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It's been a while since I've seen Agnostic Front. In fact, it has been so long that I can't even remember when exactly it was. So needless to say, I was quite excited to see that they were doing a West Coast tour with First Blood and playing in Denver on December 18. However I about fell to the floor when I found out that I was going to be able to interview them. Agnostic Front has been one of my favorite bands since I was a teen and never in my life would I have thought that I would have a chance to sit down with the band that influenced me the most, both musically and in my way of life.

Right before the band started their soundchecks, I was able to sit down with Vinnie Stigma (guitar) and Mike Gallo (bass) to talk about the scene, their music and what's it like to be the Godfathers of New York Hardcore.

Hybrid Magazine: So how is the tour going to far?

Mike Gallo: Awesome, it's good to be on the West coast. We thought we were going to escape the cold over here, but we thought wrong.

Vinnie Stigma: I knew it was going to be cold. It's Denver, you know. Even New Mexico was cold.

HM: So on this leg of the tour I've noticed that it was mostly West coast. Are you guys planning on doing an East coast tour as well?

MG: Yes. We just did a little East coast tour, like going up to Canada and back for two weeks. Then we are doing a two-week over here on the west coast. And the end of January, beginning of February, we will be going down East coast towards like Florida.

VS: All the gaps that we didn't fill.

MG: And then after that we will be doing two weeks like Midwest. We just like to avoid all the bullshit in between. You know just do two weeks here, there. Not really worth it you know.

HM: That's my next question. I noticed that you do two-week intervals. Why?

VS: Well, we do a few months at a time in Europe, you know what I mean. Then we do a couple of weeks in South America. And that is a lot of plane hopping. You don't like traveling on a plane everyday, from Santiago, Chile to Caracas, Venezuela to Bogota, Columbia, those are real big jumps. You got to get in a plane and go up, come down, you know what I mean. It's not a little drive from Boulder to Denver. That would be nice.

HM: Is there a difference between the fans in Europe compared to the US?

VS: It depends, like anything else, we've got our friends. We got our family all over the world. So really to us it don't matter. I really don't have a favorite place to play you know what I mean. As long as I'm playing, there's my friends, people come see the band, I'm happy. I'm grateful.

MG: I think we have a bigger fan base in Europe though. They are more hungry out there.

VS: Then you get into Russia... It's just like the rest of the world only has soccer. We got hockey, baseball, football, you know. What else. So it's kinda different. The American kids are a little bit different. But sure, we got our fan base and everything like that. You know how that goes.

HM: Since you guys have been together for 25 years now, have you noticed a huge difference from when you first started and when you get back together in the 90's to now?

VS: Well you know years ago the kids were more, let's just say, dressed hardcore. They danced different. They listened a little more differently. There was more metal added. The little kids [today] like a little hippy, hopity. You know.

MG: It evolves.

VS: But there are still the kids, the punk rockers, white boys that come see us. We do have our fan base, which is cool to see. You know that.

MG: Sometimes the scene has its up times and its low times, you know. It always comes back around full circle.

HM: I was going to say that I've noticed in Denver that there are a lot more metal kids coming to the shows. Are you guys seeing the same thing in New York?

MG: Well back in the day there was. There was a lot of that and then it died down. Just like I said, things come and go.

VS: And we have a little more metal flavor, too, these days.

HM: Yeah, you can differently hear that in more recent years.

MG: Different band members. But we still do a good mix of everything just to keep everyone happy and keep ourselves happy.

HM: One of the questions that I did want to ask was about CBGBs. I know that you guys did a lot to help keep it open. Do you think that it closing, since it was the central point of hardcore, has changed the hardcore scene?

VS: You will feel the impact within a few years. Right now, let's just say, it's like a death in the family and everyone is in shock. But you will feel it. You know you have to keep the spirit alive, you know what I mean.

HM: I know you said that you don't have any favorite places to play, but are there any memories or shows that stand out in your mind?

MG: Well we played this one show in Bulgaria were we all thought we were going to die.

VS: Yeah... the guy carrying torches.

MG: Yeah, there was a guy walking around with tiki torches.

HM: Really?

MG: Yeah, that was hell.

VS: And that was right after that thing with the fire. That Great White thing… They wanted to play a small club and people put up fireworks. I don't know what their fantasy was, but their fantasy turned into a reality and 100 or more people died.

MG: We don't deal with the pyrotechnics. We don't need it. We are more fucking energy. Hardcore. Punk Rock.

HM: In your songs you talk about unity and family, do you think that it is still as important today as it was when you first started?

VS: It is always important. Always important. The world changes, but the message must be the same.

MG: You got to keep the kids mentally strong, you know what I mean. You got to let them know that this means something. Sometimes it sucks because the kids keep fighting each other within the scene. You know this is all we got.

VS: That is why I tell them to squish everything. I come to make the peace.

MG: You know when the kids come together they fight each other. We are supposed to have unity in the scene, you know. We are all outcast and come together for the music, for the message, to get our energy out, and forget about what goes on in your everyday life. We are not here to fight each other. Go punch your boss in the face if he is being an asshole. I sometimes hear people complaining that they got moshed into. Who cares, forget about it. They're not doing it on purpose. I mean some kids do, which is stupid, but what are you going to do. Someone next to you gets knocked to the floor, pick them up. You get knocked over; he picks you up, whatever. You know we are here for each other.

HM: Sigh. I am just so excited because you are one of my favorite bands and I remember hearing you in high school, which is probably when most people first hear of you, and it totally changed the way I saw things. There was a certain comment that was said, "No one is born with tattoos. No one's born hardcore. But when the ink or the music sets in, you're changed." It's interesting how hardcore isn't just music, but a way of life.

MG: Every time we play we ask if this is their first time seeing Agnostic Front and so many kids are raising their hands. And that's great. You know when I was a kid, I listened to all sorts of music, metal, whatever, ska, punk. Then my friends brought me to a Murphy's Law show. You know, that's it. You know it is just word of mouth. You know, you bring someone to a show. They'll tell somebody. That is how it all starts. You know.

HM: Are you finding that word of mouth is still the best way to promote your band?

VS: Well there's the Internet and that is the word of mouth today. It's easy to get the message out there.

HM: What was it like before?

MG: Back then there were flyers and fanzines and word of mouth.

VS: You know we would hand out flyers. You know people always tell me, "God, how did you tour without a cell phone?" I got navigation on there now, but before you would drive. You would see a phone booth. You pull over. You hop out. You put the dime in. You dial the number and pray that the guy was home. Otherwise you had to look up the name, you know.

HM: So do you find it easier now to tour?

VS: Well we are a little more organized. You know. Been there done that.

HM: How does it feel after 25 years that you are still on top and being known as the Godfathers of Hardcore?

VS: Well, I'm proud. I don't understand how anybody, especially the original members of hardcore throughout the world, fizzle out. How do you do that? You know? You were in there and were a part of it. I have a business. I have a kid. Sickness and health, death and birth, I understand that. Show up when your friend's band is playing or a band that you like. You know. That's all. Get out and enjoy it. Don't just drop it. You know. Some people think it is over.

HM: Or they feel they have to grow up.

VS: Yeah, well I am 53 years old! What are you talking about?

MG: We got friends that have families, kids, and they still come to shows.

VS: Music is about music. The thing is that you don't grow out of culture. You grow out of clothes maybe or something. Not a culture.

HM: So, what do you recommenddoing to keep yourself and stick to your roots?

VS: You can do interviews. You can do photography. You can put out a fanzine. You can start your own band. You can be a weekend warrior or just show up to a show. You know. Support a band. Buy a t-shirt from them. You don't have be on the road or be a road dog like me. You know what I mean?

HM: Speaking about supporting a band, do you think downloading music for free is not supporting a band?

MG: You know. It is like a double edge sword. Nowadays with the Internet and stuff, it can either help you or hurt you. Let's put it this way. Nobody, not even Brittney Spears, sells a million records like you used to. It is just so easy. You can't even blame people for just taking the music. Honestly I never do that.

VS: Oh you are so innocent.

MG: I am! You know what? I go on iTunes and buy it directly for $10. I think it's better to do something like that. It can help you because the Internet helps get music out to more people that way, but it's definitely different from buying records or CDs and seeing artwork. You know everyone has an iPod, I am a victim too, iPods, iPhones. You know. But you really don't get the artwork. You don't get to read about the band, no lyrics. That's like non-existent anymore. I think that kids don't care anymore, but that's stupid. Maybe if they start adding that stuff, kids will get back into it. Like I said, it goes both ways. It helps us and it hurts us. Nowadays, bands are just giving their music away. Either way just come to the show and support the band. You know. If you are going to fucking steal the music at least come to the show and buy a shirt or something. I mean I know the economy is tough these days, but we've traveled far. I mean you don't know what we sacrificed to be in a band.

HM: I can only imagine.

MG: I mean, Christ, I live with him (pointing at Vinnie) I don't even have my own apartment. I mean I don't even have time to get one.

HM: Well, I think that is it. Anything else?

VS: Me and Mike have our solo album from Stigma that is coming out on February 17th and I have a movie called New York Blood coming out January 6th. You can look it up on http://myspace.com/stigma and see a trailer. So we got the album, New York Blood, and the movie New York Blood. And we will be on tour soon.

HM: What's the movie about?

VS: It is a father and son story about a mafia, Soprano, horror. But not a horror like you think monsters. Real, reality horror let's say. I call it gangster gore.

HM: I don't think I have heard that term before.

VS: Well I invented it. That's why.

HM: Well if I hear that again I know.

VS: Know I invented that!

HM: Cool. Well I will definitely have to check it out.

VS: Yeah well I hope everyone comes to the shows. Have a nice Christmas everybody. And I always wanted to get interviewed by Fran Drescher.

HM: Haha. I don't look like her.

VS: Yeah I think so. You just have this whole Fran Drescher thing going on. I love it.

HM: Cool, well thank you.

VS: Thank you.

-Melissa Skrbic-Huss

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