Everybody has a “happy place” and Brooklyn’s Life Of Agony are no different. Having seemingly rediscovered their mojo on new album Sound Of Scars and with a happiness exuding from the band that’s been missing for a while, Joey, Mina, Veronica and Alan seem to have found their collective “happy place” and are once again on fine form. So it seems, now would be good time to catch up with, guitarist Joey Z for a chat….
Interview by Chris Andrews
MM: Going back to the very beginning, who were the biggest personal influences that made you want to play guitar?
JZ: As a very young man there were specific guitarists that had an impact on me. Their playing caught my ear and moved me through the emotion in their style. Those players are David Gilmour, Randy Rhoads, Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield.
MM: You inadvertently found yourself part of the NYHC scene in the early 90’s and they seemingly fully embraced you. Do you remember any negative feedback from the NYHC scene?
JZ: Sure, absolutely. Life Of Agony had a very different sound from the rest of the scene. We had these haunting emotional vocals along with hard intense guitars and grooves. Either you liked what we did back then, or you didn’t. We’ve just always played music very transparently, so it’s always had a unique sound. That’s the only negative feedback I can remember. The people who understood what we were doing always outweighed the ones who didn’t.
MM: I remember when River Runs Red came out and the impact it had on the metal/hardcore scene and many people still name it as an influence today. Why do think that is?
JZ: For much of the same reasons in the answer from the last question. We were different, and very organic. We connected with our audience immediately through the story we were telling on RRR. The lyrics struck home for many people who felt the same way we did. That’s true power… We connected with the hearts of many that needed help through a sort of “musical therapy”. That therapy was for us as well, so we were one in the same with our audience.
MM: Between Ugly and Soul Searching Sun there was a bit of shift in your sound.
JZ: Yeah, truth is, our sound is constantly morphing. Between Ugly and Soul Searching there were some shifts in the band including a new drummer, but that wasn’t the specific reason the sound changed. I feel one of the main reason’s was that we were trying to hold on to Mina. She wasn’t so sure about staying in the band and there was this vibe. I believe the big sound shift was due to us trying to hold on to her, so I feel, we would specifically write stuff that she would want to sing over. SSS was still written in a natural way, but I think that thought was always in the back of our minds.
MM: There was a time around 2005 when Broken Valley came out and it was discovered that it had illegal spyware on it, causing it to be removed from sale. Would you say that was the bands lowest point and did you ever think about giving it all up?
JZ: That really was a tough pill to swallow. You work very hard on any record you do, and when you unluckily catch a bad break like that it really feels terrible. We never would give up. This music is in our blood, it’s a huge part of our lives. Alan, Mina and myself have been a family for a very long time. There’s no quit in us.
MM: Did (new drummer) Veronica’s influence change the song writing dynamic in Life Of Agony?
JZ: Getting Veronica in the band has been such a huge blessing. She bring so much to the table from her fun personality, to her awesome drumming skills. As far as the song writing goes for this new record, she definitely had a nice positive influence on all the songs and how they turn out. We acted as a complete unit and did everything in person in a live room. This was important to all of us to feel every part and explore all possibilities.
MM: The new album The Sound Of Scars revisits themes from River Runs Red. Was that a painful process for the band, given how personal River Runs Red is to certain members?
JZ: I wouldn’t use painful to define anything we did on this record… This was something we were andare all excited about. It felt more full circle, coming back to the story from RRR. It felt correct and necessary once the idea was discussed to do a continuation from that concept. It was emotional at the time in a good therapeutic way if anything.
MM: You’ve co-produced the new record. How did it feel to produce your own band?
JZ: I am so proud of what I was able to accomplish when it comes to the production I did on this. Having the trust from the band and from Sylvia Massy was so important. It was such a boost for me. I really worked hard to get the right sounds and performances from myself on guitars, from Alan on Bass and from Mina on vocals. I also tracked all the interlude story pieces as well. Most of the recording for everything was done in my home studio, “The Nest”. It’s such a creative comfortable environment. The whole entire experience has been so rewarding and I can’t wait to do the next one.
MM: It seems, from the outside at least, that LOA is in a very good place at the moment and perhaps the most stable it’s ever been. Would you agree with that?
JZ: Agreed. We’re firing on all cylinders. We have been for the last year and a half. We’re having more fun than ever before, on and off stage, and we’re all playing really great together. It’s a nice tight and intense, steady groove.
MM: Through the years, you’ve maintained a very loyal fan base. Why do you think that is?
JZ: Simply because we are true to the music we play, and real about the stories we tell. We are also very down to earth people, and our fan base knows that. We’re a timeless band travelling through a timeless galaxy.
MM: You hit the UK at the end of October and I remember seeing you with Prong and The Obsessed around 1994, but what are your favourite memories of playing the U.K?
JZ: From the London Marquee to the Astoria, from small venues to large ones, we’ve built someamazing memories in the UK, and will continue to do just that with this coming tour. With Doyle opening up it’s going to be one classic show after the next. The UK has been a home away from home and the fans are incredible. Extreme music in general has been such a big part of the British culture. We’re so proud that we get to experience it all when we come play there. See you at the gigs…
The Sound of Scars is out now.
Catch Life of Agony on their UK tour:
10/22: London, UK @ Islington Academy
10/23: Southampton, UK @ Engine Rooms
10/25: Birmingham, UK @ 02 Institute2
10/26: Manchester, UK @ Club Academy
10/27: Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club
10/29: Milton Keynes, UK @ Craufurd Arms
10/30: Bristol, UK @ Fleece