Since the early 1980s, Roger Miret has been the mouthpiece for Agnostic Front, one of the best bands to emerge not just from the New York hardcore scene but American hardcore music. Incredibly, Miret and Agnostic Front are still bringing their physical shows to crowds around the world (see December tour dates following the interview) and recording new music (The American Dream Died was released earlier this year).
Although Miret is strongly identified with New York hardcore he now lives in Arizona, where he and his wife are raising a family and trying to find the best ethnic food. The Decibel Hall Of Fame inductee (along with the rest of Agnostic Front for Cause For Alarm) talked to us earlier this year about the old New York and his new life thousands of miles away.
You come from the generation where you had to search out records – where records were special. Do you think that time was better because you had to work so hard? Or do you think people can make the same kind of journey of discovery today?
The search is a little different now. Things are easily accessible. To be honest, I think the way we did it when we were kids was a lot more passionate and fun and I loved it. And that’s because it’s how I did it and it was my party. Today is their party. But there is so little search involved with things so easily accessible. Everything is right there – you can Google it. You don’t have to do research or write to people and wait a week or two for a response. Life was just a lot more personal back then.
When you see kids today they don’t go outside and play on the streets. They are inside playing on their video games and laptops and iPads. It’s a different generation. I have a kid now and I want them to grow up like I did. And they go out and there’s no one to play with! But you also need them to stay with the times. It’s a give and take. I back up my theory, though: the way we did it was better and that’s that.
I remember very well days where we’d get a cassette recorder, put the tape in, flip it back and forth and skateboard for six hours.
In New York City, we were out every single night in the city with a boom box. That was our scene, just like your skateboard. You didn’t need a band to play. You just went out and did your thing.
What was a trip to the record store in New York City like for you when you were young?
The local record stores weren’t just where you found music. It’s where you found people. Going to your first record store was a bit scary because you were seeking music that attached you to something, made a bond. You discovered this music you were so passionate about. So you’d go to the record store and you'd find people like you. The next thing you know you’d look on the walls and there are flyers for bands and shows. That’s how I joined one of my earliest bands The Psychos; they were looking for a bass player. The record store was my hub, my Internet. I discovered not only music but also a movement. And the rest was history.
You could special order at record stores. The right store would track that rare record down for you, order it, and call you when it was ready in two or three weeks.
Back then there just weren’t as many bands. Your record store didn’t need to be so gigantic. There would be stuff from the New York punk scene and a few other scenes and it still was just a handful of bands from different cities: Circle Jerks, Black Flag, DOA, Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat. Now it would be so freaking hard; you can’t even come up with a band name anymore (laughs). The other day I came across a mailer I got from Dischord Records from 1981 or 82. There was direct contact with these people – you could write Dischord and they’d tell you what was coming out. And, the actual record stores could also find stuff for you.
Dischord had stuff like the Flex Your Head compilation, which seemed entirely driven to get you to check out their other releases.
Exactly! Boston and LA had the same thing. It’s so hard for me to remember all of it. But as a kid from New York you could discover all of these cool fucking little bands and find their singles. Everyone had singles and albums were a rarity.
You mentioned when we started talking how everyone is a critic these days. In the past if you were going to criticize an album you had to put your name on the review. Now, everyone is a critic, but they are also anonymous.
I don’t have very good thoughts about that. I remember getting a bad review from (legendary A&R man) Mike Gitter. We went to Boston and he came to the show. I kind of confronted him on it (laughs). We eventually became friends. He manned up! He came to the show! He said what he had to say and he thought differently after seeing us. Look, everything in our genre is about individuality and finding who you want to be. So not everyone likes the same bands. Now you don’t know who you are talking to – probably a kid behind a computer in Sweden (laughs). Do you know how hard it is for an artist to put themselves out there? Not just a musician but a poet or a writer?
A lot of writers on established sites don’t even write using their real names.
I have someone like that in my band – Vinnie Stigma! (laughs). But it was cool back then. Sid Vicious and Vinnie Stigma. You knew who the fuck they were.
How does someone from New York get the food they love in Arizona? Or do you just have to change your diet?
(loud laughter). Man, it was a wake up call the first month living here. I was just in shock that everything closed at nine. I came out here so my wife could finish her studies she left many years ago. After we started having children it became a different thing. After our second child, it was so hard to think about going back. It’s easy when you just have a little U-Haul. Now it’s still so expensive to live in New York City. We need to stay here because we can afford it. I do love Arizona. The beauty of my life is I get to travel. I get my fixes of the world and New York City. If I had to be here 24-7 I don’t know how I would be. But the New York food is just terribly missed.
Can you get pizza? Can you get Italian food? Do you even bother?
I have my spots in Arizona. I prefer wood burning stove pizza There is a place called Pizza Bianco that always comes in at number one or two in the country. I can’t find a good Italian sandwich or hero here. There is an excellent Italian spot called Uncle Sal’s. Do you know Sammy The Bull who ratted out John Gotti? It’s his restaurant. Google that for a good laugh. They have phenomenal eggplant parmesan. But there’s nothing like New York for good food. The only thing New York was lacking when I left was Mexican food, but it’s stepped up.
What keeps you driven to keep making music?
It’s my passion and it just comes to me. With the last album, it felt like the Reagan days when things were getting more and more destructive. But I do try to stay positive. I don’t want to be a mean, miserable old man. I enjoy my life here in Arizona and we’re o.k.
Is it a challenge to keep positive being a father?
It is. Some people just want to feel safe and just want to see Kim Kardashian’s giant ass on television. And it’s sad because there are real issues going on that aren’t mentioned and blow up in your face. Like ISIS – I’ve known about that for three years. But I have to back off sometimes. My motto used to be live fast die young. Now I want to see my children have their children. I want to be a grandfather. But it is scary to think where their lives might go. This record is about a conversation. Not everyone will agree with me. But I want to be wrong sometimes because I want to debate. If you wake me up to something I’ll thank you for that.
AGNOSTIC FRONT DECEMBER TOUR:
Dec 02 Middle East Cambridge, MA
Dec 03 St. Vitus Brooklyn, NY
Dec 04 Boot & Saddle Philadelphia, PA
Dec 05 Otto Bar Baltimore, MD
Dec 06 The Chance Poughkeepsie, NY
Dec 09 Thee Parkside San Francisco, CA
Dec 10 The Roxy Theatre West Hollywood, CA
Dec 11 Alex's Bar Long Beach, CA
Dec 12 Til Two Club San Diego, CA
Dec 13 Characters Pomona, CA
Dec 14 Rebel Lounge Phoenix, AZ
Dec 15 Beauty Bar Burbank, CA
Dec 16 Black Sheep Colorado Springs, CO
Dec 17 Marquis Theater Denver, CO