It’s usually a tough fork in the rough to have to face when a band looks at replacing a lead singer. It’s even tougher when the singer has passed away and you have to do some soul searching to determine if you continue on at all. That issue faced Art of Anarchy after their lead singer Scott Weiland passed away in 2015. The band, which is comprised of Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (Guns N’ Roses), John Moyer (Disturbed) and brothers Jon and Vince Votta, already had a debut album under its wings with Weiland on vocals, but now they were at a crossroads. Their manager brought up another controversial Scott to take over lead vocal duties in the band. That Scott happened to be former Creed vocalist Scott Stapp. Would it work out? Would there be any drama? Would there be creative chemistry between Stapp and the band? All you have to do is give one listen to the band’s new album that’s entitled The Madness to be able to tell. These five guys sat down in room and created something very special for all of us to listen to and enjoy. We had the privilege of sitting down with bassist John Moyer and talking about the new album, taking a chance on Stapp and much more.
Was there ever consideration for not continuing on after the death of Weiland?
John Moyer/Art of Anarchy: Between Scott Weiland distancing himself from the band and then later on passing away, I just didn’t think that Art of Anarchy was going to continue on at all to be honest. It wasn’t at the forefront of my mind at the time; Disturbed was ramping up because our five year hiatus was ending. We were planning our comeback with Immortalized and that was my focus at the time. Our manager, John Gomez, really didn’t want to give up because he thought we really had something special here. He thought that we needed to reach out to Scott Stapp and I was a little surprised. Scott (Stapp) has his own history of issues that he’s definitely overcome in an amazing way and he’s really in a great place right now. I didn’t know him personally, so I thought ok, let’s see how this goes. We met with him, it seemed like a good fit and the next thing I knew, we were doing this. We were continuing with Art of Anarchy, Scott was on board and we started working together.
So, your manager was the person who brought Scott into the mix?
Our manager and guitar player Jon Votta were talking and Jon may have mentioned it first in passing, but then our manager was tenacious about it. He reached out to Scott (Stapp) and got us all to meet together.
Weiland and Stapp are both such creative and gifted artists who are similar in many ways, yet completely different in others. How did the dynamics of the band change when Stapp entered?
The first record was a little more one dimensional in that most of the music was written ahead of time by our guitarist Jon Votta and then Bumble helped him produce it. Then, they reached out to me and Weiland to round out the record. Weiland did his own take on the songs out in California and then send us the tracks, but this time it’s completely different. We write the songs as a group and there’s a lot of input from everybody. It’s much more personal with this band and when you have multiple people collaborating together, that’s when you create something really unique. When Scott (Stapp) got involved, he was very clear that he liked the last record, but that we needed to find out who we were and what our identity was as a band. That was the biggest hurdle to overcome initially; we jammed together for a couple of days trying to write the first batch of songs. The first song that we wrote was “The Madness” which is the first single and after that was written, two others “No Surrender” and “I Won’t Let You Down” quickly followed. Off of those three songs, we started figuring out the vibe of the band and were able to start crafting out the rest of the record.
I know that sometimes members are in separate places when these things are put together, but it sounds as if you guys were all in the same room together.
Yea, we did it old school.
I always wonder how you capture that chemistry if you’re not in the same room together.
At the beginning of the record, we were in the same room and then because of my schedule with Disturbed, I ended up doing some bass lines at the end of the process on the road and sending them in. Sometimes you have to use technology to help push things out, but that initial push and the initial creation happened with all of us together.
Did Bumble produce this one as well?
He sure did; he produced, engineered and mixed it as well. He killed it!
Wow, the guy definitely wears a lot of hats!
He is super talented!
So, you guys had your first show together earlier this month?
In October, we did a show a little show at The Grammercy where we did four or five songs from the record as a little preview, but our first full length show was just a week or so ago and now we’re seven shows in as a band.
So, you’re still getting everything broken in.
(Laughs) Yes, but it’s good though; we’re really enjoying it. The day after a show we talk about what we can do to make things better, whether it’s rearranging the setlist or finding a better way to introduce a song and it’s coming together quite quickly.
We had an online question submitted from Jason in California who wanted to know the inspiration for “Changed Man.”
The lyrics in “Changed Man” are incredibly personal and it’s just Scott basically telling his wife to take him back. I know I messed things up and I know I turned our life upside down, but give me one more chance, I’m a changed man. It pretty much speaks for itself and it’s him telling his wife, who is actually out on the road with us right now, to take me back.
The music nerd in me loves to know if there’s a story behind a band’s name, so tell me about Art of Anarchy.
I think it was our drummer Vince who came up with that name. When the band was still al project that we were putting together, we knew we needed a name for it. Then, kind of out of nowhere Vince said Art of Anarchy. We had a list of five favorites that we bounced around and that one kind of rose to the top. Also, I liked the fact that the initials were AOA and it would look cool on a t-shirt.
The record has been out for a few weeks now, so what’s the feedback been like so far?
Oh man, the fans have been great! There’s already been feedback at the shows of how the music is already affecting people personally. To me, what’s even more surprising is that we’re getting a lot of great critical reviews. The critics are actually reviewing the record very highly and I don’t always get what critics are thinking sometimes. I can’t live my life according to what somebody else thinks of my music personally, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see that a lot of critics are liking the record and that’s pretty cool.
I think that Scott (Stapp) is kind of behind the eight ball with some people and with the critics and they don’t necessarily want to give him an honest chance. He’s still a hell of a songwriter and he can still sing his ass off, so it’s great to hear that the critics are giving it a fair chance.
I think that Scott is definitely an underdog and you’re absolutely right because he seems like he’s always behind the eight ball, but at the same time he has an incredibly loyal fan base who love him and his story. They see the man that he is and what he’s overcome as well as his strives to be a better person. That other side of him shines through and you can hear it on this record. He’s in great shape right now and he’s almost two and a half years sober. He’s in a great place and people can say what they want to about him and all we can do is move forward. I love this record and we’re going to keep hacking away as a band and playing as many shows as we can while we spread the word.
Speaking of shows, it’s amazing that the stars lined up with everyone’s schedules and have allowed you play these live dates.
The timing of it worked out incredibly well. Disturbed had finished up their touring cycle in Moscow on March 17 and on March 28 I was in New York shooting a video with Art of Anarchy and getting ready for this tour. It’s a short run right now, but then we will be touring more in late summer.
What’s it like for you to go back into these smaller venues given what you’ve been playing with Disturbed? I don’t know if it’s a back to roots feel or what after playing those huge arenas.
People ask me all the time whether I like arenas or clubs better and of course I like the arenas (laughs). I won’t lie; bigger is better! I just love to play to an audience and there is something to be said for when I do play the clubs. It’s more up close and personal and you have really die-hard fans that are coming to the club to play for.
You definitely have a busy schedule and I’m not sure if you have much time for tv, but are you a binge watcher of anything?
I do watch a lot of Netflix and I’m into super hero stuff too. The Flash tv show is one of my favorites; I watched all of Daredevil, the Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones stuff. I’m all caught up on game of Thrones and I’m nuts about all of that stuff.
Did you see the trailer for The Defenders?
I haven’t yet, but I do need to check it out. The one thing that I haven’t watched yet is Iron Fist, but I’ve been hearing that it wasn’t good. I know I’ll eventually watch it though and make the decision myself.
If you could have a super power, what do you think it would be?
It would be cool to fly; that would be awesome.
Do you have any touring foods dos and don’ts?
That’s tough; when you’re ordering your after show food, don’t even bother with french fries. They’ll be cold when you get off stage and they just don’t heat up in the microwave. So basically, whatever you order for after the show, you have to think about the environment that you’ll be eating in.
John, I truly appreciate you taking the time to talk to us today. Is there anything else on your radar that you want to mention?
I think you got it; our single and record are both called The Madness and we hope you’ll check them out. We’re trying to get the word out there because everyone knows who Scott Stapp is, but they may not know that he’s in a band with Bumblefoot and myself. We’re trying to get the music out there so that the people can listen to it and make the decision themselves. I think he’s singing in a way that he’s never done before on this record and as a band we are trying to do something different than what we’ve done before in previous projects.
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