Those of you who know how the music industry works are quite aware
that things never go according to plan when interviews are concerned
- still, I have to admit that the six month period that I spent
anxiously waiting for an interview with Agent Steel will be almost
certainly considered for the ultimate delay prize.
Well, even though some of my questions may now
sound somewhat out of date to you, this interview is still important
in the sense that it provides a clear insight into the lives of one
of the most cult Thrash/Speed Metal outfits of the 80s and also
enables you to learn more about the band's latest effort "Alienigma".
Guys, thank you for doing this interview with "Pure Metal". How
are you enjoying the process of promoting your latest album "Alienigma"
and what does it involve?
Juan: A lot of the work was done already months ago, but it is
always interesting and we enjoy answering questions about Agent
Steel and specially questions about our new album. Our interviews
are usually conducted either by telephone, or via email, sometimes
after shows or before shows on the tour bus or backstage.
The whole UFO imagery has been following the band since 1984, yet
I would like to know what is the connection between that very
concept and the title of your latest effort.
Juan: As a band we've always been into the obscure, the strange, the
unknown and UFO's have always mystified me, and when Bruce Hall
joined the band in 1999 as the new vocalist; we continued on this
path concept wise. I think it makes for interesting perceptions
lyrically speaking; very inspiring.
Also not every song is about UFO's and conspiracies
either, we do not paint ourselves into a corner on every song, but
it's true that we like the mystery of the possibility of
extraterrestrial life, and what if these beings were our Creators?
On the new album "Alienigma", the basic concept is based our
Zacharia Sitchins' works of books like the 12th Planet, The War of
Gods and Men, Stairway to Heaven, and Lost Realms.
The majority of the music journalists back in the 80s felt that
the term Speed Metal was the most appropriate in order to describe
the music of Agent Steel. Do you believe that this title provides an
accurate description of the band's music in the year 2007?
Juan: Not really, I feel that we are more than a Speed Metal band, I
mean when we first started off yes, we were straight out speed
metal; Kerrang Magazine labelled us "Iron Maiden on Speed" and the
term stuck. Nowadays, I believe that we've kept to our roots but
also have created a wider range and scope as far as the elements and
style of song writing, we've incorporate Speed, Heavy metal, Rock, a
bit of everything. We do not like to limit ourselves.
There are quite a few projects/bands that have been associated
with the music of Agent Steel. Would it be fair to say that the
member's involvement in other projects has helped the band acquire a
more varied approach to music in general?
Juan: That's a good question, and I really don't know the answer to
that. When we approach the song writing for Agent Steel we keep a
very open mind and try to come up with the best songs we can write,
it is possible subliminally that other projects might have
influenced us a bit but not much.
The period between the release of your previous effort "Order Of
The Illuminati" and that of "Alienigma" is four years, which is
quite a long time for any band that wants to stay in touch with what
is happening on the scene. Is there any specific reason for that
delay or did you feel the need to spend more time in the studio so
as to ensure that "Alienigma" would reach certain levels of quality
prior to its release?
Juan: The songs were completed within the first two years, but then
Bernie moved away to another town a bit far away, and we also
noticed that about half of the songs were not as heavy as the other
half of the album, so we went back in and scratch half the album and
wrote new material to be consistent with the rest of the album, then
Bernie came back in and help finalize the last few songs.
Then there was an issue on what label was gonna
release "Alienigma" because we changed record companies, so that
took sometime to sort out. We did not want to take four years in
between albums and to be honest, it doesn't even seem like that much
time passed, but I think four years is a too long of time in between
records for sure, hopefully next time we will not take another four
How would you describe "Alienigma", especially in comparison with
"Order Of The Illuminati"? Which are the similarities and
differences between those two releases?
Juan: Musically speaking it's totally different, "Alienigma" in my
opinion is way heavier sounding and the songs are much heavier and
intense as well, not to take anything away from "Order Of The
Illuminati"; which in my opinion is a fantastic classic album.
When we started to write "Alienigma" we wanted to
come up with a totally different album, we like to not write the
same album twice, we took a different approach to the tuning and
also Rigo, our drummer, took more time with the selection of drum
beats, and as far as the song arrangements we were more selective
than ever before, also vocally Bruce wanted to sound more powerful
"Alienigma" is the band's first release that I came in contact
with after the classic "Unstoppable Force" and I am happy to say
that, even though Agent Steel are a different 'monster' nowadays,
the music sounds as fresh and powerful as ever. What is the secret
behind this success?
Juan: There's no real secret, I would say the important thing is
that we ARE heavy metal fans and we wanted to come up with material
that a heavy metal fan would think or say, is that Agent Steel? Wow?
What the hell? They sound heavier than ever? We really just wanted
to write a kick ass album, we were just very motivated and inspired
to create Metal Music more than ever.
What was the main idea behind the creation of "Alienigma" and how
close did you manage to get in relation to the original vision for
Juan: When we first started writing the album we wanted diversity in
the songs; then we scratched half of the album and started writing
more material, at this point I became a bit confused because we did
gain better, heavier songs, but we also lost some real cool song
parts (but those parts were a bit weaker but still good though),
perhaps its something that we will revisit in the future and see if
we can develop those old ideas, or perhaps not. I think the original
vision was good and the outcome to "Alienigma" was surprisingly even
better than I imagined.
Is there any specific formula that you guys use in order to
create a composition? Can you please describe to us how "Wash The
Planet Clean", for instance, came to life?
Juan: Well it started with a riff, I was trying to come up with
something cool like "Illuminati Is Machine" intro off "Omega
Conspiracy" and from there Bruce suggested the chugging verse riff
and then Bernie added the Bridge and chorus. Karlos, the bassist,
came up with the cool Cliff Burton wah bass part; "Wash the Planet
Clean" was our first song we wrote for "Alienigma" it kind of set
the path for the rest of the album.
Which are these compositions from "Alienigma" that you feel they
best represent the spirit of the band and which are these elements
that every composition needs to have in order to meet your criteria?
Juan: It really depends on the song, but I would say "Fashioned From
Dust" is a good example of the spirit of heavy metal for me. Another
great song is "Wormwood".
How much time did you end up spending in the studio for the
recordings of the album? Were all the compositions ready prior to
entering or is Agent Steel on of these bands whose members like to
work on their compositions till the very last minute?
Juan: We were well prepared before we went into the studio and
started work on "Alienigma" with Producer Bill Metoyer. I remember
Bruce wanting to keep working on the vocals and reworking them
trying new things, but overall we were confident before we went in
to track. What really took the longest was the mix, and I remember
Bill wanting to keep remixing and also Bernie wanting to keep
remixing, and this made me a bit frustrated but at the same time I
was impressed that everyone cared so much about the songs and sound.
Do you normally enjoy being in the studio? Any funny/weird
moments that you would like to describe which were associated with
the recordings of "Alienigma"?
Juan: I enjoy performing live much more than the studio. Funny/weird
moments I would say it would have to be Bill Metoyer's dog "Cow" a
small dog that will terrify anyone who walks into the studio until
he gets to know you.
Is the band in any way involved in the recording process or do
you feel happy to allow a professional producer to handle such
duties? Is there anything that in retrospect you would like to have
done different in terms of the recording/mixing process of the
Juan: We were real involved in the recording process, the past two
albums "Omega Conspiracy", and "Order of the Illuminati" were
produced by Bernie Versailles and Co-Produced by us as a band, on "Alienigma"
we brought in Bill Metoyer because we wanted an outside source to
give us a different vibe, we all worked well together until the last
possible day until we had to finally turn in the masters.
Music videos may be expensive to make but many bands tend to use
them as an extra method of promoting their music to a wider
audience. Have you guys considered making a video for "Alienigma"
and if yes, which is the chosen song for that purpose?
Juan: I think nowadays Music videos are very important specially
with the Internet and youtube.com. We have talked about making a
video, just having gotten around to it just yet but I think we will
release a video to one of the songs for sure this year, not sure
what song though.
Do you guys have any plans for touring, and if yes, which parts
of the world do you plan on visiting? Any chance of visiting the
Juan: We toured Europe in September, 2007 and visited countries like
Serbia, Greece, Germany, Holland, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Slovenia,
we just didn't get the opportunity to tour in the U.K.,
We are planning on doing some shows in the U.K. in
2008 for sure. We are also confirmed to play at the Bang Your Head
Festival in Germany at the end of June 2008 with two of my favourite
bands Judas Priest and Saxon. My dream would be to support Iron
Maiden in England.
I have never had the pleasure of attending an Agent Steel gig
before, so I will leave it up to you to describe what one should
expect to get from a live performance.
Juan: We like to deliver a pummelling diverse set of songs from our
past and present catalogue live, lots of energy, sweat, and pounding
metal into your head at an Agent Steel show!!!!
What are the band's plans for the future? Is your collaboration
with Mascot Records limited to the release of "Alienigma" or is it
going to extend to more albums in the future?
Juan: We are planning another studio release and also an official
live album sometime in the future.
If you were offered the opportunity to use an unlimited amount of
money for the band, which would be the first thing that you would
try to improve/invest in?
Juan: I would purchase a building and convert it into a heavy metal
compound with rehearsal rooms, recording rooms, showcase rooms, and
a rock bar on the top floor!
Do you feel pleased by the fact that Agent Steel is a respected
band amongst the metal circles? Which are those goals that you would
like to achieve as an artist in the years to come?
Juan: It's nice to be respected that's for sure, but at the same
time I think there's much more that we can achieve as a band, for me
performing at the Download Festival or Bloodstock in England would
be killer, also I've always wanted to tour Japan.
We just had the opportunity to perform live in
Bogota, Colombia for the first time, and the crowd was amazing there
was over 50,000 people in attendance, can't wait to return there.
Once again, thank you for doing this interview with "Pure Metal".
I hope that "Alienigma" gets loads of good reviews because that's
what it truly deserves!
Juan: Thank you for the support, it really means a lot to us. We
hope to see you and all the U.K. rivet heads, when we return on
Interview © January 2008 John Stefanis
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