Just as I was getting started on one of the most exciting interviews I have done to date with Moshville Times, Life of Agony guitarist Joey Z got in there asking me a question first! Here the chat is more focused on the new album and the challenges it presented.
How do you like the new record?
Me: Absolutely amazing. I was a fan back in the ’90s and loved the first two albums so when I saw the opportunity to speak to you about the new album I jumped at the chance. I saw the video for the lead single and was curious to know what the rest of the album would sound like and what direction it was going in. Then when I heard it in full I thought “Yeah, that’s exactly what I was hoping for”.
Joey: Yeah, you know we worked so hard on it we spent about sixteen-seventeen months on the album all told with the writing and recording. We really pushed ourselves, and each other, to the limit so we’re super proud of it.
[Back to me asking him the questions!]
When did work start on the new album, and whose idea was it to get the band back together?
Firstly, we got back together in 2014. We had some offers to play some shows and at that point the band wasn’t really active at all; we were all just doing our own thing. But we had some offers on the table from our agent, which caused us to start talking. When Mina went through her transgender announcement (I knew about it early on as Mina and I are cousins so it wasn’t a big change for me but it was for the general public), everyone started talking so we decided it was time to put all the nonsense and baggage behind us and see Life of Agony as a blessing and as something we should feel lucky that we’re able to do.
It’s been such a part of all of our lives for such a long time that we should honour it and pay homage to it and I think we were all on the same page about that, so we agreed to do some shows and then it was like a positive snowball from there. The camaraderie was there, it was a positive vibe, we were laughing a lot and having great shows, it definitely showed on stage. At first, of course, Mina was nervous and the band was worried about how everyone was gonna deal with the changes. But the response was so positive and so huge that I think it supercharged the band. And from there that positive snowball led us to someone bringing up the idea, I think it was our agent, who suggested a new record on top of all this.
We talked about it and we were all really on the same page in terms of where we needed to go musically, we agreed it needed to be dark, heavy, have that Life of Agony groove, it needed to have the content that you could latch onto what we’re saying, feeling, struggling with and we needed to put all those true feelings into the record. All the greatest parts of Life of Agony went into the record. The focus was to make the best record we could possibly make and I think we did that and we’re proud of it.
That kind of answers my next question which was: where did the creative drive come from to finally start writing songs together again as a band?
Yeah it was the friendship, the camaraderie again, and having that positive feeling. The positive reaction from the fans and the public really helped as well. You can only imagine if the reaction hadn’t had been so good, would we have been pushed as hard, would we have had that drive to go and make a record? Maybe not. And I think our fans should know that they were a part of the making of this record too. So it’s a universal feeling almost, you know?
What was it like recording the album together after so long?
Well, it’s funny because we did this record differently to how we’ve done them before. We all have families now and homes. Alan, Sal and myself all have little ones so we’re living different lifestyles so it wasn’t like we were going to run away somewhere and live somewhere different for two months while we make a record so we had to be very creative this time, individually and how we shared ideas. Although we were together when we would rehearse in the studio, the creative end was a lot of sharing through email. But it really worked as we were all on the same page.
We used studios all over the place and our co-producer Matt Brown, to whom we give a lot of credit for the record, would run around and record the guitars here in the studio in my home (New York) for example and then go to another studio near here. So the record was made completely different to how we had done before, but it worked.
What would you say the fans can expect from the new album and how does it differ from earlier LOA material?
Well, I definitely feel that this record, on the timeline of our records, fits right after Ugly. That’s just the feeling it has. It doesn’t sound dated or old school, it just has that vibe; that darkness. It definitely has aspects of those earlier records that people love.
Was it intentional to try and recreate that sound from the earlier records to appeal to fans from that time?
No, it wasn’t intentional but I gotta say that when Matt Brown was here and we talked about the guitar sounds, we both knew that we wanted it to be super aggressive while keeping it sounding like me, which I think we lost a little on Soul Searching Sun and Broken Valley. I was always trying to be open minded to everyone around me and not wanting to always do things my way. Maybe that hurt us a little bit in the past as I was so open about the guitar sound and so easily influenced by the producer to change it.
But on this record, Matt Brown was a fan of Life of Agony since the beginning. He was a huge fan of A River Runs Red even before we met him; he was listening to that album and loving it so he knew the guitar sound that I wanted and making it big and wide and just bringing that aggression back again. So I think that played a role in the sound of the record in terms of what we did with the guitars. And as far as Mina goes, I feel Mina’s approach was very aggressive yet very musical and melodic so that was how she approached earlier records. There is a different kind of aggression now, but still coming from the same soul, still coming from the same body.