Interview: Life Of Agony’s Joey Z and Alan Robert Talk Touring, New Album, and More

On April 29, Life Of Agony played their 3rd show of their spring tour at The Chance in Poughkeepsie, NY in support of their recently released album A Place Where There’s No More Pain, their first album in 12 years.  Before another kick ass performance from the Brooklyn metal veterans,  I was lucky enough to sit down with lead song writer and bassist Alan Robert, as well as guitarist Joey Z.

We sat down and discussed topics such as playing overseas, other bands they hope to play with, and the recording process of the newest album.  They also shared some advice and opinions on how new bands can get their start.

Check out the full interview in the video below:

Here is some of the interview transcribed:

JS: I see last night you guys played the hometown show in NYC. How did it go?

AR: Great.

JS: First show of the tour right?

JZ: Actually no we played Boston the previous show, but last night was the record release party. But the previous night was album release party. But the night before was a warm up show in Boston. SOLD OUT. Packed house, did a lot of driving, but otherwise it worked out great, got warmed up, had a great night last night and really killed it. Now we are at the Chance tonight and we are gunnakill it again.

JS: Yes, so now that you’re doing a small tour out here in the east coast, I gottaask, you go some overseas shows coming up, and did some overseas shows last year, how are the crowds different between and Europe?

AR: It’s weird. Its like over the years things have changed in the states a lot. Scenes die out, clubs close down. In Europe, it is as strong as it ever was.  Sometimes we go over there, people are camped out in the rain and go there just to experience the music.

JS:  Yea like Gene Simmons talking shit that rock is dead, but that’s not the case in Europe.

JZ:  Yea, Eurpope still has that same feeling that it had fucking 20 years ago, so it really hasnt lost that heart.

JS:  I was watching you guys on YouTube playing in front of these fucking huge crowds in Europe. It’s so bananas.

AR: And the thing is too its different types of music.  Like hip hop bands, alternative bands, death metal bands that all play all the same stage.

JZ: Yea they’re blending the genres out there, blending them all together.  So you get the chance to play with David Bowie, and Journey, then on the same bill you could have Lamb Of God or something.

JS:  You guys kind of did the same thing over here with Tsunami Fest (Reading PA) I was there, and Body Count and Wu Tang played the first day and you guys and Madball played the next day. That was a good fucking blend of hardcore and hip hop and it was my first LOA show.

JZ: Awesome, it seems America could pick up the ideas or traits of the European music scene.

JS: Maybe someday.  I feel like bands tour in packages and festivals.

JZ:  Well the buisness has changed alot in music so thats caused a lot of these promoters to put bigger packages together to get more people to get away from the computer and step outside their house and make an effort to go see their favorite bands instead of sitting around in their underwear.

JS:  Do you guys have a wishlist of bands you want to play with?

AR:  The original Misfits.

JZ:  Ah that’s a great one.

AR:  That would be a dream.

JZ:  I think it would be great for this band to play with Soundgarden.

JS: YESSSSSS. One of my favorite bands.

JZ:  I think we would work really well with them.  Think both bands would go really well together.  Misfits would be great cuz that was our favorite band growing up.

JS: Soundgarden is working on new material and touring.  So it will be cool to see what Chris and Kim come up with. Now before you guys hit the stage, do you guys have any pre rituals before you go on stage or do you have any warm up music you listen to get psyched up?

JZ: It depends. Like in Europe, we find ourselves in the dressing room listening to music.  It depends on the room too.  If we’re in a room like this, there’s not much vibe. So probably try another room.  Or decent place thats comfortable with couches and we will listen to a Soundgarden, or a Sabbath, or throw on some music to get those musical juices flowing.

JS:  So what are you listening to right now? Like in the car or gym.

JZ: “A Place Where There’s No More Pain” (Laughter) It’s in my CD player in my car.

JS: Hey I cranked it all the way here.  I love it.  So let’s get into it right now.  It’s been years since “Broken Valley”… what was it like to finally get back in the studio again? Was it different?

AZ:  It was completely different from any other record we’ve made.  For the better.  We were more focused.  We were very concentrated on the performances.  To get the best from each other.  It was awesome.

JZ:  Almost like isolated performances.  We worked with Matt Brown.

JS:  I know Matt Brown.

JZ:  He plays with Pale Horse Named Death (Sal Abruscato’s other band)

JS: That’s how I met him.

JZ:  We did it like Alan said, more each person had a focus.  And Matt took the time to work each person on their own to mix it.

JS:  The mixing is FANTASTIC by the way.

AR: He would love to hear that.

JZ:  He’s gunna hear it. So yea Matt was an integral part on how the record turned out.  The way it sounds, the way it turned out, the performances on us, Matt pushed all that to get that done.  I give him a lot of credit for this.

JS: I think it’s cool that you guys decided to stay in house with Matt instead of getting a Rick Rubin, or a Brendan O’Brien. You guys stuck in house, and say this is the guy we want, this is the guy who knows us best.  I find that an awesome approach.

AR:  We almost did the exact opposite of what we did with “Broken Valley” every step of the way.

JS: Like major label.

AR: We did the major label, big time producer. Greg Fidelman fantastic, he worked with Metallica, Slipknot, worked in big studios, sunset sound, where they did Led Zeppelin drum tracks.  We totally went stripped down on this record.

JZ:  This record is different.  We really utilized all of our assets around us.  All the studios where we know and we’re comfortable with.  And it worked out cuz hey listen, there’s more than one way to skin a cat and get it done.  We were actually able to turn out and make a great record with our own little chemistry on how we were gunna do it.

AR:  Plus our schedules.  We all have other things that we we’re doing.  So scheduling stuff was a lot easier to do one-on-one with Matt, versus trying to get everyone there all the time.  It was really cool.

JS:  I see you guys spent years apart, then got back together.  During this time between the last album and this album, you guys all had other bands and projects. Sal had a band called A Pale Horse Name Death

JZ: Yea.

JS:  I love both of those fucking albums, I was lucky enough to catch them, and now with this album I hear a lot of doom and gloom, very dark and gritty compared to the others.  Did Sal’s time in Pale Horse have an influence and with Matt Brown, did they influence on the direction of the dark sound this album has?

JZ: I would say absolutely.  Because Sal brought a shit ton of rifts to the table.  We’re all guitar players in this band.  I always say we got four guitar players in this band, so there’s not like “oh Joey is the guitar player, he has to write the rifts.”  It’s not like that.  We all contribute to the pot.  Sal had a shit load of rifts to offer for the band and that’s why you hear a lot of that sound you were talking about.  And it’s cool cuz now you hear Mina sing over those rifts.  So I feel my job in the end as a guitarist, is kind of making those my own.  Make them my own so when I record them I make them my own.  It’s me.

AR:  He’s a machine.  I don’t know how he does it.  He can do like six guitar tracks that sound exactly the same.  (Laughter)

JZ: Thank you.

AR: It amazing.  And that’s why the record sounds the way it does.  Because everything is so precise.  Everyone spent the time to hone it in.  Really make sure we got it the way we want them.

JS:  My two favorite tracks from this album are, umm I really love, “Meet My Maker,” and I absolutely love “A New Low.”

JZ: “A New Low!” Me too! That’s one of my absolute favorites!

JS: That’s fantastic! Now, that I’ve just said my favorite tracks, what other tracks are you guys most proud of, or what’s your favorite track on the album?

AR: Ahh, I would say “The Dead Speak Kindly” is my favorite.

JS: Okay.

AR: Umm, and probably,” World Gone Mad.”

JS: Yeah, the video was awesome by the way.

JZ: I keep jumping around, umm, because I listen to it a lot.

JS: Yeah.

JZ: And I keep flipping. I love “A New Low,” every time that song comes up…

JS: Yes! That song speaks to me.

JZ: It’s my favorite! But then honestly I’ve been really hot lately on” Right This Wrong,” because I can picture us doing it live. It’s like when I can really picture this band playing a song at a festival, and making, ya’ know, 80,000 people go insane. I can picture” Right This Wrong,” doing that to a crowd just by the groove it has and the drilling and the vibe it has. It has that festival big crowd vibe.

AR: Yeah.

JS: So now, I don’t wanna give away too much, but is it safe to say that a lot of these songs will be played at these upcoming shows?

JZ: Yeah, ya’ know we’re gonna pace ourselves a little bit, and not blow our load all at once. We’re gonna start introducing songs to the set. We already are, umm, tonight we will play a couple off the record. I know a lot of people are just getting the record so they don’t have start learning, ya’ know?

JS: Yeah.

JZ: Yeah, so we’re gonna throw a couple of songs from the new album into the set tonight and then when you see us again down the line you’re gonna hear more of the album in the set, you know?

JS: Yes. Everybody should be at the show tonight. If you missed the last three shows, not the end of the world, especially if you’re still in the east coast. There are more Life of Agony shows coming up in May.

JZ: So we are playing Stroudsburg, PA on May 12 and then May 13 we are playing Long Island, Wantaugh, NY.

AR: First time in a very long time. We haven’t played Long Island in I can’t remember.

JZ: Yup, May 19 we play Lancaster, PA and then May 20 we play Starland Ballroom.

JS: Yes, speaking of the ballroom, I was there for Mina’s birthday, that was an awesome fucking show by the way, so yeah Starland Ballroom is definitely a good venue, you gotta check it out. It’s bloody fantastic. I caught you guys there, I caught Garbage there. It’s a kick ass venue man.

JZ: Yeah, we’re gonna have fun.

JS: Okay I got one last thing, Zire’s War.  That’s how we met.  Cuz I was catching Biohazard on the small little tour that they did. And Lo and behold you got Zire’s War opening.

AR: Was that your first show?

JZ: No, I believe our thrid show.

JS: Zire’s War… you with some of the guys of Misery Kills.

JZ: And John from Stereo Mud.

JS: YES Stereo Mud! So what’s going on with Zire’s War?  I know you’re busy with LOA

JZ: Well the way I am in life is that I want to give my full attention, my full energy, my committment, to what I’m doing. I can do both when we are playing live when LOA is touring, and I can fit Zire’s War in between it. That’s one thing, but making a record is a completely different animal.  And when it was real when we were about to do this record.  I spoke to the guys, and told them, and Zire’s War I write the stuff, I don’t wanna call it  “My Band” but it is my baby that I’m putting it out on the world, so I told the guys that it’s very important that I do this LOA record and give it my full attention.  And not try to squeeze Zire’s War because then I’m thinning this out or I’m thinning that out for each other.  And that’s not healthy for either project.  So I want to give it my full attention for this Life Of Agony record.  And I’ll get that Zire’s War record out as the Life Of Agony cycle continues here.  I plan on recording somewhere down the line.  And finally getting out.  And I think it’s a great thing because this record has reintroduced all of us back into the industry.  It’s not easy out there.  Not everyone is throwing deals at you.  So being relevant again is important to us individually.  You know Alan has his comics and coloring books he released.  All that’s going on with Life Of Agony, it all trickles down in our personal adventures.  It all just helps each other.  You gotta be smart about what you do.  And you can’t step over each other.  And that’s the way I saw it if I tried to push to do both with full force at the same time.  So I’m going to pick up Zire’s War again. The songs are there, they’re not going anywhere and I’m making them better and working on them here and there at home.  So now when it finally comes out, and when it’s released I can give it more of my attention.  It will make a lot more sense.

JS:  My last question for the day is do you guys have any advise for bands trying to get their start in this changing industry?

AR:  That’s a tough one.  It’s funny. Yesterday at the Irving Plaza at the record release show, we had an unsigned band contest, just trying to give back, ya know. It’s kind of how we found our way, we got to play some really great shows when we were a baby band, played with Agnostic Front, opened for Type O, and Overkill at the Ritz. Stuff like that happened to us and it help us put us on the map so now we are trying to do that for someone else.  Just gotta keep doing it and hope that those opportunities happen.

JZ:  And a way to make them happen and it’s something we did in the past is, and I remember clearly, when we were young, we didn’t have management or anything, we used to connect with the promoters ourselves.  And I remember Gene from Faces.  The only way we got to play that first  show was that we would go to faces and see a band like Biohazard or Monkey Bump, and we met the promoter and said “Hey we would like to play here.”  And gave them music.  I think if more people did that, actually found out who was booking the shows at their local venue, and actually went to go personally say hello. You see people just complain that nothings happening but they’re not trying.

AR:   It’s like everything is all computers, and everything is virtual, friendships are virtual.  There are no faces to names anymore.  It’s like sometimes you have to get “real” with people so they can give you a shot.

JZ:  Yea go meet with them. Go to the venue. Go hand them some music and say we’d love to play here.

AR: It’s easy for someone to press delete when the email comes in with music from someone you’ve never met before.

JZ: Yeah, there’s no face, there’s no personality, there’s no connection you know?

AR: And there’s so much of it online. It’s almost like you get bombarded.

JS: Yeah, I get it.

AR: Sometimes you’ve gotta be more proactive.

JZ: Definitely! That’s it, you people out there! Young bands, get proactive!

AR: Whipper-snappers!

JZ: And I don’t mean the fucking pimple shit.

JS: Guys, thanks so much for giving me the time to do this. Go kick ass out there, I’m definitely looking forward to the show, and obviously best of luck for the rest of the shows. And just a quick special thanks to Napal Records, Life of Agony, over at NYS Music.com, Peter and Jim, my co-hosts Mosh Pit Fardo, Black Metal Steve, and Psycho Steve of Steve Losurdo Productions, and of course my lovely camera gal Danielle, thank you so much. It’s been a real honor.