Even though they formed back in the early 80s, it would understandable if you hadn’t heard of Anthem until recently; whilst considered to be Japan’s version of Judas Priest, Anthem have not only ever recorded in Japanese, they’ve only performed two shows outside of the Japan region!
However founding member Naoto Shibata and co decided to shake things up in 2019 with the release of their newest album ‘Nucleus’ on March 29th; they’ve not only re-recorded their greatest hits, but have done so with English lyrics! Getting to speak to Shibata about the release of ‘Nucleus’, the first topic was about why now was the time to record in English for the first time in the bands career, he proudly stated ”Anthem has a long history as a band, but this particular line-up that’s been around a few years, is the one I feel most fulfilled with; that’s one of the reasons I decided to put out this English compilation at this point of our history! Mind you, the purpose of it was not to break out into the world or anything like that, it was that I wanted to present our materials in English in the proper style and format.”
Delving further into how the conversation of recording in English first came up, Shibata explained “let me put it this way; we’ve never said no to the idea of putting out an album in English, or to widen up the territories of our activities! But so far, we’ve been busy doing it within the territory of Japan to create the sounds, the stages and the performance of ‘Anthem’ in a way we can be comfortable and be happy about. That’s probably the reason why it took us a bit more than it could have been to put this English album out, But this new challenge, or trial shall I say has been quite a natural process and no different to usual! I have to say at all we can do at this point is do our best and we’re not in the position to really expect or anticipate an outcome of the English album! I’m also very curious how this project will be appreciated or evaluated in anywhere else but Japan, but I’m also definitely looking forward to hearing their response.”
Shibata was quick to let it be known “the process itself wasn’t any different from how we usually work in the studio. But to re-record what was originally recorded so long ago requires as much, if not even more energy and passion put into the performance itself; that’s something I consider quite important and something that all of the band also set out to achieve”, before explaining how they came to work with well known mixer/producer Jens Bogren:
”As you probably know, Anthem had been working with Chris Tsangarides from England for a long while, but he sadly left us last year. The whole process itself is the biggest part of what keeps me going when it comes to music, so we spoke with the record company and amongst the list was the name of Jens Bogren. Plus some of the more recent works done by Jens had a quality of sound that really touched me, which was a major influence as to why I decided on him. We did have other names on the list sure, but for the band to keep being motivated about making the new stuff that you really have to be careful about. That’s where the value of the name and how wide the engineer has been working plays a factor, albeit not a major one; the main thing that we had to consider how was how we’re going to fit with each other! Amongst the list placed in front of us, Jens’ name most definitely stood out for me.”
Taking time to explain further why Bogren’s name stood out, Shibata stated “one of the things that made me on Jens was that as I went through the extensive list of albums he had worked on, I realised that he was the one who could take the best of the bands colour as a sound, and create something special out of with his flair. There have been a lot of producers and mixers who create a lot of great things, but they all sound the same. What we were looking for was the person who takes good care of our bands individual colour and treats it differently! Jens is the one who take care of each individual band’s tones, work on it in a very articulate way, give it the treatment it deserves and this is the kind of person that we thought we needed.”
Taking time to pick Shibata’s brain to find out what keeps the flame alive within him to keep creating new music after all these years, he was quick to point out how “every time we work on an album, we approach it with the attitude of ‘this could be the last album for the band, but if it is we have no regrets!’ That attitude allows us to put so much focus into each and every album, which results in some form of satisfaction when it’s done. Then the album is usually followed by a tour and it’s not that I come to be unsatisfied with the album we’ve made, I come across this wish or desire to make something that goes beyond that. That wish or desire has never been long and I feel if we lose it or come to the point of losing it that would be the time to say goodbye. Ever since we made the first record (why we made it, don’t ask me because I don’t really know!) we already had that wish to top the album we made before…if you know the answer, please tell me (laughs) as I really want to know why I keep having this wish. At the end of the day, I just want to keep making albums that I can be happy with.”
The final topic of the interview regarded Anthem branching out and increasing the number of shows performed outside of Japan above two; Shibata was very pleased to close with the fact “we’ve been receiving some offers from different countries, but we decided to do one festival Germany this year. However, next year we will start progressively getting more involved with our international bookings and gigs!”
IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY, YOU CAN PURCHASE YOUR COPY OF ‘NUCLEUS’ HERE!