Interview with Juan Garcia (guitars)
Interview conducted by Sargon the Terrible
Date online: July 7, 2003
For almost twenty years now Agent Steel have been a force to be reckoned with in the metal firmament. When the band broke up in 1987 fans thought all they would have to remember the band by would be their two legendary albums "Skeptics Apocalypse" and "Unstoppable Force". But Agent Steel weren’t finished yet, and 2001 saw the release of "Omega Conspiracy" – the band’s first recording in 13 years. Now well into a second life, Agent Steel show no signs of slowing down, and their new album "Order of the Illuminati" is their best work yet. I got a few words with guitarist and cofounder Juan Garcia about the new album and future of the band that wouldn’t die.
Sargon: Just briefly, tell us how Agent Steel originally formed and how the band got back together after so long.
Juan: The band was formed back in 1984 by original vocalist Cyriis and drummer Chuck Profus. I joined a few months later and we performed some support shows with bands like SLAYER, RAVEN, DARK ANGEL, POSSESSED. We solidified a record deal off a one song demo featuring the song "144,000 Gone" with Combat records. We released the timeless speed metal classic "Skeptics Apocalypse" in 1985 and did some East coast dates with EXODUS, SLAYER, METAL CHURCH. We also toured Europe and performed some festivals with HELLOWEEN and KING DIAMOND. We also toured with bands like ANTHRAX and OVERKILL on a triple bill labeled "speed metal attack". In 1986 we began work on our second full length "Unstoppable Force" with Producer Dan Johnson (SAVATAGE) at Morrisound Studios; "Unstoppable Force" saw the light of day in late 1986 and it was a huge success for us as a band. Unfortunately in the 1987 the band broke up do to a lot of different scenarios that I don't really want to talk about because it's behind us now and at the time we were not focused with poor management/professional guidance. We reformed in 1999 for a huge festival in Germany "Wacken Open Air" with new and current vocalist Bruce Hall; we secured a deal with Candlelight Records in the U.K. and released our comeback album "Omega Conspiracy" (our first studio album in 13 years). In 2000 we performed shows on the West Coast with TESTAMENT; various other metal bands like STEEL PROPHET, ABATTOIR, CAGE. We then made a journey to Europe and toured with RIOT, ANVIL, DOMINE to some strong responses from press and fans alike. In 2001 We began writing, and recording this new recording "Order of the Illuminati" which in my humble opinion is musically and lyrically a step beyond anything we've ever accomplished; which contains controversial material perhaps too powerful for some; and perhaps it goes right over some peoples heads; regardless it's nice to be an active and making some kick ass music for the love of Metal. We are currently signed to Scarlet Records for Europe and we have our own imprint AOS in conjuction with Artillery Music and The End Records for the U.S market.
Sargon: Reactions to "Omega Conspiracy" were mixed: old fans seemed a little disappointed, while new fans were readier to embrace Agent Steel's new incarnation. Was there a conscious effort to recall the old days, or were you trying for a new sound?
Juan: On "Omega Conspiracy" it was a matter of finding ourselves and finding a direction; you got to understand it had been 13 years since "Unstoppable Force" and I think overall we did a good job on "Omega", and I think we did an ever better job on the new album "Order of the Illuminati"; specially Bruce with the lyrics and Bernie with the production. On the new release I think we made a conscious effort to recall our triumphant days and this is one of the reasons why this recording took so long; we simply wanted to make the best album we could. The only fans we are trying to satisfy is ourselves; we are fans of our music; if everyone gets it even better, and if not that's o.k. too. The saying "you can't please everyone" is true. I mean do you think the fans of early Metallica like the new Metallica?
Sargon: There seems to be a story behind "Order Of Illuminati", is that true, and what can you tell us about it?
Juan: It's half a concept album; tracks 1-6 starting with "Avenger" and ending with "Apocalypse" is a running theme based on an elite group of individuals who have power over everything on this Planet; they have hidden agendas into enslaving the human race into this New World Order. The concept is based on conspiracies of the possibility of fulfilling prophecies base around the ignition of the Planet Jupiter with nuclear warheads to create a second sun where the end of night, the blackened earth would occur. Bruce is responsible for the lyrics. It's a hell of a message regardless if it's true or not. Spielberg would have a field day with our ideas and we would be all sitting rich if the movie ever got made.
Sargon: The songwriting on "Order Of Illuminati" is more focused and (I think) mature than before, was there a deliberate attempt to take things to another level, or did it just happen?
Juan: We are always trying to take things to another level; it's part of our evolution. Not just lyrically speaking but musically as well, but you are right in stating that the songwriting has matured.
Sargon: I know you toured for "Omega Conspiracy", how was the reception live? What are your tour plans for the new album?
Juan: Yes, there are plans to tour Europe with EXODUS, NUCLEAR ASSAULT, CARNAL FORGE, BEHEMOTH, MORTICIAN, CALLENISH CIRCLE starting in October on the "Bonded by Metal over Europe tour" This is going to be like a traveling metal circus man, I think it's an intense billing of some extreme bands; from a fans perspective it's a lot of metal to digest!
Sargon: Agent Steel is sort of a time-traveler: a band that came out of the 80s scene and has now arisen again on the new metal wave. How is the whole scene different from your perspective?
Juan: It would be great to time travel wouldn't it? (I like your observation). The 80's were a riot with tremendous fan support; if we would have stayed together I think we would be right up there with the best of them, but life is strange sometimes and I can accept obstacles; the important part is that we are still here making music. Through this art form we are delivering some timeless metalworks that will endure the test of time. The new metal scene is a bit different; the record industry (labels/companies) create competition and the pressure is on to sell as many units (CDs, etc.) as possible; this creates an overflow of product in the market place and also the musical integrity suffers. We've abandoned all thought of becoming some mega top metal selling machine; it would be nice but bottomline; the industry would never allow it and I don't really care; I am more than satisfied delivering the metal goods to the people who truly enjoy our style; success is overrated. To make a living off what you truly love is what really matters to me; there are too many bands now and the new scene is a bit jaded and heavily influenced by money and what is popular.
Sargon: What is the songwriting process for an Agent Steel song?
Juan: It starts with a guitar riff or a cool drum beat; from there we jam around the riff and add bridges. Bruce will come up with a melody and from there we start constructing the song; we also try to create cool guitar solo sections, and if we can add a guitar harmony onto the song without forcing it all the better; the chorus is important too so we try to fine tune this as well to make something memorable. There is no one formula to our songwriting but this is a basic overview of structuring an AGENT STEEL song; if we hit a brick wall and need to take a brake a good motivational secret to our songwriting for me and Bernie is always going to a strip club and taking a brake and having a pitcher of beer! This gets the creative process flowing once again.
Sargon: What other bands or sounds have inspired your music?
Juan: My obvious influences are bands like IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, SLAYER is also very inspirational they attitude is fuckin metal.
Sargon: Are you involved in any side projects at this time, or is it Agent Steel full-time?
Juan: From a production perspective; I myself have lots of projects that I am coordinating because I work at a record company, but I am at this time not jamming or writing with anyone else; it would be cool to do something different, but right now I don't have the time. In the coming months I have been talking to past members of EVILDEAD and ABATTOIR; we are gonna try to get together and jam and write some new stuff; see what develops from there. I am not making any promises.
Sargon: Tell us a good tour story.
Juan: ask me in November of this year and I will tell you some great stories after this upcoming European tour with EXODUS; I'm gonna document and make journal entries of the whole tour.
Sargon: What would you like to see for the future of metal in general, and for Agent Steel?
Juan: I would like to see Metal dominate the recording industry once again like it did before; I think the scene is growing again; it would be great if it became massive! The future of Agent Steel? Hmmm well we got a great upcoming European tour; we are gonna release a limited edition picture disk single in September with bonus live tracks. We will begin writing a new record soon.
Sargon: And the traditional final question: Is there anything else you would like to say?
Juan: Thank you for your support; check out www.agentsteelonline.com for updates; I hope people check out and give a honest listen to our new album "order of the illuminati" there is something for every metal fan on this recording piece - stay metal.
|Other information about Agent Steel on this site|
|Review: Omega Conspiracy|
|Review: Order Of The Illuminati|
|Review: Unstoppable Force|
|Review: Skeptics Apocalypse|
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