Interview: Agnostic Front

Ahead of their recent headline show in London, Faye sat down with Roger Miret, frontman of New York hardcore kings Agnostic Front, where they talked about misconceptions about the band, trends in the hardcore scene, the secret behind their longevity, and so much more!

Faye: How are you today? Do you know that Cruel Hand are playing down the road?
Roger: I’m doing good, thank you, and no, I didn’t know that. Why would they do that? That’s retarded. I’m not worried, though, we’ve still got about 350 pre-sales, that’s pretty damn good. It’s a shame there’s two shows at the same time, though.

Faye: There’s so many misconceptions about Agnostic Front, I’ve read a lot of accusations on the Internet relating you to racism, is it frustrating that people still try to associate you with that?
Roger: Tell them to dig up some new news, it’s just retarded. It’s nothing we’ve ever been about, if you read the lyrics from all our albums it’s self-explanatory – some people don’t want to, they just want to be ignorant. It probably comes from the fact that we were a working class band when we first started, which we still are working class. We all shaved our heads, we were American skinheads and everybody wants to judge a book by its cover. I mean, is every skinhead you know racist?

Faye: I read that Agnostic Front released a split with a band called White Power back in 1980, what’s the story behind that?
Roger: Somebody did this bootleg split – I actually have a copy of it – but we never did that. It’s people doing bootlegs, why would we do that? It does exist, but we didn’t have anything to do it. We have no control over bootlegs.

Faye: How do you feel about the macho, tough guy image you and fellow New York hardcore bands have?
Roger: Hardcore’s an aggressive thing, it’s a very masculine, very aggressive, sweaty style of music and most of the people who live this lifestyle are kind of edgier. We were the first bands doing all the tattoos and grungier look, so I guess it just stuck to it. It’s not pretty music, it never was pretty guys doing it. It was always harder guys doing it. It got prettier later. [laughs]

Faye: You’ve been going for about 30-years and are still touring relentlessly, but it seems that most hardcore bands don’t last for more than a couple of years, why do you think that is?
Roger: Well, I think it’s because they’re not committed to it or it’s just a fad or a trend and they’re over it. I mean, the secret to why we’ve lasted so long is that we’re genuine, honest and real to our friends – we don’t call them ‘fans’ we call them ‘friends’. I think everyone wants to belong to something that’s genuine and real, and they can see that when they either meet us or they see us perform when we play, they see that this is a real thing. That’s the secret to our legacy and to anybody, just be real. It’s like a commitment, it’s a way of life, it’s individuality and about being who you are – being genuine and being real.

Faye: It’s mostly old school New York hardcore bands that are outlasting everybody, why do you think that is?
Roger: Because we are committed, we love it, it’s never been a trend or fad, like I say. It’s something that we genuinely love and adore. There’s other bands that have been going past that milestone, you have Terror, but Scott’s from California, he’s a real guy and you’ve also got bands like Death Before Dishonor, they’ve probably hit their 10-year mark by now, these bands are committed outside New York. It’s just New York has been there the longest with straight-up commitment, like Agnostic Front, Sick of It All, Madball, Murphy’s Law, these are bands have still been going.

Faye: Are there any current New York hardcore bands who’ll be able to carry on the New York hardcore legacy?
Roger: I don’t know, because one of the biggest trends right now is that bands get together, they get all this hype, and they’re like the biggest thing, and then they break up. You see it happen a lot. There’s a lot of great bands and they move onto a different band, or they just didn’t get along and move to a different band, and they just get tired of it or just feel like it’s done and they don’t want to move forward with it. If you have that attitude and mentality where you just keep moving to the newest trend or something fresh, then you’re never going to succeed that way, because eventually you’re going to fall behind.

Faye: There also seems to be this trend of hardcore bands adopting the New York hardcore sound and also adopting the image – pretending to be from the streets – how do you feel about that?
Roger: Like I said, the secret to our legacy is about being genuine and real, but you know they’re not real, you know they’re faking it, so see how long they’ll last. It’s ridiculous, you should just be yourself. I’m just saying Agnostic Front is the band it is because it came from New York, I don’t even think Agnostic Front would have had any impact or sounded the way it sounded if  we said we were from – and I’m just going to make up a place – Boise, Idaho or something, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I think the city, just the surroundings and the lifestyle, it’s so edgy there – kind of like London – and that’s why it’s so real and interesting. Things have changed so much, though, you’re talking 25-years later and if you read my lyrics and go to the Lower East Side today, you’ll go, “What is he talking about? It’s nice here now.” Times have changed, just being real is all you need to be. We don’t try to be anything, we just come here to play.

Faye: Is there anything else that irritates you today in hardcore?
Roger: The only thing that irritates me is the fact that there are really good bands out there, they’re phenomenal and then they break up – that irritates me. Why don’t they keep going? I don’t know why they break up. There’s been some really great bands that all of a sudden break up, then they just become other bands and they break up. That irritates me because I like the band as a fan.

Faye: I interviewed Kevin Seconds from 7Seconds a couple of days ago, and he said that it’s a lot easier for bands starting out today than it was when you first started in the eighties, do you agree?
Roger: I think it’s harder starting out now, because if you think about the bands back in the eighties, they all had distinctive sounds and there weren’t many, like when you thought of New York, you thought of Agnostic Front, The Abused, Urban Waste, you thought of certain bands and then you would think about DC, and you’d think about Minor Threat, The Faith, Void, and you’d think of Boston, and think of SS Decontrol, DYS, but now there’s so many bands, it’s just way too much and they’re not as distinctive-sounding as all those I mentioned. Everyone of those bands I mentioned had their own sound, so it’s kind of harder now, I think.

Faye: Are you religious? If so, how do you feel about all these hardcore bands that adopt anti-Christ imagery with upside down crosses, have anti-God lyrics, etc?
Roger: I’m Christian, but I believe that there is a ‘God’ – people can call it whatever they want to call it – but I don’t go to Church, I don’t attend it, I don’t think you have to go anywhere. I think if you just believe in a faith then that’s good enough. But if that’s what those bands are into, that’s one thing about hardcore, it’s individuality.

Faye: So, have you been working on a new record?
Roger: We’re recording in November for our next record, it should be out in March and it’ll be on Nuclear Blast, and then the single will probably be out on Bridge Nine. I think it’s some of the best stuff we’ve done, there’s a lot more sing-a-longs, it’s a lot more melodic, but still like your hardcore stuff. Straight-up hardcore and heavier stuff, but a lot more singing along type of stuff.

Faye: What happened with the Agnostic Front/Madball all-Spanish split?
Roger: It never happened. [laughs] Me and my brother [Freddy Cricien of Madball] just never got round to it. I finally sang a song with my brother on his new album, there’s going to be a song where me and him sing together for the first time, and that’s the only time anyone’s ever sang on a Madball record besides Freddy. So, that’s pretty cool.

Faye: Is it annoying always being compared to Madball?
Roger: I don’t know how we compare to Madball, to be honest. I don’t think there’s anything to compare us to. It’s kind of retarded. [laughs] It’s really two different bands.

Faye: What else is in store for Agnostic Front?
Roger: Well, we’re going to put out the record, I’m also going to be putting out a record with my other band, The Disasters and I’ll be touring that before I tour with Agnostic Front, and then we’ll probably tour again. We love doing this, it’s enjoyable seeing friends all over the world and travel.

Faye: This tour bus is pretty swank for a hardcore band, are your days in the van over?
Roger: No, we were just over for 17-days in Europe last month and we were in a van, and in America we’re in a van. It’s just when we go past the 21-day stint, it’s cheaper to get a bus, a lot of people don’t know that – you cut on your hotels, you cut on everything, but you have to go past 21-days.

Faye: Change the record, who should we be listening to?
Roger: Cruel Hand, Trapped Under Ice… Who just broke up that was really good? Have Heart. You see what I mean? They were a great band that broke up. Of course I love Madball, Sick of It All’s new record is really good, Death Before Dishonor – their last record was really good.

Faye Turnbull.

Many thanks to Roger for the interview, and for more information on the band, visit: www.myspace.com/agnosticfront

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