Brooklyn-based Life of Agony have been pioneers for nearly 20 years. The group’s 1993 debut album River Runs Red is a classic, essential album that every metal fan should own. The band seamlessly mixed together the angst of New York hardcore with explosive metallic guitar riffs, while frontman Keith Caputo delivered some of the most truly emotional vocal performances the genre had ever seen. To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Life of Agony, the band recorded their live show in front of a sold-out crowd in Brussels, Belgium, where they performed River Runs Red in its entirety. Life of Agony bassist and Spoiler NYC frontman, Alan Robert, sat down with PureGrainAudio to chat about Life of Agony’s recently released CD/DVD 20 Years Strong, along with his new comic book Wire Hangers from IDW, Spoiler NYC and to tell us if Life of Agony fans can ever expect another album.
Tell us a bit about the live CD/DVD set you just released, Life Of Agony’s 20 Years Strong.
Alan: Well, we wanted to do something special to celebrate twenty years of making music together, so we decided to film and record a sold out performance in Brussels, Belgium at a very famous venue. We performed our entire debut record, River Runs Red, in its entirety and the crowd really was on fire. We signed with I Scream Records for the release and they did a great job getting it out there for us. We also included a lot of exclusive interview and backstage footage in a documentary on the DVD. For fans of the band, I think it’s a great addition to the collection. The band was very involved in the making of it too, and I think you can see and hear that. Joey Z. mixed the audio and I designed the packaging and DVD menu screens.
20 Years Strong came out on I Scream Records, an independent label, why did you sign with them for this release and how is it being on an independent label after being signed to Epic?
Alan: It’s no surprise that the band had a bad experience on Epic Records. We’ve been pretty vocal about it. The label released our record Broken Valley (along with 15 other records that year) with illegal Spyware on it. The album was pulled off the shelves due to a class-action lawsuit against Sony/Epic Records. So, going back there, or to another major label is something that we will probably never do. I know Laurens, the owner of I Scream Records very well. He signed my punk band, Spoiler NYC, a few years ago. He’s a big LOA fan, too, so it made a lot of sense. We filmed the show in Brussels, I Scream’s hometown, so the cards really fell into place.
What is the current status of Life of Agony and can we expect a US tour or a new studio album any time soon?
Alan: We know we haven’t recorded anything new in some time. Honestly, it took us a few years to get over what happened to us with Epic Records. We were all jaded from that experience. Sure, we performed together for years afterward, but it’s much different than getting into a room together to create something new. It’s only recently that we’ve been able to talk seriously about writing new material together. We’ve started showing each other some new music and lyrics, and I think we’re off to a good start. Our goal is to have some new material ready to try out for the summer tour this year.
Your debut album is regarded as a highly influential metal record and tons of bands have cited it as an influence. What is it like to look back on that album now years later and when did you start to realize that that album had now become a classic?
Alan: It still surprises me that River Runs Red has become a classic album for people. I’m very proud of that. It was definitely unexpected, especially, while writing it. I mean, we were a bunch of pissed off, angry kids looking to get out of Brooklyn, any way we knew how. Music did that for us. We were able to tour the world together. We never thought two steps ahead, I mean, how could you? We just rode the wave and managed to land on our feet. We accomplished so much, so young, it’s amazing that we’re still at it. I guess that’s part of why the band hasn’t recorded new material in the last few years. We recorded four studio albums and countless live records over the years. I think for this band, in particular, we really need something important to say. It’s not about just cranking out songs, it’s about writing because we need to get something out of our heads or off our chests.
Tell us a bit about the upcoming new album from your other band Spoiler NYC and what can fans expect?
Alan: Spoiler NYC is a pet project of mine that I really love to do when I have time to focus on it. In between touring with LOA and working on my comic books, I write Spoiler NYC songs. So far, we posted two new songs online, the title track, “Banned in 38 States” and “Damaged Goods.” The debut album, Grease Fire in Hell’s Kitchen came out in 2008 through SOS Records (USA) and I Scream records (Europe). The new material is a little more extreme than the first album. The aggressive stuff has a little more edge to it and the mellow stuff has more soul. I’m excited to finish the album, hopefully by the Fall 2011.
How is Spoiler NYC different from LOA and where do you think they fit into the music scene?
Alan: The two bands are different animals entirely. Spoiler NYC is a punk band, in the same vein as Rancid or Social Distortion and LOA is a cross between metal, alternative and straight up hard rock. Spoiler NYC would be great on Warped Tour or something like that.
You recently made the jump into writing and drawing your own comic book series “Wire Hangers” for IDW Publishing. Can you tell us a bit about the series?
Alan: “Wire Hangers” is a story I’ve wanted to tell for as long as I can remember. But, I never thought I’d have the time or dedication it takes to produce a monthly comic book series, let alone the ability to land a serious publishing deal for it. Somehow, through networking I was able to sign with my favorite comics publisher out there, IDW Publishing (30 Days of Night, Locke & Key). The rest was a whirlwind of sleepless nights over the drawing board. I loved the experience so much that I’ve already come up with a new horror comic series that will come out later this year. Details on that really soon, but I think you’ll find it even more twisted than “Wire Hangers”. This one is like Jacob’s Ladder meets The Twilight Zone.