According to Inside Prison, New London, Connecticut is one of the most dangerous regions in the United States, with an overall crime rate of 6,389 per 100,000 residents. Yet it was there, surrounded by violence, that Magdiel “Mags” Roldan was welcomed into the world. Proclaimed as an outcast, Roldan spends much of his time in his family’s small apartment while his peers fall into the relentless cycle of gangs.
Isolated from the world outside his four walls and struggling with ADHD, Roldan says he was constantly bouncing off the furniture. So he had to find cheap ways to focus his energy.
“My family didn’t have the money to get me into the sport, but when I discovered parkour, I fell in love. You know, all you really need is a decent pair of shoes that will protect your feet. Everything else is free, well, almost free,” says Roldan.
Although his skill level would have allowed Roldan to compete in parkour competitions, his empty pockets prevented him from entering. But the apparent lack of money didn’t stop Roldan.
“I would get out of Connecticut any chance I get. I couldn’t race, but I could still go to races and hang out. That’s how I found my community,” says Roldan.
Armed with a newfound confidence and agility that would make Spider-Man jealous, Roldan embraced the parts of himself that often drew ridicule from his classmates.
“I had Linkin Park on my headphones and I would scream along to the music as I skateboarded to school. I’m sure it looked crazy to people. You know, there’s this skinny kid screaming without any context as to why. But that was me and that’s how I expressed myself. I look back at many of these people who bullied me and it’s obvious that they peaked in high school. So I guess you could say it all worked out,” says Roldan.
By the time Roldan graduated from technical school in 2015, he had a clear sense of who he was, but he still wasn’t sure what that would mean for his future career. In high school, the purchase of his first car—a 1993 Acura—solidified his passion for motor vehicles, so he gave bodywork a shot.
“I still have that car! I even have the entire VIN number tattooed on my bicep,” Roldan says after reciting all of the car’s specifications. “But I wanted to do more than work on cars, so then I tried working in a foundry with my best friend.”
For a year, Roldan moved heavy metal objects in the sweltering heat of the foundry, and for a while he was happy. Then, perhaps because of his insatiable need to escape homeostasis, Roldan decided to pack a bag and backpack through Denmark, Sweden, Germany and France.
“I didn’t really have a plan. I just threw myself into it,” says Roldan.
Less than two months later, Roldan traded his backpack for an army backpack. Enlisted to become a combat medic, Roldan works his way up to earn an air assignment before being deployed to Alaska. But he didn’t know that he had to move to the Final Frontier to finally settle down with his destiny.
“I’ve always secretly dreamed of being in the crowd at a metal show and being chosen by the band to go on stage. I would steal the microphone and completely crush him,” says an excited Roldán. “I don’t know if I ever thought it would actually happen, but I prepared myself for the possibility anyway.”
In November 2019, that’s exactly what happened at a Decepticide show.
“I sat right at the front of the stage and just kept singing louder and louder while Ryan [Hull] handed me the microphone,” says Roldan.
His debut performance attracted attention, and before long Roldan began to front two metal bands from Alaska – Mara’s Shadow and Mindful Khaos. Now, preparing for the first tours of his two Lower-48 bands, Roldan says he knows he’s on the right path.
“I feel like I’m in the pocket and that all these things I’ve done in my life have brought me here. To feel like you’re doing something special and to be noticed for it is amazing,” says Roldan.
Backstories is part of a weekly column profiling Alaskans (and occasional visitors) in 750 words or less.