Furn Zavala is a staple of the Southern Californian hardcore scene. The vocalist of harsh punkers HAARM, Furn is an active part of the LA nightlife, DJing indie, Britpop, and electro at spots like Melody Lounge and The Pikey, and can also be seen with his camera at many local shows. In addition to that, he's also behind unfun, a photo zine with live shots of such bands Lack of Interest, Supertouch, and Tragedy.
In this Photographer Spotlight, we find out about Furn's entry into the hardcore scene, and what new bands he thinks we should all be checking for this summer.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Los Angeles, but grew up in Covina, CA, and lived there til I graduated from high school. Then I relocated with my family to Upland, CA. I'd been an Inland Empire resident til 5 or 6 years ago, and I currently live in Glendale, CA.
Were your parents into the arts?
I grew up in a household that was heavily surrounded by music but neither of my parents played any instruments but I still had a heavy dose of The Clash, classic rock, and whatever was on the radio.
What came first, your love for music, or your love for photography?
In '92-'93, my earliest teen years, are when my interest in music shifted from listening to my parents music into stuff I was finding/enjoying on my own. Once I hit Junio High is when I started to notice groups of people were indentifying themselves by the music they were into. Beastie Boys basketball jersey's. Slayer shirts. Flannels with Green River buttons. Cypress Hill hoodies. Black Flag patches. XXL Conart tees. Me being the oldest of five boys, I had no one to really guide me in a musical direction. I didn't fit into a group of people because I was diving into music from different places. which is why at 13-years-old, Ice Cube, Nirvana, and Morrissey each were a crazy obsession for me. I discovered Nirvana via KROQ (an LA based radio station) which lead me to Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, etc. MTV used to have this show called PostModernMTV which aired really late at night. It sort of was like 120 Minutes but mainly focused on new wave/goth/indie artists. This is where I discovered what people referred to as "college radio" (Stones Roses, New Order, etc.) bands and seeing Morrissey videos for the first time.
Ice Cube was introduced to me by a friend I used to skate/tag with that lent me his cassette tape of Death Certificate and it was an instant fan. Funny to think about but Ice Cube was on the Lollapalooza tour that year and that introduced me to "alternative bands" (Rage Against the Machine, Lush, etc). I'd go Tower Records in West Covina often and I'd spent time looking at CDs/magazines and I'd cut pictures out and began taping them to my walls. Even bands I didn't even know, if it was a "cool" image or a wild live shot it was going on my wall. I'd say this is when the imagery and photos began to really take hold to me.
How did you discover hardcore?
My room was covered with magazine cut outs of bands/artists/stickers I was full-fledged music geek by 15. I wasn't old enough or allowed to go to shows by myself but sneaking out or simply telling my folks "I'm staying at Daniels this weekend" was a decent enough lie to check out backyard parties/kick backs that would have a band or two. Shitty punk bands and crappy ska bands were common, but I remember one time a "hardcore punk band" played. I don't remember their name, but they did a Bad Brains cover and kids started to circle pit, grab the mic, it was mayhem but it was an instant reaction to what the music ignited amongst a bunch of jocks, punks, skaters at a San Gabriel Valley high school party... and a light went off in my head: I needed to check out more hardcore shows. So, in '95, with a few backyard punk shows under my belt, I attended my first real proper punk/hardcore show. I was at Monkey's-To-Go in Pomona and saw a flyer for Warzone and Strife show at The Showcase Theater in Corona. I went to the show by myself and I was legit terrified. I had never seen moshing like that, crazy stage dives or a room full of punks, hardcore kids, straight edge kids, skinheads, etc. it was surreal to me, and it was like all those wild images I saw in magazines came to life at this setting right in front of me... and I loved it.
Who were some of the photographers you looked up to during your formative years?
I never really took photos seriously, I mean i'd steal a disposable camera from whatever store or market and I'd waste most images shooting my friends at parties and maybe a few of a band or two. But, it wasn't til I started realizing I have more images of people I'm not friends with anymore and less of bands I still listen to, that I shifted my focus to shooting more bands. First show I ever shot was Strife, Hatebreed, and Despair at The Barn in Riverside.
Were there any music-related photographers you followed?
Glen E Friedman, which I feel is a super cliché answer for most photographers, but his images are literally amazing and truly are inspiring.
What is your camera and post set up?
Canon 70D, various different lenses, and an Olympus Stylus.
I've never used Photoshop or Lightroom, I use a crappy free PC program called Picasa to touch things up. I've had discussions with other photographers to get tips on what they do and I've seen some edit photos, it's awesome to see. Little adjusting, aligning things up, color, contrast, etc. I have mad respect for photographers who know how to properly use tools with the craft. I don't know shit about technique, lighting, IOS settings, shutter speed, etc. Sll that shit was, and still is, way over my head. I have mad respect for people who actually know the ins and outs of proper photography because for me it just came naturally because I found enjoyment and fun in it. I didn't care if I blew roll after roll and got nothing because fuck it at least I had fun doing it. I feel the experience of shooting bands can be boring and frustrating if you don't enjoy it. I would never say my photos are of any standard of any kind aside from the end result of bands & kids going off, I just happen to have been there to capture that moment from my perspective.
Since you’ve also played in bands, has that helped inform what you do?
it wasn't till two year ago that I joined/helped form my first band. I think being around DIY for so long has been easy in terms of putting in work with Haarm. We've been lucky to have played some really awesome shows, but we also feel that as a band we need to build from the ground up, never shying from playing with various different sounding bands. Hell, I don't even know if we have a particular sound/style, its more of a melting pot of Negative Approach meets (early) Melvins but with a dash of Cursed, and some Jesus Lizard sprinkled in.
Staying informed comes from one simple fact: i love punk/hardcore. I love it today just as much as I did when I discovered it in the mid-'90's. It's cheesy, I know, but I fuckin love punk/hardcore still. I still X up. I still mosh. I still love hearing and seeing new bands and discovering new demos. Maybe I love punk/hardcore because of what it means and has meant to me: It's fun. I've never taken it so seriously that I've never viewed it more than just fun for me. People have imposed rules, structure, bent rules, add their own ideology to things, etc. I've seen trends come and go. I've seen the loudest flip-flop on their words. I think anyone my age who is still around can tell ya the same thing. Maybe I was never that emotionally invested into scene politics. Maybe I don't care who's "edge" still and who isn't.
Maybe the truth is i'm just a 38-year-old who never grew up and still has too much fun. I'll admit there's a ton of boring rehashed crappy bands today, but in reality thats been common, no matter the year or era. That realtes amongst all genres of music; Carbon copies will always out number the originators when it comes to trends. I'm not Mr. PMA by any means, but I've heard it all: "Your band sucks, your photos suck, why do you keep booking "so & so" band." None of that has ever bothered me from taking photos, booking shows, and releasing my own photozines for the past 24 years because I (still) love punk/hardcore.
Who are some of your favorite bands to shoot?
Infest, Hoax, Go It Alone, Nails, Look Back and Laugh, Ceremony, Burn, Los Crudos. Black/death metal bands are my favorite genre to shoot.
If you could go back in time, who are some bands that you would have loved to shoot?
Unbroken, American Nightmare, Carry On, Sunny Day Real Estate, Ink & Dagger, Coalesce, Zao, Buried Alive, Gehenna, Citizens Arrest, pg.99, and Slint, since each of those bands reunited and I've had my second or third chances at photographing them, but some bands ya just gotta leave the camera at home and sing-along or stage dive, too.
What are the toughest aspects to shooting hardcore shows?
Shooting hardcore shows is tough, but I love the challenge of no matter how many times you've shot a band or have shot at that venue there's always factors to work with. Lights, dark room, stage divers, singer stands near drum set most of the set, etc. It makes me work for my image that way none of my photos the same as previously. As difficult as it can be at times, no matter what, I try to be very mindful of my surroundings, I never wanna be that jerk who stands in front of anyone else ruining or blocking someone else from enjoying the show. We all know the attitude some photographers pose sometimes. I've seen it first hand. That attitude of "Imma stand right here, its my right to be here," or "Uh, excuse me, I was here before you," that's just rude. I've seen photographers literally put their camera in a band members face with full-blown flash going off. I guess, there's a etiquette and courtesy that some just don't practice. I mean, I get it if you're shooting for an assignment, but a photo pass or an all access pass isn't grounds for a shitty attitude. Get down in front, position on the side, whatever and once the band starts if you're not in the right spot for your liking then you just have to work a little harder to capture what it is you're aiming for. I have photos of bands I love with more photographers standing in my way than band members. I'm not dissing anyone's drive to get the "good" shot, but thats just how it is sometimes, ya know.
Tell me about some newer bands that we should all be on the lookout for.
Who are some modern-day photographers that you admire?
Honestly, there's a ton of photographers out there right now, each who have different styles, but get out there and just do what they do. Mitch, Marwan, Minor, Nick, Holly, Tyler, Dan, Gabe, Dakota, Kiabad, Josiah, Angela, Wayne, Tracy, Miguel, Danielle, Kat, Evan, Julian, Win, Alvin, Joe, Des, Pablo, Sifry, Josh, Walter, Jason, Coco, etc. There's many, many more.
If you had to pick one of your photos that best encapsulates why you love shooting hardcore bands, which one would it by and why?
It would be the photo I took of my friend Tim Bvtcher in Santa Cruz. Minus was doing West Coast dates with Soul Search in January of 2013. Myself, along with a few friends, drove up to Santa Cruz for a string of dates. As soon as I got to the venue, Tim gave me a huge bear hug and said "I’m so glad you’re here." I set up near the drum set behind the amps to take photos. Minus was ready to go on, feedback blaring, and Tim yells “Furn!” I turn, point my camera and snapped this photo right before he winks and says “Let’s do this!” His smile. I miss his smile.
Follow Furn on Instagram for more photo eye candy.