How has your personal style developed over the years?
Being that Life Of Agony signed with Roadrunner back in ’92-’93, before the wave of technology, and even cell phones were not that popular back then, I had done most of the artwork at that time. I did everything by hand. I drew everything. It’s something I went to school for. I went to the School Of Visual Arts in New York City and studied with some of the best comic book artist teachers. One of my teachers drew The Mighty Thor at the time, a guy named Walt Simonson. I think I learned a lot by having that kind of background and having the ability to draw stuff on the spot. Even going back to our first demos, I would draw all the covers and fliers and things like that associated with the band. Over the years, I got more and more involved in not only the merchandise and the album art, but also the plotting out scenes for music videos that we were working on. There was always this sense of storytelling, and I think that was part of my love of comics—it’s visual storytelling. I was able to do that in a lot of ways in the band scenario, because we would get these video concepts from producers that didn’t know about us and probably had five different pitches for any number of bands in their drawer and they would just swap the names out. ‘Band jumps in car and jumps off cliff here.’ We had the real creative freedom to do things in-house. Even talking with the rest of the guys and, ‘Hey, we’d like to make this type of video,’ or, ‘We’d like to do this kind of album packaging that hasn’t been done before,’ and then I would lay it out, take everyone’s ideas or run with an idea I came up with, and present it to the label. Nine times out of 10, it got the thumbs up. I always had that kind of outlet with the artwork, tying it to the music. It was a really cool experience for me to learn all those things along the way and being in Life Of Agony for 20 years now, I’ve experienced so much that I’ve been able to apply that in different ways.
I wanted to get your thoughts on that too, Life Of Agony, 20 years.
Yeah, how about that? Pretty crazy. It’s hard for me to even think about it on realistic terms.
When you do the show at Starland, are you going to play the clips from River Runs Red as well as all the songs?
(Laughs) Yeah, we will. We’re gonna play everything in order of the record. My mother will be happy, because her voice will get over the P.A. She played the teacher in one of the bits. Mrs. Glicker, that’s my mother. (Laughs) The funny thing was, we recorded those at Josh Silver’s house. He had a studio in his house and we were coming up with all these ideas, and we were like, ‘We need a teacher voice!’ and I was like, ‘My mother’s perfect!’ So we called her up and she had no idea what she was doing. Nothing was written down, we just told her what to say and we told her to call the house on the answering machine. So that was actually Josh’s machine. She called the house, does the exact one that appears on the album and calls us back. She’s like, ‘I wanna do it again, it wasn’t right. I stuttered in it.’ I was like, ‘Mom, perfect. It sounds real.’ She was not happy once it went on the record, because she was like, ‘I sound like an idiot. I’m stuttering on it.’ I was like, ‘Nope.’
First take, nailed it.
Why do you think River Runs Red, more than Ugly, say, has had the staying power it has? Was it just the moment it came out?
I think that has a lot to do with it. I think the timing was right on it. There was no rock radio at the time, so people were really going out there and discovering heavy music. This was heavy music with melodic vocals, and I don’t think it was that popular at the time. It stood out, especially on Headbanger’s Ball, where the video ‘Through And Through’ aired. I think that had a lot to do with the excitement around it, and some of the buzz that we had at that time. And also I thought the energy of our live show made us set apart from some of the bands we were touring with. The timing, the energy, the type of music it was at that moment. It just all fell into place for us. Ugly was more of a departure from that sound. The times were changing too. It was two years later. I think that’s when rock radio was starting to break some of the heavier bands. Nirvana was already out. The whole grunge thing was really big. Ugly was more of an introspective, subdued album. It’s hard to compare the two—they came out two totally different times and the band was in two different states of mind recording the first record as opposed to the second one. We went through different stages with every record. That’s why none of them really sound the same.
Life Of Agony will be appearing at Starland Ballroom on Nov. 28 and the Highline Ballroom in NYC on Dec. 15. More info at lifeofagony.com.
JJ Koczan thinks maybe he’s just the bad seed of the family. theobelisk.net.