Hey, this is Wes, from Punknews. Howís it going?
Good. I was just giving the kids a little breakfast, but my wife just took over.
Right on. Well, first off... Merry Christmas.
Same to you, man. Merry Christmas.
Thanks for taking the time to talk today. Iím sure itís a pretty hectic day.
It will be tonight, I can tell you that much. I got two little ones; a one and a half and two and a half, so you know how that goes. I get to play Santa later tonight.
Itís always fun sneaking around in the dark.
Yeah. Iíll be in my Santa suit.
How does this Christmas, being at home with little kids around and all, compare to earlier ones, being younger and touring?
Itís always better with kids around. I love Christmas. I always have and always will. Itís a great time, and itís much better when you have children because when you get older, itís just Christmas. With kids around itís so much more magical, because youíre looking at them and they believe in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and stuff like that. And you start thinking, man, how nice it was to be young, and believe in Santa Clause and Rudolph, and not have to deal with the bullshit stuff that we have to deal with. Like trying to believe in the President, yíknow what I mean?
I definitely do.
I live vicariously through my childrenís eyes to relive those innocent days. Itís amazing.
Oh, I know. It really is. From the title of your new album, Gotta Get Up Now, to songs on it like ďStand Up and FightĒ and ďTonightís the NightĒ, there is a definite sense of urgency going on. So what is it about this moment in time that we need to stand up and fight for?
I think in general, we always need to be on our feet. The problem, especially with people in America, is... Iíve been around the world a lot, and at least in Europe and other places they stand up to their government. There is definitely a lot more activist stuff going on out there. I think there is a difference out there where the government is actually afraid of the people. I think that in America itís actually ass backwards. They have the people so terrified that they fear government. And thatís what they want. They donít want you to question anything. They just want you to roll with it so they can do all the criminal stuff theyíve done and continue to do. An example of that is Sadam Hussein, for instance. We all saw that. I mean how quickly was he executed?
For sure. I thought the same thing. There are WWII Nazis that are still on trial.
You know there are concentration camps here in America? They exist man, Iím telling you they exist. I read a lot and am into a lot of the conspiracy theory stuff, but itís because a lot of it is true. Theyíve always wanted us to fear government, and Iíve always been the type of person who... well everythingís got a limit. Look, when I was a kid, like the song says Ė ďRun Jonny RunĒ - off our first title record, I took a garbage can and threw it through a McDonaldís window to make my statement, to make my point, in broad daylight. I did that when I was young rebellious and crazy and I didnít have a children or worries. Today, I wouldnít go do something like that in broad daylight in New York City. Thereís cameras everywhere. Thereís all kind of shit everywhere nowadays, which is completely different. Everybodyís got a cell phone, so everybodyís going to video tape you and everybodyís going to call the police. You canít get away with half the shit you used to, like we did in our past. A lot of our songs are about stuff from our past, but you canít get away with any of that anymore.
Today youíve got to think differently. Maybe a little wiser. Maybe youíll go into that McDonalds you hate and take some toothpicks and jam it in the goddamn keyhole or something. And do that late at night. Or just smash the window late at night and hopefully thereís no cameras around. Itís just different times. We got away with a lot more in the late 70ís and early 80ís than you can now. Big Brother is watching.
Speaking of the times changing. On the song ďOutcast YouthĒ from the new record, you reminisce about being a young punk at CBGBís. I was wondering what is your last, or best memory of the place and is there anywhere like that for the outcast youth of today?
Well, unfortunately CBGBís is gone, and Hilly Kristal is gone. He was a great person, and he believed in underground music. He kept the underground music scene in New York alive. So thatís sad. There is no other place like CBGBís, not in New York City, at least. Thereís places like it elsewhere, in different cities... until they get heavily gentrified and all the yuppies start to complain and bullshit like that. I saw what happened to the Rathskellar bar in Boston. They knocked that place down way before CBGBís. That was the CBGBís of Boston. I saw it happen to The Wetlands too. People move into these neighbourhoods and they want The Walsh, and they want all this stuff, but they forget there is a CBGBís there and itís a live music venue. They forget that the Rathskellar is there and itís a live music venue. Or The Wetlands. This was here first. But thatís what happens, the rich always get there way.
Going back to your question. Yeah, itís unfortunate it doesnít exist, I donít know if it will exist again in New York. Thereís a lot of stuff going on in Brooklyn right now, and itís like Iíve said about The Disasters songs, itís just me reminiscing about the past. The stories of me living my life prior to Agnostic Front, or just joining Agnostic Front, itís just being a part of that New York punk/hardcore community.
That reminds me of another song on the new album, ďCity SoldiersĒ, and I was wondering who the female voice on the track was, and would I know that already if I had an actual copy of the album with the liner notes, instead of a digital copy with nothing?
I like to do that a lot. Thereís only one record that doesnít have a female vocals on it which was 1984. On all my other albums Iíve incorporated girls into it because I think girls are a humongous part of our scene. Not only is it cool to listen to, it adds another texture to the song and thereís something different going on, but they belong there. They are just so much a part of the scene that I donít want to not include them. The girl who sang on that song, Iím trying to remember, we recorded it in three or four different sessions. Thereís two of them, but I canít remember the names off the top of my head. Theyíre local girls here from a band in Arizona.
Thatís sort of the other point I was trying to make with the question, and I know itís something youíve spoken about, is the importance of actually having an that album you can hold in your hands, with the cover art and the liner notes and what that experience offers.
I have always stressed that. I mean, Iíve also said get my music by any means necessary. If you want to go into the store and rob it, whatever. If you want to get it from the internet, get it. I speak about overcoming oppression and Iíd like people to understand that and get it. But if you like it go and pick it up. Like in the old days, if we would get record and we loved that band, we would check out what bands they thanked, who sang on the record... ďOh cool, whoís that on vocals? Iím gonna go check out their band.Ē Stuff like that. Thatís the kind of passionate, intimate stuff that Iím really into, like youíre into, I would say because I can hear what youíre saying and where youíre coming from. And itís cool that you heard it, but if you were to download it from iTunes you would have just heard it and never known anything about it. But if you go out and buy the CD or by whatever means you get it, you can follow that and find out who it was and get into their bands.
As youíve said, The Disasters songs are often odes to the past, but what are some things that have happened in the five years since My Riot came out, that are going to be reflected on the new record?
Well, Iíve had two kids. My daughter Havi, whoís three and half, and my son Desi who is one and half. And Iíve moved to Arizona within the last five years. My life has changed a lot. I felt like a needed to leave New York City. It wasnít the New York that I knew before. It was just a place to go nowhere if you ask me. Unless youíre single. Itís awesome. But you canít raise children in New York anymore. Itís got no family values anymore. Itís all about models and hiked up rents. You canít afford to live there anymore. So I kind of saw reality and moved to Arizona and had two children. Iíve been having a great time, met a lot of cool people out here. And luckily Iíve got everything in my mind to write all my Disasters songs. Itís been really cool.
One thing Iíve added to this CD, thatís very personal to me which is the last song called ďJRĒ. Did you get that song too?
Yeah. Iíve listened to the whole album a few times. That song sure does stand out.
That song is completely out of left field, and I wasnít even going to put it on the record. I wrote that song before my son was born. I wrote that about two years ago. But then Iím like, ďYou know what? I wrote this song for my son. Itís very personal to me and Iím going to put it on the record.Ē And I did. Itís weird though, because itís a full on country song. And the vocals are more spoken, in a kind of Tom Waits, kind of grittier style. I decided that this belongs here. I wrote this for my family, and for my little ones. This is its home. So thatís one cool element that I brought to the band. Besides that, Rhys, my guitar player also moved out of New York City and he has a child too. So now weíre raising families and we have time. Weíve had five years to kind of think about stuff and freshen up for the new record, which I feel is our best record. It has a real cool energy to it; Johnny Rio from The Street Dogs produced it. He heavily rehearsed with the guys in Texas to make all the songs happen. He actually played on the record. I think he plays on eleven of the tracks. It was just easier and convenient because he was with the guys. Roy, my bass player was hear in Arizona said he played everything I would have played, and only changed one song. Weíre very family orientated, and past members are always current with us too.
As youíve been living in Arizona, have you been following the new immigration laws and how do you feel about them?
Yeah, of course. I mean I live here. I think the majority of the concern has to do with safety. Iím sure thereís some corruption behind it, and when they present the law there is meaning behind it. Nothing is ever innocent when it comes to the government. But living here, Iíve seen a lot of stuff, and I understand why theyíre doing what theyíre doing. There are a lot of kidnappings and murders that are going on. Just recently a man was killed, and they found his six year old son shot to death in a different location too, and of course it was drug related. Stuff like that. Itís kind of sad, weíre so close to Mexico here a lot of the Cartels are coming through and damaging families. Itís the number one city for kidnapping in the world. Not just in America, but in the world. Thereís a lot of kids getting kidnapped, so I can understand some of the reasoning behind it, but believe me, Iím first generation Cuban. Iím from Cuba, I wasnít born in this country, so I understand what itís like to want to come to a country because you believe in freedom and make a start. Thatís what my family did, and thatís what I did. I just became a citizen five years ago. I just got my passport five years ago. Iíve always had a Cuban passport, so I understand that point too.
I live in America, but if I had I choice I would live in Europe. Like in Amsterdam or something. But I canít just go to Amsterdam and live there, there are laws there that wonít allow it. And if I went to Mexico and said I want to live here, I wouldnít be allowed. Theyíll throw me out too. So I understand vice-versa whatís going on. People just look at it in a racial way, which is an easy way to look at it. Thereís racial profiling, and thatís what itís going to lead to. I can understand the basics of the law and how they want it to work, but we also know thereís a meaning behind it. I think the underground reason behind it is the racial profiling, which kind of sucks, yíknow what I mean?
Thatís definitely the way itís been portrayed here, and over the international media. Itís good to hear from someone actually living there.
Like I say, Iím Cuban. Iím Latin, and Iím for my people. Iíve got 100% Latin tattooed on my neck, but thereís a point where your safety is violated. Thatís when Iím like, ďLook, this is getting ridiculous.Ē There are too many kidnappings and I fear for my own children. I donít want to let them go out and play when I donít know whatís going on. And all of the violence is from all of the drugs.
How does Christmas in Arizona compare to Christmas in New York?
Oh, itís nothing like it, man. Iíll tell you what. The only time I really, really miss New York is Christmas. There is nothing like a New York Christmas. Actually, there is only one place its better, and Iíll be honest with you... I mean, I love New York with central park, and the Christmas tree, and the ice skating rink, and all of that is beautiful, but there is nothing, nothing, nothing like Christmas in Germany.
Every city in Germany has a Christmas Village for all of December. Itís the most beautiful time to ever go on tour there. That whole month of December, every city you go to, you go into the Christmas Village and everybodyís so happy. Theyíre out with their kids, theyíre drinking their wine. That hot wine, whatever they call it.
Yeah. And Iím wondering why canít we have this in America, and it hit me. They donít have as much crime there. If we tried to have this in New York people would be getting pick pocketed, and who knows what else. They donít have the level of violence that we have. They donít have the gang violence and all of that stuff. And thatís why they can do things differently. Itís beautiful out there.
We just got a German Village in Vancouver this year. I went with my German girlfriend and had a great time. It definitely had a good vibe.
It has a great vibe. Thereís no violence in the air. When you have a parade here in New York, thereís always a fight at the end of the parade or something. Thereís always something ridiculous, yíknow?... I guess Iím getting older.
Thereís always that. You talked about the song ďJRĒ earlier, but as youíve gotten older are there things that stand out to you on the new record as things The Disasters have never done before?
Absolutely. First of all, I feel like this new record has the same excitement that the first record had, when it comes to that it feels exciting, refreshing, itís peppier. The new members brought a lot to the table. I think, no, I know our new drummer Pete Sosa is a fantastic drummer. You can hear it in his drumming. You can hear all his energy and his passion for what heís doing. Everything heís adding to it is tasteful, and itís uplifting. Itís nothing new, but itís refreshing. Same with our new guitar player, Randy.
I used to sing and play guitar too, so thatís something else thatís new. I just sing now that weíve added Randy Rost, our second guitar player who also brought another fresh element to the band. Itís great for Rhys because heís been doing most of the song writing on the new album, so itís good to have someone else to help him out now. They share the same passion which is awesome. And then our bass player, Roy is phenomenal. Everybody just came to the plate on this album. Theyíre excitement about being in the band, combined with mine and Rhysí passion for being here, it all got captured. I feel like this is our best record to date, and I say that with a lot of truth behind it.
I believe you and I agree. That about all the questions Iíve got left, so is there anything else youíd like to add or say about the new record?
I just want to say thanks for the interview, man. I appreciate it. One thing I want to say is that with everything I do, and especially with The Disasters, itís all about storytelling about my past and a lot of my life. Iím very passionate towards this music scene that Iíve found to be my home. As an outcast and a misfit I never felt at home until I found the New York punk scene, and Iím very grateful for that. I hope people can find that kind of friendship. I know there are a lot of people out there who are walking alone and donít know who to turn to, or where to look for answers. And I hope they can find that in the punk community like I did. I am very passionate towards this movement, so I hope that people will take that to heart.
Awesome. Well, thanks again for your time.
No, thank you. I appreciate it.