Sydney’s Anubis released their fourth studio album The Second Hand earlier this year. Lead vocalist Robert James Moulding speaks for Progstravaganza about his musical beginnings, working on the new album, Prog in Australia, and more.
Let’s start from your early music beginnings. How did your musical career begin? When did you start playing? Which groups have been your favorites as a young man? Please tell us something more about your early life.
I started playing music during the early years of high school – in friend’s garages! It was one of the only things that kept me interested during that period. My friends and I would skip the last class of the day so we could get in an extra hour of playing together. It was during that time I only ever listened to Punk music. NOFX, Bad Religion, Pennywise anything from the States I’d just eat up. I never really fitted in, I’d emigrated from the UK to Australia at a young age and whilst culturally it’s similar there was still a slight disconnect I felt, socially.
How did you go about forming Anubis? Who was the most influential when the band started its musical journey?
Dave who plays keys and I started the band whilst we worked at a pizza place together. A mutual friend of ours had passed away whilst holidaying in Canada and as a way of dealing with the grieving process we decided to write some songs and create a concept record. Dave was schooled in music all the way to a university level, I simply had my garage background but we managed to find a middle ground. By this time I had switch to the dark side and was heavily into prog but we had different approaches to creating music. I’d say Dave was the main driving musical force on the first record, he had far superior writing skills and theory knowledge.
In the beginning, did you have some “fixed” tempo in composing songs or everything was a product of jamming, improvising?
Dave, his brother Steve and I were the initial three members of the band. We decided to bring all of what we had written separately together in the room and play out what we had. During that time we would jam and improvise new bits and pieces. We were writing to a strict story and concept so it was like putting the right songs together with the right chapter of the story. It sounds harder then it is, in fact it can make it far easier.
How would you describe Anubis’ music on your own?
I would say it’s a conscious effort to create ‘progressive rock’ but with a slightly modern edge. We all love a lot of modern artists as well as the classics from the 70s and 80s. It makes it more interesting that way. There are a few acts today that attempt to write exclusively in the style of the classic prog bands, and emulate the whole sound, visuals, face makeup, but that’s not our thing at all.
Your new album, The Second Hand, is a follow-up to the critically acclaimed 2014 release Hitchhiking to Byzantium. Have you felt any pressure while working on The Second Hand because of that?
No, not at all. If there is pressure we like to use it in a positive manner. It can create a lot of fuel for your fire if you feel that your back is against the wall. If HTB was acclaimed by the critics it only encouraged to try harder.
What has changed for Anubis when it comes to writing new music — The Second Hand in particular?
The major difference with this record compared to the last is when we got back together to start none of us brought anything to the table. All we had was our instruments in front of us and a large blank canvas. The concept and story had come before the songs. did, it seems to be the way we write concept albums. Maybe one day we will reverse the process, who knows?
You label your music as cinematic progressive rock. What makes it “cinematic”? You pay attention to atmospheric and ambient elements. How important it is for the structure of your songs?
The ‘cinematic’ description came from the early days when we were showing people the material. It was the main thing that kept coming back to us. A lot of what we do benefits from a story and structure and we like to add cinematic-sounding elements – sound effects, atmospheres. It helps push the narrative along and create an atmosphere connected to the story. People have been doing it for years, it’s nothing that new.
How do you see the Australian progressive rock scene. There has been many, many great bands coming from Australia in the recent years. It seems that you guys love prog over there.
Well actually, it’s kind of the opposite. Prog is very much niche and underground over here in Australia. There isn’t a large audience for it and doesn’t get played by large radio stations. Even the indie stations find it a little embarrassing. The reason there maybe be an influx of artists coming over to Europe and America is that’s where most of our audiences live. It’s quite rich in talent and is growing but we find ourselves trying to find ways to grab the attention of people on the other side of the globe.
Do you guys consider yourselves a part of any specific cultural movement, however peripheral?
I don’t see the culture of music in Australia changing anytime soon. So probably not. I do feel the music industry does a lot to get involved in social and political matters. These are certainly things we feel quite strongly about and have no issue using our music to promote something positive socially or culturally. Like we did on The Second Hand.
Are you also involved in any other projects or bands beside Anubis? I know that Douglas Skene is also in Hemina, another cool prog band.
Not at the moment. All my energy finds its way into Anubis in one way or another. It’s were I find I’m most driven towards artistically. I know for Doug Hemina was something different he felt he needed to express, it has the added advantage of including his wife Jess on bass too.
So, what comes next for Anubis?
2018 will see us return to Europe playing Night of the Prog festival in Loreley. We will be playing other shows dotted around the continent once it’s all finalised. Hopefully we have a surprise up our sleeve for our fans as well.