Agnostic Front har härjat runt och kommenterat det politiska läget i främst USA, sedan tidigt 80-tal. Med nya albumet “The American Dream died” slår det inte av på takten. Rocksverige ringde upp sångaren Roger Miret i Phoenix, Arizona, där den gamle New York-bon numera bor med sin familj. Det blev givetvis snack om just nya albumet, men även om gamla tider, polisvåld, självbiografi och det faktum att han fortfarande har svårt att sova sedan tiden i fängelse i slutet av 80-talet:
“Still today I have to sleep in a certain way. I have to cover my eyes. They had the lights on over you and you couldn´t fucking sleep. I put a bandana over my eyes, because with any bit of light, I can´t sleep.”
About a week before I got offered this interview, I was reading an interview with you in an old Kerrang magazine, and the interview ends with a quote from you; ”Some American dream, eh?” Kinda funny considering the new album is called “The American dream died”
Roger: Really? I´d like to see that. I gotta find that one. (laughs)
So, at what point did the American dream die?
Roger: You know, that´s just a statement from me. I´m just stating that little by little, this country is leaning towards losing its values, Americans are losing their constitutional rights. You see it happening and it´s no secret, it´s out there and you can see what´s going on. The main focal point to why we call the record “The American dream died” and how this all started, is the collapse of the housing market. When that collapsed and you saw what followed with the banking collapse and then the world´s banks collapsed. Everything went to hell all over the world pretty much and that´s when I clearly was making that statement, but it followed through. It´s a little bit of everything. You watch all of the corruption on all these higher levels. Police corruption and all this police violence going on. Everything just escalated. I´m not saying the American dream when it comes to cars, apple pie, baseball… it´s all there and anybody can come to America. You can buy a home, but you won´t own it for 30 years. America is a beautiful country, but the government is just so corrupt, it´s destroying your dreams.
Are you just as angry now, as you were when the band started out?
Roger: It´s funny you say that, because for some reason it´s come full circle. I think this album has that same rage as “United blood” (1983) and “Victim in pain” (1984) does. It was a certain time back then and it´s almost like those times are coming back. It´s weird how it´s come full circle for me. I´m very angry and as I said earlier how everything´s just snowballed and for the last seven years I´ve been pissed off and little by little, I´ve been a victim of all this stuff, and it´s just grown on me to a point where you just had enough.
You mentioned police violence earlier and there´s a song on the new album with that title and the video for it is quite disturbing.
Roger: It´s just actual police violence. Police beating up on civilians. Look, police have been doing that for a very long time, but the era of the internet that we have now and with everybody having a camera now, they get caught. You see them get caught and you also see them get away with it. The world gets to see them get away with it and it pisses me off. I´m not talking about the incidents where you don´t know what happened and it´s a kinda like a he versus she story, but you don´t know the truth. I´m talking about those incidents where you actually see it with your own eyes and they still get away with it. That song is basically about those corrupted police officers that think that just because they wear that badge, they think they´re higher up than you. They don´t do what they´re supposed to do, protect and service. What really pisses me off about our reason with that song and what really got me going, was when major Bloomberg got on national TV and said that “the police are not here to protect civilians or protect the people, they´re here to serve the law” and that really pissed me the fuck off. Nobody said nothing, now we make a video and everybody wants to say something, but the truth is that I just want people to start thinking. I want people to start talking and wake up and see what´s going on. If you´re gonna act like a criminal, you should be prosecuted as a criminal. If I would do the stuff they´re doing, I´d be in jail right now.
We have problems over here as well, but I don´t think that the police violence, for example, is any way near as bad as it seems to be in the US.
Roger: Exactly. I think it´s a little bit out of control in the US. Or a little bit? It´s a lot out of control. The last clip in that video is a 19 year old girl in Seattle, getting knocked out by a police officer. That´s insane. Most of this happens in bigger cities of course. I´m not saying… I mean, if you´re gonna provoke the police, if you´re gonna throw a Molotov cocktail at the police, what do you think is gonna happen? I´m talking about those who think they´re above the authority and just beat up on people. The bad cops. I´m sure there are good cops. There´s good and bad of everything. It´s just that those bad cops get away with things and they need to be stopped.
American politics must be like an endless source of material?
Roger: Yeah, come on! (laughs) It´ll never end and it changes every fucking day. I think I´m gonna stop looking at the news. That´s my problem. I´m different than a lot of American people. Do you know what entertains American people? Hollywood movies and reality TV shows. Kim Kardashian. Who gives a fuck about that? That´s what the American people watch and that´s why they have nothing to say. They´re fucking dreaming garbage and dreaming of being the next reality TV star, or whatever the fuck they dream about. I watch the news and I watch real news, like CNN, the British news and so on. A lot of American news are favored by different political parties. At the same time, the news are starting to get me really fucking pissed off. Maybe I should stop watching the news and maybe I need to look at a reality show or two and life will be great, like it is for everybody else? But I really don´t watch that much TV. I´d rather read books and I´m too busy being a father. But I´ve witnessed a lot of this stuff that I write about. I´ve been a part of it. I have my own issues with the housing market and had a home too involved in that and I was looking for help too. I´m one of those citizens that was doing the right thing and they don´t reward you for doing the right thing. Instead of helping people and keeping everybody in their homes, greed got in the way and everybody lost everything. It´s horrible.
Do you sit down and write specifically for an album or do you kinda write all the time?
Roger: No, I don´t constantly write lyrics. Music always comes first. There´s only been two situations, that I can think of, where I have written the lyrics before the music. It´s always the music first and then I see what the music´s kinda saying to me and then I row with that. It´s not that hard to write lyrics, if you´re awake and you see what´s going on around you. It´s really not that hard. It is what it is.
What would you say is the biggest difference between Agonstic Front today and what the band was like when you started out?
Roger: As for an album, “When the American dream died”, to me it´s a classic right up there with “Victim in pain”. This record could´ve come out in 1982 or 1983 and it would´ve had as much of an impact. And I think it´s gonna make an impact. I think it´s gonna be one of those records that´s gonna stand the test of time. Back then the scene was different of course. Everything was much smaller. There were less bands, but at the same time they were easier to recognize and you knew exactly where they were from. Everybody had their own style. It was a great time to go wild and write rebellious music. It was the Reagan years. There was a lot of stuff going on. Today it´s different. It´s gotten big, but at the same time it gets watered down, but there´s also a lot of passion and people are still there. I welcome everybody to our shows, as long as you´ve got a positive attitude. Leave your ignorance behind.
Was it in a way more honest back then? More real?
Roger: I don´t know. It´s not fair to say that because it was definitely genuine and real for me back then, but I´m still genuine and real now. I can´t tell somebody young doing what we´re doing, saying they´re never gonna be real or genuine and that it´s just a fad or a trend for them. That´s individual and it depends. There are genuine and passionate people out there and there´s some trendy people out there. It was definitely smaller back then, which made it more family orientated, which made it closer knit, which made it more personal, than it is today. We were living it back then. We didn´t have to have a club or a show, we were out on the street actually listening to cassettes and living it.
What made you become this person that questions things in life? Did that have anything to do with your upbringing?
Roger: It was an interest in the world around me. You can do two things. You can follow as sheep or you can walk out a step and just really look at what´s going on around you. For a lot of people it´s just easier to follow as sheep. It´s easier to feel safe and that´s what the government does for you, it wants to make you feel like you´re safe and it wants to make you feel like you´re protected; “You´re ok, just listen to us! Do everything we tell you to do!” For instance, people start talking about something like ISIS. It´s big now and everybody´s talked about it for the last three months. I knew about it three years ago, or when it started. Now their job is to keep the American people totally scared and terrified, so now they have a reason to all of a sudden send $40 billion to Iraq. Meanwhile here in America, there are cities like Detroit in complete poverty and Vietnam vets living in poverty. People in general living in poverty. And they don´t give two shits about it and just say there´s no money to help these people. It´s fucking retarded! They don´t give a fuck about the people, they fucking don´t. I hate to say it, but that´s the truth.
It´s kinda the same thing here. There´s never any money for elderly care or schools.
Roger: School, you gotta be kidding me? Here in Arizona where I live, everybody might as well be stupid. If they could, they´d get away with no school. Your country (Sweden) is different in many different ways. I´ve visited your country and it´s beautiful. I think people are taken care of a lot better in Europe, than they are in America. I don´t see no way near as much poverty as there is in America, anywhere else, except for third world countries and America is not a third world country. We´re supposed to be a powerful nation and I don´t understand it.
What would you say is your biggest accomplishment so far in life?
Roger: I´m a family guy and I love my family. I don´t think I was put on this earth to be anything but some kind of a messenger of some sort and to help others. I´m 50 years old and I don´t have a retirement plan. I don´t have anything for retirement. This is all I´ve ever done for such a long time. I was 16 years old when I joined the band and I only went to 9th grade. It´s weird. People come up to me and say; “If it wasn´t for Victim of pain, I never would´ve gotten through high school.” I never went to high school and there´s a lot of things I never did, but at the same time, that record has helped so many people, so I guess that´s what I was supposed to do. Helping people in some sort. I´m very into non violence and I´m more like a Martin Luther King type of person.
Do you regret not having attended high school or college?
Roger: No, no, no. Don´t get me wrong, my high school certificate is “Victim in pain”. (laughs) I´ve learned a lot from the streets, but I´m just saying that there´s a lot of uncertainties as you get older and you start wondering what´s gonna come back, after giving so much and putting so much out there? I don´t know. It´s scary as you get older. I have trades, don´t get me wrong. I´m an electrician and that´s what I do when I come home. We don´t live off the band, we have to come home and work. I´m also a Harley Davidson mechanic, but they´re just trades. My wife is a graduate and she has a completely different upbringing than I do and I got the other upbringing and it works for raising children. They get to see both.
Do you remember when you got your first tattoo?
Roger: I do. It´s a little dragon and I still have it. I was probably 15 years old when I got it and it was illegal, but I went and got it and that escalated to my whole body eventually.
Did you get immediately hooked?
Roger: No. My tattoos didn´t happen overnight like a lot of people´s. You can actually see it by just googling every year and you see little by little things getting done. Today, people wanna be rock stars and the first thing they do is get two tattoos on their neck, two on their hands and if they´re gonna wear shorts, they get something below their knees, so they look covered. Then they take their shirts off and it´s like “What the fuck?” It used to be the opposite. You´d get everything done, your whole body, and then maybe your hands, maybe your neck or your face. Now that´s the first thing they start with. Start with the eyebrows, under the eyes, their hands and neck. Am I wrong or am I right? (laughs) Now you´re an instant rock star.
I read somewhere that you guys played more shows at CBGB´s than anybody else?
Roger: I believe that´s a true statement.
Do you remember the first show you played there?
Roger: Oh, fuck no. (laughs) It was a matinee that´s for sure and it was definitely in 1983. We played every one of the damned benefits and all three of our live albums are live at CBGB´s. We probably played there more than anybody you can think of. Period.
Do you miss that place?
Roger: Yeah man, it was great. It was fun. I miss the A7 a lot too because that´s where a lot of it happened. That´s where we were all the time. CBGB´s was that wake up, hangover in the afternoon place, where you´d just relax, be with your friends and see a good band. It was cool and it was a good place.
How do you feel about New York these days?
Roger: It´s different and I don´t really feel much about it to be honest. I like to go visit, but it´s got no creativity to it. It´s not the New York I grew up with. I grew up with the “Taxi driver” New York. I don´t know. It´s not the same and that´s why I can live in Phoenix. As long as I´m by an airport and my cost of living is half now, which is necessary with my kids and I don´t have to live like an animal. New York is not the same and it´s happened all over the world as well. It´s happened to Berlin and London and every big city has gone through the same change. It´s called money. (laughs)
Do you ever bump into Rob Halford?
Roger: No I never bump into him. (laughs) It´s funny, because if you google rock stars in Phoenix, I think there´s 17 or 18 and I made that list. I´m like second to last and no picture of me. (laughs) There´s so many here you wouldn´t believe it. Alice Cooper´s here too and no, I never ran into him either. (laughs)
Ever thought of writing a book?
Roger: Funny you ask. I´m almost done. I started a book in 1996 and I lost it twice. I got bugs in the computer and lost it. I restarted it in 2007, because I kept some of the main files. Jon Wiederhorn, who wrote Scott Ian´s book and Al Jourgensen´s book, he and I are friends and he contacted me about four years ago about helping me finish the book, but I really wanted to do it on my own. Then about a year ago he said; “Roger, let me help you with this book?” and I said; “Alright Jon. I have too much shit going on.” I gave him everything I had and we´ve been doing massive interviews and we´re almost done with it. We just gotta find a home for it. It´s pretty much my story from Cuba to being in a band.
How old were you when you came over from Cuba?
Roger: I was almost five. My earliest memories are in Cuba and then I left and came to America. The rest is history. Started screaming in a crazy band. I should´ve stayed in high school. (laughs) I´ve never been back because I wasn´t allowed to. I just became an American citizen in 2006, believe it or not. I finally did it because it was so impossible to travel and it was becoming a pain in the ass, so I just said: “Fuck it, let me do it.”
A final thing. That Kerrang interview? In it you mention that you had just gotten out of jail a couple of months before and you were talking about PTS and you couldn´t sleep. Did it take a long time to get back into a normal life?
Roger: Yeah, and still today I have to sleep in a certain way. I have to cover my eyes. They had the lights on over you and you couldn´t fucking sleep. I put a bandana over my eyes, because with any bit of light, I can´t sleep.
Text av: Niclas Müller-Hansen