Interview with guitarist Juan Garcia
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: January 26, 2013
Agent Steel is back. Not under the Agent Steel moniker, but as Masters of Metal.
M.o.M. is basically Agent Steel, minus the lead singer. The band has recently been in the studio to record their debut album, which should be released sometime in 2013.
Before we get our hands on that record let's let Masters of Metal guitarist Juan Garcia explain a bit more about this new outfit. He also reveals what on earth happened with the comeback of legendary CA-thrashers Evildead and why there's no more Agent Steel with the original singer John Cyriis fronting the band. Read on...
Luxi: How's life in sunny LA, California these days?
Juan: Life is good, nice sunny weather and lots of music to work on.
Luxi: All Evildead fans around the world were disappointed by the bad news that Evildead have decided to go into permanent hiatus and disband for good. The reason for all this was said to be personal differences between the band members. Would you mind by opening up about this issue a bit more, perhaps?
Juan: Let's see; Evildead reformed for the Thrasho de Mayo Festival 2010 in Los Angeles and we could not have asked for a better comeback show! It was an incredible live concert, to say the least. We also performed at some awesome festivals in Europe, including Way of Darkness in Germany and Jalometalli in Finland, and we also did a co-headlining European mini tour that took us into territories like The Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, and Spain. We had the opportunity to record a brand new song, "Blasphemy Divine", and made it available for free. However, after some U.S. live dates earlier this year, communication between some band members ceased and there were some personal differences that became apparent. I thought the dissimilarities could be worked out by discussions but, unfortunately, the talks never happened, and I attempted to make open communications within the band but it all failed. We came to the conclusion that going into hiatus and disbanding would be the best option at this time. I know it seems like bad news to Evildead fans, and I feel bad about it, but there was nothing else I could do without making member changes and that was not logical and against why we reformed in the first place.
Luxi: In October 2010 Evildead did a sort of mini-tour in Europe with LA's Death Metal veterans Sadistic Intent. How was that tour for you, considering it was Evildead's first European tour in over 20 years? Do you feel sorry for your fans who won't be able to experience Evildead anymore?
Juan: The co-headlining tour with Sadistic Intent in Europe was very positive and we got along well. The first show of that tour was at the Way of Darkness Festival in Germany with Possessed, Enslaved, and lots of other killer bands. From there we did some cool shows in Oslo, Norway and Belgium and finished off in Barcelona, Spain. We were also invited to perform live in Oulu, Finland with Sepultura and Napalm Death at Jalometalli, which was great and lots of fun. I, never say never, maybe things with Evildead will change eventually, and we can do a festival appearance in Europe? The Evildead music is in my blood and I'd like to play some of those songs live in the future.
Luxi: On your own Twitter page, you wrote on October 19th that "sometimes you need to take a few steps backwards to move forward." What did you mean by that? I guess it doesn't have much to do with the long jump, does it?
Juan: What I meant is exactly what I wrote; sometimes in life we all need to take a step back and evaluate things before making decisions. We all need some sort of game plan, and goals to achieve, and some people never take the time to 'step back' for a moment and think about their actions. Sometimes when one door closes, it makes room for other doors to open.
Luxi: As Evildead is no more, let's talk about Masters of Metal, which is what this interview is supposed to be all about anyway. Masters of Metal features ex-members of Agent Steel, namely you and Bernie (Versailles) on guitars, Rigo (Amezcua) on drums and Robert (Cardenas) on bass, plus Rick (Mythiasin), who is best known as the vocalist of Steel Prophet. Do you believe Rick's voice has the type of vocal range that fits the sound of Masters of Metal?
Juan: Masters of Metal consist of the current Agent Steel line-up and we were working with Rick Mythiasin of Steel Prophet on the new songs and completed our new album with him; however things have changed a bit since last month with Rick and we've decided to stay as a four piece band at this time and Bernie Versailles will be handling the vocal duties. Rick is a great singer and we were grateful to work with him but for right now we've gone a different direction.
Luxi: "Tomb of Ra" was probably the first song that you released, via YouTube, under the Master of Metal moniker. I am positive that many people want to know what other new songs you have ready, or in the works, with Masters of Metal?
Juan: We have a total of 10 songs. I won't reveal all the song titles, but some of the names include "Chameleon," "Mind Kontrol," "Evolution of Being," and "Lunacy," which features additional guest vocalists.
Luxi: It's been reported that both James Rivera (Helstar) and Sean Peck (Cage) have done guest vocals for at least one of the songs of Masters of Metal. What song are we talking about and how did you end up thinking of using them for some Masters of Metal's stuff?
Juan: I got the idea from an 80's song from a project by Ronnie James Dio & Friends called "Hear 'N' Aid We're Stars" that featured Dio, Geoff Tate, Don Dokken, Rob Halford, Kevin Dubrow, and a cast of Rock legends. What we did is we asked James Rivera to sing a few verses and also Sean Peck to sing a few verses. Bernie Versailles sings on the chorus and harmonies. The song is called "Lunacy" and it screams with the spirit of Heavy Metal and I'm sure the true Metal fans will love the vibe. it's super heavy and a cool kick ass song.
Luxi: Do you have any intentions to use them live, if time will permit it for them?
Juan: Both James and Sean are welcome on our stage anytime if time will permit.
Luxi: It's already known that Rick stepped in to replace John Cyriis on vocals. However, Agent Steel did two shows in Japan in September 2010 with John when you had the "Thrash Domination" tour going on there. Then you did a show in Europe, at the Sweden Rock festival in Sweden in June 2011. Die-hard Agent Steel fans seemed to be really pumped up by these shows because, in their minds, Cyriis has always, more or less, been the one and only Agent Steel vocalist. You parted ways with him once again due to some unexpected and unsolved inner conflicts with him. What happened between him and the rest of the band?
Juan: First of all, I'd like to say John Cyriis is a fantastic singer and when he's focused and determined, he's one of the best. The unsolved conflicts are things that were created and he's well aware of them. For us to continue as Agent Steel together those issues need to be resolved first and foremost. I hold no grudges and wish him the best. He's a Metal legend.
Luxi: Do you think you will ever be doing music under the Agent of Steel moniker again? Is Agent Steel, with Cyriis on vocals, dead and buried now for good? Or would you like to say 'never say never...', as sometimes the world can be full of strange twists and turns?
Juan: I don't see it right now, but never say never; with the right terms and management in place, it could possibly happen in the distant future.
Luxi: Cyriis claims to be the copyright owner of the Agent Steel name/trademark, but has that ever been legally and officially determined?
Juan: Thankfully we are not in conflict over the usage of the band name; Agent Steel is, to the best of my understanding, John Cyriis, myself, and Bernie. Cyriis gave me a verbal agreement and also spoke about it in interviews for us to go ahead and use the moniker and kick ass and fly the Metal flag. But once he rejoined the band for Thrash Domination 2010 in Japan that all changed, and now he does not want us to use the name without him. Thankfully we are adults and arguing over a name seems counter productive. Look at the Queensryche name dispute; there's no class to that sort of thing and ultimately I believe it pisses off the fans. Let's all move on.
Luxi: Do you regret that things never went any further with Cyriis? Obviously there were quite a lot of expectations for Agent Steel's comeback with original vocalist John Cyriis leading the troops?
Juan: Our intentions were sincere when we reformed with Cyriis, and the Sweden Rock appearance was a good step to regaining confidence in Agent Steel. My expectations were not met because I know what we are capable of accomplishing.
Luxi: Back to Masters of Metal once again. It's been announced that Masters of Metal will play a show at the Key Club in Hollywood on December 22nd, together with Hirax, Midnight, Bonded by Blood and Demolition (PLEASE NOTE: This interview was done BEFORE that date). How much of the show will be new songs from Masters of Metal? Is it going to be like 50% of Masters of Metal songs and 50% old Agent Steel, mainly from the Bruce Hall era?
Juan: That's a good question; I think it will be 50/50 of old/new songs, and a cover song or two.
Luxi: What about after that? Are you trying to get more shows booked for Masters of Metal, or are you trying to concentrate on writing new songs and getting the first Masters of Metal full-length studio album recorded at Bill Metoyer's new The Skull Seven Studio?
Juan: We've recorded our album under Masters of Metal with Bill Metoyer engineering and I have a few guitar overdubs to do and once Bernie Versailles finishes mixing the songs we would like to release the album in 2013 and of course do some touring to promote the album. This has taken a lot of work and determination and we are almost there in completing the new album.
Luxi: How many songs are you aiming to get recorded for this forthcoming Masters of Metal album? Besides using James Rivera and Sean Peak as guest vocals on the record, have you considered using other guests?
Juan: We considered using a few other singers to add to the Metal assault, yes. I think what James Rivera and Sean Peck delivered, together with Rick Mythiasin and Bernie Versailles singing parts; we have recorded some of our best songs.
Luxi: Musically, Masters of Metal isn't that far removed from some of the recent albums that you did with Agent Steel. Has your main focus been on creating some sort of continuum to the musical style that once made Agent Steel sound like Agent Steel without changing the band's trademark sound that drastically, even if the name was changed? In a nutshell, would you say Masters of Metal is actually Agent Steel, but using a different name due to legal or other issues?
Juan: I would say that's a fair assumption of Masters of Metal. I would like to add that we've evolved musically and at the same time captured what's most important; the songwriting.
Luxi: From your own personal perspective, what has your new vocalist, Rick, brought into the band?
Juan: More vocal melody which we did not have too much of on Alienigma (2007). We returned more to a classic Metal sound. The new songs are more like Order of the illuminati (2003) and there is one song in particular that reminds me of the Skeptics/Unstoppable era. Rick is no longer working with us and we are in the process of re-recording the lead vocals; we hope to keep one or two songs featuring Rick Mythiasin on the album.
Luxi: What about the chemistry of the current line-up? Do you guys feel comfortable playing in the band and supporting each other?
Juan: I am quite happy with the line-up of Masters of Metal. We all support each other and we are professional and we thrive to evolve.
Luxi: As far as I have understood, you and Brian Slagel (the founder and CEO of Metal Blade Records) are long-time friends and Brian has always been a fan of Agent Steel. So, I need to ask you if there's even a possibility that Brian wants to get Masters of Metal on his own roster, Metal Blade Records?
Juan: We know each other. We don't really hang out, but I have ultimate respect for Brian Slagel and Metal Blade Records USA and Europe. I will be attending the 30th anniversary show here in Los Angeles where Armored Saint is headlining.
Luxi: There surely has been quite a lot of interest in Masters of Metal ever since you did your shows at 70,000 Tons of Metal and Keep It True XIV in 2011, with both James and Sean and after Cyriis left the band again. Have you been amazed how much serious interest there has been toward Masters of Metal and does that make you happy to think that you have obviously done something right in your career as a musician?
Juan: The reason why there's interest in Masters of Metal is because we are doing this for the right reasons, and at the same time we are keeping the spirit of Heavy Metal alive. It's obvious we have fun when we perform live. We don't have egos. This is about the Metal music and letting the thrashin' do the talkin'.
Luxi: What hopes do you have for Masters of Metal in 2013? I would guess touring as much as possible and getting the first record out might be a couple of your top priorities. Is there anything else that you are hoping to achieve with the band within 2013?
Juan: First and foremost, on the list, is this Key Club show here in Los Angeles on December 22nd with friends Hirax. Obviously, finishing the new album, which is very close, and getting it released worldwide, is a major priority.
Luxi: I think that was it, Juan. I want to thank you for your time and I wish you all the best with your future endeavors with Masters of Metal. People, bow in front of your masters... in front of Masters of Metal, to be precise. ;o) Anything you'd still like to add, Juan?
Juan: Thank you for all your support, which means a lot to all of us. We are fortunate to have great fans and supporters worldwide, and we consider this the greatest gift of all to be able to record and perform live for people who appreciate Heavy/Speed/Thrash Metal.
|Other information about Masters of Metal on this site|
|Review: From Worlds Beyond|
|Interview with guitarist Juan Garcia on August 25, 2015 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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