I recently spoke to Life of Agony bassist Alan Robert about his upcoming comic book series, the bands 20th anniversary, fronting Spoiler NYC, and morel.
Your 4-issue comic book miniseries, Wire Hangers, will be released next March. Tell us about it.
The Wire Hangers comic series will make its debut with a 32-page, ad-free first issue. I'm really excited about it because it's coming out through my favorite comic book company, IDW Publishing, home of 30 Days of Night and Welcome to Hoxford. The story begins in New York, where a series of abductions are plaguing the city, leaving no one safe. When a feisty young female reporter goes undercover to try and snag the big exclusive, she stumbles upon clues that give us a glimpse into what could be the most disturbing government conspiracy of our time. Pill-popping detectives, corrupt secret agents and a mysterious, disfigured homeless man turn out to be interconnected as the story unfolds. Visually, it's dark and gritty with tons of textures and atmosphere. The artwork really sets a tone for the series and plays an equal part in telling the story.
Where did the concept come from?
Before I became a full-time musician, I was a student at The School of Visual Arts to become a comic book artist. I won a scholarship to attend the school based on my artwork. It was always a dream of mine to become a comic book penciler. Walt Simonson (The Mighty Thor) was my main teacher at the college and showed me the ropes when it came to storytelling and character design. But during the summer of graduation, Life of Agony landed our record deal with Roadrunner Records and we ended up touring non-stop. Music became my entire life, and our success helped to open a lot of doors to do some really great things.
I continued to create artwork for LOA and other bands and along the way, while on tour with Ozzy, I came up with the concept for Wire Hangers. Over the years, while touring and in the studio, I found time to refine the story and characters. Early this year, I got really serious about it and wrote out the script for issue #1 and an outline for a 4-issue story arc. I prepared 15 sample pages of finished sequential art. I caught a lucky break by meeting IDWís Editor in Chief online, and he was interested in hearing about the idea. The stars aligned and IDW offered me an exclusive, worldwide deal. Thatís it in a nutshell.
How did your relationship with IDW come about?
It came about pretty organically. I started using Twitter this year, and when I first signed up I started following some of my favorite comic book creators like Ben Templesmith, Ash Wood, and Steve Niles. I saw that Templesmith was working on a new IDW book called Groom Lake with writer Chris Ryall, so I started following him too. Chris would tweet about music he was listening to occasionally, and we started chatting over email about bands we liked. At that time, I had no idea that Chris was also the Editor In Chief of IDW. Needles to say, the guy wears many hats! Long story short, he saw the Wire Hangers animated trailer on my site and asked what my plans were for it. I pitched him the concept for the series, and a few months later I signed the deal. I gotta tell you, IDW had always been my first choice for a publisher. Theyíve been putting out my favorite books for years, so for me this is all a dream come true.
Many comic books are being adapted for movies these days. Would you like to see your work on the big screen? If so, who would you want to direct the project?
Man, who wouldnít? It would be fantastic, and I can totally picture the story being told in that medium. But right now Iím focused on making the best comic series I can possibly make. If it ever gets developed into a feature film, Iíd love to make a cameo in it and get killed off by the main character! A buddy of mine, Corin Hardy, who is an up-and-coming director in the UK, just got his horror movie idea, Refuge, picked up with Sam Raimi producing! I think Corin would make a great director for Wire Hangers. Only time will tell. It would be great to collaborate with him; heís a nut!
You play bass for Life of Agony, who celebrated their 20th anniversary this year. How did that feel?
Twenty years, itís kind of unbelievable. When youíre 17 years old like I was when we first started, you donít really think that far. I mean, most bands break up after a couple of years. Sure, we had our long breaks and line-up changes, but man, weíve accomplished so much. 20 years is a long-ass time. Some of our fans are older and have grown up with us and some of our fans are young kids that have never even seen the band play live before. We just got off an amazing European tour where we played to crowds of 50,000 people, and I canít really describe it. You go through so many different emotions on stage. Itís unreal that weíve been able to build such a cult audience and make such an impact on people all around the world.
Aside from a spot on Damnation Festival, Life of Agony doesn't seem to have anything planned for the rest of the year. Are you working on new material?
After Damnation we have some East Coast dates booked, although we havenít announced them yet. We also have a 20 Years Strong anniversary DVD in the works using footage from the last tour. These days, we just do whatís fun for us. We take it day by day. Itís a lot different than years ago when weíd tour non-stop until we got completely burnt out. Nowadays, we tour less but we have a really great time doing it, on and off the stage. Itís a better environment. Thatís one thing weíve learned in the 20 years of doing this; weíve learned that youíve gotta have balance. This way, we get to focus on our other projects and families in our downtime and really enjoy ourselves when we do get together.
You also front Spoiler NYC, with whom you've been working on a new album for a while. When can we expect the album to see the light of day?
Iíve been lucky enough to hook up with a great producer this year, Grammy-Award winner Ken Lewis. Heís producing the new Spoiler NYC album with us, and heís done a ton of awesome-sounding records. We recorded a bunch of new tunes with him so far, but since Iíve been so busy with the LOA tour and creating Wire Hangers, Iíve been waiting for things to calm down before I finish the album. There are two new songs posted on our Myspace that we did with Ken that will appear on the finished record: "Damaged Goods" and the title track, "Banned in 38 States."
Have you found a label yet?
Well, we put out our first record in 2007 through two different labels, SOS Records in the States and I Scream Records overseas. This time, I'd like to do a worldwide deal with one label. Iím a true believer in the old saying that timing is everything. There is a certain label that Iím really interested in signing with for the new Spoiler NYC record. I think theyíd be perfect for us. Iíve been waiting to get my comic deal done and off my plate before I focused on that. So expect some exciting news before year's end about that.
What else is in store for you in the future?
You never know, man. As you can tell, I like to keep myself busy with a bunch of creative projects. I feel really blessed to be able to do all this stuff, and I never take it for granted. Itís a lot of work to juggle everything plus a family, but I love every minute of it. Iím looking forward to meeting a lot of people at the San Diego and NY Comic Cons next year. I definitely plan on attending as many events as I can.
Do you have any closing remarks?
Is this the plug section? Heh. For folks that havenít seen the Wire Hangers animated trailer check out wirehangerscomic.com. And follow me on Twitter and hit me up on my personal site, alanrobert.com. Thanks so much for the support, bro. I really appreciate it!