As Badgerfest 2 is only mere days away, Manchester is buzzing with excitement and many new and local bands are getting noticed due to this buzz. One such band is Agent 47 who have released their self-financed debut EP Who’s That? in April of this year to local acclaim. Stating Deftones, Tool and Corrosion of Conformity as influences, the three tracks on the EP certainly realise the potential that this band have. They share a love of pop-culture, movies, comics, music, video games and technology which are very much explored in the music (“One Bad Day” being based on Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke graphic novel) from time to time. This is a band where anything is on the table stylistically.
They do not try and fit in to a genre and yet the sound and overall feel of the band sits nicely between metal, grunge and good old rock music. Having played a host of local gigs and gathering their fan base, Agent 47 are already recording new material for their next EP which will be released in the near future, so you should keep an eye out for that. I caught up with Rik and Mark regarding their current EP, their plans for the future and the difficulties bands face when trying to start out. Thank you both for a very interesting read and I wish you the best of luck for the future.
Simple things first – where are you guys from?
Rik: We all reside in the lovely city of Manchester although Dan is originally from Torquay.
How long have you been playing together as a band?
Rik: This particular version of the band has been playing together since 2014. The band formed in 2011 but there were a few line up changes until we found the right people. First Mike joined after original guitarist Stu stepped out. Dan joined us shortly after Ed departed for the big smoke and Mark followed shortly after.
Where does the name of the band come from?
Rik: We basically adopted the moniker of the protagonist from the Hitman video games. Anyone familiar with them will instantly recognise that we are not being very original with the name.
We needed a name back in 2011 and couldn’t really agree on most of the ideas (including my favourite – “Bobby and the fun time four”) so I made an executive decision to go with Agent 47. We all loved the games and thought it would be a cool name for a band.
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
Mark: Our music is a wide mix of influences and takes a simple approach that draws from some of the complex stuff we love. It seems to form something a bit different, I hate saying it because it makes you sound pretentious but we don’t really sit in a genre, but that’s just because we can’t make up our minds.
Rik: I agree with Mark on that one to a degree but I definitely don’t think it’s down to a lack of ability. Mike and Mark are great players who always challenge themselves but we found a sound that works for us which, luckily, people tend to like.
We generally do not set out to say “Oh, let’s write a metal track” or anything like that and I think when you don’t work with limitations that’s where the juices get flowing and I think that’s a big part of what makes us different from a lot of other bands.
Agent 47 released a self-financed EP called Who’s That in April of this year. How have the press and fans alike accepted your first EP?
Mark: It’s gone down pretty well we think. We’d actually had it recorded for a while, we were thinking about physical releases and looking at funding for it but after a while we just thought “fuck it let’s just get it out there.”
Rik: We recorded the EP on a very small budget utilising equipment we already owned and a good friend of ours who took care of the guitar, bass and vocal tracking at his house for a small fee. I definitely prefer the DIY approach to recording as opposed to a “proper” studio. I feel like everything is much more chilled out. The great thing about recording the way we did is the mix. It’s very much a DIY sounding EP with some elements of warm lo-fi sound that I personally think there’s not enough of these days. I never wanted anything too polished and over produced. We’re all very happy with the EP and enthused by the great feed back.
How often is the band able to get together and rehearse in the studio? Where do you get together and record?
Mark: Unfortunately only about once a week, unless we have something big coming up. Life happens we’re all older now, have responsibilities, jobs that require overtime, families, partners, kids.
Rik: Yeah, we generally do as much as we can. We designate Wednesday nights for noise making unless something gets in the way but we’re always in contact (we have had a group iMessage since day one and use it mostly every day, even if it’s just to talk shit), this means we can always bounce ideas around. That really helps if we’re unable to get together as we’ll have something to show and tell so to speak.
How are the songs constructed in the studio? Are there the main songwriters of songs that take care of everything or is Agent 47 a band where all members contribute to the songs?
Mark: We all come up with ideas, if it’s good, we’ll work on it. No one is precious about stuff, we’ll add or play with each other’s riffs. As for lyrics Rik writes most but will often ask for input, I’ll writes vocal parts around the theme Rik’s been playing with.
Rik: Generally Mark does a lot more backing but on “One Bad Day” he provides a killer ending. Definitely something we need more of. I think that our styles work well together so doubling up / him having my back is amazing. The themes can quite often (OK, mostly) be centred around pop-culture, video games, comic books, literature and TV but can also be reflections on personal experiences. For instance, “One Bad Day” is based on the concept of someone looking in at the events of Alan Moore’s amazing Batman graphic novel The Killing Joke.
Being from a three piece in the early days to being a four piece, is there sometimes a lot of negotiating in the studio or do you feel you are writing the music you want to for the band?
Mark: The band’s actually gone from 5 to 4 to 5 and back technically through the years. With it there’s been a change of influences definitely but also tastes change, one member might get you into a band you never really used to like or listened to. It just seems to naturally progress with that.
Rik: There have been a few changes but since 2014 the lineup has been solid. The great thing about each incarnation of this band is that it’s always been about making music with my friends. Each of these guys I’ve known before they joined the band either through work or previous bands.
You have two vocalists in the band with Rik and Mark sharing duties. Was this discovered by accident or when writing the songs, did you feel an additional vocalist could enhance the song?
Mark: Not really by accident, I’ve always done shared vocals in other bands, it’s something I appreciate in other bands, where you’ve got that duality of vocals going on. Also it helps if you’ve got that really complex riff to play but something to sing too, it can be a ball ache so it lets you get around and lighten the load.
Drummer Dan has unfortunately had to attend to an injury and you have a more than ample replacement in Mr John Badger. How did the injury happen with Dan and when do you think he will return to the band?
Mark: He’s old, seriously the original problem came from him slipping on the ice. We’ve tried to order him a hip replacement built from a vibrator so he can use the Koch at 300bpm
Rik: He’s not that old. Seriously though, he’s been recovering for a lot longer than he initially thought. He’s joined us for a song at a gig since then which was amazing. The only person he would entrust his duties to was Badger and luckily he agreed. This, again, makes me happy because this band has always been about making music with my friends and Chris (Badger) and I have known each other a good 20 years.
How hard has it been to juggle the touring side of things with the everyday jobs? Do you have plans to go on bigger tours and further afield in 2018/19?
Rik: It’s easier than some people might think. We make time for the band, shows and all that stuff as best we can outside of our main responsibilities to keep the lights on, families fed and what not.
For gigs I have a great mother who is more than happy to watch the kids if my wife wants to come, heh. My Wife is amazingly supportive of the band since I met her. I’m very lucky in that respect. She understands that music is an important part of my life and even listens to my endless stream of facts about the music we listen to in the car each day.
The rest of the guys and I always make sure that we’re 100% free before showing interest in gig offers or seeking them out. Knowing availability ahead of time helps us make sure we never have to cancel shows unless there’s a serious issue or emergency.
We’d absolutely love to plan bigger shows and get further afield so we’re always open to offers. We’re generally consistently keeping our eyes and ears open for opportunities. If it fits our schedules we’re all for it.
Playing music for a living would be amazing but to do that everyone starts out with nothing. You can play 100 gigs and still be treading water and that’s if you get paid. Until the day comes (or doesn’t) where you can sustain yourselves from gigs, records and merch / royalties etc you need to keep the lights on. We’re all very lucky to have great careers while having the drive to make music that we love. Each of us has been in many bands over the years but always while working.
So what are the plans with the rest of 2018? Is there a chance of more material?
Mark: Yeah we’ve got loads of stuff written we need to just get in to record.
Rik: We have a lot of material. Some old (circa 2011-2013), some new and some songs we just don’t play anymore (as with any band). As soon as we can sell more shirts, pack out more shows and get everything squared off we’ll be hitting the studio (probably Al’s house, he still charges us though which is fine) and getting some more aural madness out into the world.
The last EP was released quietly but the next one I think should be a big event. Mark’s awesome with visual stuff and has some awesome ideas about videos / stage projections etc so hopefully expect some of that kind of thing too.
How hard is it for a metal band like Agent 47 to survive in the current climate where bands have to tour non stop and sell merchandise in order to bring money back into the band?
Mark: It’s not about the money for us we do it because we like doing it. That said you can buy our t-shirt and patch from 4gen7.bigcartel.com and stream the EP on apple and Spotify.
Rik: But that’s not because we’re interested in taking your money and buying boats and shit. We just want to put it back into the band and continue doing what we’re doing. As with any band though the dream is to do this for a living. That doesn’t happen to every band, we’re very realistic but what’s the harm in just doing this because we want to? We might get to do it for a living one day, who knows? If that doesn’t happen then we can still continue doing what we do. No regrets, nothing lost.
I think that’s part of the reason we make the music that we do. Not relying on it to pay the bills means that there’s no expectation from anyone for a certain style to sell. We’ll always listen to anyone who enjoys what we do and fans will ALWAYS be the people who get to decide what sucks and what doesn’t outside of the band members.
Manchester and the surrounding area have a huge metal scene like Glasgow. What are the venues like to play in and do bands tend to help each other out?
It’s pretty great here. I’ve been playing venues in Manchester for about half my life which is pretty insane when you think about it. A lot of amazing venues have closed recently but that hasn’t stopped us all from finding places to play.
Bands helping each other out has always been a part of the Manchester scene. Some bands will do it more than others which is fine but then there are guys who will plug each and every other band they know.
We’ll all refer each other to promoters / pass opportunities along and that sort of thing so it really is a scene full of good people.
What’s your live show like? Why are people going to watch you instead of another band?
Mark: A lot of the time we’re pressed for time so we just play. But when time allows we have projections and intros. I’m a designer so I’ll just and up making animations and stuff to go with performances.
Rik: We just did a show at Rebellion in Manchester that had some of Mark’s handiwork in the form of a short-but-sweet intro animation with essentially a live projected backdrop of our logo that was animated the whole time. He’s pretty handy with that stuff so we generally leave him to it. Obviously we want to know what he’s up to and we’ll have input but 99% of the time it’s exactly what we’d want anyway.
What are you working on at the moment?
Mark: A few videos to go with the current EP, then it’s on to the next.
Rik: We’re also constantly working on getting more shows and exposure so we can grow a larger audience. It’s always nice to have people to interact with and know that our material is heard.
A fun question to end this interview. If you were a DJ and were allowed to bring 5 CDs to the party, what would they be?
Mark: I’d just put my phone on my Spotify playlists and not relinquish control but if we HAVE to go CD’s
- Demon Hunter – Outlive
- Deftones – White Pony
- Devin Townsend project – Epicloud
- Gojira – Way of the Flesh
- Mastodon – Once More Round the Sun
Rik: That’s a tough one. Mark’s taken Gojira and Deftones so I guess I’d get to bring 5 more, right? Or is that cheating? Either way, I’d bring these:
- Guns N’ Roses – Use Your Illusion I
- Tool – Lateralus
- The Berzerker – Dissimulate
- Akercocke – Goat of Mendes
- Andrew WK – I Get Wet (because every party needs AWK!)
Any last message for our readers here at Moshville Times?
If you’re reading this and thinking “huh, these guys sound alright” then please do feel free to check out our debut EP on Spotify and Apple Music, check out our Facebook page and whatnot for gig dates, etc. We’d love to hear from you and see you all at shows hanging out and having a good time. We’re always open to opportunities to play shows so if you do that type of thing also, please do get in touch.
Who’s That? is out now