Johan Lange (synthesizer, keyboard, programming, percussion, backing vocals) from Agent Side Grinder
AGENT SIDE GRINDER are back in the studio preparing their new album, they also resumed concert activity. Johan Lange agreed to discuss not only some history of ASG, but also their music and some new things that are about to come for the band.
Reflections of Darkness RoD: Looking through your social media carefully, I notice you are up to something new… the first thing to ask then will be - what is the progress with the upcoming music release, and when can we expect it to see the light?
Johan: Yes, we are in the process of recording a new ASG album, our sixth can you believe it. We hope to release it later this year or early 2023.
RoD: Is Alex Svenson from THEN COMES SILENCE helping you out? Are you planning any other collaborations on the new thing?
Johan: Alex is contributing with some bass on a couple of songs. He’s an old friend of the band and we played many shows along with TCS. There may be some more collaborations on the album, but let’s keep that a secret. But actually, we’ve got another interesting collaboration coming out in May already, look out for that.
RoD: Can you reveal anything more at this point?
Johan: Well, on the album we’re back working with Henrik Sunbring, who produced our first albums and also was a member of the band. Our intention is to go back to a grittier, more analogue sound and Henrik is the perfect guy to capture that. More news is that Emanuel is contributing with some lyrics this time.
RoD: Tell me more about AGENT SIDE GRINDER’s music - it connotates with post-punk, but also industrial, darkwave, it also has a lot of electronic tints - all in all, it’s pretty diversified. When you sit to create new things - what is the background, and how do you get new inspirations to make your music?
Johan: Music comes pretty easy to me. It can happen in the studio, during a soundcheck, or just randomly when doing normal stuff. Not all ideas are good and worth keeping of course, but occasionally a strong riff or a catchy melody pops up and then you build a new song around that. When it comes to lyrics and song themes, that could be harder to come up with. But you choose topics that feel relevant and suit the song. In ASG we draw inspiration from various sources, such as news, politics, media, books, etc.
RoD: AGENT SIDE GRINDER was formed in 2005, so you have quite a history behind. Looking back, how would you say your musical and scenic style has evolved through time? What were the most important lessons you took?
Johan: We started off making really brutal primitive electronic music, just three guys on stage. Later we stepped into more post-punk and pop territory, becoming a touring band with a big stage show. After a big line-up change in 2017, we’re now back to being three members. On our latest releases, we’ve tried to distill the sound of ASG. We’ve taken the raw energy from our early years and combined it with more sophisticated songwriting from our later careers. We’ve learned many lessons throughout this bumpy ride, but the most important one is that we continued and never gave up.
RoD: In 2017 the band experienced quite a change in line-up. Kristoffer Grip, Henrik Sunbring and Thobias Eidevald left the band. I’m wondering what such an earthquake meant for you as the band?
Johan: It was a shock; we weren’t prepared at all. But both me and Peter, who actually formed the band, were extremely determined to go on and convince people the band wasn’t over. And the desire to reshape and redefine the band became a major driving force when working with our comeback album ‘A/X’. The success of that album and the addition of Emanuel filled us with great confidence for the future.
RoD: Alchemy was a practice of mixing the elements of physics, chemistry, art, psychology, medicine, religion, and many more. It was a meeting point for many different sources. I’m thinking about your album released in 2015, ‘Alkimia’. You seem to be the artists who do not limit themselves to one musical genre only, right?
Johan: Totally right. We try not to think about genres or labels when making music. All three of us are big music nerds, so just sticking to one sound and genre wouldn’t represent us. I understand why people tend to categorize music, but those limits won’t help you in your creativity.
RoD: Dirk Ivens seems like a godfather for so many bands - how did your cooperation with him start, and what did it give you artistically?
Johan: I got a mail from Dirk on Messenger, where he expressed his admiration of ASG. Very flattering of course, since his bands especially KLINIK have been a big influence on us. Later I got the idea of mashing up our song ‘Bring it Back’ with the KLINIK song ‘Go Back’. They had similar riffs and song structures and I felt it could be interesting to combine them. We asked Dirk if he wanted to contribute with new vocals, and he approved and we recorded the track ‘Go (Bring it) Back’ in a hotel room in Malmö after a KLINIK/ASG concert, great memory!
RoD: Do you have any musical heroes, those you’d like to play with, or those who gave you the drive to make things of your own? Or do you get ideas from entirely different sources?
Johan: We got a lot of musical heroes within the band, old and new ones that keep inspiring us. We try to look both back in music history and into the future.
RoD: I know you’ll be playing during the E-only Fest in July and E-Tropolis festival in Oberhausen in September 2022 - are there any other set dates we could see you playing live?
Johan: Since we are busy recording we won’t do as many shows in 2022 as we normally do, but E-only and E-tropolis and a handful of other shows are scheduled, so keep your eyes open.
RoD: Tell me about your live show experience - you played big scenes such as M’era Luna or Wave Gotik Treffen, but also cosy, small club scenes - do you like concerts? Do you ever experience stage fright? What was the most magical live show experience you had?
Johan: We’ve always been a live band; we’ve played well over 300 shows. And we actually do play our instruments live with very few backtracks. It’s a physical experience seeing ASG, lots of synthesizers and gear on stage, we even bring a big metal spring that we use as percussion. Historically we used to play better in smaller venues and clubs, but in recent years I think we’re best suited on bigger stages, such as M’era Luna, Amphi, WGT and such. One of our most recent gigs was at Bodyfest in Stockholm at the classic venue Nalen. A pretty big place, but it felt really cosy and intimate once we got on stage. One of many magic experiences.
RoD: Do you still remember your first concert? What was it like?
Johan: Oh, it was a pretty shaky experience. We had so much equipment on stage, all vintage machines and samplers that were really hard to control. It took longer between the songs than the actual songs. We even had to read these old manuals on stage, haha.
RoD: In a nutshell - what can we expect from you in the upcoming months?
Johan: A new smashing single, released after the summer if everything goes as planned. And then a brand-new album to follow, a full-length ASG record that we put a lot of effort and love into, hopefully, it shows. Then we’re ready to go back on tour again, we’re really looking forward to meeting our fans again.
RoD: And the final question - what is music for you, personally?
Johan: To me music is everything, it holds almost every aspect of life, it’s like religion, but without the bad stuff.
RoD: Thank you very much for your time
Picture curtsey of Progress Productions