Interview: Rey Fonseca (Agents of Man, Truth & Rights, Elements DEC, etc.)

Rey live with Agents of Man at Holiday Jam 2023 in Reading, PA. (Photo: Danielle Dombrowski)

The name Rey Fonseca may be unfamiliar to some, but I've been a bit of a superfan for over 20 years now, ever since discovering Agents of Man and then subsequently Rey's prior work with Elements DEC (who I still contend are one of the most underrated NJHC acts ever). As you'll find below, his trivia-filled trajectory also includes stints with everyone from Backlash to Maximum Penalty—and, more recently, Bulldoze.

This interview first began to take shape way back in 2018 when Rey's inexplicably underrated Truth & Rights project (featuring his former Agents of Man bandmates John Doherty and Zack Thorne alongside drummer Dimi Douvas and fronted by game-changing legend Eddie Sutton of Leeway) was somewhat actively promoting their Lies & Slights full-length. The timing didn't work out, but Rey surprised me a few weeks ago with a follow-up all these years later—an interesting coincidence given that the Truth & Rights album was just reissued through Upstate Records, though bittersweet given Eddie's recent passing (may he rest in peace).

So, learn more about Rey's background and insane musical résumé herein, hopefully discovering some new-to-you tunes along the way...

I don't know much about your early days, so what got you interested in playing guitar as a kid?

When I was 15, an older cousin of mine moved to Spain. That cousin left behind a Spanish flamenco guitar in his bedroom. So, every time I'd visit his younger brother, I'd make my way to his older brother's room and fiddle with the guitar. Somehow, I don't recall exactly how, I was able to coax it out of their home and back to mine. That's when guitar took over my life, so to speak.

From what I understand, you started out coming more from the metal side of things. How did you discover heavy metal, and when did you also start gravitating toward hardcore, hip-hop, etc.?

At 12 years of age, I was already a fan of Run-DMC, The Fat Boys, and anything breakdancing. I think that was just normal where I grew up. But, hard rock and metal was pretty much still underground, so my exposure to it was minimal. It probably wasn't until a neighborhood kid asked me if I've ever heard of Def Leppard. I didn't know who they were, but I remember the name sounding so cool it piqued my curiosity. It was shortly after that, one of my junior high friends put me on to Metallica and Iron Maiden, and by freshman year of high school I was a full-blown metal fan. It wasn't until the summer before junior year that I discovered the Cro-Mags. I bought their first record used from a second-hand music store in Elizabeth, NJ. I didn't even know who they were, but the record was so cheap I took a chance on buying it. That album was a game-changer for me. And it wasn't so much the sound, because I remember not liking the guitar tone very much. But that wasn't what pulled me in. It was the lyrics. They really resonated with me. From there, it was bands like Maximum Penalty and Agnostic Front (Cause for Alarm) that ultimately exposed me to NYHC. Hip-hop or rap was already something I liked, but it was the '90s rap era that I really gravitated to. By the time I was graduating high school, my musical tastes started to really expand, and it wasn't until maybe 19 or 20 years of age that I got into salsa and merengue—big time.

You've been in a large number of truly unique-sounding bands dating back to the late-'90s, and a lot of what ties these bands together is your own distinct writing style. I rarely ask about influences, but I'm curious how you came to develop your approach, and the way that it balances heaviness and melody and technicality and catchiness?

I think my ear for melodic riffs and catchy hooks started in my early years through my mother's musical selections. Every weekday morning, while she got ready for work, she'd crank her stereo, and it was strictly commercial radio. But, still, anything that had guitar riffing or a melody caught my attention and would often get stuck in my brain. There's no doubt that shaped my writing.

The earliest reference I've been able to track down with regard to your musical career is that you tried out for Ressurection at some point in the early-'90s. I find that interesting, because their style is vastly different from the discography that you've come to be known for. How did that opportunity come about?

I wasn't in Ressurection, but I was asked to "try out" for some form of that band that involved their singer, Rob Fish. I was 17 years old at the time and wasn't a good guitar player at all. In fact, I could barely piece three riffs together or remember them back-to-back at the time. Even worse when I was under pressure in a room full of people observing me play. The opportunity was presented to me via a mutual friend who played bass in Lifetime. He was associated with some of the Ressurection guys and recommended me for a tryout.

A flyer from the cited Hard Knox show at Studio One in Newark, NJ.

A book called New Wave of American Heavy Metal claims that your first band was Hard Knox, but I've asked around and have been largely unable to confirm whether or not this group ever existed. What's the story?

If I'm not mistaken, Hard Knox played one or two shows. We definitely played Studio One in Newark, NJ. I believe I have a live recording of that from the soundboard. That band consisted of early friends Mark McCorkle, Willy Lopez, Anthony Amodeo, and myself. Funny enough, Anthony Amodeo played drums in the later days of Agents of Man's career, shortly before Agents called it quits in 2006. [Editor's note: More recently, Amodeo performed with Man Destroyed Man, alongside several of Rey's former Elements DEC bandmates.]

Your first band that I actually know about was One 4 One, but I'm light on details. You were gone before the first full-length in 1996. Talk about how you came and went during that first stretch with One 4 One...

One 4 One was my first "real" band. The band I committed a lot of time to and also how I met the bulk of the many musicians I know to this day. One 4 One brought me my first recording experience and that was our first release, the Beyond Hate demo from 1994. The original lineup included me on guitar, Mike Heinzer on bass, Seth Meyer on drums, and Dan Murray on vocals. I wrote the bulk of the material and performed on the I Won't Lose 7", released by RPP [Released Power Productions] from Belgium. That also included the original lineup. A little-known tidbit and foreshadowing is that John Doherty Jr., Agents of Man's original bass player, wrote the opening riff for "My Time," which is on that 7".

You joined the mighty Elements DEC for the band's second and final demo, 1998's Hesitation, The Enemy. You were already friends with the rest of those guys at the time, so what led to you becoming a part of the lineup?

Friendship and like-minded thinking. I believe it was as simple as that. We all knew one another through mutual friends. Larry [Cooney, vocals]—who was originally from Elizabeth, NJ—moved to Middlesex, NJ where he met [guitarist] Scott St. Hilaire. Scott was the former guitarist of New Jersey band Lifetime. Elements had already been formed before I stepped in. When their original guitarist, Raf [Norat], left the band, I was asked to join. Later, after Scott left, I suggested we recruit my friend Zack Thorne, who I knew from Bulldoze and more recently Train of Thought.

It's no secret how much I love that band. Would you say that you really honed your style during the Elements DEC period? From my perspective as a fan, it seems like that band really kicked off a run of creative and interesting music from you that has yet to subside.

Elements is the band that got me to start thinking, "Maybe I can do this for a living." That group of musicians was also influential in developing my style. I was in my early-20s at that point, thus more open-minded and found a lot of inspiration in different types of music—including, but not limited to, rap.

Elements DEC played a showcase for Bad Boy Records at one point, which is pretty crazy. How did that come about, and what do you remember about the show itself?

All bullshit [laughs]. Really, we met so many scuzzy and shady fake "managers" who acted as though they knew someone. All they wanted to do was capitalize on a vision, but never actually invested anything but talk. We supposedly played a showcase for Bad Boy, but I don't recall meeting or talking to anyone after that gig. The showcase was at Arlene's Grocery in NYC. Shame, too, because it was a great show. I remember it well. Lots of energy and an energetic crowd. But, as you obviously know, nothing came of it.

As Elements DEC was drawing to a close, I think you did a stint with NJ Bloodline as well, is that right? What can you share about that experience?

Short and sweet for what it was. That lasted maybe a year, or a year-and-a-half? I played a few shows with those guys, but I never felt as though I was a real member. They needed someone to fill out their sound at the time, and I was available. After a handful of shows, I mutually parted ways with Bloodline to focus full-time on Agents of Man. That was in late-'99 to early-2000. Not much to say, honestly. I knew Enrique (Wreak) [Maseda, R.I.P.] for a long time at that point. We had a fake band called Requiem. Which is crazy, because it was so long ago, but I remember that pretty well. I even remember the fellas we were planning on having in the group.

I was looking at your website and noticed that apparently you were in Backlash at one point, too!? When was that?

I played in Backlash for a short stint from 1997 to early-'99. I believe I did three shows with them: one at the now defunct Melody Bar in New Brunswick, NJ; Olive's in Nyack, NY; and the other show was in rural Pennsylvania. I believe it was at a VFW hall. When that ended (don't recall why), I went on to fill in on second guitar for NJ Bloodline.

I just recently learned that the final Elements DEC lineup more or less morphed into Agents of Man, and that there were actually plans during those early stages for the band to have two vocalists—Larry, from Elements DEC, and Puda—as heard in "If Anything," from the first Agents of Man EP.

I'm not sure if we were going to have two singers. I can't even remember how Larry was brought into the mix for "If Anything." But, I think it turned out really interesting and I'm very happy we recorded it and brought him on for that jam. It's a refreshing break-up of the song's vibe. As far as I know, Agents was always just Puda, but I'm sure schedules and strong personalities defaulted Agents of Man to a five-piece.

More so than the members' previous efforts with Elements DEC and Train of Thought, Agents of Man finally picked up some steam and opened a few more doors. Ultimately the ride still ended prematurely, but what do you feel was done differently at that point in time that allowed Agents of Man to reach that next level?

A number of things. For one, the overall sound of Agents was more digestible to most ears. That may be subjective, but from the beginning of Agents of Man's career, we had numerous management offers, show opportunities, and were overall well-received by our peers and strangers alike.

Apparently there are a handful of unreleased Agents of Man tracks in the wings, one of which, "Just Like the Rest," was recently posted online. How much unreleased material are you sitting on, and what details can you provide about the recordings?

We have an EP's worth of material, but we whittled it down to just three songs. "Just Like the Rest" is one of them. I posted it on SoundCloud because it was, in my opinion, too good to keep hidden on a hard drive. I honestly haven't given it too much thought since, but reading this inquiry is motivation enough. I already spoke and confirmed to have Laz Pina (Ill Niño) mix it.

Alongside your former Agents of Man guitarist Zack Thorne, you ended up in a reunited One 4 One lineup and recorded a killer compilation track in 2008 called "This Day." That song was a little more straightforward melodic hardcore, but still had your signature flavor. I really hoped that lineup of the band would do more. What happened?

I had this song and Dan was inspired to sing over it. And with some coaxing and Mike helping Dan write the chorus cadence, it all came together. Unfortunately, at that point we were five (with Zack) completely different people from when we first started One 4 One as teens. We were all individually caught up in our personal lives. No one wanted to get into anything serious. And, full disclosure: Seth and l butted heads creatively when it came to writing. He absolutely hated "This Day," but we still got in the studio and recorded it. Luckily, with Mike Barile (rest his soul) from Purple Light Studios, NY. The same place Agents of Man recorded both the EP and the Century Media (Count Your Blessings) full-length.

You started to get pretty busy around that time, and I'm not sure of the chronology of all of the projects you became involved with. Another band I had hoped would do more was Karma Never Forgives. Also featuring your former bandmates Zack Thorne and John Doherty—alongside ex-members of I.D.K. and For the Love Of—that project really came across like the second coming of Agents of Man. The Corrupt State EP was just awesome. 

Karma Never Forgives was a way for me to get out what I didn't with Agents. I had a lot of song ideas flowing. Desperate to get something together, I recruited all those guys and we started jamming and brought those songs to life. Red was someone I had always got along with and whose energy I enjoyed. So, when I sent him the songs and he started belting his ideas out in the room, I was immediately stoked. We eventually recorded the EP and self-released it, which obviously fell on deaf ears. No label, no real marketing, and only one show. It was over before we even really started. It also drew a lot of comparisons to Agents of Man. Whether that was a good thing or not, I can't say, but being that three of the five of us were in Agents, it's no surprise it possessed a similar feel. Those were my guys and it had our sound.

You had told me that you plan to do more with Karma Never Forgives at some point. What can you share about that? I think you may already have some partially-recorded songs, is that right? Doc Coyle recorded a guest solo for one track, and I don't think that ended up on Corrupt State, for example...

Doing more with Karma Never Forgives never panned out. I still have that name on deck, because I'd like to maybe relaunch it as a collaboration with different singers or musicians. Hence asking Doc to lay down a solo. But it's proven to be difficult. My writing is sort of all over the place, and a lot of the talented musicians I know are already spread thin with their time. People can listen to a snippet of that song with Doc's solo on SoundCloud.

You also did some work with former Karma Never Forgives vocalist Anthony "Red" Paladino in his Ripface Invasion project, I was never quite sure where you came in, though.

My only involvement in Ripface was recording guitars for their debut release, and "performing" in their first music video. Red asked me to record the guitars because he wanted a thrash-like approach for the songs he wrote. So, I learned them and hit the studio to track guitars. He later found band members and performed a few shows. Not sure how much more they did, to be honest, but I suspect that Red is relaunching I.D.K. I actually really liked them. Red had so much energy with that band and his voice was the perfect match for their music.

In that same general time period, you also joined up with longstanding NYHC greats Maximum Penalty. What has that been like?

I joined Maximum Penalty in 2009. That idea took place because Max Pen played a show with E.Town Concrete at the Starland Ballroom and I happened to be there. For kicks, I asked Jimmy [Williams], MP's singer, if they needed a guitarist. He turned to me and said, "Actually, I think we may. You should meet Joe Affe." Shortly after, I was in a room jamming with those guys and playing shows.

Rey live with Maximum Penalty in Brooklyn, NY, 2022. (Photo: Danielle Dombrowski)

That finally brings us to Truth & Rights, although that band actually started to form over a decade ago as Agents of Man was winding down. Can you tell me what happened there?

I don't remember exactly what show it was, but it was in Brooklyn, if I'm not mistaken. I walked up to Eddie [Sutton, R.I.P.] (he was pacing outside the venue) and asked him if he'd be interested in singing on some songs I had. To my surprise, he obliged. It was many years in the making, but ultimately we released a 7" on Six Feet Under Records. That, too, involved Zack Thorne and John Doherty Jr., the original bassist of Agents.

Truth & Rights was definitely a slow burn. It took several years for the Greenlight 7" to finally take shape in 2010, and I thought the band was dead and gone until 2018 when news of the Lies & Slights full-length started to surface. What caused so many lengthy delays?

Schedules, distance, and budget. That's what took the longest. Also, we re-tracked the vocals for Lies & Slights, which if you listen to the 7" vs. the full-length, the vocals are night and day. Eddie was recovering from vocal surgery when we recorded the Greenlight EP. After a good year of recovery, he really shined and came through for the full-length. That record (Lies & Slights) is available on all streaming platforms, in case your readers have never heard it. Upstate Records just repressed that CD and released an acoustic version via streaming of one of the songs ("Diamond in the Rough") from that full-length. Certainly something Leeway listeners never heard, Eddie singing over an acoustic.

Truth & Rights also finds you once more working alongside Zack Thorne and John Doherty, who you've been collaborating with on and off for over 25 years now. How would you characterize the musical chemistry between the three of you, and what each of you brings to the table in terms of writing/arranging?

The yin and yang and balance. Zack and I are the yin and yang. John is the balance of the two. Or more so the foundation. He truly elevates the riffs we write when he lays down his bass lines. It's incredible. The guy is a fantastic musician. He's also the guy that comes with solutions when Zack and I are at a crossroads with a song.

In recent years, you've stepped in on bass for Zero Trust and Bulldoze. It seems like another of your underrated talents is that you're able to be a quick study and learn a set on fairly short notice. At least with Zero Trust, the material is stylistically in line with the type of songs that you might write yourself, but what's it been like jumping in on bass rather than guitar in these situations?

The transition from guitar to bass, for me, was something I had no intention of doing, and did so with hesitation—Elements pun intended. During the pandemic, like many musicians, I got deep into recording music at home, which led me to ultimately purchase a bass for that sole purpose. Not long after acquiring a bass, Zack told me he needed a fill-in bassist for Zero Trust and that they were scheduled to play This is Hardcore [2022]. I immediately let him know that I had no desire to play bass in a band or live setting. Adding to that, learning new music, retraining my ears, and figuring out how to set up a live sound—all while possibly feeling awkward playing the bass—wasn't appealing. Eventually, I gave in and said that I'd give it a try and come up to the studio to rehearse, just to "see how it feels." The rest is history. And, believe me, I do miss playing guitar on a stage, but I've settled in comfortably as a bassist and have learned a lot from the experience of switching to rhythm. Furthermore, I really enjoy traveling with my longtime friends. Especially when three of the Bulldoze guys were in the same band I previously toured and wrote with.

I should also ask about your graphic design work. You did a lot of great design for Truth & Rights, and have been doing work for many of your own bands—and others—going back at least 20 years.

I always enjoyed drawing and visual art and excelled at it from a young age, and my parents were very supportive of that. After graduating high school, I went off to art school and studied graphic communication and illustration. Shortly after graduating, I landed a job working for a small web company (thank you, Larry Cooney!) and made my way into fashion illustration at a company in NYC. Currently, I work in the telecom industry, utilizing my graphic skills for their workforce. And though I don't draw much these days, in my spare time I'm always whipping up cover art or t-shirt designs for different clients and peers. Readers who are interested can learn more about my work at

Rey live with Bulldoze at FYA Fest 2023 in Tampa, FL. (Photo: Danielle Dombrowski)

Thank you so much for being patient with my glut of fanboy questions here. I'll close with something simple and just ask what we might expect moving forward?

Currently, I'm playing the big bass role for Bulldoze and enjoying the time well-spent with old-time friends. Traveling to places I've long-missed and meeting fresh new faces along the way. Shout out to everyone I've recently shared the stage with. You all know who you are. In other news, I wish I could say that I have a new project 100% solidified, but I do not. However, back in 2021 as the world was making its way out of the pandemic, I recorded a couple songs with Beto Rosario (Dmize, Madball) on guitar, Dave Mondragon (E.Town guitarist) on bass, and Andy Elder (Lament, Maximum Penalty) on drums. And I recently met up with Jay, vocalist of the band Bayway, at his studio, which I'm very hopeful will manifest into at the least two songs for streaming. Jay is incredibly talented, and I don't think a lot of people are aware of his musical prowess and vocal palette. But, time will tell!


As mentioned, find a little more from Rey at On the musical front, I implore you to explore the recordings of Agents of Man, Truth & Rights, Elements DEC, as well as the short-lived Karma Never Forgives through the links above or by searching your preferred streaming platform.