Final Conflict Explain Their Break-Up Just in Time For Their Reunion
This weekend, Alex's Bar celebrates 14 years of coolness with anniversary shows. Friday's lineup includes the recently reunited bands Final Conflict of Orange County/Long Beach, and hardcore band BL'AST! from Santa Cruz. You can also see the Stitches and Smogtown, and Saturday's show features Swingin' Utters, Old Man Markley, the Black Tibetans, Devil Dogs and Transistor LB.
Yeah, those are all great bands to interview, but I knew I had to speak to Final Conflict singer Ron Martinez. Not only was the 48-year-old a staple of Orange County punk (he booked shows everywhere -- including Chain Reaction -- and worked at Greene Records), he's been a friend for a decade and we hadn't spoken in far too long because he moved to Austin, Texas, four years ago, which might have something to do with the healing of my liver.
Friendship aside, Final Conflict was always a powerful live act. And the group's 1987 record Ashes to Ashes slays and if you don't own it, you should because it's like that dream you had when Black Flag and Black Sabbath became the same band.
OC Weekly (Ryan Ritchie): You had a different bass player for your Texas shows than your Los Angeles show. So what's the current lineup?
Ron Martinez: The core of the band is Jeff Harp on guitar, Nick Manning on drums and me on vocals. We have a cadre of former members to choose from who will play with us based on if they are available or not. So any given show could have Warren Renfrow, Shane Mclachlan or Travis Laws on bass. Either way, it's a person with band history. Warren is a member from the Ashes to Ashes lineup and to us he's more than just a band member. He's been my best friend since I was 17 years old. He was in the band before I joined. Whenever we book a gig, Warren wants to try and play it. However, he's in multiple bands, has a crazy work schedule and is a family man, so there's going to be times he can't do a gig. For the shows this weekend, they are local, so it's easy for him. It gets a bit harder if we play out-of-state shows.
What prompted the reunion?
Jeff and I had been talking about it for a few years, but never set a timeframe. It just was an idea we'd get around to doing eventually. Then I moved to Austin and my booking agency and other musical projects kept me from thinking about it much. You know...life getting in the way. Last year, our friend Timmy Hefner asked us to play Chaos in Tejas fest in Austin. It felt right, so, yeah, why not? We played two
gigs with Shane on bass. It was great. We followed that up by playing Power of the
Riff fest at Echoplex, this time with Warren, and it was a good time.
You and Jeff were distant for a while. What brought you back together and is everything cool now?
Anyone who knows me and Jeff knows about the rift between us years ago. I can say most of it was caused by individuals posing as friends. People spreading hearsay and animosity brewed between us. I was doing my own thing and playing in other bands and pretended that it didn't bother me, but it did. It caused me to not speak to someone I looked up to and I didn't want to speak about the band for a long time. Jeff and Warren are my big brothers and in any family you get in fights. This was no different. Two brothers in an argument and Warren was a neutral party. Five years back, Jeff approached me at an Alex's Bar show and extended an olive branch. We are far too old to continue being angry over things other people stirred up. I love and respect Jeff a great deal and am happy we are friends again.