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“The Gift of Imperfection” – Life Of Agony interview with Alan Robert

New York’s Life Of Agony will perform tomorrow in Budapest, at the Akvarium. Since the second reunion of the band in 2014, they have been working with a drive reminiscent of their proverbial heyday. Sound of Scars, released three years ago, is already the second full album since then, and last April a documentary film was also published under the same title, which goes far beyond the usual platitudes of the scene. We talked about the film and the current events surrounding Life Of Agony with bassist Alan Robert, who also plays a major role in the band’s creative tasks.

The Sound of Scars album can be seen as a new beginning for Life Of Agony in many aspects, as it is a sequel to the story and concept begun on River Runs Red. How did you come up with the idea to make an extraordinary documentary film with the same title?

Alan Robert: Thanks so much for the kind words. We really did not have any expectations going into the film. It started out very organically. The origin of the film basically came about after we worked with UK-based director Leigh Brooks on several music videos. We all became pretty friendly with Leigh, and he is a huge fan from the 90s. I had watched the Agnostic Front documentary called “The Godfathers of Hardcore”, which was really well done, and I felt that they approached it kind of differently from a typical music doc format. I asked Leigh if it would be possible to do something like that about Life of Agony and what would be involved in making that happen. We started talking about the logistics of the shoots, and about him coming to the USA to interview us outside of the touring schedule. He was totally into the idea, and what happened was that with every interview we did with him, it was like peeling an onion. Every story unraveled more and more layers of our intertwining relationships and Leigh wanted to interview more and more people for their perspective on our story. He was able to speak with family members and industry executives to really tap into who we were as kids and how we grew up together playing in this band for over three decades. The film kind of wrote itself in a way, because like I said, it’s not a typical music doc. It’s a film about family. It’s a film about forgiveness. It’s a film about so many universal themes, it’s almost secondary that a band is at the core of the story.

The film also features archive footage, lost interviews and rarely seen family photos. Was it a definite aim to tell your own personal stories to the audience, the fans of Life Of Agony?

Alan Robert: Everything this band does comes from a deeply personal and intimate place. Was it deliberate? I don’t think we had a set plan. I think we are just honest and down to earth people. It is our nature to wear our hearts on our sleeves. Sharing those old memories and completely raw insights into who we are as people with our fans was something very special. We know the film has made a huge impact on people. They reach out to us everyday to tell us so. Even die hard fans come away from the film feeling closer to us than they did before. We covered a lot of ground in the film and touched on many relevant topics.

Issues such as domestic violence, drug abuse and depression are addressed. It takes a lot of courage for a band to talk about such things. Did all of you had the same opinion about the prominent focus on these topics in the film?

Alan Robert: I think we all just answered Leigh’s questions honestly and through our individual truths he was able to see the common threads in order to tell a cohesive story. The interviews revealed a lot about who we are and how fragile we can be. There’s something pure about letting people see you at your most vulnerable point. It takes a lot of courage, especially Mina. I give her a lot of credit for being so brave throughout the whole process of making the film.

Nowadays, it is almost mandatory for a band – especially in the rock/metal scene – to constantly communicate success through every possible channel. But you also embrace failure, or – as I know Mina used these words – the gift of imperfection. What does it give you as a band, or for the members on a personal level, that you dare to be imperfect?

Alan Robert: It’s very true. There are a ton of bands out there that just show their fans one side. We’ve never been afraid to get real with our fans, and with ourselves. If you read the lyrics, it’s all plain as day. Half of the songs we’ve ever done were basically cries for help, written from a place of extreme darkness searching for the light. We’ve never hid from how stripped down we get with our music. We’ve always embraced the faults and the imperfections. It’s what makes us real. We wouldn’t have any other way.

What feedback have you received from the industry or from Life Of Agony fans since the film premiered last April? I assume your aim was also to help those with similar problems with your experiences. Did you get any feedback that confirmed this intention?

Alan Robert: When we premiered the film during the pandemic, we made it into a very special virtual event for our fans, while also raising money for two important charities. All Out protects the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline does a lot of good for people who are desperately seeking help. The band scheduled multiple group zoom chats with our fans from all over the world to discuss about the film in depth. The reaction was tremendous, we also received fantastic film reviews from the media, and the awareness ultimately allowed us to find distribution partners to release the film globally.

Since the tour of Sound of Scars in 2019 album this is the first year when you’re touring intensively. What’s it like to be on stage again after the years of Covid, especially on a serious festival tour like the one that’s going on right now?

Alan Robert: We’re very grateful to be back doing what we do best… playing live. We definitely do not take these moments for granted. Every show is very special to us.

The last album was released almost three years ago. Are you already working on new songs and music, or are you currently concentrating on the tour commitments related to The Sound of Scars album and movie, and will you start to work on the next record when you are done with these?

Alan Robert: The film took a lot of time to create and everyone was involved. Mina wrote and recorded the bulk of the musical score. Joey contributed music to it as well. I handled all of the art and graphics for the marketing, advertisements and BluRay packaging, and Joey also handled a lot of the audio mixes for the film. It was all hands on deck. So, while we were home and isolating due to COVID restrictions, we were constantly busy. Now that we’re back touring, we are concentrating on that. However, next year marks the 30th anniversary of our debut album “River Runs Red”, so we have a lot of cool stuff planned to commemorate that huge milestone.

On August 9, you will play with Pentagram in Budapest, which will not be your first concert here. What memories or impressions do you have of Hungary?

Alan Robert: We love Hungary! We’ve had some fantastic shows there over the years and we are really looking forward to coming back. It’s an exciting time and the band sounds better than ever. Expect a set list filled with songs spanning from every era of our catalog. We’ve got some surprises up our sleeves!

For more information, visit the Life Of Agony’s social pages, or the website and Facebook event of the concert! 

Photo: Life Of Agony Facebook

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