Interview with Roger Merit of Agnostic Front
Interview and pictures by Michael F. Coles - 10-28-07
PS - They opened up with Victim in Pain, and cut through some classics, so I was definitely pleased! Be sure and check them out on tour!!
There are times in my editorial career where I feel that "this interview could have been a lot better." That was the case with the interview I did with Roger Miret recently, vocalist for one of the few true and remaining American hard-core acts left over from the explosion in the 80's movement; Agnostic Front. I had no intentions of interviewing Agnostic Front, let alone seeing them play live again after the much disappointing performance I witnessed back on their Punk-o-Rama tour they did with The Voodoo Glow Skulls a few years back (Read - Complaining like a little Girl Part 1 - for the concert review). But after being sent the Warrior's release (newest release on Nuclear Blast), I changed my mind and asked if I could have an interview with Roger and be put on the guest list for their St. Louis performance.
You see, after their brief break up back in 92-1993, and then reuniting back in 1996, they unfortunately released 5 albums (I think 5) that were a lot more punk-happy-Disney-sing-along type tunes than what they were known for writing, or what I was used to hearing, but that was NOT Agnostic Front (no offense). I can respect bands for wanting to expand or shift their sound, but change the name as well if you are going to change styles, you know? But thankfully in 2006, with the influence of Hatebreed's Jamey Jasta, "Another Voice" was recorded and Agnostic Front was re-born. "Another Voice" pretty much started off where "One Voice" ended, but with "better" production (I prefer older sounding recordings). So thankfully these last two releases are more back to their roots in terms of voice and music, which makes me very happy! Yeah, I'm selfish. Please me, please me!
The only problem with this is that I only had 3 days to come up with my interview, and due to work, well; I pretty much just went with the flow of things. Meaning I didn't really have much of anything written down. The thing is, with people coming in and out of the room where we were sitting in, it was hard to stay focused. On top of that, we had to stop the interview briefly for about 15 minutes due to sound check, which is cool, but I should have gone to my van and prepared myself for part 2 of the interview instead of watching them sound check! DOPE!
The fact Roger is from Cuba could have been one of the most interesting parts of this interview for me due to my interests in Cuba and the culture. I was upset that I did not speak to him after the show with a follow up. I hate annoying people, and the fact he didn't even know he had an interview with me, well, I felt pressured, man! Here's a small chat with the voice behind one of the best bands in the scene.
Roger: No one told me I had an interview today.
The Outcast: Are you serious?
Roger: I swear.
The Outcast: Chris Elliot........ I mean Charles Elliot from Nuclear Blast set it up and gave me your cell number and he also took mine, so......
Roger: It would have been nice if he would have told me about it (both laughing).
The Outcast: First things first, have you ever heard of this documentary (handing him America - Freedom to Fascism)?
Roger: No, I haven't actually.
The Outcast: Well, I brought you these copies. I thought since you guys were somewhat of a political band that you might enjoy watching it.
Roger: Unfortunately we can't (on tour), but I'll definitely take it home.
The Outcast: So I read an interview where you stated that you really hated Bush. I just wanted to say that feeling is mutual.
Roger: I think Bush's popularity pretty much says a lot right now. I definitely don't think he's as popular as he used to be. My stance with Bush is....... It's always been really weird, even how he got elected to begin with. Who's to say he didn't cheat the second time around, you know? I couldn't believe he got re-elected.
The Outcast: I think a lot of people were stunned. I know I was.
Roger: But um, this is actually going to be the first time I am going to be allowed to vote my self. I've never voted in my life. I'm Cuban and I just became a citizen lat year. I'm actually excited that it's going to be the first time I vote here in America. I've been here since I was 5, but since I wasn't a citizen I was never allowed to vote. I think a lot of American's lost trust in him. We have a song called; "We want the Truth" which questions all of that; the war, 911, basically we're just demanding the truth.
The Outcast: It'll all be a bunch of lies from here on out I'm afraid.
Roger: There are so many conflicting stories and reasons why we even got into the war, you know? At the same time though, I would never turn my back on our soldiers and stuff. You can't turn your back on them, you know? I think they're even asking now; 'What's going on, really?" You have to support your troops, you can't just abandon them. They're doing a job that a lot of people won't do. It's unfortunate they're in that position, but.....
The Outcast: You mentioned you were from Cuba; do you still have family there?
Roger: Yeah, yeah.
The Outcast: That's really cool.
Roger: I actually have my passport right here (pulls it out and shows it to us). We're going to Russia and we had to go to the embassy and get our Visa's and they wanted to see my old Visa and that was in my Cuban passport. Traveling with a Cuban passport (pause), it's interesting. First of all, every other country in the world we go to thinks it's fake because they've never seen a Cuban passport. You don't really see Cuban's travel. Everyone asks me; "Is it real?" I'm like; "What do you mean? I hope it's real!"
The Outcast: We're from Mexico City (pointing at my cuzin Daniel. Que honda carnal!!??) It took me a while to get my passport because I guess they didn't believe I was an American citizen I guess due to being born in Mexico. I had to pay 2x to finally get it because they said I took to long to get the proper documents to them and that by law they could keep my money, which is complete bullshit if you ask me, meaning that I had to resend them the money and redo the whole thing (reapply). I had to wait for them in DC to send proof with some document that I also had to pay for before they would give me my passport. It's all about the $$$.
Roger: Now I'm allowed to vote. I've been here since I was 5 years old, so I've been here for a long time.
The Outcast: So you speak Spanish fluently?
Roger: Yeah, it's my first language.
The Outcast: That's so awesome. I don't think I ever had a clue man and I've been a fan for a long time. The first time I finally got to catch you guys live was that really peculiar tour you guys were on with Time Ghoul, Obituary and Cannibal Corpse.
Roger: Wow that was 1991. That was also with Malevolent Creation.
The Outcast: Yeah, it was. I was so pumped at that show. It was at Club 367 in St. Louis. I had shorter hair than what I do now (skin-head basically). A couple of kids came up to me and said; "You fucking skins are awesome." I turned to him, didn't say a word, but nodded with my head; "yes." In my head I was laughing though; a Mexican skin-head!
Roger: It's funny that you say that, but look at my self being in NY. It wasn't uncommon, NY is a multiracial, multicultural, so a Mexican skin-head is nothing out of the ordinary.
The Outcast: I had no idea (basically, when I think of a skin-head, I think of white supremacy).
Roger: I'm Cuban, I grew up in an all Latin community. There's a lot of Blacks, Spanish, all skin-heads, you know, but it wasn't.... there was never a racist part of it. The guy standing out there, Rico, he's Dominican and he's been a skin-head since 1981 and he's still out there and he has black skin, pero es Dominicano. When you start going out to these weird areas where's it's more dominant it's weird. Being from NY, it's nothing new to us, you know? We didn't know that there were different sides or anything. We liked the ethnic part about it, you know? We didn't know some people just look at it as just "white" you know?
The Outcast: So obviously you guys are against racism.
Roger: (Stressing in his voice) Yeah, there was no need for it. We never really knew......
The Outcast: What racism really was.
Roger: Really. NY is like that, you know what I'm saying. It's an interesting..... You don't really feel it. Then later in life as you get older you start realizing it. You have your Italian neighborhood, your Russian neighborhood, your Spanish neighborhood, you don't cross those lines, but then you do and then you experience the racism.
The Outcast: Have you guys ever had any issues at shows with the racist skins?
Roger: We used to. Sometimes when you get a mix of everybody, a lot of people...... There's nothing wrong with pride. I'm proud to be Spanish. I have it tattooed on me (pointing at his neck) 100% Latino, you know? I'm proud of that. If you want to be proud you're white, that's fine, but if you start pushing on my people and thinking you're better, then it becomes an issue, you know?
The Outcast: When I lived in Texas in the late 80's there were usually always conflicts between the punks, skins, and metal-heads at the shows. I think that over time the hate between all of the different types of people in these extreme scenes has gotten a bit more peaceful in my opinion. What do you think or feel? Disagree or agree?
Roger: It's definitely different now. I think they're more united, but there are all different types of fighting now. People want to prove themselves and be a part of something they feel they have to fight to get them selves accepted, you know? Shows have been really good. This is show #4, no fights, no nothing, it's been really good.
The Outcast: Growing up in Cuba, were you raised Catholic or a certain cultural religious belief?
Roger: Yeah, we were pretty much hard-core Catholics. The only times we went to church was Easter and Christmas. My mom put is in catholic school for better education and we had to go more often, but we still really didn't go as much. I got my holy communion. We pretty much follow more Cuban traditions when it comes to the whole Catholic side of things. It's Catholic with another ingredient in it.
The Outcast: What are your opinions on religion?
Roger: My opinion on religion is that it's good to believe and have faith. I think a lot of religion is about faith in believing, but it's so confusing to me. Every body seems to tell a different story and I think everybody is seeking the same person. Some people call it God. Some people call it Allah, or whatever they call it. Being agnostic, I guess I'll figure it out when I do die. I do believe there is a greater power and I do believe in reincarnation or something further to go to. But I'm not going to make that decision until I see it with my own eyes? To some people religion has done good, I've seen that with my own eyes. I've seen people that were definitely on a self-destruction mission, getting involved with a certain religious group and it really made him a better person. Some people need that crutch, you know?
The Outcast: Where do you see yourself and Agnostic Front in the future? Do you plan on doing this until you die?
Roger: This is more than just music to us, it's been our life, you know? It's a movement, you know? It's something we kinda created not knowing we were doing it and we loved it, we adored it, and we still do. As long as there is still a demand for Agnostic Front, there will always be Agnostic Front. And even 100 years from now when were not around......
The Outcast: I know for a fact you have definitely left an impression already.
Roger: Yeah I think that impression is going to be left forever.
The Outcast: Agnostic Front is one of the few bands left from the original American hard-core movement. It doesn't look like you or Stigma are going anywhere anytime soon (I hope).
Roger: Exactly. We're still in the public eye. We've never really fallen out of the public eye. If somebody could pick up "Victim in Pain" or "One Voice" 100 years from now and feel that exact same way as I was feeling when I wrote it, you know, the legacy is going to live on forever.
The Outcast: Do you have any closing words man? I'm going to go ahead and cut it off here. I feel bad taking up your time when you didn't know you had an interview.
Roger: I want to say thanks for the interview and I always want to thank people for buying our records and coming to our shows. If it wasn't for you, people following us, and stuff......We appreciate that, you know, people writing about us, stuff like that. It's not an "all take" situation, it's a give and take, and you have to work with each other. And if it wasn't for those people buying our records we wouldn't have no where to play or no reason to be here, so I always give thanks for the people for supporting us for so many years. Visit our site www.agnosticfront.com or you can find us on My Space.
The Outcast: Dude, I can't believe all the bands on My Space. EVERYONE is on My Space, it's an epidemic.
Roger: You have to be man. You have to be up with the times. We come from the generation when there were no cell phones. No internet. We did it the rough way. Finding a public telephone and calling people. No Map Quest, none of that shit! But in the long run, it was all worth it.