Saturday, 28 October 2017

COMBAT FORCE INTERVIEW




D&O-Hardcore seems to be at an extremely odd stage right now. Divisions exist that have fractured it almost beyond repair. It is nothing like it was when I discovered it, and to be honest I think I prefer it now, it’s easier to work out which side to identify with, less smoke and mirrors. Can you start by talking about how you discovered HC and how it has lead to the formation of Combat Force?

MH: I gradually got into hardcore through being generally into punk as a teenager and would say I was fully into it by age 17. I think this is agreeable for all of us in Combat Force, as we like to have a mix of hardcore with punk and Oi elements. It helps that we grew up with it.

AB: My dad introduced me to early punk at a young age, and eventually I was drawn to the more aggressive sound of hardcore and oi. The idea that started Combat Force was to blend the best elements of both styles. Our demo, to me, is like a blend of early American hardcore and Hodges-era 4 Skins.

AZ: Well, I didn’t really discover punk first and then hardcore. Instead, because of my older brother, I discovered traditional ska and reggae at a very young age, and that eventually led me to punk, oi, and eventually hardcore. When I was 15 I went to my first hardcore show and haven’t looked back since. To me, Combat Force brings together the best aspects of 80’s hardcore and early oi.


D&O-Are any members of Combat Force active in other bands or projects, be it now or in the past? Can you see a distinct link between these bands and how you approach HC in general?

MH: I was in Civilized until about two years ago. I think the sound of CF and Civilized is different, but a lot of people I know/met from that band, such as James Trejo, have been very helpful and are the reason we are able to exist in the hardcore scene as a newer band.

AB: I played drums for a couple of Culture Shock (Denver) gigs a long time ago. Combat Force and bands like Culture Shock approach hardcore with the same mentality, but with a pretty different style. Both bands have an aggressive and uncompromising sound, and it helps that both of our demos were recorded by James (Trejo).

D&O-Denver has been responsible for some of the more savage HC bands over the past few years. Civilized and Cadaver Dog are two examples. Is there something unique about Denver that spawns such negativity? Combat Force expresses a similar distaste for life, and I know hate and HC go hand in hand, but there seems to be a special blend found in Denver projects. Where does this come from do you think?

MH: Denver is not a hype scene, and sometimes you play shows to people who don't care or understand what you're trying to do at all. Bands rarely stop here on tour and that is also very frustrating. We work very hard for little reward and I think that is some of the anger you hear in Denver bands.

AB: In Denver we are very isolated and separate from trends in other scenes. What that means is that we don’t really care to play stuff that fits with current popular trends that you find on the coasts. We are all we have, and we have no outside support. That can be very frustrating. Mike summed it up perfectly.

AZ: I moved here a couple of years ago from the Los Angeles area, but I can say that Denver makes you feel isolated and unwanted by other scenes. Most bands I would care to see don’t come here (fair enough), but that results in not exposing people here to what’s happening in hardcore and punk in general. That isolation turns into not giving a fuck about what everyone else is doing. Sometimes that can be bad, but when done right it turns out good.

D&O-You self released a brutal and scathing Demo tape. Four tracks of pure disgust. It captures the essence of HC as it stands right now in 2017. The sounds can be linked back to the 80’s yet there is no retro feel whatsoever and that is no small feat. What were the feeling within the band when you wrote those four tracks and how accurately do they portray the individual members stance on the world as it stands right now?

MH: We're all different but I think we can all agree that we're pretty sick of some of the people who think they run shit here and that comes out in the songs.

AB: For me, it’s an expression of my personal dissatisfaction with our scene as it stands and hardcore on a national level as well. There are extremists on both sides of the fence. I don’t like you, I don’t care. 

AZ: We didn’t want to be a ‘worship’ band that tries to exactly emulate a particular band or era. We tried hard to not make it sound like just another generic punk and hardcore release in 2017. I wanted something hard and legitimately pissed-off sounding.

D&O-There is a line on “Scumbag”, where you say “Your social justice is just a disguise”. That right there is surely a declaration of war and firmly confirms which side of the line Combat Force stands on. This is beyond HC and punk and bleeds into everyday existence; it is the battle for rights and how to uphold them. USA seems like a very dangerous place right now, one where a statement of violence such as the ones you make on the demo can and will be held against you. How important was it to make such a stance clear and to firmly align yourself against those hypocrites who don’t seem to understand what they are fighting for?

MH: Those lyrics seem to get taken out of context, and we are by no means against social justice, quite the opposite. People think it's this "Anti PC" thing and it’s not at all, it’s a stab at people who use those ideas to build social capital and take advantage of others by false pretense.

AB: In the hardcore and oi scenes here I have personally had to deal with the worst breed of idiots on both sides of the line, who have no ability to think for themselves. Scumbag is my ode to those who use calling others out to increase their social standing, especially when they are guilty of the same thing as the people they call out or blacklist from the scene. 

AZ: To me, the song is a message to those spineless cowards who blindly follow to be popular. Fuck that.

D&O-Calls of racism and the alt-right are being leveled at anyone who doesn’t tow the line and blindly follow. What has your personal experience been with this? Can you see any end in sight where people can rationalize and argue without generalizing and name calling? In addition to this, making such a violent statement as the one that you do on the demo, does that now force you to live up to these actions all the time, is fighting and kicking heads a way of life for Combat Force or is this more a statement of what is to come?

MH: There are a lot of people here that like to level serious accusations over nothing or because you're not friends with them. It can be dangerous as far as reputations go. But we don't take it too seriously because we are not racist or right wing or anything near it. I think it'll move on in good time and most of those people, in Denver at least, are far more interested in being cool than in Hardcore and they'll move on to the next phase soon enough. I don't think we have to live up to a violent image, we aren't pro-violence we're just not taking shit, people here would never say something in person, at least they haven't yet.

AB: We are not a political band, though we firmly stand against racism as a band and none of us align ourselves with right-wing politics. I also have no tolerance for the witch-hunt happening in our scene and I’m never afraid to stand up for myself against these clowns.

AZ: Many people these days demand ideological purity. If you don’t agree with everything that they or their narrative say, you’re a bad person, or worse, a racist. No debate or dialogue: if you have a legitimate disagreement, you’re fucked. Funny thing is, these same people are straight up cowards and will never tell you anything to your face. The Internet is where they thrive. 

D&O-From down here in Australia it seems as if the USA has gone fucking mad. Completely off the rails, the political climate makes no sense, police brutality is rife, there is a real us vs them mentality present that we cannot understand. Can you explain it at all from inside the beast? Is this the age where the most hateful and negative HC will arise due to such a climate surrounding everyone, or is it all blown out of proportion by fake news?

AZ: It’s been shitty before this election. That’s not to say that this election wasn’t unique, but I think we should acknowledge that there have been problems before. I can’t really explain here how the current political climate emerged, but I’m sure it’ll be studied for years to come.


D&O-The mighty J.Trejo (Cadaver Dog/Civilized etc) recorded the Demo. How did you guys meet him and what sort of impact has he had on not only Combat Force but also the Denver HC underground in general? His vision and work ethic is elite to say the least.

MH: I probably met James 9 or 10 years ago just through similar interests in hardcore/punk. James is Denver HC, he's the hardest working guy here. He’s in most of the hardcore bands here and he’s written pretty much all the music for those bands. He's been really helpful to us by recording our demo and recording the EP, which will come out on Youth Attack in the future.

AB: I met James when I was 16 and started gong to shows, I’ve enjoyed all his bands and it’s a pleasure to work with the madman.

AZ: I met James through Mike and Alex, and he’s been tremendously helpful not only in recording us but in promoting us, and showing Mark McCoy (YA) our stuff. James is the mastermind behind every good Denver hardcore band. Enough said.

D&O-Youth Attack announced that they will be re-releasing the Demo tape on 7” along with releasing your follow up release. YA is a unique label and one that divides opinions worldwide. There is an attention to detail and perfectionism present in all of the work that Mark does and it has pushed underground music into areas that it may not be comfortable with. What does this mean for Combat Force, do you have any expectations going in on this? What will eventuate from this meeting of the minds do you think?

MH: I really respect what Mark does and he's easy to work with and very collaborative. He has a lot of suggestions and helps out a lot through each step in the process and I'm happy to be a part of it. I think the meeting of Combat Force and YA will mean a solid release that's worth it.

AB: I would say that we are outliers on the label, but Mark seems to have a thing for Denver bands starting with ‘C’ so we went with it. I look forward to working with him and seeing where this goes.

AZ: I’m stoked to work with Mark. He’s been really kind and passionate about our music, and that makes us want to work with him even more. He has the same vision for the band as we do, but he also brings new and cool ideas to the table. I’m very excited for the EP, which is currently in the process of being recorded.

D&O-Is violence the only solution?

MH: No, but it isn't unnecessary.

AB: Sometimes it’s the only way to get your message across.

AZ: Depends who you’re fighting.