T'was the night before Christmas, and on the other end of the Punknews phone is Roger Miret at his Arizona home. As the voice of Agnostic Front and Roger Miret and The Disasters, Miret's music is a hardcore history lesson on New York City's punk scene. The conversation with Miret begins discussing dressing up as Santa Claus and the tearing down of CBGB's; and ends with interviewer Wes Tickle learning about Arizona's immigration laws and why Miret thinks Gotta Get Up Now, is the best Disasters album yet.
Hey, this is Wes, from Punknews. Howâs 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. Iâm sure itâs 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.
Itâs always fun sneaking around in the dark.
Yeah. Iâll 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?
Itâs always better with kids around. I love Christmas. I always have and always will. Itâs a great time, and itâs much better when you have children because when you get older, itâs just Christmas. With kids around itâs so much more magical, because youâre 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, yâknow what I mean?
I definitely do.
I live vicariously through my childrenâs eyes to relive those innocent days. Itâs amazing.
Oh, I know. It really is. From the title of your new album, Gotta Get Up Now, to songs on it like "Stand Up and Fight" and "Tonightâs the Night", 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… Iâve 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 itâs actually ass backwards. They have the people so terrified that they fear government. And thatâs what they want. They donât want you to question anything. They just want you to roll with it so they can do all the criminal stuff theyâve 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, Iâm telling you they exist. I read a lot and am into a lot of the conspiracy theory stuff, but itâs because a lot of it is true. Theyâve always wanted us to fear government, and Iâve always been the type of person who… well everythingâs got a limit. Look, when I was a kid, like the song says - "Run Jonny Run" - off our first title record, I took a garbage can and threw it through a McDonaldâs window to make my statement, to make my point, in broad daylight. I did that when I was young rebellious and crazy and I didnât have a children or worries. Today, I wouldnât go do something like that in broad daylight in New York City. Thereâs cameras everywhere. Thereâs all kind of shit everywhere nowadays, which is completely different. Everybodyâs got a cell phone, so everybodyâs going to video tape you and everybodyâs going to call the police. You canât 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 canât get away with any of that anymore.
Today youâve got to think differently. Maybe a little wiser. Maybe youâll 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 thereâs no cameras around. Itâs just different times. We got away with a lot more in the late 70âs and early 80âs than you can now. Big Brother is watching.
Speaking of the times changing. On the song "Outcast Youth" from the new record, you reminisce about being a young punk at CBGBâs. 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 CBGBâs 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 thatâs sad. There is no other place like CBGBâs, not in New York City, at least. Thereâs 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 CBGBâs. That was the CBGBâs 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 CBGBâs there and itâs a live music venue. They forget that the Rathskellar is there and itâs a live music venue. Or The Wetlands. This was here first. But thatâs what happens, the rich always get there way.
Going back to your question. Yeah, itâs unfortunate it doesnât exist, I donât know if it will exist again in New York. Thereâs a lot of stuff going on in Brooklyn right now, and itâs like Iâve said about The Disasters songs, itâs just me reminiscing about the past. The stories of me living my life prior to Agnostic Front, or just joining Agnostic Front, itâs just being a part of that New York punk/hardcore community.
That reminds me of another song on the new album, "City Soldiers", 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. Thereâs only one record that doesnât have a female vocals on it which was 1984. On all my other albums Iâve 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 thereâs something different going on, but they belong there. They are just so much a part of the scene that I donât want to not include them. The girl who sang on that song, Iâm trying to remember, we recorded it in three or four different sessions. Thereâs two of them, but I canât remember the names off the top of my head. Theyâre local girls here from a band in Arizona.
Thatâs sort of the other point I was trying to make with the question, and I know itâs something youâve 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, Iâve 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 Iâd 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… "Oh cool, whoâs that on vocals? Iâm gonna go check out their band." Stuff like that. Thatâs the kind of passionate, intimate stuff that Iâm really into, like youâre into, I would say because I can hear what youâre saying and where youâre coming from. And itâs 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 youâve 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, Iâve had two kids. My daughter Havi, whoâs three and half, and my son Desi who is one and half. And Iâve 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 wasnât the New York that I knew before. It was just a place to go nowhere if you ask me. Unless youâre single. Itâs awesome. But you canât raise children in New York anymore. Itâs got no family values anymore. Itâs all about models and hiked up rents. You canât afford to live there anymore. So I kind of saw reality and moved to Arizona and had two children. Iâve been having a great time, met a lot of cool people out here. And luckily Iâve got everything in my mind to write all my Disasters songs. Itâs been really cool.
One thing Iâve added to this CD, thatâs very personal to me which is the last song called "JR". Did you get that song too?
Yeah. Iâve listened to the whole album a few times. That song sure does stand out.
That song is completely out of left field, and I wasnât 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 Iâm like, "You know what? I wrote this song for my son. Itâs very personal to me and Iâm going to put it on the record." And I did. Itâs weird though, because itâs 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 thatâs 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 weâre raising families and we have time. Weâve 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. Weâre very family orientated, and past members are always current with us too.
As youâve 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. Iâm sure thereâs 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, Iâve seen a lot of stuff, and I understand why theyâre doing what theyâre 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. Itâs kind of sad, weâre so close to Mexico here a lot of the Cartels are coming through and damaging families. Itâs the number one city for kidnapping in the world. Not just in America, but in the world. Thereâs a lot of kids getting kidnapped, so I can understand some of the reasoning behind it, but believe me, Iâm first generation Cuban. Iâm from Cuba, I wasnât born in this country, so I understand what itâs like to want to come to a country because you believe in freedom and make a start. Thatâs what my family did, and thatâs what I did. I just became a citizen five years ago. I just got my passport five years ago. Iâve 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 canât just go to Amsterdam and live there, there are laws there that wonât allow it. And if I went to Mexico and said I want to live here, I wouldnât be allowed. Theyâll throw me out too. So I understand vice-versa whatâs going on. People just look at it in a racial way, which is an easy way to look at it. Thereâs racial profiling, and thatâs what itâs going to lead to. I can understand the basics of the law and how they want it to work, but we also know thereâs a meaning behind it. I think the underground reason behind it is the racial profiling, which kind of sucks, yâknow what I mean?
Thatâs definitely the way itâs been portrayed here, and over the international media. Itâs good to hear from someone actually living there.
Like I say, Iâm Cuban. Iâm Latin, and Iâm for my people. Iâve got 100% Latin tattooed on my neck, but thereâs a point where your safety is violated. Thatâs when Iâm like, "Look, this is getting ridiculous." There are too many kidnappings and I fear for my own children. I donât want to let them go out and play when I donât know whatâs 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, itâs nothing like it, man. Iâll 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 Iâll 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. Itâs 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 everybodyâs so happy. Theyâre out with their kids, theyâre drinking their wine. That hot wine, whatever they call it.
Yeah. And Iâm wondering why canât we have this in America, and it hit me. They donât 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 donât have the level of violence that we have. They donât have the gang violence and all of that stuff. And thatâs why they can do things differently. Itâs 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. Thereâs no violence in the air. When you have a parade here in New York, thereâs always a fight at the end of the parade or something. Thereâs always something ridiculous, yâknow?… I guess Iâm getting older.
Thereâs always that. You talked about the song "JR" earlier, but as youâve 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, itâs 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 heâs doing. Everything heâs adding to it is tasteful, and itâs uplifting. Itâs nothing new, but itâs refreshing. Same with our new guitar player, Randy.
I used to sing and play guitar too, so thatâs something else thatâs new. I just sing now that weâve added Randy Rost, our second guitar player who also brought another fresh element to the band. Itâs great for Rhys because heâs been doing most of the song writing on the new album, so itâs 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. Theyâre excitement about being in the band, combined with mine and Rhysâ 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 Iâve got left, so is there anything else youâd 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, itâs all about storytelling about my past and a lot of my life. Iâm very passionate towards this music scene that Iâve 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 Iâm 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 donât 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.