Florian Helmchen (‘Squandered Message’ bassist) introduced me to his housemate’s – ‘Zündi’ Michael Laszlo, in Kreuzberg, Berlin – The Bonzen fanzine. Actually Flo contributed also quite a bit (together with ‘Onkel’ Ahmad Riedewald, Knut Neundorf, etc.) and took care of distribution (Distrybutje Bonzki, a precursor to what would eventyally evolve into his label HeartFirst recs). The zine already started in 1981. In ’88 ‘Zündi’ founded his own label Bonzen recs – the first release being ‘Jingo De Lunch’s second 12″; followed by material from bands such as ‘Assassins Of God’, ‘Th’Inbred’, ‘Ewings’, ‘Hostages Of Ayatollah’, etc. The zine was packed with interviews (here e.g. ‘Unwanted Youth’, ‘So Much Hate’, ‘Emils’, ‘Hate Crew’, etc.), drawings/cartoons, news/reports, …
‘Final Conflict’ was a band from So-Cal (South-California) that impressed most punx with their album Ashes To Ashes (out on Pusmort in 1987). From Tilt! #4: >>One hell of a record! Engaged, political lyrics supported by raging music.<<
[Translation below (with a little help from Bernd Backhaus)]
The interview was done in January ‘88 in L.A., by Marc, Steffen and Ute. Our questions were answered by Ron. [Brob: probably Ute Füsgen & Marc Nickel who started Mad tourbooking-agency (Berlin) later, and Steffen Rose of Navigator productions.]
As a small introduction, tell us but a little bit on the band’s history.
‘Final Conf1ict’ was formed in August ‘83, since then there have been some changes within the band. Jeff is the only original member left. Apart from him we have all previously played in other bands.
What about work, how old are you?
Except Rikk -21- we all have a job; Warren and I are both 22 and Jeff’s 25.
You’re playing for Golden Voice?
Yes, we play for Golden Voice.
There are a lot of rumors going on, just tell us what Golden Voice is exactly and why many people don’t think it’s so great that you play for them.
Golden Voice is a small production-company led by a guy named Jerry Towar. He started doing punk-shows about 4 years ago; since then the bands got bigger and bigger, the ticket-prices increasingly higher. He hired bouncers who harass people who stagedive or dance. It depends on what kind of show it is. Many kids don’t like him because they say that they can’t raise the money to pay the high ticket-prices. On the other hand I’ve never seen those very people that reproach us when we play small, cheap shows, because they prefer to hang around outside use their money in alcohol and drugs. That is why it doesn‘t really matter to us.
Do you think that Golden Voice destroys things in the scene?
They feed the bands, their egos and sometimes they turn them into rockstars by doing that. But the thing is: they certainly don’t force anyone to go to their shows. People could set up some cheap shows themselves but they are just too lazy, they just want to criticize. They complain if the entrance is $5 or $4. We don’t want to defend Golden Voice at all. There are a lot of people among them that we don’t like. The reason that we play for them is that we want to reach a wider audience doing what we’re doing. There are a lot of people for example that just go to these big shows. We don’t wanna make big money, we’re just not big enough to collect the big bucks. We would also take less money if it would lower the entrance. I hate to talk about Golden Voice.
Your record should actually have been released about a year ago, now it’s finally out. Are you satisfied with the way it turned out; why did it take so long?
Well, it’s really sad that it took so long but we couldn’t do anything about it. There were some unfortunate circumstances, it was ready a little while already but then something didn’t work out with the shipping from England. But we are definitely satisfied the way it turned out.
Are there any plans for a second album?
We have already talked about it but we don’t have enough material together. What we have to do now, is come up with some new ideas.
Do you have bands that support and help you?
Oh yeah, we are trying to help each other a lot here around L.A. Our brother-band is ‘Half Off’, their singer and myself are best friends. That’s why we try to get gigs together. Actually all local, small bands try to help each other. It goes without saying for example, that when a band gets an offer, they’ll say: “Eh, we know of another band that definitely is available.”, or they’ll always try to bring other bands as opening-acts. At the moment we don’t have a club here in O.C. [Orange County]. The police shuts down every club; they don’t want punk-music in O.C. Therefore we have very little concerts here.
Many people like to compare ‘Final Conflict’ with bands such as ‘Crucifix’ or ‘Conflict’; or call you PeacePunx. What do you think of that?
We want to stay away from all of these. Even bands like ‘Metallica’ or early ‘Black Sabath’ have political lyrics. We don’t wanna be PeacePunx. A lot of bands do that, and just for a certain group of people; we want to address everybody. We want to set any rules, we play for people, even if they are not vegetarian or anything else. We’re just a punk-band, to label ourselves somehow. People want to categorize you. Nothing against PeacePunx, we just aren’t that. We’re just we, ‘Final Conflict’.
You mentioned bands like ‘Metallica’ or ‘Black Sabath’, how d’you feel about them generally, about metal?
We we might have some musical and lyrical influences of them; the lyrics of early ‘Black Sabath’ for example were Peace-lyrics. I think Jeff got influenced a lot by it because he’s listened to that music when he was younger.
Do you believe that you and ‘Metallica’ follow the same path?
No way! They do write some decent lyrics but I think they would never write real political stuff.
So do you think that punk and metal are two different things?
Ahhh, not really, it all depends what the audience and you yourself make of it. Some punk-bands have lyrics just like those of many metal-bands and there are also metal-bands with a good attitude. Crossover is the new trend; we don’t like the whole thing, too evil. It turns a lot of punk-bands into money-machines.
You say crossover is evil; d’you believe in religion?
We all don’t believe in any religion. Jeff has a couple of things from the book of revelations in the lyrics because they are quite bizarre, but we definitely don’t want to transform anyone into a religious person.
Are you actually all vegetarians?
No, just 3 of us.
Do you carry a vegetarian message in your lyrics?
No, we don’t. Other bands sang about this so many times. We write our lyrics about things that are close to us, that we think are shit, simply what we feel. We don’t say: “Now we have to write a song about vegetarianism.”. We don’t want to hear every time: “This is our police song, this is our song about the government.”, etc.
What is it in the song Central America about?
It’s about the disease our government has in regard to stirring up the war in Central America with the Contras. We paid millions of dollars to promote the terror-war and actually have no business in this country. Our government has no right to tell another country how it should be run. They cause panic about the communists flooding the place and the people in these countries believe these sick messages. Central America is infected with the disease that we – I should not always say we but the US government – bring to them. But the song is about more than can be dealt with in the lyrics. It doesn’t refer to just Central America; it’s something that happens in politics in general.
Mike Müller [Muir] of the legendary ‘Suicidal Tendencies’ repeatedly said in interviews that there are no gangs in L.A. and above all no Suicidal Gang. What do you have say about that?
He’s a fucking liar!!! I myself have also read such an interview in England. All lies, there is enough gangs here and the Suicidal Gang is one of the largest. Müller [Muir] is not fit in his head but everyone looks up to him.
Are these kids just in Venice or do they also come to shows in L.A.?
They drive through the region, wherever crossover bands play. Something not all the bands are always excited about.
But the Venice bands all belong to the gang?
I wouldn’t say all but a lot to do. ‘Excel’ for instance, has got nothing to do with the whole thing, they are just getting pulled into it because they are on Suicidal records.
You have enclosed a booklet with your record, what does it contain? Political stuff?
We write about topics that are in the news, about how the band has developped, about concerts. Opinions. If we start to form an opinion about something, we simply write about it. Maybe we can open a few people’s eyes by doing thar. And if someone doesn’t like some things of what we say or believes that we are wrong, let him/her contact us. The address is printed in it. A record costs a lot of money, we want to offer the buyer also something that goes beyond just music. What I really find crappy for instance, is when you buy a record for a lot of money and there’s not even a lyric-sheet to go with it.
If your record is out in Europe, will you also come over then?
We want to, yes. But it’s hard to come up with the money for the flight. Since 2 of us are married, it looks even worse, money-wise.
Have you ever heard anything from Metal Hammer?
If an agency would offer you such a tour, would you pursue that or rather try to come over in an alternative way?
It depends on whether you do it on our terms: cheap entrance-fees, no bouncers, etc. Otherwise, we wouldn’t play.
Do you remember, a few days ago, during a conversation, we asked Andy ‘Attitude’ what he had done with the money they earned on their European tour. He replied that they had donated everything to an animal-proctection-group (That was just a joke.). To what extent can one apply that to your activities, do you have something with such organisations?
Well, both bands, ‘Attitude’ and ourselves, do benefits, for instance for Indian reservations that are expelled by the government, anti-nuclear groups, food for the homeless, etc.
How many people come to shows like that?
That is differs a lot but that doesn’t really matter anyway. We like to play benefits, whether it’s a success or not.
What’s the meaning behind your new album’s cover?
It’s a Collage of whatever errors occuring in the world. It should make people feel bad. To highlight the seriousness of things we use negative images so that positve ones stand out next to it.
What does the title Ashes to Ashes mean?
That was just an idea. We like the way it sounds as the title. These are the last words that a priest says when you’re dead. The original title was Ashes To Ashes…And Death To Death.
What was your best show ever?
With ‘Christ On Parade’ and with ‘Discharge’.
How many kids came to that show?
The ‘Discharge’ show was a great show, about 4000 people. That was before they banned people to come on stage in Fenders. And the Gi1man Street show last week was one of our favorite 3. The best shows are when the audience really gets in to it, otherwise it’s as if you are playing in front a brick wall. That’s why we try to talk with the audience a lot and not to play in front but with them. If the audience has fun, we do too.
You play mostly in California, why is that?
Well that has actually no particular reason. We’ve already tried it a few times but every time didn’t have any luck: once we had to cancel because the drummer had left us, another time our guitarist ended up in hospital; and then we all have jobs, so it doesn’t always work out at this time. We would like to play out-of-state and tour. First we also need get ourselves a bus, so we can travel cheaper and always have a place to sleep.
Is that a problem when you are playing somewhere: to get a place to sleep?
Big promoters put you up in a hotel or a small room to sleep. But many here are still very young and live with their parents, who indeed usually are reluctant to let strangers into their house. I mean: most do indeed work their butt off but; oh well, things can’t always turn out good. There is quite a difference between here and Europe, I know that over there many more have a place of their own than over here.
Some of your songs on the new record are now already 1-2 years old but you still stand behind the lyrics, right?
We did change a couple of things slightly but overall we still stand by them of course. With time we learned to express ourselves better, we don’t just want to say “Fuck the goverment.” but express what is wrong with the government. But we definitely stand behind the lyrics on the new LP.
There’s a whole lot of videos from you out there; are these always private ones, did you ever feel like doing a video-clip like the big bands, with all the trimmings?
We are on Flipside [punk fanzine] but otherwise most things are recorded by friends. I think that if we were to do a video, it should be about more than just music, but for the moment there’s no interest for that.
Why do you sing in the band?
Why? Because I can’t play an instrument.
Ron Martinez (vocals) – Jeff Harp (guitar) – Warren Renfrow (bass) – Dave Phillips (drums)