This interview was done in 2004 just before Another Voice was released, and Rogesr phonecall came in a few hours early so I wasn’t totally ready for it!
Agnostic Front have been around over 21 years, the play New York hardcore and are recognised as the godfathers of (New York) hardcore the world over. The have returned to a five piece, bringing back Matt Henderson on guitar and Mikes brother Steve in on drums. With their upcoming album due out on Nucler Blast in Europe on November 22nd, and in the US in January, we had a chat with Roger about things new and old….
Another Voice is coming out in about two weeks, how did the recording go?
The recording was fantastic, it was great, we had great time to do it in. It just felt so good, the songs felt so, refreshing and alive, you know what I mean. It was a good feeling and I think you kinda feel it in the truth and the honesty of everything about it, just sounds so real and true.
Its moved away from your previous two albums that had a more punky edge back towards the hardcore sound with some metallic touches, you brought Matt back into the band, did he bring the metallic side, or did it just happen?
Well no, it just happened, naturally once we, once we lost Rob Kabula. Well to be really breif, we got back together, we stopped in 94 after the “One Voice” tour and stuff, and went off to spend more time with my family. Got back together in 97. When we got back together we just felt like there was a need for a revival of very old school hardcore. We got back together as the original line-up, me, Vinnie, Rob Kabula, well “Victim in Pain” line-up and Jimmy Colletti. Thats how we knew how to play good and thats how we knew how to play well, in fact when we went to the first rehearsal I was just amazed at how great and it started to sound like i was in 1983 or 84. And naturally everything that followed, all the albums that followed were written natural in that vein, because thats what we did, as chemistry as a band, what we did best. We lost Rob Kabula and then we got Mike Gallo, Mike Gallo wanted to play more of the older songs, and I missed them too, I wanted to do them. So we attempted it, but it just didn’t sound right, Jimmy Colletti, it wasn’t his drum style, he’s a great drummer, but he’s a great drummer at his style, you know what I mean. So once Jimmy Colletti left the band we got Mike’s brother Steve who was always our backup drummer, he toured with us in Canada, in South America, he had more of a different edge to him, and naturally we started playing more "One Voice" songs, and "Cause for Alarm" songs and it felt so good and everthing, we wanted to do it for a while so, when we started going to write these songs before Matt came in to play guitar, they were all written except two songs that Matt really wrote, two songs for the record. The rest was already written. And the we asked Matt if he would come and do it with us, cause Matt heard that we were doing it and he wanted to be part of it, and wanted to be part of "Another Voice", the second part of "One Voice". So I told him of course you can be part of it, so he ended up playing guitar on the record.
You kinda said there that "Another Voice" is the second part of "One Voice", so you do see it as a follow on from that era of Agnostic Front?
Yeah, I see that as definitely a follow up, but I do see it as very close, to me, its like if you take "Somethings Gotta Give" and "One Voice" and you mix it together I think you’ll get a perfect blend of what we call "Another Voice". It is a true hardcore record, it does have its metal overtone here and there but its, it still stands in its own, in a league of its own. Its definitely Agnostic Front, its definitely New York Hardcore.
In a few days you’ll be doing your DVD, you looking forward to that?
Yeah, we’re very excited about, actually its in about three days, we’re all excited about it, we can’t wait.
Is that coming out on your current label Nuclear Blast, or is it another label bringing it out?
At the moment it may be a Nuclear Blast release, because we are in the Nuclear Blast family now, we’ve comitted to a couple of records with them, three of them and other stuff so it may very well come out on Nuclear Blast. From what I’m hearing they’re doing a fantastic job on advertisement and a fantastic job on marketing, getting "Another Voice" out, so I wouldn’t mind it.
When you’re playing shows around New York, do you find its a new generation of faces, or do the same old faces always pop up?
I see a combination of both, I see alot of the old faces, because you know, some of the people have stuck around for many years, still believe in the scene and then of course theres the whole new generation, we see both, its just, we’ve got this mutual respect as being so called godfathers of this movement, and as pioneers of this movement and the many others. People come and pay repect.
Agnostic Front has been around nearly 25 years, you’ve already knida split up once, how much longer do you reckon you can give hardcore?
Well, I mean, I’m not ready to pull the plug. I still feel so young, alive, I feel great at what I’m doing, and if I didn’t I wouldn’t do it.
This is a question going back to the 80’s, is it true that you auditioned for the Cro-Mags?
I actually played the first Cro-Mags show, they wanted me to be a singer later on, but originally I was a bass player for the Cro-Mags. The first show the Cro-Mags ever played was with Agnostic Front, and Harley played drums, I played bass, Kevin and Paris played guitar, and Kevin, not that Kevin, another Kevin sang. Then they wanted me to sing too, but I was really into my band Agnostic Front. So it was kinda a weird thing, and I played in alot of early New York hardcore bands, I also played in Sheer Terror for a few weeks, until we had to play a show and they had to play a show, so it just wasn’t going to work. I played in Warzone, I played in just about every other band, because we were just freinds helping each other out.
When you played here back in 2002, you said that you had broken your back a few years before. How does this affect you because you’re pretty lively on stage?!
You know, its hit a miss, it more like what the weathers like somethings when its really affecting me, I know how to deal with this, I’m very precautous, I know what I should do and what I shouldn’t do, so I always try and be careful, somethings if I feel like its really running me down, sometimes I’ll have to play a shorter set or something like that. But thats not really being happening to me in the last year and a half, two years, its been really good so I’ve been really happy.
Hows your other band The Diasasters?
We’re doing great, in fact, we’re going to go on tour with Lars Freidriksen and the Bastards, then we’re going to go the UK and do two weeks, we were supposed to go to Ireland, but I’m finishing off some dates with Hatebreed up here in America with Agnostic Front, so its not possible.
Thats a pity, I saw you when you supported the Dropkicks?
Yeah, I really enjoyed playing Ireland, I think its fantastic.
Do you ever think that hardcore bands don’t get the recognition they deserve compared to say the likes of Slipknot or the Deftones?
Of course I totally do, you know, but our scene is very, meant to be strong and alive in the underground, and thats where its more important anyway, but its true, they oversee hardcore bands, that are you know, but thats ok, I don’t care, as long as I know my following is very strong, support, good foundation, thats all that matters to me.
Is there any bands over there at the moment, we mightn’t have heard over here?
At the moment, hardcore bands that are doing are a damn good job, Terror is one of those bands, I think Terror is a fantastic band, I think No Innocent Victim, they’re from the west coast too, they’re a Christian band, but a great hardcore band. Theres Champion, they’re a great hardcore band, well Bane is a great band. I don’t know, I know so many bands, its difficult.
Is there any bands you’d like to do a collaboration with, I know you did the split with Discipline, but is there anyone you’d like do a song or even album with?
Well theres only one band, well one person I’d like to do a full collaboration with, that would be my brother Freddy from Madball, I’d love to something like a whole album, or something, with me and him doing vocals, and whatever the band is, the band is. We did do a video though, thats going to be up on our website, the songs called "Pure to Me", it doesn’t appear on our record, but it’ll be able as video on our website www.agnosticfront.com.
That will appear on the US album, the European is enhanced but only has the "Peace" video, its me and Jamie doing that song. The American one will have that song and the one we did right now, cause we just finished it with Freddy, the American one’s going to have both because, the Amerocan one is coming out later so we had a chance to put it on the production.
Is the American one coming out later for marketing/promotion reasons?
Not because of that, the system in American is alot different, you have to set like release dates, and they were too far away, it was set for January 25th, and we had a tour set for Europe for February 17th, so I didn’t want to go out there with the record being too fresh, so I wanted people to get the record, get to know it, sing along, fell good about it, you know.
Did you ever think about writing a book, given that hardcore and punk books have done well in recent years?
I’ve been writing a book, its just being taking long, but I have been, I’ve been doing it for the last two years, I hope to have it completed by next year.
Has any major labels ever shown an interest?
Yes, we’ve had interest, like Universal has been one of them.
Did you decide to stay with a smaller label?
I just always, I truely love independent labels, I feel like they work harder, and I know many bands have done the major label deal, and it just seemed like very sour somehow. It just didn’t work, I don’t know, it just didn’t seem right, at the moment, at the time, you know. If I felt like it felt right then, I could’ve done it, I would have done it, to me a label is a label, its up to the band, you follow the band, if they still continue what they’re doing and you’re loving it, then it doesn’t matter to me. I just didn’t feel like I was at home, and I have to feel at home to make a commitment, to be with a label.
What would be some of your favourite memories of the times with the band or just NYHC in general?
You know what, I’d don’t have a favourite memory, theres been many great memories, more than any bad memories, I can’t remember any bad memories, except my own personal bad memories. But thats a good thing, theres been alot of great memories, too many to even think about.
Whats it like to have been working with Vinny for 20 years, you must have had some arguements along the way in that time, tourng etc.?
This is the best way to put it, its like, its like a bad marriage and we’re in it for the kids. Thats what we do, its just a bad marriage, and we stick around for the kids.
Do you think the likes of the Internet and DVD has helped hardcore and punk?
I think it has, cause it also hurts it because, alot of peole just want to download everything and thats it. To me its not just ok, you download the music and you got it, and you feel like a crook, or whatever you want. To me its everything the band puts together, the effort, the hard work of putting the cover together, the lyrics, everthing, the way the band presents itself, as an artistic point of view. Its so important. Download something and if you like it go and buy the rest of it see where the bands coming from, everything. I remember going to a store and picking up a record and looking at the whole package, cause we didn’t have CDs back then, it look at everything, the front, the back, I would look at the inside, see who they thanked, thats how I knew what other bands to get. Cause if I really liked this band and they thanked this band, I’d have to go and check this band out. They don’t do that anymore, they don’t care and thats stuff that kinda hurts.
Yeah, I want the physical CD or 7" in my hands
Yeah, I want it all, I want to see everything, I want to see what relationship these bands have, the meaning, the messages, I just want to see it all, I feel like those are values, every hardcore kid should have.
Given that people download, do you think its still a good time for hardcore, people still come to the shows buy the CDs, so you’re not like living in the street…
We do alright, and thank god, its taken a long time, we do enough to go on these tours world wide and go to different places. People need to understand that its expensive, even us getting to Ireland we have to go through all these ferries, and bring the whole tour party, things add up, you know what I mean. Not like in American, we just jump in a van and go, we own our own van, we own our own trailer, its fantastic, no expenses, just play. We go overseas , the minute we step into any country overseas we’re already in debt 7-10,000 dollars, between airline tickets, equipment rental and van. Its a scary damn thought. All those bands do that, every single hardcore band that goes out there. Or vice versa. And thank god that people still support and love the band and they support us and its really not in the CDs where it counts, its really in the merch and whatever the band has for sale, whether its CDs or merch, is where it counts, most of the bands are really getting by with that money. Thats where the support really counts.
The first song "Still Here" on the new CD , is that a message to anyone who might have said you’re not really around kinda thing?
That song is my favourite lyrically on the whole album, it means so much to me becuase the way it just says, you know what, I’m still here til my last dieing breath, you know its a comitment i made, this is something I truely believe in, and I ain’t going nowhere. This is my life, thats pretty much what that song says, its a proud pro hate song, its saying yeah, we’re hated and we’re oppressed by society but we’re proud to be hated. And you know what, we don’t want you to like us, we’re talking about society, to me I don’t put the best song as the best song, I go on what song lyrically is going to set the tone of the record, that song right there, thats the tone of what the record is about, it pretty much tells you that is nothing but a pure great New York hardcore anthem singalong record. Its about making new comitments, about pride, your faith, and respect. And that whole song just describres the rest of the record, and I’m not talking musically, I’m taking about lyrically and the vibe.
The cover has soldiers on it, is that anything to do with the current situation in Iraq?
Absolutely not, I wanted soldiers cause I wanted it to be like our soldiers, making our voice, "Another Voice", like the hardcore soldiers are coming back, we’re fighting for our torch, our army, you know what i mean. Thats what that whole things about, has nothing to do with the war, in fact I don’t even know what soldiers are on it or what year they’re from. I knew I wanted soldiers and that was the coolest soldiers photo I saw.
Ok, thats my questions, do you’ve anything you want to add.
I want to say thank you for your time, your interview and please visit our site www.agnosticfront.com. Thanks for your support, that really means alot to us.
Thanks to Roger for the interview, and Japp @ Nuclear Blast for setting it up.