Life of Agony once sang, “if you won’t walk with me, I will walk alone.” On February 13th, 2004, they didn’t have to. Hundreds of kids are standing out in the cold, waiting for the Diamond Ballroom’s doors to open. My wife and I aren’t with them — we’re sitting in the rear of the Life of Agony tour bus, hanging out with Joey Z (guitar) and Alan Robert (bass). Here’s what the two of them had to say about the band, the tour, and their future.
ME: So when did you guys roll into town?
Joey: Yesterday. We had a day off here yesterday.
ME: Did you all do anything here?
Joey: We went to the mall. (Laughter — the Diamond Ballroom is located right next to Crossroads Mall).
ME: You guys have been here a few times. Have you ever been down to the bombing memorial or anything?
Alan: No, we don’t really do a lot of sightseeing …
Joey: We’ve got a lot of work to do, believe it or not, you know a lot of bands do a lot of stuff but we’re trying to work on a new album right now …
ME: Yeah, I read that you’re working on some new material.
Joey: Yeah, well, writing, we’re in the process of writing, and that takes up a lot of time. It’s very time consuming when you have ideas all over the place.
ME: So when you’re working on the album on the road do you have a way to record material?
Joey: Yeah we have numerous ways of recording out here with us. We have two home studio machines and we have Pro-Tools out here with us that we set up daily …
Joey: Yeah, so we’re out here working hard, both individually and as a band, we’re working hard. We also try and keep the website updated for the fans.
ME: Yeah, we checked it before we left the house.
Alan: We just put up a new Tour Diary section yesterday, a whole new section. We did it from here.
ME: You do it from the road?
Joey: Alan does most of the artwork for the band, all the cool images you’re seeing like the border stuff and symbol stuff, that’s all Alan’s work. And colors, all the cartoon characters, that’s all Alan’s stuff.
ME: Yeah, I saw the new Instant Messanger Icons you put online …
Joey: And there’s new merchandise out, Alan did a new shirt that’s selling like crazy. The cartoon shirt, the same image that’s on the site.
ME: The one with Keith standing behind the three of you holding the mic stand?
Joey: Yeah, that shirt is selling like crazy.
ME: So tell us what the new album is going to sound like.
Alan: Well, we’ll be playin’ one song tonight off the new album.
Joey: We all really, really want to do this. We’re lookin’ … we’re hungry. The only word that comes to mind is hungry and aggressive. We’re not Slayer and everyone knows that, but at the same time, the band … we had some polite music on Soul Searching Sun, and I think we’re going to try and stay away from politeness and go with more dementia and hungry sound and aggressive.
ME: It seems like casual fans say Soul Searching Sun is their favorite album, but the more hardcore fans seem to like the albums best in the order they were released.
Joey: So far what we’ve been doing is taking the better qualities of the band and bringing them forward. You know, the aggression of some of the guitar riffs, the passion of the vocals, the realness of the vocals and where that’s coming from. That’s being brought up to the table, all the great qualities. You’ve got to pull some stuff out, like the politeness. It was never really Life of Agony, that polite sound.I don’t know, I think we got kind of distracted.
Alan: Sometimes you gotta go back to the masters, and see what really influenced you.
ME: It’s hard when your fans are used to a particular sound and then you change that sound …
Joey: We did drastically. If you listen to Soul Searching Sun it doesn’t sound like the same band. Literally, like if you put one record after the next.
Alan: It wasn’t done intentionally, that’s the thing. We just grew and grew. And we really didn’t have anybody telling us “well you can’t do that,” so we just went with it, whatever we felt like.
ME: Do you have anybody telling you that now?
Alan: No. We tell ourselves now actually, we’re a little more conscious of it now.
ME: Are you aiming for radio play with the new album?
Joey: I don’t think we think about it.
Alan: I think … radio is at a certain state that I can’t even turn it on. So you know, if we get radio play doing something that we wanted to do, that’s a different story.
Joey: If it’s bad ass, and they can’t help but to play it ‘cuz so many people like it, then that’s cool.
ME: I’m curious to see if the new Headbanger’s Ball will sway the radio back towards heavy music. It’s different living in Jersey than living in Oklahoma, here you have limited outlets to see and hear new music. Kids are going to see stuff on Headbanger’s Ball.
Alan: Tomorrow night, Saturday night, they’re playing River Runs Red from the DVD at 11 o’clock eastern time.
ME: And where will you be tomorrow night at 11 o’clock?
Joey: In front a TV, hopefully! (Laughter) Actually, we will! ‘Cuz we’ll be playing with Sevendust and we’ll be going on early so we will be able to see it.
ME: Are you excited about that?
Joey: Yeah! They played “Through and Through” a few months back and gave it a grand introduction. Jamey from Hatebreed gave it such a cool introduction. “This band is classic, from 10 years ago, this is Life of Agony. They’re on tour again, this is ‘Through and Through’.” It was a real nice introduction.
ME: “Through and Through” was the first Life of Agony song I ever heard. I was at a party when it debuted on Headbanger’s Ball, and I literally made everyone at the party stop talking while it was on so I could hear it. I bought the album the very next day and have been a fan ever since.
Joey: Wow. Awesome man, that’s great.
ME: So talking about life on the road, is it wild or is it calm?
Joey: It’s like, the wild days are all behind us.
ME: How old are you guys getitng to be now?
Joey: I’m 32
Alan: We’re both 32, Keith just turned 30 …
Joey: We’re both 32 but we feel young when we get up stage, and as a matter of fact I think we’re in the best playing condition we’ve ever been in. As far as the band sounding, if you don’t mind me saying, we sound fucking awesome right now. I mean, we’re sounding better than we’ve ever sounded. So as far as our playability, we’re in the prime of our game and we’re only getting better by the day, by the show.
ME: And how has the turnout been for these shows?
ME: Are you surpsied by that?
Joey: Unexpected, yes, very.
Alan: We didn’t know what the expect.
Joey: No album, no video, no radio song, nothing.
ME: But people are dying to hear what you have coming out, and they’ve been waiting a long time.
Joey: Yeah, and people want to hear those songs. They want to hear their favorite songs, they want to see the band play them, they want to see if we can play them live.
ME: I noticed a lot of people singing along with your songs on DVD, is that common at your shows now?
Joey: The other night in St. Louis, it was crazy. The place was jam packed.
Alan: It was the 14th anniversary of Life of Agony’s very first show … we had a nice toast on stage.
Joey: 14 years exact to the night, February 11th.
ME: It’s weird when you think like, almost half of your life has been dedicated to doing one thing. So tell us about your website, it’s constantly being updated.
Alan: People should check out our website and sign up for the message board. We have a whole mess load of people out there, a nice little community.
Joey: We interact, we answer questions as much as we can. Again we’re busy … I tend to go online a lot more when I’m at home.
ME: Do you get online at all when you’re on the road?
Joey: Occasionally. It’s very hard, kind of slim, for me like twice. Now Alan has his computer out and he’s dong a lot of work with the Tour Diary and keeping the website current which is very important.
ME: It’s very important. Like 10 years ago, we all got our information from magazines and the info was so dated, and now it’s like you can see what the band was doing last night …
Alan: To give you an idea, I posted the new Tour Diary section last night at 2:30 or 3am, posted it on the newsboard, and checked it 15 minutes later and there were already 4 or 5 messages … that’s in the middle of the night.
ME: It’s a totally different connection to the fans now.
Joey: And the problem with a lot of bands that aren’t running their own website I noticed, is you go out there and the last time it was updated was (six months ago), and it’s the same graphics, the same pictures, and it’s like, why should I come back here?
ME: You end up losing visitors and fans over it.
Joey: You discourage people, right!
Alan: Well a lot of times the label takes it over, that’s the problem. Then all the news filters through them and it’s when they get around to doing it …
ME: But you maintain control over your site, right?
Joey: Yeah. we’re doing all of this on our own. I thnk there’s something to be said about being out here with no tour support …
Alan: … No real label support, you know, obviously the DVD just came out but it’s just a one off for us. But we’re basically an unsigned band right now.