“If we never do another album again we want to end it on a high note.”
We sat and had a chat with Alan Robert from Life Of Agony to talk about words and music.
Broken Valley was released twelve years ago. What caused the hiatus in new music from LoA?
After the Broken Valley record was released with Sony in 2005, Sony had released I think about twelve titles with illegal spyware on the CD. There was a big class action lawsuit which Sony lost. You would put the CD in your computer and it would block you from being able to download illegally. The consumer didn’t know that when they put it in their computer. It was their attempt to prevent piracy but they tricked consumers.
We were so aggravated when we had worked so long and hard on our first major label release that it had to be pulled from the shelves three months after it came out. It was devastating. But we got off the label, we were still heartbroken that an album that we worked so hard on never really got to reach its full potential so it took us along time to want to make new music again.
Did you have other projects to work with in the meantime?
Sure we all did. We all put out different records on the side but we continued to tour as Life Of Agony throughout those 12 years and when Mina came out we received such a great reaction and a new found positivity with overwhelming support from the metal community.
We had thought about writing and recording new material when we were approached by Napalm Records who promised us that we would have complete creative control. Which was way different from what we experienced before. We said ‘hey this sounds like a good opportunity’ and between 2015 and 2016 we wrote and recorded the record before it was released in April of last year.
If we never do another album again we want to end it on a high note and so that was the goal to really just put our stamp on something we were proud off. One last time if nothing else.
You also created comics in that time.
I was drawing before I ever picked up a guitar. When I was a kid I drew monsters and Star Wars™ characters. I eventually went to art school with my dream to work for Marvel or DC. We also formed the band while I was there, it was pretty much my first band. I put the comics on hold for 20 years until the band activity slowed down.
I was self taught, picked up a guitar later in life at seventeen years old and we got a record deal in my senior year of college. We recorded River Runs Red and it was set to be released in October of ’93. I had graduated that summer and my choices were either taking my portfolio around to comic book companies or jumping on a van and going on tour. I wasn’t that confident in my art abilities back then.
I didn’t have a great experience in art school. I went there full of enthusiasm and when I got there, there was a lot of studying about art history and stuff I wasn’t that interested in at all. I really wanted to learn how to do comics and there was only one teacher that had anything to do with the comics industry. Walt Simonson.
“It was a total game changer that put me on the map as an illustrator and creator.”
I had his class and I learned how to draw and tell stories using panels, how the story should flow on a page and where your eyes should lead with the word bubbles while leaving room for type. I learned everything in that class. After my first comic series was released in 2010 I went on and wrote another series. I really wanted to get this story that I came up with in art school out of me. I had already self published my own story called Wire Hangers.
When I joined Twitter I started following some of my favourite artists, and then I followed a writer who was writing with one of my favourite artists and he turned out to be the head of a large publisher. I had no idea that he was the big guy there and then he asked me if I wanted to publish my story through his company! It was like winning the lotto. It was a total game changer that put me on the map as an illustrator and creator. I had full creative control, they said you want to draw every page, do your own lettering, do covers, whatever you want just deliver it on time.
You traded the pen for the axe?
I would seek out music growing up even though I didn’t have a lot of family members that were into music. A lot of the friends I made were into heavier stuff and would trade Metallica demos and stuff. When I got into that whole thing in the late 80’s I was a big KISS fan. The first album I ever bought was a big KISS double platinum for like 3 dollars and 99 cents in the department store. I met a girl who knew how to play guitar. She was into Metallica, Anthrax and all that stuff and she would show me riffs and it got to the point that I was practising her guitar more than hanging out with her. Eventually she said ‘just take the guitar’ and I took the guitar, and I would get music books and I would learn all their songs.
How did you get started in music from there?
It was with a very incestuous group of people in the Brooklyn music scene. At the time we all knew the same people, we were all kids back then and one band would influence the other. It all started with Pete Steel and Carnivore. You know without Carnivore there’d be no Biohazard, without Biohazard there’d be no Life of Agony, and of course Type O. It all stemmed from him really. Sal was basically a roadie for Louie the drummer for Carnivore, and Evan from Biohazard was a roadie for Pete. I lived across the street from Evan growing up. I mean it’s that type of a scenario. The first show I ever saw was Biohazard opening for White Zombie in ’88. It just seemed like the neighbourhood rock club but everyone spawned from that place and the shows we did there built the scene around it. It was incredible.
[This is an edited version of a transcribed audio file.]