Sunday, 1 June 2008

Bob from FAILURE FACE interview...

Here is a recent interview I did via email with Bob Suren from the great underrated Florida hardcore band FAILURE FACE. He also sang in MURDER SUICIDE PACT, and runs the great Burrito Records/Sound Idea distribution. If you don't know FAILURE FACE, you should be able to pick up their records fairly cheap, or pick up the discography CD. I highly recommend doing so; angry-as-fuck 90s hardcore, taking cues from the old greats like Negative Approach but retaining their own sound.

Q. What was the scene like around Florida when Failured Face started?

Bob: Failure Face started in late 1992 but didn't really click until Spring 1993. There were a couple of line up shuffles, including a brief stint with me on bass and vocals. There were a lot of bands in florida around that time but not many that I would consider hardcore -- or the FF style of hardcore. There were a lot of post-punk Fugazi style bands and pop punk bands. But everybody went to every show and all types of music were accepted. Around 1994-1995 thrashier bands like End Of The Century Party started popping up. Florida, particularly the Tampa area had a lot of good venues. Shows were well attended. A lot of kids did labels and zines, too. And there were some good places to buy records like Blue Chair and Alternative Records.

Q. Did you see any of the old Florida bands play, back in the day (F, Roach Motel, Gay Cowboys, Hated Youth, The Eat etc)? Are any of those guys still kicking around, or are they all retired at Del Boca Vista?

Bob: F played the first show I ever went to. Roach Motel and Gay Cowboys were supposed to play that same show but both cancelled. I never did see Gay Cowboys, but I was at all of the Roach Motel reunion shows in the early 2000s. Never saw Hated Youth, but they played 15 minutes from my house and I didn't even know about it. A friend tried to call me but he had written down my phone number incorrectly so I missed it. The eat were a little before my time, but I caught their FEB 2, 2008 reunion in Miami. It was great. I'm in touch with a lot of those band members. Some of them are still playing music. Some of them have other interests, like fishing and golf.

Q. Who thought of the name Failure Face?

Bob: I came up with that. It is from a Charlie Brown comic strip. It's both funny and kind of pathetic.

Q. How did the split with Ulcer come about?

Bob: They sent me a demo and I liked it. FF played with them in summer 1994. The record came out a little later. It was Ulcer's first release. None of the other guys in Failure Face liked Ulcer and at least one was a bit angry that I put them on a split 7" with us without him hearing them first.

Q. Who were you favourite bands to play with back when you were in Failure Face, and what contemporary bands were you really into?

Bob: My fave 1990s bands are Dropdead, Disrupt, Scrotum Grinder, Antischism and stuff like that. FF played with Dropdead once. They were great but it was one of FF's worst shows ever. I was a bit embarassed.

Q. What were the key bands which influenced Failure Face's sound? I can hear Negative Approach, NY influences, bits of Septic Death/Siege, hints of Infest...?

Bob: I don't think we made an effort to play like any particular band. Lyrically, I feel a bond with John Brannon and Henry Rollins, so perhaps a bit of that shows through. The bass player and the guitarist were much younger than me and the drummer, so they certaintly did not have bands like Siege and Septic Death in their backgrounds to draw from. Perhaps later the drummer and I exposed them to those bands. Our drummer was a big record collector and had a lot of obscure hardcore and thrash. He introduced me to a lot of my favorite bands. I don't know if there was a particular drummer who influenced his style. People often compared us to Infest, but none of us except the drummer had heard Infest until we had a couple of records out and had been going for a couple of years. So, while I might hear some Infest similarities, it was not possible that they were an influence. Like I said, we just played the music we thought up. We didn't have a band or style we tried to copy.

Q. How many pressings were there of the s/t 7" in total, and was it easy to shift them all?

Bob: 2,500 copies in 4 pressings. They sold quickly and easily. That was my third releasse on Burrito Records and kind of helped get the label off the ground. The first two releases moved much slower. For some reason, people picked up on Failure Face and I am grateful. I had no idea how the music would be received. I knew I liked it. I'm glad some other people do, too. We recorded that first 7" after just 3 practices. One song was written an hour before we went to the studio. It cost us $145 to make. That night, we left the studio, went back to the drummer's house and listened to a tape of the recording. He said, "This is awesome," and was very excited about it. That got me excited because I knew he liked good stuff and he had a lot more band experience than me. Seeing him excited about what we just recorded gave me a real boost.

Q. Since 'All Pain No Gain' was on Ebullition, were you associated with the bands on that label?

Bob: In the early 1990s, Ebullition was what I considered a top notch hardcore label. They had done releases by Born Against, Econochrist, Los Crudos and more. We thought the logical step for Failure Face was to get on a bigger, more established label and Ebullition wanted to do it, so everyone was happy. It was not until a bit later that Ebullition started doing more arty/emo stuff. By that time, FF was broken up. Ebullition treated us well.

Q. How did the FF reunion show in 2003 come about? Have you played since? Do you have a strong following in Florida?

Bob: Just did it for fun to celebrate my record shop's 10th year in business. We have not played since. Reunions are only special if it is a once in a life time thing, not an every now and then thing. No more Failure Face. Failure Face probably has a better following now than when were were active in 1993-1996!

Q. Share some memories from the best and worst shows Failure Face ever played...

Bob: Best FF shows were the grand opening of my record shop and the last FF show in 1996. Just good energy those nights, lots of friendly faces in the crowd singing along. Worst FF show would be Philadelphia 1993. Sound was terrible and I was so off.

Q. Songs like 'I Won' and 'Broken Man' are pretty depressing and downbeat in subject matter...would you describe yourself as a negative individual?

Bob: Maybe more cynical than negative. I'm a lot better adjusted now than I was during the FF era. But still fairly cynical.

Q. Explain the photo on the back of All Pain No Gain! (see below)

Bob: That's me in a jockstrap slamming my fist into the stage. Photo was taken at the Nite Owl in Pensacola on the first FF tour in 1993. In those days, I played most shows in a jockstrap because I thought it was funny. Somebody stole the jockstrap after a show in Philadelphia.

Q. I don't know too much about the band Everybody Sucks, other than that their side of the split LP with Failure Face is great...Was it all they released?

Bob: E.B.S. put out a great 8 song 7" on their own called, "Cosmetic Society." The cover art is bad, but if you spot it, pick it up. Total early D.R.I. worship. Then they did the split LP with FF on Burrito Records, then a full LP on Vicious Interference from Florida and then a split 7" with a band called Hangnail from Ohio. John, the bass player and I started corresponding by mail in 1991. We met face to face in 1992. He was a founding member of Failure Face and helped write a few songs. It was his idea to start a band. But after a few practices, he and the drummer were at odds, so John left. Years later when I formed Murder-Suicide Pact, I gave John a call to be in that band. we go for long periods without seeing each other, but we're still friends.

Q. How did Murder Suicide Pact start?

Bob: FF broke up AUG 31, 1996 and I had nothing to do. I was itching to play music again. In October 1997, I was ready to do something. The first person I called was John from E.B.S. and asked him to play drums, even though his first instrument is bass. John wanted in. Then I called Joe Kiser from Slap Of Reality to play guitar. Joe and I did not know each other very well then, but I knew he was a good guitarist.

Q. Murder Suicide Pact is a bit different from Failure Face in sound; definitely slower overall. Were you going for a different approach? There's a bit of Bl'ast in there...

Bob: The three of us practiced a few times. We tried a few thrashy riffs that John and I came up with but the result was rather ordinary. I think it was John who said something like, "Let's just play old school hardcore like Black Flag and Fang." We started talking about music and it came up that our mutual favorite band is Black Flag. So we started writing some Flag style riffs and that just worked out well for us. It fit us. We made a decision not to thrash, not to play blast beats, but to write songs based around killer, twisted riffs. I called up Kevin from Failure Face to be the bassist. After about a month, he switched to second guitar, John switched to bass and we picked up B to play drums. MSP is slower by design. A lot of people were let down that MSP was not as fast as FF, but it's a different band, a different approach. People always try to chose a favorite between the two and tell me their reasons. I listen but it's like apples and oranges. FF means a lot to me and so does MSP. I can tell you that MSP is a much better band musically, much tighter live and much more intense than Failure Face ever was.

Murder Suicide Pact, '98.

Q. What are the others guy who were in FF and MSP doing now?

Bob: MSP is still going, back to a four piece with Kevin back on bass and the guitar player from FF on drums. MSP now has three people from FF. Brian joined as our drummer in Feb 1999. We had a few breaks, but we're back with a lot of shows and a lot of new songs that stack up to the old records. We have a gig tomorrow to help us rasie airfare to the UK. we're doing 4 shows in the UK in November with No fucker and War/System. I think it is Worcester, Nottingham, Bristol or Brighton and London.

Q.How did you first get into hardcore? Can you remember your first show? What attracted you to it in the first place?

Bob: Summer 1983, a guy gave me a mix tape and I've been hooked ever since then. My first show was 8 local bands in a rented hall for $3. The headliner was F, the line up with Phil and Ken that did, "You Are An E.P." Gay Cowboys and Roach Motel were supposed to play, too, but they cancelled. I was attracted to the music, yes, but also the underground nature of hardcore. About the same time I heard that mix tape, I saw my first few zines and I thought, "Wow, this is really cool. They make their own music, their own magazines and records and it seems like anyone can do it" I think the word I would have used would be "counterculture" if I had know that word at the time.

Q. Who's your favourite British hardcore punk band ever, apart from Discharge? Tell us how the Terrorain record came about...

Bob: I'd go with Heresy. Pat from Terrorain is a long-time Sound Idea mailorder customer. He used to call me from the UK to place huge orders. One day he mentioned that he was in a band. I asked him for a tape and he sent it to me. He was surprised that I liked it enought to put it out and that so many people have purchased it. Terrorain was only around a short time and only played something like 8 shows. The record has given them much more exposure.

Q. How important do you see DIY to hardcore? I know Sound Idea/Burrito keeps its prices low!...

Bob: D.I.Y. is what hardcore is all about. There is no hardcore without D.I.Y. Hardcore without D.I.Y. is fake hardcore.

Q. When do you think a label ceases to be a DIY label? Street teams, huge offices..?

Bob: Probably when they market their goods toward a mainstream audience. I'm not sure what I feel about street teams. I'd love to have a huge office but it's not gonna happen for me the way I do business.

Q. What are some good current bands you're into?

Bob: Reason Of Insanity, Direct Control, Bill Bondsmen, Out Cold, Acid Reflux, Double Negative, Cult Ritual, ControL De Estado, PMRC and lots more. There's always something good out there waiting for you to hear it.

Q. Who are the most underrated bands from the Florida area, past and present?

Bob: Past: Belching Penguin, present: Control De Estado.

Q. You sang onstage with Philly band LET DOWN, for their cover of a Failure Face song...How did that come about? Did you just happen to be at the show?

Bob: They were playing a fest that I was going to be at. They asked the promotor to ask me if I would sing with them. I never talked to the guys until the day of the set. I asked them what part of the song they wanted me to sing and they said, "all of it." I thought maybe they'd just stick the mic out for the chorus, but they waneted me to do the whole song. They said they play it just like the record, so I said OK. They actually played it a littler faster, I think. I think I fell behind the music on one of the last parts, but in general, it sounded really good. I was on stage with them for less than 2 minutes and I've seen about 20 photos from those two minutes. Anyhow, it was a lot of fun and it is nice to know that they thought enough of my old band to do a cover.

Bob onstage with Let Down

Q. How do you feel about the Failure Face and Murder Suicide Pact records today, years on? Do you ever listen to them?

Bob: I have been listening to MSP a little because we're playing again and I want to make sure we're doing everything correctly. But in general, I don't listen to my own recordings very often. Maybe once a year, I'll toss on the Failure Face CD and think, "Hey, we were fucking good." FF was always a good studio band, not always tight live. MSP can play it live just like the record and gets way crazier.

Q. What other bands have you been doing?

Bob: Just the reformed MSP. I was playing bass in a band called Gross National Product in 2006. We made a demo, a 14 song 7" and had two song on a compilation. I was really into that band. If you check out my internet radio show, I'm doing an all Brandon, FL special on June 28 which will include FF, MSP, Gross National Product and a bunch of bands few people outside of our area have heard. The radio show is on the Sound Idea web page. I post a new show every Saturday morning as an MP3 and leave it up for a week. New show every week, no repeats.

Q. You've been running Burrito Records for years now, and still put out solid records by new hardcore bands (including the excellent Cult Ritual, for example). How did the label start? Never tempted to 'progress' from hardcore and release more popular indie bands?

Bob: I'm not interested in indie rock stuff, so, no, I have never been tempted to produce a Fugazi clone. I don't like metal, either. I like punk and hardcore, which I used to think were the same thing, but these days people are drawning sharp divisions. The label strted in 1991 to put out a record by a band I was in. I thought that would be the only releases, but then I started thinking of other projects. I have "dream list" of projects a mile long, but most of them will probably never happen, like say a Society Dog discography.

Q. What's your one favourite record you've ever released on Burrito Records?

Bob: I like all of the records for different reasons, but the one I feel the most attatchment to is the Flaming Midget 7" because that's where it all started, my first release. I listen to that record more than any of the other Burrito releases. It always feels really good to hear that. At least one person called it the worst record ever made, but I think it's really cool. The scrappy, barely produced, barely tuned, barely in-time sound is what attracted me to hardcore. It reminds me of 7 Seconds "Skins Brains And Guts" or maybe the Solger 7" or the Teen Idles "Minor Disturbance" 7". Style-wise, no, but in terms of attitude, that's exactly what that record is. Some people are gonna get it and some aren't. Hardcore isn't for everyone. That's another reason I like it. Could you imagine if your math teacher and your idiot boss and jackass neighbors were into hardcore? I'm into hardcore to escape those people and to be with the screw ups. The hardcores in my school were so despised by the status quo. Total pariahs. That's the way it's supposed to be, not on MTV.

Q. What keeps you interested in hardcore after all these years? What do you do to pay the rent?

Bob: There are still a lot of great people making great music. Even if the music totally sucked, the whole D.I.Y. underground network is so much cooler than whatever else is out there. What else would I do? Listen to Maroon 5 and play tennis? I sell records to pay the rent. Sound Idea is my sole source of income and has been since 1993.

Q. What, or who, do you hate most in terms of "hardcore" today?

Bob: Tough guy, floor-punch, brass knuckle gangster boys and their shitty metal guitar wanking.

Q. Do you prefer the Negative Approach s/t or Tied Down LP? This question divides nations...

Bob: The LP has better songs but the 7" is more aggro. All Negative Approach is good. Fortunately, you can getthe "Total Recall" CD on Touch & Go and listen to all of it in one sitting.

Q. Top 5 band line up to see live, from any time period?

Black Flag "Damaged"-era
Negative Approach circa 1983
Minor Threat -- any time
Misfits -- "Walk Among Us" era
Void -- circa 1982

Q. Favourite early NYHC band?

Bob: The Urban Waste e.p is a monster. So is the Cause For Alarm 7". The first Agnostic Front album, "Victim In Pain" is an all-time favorite, but I don't care for any of their other stuff -- including "United Blood"!

Q. Favourite underrated '80s hardcore band that you want to spread the love for?

Bob: United Mutation and Capitol Punishment!


pat terrorain. said...

great interview,im surprised bob said so much.with me he just grunts,or hurls abuse.ha ha ha.

Brushback said...

A how-to article that Bob wrote in one of his zines about getting a record pressed was a big help for me when I started my own label back in the mid-90's, so I thank Bob for that.

I still have the Failure Face/Ulcer split; I don't think I've ever listened to the Ulcer side, though...

Lestrygonian said...

Holy shit, United Mutation!!!

xSHJx said...

awesome interview. Failure Face is one of my favorite bands.

early FL hc was rad. Hated Youth, GCIB, Roach Motel, etc. Dig it. I did an interview with Gary of Hated Youth a couple of years ago. dude had some crazy stories.

I was actually thinking of contacting Bob to interview him about FF and whatnot, but saw that you had beaten me to it. haha!

Anonymous said...

"Holy shit, United Mutation!!!"

yeah that definitely was a sick shoutout on bob's part. failure face rulez.