David and Lars live in differentcountries, they met few times and their will of producing fresh synthpopwon over computer crashes, jet lags, etc. They’re already experiencedmusicians as David already produced a solo CD while Lars has beenplaying with a synthpop duo called Avantgarde. If you are a fan ofmelodic synthpop with a lot of Erasure sounds and catchy attitude, youshould check them out! David Mahr answers some questions for us.
Chain D.L.K.: Please writeyour previous musical experiences and tell us what have been themotivations to form Agency X
Agency-X: David Mahr: I’d been recording solo projectsfor a number of years, collaborating with other keyboardists andsometimes programming my own. I’d been thinking about what new projectI wanted to do next (I was currently in the middle of promoting mylatest single, “Only You”. ) One of the performances was at SYNTHCON2001, where I met DJ Seraphim, who later introduced me to Lars, whohas been working as the band AvantGarde since 1991 – a band I was a hugefan of. I’d also recently launched my indie label, Delicious Records, and after Lars and I talked, we decided to form Agency-X — althoughat that time we were called “The Agency”.
Chain D.L.K.: Since you and Lars live in twodifferent countries could you tell how your way of working is?
Agency-X: David Mahr: We work via the Internet — exchanging musical files via ICQ generally. Lars typically creates a musical snippet or sometimes an entire song andsends it to me. I then write the lyrics and melody, and then producethe recording and mix. Sometimes he sends me an idea or word that hewas thinking of while creating the musical bits – like Katrin, the nameof his girlfriend, for “Catch Me” and “something western” in the caseof “Western Sky”.
Lars: I mainly use VSTi synths andCubase software to create the music files that I send over. Sometimesother keyboards too. : )
Chain D.L.K.: Can you write (each of you if possible) what youliked of the other one’s music and what aspect of that you’d like to usein Agency X’s music?
Agency-X: David Mahr: I wanted to make an album withmusic more like that of Erasure’s “Wonderland” or either of Yaz’salbums; because those albums were special to me — in fact, they arewhat helped me realize that I wanted to be a singer. When I wasintroduced to AvantGarde’s music via a friend of mine (who laterintroduced Lars via email), I knew that I’d found the right person forthe project. Luckily, we hit it off and the demo we wrote togethereventually became our first single, “Don’t Hold Your Breath”.
Lars: I think David has a wonderful voice and it’s easy forhim to write really great lyrics — I mean, if you are born in an”English” speaking land and grown up with it, it’s a bit easier to putthe right words in the right place! : )
Chain D.L.K.: The internal graphic of the bookletreminds me of the 50’s: do you wanted that effect because of the nameyou choose (you know most of the noir movies have been produced betweenlate 30’s until the end of the 50’s, where the secret agents werepreferred as characters) or there’s another reason?
Agency-X: David Mahr: Nope, that’s it! When I was designing the album, I really wantedsomething that felt retro, like the music, but that was visuallyinteresting. I’m a fan of that illustration style, and felt thatthese images really captured the fun side of the band name and albumtitle. Happily, Lars was happy with the results.
Chain D.L.K.: Who drew those images? How do youmeet him and why did you choose him?
Agency-X: David Mahr: An artist named Paul Gilligandrew them. I’ve actually never met him, although I’d love to. Welicensed his drawings through Getty Images.
Chain D.L.K.: Since you associated a visual imageto each song, would you like to extend the use of visual images withyour music and what kind of effect you’d like to reach?
Agency-X: David Mahr: Sure. The process started with the “Don’t Hold Your Breath” single, which was released before the album was completed. Once I’d settled onthe cover image for that single, and after I’d selected the two secretagents for the album art, it was pretty easy to continue on and findimages that suited each song on the album. If we decide to put out asecond single, the image from whichever song is chosen will be theprimary art used.
Chain D.L.K.: Since David told that he wanted to create a band withthe intent of sound like the Erasure, would you like to tell what theirmusic means to you and why do you find it so special?
Agency-X: David Mahr: Actually, it wasn’t so much that I wanted to create a band thatsounded like Erasure, rather, I wanted to work with Lars because hisprogramming is such an homage to Vince Clarke’s programming and sounddesign techniques. I loved Lars’ work on AvantGarde, and reallywanted to see what his music would sound like with my vocals.
Lars: I’ve programmed a couple of Vince Clarke covers forus (“Walk Away From Love” and a new performance version of “Only You”by Yaz), but I don’t really like covering a Vince because the originalsare already perfect in my mind. And I don’t think we sound like Erasureso much – we sound like Agency-X.
Chain D.L.K.: What is the “Mission Impossible” you mention into thealbum title?
Agency-X: David Mahr: The album title was decided early on because itreally encapsulated the album’s theme: Two “secret” agents who havenever met trying to make music, each being half-way around the world. Sounds like Mission Impossible, but it wasn’t. It was actually easierthan we expected.
Lars: It wasn’t all that easy. During the production of the album, we experienced computer crashes, lost sequences and interrupted file transfers. But technology is whatmade the album possible.
Chain D.L.K.: Most of the songs, if not each one, talks aboutrelationships. Can you tell us what makes you feel the urge to writeyour lyrics and can you talk about this process? I mean, what’s yourway of getting the final lyrics from phrases which comes to your mind? Is it something kind of automatic, do you have a notebook where youwrite your ideas or else?
Agency-X: David Mahr: Lyrics happen many ways. In thepast, I would tend to write lyrics first, or at least a sketch ofthem, and then begin producing the song. With Lars, the musicprogramming and musical arrangement, or at least a good portion of it, would be done already. This made it much easier for me, because Icould focus on writing words that fit the music. Often Lars would plantan idea with the music, such as a theme or an emotion or a word phrase, which again was fun to write to. Often I use the computer to composemy lyrics, but all the lyrics for the Mission Impossible album werefleshed out in a couple of notebooks.
Chain D.L.K.: Would you like to remix other peoplesongs? Why do you think remixing is so popular into the electronicscene and do you think it could be something worth for a band to getremixed or it is only a sort of game between friend bands?
Agency-X: David Mahr: As a band, we’re not really interested in remixing projects, althoughI personally have done a couple of remix projects and would like to trymore. I think remixes serve two groups – DJs and fans. Fans love tohave the different versions (I know I always bought all the singlesbecause they had all the cool remixes), and DJs like them because fanslike to hear them in the clubs they spin at. Plus, remixes are moreclub/dance-floor friendly, whereas the original may not play well onthe dance floor. Right By Your Side and New World have been remixed byPacific Mile in case we decide to release a second single.
Chain D.L.K.: Have you got amessage you’d like to write for our readers?
Agency-X: Lars and davidmahr respond: We’d justlike to say thank you to all the friends and fans that not only helpedus get together, but who take the time to listen to our songs andsupport us at our shows. It’s very gratifying to have finished thisalbum, especially under such interesting production circumstances. So…thank you!
Visit Agency-X on the webat:
www.agency-x.net and at: www.delciousrecords.com
Thank you for reading this page!
the ChainD.L.K. team
[interviewed by Maurizio Pustianaz]