[Originally published: Issue #6, circa 1989]
Article written by Scott Helig of Total Thrash fanzine
With an undeniable New York accent, lead singer of AGNOSTIC FRONT introduces the band. “Oh boy! This is AGNOSTIC FRONT: me, Vinnie, Craig, and the rest of the guys. What else?” Vinnie cheerfully interjects “I’ll say something! Hello, my name is Vinnie. This is Roger with the disco haircut, Craig on bass, Steve on guitar, and Willie on drums!” With all the new bands coming out these days, you gotta wonder how all the newcomers compare with the innovators like BAD BRAINS and CAUSE FOR ALARM. Roger thinks, “…it’s the same. There are a lot of good bands out today, just the older ones had to be the first ones.” I am intrigued by the cover of the new album. According to Roger, “it’s trying to express liberty and justice for all. If you read the lyrics and see the cover, you got the man on top who’s fighting the war and thinking about it, then he’s got his family in the corner. He’s like, is it worth it?” Vinnie thinks it portrays “a great social injustice,” which causes Roger to laugh at Vinnie’s new found technicality in expression.
The crossover scene seems to be something that AGNOSTIC FRONT ran into and are now moving away from. “To tell you the truth, I prefer more hardcore than crossover. I just prefer the hardcore edge over the metal edge. Most of the band feels this way too.” If you have their new LP, you may be intrigued by some of the rather abstract lyrics they have. So Roger explained some of them. ” ‘Anthem’ is about going back to the old style, early stuff like ‘United Blood.’ ‘Genesis’ is about people telling you what to do, and how the world started. It’s an agnostic song. ‘Strength’ is a straight-edge song about having the strength to be straight. Sometimes a straight-edge band will tell you what to do, but you should do what you believe is right and take it upon yourself.”
On the new record, the band also covers the band IRON CROSS with the song, “Crucified.” But why? We’ve been covering it for years. We’ve been playing it since we’ve played Philly. “IRON CROSS is one of our favorite bands and that’s one of their best songs.” “Liberty and Justice for…” is dedicated to Roger’s wife and child. How does family life affect the band? “No negative ways – only positive. We’re still here and the baby’s there. We used to go out like crazy madmen and do stuff, now I have a little more responsibility. I watch where I go. It’s gonna be worth getting there.”
Recently, one of my European friends told me that he didn’t think the US punks were interested in foreign bands as much as foreigners are interested in US bands. Roger says, “It used to be the other way around when it started out. It’s about time. I personally think US bands are better. I think hardcore is better than early punk.” About how long have the members been involved in punk/hardcore? “I’m 23 and I’ve been involved with hardcore for about 8 years. Craig is 18 and has been involved with hardcore for about 8 years. Craig is 18 and has been involved for about three years. Will is 17, about 3 years for his involvement too. Steve Martin is 22 and has been involved for about 7 years. Vinnie is 32 and was involved before them.” On the topic of politics, Roger says, “I don’t care about those politics. I’m more concerned with paying my mortgage.” According to rumors, AGNOSTIC FRONT didn’t play Philly sooner due to Roger’s jail term. He says elusively, “Yeah, it’s all bullshit. It was stupid reasons.” I guess I won’t ask anything else because it seems like something that Roger would like to forget about!
Being a band that has seen a lot of the scenes fade away and disappear, how and why did Roger get involved with punk? “I used to be into disco. Now I’m back into disco. I used to be a disco boy back when I heard hardcore and liked it. Now I’m back into disco.” Mosh is a pretty overused word. Now, Vinnie, did you invent that word? “No, not really. Rastafarians use that word a lot. As far as hardcore goes, bands like the MOB have used that word a lot. Mosh means dancing. It’s like ‘yo’ or ‘oi.” It could be used a lot of different ways. Being a skinhead band, I wondered what they thought being a skin meant; like whether it’s the look or a mentality. “If you can say the alphabet A to Z and count to 10, you’re a skinhead,” Vinnie says. “It’s a way of life, not a haircut.”
On the topic of straight-edge, Roger said, “Me myself, I’m straight. I like the straight-edge kids and stuff but I’m starting to think it’s the same as the skinhead stuff. What’s the difference? They don’t wear suspenders and Dr. Martens, but the same thing happens. They come to shows, see their bands, and then leave when their bands play. Meanwhile, we’re a band that’s been around for a long time, and I consider everything we say to be positive. I think it’s a new form of fascism. They talk about anti-fascism. They talk about unity, but when someone with long hair will come in, they won’t accept.” Vinnie adds “or a punk rocker or someone that drinks. Just ’cause they drink a beer they won’t accept them. That’s fascism to me.”
The “America” thing is a big topic with New York bands. What do you think about it? “There’s nothing wrong with America – that’s what this album explains. We’re fighting for what we’ve been fighting for from the very beginning — what the flag should stand for – liberty and justice.” But how can the flag stand for liberty and justice when the people that “made” it kept slaves and killed Indians? “What the flag stands for and what we have is totally different. That’s what we’re on stage fighting for. They’re [the government] standing for money. They don’t care.”
AGNOSTIC FRONT is a band that is widely talked about by people who like and dislike them. What would they like to hear people say about them? “Good stuff. I don’t know. I like to keep it controversial. I like to hear all the bullshit rumors so then I have something to talk about on stage. We’re a unity band, we’re a good band, we’ve been around for a long time. I think people that like us come out to see us and people who don’t stay home.” Their closing comments? “Geez, I don’t know what to say. A few minutes later, Vinnie had an ingenious closing comment: “Punk’s not dead. It’s in a coma.”