1980 is when it all began. Guitarist Vinnie Stigma founded Agnostic Front in his hometown of New York City. Within years, Victim In Pain was released. This instant classic proved to be the starting point of a succesful career, spanning over three decades. Let's skip to the present day. In a matter of months, Agnostic Front will be releasing their eleventh studio album: The American Dream Died. If this isn't the perfect excuse for a chat with bassist Mike Gallo, I don't know what is. Keep on reading for more information on the upcoming record, a recollection of Mike's highs and lows since joining Agnostic Front, a look into the future, etc.
In April, The American Dream Died will be released. What can we expect?
16 songs 28 minutes of pure, intense New York Hardcore! About 8 of the songs are more in the vain of the early Agnostic Front years. We called this the "Sunday Matinee Sessions". It's a fast moving record. Very diverse and it touches on most eras of the band. All killer, no filler!
The album title suggests discontentment with the way things are going in the US. Care to explain?
Let me make this clear. We have always been proud of where we're from. It's the government and the people running this country that are slowly taking away our freedom. They are draining this once so promising country down the drain. We need to make people aware of this!
April will be an important month for Agnostic Front. Besides releasing the new album, the band is scheduled to play at Kirk Von Hammett's Fear FestEvil in San Jose. Being asked by Metallica’s Kirk Hammett must have felt pretty sweet?
Growing up, Metallica was my favorite band. You can't touch those first three records. It's impossible not to be influenced by them in some way. It is definitely and honor and a privilege to play this show. I'm really excited!
It has been four years since Agnostic Front released a studio album (My Life My Way). I can only assume that the constant touring has taken its toll?
The touring lifestyle can definitely take a lot out of you. We don't tour as much as we used to. It's harder these days because we all have families. The reason why it took us longer to release this record is because we had a member change (guitarist Joseph James left the band in 2014, - PV). That was a major setback. Luckily, it all worked out in the end.
You’ve been part of Agnostic Front since 2001. What have been the highs and lows of those 14 years? What album or song are you most proud of?
Eight years ago, was the hardest period in my life. I lost my mother and grandmother 2 months apart. I was not working at the time and was taking care of the both of them for eight months. Nothing worse, than watching the two most important people in your life being sick like that. My mother passed away at the age of 55 from cancer. My grandmother was 74 and suffered from cirrhosis of the liver. I did miss a few tours, but I had to be there for my family.
I guess the best times in the band had to be when I first joined back in 2001. I was on such a high alone, just being in one of my favorite bands. It's hard to pinpoint an exact time, but I'm sure You could image how exciting this was for me. Basically: my dream came true!
Without a doubt, this new record is hands down the best thing I have ever been a part of musically. I have recorded on eight studio albums. In all honesty, I can say that I'm proud of all those records. I love the last Stigma-record me and Vinnie did. It is titled For Love & Glory. We never got a chance to tour much for it, so not that many people got a chance to hear it. I wrote most of the music on that album. I believe it's a great punk rock record. Here's a link to the video we did. The song is called Don't Lose Faith.
Prior to Agnostic Front, what other bands have you been in?
I was in two bands before joining Agnostic Front. My main band was On The Rise. We did two demos, a three song EP and one full length called Burning Inside on Bridge 9 records and Iscream Records in Europe. I sang for a band called Quibron for a brief amount of time. We only had a demo that I was not on.
How did you end up replacing Rob Kabula on bass?
I met these guys a few years before I joined the band. Rob was always cool and we got along really well. I used to hang out at shows with them all the time. So we all knew each other well. Rob approached me and asked if I wanted to take his place. He was tired of touring and wanted to spend time with his family.
While researching this interview, I noticed that there’s a former MLB-pitcher with the same name. Do you play sports or do you have other hobbies besides music?
That's funny you mentioned that. I was thinking about getting his jersey. When I was a kid, I was heavily involved with sports...especially baseball. I also played football, lacrosse and street hockey. But that was when I was a kid. I stopped caring about sports after getting involved in the music scene. Going to Hardcore shows, was a sport in itself. But being in two bands, working as a barber and finding time to spend with friends and family... I really have no time for anything else, besides working out when I have free time. So you can say, I'm a pretty busy guy.
Besides playing bass for Agnostic Front, you are also a barber. How do you combine those two things? Why did you decide to become a barber?
What's best about being a barber, is that my schedule is flexible. The shops I work at, make it possible for me to do both. I love both my jobs. I work very hard, and loving what I do has been the key to my success. I chose to cut hair, because I always had an interest in it being a creative job. Another reason is that it's a profession that can't be taken away by a computer. It's not too backbreaking, so I will be able to do what I love until I'm ready to retire.
Both Vinnie Stigma and Roger Miret are involved in side projects. Would you consider this as well?
sometime in the near future, this will probably happen. I love writing music and I have no intentions on stopping any time soon. I will definitely start my own band one day.
Last year, Agnostic Front played in Minsk (Belarus). A gig in Puerto Rico is also coming up. These are not the most common locations for a Hardcore band to perform. What are your thoughts on this?
Hardcore is worldwide. I Just did an interview with a magazine from India, begging us to come there to play. It's just that most bands don't branch out that far. We love to play in as many cities or countries as possible. These people are hungry for music, it shows from the responses we get. So, we will continue to cover as much ground as possible . We are lucky to have so many fans all over the world. I feel blessed!
From time to time, Agnostic Front plays a show in Boston. How is that like? When listening to a song like Fuck New York by Slapshot, it’s difficult not to notice some sort of rivalry/bad blood between NYC and Boston. Is it just teasing or does it go much deeper?
Yes, there's always been a bit of a rivalry and especially when that song was released. Choke from Slapshot (vocalist, - PV) confronted us about that. He made a public apology that was filmed. It's old news and in the past now. In fact, our new guitar player Craig Silverman is in Slapshot. That buried the hatched and united NYC and Boston again. We just played in Boston a few months ago, to a sold out crowd. It was a great show and a lot of fun.
On your left arm, you have a large tattoo of a devil/demon. How important are tattoos for you. Any upcoming tattoos planned?
The tattoo is actually an angel, fighting off the demon. Meaning that we all fight our own demons in life. In all honesty, it was bad planning and choosing the wrong guy to do this one. So it did not come out all that good. But it does have meaning, as most of my ink does. The rose on my neck, was for my mother. A Guadalupe piece on my leg, is in memory of my grandmother. NYHC (New York Hardcore, - PV) is on the back of my neck, bcause it's the scene that made me who I am.
In 2006, CBGB’s closed its doors. Having played there on so many occasions, it must have been depressing news for all involved with Agnostic Front. In your opinion, what has been the impact of the closure on Agnostic Front and on the NYHC-scene in general?
This was a huge blow to the entire NYC music scene. So many other clubs closed down around this time as well. This place was monumental. It should have never closed down. It can't express how much I miss this place. All of us in Agnostic Front (musicians and fans), feel the same way. The music scene, will never be the same without CBGB's.
Agnostic Front exists for over 30 years. Do you think the band has another few decades left?
I believe we have another decade left in us. Maybe a little more. That's hard to say, we will do this until we physically can't do it anymore. As of now, there's no slowing us down.
Some multiple choice questions to do with NYC and the Hardcore-scene:
✓NY Giants or NY Jets?
✓Mets or Yankees?
✓New York Dolls or KISS?
✓Jay Leno or Jimmy Fallon?
✓Old school moshing or Hardcore dancing (I can’t stand it)?
✓Pro-Pain or Born From Pain?
Thanks very much for your time! Some final words for our readers?
Do what you love! Life is too short... Cheers, Mike Gallo
Agnostic Front's upcoming studio album - The American Dream Died - will be released on April 4th (EU). Pre-ordering is possible by visiting the Nuclear Blast-Webshop.
Interview conducted by Pieter-Jan Vanden Broeck