Video interview with Colin McFaull of Cock Sparrer

March 17, 2012

Interview with Colin McFaull of Cock Sparrer - at Punk Rock Bowling Music Festival - Las Vegas, NVCock Sparrer is one of those iconic Street Punk bands that have remained relevant to multiple generations and have been cited by many bands as a major source of influence. The harmonizing to the music to the lyrics, Cock Sparrer is that band that you want to say that you saw live. After seeing them live it is no wonder that no matter where they perform around the world, they shows are always sold out. Last year at Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas we caught up with lead vocalist, Colin McFaull right after he got off stage to reflect on the festival, the band and the future. Enjoy the interview and make sure you see them live in your part of the world.

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Interview with Lol Tolhurst of The Cure

November 19, 2011

Interview with Lol Tolhurst of The CureInterview by: Louie Bones
Big Wheel Staff Reporter

Big Wheel touched base with Lol Tolhurst to discuss the highs, lows and new found reality of playing in the worlds most successful post-Punk band of all time - THE CURE
First of all thank you Lol for taking the time with us, we appreciate your time.

BW: Fans all over the world are extremely excited that you are playing keyboards in The Cure for these special set of shows (Many flying in from all over the world to witness this small run of gigs), can you tell us how "Reflections" came about? Was it something Robert put forth, or were you pushing to work together with The Cure in a live capacity again?

Lol: I wrote to Robert last year and said how much fun I had playing the Three Imaginary Boys songs with Michael on the last Levinhurst tour. We played them alongside our regular set. I have always loved the songs I did with The Cure. Robert had been offered the Vivid Festival in Sydney, so he suggested we could play the first three albums there to make a special event.
He was the motivation behind this tour and he's done an excellent job I think.

You have played either drums or keyboards on every Cure recording from 1979's Three Imaginary Boys to 1987's Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me; your contributions played a role in the huge success the band saw throughout the 80's, which many consider The Cures 'first golden era'. How many years went by before you and Robert began to become friendly again? How did that come about, and was playing with The Cure again something you imagined a possibility?

I think that it was quite a few years ago that we started talking again. I had written to Robert and we met up when The Cure played in LA. I've lived here since 1994. When my first marriage was dissolving and the court case in the UK had finished I wanted to go somewhere, anywhere else!

I've been asking myself recently why I live in LA and I think it's because the first tours we did in the US in the early 80's were some of my favourite times in my life. I felt very happy here so it's a natural progression to live here. I think I found the freedom to be me again here and got rid of some of my demons too. I love to go to the desert because for me it is a very cleansing spiritual place.
Out there I discovered that anything is possible. I believe if you change you, you can change what comes into your life. So as I became more positive and healed so was my life! For instance I now have a wonderful married life and a measure of serenity that I never felt before, or maybe I just grew up a little! It certainly helped me make amends with Robert and others I had hurt and that helps make things right again.

It is known that you weren't at the top of your game musically speaking during the Kissing Tour and making of Disintegration; you had an alcohol problem which led to you exiting the band. When did you begin to overcome your demons and start making playing music again a priority? How was that transition, was it difficult adjusting to normal non rock n' roll tour life?

I have been clean and sober for over 22 years now, I don't smoke and I'm a vegan (I also exercise regularly!) so the polar opposite of my early life!
Robert made the observation to me when we were in Sydney this year that at the time we were living pretty much on the edge and didn't know what might happen so we had to live to the full each day. I still live for the present moment but a lot less destructively!

He also observed that every one around us would party for a day with us in their town then recover but we were on the road doing that nearly every day for years! We never got a break!

I think what happened was kind of inevitable. The intensity of those early days made it almost certain that something or someone would break!
I was mercifully able to find the way out of that particular maze for which I am eternally grateful to many people but especially Robert. I feel he saved my life by firing me. It forced me to find a solution to my problems and join life again. He had to do that to get me to wake up really.

It wasn't hard so much to go back to normal life as to find away to do music again without the insanity. I think I was afraid I couldn't do it again but I found the truth is you're able to be much more creative when you’re not preoccupied with the stupid stuff and trappings of the rock and roll "lifestyle"!

Of The Cure albums you played drums on, which are you most fond of and why?

Pornography is my favourite because of the great sound of the drums and the whole record! The way we recorded the drums gave them such a big huge sound it was beautiful. The drums on that record are like a monolithic mantra!

Of The Cure albums you played keyboards on, which are you most fond of and why?

I think my keyboard skill is pretty minimal. Both Roger and Robert are able to play keys much better than me! But I do love making sounds and atmospheres. We were lucky enough to have some of the first samplers and new tech for keyboards in the 80’s so on Kiss Me’ and The Head On The Door and( The Top a little ) we were able to use unusual sounds that nobody else had that's what I like to find and do. They are endlessly fascinating to me. I have a mod can modular synth at home and the same sound never comes out of it twice!

Which Cure record after your era are you most into?

It's different for me as I wasn't involved in making them! I like certain songs rather than whole records because of that. Mostly Wish and Blood Flowers songs but 4:13 (Dream) has so ones I like too.

Can you describe what it was like stepping into the rehearsal space with the band for the first time in over 20 years? What thoughts were going through your head, and how emotional of an experience was it? Did you feel the way the band prepares and works together had changed much? Did things come together quite natural and "easy"? Are you currently using a keyboard/synth (what kind) that you used live on previous Cure tours? (All the musician/gear/tech nerds out there would love to know)

It was a wonderful emotional experience to work again with my childhood friends Robert and Simon and good to renew my friendship with Roger and great to get to know Jason better as he is a very good man and drummer for The Cure to have. I think that the work ethic of the band is stronger and more professional now in some ways and in others the process is as it always was! It has been very easy to get used to playing again on stage as my memory on stage is that Simon is always in front of me with Robert so that it feels very natural to be there! We are using nothing that I used twenty years ago keys wise but I do have roto toms!

You have known everyone in this lineup of The Cure for over 24 years or more, having played with Robert and Simon even longer. Jason Cooper (drums) is the only member in which you are playing with for the first time this year (joined a few years after Lols departure). Are there any noticeable differences to you in the way or style he is drumming on songs you originally tracked in studio and played live on?

Jason is a very capable and creative musician and I am amazed by his versions of songs I played on! He has everything down and adds his own style too. Plus he is such a pleasant man. This tour I am facing him on stage and that's a great way for us to integrate together very tightly. It’s a joy to play with him!

If for any reason Jason Cooper had to sit out the Reflections Tour, could you easily get behind the kit and drum all those classic songs again?

It’s like riding a bicycle! But I am very happy that Jason is there to play such a long set as he's younger! But seriously he's The Cures drummer and that's the way it should be.

The Cure have toured through Los Angeles more than any other British band, having played just about every small venue in town to giant arenas and stadiums along the way. Los Angeles crowds have remained loyal to The Cure for years, why do you think The Cure and LA get on so well? What are your earliest memories of touring through LA and what was that experience like for a young band 6,000 miles away from home in your early 20's? Any fond memories or strange occurrences on some of the larger tours where you guys headlined Irvine Meadows or The Forum in Inglewood?

As I said before I realized recently the fact I loved the early tours through Los Angeles etc and I think that is one reason there is that bond. We were always welcomed here. We also played some of the small clubs before we played Irvine meadows etc which makes people identify with you like a local band. That made us like adopted sons and I think that's why we understand each other if you like.

What are your immediate plans regarding playing music after Reflections last show, is there more Levinhurst music for fans to watch out for?

I have been recording some new Levinhurst songs recently and I'm sure they will be out next year with some shows too. I try however to stay in the present, it's pretty dynamic place to be right now!

Big Wheel would like to thank Lol for his time, and most importantly for playing on some of the greatest albums of all time. Much like the 8 thousand or so fans that scored tickets to see The Cure next week in Hollywood, we look forward to witnessing such historic concerts as well as bringing our readers the best coverage possible. See you at The Cure Reflections' shows!




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Interview with Captain Sensible of The Damned

November 11, 2011

Captain Sensible of The Damned InterviewInterview by: Louie Bones
Big Wheel Staff Reporter

We met up with Captain Sensible of The Damned at the House of Blues just before the band hit the stage before a sold out audience. With so much going on in The Damned’s world, it was an opportunity to stop for a minute and reflect on the bands long history and where the band is headed in years to come. As a founding member of The Damned and a living Punk rock legend, Captain Sensible is as good of an interview subject as it gets, read on!
First off, thanks a million Capt. For doing this interview, you’ve got a huge show to play tonight, as we’re all very excited to be here! (As we look out over the balcony to the parking lot, we can see the huge line of people gathering and even a 1950’s roadster with a casket chained to the roof of it, yes its totally Halloween season and we are certainly at a DAMNED concert)
It’s Halloween weekend here in LA, the year is 2011, The Damned are out on the road and in town tonight celebrating 35 years as a band, that’s a long time and quite a cause for celebration! Tell us Capt, how have The Damned managed to survive the hard and often decadent decades of Punk Rock?

Right! Well, I do get asked occasionally to give advice; I don’t know why they ask me! I always say, you’ve gotta concentrate on the songwriting, that’s make or break. When Brian James left the band after our 2nd album, we were considered to be, ya know a spent force. We were so lucky that we actually had 3 songwriters, Rat Scabies, myself and Mr. Vanian. And that’s how we survived and how we’ve kept this career lasting for 35 years together, it’s all about the songs!

Wow, I never would have assumed anyone to suggest The Damned as a spent force after Brian left the band, that seems unreasonable. Some of The Damned’s best work came after his departure from the band!
Did you feel that making it into the 80’s was quite the accomplishment in itself? Most documentaries or punk historians credit the Sex Pistols as carrying the torch for Punk music over in the UK, even though they never made it out of the decade. The Damned put out the first Punk single in the UK and managed to put out great material all through the following decade.

Yeah, I would have said that when we started we wouldn’t have lasted more than a couple of years really. We are fairly ambitious, and not for financial gain! But we really wanted to make great records and at the end of the day I’m a fan. I love the bands that I follow, 60’s and 70’s bands like The Kinks, The Who, The Move, Small Faces! I love these bands, I play their music over and over, they’ve made some of the greatest records of all time. All I ever wanted to do was make records as good as that, maybe we failed miserably, I don’t know! But that’s why its always top of my list of priorities to get the records we make sounding good, not to put any shit tracks on them. That’s why its quality over quantity with this band, we don’t make a lot of albums, though we could make an album every year, they wouldn’t be as good!

Aside from being a founding member of the band, you’ve also had a solo career that brought you chart success in the early 80’s and through out the decade. Did you plan to balance both bands, or was recording as a solo artist something you figured you’d be doing through out your career in music?

It was quite complicated, I wasn’t getting on with some members of the band, and when it came to a choice between my solo career which was pretty high flying at the time or carrying on with The Damned, you can’t really do both. The schedules honestly I can tell you were insane! I was going all over Europe, waking up at 5 am every morning flying through Europe doing TV, radio interviews, recording sessions, then flying over to do gigs at night with The Damned, it was insane! I was doing both careers at once, and I tried to do it for a year and a half, but I collapsed basically. Aided and abetted by copious amounts of 24 hour life style substances! So I chose to continue my solo career, maybe I chose the wrong one, I don’t know!
With The Damned now it’s a nicer lineup now, there are certain people not in the band anymore.

This current lineup of The Damned happens to be the longest in the bands history without any member changes, what is different with the bands working structure than say the bands original incarnation?

We get on!, this lineup, we don’t tread on each others toes. No loudmouth kind of bullying or unnecessary unpleasantness.

Do you still keep in touch with Brian James or Rat Scabies, are you still friends?

I like Brian a lot, I respect him. When I met him, the guy was a visionary ya know. He knew that Punk was coming when no one else could see it. I was lucky to meet him. I’ve got a lot of time for Rat Scabies as well.

The band is revisiting DAMNED DAMNED DAMNED in its entirety live, its really exciting for fans, that’s a hugely influential punk rock record for all time. When you guys got into the rehearsal mode and started to work it out, were any of the songs very foreign to you?

Yeah! Some of the songs we originally never played before. I don’t play the record much at home, I listen to music from other bands, ha-ha. So I had to learn them over again, some of them were easier than others!

That’s quite the challenge I imagine, especially since you played bass on that record and now you’re playing guitar in The Damned. How was that transition for you?

Well I was guitarist in my previous band, the Johnny Moped band. And I wouldn’t have played bass, not that there’s anything wrong with a bass guitar, it’s a glorious instrument, it’s really fun! But I wouldn’t have changed from guitar to bass unless ya know it was for good reason, and it was. Brian was a visionary, he invented this new style of music, he had a collection of absolutely brilliant tunes. But when he jumped ship, it was a no brainer to change to guitar for me. I can’t play his way, he has a unique style, so I just play the solos my own way.
The Damned
You’ve been known for years to play with sunglasses on, that can’t be easy!

It’s not! That’s why I’ve got big white stickers on the back of the guitar so I know where the 7th and 12th frets are, I’m blind as a bat, especially with those bloody shades on!

This tour is very special because aside from doing Damned Damned Damned live you’re also playing The Black Album in its entirety as well. The Black Album was a pivotal moment in creating the Goth Rock sound, it has influenced hundreds of bands since its release 31 years ago and was a big departure from the bands previous record “Machine Gun Etiquette” which birthed the hardcore punk genre. Some of the darker bands from that era like Siouxsie, Bauhaus and The Cure incorporated synths and very similar dark textures like the Black Albums, though stress that their bands are not “Goth” in the slightest. How have The Damned always remained comfortable with applying the “Goth” tag to that particular album?

Well I think calling it the Black Album was a bit of a giveaway. Its very much a dark record, the lyrics are kind of different from what we’d done previously ya know. When we came to the demo studio to demo what was to become the Black Album, It wasn’t gonna be called the Black Album then. I noticed that Daves songwriting had moved on, to a different level, to a different place, a dark place. I knew it was going to be a more interesting album. He was going places and he took us with him, so I suppose it was a proto - Goth album when you think about it. It’s Goth. We didn’t set out to do that, but that’s just the way he is. He did have a hearse, he was a grave digger.
I remember I went around his house once, I said “Why don’t you give us a ride around town Dave?”
So we drove around his neighborhood, Islington for a while.
He said “So what’d ya think of that?”
So I said “Brilliant Dave, brilliant!”
There were people pointing at us, they must of thought it Dracula was driving cos Dave was in makeup. He lived the life style.
I said to him “ Dave that was great, it’s my first time I’ve ever been in a hearse”
And he goes on and says in a creepy voice “Well it won’t be your last!”

There’s always been this stigma in Punk that when a band evolves or changes they suck and that its all downhill once they experiment out of the box. It’s obvious The Damned’s sound was going to change, there are a lot of influences in your music, not to change would actually be more shocking and a crime. Are you finding that Punks are more into The Black Album in 2011 than they were in 1980?

At the time that we made The Black Album, there was a kind of, well Punk was going through a new wave, there was a new wave of Punk bands forming in Britain. It was all kinds of studded jackets, Mohicans, and it like became a look that it hadn’t been. You see, The Stranglers never looked like The Sex Pistols, and the Pistols didn’t look like The Clash and they never looked like The Damned either, we all had our individual looks. But after that, by the time we recorded The Black Album, there was such a thing as the “Punk look”. Some journalists were criticizing The Damned cos we didn’t have the “Punk look” which I thought was kind of insane really!
Why should we start wearing what everyone says what they think Punk should be?!
I’ve always thought Punk was kind of very much a working class thing for me. I was destined to be cannon fodder, I didn’t do much at school and I wasn’t expected to do much with my employment prospects. I made the very most of myself, and I think that’s Punk Rock. You should really try to do something as creative as possible and make something special of yourself, not copy some bastards opinion of what clothes you should wear, there’s no way I’d sign up for that!
So there was a kind of backlash against The Damned when we put out The Black Album by the kind of people putting forth this homogenized view of Punk rock in Britain. I wont name the journalists names because they’re irrelevant.

I bet they wrote for the N.M.E.!

Yeah! And Sounds!
But some people got The Black Album, and by the time we went to the studio to record our new collection of tunes, which turned out to be Strawberries, we said
“Well what are we gonna call this one?” We were all laughing cos those fucking wanker journalist’s are gonna slag this one off again, its like giving Strawberries to a fucking pig! Strawberries for pigs.

That’s the album cover! A Strawberry on a pig!

That’s where it came from, giving this album to a journalist, naming no names, they wont understand it. They just want bang bang bang Punk with shouty lyrics.
The Damned's music has always been more complex than that.
Yea, right! My idea of Punk rock, I think it started in the 60’s with the garage sound. I love all that, The Chocolate Watch Band, The Seeds, I don’t think you can beat it. Sky Saxon jammed with us here a few years ago! So did Wayne Kramer of The MC5!
The Damned
There is a Simpson’s episode where there are Punk rock characters in a club watching a band, and the characters are drawn up to resemble you and Dave, when you were first made aware of that were you flattered by it?

Yes it’s wonderful isn’t it?! The Simpson’s, well it’s kind of an important satire on today’s society. We are living in insane times!

Speaking of insane times, The Damned have been touring America and playing in Los Angeles since the late 70’s, how nutty were those first tours and trips to Los Angeles?

Well we were sleeping on peoples floors, we didn’t have enough money to pay our air fare home. Tom Verlaine cancelled us off his show at some venue in Los Angeles, we were his support act, he didn’t want us on the bill. He obviously didn’t want to play with a full on Punk group. Were still a Punk group but in those days we were a ferocious bunch of maniacs who were dangerous to be around. Not like we were fighting or anything like that, but things used to happen and Tom Verlaine had heard, ha!. So anyway we had a collection box and put together a gig someplace in Los Angeles last minute. Our box read “If you want to see The Damned go home to England please donate generously”
There must have been some people who didn’t like us, or Maybe Tom Verlaine put some money in cos we got the airfare!
I remember one gig in LA where I got the idea to do Kiss makeup, though I didn’t have any makeup, it was the one with the tongue! (Gene Simmons) All I had was a sharpie marker, so I did it with a sharpie marker. When I got back to the hotel I still had it on, I showered for an hour and it still wouldn’t wash off. So I rode to London all the way back on the plane with the makeup still on... Regrets I’ve had a few…

That must have been a sight!

I’d love to see any photos from that gig, put an appeal out, maybe someone can track it down!

Both you and Dave have embarked on solo careers away from The Damned, is there a possibility that you’ll make music outside of The Damned again?

Yeah! Paul Gray, The Damned’s old bassist, we are kind of chums again, he’s a great bass player, we may work together!

Over the years The Damned have covered songs by artists from the 60’s and even had a short lived side band where you called yourselves Naz Nomad & The Nightmares, are there any specific bands or groups that fans of The Damned might be surprised to hear that you are influenced by?

If anyone out there likes our band and wants to hear where I certainly got some of my ideas from, check out an album called Split by The Groundhogs, it’s a masterpiece of guitar playing, absolute genius. He’s my guitar hero, were mates now, Tony Mcphee, its worth checking out, a beautiful album. They’re so very remarkable, its light and shade, very melancholy to full on blitzkrieg.
All my favorite records came from the 60’s and 70’s when albums were recorded to beautiful tape, in an honest way with not too many overdubs. Protools is insidious software! And in the wrong hands, IE most engineers in studios these days, they do things dishonestly. The guys may not even be in the same room or same city or same studio, everything is corrected! Fuck that I want to hear rock and roll, I want to hear spillage between the mics, I want a band recorded honestly, banging out and having a gas doing it. I think Protools is an anti rock n roll device. That’s what I think!

That was all the time we had as Captain had to go and get ready to play the show which was a killer gig in itself. A big thank you to The Damned’s drummer Pinch who is always looking out for Big Wheel and for making this all possible and to Captain Sensible for being the great interviewee.




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Interview with Michael Monroe

October 28, 2011

Michael Monroe InterviewInterview by: Louie Bones
Big Wheel Staff Reporter

You have a new record out that is taking the world by storm, your first solo album in quite a few years, Tell us - Who besides You and Sami Yaffa are in the band, and how did this lineup come about?

The album is "Sensory Overdrive" and the other players on the record, besides Sami Yaffa, are Steve Conte on Guitar, Karl Rockfist on drums and Ginger Wildheart on guitar.  The same line up is on tour with me, except just last June Ginger was replaced by Dregen (Backyard Babies, Helicopters) on Guitar.  Me and Sami met in the summer 2009 and started putting the band together.  In early 2010 we had the band together and going for it full blast.

This is also your first North American tour since the album has come out, how much of your live setlist is comprised of songs off "Sensory Overdrive"? How are the fans digging the new songs, is the response as chaotic as you would hope for? What are the live standout tracks that fans are already singing along to?

Live we're playing more than half the "Sensory Overdrive" songs and they're all getting a great response.

Your career is going on it's 30th year, you've fronted rock and roll bands longer than some of your fans have even been alive, what  do you owe your longevity to, and how have you managed to still sing with the same passionate voice?

I think it's due to maintaining my integrity throughout the years and staying in good shape physically.

Can you describe the typical Michael Monroe fan in America? Are you looking out into the crowd and finding more Hanoi fans from the 80's still supporting the music, or are there more new school fans who've discovered your must post Hanoi Rocks?

I'm not sure...I don't like to think of any fan as "typical". I respect and appreciate every single one of my fans individually. However, I do think that American fans are especially cool because they truly appreciate good authentic Rock'n'Roll.  That maybe because Rock'n'Roll really is a serious part of the American culture.  On this latest US tour the audiences just seemed very enthusiastic and impressed by the shows, no matter what song we play.

We caught your concert in Redondo Beach in 2010, you threw in Johnny Thunders / Dead Boys / The Stooges covers in your set, are there any similar classic punk cover surprises for fans who will be catching your 2011 North American Tour?

You never know what's gonna happen with this band live, which is one of the coolest things/qualities of this band.  That keeps things fun and interesting.  We have been varying the set somewhat according to the gig and its surroundings.  For example, in Cleveland we played The Dead Boys' "Ain't Nothin' To Do" in honour of Stiv Bators & The Dead Boys, since Cleveland was the Dead Boys' hometown.

Are there any bands coming out of your native Finland that you think American rock and roll fans should be looking up and checking out?

There are, and has been a lot of cool Finnish bands throughout the years, but only over the past 20 years or so, more of them have gained worldwide recognition and success.  There is one classic Finnish Rock'n'Roll album called "Roadrunner" by a legendary band called Hurriganes back in 1974.  That was the band's 2nd album and it features an exceptionally fantastic guitarist Albert Järvinen. He does some outstanding guitar playing on the record.  That album just has a certain magic about it and is definitely worth checking out.

I've noticed you've played some very large festivals across Europe over the past 2 summers, is there a traveling festival in America or a set of bands you'd hope to do a package tour across the states with? Perhaps with Motorhead or Slash?

Those 2 would be fantastic to tour with.  Or any other cool rock band or artist alike.  I would LOVE to go on a package tour with a bunch of cool bands like that in America. Mind you, we did open up for Motörhead for 3 weeks in the UK in November 2010 and that was a total blast!

You have covered many songs throughout your career in music, you seem to have a lot of musical flavoring from all over the spectrum. Can you name your favorite/influential albums from the following decades.

Oh man...that's too hard to do right off the bat, there's so many of them, especially in the 60's & 70's - I'll just pick one for each deacade, the first one that comes to mind right now, ok?

a. 1960's -  MC 5: "Kick Out The Jams"
b. 1970's - Little Feat: "Sailing Shoes"
c. 1980's - Little Steven:  "Voice OF America"
d. 1990's - Warrior Soul: "Drugs God and the New Republic"
e. 2000's  -  Alice Cooper: "The Eyes Of Alice Cooper"

That's just barely scratching the surface, but the best I can do at this moment, as I'm really pressed for time.  Sorry!

Are there any final notes.. Anything you want to tell your American fans reading this ?

I wanna thank everyone out there for your continuing support and all of you, who came to the shows during our recent American Tour, which we just finished a few days ago.  Don't forget us!  We'll be back soon!

Big Wheel would like to thank Michael Monroe for taking the time to answer our questions, and remember to pick up his latest album "Sensory Overdrive", in stores now!




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Interview with He-Who-Cannot-Be-Named

October 25, 2011

He-Who-Cannot-Be-Named interviewInterview by: Dod M.
Big Wheel Overseas Staff Reporter

With a new album out and now with his own band, I managed a few words with He-who-cannot-be-Named who has been playing Punk rock for 25years mostly with the Dwarves I put some questions to him about one of music’s controversial bands, a hoax death and his new album.

What’s the origin of the bands name?
I guess it’s because I couldn’t seem to keep a name for more than a year or two. First they just called me “Realgone”, probably because I wasn’t really all there most of the time, then it was “Vietnam”. I’m not sure exactly why, I remember hearing something about a hideous disfigurement on account of the war. Eventually I realized that this would most likely become an endless series of names that probably would have gone on and on, so I realized that my name could only be Hewhocannotbenamed.

Who were your major influences?
My first musical influence was my Dad. He played the piano for fun and, as a young child, I would watch him, fascinated by this. He was mostly into classical music, (loved Beethoven) and show tunes. He was kind of a showman too, he would make big dramatic movements with his arms and sway his body back and forth when he played. When I got older I took piano lessons. Later, around the time I started playing guitar, I discovered The Beatles. I bought the “Complete Beatles” book of sheet music and taught myself to play by learning their songs.

How long have you all known each other? How did you meet?

I’m not sure how to answer this one. Since Hewhocannotbenamed is pretty much a spinoff of The Dwarves, I’ll refer to the first time I met Blag. I was in my college dorm room when I got a knock on the door. It was this tall hippy looking kid. He had heard that I owned an old Farfisa organ (which I still have today). He had a psychedelic band (Suburban Nightmare) and they needed an organ player. They were trying to be real authentic so they used old gear. I think I passed the audition more because I had this cool old keyboard than anything I played on it.

Who writes your songs?

I write them all, although Saltpeter has one on the upcoming record. In The Dwarves its pretty much all the members, although Blag and I cowrote quite a few, especially in the early years.

What originally attracted you to Punk?

I think Punk means different things to different people. I always liked heavy sounding music with distorted guitars. I guess that’s part of it for me, but I really connected to punk as an art form that creates a feeling of true danger and criminality, the first time I saw The Cramps. It was in Chicago in the early 80s at a fairly small venue. When Lux Interior pulled his pants down and jumped into the crowd, I remember the adrenaline pumping and thinking things like “Can he do this?” “Isn’t this against the rules?” But I loved it.

In 1993 it was spread around that you had died but it was a hoax and you were dropped from label, is this true?

Well no, I didn’t die, and yes we were dropped from the label.

How much do you think Punk has changed in the last 30 years?

It has almost completely lost the ability to express danger and criminality, thus becoming almost completely limp and ineffectual. Of course its much easier to market this way.

You often only ever wear a wrestling mask and a jock strap or nothing, how did this come about?

The first show I ever played was on Halloween night. So I wore a mask as a costume. I guess I liked it so I decided to keep wearing it. As for the naked guy or jock strap thing, its kind of similar. Back in the 80's The Dwarves had a show at this little club in New Jersey that was supposed to be on cable TV or something. Anyway there was a whole crew of camera people to shoot this program. The problem was that there was almost no audience. This wasn’t too unusual in those days. We all decided that the best way to salvage this TV appearance would be for the entire band to play the show naked. So we did that and I must have enjoyed it, because I kept playing naked after that for the next 20 years or so. Eventually I started putting on a jock strap and it evolved into more of a weird metal guy wrestler thing.

And does it cause many problems with venues?

Sometimes, I’ve had a few narrow escapes. Cops could never really Identify me very well because of the mask.

What’s the maddest thing you have done on stage or seen while you have been playing?

One time a naked guy who was completely covered in blood jumped up on the stage and started hugging me.

What’s your favourite band song to perform and why?

“Demonica” with The Dwarves and “Zombieland” with HWCBN.

What’s your coolest band story?

I don’t know exactly what counts as a cool story. There have been a lot of years and a lot of band members. One of the more memorable moments was visiting GG Allin in a Michigan State Prison. I remember as we walked out of the visiting room full of inmates, GG yelled “Rock and Roll is criminal!”
What do you think about downloading music online?

Its really changed the business. Ultimately I think its better for smaller bands because they are much more able to get there stuff out there.

What's your outlook on the record industry today?

Its an interesting time. I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I’ve never relied on the industry as a major portion of my income, but if I did I’d probably be worried. I’m mostly interested.

Now you have your own band, what made you decide to do that?

I think it was because I had all these songs that I had written that didn’t really fit with The Dwarves. I like having the control over the album production also.

And is it permanent or will you be back with the Dwarves again?

I like doing my own band. I have especially enjoyed working with Saltpeter again. I have the greatest respect for all the members of The Dwarves and I wish them success. I enjoyed working with them on their latest release “Born Again” and I always get a few of those guys to come in the studio and play on my stuff. Wholly Smokes   as well as Saltpeter play on every song of my upcoming release. Its hard to say what the future will bring, but right now I have no plans to tour with the Dwarves.

You have a new album out in now, for those who don’t have it yet tell us about it?

Its called “Sunday School Massacre” and is a collection of songs that I wrote while I was working at a residential treatment facility for juvenile delinquents. Its got a bunch of Dwarves playing on it including: The Fresh Prince Of Darkness, Saltpeter, Rex Everything (Nick Oliveri), and Blag. I also was fortunate enough to get my friend Andy Selway from KMFDM and The Spittin Cobras to play all the drums.

I saw you at Rebellion Punk festival this year, did you enjoy it and do you hope to play next year?

I had a great time. People are very friendly and the sheer magnitude of the acts they book mean that there is never a dull moment.  Yes I would love to play there next year. I know some great English musicians that I did a couple shows in the UK with last year. Its pretty much Spike T Smith and his band “Headfuct” backing me up. It works quite well. We want to do a few shows in the UK next August. I’m hoping to get up to Scotland this time as well.

What do you do to relax?

Read, write songs and hang out with my lovely wife Jennifer. I do lots of home recording for fun.

And if you weren’t a musician what would you be?





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Interview with Agnostic Front

September 13, 2011

Agnostic FrontInterview by: Louie B.

Bigwheel met up with Agnostic Front in their dressing room an hour before they were due to take the stage at the Key club in Hollywood. Here’s what went down..

The band is currently on tour in support of your guy’s new album, how are the new songs going over? Is there a stand out single that fans are already going crazy for and singing along to?
Roger - We don’t know yet, this is our 3rd date of the tour, so we really don’t know. We shot 3 videos off this album, it could be any of those 3, That’s Life, A Mi Manera, or My life my way.

Were any of those songs debuted at Punk Rock Bowling a few months back? Or are these songs being played for the first time on this tour?
Roger - Punk Rock Bowling was more of a retro set.

How monumental is this album for you as a song writer and front man, it’s your 10th album, was there more pressure coming into this than your previous record?
Roger - No, not really, we just did what we like, and how we feel. We never even knew it was our 10th album, we just did whatever felt right and genuinely true to us, the results are there.

 Was this album recorded in New York City?
Roger - It was recorded in Florida, we went to Florida to record, away from New York, we like to get away.

Over the years the bands style has changed a bit, you guys have also covered different issues with your songs. Were there any issues you touched on with this album that hadn’t been covered previously with AF?
Roger - I don’t really think so, but one of the things that made this album a little different is that it’s an unfortunate fact that Mike’s mom passed away, we covered some of that on the record with the track “More than a Memory”. But other than that we always speak about social and political stuff that happens around us on a day to day basis.

When you guys came back with the record “Another Voice” about seven years ago, your sound was a bit heavier than before, your guitars were tuned down, double pedal drumming was re introduced to the AF sound, you guys were touring opening for Hatebreed..
Mike - We still do!
Roger - We are still tuned down to D, we just felt like we wanted to come down a little bit and feel it out.

I think it’s worked out really good for you guys. As a vocalist, do you find it easier to sing over heavier music?
Roger - For this kind of music, what I’m doing with this, yeah, I mean I like to sing vocally to the bass, and with bass being low I get more of a growl, I like that better.

How did Mike Gallo (bassist) come about joining AF?
Roger - We met on Dateline !
Mike - I was actually in a band called On the Rise, we recorded at the same studio..
Roger - They never rose! It was more like On the Decline!
Mike - I just met them at the studio and like next thing ya know 2 years later I was in the band!
Roger - That’s the truth!!
Mike - That really is the truth!

Were you always a fan of AF while getting into playing music and hardcore punk?
Mike - Absolutely, it’s a dream come true.
Roger - Everybody’s a fan until they’re actually in the band!
Mike - Yeah hahahahah!! It becomes a job, and then ya hate em! (Everyone in the room is laughing hysterically)

The core members of AF have always been you Roger, and Vinnie Stigma. Some say you’re like the ‘Mick and Keith’ of Hardcore punk..
Roger - Yeah we’ve been together for almost 30 years!

That’s longer than most marriages!
Roger - Haha yea tell me about it!
Stigma - Hey me and you think alike! Like a bad marriage we stay together for the kids! (Everyone’s laughing)

Can you describe the band/working chemistry between both you and Vinnie Stigma? How do you guys keep moving forward and continue to write new music after all these years?
Mike - I’d would say it’s gotta be Roger, he’s a fucking workaholic!
Roger - I’m a workaholic! Stigmas’ got all the character for the live shit, I do all the work, all the hard work! Stigmas’ the entertainer!
Stigma - There’s a lot to a band ya know, a lot of the guys in the band; religion, political, social, ego - Ya gotta watch all those things! Ya know were a family.
Roger - This band has always been family based. Even Mike who’s been in the band for 10 years, and Joe..
Stigma - Yeah Mikes been in the band for 10 years now!
Roger - We’re pretty easy going to be honest with you..
Mike - Yeah once we got rid of my brother! Things are a lot easier going.
Roger - The drummer is the newest member of the band, he used to drum for Leeway.
Vinnie - He’s been my friend for 30 years! When we needed a drummer it was a no brainer! He’s our friend too.

The punk rock and hardcore scenes have seen a lot of change of the years, some say these changes have been for the worse, some say they’ve been for the better. AF has obviously been around to see the transformation. Are there things in the scene that you guys feel still need to change?
Mike - It’s hard to say, things are so different now. The internet has changed everything ya know. I think it’s a little too accessible, ya know what I mean? It’s kinda like I feel like things are too easy. Ya used to have to work harder to look for music, and hand out flyers. I used to like that aspect. It works for you, but it can work against you. Oh and record sales, that’s the main thing, I’d like to change that, no musicians can really make a living off sales of their music, you’ve got to tour breaking your ass.
Roger - We used to go out on tour to support our records! In 2011 we go on tour to support our t-shirt sales! There’s no point in records almost.
Vinnie - I’d like to see more clubs opening up, cabaret laws ease around in the cities. More for the artist, more for the musicians, not the artist! But the musician! We need more noise in the scene!

I interviewed Howie Pyro who’s a punk veteran of NYC just a few months back and he mentioned how hard things were becoming in New York when Giuliani came into power, it wasn’t easy to run clubs anymore. On AF’s Riot Riot Upstart album on the track “Police State” you guys shout “Giuliani Fuck You!” Is there still an issue in New York, is it harder for bands to play in the city, especially since CBGB’s closed down?
Roger - The actual city itself is shot for clubs. Everyone has to go away from the city, the clubs are in the suburbs - Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island. The city is hard, probably like what’s going on here in Los Angeles, the price are insane just to even run an event, its just so costly, everything goes up with it, it drives clubs to different areas.
Stigma - Once CB’s closed, that was a death to America. That was Americas club! They say Giuliani is America, FUCK HIM! CBGB’s was there way before that fuck!

AF has been around for years, you’ve toured with tons of bands, legendary bands who are no longer around even. Is there an AF bucket list of bands that you guys want to play with before AF calls it a day?
Stigma - Before we die?!
Mike - We played with Rancid last night for the first time, that was really cool. Rancid fans dig New York hardcore!

Roger, I know that in The Disasters, you cover Cocksparrer’s “England Belongs to me”, though you change the chorus to “New York Belongs to me”.. Was playing with Cocksparrer a huge moment for you and AF as a band? We caught that show in Vegas at Punk Rock Bowling, our minds were blown!
Roger - Absolutely, Cocksparrer is an influential band to Agnostic Front!
Stigma - Yeah! We play with them a lot!
Roger - We played a bunch of times with Cocksparrer, you name it we’ve done it!
Stigma - Cockney Rejects! Anti Nowhere League! UK Subs! They’re all good friends of ours!
Mike - If there was a band we’d want to play with, it’d be Minor Threat and The Ramones! I can’t think of any other bands I’d want to play with!
Roger - We played with Minor Threat! Well before Mike was in the band.
Stigma - I could go for coffee!

So Roger, you got involved a few years back with a clothing line. Dirty Devil Clothing, does that still exist?
Roger - It exists as American Made Kustoms now. I no longer do Dirty Devil. Hopefully we can finish that chapter, this year were supposed to end that agreement, hopefully we can so we can just continue doing AMK. I’m really focusing on that!

 How did you get involved with designing?
Roger - It’s just stuff that I like, stuff that I would like to wear, its based on my life style, hardcore, rock and roll, bikes, cars! That’s an American Made Kustom’s shirt right there! (Points over to Mike)

I’ve heard in the past you’re a motorcycle mechanic as well!
Roger - I can fix motorcycles, cars, I can fix everything!
Stigma - Houses! Plumbing! Electricity! Rogers good like that!
Mike - A Jack of all trades! Masters of None!
Stigma - I’m the master of None!
Roger - Masturbator!

When you’re writing songs at home, is it hard for you to distinguish what you want to keep as a song for AF or The Disasters?
Roger - No no, both bands write two completely different. We all write together for each different bands. It started out that way. There was a bunch of songs I had written that we didn’t do for AF, but that was years ago.

Where do you see the band in the next 5-10 years?
Roger - I don’t know, that’s a hard question! Ya never know what’s around the corner? As long as there’s a demand for AF we’ll be there, whether were playing or in general, well be there. 100 years from now people will still be listening to “Victim in Pain”.
The truth is were still very passionate and keep giving back to the scene.

Any last words for the fans reading out there?
Stigma - Yeah ! If you’re in NYC come out and visit New York Hardcore Tattoo! It’s my tattoo shop !
Mike - Go out and buy our new album “My Life My Way” !!
Bigwheel would like to thank Roger, Vinnie Stigma and Mike of Agnostic Front for their time and for being great interview subjects. Catch them across N. America as they continue to tour in support of their 10th album, My Life My Way.



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