Interview With The Agony Scene's Brent Masters
I caught up with The Agony Scene drummer and founding member Brent Masters for a phone interview during a two-day break from touring with the "Dirty Black Summer" tour while on their way to their El Paso, Texas show last week. Not being very familiar with them, the interview was pretty straight forward and should serve as a good introduction to the band.
Doug (aka deathbringer): So how many shows have you played so far. How is this "Dirty Black Summer" tour with with Himsa, Full Blown Chaos, The Estoteric and Scars of Tomorrow going so far?
Brent: It's going good, man. It's going real good. I'm not exactly sure how many shows we've played so far, but I believe we're about a week and a half into it, so I think we've done maybe sever or eight shows so far.
Doug: Have you toured with any of these guys before?
Brent: Yeah, we toured with Himsa about two years ago when we were promoting our first album, the self-titled one, yeah.
Doug: What slot is The Agony Scene playing in this tour?
Brent: On this tour we are second out of four through the first half, and then we're direct support for the second half - right before Himsa.
Doug: How does this compare with the RoadRage tour you did earlier this year with three other Roadrunner bands [Trivium, Three Inches of Blood, Still Remains]?
Brent: Um, they're both good tours, but I don't want to say one's better or worse or anything like that. But we've obviously known these guys for a lot longer, so it's more like a family reunion instead of an akward school cafeteria lunch or something like that.
Doug: So you didn't know any of the guys from RoadRage when you toured with them then?
Brent: Nope. No, it was an all new experience. And of course I came off that tour having a bunch of brand new good friends and stuff, but it's always fun to see people you not seen in a long time and talk about good times and all.
Doug: You've been playing with Mike [Williams, vocals] since you were 13, is that right?
Brent: Yep, absolutely. I think even a little bit before that. I think I remember turning 13 when I was playing with Mike, so I'm not even sure. We've been playing music for a long time!
Doug: In your bio - and even during Mike's RoadRage interview with us earlier this year - you lament the music scene where you're from. Where was it that you grew up where the music scene was so bad?
Brent: [laughs] I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. "The asshole of America."
[Editor's Note: I was contacted by The Agony Scene's Brian Hodges after Brent's departure from the band to clarify that Brent does not speak for the band in his negative assessment of Tulsa.]
Doug: So there's really like 10 bands there and no other metal bands?
Brent: Oh yeah, honestly, no. There's like…I don't even know… We just did a home show there not that long ago and I had a hard time. I couldn't think of even one band that was a heavy band to play. It took me three weeks to find three bands to open the show. There's a good example for you there. That's the thing - in a big city you'd probably have to turn a lot of people down.
Doug: How much did that affect getting noticed and picked up by a label, coming from such a musical void?
Brent: I don't know how it really worked on the industry-end, but on our end I think it kinda made us feel pressure to work a lot harder. 'Cause most people don't expect anything to come out of the asshole of America like that. You don't expect a metal band that's worth listening to to come from Oklahoma. I know if I was from New York City or LA or something, and I got a demo from Tulsa, Oklahoma, I'd just probably start laughing, you know. [laughs] So I definitely think it made us feel like we had a lot more to prove.
Doug: How many bands did you guys play in before The Agony Scene came together?
Brent: Oh man. I'm trying to think. Just Mike and I? Oh my god, I don't even know if I can count them! I'm gonna say at least four other bands, probably.
Doug: Did you guys have other bands where you weren't playing together as well?
Brent: Yeah, I've done countless projects. I'm sure there's at least twenty I can't even remember anymore. [laughs]
Doug: How did you come up with the name "The Agony Scene"? What's the significance behind it?
Brent: Um, not really. I mean, now I guess it's been kind of forming more significance. At first it just sounded cool. Our guitar player just kinda blurted it out and we all liked it. Now we're kind of figuring out who we are and our surroundings and our nation are changing and I think it has a little more significance and you can definitely pull a little more meaning out of it than absolutely nothing.
Doug: Are you pretty happy with the current lineup now? Has it been stable or have you still had some members come and go?
Brent: We've been absolutely stable since we got our current lineup about maybe a year, year and a half ago I think. This is like the best chemistry we've had between people. I never would have thought that five people could get along and have this much fun together, pretty much every single day of our lives without spending any time apart.
Doug: For some reason I have trouble keeping The Agony Scene straight from As I Lay Dying and All That Remains and lump you in the metalcore category. Actually I find your sound hard to describe though. How would you describe The Agony Scene's sound, since it doesn't really fit neatly into any one category?
Brent: I don't even know if I know any genres to put it into - not that it's too good to be in any genre - but I think it's more just some raw aggression. Heavy. I put it closer to the kind of heaviness and aggression like you get from like maybe Hatebreed or maybe Pantera or someone like that. Obviously we don't really sound like Hatebreed or Pantera, but I think we've kinda got that raw, heavy aggression for sure. That's pretty much what our band's about.
Doug: So you wouldn't call yourself a metalcore band?
Brent: [first part is inaudible due to bad phone signal] I don't know. I don't know exactly where the [inaudible] are these days - metal, metalcore. They're so unclear these days. Anyone can be a metalcore band, so I don't even know if I'd want to be classified as that, but it doesn't really matter. I mean, I don't care. We're just heavy, we're music, we're metal, we're rock, whatever. We're heavy. [laughs]
Doug: You recently released your Roadrunner debut, "The Darkest Red". How has the response to that album been so far?
Brent: It's been really, really good, man. I think that we're in a good place because we're not this huge band, so we obviously don't have 200,000 fans out there who were expecting something from us, so we're kind of a new and up and coming band, so we kinda have this - I think we have a good, fresh, quality product that people are just finding out about. The response is more overwhelming than I'd have imagined. It's been really, really good. People have been really responsive to it. It's got good diversity I think and people are recognizing that. It's been good, real good.
Doug: How was the writing and recording process different being on a bigger label?
Brent: [inaudible] We had pretty much the same amount of time to write. We had about six months - I think it was a little bit less time. I think we spent nine months on the last album. We had a little bit less time to write, we worked a lot harder this time because I think we still have a lot more to prove. Other than that, it wasn't like we had any slave-drivers or anything like that just because we're on a bigger label. Obviously we just had more time in the studio to record, more time to work with different people in different places and better studios and all kinds of stuff like that. So I think it just upped the quality of everything overall for the most part.
Doug: Are you guys happy with Roadrunner Records and the job they've done with you and "The Darkest Red"?
Brent: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that we have a lot to prove to them. If this world was perfect, I'd say just go ahead and put our album in every store that ever existed and make sure that it was there all the time and advertise for our band all the time, but that's not how it works and obviously you have to show that you're a good employee/musician and whatever to get them to work harder for us. I think they're getting better and they're doing a little more for us. They're professional people that know what they're doing.
Doug: How many records is your current record deal with them for?
Brent: I'm not sure. I think it's four maybe?
Doug: Isn't that a lot?
Brent: Actually four is very, very little. [laughs] I think most bands have between six and ten records.
Doug: Yeah, I guess they want to get you when you're a small band and ride the wave when you get big.
Doug: What's next for The Agony Scene after the "Dirty Black Summer Tour?"
Brent: We're going on tour with Throwdown...let me think...and I think Remembering Never. We take 20 days off after the Dirty Black Summer Tour and we wait for them to get off [inaudible, presumably Sounds of the Underground] their tour.
Doug: Any final words for your fans and potential fans?
Brent: Nope. [both laughing]
Doug: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions and I look forward to seeing you at Jaxx in Virginia on the 9th!
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