Exclusive! Interview With Life of Agony Bassist Alan Robert

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Tuesday, July 12, 2005 @ 10:38 PM

Life After Death: Gnarly Charl

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They have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Life of Agony, during the early to mid-nineties was a band most noted for their album, River Runs Red and LOA’s members were respected by the real heavies in the underground scene, particularly from those of the NYC hardcore tribe.

About eight years ago they called it quits as a band. In January of 2003, however, Life of Agony, as we knew them when, got back together to play two sold-out reunion shows at Irving Plaza in New York City. They thought it was a fluke that the gigs were so well attended. Maybe they didn’t realize that they had such a loyal, core fan base.

Could they have imagined that after disbanding, then working out their differences personally and professionally, that they would reemerge to be a working band again-- signing a deal with a major record label, touring with the big dogs of metal and headlining shows of their own?

It took a lot of pain to taste the sweet. It was from the death of singer, Keith Caputo’s father’s battle with heroin addiction that birthed the music and lyrics of Broken Valley, a concept album, like their twelve year-old creation, River Runs Red.

Bassist, Alan Robert talks about getting back together with friends Keith, Joey, and Sal, music, and being back in Life of Agony.

Mrs. Glicker has got to be proud …

KNAC.COM: Hi Alan, how's it going?
ROBERT: Hi Charlie. It's going great.

KNAC.COM: Congratulations. You're back with your forthcoming release Broken Valley.
ROBERT: Thank you, man. Have you heard it?

KNAC.COM: Just the demo stuff that your label sent me. I want to hear it. The single, “Love to Let You Down” – it sounds like you guys have done a little departure – it's not quite as edgy as the other stuff. Is that indicative of the whole album, or are there much heavier pieces?
ROBERT: There's heavier stuff on there. There's darker stuff, too.

KNAC.COM: I read somewhere that the inspiration or what charged you to get together with Keith was the tragic death of his Dad. That brought you guys together to write the lyrics to the album. Was the death of his Dad that inspired the whole album?
ROBERT: Yeah, I think it had a lot to do with setting the whole tone for the record. It was a time that the band was apart when his Dad died, and it kind of brought us closer, because the guys from the band showed up at the funeral. We knew his Dad was battling with heroin abuse his whole life, and it really shaped Keith's life, because of his mother dying of an overdose when he was a baby and then this. So, you know, heroin has really took its toll on his family. Keith's practically a brother to me, and it weighs on my head as well. I think the combination of us both thinking about that stuff all the time really dictated what these songs were going to be about. Not to say that all the songs are about that, but it definitely set the tone for the record and the main gist of it. Especially a song like “Day He Died,” which is almost a step-by-step of what happened. The lyrics really take you through to when Keith had to identify his father's body in the hotel room, on the floor, and it's very detailed.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, that's burned into him, I'm sure, man. Just hearing your double live CD, River Runs Again (Live 2003), hearing the intro right before you guys go into “Heroin Dreams”... I take it that you guys have your stand on substance abuse, particularly heroin.
ROBERT: Well, we don't want to preach to anybody, either. This has definitely played a major role in our lives, and if we can help somebody through that then all, the better. We've run into a lot of people that feel like they're the only ones who are going through this stuff, and it's not true. We've been all over the world, and have seen it in every city in America and every city in Europe. It's a common thing.

KNAC.COM: It's not limited to any economic class or race.
ROBERT: No, definitely not. The record touches upon other topics as well. Like family issues like divorce and abandonment and things like that.

KNAC.COM: It's kind of life after death for you guys, because you felt at one time that Life of Agony would never get back together as a band, even though you go way back as friends. I don't know about Sal, but you, Keith and Joey are the founding members.
ROBERT: The funny thing is that Sal is two years older than us and when we were kids, before we ever got signed to Roadrunner, we were jamming at the studio that Sal had owned—a rehearsal studio—and we used to bug the shit out of him all the time. [Laughs] We used to invite all of our friends and have private shows in the rehearsal studio, and he'd be like, “You can't have these many kids in here” and kick us out.

KNAC.COM: He was with Type O Negative, right?

KNAC.COM: After you disbanded and you got back together for the reunion shows at Irving Plaza, NYC ... they sold out. Did you imagine that you'd be taking that momentum into a place where you are today and touring Europe with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, and David Bowie? It's more than just a simple comeback.
ROBERT: We didn't expect any of this, and we still don't have any expectations, you know? We're doing it because we love to do it. We feel like we never finished what we started—we had so many aspirations and goals that we never achieved, and we really want to see those through. You only live once. We have the opportunity right now, especially on Epic.

KNAC.COM: To disappear and come back, and then get signed with a major label like Epic –that's a pretty good success story. I know you guys would be doing it for the love of the music anyway. You weren't rolling in the fat bucks back in your humble beginnings.
ROBERT: [Laughs] Not at all ...not at all. Hey, even on a major label we're still struggling to pay our bills. It's not an easy thing to just pick up your whole life and go on the road for two years. We all have family and we're a very family-oriented band. It’s difficult to do what we do and live the lifestyle we do. We love it so much and the music has helped so many people, and continues to help people. It's meant to be -- we're supposed to be doing this.

KNAC.COM: You went to Woodstock to write the new album?
ROBERT: Yeah, well we had a rehearsal space in Jersey City that we usually rehearse at for tours and stuff, but we said “You know what? Let's get away from all the distractions and just lock ourselves away in a house in Woodstock.” We really just concentrated on the material and living together and cooking with each other [laughs] and going shopping. It was just the four of us. We went up there for a month and we lived in the woods. We had a great time. We really got closer as a band and as people. It's that much more important when you're writing such a deep record like we did, to get in touch with each others feelings. Not having the distractions of the city or the little things that might throw you off from getting the job done.

KNAC.COM: How long is your set? Are you getting to cover some of your good, older stuff?
ROBERT: We have a good span of the records, I think. We have a 45-minute set. We play about four or five songs from the first record, River Runs Red, a handful of songs from Ugly—we play the least amount from Soul Searching Sun, being that Sal, the drummer, wasn't on that album. I think that record was more of a departure from our sound than our other music. The newer stuff from Broken Valley seems to fit more with the older material.

KNAC.COM: I heard “Last Cigarette” is a good tune.
ROBERT: Yeah, that's a pumping song. KNAC.COM: So, about the older stuff, tell me about “Tangerine,” the cover and your original.
ROBERT: Actually, we covered Led Zeppelin as a B-side, but we have an original song called “Tangerine” on Soul Searching Sun. Charlie Benante, from Anthrax, played twelve-string guitar on that track.

KNAC.COM: Hey, what do you think about the Anthrax reunion?
ROBERT: I hope I'm around to see it. I was with Frankie Bello the other night in the city when Helmet opened up for Chevelle in New York.

KNAC.COM: I saw them here in Los Angeles. Frankie Bello is amazing, man. He's an animal.
ROBERT: He's a good friend of mine.

KNAC.COM: You're hanging in good company. I really liked watching him and John Tempesta up there with Page Hamilton.
ROBERT: It was a good combo.

KNAC.COM: So what did you think of the show?
ROBERT: I thought it was awesome. It was a good night out. It was the first time I've seen Chevelle since their first Epic release, when I saw them in a small club in The City, and they've really grown a lot into a great band. I really enjoyed it. They sounded great.

KNAC.COM: Who was the first band you saw live?
ROBERT: Biohazard, in Brooklyn.

KNAC.COM: Did you start out as a bass player, or a guitarist?
ROBERT: I'm self taught. I picked up guitar, learning Metallica tunes. The first band that I played bass in was Life of Agony. It was 1989. My inspirations are Roger Waters and Paul McCartney. I have a lot of classic rock roots, also Harley Flanagan of the Cro-Mags.

KNAC.COM: Les Claypool?
ROBERT: I was into Primus as a kid, but not as much as I was into Cliff Burton.

KNAC.COM: What do you think about Robert Trujillo?
ROBERT: He's awesome! [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: He's fun to watch.
ROBERT: When we did the Metallica shows in Europe, we watched the shows from the side of the stage, and he's just a monster.

KNAC.COM: As far as a headline tour, you're going to be doing that after this Mudvayne tour?
ROBERT: We're booked to go back to Europe –the album is going to be released two weeks earlier there than it is here. Then we'll be coming back to The States after the release here, which is June 14th. We're set for a bunch of tours for the summer, so we'll see what happens.

Life of Agony will be on Gigantour this summer with Megadeth and Dream Theater.

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