Tuesday, August 24, 2010

INTERVIEW: Sick Puppies

Sick Puppies
by Chad Cooper - July, 2010

Emma Anzai and Shimon Moore were classmates at Mosman High School in Sydney, Australia when they both professed their love for the band Silverchair, a group of teenagers from Newcastle, Australia who had already recorded two No. 1 rock hits in America, "Tomorrow" and "Freak."

"They inspired us to start," said Anzai. "Because of their age, they started when they were young, so we thought we could do that as well."

Silverchair's big break came when the band won a national contest in Australia, as did Sick Puppies, who won the annual Triple J Unearthed contest. "Then, the Internet wasn't as big as it is now and for bands in Australia, there wasn't a lot of avenues to be heard so basically we entered this. We couldn't believe we won it and things started happening pretty quickly. We recorded an album, got management, then did a few tours."

After a few years, the record label the band had signed a contract with had folded and their original drummer left the band due to a death in the family, so Emma, Shim and their manager Paul Stepanek wanted a fresh start - Los Angeles.

"With our genre of music, there was only so far you could go in Australia, so we decided to head to the States," said Anzai. "That's where all of our favorite bands were from and plus there it's a huge market for music. It was a bit of a risk because we were on three-month visas, so we got odd jobs and saved money. Through our management, we had some contacts and that's how it all got started."

Sick Puppies signed with Virgin and released Dressed up as Life in 2007. The first single, "All the Same," reached No. 8 on the Modern Rock charts and won the YouTube Video of the Year. "My World" was the second single off the album and it too found chart success.

The band then went back to the studio and recorded Tri-Polar and released it in July 2009. That gave Sick Puppies their first mega-hit - "You're Going Down." It charted at No. 2 on the Mainstream Rock chart and was used by the WWE for their official theme song for the pay-per-view "Extreme Rules" and their "Smakdown vs. Raw 2010" video game. It was also used in the 2010 movie Tekken.

Where did the name Sick Puppies originate?

Basically, there are a couple of stories going around, but the real story was Shim and I was trying to come up with a band name. Shim had several lists of names, took a train to visit his dad and thought of Sick Puppies. His dad knew he was trying to come up with a band name and suggested Sick Puppies. Shim thought what a bit of coincidence and that it was a good sign. We weren't really fond of it at the time because it was a little kiddish, but we were kids at the time and then it kind of stuck.

After your first major release, what musical direction was taken in the studio for Tri-Polar?

I guess we wanted to be more raw and heavy. When we toured playing Dressed up as Life, we played lots of big festivals with bands like Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace and Seether and we really got a feel of how to play live over here, because we had never done that before. We were finally maturing as a cohesive group with our new drummer Mark (Goodwin). We have a good mix on this album.

Any idea that your first single "You're Going Down' would be this successful?

We had no idea that single was going to do what it did. In fact, it was one of those songs that was always around. We had the chorus, but never really finished it. Someone suggested we finish it because of the good chorus. It got picked up by the WWE and we were very stoked on that because that exposed us to a new big audience that we would have never been exposed to and that's a whole other world. "War' was used in the "Street Fighter IV' video game, so we had a lot of momentum going for us."

The next two singles, "Odd One' and "Maybe,' were opposite of that song, like on the other end of the spectrum.

That's part of the reason why we called the album Tri-Polar. In no way disrespect to the condition, we played it on bi-polar. We are three different people and the album goes from one end to the other. In general, everything has opposite ends to it. On one hand, we need to get out all the aggression with "You're Going Down' and "War' and then to a deeper level with "Odd One.' That related to Shim and I because we were the odd ones and outcasts in high school, so that song is very dear to us. A lot of people identify with it in their own way when they hear it.

How did you guys end up on the documentary Rock Prophecies, which will be shown Sept. 14 on PBS?

Our manager knew Robert Knight, who was a rock photographer. He was really one who inspired us to move to the States, because he said to Paul, our manager, "You should move the band over here, I really think they will do well.' Well, we came over a few times to the U.S. and he filmed us moving into our apartments, recording our first album and our first shows. Also on the documentary are people like Slash, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin and he compiled all of this.

Any differences in playing live in Australia opposed to the U.S.?

The industry is very different in Australia. In our genre of music, there are not enough people over there to support it and make it thrive. Here, there are more people and the people who do like our genre are way more passionate about it. The scene here is very healthy and more laid back over there. It was refreshing to see the fans respond to our music like the way they did.

Concert pictures of band performing at Scout Bar

Official Sick Puppies Website
Official Sick Puppies Myspace
Click here to purchase Sick Puppies music

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