Heavy metal and hip-hop hybrid outfit Animus Divine (AD) is one of many low-profile and yet highly talented bands operating in the scorching deserts of Arizona. Based out of Tucson, the streetcore musicians have their eye on the prize to master the entertainment industry, but AD lead singer Chuck Clark acknowledges the hardships of pushing music professionally when he notes: "playing music is just what I do -- if I was in it for the money I would have quit a long time ago."
After disbanding for several years, AD chose to regroup and make the grown-up decision to hire a publicist and assembling a behind the scenes crew to tailor and push their music into more ears for the release of their upcoming album NOVO.
Now, AD's sonic assault of high-energy and hard hitting instrumentals blended with vocal power demanding the listener's attention -- described by Clark as a heavy Rage Against the Machine meets Beastie Boys -- is slowly but surely churning out larger audiences.
The creative direction for NOVO seems to be what the band needed. The explosively groovy EP is a short and sweet adrenaline shot to the veins, showcasing the band's maturation from their 2011 album, Sorrow. And AD would like to see this album be part of a trending cultural wave that they believe is on the horizon, due to carry the Arizona metal scene into the world of a mainstream audience.
"There are a lot of hungry bands, and a lot of talent out [in Arizona]," Clark says. "We have some great producers and engineers, so all the pieces are in place. It's just a matter of the wave actually coming."
The latest break for AD recently came with the band's victory in the Tucson Sumerian Battle for Summer Slaughter. Now, audiences can see them sharing the stage with national touring acts like Morbid Angel, Dying Fetus and The Faceless -- to name a few -- when the Summer Slaughter Tour comes to the Nile Theater this Sunday, July 20.
Up on the Sun spoke with Animus Divine singer Chuck Clark prior to their Summer Slaughter Tour appearance to get the scoop on their latest album, making it as a musician in Arizona, and supporting local music.
Tell me about the Summer Slaughter Tour and the battle of the bands.
Chuck Clark: Yeah, well when we started playing again, we got a call from a local promoter who was working with all the Sumerian Records guys. He asked us to play for exposure and said we shouldn't worry about the contest because Summer Slaughter is a lot heavier than us. So, we were really shocked when we ended up winning the thing.
We got a guaranteed date on the Summer Slaughter and we ended up being able to get another date with them, so we're turning it into a little tour. We'll see what happens with that.
We were disbanded for about two years. Some of us had kids, we lost a member, and I had left to do a cappella rap battles for a couple years. I was doing events out in Philly, New York and Cali. Then, we wanted to get back together, and things have been buzzing more than ever for us.
Is there a band you are most excited to play with on that tour?
You know, Morbid Angel is really awesome -- I've always listened to them as a kid. We have some death metal influences. They are very subtle, but they are there and we all love death metal. So, Morbid Angel is amazing.
I really don't think we fit the bill as well as we could, but we've altered our set to keep up with all of the heaviness. People are calling us a heavy Rage Against the Machine or a heavy Beastie Boys. It's kind of interesting, but it's funny how death metal crowds are into NWA and a lot of the underground rap stuff, so I think we might do alright.
So you are tailoring your set a little bit to the Summer Slaughter show? What will you do to make Animus Divine the band that people walk away talking about?
Well, we don't want to [stray] from who we are too much -- we still want people to see who we are, and not give them a false representation. We have our first album, Sorrow, which is a lot heavier, and we have a few unreleased tracks that are a lot heavier. So what we're going to do is not really play anything off of our new album, and instead play older or unreleased material that is more suited for the bill.
It's a really heavy tour -- every band is insanely heavy, technical and crazy, and we're really groove oriented. We're heavy too, but we're not technical thrashing shredders or anything like that. We like to make people's heads move from start to finish.
I saw your video for "No Respect." Was that the first music video you guys have done?
Yeah, yeah, totally. It's the first music video I've ever done, and I was in love with it. We'd been planning it for a little while. We were going to shoot up on the rooftop of this big jam space area downtown where everyone can rent out a room and bands can start working on their talent. But, when our video director came down from Phoenix -- most of our behind the scenes people are in Phoenix -- they wouldn't let us on the roof. We didn't even think about how the fuck we were going to get all of our shit on the roof anyway, we would need a crane [laughs] -- we didn't think about it at all.
So, we just kind of did what we wanted. We went and set up in the back of the building, and they came out and gave us a stern talking to, but we just continued shooting the video.
Let's talk about your album NOVO. Your thoughts on it and how would you pitch it to your fans?
NOVO is definitely a change of direction for us--but it's a change that we are naturally heading towards. Our entire behind the scenes team that we are starting to build has also helped push us toward this direction. We've always been a hip-hop orientated band, but we stayed very metal. Now, we're experimenting around.
When I took those couple of years where I was doing rap battles, we were working with national artists and I was learning about writing and vocal patterns. So, [Animus Divine] really wanted to expand on our hip-hop strengths. And we don't want to be just a metal band that plays hip-hop; we want it to have and authentic feel. We wanted to make it the best mesh-up that we could do, and I think that NOVO captures everything. It's a short EP, but I think it's a start for what we can push on a national level.
Tell me about Animus Divine. Anything you would want a new listener to know, because there is not a lot of information out there.
No, no, we definitely have kept it within Arizona and done a couple of things. We did some mini-tours with Static X and stuff like that, but otherwise it's been pretty quiet. The biggest thing that we've done is hire a publicist to get our name out there, which is helping.
We want to send out a positive message for everybody. Not preaching or anything like that, but more just standing up for yourself and being able to recognize all the bullshit that is normally written in between the lines. We want to create a support system and a family with this whole thing so that it's bigger than music.
I want to know your opinion on the music scene in Arizona? Tell me your likes and dislikes, and how you make a name for yourself in Arizona?
Oh shoot man, Arizona is tough. It's just not easy. On a national level, Arizona is overlooked. We're little brothers and little sisters to other states, but the scene itself here is really good. There are a lot of hungry bands, and a lot of talent out here. We have some great producers and engineers who are making names for people. So, all the pieces are in place, it's just a matter of the wave actually coming.
I was talking to someone the other day about how Arizona could be the next Washington or Massachusetts -- when all of those waves started picking up bands. There is a lot of rising talent coming out of Arizona. I think, in the next few years, people are going to know a lot about Arizona metal.
What does Animus Divine do to support the local music scene?
We really just try to be involved with everybody. We try to go to as many shows as we can. It gets tough, because we are older and have kids and own businesses, so we're all trying to put ourselves in positions where we can make the push for music for a living. Shit, just going out and buying another band's CD is enough. That helps put money in your pockets to do the next thing.
Is their an ultimate goal with your music career, and how do you plan to achieve it?
Well, I think about that a lot. I'm not in it for the money. Playing music is just what I do -- if I was in it for the money I would have quit a long time ago. I just want to be able to spread my message and just try to make an impact on people's live. When I'm frustrated and having a bad time, going out and yelling into a microphone for 45 minutes is the release I need to get by for a little while.
Animus Divine is scheduled to play the Nile Theater on Sunday, July 20.
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