Agnostic Front – Interview with Vinnie Stigma

January 2017
By Sabrina Selkis
Photos by Miguel de Melo

Meeting and sitting next to the godfather of Hardcore is quite intimidating! We catch up with Agnostic Front guitarist Vinnie Stigma as well as drummer Pokey Mo on the last night of the Persistence Tour 2017, a 12 date tour with Suicidal Tendencies that has taken them from Germany, Poland, Italy, Belgium and finally to London.

Vinnie Stigma: Fire away! I’m not going to get better looking [laughs]

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You are on the last day of the Persistence tour, what have been your personal highlights?

Vinnie: To tell you the truth, I walk from the bus to the venue and back to the bus, the weather has been really bad, we have been in the east block a lot and it was really cold. As far as that goes I didn’t see nothing, but the club and the bus, but the people have been awesome every night. Every night it has been a treat to be on this tour.

Pokey: The big thing is it is the first time Agnostic Front goes on tour with Suicidal, it is a big landmark East Coast and West Coast meet, two really old bands of hardcore music.

Is touring easier now and what changed for the best?

Vinnie: it is easier as I don’t drink as much, that’s number one. Back in them days we had tour vans and not tour buses, that s easier too. I paved the way for all the young bands,vit’s easier for them like the bands Misery and Down To Nothing. I have dug a grave so that we could all sleep in it.

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Agnostic Front made limited local t-shirts for every shows of this tour, brilliant idea, how successful has the merch sales been?

Vinnie: You know, I come to the backstage, I haven’t been to the merch booth, I have hardly been out into the crowd. It’s been a hectic month to tour, you know what I mean. I am always doing an interview or something like that, I don’t have enough time or even the energy you know. How many flights of stairs, distance, barricades, security… you know… bigger venues keeps you away, which I am not crazy for.

Is it more so than before?

Vinnie: Of course! back in the old days I played the Garage up the block,the Marquee, and the Underworld. I played all the clubs around here, you know, for years I have been doing it. It is the first time I am  in London without my friend Mickey Fitz, he passed away. It is a sadder moment for me. Hail to Mickey [looks up].

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Is authenticity and staying true to yourself the secret to longevity for a band?

Vinnie: Honesty, Family, Brotherhood, no ego, no religions, accepting we come from a common denominator, showing up for work, doing your job – that’s it. Go home to your family.

Pokey: I agree with everything single word he said, he totally sums it up for me. It’s all about family.

Vinnie: I was friends with Pokey before he was in the band!

Pokey: Ya, I was friends with him, my very first day playing in a hardcore band. The gig line-up included Agnostic Front, the first show I got to play I met my friend the Legend. That was 30 years ago [laughs].

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Please tell me more about CBGB’s, what did I miss?

Vinnie: You missed a home, a really great place, if I was in there any longer I would have turned into a stool, you know what I mean, a part of the bar, not that kind of stool [both laugh].

Yeah that kind of stool, a piece of s*** that floats around in the toilets! Actually there was no toilets, just a hole in the floor, you’re from France you know about that!

I do yes!

Vinnie: I’ve been hanging in there since the very beginning before it was CBGB’s ,when it was still Hilly’s on the Bowery, same owner and then he changed the name.

Our photographer wants to know what words you would like to be remembered for?

Vinnie: Be a good guy, pave the way for all the kids like Down To Nothing and Misery and one day  they will say “he was a good guy, he helped us a lot“, you know what I mean. I shared my backstage, I did a lot for the scene, I was the only one in New York with equipment back then; bass, guitar, drums, all the bands used my equipment. Everybody stayed at my house, I always tried to support the scene. It’s my Life, I wouldn’t know what else to do.

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You released your 11th album The American Dream Died two years ago. Do you think the release has taken on an extra meaning in regards of the current situation in America?

Pokey: The songs we wrote back then kinda nearly foretold the situation now! From growing up in the 80s ,you see history repeating itself, we were writing to remember the past but it just so happened it is happening again today.

Gentrification has affected many cities; New York, Paris, London… clubs and venues are constantly closing down. Have you witnessed this in other cities during your tour?

Vinnie: Yes, we did witness it. In Landau in Germany, we played a club that will now be closed and given to the refugees, so I am out of the gig now, not cool. Also the squats have been given to refugees, how do the squatters feel now? We were just in Hamburg and we played where The Beatles played, it is still there, the bar next to it is still there. Hamburg hasn’t been affected too much. In London I had to pay extra for my bus to park. Taxes. How is Theresa May doing here?

Tough question… I don’t think she is good news for any of us..

Vinnie: It’s time for a revolution, This is it!

Is it a theme for your next album?

Vinnie: Maybe, maybe, it’s time to wake up and change the point of view, look in a different direction, we have been looking in the mirror too long, we should look at someone else instead and not blame ourselves , grow some f****** balls and stand up for yourself, maybe that. Stop being a sucker. That that’s why I play good Hardcore cos I AM mean and angry.

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Change of subject now, I was wondering who does your album artwork?

Vinnie: My tattoo shop sometimes do it, New York Hardcore Tattoo, I have all the drawing boards  there. New York Hardcore Tattoo basically do lots of lay out for us.

Do you think hardcore is making a big comeback?

Vinnie: I think it has come back through the Internet and stuff like that ,there’s tweets and all that b*******.

Anything else you would like to say?

Vinnie: Tonight we’re going to have a good time, it’s going to rain in London, you know what they say “Go for the food, stay for the weather”.[Looks down ] By the way I like your grenade shape handbag.

Thanks, and thank you for taking the time to talk to us, have a great show!

 

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