Why did you end up on the Italian Scarlet Records, what convinced
you about their promises to invest in Agent Steel in terms of promotion
and so on? (And Metal Blade isn't involved this time?!?)
We ended up on Scarlet because they were supportive and into AGENT
STEEL, so it made sense to go with a label that believes in the band and
are fans of the music. The Metal Blade deal was a licensing deal for the
United States; they have rights to "Omega Conspiracy".
The Scarlet label has a lot of power and prog bands and a few
extreme bands, like the mighty Necrodeath, a couple of Danish bands
Invocator and Hatesphere, etc. Do you think AS fits well to the Scarlet
Really, I don't think we "fit" with any labels roster. We are
pretty alone in the way we play the type of music we do.
What is important for us is a label that supports and promotes AGENT
STEEL and I think Scarlet is doing their job. Do we fit their roster? I
am not sure and I don't really care if we do or not; what I care about
and what I am thankful for is that our new album "Order of the
illuminati" is available in Europe through the proper distribution
networks and available for the metalheads!!!!
How has the cooperation worked so far with the Italian label and
is dealing with a label so far away challenging?
That still really remains to be seen. So far, it's been okay but it
could be a lot better.
Life is challenging and there is always room for improvement whether
it's with a record company or with a band or with oneself.
Is your deal with this label just for this album or did you sign a
It is a one off deal. I think they may have an option but that's it.
If the money is right we can always re-negotiate the deal. We will see
how things develop and we are planning on sitting down drinking some
beer and speaking with our label in Europe real soon. I will also like
to mention that Scarlet will be releasing "Earth Under
Lucifer" single with bonus live songs available on the tour.
You were supposed to have “Order of the Illuminati” as a new
name for the band because of the legal hassles with Cyriis, but after
all you decided to use it for the album title. Did you find the title
too cool to throw away?
Exactly, it is a great title isn't it? I use to read Robert Anton Wilson
like almost 20 years ago and was always intrigued with conspiracies and
UFO's and all sorts of stuff like that. Bruce came up with the title and
I thought it was cool.
Where did you discover the name “Order of the Illuminati”
(perhaps you are members of the order? hehe). What is its association
with Freemasonry and the “New World Order”? Do you know of The Order
of the Illuminati’s influence in today’s world, or do you think it's
Me and Chuck came up with the name. We are definitely not members of
their group. I think they are real and they influence the world to a
Has Cyriiss given up his idea that he “owns” the name “Agent
Steel”, has the war ended or just a single battle in this conflict?
Cyriis is supportive of AGENT STEEL! there is no war, no battle, like I
said it was a big miscommunication with a lawyer and not talking for
over a decade. I think the media has been rather harsh on Cyriis; when
in fact he wants what we all want...for Metal to be back on top.
Does it bug you if the new AS album is categorized (by some) as
power metal, even though the album contains true AS speed metal?
What people call "power metal" these days has nothing to do
with power or metal. On the other hand, we really are power metal as it
was defined initially.
It doesn't bother me too much what they categorize us. I know what we
are and I know our roots.
Seems like everyone has a different definition of "power
metal" these days. I've noticed that certain fans hear what they
want to hear in our music, and that's how they perceive us. Which ever
way someone connects to the music is their own personal experience. We
do have "speed" and "power" and "melody",
and we mix it up quite a bit. We're different things to different
people. So truthfully, being categorized doesn't mean anything to me.
Omega album had a lot of references to older 80's speed metal whereas
the new album has a slightly more modern style. Would you agree with
that, and if so, what do YOU think made the album sound a bit more
I don't really think of either album as being particularly retro or
modern. I see them as solid, timeless metal. I am not very interested in
If you hear a slight modern influence, it's probably because it's there.
Being musicians, we're always listening to music, and there's a lot of
new stuff out there. Whether you know it or not, that new favorite song
of yours just might sway you ever so slightly in your songwriting. You
can stay true to your style, but the brain is like a sponge, and it
absorbs stuff you're not even aware of.
I think Bernie makes a good point. I also think the new album is a
natural evolution in the AGENT STEEL sound; it has been 4 years since
"Omega Conspiracy" so our sound is gonna evolve, but we made
it a conscious effort to have the songs written in standard tuning (No
drop tuning at all). I think Bruce is correct as well it is timeless
Speaking of sounds….the guitar sound on this album is excellent
for both leads and rhythms. I think in terms of the leads you’ve both
really outdone yourselves! Did you plan to have even better and more
ripping solos on this album than the last or did it just work out that
Juan and I have been holding out all these years to play our best solos.
Just kidding. Of course, we want to play our best at any given moment.
But, I think we took a little more time and patience in this case. And
with every passing year, if you're steadily practicing, it's only
natural that you get better and gain more licks for your arsenal.
Thanks for the compliments; the more you practice the better one gets.
Extra effort is always welcomed in a recording session; as a guitar team
we pushed ourselves, and we could have pushed more but we needed to get
this album done and released.
I think those two meant to do their best, like we all did.
Do you feel there is any friendly competition to outplay one
another, like if one of you records and nails down this amazing lead,
does the other go…”shit I have to try to top that” ha!
It's not like we try to outdo each other. It's more of trying to match
the feel, or contrast each other so things stay interesting.
It's not about competition and if it was I would loose that battle,
Bernie is an outstanding top notch lead guitarist; he outshines a lot of
player and that is why he is in AGENT STEEL, but I get what you are
saying....and yes I said "Shit, fuck, damm it, I got to try to top
or match that LOL" but in all honesty, It's about the song, the
riff, the drums, the melody, the bass and lyrics, solos are the icing on
For the gear-heads and guitar geeks out there….please tell us
what setup/effects/guitars/amps/etc. you use to record the rhythms and
We used Line 6 pods, Mesa Boogie and Laney cabinets. The Laney's were
actually owned by Jay of White Zombie. When he started using Randall, he
sold them to me for $75 a piece. What a deal! Thanks Jay! Anyway, I also
use a custom preamp that I'm always tweaking and modifying constantly.
I'm never completely happy with my sound. And I think that's a good
Line 6 POD (Recording), Mesa Boogie MK IV w/Mesa Boogie Cabinets.
Various Boss pedals like Chorus Box, 7-Band EQ. Guitars: Jackson KV w/EMG
pick ups, Fernandes Vortex V w/EMG pick ups & Sustainer, Fernandes
Vertigo, Jackson RR1 w/ EMG's.
How many layers of rhythms are on the newest CD for a typical
Two tracks of direct guitars from the Pods, and two tracks of miked
cabinets with amps.
Were any of the solos improvised or do you prefer to map them out
note for note and practice them before going to the studio?
It depended on the song. Most of the newer stuff was improvised in the
studio. The older stuff we had been playing for a while at rehearsal, so
the solos were already mapped out.
Yeah, it was mostly improvised but you have your intro to the solo
figured out most of the time. I like to map solos out but never note for
note. Bernie will pretty much improvise as well, of course on the
harmony solos in mainly figured out ahead of time.
One of the MANY highlights of the album is the instrumental “Kontrol”.
Did this song begin as an instrumental and how did it come together?
We didn't originally intend to write an instrumental, but after we wrote
most of the album, we had all these cool riffs left over that didn't fit
the other songs. So we made some of those riffs fit together somehow,
then Juan and I came up with the solos later. The middle section with
the galloping part was written by me and Mike Zaputil back in '86 when
Agent Steel was in Holland. So it's kinda cool that it worked it's way
into the song.
Like Bernie said it was some left over riffs that we did not want to
waste; I improvised some wah pedal stuff on the slower solo section;
Bernie did some ripping leads. It worked out pretty well...the icing was
of course the sample since I am a big sci-fi fan.
Yeah, I loved the “Outer Limits” intro to the song…why did
you leave the spoken part out where the narrator actually says the words
“the outer limits”?
To piss people off....no actually it was left off so the listener would
wonder a bit about the sample; instead of actually knowing where it came
from. I know some of the younger kids probably have no idea of "The
outer limits" series.
you prefer the classic b/w Outer Limits to the newer ones or do you just
Anything in black and white always comes out creepier.
I like 'em both but I think the older ones were way more eerie.
I agree with Bruce; both of them are awesome.
Speaking of the Outer Limits….since Agent Steel is known for
these “X-files” style of lyrics, do you think those ideas about
aliens are getting overdone because several other bands have written
lyrics about aliens, the rise of Atlantis…and then you have TV and
movies with the sci-fi stuff…. Do you have to find other interesting
things to write about or will you stick to writing about the sci-fi
I really don't spend much time writing about aliens, overtly anyway. I'd
rather talk about the shadow govt., world conspiracies, and things of
It's a bit overdone now definitely but I am still into it a bit; not as
much as in the past. I like reading about remote viewing, Alien
abductions, underground tunnels, conspiracies of the inner earth, stuff
like is pretty cool reading material.
What is the song “Earth under Lucifer” about (perhaps this
relates back to the “Order of the Illuminati” title)?
Earth Under Lucifer is about the leader of the NWO sending a nuclear
weapon to the planet Jupiter, detonating the weapon and igniting the
gasseous mass of the planet creating a second sun, hence renamed
Lucifer. It is about a symbol of control. I like all the songs on the
record and each will make sense if you read the lyrics.
What does the front cover of "Order Of the Illuminati"
represent? It looks damn cool and is definitely better than Omega's
cover to be honest with you...
To me, it represents the fact that even when a record label tells you
you have total artistic control, you really don't. Glad you like it,
What Bruce means is that we had the U.S. cover which was more basic with
a desert scene and 2 suns in the sky and our record company wanted
something more interesting which we all agree was the right choice from
a marketing perspective (specially in Europe) where CD covers are a
focus point to retailers. The main thing is of course the music but our
label in Europe wanted something more interesting and we agreed with
them it was the right choice. It worked out well because there are 2
different CD covers (kinda like when released Judas Priest when they had
Point of Entry).
So there are two covers. One has the “bent over people” and
mine has a similar scene without the people there!?!
The one without the dudes looking in holes was the original cover. It
wasn't deemed metal enough by the label.
I think Scarlet (European label) just wanted something more interesting
and they thought the U.S. version was a bit plain that is all (it's not
a question that it wasn't metal enough) obviously it's about the music
not the cover. It was about marketing and I totally understand this
working at a label and dealing with retailers and distributors.
thing that I think has improved since Omega is the vocals. Bruce has
also outdone himself with the vocals on here and has really blown me
away! Did a lot more time go into the vocals for this album or has he
just gotten better?
I think Bruce just found his niche. He came into the band under the
pressure of filling someone else's shoes, and had to prove himself
without pissing off our older fans. He did prove himself and now he can
pretty much do whatever he wants.
I don't think I am any better or worse. I am just doing things different
than the last time because I had more control over the music I had to
sing over. Vocals are dictated by the music and sometimes things are
just more extreme. I know on OC I was doing things that may have been
harder for people to listen to but I don't see them as worse. OOTI was
written with the vocals in mind moreso than the last record. It didn't
take longer to record; in fact, I don't even think I sang a total of 20
hours to do the entire thing, just like last time.
The bonus track for the Japanese release of the new album is
called “Brainwashed”. This was released a little bit earlier from
some music sites for downloading, but you however was added to the
Japanese version!? How many tracks have you released for free net
Juan: We have did released "Brainwashed" as a free download
with a company musicblitz but they no longer exist and in Japan CDs are
so expensive that it is only fair to give them a bonus track and we
thought it was a good idea to give the Japanese territory an extra track
that was no longer available on the internet. I think for a very limited
time a demo version of "Forever Black" was available as well
but of course no longer.
Did putting some mp3 files on the net get more attention from the
metal public?! Did you even calculate how many times those tracks were
downloaded from your site?
Again, getting positive responses is always nice.
We really didn't keep track of the downloads, but I am sure it was a lot
because we were getting good responses from the "free
downloads". People like "free" stuff; specially
The idea of putting up rough mixes was great. That was Juan's idea. It
created interest while we were still recording and mixing. Plus, it was
incentive for me to make sure the final mix sounded great.
The response was definitely outstanding…. were you flattered
when the response was nothing but great toward those clips?
It was nice and much appreciated that's for sure.
For the last album you did a video for “It’s not what you
think” – will there be a new video coming soon? If so tell us about
That video was absolutely grueling to make. It was shot in one night,
and we were there til 5 in the morning...trying to look cool.
Me, and Bruce has talked about it, but we have not really discussed it
with the rest of the band. I want to definitely make a video for a song
off the new album. Of course we need to figure out the budget/finances
that sort of stuff. Something simple like live footage would be cool as
well. I was speaking to a company in Poland to shoot some footage on the
European tour but the tour date in Warsaw, Poland got changed to Germany
so now it looks like when we return to Europe in 2004 we will shoot a professional
Juan, Do you want to keep WWIII completely a separate thing from
AS - so you don't mix the label and the band together? Also on the WWIII
front - how much of your time does WWIII take in an average week and are
you looking to sign any up and coming bands? Now that you’ve had time
to see the music business from the other side of things, what do you
think of it? Would you prefer to just be a musician or has this taught
you a lot?
Juan: all great questions; first of all I am no longer affiliated
with WWIII (they changed distributors) and I am now working with another
record company more behind the scenes and I would like to keep it that
way because then all these bands are calling trying to get a deal if you
know what I mean. WWIII took 40 plus hours a week of work of course it
never ends and I enjoyed it because it was definitely Metal; Jerry
Battle the president of WWIII found some killer bands like ABORYM, VOID
OF SILENCE, FOG, HATE so he deserves big props for that. I of course
like to keep AGENT STEEL separate from actually executive decisions with
record business, two separate monsters. Seeing things from the recording
business end of things is good and bad at the same time; bottomline is
if a record company is into the band and if it's properly marketed,
promoted and the key word here is TOUR SUPPORT is granted then the bad
has a chance to succeed. I prefer to be a musician of course no doubt
about it, but I ain't complaining either....working for a record company
gives you the opportunity to gain knowledge of the recording industry
and that is always a good thing.
Juan, have you ever thought of reforming Evil Dead, or somehow
re-releasing the old Evil Dead albums? Isn't it weird that Evil Dead
doesn’t have that huge cult following like Agent Steel does?!
Scarlet will be re-issuing the past catalog in Europe; we are
negotiating this now. EvilDead was special to me because it was the
first project I was involved with after I left AGENT STEEL in the 80's;
the music was thrashier than AGENT STEEL and the true metal people are
aware of EvilDead.
As for the reunited Abattoir… As far as I know you were supposed
to do some co-work with your ex-band, how is it right now, did anything
We talked about it but let's face it working at a label, and keeping
AGENT STEEL moving forward takes up a lot of hours in a day. It is very
difficult for me to commit to another project and give 100 percent.
Abattoir has a finished new album that they I assisted in shopping (it
needs to be remix that's for sure) but the songs are strong; the problem
is that it cannot be remixed because the masters can't be located and
they were erased, so I think they will release it underground style
through the website; it's a shame because the songs that they recorded
were really good.
Juan, are you kinda surprised that Steve Gaines went and joined
Jim Durkin's bands: Pagan WarMachine and Dreams Of Damnation?! What do
you think of both bands?
Not really, Steve is a hard worker and he likes to perform live. Gaines
is into metal and he gets along with Durkin really good and they've come
up with some solid new songs. I have not seen them live with Steve yet
but DOD is solid!!!!
Steve Gaines was only on the first Abattoir album and left like
you did. The line up on the second album had only two guys left from the
line up of the first album, did you face some personal problems?!
At the time yes, but we are all friends now. Abattoir could of been real
popular I remember opening up for Metallica when Cliff Burton was in the
band and Lars and James were supporters of Abattoir but if I didn't
leave AGENT STEEL would of never happened.
Juan, do you think it is a little bit funny all those bands Agent
Steel, Holy Terror, Evil Dead are all linked together in one-way or
another? I mean, you played on the Abattoir album and then left to carry
on with Agent Steel and then Kurt Corfelt left AS for Holy Terror and
the Agent Steel split up you formed Evil Dead with Mel Sanchez from
Abattoir?!? And Agent Steel has Karlos Medina from Evil Dead on the bass…etc.
And now Gaines is in both Abattoir and Pagan Warmachine..hmm.. what
else..Did I miss something?!?
I think you covered it all; after EvilDead me and Karlos had a Spanish
Metal band called TERROR wo released an album in Mexico called "Hijos
de Los Cometas" and Rigo Amezcua the current AGENT STEEL drummer
played on half the album, and the other half of the drum tracks were
recorded by Jon Dette who also played in TESTAMENT, and was the touring
drummer for SLAYER. We are all one Metal family over here on the West
Juan, you started out in the music business way back with Abattoir
on Metal Massacre IV for Metal Blade. It’s been quite a few years
since then and I was hoping you could perhaps talk a little but about
what have been some of the most important things you’ve learned about
the “business” in that time. Also, is there anything you wish you’d
done differently (hindsight is always 20/20!).
I've learned that professionalism is very important, but networking and
being around positive people is even more important. I've learned good
work ethics is valuable and practice, practice, and more practice only
sharpen your metal skills. I've also learned that if you got nothing
good to say about someone, don't say anything because the metal business
community is small and the same people you see on the way up; you will
se on the way down.
Briefly, before Agent Steel reformed for the Omega Conspiracy
writing/recording what were you doing?
I just finished a tour with Fates Warning for their live CD, and before
that I was in a aggressive progressive metal band called Paincorp, which
is on the shelf right now, but will eventually release something in the
future when my time frees up. Yeah right.
I was working on TERROR.
Century Media reissued your older albums in 1999, yet in 1999 “Omega
Conspiracy” was released by Candlelight in Europe and Metal Blade in
the USA. Did Century offer the band a deal in 1999 and how did they get
the rights to reissue your classic albums?
Who the hell knows? I never saw a dime from Mad Locust Rising nor
Unstoppable Force. Well, at least someone's making money off that stuff.
And we weren't offered a deal by CM, although we sent them a demo, and I
guess they didn't go for it. I must admit, the demo didn't sound
anything like Agent Steel, so I guess I can't blame them.
For what I understand; Century Media purchased the complete Combat
catalog which is now owned by Sony Music and released it in Europe only.
Do you have the rights to reissue your older albums again on
Scarlet or any other label?
Like I said we will re-issue EVILDEAD catalog for 2004 through Scarlet
for Europe and through Artillery Music for the U.S.; regarding the past
catalog of AGENT STEEL; I need to research it but for what I understand
Sony owns the rights.
In a couple days Agent Steel will set off for a Euro tour with
Exodus, Nuclear Assault and Behemoth and so on ("The Bonded By
Metal Over Europe 2003” – Exodus, Nuclear Assault, Agent Steel, God
Dethroned, Mortician, Grave, Carnal Forge, Callenish Circle, Occult).
How did you get on this festival-like tour and what do you think of the
Sounds like too much testosterone. But then again, that's what metal has
always been. As long as there's enough beer, everyone should get along,
and I'm sure the fans will dig the variety.
I think it's a cool metal line-up maybe too much metal, and let's not
forget another support band Prospect who has a great singer, and great
guitarist (they are from Slovania) and are a bit progressive.
How long will you get to play, and will you play different
setlists every night?
I think we only have 45 minutes to play. And for our own sanity, we will
probably change up the set when we start getting bored with the same
setlist every night.
Do you prefer these festival like tours to a typical 2-3 band
This is a first for me. I can't possibly see how everyone will be able
to shower on a regular basis! So everyone, bring DEODORANT!
I prefer 3 - 4 bands max.
You did the first Euro tour with the current line up with Flotsam
and Jetsam and Anvil as far as I can remember, what kind of reception
did you get back then?!
It was actually Riot and Anvil, and the response was awesome. More than
what we could've hoped for. Every show was great, but some of the shows
we just completely annihilated.
Actually our very first European tour was with ANTHRAX and OVERKILL and
it was called the "Speed Metal Attack" back in 1986. We did
tour with Riot, Anvil, and Domine in 1999-2000 the same year the Rams
won the Superbowl.
After this festival tour – will there be any sort of North
American tour dates or any other countries you might be visiting?
To me, North America is still new territory for us. We've only played
the East and West Coast states. It would be really nice to hook up on a
real North American tour and get some recognition in our own country.
Japan and Australia would be a dream come true, but that'll come in
I am always into touring and it would be great for AGENT STEEL to do a
complete North American tour.
What kind of a North American tour would you like to be on?
Perhaps a tour with Cage might make sense...or would you love to land an
opening spot on a bigger band's tour?
Definitely a bigger a band. I really don't have any more patience and
energy for substandard clubs and P.A.'s and crappy motels. It doesn't do
the music nor the band justice. Shitty tours break up great bands. I
don't want that happening to us.
My dream tour would be supporting IRON MAIDEN or JUDAS PRIEST. I would
also like to do some dates with CAGE (I think their new album crushes!).
Have you begun to look forward to the next album or write any new
songs? I hope you do soon because no one wants another 4-year wait!
We are actually bringing a 4-track recorder on the road so we can start
writing the next album. And in my experience, songs written on tour
simply kick ass. It's a different energy than sitting in a rehearsal
room or your bedroom or studio. You're on a bus, everyone stinks, people
are pissed off and hungry. That makes for great songwriting.
If you have any other news or would like to say anything else to
the readers please do so here… Thanks for you time and good luck with
the European tour!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I look forward to putting songs together for a new A.S. album for 2004
and also we are releasing a single entitled "Earth Under
Lucifer" with bonus live tracks (which is available now) in Europe
through Scarlet and soon here in the United States.
Reviews for ORDER
OF THE Illuminati
Review / Arto's
2001 - Juan Garcia and Bernie Versailles
Official Agent Steel Website