Agnostic Front: "Greed, Wars, Police Violence Are Chipping Away at the American Dream"
Agnostic Front's Craig Silverman, Roger Miret, Pokey Mo, Mike Gallo, and Vinnie Stigma.
Photo by Todd Huber
Agnostic Front is the greatest New York hardcore band of all time. And the crew has earned this title with 35 years of furious music.
But before lead singer Roger Miret ever set foot in Queens, he was stepping off a plane from Cuba onto the grounds of Opa-locka Airport. The four year old was a new immigrant to this country, born in La Habana, and he still has family all over Cuba, Hialeah, Miramar, and Carol City.
Sponsored by an uncle who was already in America, Miret got here on a so-called "freedom flight" in the 1960s, and he's been fighting for freedom, his and yours, ever since. The new Agnostic Front album, The American Dream Died, drops April 7.
Here's what he had to say about his birth country, the 305, "Police Violence," punk rock, and what's wrong with the U.S.A.
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New Times: Yo, thanks for coming to Miami again!
Roger Miret: Well, I mean, I love Miami. It's where my Cuban peeps are. I'm Cuban myself. And the hardcore scene is great there. I get to see my family, play the show, and most important, shoot the new Agnostic Front music video there.
How'd that come about?
We were looking to shoot a video for our new song with Freddy from Madball, Lou from Sick of It All, and Toby from H2O. We wanted it to be kind of live. We were going on the road. So we said, "Let's shoot in Florida and Puerto Rico."
Hell yeah. Where are you going in Puerto Rico?
Santurce. We haven't been there in maybe six or seven years. But we played there before. And it's always great.
Where were you born?
I was born in Havana, Cuba. I lived there till I was four years old, and then my family came to the U.S. on a freedom flight in the 1960s. We flew into Opa-locka Airport and from there we went to Queens, NYC.
Why did you end up going to New York?
My uncle who claimed us was already living up there.
When did your people end up in Miami?
Probably in the 70s, like '71, '72. My mom ended up in Miramar. But they're in Hialeah too. They're everywhere.
How does that play into your music?
The people there in Hialeah and South Florida are people who have lived under oppression. We speak about that and being first-generation Americans, and it hasn't been easy, but people are doing it, y'know.
What's the new album?
The new album is called The American Dream Died and it's being released April 7. We have a new video out called "Police Violence," and we're gonna have ten of those singles with us and Florida will have a chance to get them before anybody else. We will also have a bunch of new shirts too.
What's it about?
It's about police violece. It's about a 45-second song. Pretty fuckin' crazy. Pretty rowdy. We've also been doing webisodes every week leading up to the release of the album. If you visit our Facebook, you can see the making of the new record. It's pretty fuckin' sick.
What inspired that song?
Just looking at this footage from all over the world of police just abusing their power, abusing the badge, and overstepping boundaries, and acting like criminals and not getting prosecuted. This is not about confronting police or cop killing. It has nothing to do with that. That's not the message. The message is for the bad cops to stop doing what they're doing, and for the good cops to keep doing what they're doing, which is protect and serve.
Have you or your friends had bad experiences with police?
We have. And that's why the stuff I write is from first-hand experience. I've been incarcerated and I was let loose a few years later. The court record is sealed and dismissed like it never existed. So if a cop wants to act like a criminal, they should get treated like a criminal. If you or I would have choked that guy to death in Long Island, we would be in prison.
What led to you getting locked up?
It was in the '80s and I got a drug felony, but I had my Fourth Amendment rights violated so I was released on appeal.
What song are you filming the video for at Churchill's Pub in Miami?
The song is "Never Walk Alone." It's about the hardcore scene and how we pretty much did this together, and that's why we never walk alone. We have Toby, Lou, and Freddy in the song, and we'll have the Florida hardcore scene singing along.
How will you do it?
No one's heard it yet, so we'll have the crowd hear it a few times, then shoot a little video, then play and show people having fun and stage diving and going nuts. Then maybe afterwards, we'll sing it again. Not sure. We're gonna figure it out. But that makes it that Florida is gonna hear the song before it ever comes out.
What do you think of that big New Yorker magazine article about hardcore that just came out?
It's good that they mentioned the band, and used the title of one of our songs, and talked about the new record, but they never spoke to me or anybody in the band. That seemed a little negative, but what are ya gonna do? It just seems like they gathered a bunch of information from I don't know who, but not us. I have yet to see it. Hopefully, I'll be able to locate a copy.
What do you think about hardcore finally getting some of that kind of recognition?
I feel like it's about time. I remember when we did the Victim in Pain reunion shows celebrating 25 years since its release. The Village Voice did a big three or four page story about that record, and admitted for the first time ever that it was a landmark record and a cult record for New York hardcore. Which is really something, because before, you never heard them say or do anything. But you can't avoid what's in your face. Eventually, when it's still there and barking at you, you might as well deal with it. Our music is very confrontational, so it will keep knocking until it gets results.
What do you say to young bands out there?
Follow your dreams. It's tough. And if it doesn't look like it's happening, take a step back and rethink your thoughts. Just follow your dreams, keep passionate, and keep supporting hardcore.
What is the meaning behind the album title?
When the housing market crashed and people were left without homes, without jobs, and everything went bad for the people, the government chose to bail out the banks. Greed, corruption, wars, and police violence are chipping away at the American dream. As a Cuban immigrant, we came here searching for liberty and justice and freedom; and that's being violated. These are our constitutional rights that are being trampled, and it's an outcry to wake people up. I can't change the world, but I can make a difference. Wake the fuck up!
What's the problem with America?
Everybody is worried about the next blockbuster movie. I don't give a shit about Kim Kardashian's ass, but so many people do. I'm more concerned about our civil rights being taken away. And I'm not running for governor, these are just my opinions. But when hardcore first started, it was more about challenging the status quo. Bands aren't putting out a good message anymore. It's time to start pushing the edge a little bit.
Would you play a show in Cuba?
We tried to got to Cuba to do a show. We sent a letter to the State Department and everything, did all the paperwork. We had it planned eight months in advance in a certain city having its 500th anniversary. We were gonna play with a Cuban band called Arrabio that came and played New York for the Black 'N Blue Bowl with Judge. I met them in Canada. Well, four months after the show was supposed to happen we got a letter from the U.S. Governement saying we shouldn't bother. But it is a dream of mine to go back to the country I was born in and to play there. I know there are hardcore people out there that know our band. I know this through our Cuban ties.
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Agnostic Front. With Coldside, Homestretch, and Die Trying. Presented by Idle Hands and Slammie Productions. Thursday, March 19. Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami. The show starst at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $12 plus fees via slammie.shop.ticketstoday.com. Ages 18 and up. Call 305-757-1807 or visit churchillspub.com.
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