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Teaching the World Roman Numerals:
An Evening With Furious IV

by Edwin Decker

"We grew up with early '80s Southern Cal punk, but we're also rock and roll. That's how we grew up, that's what we feel."

Ocean Beach has this little treasure chest of a bar called Pacific Shores (or Pac Shores, to its devotees). It is, of course, dimly lit and smoky. There is a sense of peril in Pac Shores, like steam pouring out of a car radiator. Like something is gonna blow. The jukebox, an old, singles-style model with all the cool lounge and jazz standards, sits in the corner by the pool table and restrooms. There is an overwhelming sense of blue here. Both in color -- the oceanic paintings with their jovial starfish, sea horses, and mermaids; and in mood -- the interactive sadness that lingers between the fixtures and the people.
Here, and only here, would Furious IV agree to be interviewed. We sat in stubby chairs at the large, amoeba shaped, marble-like table. It was the perfect setting to prop up the microcassette recorder, drink beers and chat with the band. "Just my Imagination" trickled out of the speakers as we began, setting just the right mood.
Furious IV is IV guys. Ian Flannon Taylor who sings, plays guitar, writes and is the spiritual leader of the band. Though all the members contributed to the interview, Ian was the one most eager to speak, and as the booze flowed, so did his colorful and comical harangues. He has peppy, bleached (I'm guessing) blond hair and an I'm-not-an-angry-punker smirk.
Brian Kelsey Bunn, who looks, sounds and acts like Dana Carvey, is Furious' guitarman. His responses are clever. He likes to tell anecdotes to reinforce them.
Didier Alan Suarez, drummer, is the most visually noticeable member of the band. He's got tongue rings, a lower lip ring, and a set of reverse earrings that go inside the earlobes and stretch them out. He let me touch his ear. Felt like silly putty. Very gross. Didier, despite all the metal and tattoos, has a kind face, and an affable manner antithetic to his ornaments.
Jamie "Angel" Garza, guitarist, is the straight man of the group. Dean Martin to these three Jerry Lewises.

"The last time we did an interview here," says Jamie, "We got so drunk, everything was 'off the record.'"
This will turn out to be a premonition.
"The guy couldn't make it home," Angel says. "He had to pull over [to] the side of the freeway to catch a few Z's. We had to get him a burrito."
Didier comes back to the table bearing beers and cocktails. I promise myself I will not meet the same fate that befell this unfortunate, previous interviewer.
The speaker over our head reverberates. Dean-o: "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore..."
The big news for Furious IV is that their album won Best Local Recording at the San Diego Music Awards.
"I was thoroughly impressed by the turnout," begins Brian. "The enthusiasm was the best I'd ever seen. But we'll never see these people again. I know that they may have a different lifestyle and stuff, but it seems like after the awards the support is no longer there. It never really has been, except certain cliques."
The disc, What's Become of the Baby?, is melodious Southern-Cal punk. And though the earmark "melodious" may be the kiss of death to a punk band, that's clearly not so here. Punk needn't suck, either technically or in theory, to be punk. Just because the "Oy" movement, the Pistols, and the Kennedys, lacked sophisticated musical talent doesn't mean they wouldn't have been true punk even if they had been classically trained.
On the contrary, punk ideals have little to do with the music, and more to do with tone of voice. Take "Testosterone," an anthem against exactly the type of person you'd expect to see at a punk show: "You won't be ignored/With a tight fist you back up that mouth/Alone and scared it keeps you in control/Hey tough guy/Yeah you're the tough guy."
That's the heart of punk. Questioning the status quo, even if the status quo is marching in circles like gorillas, slamming into each other at the foot of your stage.
This anti-anti-establishment humor is continued by the photo on the back cover, showing the IV of them striking tough-guy rock poses.
"You have to have the token rock picture on the back," says Ian.
"But if you really look at it," adds Brian, "only two of us held the pose. The other two are cracking up. It's supposed to be humorous, the whole cover. Those are our moms on the front. You open it up and there we are."
"We're trying to get the kids," says Ian. "The kids got nothing better to do out there in Poway." Indeed, the subtitle of What's Become? reads: "Warm analog sound for the kids." Warm, I take it, as in mother's milk, or the sanctity of the womb and protective amniotic fluids. Very Oedipal.
"Trailers for sale or rent. Rooms to let, 50 cents. No phone, no pool, no pets. I ain't got no cigarettes," sings the jukebox.
It's my turn to buy a round, I think, being reminded by Roger Miller's song about hobos and poverty. I dig deep, find some crumpled I's, a V, and a X dollar bill and offer to buy shots. The IV of them want Southern Comfort. The premonition of the hapless, drunken interviewer is a fading nag in the back of my mind. Shots, beers, and shooting the breeze come easy with these guys. They are, much like the provocative mermaid on the wall, wicked sirens. They beckon me with their sweet song into the treacherous waters of booze and debauch.
"We are punk rock and roll," explains Ian, stubbornly, at my request for the band to label themselves. "We grew up with early '80s Southern Cal punk, but we're also rock and roll. That's how we grew up, that's what we feel."
We're beginning to slur our words (a fact which will not be known to me until I listen to the tape the next day). Ian is now out of his seat, like a restless boy at the dinner table. He's prancing around, kissing on the waitress, quickly becoming less interested in the interview.
Patsy Cline croons, "Crazy. I'm crazy for feeling so lonely..."
Ian returns from a minor smooch session with the waitress. "We did a soundtrack for a snowboarding, BMX, skiing kind of video. A friend of mine is a cinematographer and makes those movies. When he needs tunes he calls us, and when we have a record we call him. It usually works out."
"Oh yeah," he continues, excitedly, "and we're doing some songs for the soundtrack of this movie called Stewart. Mike Judge is going to produce it. We, um," he says humbly, "we wrote a song called Stewart. Hopefully they'll pick it as the title track. We saw the script and the trailer. It's about a XXIX year old guy who makes his living pimping beer for high school kids. It's hilarious!" he says with a Bill Murray-like grin.
The marine life on the wall is starting to stir. The sea horse is wagging its tail, the starfish is sending a message in semaphore, and the mermaid is batting her eyelashes. I'm starting to have visions of burritos and Z's. The boys are up and about now. We're still talking about band stuff, though less now than we are about chicks, booze, bands we hate, and more 'off the record' stuff.
I ask how the band formed and they answer reluctantly, as if to say "Screw all this rhetoric. Let's drink and shoot the shit!"
"Me and the old guitarist," Angel says in monotone, "were looking to play in a band and we ran into the old drummer. He knew Ian. We jammed in my garage."
"I moved here with my old drummer," continues Ian with the same lack of luster. "He said 'I know this hippie and this ska guy that wanna be in a band. I was like, 'No way.' Finally, we couldn't find anyone so we went to their garage. But those guys got pussy-whipped and got jobs. Then we found a guy who could actually play guitar and... Didier!"
"I'm an outsider," Ian says of his newness to the San Diego music scene. "I've been here for III years. I came in trying to start a band, going to all the shows, and watching this crowd that all grew up together."
Elvis: "Don't be cruel, to heart that's true."
"It's very inbred," re-interrupts Brian.
"It's been hard for us. We didn't go to high school and grow up with these guys. We're just now getting inside."
We talk about the band's name, which Ian doesn't seem to mind as much as the previous question.
"We messed around with some other names [before] Furious IV," says Ian. "We came up with Roman numerals to give it a twist and it's given us nothing but a headache. We always hear, 'What's a furious i-v?'" He pronounces each letter, as in intravenous. "So our band mission is to teach the world Roman numerals. There's the title of the article right there, huh? 'To teach the world Roman numerals.'"
Eric Burdon: "We gotta get outta this place. If it's the last thing we ever do."
This thing is breaking up. Ian has had his fill and wants to leave. Brian too. I'm now intoxicated and it's midnight.
Ian grabs the recorder: "I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the ska movement for sucking and giving us this chance to shine again. Also, I'd like to thank all you angry little guitarists and jumping little babies out there."
"Yeah," Angel jumps in with a parting shot at, presumably, music cliques and marketing departments. "And sorry we haven't been doing heroin for VII years."
From there on in, everything is off the record.

Edwin Decker lives in Ocean Beach and is currently publishing a book of poetry.

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Updated: November 28, 1997

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