Life of Agony – The Journey to a Place Where There’s No More PainSunday, 30th April 2017
Dead Rhetoric: In addition to Life of Agony, you’ve kept busy with your work with comics. What sparked your interest in this area?
Robert: Actually, I started out as a graphic artist and found music after. I went to The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan for college with a scholarship, and had always intended to be a comic book artist for one of the big comic book companies. That what I was going to do when I graduated, but that was 1993, the same year that River Runs Red came out. The band started in 1989, so kind of at the end of high school. We got the record deal and recorded River Runs Red before I graduated. Once I graduated, the record was coming out and I had the opportunity to jump in the van and see where it would take me. So I put the comic book stuff on hold, and it turned into two decades [laughs].
But I’ve always kept up with the art along the way. I think I designed every t-shirt the band has had over the years, and the logo. I’ve done artwork for other bands over the years – Three Doors Down, Shinedown, Puddle of Mudd, and Chevelle. Lots of bands: whether it’s packaging, posters, or stuff like that. But I never lost the passion for comic books. When the band started to slow down in 2009, we were just doing sporadic touring…that’s when I put out my first comic, Wire Hangers through IDW Publishing. I’ve been with IDW ever since then – it’s been a great run so far. In fact, The Beauty of Horror coloring book I put out last year was a #1 bestseller and I’m working on part two now. That will come out in September.
Dead Rhetoric: I meant to ask you about the coloring book. There’s a lot of interest with these grown up coloring books lately – how’d you come up with the idea to do a super-adult one?
Robert: My wife and daughter were coloring in one of these high-end adult coloring books from Johanna Basford – one of the big artists that really created the trend a few years ago. I just wanted to join in – but there was nothing for me to color! I’m not going to color flowers and nature, that’s not something that interests me. So my wife told me I should make my own coloring book. That got my wheels turning.
So I drew up the most disgusting thing I could find, which was CBGB’s bathroom. I turned it into a coloring book page. It was April Fool’s Day of last year, and I posted it online – it got downloaded like 400 times and people were coloring CBGB’s bathroom and I was cracking up. I loved the interactivity of drawing something and then seeing all the different colors that people would choose. So I liked that whole connection with people, and that same day I pitched IDW a horror, adult coloring book. I got the quickest “yes” I’ve ever gotten. In 20-minutes, they gave me the green light to do it. I had to ask them if they were for real, because it was April Fool’s Day and it was. It came out last October and it had so many pre-orders that the day it was released it was the #1 bestseller.
Dead Rhetoric: Some of your other works…Killogy is in the process of being adapted into an animated series and Crawl to Me is set to be a live-action film – is it cool to see your works being taken from the initial format and be adapted into something else?
Robert: I think that was always my intention. I’m a big movie guy, I love animation. I’m very involved in all of the adaptations. Even finding the screenwriters to adapt it. I have a film production company called Wasted Talent Entertainment. My buddy Chris White, and my cousin Jeff Mazzola are involved in a lot of these projects…it’s a lot of fun to see it evolve from the page to these different formats.
One thing about adapting any project is that it takes a lot of time and a lot of energy. You need a lot of people to get it done. You need a lot of financial backing to make it happen. It’s a lot different than comics, where you can have a small team creating a comic and it’ll come out in a month. As opposed to a film, which might take several years. All the stars really have to align. So it’s definitely been a learning process for me. I understand that these things take time, and even The Walking Dead took 10 years to get on television. You just have to see it through.
Dead Rhetoric: With the lyrical content and message that Life of Agony has tried to convey over the years, have you had fans come up to you with stories that are just surreal that you’ve helped them through?
Robert: Oh there’s been hundreds. It continues to validate why we are doing this. The original feelings of catharsis in the music, and it extends to the title of the new record. The meaning behind that, in my mind, was to bind the band and the listeners together under the same roof. At one of [our] shows, it is a place where there’s no more pain. We can release all that negative bullshit that we’ve been dealing with and understand each other, and not feel alone. That was the original idea behind it, and I know that it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Including…is there a place where there’s no more pain?
We are on a journey to find that place in our own hearts. Everyone has their own different types of struggles. I think that everyone is on that journey, and what we’ve found…at least through out listeners, is that listening to this band helped get them through some dark times, because they relate and they don’t feel so alone. They get that positive message through these negative lyrics. It’s really interesting, because it’s not something that we’ve spelled out for anybody, it’s something that’s evolved and people have latched onto all over the world.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s next for Life of Agony once the album hits the streets?
Robert: We have some dates lined up as the record comes out, and that will bring us through the summer. We are going to Europe as well. One thing that we’ve learned since coming back out in 2014, is to try to live in the present a little more than we have in the past and see what opportunities are waiting for us when we get there. We don’t want to plan so much that we miss out. In the past we would book a whole year in advance and stay out for 9 months at a time. This time, we all have families…everyone except Mina has kids at home, and we are very selective about what we do. It’s got to be the right circumstances for us, and it’s got to be fun. If it’s not fun, we don’t really want to do it. We just have a different mentality about it, and because we are so much more hands on, it makes it that much more important.
Dead Rhetoric: And it makes it much more special too…
Robert: Yeah! It’s true, and we would love to make new fans with this record. But at the end of the day, we are continuing what we’ve done and continuing to build on the foundation that we worked so hard to create, and we are happy with that. We are content with that.
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