Tag Archives: agnosticfront

The Psychos interview

Steve Psycho is a former member of the infamous Psychos one of the bands that ruled the early days of New York Hardcore. I believe the interview was made around 2005, and originally released in I Drink Milk fanzine and Chiller Than Most newsletter #1. Interview made by Laszlo Nanyista. Pics by Mincey/Levy, Jessica Bard, The Godfathers of Hardcore documentary.

psychos06

Could you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you first come in contact with the hardcore punk scene? Steve – 1979. I was listening to The Ramones, The Pistols, The Clash, the Slits and some other punk rock. My friends and I were just starting to get really excited about more underground stuff. Then someone got hold of the Black Flag “Miltown High” album and I had found SLF’s “Hanx”- those raw sounds encouraged us to find more music of that type. The first show I saw was The Bad Brains, The False Prophets, and maybe The Stimulators and The Offals at Botany 500 – a small bar in the NYC wholesale flower district. There was this huge black guy in a white t-shirt and across the back of the shirt written in black magic marker was “You bet I’ve got something personal against you”. It was Mojo (of “Egg raid on Mojo fame”). I went to see any band that identified as punk or hardcore, hung out at Max’s Kansas City and CB’s and began meeting more and more people. Except for 1 friend none of my friends was really into hardcore as a scene or a lifestyle. I found myself very attracted to the ideas and energy I was being exposed to and spent more and more time at clubs that featured this music. I’d regularly cruise by Bleeker Bob’s for new vinyl.

How did the formation of the Psychos come about? Were you a founding member or did you join later? Steve – Stu (Larry), Billy Psycho and Roger Miret had already formed the band when I met Stu. He had been singing and playing guitar and they were looking for a singer so he could expand the guitar parts. I fit in pretty well and I was also a source for lyrics as I had a bunch of ideas and some verse already written.

psychos07

How many shows did you play with the Psychos? Steve – The Psychos generally played about once a month while I was singing. We did A7, CBGB’s, The Rock Hotel (with Void and Scream – to this day Void is one of my favorite bands). This was from 1982- 1984 and it was a time when hardcore bands were being shut out of a lot of NY clubs. I remember doing a show in a basement in Williamsburg, Bklyn with the Dicks and others but the show was set up, done and then the location couldn’t be used again. It was tough for me to travel because I had a 7-day a week job (not a slave to the clock – I loved the work and had a great boss who was well ahead of the curve in profit sharing!), which eliminated the idea of touring. Later on I think the Psychos had a more intense schedule largely due to Roger’s influence.

The lineup of the band: Steve -Stu and maybe Billy were later in Trip 6. I’ve been told Stu ended up dusted out and going to jail for some very brutal assaults. Billy was in the band Death Before Dishonor just long enough to get a tattoo then got kicked out. I sang and played some bass in a Jersey band called Swine Dive in the late 80’s. Roger started singing for Agnostic Front and Stu and I thought it would be best to find another bass player so we got a friend of mine named Fil (who now holds a PHD and teaches American History). After Fil and I left The Psychos, Roger rejoined on bass along with a series of singers. Roger always felt slighted for being replaced in the band – although we are still friends. The feeling was that he wouldn’t have time to commit to both bands and that his priority would be AF. HA! Little did I know that Roger would turn into the workhorse he is. Singing and playing in 3 bands at any given time (The Disasters, Lady Luck, etc.), founding the Rumblers Car Club, producing other bands, his own clothing line – he’s a true self made man – a working class hero. For my part – when I left the Psychos in 1984 I was pretty much done with hardcore. I loved the music I had been listening to and I loved hanging out, but as a continued lifestyle it wouldn’t really have worked out for me. I could see myself becoming a casualty somewhere down the line. I also had no interest in the newer bands.

psychos08

Funny stories/memories: Steve – We would have to search for Billy before rehearsals. He was usually found lying on the sidewalk or in a doorway somewhere on the Lower East Side or around The Bowery, unbathed in the 3 or 4 days since the last rehearsal or show and smelling pretty rank. He would have to be cleaned up because you couldn’t breath if you were in the same room with him. Once he told us the night before he had sex with a high school girl who had defecated on his chest. He said it was the wildest sex he’d ever had but she kicked him out before he could shower. We eventually had to find a rehearsal space with an isolated drum room because he always smelled so bad. I met my wife at CBGB’s after an Abused matinee. The girlfriends of Kevin (vocals) and Dave (bass), both named Valerie and my future wife came out of CB’s all flushed and sweaty. They had just beaten the crap out of some guy who had been acting out and was annoying everyone. He dropped his pants in front of the girls and they proceeded to beat him, cracking some ribs. They kicked him repeatedly with steel toe boots. The 2 Valeries introduced me to their friend Gayle. Later at a house party she said 2 things to me: “That’s my comic book you’re reading, put it back when you’re done” and “Do you want a beer?” – we were living together a year later and have been married for over 22 years. We have 3 daughters. Most shows we played were $5 dollars to get in. I always felt weird having a couple people on the guest list and leaving out others. Usually I would pay on the side for a bunch of people and then tell them they were on the guest list, so everyone felt special. I think a lot of people were attracted to hardcore or “the scene” because they were excluded from other areas of society. It made sense to me that a Psychos show was a place everyone could feel included. Most times I sprang for $20 – which was about what my cut of the door was if we were lucky, but once at a show I ended up laying out almost a hundred bucks. I had a decent job, made good money – I was just playing for the fun of it and it was more fun if everyone got in. I had laid out the money for the first run of t-shirts the Psychos did. I gave so many away I had no chance of getting my money back – forget a profit – not much of a businessman! But these were my friends. I never felt quite right introducing filthy commerce into the relationship.

psychos09

A7/Tompkins Square Park: Steve – There was a real period of tension between the punks who arrived on the Lower East Side and the residents, mostly Hispanics. I can tell you that one night hanging outside of A7 a friend and myself were shot at, but I couldn’t say who or where it came from. Early on there were few people hanging out so you’re really just an oddity to the locals. Then more people show up, and tension rises. As time went by we started moving into the neighborhood and our numbers increased and the dynamic changed again as we became the regulars. I would guess it’s a pretty common cycle of gentrification. A friend had gotten hold of some white blotter stamps of acid that someone just handed to him. He gave hits away to friends until that night there were about 150 people hanging in and around Tompkins Square Park tripping on acid and drinking 40’s. I remember just standing there listening to the buzz of the crowd, it felt like a beehive, just buzzing and humming with conversation and activity. A grey car pulled up at the corner, some kind of Lincoln Town Car or Cadillac – huge American metal- and a bunch of guys leaned out the windows yelling at us and cursing before driving away with us chasing them. Some time later a grey-ish Volkswagen or Subaru – maybe even Le Car – some compact shit, pulls up to the same light and somebody yells, “ There they are” and a bunch of people attack the car beating on it and trying to turn it over. I remember standing there thinking; “ok its sort of the same color but wasn’t the first car bigger”? The people in the second car must have been shitting!
You would see the cops scatter as soon as it got dark; they didn’t want any part of LES after 8PM. We mostly traveled in small groups when heading into Alphabet City in the small hrs (Hence the name of the SIN Club, Safety In Numbers) and I preferred walking in the street so someone couldn’t attack me by hiding in a doorway or by coming out of an abandoned building. My wife was heading down Ave B one night about half a block behind someone who was carrying a guitar. A man stepped out from the shadows, stabbed the guy and walked away with the guitar.

psychos03

psychos10psychos11psychos12

psychos14psychos13psychos15

psychos17psychos18psychos19

psychos20psychos21psychos22

psychos16

 

Freddy Alva interview (Abombanation/New Breed compilation/Some Records etc.)

Freddy Alva interview originally published in Chiller Than Most fanzine, issue 3 (2014).

abomb09

CTM – Can you give us a lesson about the history of Abombanation? Do you have any info how did Abombanation form originally? What was their lineup? As far as I know Ernie Parada (Token Entry) played drums for them only on the demo and at one or two gigs at most. In Your Face Steve played with the band after the demo until the end and actually sang during one show after Ray Parada.
Freddy – I just asked Ray on the origins of the band & he said that the original members were himself on vocals, Matt O’Brien on guitar, Vadim on bass & Larry “Love” Kaplan on drums. He can’t remember exactly when they formed but I’m guessing it’s early 1987. He said Vadim was then replaced by Nick X& Ernie Parada replaced Larry on drums when Larry joined Breakdown in 1988.

abomb04

CTM – Are there any particular shows that stuck in your memory?
Freddy – I only saw A-Bomb-A-Nation once at CBGB’s& was lucky to sit in for a practice at Monkey Hill studios in Queens. The CBGB’s show was memorable because a lot of HC kids from Queens showed up to support a band from our neighborhood. I knew Vadim through Chris Wynne from In Effect fanzine & it was really cool seeing a lot of friends on the audience. The band was awesome, I’ve seen a couple of cool pics from that show, seem to remember someone filming it, hope that video pops up someday.

abomb05

CTM – The Abombanation demo, to me, sounds much more like a typical NYHC band of the time. We can hear standard fast parts and dance parts, but also a surprisingly distinct sense of melody. What do you think of the band’s sound? How did that differ from previous bands and attempts?
Freddy – I agree that their sound was very different from other NYHC bands at the time. Besides the other, band members, musical skills. I will credit singer Ray Parada for their atypical sound. Ray was an original class of 1982 HC scenester: he’d gone to the 1st shows at the legendary A7 & had also played drums for the early NYHC band Major Conflict as well as in the unrecorded Rat Patrol w/Adam Mucci from Agnostic Front & Sacrilege NY. Major Conflict had a period where they played a more melodic Stiff Little Fingers influenced sound & I think that Ray carried on that sense of melody to A-Bomb-A-Nation. Being around since the 1st wave of HC allowed him to draw from older influences of melodic HC bands like the Posh Boy Southern California sound or 7 Seconds as opposed to a kid that just got into HC in ’87 & all they knew was stuff like Youth Of Today or Breakdown.

abomb06

CTM – Their lyrics were not really typical hardcore lyrics. I really like their meaningful lyrics, what do you think about them?
Freddy – I think the lyrics are really intelligent & well thought out. I will attribute that to Ray being older than us. When I first met him, I’d just finished High School & He was already out of college & working in the “real world”. I think that his life experience was a vital part of the lyrics, rising above more simplistic topics like you ‘stabbed me in the back’ or other like-minded fare of the day.

CTM – I heard that there is an unreleased Abombanation album that they recorded but never released. Have you ever heard these songs? Would you mind writing about this unreleased LP?
Freddy – I’ve never heard the unreleased lp& Ray said that he only heard about a couple of minutes of, he wasn’t too interested because it was after he quit the band. I would love to see the demos & maybe this lp to be released some day.

abomb07

CTM – Outburst played their first show with Abombanation at Right Track Inn in late 1987. As far as I know it was an amazing show where Ray Parada was covered in blood from busting his nose open during Outburst set. Were you on this show?
Freddy – Unfortunately I was not at this show, actually only made it out to the Right Track Inn only one time. I asked Ray about the blood on stage & he replied that was from catching an elbow to the nose during the opening band, seems he couldn’t get the bleeding under control when they went on. I’m sure it was quite a sight!

CTM – What is your opinion of the band name Abombanation? I saw a few flyers where it was mispelled. Which band name do you like the most off of New Breed? Mine is Beyond. I read that they chose the name because it represents the way they feel about drugs and any other barriers that weaken your life. To be beyond something is to overcome it, or to surpass it. Awesome band name!
Freddy – Yeah, that was an easy name for people to misspell! I love it though, really conveys a lot. I have to say ‘Life’s Blood’ is my favorite band name on the comp. It is such a strong name that, to me, really illustrates what Hardcore is & to an extension; anything you feel passionate about that inspires the very core of your being & affects your life for the long run. A close second is ‘Raw Deal’. That really captures a situation that happens to the best of us & the band’s music is a release from the emotions that go along with said predicament. I was so bummed when they were forced to change their name to Killing Time due to legal reasons. I still never call them by the KT name!

abomb08

CTM – Crucial Chaos on WNYU every Thursday night. An awesome radio show a lot of you in NYC grew up listening to. As I imagine it in the late ’80s you would sit in your room and use your boombox to record all the NYHC bands appearing on Crucial Chaos, live sets and interviews. I really love listening to live sets and radio sets. What do you think, was it any different playing a show and playing a live set on the radio? How should we imagine a WNYU or WMFU set?
Freddy – Listening to Crucial Chaos every Thursday night was such a looked forward to experience. DJ Spermicide had such a cool husky voice. A lot of kids definitely had a crush on her just based on her voice & radio personality. Her sidekick on air was Johnny Stiff, an old school Punk Rock dude who’d been around since the beginning & booked some legendary shows. He was famous for being cranky to people calling in to the show. That’s the thing, it was an epicenter of info for the scene. I would tape the whole show to catch up on new releases, get turned on to old classics, listen for show announcements, ticket giveaways, band interviews; not to mention the live sets that we all anxiously waited for & hit the “record” button.

CTM – “Everybody mosh it up Break everything in your house!” What are your favourite radio sets and why?
Freddy – My favorite NYU sets are by bands who I think it’s their best recorded stuff. For example, I’m not a huge Judge fan but I think their NYU is awesome, best thing I’ve heard by them. Same goes for Side By Side, their studio stuff is ok, but the live set is smoking. Others favorites that come to my mind is being @the studio when Fit Of Anger played & all our friends were there, that was really cool. The interviews are classic too, like YDL & Warzone, there are some choice quotes in there.

CTM – I read about an awesome place on 14th street in NYC called Giant Studios. Many well-known NYHC bands used to rehearse there including Krakdown, Warzone, Side By Side, Breakdown, Death Before Dishonor etc. There were rooms A through Z so you could just walk in and hang out and listen to each band rehearse. What are your memories of Giant Studios?
Freddy – Giant studios was a who’s who of NYHC bands rehearsing there at any given time. It was a great place to catch band members if you wanted to interview them. I remember doing a couple of interviews for my New Breed fanzine there. I actually rehearsed with a band called Last Cause there in late 1988 & right next to us Underdog was rehearsing & we saw Sick Of it All coming in as we walked out. I remember going to see my friends in Our Gang rehearse & it would become a live show with like 15-20 kids packed in the rehearsal room doing “stage dives”, moshing& generally goofing around. Great times all around.

giantstudios01

CTM – I heard a funny story about the singer of Uppercut. Steve Uppercut had no idea they were on this compilation until 2006 when he saw it somewhere on the internet. Do you have any funny stories about the New Breed comp.?
Freddy – That’s funny Steve never knew they were on the comp. I think he drifted out of the scene, like a lot if us did, by the 90’s. I dealt mostly with Robert Sefcik, the Uppercut drummer, as far as getting the Uppercut tracks & artwork for the comp. I see Steve all the time now, I do Acupuncture on him & go see his awesome band Kings Destroy that also features Robert on drums.

CTM – Could you talk about the concept of making the cover for New Breed? The picture looks like the Minor Threat EP but taken from the side.
Freddy – The picture of Chaka sitting on the steps on 8th st near the old Venus Records location is meant to be a homage to Minor Threat’s Lp cover. I took a side view of him, the better to show off the Crucifix patch Chaka had on his right shoulder as well as the Air Jordan sneakers he was sporting. That was basically the only idea we had, took a camera one day after shopping for records & went for it. It’s cool that a lot of people dig it, there’s also a tag on the door above by “Shoe”, that’s Rich from All For One & one of my best friends, so that was great that it turned out that way too. I always considered it as our urban tribute to an iconic HC image.

freddyalva02

CTM – Some Records was an awesome meetig place for hardcore kids, bands, zine editors and people that would help launch that second wave of NYHC in ’86. Would you mind sharing some memories about Some Records?
Freddy – Some Records was the catalyst for me getting really involved in the scene, otherwise I would have just been another passive spectator rather than an active participant. I saw a flyer on a lamppost in 1986 that said “American HC” & gave the store’s location. I immediately went down there & bought my first fanzines & demos. This inspired me to do my own fanzine called FTW. The first interview I ever did for my zine was with Ray Cappo right outside the store. I met Chaka through hanging out there. The inspiration for doing the New Breed comp comes from picking up the legendary Guillotine benefit comp tape there & wanting to do something along the same lines.
Some of my favorite memories:
– Duane unwrapping a brand new copy of the Straight Ahead 12″ & playing it nonstop like 10 times in a row.
– Waiting anxiously for the delivery guy to bring YOT’slp& being the 1st one to buy a blue vinyl copy.
– Having a listening party in the store to AF’s “Liberty & Justice” lp w/Nick YDL, John Life’s Blood, Tommy Carroll, Side By Side guys & Alleyway crew dudes.
There are too many good memories of that place. It really was the epicenter & communication hub of the scene, amazing in itself because the place was only about 300 Sq feet & located down inside a dusty basement but in my memory it is NYHC’s grand palace.

somerecords01

CTM – I know that you are working on a documentary about New Breed and the bands on it. Any updates?
Freddy – The latest on the New Breed documentary is that we finally got a new video editor, gone through two already. This time it’s Sean Murphy, he sang for Collapse on the comp, so he definitely “gets it”. We just have to figure out a good time for all of us to sit down & get this wrapped up. Not so easy these days with families, jobs & other necessities of daily life. It will get done, there’s no timetable, just taking it one day at a time. Thanks for the interest, you will definitely hear more about it as it comes out. It was great reminiscing about these old days that still mean a lot to me. I hope I was able to shed some light on the A-Bomb-A-Nation story, thanks again!

An in-depth analysis of the history of Agnostic Front, interview with Spoiler / Part II.

An in-depth analysis of the history of Agnostic Front, interview with Spoiler (Stigmatism, Omegas, Justice, United Stance). This interview originally published in Chiller Than Most fanzine, issue 6 (2018). Pics by Randall Underwood, BJ Papas, Chris Gorman.

Part I.: https://doyouknowhardcore.com/2019/01/03/an-in-depth-analysis-of-the-history-of-agnostic-front-interview-with-spoiler-part-i/

agnosticfront18

CTM – In September 1984, the widely read punk zine Maximum Rocknroll published a review of “Victim In Pain”. MRR started talking shit about them and calling them a bunch of fascist skinheads. “Unfortunately, much of the narrow-mindedness, fanatical nationalism, and violence that has destroyed the New York punk scene seems to have revolved around AGNOSTIC FRONT.” Has the writer of the review deliberately misinterpreting their message?
Spoiler – The Punks in San Francisco were dealing with legitimate Nazis infiltrating their scene. It was a huge problem, and I understand that they were freaked out to hear about this Skinhead band from New York wearing American flags and being against communism. Unfortunately, instead of speaking to the band to see what they were about, they believed the rumours from the so-called scene reports sent in by people who had personal issues with the band. Agnostic Front reached out to MRR to clear their name and no one listened. Tim Yohannon interviewed the band, but they were defensive, and it seemed to bruise his ego that they were unapologetic and unwilling to bow down to him as the leader of the Punks. Instead of having a real conversation with the band and trying to understand their viewpoints, their experiences in a world that was nothing like his, Yohannon added his own commentary after the fact and sent it off to print like a coward. He had the monopoly on the Punk scene and continued to call the band Nazis, no matter what they did. Roger was Latino, wrote lyrics against fascism, had a child with a Jewish Punk who sang in the most left wing band in New York, but Yohannon didn’t care. He made up his mind and didn’t want tolisten. I think that’s ultimately what made Agnostic Front react so strongly against MRR and their scene.

agnosticfront19

CTM – In 2014, Radio Raheem Records did an awesome job with “No One Rules” LP. The LP includes 34 tracks across two different recording sessions, the first predating the United Blood 7″ and the second recorded just before the “Victim In Pain” LP. The “Don Fury 1983” lineup was Raybeez, Adam Mucci, Roger Miret, Vinnie Stigma, and the “Don Fury 1984” lineup was Dave Jones, Rob Kabula, Roger Miret, Vinnie Stigma. We can hear essential and basic differences between these sessions. Which session do you prefer?
Spoiler – I was already very familiar with these recordings as the Raw Unleashed CD which a friend taped for me back in 1998, way before I ever heard the Victim In Pain album. At that time I couldn’t tell the difference, we just listened to the whole thing on repeat on our way to shows. Listening to it now, it’s hard to choose. The raw insanity of the earlier line-up is of course fantastic, but hearing the Victim In Pain songs on a recording that sounds more like United Blood is also a real treat. This session has the added bonus of hearing the VIP line-up playing the United Blood material, so I think I’m going with the 1984 session. Sorry Mucci!

CTM – (“When Slayer came to New York City in December of ’86, touring in support of Reign In Blood, they selected Agnostic Front to open for them at The Ritz. If you were in attendance that night, you heard “Hiding Inside” and “Victim In Pain” then “Angel of Death” and “Chemical Warfare” on the same night from bands who shared the same stage.” Joe Songco – NYC Hardcore, Thrash, and Hip Hop)
In 1986 AF started to incorporate more metal into their sound, and people didn’t know what was going on. The “Cause For Alarm” record was chock full of double bass and guitar solos, Carnivore really helped them out a lot with the recording as well as a rehearsal space. Was it a natural progression for the band? What do you think about the 2nd album musically?
Spoiler – I don’t think it was really a natural progression for the band, but it was a natural progression within the Hardcore scene. Metalheads were coming to Hardcore shows, Metal bands were heavily influenced by Hardcore bands, and of course soon it worked both ways. In the case of AF, Vinnie and Roger had run out of ideas for songwriting and they let the newer members of the band write the music with the help of Peter Steele. I don’t think they would have written a crossover album themselves, but it’s a solid album and a huge influence on both Hardcore and Metal. I think Roger and Vinnie kind of hate it, but it’s got some classic tracks.

agnosticfront20

CTM – “The Eliminator” is probably my favourite track on the whole album, which is a simply rip-off of Exodus’ “A Lesson in Violence” haha! What are your feelings about this song?
Spoiler – My personal favourite track from that album has always been Toxic Shock, which is a Celtic Frost ripoff, but The Eliminator is an amazing track and I love the title’s homage to Vinnie’s first Punk band, The Eliminators. It’s definitely a hard ripoff, but they did improve the song so they at least put some work into it. Listening to this song now always reminds me of the time Hoagie from Omegas was having a party at his old apartment where he got so drunk he decided that The Eliminator was the best song of all time and wrote the lyrics on his bathroom wall in a huge marker. Normally people do graffiti in public bathrooms, but not Hoagie! I was impressed he knew the lyrics perfectly without listening to the song.

agnosticfront24

CTM – When asked Steve Martin about “Liberty & Justice For…” in 1988, he said: “we are getting back to the roots, and if you can hear some metal influences on “Liberty & Justice For…”, that’s great, but it is basically a back-to-roots hardcore record.” What do you think about this LP? Is it much more like the first album in terms of music and vocals?
Spoiler – I overlooked this record for a long time. I saw it as a lesser version of Cause For Alarm and just generally considered it the weaker album in between CFA and One Voice, which I love. In recent years I’ve come to realize there’s some great music on L&JF. The title track, Strength and Anthem are amazing, classic AF songs. I don’t really agree with Steve Martin though, there is a good amount of metal on that record. It’s less metal than Cause For Alarm, but it’s still a lot closer in sound to CFA than it is to Victim In Pain. Lyrically speaking, it’s even further away from Victim In Pain. The chorus lyrics to Anthem are by far their most questionable, and I was disappointed that Roger didn’t address this in his biography because he did discussother lyrics and stories that fans had questions about. Obviously he was no Nazi, nor was anyone else in the band, but I have a hard time believing it was a coincidence they practically name-checked a well-known Nazi organization in the song. I don’t know why they did it and I hate that they did. Maybe they went too far lashing back against MRR politics, maybe they aligned with the anti-communist leanings of B&H and looked the other way about the rest. Who knows, but I have hard time with the song. The music is good, but I’ll just listen to Victim In Pain instead.

agnosticfront21

CTM – “Live at CBGB” recorded during a jam-packed August 21, 1988 Sunday matinee. What are the coolest moments for you on “Live at CBGB” LP?
Spoiler – Of course the classic introduction by Roger is my favourite. It’s just so perfect. I’ve been quoting that for half my life.

CTM – AF was a devastating live band. Roger Miret has always said Agnostic Front has never been a studio band, they have always been a live band. What’s your opinion about this? Do you agree with this statement?
Spoiler – I never got to see them in their glory days, so I can’t really answer that question but I believe it. Seeing them in the eighties must have been absolutely insane. I first saw them in 1997 and I’ll never forget the experience, but for someone like me the records will always mean more. I grew up on them.

CTM – Agnostic Front went through a lot of singers. (John Watson, Keith Burkhardt, James Kontra (and Carl Griffin))Which would you have rather seen: the Agnostic Front show with John Watson, or Agnostic Front gig with Carl The Mosher? Why?
Spoiler – Both are absolute legends in their own right, but I’d have to pick John Watson. He was the original, and seeing that first line-up of the band would blow my mind, no matter how bad they were at the time. That’s the stuff I live for. I have a special place in my heart for Carl The Mosher, and seeing him front the band would be completely insane as well, but Watson does not get enough credit as a NYHC pioneer. He had already been part of the Max’s Kansas City scene before Hardcore existed, he was there from day one and was part of the original Skinhead crew in New York. He’s the one who created moshing as we know it, and also one of the first to move on from the Skinhead scene when it became more right-wing and rebelled by growing his hair, charging it up and dressing in the Discharge style, which was later followed by AF members like Adam Mucci and Roger, along with many in the Peace Punk scene. After his stint in Riker’s Island, Watson came back to the scene and continued to support the new bands for years after. He was one of the purest originators of everything good about NYHC.

agnosticfront22

CTM – I read Roger Miret’s book a few months ago, and I couldn’t put it down. I am sure you read his book, what effect did the book have on you?
Spoiler – I anticipated Roger’s book more than any other Punk or Hardcore book because Roger was always a mystery to me. Everyone knows what Vinnie Stigma is like, he wears his heart on his sleeve. Much less was known about Roger’s personal life and off-stage personality, besides a few classic AF stories. I knew stuff about him, little bits and pieces of his life story that I’d read in interviews or was told by old time NYHC guys here and there throughout the years I’ve been a fan, but it was great that he finally told his story. It’s a pretty crazy one. I think I was most surprised by how violent he was throughout the eighties. I assumed he was a bit crazy in his early Skinhead days but mellowed out by the time he started preaching unity and peace, but that wasn’t the case. I always wondered why Dave Jones left the band right after VIP came out, and I was surprised it was because he didn’t want to deal with the violence surrounding the band. But I’m glad that Roger was honest about thatpart of his life, and didn’t try to paint a picture of himself as a harmless guy when he was really a maniac. It takes guts to admit the bad shit you did in the past and I respect him for it. If you read the story, you’ll understand that he grew up surrounded by violence and it was all he knew in his youth.

CTM – The Entire New York Hardcore Scene Vs. New York Magazine on The Phil Donahue Show is one of the greatest videos I have ever seen. The most shocking music video I have ever seen is the Agnostic Front’s performance on The Uncle Floyd Show! Do you know the story of this show where they do playback and lip-sync?
Spoiler – I always loved that video and someone once told me the story of what happened but I can’t remember the details now. I’m pretty sure they had agreed to play, but when Vinnie realized they had to lip-sync instead of playing live he refused to do it. Roger pretended to play instead, I’m not sure if he thought it was funny or maybe he still wanted to get paid for the gig, but it’s a classic and it wouldn’t be half as funny if Vinnie agreed to play!

agnosticfront23

CTM – What do you think about the early AF flyers, United Blood/VIP era drawings, like the Blitz tee skinhead, skinhead figure with NYHC flag, skinhead covering one eye with his hand etc.?How have these artworks and flyers influenced your style and process?
Spoiler – Of course, these drawings have all been a huge influence on my art and everything that goes on in my brain. The crazier and busier stuff like the Womp’m flyers and Chuy flyers were influences on my early drawings, but more recently I did some nice art for my book poster and the Playboy Celebration album and realized the drawing style looks a lot like the classic design of the skinhead covering his eye, which I had no intention of referencing. This stuff is just fried into my brain forever, and I like it that way!

CTM – As far as I know, when you first started out, you were heavily into Sean Taggart. What are your favourite parts of the “Cause For Alarm” artwork? What are your favorite details/little things on it?
Spoiler – Sean Taggart and Kevin Crowley were definitely my biggest inspirations, and the CFA cover is number one. I don’t need to tell you that the Demon-Skin (Taggart calls him Horny) and the Punker’s teeth are the biggest influence of them all, but smaller details I always loved were the Shok band pin, the big gun the other Skinhead is holding, and those weird screaming Easter Island statues in the background, I still don’t really know what the hell they are!

CTM – Thanks for the interview and thanks for your time! Last question: if you had to pick one Agnostic Front song to play someone who has never heard them before, what would it be and why did you choose this song?
Spoiler – You’re welcome, I can talk about Agnostic Front for days and thank you for your dedication to Hardcore, fanzines and Vinnie Stigma! Your question is too hard on my brain… my first thought was Victim In Pain. If you hear Victim In Pain and you don’t like it you can go to hell. But if you’ve never heard AF, maybe you should start with Discriminate Me? But then what about Blind Justice, or Your Mistake? Hell, maybe I would play them Power! Fuck it! If you can’t handle Agnostic Front at Power you don’t deserve them at Victim In Pain!!!

agnosticfront25

Stigmatism!

stigmatism02 Ben Pepin

Stigmatism, pic by Ben Pepin

“HERE IT IS: the best hardcore band I’ve ever been in! The idea for this band has existed in various forms over the last fifteen years as I’ve attempted to find musicians who could compliment my love for the greatest guitar player in the world. I could never get it quite right until one day something clicked when Marc Grillo and I swapped stories about our terrifying experiences in the nineties hardcore scene. After years of friendship and making half-assed late night promises that one day we’d do a band together, it suddenly hit me that this real deal New York Italian was the only person who could turn this dream hardcore band into reality. The Sicilian blood pumping through his Jewish heart was the fuel I needed to write the riffs. After many more late nights talking about our fantasy band we finally made it into a practice room when he came up for Varning last September. Instinctively knowing exactly what I wanted to do, his drumming and input turned my ideas into the perfectly idiotic hardcore songs I’ve always wanted to make. We finished writing and recorded the demo all within the span of maybe five hours and were so excited about it that we talked about this new band to everyone we knew at Varning. By the end of the night we had a line-up together to play shows, and did just that in January. We got another big gig coming up at A COOL MOVE 2018 in May where we will have tapes and shirts! See you in the pit! A big thanks to Paul Hey, Steve Dee and Henz Patrick Ruckus for playing with us and making this a real band + a very special thanks to Max Gosselin for recording us and Benjamin Greenberg for the mix! Hardcore Lives!” Spoiler

https://stigmatism.bandcamp.com/releases

https://beachimpedimentrecords.bigcartel.com/product/stigmatism-s-t-ep

An in-depth analysis of the history of Agnostic Front, interview with Spoiler / Part I.

An in-depth analysis of the history of Agnostic Front, interview with Spoiler (Stigmatism, Omegas, Justice, United Stance). This interview originally published in Chiller Than Most fanzine, issue 6 (2018). Pics by Crucial Times fanzine, Randall Underwood, Amy Keim, Krissy Bedell, Jessica Bard, Harley Flanagan.

spoiler00

Spoiler (Justice)

PART I.

CTM – Yo Spoiler! Could you please introduce yourself to the readers? And who is the greatest guitar player of all time?
Spoiler – What’s up everybody it’s me, the Spoiler! The greatest guitar player of all time is VINNIE STIGMA!!! If you like Hardcore you might know me as the bassist in Justice, Omegas ormy new band Stigmatism, our E.P. comes out this summer on Beach Impediment, what’s up Big Shub!!!

CTM – What was your introduction to Agnostic Front? Was it love at first sight?
Spoiler – In the early nineties I was the youngest in a family of metalheads growing up in Northern Belgium. My dad and older brother always bought copies of a Dutch metal magazine called Aardschok and they had a Skinhead on staff who reviewed and interviewed Hardcore bands. His name was Onno Cro-Mag. I was into Death Metal, but I had just missed the golden era and now all the bands were putting out their progressive bullshit albums. So I was bored with Metal and starting to learn about Hardcore. It sounded a lot more fun, but I hadn’t actually heard much of it. I had a Sheer Terror tape since I was 12 but thought it was Metal. Then a high school buddy made me a tape with Citizens Arrest and Slapshot and I got more interested in Hardcore. In 1996 I switched schools and at my new school there were a few Skinheads and Punks who I befriended right away. One of the Skinhead girls named Lies sold me her Agnostic Front Last Warning CD for cheap andI loved it right away. At first I was more into the live recordings because they had crossover appeal to me as a metal head, but soon I fell in love with the bonus tracks: the United Blood EP. There was something so raw, so insane about the music. I had heard Punk bands like the Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys and Chaos UK who I liked, but thought were silly. To a metal head, Punk music sounded like a contest to be the most obnoxious. The United Blood EP was different. It sounded like Punk, but there was nothing silly about it. It was intense, it was tough, it was a real mess. I fell in love with it and I still love it to death.

agnosticfront12

CTM – Agnostic Front took the sound of the streets to the masses. Abandoned tenements, drug raids and overdoses, the homeless on the Bowery, social change without social media, decadence and general full-scale mayhem. The early Agnostic Front records really capture the vibe of New York and all its boroughs in the ’80s. What do you think made the band so unique in that timeframe?
Spoiler – It’s like Vinnie says in the Flipside interview: Agnostic Front are from the ghetto. Those guys came from poor families and hard lives. It shows in the music, not only because they were expressing their reality, but also in the more literal way – these guys didn’t have money for good equipment, practice time at nice studios or music lessons. A lot of people from the early NYHC scene came from more artistic backgrounds. They weren’t rich, but they came from arts communities, parents who played music. There was nothing artistic about Agnostic Front in that sense, but of course that allowed for a really raw and pure expression of their lives.Agnostic Front didn’t want to be artistic. They didn’t event want to be musicians. They were angry street kids who wanted to mosh. That’s the one thing that truly set Agnostic Front apart from their contemporaries: Vinnie Stigma picked his band members exclusively on their capabilities as moshers, with absolutely no regard for for their musicianship. Vinnie was a visionary who could see that moshing, the interaction between band and audience was the biggest difference between Hardcore and Punk. There were already bands playing Hardcore music, there were already mosh parts, but Vinnie was the first to pay attention to the moshers themselves. He realized they were as important to the scene as the bands, and they understood the music better than some of the musicians.

agnosticfront13

CTM – They recorded the final version of “United Blood” on June 3 1983, and the EP came out in November 1983. When the band released “United Blood”, they started using the term “hardcore” because they wanted to separate AF from the druggy and artsy punk scene. Content, lyrics and message wise why do you think this record is exponentially important?
Spoiler – The United Blood EP has to be the most powerful music ever recorded by people who couldn’t play their instruments. At that point in time, all Punk and Hardcore bands said they couldn’t play because it was still the era of arena rock, when the standard of playing music was Led Zeppelin or The Eagles. In comparison, of course Hardcore bands couldn’t play. But looking back at it now, a lot of early Hardcore bands like the Adolescents, the Bad Brains or Die Kreuzen for instance were phenomenal musicians. Compared to those bands, Agnostic Front could actually not play. But somehow, they were able to create an incredibly powerful, menacing, insane sound. They were inspired by DC bands like Iron Cross and SOA who also couldn’t play, but those bands seemed to know what their limits were. Agnostic Front did not. They played like they were in a fist fight with their own limitations. Raybeez couldn’t keep a beat to save his life, but instead of sticking to simple beats he tried to overcome himself by playing really chaotic, busydrum beats with a bunch of crazy drum fills all over them. Agnostic Front didn’t want to admit they couldn’t play, not to themselves and not to you. Other early New York Hardcore bands who couldn’t play were goofy kids who sang funny lyrics about how they couldn’t play. Agnostic Front were Skinheads who sang about how they were going to beat you up. Their message was simple: people had been fucking with them their entire lives and they weren’t gonna take it anymore. The intense atmosphere around this record changed NYHC forever. It showed people that you didn’t need to make fun of yourself for not being good at something that you cared about. It showed that you could make a statement even if you had nothing.

agnosticfront14

CTM – If we are talking about Agnostic Front, then we must talk about the Psychos too. Before the “United Blood” EP, the Psychos were a better and more popular band than Agnostic Front. “Discriminate Me” and “Fight” originally were the Psychos songs, finally both songs ended up on AF’s classic debut 7 inch. The Psychos are the true representation of what NYHC sounded like back in early 80s, but they are really underrated. What’s the reason for this?
Spoiler – The Psychos could never keep a line-up together. Every time they gained some momentum, someone would quit the band and they would have to start over again with a new member. The core member of the band, Billy Psycho, was an actual psycho and I imagine it wasn’t easy being in a band with him. They were like NYHC bootcamp, you started out playing in the Psychos and then you would start your own band.

psychos02

The Psychos at A7 (Roger on bass)

CTM – “The socially relevant message of Agnostic Front: we were all underdogs and it was us against the world.”Agnostic Front against society’s system (“Remind Them”), Agnostic Front against the NYPD (“Blind justice”), Agnostic Front against anyone else (“Your Mistake”). These early AF songs took the us-versus-them mentality, they hate society and they are here to fight. What’s your opinion on this?
Spoiler – Agnostic Front’s message can be summed up in one quote from their hero band, Iron Cross: Unite Against the Enemy. Roger always told his crowd we’re all in this together, and I’ve always, to some extent, believed in the message of unity that Agnostic Front spread throughout their lifespan. I have always interpreted it as an all-inclusive invitation to anyone who genuinely doesn’t feel at home in greater society and wants to create something better for those who feel the same. As I get older, and live through the terrifying political climate of 2018, I can’t help but see mistakes in the way that Agnostic Front applied their idea of unity. Whether you’re talking about the NYHC or the society you live in, you can’t tolerate extreme right wing ideologies. In the eighties, AF allowed that to an extent, because those people said they’re also underdogs, and they deserved to be part of that underdog scene. But these kinds of people don’t have good intentions towards everyone else in thecommunity. They’re there to spread hate. They’re against the unity, or the inclusiveness that’s allowing them to be there in the first place. When it comes to Hardcore, these people’s politics are directly against the people of colour that created the original NYHC scene and music in the first place. So in that sense, I think the us-versus-them mentality can be dangerous if you aren’t careful with who you allow to be on your side. But I understand that the eighties were a confusing time and I’m glad we can learn from their mistakes. It’s important to talk about, but it shouldn’t be the focus. Agnostic Front did so many positive things for Hardcore and Punk and I’ll always be grateful. We still have to unite against the enemy, but remember who’s the enemy.

CTM – Stigma still lives at the same address printed inside the gatefold sleeve of Victim In Pain. A few years ago I visited NYC, I knew that I wouldn’t have much free time so I decided to use in a way that would fit my tastes in the best way possible. My first thing was to go to Little Italy, and ate some meatballs at Cafetal on Mott Street. Vinnie Stigma lives upstairs of this building, but he wasn’t home.
Spoiler – He was probably cooking some meatballs!

agnosticfront15

CTM – Stigma was sometimes criticized for not being able to play well. What do you think about the United Blood 7″ and Victim In Pain album musically? Critics deride Vinnie Stigma’s guitar talents, or lack thereof but Stigma is the only guitarist on those classic first two Agnostic Front records.
Spoiler – United Blood and Victim In Pain are easily their best records. People who make fun of a guitarist like Vinnie Stigma are the kind of people who will never write a good song in their entire lives. These are the people who spend all their time worrying about technique, guitar tone, pedals and gear. They can flawlessly imitate every guitarist they worship, but no one will ever know their name. None of that bullshit matters if you can’t write a good song. Vinnie Stigma didn’t need anything to create the sound that changed music forever. It was just him and his visionary mind, sitting at his mother’s kitchen table in Little Italy in 1977, writing Power. The people that make fun of bad guitarplaying will never understand the absolute genius of a song like Power.

CTM – What do you think about the infamous cover of “Victim In Pain”? The cover was taken out of a World War Two book, and lot of people misunderstand that. (The original picture of “Victim In Pain” was a completely different cover, it was a picture of Miret on top of the crowd at CBGB’s.)
Spoiler – I have never understood the controversy. It’s an image of victimization on an album called Victim In Pain. It’s an image showing the horrors of fascism on an album with anti-fascist lyrics written by a person of colour. What is the controversy? In 2018, we could say that the victim in the photo is Jewish, and none of the band members in that line-up are (their former bassplayer Adam Mucci is), so you could say it’s cultural appropriation – but in 1984 no one cared about that, so what was the controversy then? You could say it exploits war imagery, but what classic Punk album doesn’t? Would they say the same about Crass or Crucifix records? I think it was really a matter of people wanting to believe that they were Nazis using a photo of a Nazi, and they didn’t want to listen to what Roger and the band had to say about it. They believed the gossip mill in the pages of MRR, written by a guy who performed in a Hitler moustache!

CTM – “Victim In Pain” has just come out at the time when Roger Miret was asked to join the Cro-Mags and sing for them. (He played bass for the Cro-Mags first show when Eric Casanova was the singer, Paris was on guitar and Harley played drums.) What would have happened if Roger had joined the Cro-Mags?
Spoiler – The Cro-Mags would not have been as good with Roger singing, and Agnostic Front would not have been as good with someone else singing. Everyone made the right choice. The Cro-Mags sound was much more developed, with much more going on rhythmically than AF’s music. Roger’s singing style is straight forward and simplistic, and it would not have matched the Cro-Mags music that well. But it works perfectly for Victim In Pain. Even as frontmen, the Cro-Mags needed John Joseph’s wide range of high energy moves to go with the rhythms. Miret has a more laid back, straight forward style that doesn’t rely as much on moves but on pure charisma, exactly like AF’s music.

agnosticfront16

To be continued soon!

 

 

Chiller Than Most #6 (Agnostic Front, Unified Right, Outburst, Freedom, Hypocrite, Big Cheese, Meline Gharibyan, Motor City Madness)

Chiller Than Most fanzine, issue 6

Online store : http://chillerthanmost.bigcartel.com.

– An in-depth analysis of the history of Agnostic Front, interview with Spoiler (Stigmatism, Omegas, Justice, United Stance etc.)
– Interviews with Unified Right, Outburst, Freedom, Hypocrite, Big Cheese, Meline Gharibyan, Motor City Madness.
Cut’n’paste fanzine, A4 size, 28 pages. Cover art by Chun One.

chiller04