Hi Juan! I tried to do an interview with you, but didn’t success. I hope, now is everything in all right. I would do an detailed chat with you and I hope my questions won’t be boring. Agent Steel is my favourite band.
Juan: o.k. let’s try this again.
Let we start from the very beginnings. You have played in Abattoir, before you joined Agent Steel. Why did you leave the band? Tell us please little bit about the period, which you have spent in Abattoir!
Juan: Abattoir was formed back in 1983 and we were a cover band; we did songs from old Scorpions, Saxon, Judas Priest, and also some original material. Our first song we wrote was called Screams from The Grave and it was used on Metal Massacre IV put out by Metal Blade Records. Abattoir opened for bands like WASP, and METALLICA. I left because they could not commit to touring, and I thought touring was important to succeed.
John Cyriis has played also in Abattoir. Did you play together? Was his name John Camps?
Juan: Not sure. I don’t think it really matters what his name was; he was a fantastic singer.
Who were the founder members of Agent Steel? When and how was the band established? What did mean the name of the band?
Juan: The founding members were John Cyriis and Chuck Profus, and I later joined a few months after the band was formed. Immediately after Cyriis left Abattoir he formed Agent Steel. The name of the band represents an investigator of phenomenom.
At the beginning of your career you have had some member changes, haven’t you?
Juan: The Majority of bands have member changes, and we had quite a few yes.
When did you record your demo? How many demos did you record? Which songs were on the demo? Tell us please about your rehearses too!
Juan: The first demo which got Agent Steel signed to Combat Records was a one song demo with the track 144,000 Gone. The second demo had 4 songs on it and it secured a deal with Roadrunner Records in The Netherlands. We rehearsed in West Los Angeles 3-4 times a week.
You were also on the Metal Massacre vol. 4. Could you tell us about this compilation? At that time it was the biggest, the most popular and famous underground compilation, isn’t it?
Juan: I believe it was a very popular compilation. Abattoir had the song Screams from the Grave on it.
Your debut album was „Skeptics Apocalypse” (1985). Tell us all about this masterpiece. How wrote the songs and the lyrics, how do you like the songs etc.
Juan: The music was written in timely fasion. We took our time; I think what was important was keeping the songs simple and not too complicated. If you listen to the songs and dissect them; they are very simple as far as arrangements. Cyriis wrote all the lyrics and the lyrics were influenced by Science Fiction books, UFO videos, etc.. I really enjoy Skeptics Apocalypse it is a true metal album.
The lyrics were all about ufos and aliens, this was the conception of the band? Whose idea was the write about this theme? Is it true that John and Chuck have moved to the Bermuda triangle, because they wanted to be closer to this occurrence?
Juan: The song concepts was something me, Chuck and John were really into. We all agreed that it was something different to write about and also something we believed in. As far as moving closer to the Bermuda Triangle this was over hyped a bit by the press. It is true that Agent Steel relocated to Tampa, Florida for a while but Tampa is on the Gulf of Mexico, and the Bermuda Triangle is actually on the East coast of Florida, so technically it wasn’t that close to the Bermuda Triangle.
I think so, Johns voice was unique, his voice is/was the trademark of the band. Do you agree with me? He is my favourite singer.
Juan: I agree 100 percent with you. He is very unique and his style was a trademark of the band.
The first album was followed by the Ep „Mad Locust Rising” (1985). What must we know about this stuff? Why did you release two records in the same year?
Juan: Mad Locust Rising was an Ep not a full album. We recorded it after a few shows with Slayer and our first U.S. National tour. We felt we wanted to write something a bit heavier than Skeptics Apocalypse; you can say that perhaps we were influenced a bit by Slayer at the time. I enjoy Mad Locust Rising; I just thought the production was lacking great sound.
After the releasing of these albums have Kurt Colfelt and George Robb left the band. Why? Were they good musicians?
Juan: Kurt and George Robb were excellent musicians. I think perhaps their personality clashed a bit with the rest of the band that is all; it was definetely nothing personal.
Kurt Colfelt has established Holy Terror. Did you like or know the band?
Juan: Yes I am aware of Holy Terror and I thought the album terror and submission was great!
In 1986 you have recorded the „Unstoppable Force” album, but it was released in 1987. Why did slip so much the releasing of the album?
Juan: Because it took longer than expected to finish the mixing of the album, and the management and record company thought it would be best to wait until 1987 to release it.
In your opinion there are/were similarities and differences between the albums? Both of them are all time classics, „Unstoppable Force” is my all time favourite.
Juan: The main difference between both albums was that Unstoppable Force was geared more to a commercial approach with the production, more time was spent on the mixing compared to Skeptics Apocalypse. Skeptics was a more thrashier/Speed Metal album. Unstoppable Force I would say was more truly was Agent Steel was really about as far as songwriting and lyrics, etc... Both albums to me are timeless; we recorded Unstoppable Force in Tampa, Florida.
Tell us please about your early gigs and tours. Which was the best one? With which bands did you play or were you on tour together?
Juan: For me my favourite tour was with Anthrax, and Overkill; on the U.S. Speed Metal Attack European tour. All the shows were packed and lots of headbanging and beer!!!! We also did other shows in the United States with Exodus, Slayer, Possessed, Dark Angel.
The ’80-s were the golden ages of the metal music. Please, tell us about that scene, bands, about your experiences!
Juan: Our experiences for the most part were positive. We toured the United States in a van and our first tour we barely made it to the East Coast and back to Los Angeles, were were getting paid minimal monies, but somehow we made it through the tour and after the tour this really helped with our popularity and album sales. Touring is an essential part of being in a band.
When and why did Agent Steel split up?
Juan: I think we were really young at the time and mis managed a bit, and took for granted how great we really had it at the time. Lack of direction was the reason we split up.
In 1987 was recorded a video tape „Live At The Hammersmith”, but it was released in 1997 or in 1998. Did you watch this live? Who played on this gig? James Murphy was also a member of Agent Steel, wasn’t he?
Juan: After the band split up; John and Chuck moved to Tampa, Florida and recruited new members for that tour and James Murphy replaced Bernie and this guy named J. Weslord replaced me, and the new bassist was from Nasty Savage. The new version of Agent Steel at the time toured Europe with Nuclear Assault supporting.
After the splitting up you have established Evil Dead. Tell us please about this period of your career! Tell us please about the Evil Dead releases! Do you know something about the members of Evil Dead?
Juan: After Agent Steel Me and Mel Sanchez (Abattoir bassist) formed EvilDead and we wanted to form a band that where the material was more focused around the songwriting as oppose to the singing and melodies. Our first release was Annhilation of Civilization on SPV records. We also released a second studio album called The Underworld. We also toured Europe with Laaz Rockit.
In my opinion, Evil Dead was an excellent thrash band, but you haven’t got that acknowledgement, what you have would deserved. Do you agree with me? Will Evil Dead reunion?
Juan: I agree with you on this as well. Evil Dead was a fantastic thrash band, but perhaps people just weren’t that into the music, I know here in the U.S.A. the album did pretty well. I don’t think their will be an Evil Dead reunion, although plans to re-issue the albums are in the works.
Evil Dead have splitted up in 1992. What did you do during the ’90-s? Did you follow the music scene? As I as know you played in the band Terror. What must we know about this band?
Juan: After the brake up of E.D.; I still followed the music scene, at the time I really got into bands like Sepultura, and Ministry. I formed Terror which was similar to Evil Dead but with the singing in Spanish (I wanted to do something totally different). It was a really cool band and we toured in Mexico, but the economy was horrible in Mexico at the time; we did release one album which is out of print now entitlted „Hijos de los Cometas”.
In 1999 have returned many classic metal bands, like Necrodeath, Destruction, Metal Church, Armored Saint or Agent Steel. Why did you come back? Whose idea was to return in the scene? Tell us please about the background of your comeback!
Juan: At the time Bernie Versailles toured Europe as a second guitarist with Fates Warning, and he contacted me saying that there were lots of Agent Steel fans coming to the shows chanting „masters of metal...agents of steel”. Strangely enough, the promoters for Wacken Open Air contacted us to perfomr a reunion show. That is how the band reformed. Wacken Open Air was the first Agent Steel show in 13 years.
„Omega Conspiracy” became a brillant comeback album, it has followed the same way, like your previous releases. Do you agree with me? I mean, between „Omega Conspiracy” and the classic Agent Steel albums aren’t similarities and differences. How would you characterize that album compared to the classic releases?
Juan: A natural transition; I mean even Cyriis endorsed the release of Omega Conspiracy. There were similarities on Omega that you can find on the old classic A.S. albums like the guitar solos, and drumming. We also tried different things with tuning a bit lower on a few songs like „New Godz”, and „Awaken the Swarm”, and „It’s not what U think”.
Bruce Hall has John Cyriis excellent replaced, his voice is the same like Johns one. Do you agree with me? Where and how did you find Bruce?
Juan: I think Bruce is different than Cyriis quite a bit but at the sametime very similar to Cyriis as well. Bernie knew him after the brake up of Agent Steel, and when we reformed he suggested to try out Bruce.
As I as know, after the releasing of the album left Mike Zaputil the band. Why? Or did he leave the band before the recordings of „Omega Conspiracy”?
Juan: Mike got married and moved to Arizona to start a family that is why he left the band, he is still a good friend and he did not record on Omega Conspiracy; we used Karlos Medina on bass, and Vince Dennis from Steel Prophet recorded on 1-2 songs on the album as well.
Your comeback or Necrodeaths, Destructions, Armored Saints one was great, but for example Metal Church has released a very weak and bad album „Masterpiece”. It was a disappointment. Did you listen to that record?
Juan: Yes I listen to it; I thought it was a bit substandard compared to the pass records, but I always enjoyed David Wayne’s vocals and when I saw them at Wacken Open Air in 1999, I thought they sounded great.
In 2001 you were on tour together with Anvil and Riot. It was an old school package. How was the tour? How was to stand on the stage in Europe again? Why didn’t you come to Hungary?
Juan: The tour for the most part war fantastic and it felt great to stand on foreign soil and metal stages once again. Riot were really cool and same with Anvil and Domine. We had a great time and the shows in Belgium, and Netherlands were fantastic, also parts of Germany were really great as well. I do not know why we did not perform in Hungary, one of these days I think we will finally make it there.
We had to wait four years for the next Agent Steel album. What happend during the four years? As I as know, you have had some problems with John Cyriis too.
Juan: First of all, we had to write the album and we knew we had to make a great album and it had to be better than Omega Conspiracy, so that took sometime to do. The there were some concerns with Cyriis but this was handled and he endorsed the new line up and what we were trying to accomplish; he was very supportive, and I am very supportive of him as well. Then Chuck Profus the drummer left the band so we had to replace him before we could start recording; but all the wait was worth it in my opinion because to me Order Of The Illuminati is a great album!
„Order Of The Illuminati” was released by Scarlet Records. Why did you leave Candlelight? What was the problem with them? Are you satisfied with Scarlet?
Juan; We had some problems with Candlelight but nothing really bad; I think the main reason we left was because it was only an 1 album deal and Scarlet made us a decent offer, and we are very satisfied with the new deal.
In the line up happend a change, instead of former member Chuck Profus plays Rigo Amescua in the band. Why did leave Chuck the band? Is he in all right nowadays? What does he do?
Juan: Chuck got tired of the music business and just quit music altogether. Rigo was a friend I knew and I think he fits in quite nice on the new songs. Chuck is doing really good; I talked to him the other day he has a normal job now and is really happy with his life.
„Order Of The Illuminati” was one of the brillant highlights of 2003, that was album of the year by me. Please, tell us about this record!
Juan: Well this is why it took so long to release, because we wanted to write our best possible album ever. We basicly returned to the old school of Agent Steel and incorporated our style of speed metal into the songs with more guitar harmonies and faster drum beats and at the sametime staying true, and melodic to the Agent Steel sound.
In my opinion, this album became faster than „Omega Conspiracy”, the tracks are little bit longer, than the songs of the previous album. Do you agree with me?
Juan: Yes I agree. The album is almost a concept album in a way, all the song lyrics have a running theme about chaos and control by an elite group of people of planet Earth.
You have released a live Ep too. What was its use? Why didn’t you release a full length live album? Where did you record this stuff?
Juan: We released a single Mini CD of the song „Earth Under Lucifer” and we included 3 live tracks as bonus songs. The single was to promote the tour with Exodus and also our new album Order Of The Illuminati.
In the autumn of 2003 you were on tour with Exodus, with Nuclear Assault and with other bands. I have heard, you have had some problems with the other acts. What happend? Why did you go home from the tour?
Juan: The Bonded by Metal Over Europe tour started off good and things were going decent. Then the main problem was the attendance of the shows were sometimes really bad, what I mean is if it was just us and Exodus and Nuclear Assault the attendances would of been fine, but since there were like 9 bands on the same tour the expenses to keep the tour going was really expensive. This was not our fault, band starting leaving the tour because the promoter could not afford all the bands, so after 9 shows the promoter could not afford to keep us on the bill; and we really werent asking that much monies to perform. Basicly there was a breach of agreement so we left the tour.
In these year you have played, you will play on several festivals. Tell us please about that shows, on which you have played!
Juan: we just did the Sun N Steel festival along with Testament, Body Count, M.O.D. here in the U.S.A.. We also just performed at another festival in Minnesotal with Morbid Angel, and Satyricon, Suffocation and Heathen. Things are going good with Agent Steeel and we hope to return for a big festival in The Netherlands real soon.
In this year have for example Exodus, Death Angel, Nasty Savage released new albums, the great bands of the ’80-as are back again. Did you listen to these records? In your opinion, will be in this year thrash reborn?
Juan: I do not know if it will be the year Thrash will be reborn, but I have heard the Exodus album and it gets my vote for Album of the year for sure!!!!
When do you plan to release the next Agent Steel album? What are your future plans?
Juan: We plan to finish writing the album in the next few months, and recording it later this year. The release of the album at this point looks like 2005. Future plans include some festival shows in Europe for 2004.
Juan, thank you for your patience and time, Agent Steel rules forever!!! I wish you all the best. Cheers: Leslie
Thank you and also visit www.agentsteelonline.com for updates on the band, thanks for the support.
by David „Steel” Laci