October 31, 2017 | by James Greene, Jr.
The grime, fury, and desperation is apparent from the first strokes of Impotable Diversion, the 1993 debut from Medellín, Colombia’s I.R.A. (stylized in their logo with a backward R, it stands for Ideas de Revolución Adolescente). And why not? These hardcore punks had been together eight years by the time their first album was released. At that point, sizzling screeds against their oppressors, screeds like “Anti-Fascista” and “Maldita Autoridad” (“Damn Authority”), were second nature.
Thirty-two years later, I.R.A. are still plugging away. They’ve hung on through loads of domestic and personal turmoil and now boast a slew of records under their belt, including but not limited to 1998’s Entre Amigos (Between Friends), 2009’s Firme (Companies), and 2014’s I.R.A. Pura (I.R.A. Pure). They’ve also embarked on tours that have brought them to venues all over South and North America (including the venerable CBGBs in Manhattan before it turned into a Varvatos tomb).
No Recess! recently spoke with founding singer and guitarist David Viola to get a better idea of I.R.A.’s history and lifestyle.
NO RECESS!: What’s been the most difficult aspect of I.R.A. over the years? Has any one incident or problem been more difficult to deal with than anything else?
DAVID VIOLA: The difficulties in the beginning are always the same. If you want to be a punk band nobody will help you because they believe that these are teenage things and that it’s nothing serious. Another [big] problem is that the city [of Medellín] was very violent and if you were being a punk they could kill you. Also, the lack of musical instruments at that time, we [had to] manufacture the instruments ourselves, the [drums] with jars of paint and radiography paper for the [drum heads] and things like that. Here there were never places to play, everything was clandestine, and the police always annoyed the punk[s]… but that does not stop us, we keep punk for the world.
The desertion of members is [also] something that can end the bands, you have to recover quickly and look for replacements for friends who leave because they no longer want [to be in I.R.A.]. Or do not want to be punk anymore, or go with their families or their jobs. That is very difficult. It’s also hard to get them to respect you as a conscious punk. People think we’re [wearing] costumes or we do not do anything. We are punk and that’s what we are, we do not have to be like everyone else.
NR!: Can you tell us how you discovered punk rock? What artists or records first reached you and influenced you to go in this direction?
VIOLA: We discovered [punk rock] because there were friends who traveled to the U.S.A. and Europe and brought [back] vinyl records… and those records came to us very fast in 1985… bands like Plasmatics, Dead Kennedys, and a punk band in Spanish, from Peru, called Narcosis. Also, other known hardcore Scandinavian punk like Snobb Slakt and Sound of Disaster, and [Slovenian band] U.B.R.
NR!: What was the rock music scene like in Colombia before I.R.A. started? Were there many punk bands before you?
VIOLA: There were few bands [before us] and with very primitive sound, maybe a band called Complot with the style of the Clash, then another pair of bands, and then I.R.A. We are a very old band… from 1985, just when the punk revolution broke out in Colombia for the first time. I think we are pioneers with other bands like Pestes, Mutantex, Dexkoncierto, Bastards Without Name, and others that I do not remember.
NR!: What do you think has kept I.R.A. alive all these decades? Is there a secret to it?
VIOLA: To stay alive for a long time in what you do, you must do it with much effort, love, and dedication and not be waiting for millions of dollars. You just have to have faith in yourself and work daily.
I.R.A.’s most recent album, Botas de Hierro (Iron Boots), was self-released in 2017.
Watch I.R.A. perform at CBGB.