The New York Hardcore institution known as Agnostic Front has been around in consistent form since 1983, making it one of the longest-running hardcore bands that hasn't splintered into some unrecognizable faction or faux-legacy of reunions and hostile takeovers (see "Dead Kennedys," "Misfits," "Gang Green," etc). Nearly thirty years after their formation, I (GlassPipeMurder) had the chance to sit down with founding guitarist Vinnie Stigma, Joseph James, Mike Gallo, and drummer Pokey Mo, who had just joined Agnostic Front last month. I don't feel like I pulled any punches in this interview, and the band was very forthcoming, sincere, and appreciative of the interest in Agnostic Front. The band released Warriors in 2007 and talked about the past, present, and future of Agnostic Front backstage before their show at Minneapolis' Triple Rock Social Club.
How are you guys doing? How does it feel to be alive and on tour in 2009?
Vinnie Stigma: Feels great. Iâll be doing it until Iâm dead.
Are you still enjoying touring after all these years?
Vinnie: I do, we do, yeah. Me and Mikey always tour, we love it.
I read that 2009 is the ten-year anniversary of your tattoo shop [NYHC Tattoos] on the Lower East Side. Ballpark it: how many tattoos would you estimate Agnostic Front has collectively as a band?
Vinnie: Right now, as in the current members of the band? Definitely over a hundred.
Mike Gallo: Oh yeah.
Vinnie: Well over a hundred.
All done in your shop or around the world?
Vinnie: From all over, a whole lot in the shop, though.
After devoting the better part of the decade to Agnostic Front, Steve [Gallo] is no longer in the band and I know a lot of people are curious why. Can you give any indication or comment?
Mike: He was justâ¦I think he was tired of touring. Heâs teaching music now in New York.
So now Pokey Mo has taken over behind the kit. Pokey, what do you bring to the band?
Pokey: I guess I bring about 20 years of hardcore experience. Iâve been in the band Both Worlds with John Joseph and played in a couple of Cro-Mag shows and Murphys Law as well, Marauder, so I bring the old-school flavor to the band.
Agnostic Front and Madball are heading to South America this fall, though itâs not the first time either bands have toured there, as you kind of paved the way for future bands before it was really considered a viable touring option. With the fanbase youâve built up down there and your connection with the Latino community having released the Puro Des Madre record, do you have big expectations for the tour?
Mike: I know all the major cities are already sold out, and I think Freddyâs gonna come out and do "For My Family" with us.
Vinnie, are you gonna jump on stage and perform with Madball at all?
Vinnie: Yeah, Iâll go on, weâll make it a show, featuring me. Weâll have fun. The Vinnie and Freddy show [laughs].
I understand thereâs an all-Spanish split CD in the works?
Mike: Yeah, weâre gonna do "For My Family" in Spanish, maybe another song and Madballâs gonna do something else also, a couple songs in Spanish. Weâre gonna release it [in South America] first and then maybe weâll release here, Iâm not sure.
Vinnie, I wanted to offer my condolences that your presidential bid didnât end up in your favor, but it seemed like the youtube videos were a big hit, where did the idea for that come from?
Vinnie: This great guy came to my house and puts a green screen up. Andâ¦jeez I donât even know! [laughs and shrugs]
Are you okay though with the way the election turned out though? I mean, it could have been worse right?
Vinnie: It is what it is, ya know. Heâs my President, I stand behind him.
Now talk a little bit about your new solo album New York Blood. Whoâs been playing on the recording and for the shows?
Mike: Me, Vinnie, Josh, Luke, the whole band. Rob Lopez on guitar, and thatâs our current, steady lineup. [We did] shows with Dropkick Murphys, H2O, couple of different shows.
Vinnie: We just had our record release party about 30 days ago, so itâs a brand-new record so weâre bringing new music to the table. And we already have the next record half-written!
Is New York Blood something youâve been working on for awhile now?
Vinnie: When you do a solo record, itâs a different thing. Agnostic Front is my band, and then we went solo, Me and Mikey, and now weâre starting to put out records. If weâre gonna do it, weâre gonna do it right.
I heard youâre doing some acting too?
Vinnie: I got a new movie out called "New York Blood." Mikey is in it, a bunch of my friends are in it. Itâs like a Sopranos horror movie. It won the New York Film Festival award. Itâs an hour long, itâs a feature film, itâs a movie, not a documentary. And if you like gangster movies, youâre gonna like my movie.
Is it out yet?
Vinnie: Yeah, itâs out. Itâs on Amazon.com.
What do you remember about your appearance on Phil Donahueâs show in 1986?
Vinnie: I remember that he liked to insinuate things for ratings. Thatâs what I remember. And I remember it was ahead of the curve [in that respect].
Yeah, Donahue was upset about [the song] "Public Assistance" even though Agnostic Front had already released songs like "Fascist Attitudes," "United and Strong"â¦
Vinnie: "United Blood" too!
Yeah! Really anti-racist, anti-fascist songsâ¦So were they just trying to construct their own controversy there?
Mike: Thatâs what the media does. Thatâs their job, of course they do. They blow everything out of proportion, even the weather. They say youâll get twenty inches of snow and you get two.
Given the diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds of Agnostic Frontâs members, do you have any idea why there are still neo-nazis and White Pride racists that seem to be into Agnostic Front? [Question was spurred by a MySpace comment to "keep it WP", which seems illogical since Pokey is Asian]
Pokey: I have no idea. Youâd have to ask them. Itâs nothing that weâve ever been a part of, and our message as a band is unity. I think what you have is people latching on to something from the earlier records they misunderstood in the first place and twisted it to fit their ideas. Growing up in the â80s in New York City, it was a different place, and there were people who wanted to speak out against discrimination of any kind. Everybody was against Reagan, but there were some [of us] who didnât care for the anti-Americanism and wanted to make the country better and some people twisted that into nationalism on like the extreme, far right side. All the hardcore bands in New York know each other and play together so unity is something that is obviously very important to us.
Agnostic Front has always been very versatile with different sounds. With Epitaph and Lars Frederiksen there was more of a hardcore oi! sound, and with Freddy Cricien and Jamey Jasta producing the least two records theyâve been a bit more of a metallic hardcore style. What influences Agnostic Front in a certain direction and how do you decide which direction to take a certain album?
Mike: Basically itâs what weâre listening to at the moment or whatever weâre in the mood for.
Vinnie: Different members, times change, we change it up
Mike: We just put out what we love, whether itâs punk, metal, hardcore, oi!, whatever, you know? Thatâs basically what we do these days. Whatever weâre feeling, whatever feels right, thatâs pretty much where weâre at right now.
Warriors was your last album, are you guys fans of "The Warriors" the movie?
Mike: Oh yeah, of course!
Was that kind of the theme for the last album?
Joseph James: Not really, actually what happened was we went to Japan on tour, and while we were there we experienced a lot of the culture, and the overall sentiment that we got from people was honor, pride, and respect for what they do and it kind of hit us in a way that made us think about the Warriorâs Code which is like, pride, faith, respect, and that really influenced the Warriors album and it just was a coincidence with the movie.
I was just curious because I saw they are remaking "The Warriors" movie and having it take place in L.A. and was wondering if you take offense to that being from New York?
Joseph: Absolutely! [laughs]
Vinnie: They donât have as grimey of train stations in L.A.!
Mike: Thereâs no new ideas anymore, everythingâs a remake. Itâs disturbing to me because these are classic movies that donât need to be touched, donât need to be redone. Itâs like taking classic albums and re-recording them. It loses some of the magic in the remake.
Vinnie: Like "The Honeymooners" remake!
Mike: How many movies can you name that are better than the original? "Cape Fear" was good butâ¦.donât mess with the originals for the most part.
Have you started working on a follow-up to Warriors?
Mike: Weâre doing that right now. Weâre just in the writing process right now. We had to step back a bit, because we have a new drummer now but now weâre gonna start when we get back home, start writing more stuff.
Anything else any of you would like to add?
Joseph: Thank you for your continued support of Agnostic Front. Our heart is still in it and weâre very proud to do it and travel and hope to see you at the next show.
Vinnie: Come out to the Stigma show with me and Mikey, weâll have a good time. Weâll be back here with Anti-Nowhere League and 999 in July, and you too can be in my movie [laughs].