Montreal, Quebec, Canada-based melodic death metallers THE AGONIST have fired back at their former singer Alissa White-Gluz, accusing her of "slandering" their name openly and as purposely trying to sabotage them within the music industry at any opportunity.
White-Gluz was announced as the new singer of ARCH ENEMY on March 17, 2014. That same day, THE AGONIST revealed that they had recruited Vicky Psarakis as Alissa's replacement, saying in a statement that they wished White-Gluz "all the best with ARCH ENEMY and her future endeavors." A day later, Alissa released her own statement in which she claimed that she "had every intention of (and had even started) writing and recording yet another killer album [with THE AGONIST] this year," but explained that her "former bandmates decided to choose a different path." She also said that "the unfortunate decision" to part ways "was made beyond [her] control" and added that she would "always be proud of the three albums [she and THE AGONIST] created since 2005."
Alissa, who co-founded THE AGONIST in 2004 (then known as TEMPEST), had been largely quiet about the circumstances that led to her departure from the band, choosing instead to focus on the touring activities in support of ARCH ENEMY's 2014 album "War Eternal", which marked her recording debut with the latter group. But during a recent appearance on HATEBREED frontman Jamey Jasta's official podcast, "The Jasta Show", Alissa aired her side of THE AGONIST split for the first time, saying that she "never in a million fucking years" suspected that she would get kicked out of her own band. She added, "I don't agree with what they did. I don't have respect for what they did," and vowed to never mend fences with her former bandmates. "I'll never talk to them again — ever!" she said. "That was the worst betrayal I've ever felt in my life. They stole a lot from me. It was not right."
But now, in a lengthy statement, THE AGONIST guitarist Danny Marino has responded to Alissa's comments, claiming that "she was playing both sides to have her cake and eat it too" and accusing her of not "factoring in the other four lives in the band and their aspirations."
Marino's statement in full:
"In the years since it became known that we parted with Alissa, we have been committed to keeping private matters private. We did not want to get mired in an online drama, as we have seen with other bands making member changes. However, since 2014 Alissa has slandered our name openly and has purposely tried to sabotage us within the music industry at any opportunity. We had assumed that with time, and as she enjoyed success with ARCH ENEMY, this obsession would subside.
"As much as we have tried to avoid a public debate that just adds drama and negativity, we feel that after her most recent comments we cannot maintain silent. We feel we have no choice but to discuss the deceptive betrayal that occurred, as well as our longtime issues with Alissa's manipulative and unprofessional behavior, her lack of respect for our fans, crew and producer, as well as her frequent freak-outs and instability that affected the band both in the studio, on tour, and behind the scenes that lead to our decision to change singers.
"When Alissa talks about how we betrayed her, she conveniently leaves out the year-long betrayal (or maybe more) that took place before it. She officially accepted to join ARCH ENEMY without telling us. They began to write a record, plan tours and make business plans all prior to saying anything to us. Many months later, she told us that she would be joining another band and that it would not affect THE AGONIST's plans and 'not to worry.' In the months that followed, we pleaded repeatedly for the band's name or any other information, but we were told she couldn't tell us. After a few months, we gave up asking about what band it was and we were simply asking for more information on her availabilities and were still told that she couldn't really say. We were in the dark, frustrated, and made our feelings known to her. We had a serious meeting where it was laid out that the band couldn't go on in the dark about these things anymore. At this point we had tours and festivals already booked for later in the year and she needed to tell us if we are still available for them. She finally agreed that she would ask for more of a timeline from her other mystery band. She came back saying that we needed to cancel all the already booked tours, as well as our first ever European festival tour. It was made clear that we would be at the mercy of this other band's schedule indefinitely.
"Until this point, at her request, we had not told anyone about this other secret band. Our manager, agent, and label were all in the dark. With this new information though, we needed to at least tell the people who work for us what is going on and decide how to proceed. I called our A&R at Century Media and explained everything. I had not spoken with him for some time because our record was now two years old and CM was just waiting for us to write a new one. I apologized that we had been keeping this from him but explained how Alissa had joined some other band that she can't tell us anything about, and now we'd need to delay the recording of our album, cancel our festival tour, and hold off on any tour booking indefinitely. His reaction was utter confusion and shock. 'What do you mean ‘mystery band? I thought you guys were in on this whole plan? She told us you guys were fine with this and that you will be taking a break while she does the ARCH ENEMY cycle.' Century Media was not in the dark. In fact, they were instrumental in the entire lineup switch and had been told by Alissa that we were all 100% on board and knew everything about this whole scenario. After getting over the initial shock I asked him how long she would be busy for. He replied, 'Long.' And when I asked if we should wait for her I was told 'I wouldn't.' After calling our manager at the time and filling him in on the details he also agreed that, based on the scenario, we couldn't trust that she would dedicate the time we need to make our band active and successful.
"THIS was the betrayal. She was playing both sides to have her cake and eat it too. She didn't factor in the other four lives in the band and their aspirations.
"Alissa's Instability And The Ultimatum
"Prior to 2014, Alissa quit the band three separate times in 2012 — twice via face-to-face talks on tour and once in email (which we still have.) Because of this, we had already done research on possible fill-in singers prior to this mystery band issue. We had a tour booked in the USA with CRADLE OF FILTH and THE FACELESS in early 2013 and she had her third freak-out, this time by email, saying that she quit the band. After sending it, she went completely M.I.A. and wouldn't respond to calls or messages. This was going to be the biggest USA tour opportunity THE AGONIST had done to date. We began asking around and searching online for possible fill-ins for that tour. After a few weeks and more conversations, she said she actually didn't want to quit, so we told the possible singers there is no need anymore. In the end, that tour was cancelled literally one day before it started because Dani Filth didn't get in the country. Now that we faced with this AE scenario, we re-opened those singer dialogues, which now included Vicky.
"A week after our learning of her plan with ARCH ENEMY and Century Media, we called the final meeting she spoke of. This was our last-ditch effort to see if there was a way to co-exist. As soon as the meeting started, we told her we spoke with CM and we know everything. There was no need to continue to be vague about things. The ultimatum was not threatening one member to leave. The ultimatum was that we were not okay with cancelling all our European festival dates and other 2014 tour dates and we wanted some assurance that we could still get our new record out before 2015. We even said we could cancel the tour dates but could we still do the festivals since ARCH ENEMY is also playing the same festivals? She said she couldn't give us that. So we sat there at a standstill. So even though we had a potential replacement candidate waiting in the wings we still tried to give her one last chance to prove to us that THE AGONIST could still be a priority for her. And she couldn't. None of us were looking forward to the potential shitstorm of a singer-switch so we exhausted every option before pulling the trigger.
"Once Alissa understood that we were serious, she asked, 'What do you guys intend to do? It's not like you can get another singer. I'm sorry if this sounds egotistical but no one can do what I do.' We simply replied that 'We'd just have to see about that.' This was clearly the first time it occurred to her that we were not going to continue to be manipulated. What she said next made us realize we had a serious problem. She threatened, 'I am not okay with someone else singing in THE AGONIST and I will not sit back and allow this to happen!' That's when we realized we could not allow her to access the band's email account or the band's Facebook page. In today's digital era, it is so easy to completely sabotage an entire career with one email or one Facebook post. Or even simply deleting our social media accounts altogether. We did not block her access to her own personal email accounts or her own social fan pages. We couldn't if we wanted to. And the misleading language she has used in her statements to imply this was the case is manipulative and defamatory.
"The Back Story
"Working with Alissa was challenging. Nothing was ever easy, starting with songwriting. Firstly, the instrumental songs were written completely by me and the guys. This was demoed and passed off to Alissa, who then wrote the vocals. However, she would not demo these and she would not rehearse new songs with us. So, in effect, we never had any idea whatsoever what the lyrics or vocal arrangements would be until we heard the final mixed product. I sometimes heard a few things in studio while tracking but over the course of our second album, it went from 'I'd prefer to be alone with [our producer]' to 'I have to be alone' by the time our third album came to be recorded — which we complied with. Recording became a nightmare. Both our second and third albums, 'Lullabies For The Dormant Mind' and 'Prisoners', were delayed by more than six months of their original delivery date to Century Media. In both cases, all the instrumentals of the songs were 100% written and recorded with our producer on schedule. In both cases, however, the vocal tracking ended up spanning over many months. Part of this was due to the fact that she showed up to the studio with many tracks unfinished or not started. She will probably swear up and down this is not true but we know it is, our A&R at the time does, and so does our producer. Once again, she did not consider how this was affecting our lives and a label, and now also our producer's life. He was spending entire days in studio and sometimes coming out with half a song if he's lucky. On a lot of days, nothing would be kept. We work on a flat rate with him because we are close friends and no matter how long it took he kept the same rate.
"Touring was also difficult. Alissa made it abundantly clear that she was miserable on tour; in turn the rest of the band was miserable. From our first tour, where she grinded the van to a halt on the highway to give me the ultimatum to either kick out our other guitar player for being 'too annoying' or she would quit (which I eventually had to do), to the tours closer to the end where she ranted furiously backstage about hating us, hating tour, hating fans, and wanting to quit. Shows became embarrassingly affected as well, as any issue with sound would result in her instant anger. Often she would stop singing, glare angrily at crew, or make rude comments into the mic about the soundman or the bad venue quality. One night at a show in Detroit she stopped singing, walked off stage and didn't return, leaving us to finish the set on stage alone without explanation. We became accustomed to walking on eggshells to avoid petty arguments, and routinely had to make excuses or apologize to crew or fans for her rude behaviour. Constantly making these excuses weighed heavily on us, as we value the hard work of crew members and fans immensely.
"Filming videos also became difficult. Our third album only had one music video (filmed live), as Alissa would not cooperate with filming any others. Alissa blew off appointments or show up very late to meetings with the videographer. This behaviour had been 'normal' for years, but became even worse at this time. She blew off band practice (eventually refusing to attend even a single practice before tours) and she was very difficult to get a hold of: she was clearly disinterested and we were already a low priority.
"On Alissa Having Written For Our Fourth Record
"We sent Alissa three instrumental demos in April 2013. She said she would get right on it. As of December 2013, the time of our split, we had not heard one note or seen one lyric. We asked regularly for an update on those songs and were always told that she hasn't had time to dig into them yet but she likes the songs a lot and will get on it soon. Her claims about how she was showing us new vocals and talking to us about it is a fabrication. By December we had eleven instrumental songs demoed. The band was supposed to hit the studio in the first half of 2014, and clearly this was not going to happen. The band couldn't get good touring opportunities without a new record, and the 2014-2015 tours we booked were contingent on the fact that we would have a fresh record to promote. Based on experience, even without adding AE into the mix, we knew she would not have the material ready. Now with AE in the mix, it was beyond impossible, and frankly insulting to expect us to believe it would be the case.
"Credit Where Credit Is Due
"Alissa has a way of removing all credit from all the people in and around THE AGONIST. I take nothing away from her: she wrote and arranged all vocals. It was an integral part of the sound of the first three albums. But for Alissa to say that it is 'my band' and 'I built that band from nothing' and to say that THE AGONIST 'is dead' is really telling of her appreciation for the compositions that she sang over and the work that surrounded the band. I would agree if we were in an acoustic folk band playing three basic chords that the vocal IS the song. Listening to our records though, to say that without the vocals the musical arrangement, performance, and composition are nothing is not only insulting to the four of us but all musicians in our genre.
"She said she built this band with 'my contacts.' While Alissa was clearly the face of the band anyone that has ever dealt with us in the industry knows that I am the main point man on behalf of the band dealing with label, management, agent, email and phone exchanges. There is also the not-so-fun work that goes into being in a smaller band that doesn't have a business manager, accounting and tour management firm. Chris Kells and I have always managed all the finances, tax reporting in the USA and Canada, visa applications, tour management, merch orders, online stores, and social media accounts. Alissa did work with our album art designers and photographers in bringing her lyrics to visual, however she did not 'design' them. Again, credit where credit is due. Those artists and photographers did a lot of work and creative input to say that she is responsible for it. Myself and Vicky currently do the same thing with our designers but if I was asked I wouldn't say I designed the album art because I directed the artist.
"Alissa's assertions about THE AGONIST's former manager dropping the band as a result of switching singers are also untrue. He supported our decision 100%. He stopped managing the band in June 2014 (seven months after our split), at the same time as he also stopped working with a few other extreme metal acts in his roster. He suggested alternative management, expressed belief in the band and the quality of our work, dedication, and we remain on good terms.
"Being at the mercy of ARCH ENEMY's touring writing, recording, and press schedule is not a great place to be. THE AGONIST is still a growing band, and we do not get to pick and choose when we tour. Support-slot opportunities most often present themselves randomly and you need to make a fast decision on whether you'll accept the tour (sometimes even in the same day before it gets offered to the next band in line!). Anyone in this business knows ARCH ENEMY are known for having one of the most active touring cycles of any band in metal. Just look at how many tours were done since 'War Eternal'. The band, our management, and our label, saw this coming. All this on top of the existing personal and professional problems we had been living with left THE AGONIST with few options.
"Since Vicky joined THE AGONIST, we have released two full-length albums, put out seven music videos and completed more than ten tours, with more to be announced for later this year. On top of this, we are all breathing a lot easier these days, as everyone is getting along much better. The band members are confident we made the right decision with the support of our management and labels past and present."