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Interview: Roger Miret(Agnostic Front)

Pure metal...interviews

I have been preparing myself for an interview with Roger Miret ever since I listened to the new Agnostic Front album called 'Another Voice'. My wish came true on the 3rd of March at the backstage of the London Underworld, three hours before I witnessed first hand the real meaning of a live concert. Even though I spent forty minutes talking to the singer of the most legendary hardcore band, I feel that I could have been talking to him for hours after this interview was finished. If you want to know how music, politics and Yoga can be part of the same picture, all you have to do is read this interview.

Roger, let me start this interview by saying that itís really good to have you here with us today. I have to admit that I was given the chance to make this interview by the phone a couple of months ago, but I preferred to wait until you guys would visit us for a gig. Agnostic Front have been around for ages - one of the oldest and most traditional bands of this genre. This time, you chose to create an album that has nothing similar with the bandís previous three studio releases.

Roger: When we came up with the previous three releases, people were shocked too, because the last record that we had done before them was called 'One Voice'. The people who were involved in that album stopped playing for a little while, and then we came back together with the original line up which is me, Vinny (Stigma: guitar), Rob Cabula and Jimmy Colletti. These are the same guys that toured together back in 1984. All we knew how to play was obviously the first album, so naturally when we got back together thatís what we did best. We didnít try to play any of the other stuff because we needed another guitar player etc. When we got back together as a writing team, we wrote what we write best in that vein, which was 'Somethingís Gotta Give', right up to 'Dead Yuppies'. When those members left again (Rob Cabula and Jimmy Colletti), we got other members and we wanted to revisit that era of 'Cause For Alarm', 'Liberty and Justice' and also 'One Voice', so we naturally started playing songs from these albums because people wanted us to and we havenít played them for years. So, we wrote a record in that vein. What we do is that we refresh ourselves in our own records, because you know obviously we are leaders and not followers. Weíve pioneered old-school hardcore, new school hardcore and the crossover movement - this all is not new to Agnostic Front. If youíre a real Agnostic Front fan, you would know that this record is a blend of 'One Voice' meets 'Somethingís Gotta Give' and perhaps a little bit from 'Liberty and Justice'. This is nothing shocking, you know, but for people who know Agnostic Front for the last three records then yes, it can be shocking. On the other hand, for the people who knew Agnostic Front before we released our previous three albums, their release was also quite shocking...itís really New York hardcore, you know?

I guess that youíre right here - none of the people who are following your career from the very beginning should be surprised by your decision to release 'Another Voice'.

Roger: There is not a single Agnostic Front album that sounds like any other - theyíre all different. This new album is actually quite similar to a couple of our previous releases, but itís definitely not metalcore like some people are trying to say that it is. When I hear the word metalcore, I think about bands like Unearth and Shadowís Fall - stuff like that. Well, this is Agnostic Front - this is New York hardcore. It isnít as metallic as 'Cause for Alarm' or even as 'One Voice'. 'One Voice' is a lot more complicated record. This album is more straightforward, itís meaner, evil and in your face! Itís a far simpler record.

One of the reasons that Iím so happy to have finally met you in person, is because now I have someone thatís qualified enough to give me an answer to the following question: now, in the year 2005, we have so many different terms and names for the scene that Agnostic Front belong to, thus in the 80ís things were much simpler as far as Iím concerned. Why is that in your opinion?

Roger: Well, with us things are very easy. Weíve been around for so long that we know everything about the evolution of this music style - we are part of it. One other thing is that, when we are on tour, we always take our friends/bands with us. That means that, even though we have been the main influence for many bands, we do hear all those younger bands when they play and we get influenced by them too. Sometimes, these bands play what weíve been doing before, but with another twist to it, and thatís quite interesting. Agnostic Front has had a very simple musical career, but the thing about what we do is that weíre more into the movement of the hardcore scene, of bringing people together to our shows and make them have a great time. To us, our lyrics are more important than the music, but in todayís world, it seems that things work the other way round. Thatís a bit odd to me.

Yes, it really doesnít make sense, because the whole point of this style of music is to spread a certain message.

Roger: Thatís because you also belong to the old school. Hardcore is a musical misfit, and in this musical world that weíve created, lyrics meant everything. Itís about upsetting the system and going against the grain, so lyrically this movement had always something to speak about. It seems though that today, a lot of people just donít seem to care - they just want to listen to riffs and music...Who cares about what you say - you could speak about bananas and they simply wouldnít care! They donít, but I do and thatís what this band is all about!

Would you agree with me then that today, itís more about quantity and not so much about quality?

Roger: I guess so, but things are not always as simple as that. You know that everything that grows big is destined to become a trend. You have all these people that will come around, and theyíre really not so much into it, but they came because of the trend - next year though, when the trend will change, theyíll become something else. We were always stuck with the underground and the people that will come to our shows and see us will always respect us to be at the same level and the same style as weíve been all this time. We know that the hardcore scene is like the waves - weíve seen it in itís highest and the lowest, but no matter what the height was at the time, we continued writing music in that same wave - you know what I mean?

Agnostic Front

OK Roger, letís talk about the new album now, starting by telling us when you first started thinking about its creation. When did you make that decision, and how did Matt Henderson became part of the picture?

Roger: Well, the whole idea of this record came out when we were on tour with Hatebreed in America. Me and Jamie were drunk, and you should know that Jamieís favourite Agnostic Front record is 'One Voice'. One day he came to me and said 'letís do an album called 'Another Voice', Roger. It was really funny the fact that we had the name of the album ready before we even wrote a single song. Two days after that tour was over, we went into the studio without a single song ready, and we recorded it all there and then.

How long did it take you to finish it then?

Roger: Twenty-one days in total.

You must be joking!

Roger: Twenty-one days without any music and no lyrics. Matt Henderson sent me some riffs that he wrote via the Internet. Now that I think of it, it was really crazy the way that we put together that demo, but everyone was blown away. If you look at it that way, itís pretty impressive that a record can be of that quality, honesty and that evilness having been recorded in only three weeks. Thatís quite on the spot, and itís really fuc*ing impressive. If you take most of the bands that are popular nowadays in the studio with nothing prepared they will choke up. Theyíll probably be thinking too much. We just went there and boom - thatís the way it is. This is pure impact - a real feeling and thatís what our songs are all about.

Can I ask you to choose two or three of your favourite songs from the new album and tell us a few things about them?

Roger: Ok. One of my favourite songs is the opening track 'Still Here'. Itís one of my favourites because it kind of sets up the album by explaining why this band is still here. It explains that we donít intend on letting anyone fu*k with us, or become oppressed by any voices from above. This is one of the first songs that we played and the lyrics came up to me like that. Another one of my favourite songs is 'I Live It', because it talks about hardcore and the way we chose to live our lives by. You cannot pretend that youíre hardcore, and you cannot act like youíre hardcore - you just have to be it, and if youíre not, people will just figure it out at some point. 'Peace' is also one of my favourite songs because it makes something like a world statement - a political world statement about terrorists and stuff like that. The rest of the songs are more socially driven songs and they talk about our scene and whatís going on there on a daily basis.

For someone that hasnít been acquainted with hardcore in the past and wants to join in, is there a specific etiquette that he/she needs to be aware of?

Roger: Yes, definitely - itís like anything that you get into. I believe that you must go back and trace it to its roots so as to know where it comes from. You ought to know, because itís like a family tree - you have to know who your father and grandfather is, you know what I mean? I think that very important bands for the hardcore movement would be, of course, Agnostic Front, Black Flag, Warzone - these are all great American hardcore bands, you know and people should know about them. People should also be aware of second-generation bands like Sick of it All, Madball who are very important bands indeed.

What about D.R.I and Corrosion of Conformity - bands that you have been associated with in the past?

Roger: Both D.R.I and C.O.C are very important bands for the crossover movement. Bands like them, us and Cro-Mags have made their influence in the crossover scene and brought together two different styles of music - Metal and Hardcore. These are the bands that wrote landmark records. For Agnostic Front it was the album 'Cause for Alarm', DRI wrote 'Dealing With It', COC did 'Eye for an Eye' and Cro Mags 'Age of Quarrel'. These are records that made crossover as important as it still is today.

Agnostic Front

Back to 'Another Voice'. Has the album received the recognition that it really deserves in your opinion?

Roger: Everything has been pretty good so far - we are really impressed. I didnít know what to expect in the beginning and especially when we first played our new songs for our fans. On the other hand, I had the same insecurity about the older songs too, because we played songs that many people donít really know. We may have a new album out, but we still do songs from 'Cause For Alarm', 'One Voice' and 'Liberty and Justice'. When we play live, we try to mix songs from most of the albums that weíve released so far, because itís really hard for us to pick them. We normally do twenty-six songs, which is something like a one-hour set, and thatís really good for a hardcore band. The truth is that we try to focus a little bit more on our new songs so we play between seven and nine of them each time. Every time we play one of them, people seem to get really into them and thatís really good. I hope that the United Kingdom is going to be as great as everywhere else weíve played so far. Today we are going to have our first gig in the UK for this tour.

I was only given one opportunity to see Agnostic Front in the past, while I was still living in Greece, but the tickets to that gig were gone in seconds and I didnít manage to see you back then. Since this will be my initiation to your live performances, what should I expect to see and hear?

Roger: You should definitely expect to see a powerful, honest show with a lot of participation and communication between the band and the audience. We feed the audience with music and lyrics, and they come back to us with pure energy. It seems that the more we give to them, the more weíll get back and the better the show will be. Thatís the way it is really - energy going back and forth. I think that today youíre going to see one hell of a show. Last time we played here, we did one new song and the people loved it and that was great. When was that - five or six months ago? When was the last time that weíve played here? (note: Roger was putting that question to some people from the road crew). I think that it was last summer that we came here and we played that one new song and people really liked it - strange, since we didnít have the album out during that time.

I always believed that one of the most important things that make Agnostic Front so special is your voice. It only takes five seconds of me listening to a song before realising that itís you behind the microphone. Are there any other things in the sound of the band that can be added to that?

Roger: I guess that my voice right now does have character. Itís unique and as you said before, you can easily say when itís us playing a song. I also believe that itís the sound and the style of our guitars. Itís always been me and Vinny (Stigma: guitars). The two of us are the core of Agnostic Front, and everybody else just adds on to it. Itís true what you said about my voice, and you know, some people love it and some others hate it. Even in my other band 'Roger Miret and the Disasters', my more of a Punk outfit band, when you put that on you can still tell that itís me singing.

Hey Roger, donít start stealing my questions now, OK? Weíll get to the Disasters later on the interview. One of the things that I didnít like about 'Another Voice' is the fact that itís only thirty minutes long - something that is not unusual for Agnostic Front of course. You kind of built up all this energy for us, and after 'Another Voice', the last song of the album, was over we were left with nothing to continue.

Roger: Well, thereís a reason behind that. We thought, 'maybe we need another song', but we didnít feel like doing any more, man. We didnít want to make a bullsh*it song just to make everybody else happy by saying that we did a thirty-five minute album. Weíve put our hearts out all these days, both musically and lyrically. I have also written the lyrics for one more song, which made it on the Disasters record. This is a song called 'Turncoat', and if you listen to it you will see that this is the most Agnostic Front sounding vocals that you will find there. Musically, we didnít have anything that was really grabbing me, so I said that Iím not going to write another filler song. I am going to give only what I feel thatís going to guarantee my honesty and dignity, and thatís it, man. If people are going to love it, theyíre going to love it for what it is. I prefer putting out an album thatís fantastic and be a fifteen minute release, rather than being a forty minute release which will make people become bored after a certain point.

So the fourteen songs which are featured on 'Another Voice' are the only songs that you have actually prepared during your three weeks in the studio? Are there not any leftovers?

Roger: The only leftover, and again only as far as lyrics are concerned, is 'Turncoat' which is a fantastic song. We didnít do any other songs.

What about the bandís new video for the song 'Peace'? Whatís the idea behind it, and why did you choose that specific song?

Roger: First of all, I chose 'Peace' because I wanted a song that would also involve the people that made that record. Matt Hendersson on guitar and Jamie Jasta (Hatebreed) on vocals as my guests. These were the people who, along with me, Vinny, Mike and Steve, made 'Another Voice'. I believe that, based on what I said earlier, it was the best and the most obvious choice. 'Peace' is not just a song - itís an open statement on the state of the world today, on terrorism. I donít like terrorism, and I donít think that anybody else likes it either. Whatís really important about that song is that a lot of people seem to think that itís in direct relation to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ironically, I wrote those lyrics down when I was on tour with Agnostic Front about...five years ago, or maybe less. We went to Ireland, and travelled from Belfast to Dublin. On the way down, someone had sprayed on a wall 'our freedom fighters are their terrorists'. When I saw that I was 'wow, thatís fantastic', and I wrote it down. This statement means a lot, and itís also quite true - someoneís freedom fighter is another personís terrorist. Someoneís terrorism is anotherís nemesis, you know? Itís crazy, itís insane how justifiable violence can be. I wrote a whole song based on that statement. It really has nothing to do with the current situation in Iraq.

Now that I think of it, itís really sad that many people will only associate this song with the situation in Iraq. There are a lot more places in the world where people are suffering from similar situations.

Roger: In America, it was really never anything happening in our own ground. They couldnít give any sh*t about whatís been going on for years in Ireland or in Spain - you know the Basques and all that. Until something happens in their own country, then the just donít give a fu*k about it, you know? That shows you a lot about how people are. Thatís why I like Europe a lot more. I think that a lot of Europeans are much more politically alert and much more on top about whatís going on, because in America everyoneís too busy watching either the MTV or watching bulls*it cartoons and Hollywood movies. Thereís not enough information being distributed to people, because 'they' donít want to - they want to keep people not knowing whatís going on. Now theyíve got everyone in a constant state of fear with terrorism - theyíve got terror red and terror orange, and everyone panics. They voted Bush because they think that heís the guy who can protect them from terrorism. Sadly, thatís the way they operate. Itís sad that innocent people have to die in terrorist acts, but thatís now it is.

I have to admit though that we Europeans are very lucky compared to the Americans who live in a country thatís geographically isolated from the rest of the world. In Europe, you can travel for three hours in your car having been to three different countries, whereas in places like Texas, you can be driving the whole day without having passed the stateís borders.

Roger: Yes, sometimes going from one state to another is like going to another country (laughs). You are absolutely right when you say that places like Texas and Louisiana are like countries on their own. The States are a wonderful place. I love many things about it like the culture, Rock níRoll music, motorcycles. I lived that outlaw, outcast lifestyle. Obviously what I donít agree with is the Government - thatís why Iím in a Punk band, you know, and I got to voice my opinion. If it wasnít for that, America is a fantastic place to live - itís beautiful and itís got a lot of things to offer. If youíve got a maniac like Bush running it, though...

Tell us a few things about the lyrics of the album, which is your brainchild again. We all know how you get influenced by many different sources each time. What about this time?

Roger: As I said before, 'Another Voice' is a very spontaneous album. I wrote the lyrics of this album so fast that even the guys in the band were really impressed this time. It was a case of them composing a song and me writing the lyrics for it at the same time. For me, this album is like a hardcore pride record. I wanted to write songs which would describe how important this lifestyle is and what exactly it means to me. Thatís what songs like 'Still Here', 'Hardcore (The Definition)' and 'Pride, Faith Respect' are all about. It tends to say maybe a lot on the same subject, but I just wanted to say how proud I really am to be part of this movement and scene for the last twenty years. I am very honoured that Agnostic Front are considered the godfathers of this music and that people are looking up to us as their influences. It really makes me feel as if I didnít waste my time. It is really quite rewarding. I have nothing to show - I donít have any golden vinyls or anything like that - thatís just materialistic bullsh*t!

Roger, how much has the fact that youíre a family man influenced you both as a person and as a musician? Do you see a result in any of the songs that you have recently composed?

Roger: Since I became a family man? Well, this is the biggest influence that I normally tell people: before my daughter was born I was a totally different person. Thatís why I believe that you should read the lyrics that I make for the Disasters. They talk about my life before 1984, before I even started singing for Agnostic Front. One song 'Run Johnny Run' is for when I took a garbage can and threw it through a MacDonnalds window. Mac Donnalds is a big corporation and what we lived for was to fight things like that - fu*k the MacDonnalds. I did that in broad daylight. The difference is that today that Iím a father, I wouldnít do that - I would wait for the fuc*ing night, wait for two or three in the morning when nobodyís around, and than I will do it (laughs). Back then, living fast was my motto. Now I donít want to die young, I wanna live. I used to act and then whatever happened, happened but now I think before I act. Thatís the only difference. Now I sit back, make my plans and then I do what I want to do. Before I would just be crazy and act fast and then I would usually think 'oh my god, what did I do'?

22. Do you still feel strong enough to do the same things that youíve been doing for the last twenty years?

Roger: Yes. If I didnít feel honest and sincere with myself I wouldnít do it. I am not a pretender, and hardcore is not for people whoíre like that. You have to be able to look in the mirror, see yourself and feel proud about what youíre doing. Everything that I say and everything that I write is just the truth.

Agnostic Front

You have been touring quite a lot lately for the promotion of 'Another Voice'. What are the obligations that you have towards the band for the next couple of months?

Roger: I will be touring with Agnostic Front until June the 12th. After this very long European tour, weíre going to tour America for another two months - straight without any days off. Then we have just one show with Agnostic Front in Finland before I go on tour with the Disasters. Iíll do a European tour with them too. Then Iíll go back and start another tour with the Agnostic Front and this time, weíre going to go to Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Mexico. Next comes the east coast and by the end of this year weíll be back here again - weíre confirmed for another tour!

Thatís completely crazy man!

Roger: Yes, I know, but I really love it. My wife, as of next week, will be living here in London. Sheís moving here for a year, so Iíll be coming here a lot. Actually, when this tour here will be over, Iíll be here for a week. Iím going to be here on April the fourth and stay till April the eleventh.

It must be very difficult having to be away from your family and all.

Roger: Yes, it is very difficult and now with both bands running strong, itís been even more difficult but sheís a good woman. Sheís a Yoga teacher, and from New York theyíre opening up a center here in London called 'Jivamukti Yoga London' or 'Jivamukti London Yoga' - Jivamukti is the center. Sheís going to do great, because sheís a fantastic person and a great teacher. If youíve got a chance and you like Yoga, or you know anyone that does, go for it. Her name is Denise Miret, but she goes by 'Durga Devi'- thatís her given name.

I guess now itís a good time to ask you about the other band of yours, the Disasters.

Roger: Disasters is basically a full collage of my life musically. Every song is based on all the bands that have influenced me, and made me become who I am. You got your Blitzes, your Clash, your Dictators, your Ramones...you got a little bit of everything that was me prior to being in Agnostic Front. Lyrically, itís the same thing. Itís my life so itís more personal. I tend to be more personal with them, because I donít feel like I have so many eyes on it. Agnostic Front are much bigger and more focused so people are always looking. With Disasters, I can feel a little bit more relaxed about what I write. They are all true stories and I think that itís fantastic - I think that itís great!

Which would you say are the main differences between the two bands?

Roger: The main difference is the obvious - the style of music. Disasters are more melodic, are more anthemy Punk, and Agnostic Front are more anthemy Hardcore - itís more up in your face. Vocals-wise there are some differences too. Disasters are more chorus-y, a lot more sing along to. Lyrically, there is no hardcore pride in the Disasters.

If I want to get my hands on any of the releases from the Disasters, where can I find them? Should we consider the Dictators to be your solo project, or just another band?

Roger: Well, the first album was considered to be a solo project, because people really didnít know what it was all about. I think that with the second record we showed everybody that this is a really established band. The new record came out last week Tuesday and itís called '1984'. We have it obviously with us. Itís released through Hellcat records - I donít know if you know anyone there. Thatís the way to get it. This is a really good record and '1984' is a fantastic song.

Letís get back to the Agnostic Front. Is it true that youíre just about to release a DVD?

Roger: Yes, itís true! Weíve recorded a DVD, I think it was either in October or November. Hopefully, it will be out pretty soon. I keep asking the guys to make it soon. It sounds fantastic, it looks great. It was recorded at CBGBís and I really cannot wait for it to come out. You will hear there pretty much the songs that we play now, and it will help a lot because it will make people familiar with the band once again.

Well, Roger, I will not torture you for much longer as I know that you have quite a few more interviews. One thing I have to ask, though, is whether youíve considered writing your biography. A guy with your experiences must have many interesting things to say!

Roger: Iím almost done with it.

Really?

Roger: Yes, and it should come out this year too. Right now itís at the editors, and as Iím here, I suppose that when I go back to America they will have something for me to read. Itís been on the works for two or three years now.

Roger, itís been an absolute pleasure doing this interview with you. My best wishes for both your bands and yourself in person. Would you like to finish this interview with a message?

Roger: I have a promo of the new 'Disasters' album to give you before you leave (note: yes, I am happy to say that I did get a promo of '1984' from Rogerís own hands - now thatís an honour!). If youíre not familiar with Agnostic Front, visit our website www.agnosticfront.com , or www.thedisasters.com.

Thank you for listening or reading about us and come to our show - come meet us and experience hardcore, experience what we do!


Interview © 2005 John Stefanis


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