American Eagle, you probably know them from the track "American Oi!" from the "Pop Oi!" compilation released by Link Records in 1989. When it came to being featured on releases it unfortunately didn't came any further to that compilation, until now! The original '89 demo is being released for the first time ever on CD and vinyl, the band did its first reunion show in 25 years at the Black N' Blue Bowl in NYC and this motivates Sgt. Rock and co. to write, record and perform new material as well! Time for a chat!
Hi Rock, first of all thanks a lot for taking the time to do this interview! How are you doing? Recovered from the Black N’ Blue Bowl yet? Let’s get back into time first, can you tell how American Eagle got formed back in the 80’s?
Myself (Sgt. Rock) and Mike D (lead guitar) formed the band in 1989. We grew up in the Bensonhurst part of Brooklyn. We teamed up with Glenn (Drummer) and Chet (Bassist) who played in a band called Mr. Pickle. We used to rehearse at Ace London Studios in Marine Park, Brooklyn. As we recorded our first demo and enlisted Mike Rockwitz (the Legend) a High School friend of mine to assist on background vocals. We would attend shows quite frequently at Lamour’s and CBGB’s Sunday Hardcore matinees. Which ended up being venues we would play at. The rest is history…
Back then you guys recorded five songs of which only the song “American Oi!” got released during that time on the “Pop Oi!” compilation on Link Records. How come the remaining four tracks never got out there (until now, but I’ll get back to that further on in the interview)?
The songs that were re-released out now on United Riot Records, were from our original demo. Back in 1990, I was contacted by Mark Brennan from Link Records (also a band member of oi/punk legends The Business) to submit songs for a compilation he wanted to release. He immediately gravitated to “American Oi!” which instantly became our anthem.
Did it bother you at the time that other American bands like Anti Hero’s, Moonstomp and Kicker Boys were getting signed by a label such as Link Records and you guys didn’t get the change to put a full-length out for them?
Our goal at the time was to put our raw, energetic music and shows. We were all from blue collar, working class backgrounds. Our patriotic message was timely because it coincided with the 1st Gulf War. We had friends who enlisted and they had our support. It was great to see other bands get signed and the popularity of American Oi! music grow.
Why did the band eventually break up?
We continued to play through the early 90’s. By that point we were in our early 20’s and we all had personal obligations to attend to which took precedent. The music scene also started to evolve as well at the time.
Were both you and the other members still active in the (music) scene after American Eagle broke up?
Most of us kept in touch loosely but had pretty much gone our separate ways.
Why did you choose to reform the band after an absence of nearly 25(!) years? What was your motive to bring American Eagle back to life?
I was contacted by Dennis from United Riot Records about a year ago to have them re-release our initial demo on vinyl for his label. I immediately reached out to Mike D to discuss the offer and fortunately I had all the master reels to our recordings. Coinciding with our release he was also putting together the 2015 NYC Oi Fest, which took place early this May. We felt it would be a perfect venue for our 25th Anniversary Reunion.
Are there a lot of changes line-up wise compared to then and now? Who is in the band these days?
Unfortunately Mike D had to sit out playing with us for the reunion due to medical reasons but we are confident he’ll be back soon enough. Glenn who has always been the powerhouse on drums is still our backbone. He luckily was able to find an incredible replacement on lead guitar in Albee Damned. Albee grew up in the punk/oi scene and we knew him from back in the day. He played in a band called The Krays. I was able to re-enlist Mike Rockwitz (the Legend) for backing vocal support and due to his editing background at Marvel Comics; he is responsible for all our logo and design work. Our biggest void was to find a bassist to perform with us for the Oi! fest on short notice. Fortunately Dennis was able to enlist Eric Pee to play with us. He had played with several Oi! bands so he fit right in.
Recently you performed live again for the first time as well at the respected Black N’ Blue Bowl festival on your home turf, while initially your first reunion show was supposed to be a week before that. Why did choose to cancel that show?
There was some confusion when nameless outside parties were able to get the original venue to cancel the oi fest...just 2 days before it was scheduled. The guys in 211 scrambled to find alternate sites and did a brilliant job...in the confusion; Glenn (our drummer) took on a work shift thinking the show wasn’t going to happen...we were extremely disappointed in not being able to do it.
How did the gig at the Black N’ Blue Bowl went? What does your set look like? Were there more songs from back in the day, did you perform covers or were there perhaps totally new songs as well?
When word got out that we weren’t playing the Oi Fest, Cuzin Joe from Black N Blue Productions contacted me. He was a fan of the band back in the day and he felt our history and reunion would coincide nicely with the reunion of the Crumbsuckers. From our perspective it was a dream to get back on stage anywhere-let alone Webster Hall where we attended so many great shows in our youth. Because the band lineup for the two days was already set in stone, BNB was able to give us a 20-minute set. We performed at 7pm on Saturday May 16th, which was a great spot on the venue. We played 7 original songs all written 25 years ago. We wanted to close with Last Resort’s “Violence in Our Minds”, but the schedule didn’t permit us to. It was an incredible experience and a great way to let the world know we are back and stronger than ever. There will definitely be both new and old material to be released soon as well.
Recently your demo recordings were released on CD and a 12” version is on its way. I personally think the songs sound great. Are you happy, perhaps relieved, that these tracks finally get the release they deserve?
We are all thrilled with how the production turned out and are grateful to Dennis and United Riot Records for the release.
Does this reunion motivate you to write and record new material as well? What are your plans with the band?
Now that we have the BNB Bowl behind us…it’s back in the studio to write and record. We promise it will not be another 25 years before you see us again.
Do you think there is a lot of difference between the (NYC) Oi! and hardcore scene now compared to ’89? What are your thoughts on today’s scene nationwide?
We cant speak about the scene nationwide, but back when this band was active, hardcore was still somewhat punk influenced...since the 90s hit, metal took over and pushed out that original sound...there was also still a lot of skinheads in hardcore scene back then...that changed to a different vibe that still exists today...the whole NYC scene has taken a big hit since everything became gentrified and of course the death of CBGB's.
Many of the people we knew are either dead, in jail, or still hanging around. Some of the bands that were just starting out are the leaders of the scene now. We’ve witnessed the dedication and perseverance of these artists throughout the decades. This is not an easy lifestyle. What’s even better is that there is a scene still around.
Okay that is it, thank you very much! If there is anything you would like to add, feel free to do so!
We want to thank you for the opportunity and this interview. God Bless all of the men and women in our armed services. God Bless the United States of America