The Most Influential Arizona Punk Records: #6 - Conflict, Last Hour
"I never thought that anything associated with hardcore would have a 'lasting impression.' The music and the people were pariahs, [who] were at best tolerated in my experience. My own sisters laughed at me. My east-side musician friends didn't think I was in a 'real' band.'" - Bill Cuevas, Conflict guitarist.
Depending on your stance, the diversity in punk rock, both in how a band or performer sounds or behaves, is either a great thing or a thorn in your side. Conflict was such a band. Ahead of their time, definitely, and full of deliciously angst-ridden rage, for sure, but not part of the cookie-cutter hardcore scene that thrived in their time and for years after their demise. Hell, there's even a much more well-known hardcore band from England with the same name stealing their thunder to this day, but we'll talk about that a bit later.
Our Conflict, the early '80s Tucson band, put out a 1983 record, Last Hour, that is one of the most influential punk records to come out of the Old Pueblo and one of the most influential Arizona punk records as well. And they are ours, without a doubt, even if they came from the dusty town to the south and didn't fit the typical image of their peers.
Lead singer, Karen Allman (aka K Nurse, back in the day), knew they were on to something when the letters started rolling in.
"The first hint that we might be making some kind of impression was when I started receiving letters from people in England, Finland, Germany, Ireland and elsewhere, after our first interviews appeared in Maximum Rock and Roll," Allman says.
This type of international attention needs to be examined with a slightly (understatement) different microscope than we might use today, as this was in the early '80s, sans Internet. Zines like Maximum Rock and Roll were the next best thing early punks had at their fingertips in order to learn about what was going on in different scenes around the United States, as well as the world.
Here in Phoenix, we had several zines, including Gagging Dog and Phenis (full disclosure: my bandmate Michael Cornelius put out Phenis and also helped record the Conflict album in discussion), which were quite fond of Conflict. The band itself, especially the lineup that recorded Last Hour, was integral in breaking down several barriers in the early hardcore community, which was primarily made up of white males. Allman stood out in the crowd as a queer Asian female fronting a politically charged hardcore band. Lead guitar player Bill Cuevas, while not the original guitarist for the band, is Latino. Bassist Mariko was also both female and Asian. Then there was plain old Nick Johnoff, the drummer, who would have been the odd man out if Conflict would have been featured on one of Sesame Street's "One of these things does not belong here" segments.
Conflict rose out of the ashes of a previous band Johnoff and Allman had that began in 1979.
"When that early band broke up, he [Johnoff] put up some fliers at a music store, and that's how we found our first guitarist, Zach Hitner, who played on the cassette EP [America's Right]. Zach left to play in Civil Death (with Nick, who also continued with us) and after putting up more fliers, we found Bill Cuevas, who was our guitarist for the rest of our existence. I met our bass player, Mariko, when I was donating blood at the Red Cross. She's a pianist and her husband [a classical bass player] taught her how to play bass," shared Allman.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.