Welcome To The Underworld ..Juan Garcia Speaks Out.
Thrash Metal back in the 80's was big business and the record labels didn't know how to handle it at first but they soon realized how important it was and that it could not be ignored. With the 4 big taking center stage other bands would soon appear below them such as Over Kill, Exodus, Dark Angel, Testament and many more band.
Then smaller bands like Sacred Reich, Laaz Rockit, Gothic Slam, Agent Steel would appear. Evil Dead rose from the ashes of Agent Steel and Abattoir in the late 80's when former guitarist Juan Garcia got together with former band members of Abattoir to form this new band 'Evil Dead', which some people thought this was a new project but soon became a band in their own rights.
After the release of their demo's SPV soon picked the band up and signed them for their debut EP 'Rise Above', which was soon followed by the bands debut album 'Annihilation of Civilization' which was released in 89. An awesome debut which was followed by the band's 2nd album 'The Underworld' in 91.
Sadly the band broke up and Juan reformed Agent Steel and recorded 3 albums and a album under the name 'Masters of Metal' before Evil Dead would reform once again in later years. I managed to chat with old friend Juan about the bands history and the reformation of the band and of course their new stunning album 'United $tate$ of Anarchy' which is released October 30th World-wide. Here is what he had to say. Check out their new stunning album you won't be disappointed."
Hey Juan, great to speak to you again, it's been some time since we last me, which was Graspop I think in 2008 with Agent Steel played and when Maiden, Priest and Kiss headlined. So we have a lot to talk about, so I'm going to start the interview off by asking you about Agent Steel. Out of the 2 cult classic albums by Agent Steel 'Skeptics Apocalypse' and 'Unstoppable Force', which is you're favourite album and why?
"Well it's speaking to you Jason it has been a while. With the answer to you're question, I think both albums have their own unique identity and I like 'Skeptics Apocalypse' because it has a more Thrash feel and more cosmic lyrics. I also like 'Unstoppable Force' as well with songs like 'The day at Guyana', 'Unstoppable Force', 'The Traveler'."
I think the 1st album has more of a rawness to it with the songs and production, do you agree?
"Yes I absolutely agree with you on that, that is why I like the debut more because of that and when we were recording the 2nd album half way through it we shifted direction on the record on how to approach the vocals I think and the debut is a little more raw in sound and more in you're face."
After the debut album Kurk Kilfelt quit the band to form 'Holy Terror', why did he leave and do you keep in touch with him? What did you also think of Holy Terror?
"Kurk is a great song writer and player, and I am glad he contributed to our debut album and to me that was a great line up and Holy Terror is a great bad no doubt about that. I think he left Agent Steel due to internal differences and I got on really well with Kurk but I think we had our internal differences and we had minor disputes and been in a band at times can be difficult a bit like a marriage. Kurk did some great things after leaving Agent Steel and I know he did a band called 'Low Leveler' which is kind of a punk/ hillbilly type band and he did a demo with a band called 'El Avenge'o".
So what was the reason why Agent Steel broke up after 'Unstoppable Force' album?
"I think John has his own vision and what he wanted to do, and Chuck went along with that vision too. Bernie, Mike and myself had different visions, so we didn't want to go along with what John and Chuck visions were. We felt like it was time for a change and there were no major problems within the band."
So who formed 'Evil Dead'?
"Well we formed the band in 87 and I had just left Agent Steel and I wanted to do something a little more aggressive and not to take anything away from Agent Steel as they had their own style. I wanted to do something with more attitude and was also more street wise with a bit of Punk and Hardcore. The band was formed by Rob Alaniz & Mel Sanchez who was in Abattoir and myself. We went back to our roots kind of like Abattoir and some Discharge, The Crumbsuckers something different. (Ed: When I 1st heard you're band I thought of 2 bands, Sacred Reich & Laaz Rockit). Yes I can see the similarities and we just wanted to do something different from our previous works.
It was original a 4 piece band and then we brought in Phil Flores and we recorded our debut album 'Annihilation of Civilization' in 89. We recorded an EP before that album 'Rise Above' in 89 which was suppose to of been original released as a single and for some reasons we left those songs off the album."
So who came up with the band's name?
"Well it was Rob, Mel and myself who came up with the bands name, we were watching a lot of horror movies back then and we got influenced by the movies 'Evil Dead' back then."
Besides SPV/ Steamhammer who else did you approach for the debut album 'Annihilation of Civilization'?
"Well there were some people who worked at SPV U.S. office and they were old employees of Combat Records back then. When they found out it was Mel and myself who was in Evil Dead they both knew our old bands as they were signed to Combat Records. They then wanted to sign the band right away.
I actually was in Abattoir and I played on the 'Vicious Attack' record and co wrote 4 songs. I wasn't credited for the songs as I left the band right before the album came out."
From the debut album by Evil Dead what songs do you like and why? And also the debut from Abattoir album.
"I like on the Abattoir 'Screams from the Grave', 'Ace of Spades' by Motorhead, which is a great cover song. As far as the Evil Dead debut I liked 'Annihilation of Civilization', 'Gone Shooting' and I liked that songs because there were a lot of shooting on the freeways here in the U.S. so it influenced by to write the lyrics."
Did you have any other titles for the debut Evil Dead album?
"Well that's a good question, I don't recall having a any other titles for that album, although we did consider maybe the song 'The Awakening' as an album title."
OK can you tell me who are mascot is on the album covers, the guy with the white eyes, who is he?
"Well his name is 'Evil Fred', Rob our drummer use to draw these cartoon characters on our demos and when Ed Repka did our album cover we just gave him the concept and told him about 'Evil Fred' and he just imported him to the album covers."
Ok Juan, moving on the the band's 2nd album 'The Underworld' which was released in 91, why did you come up with that title for the album?
"I think the title represented the band at that time and it was more about behind the scenes with what is going on in the world with either money or power with a mocking tone to it and it had a good song title to it as well."
So what songs from that album do you like and why?
"I like 'Welcome to Kuwait' a lot which was based around 'Desert Storm', I also like 'Critic/ Cynic', 'The Hood', I also like The Scorpions cover we did 'He's a Woman/ She's a Man' and that song featured Dave Wayne who sang the choruses on that song. (Ed: Helstar also covered that song on one of their records) Yeah I was not aware of that at that time otherwise I would not of done it. I am good friends with James, we just laughed and we knew we could not change the song."
How well did both albums sell for the band back in the day?
"Well the 1st album sold really well as they gave us a budget to record the 2nd album, and the 2nd album got really good reviews in Europe and after all the line-up changes we just felt like it was time to give it a rest. We did not want to push to be made to record another record and to continue to do something that we didn't have our hearts set on anymore."
Was you're plan to comeback in the future and to record another album in later years?
"We never thought we would make a comeback at all, in later years but we did which was really cool."
After Evil Dead broke up you reformed Agent Steel and I saw you at Wacken 99 and made 3 more albums and then you broke up again, why was that?
"Well I gave it my best shot reforming the band, I never thought that I would be reforming the band but Chuck Profus and Bernie Versailles had the idea to reform the band and I think we had a great era coming back for those records and we gave it our best with those 3 records. It was fun to revisit the band and we did some great records."
After Agent Steel you did that 'Masters of Metal' album please tell me more about that?
"We reformed the band with our original singer and came back with Agent Steel and we were writing material for the next Agent Steel album that never happened and Agent Steel did some show at Sweden Rock and the band came to a halt. So Bernie and myself had some material we were working on and we went back into the studio and just striped everything down and started all over again. We had this instrumentals that became 'Masters of Metal' and Bernie sang on most of the record.
(Ed: I thought Rick Mythiasin from former Steel Prophet sang on that record?) Well Rick originally did and Rick is an amazing singer but Bernie and Rick didn't see eye to eye so we didn't want the music to go too waste. So Bernie decided to sing on the record so we put out 2 EP's and a full album. Later on Bernie had his accident and we kind of shoved the idea to the back. James from Helstar also sang on one track and it was a great project for sure. The album was released by 'Metalville' in Europe. We called the project 'Masters of Metal' to somewhat Agent Steel."
Moving on... what was the reason for 'Evil Dead' to reform?
"Well in about 2009 we were having requests from fans asking to see the band live. Originally it was just to play some live shows and in 2011 we recorded a song that we put online for free with Steve Nelson on vocals and it wasn't until 2016 that we got serious about putting the band back together and to do a new album. I think Rob Alaniz was having a birthday party and he invited Phil Flores our original singer to come down and when he came back into the band it just had a different vibe it just felt right and we had time to think about putting the band back together.
We had a lot more in common and we started to write better music together and we had the same goals which really helped. (Ed: It's good that you have the line up from 'The Underworld' back together) Yes it was, it felt great too. Both Rob and Albert Gonzalez had a lot of good ideas already put together which really helped. It gave us a really good place to start with song and directions. I think the new album is a strong and great record."
Yes it is good to see a band make a comeback and stay true to you're roots.
"Yes it is, that was the idea and we did not want to reinvent the wheel and we are a old school Thrash Metal band. I have noticed that some old bands make new records that don't even sound like that they did back in the day, a totally different direction and their sound has completely changed. That is not always a bad thing with today's technology. With our band we know what we are about and we like to keep those elements within the bands roots."
Besides SPV what other labels did you approach or did you think it was the best move going back home to our old label?
"We had interests from a few labels but we just felt that SPV was the right choice in terms of coming home and their the label that 1st gave us a deal, so it just felt right coming home sort of speak."
So who came up with the title for the new album 'United $tate$ of Anarchy'?
"The story behind the title is, original when we started doing this in 2016 we title for the album originally was 'Rise of Evil', and I had an idea back in the 90's of an album cover influenced by 70's with the riots and all kinds of weird stuff going on. So the original artwork was based on L.A. riots and it was too close to the band, and so the working title 'Rise of Evil' was given to Ed and Rob actually came up with the 'United $tate$ of Anarchy' and Ed had not even seen the album cover and to me it just suited the title more once we had seen the artwork from Ed. It came from the lyrics for the title of the album from the song 'Without a Cause' kind of like Nostradamus with what's going on in the world today."
The artwork was done by you're former artist Ed Repka once again was it good working with Ed once again?
"Hell yeah!! It felt like unfinished business and we know Ed would do an awesome job once again."
How long did it take to record the new album, looking at the booklet it was recorded in a couple of studios. Please tell me more.
"We started in November 28th in 2019 and around January 2020 we had Bill Metoyer who did the album, but he was busy working on Armored Saints new record. So we would be going back and forth doing session whilst Bill was doing Armored Saint. We were working on the album at a friends studio to where we live. It was a combination of recorded there and going to Bill and Rob at his studio and then Covid hit and thing got complicated trying to reschedule recording sessions and vocals and it took a little while longer than we expected. We are happy with the end results and Bill and the band did a great job and I think everybody brought something to the table.
The album was recorded on Pro-Tools and we went old school on this record Jason, the drums where recorded live and no programmed drums at all, and I think with today's technology it works great for some bands but not for us. The songs are not click tracked it's an old school record it worked well for us."
Let's now briefly talk about the songs on the new album? Who writes the music for this new album?
"Well 'The Descending' was written by Albert, Rob and the lyrics by Phil. Next is 'Word of God', that is about an angry God and that was written in the 90's and we have an outside writer called Robert Rangel who has contributed to songs for the band in the past. So Rob & Albert had worked with him and he contributed to that song and contributed a part to the verse. Next up is 'Napoleon Complex', again wrote by Rob & Albert & Robert once again. Next is 'Greenhouse' and that is basically we played back in the day and could of easily been on our debut album. Like I said most of the album was done by those guys and Phil did 'A.O.P' & 'War Dance' & 'Seeds of Doubt' by Phil Flores."
So how do you see this album as a progression from the band's previous albums?
"I think it's more directed to the 'Annihilation of Civilization' record to that of 'The Underworld'. To me it just has that natural flow and f you asked me in what order do the albums do in I would say... 'Annihilation of Civilization', 'United $tateS of Anarchy' and 'The Underworld'."
Just how many videos have you done for the album? I know you have done one for 'The Descending' & 'Word of God'
"Well SPV put those 2 lyrical videos out and we hope to make an official video sometime in November 2020. The lyric videos are great but after a couple of they get a little boring. I know we can't play live right now so we just have to make the most if it. I think we will do a live stream at some point if it is done correctly."
What sort of press reviews have you been getting so far for this album?
"They have been great, really positive reviews I have yet to see any bad ones. Thanx for the cool review Jason. I am very happy with SPV there a great label and they are promoting the album really well."
Now let's talk about briefly Body Count, what does Ice T think of Agent Steel and Evil Dead?
"Well he digs the riffs and he has joked and said we should do an Agent Steel cover and as far as I know I think digs the new Evil Dead record and I know he loves the bands name and he loved the band's logo, and he's a big horror fan. he loves bands like 'Power Trip' and 'Lamb of God', 'Slayer', 'Cannibal Corpse'."
Well Juan thanks for doing the interview, best of luck with the album sales, be safe brother and I hope to work with you in the future on a tour. Do you have anything to say too you're fans reading this?
"Yes thanks to our fans for their support and welcoming us back with open arms. Thanks for the interview Jason be safe and also be safe to our fans out there. We hope the fans dig the new album we put alot of hard work into making this an old school heavy Thrash Metal album."
Thank you to Juan Garcia and also SPV & Work Hard for the interview.