can’t really describe it or pinpoint exactly what it’s all about.

I have so many diverse influences that it’s impossible for me to challenge myself to all of them in one band or one situation. From that, this is one of the reasons why I’ve done so much. I need that many outlets to be able to follow through with what I hear in my head in terms of music and creativity.

Cryptic Rock – It is very interesting. It is great that you have kept things so diverse through the years. As stated, you have worked with so many different people. Some artists work with the same group of musicians their entire career. You have worked with the same people on separate occasions, but while keeping it very diverse. What is that like working with so many different minds in different outlets like that?

Jeff Scott Soto – For me, it’s extremely important because it only brought more to the table. For starters, being so heavily influenced by a band like Queen is a blessing and a curse; because that’s the kind of band that broke every musical barrier you can imagine and then made their own on top of it. To want to follow up with and be that kind of artist, to be that diverse, it’s a blessing; because it’s nice to have so much diversity, influence, and inspiration.

The curse is Queen are the only ones who could pull that off and actually get away with it. When somebody like me comes along and says, “I want to do Metal, Opera, Blues, Disco, Funk and all of the above,” people are going to go, “No, I don’t think so. Stay in your lane, dude.” Working with so many people has allowed me to challenge that and actually say, “I can do that.” I obviously don’t want to do it alone; because I do need the influence of others in those different genres and aspects of music and life to draw from so I can actually pull it off.

Cryptic Rock – Understandable. It is fascinating when you really look over your resume and what you have done over the decades. It is truly inspiring.

Jeff Scott Soto – Thank you. To me, it’s the only way it could have and should have been done. For better or worse, because I’ve been bashed in the past and was told – if you just stay in one lane, if you stay with one band, you might have a bigger name for yourself. Sometimes that’s not what it’s all about. The music and the diversity is more important to me than the fame and fortune of just one band, putting the blinders on and just pressing go.

Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force
Yngwie Malmsteen – Rising Force / Polydor (1984)
Talisman - Talisman
Talisman – Talisman Airplay/Vinylmania (1990)

Cryptic Rock – Absolutely. That is inspiring to hear as well; because that is artistic integrity right there. You are staying true to yourself and what your vision is as an artist. You do not see that very often in any walk of life. Sometimes people take the safe path.

Jeff Scott Soto – That’s exactly it. I was going to say exactly that. They play it safe because they realize that maybe their diversity or their yearning to be diverse is over the Average Joe’s head. They want to just cater to the Average Joe so they can have at least a healthy run in life doing what we do for a living. It does nothing for me if I can’t go out there and do other things that make me tick.

Cryptic Rock – Understandable. Now you are a part of Art of Anarchy, and you released an album with the band  back in February called Let There Be Anarchy. How did you become involved with Art of Anarchy?

Jeff Scott Soto – What I loved about this band musically is it was very reminiscent to the sound and vibe that I was going for with my latest incarnation. Everybody was confusing the band Soto with JSS.

When I do JSS, it’s kind of a culmination of everything I’ve ever done. It does everything from the Disco boogie nights, to Metal, to Hard Rock, AOR, and Journey Sound. It’s a little mix of everything. But Soto, I wanted to be a vehicle which was just identified as a modern contemporary, more of a Metal thing, not just a Hard Rock thing. I could do the Hard Rock thing with the JSS thing, but with Soto, I really wanted to get back to the really heavy roots and make it something that’s more contemporary and modern; not go back to the old classic roots.

When I first started Art of Anarchy, it reminded me musically and stylistically of Soto. I even told Bumblefoot how much I loved this band when we were doing the first Sons of Apollo tour in 2018. However, he was telling me that the band is pretty much done because they had two unsuccessful bouts with the two singers that were on the first two records.

They just didn’t want to have to go through that again with a third. I remember saying, “Oh, man, I wish you just got me in the first place. I would have loved to hear what my voice would have sounded like on that material.” I guess it might have resonated and stuck in the back of his head. Then we were just catching up again during 2020; during the lockdown when none of us knew when we were going to get back to work and when we’re going to get back to things. Catching up with Bumblefoot, it came up again , and I said, “What a bummer about this band. It would have been so cool to see what I sounded like with you guys.”

He reminded me, he said, “We’re not really doing anything with the band, but we’re still writing.” They were young and they just had a connection where they just kept creating together for no reason, just to write songs and get things. At the end of that conversation, Ron said, “You know what? Why don’t I just send you a couple of the new songs that we have just sitting around? We don’t know what we’re doing with it, just having fun with it. See what your voice sounds like just for the sake of doing it.” I said, “Great idea.”

From that, we ended up writing and creating two albums worth of material. Around 2023, it was time to get it serious and say, “I think we need to get this out and we need to reform the band and put this back together.” My little bucket list of I wonder what my voice would have sounded like with these guys… actually, now we know. Now we actually have a reference.

Cryptic Rock – Wow, and obviously you had the history together working in other projects. Art of Anarchy really does have a modern sound in a good way. You said you have two records worth of material. That is something to talk about a little bit more. Let There Be Anarchy is a really good record. Every song is strong. What was it like working on the material that make up this album?

Jeff Scott Soto – That was the thing. There was no pretext of the band’s going to be back. We were doing it so organically. Normally, especially when you already have an established band or an agenda, you have timetables. The label says they want the album out by this time; so, you have to start writing and creating it now. You got to deliver it by then. We didn’t have any of those timelines.

We didn’t have any schedules or deadlines. All we had was, “Let’s just see what it’s like to work together and write together.” Once we realized we actually were onto something, obviously, from that, we had to take the bulk of the songs and say, “These, as great as they are, might not work with these on the same album right now. Let’s make the kind of record that would kind of stick and resonate.” That’s exactly what we did.

The latter songs that we wrote were the ones that ended up finishing the album. Some of the earlier ones that we were writing together… they kind of told us where we wanted to go musically and stylistically for this record. I like to use the Van Halen/Van Hagar comparison. Van Halen didn’t pick up where they left off when they did 1984’s Fair Warning album. They sounded like a new version of Van Halen. Without reinventing themselves, it still sounded like Van Halen. You had that familiarity of the sounds, the tones, but the singers completely changed what they sounded like. For better or worse, for whichever version of the band that people prefer, they still sounded like a fresh new entity that was still the older entity, that was Van Halen.

That’s exactly what we wanted to go for in this. We didn’t want to reinvent the band’s sound. I didn’t want to try to sound like any of the Scotts and what they already previously did. We also wanted to make sure it sounded like the new version of the band that was palatable based on where they already came from.

Art of Anarchy 2015
Art of Anarchy – Art of Anarchy / Another Century (2015)
Art of Anarchy - The Madness
Art of Anarchy – The Madness / Another Century (2017)

Cryptic Rock – That makes sense completely. You add a different dynamic to the band, that is for sure. The band is heavier now. Maybe that is the songs you guys wrote together, but it seems a little heavier. Would you agree?

Jeff Scott Soto – Oh, yeah. Well, this album is certainly a little darker than their past albums. Again, I think a lot of the context of the lyrics, and even the vibe/style of the records, they were generally focused on the singers they had. They knew I could handle that heavier side. I know the brothers (Jon and Vince Votta), when they were writing with Ron and getting the material together. They might not have explored that with the other two singers, but they knew I could follow up with that and deliver that side.

It was a natural progression in the sound and does not steer or bear away too far from what they already established. You’ll hear that even when we do some of the oldest stuff live. I’ll be able to cover that stuff without sounding too different. It’s not going to sound, “Oh, God, that doesn’t work at all.” I make sure that I adapt my voice and what I do to those old songs is sing them true to the way people remember them.

Cryptic Rock – Right. It is great to see that you were able to connect with the band and continue Art of Anarchy. As you said, they have sustained their trials and tribulations with lead singers in the past. When you first started was it a matter of making them comfortable and saying, “I’m not going to flake out on you guys. Don’t worry, I’m here.” 

Jeff Scott Soto – That was absolutely one of my selling points to the guys; because clearly the wounds were still not healed. The hemorrhaging hadn’t stopped completely. I didn’t join this band in the traditional way they were used to getting their singers where they would seek them out. They would have to pay them to be part of it. They would have to entice them to be part of it. I went to them and said, “I want to do this with you.” They weren’t used to that. I think that was the first dynamic that made this a lot different than they were used to.

With the second one. I said, “Guys, if I’m doing this, I’m all in. I’m not just going to do it for a paycheck. I’m not going to only hang around if we have success. I’m doing this with you because, number one, I love the material. Number two, I feel the band got cheated because of whatever parameters that cheated you from pushing the band forward. The band had great material and had great potential. Number three, that’s just who I am. When I commit to something, I’m yours. I’m loyal. I’m going to stick it through. The times are tough. If you guys are in, I’m in. Let’s do this.”

Cryptic Rock – It’s exciting because, like you said, they did put together a lot of great material over the first two records. It does feel like they got cheated through the years. This new record also has lot of great material. Like we said, it is darker, it is heavier. There are two anchoring singles here. We have “Vilified,” which came out last year, and it has that really striking music video. Then “Die Hard,” another fantastic song. What led to the decision to say – these are going to be the songs that are going to be the leaders to show the world this is where we are coming from and what we are doing?

Jeff Scott Soto – Well, for starters, I’m the new guy here. I’m going to respect the decisions and the ideas that these guys have for their band. This is their band. I joined their band. Of course I’m an equal partner and a member of it. Of course they’ll listen to my ideas, etc. I’m stepping into something that already existed. I’m going to respect the fact that they probably have an agenda already written up in their heads, and I’m not going to counter it by saying, “Well, no, we should do it this way or that way.” 

It starts with the Votta brothers. They have a vision, and they had an idea of how they wanted to market, sell, and rebrand the band based on having a new singer and a new album. They came up with their game plan. I just sat back and said, “This sounds good to me. Let’s roll.” It starts with the brothers. They also run it by Ron; because he’s obviously the second longest member and part of all the decisions here. Then Tony and I, we just kind of kick back and say, “Cool, let’s do it.” If your ideas work… even better. If they don’t work… we find other things to adapt from and readapt from, and we go from there.

Cryptic Rock – That all makes sense. All the decisions have been good thus far. “Die Hard,” in particular, is heavy lyrically and musically. There is a lot going on in the song based on the world we are living today. It inspires you to stand up, and that really sticks with you.

Jeff Scott Soto – This is where I wanted the lyrics to resonate most. Obviously they were written during 2020, which clearly was a tumultuous time for everyone. Not just a chosen few… it was everyone. Whether you were dealing with PTSD from the lockdown, to religious or political division, there was so much going on that there was so much material to draw from.

Not to say that this song or that song is particularly about a person or about this situation or that situation. However, a lot of it was drawn from that. From that, I found my own kind of fictional versions of how to imply that and how to apply that into the lyrics. People can read the lyrics and say, “I know who that’s about,” or, “I know what that’s about.” You probably are way off the mark; because I always write a double entendre anyways.

I could be writing a song about a relationship; and it could be between a bad relationship between a boss or a former employee or something like that. You just never know with my lyrics, but I do that on purpose. I write a double entendre because if you’re reading the lyrics, I want you to have your own interpretation of what you think the lyrics are about. That makes it a little more interesting than me to say, “Oh, yeah, this is about this person. This is about that situation.”

It goes away then. Now, all of a sudden, you know what it is and you move on with your life. When I was growing up, I always wondered, “What this is about. Or, the lyrics make no sense in the general context.” Then when you find out what it is, “Oh, I didn’t even realize it was about that.” I loved that! Not playing tricks, but kind of giving another context to lyrics that aren’t so obvious. You take a song like KISS’s “Rock and Roll All Nite”… it’s not going to be about the political divide in our country.

Art of anarchy - let there be anarchy.
Art of Anarchy – Let There Be Anarchy / Pavement Entertainment (2024)

Cryptic Rock – Right. It is very much more straightforward, like you said. Your approach is a great way to write as well; because it does leave it open to interpretation. In that respect, it also does not alienate one person against other if there is maybe some political undertone to the song. It can really relate to anyone who is just dissatisfied with the trajectory of the world… no matter what side of an opinion they are on.  

Jeff Scott Soto – Exactly. Take the song “Vilify,” for instance. Originally, conceptually and thematically, I took the screenplay for The Joker (2019) in terms of all my life as an avid DC comics nut. I loved Batman. I loved all the characters. You always saw The Joker as the villain though. You never saw the why or how he became a villain. They never really focused on that. They never showed why he’s a bad guy, why he wants to take over the city, why all the dominance of evil, all that stuff. That is all you saw about him in the comic books or in the earlier movies.

The recent Joker movie tapped into what turned him into that. He was vilified from being somebody suffering from mental health issues. He was suffering from something that nobody would help him with, and it turned him into the person and the character that it became in the movie. I found that so fascinating. I used that context. I wrote about exactly that.

That’s what Cuba Gooding Jr. is portraying in the video. He’s portraying somebody who was vilified for something that happened to him; because he was sent out to fight for our country. He came home, and now he needs help, and he’s all alone. There’s your two contexts. The double entendre of taking something that people don’t understand, and all you’re doing is judging somebody, because you don’t understand what brought them there in the first place.

Cryptic Rock – That is really apropos to today’s world too. It seems like everything has become so black and white for many… and it is just not the way it is.

Jeff Scott Soto – Exactly. Again, these are fictional items that I’m writing about, but they could be non-fictional items; because it’s something that we all deal with. It’s something that we can relate to and we’ve heard of. It’s a real thing. It’s everyday things. I’m not writing about anyone in particular. I’m writing about many in particular. That’s where the context comes from.

Cryptic Rock – It is very fascinating and it makes for good music. 

Jeff Scott Soto – It is more interesting for me than just writing about frolicking in the dandelions with a hot chick. Those were the younger days. The lyrics of the younger days is talking about partying and hanging out with girls and all that. Now, there’s a lot more to write about.

Cryptic Rock – Right, as we get older, the context of what we write obviously changes.

Jeff Scott Soto – Of course. There’s that element. When you’re older, you’ve lived life a little more. You have other people and other experiences to draw from. Even if you didn’t experience them yourself, you had to deal with it or you learned to deal with it. There’s more context in life to write about. When you’re young, you’re writing about youth. You’re writing about the things that you’re doing and that make you happy as a young person. As you get older, those things change.

Cryptic Rock – Very true. You mentioned how you actually wrote enough material as a band for two records. Is there another album set to come out down the line? 

Jeff Scott Soto – Well, yes and no. I wouldn’t delegate those songs to the next album. All I was referencing is that they were in the beginning stages of what told us, “This is going to work and we should keep this going.” Of course we’ll revisit them. This band is all about evolving musically, concepts, and contextually. We will see if work in context of the next album; it is depending on the vibe that we want to put into it. Maybe some of those songs wouldn’t work for the next album as well, the way they didn’t work for this album. It really depends on where our heads are at and even what we want to write about that particular time, day, and month.

All of that comes into play when you’re working on a new album. Especially this album; it wasn’t even intentional that we were making a concept album or a theme-based album. It just kind of happened. Once we realized we had enough songs that were really drawing from the Book of Revelations, but looking into the future of where we’re going as a race, that’s where we decided, “Let’s focus on that for the rest of the songs that will fit on this record.” That’s what I said about the newer songs that we end up writing towards the end. They are the songs that ended up completing some of the ones from the earlier days when we were starting to get this thing together.

Cryptic Rock – Somehow it all came together cohesively. What is your personal collaborative writing style? 

Jeff Scott Soto – I get asked this all the time. Is my writing style to sit down with the guys and just bounce off ideas musically, etc? The answer is no. Even my own solo stuff, I don’t do that anymore. With Sons of Apollo, I didn’t do that.

I prefer the full canvas to work on. I prefer to listen to a song. I think, you guys have already chiseled out the parts and what you want to do on it. I think, let me complete it with what I feel and what it’s leaving me with. I always write and get my melodies and lyrics based on what the song is doing to me and for me.

I prefer that over sitting in the room with guys who do what they do best, coming up with the music, coming up with the riffs. I prefer just letting them handle that chore. We’re going to get better results than if I’m sitting with a guitar saying, “Hey, try this riff instead that is completely lame”… because I’m a terrible guitar player. (Laughs) 

Cryptic Rock – It all works well. You have a run of shows through the end of March. Is this sort of a prelude for more touring in 2024? 

Jeff Scott Soto – Yeah. I like to call this as ‘a run.’ Anything under 30 days or 30 shows to me is not a tour. This is more of a, “Let’s get our feet wet.” The band has been dormant for seven or eight years. They haven’t played on a stage together for so long. That is instead of, “The album’s out, let’s book a tour and hope people show up. Let’s hope people are interested in the new lineup and committing to something that we just don’t know yet.”

It is about creating the chemistry that we’re going to need for a tour before we actually book a tour. It’s not even about getting the cobwebs out; because we don’t have cobwebs together yet. We need to create cobwebs, and that’s what we’re doing. We’re going to start by just dipping our toes in the water, seeing how we mesh on stage, and seeing the kind of show that we can actually put together. All those things will be created and answered on these first eight shows that we have booked. Once we see if the album’s resonating and there’s interest out there, that’s when we go for it.

Cryptic Rock – Makes perfect sense… building momentum.

Jeff Scott Soto – Yeah. Building momentum, but more so building a demand. Nobody wants to go out there and hope that people are going to show up and that people are interested. You have to know… especially this day and age. You can’t afford to go out there and assume just because you have a new album, and just because you already have past success, that people are going to jump on it right away.

You’ve got to make sure that it’s there, or you’re going to either lose your ass or you’re even going to lose your will to do it; because when 80 people show up and you’re just going, “Oh, God, I’d rather just be home watching Friends right now.”

Sons of Apollo MMXX
Sons of Apollo – MMXX / Inside Out Music (2020)
Jeff Scott Soto Complicated
Jeff Scott Soto – Complicated / Frontiers Music (2022)

Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) Like you said, it is hard in this day and age. It is also easy to get lost in the shuffle with all of the content out there; good, bad, and indifferent. If the people really are exposed to this album, it is going to resonate with them. That is why it is great to get it out there and let people know it is there. 

Jeff Scott Soto – That is our mindset behind it. The young guns in the van, they’ll sleep in a van. They’ll sleep on a couch. They’ll rough it and do all of that to get on the road and live the Rock-n-Roll dream. Ron and I, we’re the veterans here. We’ve been there, done that. We’re not really interested in going out and kind of earning our badges.

We’ve earned our badges. We’re able to use our badges to help push the early stages of the band forward so people will gravitate towards it based on who we are and our involvement. The important thing for us now is for everybody to now garner that interest. For everybody to want to come to see the band; not just to come see Ron and I. That to me is exactly why we’re doing it this way. We want to make sure that we’re not going out there and wasting anybody’s time and losing our ass in the process.

Cryptic Rock – Right. Last question for you. You mentioned how you are a fan of comics and stuff. We cover movies on Cryptic Rock, too. I’m curious, are you a fan of Science Fiction and Horror movies at all? If so, do you have some favorites?

Jeff Scott Soto – Yeah. My Sci-Fi thing pretty much fizzled away after the last Star Wars prequels. After Revenge of the Sith (2005), before they started making just one after the other, I checked out of the whole Sci-Fi thing. The scary movie thing, Horror, and all that stuff, that was more in my youth. I love the Avengers movies. I love all that kind of stuff, but even that gets a little overkill. It turns into replacing life. It replaces everything in the box office. Everybody’s just trying to get on that cash cow of Marvel and comic books.

To be honest with you, that was one of the reasons why we made the video for “Die Hard” the way we did. We’re all comic buffs. Who doesn’t dream of being a superhero and being the good against evil kind of situation? When we got to do all those certain things in the video, it was a bucket list dream come true.

Cryptic Rock – It is a really cool video as well. 

Jeff Scott Soto – Yeah. It was a fun video to make. To watch, it’s a lot of fun because you remember what you had to do to get certain scenes. Then when you see how they pulled it together, “Oh, that’s so cool.”

I remember them interviewing us, and the director saying, “I need to know, in any comic book or adventure superhero movie, what scene or item would you have ever wanted to recreate?” I remember saying, “I’ve always wanted to throw a car, and I’ve always wanted to look like I’m being surrounded and I pound the ground and everybody goes flying off me.” They pull that off on both those scenes for me.

Cryptic Rock – It just amplifies the song too. About the Sci-Fi thing in modern cinema, it does become overkill. Like when you were just talking about the Star Wars, many have tapped out a long time ago. Disney likes to overdo things and it seems like it gets too much.

Jeff Scott Soto –  It’s too much. It gets homogenized. I’m a Star Wars nut for the first three movies. Even the third one, but it was starting to get a little too Disney for me. I love The Empire Strikes Back (1980) because it was dark. It was into Star Wars when it was deep and dark. Even the Captain Marvel movies, there are just too many of them. Everybody’s just trying to capitalize on this, and it just gets overkill.

Cryptic Rock – They do not really care about integrity, because like you said, it is a cash cow. Hopefully they will not kill it anymore for real comic fans.

Jeff Scott Soto – Without going into too much detail, we are discussing the ideas of a comic book. We have a lot of stuff in mind that we’re discussing; especially adapting the Art of Anarchy character that is portrayed in the “Die Hard” video and album cover for Let There Be Anarchy. I think we’re going to be running with that and do a lot more with the whole comic side of things. Once again, who doesn’t dream of being a comic book character or being in a comic book?

Art of Anarchy 2024 Tour Dates:
MAR 22 – Saginaw MI – The Vault
MAR 23 – St. Charles IL – Arcada Theatre
MAR 24 – Milwaukee WI – Shank Hall
MAR 26 – Battle Creek MI – The Music Factory
MAR 27 – Westland MI – The Token Lounge
MAR 29 – Mechanicsburg PA – Lovedraft’s
MAR 30 – Teaneck NJ – Debonair Music Hall
MAR 31 – Sellersville PA – Sellersville Theater
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