With bands such as Fall of Efrafa, Witch Hunt, Resist And Exist, Migra Violenta, Visions of War, Nuclear Death Terror and Resistant Culture among many others in its extensive catalog, Fight For Your Mind is the perfect example of someone who has devoted all their energy and resources to building on the most radical DIY ethics and political activism of hardcore punk.
Founded in France in the second half of the 1990s by Flöx Soyez, the label is behind some of the best releases of the period, but also continues its endless efforts with new releases from newer bands like Proteststorm, Hope?, Famille d’Accueil, Fatal, Myteri, as well as reissues and discographies of classic bands like Mankind?, Hellnation, Cress, Misery, Totalitär, Severed Head of State, Meanwhile, Masskontroll, etc… Some of these records are still waiting to be released in 2023, so we’re really excited to get some insight from the label in this new interview.
Defying the current tide of labels putting their stuff online, FFYM’s releases are not officially available on any streaming service, though you can find most of them on the bands’ own channels or on the labels that co-produced some of these records.
How did you start Fight For Your Mind? Was the label a continuation of your band Slums and the fanzine you published at the time? Can you talk about the DIY punk scene in France in the mid-90s and the bands you played with?
First of all, thank you very much for your interest in the label, it means a lot to me as I follow what DIY Conspiracy does on a regular basis and respect your dedication and hard work.
Well, Fight For Your Mind started in the autumn of 1996, I was 17 at the time. It started as a fanzine because not many people in France were talking about the things I was into at the time. I was motivated and inspired by a friend called Sid who was one of the first vocalists of Primitiv Bunko and he made a fanzine called Totalitarizm. The label came after that and was just that, a continuation of my band Slums because we wanted to put things out ourselves and I wanted to do more than just a band and also something more diverse than just a fanzine. Seeing other people doing their cassette labels really inspired me and I just thought I could do it myself. The opportunity to really start a label came when Filip Fuchs (Mrtvá Budoucnost, See You In Hell, Hluboká Orba fanzine) offered to release the Mrtvá Budoucnost & Gride split LP with other labels. We were in the middle of a tour in the Czech Republic with Primitiv Bunko and I was amazed by both bands, so I was really excited that he brought me on board, and that was at the end of 1998.
I got into anarcho-punk at the end of 1995. Talking about the DIY scene in the mid-90s is a bit complicated because I mostly experienced the second part of the ‘90s. Bands I played in? I played drums in Primitiv Bunko, which was a life-changing experience. Most of my friends at the time were either in the band or had been in the band at some point. I lived in a very rural part of France, so there was no real punk scene, but a lot of punk individuals, which made it very interesting. It was all about the way of life, philosophy, DIY, friendships, solidarity, squatting, living, working together, sharing all sorts of experiences, creating our own community spaces and taking action in all aspects of anarcho-punk. You don’t have to live in a big city. Just a good handful of motivated people with good hearts and common views and goals to make your life more bearable.
As for the punk scene in France in general, we were very close to people who were involved in their areas and did the same things as us, so little by little we got closer and made lifelong friendships. I think of people in Saint Etienne, Dijon, Lyon, Paris, Nevers, Limoges, Grenoble and so on. For me, there was a kind of emerging organization of things that was much better than what I had heard about in the past. I think it was an important part of the consolidation of DIY punk, because things were also going on in the South, West and North of France. It seems to me that a lot of people from that generation of punk stuck around longer than the older generations. Maybe I’m wrong. I also had another band with some friends called Slums, we didn’t last very long and we were four individuals who all had different punk and hardcore references so it made it a bit original in the way we all mixed our influences of different types of music, ideas and personal backgrounds. It was fun while it lasted. As for the bands I had the chance to play with, they were Mrtvá Budoucnost, Gride, Dropdead, Dystopia, Corrupted, Calloused, Visions of War, Coche Bombs, Vömit För Breakfast, Hibernation, Sick On The Bus, Blockheads, Ohlo de Gato, Betercore, and I have a bad memory of the gigs… sorry.
You have released a lot of bands from Europe (France, Sweden, Belgium, Czech Republic and the UK) but also bigger names from the States and have been involved in impressive international co-releases for bands from Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, Chile and Argentina. How did you get interested in bands like Doña Maldad, @patia No, Los Dolares, Migra Violenta, Antimaster, Fallas Del Sistema, etc.?
Well, there have been a lot of different phases in the label. You know, it’s been 25 years now, so you grow, you meet new people, your tastes change, hopefully in a good way, etc… And I also lived in an autonomous space for a few years and organized gigs. So I think most of the releases I’ve put out have come from making new friends and seeing bands live and making connections with them. I organized a show for @patia No and followed them to their next gig so we became friends, Doña Maldad I had met them in Colombia when I saw them play in Medellin and hung out with them and saw them again when they came to Europe, Los Dolares were friends of a friend and I lived with them for a bit in Barcelona in a squat called La Macabra for a short time, Migra Violenta and Kakistocracy came from Les Nains Aussi, which is another French anarcho-punk label. Antimaster and Fallas Del Sistema were done through an internet connection. Then I met Cesar from Antimaster when he was driving Coche Bomba on tour in Mexico and on that tour I met Benjamin from Fallas Del Sistema who was organizing a show in Guadalajara. I met Witch Hunt when I went to see friends of Calloused at a show in Minneapolis. You know how one thing leads to another. It’s not that I only wanted to put out Latin bands or epic crust bands or anarcho-punk bands, it’s just that I let life drive me and do things that motivate me with people I really love.
Bands like Fall of Efrafa, Kakistocracy, To What End? and Witch Hunt were really great and you were on some of my favorite releases of the early 2000s. You also released some French hip hop records at that time. Let’s talk a bit about that period for the label and the political punk scene at that time.
Thank you so much. Those bands you are talking about were also my favorites. Like I said, one thing leads to another and I never wanted the label to go in only one direction. People usually like it when a label is driven by a musical speciality. I don’t see it that way. Even though I was very influenced by Profane Existence, Tribal War, Prank Records, Sound Pollution, Flat Earth, because they released some of my favorite music, I also liked labels like Tian An Men 89, Maloka, Alternative Tentacles, Panx, Nikt Nic Nie Wie, etc… which were much more diverse in terms of musical styles. For me punk was always about the ideas and the way of doing things. I didn’t have the vision of an epic crust label that some people labeled me as. If Fight For Your Mind has to be labeled I’d still call it political punk fueled.
The French hip-hop I put out was by close friends who were very involved in the anarcho-punk scene. Rapper Calavera is more anarcho-punk than most anarcho-punk bands! Golem of Flesh was made by a friend who was also the singer of Piloophaz and we were supposed to do a split EP with Slums at the time. The lyrics and the attitude of these people is just punk. I also grew up with hip-hop in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s living in the USA at that time. So yeah, I love hip-hop music too and it’s a great way to get ideas out and build a bridge between the subcultures that are very similar to me socially. I was also very connected to the street in one way or another.
By that time I had made a lot of connections with different people. I also worked with Paria from Folklore de la Zone Mondiale, which is Bérurier Noir’s label. He was so helpful in so many ways. Fall of Efrafa was probably the first time I got a CD-R, put it on and fell in love with it within the first 20 seconds of putting it on. I was happy to coordinate and press their first LP Owsla. There were also the other bands at that time like Stockyard Stoics, The Filaments, 241ers (which was acoustic and featured members of The Filaments, Stockyard Stoics and MDC), Kismet HC from the UK, Happy Bastards from the US and some other cool bands like Personkrets 3:1 or Tached Out (ex-members of Stàte Of Feär, Deformed Conscience, and React) as I had also released a Tinnitis record earlier which had some of the same members. Sickness from France, who were also members of Enola Gay and Vomit Yourself. An important thing for me at that time was to work with some artists I really loved like Marald, Mid (Deviated Instinct), Laura Satana (amazing French tattoo artist), Melvin (Pekatralatak) and more. I also had Neša from Doomsday Graphics do some art for my logo as I wasn’t happy with the first ones.
I also had a great time touring with Calloused and Witch Hunt a couple of times in Europe. It was a very active time for me.
The label seemed to be on hiatus for a while, and then you released the Myteri CD in 2016. Was this a new beginning for the label, as you started making new catalog numbers as BFTD (Back From The Dead) instead of FFYM (Fight For Your Mind)? How many releases have you released as FFYM in total?
Yes, the label has been on hiatus a few times. There is only so much you can do sometimes. I have moved quite a few times over the years, relocated a lot, started my life over more than a few times. I needed time to do other things in life, to travel, to have new activities, to reinvent myself, and I spent a lot of time and money on scuba diving for a few years, traveling to Morocco, Egypt, Colombia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Mexico, the USA, etc… and the label and everything was hard to manage being away and living in 3 to 5 different places a year. I’ve had burnouts and it’s all a question of prioritizing the things you can do with the budget you have to live on. Sometimes releasing records was absolutely not a priority in my daily life because I had to eat first and grow to open my mind to other things that make me happy. I did shitty jobs all over France to get the money to keep the label going.
As for the BFTD (Back From The Dead) era, yes, I wanted it to be a new beginning, but I wanted it to be a vinyl-only era. But it didn’t work out that way. Myteri asked me to help with the CD version of their LPs because they already had people on the vinyl version and I said yes because I really love what they do and they seem to be very, very nice people and I still haven’t had the opportunity to meet them. Then I took a little break and when Lanchy (Totalitär) and I got in touch through the Internet it gave me a lot of energy to start again because Totalitär is an all-time favorite and I am grateful to him and the band for having had the opportunity to do something with them. And that’s when COVID-19 started. I can’t remember how many releases I did under FFYM, maybe 40 or 50 releases and co-releases. I’m sure Discogs knows though.
You are working on some fantastic reissues and vinyl discographies. In 2022 you released the amazing Mankind? discography LP. It seems like a colossal work, so how do you manage to do such releases and keep your DIY attitude in a time of skyrocketing prices for printing, pressing vinyls etc?
Hmmm, Mankind? is also one of my favorite bands from the ’90s. Stacey is a great friend of mine since I helped Calloused to play some shows in France. So I was very, very happy to be able to do this. Bill Chamberlain was super cool to have me on board to co-release this record and let me coordinate this release a bit because Jay from Ryvvolte Records was cool for us to do it together because he was on it before me. So usually a release is not all mine! I usually like it to be a project where everyone is involved. I don’t like to push things if people aren’t really happy and motivated by it. Picasso did all the art and the booklet for the band because he had the archives and I really wanted the band to have it the way they wanted it. And I’m very happy about that. As for the prices. I have to admit that every release is a financial burden. I can’t let myself lose hundreds and hundreds of Euros, if not thousands, like I used to. It’s just not possible, otherwise this time I’m gone for good. Yes, prices are crazy for everything. That’s why a lot of people have come into the process of making a record.
Mirek from Phobia Records has helped me a lot with good prices for printing covers and booklets. And he helped me to send things abroad as France is one of the most expensive countries to send things from. But at some point prices are what they are, I can’t do much about postage, printing and pressing costs, mastering costs, etc… As long as it’s fun and I don’t lose too much money and I still have the motivation and passion I’ll keep doing it as long as people still trust me to do it. I also like nice productions, so making the cheapest record possible isn’t really what I’m looking for either. I always try to make a record that I’d like to keep. And some people continue to support what I’m doing, even though sometimes it takes me a little while to send things out, depending on my work schedule or other priorities I have to deal with first. It means the world to them.
Tell us more about your other recent and upcoming releases. What keeps you motivated to be involved in the scene? Do you think DIY punk is still a threat and a place to organize for social change?
Well this last year a lot of projects have been delayed because of pressing plants and logistics. Things have been taking forever and now it seems like everything is coming together at the same time… So a lot of stress is coming… I was lucky enough to work with my friend Usman who runs Bunker Punks Records with Jeff who also plays in Scarecrow and Fatal, and works at Sorry State Records. It’s been a pleasure to release the first Fatal 7-inch EP featuring two members of Scarecrow and the vocalist from Out Cold. Brutal and essential hardcore for me. Misery / Extinction of Mankind split LP was also released and I’m quite happy about that as it’s one of my favorite split LPs of all time.
Misery has always been an important band for me and I am more than happy to do things with them. Now a lot of records are coming from Protestorm, which is basically a two-man band with Anders from Nasum / Krigshot and Kristoffer from Livet Som Insats / EXIL and they both play in Axis of Despair as well. It’s brutal fast Swedish hardcore with some blast beats! Well worth checking out! I’ve been working with Ken from Sound Pollution Records to re-release the first Hellnation LP called Colonized. I can’t wait for this one as Hellnation is a fundamental fast hardcore band for me. The first EP from Hope? from Portland, OR has been pressed and we are just waiting for the cover art to release it! If you like your crust, here it is… it’s a co-release with Desolate Records and Symphony of Destruction Records. In the press now is the first LP from Famille d’Accueil from Paris. Female-fronted punk band singing in Polish and reminiscent of all the good Polish scene of the ‘90s. It’s a joint release between four labels.
Cress Monuments LP has been repressed and the final artwork will be finished soon. It’s an essential band and record for me as I interviewed them right after it came out on Flat Earth back in the day. This time it’s a co-release with Ruin Nation Records and Profane Existence. Also with Chris from Profane Existence we have the Extinction of Mankind Nightmare Seconds LP, remastered and with new artwork, which should be out in a few months, fingers crossed. If I survive all this financially, the reissue projects of Meanwhile, Severed Head of State and Masskontroll should happen. But it will take some time. And to support actual bands, there are two projects I am really excited about. I can’t announce them right now, but one is a split between my favorite Swedish and American bands going on right now. And the other one, if it happens, will be a new release from one of my all time favorites. So I guess you have some hints as to what they might be.
What keeps me motivated? Cool people, friends, the message, the community, the members of the bands I help release stuff for. Of course punk may not be better than the rest of the world, but it’s where I feel at home and comfortable, even if my life has changed and I’m not as involved as I used to be. As if it’s still a threat? It all depends on what you mean by threat. I just hope it’s still a place where we can all challenge ourselves to be better people. As a place to organize social change, I’d say hell yes. And why is that? Because for me it has been home and family. It’s taught me so many things and questioning life, everything around us, politics, the way we eat, dress, interact with other people, animals, has definitely brought me to things I wouldn’t have even heard of if I was into a different genre of music. So definitely not on a global scale, but certainly on the scale of the people it touches. People are still organizing, living together, protesting together, creating human bonds, doing projects together, staying angry, staying aware, creating a community for each other and so many other things.
Besides making music with your bands and running the label, you’ve interviewed bands for Profane Existence and probably many other zines. Are you still passionate about zines and what do you think about streaming platforms, blogs and webzines?
Well, I have to say that I’m not as excited about zines these days because I don’t find the essence of what I really like in a zine anymore. There are some cool ones and probably a lot I don’t know about. I like some zines like Razorblades and Aspirin, Hardcore Mutation and My War, but I don’t get much else these days.
I concentrate more on books when I have time, and some newsletters to see what’s going on. Some webzines where I read an interview or a few reviews every now and then, but my daily life doesn’t leave me much time to check everything out. But I would be really excited to see a zine like Profane Existence pop up again. They were always my favorite fanzines. It was the most important work they did for me… but do people really read them these days? I guess I’m getting old and stuck in the past. I love paper!
As for streaming platforms, well, I don’t know, it’s cool to check out a band once in a while, but I don’t do that much. I almost never check out blogs and as for webzines, yeah, I like some of them, thanks DIY Conspiracy. I think it’s important that news is out there and that people take the time and energy to do it. And it could and maybe does give a lot of people around the world the opportunity to get cool information very quickly without paying.
Don’t you feel that a lot of underground labels want to use people like us, interviewing bands and reviewing records, mostly as a free advertising platform where we can write promotional copy for their records? Is there a conflict between being a radical voice for spreading the message behind all these bands/releases and simply helping people running a small business to sell their stuff?
Hmmm, use? I don’t know. When I contact a webzine I don’t want to use them. I usually contact them because we have the same interests and I like what they do to be able to talk about the stuff I have available or coming up. You’re right that it’s probably a good way to get free publicity, I don’t really know how much because it seems that the people in the punk scene who buy records are usually passionate people who have been doing it for years and they usually know what’s going on.
I sincerely hope it will get some new people’s attention to listen to new stuff especially, or get into older bands they never heard of. But I don’t know if we can really talk about a business or even a small business in the DIY scene, because for me a business is something that really makes serious money. How many DIY labels make money? Not many I guess from my experience. If hardcore punk labels made money most of them would still be around. This is not the case for most people who run labels. A lot of people have stopped everything because of the energy, stress, time and cost. I also think it’s great that people still have a place to express what this counterculture is all about in 2023 to a maximum of people everywhere… from the guy in Los Angeles to the older punk in Oslo, to the kids in Indonesia, to someone discovering punk for the first time in Morocco. The internet has a potential that paper doesn’t have. We are so drowned in information these days that hopefully people will use it intelligently.