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intervju

11. 8. 2017  Intervju: AGNOSTIC FRONT 
''Nobody wants to be in a street, you know. It's somethin' you have to get out of, if you can. If you're in a situation where you're born into poverty, your goal should be to get away from it, not stay in it.'' (Joseph James)

It was August 2009. Yeah, you read it right – 8 years ago. I found this recording couple of days ago and realized I never transcribed it. But luckily it was found, so here you go. I give you an in-depth interview with the godfathers of hardcore, the New York legends, Agnostic Front.

At the time, they were still presenting their album Warriors. They were also presenting their new drummer, Pokey Mo, an underground warrior of Murphy’s Law, Merauder and Leeway fame. Their second guitarist was Joseph James, who left the band in 2014, if I’m not mistaken. We were discussing hardcore, hard times, music, life in New York City and many more.

Since then, they visited Slovenia a couple of times, released great albums My Life My Way and The American Dream Died. Not so long ago, they played an amazing show in Zagreb, Croatia, celebrating their 35th anniversary through a massive EU-tour.

They still kick ass!

The interview was done on Paranoid Festival in Slovenia, August 2009. Although it happened 8 years ago, I hope the interview remains timeless and after reading you’ll want to blast your stereo with some Agnostic Front music.

Oh, by the way – this is only the part 1 of the interview. Part 2 will be unleashed soon!

NYHC for life!

Questions by: Ivan

Answers by: Vinnie STIGMA (you write his surname in capitals, coz Vinnie is a legend!), Joseph James, Pokey Mo.

Band photo: internet (shows the band in 2009)

 

Godfathers of hardcore, welcome to Slovenia.

Joseph: Thank you very much.

How are you feeling?

Joseph: We're here at the Paranoid Festival, ready to play. We're excited to be here once again. We've been touring Europe for two weeks now and still have one week to go.

What is the reason? You're promotin' some new stuff or …?

Joseph: No, we're at the final end of the Warriors album run and we're promoting the new drummer, hehe.

(to Pokey) Can you introduce yourself?

Pokey: Hi, I'm Pokey Mo, I'm the new drummer for Agnostic Front. I used to play in Leeway, Murphy's Law, Merauder and Both Worlds, featuring John Joseph of Cro-Mags and A. J. also from Leeway.

What happened to Steve Gallo?

Joseph: We're touring lots of time but between the tours there are times when we have to work, so he was having a trouble of finding a work that he could go away from and then come back, so he has to stay home and get a job, so he can pay the bills. We hope the best for him. We're still friends and he's still a part of our family. We wish him the best and we're sorry he couldn't continue with us, but we're also happy to have Pokey now.

It's cool that you guys are still very active. These are hard times and in these times hardcore is really needed, so …

Joseph: Yeah. It's given me direction in some times when I didn't have directions, you know. The message of hardcore is ''Be tough and go thru these hard times, look forward to the future and try to make your life better!''

So, the relevance of hardcore in the times of economy crisis, is obvious?

Joseph: Yeah, of course – whenever there's people strugglin', hardcore is a part of that culture. We're strugglin' as musicians, we're strugglin' as human beings. We work and we try to make good life like everybody else. And we try to express that in our music. You are not alone in this, you know – everybody has a struggle and everybody has a challenge to overcome.

In lots of interviews I've noticed people sayin' that music has helped him/her/them thru hard times, when they were younger, had problems, had to conquer the inner demons … and one looks at the hardcore musicians, you guys speak about the tough life on the streets. What was … let's say, the ''cold shower'' that drove you away from the negative sides of life and made you pick up the guitar and fight against that?

Joseph: Just wanted to make it better. Nobody wants to be in a street, you know. It's somethin' you have to get out of, if you can. If you're in a situation where you're born into poverty, your goal should be to get away from it, not stay in it. So that is where the music and hardcore comes in, coz that's what we're livin'. We were inspired to get out and go and see the world, travel, meet great people, express ourselves in a way in a big scale, you know.

Vinnie, this a question for you. John Joseph of Cro-Mags recently wrote a book The Evolution of a Cro-Magnon. Since you've been a legend yourself …

STIGMA: When I'm gonna finish mine? Heheh, I'm still not finished, you know, hehe. Still gotta couple of chapters, yeah, haha. I still put out records, I have a solo band, we're gonna make a new record with Agnostic Front with Pokey and Joe … I still've got music in me. I made a movie and I wanna make an another movie … When it's all said and done, then I'll write a book. I'll actually have somebody to write it for me, hahaha.

Can you tell us about the movie?

STIGMA: Right. It's called The New York Blood, like my solo record, did you hear it by the way?

Nah, just heard about it.

STIGMA: Allright, that's cool. So, the movie and the album were supposed to be a one package. It's like Soprano movie – it's a movie, NOT a documentary or somethin' like that. OK, it's a feature film. Check it – Vinnie Stigma: New York Blood at (the background noise covered his speech, so here you have the YouTube link – click). Little gangster, little horror … it's GANGSTAGORE, hahahaha!

If your life was made into a movie, let's say a movie about the Agnostic Front – who would you choose to play your character?

STIGMA: Don't know – Al Pacino, Joe Pesci – yeah, he's the one, heheh.

Growin' up in Yugoslavia in the 80s we've got a glimpse of the America, but only through the film. New York was presented through the films of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino … let's say, somethin' like Bronx Tale.

Joseph: You see, The Bronx Tale was filmed in Brooklyn, by my street where I live.

But how was it like to grow up and live in ''the Big Apple''?

Joseph: It changed a lot throughout the years. In the 80s it was wild, craziness, in the 90s it changed a little bit and now it's more family oriented. But when you go in the city it's more …

STIGMA: … one person oriented. There are apartments with one person livin' in each, where there should be a family in it.

Joseph: Neighborhood turns into a community … See, I don't even know my neighbors. Growin' up you knew everybody in your street, and everybody had families that we grew up with as kids, you went to school with them … Now everybody is some sort of strangers, you know. You don't know who lives next door to you.

Do you think it's the reflection of the general life style of the planet? Or most of the Western World to be more precise?

STIGMA: You remember the show Under The Brooklyn Bridge? Kids playin' on the streets, family dinners etc. Well, it seems like my generation was a last one like that. In my building, there aren't families no more. It used to be me, my cousins, my friends, you know, when I was a little boy, runnin' through the building. My next door neighbor – his name was … oh, yeah, Jimmy. Jimmy Scallissi. He lost his eye in WWII and he worked on a candy farmer truck. So, every time it was my birthday, my mom was like ''Vinnie!'' and I was ''Yeah?'' ''Jimmy wants to see you!'' And in a moment I knew what it was, hehe. I always knew exactly what it was and I'll never forget that, god bless his soul. And now I don't even know who lives next door to me.

How does it affect everything you write about?

Joseph: I mean, it makes us kinda reminiscence about certain things one way, but on the other side, we have a lot of hatred too, haha, that we want to also express. We'd love to see more better neighborhoods connecting people, the hard working people, into brotherhoods and stuff. Something like that we wanna express, y'know.

Pokey: Family values.

Joseph: Yeah. (pause) Because the differences in New York brought us all closer together in the hardcore scene. Because now this is our neighborhood, this is our culture, this is our people that we know and care about. We try to keep it tight now, you know. And we welcome anybody to be a part of it. Of course, with the right mentality and the right approach to it, we are all a community.

Pokey: When you come to Slovenia, there are people who know about Agnostic Front, they know about Madball, they know about hardcore in general – and we are like a family, they are in a connection to us. We understand the same values.

Joseph: And all the bands, we're all family, we all know each other. We've all known each other for many many years. We grew up with each other and that… that's now like our neighbourhood.

When I saw Madball a week ago in Czech Republic, Freddy had this speech about all of you – like Agnostic Front, Madball, Sick Of It All etc. Being the originators of hardcore. Just by listenin' to him you could see that all of you are connected. But – is the scene in general still like this, connected I mean? Would you care to comment?

Joseph: Sure. So, the scene is connected but people have to keep going, people have to continue workin' on it, workin' in it and it will stay like this. We see this when we travel throughout the world. And at the end of the day, that's what's important.

OK, if each of you had to choose one album or artist that made you wanna play in a band, who would it be?

STIGMA: Jimi Hendrix! The album would be Are You Experienced? OK, my other hero would be Bruce Lee. Jimi and Bruce – my two favorite heroes, hehe. Seventies – Bruce Lee was a tough guy, a big guy, strong man, good values, he even beat up Chuck Norris, haha. And Jimi – he was crazy with the guitar, nobody played the guitar like him, you know.

Pokey: It was The Clash and London Calling. It was my first record that got me into punk rock. It was something totally different than the American rock n roll at the time and they had a message to give to the audience. Every song has an important message. It influenced me to get into the music. And also The Ramones and the album Road To Ruin. The riffs are so inspiring and The Ramones they're from Queens.

Joseph: I have to say that the one album that made me pick up guitar and focus on it was Master Of Puppets by Metallica. It was the whole picture at the time, the melody versus the heavy. I mean I'm into punk rock and all, but this was my first record to make me pick up guitar and start workin'.

Goin' back to the message of NYHC – do you think your views, experiences, thoughts, expressions transcend the borders and generations, meaning that people from other places can really relate to what you write about?

Joseph: Well, I hope so. Coz you know, realistically, you can never walk in anyone else's shoes. Of course everyone has their own life and their own struggle, but I think they understand what we've been through and relate to it. Coz everybody has struggles – even if it's here, let's say, in Slovenia, these are not like our streets, but let's say countryside, people still have to struggle, you know what I mean? It doesn't mean that your struggle is any less important than mine. And the younger kids who are comin' up today, they have their own issues to overcome. It's up to them to see what they'll do about it. And we know what we can and will do about our struggle. We just hope we give that … lesson to the younger kids, you know. 

This is how they kicked ass live at Paranoid Festival - klik.

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