Using The Force; An interview with Jon Wessel and Brad Chancellor of Anakin



By Tommy Johnson

Jon Wessel for years strived to become a musician that would pay his dues while having his life on the road. While he yearned to make it work by performing all across the United States, the time would come when he would see the writing etched on the wall. He became displeased and disenchanted with how things were going. He grew tired and weary of feeling that the imagined outlook wasn’t heard towards what he thought would led. So, Wessel decided to go another way with his career; learning and constructing a home studio and he soon began recording. As the project moved along to the point where it was ballooning up to having other members included, Wessel turned to the internet to look for someone to hopefully put together some designs for him.

Throughout his own time in the music industry and seeing designs being an essential part of being successful, Brad Chancellor found a passion for graphic design. His portfolio features styles leaning towards clean lines with sleek retro undertones; exploring within various design realms. When Wessel stumbled upon Chancellor’s work online, he was captivated by what he was seeing and began communication. Wessel also became aware of Chancellor’s band that he was in, which happened to be Anakin. Chancellor began Anakin in 2008 primary as a personal project; allowing him to create music that was aesthetically pleasing to him. At the beginning stages of the inception, Chancellor created the band by utilizing his friends and others he recruited to help.

When Wessel stumbled upon Chancellor’s work online, he was captivated by what he was seeing with the graphic design stuff, but also with Anakin. At that time Wessel became aware that the band was running a Kickstarter campaign to help get their first studio album Random Accessed Memories in full gear. After Wessel contributed to the drive, Chancellor sent an email thanking him for his pledge. The initial exchange between the two set up for more conversation;  exchanging thoughts and ideas to another became more frequent.

“I showed him a demo one day after asking and feeling him out if he could do some graphic design work for the band,” Wessel explained during our phone conversation while he was in at his home in Kansas.

For Chancellor, the demos from Wessel found him finding more than what he expected. After releasing Random Accessed Memories, Chancellor was hearing exactly what he was envisioning how Anakin should be sounding. When a short period of time passed from obtaining those initial demos, he contacted Wessel in hopes of having him join the band. Before he would agree to do join Anakin, Wessel explained that his role couldn’t just be the singer.

“I’ll sing, but I don’t do something just a singer. I got to play an instrument,” Wessel said to Chancellor when he was invited to join Anakin. “I play bass, guitar, little bit of drums, little bit of keyboards.”

Immediately after Wessel accepted Chancellor’s offer, the duo went directly to work. With Chancellor living out on the West Coast and Wessel having his life as of now deeply rooted in Kansas, the ability to have Anakin move in the direction that they want has them rely heavily on the internet. Wessel mentions that he and Chancellor are working almost seven days a week on focuses on strictly on Anakin-related material; bouncing ideas and demoing them out to be sent back and forth to one another via Dropbox. The frenetic pace that the two work can be exhausting at times; tinkering with each song to get the full sound that they wish to capture. Wessel also mentions that he and Chancellor aren’t afraid to scrap songs if they don’t feel strongly about them.

“Ideally for him and me, we write when the inspiration is there,” Wessel adds.

For their latest album Celestial Frequency Shifter released in February, inspiration came in the form of Weezer, HUM, Nirvana, Failure and the Rentals. With the help of the production team Eric Graves and Joel Wanasek, Anakin’s features a layered atmospheric sound. The band’s bassist Landon Cobarrubias incorporates a fuzzed-out, shoegaze feel to a number of the tracks while Beki Andreasen on keyboard ties in a heavy spaced-out experience for listeners. Although Anakin’s music is powerful and sonically ruthless, Wessel’s vocals centering on Chancellor’s interstellar lyrical themes are soft and pretty.

Anakin’s mission of reaching a deeper connection through their music with their fans caught the eye of the people behind No Sleep Records, an independent label that is located in Huntington Beach, California. The signing with No Sleep Records allows the band to expand their catalog without comprising how they operate.

“I still remember before we hammered out the contract, the biggest thing they said is that they wouldn’t put something out that we weren’t happy with,” Wessel said. “As soon as I saw that, whatever apprehension I might have had-that went out the window.

With the release of Celestial Frequency Shifter out of the way, it should come to no surprise no one that Anakin have already begun work on their next album. With a large number of songs near completion (lyrics from Chancellor are still needed for each one), the band hopes to get out on the road soon and play a string of shows. For Wessel, getting back out and performing live will no doubt bring some of that delight and satisfaction that he once had.

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