The Anix is a band that have been walking the streets of our cyberpunk present, while creating sounds of the future, since the turn of the century, Y2K itself – the year 2000. In the years hence, The Anix has transformed from a three-member solid alternative rock band to a solo project with a smooth transition to electro-rock. Brandon Smith, the now solo member of The Anix, even did a stint as a guitarist in Apoptygma Berzerk in 2009. The band remains as solid as it ever was with its current evolution. Since their debut album, An Illusion of Time, The Anix has released five full-length studio albums. Their next one, The Shadow Movement is set to be released on October 19th, 2018 and is the impetus for Neon Dystopia’s interview with Brandon Smith of The Anix.
ND: Let’s start with the excruciatingly basic questions. What is The Anix, how did you come to be, who have been your musical inspirations, and where does The Anix go from here?
The Anix: The Anix is the truest form of my self-expression! It’s really an open window into who I am and what one person can create. People generally have two sides to themselves, one that they present to the world, and one that they are when no one is watching, and this is the side of me that is 100% authentically me. The Anix is the manifestation of all of my favorite things, favorite music, movies, fashion, architecture, technology all rolled into a single music concept. The idea started when I was in high school in the late 90’s. I was super into Depeche Mode, The Cure, Deadsy, Orgy, some industrial and synth pop bands, Joy Division, etc. I loved the counterculture vibe and world that those artists lived and thrived in. I didn’t fit in at school, I was wearing weird shit likes suits with platform shoes, blue and silver hair, nail polish, so everyone was pretty weirded out by me! I was the art kid so people kind of let it slide, but the bands I liked really influenced my interest in clothes and the connection they have to music. When I officially started The Anix around 2000, I took everything I knew about that scene and dove head first into this alternative world of futurism and had a driving theme of what a band might sound like 50 years from now. The theme remains exactly the same now. To me, it’s not possible for the sound to become dated since I am in the mindset of writing songs which would live in a world decades from now.
ND: How does working with an independent label like FiXT vary from your previous experience?
The Anix: I compare FiXT to a sports team, where all of the artists are on the same organization. Most labels have such a wide variety of artists it’s hard to find similar label mates with similar struggles. At FiXT, we are all writing in the same musical universe and the label knows how to make this genre work. They have had wild success with several of their acts, so I was really interested in how that could apply to my music. It’s more of a partnership, almost like they are a band member who happens to be great at business.
ND: You mentioned in an earlier interview that you are inspired by non-musical design elements in things such as cinema, fashion, and architecture. Would you mind talking more about this?
The Anix: I am actually rarely inspired by music. I am obsessively interested in design, technology, art, fashion, structures and buildings, shapes and color. The visuals I create paint a picture for my audience of the type of sound I make. Every picture I take, graphic I create, color I choose, outfit I wear, should inform the listener of the style of music I make even if you can not hear the music. It is absolutely critical for the visual to match the audio. Every second I am awake I am analyzing objects, looking for environments to photograph, objects or tools that inspire me to create and so on. My goal is for every single item in my daily life to be something carefully selected to be an inspiring tool to use-no matter what the occasion is.
ND: You also mentioned in a previous interview that you are inspired by a more grounded vision of futurism, sans laser and spaceships. This resonates with the origins of the cyberpunk movement. What does this vision of the future look like to you?
The Anix: This is another absolutely critical piece to my puzzle and I thank you for pointing this out. The version of Sci-fi/futurism I am inspired by, is the rougher, realer more obtainable version of it. This idea matches my music flawlessly since I always have a visual in my head when I write. My music uses futuristic elements, sounds, and technology, but the way I produce it is somewhat unconventional as I need these clean sounds to get a little messy and dirty. Rather than going full electro, I use a lot of live instruments to retain a human element to the songs. If they are just purely electronic, they run the risk of sounding too “Laser beam and spaceship” flawless and clean, so I look for and embrace the imperfections, the noise, the feedback and distortion and the feel of a live performance from a human.
ND: You’ve specifically mentioned Blade Runner as a source of inspiration. What specific aspects of the film have you found inspirational?
The Anix: Blade Runner is the perfect example of the brand of futurism I identify with. To me, Blade Runner is the visual to my music. It’s futuristic and you see things that aren’t currently from our time such as these flying jet car hybrids, defense technology and biohacking, unusual clothes and hairstyles but everything has a dark and dirty wash over it to make it feel used and very possible. This is the exact idea I am trying to realize with my music, to present the listener with different sounds they may not have heard yet, but run them into the ground to get dirt on them so it feels familiar and human.
ND: The Anix has a compelling personal style and aesthetic. From a fashion perspective, is this part of your brand that you have cultivated? What do you want people to take away when they come into contact with your brand? A personal favorite part of this for me is the cover art for Come Back Down.
The Anix: My love for fashion is at the extreme core of my brand. The Anix must be as authentic as possible, so everything I wear is something I generally love and wear in my daily life-not just as a costume for a photo shoot. I am in an optimal place right now where all areas of my interests are connected and pushing me in the same direction. My taste in clothing, tech, movies, etc all match and inspire the music I create. The visuals need to paint the picture of what the world I envision looks and feels like. The cover art of “Come Back Down” is a great example of taking a futuristic piece of clothing but adding the grittiness to it so it feels identifiable and real. I took that photo in NYC in the rain, in the street at 3 am to capture the right vibe. I take 90% of my own photos as well, using a tripod and controller, then an app on my phone to arrange the shot. This is another element I want to be authentic and connected to my music.
ND: I’d like to go back in time a bit, to your cover of The Crow‘s theme, Burn. The Crow has an interesting place in the cyberpunk mythos. The movie’s script was written by John Shirley, one of the original cyberpunk authors, and the film’s musical score and fashion elements went on to influence Goth fashion and culture, and in turn that of cyberpunk, for decades. You mention that the movie, that song, and that scene ‘literally altered the structure of my DNA.’ Can you talk a bit about how The Crow has affected you personally?
The Anix: Man, The Crow has such a deep, deep connection to me as I think this was the biggest change I can remember in my life as a young adult. After I saw the movie in the theatre, I walked out, then turned around and saw it again. Before this, I had no idea what Goth was or any of that, I just knew that I connected with Brandon Lee and the character of Eric Draven for some strange reason. The music in the movie was so perfectly matched to the visuals and I had never seen such a perfect connection like that before. This really sparked my interest in the darker side of music and aesthetics. I really connected with the revenge aspect of the film and the devastation of loss and love and spent years after the movie drawing scenes from the comics and graphic novels. After that movie, everything changed. I took on as much of that character and aesthetic as I possibly could as a 12-year-old, but every Halloween for the next 10 years I was Eric Draven and I never felt more alive than when I was wearing that character on those nights. I slowly figured out ways to incorporate that look into my daily clothes and hairstyle and much of that still remains today.
ND: What other films, comics, and anime have influenced you?
The Anix: I’ve been a massive Marvel fan my entire life, with most of my interest going towards Spider-Man, Venom, and Carnage. The X-Men were a close second for me with my favorite characters being Cyclops, Wolverine, and Beast. Of course, Batman was another massive influence on me due to the awesome tech always involved with the character and the idea that this character could actually exist in real life. I also loved the dark vibe DC comics had where most of the scenes were at night in the city which made for very impactful visuals. Star Wars has been another big one which really assisted in my love of helmets/masks/costumes. The dynamic I really like with Star Wars is the pristine ultra clean visuals of the Imperial army, the shiny white suits of the Storm Troopers, mixed with the grittiness of the Resistance. This is a constant theme for things I like, where I lean towards finding this balance of clean and dirty, rather than just one purely clean, or purely dirty. Boba-Fett is a character I really liked because he kind of combined both of those elements in a cool looking way.
ND: Most of your discography is focused on interpersonal relationships, but there are other recurring themes and I think they are well represented in your recent single ‘This Machine.’ So I’d like to dive into that song, in particular, more deeply. There seems to be a theme of the conflict between the inner self and an outer facade in your work, from the perspective of This Machine it is personal, but other songs also approach this from an external perspective. How do you think about this conflict?
The Anix: I generally write my songs to have dual meaning to the listener. If they are written in too obvious of a way, I think it can isolate and focus too much on one type of person and the issues they may be going through. My goal is for a wide range of listeners to be able to connect to my songs on some level, whether they are struggling in a relationship, or dealing with a problem in their professional life. The War theme is definitely a theme in a lot of my music but I’m not quite sure what my fascination is with this (maybe I need to see a shrink!). I do know I was terrified of the idea of going to war as a young child. I remember being incredibly paranoid about nuclear war and that in one blink of an eye the entire world could be on fire and disappear. The war theme could also be a call out to the contestant battles I faced growing up trying to prove my ideas, vision, thoughts, art, music is worthy. I think everyone faces these battles though, not just me, so it’s something everyone could easily identify with. This Machine is referencing the corporate machine, the school systems, and society’s judgment on how you should live your life. The world loves to tell us how we need to live, and most people blindly obey these rules and march forward. People should realize that the social standards set for us are optional, and since we are only here on this giant spinning rock for a short time we should do things which are a true reflection of ourselves.
ND: Another related theme that seems to reoccur is the theme of control, again from within and without. In the case of This Machine, it is from without and has a ring of rebellion. How do you think about the theme of control in your work?
The Anix: I have an LED marquee in my studio that says “CONFORM” which serves as a reminder to do the opposite. Every second of our lives we are taught to conform to what our boss wants, what the government wants, what your teacher thinks is the right way, and I think it’s is the recipe for creating living, but mindless robots. If we follow this methodology, how is anything you create, your own? The world has enough clones doing the same thing, creating the same content, taking the same classes at the same schools, but how is this an environment that promotes individualism and creativity?
ND: Another theme that seems to be present in your work, often more in word choice than directly, is the theme of war. This is mostly present in This Machine in the music video where war imagery is present. How has war influenced your perspective?
The main influence of war is fear. It’s an insane concept to think that we are all going about our daily lives, going to work, having dinner with friends, playing videos games, while there is a possibility that we look out the window and see a flash and its all over. War creates a sense of urgency in me to accomplish what I am here to do because none of us know when it could all go away.
ND: This Machine also touches on the concept of whether we are living in a simulation or not. Where do you fall on this debate?
The Anix: I believe this is real life, not a simulation. It’s fun to think about the possibility of “living” in a sim, and the concept of controlled dreams and the ability for an external source to read and illustrate dreams/thoughts/memories. I think once that becomes perfected in a few decades, and when quantum computing becomes mainstream, some truly weird shit will start going down. I could imagine “thought destroyers” setting up rogue labs to restructure memories, erase trauma, or to upload skill sets. If you think of any memory based skill that relies strictly on the brain, It seems like it could completely be possible to put someone to sleep, and have the subject put into a hyper dream state to rapidly upload “memories” which could be skills like learning a language, complex math problems, or even learning how to program digital music.
ND: This Machine really seems to be about society as a metaphorical machine. What do you think about the current trajectory of our society?
The Anix: The disturbing thing is how reliant we all are on our personal computer: the phone. I have been alive to experience life before the smartphone/internet and, of course, it’s present state and have noticed certain human function suffer because of it such as memory. Since I am not required to memorize phone numbers, for example, my memory to do so is totally shot. I can see this really deteriorating the ability to spell, do math problems, drive anywhere, memorize certain things, and so much more. Now you don’t even need to know how to play a musical instrument to be a successful musician. You no longer need to be a great singer to have great vocals. You no longer need the skill of working photoshop to its core to achieve awesome visuals as it can all be done in a couple taps on apps like VSCO. Technology has made life awesome and fast and allows us to achieve more awesomeness but at what expense? We now see and experience more cool shit than ever that requires less human skill than ever. It’s a strange time to be in. I am most interested in what the youth will end up like, who are growing up knowing nothing else but this technology. What skills will that actually need or have? Maybe this will free them up to learn and develop something entirely new that we are not aware of yet?
ND: Last question. The new album is going to be called Shadow_Movement, and I noticed the emergence of a hashtag related to it. What does Shadow_Movement mean to you, and are you trying to start a movement?
The Anix: Shadow_Movement is a combination of a few things. There is a connection to some 80’s Ninja arcade games, there’s a connection to the Tech Wear society which I love, but to me, the term “Shadow” pertains to our hidden talents that we are afraid to express. For example, you may work a corporate job and wear a suit to work, present financial reports to your boss and so on. This type of environment does not encourage you to express your personal interests or skills that you have, in fear that you will not “fit in” or even lose your job if they learn who the real “You” is. The truth is that most places I have worked, I’ve seen it time and time again: the person who is doing the most innovating, cutting-edge work and the most respected is the guy or girl that is allowing their personal true self to come through, not the facade of fakeness to appease the corporate mentality. If we all look, act, and perform the same, why not just have a computer do your job? The unique human element is all we have to stand out and make things interesting. I am hoping I can connect with my listeners and spread this message and make the world a little more interesting 🙂
If you’ve become enraptured by The Anix, as I have, then you can find their official website here. If you’d like to dive into The Anix’s visual side, you can find them on Instagram, and for the video side of things, you can find him on YouTube. Fancy some connection in our increasingly isolated world? You can find The Anix on Facebook and Twitter, beware the attention tunnels. You can find and/or purchase The Anix’s music over at the FiXT Store, Bandcamp, or Spotify.