I had the opportunity to interview Skunk and ask him about the new record Lifeblood, spending time in LA , the direction AGR is now headed, and where he sees the band in 10 years.
EXAMINER: Thanks for taking some time out Skunk, and I have to tell you right off the bat this is an excellent record, and I know you spent a great amount of time working on it. Tell us about the process of putting Lifeblood together.
SKUNK: Thanks David. Yeah, it was definitely a process. We learned a lot making this album. We were all over the map, and I think the eclectic nature of this record reflects that. Chef (Bull RD) and I wrote some of these songs over the past few years, but others came together with our original drummer Mike (Molina). He was definitely a big part of several of the tunes. Unlike our first record, which was more raw and somewhat of a flash in the pan, we spent a lot more time with pre-production and the recording process on Lifeblood. I did a lot more in the studio this time, doubling guitar solos and vocal parts and stuff like that, but I also got more involved in mixing than before. Basically, I learned how to make an album beyond just writing songs and recording my parts. I'm really proud of the record and can't wait to get it out to our fans.
EXAMINER: And I guarantee they are going to dig it. Now then, where did the recording and mixing take place for this album? I heard you had some guest musicians involved?
SKUNK: We mixed and recorded most of the album with Rob Hinton at Mesa Recording Studios in Austin. I've done multiple projects with Rob and we're generally on the same page so it just made sense to go there. But we also did some tracking at Studio 1916 when we started. Chris Farrell played drums and we featured a couple of guitar virtuosos as well. My friends Guy Laverick and Jon Simpson laid down some great solos on a few of the tracks.
EXAMINER: And then you spent some time in LA mastering, is that correct?
SKUNK: Yeah, I flew to LA and hung out with Dave Donnelly at DNA Mastering. Dave's done everything from Aerosmith and Zakk Wylde to film soundtracks, and I'd worked with him before so I knew ahead of time he was the guy for Lifeblood. You know you're working with a pro when Alan Parsons is calling during your session.
EXAMINER: Well, yeah, I would certainly think so.
I know the band has gone through a metamorphose over the past year and a half. Tell me, who exactly makes up AGR as we talk today?
SKUNK: Skunk Manhattan and Chef Bull RD. We've gone through a few line-up changes since we started. Our last drummer exploded onstage at a jazz blues festival. Or was it blues jazz?
EXAMINER: The record kicks off with “Care For A Rat In The Face?” which sets you up for the ride this album takes you on. Lyrically the whole record is tight, but tell us about this song and its most unusual title.
SKUNK: The title is in reference to one of my favorite novels. Lyrically it's about complacent control and the consequences of thinking otherwise. Seems like a fitting time for these lyrics, but then again any time in history seems fitting. I think it's amusing when people talk of how the world is going crazy. Has it ever been sane?
EXAMINER: In “Under the Gun” there is a line that says “I may be a sinner, but you're no saint. And now I see they're one in the same.” Is there a certain message you're trying to relay in this song?
SKUNK: Under the Gun was actually a consideration for the album title at one point. The lyrics deal with hypocrisy and self examination. We're all under the gun in our own little worlds and it's often easier to point the finger at other's shortcomings than to deal with your own.
EXAMINER: What's in store for AGR in 2013 and beyond?
SKUNK: We're going to play some shows to promote this release. That's priority. Aside from that, we've already written the next batch of songs so we're eager to start pre-production for the next album as well.
EXAMINER: Tell us something that your fans don't yet know about you.
SKUNK: I hate socks.
EXAMINER: Of course you do. Well thanks for your time and thanks for helping to keep metal alive in Texas.
SKUNK: My pleasure. Thanks David.