Featured Artist

Cosmic Rock

Our Featured Artist today is none other than the great Karl Agell. Singer from such classic groups as Leadfoot, COC Blind and King Hitter, Karl is known and well loved worldwide. He was kind enough to take the time today for an extensive interview about his history, influences, thoughts on music today and more. Check out this awesome conversation with Karl and look out for new music coming soon.

1.Hey Karl how’re you doing bro. Good to catch up with you. How is everything?

I'm doing well. I am still above ground and able to move about freely whilst running my mouth with little to no resistance. So things are good.

 

2.Tell us a little about your back ground. You were born in Montreal, Quebec from a Swedish family? How did you get into music?

My Swedish parents were working in Montreal back in the day. That's where I came to be. We moved back to Sweden for a short time and then moved to Hong Kong. I spent 10 years there, going to an American school in the swinging 70's in what was a British colony at the time. We would return to Sweden every summer vacation. So there was a radical contrast that played out every year, as the pendulum would swing from the urban sprawl and chaos of Hong Kong to peaceful pastoral idyll of a Swedish fishing village due south of Stockholm. That was my childhood, strongly punctuated by my parents' brutal divorce, which ultimately ended up with my mother remarrying. That marriage to a Scotsman took us out of Hong Kong to Connecticut, where my American story began. I had just turned 15. My sisters were off to college. I was the sole kid in the house. And would pretty much come and go as I pleased. I found the best friends ever in the burgeoning hardcore punk scene at The Anthrax in Stamford, Connecticut. In 1983, I was asked to sing for the CT band, Seizure. We released stuff on compilations and our own EP, 'All Hail the F*king System' in 1985. We actually opened up for my future band, COC in Enfield, CT that year. I left Seizure in 1987 and ended up in School of Violence for a year. I sang on the 'We the People?' album released by Death/Metal Blade. I left in 1988 and joined COC in 1989. Did the 'Blind' album. Toured off that extensively with the likes of Danzig, Soundgarden, DRI, Rollins Band, Iron Maiden, etc. We parted ways in 1993. Then Leadfoot. Always Leadfoot. And KingHitter. And COC Blind. All still active to varying degrees. And here we are. Present day.

 

3.Were there any classic albums that really inspired you back the day?

There are so so so many bands and albums. It's incredibly difficult to narrow them down. Let me try to single out some pivotal moments for me.

As a child, I would stare in a trance  at the album covers, trying to unwrap the mystery of what I was hearing. My parents loved music. My father bought an incredible stereo system in 1971 that I still have to this day. It was transformative. This awesome gear cranked out blistering volume. Beatles, always The Beatles for the delivery and songwriting. And I remember being moved by the unfolding drama of Jesus Christ Superstar with Deep Purple's Ian Gillan as Christ and the incomparable Murray Head as Judas. It wasn't about religion for me but it moved me deeply. Amazing performances. Yvonne Elliman's Mary. Literally, Holy Shit! Ha. And the Jimmy Cliff that seemed to be on repeat in my house. There was so much more. My eldest sister turned me on to Zeppelin and my other sister bought me the first Clash album. There was a record store down in Stanley Market (Hong Kong) that carried a wide selection. Amazing really. With chickens running loose in the street. They'd sell you beer if you were tall enough. I was. Drinking San Miguel at 12, cranking up the new vinyl on that sweet stereo. My mother thankfully scored the system in the divorce. While she was slaving away as a single parent, denied child support, young Karl was saved by rock'n'roll. Sipping beers, skateboarding and blasting Blondie's 'Parallel Lines' and Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy and Madness and AC/DC and....you get the idea. I can't pick one. That would offend my other favorites.

 

 

4.What about concerts from your early years? Which were your favorites and why?

As I mentioned before, I had the great fortune of landing in the US during an amazing rich American hardcore punk scene.  I saw countless killer shows in Connecticut at The Anthrax and other venues. NYC was a short jump south, where I caught so many shows at CBGB's, Rock Hotel, The Ritz, Lismar Lounge, etc. It's hard to narrow down. I saw the Clash three times in 1982. One of shows was opening up for the Who at Shea Stadium with David Johansen (NY Dolls) on the bill, too. I also scored a seat to see them (the Clash) live in the audience at SNL with Ron Howard aka Opie Cunningham hosting. Pretty cool, right? Motorhead's 10th anniversary show at the Hammersmith was a good one. Watching Soundgarden and Danzig play every night for 6 weeks was pretty cool, too. Black Flag in 84 didn't suck. Or any other time for that matter. I was spoiled. I can't narrow it down. Hell yeah!

 

 

5.I saw you sing with COC on the tour with Maiden and Testament back in the day. Man those were fun days. Any favorite memory of that time?

We had this super shitty Eagle tour bus with a red velour interior. Bruce came on the bus and his first reaction was priceless. "It's like a fucking brothel in here." He was right, it sort of was. Their PA boss was this awesome guy from Sydney. He loved us right off the bat. We did one soundcheck at the beginning of the 6 week tour. He dialed us in and granted us full PA. Trust me, that's a rarity. You see, Iron Maiden had nothing to fear from anyone. They loved us and let us play as loud as we wanted. Best 35 minutes of my life on a daily basis. True gentleman. I remain in awe of their abilities and their behind the scenes manner.

 

6.I saw Leadfoot a few times. That was a cool band bro. Tell us a little about that chapter of your life.

 

Leadfoot was my sanctuary after a tough and bumpy parting from COC. Originally named Loose Cannon, I changed the name to Leadfoot when a comedy reissue record label of the same name threatened to sue. Woody played with Phil Swisher (also on the Blind lineup) and myself for about 9 months before returning full time to COC. Jon McClain of The Ugly Americans played drums initially. Graham Fry of Confessor played second guitar. When Woodroe left, Graham became the primary with Ryan Barringer playing second guitar. That was the lineup on the first Leadfoot album, 'Bring It On' initially released by Roadrunner. Things got off to a great start with big management, booking agents and label support. That album scored killer reviews on its European release. So we were shocked and dismayed when Roadrunner dropped us and did nothing regarding a US release. It led to the drummer, Jon and guitarist, Ryan quitting the band. Again, we rebooted, scoring the amazing drummer extraordinaire, Tim Haisman (of Greensboro's False Prophet) and Scott Little on second guitar. Scott and I have played together nonstop for 20 years. He is in Leadfoot, KingHitter, and COC BLiND. The Music Cartel picked up "Bring It On' and released it stateside. Later we released 'Take A Look' with them. We did some extensive European touring on that album. Graham left in 2000. He was replaced by John Dzubak who played on the 'We Drink for Free" album. He bailed in 2004. And so did Phil Swisher. Since then there have been a variety of lineups but we are essentially at this point solid again with the 1999 lineup but with TR Gwynne on bass. F*cking soap opera, right? But it is what it is and that's rock'n'roll.  Leadfoot puts the boner in stoner.

Case closed.

 

7.What about singing with COC Blind? That’s my favorite COC record bro.

 

The Blind album represents some of my proudest vocal moments. It was an interesting time. You had a bunch of hardcore punk guys that came together, evolving through crossover, merging punk's urgency and brains with the power of  metal. It just sort of happened. It's where Flag meets Sabbath, the Bad Brains meet Deep Purple, and so on and so forth. I wanted to sing meaningful words that would stand the test of time by marrying them to strong melodies. It was a grueling 10 weeks in Manhattan. Welfare motels with rats fighting over vomit on the floor. A trial by fire supported by great friends in NYC that produced some indelible moments. I'm proud of that time. Nothing lasts forever. But hopefully those songs will mean something to someone for awhile to come. We all definitely put our hearts and souls into it. That much I know.

 

8.Do you still visit in Sweden or  Quebec or do you mostly stay in NC  these days?

Regretfully, I haven't been back to Sweden since an illfated Leadfoot tour that was scheduled to fly out on September 11, 2001. We were booked across Europe with Raging Slab but the shit obviously hit the fan. It was an awful time for so many people. I will never forget. The Leadfoot compound was literally next to RDU airport on 22.5 acres. We were set to fly out that morning when I got a call to turn on the TV. I had just bought a camcorder to document the tour. I videotaped us watching and reacting. I need to dig up that footage. Heartbreaking. Surreal. Brutal.  I was determined to get us over there. Living next to an airport drove my fury. The silence was deafening. No flights.  I rebooked the tickets 12 times in a week and finally got us over there. Raging Slab was a no show. I wasn't going to let the bastards 'win'. We lost the first week to the tragedy. We picked up the second week in Sweden but had to cancel the rest due to the chaos. I stayed on for a month in Stockholm after the band flew home to NC. That ensuing depression has probably never really left me. I need to go back. It's been too long. I still have family over there but so many have passed away. Time's a killer. I have toured some in Canada and I love it but I was 4 when I left Montreal. Awesome town. I love Les Foufounes Électriques. Badass venue. Sweet memories of rocking there.

 

9.What have the years held for your music in the best and the most challenging ways?

 

Well, you could say that it's a blessing and a curse. I never feel more connected to the universe than when I am singing and creating something in the moment in harmony, sharing that communal bond with a band. There's nothing like it. It's transcendent for me. It's the closest I get to religion, to understanding my place in things.

But at the same time, it's a complete clusterf*ck, with too many hands messing with too many parts and people, trying to get shit done in spite of a lack of funds, time, inclination of others, the list goes on, f*cking herding drunk cats with their personal misgivings and anxieties and and and and and....

You know how this song goes. A great song that nobody ever really listens to. Ha! That's band life. I love it more than anything but I hate it more than anything.

I just can't stop. Woohoo!

 

10.So you guys are recording the new King Hitter record now. Tell us about the band and the new record?

 

We have a bunch of material written for a full length album but we are in the midst of a lineup change. Imagine that. Nevertheless, we will prevail and hopefully hit the studio in the not too distant future. But strangely enough, Leadfoot is ascendent right now. We are going to release a long awaited 4th album. The first since 2003! We have over 2 albums worth of unreleased material. We're going to pick the cream of the crop and put them out this year. We are in talks with Salt of the Earth records. Scott Harrington has doggedly pursued us and encouraged us for years. Patience of Job in that awesome dude. We are happy to announce that Leadfoot is playing the second New England Stoner and Doom Fest on Saturday, May 4. They have given us an amazing slot and we are beyond stoked to be a part of it. I really hope some of your readers come on out to that one. Should be Epic. For those of you in NC, we are playing CuzFest in Wilmington, NC on Saturday, March 23. C'mon down!

 

 

11.How is KingHitter similar or different to your previous bands?

 

Perhaps, KH is a bit different in that it embraces more of a straight up old school metal vibe. But...it's still me trying to lay down some catchy vocal hooks on top of killer riffs. That's the same. I have always followed the same philosophy notwithstanding the band.

DON'T BORE US! GET TO THE CHORUS!

It doesn't matter which band it is. Just write a f*cking song for f*cksake. Whether your growling or whistling. Write a tune. That's what matters. F*ck everything else.

 

12 What are some of your favorite films?

Oh, goddamn. Again, so many. I'm just riffin' here.

True Romance, Life of Brian, Some Like It Hot, Brazil, Death Race 2000, Airplane, Raising Arizona, every Spaghetti Western with Clint Eastwood, A Clockwork Orange, The Meaning of Life, Night of the Living Dead, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Warriors, Polyester

 

13.Favorite books?

So many.... here's a few.

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn,

All Souls' Rising by Madison Smartt Bell, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole,

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Being There by Jerzy Kosinski, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut, Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis, Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller, anything by Bukowski....

Read Or Perish, kids.

 

 

  14.What is one life skill you think everyone should have?

      

       Everyone should know how to dig. Whether it's a foxhole, grave or trench. It drives me insane when I see people mishandle a shovel. Scoop in the same direction that you want the dirt to land, a*shole. I yell at the TV when someone gets it wrong. Ask my wife. I will correct a mother*cker. Years of digging holes taught that much. Remember the immortal words of Judge Smails. "The world needs ditch diggers, too."

      

        15.How do you feel about the music business today with social media and the current era of underground music? What advice would you give an artist just starting out?

        I came up in the day of cassette demos and 45's and P.O. boxes. I think it's both easier than ever and at the same time, more difficult than ever to get things done. Easier in that we have the means of production and communication at our fingertips in a way that I could only have imagined back when I got started. Laptop studios that actually get decent sounds, social networks that reach every corner of the Earth...but there are so many bands now. It's hard to weed out the worthwhile ones sometimes.  I'm not judging. To each his own. Whatever. Whomever. My advice is just to be honest. Play with intent. Mean it. Feel it. You don't have to be the best. You just have to care about it. If you do, people notice. And then they care about it.

       

16..Any other creative activity you are interested in? Art, writing, etc?

 

I like to write but I do so rarely these days. Maybe this will trigger more of that. I like photography. I took 5 semesters of Black and White. I loved the darkroom. I love art. I collect weird and cool stuff. It's all over my house. My family is steeped in it. My mother's side of the family is full of artists. My great grandfather was the head of the Swedish art institute. My mother's cousin is one of the most famous painters in Sweden. My mother is also an amazing painter. Both of my sisters are very creative. My eldest , Charlotte, writes and illustrates children's books. She has had a varied career with publishing, sort of like me and record deals. Bigger deals, smaller deals but always doing it. Her latest collaboration is with Ana Ramirez Gonzalez who created stuff for the movie, Coco. The book us called "Maybe Tomorrow?"

ART IS LIFE.

 

17.Do you  have some shows coming up?

 Right now, the only things booked 100% are two Leadfoot gigs. Cuzfest in Wilmington, NC on Saturday, March 23 and the New England Stoner and Doom Fest on Saturday, May 4. I'm working on more stuff. Leadfoot, KingHitter, COC BLiND, whatever. Keep your eyes and ears open. I hope to see many of you out there. Yes!

 

 

18.Any last words for your readers today?

Thank you for your everlasting support. Music has never made me rich by any measure. It has enriched my life though. And it's primarily due to the kindred spirits out there who have given me a chance, listened to my jams, and sought me out across the years. Music is nothing without the listener, a band nothing without its fans and supporters. I am grateful always and will keep on doing it no matter what. Rock on forever together!

 

Awesome bro great talking to you and keep us updated on your news. - G