We caught up with singer Alissa White-Gluz of Montreal metallers THE AGONIST. Alissa is not your typical artist in any way and is starkly candid compared to many in the business. In our interview she revealed her unique perspectives on topics like her bands’ new album, the evolution of the group, the value of a trusted producer and much more.
MAA: The new album is coming out soon, so what can you tell us about it?
AWG: The album is called Prisoners. It comes out June 5th in North America and June 4th in Europe. It was a pretty lengthy process to record this album so we hare really happy to have it finally done.
MAA: How would you characterize the evolution of the band from the Lullabies for the Dormant Mind album to now?
AWG: It’s hard to say because the album is so new. I still think Lullabies is the best. On Once Only Imagined, Danny was the sole instrumental song writer. On Lullabies.. Simon wrote a little bit because he also plays guitar. On this album we also had Paco writing. So it was Danny, Simon and Paco; though mostly Danny. I have always written all the lyrics and vocals. I think the difference for this album from the last is that our musical influences have diverged. Rather than having a really coherent idea of what we all wanted to do, it was more of a struggle. That is why it took so long. The result is Prisoners.
MAA: What does Christian Donaldson (CRYPTOPSY) as a co-producer bring to the band that you continue going back to him?
AWG: Oh he’s amazing! It’s convenient since he’s in Montreal and he’s a friend of ours, really understands us and he’s very efficient. For me personally, I love recording vocals with him. I would go with someone else, and I have recorded with other people for guest vocals, this and that. He’s a really patient person. He picks up on things quickly. He’s also a really musical person so its great to have that person who understands what you are trying to do and be able to guide you in the right direction. We did want to go with someone else just to get a different feel, but Christian does such a good job it was enough of a reason to go back with him.
MAA: THE AGONIST is out on the road supporting KITTIE. How is the tour going?
AWG: We are actually on the road right now, rolling on our way to Houston. The tour has been really good.
MAA: What made you want to be a writer and a singer in the first place?
AWG: I can’t actually, really cite anyone. I was just talking to my drummer about this a few minutes ago. I never really sat around as a teenager and admired bands and said I want to be like that or do that. I had friends with bands who needed a singer and I just sort of fell into it. I had done some plays and theater so I was like ‘Okay, whatever. I’ll give it a shot.’ After I joined my first band is when I started listening to metal. I thought “This kind of sounds like what we are doing, so I will try to do this or that.’ Writing wise I just never really studied anyone. Honestly, I just kind of do it. I’ve never planned anything out. If the result is good, that’s really lucky. I definitely didn’t train for it the way that maybe some other people have.
MAA: You are well known for your interests outside of the band like activism, fashion, painting etc. Is it all under one umbrella as “art” to you, or do you need to compartmentalize things to achieve your goals?
AWG: No it really is, that’s a good way to put it, compartmentalize. It’s more than just art, I consider it expression. Whether I’m performing a show, or giving a speech on animal rights, or talking to somebody that needs advice I’m just expressing what I think is good for someone to hear, see and know. It’s not really individual goals, it’s who I am and what I do. I am not cut out for public figure status. I’m not into everyone knowing my name or recognizing me. I like to pass on messages. That’s why I write lyrics the way I do. That’s why I’m active in the causes that I care about.
MAA: Why is Montreal such a fertile place for bands and artists to come from?
AWG: It’s hard to say because I am was born and raised in Montreal and I have never lived anywhere else. Maybe we’re complacent because we have so many good bands. There is always political issues going on. The two languages (English and French) probably add to that. There are so many different races of people. Montreal is so eclectic. You’ll have people that tour in metal bands and then they go home and do Rap, or they do Jazz or they play lounge music. There is really a good amount of talented people. It’s probably the same in other places. From touring I do know that for example, there are definitely certain cultures tied to certain cities. Like, for example Dallas, which is tied to cowboy culture. Portland has a hippie culture and perhaps Montreal maybe doesn’t have one specific culture, we have many. And that is probably what helps make really strong bands.
AWG: I just started doing it because there were so many fake profiles of me online, like fake band and Alissa pages that were giving out false information on us. We were hearing from fans ‘why did you cancel your show in Argentina?’ And we never had a show in Argentina. There were these fake sources giving false info and I had to do something. I just started taking control of it so there would be one specific thought that people could go and find the real information and make people pay attention to the official sources. And also to divert attention away from the fake sites. It’s a double-edged sword and you have to be careful. People tend to think that they know you. People need to realize that I talk to thousands of people each week. As much as I want to respond to every question, and I say this on my bio on Facebook, there are lines of respect that have to be there. Most people are still strangers to me. If people treat me like a human being with respect, then I have no problem meeting them and getting to know them. In most cases people are losing all sense of common courtesy when it comes to meeting performers after or before a show.
MAA: Well I’m not totally shocked by that! Thanks for sharing that and good luck on the tour.
AWG: Thanks and goodbye!
By Keith (Keefy) Chachkes