With their new album, The American Dream Died, out earlier this month (and reviewed here), Mark got the chance to fire a few questions at the band’s bassist, Mike Gallo. Thanks to Claire at Nuclear Blast for scheduling everything.
Agnostic Front embody the punk soul. You’re true punks, spreading your music with character. How do you keep the punk flame alive so well?
This is what we believe in. It’s our passion to keep creating music and spreading our message world wide. We don’t care what anyone else thinks of us and we do things on our own terms. And to me that’s what punk rock is all about. It’s not how we dress or what we look like.
Your work ethic as a band is second to none. Does it ever get tiring?
It definitely get tiring! Let’s take our last show for instance. Just for one show, it took two days of traveling to get to and from California. Connecting flights that always suck. When we tour, there is never any days off unless we need them for traveling. If you been to a hardcore show, then you know how much energy we bring to the stage every night. So day after day and night after night, this can be draining and hard on the body. It doesn’t get any easier, the older we get.
The new album is riveting and deeply compelling. Did you and the band change any arrangements? The record is fresh, you guys have a knack of keeping it fresh.
We have a new guitar player, Craig Silverman. He might have sparked a new life into the band. But we really didn’t do anything different from the past. I think putting out some of our older releases influenced us to go back to our roots with some of the songs on this new record. We just wrote as many songs as possible and before it was time to record we picked out the strongest tracks. Never did we say we wanted to take a different approach when writing this album, it just sort of came together like this naturally.
The band formed in the 80s. Before my time. What was the punk scene like back then compared to now?
Back in the day the scene was only a handful of kids. I’d say about 30-40 of us at a show. We didn’t know we were doing. Never did we think we would bring it to what it has become today. We were just having fun and singing about what we believed in. It was tougher back then and not as accepted as it is today. We were looked at like freaks and had to fight for our acceptance. So we broke a lot of ground for youth of today.
What are your musical influences?
- Black Sabbath
- Bad Brains
- Minor Threat
- Black Flag
- The Blitz
- The Who
You’ve toured relentlessly since the bands beginnings. I know they’ve been some great highlights. What is your most memorable?
There’s one show I definitely have such a vivid memory of. We were playing in Bulgaria to a sold-out crowd of at least 1000 people. Energy was insane from the dance floor all the way up to the balcony. I say around midway through the set as we were playing the intro to the song “Gotta Go” (“From The East Coast To The West Coast Gotta Gotta Gotta Go”) from the back of the crowd marching through the pit were two giant flaming tiki torches. I remember looking over at Roger and him saying I think this place is going to go up on fire. It was just a really intense show and I remember thinking to my self and saying. Could you imagine if this is the way I’m gonna die. On stage at a show. I guess I have a fear of fire.
Are they ever any shenanigans on the road?
There’s never a dull moment. Always pranks and some sort of an adventure. Here’s a good one. So on one tour after every show. Roger would stick his dirty underwear in my pillow case. He did this for a month straight. I had no idea I was resting my head on his dirty laundry every night. At the end of the tour he asked me for my pillow. I asked him why he needed my pillow. He responded because I used it as my laundry bag for the tour. So there’s always some Stupid shit like it’s going on.
You’ve been likened to acts like Madball, that must be an honour?
If you know anything about this music then you would know that Madball was a spin off of AF. In fact it started with all the member of AF and Rogers little brother Freddy would sing. It’s an honor to work with Freddy these days as a producer cause no body knows the band like he does.
The new record The American Dream Died sounds like a pessimistic title. Did you deliberately implement that feeling on the album?
Absolutely, we’re sick and tired of what’s going on today in America and everything else all around the world. The dream is dyeing. America was a place for people to come to and through hard work, make a better life for them selves. A country built on opportunity and freedom. And it once was a great place where people would migrate from all over the world to live this dream. But the problem now is our government and the people who are running this country are beating it down with all there lies, corruption and false flag operations. It’s the harsh truth of what’s going on today in this country. Slowly taking away our freedom and ignoring our constitutional rights. This once promising country seems to be taking a fall for the worse. Our values are going down the drain. And there is too many people that just don’t care. There making it harder for us to live here and for others to make a good honest living. There greedy ways are bleeding us dry. They don’t care about the hardworking Americans, all they want to do is manipulate us and Robb us blind..
The lyrics have become more poetic over the years and more diverse. Who is the primary songwriter for the band? Or is it a collective venture?
We all collectively write everything together as a band. There is no main song writer. I definitely did a lot of writing on our last few records. But everyone always has there input and ideas to really create each song. With out Roger and Vinnie influence it would not sound like AF. This is why we have such a distinctive sound and nobody can ever sound like us.
Mike, your bass lines are seriously good. What age were you when you first picked up the instrument?
I started playing bass when I was around 14 years old. But I had stopped for a few years because I was going for lessons and my teacher was just showing me scales and I wanted to learn songs. This was getting boring for me and I was not having fun with it anymore. So I put the bass down for a good couple years. I believe I picked it up again when I was about 17 years old and started going to hard-core punk shows. That’s what inflows me again to play music. My main influences my father. I told him I wanted to stop playing guitar and he gave me the advice and told me to try the base first. He told me guitar players are a dime a dozen and every band needed a good bass player. He has been playing in bands since he was 16 years old and said a bassist was the hardest member to find. This was the best advice anyone has ever given me in my life. It may be who I am today but I cannot thank him anymore.
Agnostic Front is a brilliant name for a band. Where did the name come from?
Vinny came up with the name. Agnostic front means we do not believe anything until it is in front of our face. Some people take it as a religious thing but this is not true. Agnostic means not to believe. It’s a statement! It’s much more bolder than the Beatles or the animals. It has meaning.
What’s it like to play punk music in front of a crazy sea of punks?
To me it’s a natural high to see the way people react to our music. Seeing all those crazy punks and hard-core kids going nuts moshing around the pit and jumping off the stage is such an intense thing. It’s hard for me to enjoy any other type of show because nothing can beat the energy in the intensity of a punk and hard-core show. That’s why I love this music so much. The bands and the crowd together make the show. That’s why there’s always been such a strong sense of unity in the scene.
You’re legends in the scene. Do you get spotted by fans substantially or is it a rare occurrence?
Yes once a while this does happen. Especially that I’m in the band for 14 years now. Everyone is always respectful so it is no problem for me. It’s actually an honor to have people recognize who I am. I’m Humble and will always take a pic with them if they ask. It’s amazing to me that I made it this far in the music world.
Thanks for taking your time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions. It means a lot to us. Please tell the gang that they’re also musical heroes. Thanks Mike!