INTERVIEW BY DJCYBERCHRIST
AT DARK CITY FESTIVAL 04.04
The DARK CITY festival is in full swing..it is SATURDAY night, I am DJing to a packed house, AGONOIZE are on the dancefloor, dancing to the fucked up beats, drinking, laughing and generally having a good time.. I am to interview them on the Sunday, but we are already well acquainted and tonight, well tonight they party..
AGONOIZE are the latest creation on harsh industrial mastermind MIKE JOHNSON, along with his long-time collaborator OLLI S, and new frontman CHRIS L. AGONOIZE is the latest in a long line of bands to come from the creative hands of MIKE JOHNSON.
You name a harsh industrial band of note and the likelihood is that one of AGONOIZE has been involved.
Lets go through the highlights of the AGONOIZE lineage..
INFEKKTION a brilliant no-holds barred dark-electro band with MIKE and OLLI whose latest release TOXICAL COLOURS came onto the scene with the great critical applause it deserved. A long time in the shadows of their heroes SUICIDE COMMANDO, for me TOXICAL COLOURS confirmed INFEKKTIONs rightful place as a Dark Electro force in their own right. (A must buy album if you havent already got it!) SERO.OVERDOSE was MIKEs foray into FuturePop, I think MIKE would agree that maybe that hat didnt fit so well, however his love of HARSH INDUSTRIAL was to come back in the form of new incarnation PSI-CORP, which so far has only done harsh remixes.. and now we have AGONOIZE and his hotly anticipated new ALPHA MATRIX side-project VIRTUAL EMBRACE AND CHRIS? Well his previous incarnation was with legendary band Dance Or Die..
Phew! What a rather auspicious lineage!
SO what of AGONOIZE themselves. Well the fact is that they are kicking up rather a storm in the CLUBS throughout EUROPE. Their no compromise HARSH INDUSTRIAL sound has got many DJs hooked and I know that many DJs in EUROPE and the US have either OPEN THE GATE/TO PARADISE (latest EP) or PARANOID DESTRUCTION (their debut) on their must buy list or in their top 10 tracks right now. Its quite an achievement.
And indedd they have left their mark on the DAC (German Alternative Charts)and the DUC (Dutch Alternative Charts) Their no holds barred INDUSTRIAL assault filled a void left by the poor new album by SUICIDE COMMANDO, and fair play to MIKE, OLLI and CHRIS this is music for a harder dancefloor. This is music to kill to, and when you have remixes by some of the finest Harsh Electro bands out there (GRENDEL, TACTICAL-SEKT, :SITD:) then you are bound to attract the attention of any DJ worth their salt!
SO now you know a little about AGONOIZE, lets get to the interview..
|In the dark corridors behind the stage at the DARK CITY FESTIVAL I am led by SVEN, AGONOIZEs manager, to this wonderful old wooden panelled room. More GOTHIC than INDUSTRIAL, but the boys are sat around, chomping on their rider of fresh fruit, and Beer (nice combination!) and eager to talk. MIKE is a main contributor, and big presence. He is tattooed all over, has a big frame and strong, empassioned voice. He has the trademark flat-top hair, and looks like someone you wouldnt want to come across in a darkened alley.. But he is actually a diamond guy! Well spoken and friendly. OLLI, MIKEs eternal co-hort is a soft spoken guy. Tanned and leathery he is the quietest of the band. He is a musician, he does his bit on the keyboards, he looks cool. Thats his job, but he makes sure he is abreast of everything that is being asked by making quick checks with MIKE in German..OLLI would have to confess that his ENGLISH is not what it could be! However it is CHRIS who is the most vocal, and with the biggest presence. He is dark, brooding. You feel like he is going to explode at any moment, he is in edge, ALIVE. Chris is the new boy, but dont let that mislead you. He is as much an integral part of the band as any of the others.. He is the frontman of AGONOIZE, larger than life and a real dangerous character on stage.. he has the ability to hold you in his power, and is refreshingly honest and passionate in all his well considered responses. This was not going to be my easiest interview I had some tough questions and these boys looked like a tough bunch..
M = MIKE O=OLLI C=CHRIS J=JO aka DJCYBERCHRIST
J So why did you set up AGONOIZE? Give me a little of your history.
M Well I have many projects now, many different bands, but I think of them as sounding very different, and so when I looked at the bands that I have been making I see that there needed to be a band that did the ROUGH STUFF you know? So we founded AGONOIZE..
J So INFEKKTION was not rough enough for you then?
M NO! We needed something much harder! [cue laughter from all the AGONOIZE BOYS and relieved laughter from me, these guys were toying with me and now I knew it!]
J So how do you differentiate between your bands? I think especially with the INFEKKTION and the great success that they have enjoyed this last year, how do you make AGONOIZE sound different?
[note at this point I had only heard the original of PARANOID DESTRUCTION and so did not see, as I do now the breadth of AGONOIZEs sound. During the interview I think MIKE was a little surprised by the comparison to him they are VERY different, and now Ive heard the two, I would have to agree..]
M If you listen carefully to the two bands you will see major differences between them. INFEKKTION is much more melodic, with greater use of harmony, whereas AGONOIZE is much colder, more harsh. Its not typical CLUB MUSIC, its not VNV NATION, it is much more straight. Its not so much dance music.
J Yeah, its not four to the floor, but it IS INDUSTRIAL dance music.
C INFEKKTION is OLLI and MIKEs own project AGONOIZE is with me..
J So youre the missing link then?
C I guess..
J So could you introduce the band? Many people reading this will not yet have heard of you, and surprisingly some not even INFEKKTION, so can you introduce yourselves for the AMERICAN and UK audience!
M Im MIKE JOHNSON from INFEKKTION, AGONOIZE, SERO.OVERDOSE.
O Im OLLI from INFEKKTION, AGONOIZE , SERO.OVERDOSE.
C Im CHRIS and Im not telling you what Im doing! [chilling laughter comes from the band ]
J Going back a little then.. what bands inspired you to set up in the music scene in the first place?
M Not really a band, it was more a sound. You know? The harsh stuff..We listen to other bands but certainly did not copy bands.
M Suicide Commando were our favourite band of course, but also before that KLINIK. I also listen to a lot of ELVIS PRESLEY.
[curiously there is no laughter to this comment, however I find it hilarious]
J Oh yes! I can see the influence of the great man himself!
[I laugh out loud I find this hilarious..I recmpose myself and get back to the questions..]
J So previously you were with Trisol/Matrix Cube right?
Why sign to another label?
M Well we dont really want to talk about them, but lets just say that our relationship was really good amd we must thank them for that full stop. They gave us the chance to come out and release our first three CDs.
J OK, And now you are with BLC?
M Yes this is correct.
J And they are a US label?
M Yes we found them on the internet. We were included on a compilation by them and so we sent them a short message..
C And then this is how we built the relationship with them.
J So CHRIS where did you come in then?
C I came in in the late production. I am about representing AGONOIZE on stage.
J Did you know each other before?
C Well I DJ too, and so we know each other before.. anyway he is my tattoo artist!
J Aha! This explains things then!
C Yeah, we met in the clubs, we liked listening to the same types of music. So they just asked me, and of course I said yes!
J Where do you see AGONOIZE being in 1 years time? And where do you see AGONOIZE being in 3 years time?
C I dont think we like to make too many plans about where we go, we just want to do our best and see what happens. People with either like it or not like it.
M Whatever it is, wherever we go, the most important thing is that we do our music with passion and with our hearts, that is how we write our music.
J OK so now comes the difficult question for me to ask.. The one around a certain band that some people (I think unfairly) accuse you of sounding like - Suicide Commando. Some quarters have called you a SUICIDE COMMANDO copy band, so how do you respond to these allegations, and how do they make you feel? This is your opportunity to give your side of the story and answer back to your critics!
C This is easy to explain.. For me, its a blast that people compare us to SUICIDE COMMANDO, its a band with at least a dozen or 20 club hits out so, its cool that people compare us to Suicide Commando. With a new band people always like to compare them with Suicide Commando. When the Fields Of the Nephilim started people said they sounded like the Sisters Of Mercy, its always the same, but the second or third album no-one will be talking about Suicide Commando. To us people saying that we sound like Suicide Commando is a COMPLIMENT!! If they think we are that good we are really happy! [cue big uproar of laughter.. they are used to this line of questioning and their answering is both humble and honest, a tone that epitomises AGONOIZE today.]
We also know that Johan [Van Roy of S.Commando] likes the music that AGONOIZE does so..
J Thats one of the things that I found so interesting about the Dark Electro scene, everyone sounds so similar, yet there is no rivalry. There is a deep supportive core of bands, they admire each others music. And I find that really refreshing, its one of the things that really turns me on about the Dark Electro bands theres not the same back stabbing and bitching you get in the rest of the scene..
C There is enough space for competition.. Its big enough for all the bands, I mean TACTICAL-SEKT did a remix for the new EP, and Johan was going to do one but he just didnt have the time..Theres no reason to have competition, its a small scene and everyone knows each other.. so why should we?
At the end of the day we are all MUSIC JUNKIES so why shouldnt we like each others music?? If they do good music then we like it.. its simple!
J So what do you guys do outside of AGONOIZE?
C Im a free lance worker doing ROADIE and TOUR MANAGEMENT jobs, PA and lighting also..Eveything I do has got to do with MUSIC! Im also still with Dance Or Die. MIKE is a tattoo artist, [note for the record that MIKE is covered head to foot in tattoos!]
M Yes Ive been doing tattooing for like 16 years and so I wanted to do something new as well as this and so it was only natural for me to begin in music..My dream is to have music all around me, so all I have to do is the music!
C And OLLI? Well lets just say that he is in a secret profession.. He is the mysterious one in the band, and he will remain that way.. His secret is safe with us!
C Actually all of us could actually live from the music but we like to put all our money back into the music and the bands buying new equipment and everything, so we can produce better and better music.
J So what does AGONOIZE have in store for us this year? What can we expect from AGONOIZE this year?
C We have a double A-SIDE single that comes out in APRIL it is called OPEN THE GATE/TO PARADISE.. And we have remixes by PSI-CORP, TACTICAL-SEKT, DANCE OR DIE..
M And also there are a few mixes by friends of ours who are new to the scene.. we like to promote them and give them the opportunity to be on a major release.. This is our way of giving back to the scene you know?
J Thats really nice..
C GRENDEL also did a fantastic remix for us..
J You already have my interest, these are great remixers!! [I have it now, and let me just say that it is essential listening.. a GREAT EP, well worth buying when it come out in JUNE!]
C Tomorrow also we are playing live with :SITD:.. And we have finished the tracks for the new album, it will hopefully be released in July or August.. [September now I believe]
J Any tour dates to support the album?
C Not at the moment [since the interview they have a feast of dates see their website.. www.agonoize.de for more info! They are a GREAT Band live and well worth a trip to see!] but watch this space!
So I leave AGONOIZE to their pre-concert rituals, and go away with a desire to learn more about them, to listen to the new EP and get hold of the elusive first EP.
Live AGONOIZE are a revelation. More suited to an intimate setting than the big hall of EDINBURGH CORN EXCHANGE but gripping nonetheless.
CHRIS commands a powerful presence, menacing and in your face.. There are live piercings, oodles of fake blood, and a manic grin. In a small intimate club, CHRIS would scare you senseless, and apparently there are BIBLE burnings and PYROTECHNICS in the full show, but the cowards at DARK CITY wouldnt allow it.. CHICKENS! Live they are much more powerful than I have found them on record, but that can only be a good thing. MIKE, OLLI and CHRIS are part of the new breed of musicians and performers that are shaking up the scene. We need this fresh blood to breathe life into a dying scene. Its like a breath of fresh air to see a band at least trying to get a LIVE SHOW together that entertains, and judging from the critical DJ and CLUB acclaim AGONOIZE are receiving right now I would go so far as to suggest that they are a band to keep an EYE on and if you havent already get hold of their two excellent releases well go buy them now..
AGONOIZE, uncompromising tough as nails INDUSTRIAL, not for the faint hearted, but for the brave hearted.
Copyright DJCYBERCHRIST 2004