One of my favorite releases of last year, was without a doubt Fuerza Bruta's debut 12" "Verdugo"! If you didn't get the chance to pick up the first press, make sure to get a hold on the upcoming second press - else you are really missing out! Therefor it was only a matter of time before I approached Fuerza Bruta's guitarist - and head honcho of Foreign Legion Records - Ian for an interview. Enjoy!
Hi Ian, first of all thanks a lot for taking the time to do this interview! How are things going at the moment – any new Uber stories you’d like to share?
I’ve had a long fucking work week and took several Ubers but have no good stories, which isn’t worth it you know? I shoulda’ just driven drunk. The last time Sheer Terror played here I got mad at an Uber driver because I was standing in front of a club and he sped down an alley and almost hit someone, and I kinda’ lost my temper and tried to pull the guy out of his car. There are lots of lessons in that Uber story, like: don’t speed in the city where you might not see people doing drugs in an alley, don’t do drugs in an alley, and don’t freak out and try to pull a dude out of his car. I live in Chicago...I’m lucky I didn’t get shot.
Let’s get down to some basic questions first, could you give my readers a brief history on Fuerza Bruta, members’ previous (band) activities, how the band got together etc...?
We started summer before last. We practiced for about three weeks and then put out a demo tape and played a gig with the Templars, Fear City, and Legion 76. The rest of the story is basic stupid band stuff you always hear, “we got really excited for this show and then we got into a fight and couldn’t play shows there anymore and then we recorded.” It’s a pretty boring story, really. I’ve been in a bunch of bands, as has everyone else except our singer Beto who hasn’t ever really done anything musically before this to my knowledge. Kyle was in Brick Assassin and still plays with Flatfoot 56, Matheus was in this band Squared Off, and Felipe was in Cedide Cemiterio in Brazil. We have another bassist named Fernando that fills in when Kyle is on tour, he’s in a band called Espejos.
Recently the band released their first 12” “Verdugo” – a fuckin’ scorcher! A lot of people, with the exception of Bleach Battalion maybe, were – and still are – pretty damn stoked about this record, while you seem surprised that the record ended up in yearlists (MRR included). Is it you being humble, or are you really surprised?
I think when you have a hand in a record or anything else kind of personal that people analyze you are always going to be caught off guard if people really seem to appreciate it. I recorded the LP myself and it was the first time I’d really done that. When I listen to it I think about things we could have done better, how mic placements could have changed the sound or small changes to the arrangements would have made it stronger. Other people just listening to it aren’t bogged down in all that so they hear different things and I honestly don’t know what they see in it. I guess I also realize that what we’re doing is very rough, very cult style Oi music and most of the bands attracting attention in the Oi scene these days are more melodic street punk style bands. There’s nothing wrong with that I just didn’t think we were on anyone else’s wavelength.
You also gotta remember that we’re not artists or anything, we are basically five total goons so playing music for us in a band is like playing a game of pick up basketball with our friends. We’re never going to make any money and we’re aware that most people in the world, even in the underground, are never even going to hear of our band, so our expectations are lower than low.
Either way, all versions of the first press on both Under Watchful Eyes and your very own Foreign Legion Records sold out in a heartbeat, as if you were selling plaques of gold for 18 bucks... or some brand new Battle Ruins vinyl. Did you expect to run out of stock so quickly?
No. One thing I’ve learned about putting out records is that a lot of times you’re the only person that really cares about what you’re doing. I’ve put out records that I thought were great and should have pulled through that no one cared about for whatever reason. I expected to have to work really hard at getting this LP into distros and end up selling the pressing out in a few weeks, I did not expect to put it up for sale on the site and then 10 minutes later look at my phone and see e-mail after e-mail from Storenvy from all the sales.
All versions of the album simply look (and sound) amazing, but they also look costly to make, with a lot of handwork put into it. Does the final product live up to the extra costs and work, are you happy with the result?
I guess if people bought it and didn’t feel ripped off then it’s worth it. I felt bad asking $18 or whatever for an LP but it was, as you noticed, expensive to make. I’ve tried to learn as much as possible about making good sounding, high quality records over the past couple of years and I tried to put all the stuff I’ve learned to use on this one. I always liked the labels that put forth the effort to have releases that were unique and of superior quality, so doing something like flipping a record jacket inside-out and screen printing on the inside and having to glue it back by hand (like I did for the preorder version) isn’t that crazy of a thought. A lot of records coming out right now are all assembled at a factory and look and sound the same with the same template for the art, but I appreciate the weight of the hand that is apparent in a project you work on yourself. Muna at Under Watchful Eyes really went over-the-top on his packaging but it all turned out great and people seemed to appreciate it so I’m happy with what he did even though it ended up being like a $50 record after shipping to Europe.
You guys haven’t been sitting still though, because besides a second press on “Verdugo”, there’s already a new 7” on the way! Can you tell me a bit more about it? The 7” is two new songs and is going to be a lathe cut for our tour in Europe in April. We didn’t have enough time to get a full pressing done so we had to do something else. We’ll be recording one more song when we get back and putting it with the other two songs to do a full pressing of the 7” on Warthog Speak Records, a killer label that I’m stoked to work with. I recorded the new songs and it turned out better since I learned a lot doing the LP. It got mixed by my friend Dylan who is really into classic rock and metal so it has a bit of a different sound than the LP, but I think it’s an improvement and keeps us from rehashing old sounds.
Speaking of this European tour, excited for it? I know you (and maybe Kyle?) have been here several times before – you already found some recordstores you want to visit this time around? -, but what about the other guys?
Man, money will be tight so I don’t want to think about buying records over there this trip, haha. We’ll be in Prague and I don’t know much about Czech punk or hardcore except some kinda mediocre grind bands from there in the late 80s/early 90s. Maybe I’ll come across some obscure old records there. We’ll also be in Basque Country, hopefully I can find the first La Polla Records single and an original ‘Anti Todo’ by Eskorbuto, one of the best punk records ever. These other guys...who knows what they’re looking forward to. Drinking crazy liquors we can’t pronounce, talking to people in other countries about their scenes and finding out about good bands we’ve never heard of. Why else do people tour?
Besides Fuerza Bruta, you are (or were?) also active in Snake Handler and your project Lost Legion. Both cool bands, but especially the latter got my attention with 2016’s “Auto Produktion” tape. Do you still have plans with this project, or was it just a one-off thing?
There were two of us in Lost Legion that wrote the songs, and we recorded with a couple different drummers. I don’t like the drums on Auto Produktion, they were recorded along with the bass in Denver and then sent to me to layer all the guitars and vocals. I just don’t feel like they fit the music very well. The drummer on the songs we recorded before that tape (which are also being released as a lathe cut for sale on the Fuerza Bruta tour) and I recorded three more songs but I don’t know if they’ll ever come out. If a label ever wanted to put them out I’d let them but I don’t see that happening and at the end of the day I can only do so much. We may pick up again in a few months and write some more but as of right now there are no plans.
There is also a second Snake Handler 7” that I hope to get around to actually releasing some day as it’s a recording I do like, the sort of Poison Idea meets Life’s Blood USHC, and it was recorded by Matt Russel who worked with Young and in the Way, Oozing Wound, and other heavier bands so it has a different sound. That band will probably never get back together, we’ve all moved on to other things. Rich (who played guitar and was also in the Oi band Awkward Thought) had a son and then opened up a tattoo shop with Chris (the drummer). The bassist Stephan got real serious about his job as a bartender and now works at a very well-regarded restaurant with a serious cocktail program, which is good for him but also demands a lot of time. Rich, Chris, and I practiced recently but were doing more Small Faces/Easybeats style stuff (actually using Lost Legion riffs on one song) but it fizzled out.
And to round it up, you are also responsible for the Our Way Of Life fanzine and as stated earlier, Foreign Legion Records – in other words, you like to keep yourself busy! Is the zine still active and aside the Fuerza Bruta 7”, do you have any other releases in the pipeline for your label?
The zine isn’t active right now but I’m slowly planning out another issue. I still do record reviews for Razorcake, and Maximum Rock n Roll just published a two-part history of Alabama punk I wrote so I guess I’m still doing stuff. Foreign Legion on the other hand is busy, maybe too busy, haha. I’ve got the two lathe cuts coming out, as well as a ‘Killed By Death’ style comp LP of Alabama punk, and new LPs for Ultra Razzia (members of the Prowlers) and Shipwrecked from Norway. The Posh Boys cassette will be coming out at some point this year and hopefully the second Fuerza Bruta LP.
For the zine you obviously did some interviews yourself as well, what question are you missing in this interview so far? Feel free to answer it straight away!
Why haven’t you asked about my favorite bands from your home country? That’s always such an out-of-place question that I see in interviews a lot (though not yours) and I love reading it knowing whoever is getting interviewed is doing a Google search for cool bands to name check because everyone is a poser. But anyway the best Dutch band was Zmiv. Squats and Neo Punkz are fine but kind of over rated.
Alright, thanks again for your time! I’m about to round this one up. But not before I shoot you some short and simple questions!
- “Verdugo” was one of my favorites of 2017, what was/were your favorites from 2017?
Concealed Blade and Public Trust put out the best records I heard last year. Hammer and the Nails and Limp Wrist also put out great records. I’m a little out of the loop since I don’t go to many shows in Chicago right now because all anyone does is bicker and most of the bands are weak, but there were great local releases by C.H.E.W. (their side of the split with Penetrode is great), Sea of Shit, Tarantüla (who actually put out two great records last year), and the Bug. The Ultra Razzia demo tape is sick and the Battle Ruins cassette from last year was one I didn’t really dig on at first listen but ended up listening to it more than anything else probably, it’s a fucking killer release.
-What was the worst shit you heard coming out in 2017?
Almost everything. I listen to a lot of music and almost all of it is terrible. Did Noi!se do a new record last year? If so that is the worst.
- What was/were the most recent addition(s) to your vinyl collection?
I finally got the Vulpess single at a good price, killer record! I spent too much on rare records when I was in France and Belgium last year but got some sick stuff I never thought I’d find like the Snix/Tolbiac’s Toads split, L’Infanterie Sauvage 7”, and the Nerves single. And the Bulldozer LP, such an under rated French punk record.
- If you had to part with your collection for some bizarre reason and you can only keep five records, which five would it be?
I would forego the option to keep five and sell everything to pay off my house, because even though I am obsessed with little round pieces of plastic I am still aware that they are dumb and I could listen to them on YouTube for free. If I had to keep five I would just keep some records I played on so my Dad would still be able to look at them and give me a hard time for wasting my time being in terrible bands.