Anarchy is a good word for it. The history of Art of Anarchy has been turbulent, to say the least, and in the six years that the band has been together, it's more than lived up to its anarchic aspirations. But things seem to be settling down, in a good way, and with a new album and a new lead singer ready to hit the road, the band is more stable than ever.
Originally the synthesis between twin brothers Jon and Vince Votta and former Guns N' Roses guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal, Art of Anarchy got rolling in 2011 with the addition of Disturbed bassist John Moyer. With two big names from two big bands in the line up, Art of Anarchy was already starting to feel like a super group. Bumblefoot was still touring with Guns while he was recording his guitar parts for AOA's debut album, and it seemed only right that the band would look for a suitably super-group-ish lead singer to record the vocals.
That's where the turbulence started. The band turned to former Stone Temple Pilots frontman and perennially unstable singer Scott Weiland to write lyrics and sing them, and Weiland recorded the tracks, working remotely with Bumblefoot, during 2012 and 2013.
The collaboration resulted in the successful release of the band's self-titled first album in 2015, but that's just about the only part of it that went well. Weiland at first publically referred to AOA as a "side project" and said he was never really part of the band. When AOA suggested in a press release that Weiland was, indeed, a band member, his denials got heated; he claimed never to have met the other members in person while he was working on the album and worked hard to distance himself from the project.
If there was ever any expectation that Weiland and AOA would reconcile and become a fully functional super group, those expectations evaporated in December 2015 when the singer died in his tour bus in Bloomington, Minnesota. If AOA were to continue as a viable project, it would be without the band's original lead singer.
Fortunately for the future of AOA, there was soon an appropriately super frontman available to take over, albeit one with a troubled past of his own. Former Creed singer Scott Stapp, having recently come out of a long and very public struggle with substance abuse and mental illness, was ready in early 2016 to devote himself to a new career direction, and the pointedly drug-and-alcohol-free environment created by the members of AOA seemed like a good fit. In May, the band announced that Stapp would be their new lead singer.
"I was approached by the AOA guys and asked to join them last year," says Stapp. "This project has been a very cool, unique experience for me. I'm proud of our work and made some great friendships along the way. It's been great collaborating with artists from different backgrounds, and you can definitely hear it in the music."
Most importantly, the collaboration has been free from dysfunction, and the band's members have been productive. They quickly got to work on their second album with Stapp up front, and in October of 2016 they went on stage for the first time with Stapp in the lead at New York City's Gramercy Theatre. By all accounts, the performance showcased the chemistry between Stapp and the other members of the band, and it looked as if a true super group had finally been born.
By early 2017, the band had put the finishing touches on their second album, and The Madness went on sale in March. With the album getting a warm reception not just from fans of the individual ancestor bands represented in the line-up, but from fans of metal and heavy rock in general, AOA decided they were ready to take the songs on the road for its first tour with Stapp as a headliner.
"The individual personalities of the musicians on this record have come together to create a uniquely powerful album of songs that we feel will have a strong message and emotional connection with fans," says Moyer. "After working on this record for over a year, we can't wait to hit the stage and play these songs live."
The tour began this week with a pair of dates in Amityville, New York, and the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey. After that, the band storms through Ontario and the Midwest on its way to the Rock into Spring festival in Nevada at the end of the month. It will be chaotic in terms of travel and on-stage energy, but the band members are confident that this time the anarchy will be only of the artistic, and not personal, variety.
"We've got great chemistry together," says Bumblefoot, "and the songwriting process has been so natural and seamless. It's exciting to get out there to perform together. It's never felt more right than it does now. We're creating something special that we can't wait to share with the world. Come on out and be a part of this with us. It'll be a night to remember."
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July 21 • Sweetwater Performace Pavilion