Interview: Iron Front

This was definitely the most fun we have had making and recording music in a long time, like how could you not have fun writing stupidly heavy slow fat riffs with your friends.

Iron Front, the brilliant Bay Area slammers who mix fearsome death metal with immense hardcore, have just released their second album Hooked, the follow up to their debut Left Out To Rot, and it takes the band’s music to the next level, in terms of intensity and sheer ferocity. Gavin Brown caught up with Iron Front guitarist Cruz Garcia to hear all about Hooked and the impact that Iron Front have had so far as well as discussing brutal moshpits, sick album covers and Bay Area heaviness.

E&D: Your brilliant new album Hooked has just been released. Have you been pleased with the reaction it has had so far?

Cruz: Yes, we are very pleased so far with the overwhelmingly positive feedback from the new album. We haven’t this much feedback from a release ever in our careers so it’s a good feeling that people are really digging this release especially since we put so much into this one.

E&D: How was the experience of making this album?

Cruz: This was definitely the most fun we have had making and recording music in a long time, like how could you not have fun writing stupidly heavy slow fat riffs with your friends, you know? Especially trying to come up with samples to put into our songs, at one point we had a Markiplier sample in one of our songs. It was just a lot of smiles and laughs in the studio, certainly won’t be forgetting that. In terms of the actual songs themselves, every time we had practice one of us would bring in a sick riff and we would build off of that, everything would usually flow and fall into place pretty smoothly. Of course, we had our off days where we had writers block and nothing we were coming up with was working, we didn’t make something that we felt iffy or just okay about. All in all a great experience as a band.

E&D: Who are the biggest influences on the sound of Iron Front and Hooked in particular?

Cruz: We certainly have taken a lot of inspiration from this new wave of death metal hardcore bands like 200 Stab Wounds, Sanguisugabogg, Bodybox, Peeling Flesh and Snuffed on Sight. We also have taken lots of inspiration from hardcore bands such as like Hands Of God. Of course, we have tons of inspiration from classic metal and hardcore bands like Internal Bleeding, Bolt Thrower, Obituary, Irate and One Second Thought.

E&D: You’ve got a few guests that appear on Hooked. Can you tell us about those?

Cruz: One thing we wanted to have on this album was some sick features, on ‘Burned By A Crack Pipe’ we got Harry from Bodybox to put down some vocal tracks, our guitarist Jesse just messaged him on Instagram asking him if he would be down to spit some bars on one of our tracks and he was totally down, he only asked for $100 in return which was dope. Our homie Kane from the band Manos De Fierro put down some sick bars on ‘Pig Splitter’, we wanted to have at least one hardcore vocalist feature on the album, and he definitely was a great pick especially since he’s a really sick Vocalist and a cool ass person overall. Our final feature Gerardo is the former singer of the band Death Pickle and is now the current bassist in Manos De Fierro, he’s also a really close friend of ours and he put down some gnarly inhales and squeals on the last track ‘Slam Of ’87’, turned out really sick and whenever we play shows with Manos De Fierro, which we do a lot since they’re also from the East Bay, they always come up on stage and kill their parts live.

E&D: Who would you love to have on an Iron Front album in the future?

Cruz: We were supposed to get Devin from Sanguisugabogg on the album but couldn’t due to scheduling conflicts, so hopefully on the next release he could drop a few bars on one our songs which would be sick. Would love to get Steve from 200 Stab Wounds on a track or Damonteal from Peeling Flesh, that would be pretty sick. It may be sort of a stretch but Frank Mullen from Suffocation would be a dream come true to have him do a vocal feature.

E&D: Hooked ends with the killer song ‘Slam Of 87’. Did you want to finish off the album with a bang with that song and are you going to play the track live?

Cruz: That song and ‘Pig Splitter’ were the last songs we wrote before heading into the studio to record the album, we finished writing those songs like a week before we had to record which is kind of insane. Our guitarist Jesse wrote almost the whole song by himself when he was trapped inside with COVID. When I was putting together the track list for the album, I felt like it should be the last song since it has such a sick breakdown at the end and it would be a sick way to end a record, I also wanted it to be one of the singles to build more hype around the album since it really is one of our best songs. We play that song live every show and whenever Max starts that drum intro and we all come in with that beginning riff, the pit gets pretty violent, and everyone starts to go insane.

E&D: What are your favourite albums that were released in 1987?  

Cruz: That’s a tough choice. My personal favorite albums from 1987 have to be Schizophrenia by Sepultura, Ultra-Violence by Death Angel and Abigail by King Diamond.

 

E&D: What has been the most brutal pit that you have seen?

Cruz: One of the most brutal pits that I have seen was when I went to see Devourment in SF at the Neck Of Woods, probably one of the craziest shows I have ever been to. I remember seeing someone crowd surfing and landing headfirst into the ground during the set and was out cold. Another show was Jesus Piece at the UC Theater in Berkeley, I was on the rail for the whole show and kept getting my back ran into for the whole set. I did wake up really sore the next day.

E&D: Do you feel that this new album is a step up from your debut Left Out To Rot?

Cruz: Most Definitely, our music in this new release is much more polished and tighter than the last. Our recording process was much different from the last. We didn’t use any metronome for drums, I just played a scratch guitar track while Max recorded his drum parts. We felt like this made things sound way more natural on the recording, we wanted to capture our live sound on a record, which was definitely something we were missing on the last album. And we all play very well together on stage or in a studio, we all have great chemistry with each other which really helps the process. Another thing is we didn’t stretch out the songs so much like the last, we much rather have better short songs than songs that are just okay but are dragged out for too long.

E&D: Did you feel any pressure following up that album with Hooked?

Cruz: Honestly, not really, I feel like we are getting better at songwriting with each release, like if you went back and listened to our very first demo, you can hear the difference and how much mature our writing has gotten, we have all grown as songwriters and musicians together so I feel like our next project will be a step up from Hooked, we are always aiming to take our music a step further in many ways and better than the last release.

E&D: What are you currently hooked on?

Cruz: Right now, I’m pretty hooked on Pearl Jam and country music which sounds like an odd combination right? Max and I have been on a real Pearl Jam kick lately, my personal favorite from them is Yield, such a great album with so many underrated bangers. Also been really into a bluegrass artist by the name of Billy Strings, easily one of the best guitarists right now; an extremely talented musician. Max and I went to go see him live at Stanford not too long ago and he played for like 4 hours. Super sick show and great experience.

E&D: The album cover of Hooked is suitably sick! Did you want the album artwork to mirror the brutality of the music?

Cruz: Absolutely, we never did like a gore type album cover before and I think it was the way to go, the music on the album is super brutal and we wanted to have a brutal cover to go with it. One thing I had in mind when trying to come up with a rough idea of what I wanted was how someone would react if they were in a record looking through records and just see that album cover, it’s pretty eye catching to say the least, if I saw that in a record store I’d most certainly buy it. But yeah, overall I think it fits our new style of metal pretty well.

E&D: What are your favourite sickest album covers?

Cruz: One of my favourite album covers has to be 200 Stab Wounds first EP Piles of Festering Decomposition, it’s such an eye grabbing thing which is my person favourite trait of a sick album cover, the colours and the weird monster looking thing on it will have you trying to figure out what you’re looking at for a cool minute. I’m also a big fan of the artwork on Suffocation’s Human Waste, a really brutal and sick cover as well.  

E&D: Have you had any thoughts about any potential new music at all?

Cruz: Yeah, we already have like three new songs that are fully written so far, we’re constantly coming up with riffs and song ideas and I already feel like what we have is as sick or if not better than what we have put out, like I mentioned earlier we’re always evolving and growing as musicians and trying to take it a step further.

E&D: How did Iron Front start as a band?

Cruz: We all met at this after school program called Bandworks, it was this class in Oakland that allowed kids who played music to meet other kids with similar tastes to play in a band together, we were all pretty young when we started doing that and under a different band name as well. Once COVID hit and Bandworks closed down temporarily we decided to start doing our own thing, we separated under Iron Front, released a demo and we’ve been working hard ever since.

E&D: What live shows have you got coming up for the rest of the year?

Cruz: We have a bunch of sick shows coming up in the month of February with some sick ass bands like Spinebreaker in SF and Ballista in Santa Cruz. We’re also playing a Gilman show with our homies in Garro and Doomsday. We’re also gonna try to plan a few more tours for this upcoming year to play more shows outside the bay and get our name out there more.

E&D: That have been some of the best shows that Iron Front have played so far?

Cruz: Our most recent shows have been some of our best recently, our album release show which took place in sf a day after the album dropped was our best. We almost sold-out Bottom Of the Hill which is super sick because of all the legendary bands who have played there in the 90s. The lineup was great too with Manos De Fierro and Forced to Suffer. People were going nuts during our set, plenty of stage dives and crowd killing. My homie even got his nose fractured during our set. Our SoCal run with Manos was also pretty sick especially that San Diego date, those dudes know how to get down. Each show we play feels like it’s getting better and better, and we hope it keeps going up from here.

E&D: What are some of the best metal shows that you have ever seen?

Cruz: Easily one of the best shows I have ever been to was the Cavalera Conspiracy where they played all of Beneath The Remains and Arise. They even covered ‘Death Metal’ by Possessed and Jeff came on to sing it. Another great one was Sanguisugabogg with Kruelty and Vomit Forth. I had so much fun at that show, easily top 5 shows that I’ve been to for me personally. Seeing Devourment live was also an experience I won’t be forgetting, especially that pit.

E&D: What new bands are you digging the most at the moment?

Cruz: Some new bands I’m digging at the moment are Peeling Flesh, Corpse Pile, Forced to Suffer and God Awful.

E&D: What is the metal scene like in your Bay Area home currently?

Cruz: Man, the Bay scene has never been better, the day our album release show was happening we almost sold out the venue and there were like 3 other big shows happening around the bay. Every video I’ve seen from all the shows looked absolutely popping. The bay scene is really thriving to say the least, especially with this strong uprising of hardcore, it’s been really great over here. We love playing hardcore shows because they bring the most energy and every show I feel like there’s more and more people showing up and throwing down in the pit. There’s just such a variety of metal in the bay, we’ve played with punk bands, hardcore bands, metal bands and even grind bands. I’m pretty fortunate that I live in the bay with such a sick scene.

E&D: Who are your favourite ever bands from the Bay Area?

Cruz: That’s pretty tough, one of my favourite bay bands at the moment is Hands Of God, they just have so many good riffs. I’m also a really big fan of Twist of Cain and Extinguished at the moment. So many good hardcore bands to choose from.

E&D: What are Iron Front’s plans for the rest of this year?

Cruz: As of right now, we want to plan more tours this year and get our name out there more. Since we have more music made, we’re considering doing a split or an EP sometime this year with the new songs we have made.

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