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Category Archives: Keith: Just A Thought…

It’s Keith here. Just wanted you all to know I was back in the studio today with Adam after a hiatus to deal with some personal life drama. we’re working on something new and (some might say) outside our comfort zone, but no worries, I promise thundering beats and crushing riffs. I’ll be doing a few more sessions before disappearing again to deal with more of life’s unfortunate plot twists. Again, no worries, I’m not dying, I’m not going to prison, and I’m not laying low to hide from bands of shadowy Kung Fu assassins. I’m not posting this to fish for well wishes or start the rumor mill going. I just thought I should explain why I’ve been absent of late, and let you all know that you can expect some new music from us sometime around September.

So, until then, enjoy the summer! I’ll be popping on from time to time to touch base, say hello, and checking in to see what you’re all up to 🙂

Yours in Rock,

Keith Smith

PS: And just for the record… to clarify… MY MIDDLE NAME IS NOT ARTEZ!!! 🙂 http://www.allmusic.com screwed it up years ago, and have yet to correct it. Please feel free to swamp them with e-mails!!!

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Every night that we found ourselves practicing in Laoying at the base of the mountain, this little boy’s father would walk him over to the park. This adorable little dude was ALL business, and would follow my every move from the time we started training to when we stopped, ending each run of the form with a huge laugh and smile. One of my happiest memories from my time in China…

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Let me start by apologizing. Trying to put my experiences from my trip to China into words is an injustice to both the reader and the experience. That said, I will do my best to share some observations I made while I was there with anyone interested in reading them.

1) China is REALLY far away- For someone with extreme ADHD, spending 20+ hours on planes is serious torture. You can only watch so many movies before the desire to punch a screaming baby borders on overwhelming. That said, There are worse things on a flight than hanging out with my Kung Fu teacher (a bad ass, but incredibly humble man), and watching “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate”, Monkey King cartoons, and Adventure Time (initially in English, then in Chinese when I got bored).

2) Wudang is in the middle of nowhere- After arriving in Wuhan (a city reminiscent of a contemporary version of “Bladerunner”, where the air smelled like burning plastic), we took a five hour chartered bus ride through open plains, past farms and remote factories. I saw lots of simple folk farming, fishing, herding, etc, as I watched through those bus windows, and it was actually quite soothing after the eternity it felt like I’d endured in the air.

3) Swords are big business- when we arrived in Laoying (a small city at the base of the mountain, also referred to as “Wudang City”) I was blown away by how many martial arts supply stores there were. Seriously. Imagine 10+ city size blocks, as busy as Times Square on a holiday weekend, and easily 85% of the retail stores were sword shops. As a Kung Fu nerd and sword practitioner, I was genuinely overwhelmed. While I knew that swords were an integral part of Wudang martial culture, I was surprised (and excited) to be in a city where Chinese martial arts were the primary draw and source of revenue.

4) Motorcycles everywhere!- The second thing I quickly noticed was that the streets were packed with speeding motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds. No one was wearing a helmet, everyone was speeding, and it was not uncommon to see three (or even four) on a single bike. Traffic laws felt like more of a suggestion than actual rules, and people were buzzing around, driving onto sidewalks and into oncoming traffic to avoid getting caught up behind a truck or group of cars. I was also surprised to see that many female motorcycle passengers rode side saddle, often while chatting away on their cell phones while the person driving the bike wove through traffic with the efficiency of a high speed lab rat navigating a familiar maze. That said, I didn’t see a single accident the entire time I was there, though the law of averages as well as natural selection leads me to believe they just weren’t happening while I was watching.

5) A complete absence of Justin Beiber and Taylor Swift – Once we’d landed in China, American pop culture was non-existent. Sure, iconic celebs like Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts adorned ads on the occasional billboard, but American music was nowhere to be heard or found (contrary to what you might imagine, or been led to believe), and American films on television were only available through premium cable channels. This was not a bad thing. The flip side of this, however, is that Chinese pop star endorsements are EVERYWHERE. Jay Chou (Chinese pop star/actor) has his face on everything from potato chips and beverages to soap. And I saw a few billboards with Donnie Yen hawking wares as well. On a humorous note, while the people of Wudang and Laoying had never heard their music, they had heard of Wu Tang Clan (whose name was inspired by the Kung Fu fighters of Wudang Mountain), though some thought they were a rock band.

6) Don’t drink the water- Seriously, don’t! The water in most of China is so unhealthy that even the locals only drink bottled water or water that’s been boiled. In some cases, even a shot glass’ worth could give you diarrhea or leave you sick in bed for days with a stomach infection. Because of this, every hotel room has an electric tea kettle/pot to boil water in. This takes a little getting used to, but I adapted quickly, boiling water before I went to bed, so it’d be cooled off in the morning.

7) No pizza, no burgers- With the exception of a seemingly random lone KFC in Wuhan, warm/slightly chilled Coca Cola, Oreos (with crazy flavors),and Snickers bars, American food was nowhere to be found. This, too, was not a bad thing. A dip down any shady side street would lead one to a variety of delicious food stalls and carts, selling REAL Chinese food, baked goods, and assorted treats. A lot of it looked exotic/scary to the uninitiated, but the vast majority was seriously delicious!

I’ll stop here for now, and pick up on the action in the next installment.

Taoist monastery at the top of Wudang Mountain. Photo by Seth Kramer.

In a little over five weeks I will be going to China to study Kung Fu. On a mountain. At a temple. With Taoist priests. For a month.

I saw my first Kung Fu movie when I was seven years old (“Five Fingers of Death”), which was quickly followed by Bruce Lee’s “Fist of Fury” (better known as “The Chinese Connection” in America), and with that, I was hooked. So started my lifetime obsession with Chinese martial arts. If I wasn’t sneaking off to Chinatown to buy rare Kung Fu books and comics, or frequenting one of the four theatres that showed Kung Fu movies there (oftentimes hitting all four in the course of a week), I was either at home flying around the living room with high kicks and nunchucks, or narrowly avoiding getting my ass kicked by older kids in the surrounding Chinese neighborhood (where a then-as-yet-unknown Donnie Yen was honing his skills at his mother’s Kung Fu school). I was eventually accepted into the fold, and haven’t looked back since.

While I loved the stories of revenge and perseverance of so many of the old classic Kung Fu movies, it was the fantastic tales of flying swordsmen and women, who roamed the land dispensing justice on a never-ending quest for adventure, enlightenment, and truth that really struck a chord with me as a kid. Some were rogue soldiers, others were bandits and outlaws with an Eastern “Robin Hood” mindset, and the shaven-headed Buddhist monks of Shaolin were always there to be the calming voice of reason. But the coolest ones for me were always the long haired, high flying (and often “eccentric”) mystical sword-wielding Taoist priests from the magical temples of Wudang Mountain.

And now I get to go there and study with them high atop the clouds in ancient temples. To say this is the realization of a childhood dream would be an understatement. I can’t wait to tell you all about it when I come back. And I’m sure there will be enough inspiration for at least a few songs…

When Adam and I officially started doing Anarchy Club in the fall of 2004, I don’t think either of us had any idea of where that road would take us. We had been friends for years, and had worked on numerous musical projects together (Lashed But Not Leashed, Brothers Grimm, Fearless Vampire Killers, etc), but never got to really sink our teeth into anything because of other obligations musically. But that fall, everything fell into place. We were both sick of the music business machine, and the popularity and growth of emo and other more passive rock genres made us want to gag. So we decided that we just wanted to make the music we wanted to listen to, since nobody else seemed to be doing it at the time.

The first two songs we did were, as I remember, “Enemy Ace” and “Kill For You”. While “Enemy Ace” firmly was a template for where we were headed musically, it was our third song, “Behind The Mask”, that would be our first true “proof of concept” (And for the record, that song is about Batman).

The popularity of “Behind The Mask” skyrocketed with the success of Guitar Hero, and our first album was met with (mostly) rave reviews.

Since then, we’ve released an e.p. (A Single Drop of Red), another full length album (Art of War), and a handful of singles, with the most recent being our tongue-in-cheek cover of the Misfits classic, “Skulls”.

So, here we are, fall 2011. I think that Adam and I are closer than ever to transfering the music we hear in our hearts and souls into recordings in the studio. Our influences are many, as well as diverse, and in the past I think we unknowingly forced those influences into our music at times, as opposed to trusting what was inside, waiting for a chance to shine. But I can honestly say that the songs we’ve been working on recently are the most truly realized vision of the musical concept we’d aspired to in the fall of 2004. I’m excited to see them develop the way they are in the studio, and even more excited to hear what you, the fans, will think of them when they are released in the coming months.

So for all of you who’ve been along for the ride since the beginning, thanks for sticking around and standing by our side. To all who’ve come since, thank you for jumping on and becoming part of the international Anarchy Club family. For those of you who just found out about us, I welcome you into our random crew of misfits, outsiders, and thrill seekers. And I say to all of you, hold on tight. It’s been a long fun drive down this road to get where we are, but Anarchy Club has wings now, and it’s time to fly. Prepare for lift off.

I’ve seen this EVERYWHERE! All Music, Pandora, iTunes and more. All over the internet, there’s an ill informed bio for Anarchy Club that says my name is Keith Artez Smith, which it most definitely is NOT. And allmusic.com is to blame. I’ve tried to contact them to fix it, but my request seems to fall on deaf ears, as they most likely think I’m an imposter or something…

So for our fans, and anyone else who cares (or doesn’t) I will clarify: MY MIDDLE NAME IS NOT ARTEZ! My middle initial is D., and depending on the day and mood, I might say it stands for any number of things. Also, I never use it professionally. And the only alias I ever use is Anarkeith (a name coined for me by Helen McWilliams of Vagiant/ Tijuana Sweetheart fame).

…So, there, I got that off my chest. Doesn’t really change anything, except that now there’s a documented statement from the Anarchy Club camp stating that the All Music/ iTunes bio was poorly researched. Maybe, in ten years or so, they’ll fix it…

If you made it to the end of this rant, thanks. Sometimes we just need a virtual ear to vent to :-). I’m well aware there’s bigger fish to fry in the world today, but this thing has been like a splinter in my nuts since it’s spread around. Anyway, thanks again.

Yours in Rock,

Keith

The following was written shortly after we released “The Art of War”, when I responded to a fan’s request on a torrent site for someone to upload the album so he could bit torrent it:

Hi, (believe it or not) I’m Keith from Anarchy Club. The physical cd should be made available to buy at the cdbaby online store later today. Please buy one, and tell your friends.

As far as downloading our stuff from torrents is concerned, here’s some things you should know (and please spread the word!)…

Firstly, as honored as we are that we have fans all over the world that go to great lengths to get their hands on our music, the truth of the matter is simple. Anarchy Club is composed of just two guys, Adam and I. We write, record and publish EVERYTHING ourselves, out of Adam’s living room. We both have day jobs and spend out of our own pockets to release our music. There’s no big label, no expensive sports cars, no room full of drunk, eager supermodels (well… sometimes, but I digress). The bottom line is that we are NOT Metallica, and we don’t make millions of dollars a year. In fact (largely due to illegal downloads) we have a hard time putting our music out and promoting the band. If people bought our stuff and spread the world, we’d have the money to play more shows and tour. And if they sold WELL (read as well enough to pay our modest rents) we could spend more time in Adam’s living room making more music to put out more often.

We had some research done and found out that if only 25% of the people that downloaded our stuff illegally actually bought it legitimately instead, we’d have made around $800,000 a year for the last five years. This means we’d have had more than enough to quit our jobs, pay our rent, and hire a touring band, as well as be able to record constantly. It also means we’d be able to afford to LEGALLY give away songs for free (as we did with “Riddle Me This” a while back). In this ideal scenario we’d be making enough from merchandising and shows to be able to release free downloadable music all the time. And to be honest, if we were there, I wouldn’t really mind the torrenting so much because I realize that a lot of the people not buying the music would be supporting us by getting merch and going to shows (because we’d be touring).

So, to all of our fans who wonder why we never play their town, or why we aren’t “more famous”, or why we don’t have cds available at your local store, there’s your answer. We love our fans dearly, and we know you love us, too. So here’s hoping this sheds a little light on how the game really plays out from a working band’s perspective.

At the end of the day you’ll do what you will. All I ask is that when you are listening to our music, you take a second to think about the guys that made it for you to enjoy…

Yours in Rock,

Keith