WAR AGENDA – Prepare for Disaster
Teutonic thrash is near and dear to my childhood – while Bay Area and East Coast acts obviously captured me first, there was something about the viciousness of a lot of German bands that got my heart racing and distorted emotions all aflutter. War Agenda are a five-piece together since 2012 and bringing a lot of the spirit of those old days back to the younger generation – while also keeping a lot of the catchiness and melody necessary to develop a proper following, because thrash does not live by one-dimensional speed and up tempo hits alone.
After taking in a healthy dose of their debut album "Night of Disaster", reaching out to the band to find out more about their activities was the next step. Featuring answers from all five current members, you’ll discover a long-time love of heavy metal, thrash, their local scene – having high hopes for recording a strong follow up full-length to rival the intensity and catchiness of their first offering.
Tell us about your earliest memories surrounding music – first bands and albums you heard, and how you gravitated towards heavy metal and thrash? And at what point did you decide to move from being a fan to picking up an instrument and start playing in a band?
Marsel: My father listened to hard rock and metal since he was a teenager, so from my early childhood on I grew up with his music. When we drove in our family car, we listened to his tapes with music of Annihilator and Judas Priest. Albums like Deep Purple’s "Fireball", Judas Priest’s "Unleashed in the East" and Iron Maiden’s "A Real Dead One" have been the first I listened to and my first CD, I bought with my pocket money, was Dio’s " The Last in Line". I was totally impressed after watching one of my dad’s old videotapes from ’83. It was a concert of Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, MSG, Judas Priest, Krokus, Def Leppard, Quiet Riot, and Scorpions – the sound, the power and the performance. This was the moment I decided to make music. Initially I wanted to become a drummer but there wasn’t enough space in our flat, so I decided to become a guitar player with a small 20W amp and a cheap copy of a Fender guitar. The typical progression of a metalhead is to discover more extreme music and this was also the way thrash metal came to me.
Ingo: I was growing up with the music of my parents, too. They also listened to bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. As a teenager I came to bands like Helloween, Iron Maiden and Metallica, I think our way to metal is really common for guys in our age. The first album I bought was "Lock up the Wolves" of Dio, back in 1990 and I came to thrash metal with Slayer and their "Reign in Blood" album, this is also completely typical. I got my first guitar when I was 14/15 but nobody showed me how to play this damn instrument, two years later I hung out with a guy who wanted to form a band and he taught me some power chords and riffs.
Hamdi: Well, I was born in 1979 and grew up in the 80s, it was pretty easy to get in touch with heavy guitar music. In elementary school, Accept was my favorite band and later I came to Metallica, Anthrax, Sodom, Kreator, Slayer and Megadeth. When I was 13/14 I formed my first band with some friends but in this time it was impossible for me to learn any instrument, so I decided to be the singer. 10 years later, 8 of them without any musical activities, I started to play the drums. For me, it was not a concrete decision to become a musician it was more a progress, it’s also a good compensation for the monotonous daily routine and by the way. we’re all semi-professionals and not full-time musicians.
Joe: My friend’s older brother was a punk rocker and metalhead. In the early 90s, as kids at the age of 6 or 7, we spent a lot of time in his room, completely impressed with his music, posters and style. He made a lot of tapes for us with songs from Iron Maiden, Metallica, Pantera, Anthrax, Ramones, and Black Flag. I was listening to these tapes 24/7 and from this time on I was addicted to music – and it is still the biggest matter of my life. My parents bought my very first CDs as their Christmas present in ’93, so I found Iron Maiden’s "The Number of the Beast", Metallica’s "Kill ‘Em All" and Black Sabbath’s "Paranoid" under the Christmas tree. What an unholy night, listening to Black Sabbath at Christmas Eve (laughs). When I was 15, I was this kind of "skate and destroy"- teenager, hanging out at skate spots and listening to hardcore, punk and thrash metal (this music makes it way easier to jump down 10 stairs with a skateboard under your feet) and on rainy days we hung out at a friend’s rehearsal room. He showed me some chords on his guitar and we jammed, covering some easy three-chord punk songs. This was so much fun to me so I decided to buy a guitar. It wasn’t like – I want to make music because I want to express my feelings and go out on stage to grab some girls. It was just the fun, being with my friends and having a great time.
Nils: My parents didn’t listen to metal or hard rock at all, so maybe that’s the reason why I became involved in hard music. My first metal album, back in 1997 when I was 15, was Dimmu Borgir’s "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant" and it totally blew me away. The hardness and melody was so intense, it determined my musical career up to now. I bought a lot of CD’s in the late 90s and I think this era is still my biggest influence. Though it’s quite a common thought that there was no metal in the 90s, I have to disagree. Just some months later I picked up a guitar from a local store and started to play. I had a guitar teacher for about six months or so and then played along to my heroes by myself. I started my first band in 1998 and played thrash metal from the very beginning.
War Agenda began in 2012 – what do you remember about the formative years and how did you feel about your early demos from 2012 and 2013?
Nils: Coming from a thrash metal background and playing in thrash bands since the nineties, I soon became bored after I quit my last thrash metal band in 2009. Joining the grind/death metal band Compulsive Slaughter was really something new music-wise, but I wanted to write some old school thrash metal songs again. In May 2012 I wrote the song "Shot to Pieces" and showed it to some guys. Later that month I met Ingo at a show and we talked about music and stuff and found out we both wanted the same (thing) – to form a new thrash metal band. After having Hamdi and Marsel join the crew we found a bass player in Joe, who comes from a hardcore background and he filled the gap perfectly. The first two years were really awesome and enthusiastic. We played a lot of concerts in 2013/14 and wrote our first album. We had some troubles finding a constant rehearsal room, starting in an abandoned cellar, then a garage and now in an old industrial building. Concerning the demos: the first was just a single-track instrumental demo. Its main purpose was to show interested musicians what I was aiming for. It was never released. The second demo was recorded by me and Joe at the Napalm studios in Mannheim. It was a no budget home production and we were quite happy with the results back in the days. We copied 50 CDs and Joe gave one of them to the MDD label boss. Soon after that, we (got) signed and released our debut album.
Your debut album was originally scheduled to be out in 2014, but didn’t hit the market until October 2015 through MDD Records. What exactly happened to cause this delay?
Joe: The songwriting went quite fast but the recording process took a long time. First we wanted to release the album at the end of 2014 but the inquiries for live shows had been overwhelming to us and we played as many shows as possible. So it was not like "Ok! Let’s take 1-2 weeks, go to the studio and record that shit", we just recorded on free weekends. I think we have to optimize the recording process for the next album, but with full time jobs, other commitments and rehearsals for live shows, it’s difficult to find an easy way.
"Night of Disaster" has a lot of old school thrash qualities that straddle both the Bay Area and NY styles. How did the recording and songwriting sessions go for this, any surprises or challenges that cropped up and what are your thoughts on the recording this far out?
Nils: Having four guitarists in the band (all except Hamdi the drummer) and having a lot of different influences, the songwriting process differs from time to time. I guess I wrote the majority of the riffs, a lot came from Ingo and even Joe and Marsel contributed some riffs. Some songs are written as a whole and are only rearranged slightly in the rehearsing process and some are written together riff by riff in the rehearsal room. I write what I think sounds best and whatever my mood is up to. I don’t plan to sound like band X or any band- I don’t care really about sticking to certain schools, so every comparison made is quite random for me. I’m mainly influenced by Bay Area and NY thrash, but I also like Sodom or Kreator. I always disliked black thrash, so I guess that’s why you can hear the mentioned styles the most. I’m also a huge fan of melodic death metal from Gothenburg and I always try to put in as much melodies as the song can take. I’m really proud of our debut album and my aim was to sound as diversified and varied as possible without quitting the genre too much. Most of the time at other productions I worked with, I wasn’t always happy with the result 100%. Most of the times there are some minor errors in the playing no one else will ever notice, but not this time.
What types of topics does the band like to cover with your lyrics? Do you consider the words as important as the music you construct?
Nils: I certainly do. We as a band don’t want to be political or take sides with any political party whatsoever, but I personally think there should be more to metal than stereotypes. While growing up with bands like Manowar, I really love beer soaked violent stereotypes, but it shouldn’t end just there. When it comes to lyrics I try to bring in as much socio-critical content as possible. Even if you read our war based lyrics carefully you’ll find they are critical most of the time. Living in a world where wars will become more common than ever before, it’s the least we can do about it as band.
Describe War Agenda when it comes to live performances – and what have been some of your favorite places to play or bands to perform with?
Nils: We have some fixed roles on stage when we’re playing live. Ingo is the perfect oasis of tranquility to contrast with Marsel running violently on stage from band member to band member while spitting out hatred. Joe and myself are aiming for more traditional performances combining guitar stage acting and trying to get in touch with the audience. Hamdi is thrashing the drumheads like a maniac. We’re thankful for having some great gigs in the past. The best probably was at our local open air festival at Metallergrillen in front of almost 2000 people, (the) best feeling ever! But no matter the amount of people we’re having fun on stage and try to entertain the audience as best as we can.
How are you able to balance the music part of War Agenda with all the other social media/ business activities necessary to keep the band alive – while still maintaining an outside life, as I imagine you guys still have day jobs, significant others, and families to attend to as well?
Joe: You need a lot of time to keep a band alive but you need even more to push it. Also here we have fixed roles in War Agenda. I’m doing the management, booking, press-, social media-, graphics- and business stuff. The others are mainly responsible for the songwriting. Besides my day job, I have to spend 2-3 hours daily for music. If you don’t do a band for a living, you have to be really passionate to push it permanently. You have to set your priorities and arrange your life around the band(s). Except Ingo, we all play in other bands, too. Hamdi plays in the old school Death Metal band Zombieslut and together with Marsel in a Stoner Metal project called Weed Wizard, Nils still plays in Compulsive Slaughter and I’m also in the Metal/Hardcore band Soilid. Rehearsals, gigs and business activities require a lot of time and power, so there is almost nothing left for others.
What are your thoughts on the thrash scene at the moment in Germany- who are some up and coming bands that we should be paying more attention to?
Nils: I’m always proud of our vivid scene in our area. The Rhine-Neckar-Region has got some great bands, even though it’s more death metal oriented. Best local thrash bands are Sensles, The Prophecy 23, Warfield and Toxik Shokk. Focusing thrash bands countrywide, there are a lot of great bands to mention. The big German four Sodom, Destruction, Kreator and Tankard still are great in my opinion. Our label mates Hatred or bands like Dust Bolt are the shit, both hailing from Bavaria. The downside of this huge scene is that the audience is oversaturated with gigs. There are about 2-3 underground metal gigs per weekend in a 100km range. You can never foretell how many people will show up and concerts are hard to plan. Something that I also notice is that up to ten years ago we really had some younger guys getting interested in old school metal. But this has changed now. Most of the young guys are getting into hard music with metalcore and at least in our local scene those genres won’t attract the same audience. We’ll see what the future brings. War Agenda will continue no matter what the trends will be like.
What are your five favorite thrash albums of all time – and what’s the best concert or festival you ever took in purely as a fan, and why did that stand out the most to you?
Joe: There are many awesome thrash albums and every member of War Agenda has different favorites. If I were to sum it up, we all like the classics like Slayer’s "Reign in Blood", Exodus’ "Bonded by Blood", Anthrax’s "Among the Living", Metallica’s "Master of Puppets", Sodom’s "Agent Orange" and Kreator’s "Coma of Souls". My best concert was the reunion show of Black Sabbath with Ozzy back in 1999 in Stuttgart, I think this doesn’t need any words to describe why it’s outstanding the most for me (laughs).
Are you a collector of vinyl, CD’s, or special merchandise – and if so what are some of your prized possessions?
Joe: Not really. Some of us own more or less vinyl but nobody is really a collector. I have a penchant for band shirts and own more than 250 shirts.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding War Agenda – either from friends, family, or other bands?
Nils: That’s a hard one. I actually don’t listen to advice that much. Best advice is to not give a fuck about trends and do your own thing. Write music you want to hear and you love playing. I guess this is something the audience will notice and respect. Try to stay professional even when everyone else fucks up. Don’t listen to the guys with their arms folded telling you what to do better, what to change in your music. My experience is as many people that hate certain things you do just as many will like it, only the haters will be louder. I have no idea if those things were part of advice given to me or were built by experiences I had, but that’s what I am convinced of.
Have you started writing songs for the follow up album – if so, do you see a natural progression in terms of songwriting or are you fairly happy with the direction you have already established?
Nils: We already started writing new songs. I think our goal for progression is to diversify even more and write more fast tracks compared to the first album. Other than that we’ll stick with our proven concept and strengthen our trademarks some more. So stay tuned and be surprised.
Where would you like to see War Agenda in terms of a following over the next 12-18 months? Are there any plans for special videos, tours, etc.?
Joe: With full time day jobs, it’s really difficult to plan tours and we have to check if we’ll be able to manage the financial aspect of a tour, but we will see what the next year brings. We want to start with some small weekend tours, also in other European countries – if we’ll get the chance and we hope to become a fixed part of the German and European Thrash scene. In April we’ll have a video shot for one of our songs from the "Night of Disaster" album.
www.waragenda.de (War Agenda official website)
www.mdd-records.de (MDD Records official website)