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Joey Z (Life Of Agony)

Interview with Joey Z from Life Of Agony
by Anton Sanatov at 29 May 2017, 10:47 PM

We all have some darkness inside of us; some oil drops in the clear waters of serenity. That is why it’s so important that we have something to hold onto amidst those sullied spots of negativity, a piece of hope that we may finally reach a place of pure tranquillity; a pain-free haven of emotional bliss. LIFE OF AGONY have spent a good 20 years exploring their personal tumults through a catalogue of brutally honest and elementally heavy songs, and after a lengthy hiatus, the New York quartet are back to once again reach their fans with a message of compassion and a sound of metal joy. Here at Metal Temple, we’ve had the privilege to speak a few words with guitarist, Joey Z, about the band’s new record, “A Place Where There’s No More Pain”, and discuss changes, struggles, regrets and the importance of musical bonds.

Hi Joey, how’s it going?

I’m all right man. They’ve got me on a pretty tight schedule here. Interviews are pretty much every half an hour, so we better get right to it.

Let’s get started then…
I’d like to begin by talking a little bit about the new record. Tell me about this “place where there is no more pain”. Is it somewhere where the band finds itself right now or somewhere that it is still heading?


Well, I think that we’re all striving to reach it, and I think that’s the point of the title; and when I say “all”, I’m meaning to say “all people”. Everyone has struggles, and I think the message that we’re sending out is that we understand and we want to try to create this comfortable place through our music for you to share your struggles with us, as we do with you. I think that the message is to our audience and to whoever is listening is that we understand and that you’re not alone.

Is it in any way an answer to “River Runs Red”?

You know, I never looked at it that way. I don’t think that any of us ever looked at it as an answer to “Rivers”, but I can see where that point is. It actually touched base on a lot of what “River Runs Red” is about; the inner demons, struggles, fear, and just being in an uncomfortable place in life. So I can see your point. Basically we’ve built such a bond with our listeners throughout the years that we’ve never had any walls up between us. This band has been very much about transparency and I think that our audience has really got to know us through our music and lyrics so. I think that from record to record we’ve been really consistent with that aforementioned bond. Of course the sound of the band has always changed and morphed and grew and matured, but I think that on this record we’ve just taken all of the best parts of LIFE OF AGONY, all the best qualities about the band, and put them finally into one record, and here you have “A Place Where There Is No More Pain”, which has all those qualities that one would expect from a LIFE OF AGONY record; and then some. We’re very happy with the way it turned out.

As you’ve said, the sound of any band changes as time goes on, and a lot of bands tend to move towards a lighter sound as they climb further into their careers – why would you say that is so?

Well, I feel that on this one we actually went the other way. We all agreed that we need to get more aggressive again, to have that old-school LIFE OF AGONY punch; we wanted to bring back that aggression and that darkness. I really think that we achieved that. We definitely didn’t go light on this one. We kept it very aggressive with a lot of rhythm grooves and heavy, pounding crunchy riffs that we’ve been known for. Like I said, we just wanted to take all of the best bits of LIFE OF AGONY and put it into this record.

There is always talk of tortured artists. How much do you think emotional/personal turmoil is a part of the creative process, and would you say that it is an essential component?

Yes, absolutely. As artists we all struggle; that’s just part of being an artist. It is this creative thing inside of us that comes from darker place for some reason, and it’s a way to let it out. Everyone has it. Some people struggle because they can’t find an outlet for those places inside their soul, so we are lucky enough that we have that direct conduit as creative people, that we’re able to tap into that conduit and actually bring those feelings forward; and that produces our material, lyrics and our content. So we feel very lucky. It’s almost like a therapeutic session when we’re creating an album, be it together or individually, you find yourself digging very deep within your soul to create that content. And we’re affected by everything around us, as all human beings are, so a lot of that goes into it as well, not just from the inside but also from the outside. So it’s a collective of all these parts of us, from the inner to the outer, that go into the material. So I would definitely say that it’s an integral part of what makes a LIFE OF AGONY record, absolutely.

And do you think that one should always pour every part of yourself into a record or is it important to hold something for yourself?

It’s a good question. Some things are metaphorically spoken through the record. That’s why I think that LIFE OF AGONY has a very special talent in a sense that anybody can pick up one of our records and relate the songs to their own life and their own self. We are not always presented with a clear-cut picture of what is happening on all sides of us personally; some of it is more of a metaphoric picture of what anyone could be feeling. I think that’s what keeps our audience connected to us, because they can take this content and apply it to their own lives, and see through to these songs the way we do; and that’s a special part of LIFE OF AGONY.

Do you think that a record can change someone as a human being, and if so, has there been one such record in your life?

Definitely. You know, there’ve been many. When you say change, I think that even if they’re small changes they are still substantial – I call them plateaus. I remember different records in my life being different plateaus. The first Rock album that I ever heard and actually got was “Kiss Alive II”. I was a very young boy, say like 10 years old, and my cousin gave me that record, and seeing the cover - if you remember it, “Kiss Alive II”, had Gene Simmons with blood trickling out of his mouth, and when you open up the vinyl there’s fire all over the stage and the guys are wearing make-up and there’s blood and fire. I remember just being blown away as a young kid and just going: what is this? And putting on the record and hearing the sounds of those guitars and bass and drums and going “oh my God!” that sounds crazy, that sounds great. It changed my life. So I would say that if there’s one record that really had a substantial effect on me and how my life turned out, it would be that record. It made me want to play an instrument. Soon after, I got into METALLICA, and once again at a very young age. It was the “Kill ‘Em All” record and the song “Seek And Destroy”. I really loved that song and I remember wanting to learn it on guitar; and that’s when my mother bought me my first guitar. So I would say that “Kill ‘Em All” was another substantial plateau for me, because that’s when I got my first guitar. You know, you have these records that have had such a major impact on your life, and here I am now, almost 30 years later, and I am doing it for a living, and been doing it for quite some time now. So I would say yes, records have a major impact on the way your life turns out for sure.

All bands have their ups and downs – as a unit and individuals; is there any way to avoid them or are they an integral part of the journey?

Yea, I think it is. I think that life is a rollercoaster and that any family or family-oriented situation will have its ups-and-downs.

(Unfortunately a significant part of the interview has been omitted from this transcription due to a fault in the recording.)

LIFE OF AGONY got its start in the New York Hardcore scene. Does punk still possess the same meaning for you as it did all those years ago, or has your perception of it changed?

Yes, they still do of course. The thing is though…we were born into that scene but we were never really a Hardcore band. We had Hardcore elements as far as the sound goes and by being people that came from that community. We’re definitely from a Hardcore-type background, from bands like CARNIVORE, BIOHAZARD, AGNOSTIC FRONT and CRO-MAGS. We come from that scene and we were playing with all those bands then, so we certainly have that influence in our sound. Music was a way of life, well, it is a way of life, obviously – we made it ours lives – but back then it was also what you’d be even if you weren’t playing the music. You would just hang out at the venues – places like L’Amour, CBGBs and you were part of a scene, part of a click. That is why I don’t feel like there is as much of a scene anymore, because there are so many people sitting in front of their computers, on Youtube, and all these things replaced a lot of that “hanging out” in the clubs with sitting in front of their computers. So the scene has definitely been damaged over the years because of the Internet. I don’t know if it will ever go back to the way it was, I highly doubt it, but I feel like I was lucky enough to live and witness and be a part of that scene when it was thriving and really healthy.

And do you have any musical regrets?

Hmmm…definitely not on this record. (Laughs) On this record we’ve definitely exceeded out own expectations with the way it turned out. We’re super stoked about it and we love it. So definitely no regrets on this record. Um, in the past…I don’t want to say that I have regrets, like we said earlier, we learn from things and mistakes, or those the times when the things you laid down on tape weren’t up-to-par when you listen back to it now, but you just say: “hey, that’s where I was at” and I learned from that, I’ve pulled from that and now I’m better. I can really say that I don’t have any regrets. I’m pretty happy with everything that we’ve done. There are a few things that I may have been asked to do over the years with other bands that for some reason I didn’t because the timing wasn’t right; maybe some of those; like other professionals asking me to join them on a song or on a record – I got asked that quite a bit, but I just couldn’t do it at the time; so perhaps some of those. Perhaps I could have worked harder on making them work, so that I could have played with those musicians and made a song. I guess that I should’ve said ‘yes’ more in the past. Maybe moving forward I will say ‘yes’ quite a bit more.

And is it safe to assume that you’re going to be touring this record quite a lot?

Oh yes, definitely. Every day that goes by there are more and more ideas popping up regarding territories and places that we want to revisit or haven’t gone to before. We’re having a lot of talks about expanding to other countries and other places. We want to do what we can within our means. Most of us have family and children so we have to strike a balance between touring and family life; I think that a lot of bands are doing that these days. They go out for a few weeks, then they’re home for a few weeks, it’s all in trying to find that balance, and I think that’s what we’re going to be doing and that’s how we’re setting ourselves up. You’re going to see us out there a lot, but at the same time we will be home with our families when necessary; but we will be touring quite a bit though, so everyone keep an eye out for their area.

Well, that’s all from me Joey. Is there anything that you would like to add?

Yes. I just obviously want to thank you, of course. I mean, we’ve gotten such great reviews and such great feedback from this record and so many people have just come forward to interview the band and review the band, which is so great. We just really appreciate everyone’s support. I just want it to be said that we really do appreciate all the positive feedback that we are getting back with Mina(Caputo) and this new record and I just wanted to say that LIFE OF AGONY really appreciates it all.

We really appreciate you too, and thank you also for doing the interview and for bringing us your music.



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