Born in Singapore in the spring of 1981, Emma Anzai spent her earliest years in Tokyo before her family relocated to Sydney, Australia.
It was there that she met singer and guitarist Shimon Moore. Students at the same high school, they collided – literally – after discovering they’d both booked the same rehearsal room, for the same appointment time.
So developed a fast friendship and a close musical bond, and with the addition of a drummer, the pair formed Sick Puppies in 1997. This resulted in the EP Dog’s Breakfast and the full–length Welcome to the Real World.
As global interest in the hard–rock trio grew, Anzai and Moore accepted an invitation to pull up stakes and move the band to Los Angeles. Their Australian drummer was unable to make the trip, so once in L.A. the pair advertised (on Craigslist, no less) for a replacement. Former pizza delivery man Mark Goodwin got the gig.
Sick Puppies music is loud, and fierce, and bookended by loose shards of punk and even metal. Still, it’s tuneful, memorable and immensely melodic. “All the Same” was a minor hit in 2006, “You’re Going Down,” from the band’s most recent album, Tri–Polar, is currently a favored song for televised wrestling shows.
Then there’s “Street Fighter (War),” which bajillions of video game aficionados will recognize from Street Fighter IV.
For all of Shimon Moore’s blonde good looks, impressive guitar chops and lead singing, it’s Emma Anzai – dressed in black, with spiked black boots, her long hair flying as she charges about the stage flailing at her bass guitar – that Sick Puppies fans are always talking about.
The band performs July 26 at Live Wire Music Hall.
Do you get sick of people saying “Wow, seeing a chick bass player totally rock out is so cool”?
Emma Anzai: Not really. I kind of understand it. Because if you look around at bands I guess you don’t see too many women in rock. A lot of people have asked me that, and I hadn’t paid much attention to it until recently, but I guess there aren’t. And I guess there are certain reasons for that.
You started out as a guitar player – why the bass for you? Did you just need a bass player when you and Shim got together?
Emma Anzai: Pretty much. I started on guitar, all the basics, learning chords and strumming and all that sort of thing. And when I met Shim in high school, he played guitar and sang as well. And my main focus was just trying to start a band, so I was just “Right, well I’ll do the bass. After all, how hard can it be?” When you’re a kid, you kind of think that way. And so that’s how it started
But then when I actually started to get into it, and started playing, I discovered the differences, obviously, between bass and guitar. I liked rhythm as well, so I loved the meld between guitar and drums. I do the rhythmic stuff on bass, and the melodic stuff as well.
Can you name the bass players you admired – those you listened to as you began to develop your style?
Emma Anzai: Because we were growing up in Australia, we really didn’t have access to a lot of the stuff people have in the States. Also, back then the Internet wasn’t really as big as it is now, obviously. Growing up there, we just had videos and magazines and stuff.
Silverchair was a big influence, they’re an Australian band. And then a band called Tree Trunks, a small band, they didn’t really do much. But they had two bass players and a drummer. And that was what actually made me get inspired to play bass, and to see what it could do.
There was one guy who played the rhythm bass parts, the other guy had all these pedals and kind of played the guitar parts. So it was really interesting.
After that, I asked them who they were influenced by, and they told me guys like Louis Johnson, and also Victor Wooten.
Did you actually grow up in Japan? How did that work?
Emma Anzai: My dad’s actually Japanese – I’m half Japanese. I sort of moved between Japan, New Zealand and Australia. I spend most of my childhood in Australia, and then I came back for the second time and that’s when I met Shim. Before that I was in Japan.
You know, when you’re in your formative years, 12, 13, 14, getting into the teenage years, you start to become a little rebellious. And you start to get into your own stuff, like music. And that’s when it all started. I had a lot of time by myself, because it was hard to make friends, being the foreign kid in a Japanese school. That’s kind of when I got into music.
When you and Shim decided to start a band, did you know exactly what you wanted it to sound like? Or did that happen organically?
Emma Anzai: I think it was an organic thing. The main thing about us getting together and playing music, it was just about being part of something. Starting a band and being part of something. The music was kind of secondary in a way, at that time, because we were both still learning our instruments at the time, just singing and writing. It was all very new. So we’d just sort of do anything, and a lot of it was very eclectic and quirky. I wouldn’t say it was even listenable, you know?
And then we sort of incorporated our own influences, like Silverchair, Rage Against the Machine, Green Day, that kind of thing. In that way, we developed ourselves. We knew we wanted to be a great live band, from the get–go.
Tri–Polar is a bit more aggressive in parts than your early stuff. Was that a conscious effort to reflect the live show, ‘Let’s make this record a little harder’?
Emma Anzai: It definitely was, yeah. We were always a heavy band at heart, I think. When we went out on tour with bands like Breaking Benjamin and Evanescence, we wanted to bring that out a bit more. Not to mention that when you’re out on the road for two years straight, you get a little angry anyway. So that kind of came out in the writing, I think. It happened naturally.
With Janus, It’s Alive
Where: Live Wire Music Hall, 307 W. River St.
When: At 7 p.m. Monday, July 26
Tickets: $22 advance, $24 day of show
Artist’s website: sickpuppies.net