DATE OF INTERVIEW:
21st October 2013
METAL DISCOVERY: There’s a good combination of the metaphorical and literal in your lyrics, but what do you think proves more effective in getting your message across in fighting prejudice and injustice – symbolic verse or literal verse? Like, if people have to work harder to understand the metaphor, they’ll be engaging with that more?
ALISSA: I’m not really sure if I have a preference for one or the other but I’ve noticed that I tend to try to do a lot more of the allegorical stuff in the singing parts and a lot more of the straightforward stuff in the screaming parts, because it actually just feels better to scream that type of stuff and to sing the other stuff.
(Alissa White-Gluz on an increasingly solipsistic world)
"...although the world is becoming a global village because of technology, it’s also that everyone’s becoming a lot more introverted, just because everyone has their Facebook page and their Twitter account and their own little universe where they’re the centre of it..."
Alissa White-Gluz backstage at The Kazimier, Liverpool, UK, 21st October 2013
Photograph copyright © 2013 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Official The Agonist Facebook:
THE AGONIST DISCOGRAPHY
Only Once Imagined (2007)
Albums & EPs
Official The Agonist Twitter:
Lullabies for the Dormant Mind (2009)
Thanks to Libby Maguire for arranging the interview.
The Escape (EP) (2011)
Official Alissa White-Gluz Twitter:
MD: In ‘Predator and Prayer’ you have the line: “God is a man-made invention to allocate power and responsibility to a tactile body.” … those kind of secular statements are a way more effective and sane philosophical debunking of religion than traditional black metal bands singing about the majesty of Satan and whatever… but I’m guessing you don’t encounter any animosity for airing those sort of views, like the kind of controversy a black metal band would incite with their more fantastical approach? And I guess you’re being way more sacrilegious because Satan is only a man-made creation as well!
ALISSA: Right, yeah, it’s totally insulting to anyone who’s religious in any way but I’m not sure if people actually listen to those lyrics or not. I mean, I don’t think you can read those lyrics and not get what I’m talking about, it’s one of the more direct songs, even to the point where I’m speaking the lyrics in the song; I’m not even singing it, I’m just straight-up saying it. That song I wrote based on a conversation that I’ve been having with a really good friend of mine who was a born-again Christian and I literally just took our text messages and put them in the song because those were our texts going back and forth; we have debates like this all the time.
MD: I think if you wore spiked wrist bands and corpse paint, and stuff like that, it changes the context and those kind of opinions would, then, attract more controversy.
ALISSA: Right, I think because it’s not in the usual sense of sacrilege, if you wanna call it that; it’s not in the context of black metal where people would expect to see or hear that, so I guess people are less offended by it. But, I mean, when I played that in Israel and stuff, I was kind of, “I wonder if people know what I’m singing about?!” So I don’t know if people actually pay attention to that.
MD: So no controversy, as such, at the moment…
ALISSA: No… [laughs]
MD: Somebody I interviewed recently was talking about the 70s and early 80s being a phenomenal era of songwriting, lyrics-wise, because people were more concerned about the world they lived in but, now, everything’s more solipsistic and what becomes popular in music is people moaning on about themselves. Do you think that’s an inherent problem with contemporary society where global concerns have become more marginalised in popular culture and, generally, in people’s lives?
ALISSA: Yeah. I mean, it’s cool to write songs about yourself too because everyone can listen to that and relate to it. But I think that, although the world is becoming a global village because of technology, it’s also that everyone’s becoming a lot more introverted, just because everyone has their Facebook page and their Twitter account and their own little universe where they’re the centre of it, and they don’t necessarily care about anything else that’s going on because, to them, they’re the master of that. And, of course, those things mean nothing in the real sense of the world. But they mean a lot to somebody who lives in that world and a lot of young people, I think, live in that world.
MD: That’s definitely true. Hypothetically, if you could transform any ugliness, malice or corruption in the world into something beautiful right now, what would it be?
ALISSA: I wish that people would just favour selflessness over selfishness. If people would just stop and think, like, “hey, I want to eat a hamburger or I could eat a veggie burger and it’s not going to hurt anyone or anything to eat the veggie burger and it tastes just as good.” All they would have to do is go a little bit outside of the comfort zone and try something new and then they would be, effectively, acting in a selfless way because they’re giving up something that maybe they really like – not making a huge sacrifice but actually making a big difference. Or if somebody wants, even on a small scale, if somebody really wants to get something for themselves but, instead, they choose to get something that they can share with other people… especially on tour because you meet so many people every day, little things like that make such a big difference, just to brighten everyone’s day. And little actions like as simple as something you consume or wear or do, if you can just make that have less of an impact on everyone else then it’s huge. And, so, I think if everyone could just adjust themselves a little bit more towards that, then that would make a big difference.
MD: And, as you said, you’ve inspired people to become vegan which is marvellous.
ALISSA: There’s so much defensiveness against that, though, which is something…
ALISSA: It’s so crazy because, to me, the vegan lifestyle is just one of peace and avoiding cruelty and, somehow, that’s like a horrible thing that you shouldn’t do to some people.
MD: So people are turning that into something ugly with a lot of animosity for no good reason…
ALISSA: Yeah, exactly.
MD: A random question to end with then - Burton C. Bell from Fear Factory told me last year he’d like to see the teleporter invented to alleviate tour fatigue… what would you like to see invented the most to help with life in a touring band?
ALISSA: A teleporter… he’s right!
ALISSA: Absolutely! That would be amazing! At this point, I haven’t seen my house or my cats for three months and I’m not going to for another month because I’m going to be on tour again. That really is the thing that wears you down the most, is not being able to be in your element. I have to rush to take a shower; I have to rush to get my stuff out of a dirty bus; I have to live in a bus with… you know, I’m on tour now with twenty nine men. You know, it’s nice to be at home and alone and have privacy and the cleanliness of your own home, and that’s something you’re completely deprived of on tour so a teleporter would be amazing!
MD: I haven’t seen my cats for ten hours and I’m missing them so I can’t imagine what three months would be like!
ALISSA: Yeah, I go crazy. My cats are my wallpaper on my phone… my phone is my best friend because it’s the only communication I have with my actual friends, so… [laughs]
MD: You don’t talk to your cats on your phone, I’m guessing?!
ALISSA: I Skype with them sometimes, yeah, with my roommate! [laughs]
MD: Marvellous! They purr back a lot, I guess.
MD: Thank you so much for your time.
ALISSA: Yeah, no problem.