Interview: AnAkA (2015)

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Heavy. Uncompromising. Passionate. Killer. Metal.

If you opened up that dusty copy of the ol’ Merriam-Webster on your desk, and looked up the definition for the band AnAkA, these words would be the perfect definition. The New York-based bad ass metal band has been DIY-ing their way to metal supremacy in the New York area, as their ever-growing army of fans swarm to every performance they’re performing at. Why the loyal fan base? The band the reputation for a tight show that harkens back to the good old days of 90s New York-metal, but with an intrinsic sense of melody and freshness to it. They ain’t no throwback – AnAkA is here, right now to kick your ass with furious metal sounds.

Recently, we caught up with Peter Pallis to take about the group’s new record, their fans and their loving tribute to a personal friend, The Ultimate Warrior.

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When we last spoke to you it was 2011 – which is quite some time.  How do you feel ANAKA has evolved sonically?  And as a band – how do you feel you guys have evolved as both people and as a unit? 

Peter Pallis: When we last spoke, we were just about to release our Acoustic Sessions Album Into The Great Unknown. The awesome part about recording that album was that we were recording our acoustic album and writing our new/heaviest album all at once. We have always been about evolving through challenging ourselves to go anywhere we feel like going musically. Our new album and the latest incarnation of the ANAKA sound comes from that very same idea…facing challenges.  This new album is indeed the heaviest album we have ever made.

Jimmy Pallis (vocals), Karl Andreassen (bass guitar), Tony Heredia (drums), Matt Bene (guitars), and myself (Peter Pallis – guitars) have a great 14 to 15 year history to draw from in ANAKA. Staying relevant and moving the beast forward so to speak is about constantly growing, evolving and bringing new ideas forth. So many bands battle with this. So many stay in the same place, in the same sound, in the same vibe.

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Our sound always naturally could go from a heavy vibe to the complete opposite side of the spectrum. I mean if you listen back at the track “Lower Than Low” off our The Glorified Crusade album, the song goes from an evil/death metal double bass vibe, right into a blue grass feel without you even really noticing. We love that and we understand how truly rare that is.

If you look back at the upbringing of our sound, our music has gone through a truly powerful yet natural growth process. From Down Devil’s Road (2001), to Rust & Jade (2004), to The Glorified Crusade (2009), to Into The Great Unknown (2012), to our new album here in 2015, one thing was for certain, the sounds were honest, heartfelt, and with each step, naturally grew in intensity.

This new album is a monster. With a heavy thrash element added to classic ANAKA sound. It is aptly titled, THE UNWAVERING.  

In October, you posted on your Facebook page that you were mastering your fifth record. When can we expect the new album to drop?  

The album was recorded with our long time producer, The Jerry Farley, at Nova Studios in Staten Island, New York. It was just released worldwide on February 17th 2015. We are at forefront now of the next chapter in our story. To look back and see all we have accomplished has been great. Before the release of every album, I find myself taking a moment to look back and take stock of past mile stones.

Understanding where you’ve come from is the best way to understand the next step forward. The shows with the likes of Korn and Avenge Sevenfold, the mass media exposure we had with the track “Erase” hitting number 1 on MTV online worldwide, the televisions and radio exposure (charting at #18 on the FM Radio Metal charts in 2010), it has all culminated and brought us to this point. The fifth album.

How do you feel this new record stands out from the rest of your previous albums? 

The Unwavering is the heaviest album we have ever done. All our albums have progressed and got heavier over the years. This album is a powerhouse. It’s a heavier, trashier, in your face like never before ANAKA album. In saying that, I should also mention that this was not part of some pre-conceived plan. We never do that.  We never say, “Let’s make this song heavier or meaner or whatever.”  We let the songs become what they are destined to be. I’ll write something and just let it morph naturally or we will jam on something and just allow it to happen. We know how our writing processes work best, and we make sure not to get in the way of that.

On this album, everyone challenged themselves. Jimmy went into the studio with the focus of taking his vocals to even greater heights, which for me was hard to imagine because he could always go anywhere he wanted vocally. Watching him work through his different vocal ranges was inspiring. He really looked for new places he could take the vocals, and even after 15 years of doing this…he found new innovative things he could do vocally. From the cleanest vocal arrangement to the most hellfire and brimstone screams…Jimmy owns on this album.

Tony totally embraced the new thrash vibe on this record. I mean we have always gone there musically, but this album is full of speed demon double bass playing. We walked into the studio with 10 songs and walked out with 13. Recording the drums was an endurance test for Tony on many levels. I mean we probably went through 150 takes during the recording session for the drums. Tony was an iron man in the studio and took his drumming to some amazing new places.

Photo Credit: Huascar Fiorletta
Photo Credit: Huascar Fiorletta

Karl did an amazing job with his bass parts as he always does. He always finds bass parts that complement the guitars, yet are also unique enough that they add layers to the entire song. It was awesome watching him create what he wanted his piece of the puzzle to sound like. He is always consistently right there in the pocket… keeping the foundation strong.

Matt came into the ANAKA mix in early 2010 and playing these songs live with him really helped us focus in on what the end result should be. To have that second guitar player just killing it out there live was awesome. His contribution to our band, our brotherhood, and this new album is stellar. The leads he rips on this new album will blow people away. We are so proud of what he has achieved.

For me, this album was about finally getting to record all these ideas I had in my head. The boys added their own ideas and massiveness to the project as we went along, but there is nothing like solidifying your ideas into a powerful reality. For me, the guitar riffs and the lyrics have always been my badge of honor. They are the foundation of the song. I knew what many of the songs would sound like early on because I had created the body of these songs musically and lyrically. To finally hear them finalized was just great. We are so proud of this album. We can wait for everyone to hear.

In November you released a song off the record ‘The Father Time Trilogy’ which was a tribute to the Ultimate Warrior. When The Warrior passed earlier last year, you guys posted a lot about him – can you talk about the relationship you had with The Warrior?  Talk about the emotion that went into writing and recording this song?

The way this song came to be and how this all connected is truly a great story that spanned over many years. To me, it is proof that nothing in life is random.

It’s important that people know what an awesome person Warrior was and what he stood for. He was a good friend of mine for many years and his friendship was a true gift. He was a man of deep principle. Warrior lived with an intensity and a great passion for life. He felt things in a more powerful way than any other person on this planet. He was supportive and inspiring, and he never put his achievements above others. Warrior at his core was about family, respect, hard work, and discipline. He was a generous person, and a true motivator who valued his time and never believed in wasting it. He above all else was a loving father and husband. I remember in most of our conversations, we didn’t even talk about the things he did during his time in wrestling. We talked about our families, our children, and about what it took to do the work of your life and achieve greatness. He was a great listener and when you inspired him, he would just light up and he made sure you knew about it.

Growing up he was my childhood hero…I mean what kid couldn’t help but be inspired by a true to life superhero like The Ultimate Warrior. Looking back at that time in the wrestling business, it was just magic plain and simple.  The Ultimate Warrior was a massive part of that.

Back in 2008, Warrior contacted me and asked if ANAKA would create his theme music for his comeback wrestling match in Barcelona Spain. We had already been friends for sometime at that point and I told him it would be an honor to do so. Recording “The Ultimate Return” (which was used for Warrior’s last wrestling match ever) will always be one of our greatest achievements. It just meant so much to all of us that he would come to us with that request. Trust meant so much to Warrior.

It was also truly an honor to be invited as his guest to his induction ceremony into the WWE Hall of Fame during the WrestleMania 30 weekend in New Orleans. In Warrior’s final speech (live in front of thousands in attendance and millions watching throughout the world on Monday Night Raw), he spoke about his enduring legacy which would be carried out by his fans for years to come. It was a powerful speech and we all stood proud watching his return, his vindication, and his reclaiming of his rightful place at the top of the mountain for the first time in 18 years. The next day, and after an amazing weekend, Warrior passed away at the age of 54. It was crushing for so many people, a bitter sweet moment, one last walk into glory.

Unbelievably enough, I had written “The Father Time Trilogy” back in 1999, and although it was one of my favorite works, I always felt it wasn’t time to release it yet. I literally put it off for years waiting on the right time. That is until early in the recording process for our new album.  Jimmy and I felt it was time to release this epic song and we all got to work recording it. We even added a lengthy new jazz outro that seemingly just happened out of nowhere during a late night jam session while recording drums in the studio. It was a perfect way to end the record. We knew “The Father Time Trilogy” was going to be the last song (song number 13) even at that early stage of the process.

I remember being on the plane flying out to New Orleans and listening to edits of the song. I was looking out the window at the grandness and massiveness of the sky and I was pondering the awesome weekend ahead and the culmination of all that had come to be. The song was really speaking to me on that flight and I knew we had something people could deeply relate to.

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When Warrior passed, I remembered a spoken word audio piece he had performed, quoting one of his favorite philosophers, Ralph W. Emerson. I was really struggling with the loss, I was trying to make sense of it, and I wanted to do something that would put it all in perspective…a reminder of what Warrior would want others to take out of his passing. Warrior was about celebrating life, he was about the amazing potential of human empowerment.

I told our producer, Jerry, that I wanted to place Warrior’s spoken word piece into the new jazz outro we had recently written into “The Father Time Trilogy.” At that time, we didn’t even know how long the spoken word piece was or if it would even fit. Jerry said let’s give it a go and see what happens. We didn’t doctor it up, we didn’t move it, we just placed it in the track and listened. Then…it happened. It was the exact timing of the new outro piece we had randomly written and it fit perfectly. His last spoken word in the piece landed directly on the last guitar note. It was perfect, as if it was meant to be. Not to mention the fact that every lyric I wrote for the song all those years ago spoke volumes of his last days, what transpired, and how he graceful faced the end. It was awe inspiring. Somehow it all seemed to connect.

ANAKA took part in the Mayhem Fest at Jones Beach this year – can you talk about performing in a festival setting like this?

The 2014 Mayhem Fest at Nikon’s Jones Beach Theater was an incredible experience. I mean to play that event with Korn, Avenge Sevenfold, Asking Alexandria, and Trivium was a testament to our unique musical journey as a band. There were thousands of people there and it was really a powerful thing to see how much our music pulled people into watching our set and really getting into what ANAKA was doing. It was a real measuring stick and the response was massive. It was one of those moments we will always remember as another step forward for our band.

I have become exceedingly aware of the importance of living in the moment and appreciating life as it happens each and every day. I make sure to be well aware that life is a great gift, that it is not promised, and that no one is entitled to a guaranteed tomorrow.  It is important to me to not be distracted by the abstract silliness of untapped potential in life. Because of that, I can look back at our career and remember each time a moment set us forth to an even greater plateau. Those moments are special and will mean even more to us as we get older.  Mayhem Fest was one of those great moments for ANAKA. Now… onward to the next one.

Photo Credit: Huascar Fiorletta
Photo Credit: Huascar Fiorletta

You have a crazy, loyal fan base, ‘THE ANAKA ARMY’ how awesome it is to know you have such a diehard fan base and how have they inspired you as a band? 

Yes indeed…The ANAKA ARMY. They are us, we are them…it’s that simple. They are loyal, supportive, and intense about it to say the least. There is strength in great numbers and amassing such a force of people who believe in what you are doing is awesome. It is not something that happens by mistake. There is nothing like going out there with our ANAKA ARMY at venues like Gramercy Theatre, Irving Plaza, Starland Ballroom, or even smaller shows…the battle ground doesn’t matter. It’s a celebration of life.

The vibe that you feel on that stage when you send the music out at the people and they roar it right back at you is amazing. Our faithful army feels that, they know it’s real, and they know that they own a piece of that. They know that their role…the part they play in the pit, is just as important as what ANAKA is doing on the stage. There is no separation there. At our shows and just as it is at home…we are all about family. If you’re looking for us after the show, you will find us with our people, not sitting back stage somewhere. The fans know that and they respect the hell out of it.

What’s on the horizon for ANAKA in 2015? 

2015 is going to be all about the new album. Releasing it to the masses worldwide, hitting radio, releasing music videos, and taking it to the battlefield…the live shows. We revel in this. Each and every step we take is about achieving and growing as a band and as people.

When we released The Glorified Crusade and hit great heights on MTV online worldwide, Music Choice Video on Demand, and FM Radio, it was a launching pad for us. That launching pad was built on a massive amount of work and sacrifice. Today is no different. We have made the sacrifices, we have put the work in, we haven’t skipped any steps, we have taken zero shortcuts, we continue and we have built an army of believers.  For us there is only the constant push forward.

The release of our new album, The Unwavering, is upon us, and once again…there is no limitation. Each year in the history of ANAKA has been more powerful than the last. We live for that. The pursuit of BECOMING EVEN GREATER.

ANAKA’s BRAND NEW 2015 FULL LENGTH ALBUM “THE UNWAVERING” AVAILABLE NOW:

Download it on iTunes  Or get your CD right here.

Listen to ANAKA’s brand new album THE UNWAVERING here is a preview of all 13 songs!

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Bill Bodkin is the Owner, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beauty daughter, Sophie. He is beyond excited that Pop-Break will be six years old in 2015 as this site has come a long, long way from the day he launched in it in his bachelor pad at the Jersey Shore. He can be read every Monday for the Happy Mondays Interview Series as well as his weekly reviews on Law & Order: SVU, Mad Men and Hannibal. His goal, once again, is to write 500 stories this year (a goal he accomplished in 2014). He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @PopBreakDotCom
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Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site’s podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites