Continuous Evolution
CoC chats with Adam Agius from Alchemist
by: Jackie Smit
In 1987 an Australian high school student by the name of Adam Agius decided to emulate his heroes in Slayer, Metallica and Voivod and form his own project. Dubbed Alchemist, the young band very quickly grew weary of their thrash trappings and began to search for a greater sense of individuality and experimentation. Sixteen years and six albums later, the Antipodean outfit has traveled a long and difficult evolutionary path to ultimately bring us one of the surprise masterworks of 2003 in the shape of their Relapse Records debut, _Austral Alien_ -- a unique musical odyssey of multiple psychedelic, futuristic and brutal textures. Rather than sit on their laurels and bask in the praises that the international press are currently lavishing over them, however, Alchemist continue to look to the future -- one which would hopefully involve a world tour very shortly. I recently had the pleasure of conducting a brief e-mail interview with Adam. Here’s what transpired:

CoC: Why have we not seen Alchemist touring abroad any time recently? Are there any plans to do so in the near future?

Adam Agius: Yes, we are very frustrated with not being able to go overseas, and right now both Alchemist and Relapse Records are working on a solution. Unfortunately, the act is that we have no agent and we don't know of anyone that will book shows for us. We are definitely looking for someone to get us on tours and book shows, but so far we've had no luck despite the excellent press we have received for _Austral Alien_ abroad. There is also the question of money, as it is very expensive, but obviously we can make it happen if the opportunity arrives, and we are hoping it will soon.

CoC: Alchemist initially started out as a thrash band and then went through various changes until you got to the point you are now. What influenced the change and the sound of present-day Alchemist? Do you see the change continuing, or do you feel that _Austral Alien_ is the definitive Alchemist record?

AA: We have heaps of influences, but what I really think shapes our sound is purely our desire to sound like Alchemist. I think that _Austral Alien_ is certainly the start of a new evolution for Alchemist, and I think you will always be able to tell that you are listening to us, because the basic vibe of the band will always be there. But at the same time, we will continue to make each record special and not a rehash of the last.

CoC: What themes do you deal with on _Austral Alien_? What's your favourite song on the record and why?

AA: We deal with a lot of things in _Austral Alien_, like our country's political situation, the suicide of loved ones. There's songs that deal with the grim picture that seems to be painted for future generations, alien abduction. We also talk about our frustration with being stuck down under and away from the rest of the music scene, and some environmental issues as well. Everything is all tied to a loose theme of life in Alchemist and in Australia. As for favourite song on the record, that would have to be "Alpha Cappella Nova Vega". I think it's got great spacey guitars and a sweet vocal melody, and everything in the song just builds very smoothly to a heavy ending. I love it because it has a lot of Alchemist's signature guitar parts, like slide solos and awesome clean sounds, and I think that it captures the atmosphere of the record perfectly.

CoC: In recollect, would you do anything different if you could re-record _Austral Alien_?

AA: No, a record is exactly what it says: it's a record of people in various places and at various times. As long as the production is good it's all cool. If I absolutely had to change anything it would be to have some of the electronics louder.

CoC: What would you regard as the primary challenges faced by a metal band in Australia as far as getting international recognition?

AA: The simple reason is that we are so far away. There are lots of great bands in Australia, but we are so far away only a select few break the overseas market. There's also the fact that many Aussie bands try to compete in an overseas market by copying overseas styles, and with Alchemist that's not going to work. We always just strived to be ourselves and be an original band.

CoC: So, what's the current scene like in Australia? Any bands to recommend?

AA: The scene here is like any other country. We have some good bands and we have some crap ones. I would recommend Blood Duster, Pod People, Log, Deströyer 666, and Cog.

CoC: How has the domestic support been for the band, as far as radio play or playing the "First Contact" video is concerned?

AA: Airplay on TV for both our "First Contact" and "Solarburn" clips was great. They were aired regularly for about twelve weeks. We're currently working on a new one for "Alpha Cappella Nova Vega", and we also just finished one for "Speed of Life", so that will hopefully bring us to the attention of some more people. A national radio station called JJJ gave Alchemist high rotation for eight weeks with "Solarburn" and "Alpha...", so everything has gone great as far as that is concerned.

CoC: Have you begun work on a new album yet? What can we expect future Alchemist material to sound like? When can we expect new Alchemist output to materialize?

AA: No, we have only just started talking about what we will do. We are still hoping to tour overseas in the next six months, so we've decided to extend our Aussie touring by a few months into 2004 just to keep the live feel fresh. When we approach an album we usually don't play many gigs, but just concentrate purely on writing music. I would say 2005 for the next Alchemist album, but who knows?

CoC: Is Alchemist something you see as possibly turning into a career? What are your plans for the band's future?

AA: Oh, for sure. We also run Australia's biggest metal festival, which is called Metal for the Brain, and that keeps us very busy. People can go to www.metalforthebrain.com and have a look, and you can also visit our official website at www.alchemist.com.au.

CoC: Any last words?

AA: Thanks for the interview, and if anyone out there can please ask any promoters you know in the UK area (or anywhere else for that matter) to book Alchemist, so we can play overseas... PLEASE!

(article submitted 26/12/2003)


ALBUMS
11/4/2007 J Smit 9.5 Alchemist - Tripsis
11/23/2003 J Smit 9 Alchemist - Austral Alien
10/25/2000 A McKay 8.5 Alchemist - Organasm
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